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$12.9M for rural infrastructure projects on Vancouver Island

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The province is funding the projects through its $66-million rural economic diversification and infrastructure program

The re-imagining of a long- shuttered Port Alice ice rink for new businesses, designs for a business park for the Tseshaht First Nation, a commercial kitchen in the Cowichan Valley, and the Tofino Arts Council Society were among the dozens of rural projects on Vancouver Island promised funding by the province this year.

Roly Russell, parliamentary secretary for rural development, announced the $12.9 million in funding for 41 projects at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities convention on Friday.

“There’s too many great projects to talk about, but we just chose those four because they represent how different the types of investment can be,” Russell told about 300 local-government delegates attending the conference.

The province is funding the projects through its $66-million rural economic diversification and infrastructure program, which promotes diversification and economic recovery among communities affected by the downturns in the forestry sector.

The Port Alice Doug Bondue arena closed in 2018 after the village’s mill shut down in 2015, which left Neucel unable to pay its property tax bill.

The latest round of project funding also includes $500,000 to nearby Quatsino First Nation for their response to the Neucel Pulp Mill decommissioning and receivership.

B.C. spent just over $90 million in environmental cleanup after the mill was demolished.

In the funding announcement, Russell acknowledged the challenges of a single dominant employer in rural towns and villages.

“That connection to the boom-bust economy … that leaves our communities vulnerable to a lot of external forces that we don’t have control over.”

Russell said the program has been a success since it launched two years and once again received more applications than available funding.

About $7.3 million in this year’s round of funding went to First Nations or First Nations-controlled entities, according to a list of funded projects that was made available on the B.C. government website Friday.

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