The Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICE-T) has been an important economic initiative supporting communities on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast since it was formed in 2006.
Originally capitalized with $50 million dollars (+ $10 million added in 2017) the trust was created as a “spend-down” model. This means that as projects were funded the trust diminished and unless it is recapitalized the ICE-T will be wound down and the communities within the region will be without the important tool.
The $56 million invested so far has been leveraged to generate $250 million in economic benefits. With the funds running out, the board of directors and executive team at ICE-T provided the BC NDP government a plan to re-capitalize the trust in September 2022.
The clock is ticking and the question remains, will this government take the support in these communities for granted?
The Island Coastal Economic Trust was capitalized with $15 million in 2006 by the former B.C. Liberal government. This B.C. NDP government bought themselves some time by adding $10 million to that in 2017. We’ve seen the $56 million assist in the member communities on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, attracting upwards of about $250 million into new investment into the region. Rural communities on Vancouver Island and on the coast have been waiting months to hear whether this vital economic driver for the region will be a priority for this government.
Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. I imagine my B.C. NDP colleagues will be interested to know. Will the minister recapitalize the Island Coastal Economic Trust in Budget 2023?
Hon. B. Bailey:
Thank you to the member for the question. The Island Coastal Economic Trust has played a very important role in stimulating economic development throughout Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast since 2006. Building resilient communities is a key action of our StrongerBC economic plan, which helps move B.C. forward by tackling the challenges of today while growing an economy that works for everyone.
In 2018, our government provided an additional $10 million in recapitalization of the trust to ensure it continues to support communities. We’ve also provided ICET with almost $3.3 million in funding through two rural rounds of community recovery initiative funding. This funding has supported the trust to hire business advisors to help diversify local economies through the pandemic and help mitigate changes in the forestry sector. Communities in ICET’s region are also able to apply for funding through our new $33 million REDIP program to again drive economic diversification.
The first intake just closed, and we’re very excited about the quality of the applications that have come in. We’ve got more work to do, but the focus on local communities continues, and it’s incredibly important to us.
House Leader of the Third Party, supplemental.
I think the communities on Vancouver Island and in the coastal region deserve better than just the minister replying with the same information that I provided in the preamble to my question.
There are 500,000 people in this region who depend on this trust to be able to fund important projects in their communities. Our local government colleagues rely on these funds to be able to fund local projects.
Resilient communities, as the minister framed, require reliability in the government funding. They need to know how they’re going to be able to plan. Unfortunately, according to the act, ICET is about to have to shutter their doors because their funding is coming to an end.
We’ve received letters from community leaders outlining how these investments have supported initiatives, developed community identity, Indigenous-led and nature-based tourism, entrepreneurialism, sustainable innovation — 28 communities including Courtney, Nanaimo, the shíshálh Nation, ‘Na̠mgis First Nation, Campbell River, North Cowichan, Port Alberni, Powell River, Saltspring Chamber of Commerce, the Rural Islands Economic Partnership. Just among 28 communities who have written this government.
I look to my colleagues on the other side who represent these communities and wonder out loud how it is that we even got to this sort of brinksmanship situation. To the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation: will she be reinvesting in these communities, or will she be telling them that they’re on their own?
Hon. B. Bailey:
Thank you to the member opposite for the question. I myself am an island girl. These communities matter deeply to me, and they matter deeply to our government. There are many examples I can share of the investments we’re making on the Island in this community and others.
For example, an investment in 2020-2021 in the goods movement strategy, tens of millions of dollars invested in the Port of Nanaimo expansion at Duke Point. We have received ICET’s proposal, and we’re considering it. Since its inception, ICET has operated on a spend-down model, and we understand the timeline that the board is working with.
We’re continuing to have discussions with the new CEO to explore funding options for ICET. We’ll have more to announce in future days.