The Regional District of Nanaimo has signed on to a letter to Premier David Eby calling for $150 million in funding for the Island Coastal Economic Trust.

Established 17 years ago, the trust (ICET) “was created not on an equal basis with other trusts around the province,” Electoral Area H Director Stuart McLean, who also sits on the North Island-Sunshine Coast Regional Advisory Committee for ICET, said at the March 28 board meeting. “It was a non-sustaining trust so it did not have enough initial investment to be self-sustaining through distributing investment proceeds over time.

“It has been a great economic benefit to our area taking the $50 million initial investment and turning it into hundreds of millions of dollars in our region.”

In September 2022, ICET delivered a proposal and vision to the B.C. government to be achieved through a “one-time public investment of at least $150 million to be realized as a permanent, financially sustainable, ESG-focused regional development organization that is co-governed by First Nations and local governments in partnership with your government,” the letter signed by regional district chairs and municipal mayors says.

“Without this one-time generational investment in the trust, we will be left with no alternative other than to announce that our region’s only trust is fully subscribed and that we are dissolving this valued regional organization as required by legislation.”

At the end of March, the province announced it would introduce legislative amendments in the fall that would allow for $10 million each to be delivered to ICET, Northern Development Initiative Trust and the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior in 2023-24.

Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, introduced a bill in the Legislature March 29, North-Island Coast Development Initiative Trust Amendment Act, in support of ICET’s proposed plan.

“This bill removes the $60 million cap that is currently limiting the B.C. NDP from turning the ICET into a permanent fund,” Olsen said. “This bill does not spend money. It simply removes the limited cap on how much can be capitalized.

“How are we on the brink of losing this valued regional organization? Rather than solidifying the organization, today a $10 million lifeline was announced simply to delay the ICET’s demise, kicking it down the road two or three more years. This amendment removes the obstacle and allows this government to do the right thing and recapitalize this important community-led economic development vehicle.”

Since inception the trust has invested over $56 million through its service area, which covers Vancouver Island, the southern Great Bear Rainforest, the Sunshine Coast and islands and inlets from the Salish Sea to Cape Caution. Funds have gone toward projects related to the tourism and film sectors, broadband infrastructure, street revitalization, dock improvements and other areas. ICET has funded community-led projects throughout the Islands Trust, including Gabriola Island Recycling Organization’s C2C Threads Initiative and the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce’s quick start programs.

By Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 23, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Gabriola Sounder   Gabriola, British Columbia

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