B.C.’s rural development strategy must take regional into account

The Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) publicly released its submission to the provincial government’s Rural Development Strategy public engagement process. The RBA points out that to be effective, the Rural Development Strategy must provide real solutions to the challenges faced by rural communities and those solutions must be flexible enough to respond to unique challenges in different rural regions.

“The RBA fully supports development of a Rural Development Strategy for BC that will bridge the urban-rural divide and create sustainable communities across all of rural BC,” says Bill Miller, RBA Chair and Chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako. “However, it’s vital to develop a strategy that takes the needs and circumstances of different rural regions into account.”

“The Northwest is unique in terms of the potential high level of major project activity that we are already having to prepare for with inadequate local government revenues,” says Phil Germuth, RBA Co-Chair, Chair of the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and Mayor of the District of Kitimat. “That doesn’t even take proposed LNG projects into consideration, which have required significantly more dollars than our local governments have. Our experience from the past decade of hyper-activity has left the Northwest woefully unprepared for even more activity in the future.”

The RBA submission recommends that the provincial government:

Develop a framework for rural development that is flexible enough to meet the needs of different regions.

Ensure the work done to create the Rural Development Strategy includes adequate research on existing conditions in different regions of the province.

Make sure the strategies developed take into account the level of current and potential economic activity within different regions, with a focus on translating that activity into sustainable communities.

Recognize that the benefits of economic development in rural areas must improve the long-term sustainability of rural communities.

Commit to working closely with groups, such as the RBA, in each region to formulate a governance model for a particular region.

Use the proposal put forward by the RBA as a pilot project to develop and test strategies to support sustainable economic development and sustainable communities in rural BC.

We applaud the province for its prompt attention to rural development, as it has been neglected for so many years,” says Barry Pages, RBA Co-Chair and Chair of the North Coast Regional District. “However, the existing $25 million available through the Rural Dividend program is totally inadequate to deal with the problems faced by rural communities, and we look forward to continuing to work with the province to develop a new strategy that works for each region in rural BC.”

Although a benefits sharing agreement has yet to be reached, the RBA continues to meet and work with the provincial government to find a solution fit for the Northwest.

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