By Andru McCracken

Valemount will receive $765,000 from the province to help with infrastructure and McBride will receive $519,000. It’s new money announced by Premier John Horgan to help small communities dealing with ‘major resource development.’

The Province said it is further investing in B.C.’s North to support healthy community growth during major resource development and build infrastructure to meet the needs of people in the region.

“These funds will help address the social and infrastructure needs that arise out of the many exciting economic developments underway in those communities. We are investing in northern jobs, roads and public services – and most importantly, in northern people,” said Premier John Horgan.

McBride’s Mayor Gene Runtz is pleased.

“The Village of McBride is thrilled to be the recipient of a $519,000 Northern Capital and Planning Grant. Small, northern communities such as McBride are hard pressed to maintain and upgrade critical infrastructure with the limited tax base available to them. The assistance of the Province with this grant is fundamental in helping us to plan and prepare for future economic development, and to further the efforts supporting an innovative, strong and supple economy in McBride now, and in the future,” said Runtz in a press release.

Mayor Owen Torgerson said that the money will help.

“When TMX really opens up it puts a lot more pressure on local infrastructure. This is a big recognition we are sitting on an infrastructure deficit, and we’re not the only municipality in that boat,” he said.

What, exactly, happens with the money is yet to be decided. Torgerson said it would likely go to reserve to help with some of the many pending infrastructure projects, for example a replacement lift station at Dogwood and 9th Avenue.

Torgerson said that a recently completed asset management plan would help council spend the money wisely.

“We know we have to come up with $9.5 million over the next 10 years to start replacing things. Having an investment from the province certainly means we will be able to replace pieces of infrastructure that won’t be a burden on the residents,” he said.

The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George will also receive some funding.

“This funding will go a long way in helping us advance long-term planning and important capital projects. We are grateful for the support from the B.C. government in helping us make investments to improve services for residents in our region,” said Chair Art Kaehn.

In all the province of BC has announced $75 million in new spending to soften the impact of major resource development projects like Site C, Canada LNG and locally the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.

$25 million of that will be available to communities through the B.C. Northern Healthy Communities Fund, which will be administered through the Northern Development Initiative Trust. The fund will be available to local governments, First Nations and non-profits in the region to support local delivery of critical services, such as health and mental health care, housing and child care.

$50 million is intended to help address their infrastructure needs and as they prepare for major resource and economic development.

“The need to invest in northern B.C.’s infrastructure and community services is vital, and this funding has a new and significant role to play in contributing to our province’s economic recovery, especially in light of COVID-19’s impacts on B.C.’s people, communities and economy,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance.

This funding is in addition to $100 million provided through the Northern Capital and Planning Grant to communities in the northwest in 2019. It is part of ongoing dialogue between the

Province and B.C.’s northwest and north-central communities on how to support the region over the longer term.

“People are at the heart of strong, resilient communities and this funding is part of our continued commitment to invest in the hard-working people of the North,” said Selina Robinson,

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We have been listening to northern communities about their need to be ready to seize the opportunities presented by expected growth and resource development. With this funding, they will be able to plan to tackle both the infrastructure and socio-economic needs their communities are facing.”

The Province said the Northern Capital and Planning Grant and the BC Northern Healthy Communities Fund will complement the $1.5 billion set for economic stimulus as part of B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan.