Saturday, September 28, 2019

Premier's address to UBCM provides reassurance for rural communities; but few dollars so far for revenue sharing concerns

Premier Horgan was the final act of the Five Day UBCM festival,
bringing the 2019 Convention to a close on Friday morning

The five day UBCM convention in Vancouver wrapped up just before the noon hour on Friday and as is the tradition, the Premier brought the festivities to a close, with John Horgan saluting those that have chosen municipal government and noting the sacrifices that they make in that service.

In his address, the Premier focused on the shared accomplishments with the municipal governments and regional districts of the province, noting of the 580 plus meetings that took place during convention week, where the provincial and municipal representatives addressed concerns from across British Columbia.

He outlined some of his defining moments as Premier over the last two years, noting of the fires, floods and rock slides that the province has faced over that period of time and how both the province and municipal governments have worked together in the face of catastrophe.

"Governments are expected to step up when there's crisis, communities always step up when there's crisis. But when we put those two things together, I don't believe that there's anything that we can't overcome"

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice received a shout out from the Premier, that for her work on some of the many emergency challenges that were faced by residents from many areas of the province in the two years since the NDP took power.

Mr. Horgan touched briefly on the economic crisis facing many logging communities this summer, observing on the large convoy of residents from those communities who came to the UBCM convention site this week to ensure that they were heard.

From that he offered up reassurance that the recently suspended Rural Dividend Funding program would be coming back, adding that its suspension is only a temporary measure to focus on those people currently in distress who need the help now.

"That's why we curtailed the Rural Development Fund so we can focus directly on people who are in distress,  you saw them right outside this building, you heard them right outside this building.  And for those from Rural British Columbia, you know better than anybody that we need to help now   And that's why the program was curtailed, not ended, curtailed it will be back we will monitor the program over the next number of months"

On forestry issues he took some industry leaders to task for redirecting their financial investments out of the province while declaring a distress for their provincial assets, though he also called attention to range of issues such as tariffs, pine beetle and other concerns that have impacted heavily on the industry.

He put the focus on building code changes to allow for timber construction for high rise buildings that will help to build the market in British Columbia and bring further investment into the forest industry.

For those in the Northwest fishing industry however, there surely must have been some disappointment from the address.  With no mention by the Premier of their struggles this summer, or any indication that their call for similar financial assistance has been heard.

With Climate marches underway on the day, the Premier outlined the themes of his Clean BC plan as it works to address climate issues in the province with a climate action plan.

On Health the Premier rattled off a list of the new hospitals that are being developed across the province, including the replacement facility for Terrace.

Speaking on themes of reconciliation, the Premier noted of their work to deliver this fall on the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr. Horgan observed on their consultative process.

"We want to get this right, we want to make sure that as we proceed down a track of reconciliation and economic prosperity for everyone that we do it in a way that doesn't alienate people along the way. 

A Very good example of that, that fits in with our economic strategy and Clean BC process is the LNG Canada decision to investigate significant amounts of money in Northern British Columbia, 

And I was so proud last October to stand with Mayor Germuth fron Kitimat, Chief Councillor Crystal Smith from the Haisla Nation and talk about a project that will put 23 billion dollars into our coffers that we can distribute to communities across BC to build the schools, the hospitals and the infrastructure that we need. 

And not just to build infrastructure but also to see prosperity for Indigenous communities that have seen for too long a tragic future rather than a prosperous one. They've been cut out, shut out  and ignored and excluded from the extraordinary economic potential of our province"

The Premier had some further positive news for the Northwest, speaking to themes of development of resources in the region and how there should be more benefits for local communities where those resources are located.

He spoke of the Northern Capital grant program and the 100 million dollars provided for it last year and how the approach that the Province is taking works to ensure that resources remain in the pockets of communities across the province.

"This week week we re-committed to ensure that the Regional Benefit Alliance work that has been done by governments right across the north and by officials in Victoria is a reality in the years ahead. 

We need to get a  agreement in place that will stand the test of time, read that means when a government changes. We will be ensuring that resources that are created in a community to the best of our ability stay in that community. So that everyone benefits from that work, not just a few"

The Premier observed as to how the process has worked through the Peace Fair Share program and in the Columbia Basin initiative; noting how they were programs which were put in place by previous NDP governments

The Premier then turned to the Northwest with some thoughts on the work done so far by regional officials towards delivering on a similar process for its residents.

"So I think that the Rural Benefits Alliance work that's been initiated by communities in the North, I commend Sean, Shane and Lee ... from Terrace, Houston, Prince George that all of the communities along the corridor will benefit from this investment and I believe that's good for everybody."

His comments on the morning ended with an anecdote on his travels as part of the Tribal Journeys  over the summer and how it serves as an example to follow.

The Premier using his remembrance of the summer journey as a call for  municipal and provincial leaders to pull together as they work towards common issues.

You can review Mr. Horgan's full address to the delegates from the BC Government Facebook feed

For a wider overview of some of the events of the five day convention see our archive page here.

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