Three trust funds aimed at economic development in some of B.C.’s less-developed regions are getting a cash injection from the provincial government.
Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey announced Wednesday (March 29) morning that the Island Coastal Economic Trust, the Northern Development Initiative Trust and the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior will each receive $10 million pending legislative changes in the fall of 2023.
Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development Roly Russell, representing Boundary-Similkameen, said the funds have helped people and communities across rural B.C.
“By further investing in the three trusts, we can create new jobs and opportunities that will benefit people, businesses and communities across the province and continue building a strong, sustainable and inclusive economy that works for everyone,” Russell said.
Holly Plato, NDIT’s director of communications, welcomed the news.
“As this announcement is quite new, no decisions have been made with regards to how or where this investment will go,” Plato said. “We look forward to discussing next steps with our board and determining how Northern Development can best support the North.”
Laurel Douglas, ETSI-BC’s chief executive officer, said the funding shows the province’s commitment toward the economies of the Southern Interior. “We can’t wait to put these funds to work supporting communities in our service area,” Douglas said.
But while the cash injection is welcome, the announcement was still disappointing to some.
Adam Olsen, BC Green MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, said Wednesday’s announcement kicks ICET’s future “down the road,” adding that although the money ensures the fund can continuing operating this year, it will only be a matter of time before it faces closure.
“It’s clear that Vancouver Island and coastal communities are not a priority for Premier (David) Eby, with billions of dollars of surplus he had the opportunity to ensure local economic development priorities could be funded in perpetuity,” Olsen said.
ICET advocates have been lobbying for $150 million to revitalize the dwindling trust — which, since 2006, has used $55 million in grants to leverage more than $300 million in investment for the region — enters its final fiscal year starting April 1 with less than $1 million in its coffers.
Brodie Guy, ICET’s chief executive officer, welcomed the funding while acknowledging that more work lies ahead.
“Our reaction to the announcement is that it is welcomed short-term investment to avoid coastal communities losing their only regional trust,” Guy said. “We recognize we have work to do with government to realize ICET as a sustainable and inclusive regional development organization that can drive real economic impact in its uniquely community-led model.”
If Wednesday’s announcement promises to give ICET some breathing room, Olsen is pursuing a more permanent solution.
“For the last several months I’ve been advocating for the proposal that was submitted to the government by ICET last September to recapitalize the fund,” he said. “I will be introducing a Private Member’s Bill later this afternoon to address this.”
BC Liberal Peter Milobar, Shadow Minister for Finance and MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson, said all three trusts do good work.
“The real concern is around the time-lines, the rush with this year-end spent, making them wait so long, until literally the last two days it could possibly be announced,” Milobar said. “It just seems like a government that didn’t really have a target of how to actually properly address spending requests that were out there.”