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

Three strong earthquakes reported off Vancouver Island

The quakes, all measuring more than 6.0 on the richter scale, were about 260 kilometres west of Tofino

2018 municipal election: Few surprises on Vancouver Island

16 incumbent mayors will continue in their positions for four more years

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

Dennis Dugas speaks out on being the new mayor for Port Hardy

“It was pretty overwhelming, but also pretty humbling to be chosen.”

Voting set to start in B.C. proportional representation referendum

Two-part ballots now being mailed to all registered voters

Okanagan parachute accidents kills American

Man, 34, dies in skydiving accident Saturday near Westwold, between Vernon and Kelowna

Man who died at BC Ferries terminal shot himself as police fired: watchdog

Officers didn’t commit any offence, says police watchdog office

Canada Post strikes leaves small shops in the lurch as holidays approach: CFIB

Rotating strikes began in Victoria, Edmonton, Halifax and Windsor

Voter turnout at 36% in B.C.’s municipal election

Vancouver saw 39% turnout, Surrey saw 33%

Harry and Meghan travel in different style on Australia tour

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day seven of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

AP Exclusive: Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis for sale

The online auction features 22 items from Hawking, including his doctoral thesis on the origins of the universe, with the sale scheduled for 31 October and 8 November.

In Khashoggi case: Saudi calls, ‘body double’ after killing

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the son of Jamal Khashoggi, the kingdom announced early Monday, to express condolences for the death of the journalist killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by officials that allegedly included a member of the royal’s entourage.

Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur waives right to preliminary hearing

Bruce McArthur, a 67-year-old self-employed landscaper, has been ordered to stand trial on eight counts of first-degree murder.

Most Read