The communities of rural B.C. are in trouble and need help from senior levels of government.
That was the gist of a presentation that director Sally Watson gave to her fellow Thompson-Nicola Regional District directors during a board meeting in Kamloops on July 18.
Watson, who represents TNRD Area E (Bonaparte Plateau), made her presentation about the Rural BC Project on behalf of the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition (SIBAC). The purpose of the project is to request that the senior levels of government create a strategy to bring resource revenues back to rural communities. The TNRD board decided it will send a letter of support for the Rural BC Project.
SIBAC is one of three beetle action committees in the province, she said. The others are Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition and Omineca Beetle Action Coalition.
Rural BC recommends creating a:
1. B.C. rural development strategy;
2. new rural economic development programing;
3. rural dividend;
4. rural advocacy and catalyst organization; and a
5. rural B.C. venture capital program.
Rural B.C. communities face several major concerns, the Bonaparte Plateau director said. These include declining populations, slow labor force growth, slower rates of business creation, and challenges achieving healthy economic diversification.
Centralization of government services has resulted in reductions and closures of rural hospitals, under service of assisted living beds and access to medical services, ongoing closures of schools in rural areas, and closures or staff reductions of rural government offices.
About 2/3 of the province’s exports come from rural areas, but government is doing little to support economic diversification there.
Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec all are examples of good rural economic development in Canada.
The decline in the forest industry caused by the mountain pine beetle and other factors has led to financial instability.
Other resource industries, such as mining or energy, have not been able to fill the gap.
Rural communities need to receive a share of the provincial resource revenues generated in or near those communities, Watson said.