Vanderhoof is eligible to receive anywhere between $1 million and $6 million for immediate infrastructure needs or for leveraging to secure other sources of funding, following an announcement from Premier John Horgan.
The money comes as part of a $100 million grant for Northwest communities announced in Terrace on Feb. 16.
The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to 22 municipalities and four regional districts including Fraser Fort George, Bulkley Nechako, Kitimat-Stikine and North Coast to address long-standing infrastructure needs that could not keep up with resource development.
The premier was joined by Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, MP Nathan Cullen and mayors from municipalities including Terrace, Prince Rupert, and Vanderhoof.
“The message was abundantly clear, for too long the resources in the North have been feeding the people in the south and there has not been a rapid turnaround of benefits coming back to the region,” says Horgan inside Coast Mountain College’s trades building.
“They need services, and they need to ensure that their infrastructure is up to the task, not just for the new people, but for new investment and new industry.”
The 22 municipalities will get $83.7 million, and the four districts the remaining $16.3 million.
Local governments with populations of more than 10,000 people will receive between $6 million and $9 million, municipalities with populations fewer than 10,000 will receive between $1 million and $6 million.
Mayor Gerry Thiessen of Vanderhoof, said it’s a great opportunity especially with the upcoming capital budget discussions to be held in council Feb. 21. He said the discussion around the use of the funds will include improving road infrastructure.
Main St. in Vanderhoof has a lot of logging trucks that use the road to go to Prince George and Quesnel.
“They have made our main street look pretty rough. That’s just one example. I have spoken with the Minister [Public Affairs and Housing] in other ways to leverage this for grant funding,” said Thiessen.
There are grants available for cities with population under 5,000, but Thiessen said for most of the grants, the district needs to invest one-third or half the amount of the grant.
“We haven’t been able to do it because you go okay, we have to come up with the one-third. But what I understand from talking to the minister is that we will be able to use the money to double up some of those grants,”he said.
District council will be deliberating on how to leverage this money and the capital budget of the year on Feb. 19 at council chambers.
Thiessen said people of Vanderhoof can get involved by giving the district feedback.
“We will need people to be involved and give is feedback – we have the district of Vanderhoof website where the form can be accessed – where people can give us feedback and see where they want that money being spent,” Thiessen said.
Meanwhile, MP Nathan Cullen says to hear the premier acknowledge the inability of smaller northern communities to reap the benefits of resource development in the North, is “huge.”
“This is shifting that dynamic,” Cullen says, speaking on the one-third funding agreement between local, municipal and federal governments for grant opportunities. He says smaller, northern communities are often stuck behind that funding formula, whereas larger municipalities like Kelowna, Vancouver and Victoria have a tax base large enough to cover their one-third portion.
The money was taken from last year’s provincial budget and will be included in the 2019 budget as the province finalizes it next week.
With files from Brittany Geravis