Updated: Restore rural dividend fund, UBCM urges Victoria

Funds taken from one community pocket to be put in another, delegates told

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Sept. 27 called on Victoria to reconsider its decision to use Rural Dividend program funds to prop up support funding for workers displaced in the forestry downturn.

Earlier in the week, Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said while Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson announced earlier this month a $69 million support package for workers displaced in the forestry sector downturn, $25 million was removed from the rural fund.

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Wilkinson said the funding withdrawal has made it hard for forestry-linked communities to meet their responsibilities. He cited the need by Williams Lake to halt a water treatment plant to remove manganese from water due to the withdrawal of funds.

Now, the UBCM has passed a resolution presented by the Regional District of Kootenay (RDKB) Boundary calling on the NDP government to reconsider the re-allocation of money away from the dividend program “while identifying alternative funds to simultaneously deliver supports for communities impacted by mill closures and curtailments.”

RDKR director Grace McGregor told delegates the money allocated to workers has been pulled away from funds also supporting those same local communities.

“Small rural, remote and indigenous communities cannot find money for their projects,” she said. “I urge you to ask the government to reconsider its decision.”

Horgan, however, said the re-allocation of funds is only temporary.

“We need to get dollars into he hands of forestry workers right now,” he said, adding the dividend fund is already oversubscribed.

“We had to respond to a crisis in the forest sector.”

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo

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