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Rural economic strategy unveiled, mostly already announced initiatives

Government of B.C. photo

Premier Christy Clark unveiled the province’s new rural economic development strategy Friday, which contained some new funding and a slew of initiatives that have already been announced.

“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,” said Clark in a press release. “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.”

She said the rural strategy is designed to “build, strengthen, and diversify” rural communities.

Targeted initiatives include $40 million to expand and enhance high-speed Internet and an extension of the $25-million Rural Dividend Fund, which was announced in the budget. The dividend fund is a three-year program which was created last year. The $25 million funding extension announced today won’t actually take place until 2019.

The rural economic strategy also includes:

  • $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.
  • $150 million for the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia, which was announced last month, to plant trees. The $150 million is on top of the $85 million given to the society last year, which has so far approved $2.7 million, of the $235 million, in projects.
  • Begin phasing out provincial sales tax on electricity purchases by reducing it to 3.5 per cent on Oct. 1, 2017, and eliminating it by April 1, 2019. This was announced in last week’s provincial budget.
  • Reduce the small business tax rate to two per cent from 2.5 per cent, effective April 2017, also announced in last week’s budget.

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