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Victoria Report - Get ready for Rural Dividend

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart's monthly column about what's happening in her riding.

B.C.’s rural communities have challenges that are far different, and you might say far greater, than the province’s large urban areas.

More often than not, our small towns are driven by one or maybe two main industries – usually resource based. This puts those communities at the mercy of national and international influences, rising and falling with the demand for those resources.

Fortunately, our government recognizes these challenges and the importance of our smaller towns and cities.

In September, Premier Christy Clark announced the Rural Dividend, which will provide up to $75 million over the next three years to help transition the economies of rural communities with a population of 25,000 and under.

The Rural Dividend will help small towns strengthen and diversify their local economies and will support them in building and implementing their own solutions, based on their community’s values and needs.

Now is a good time for groups, organizations and residents of Ashcroft and Cache Creek to think about which projects they would like to propose. Think about innovative ideas that have the potential for the greatest impact on Ashcroft and Cache Creek.

Communities will need to clearly state what the funds will be used for and demonstrate the need to be filled. The eligibility criteria and other program details are expected to be finalized in March, and the application process will be fully operational starting in 2016-17.

The concept of the Rural Dividend was recommended by the province’s Rural Advisory Council, which is chaired by my colleague Donna Barnett, MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.

The Rural Advisory Council was formed in March 2015 and is comprised of 14 other members from rural B.C., including Debra Arnott of Cache Creek. Debra is the general manager of Community Futures Sun Country and for the past decade has co-owned and operated a logging company with her husband. She has experience working with local government and has a passion for enhancing economic development in rural communities.

I am excited about the possibilities the Rural Dividend can bring for Ashcroft and Cache Creek, and I encourage local groups to work together to receive our towns’ fair share and ensure a brighter future.