Paper seeks to improve B.C.s rural areas

B.C.'s 3 beetle coalition groups funding of the Rural BC Project present a strategy for economic and social development of rural B.C.

 

A position paper, created by representatives from the three Beetle Action Coalitions, will be used to lobby both the current provincial government and upcoming candidates in the next provincial election.

The paper documents historic employment and investment trends and gives context to the situation faced by most residents of rural B.C. today. The beetle action groups are seekign support of rural British Columbia.

One goal being sought in the presenting this paper to government is to attempt to get rural B.C.’s concerns onto the party platforms in the upcoming election.

A draft of the paper, entitled “The  Pathway to Prosperity in British Columbia Runs Through Its Rural Places,” was released on August 15.

In it, the paper proposes a long term strategy for investment in social and economic development in B.C.’s rural regions in order to improve prospects for prosperity.

The paper notes that many of B.C.’s rural places are struggling, after experiencing strong and fast growth in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. It notes that the rapid growth in many rural areas during that time came from government stimulus in dams, electrical transmission lines, highways and other infrastructure, but recessions beginning with an international slowdown in 1975 forced the province to reevaluate its priorities. Although the provincial government struggled to provide the right policies for rural B.C. after 1985, the results went from highly successful, to variable ( in the 1980s) to weak (1900s – 2000s).

A reversal in the forest industry has been responsible for much of rural B.C.’s issues. The paper comes to the conclusion that a provincial role is necessary to reverse the fortunes of the province’s rural areas, noting that parts of the U.S. and regions of Scotland and Western Europe have been successful in reversing rural economic decline.

Perhaps one of the most significant points made by the paper concerns the development of resources in rural regions without any commensurate benefits to that region. The paper states:

For a decade or more, half of B.C.’s 22 rural regional districts have experienced rates fo population growth and job creation below the national average. Several have experienced negative or stagnant measures. Notwithstanding these poor outcomes, many   of these areas have, or have had, significant resource industry activity. Unfortuntely, modern competitive practises in resource industry operation may not yield much economic benefit to the locales where operations occur.The challenge is to bring these places into positive outcomes as a result of investment, innovation and other measures.”

The paper sees a solution to rural B.C.’s woes in a long term strategy for investment in development. It sees rural stakeholders, the provincial and federal governments embarking immediately on a refinement of the long term strategy proposed by the paper, in a complementary stategy to the long standing resource industry model.

Area “G” Director Angelique Woods , who is also the regional district representative on the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition, (SIBAC) one of the three beetle action coalition groups, notes that “The erosion of rural services occurs through the mechanism of urbanization; and when residents leave small towns to work (or buy products) in larger centers, there are numerous negative spin-off effects.

Throughout rural B.C., community-minded individuals and groups are struggling to keep their volunteer base from burn-out and their small towns from crumbling.  The upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention will offer opportunities for many leaders from around British Columbia to engage on this and other issues at the forefront of citizens’ concerns today.”