The B.C. government has allocated $1.62 billion for municipalities, transit and education as part of the pandemic economic recovery plan released Sept. 17.
“The steps we are taking now will improve health care, get people back to work, support B.C. businesses,” Premier John Horgan said.
The funding is a combination of federal and provincial monies and, in part, is aimed at helping speed up new real estate development.
Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) president Maja Tait called the plan “incredible news for British Columbia communities.”
Among provincial plans to support communities is $400 million to revitalize community infrastructure and support local governments to provide the services.
The funding includes $100 million in infrastructure grants for shovel-ready projects to create jobs, “to kick start the economy and support communities,” Horgan said.
In its July Stronger Tomorrow Starting Today economic report, the Business Council of B.C. recommended municipal governments expediate zoning and development.
Victoria listened, with documents saying the economy package will assist municipalities to speed up development application approvals.
Community infrastructure can also expect a boost as Victoria provides $300 million for infrastructure and connection grants. That includes roads and highways and small airports.
Mountain resorts will be helped change to become all-season destinations. Tourism regions will also receive $20 million while tourism operators will be eligible for grants of $10-40,000 to restart.
“Our government will invest $19 million to support small municipalities who are dependent on tourism to build, adapt and diversify their tourism infrastructure,” the plan said. “This program will create job opportunities in the communities and prepare for the future. “
“Local governments have been on the ground supporting people in their communities,” Finance Minister Carole James said.
And, said Tait, mayor of Sooke, helping local people as well as loss of revenues has “left big holes in local governments’ budgets.”
She said the UBCM has been in ongoing contact with both Victoria and member communities since the pandemic’s start.
“We feel the overall impact is a boost,” she said.
James said infrastructure development would not only create local jobs but also increase access for people to necessities such as health care. She said officials would be further meeting with municipal representatives this month at the UBCM annual meeting. (The conference is being held virtually).
James said $100 million would be allocated specifically for tourism to support businesses and communities. Further, a new tourism task force is set to develop recommendations on how tourism in B.C. can be well positioned for a 2021 tourism season. Some $50 million is earmarked to implement task force recommendations.
All of those supports – whether business assistance or infrastructure projects combine to assist communities, Tait said.
“This is really important in small towns as well as large cities,” Tait said.
The infrastructure funding is important as it will help get local contractors back to work on projects that were ready to roll but faced postponement, Tait said.