Why the NDP must walk back the decision to reallocate Rural Community Dividend Funds & inject new funds from contingency to Forest support plan
Having been born and raised in a northern forestry dependent community, I’m still very sensitive to the plight of forest workers across BC. My families been there. My friends have too. Many forestry related jobs are physically demanding, dangerous and thankless…and yet forestry, along with mining, has been the backbone of this province for years. It’s supplied revenue on a number of fronts that allowed this province to grow to what it is today.
Which is why I have been disappointed at how the NDP drove this particular file since taking over in the last election. They were highly critical of the BC Liberals handling of forestry ( rightly so, the Liberal policy is why the forestry industry has been such a mess) and without a doubt, it was well known for years to politicians on both sides of the legislature, that this crisis was coming.
It was known even before the massive fires in recent years burned through swaths of marketable timber all across BC in areas that the pine beetle hadn’t already killed, and in areas replanted.
One would think with forestry being such a big economic driver ( if not the only one) in many communities, the NDP would have been out of the gate with a plan, but it’s been painfully slow coming.
Now this latest plan seems to have been rushed together, and its clear that communities weren’t consulted because if they had been, the NDP would not have taken the rural dividend funds for 2019, and reallocated them to the forestry communities in the interior of BC without determining the impact of turning down all those applicants from everywhere else.
Those rural dividend funds help small communities across BC, build infrastructure, diversify their economies, and create new initiatives to better serve residents.
Here in the Comox Valley, one well known local initiative was among those denied funds this year because of the reallocation. And in Port McNeil, it was mayor Gaby Wickstrom who initially outed where the funds had been taken from and questioned why only interior communities were eligible. She hopes funds will be reinstated as other small communities hit with challenges struggle to upgrade and diversify.This program has been put to good use in small communities all over BC, including the one I now call home.
I absolutely agree with a transition plan, and in fact called for a faster response to the forestry crisis earlier this year via a dedicated task force in this open letter to John Horgan.
Yes, these mill dependent communities need funds, but taking funds from the rural dividend program that many other small communities and First Nations in BC rely on to fund community projects, is not the way to do it.
Small communities have extremely limited revenue sources and helping one sector should never involve punishing another that is also vital to rural communities that aren’t forestry driven. This isn’t equitable, and it isn’t right.
Ndp partisans have been defending this move now “because you can’t criticize the NDP for trying to fix what the Liberals broke” but sadly they aren’t seeing the bigger picture.
Reallocating funds was one the BC Liberals biggest tricks when it came to responding to similar issues when they were in power. Announce something new and great.. then watch people figure out the money was taken from something else, or funded over 10 years, or, or… I could go on but the point is clear.
Just because the BC Liberals created so much havoc in this province, doesn’t mean the NDP are exempt from examination of their failures, or that they get a hall pass ” because the Liberals were worse”
Do better Doug Donaldson. No one expects you to fix this overnight, but we do expect you to do better than using the same old tricks as the Liberals when it comes to finding money. There are funds in contingency. The budget for wildfires was underused. This is a good time to use them. Anything less looks petty and punitive.
**I would love to hear from those who have been advised their applications are not being funded this year. What was your project? What impact would it have had on your community?