Arnot to sit on rural council

Deb Arnot from 16 Mile, north of Cache Creek, is one of 14 members of the newly appointed Rural Advisory Council.

Black Press

Members of the newly-formed rural advisory council were named by the Minister of Forests Steve Thomson and MLA Donna Barnett last week, and Community Futures Sun Country manager Deb Arnot is one of them.

The 14 members come from different areas of the province, from McBride to Skidegate and from Port McNeill to Dawson Creek.

Of the 87 people nominated for the council, 11 were from the Cariboo.

Barnett, who will co-chair the council, said choosing the members was a tough decision.

“Quite a few of us sat down in government and looked into diversity, and people in some regions that had an affiliation with the mountain pine beetle coalitions.”

The rural advisory council has emerged out of the work of the pine beetle coalitions, Barnett said.

All of the selected members have strong business backgrounds, and many have experience in municipal politics.

Besides her involvement with  Community Futures, Arnot and her husband have co-owned and operated a logging company for the past nine years. She has a long history in community involvement and received a 2011 British Columbia Community Achievement Award.

Council members also include Geri Collins of Kamloops, Tom Hoffman of Williams Lake, Susan Clovechok of Fairmont Hot Springs, Bill Holmberg of Houston, Chief Roy Jones Jr. of Skidegate, Sue Kenny of Dawson Creek, Jonathan Lok of Port McNeill, Grace McGregor of Christina Lake, David Pernarowski of Terrace, Chris Pieper of Armstrong, Sylvia Pranger of Agassiz, Gerry Thiessen of Vanderhoof, and Eric (Rick) Thompson of McBride.

“There are promising economic opportunities on the horizon for B.C. and we want to ensure that small and rural communities share fully in the benefits,” Thomson said in a press release.

Barnett said she is hopeful the council will advise government on initiatives and policies that will make rural B.C. a better and easier place to live.

“We’ll be looking at ways to generate economics. In many of our little communities, because of the pine beetle we have lost a lot of jobs.”

The initial focus for the council will be to provide advice on rural economic development, including rural access to capital and business development support for rural entrepreneurs and businesses. The council will also advise on rural community capacity building, including the Rural Dividend.

Barnett said for rural B.C. the council probably has the biggest scope of any group advising government.

The first meeting of the council is scheduled to take place in Victoria, March 26 at the legislature and on the 27 at one of the government agency’s buildings.

“It’s very exciting,” Barnett said. “I haven’t met most of these people in person.  I have had discussions with them on the phone, but that’s about it.”