Federal Economic Development Office opens in Campbell River – North Island Gazette
Campbell River will feature a new federal economic development office, which could help more voices from across the region be heard in Ottawa.
The creation of Pacific Economic Development, a British Columbia-specific offshoot of Western Economic Development, was announced by the federal government on August 5. As part of this initiative, eight new offices will be established across the province, including a ‘point of service’ in Campbell River.
North Island — Powell River MP Rachel Blaney wrote a letter to Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly in February requesting that one of the new offices be located in the riding. She followed this up with a call for voters to support her request with their own letters.
“It feels really good that they listened,” said Blaney.
The new Campbell River point of service will help locals share the realities they face in the region directly in Ottawa, she said.
“What I think is so important in this regard, in Canada’s evolving economies, is that rural and remote communities need to be represented more strongly,” said Blaney. “We need to have people who actually work in our communities, who feed this information back to Ottawa, so that Ottawa is not so disconnected.
The announcement is good news for Campbell River and the North Island, said North Island MP Michele Babchuk.
“It just recognizes that element of economic development – and having this office nearby is something that is needed in North Vancouver Island,” Babchuk said. “It’s a great first step, and I’m just waiting to see what they bring to the table.”
The decision shows recognition of the challenges facing the region’s three largest economic sectors – forestry, aquaculture and tourism, said Mayor Andy Adams.
“Having a development officer here and nearby and working with the City of Campbell River, the Regional District of Strathcona and the North Island communities will be of critical importance as we seek to reinvent, recover and bounce back.” Adams said.
The city of Campbell River has held internal discussions to help Pacific Economic Development identify a potential site for the new office, Adams said. It will be located near existing government and commercial offices in and around the city’s downtown core, he added.
Port Hardy Mayor Dennis Dugas said he believed the office “would give us the opportunity to make our voices heard at the federal level.” The small rural and coastal communities of the northern end of the island will now make their voices heard.
Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom, who is a UBCM board member and has a portfolio of economic development, said she was delighted to hear about the new office, noting that “we have felt the disconnection from Ottawa at times, which is why we welcome having regional WD offices. Vancouver Island and other parts of the province will be best served by knowledgeable people who know the needs of our region.
Blaney said she would continue to advocate for such a collaborative approach.
“We know that when we look at all levels of government funding, especially provincial and federal, they’re looking for cooperation (and) they’re looking for communities that come together,” she said. “So having an office in our region, doing this work, will be very important. “
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