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October 27, 2017 11:30 pm

Rural Dividend Not a Slam Dunk for Cash Strapped Small Communities

Monday, April 4, 2016 @ 6:32 AM

Quesnel, B.C.-  It remains to be seen if  Quesnel  will benefit this year from the  recently announced rural dividend. The Province is making  $25 million a year over the next three years available to communities  with populations under 25 thousand.  Funding is available for projects that fall within the following categories:

  • Community capacity building;
  • Workforce development;
  • Community and economic development; and
  • Business sector development.

“It’s great that money has been made available” says Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson, but he has a couple of  concerns with the  funding program “Unfortunately, like all of these things, it requires us to have cash to participate, it really doesn’t address  an issue that’s been raised with both the Federal and Provincial Governments in that  you’re asking  cash strapped communities to always have cash to take advantage of  money  they are willing to put on the table.”

He says it isn’t yet clear if  the dollars from thus fund could be used to leverage dollars from other  organizations, such as the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

The rural dividend program  requires  single applicants applying for up to $100 thousand dollars for a  project to  contribute at least 20% of the total project cost. “Trying to find that $10 thousand or $20 thousand dollars is not that easy when you are trying to make sure all of your core  costs  are being covered with a shrinking industrial tax base” says Simpson.

Partnerships involving more than one eligible applicant can apply for up to $500,000, and must contribute 40% of the total project cost.

Another issue is the  fact the window for applications  will only be open  today through to the end of May  and that may not be enough time for communities like Quesnel  to submit an application  says Simpson “Effectively, we’ve got a month and a half to get a project together.  Well sometimes, given the nature of a project, it  requires getting a consultant to help  us with them  or they require engineering assessments, so we’ve got a short time frame  here to take advantage of these  projects and  if we don’t put in meaningful submissions,  then  you’re competing with other communities  that  may have more capacity  for that.”

He says   with more than 60  rural communities  competing for  dollars from this fund,  it won’t take long for the $25 million to be spoken for.

“We are thankful  some resources have been made available” says Simpson “We’re going to get together very  quickly  this week,  so we’re going to look at some of the projects we’ve been planning to see  which  projects might be eligible  and  we can get them in ( application)  in a meaningful way.”


This fund was originally announced at the UBCM Convention in Sept. 2015, so there was some time for these communities to come up with an appropriate program.

On the other hand it seems that the criteria has changed, and of course there is the short time line to get things in order.

If some of these communities do not get their programs approved this time around, they still have $25 million a year for the next two years, so they better get their ducks in order.

I agree that $75 Million split between 60 communities over three years is not a lot of money. If it was evenly split it would amount to approx. $416,000.00 per year. They should just give each community that amount of money with no strings attached, other than it must be spent on a bona fide program.

    Agreed, it really is not a lot of money. Especially when you see the mega projects in Vancouver like the new bridge to replace the massey tunnel. Govn’t has always been too keen to invest down there and throw us the scraps.

    Why have the criteria changed?

    Can you provide me with the original criteria? I have not seen those. The current criteria have just been made available.

    CCBAC, OBAC and other similar organizations have been given money to deal t=with this very issue a decade ago to generate plans for post MPB impacts so that communities can be sustainable with a downturn in the forest industry.

    Where are they in all of this? They should be ready to help. They are a not for profit organization.

    Simpson should have had preliminary discussions with such organization some time ago, and he may have, so that they are ready to apply.

    5 or more single applicants can apply and only have to provide 10% equity. As long as they all benefit the community, there should be no reason to deny them eligibility, unless there is something in the fine print (BTW, where is that?).

What I find interesting is the Provincial Government’s off-loading of new costs onto BC’s cities and municipalities. Forensic services such as DNA testing has now been successfully off-loaded to them, where $50K in costs are now being sucked out of PG’s budget.

While this rural dividend may seem like a generous move by the Province, don’t forget they are saving millions a year in downloaded costs to the cities and municipalities.

    That sounds like the making of a proposal to me … I do not know where DNA testing is done. Perhaps the three municipalities in the CCBAC group should put together a joint proposal ;-)

    RCMP is a federal police force not a provincial one

Why does it look like people are thinking hard infrastructure. I read soft infrastructure (support) as the goal of this program.

•Community capacity building;
•Workforce development;
•Community and economic development; and
•Business sector development

A single applicant can apply for up to $100,000 with a contribution of at least 20%, not 40% in that case.

Firms apply to Requests for Proposals all the time at no cost to the organizations looking for consultants. For instance, I am not seeing the need for engineers here at all. If they want hard infrastructure money, then they should apply to the Feds.

CCBAC – Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition has been working on such projects for just over a decade.

Northern Initiative Trust has been doing the same thing. At one time they had programs to help organizations put together proposals. They probably still do.

I fail to understand why they have not got ready made plans for such proposal calls from the government.

Here is the list of eligible applicants:

– Local governments

– not-for-profit organizations and

– First Nations

That includes a heck of a lot of organizations.

Where are the Chambers of Commerce in all this? Where are the community development departments of local government in all this?

I really thought that of all people Simpson would be ready to go with all of this. It surprises me that he does not seem to be.

Sounds like whining and sniveling to me, Bob. If you don’t have plans in place and contingency funds for opportunities and other surprises, then you’re failure is planning and mismanagement in my opinion.

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