VICTORIA – A new B.C. Heartlands Economic Strategy announced in today’s throne speech will focus government resources on revitalizing the economy of the rural and northern communities that are the heart of the province’s economic strength, Premier Gordon Campbell said today.
“Today we’re building on our commitment to make sure the communities that built this province share fully in the opportunities and prosperity in British Columbia’s future,” Campbell said. “We’ll be working with local governments, businesses and First Nations to develop strategies that will open up the heartland of our province and make sure industries like forestry, agriculture, tourism, energy and fishing continue to provide jobs and a future in communities throughout B.C.”
Under the B.C. Heartlands Economic Strategy, the Ministry of Competition, Science and Enterprise will work with regional communities and partners to implement economic development action plans for all parts of the province.
“We’ve created a competitive business climate and made significant investments in areas like transportation, technology and research at institutions like the University of Northern B.C., and programs to assist small business,” Competition Science and Enterprise Minister Rick Thorpe said. “We’re going to build on those investments with this new strategy, providing a focused approach to regional economic development in partnership with local business leaders to unleash the potential of their communities.”
Key commitments under the B.C. Heartlands Economic Strategy include:
· Establishing a B.C. resort task force to promote the development of resort communities across B.C. and help them maximize the benefits of hosting the 2010 Olympics. The task force will play a key role in helping achieve the goal of doubling the size of B.C.’s tourism industry by 2010.
· Aggressively working to revitalize B.C.’s northern and rural transportation infrastructure, including partnering with the federal government on critical investments like upgrading the Trans-Canada Highway through the Kicking Horse Canyon.
· Securing transportation improvements through dedicated funding from fuel tax revenue.
· New legislation and action to support coalbed methane development in the Kootenays and central Interior and on Vancouver Island.
· Working to establish an offshore oil and gas industry that is environmentally sound and providing jobs for coastal communities by 2010.
· Legislation establishing a working forest land base and reforms to improve the competitiveness of B.C.’s forest industry, including making more timber available for innovative local operators.
· Changes to the Small Business Venture Capital Act to increase access to seed capital, eliminate red tape and provide funding opportunities for all regions of the province.
· Amendments to the Coal Act, the Mineral Tenure Act, the Mines Act and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act to streamline administration and stimulate investment.
“A reliable and well-developed transportation infrastructure is vital to the economic health of a province as vast and diverse as B.C.,” Campbell said. “This year, we invested $100 million in northern and rural roads, plus another $20 million budgeted under the oil and gas initiative for resource roads to support the industry. We will continue to make infrastructure investments like these a priority to help open up B.C. communities to Canada and the world.”