Premier Christy Clark has said that “B.C.’s rural economies and natural resource industries are at the backbone of our economy, and are shouldering the risk posed by the global downturn in commodity prices. These challenges require immediate action to support our rural communities and a long-term plan that builds on our rural advantages to create jobs and diversify our economy.”
Building on the economic benefits and jobs created by getting to yes on major projects and provincial investments in infrastructure, Premier Christy Clark and Minister of State For Rural Economic Development Donna Barnett today released the Province’s rural economic development strategy, detailing immediate investments and a long-term action plan to support thriving rural communities.
Building on our Rural Advantages: B.C.’s Rural Economic Development Strategy outlines the Province’s three-pronged approach to build, strengthen, and diversify rural communities. These investments are expected to support up to 26,600 direct and indirect jobs with an overall impact of $2.8 billion to provincial GDP. Targeted initiatives include $40 million to expand and enhance high-speed Internet and an extension of the $25-million Rural Dividend Fund to reinvigorate and diversify more local economies. These will ensure British Columbians in all regions of the province have the opportunity for well-paying jobs and a high quality of life in their community.
Rural communities throughout B.C. will also benefit from immediate targeted investments through provincial economic development programs including the Rural Dividend Fund, Youth Trades Capital Equipment Program, the B.C. Side Roads Program, Connecting British Columbia Grant Funding, and the Canada – B.C. Job Grant.
To strengthen the Province’s ongoing commitment to support rural communities and in recognition of the unique challenges and opportunities they face, MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin Donna Barnett was recently appointed Minister of State for Rural Economic Development. Building on our Rural Advantages delivers on a key priority in the minister of state’s mandate letter.
The rural strategy is a key commitment of the 5-Year Jobs Plan Update, which recognized the need for focused action to support rural communities. The new targeted actions outlined in the strategy build on the significant investments in Balanced Budget 2017 and respond to what government heard directly from British Columbians living in rural communities. To that end, the strategy includes immediate investments that will lay the foundation for economic diversification in rural B.C.:
- Invest $10 million in 2017-18 for multi-year projects to manage invasive plant species that can cause significant economic and environmental damage in B.C., and to replace Crown-owned range fencing.
- A significant $40-million investment to extend high-speed Internet access to rural and remote B.C. communities, bringing faster broadband speeds that will create new economic opportunities and lay the foundation for new investment and jobs in B.C.’s burgeoning tech industry.
- Extending the $25-million Rural Dividend Fund for a fourth year to support the strength and sustainability of small rural communities.
- $150 million for the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia to plant tens of millions more trees, which will help fight climate change and create over 3,000 jobs in rural British Columbia.
- Begin phasing out provincial sales tax on electricity purchases by reducing it to 3.5% on Oct. 1, 2017, and eliminating it by April 1, 2019. This will improve business competitiveness and economic performance, especially for resource industries that are key to rural B.C. such as commercial agriculture, forestry and mining.
- Reduce the small business tax rate to 2% from 2.5%, effective April 2017, which means B.C. will have the second-lowest small business tax in Canada.