As my first column since being returned to the legislature, I would like to start by thanking everyone for once again allowing me to be a strong voice and representative for our community. I would also like to kindly thank each of my volunteers for their tireless efforts on my campaign. I too would like to welcome the 91st Williams Lake Stampede, which takes place over the July 1st weekend every year.
Last week, we heard the Lieutenant Governor deliver a historic Throne Speech that laid out our government’s ambitious plan for the next Parliament. In the Throne Speech, I was proudly reminded that this government is keenly aware that we must never forget that those who live in smaller communities make a significant impact on our province.
Without a doubt, there is an obvious connection between rural and urban communities, as one cannot thrive without the other – but this connection is why B.C. has succeeded.
With a strong economy and the strongest balance sheet in Canada, our government will double the Rural Economic Dividend, returning more resource revenue to the rural communities responsible for so much of our province’s wealth.
Today, our forest products are building houses and towers around the world. We also have an ambitious plan to pre-purchase wood for construction of public housing across B.C.
Another initiative in our Throne Speech aimed at strengthening rural B.C. is our goal of opening eight new mines by 2022, and bolstering B.C.’s world leading responsible mining standards with $18 million to improve mine permitting, oversight, compliance, and enforcement. We also believe that food security also matters in B.C.
Our government worked diligently to create jobs and economic growth in the province. And because of your hard work, our government has a higher than expected surplus.
While other provinces have created structural deficits, B.C.’s unmatched record of five successive balanced budgets has created a structural surplus that puts us in an enviable position. This moves up the anticipated elimination of our operating debt to 2020, one year ahead of schedule — an accomplishment not achieved since 1976. Let’s be reminded that now is a time to reward British Columbians for their hard work.
Donna Barnett is the MLA for Cariboo Chilcotin and Minister of State for Rural Economic Development.