British Columbia

B.C.'s rural jobs plan leans on high-speed internet and Kinder Morgan

B.C. Premier Christy Clark outlined plans to add more than 26,000 jobs to some of the province's struggling rural towns.

Christy Clark outlines plans to add 26,000 more jobs to struggling rural towns

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark smiles during a tour before a groundbreaking event for FortisBC's Tilbury LNG facility expansion project in Delta, B.C., on Tuesday October 21, 2014. In Clark's vision of British Columbia's economic future, natural gas is the headliner as the province gears up to export billions of tonnes of liquefied natural gas from proposed projects. (Daryl Dick/The Canadian Press)

The provincial government has continued its push to increase jobs in rural B.C. by promising greater access to high-speed internet and continued support for big energy projects like Kinder Morgan.

Premier Christy Clark announced today the province is investing $40 million dollars to improve internet capacity in rural and remote communities. She said the dollars are meant to improve career opportunities outside major cities.

"Tech jobs can happen anywhere where there's high speed internet," said the premier. "And those tech jobs should be just as available for people in communities like Merritt and Ashcroft as they are in places like Kelowna and Victoria."

The funding is part of the province's rural economic development strategy, which also includes $10 million towards managing land and invasive species and an extra $80 million for post-secondary schools.

The announcement comes after a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showed that, despite B.C.'s continued growth, nearly all regions outside of the Lower Mainland are losing jobs.

Saying 'yes' to big energy

Clark said the government`s goal is to add 26,000 jobs to towns in rural B.C. and getting there will also require moving forward with big energy projects, including the Kinder Morgan expansion.

"The longer term support is supporting projects like Kinder Morgan," said the premier, adding that B.C. residents will be first in line for jobs.

"We want to make sure that British Columbians really benefit from these projects that are going ahead in the immediate term, but also support more projects — more mining, more natural gas — in the longer term." said the premier.

A hands-on approach

But according to Brian Smith, associate director of Community Futures Sunshine Coast, building rural economies requires a more hands-on approach than a catch-all policy solution can allow.

"I think there is a little bit of a danger by just focusing on a couple of sectors," he told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's B.C. Almanac. "Those may not be addressing needs of communities on the ground."

Smith says each small town is unique, and that many province-wide construction projects, like building pipelines, only provide jobs in the short term construction phase.

He says towns would benefit from a dialogue between municipal and provincial governments that seek creative ways to developing more local industries like farming and tourism.

"Therein lies the real innovative options to build healthy, local rural economies that have resilience and longevity."

With files from CBC's B.C. Almanac

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: B.C.'s rural jobs plan leans on high-speed internet and Kinder Morgan