Focused Rural Strategy Proposed

Participants at a Tuesday clinic heard a convincing case made for a long-term strategy of investment in the social and economic development of British Columbia's rural regions.

Long the economic backbone of the province, rural BC is struggling in the wake of numerous impacts including the mountain pine beetle, centralization of government services and the decline in resource-based economies.
The Rural BC Project is an initiative to stimulate discussion and understanding of these challenges and to prompt focused action to help rural BC communities succeed.

Rural BC Project Chair and Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary Director Grace McGregor emphasized that a healthy rural BC is essential to a healthy BC. She outlined the components of a rural strategy, as captured in their report, “The Pathway to Prosperity in British Columbia Runs Through Its Rural Places”.

Implementing a focused strategy, the session heard, will assist all levels of government navigate the complex, multi-jurisdictional landscape of social and economic recovery. The Project is a four-year effort by the province's three Beetle Action Coalitions (BACs) to coordinate across regions and draws on successful experiences in other jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada.

Improved infrastructure, including water supply, roads and broadband Internet service, is fundamental to any strategy.

Calling for a “rural lens” to be put on provincial decision-making, a key proposal emerging from the project is the appointment of a Minister of Rural BC responsible for rural issues. Donna Barnett, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development and long-time BAC member, was in attendance and was singled out for appreciation for her long-standing support on these issues.

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