A plan to move forward economic development in the McBride-Barriere corridor is intended to show tangible results within two years, says Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.
“We are not just here to have another meeting,” said Bell who hosted a forum in Valemount on Monday along with MLAs Shirley Bond and Terry Lake and MP Cathy McLeod.
“We need action items.”
About 100 locals leaders, business people, and government officials packed into the Eagle’s View room at the Best Western on Monday to discuss possible ideas to rejuvenate the Barriere-McBride corridor as part of the Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan.
Selected projects from the forum will then be researched by Ministry staff who will facilitate cooperate among all the groups in attendance who have a stake in development – First Nations, entrepreneurs, local leaders and politicians. The projects selected are designed to make progress within six to 18 months. Bell says this process should ensure focus, commitment and results.
The Barriere-McBride corridor is not an area usually grouped together. Bell says the area was chosen because of its common needs and the government may continue to treat the area as a unit in the future. It comprises two regional districts, two health authorities and two school districts.
Attendees with similar interests sorted through proposed projects.
Those with a high regional impact that can be achieve in a short time span received priority.
Prince-George Valemount MLA Shirley Bond spoke about reducing the barriers erected by government – such as red tape – in order to improve the ease of getting projects to their feet.
Often several ministries are involved in any one project with their own set of requirements.
Pat Bell says the pilot project is a novel way of approaching the gap between stakeholders.
“Where you have a significant region like the Thompson-Robson Valleys, I don’t know that the provincial government has ever engaged the way they are right now where they are asking how they can collaborate with local business leaders, local government leaders, First Nations to build a stronger region,” he said.
Bell spoke about how BC is well positioned to capitalize on investment from China as well as international students, because of BC’s low-tax investment environment among others.
While the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation will not be providing funds to communities to spur their projects, they will be devoting the staff time of a dozen Ministry staff who will research and facilitate the development of top ideas.
Bell says now that the top ideas have been discussed at the forum, they will take a look at the priorities and get back to the communities by mid-February.
The three themes that he pointed out – fibre, power and destination tourism will each have a set of projects under them that the Ministry will explore and help to develop.
The Pilot Project is also happening in three other BC communities. The North Fraser communities of Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission were the first to participate in a forum and attracted over 100 participants. The Campbell River forum has been scheduled for Monday, Jan. 30th.