Known for her tenacity when it comes to advocating for rural communities, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett received a strong vote of confidence from Premier Christy Clark Friday.
Barnett was made minister of state for rural economic development Friday.
“It is indeed an honour,” Barnett said of the promotion. “I will continue to work hard for rural B.C.”
The post represents a new portfolio that will give rural B.C. a stronger voice at the cabinet table, Barnett said.
“I look forward to working with all of rural B.C. — you know rural B.C. is the backbone of this province and always has been.”
Every community has challenges, such as reduced allowable annual cuts and the mountain pine beetle, but if people work together they can find opportunities, Barnett said.
In some instances, Barnett said she will advocate for reducing red tape.
“Sometimes we over legislate some red tape policies, especially for small businesses,” Barnett said. “We probably have the strongest environmental rules and regulations that there are and they continuously get stronger because we have to protect our environment, but there are other industries that indirectly are connected to large industries.”
Barnett confirmed she will stay on as chair of the rural advisory council, which was developed in 2014, and the BC Rural Dividend fund.
“Donna Barnett is a proven champion for rural development who will strengthen our cabinet team as B.C. leads the country in economic growth and jobs, and as we work together to put British Columbians first,” said Premier Christy Clark in a statement issued before the ceremony.
Last month Barnett told the Tribune she intends to seek a third term in government and will run in the 2017 election to represent the region.
She also received praise from Clark and from many sectors for helping lead the fight to restore better ferry service for the Bella Coola coast.
In her new capacity as minister of state, Barnett issued her first statement Monday reminding people that the next round of applications for the rural dividend fund are due Oct. 31, 2016.
The BC Rural Dividend offers eligible applicants the chance to access government funding that will help support their efforts to build and diversify their local economies.
Decisions on $10,000 project-development applications are expected in early 2017. Decisions on single applicant ($100,000) and partnerships applications ($500,000) are expected before March 31, 2017.
The updated program guide, including new eligibility requirements and project categories, is available online at: www.gov.bc.ca/ruraldividend.
Some of the requirements have been changed for the dividend fund to make it easier for smaller organizations applying for the $10,000 grants. They no longer need an audited financial statement, just a financial statement.