More than $2 million from the province’s rural dividend fund is being invested into different projects in the Cariboo Chilcotin.
The funds are part of an overall rural economic development strategy announced Friday by Minister of State for Rural Economic Development and Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett.
“We did very well in our region,” Barnett told the Tribune Friday afternoon from 100 Mile House after returning from Merritt where she accompanied Premier Christy Clark and MLA Jackie Tegart for a press conference about the funding announcements.
“We have had lots of input on our rural economic development strategy from the rural advisory council and I am very pleased with the document,” Barnett said. “It was a lot of work to build something for the province of British Columbia.”
From the Rural Economic Development Fund the city of Williams Lake will receive $500,000 toward the development of a plan for a Stampede Heritage Park, which Mayor Walt Cobb told the Tribune was good news.
“This is the beginning of what we need to pull a plan together to move the historic 153 Mile House store into the city, catalogue all the artifacts and build a new museum if we need to,” Cobb said.
A new museum would be necessary if InSite is successful with its bid to Interior Health for the construciton of a 70 new care bed facility on the former Cariboo Lodge site.
“InSite had said if they are successful they want the lot the museum is on too,” Cobb said.
This week Interior Health media communications officer Michael Youds said no decision has been made yet on who will get the contract for the 70 care beds.
In December, council approved a zoning amendment application by Golden Life Construction, on behalf of Pioneer Family Land Partnership to construct a proposed senior home adjacent to the Prosperity Way shopping centre.
If city council decides to go ahead with building new museum, Cobb said it would have to go to referendum.
“There is grant money out there, and lots of grants for Canada’s 150th, but we would need more,” he added.
Other rural dividend funding announced by Barnett include $300,000 for the District of 100 Mile House to test and apply technologies for processing locally-produced biomass ash and to trial the products produced.
The Cariboo Regional District will receive $96,000 to develop and implement a community economic development program for the North and Central Cariboo sub-regions.
Barnett said Yunesit’in First Nation will receive $100,000 to construct a First Nation-designed house that will be supported as a viable concept for future homes in the community and surrounding area.
“It will have a bed and breakfast that will provide opportunities for long-term employment in the community,” Barnett said.
The Tsilhqot’in National Government will receive $498,000 toward a $830,000-project to develop a post and rail mill at the former River West mill site on Highway 20 near Tl’etinqox First Nation (Anaham).
“It will include a gravity log in-feed, a grinder unit, out feed green chain, a sorting and bundling station and a product storage yard,” Barnett said, noting the TNG has a partner working with them on the project from West Fraser.
Toosey Indian Band received $369,000 for a pilot project to train 12 community members to build solid timber homes.
“As a government, we are working hard to help First Nations create economic development and this is good news for those communities,” Barnett said.
Other funding announcements by the Premier committed $133 million over three years to the Cariboo Connector and $270 million over three years under the Side Roads Program to support rural road infrastructure throughout the province, including upgrades to gravel roads near 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, providing direct jobs and improving transportation infrastructure.
The province’s wildfire services will receive $7.5 million over three years to upgrade facilities throughout the province and B.C.’s secondary schools will received $15 million over three years for trades equipment so students can explore the trades earlier in their education, including $99,195 in Cariboo-Chilcotin, Barnett said.
Another $10 million will go to support new land management initiatives throughout B.C. and the Cariboo, including range-fencing repairs and multi-year invasive-plant management projects with partners such as regional weed committees, the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association and Ducks Unlimited.
An increase to $15 million from $9.75 million will go to the Bred Heifer Association Loan Guarantee and the Feeder Association Loan Guarantee programs so ranchers in the Cariboo can buy additional cattle.
The Connecting British Columbia Grant Funding for ABC Communications will receive $159,161 to expand and enhance internet access in the Williams Lake area and $310,971 to expand and enhance internet access in the 100 Mile House area
There will also be rebates of up to $3,500 through a new Livestock Tag Reader Rebate Program so small ranchers in the Cariboo can purchase equipment to enhance food safety and food traceability protocols.
Another $150 million will go into the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia to plant tens of millions more trees, which will help fight climate change and create over 3,000 jobs in rural British Columbia.
“It’s all great news and it’s why I work hard,” Barnett said.