I followed my question on Tuesday, with another on the topic of re-capitalizing the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICE-T).
In her response to my initial question, Minister of Economic Development, Hon. Brenda Bailey pointed to the $33 million REDIP (Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure Program) as an example of how the provincial government is supporting rural communities. The REDIP is not a suitable alternative to ICE-T.
I note the exciting economic potential of a re-capitalized Trust with a minimum of $150 million in a permanent fund will supply rural communities on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast with between $7-12 million annually and generate a billion dollars of economic activity over the next 25 years.
There is simply no comparison. So while Minister Bailey takes exception to the way I framed the question, by highlighting REDIP in her response she introduced it for comparison, likely to deflect that the BC NDP has not provided a long-term solution. As a result, the ICE-T faces dissolution, leaving Island and Coastal communities without a viable economic engine when they need it the most.
On Tuesday, I asked the minister responsible for economic development whether it should be recapitalizing the Island Coastal Economic Trust. In response, the minister pointed to a $33 million REDIP, or the rural economic diversification and infrastructure program, as a replacement for the trust. However, I think the minister knows that this is a false equivalent. The REDIP is not an appropriate replacement for the ICE-T, and I think the minister knows it.
In 2006, the provincial government created investment tools for regions across the province. The southern Interior region received $692 million. The central northern region received $287.5 million. These funds were designed so that the principal was never touched. However, for the island and coastal communities, they put $50 million into a trust that was designed to be a sinking fund. The REDIP is available to all rural communities to apply, across the province. The island and coastal communities are competing against those rural communities that also have access to money from their regional trusts.
It’s inexplicable that the minister thinks that she has provided a viable, long-term, sustainable alternative. That’s not even mentioning the fact that the REDIP funds provincial priorities and the ICE-T funds local priorities. To the Minister of Jobs: does she still think that the REDIP is a fair and equitable replacement for the ICE-T?
Hon. B. Bailey:
Thank you to the member opposite. Unfortunately, you’ve taken my words out of context. I certainly wasn’t implying a replacement. Economic development is very, very important to this government and very important to my ministry. There are many different ways to do economic development. I pointed to REDIP as one of those great ways, one of those opportunities and one of a number of supports that we’re putting in place as we continue to ensure that there are good jobs available everywhere in our province. That’s the point of REDIP.
Mr. Speaker: House Leader of the Third Party, supplemental.
The effect of mentioning a $33 million fund is to deflect away from the fact that this government has dragged its heels for months on recapitalizing the Island Coastal Economic Trust.
It was to put a big number out there, to suggest that the government is doing something to support these communities, when in fact the thing that they could be doing is following through on the comprehensive environmental, social and governance investment strategy — a 25-year, fully costed business plan with detailed financial statements that was provided to this government back in September of 2022. This plan proposed to this government to transform it into a first-of-its-kind model across the country, founded on co-governance with Indigenous communities and built on well-being as its core principle.
They want to turn this into a permanent trust — so that it’s not a sinking fund — that will generate between $7 million and $12 million for the rural communities that members in this place represent. The impact will be profoundly positive: $1 billion of economic impact for the rural communities on the Island and for coastal communities over the next 25 years. This economic trust serves 500,000 British Columbians…
Mr. Speaker: Question, Member.
A. Olsen: …32 percent of the rural population of the province.
Will the minister commit today to recapitalizing the trust with at least $150 million, turning it into a permanent fund and supporting our community leaders that need these resources?
Hon. B. Bailey:
Thank you to the member for the question. Positioning me as somehow anti this fund is just incorrect, Mr. Speaker. These folks have done great work, and we know that. I’ve heard from many of my colleagues about the important work of this fund. The reality is that they bought a proposal forward. We’re doing due diligence on that proposal, and we’re working with them right now.