Premier Christy Clark received a standing ovation for her speech from the Union of B.C. Municipalities Friday

Clark spends on rural communities, fire prevention

Surplus money to boost forest fire prevention, small-town economic diversification and 'guns and gangs' strategy

Premier Christy Clark peppered her annual address to local politicians with spending announcements Friday, mostly aimed at smaller and rural communities.

Clark emphasized the outsized contribution of small resource communities to the provincial economy, and said the extra help is made possible by the B.C. government’s spending control that has left three straight budget surpluses.

A $75 million “rural dividend” will be available over three years to communities of fewer than 25,000 people that are outside urban areas. The fund is to diversify local economies, but details won’t be released until March 2016.

Clark warned of increasingly severe forest fire seasons due to planetary warming, announcing a $10 million top-up to B.C.’s forest fire prevention program to control fuel in interface areas. The program started in 2004 and has been criticized for focusing on local plans rather than action. The forests ministry says more than 780 square kilometres have been treated so far.

Clark also announced a $90 million extension to the infrastructure fund for small communities, which started last year and is funded 50-50 by the federal and provincial governments. It’s available to communities under 100,000 people, covering up to two thirds of eligible projects, with applications accepted starting Oct. 30.

Urban communities will likely benefit most from a $5 million addition to the province’s “guns and gangs” strategy, which targets prolific and gang-related offenders and school programs to warn young people away from gang involvement.

While Clark received a standing ovation before and after her speech to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver, discussion before her arrival showed not everyone is pleased with the government’s direction.

An event that began with a small protest outside against the Site C dam project, beginning on the Peace River, ended with a resolution to reverse Victoria’s forced exclusion of the affected land from the agricultural land reserve.

The province imposed four-year election terms on local governments before last year’s municipal elections. At the convention, delegates reversed their long-standing position and called on the province to provide recall legislation for local councils.

Just Posted

Cougars spotted in Sproat Lake neighbourhoods

ACRD director warns residents to keep children, pets close

Who are the Frozen Franklins? Find out at the Alberni Valley Museum

The museum and Echoes in the Ice exhibit are open April 20 during Easter weekend

Former teacher returns to Port Alberni to lead Alzheimer’s Walk

Jory Mitchell celebrates his journey with late wife and her Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve issues cougar warning at Kennedy Lake

Cougar encounter reported between Tofino and Ucluelet.

Deadline looming for North Island College scholarship applications

Students have until April 24 to apply for a record number of… Continue reading

Dashcam captures close call between minivan, taxi at busy Vancouver intersection

To make the footage more nerve-wracking, a pedestrian can be seen standing at the corner

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Seattle’s 4-20 ‘protestival’ enjoys tolerance, some support – and B.C. could do the same

Seattle’s Hempfest a large-scale occasions with vendors, prominent musical acts and thousands of attendees

Most Read