BY SELINA ROBINSON
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
VICTORIA – People in B.C.’s rural communities are often the unsung heroes of our provincial economy.
They provide labour, expertise and supplies to the booming resource industries that drive our province’s economic well-being.
Yet the infrastructure people rely on in rural communities is often in need of repairs or upgrades, and local governments with smaller populations and a smaller economic base are hard pressed to come up with the funds needed to pay for their share of a project.
Our government is investing in rural communities in a way that works for them.
In partnership with the federal government, the first application period of the Rural and Northern Communities Fund will deliver up to $95 million in federal-provincial funding to build infrastructure projects in B.C.’s smaller rural communities.
For the first time ever, small rural communities will be able to have 90% to 100% of eligible project costs covered by joint federal-provincial funding.
This fund is part of a wider, almost $6-billion federal-provincial investment in B.C. infrastructure – the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – that will build up communities, strengthen local economies, protect our clean air, land and water, and create opportunities for people all over the province.
Smaller communities have told me about their difficulties funding local infrastructure projects. As a result, they often miss out of federal and provincial funds.
Our government wants these communities to know, “We heard you, and we are taking action.”
This is why the Rural and Northern Communities Fund pays for most, if not all, of each project’s eligible costs.
In fact, for B.C.’s smallest communities – those with a population of 5,000 or less – the program provides 100% of project funding for eligible costs. This opens the door for the many small communities around the province to begin planning and finally making the upgrades and replacements needed to meet their needs now and in the future.
There is also good news for communities of between 5,000 and 25,000 people, because for them, the program provides 90% of project funding for eligible costs.
This means people will receive new or upgraded infrastructure at little or no cost to their local community, providing amenities such as improved broadband connectivity, new or upgraded recreation and cultural facilities, reliable road, air or marine access, Indigenous health and educational facilities, and community energy systems.
This program is designed to address the unique challenges faced by people in rural and remote communities.
Over the past few months, local governments, First Nations, Indigenous organizations and not-for-profit organizations have made applications for project funding from the Rural and Northern Communities Fund.
The initial application period closed Jan. 24, 2019, and ministry staff are reviewing the many strong applications from throughout the province.
These communities also have opportunities to benefit from another B.C. government program – the BC Rural Dividend – which provides $25 million annually to help rural communities revitalize and diversify their local economies. In Budget 2018, the Government of British Columbia committed to extending the BC Rural Dividend to 2020-21.
Rural communities and the industries that sustain them are the lifeblood of B.C., and our government is committed to ensuring people in these communities share in our province’s prosperity.
For more information on the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and to learn more about this and other opportunities for B.C. communities, go to: www.gov.bc.ca/Investing-in-Canada-Infrastructure-Program