Small communities may get left out in the cold

When a change of government occurs it’s fairly standard for the new administration to ‘review’ existing programs and provide some kind of ‘new’ direction.

It usually involves a period of public consultation to provide a legitimate reason why an existing program needs to change, or a new one needs to be put into place.

I have been a part of that process. I know how meaningful consultation involves lots of input and real discussion before any effective policy change can be hammered out and a program finely tuned.

In my case, the Rural Development Strategy was a concerted effort to draw all of government’s resources under one banner and really make an impact on local communities.

We appointed a Rural Advisory Council that pulled together people from all corners of the province. It included representatives from local government, First Nations and economic development organizations from small communities.

The answer in part was the $100 million Rural Dividend fund.

Unfortunately the new government is dispensing with years of careful planning, and opting instead for a month-long consultation that ends on February 28th.

I wouldn’t discourage anyone from taking part, but it just seems to me that this is a bit of a rush-job.

Even more concerning is the fact that the consultation period ends well after the NDP is expected to delivered its first full provincial budget.

This calls into the question whether existing programs will be scrapped to pay for big-ticket items the NDP campaigned on during the last election.

With over two dozen so-called public consultations already in play, I hope the new government is not simply paying lip service to rural development and leaving small communities out in the cold.

Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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