So, What’s In the Rural Economic Strategy?
Prince George, B.C.- The Rural Economic Strategy unveiled by the Province today, is designed on three pillars.
2.strengthen opportunities so rural communities can attract and retain the people who will support economic growth; and
3.diversify rural economies to improve community resilience.
Specifically, here are some of the highlights:
- $40 million to expand the Connecting British Columbia program, which is improving Internet access and speeds to underserved and remote communities province-wide. This is in addition to a recent $10 million investment in Connecting British Columbia
- Continue to invest in the Cariboo Connector to four-lane and improve safety Highway 97 between Cache Creek and Prince George—with a total commitment of $133 million over the next three years.
- Provide $270 million over three years under the Side Roads Program to support rural road infrastructure, provide direct jobs and improve access. New projects for 2017-18 include $1.9 million in the Quesnel area, more than $1 million near 100 Mile House, Quesnel and Williams Lake, and $1.5 million near Elkford.
- Invest $60 million over three years through the Natural Gas Road Upgrade Program in northeast B.C. to improve safety and reliability for residents and industry in light of growing industrial traffic.
- Invest more than $37 million in a provincial/federal cost share for improvements on Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert to improve safety and support economic development.
- Continue to invest $5 million over three years through the Highway 16 Action Plan, which includes transit improvements, transportation grants, a driver education program for Aboriginal people, webcams and transit shelters.
- Establish a new annual fund for the rural campuses of B.C. public post-secondary institutions to deliver programming that responds to emerging rural labour market needs. This funding will train students
for jobs in sectors such as ranching, ecotourism and forestry.
- Invest $79.6 million over the next two years (2017-18 and 2018-19) to expand and update post-secondary campuses in Prince George, Cranbrook, Nelson, Campbell River, Terrace, Dawson Creek, Vernon, Kamloops, Kelowna and Merritt.
- Invest $15 million over three years for trades equipment in B.C. secondary schools so students can explore the trades earlier in their education.
- Target $5 million from the Canada-BC Job Fund to extend Employer- Sponsored Training programs aligned with labour market needs in rural communities.
- Create a dedicated $1-million Canada-BC Job Grant targeted to rural employers, and work with them to ensure rural residents have the skills training needed for local jobs and economic development
- Work with local communities in 2017 to conduct outreach sessions in communities impacted by the mountain pine beetle infestation to help local residents chart new pathways to economic growth and resiliency.
- Strengthen support across government for communities that experience the loss of a major employer, with efforts focused on worker transition, community services, and economic development and diversification.
- Invest $1.5 million through the Rapid Response Fund to support short-term skills training to meet urgent, emerging labour market needs in vulnerable communities.
- Create 500 jobs in 2017-18 by implementing actions in the Forestry Fibre Action Plan that allow secondary fibre users to use an additional one million cubic metres of residual forest fibre by improving their access to lower-quality wood and wood residue.
- Task the new Wood Secretariat to recommend ways to promote the growth of the value-added and specialty wood manufacturing sectors,
- Work through the BC Pulp and Paper Bio-Products Alliance to find opportunities to diversify and create new jobs by pursuing development of new transformative technologies best suited for the B.C. forest sector.
The full strategy can be accessed by clicking here.