By Roy L Hales
MP Rachel Blaney is inviting the Federal Government to set up a branch of Canada’s seventh Regional Development Agency (RDA) in North Island -Powell River.
BC needs a Regional Development Agency of its own
Minister of Economic Development Mélanie Joly is currently in the midst of regional roundtables throughout British Columbia, listening to key business and community leaders about their realities. A government press release identified “stakeholders from the South Okanagan, Kootenays, Vancouver Island and Central Coast regions.” These include eleven key BC innovation organizations, like the BC Tech Association, SFU venture labs and Accelerate Okanagan.
Prior to this, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were all lumped together in Western Economic Diversification Canada.
It has been almost three months since Joly acknowledged British Columbia needs a separate Regional Development Agency.
Joly describes Regional Development Agencies as a “kind of a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs.” Her ministry currently has an office in Vancouver, but none across the different regions.
No Region more fitting than North Island – Powell River
In a public letter released yesterday, Blaney stated “There is no region more fitting of this mandate than the one I represent.”
She described a series of negative economic blows. No sooner had the region’s 10-month long forestry strike ended, than the COVID-19 pandemic began. A thriving tourism industry was put on hold. The paper mill in Powell River was shut down due to a lack of fibre. The region’s already crippled sport fishing industry was hit by new restrictions on chinook salmon retention.
“Then in December, your government announced the decision to phase out the licenses for the open-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. The aquaculture industry is a significant employer in the region, and while I respect Minister Jordan’s decision, it will impact many sectors and businesses in my riding,” continued Blaney
‘I invite you to consider North Island-Powell River for a branch location …’
” … I invite you to consider North Island—Powell River for a branch location of the new regional economic development agency for BC. It makes sense that your department will want to target economic growth in rural and remote areas of the province because these are the places that need to break the long-suffering cycle of boom and bust resource economies. Having a government office in one of our communities would allow your department to experience first- hand the challenges of connectivity and transportation in rural and remote regions, which can only lead to better local economic outcomes for all who are to be served by this agency.”