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CITYOFMERRITT

It was a mere ten days ago that the city of Merritt received word from the Province that they had been approved as a destination city for the BC PNP Entrepreneur Investment Pilot Program.

The BC Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) Entrepreneur Immigration – Regional Pilot (EI – Regional Pilot) is focused on attracting entrepreneurs from around the world to establish businesses in regional communities. This will help meet the communities’ economic development needs and encourage investments outside urban areas.

In the ten days since the announcement the city of Merritt’s Economic Development and Tourism department as been extremely busy sorting through countless inquiries. Will George, Economic Development and Tourism Manager, stepped away from the phone to speak to Q101 about the influx.

“Fifty-eight inquiries and we have the application live on our website,” said George. “So, now we will be contacting all of those inquiries to say please fill out the application form and put in a formal application and request for an exploratory visit.”

The City of Merritt BC PNP Entrepreneur Immigration Pilot has prioritized business start-ups in the following sectors:

  • Truck Transportation
  • Miscellaneous Store Retailers
  • Warehousing and Storage

Other businesses are also welcome; however, they will not filter through this pilot program.

“If people don’t fit within those particular three industries, we’re working with them for other programs to see if they can still relocate to open businesses even if it doesn’t fit within this new program,” said George.

George did reiterate that one of the main reasons for people contacting the city with regards to this program is our proximity to Vancouver.

“Lots of different Countries are expressing interest and we’re hearing across the board Merritt’s close proximity to the lower mainland,” said George.

Tomorrow night at the regular council meeting, George will be addressing council. The ask from George will be ‘that council direct staff to prepare the terms of reference for a city of Merritt B.C PNP Entrepreneur Immigration Pilot Committee for the April 9, 2019 regular council meeting’.

“The Tuesday staff report is going to be talking about the program, the number of inquiries we’ve received and putting forward a request to council to see the direction for offering a letter of referral. Whether that is through a committee structure or another structure that council would like to see,” said George.

 

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City hall

Sixty-three local and regional governments and First Nations communities have been approved to receive their share of nearly $1.5 million in provincial emergency preparedness funding to support emergency operations centres (EOCs) and related emergency training.

Since the September 2017 Budget update, communities and governments throughout B.C. have received more than $20.5 million through the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF). Now, another 57 applicants in 63 communities are receiving targeted funding specifically for equipment and supplies required to maintain or improve EOCs, and to enhance EOC capacity through training and exercises. People in all corners of B.C. will benefit from this funding.

"When an emergency situation happens, it's crucial that communities have the training and resources they require to respond to the emergency quickly and efficiently," said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. "This investment will increase capacity and provide training for emergency operations centres throughout B.C. so that people on the ground have the tools they need to keep their loved ones and other people safe."

The city of Merritt is set to receive $24,970 for mobile IT hardware with information sharing capabilities and training. Sheila Thiessen, Merritt’s acting CAO laid out the specifics.

“We applied for training, so we’re bringing in somebody next week and we’re going to do a table top. So, we’re going to go through a whole emergency scenario including setting up our EOC,” said Thiessen. “We’ve applied for laptops and some whiteboards to help make the EOC more functional.”

She also mentioned that the laptops are to allow the city to mobilize if they should need to during an emergency.

“If it’s not suitable to be here, we might be up at the airport or we might be out of town all together. Here at the city we’ve been working towards business continuity,” said Thiessen.

While the obvious emergency may be from flooding, Thiessen said the city is making sure they’re prepared for the spring melt, with sand bags on order and mentioning that the snowpack is below average.

 

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Robinson

This morning (March 22nd) at Juniper Place in Merritt the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson along with Mayor Linda Brown and Ask Wellness announced a new 40-unit affordable seniors housing project.

Seniors in Merritt will soon have 40 new affordable rental home options and an opportunity to live independently and age in place in their community, close to friends and loved ones.

"The rising cost of housing and lack of affordable homes is preventing too many seniors from enjoying the good life they deserve after years of working hard," said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "These new affordable rental homes will allow seniors to stay in their community and maintain the connections they have built over the years."

The proposed 40-unit project will be designed to provide studio, one-bedroom and accessible apartments within a three-storey building.

"We are thrilled to see additional provincial funding to address what is a critical housing need in our community; affordable homes for seniors," said Mayor Linda Brown. "As council, we look forward to seeing the proposed development plans and we are committed to working with ASK Wellness to ensure that this project meets the needs of seniors and the community at large."

“It’s not only for the citizen of Merritt but also the surrounding area, the Nicola Valley. The seniors make up a population of approximately 30 percent just within our city and many of them have lower incomes and fixed incomes. So, they have really been asking for a housing project in the downtown of the city and this fits the bill perfectly,” said Mayor Brown.

ASK Wellness Society will help build the new affordable homes for low- to moderate-income seniors on provincially owned land. ASK Wellness Society also owns and operates the adjacent Juniper House, a 30-unit building for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

"ASK Wellness Society has operated programming and housing in Merritt for the past twelve years and believes in the importance of providing affordable and safe housing for all," said Bob Hughes, executive director, ASK Wellness Society. "Seniors in Merritt are an important part of the community and the development of this housing project showcases our commitment to helping meet the affordable housing needs of Merritt."

The project is in the design stage and construction is expected to begin in spring 2020.

Q101 questioned the Minister about the proposed location being right beside Juniper Place and the mixing of the two totaly different demographics.

“I don’t think its an issue at all, I think we all live in community, we all have neighbour that are different than us and we all get along. “We are stronger for it, we’re more resilient for it,” said Robinson. “It’s also in the downtown core which I believe is really important to seniors. They want to be able to move around easily and this is a prime location.”

The project will still need City Council approval to move forward.

With the announcement came a 4-million-dollar commitment from the Province to help build the project. The housing project is part of the first series of projects selected to receive funding through the Province's Building BC: Community Housing Fund, a $1.9-billion investment over 10 years, to build more than 14,000 affordable rental homes for seniors, families and low- and middle-income earners.

 

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Legislature

BC Liberal MLA Marvin Hunt is calling on the BC NDP to take meaningful action to combat poverty in British Columbia after the government released an underwhelming poverty reduction plan – which took 15 months and $1.2 million to develop.

“After nearly two years in office, the NDP has released its long-awaited poverty reduction plan – except there’s nothing new in this plan to actually help people out of poverty,” says Marvin Hunt, Social Development and Poverty Reduction critic and Surrey-Cloverdale MLA. “This reads more like another NDP re-announcement than a substantive government strategy.”

Hunt notes the NDP’s plan contains significant gaps – offering no plan for economic growth and ignoring the importance of well-paying jobs for British Columbians’ financial security. The strategy also contains no mention of the 19 new or increased taxes the NDP has introduced since taking office, which raise the cost of living in British Columbia.

“The Premier himself admits British Columbians are working two or three jobs just to get by,” says Hunt. “But instead of tackling this unacceptable situation, Premier Horgan and his government seem to be using this strategy as an opportunity to pat themselves on the back. British Columbians need more than a redistribution of money. They need access to opportunities, and the NDP is failing to deliver.”

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart who used to work along with the Ministry when the Liberals were in power spoke to Q101 to give her thoughts on the plan.

“People were expecting a little bit more. It’s really a repackaging of other announcements that have been made this year and putting it all in one booklet,” said Tegart.

“What we have found, and I’m certain that the government has found, is there’s no simple solutions,” said Tegart. “It’s a process and I think the expectations were quite high for the announcement. And people have indicated disappointment in what they saw in the document.”

The NDP Government announced the following; British Columbia's first poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC, outlines programs and initiatives that will help reduce overall poverty in the province by 25%, and cut child poverty in half, over the next five years.

Using a 2016 baseline, the strategy aims to lift 140,000 people out of poverty, including 50,000 children. Further poverty reduction goals will be established as these targets are met.

 

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Dan Albas HOC

This week Finance Minister Bill Morneau and the Federal Liberal Government unveiled the final budget of their current mandate.

A brief summary of some of the 2019 Budget:

A new job retraining program for eligible workers aged between 25-64 that will provide up to $250 per year to a career maximum of $5000.

An increase to the maximum a first time home owner can borrow from their RRSP from 25,000 that will now be increased to a limit of $35,000.

A new shared equity home ownership plan where CHMC will provide a shared matching contribution between 5-10% towards the down payment on a new or existing home. Citizens with a household income under $120,000 may qualify. This will be limited to a purchase price that cannot exceed more than four times the annual household income.

Those who can afford to purchase a new electrical vehicle may now be eligible for up to a $5,000 federal credit on the purchase.

There is also a commitment to spend $35 million over 4 years to create a new federal Canadian drug agency, assumedly in Ottawa, that can work towards bulk buying drugs on a national scale. 

Aboriginal communities will also receive $1.4 billion over 7 years to forgive outstanding legal fees resulting from treaty and land negotiations. Indigenous groups that have already paid these fees can be eligible to have them repaid under this program.

Interest rates on Canada Student Loans will be lowered to prime and will be interest-free for 6 months after graduation.

While MP’s will closely go over each item and line in the budget with a fine-tooth comb over the coming days and weeks, MP for Central Okanogan-Similkameen-Nicola Dan Albas spoke to Q101 to give his initial thoughts.

“Well first of all this wasn’t a budget. A budget is a plan to know the limit on how much money you can spend, the idea is obviously to limit spending to what can be afforded,” said MP Albas. “What we saw was a very transparent cover-up spending document, part of an ongoing pattern with Mr. Trudeau who makes no effort to honour his promise to balance to budget this year, as he said during the election, or to meet a debt to GDP ratio of 27 percent. This Liberal Government has lost focus, they’ve abandoned the principle of getting value for the money and this is a desperate attempt to change the channel through blatant vote buying. And the public should be aware of that.”

Albas also spoke to a few issues he sees affecting his constituents in Central Okanogan-Similkameen-Nicola.

“Most of the spending operates on a debt, for example there is tens of billions of dollars of new spending. If you can afford to buy an electric car, Mr. Trudeau now proposes giving you a credit up to 5,000 dollars. Now, back in Merritt does this help anybody struggling to just to pay for their ICBC renewal?” questioned Albas. “The budget also allows a new home buyer to withdraw an additional 10,000 dollars from a RRSP, toward a home purchase. This completely ignores the fact that a growing amount of people can no longer even afford an RRSP contribution. Many can barely afford their own rent.”

Albas also saw one overarching issue.

“As much as the government claims they care about household debt levels. This budget actually encourages more household borrowing. It encourages students to borrow more with lower interest rates. It encourages borrowing from a RRSP. As I said earlier, it encourages borrowing to towards new things like an electric vehicle,” said Albas. “And all of this, the governments borrowing has to be paid back, even the money you have to borrow on the credit card to pay for these things has to be paid back. So, Canadians are going to take a double hit, because we all know todays spending may feel good but it eventually all has to be paid back. So, todays deficit spending that Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Morneau are engaged in, enviably means higher taxes for Canadians.”

There was an element of the budget that Albas did approve of, that would be a bill he championed in Ottawa.

“Bill C-410 which is a private members bill that I tabled, to help give the same protection to the working men and women when it comes to RRSP’s. Those are protected when someone hits a bankruptcy process. Those pension funds are protecting under the law,” said Albas. “Right now, registered disabled savings plans, those are not protected like a RRSP. So, I’m happy to see the government actually take an idea. Now, they still haven’t taken up the second half of my bill, which is to do the same protecting for RRSP’s for RESP’s (registered education saving plans). I ultimately believe that when people put away money for their children, whether they have disabilities or want to go to college or university some day, that those things are protected from creditors the same way we protect our RRSP’s.”

 

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