COVID-19: Western Economic Diversification Canada launches Regional Relief and Recovery Fund to support local economy
Businesses across Western Canada unable to access existing relief measures can now apply for funding under new initiative
Edmonton, Alberta, May 13, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in uncertainty and anxiety for businesses and their employees. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are at the heart of our economy and our communities. As a source of local employment and pride, they play a key role in the well-being of communities across the country. That is why the Government of Canada has implemented a series of concrete and tangible measures to help them retain their employees, pay rent, and access capital to pay their bills.
Building on these measures, the new Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) is being delivered by regional development agencies (RDAs) to help more businesses and organizations, including in the tourism sector, that are key to the regions and local economies. RDAs are the best positioned to provide this additional support as they work closely with communities across the country every day and understand the diverse local realities.
Today, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, announced that businesses in Western Canada that are unable to access other existing measures can now apply for RRRF support through WD. As the RDA for western Canada, WD will work with key partners, like the Community Futures Network of Canada‘s offices across the region to help western Canadian businesses get through these difficult times.
A total of $304 million will be available for western Canadian businesses.
The Government of Canada’s efforts are making a difference for many local businesses, but some are still falling through the cracks—particularly in rural and remote communities. This is where the RRRF comes in, with $962 million—including $304.2 million for Western Canada—to support businesses economically impacted by the COVID-19. This is the case, for example, for SMEs in the tourism sector that have been severely impacted by COVID-19 and are, in some cases, ineligible for other federal programs.
Canada’s businesses are as diverse as Canadians are, and the immediate, concrete support available through the Fund is tailored to their unique needs. In the months to come, these firms will be in a position to play a meaningful role in Canada’s economic recovery.
Supporting Rural Recovery & Resilience After COVID-19
We are facing unprecedented times. COVID-19 is challenging national, regional, and local policy makers to re-consider the very foundations of our social and economic systems. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt economies around the world, rural Canada has and will continue to be impacted in unique and challenging ways. There is, however, a significant gap in our understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting and will continue to impact rural economies.
In April 2020, the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF) launched a survey to learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 on rural Canadians. Our results indicate that people are most concerned about how their communities will survive the current crisis and are unsure about the steps necessary to plan for recovery. Keeping rural communities safe, ensuring rural healthcare systems can cope with the unique threat posed by the virus, and the impacts of widespread shutdowns on small businesses now and in the future were raised as critical concerns. These concerns, as well as interruptions in access to markets across the agri-food system and concerns about rural needs being considered in funding frameworks point to the need for investment in local capacity through rural-specific interventions.
B.C. to invest $75 million in northern economic development
The Province is further investing in B.C.’s North to support healthy community growth during major resource development and build infrastructure to meet the needs of people in the region.
“Northern B.C. is rich in natural resources, but its strongest asset is its people,” said Premier John Horgan. “We are proud to work in partnership with northern communities. These funds will help address the social and infrastructure needs that arise out of the many exciting economic developments underway in those communities. We are investing in northern jobs, roads and public services – and most importantly, in northern people.”
The Province is investing a total of $75 million through two programs:
The 2020 Northern Capital and Planning Grant provides $50 million directly to local governments to help address their infrastructure needs and as they prepare for major resource and economic development.
Another $25 million will be available to communities as they prepare for major economic development through the B.C. Northern Healthy Communities Fund, which will be administered through the Northern Development Initiative Trust. The fund will be available to local governments, First Nations and non-profits in the region to support local delivery of critical services, such as health and mental health care, housing and child care.
“The need to invest in northern B.C.’s infrastructure and community services is vital, and this funding has a new and significant role to play in contributing to our province’s economic recovery, especially in light of COVID-19’s impacts on B.C.’s people, communities and economy,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance.
This funding is in addition to $100 million provided through the Northern Capital and Planning Grant to communities in the northwest in 2019. It is part of ongoing dialogue between the Province and B.C.’s northwest and north-central communities on how to support the region over the longer term.
“People are at the heart of strong, resilient communities and this funding is part of our continued commitment to invest in the hard-working people of the North,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We have been listening to northern communities about their need to be ready to seize the opportunities presented by expected growth and resource development. With this funding, they will be able to plan to tackle both the infrastructure and socio-economic needs their communities are facing.”
The Northern Capital and Planning Grant and the B.C. Northern Healthy Communities Fund will contribute to a resilient B.C. economy and will complement the $1.5 billion set for economic stimulus as part of B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan.
Through the Northern Capital Planning Grant, eligible local governments can expect to receive the following based on their populations and base assessments:
Municipalities with more than 8,000 people will receive between $5.2 million and $6.6 million.
Municipalities with fewer than 8,000 people will receive between $300,000 and $3.7 million.
Regional districts will receive between $400,000 and $1.6 million.
The B.C. Northern Healthy Communities Fund will be distributed by the Northern Development Initiative Trust through an application process.
B.C. is in a better position to chart a long-term vision for the province according to the final report of the Emerging Economy Task Force.
The 14-member task force has made 25 recommendations to help B.C. navigate global trends and technological advancements over the next 10 to 25 years. The report will also be a valuable resource to help inform the province’s COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery.
The recommendations are presented within five key strategic priorities:
embracing technology and innovation
leveraging B.C.’s green economy
building a highly skilled and adaptable workforce
ensuring an effective enabling ecosystem
demonstrating public sector leadership
“The Emerging Economy Task Force looked at the most current innovations, consumer behaviour and economic sectors to identify where B.C. is going in the future,” said Michelle Mungall, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness. “This important work allows us to prepare for the opportunities that lie ahead – and this report can’t come at a better time. As we plan to build B.C. back from COVID-19, our economic recovery needs this forward thinking so we can create family-supporting jobs across British Columbia.”
The task force’s objective was to take a long-term view on how global trends will affect B.C.’s economy and to identify emerging opportunities across all sectors of the province.