Clearwater’s mayor is calling on the province to fully restore a $69-million rural dividend fund following what he called the “rural dividend shuffle.”
As the provincial government sought to help communities impacted by mill closures, it effectively cut funding to the community north of Kamloops.
Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell said the district of Clearwater and Wells Grey Outdoors Club had $270,000 pending in rural funding from the province, money that got pulled back as the government redirected that funding toward communities impacted by forest industry woes, including Clearwater. Now, Blackwell said, Clearwater is getting $100,000 in community support grants, resulting in an effective loss of $170,000 in provincial funding.
“The B.C. government needs to fully restore the $69-million rural dividend fund,” Blackwell said. “And fund the community supports grants separately.”
Blackwell stressed that Clearwater is not the only community impacted by the decision.
“That point I think follows everywhere across the province,” Blackwell told KTW.
“Even the towns that are getting the funding. The towns that aren’t directly affected by a mill closure have lost all their rural dividend funding. One that just broke my heart was an indigenous youth trails project in Chilliwack or Hope. They had a program keeping people out of addictions or recovering from addictions, keeping Indigenous youth employed building mountain bike trails, etc. It’s gone.”
Further complicating the matter, Blackwell said the forestry support money given to communities is too narrow in focus, leaving the community “handcuffed.”
“At this point, the government has suggested things that we’ve already accomplished months and months ago,” Blackwell said.
“They actually seem to be about three months behind on their thinking in the way of worker supports, employment programs and that sort of thing. All of that is already covered by other agencies or we accomplished it before they put this government funding out there.”
Blackwell said communities are getting a “little bit” of traction pushing the province to broaden the funding scope but more needs to be done.