Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells was pleasantly surprised when a motion to recapitalize the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) garnered unanimous support from delegates across the province at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, September in Whistler. The support provides momentum to move forward with meaningful reconciliation action and economic development for future generations, locally and in other coastal communities.
The provincial government created ICET in 2006, and provided $50 million to help economic growth throughout the coastal region. It was designed as a sinking fund that directs source money, not interest accrued, to projects such as the Hornby Island arts centre, and walk-in campsites in Cumberland.
“Basically, we said, ‘How long do we want it to last?’ So this is what our budget is going to be per year,” said Wells, a regional advisory committee chair on ICET. “At the end of 15 years, we will be out of money. However, when ICET was created, nobody knew the impact it would have.”
He would like to have seen a provincial review a few years ago. But when the pandemic hit, Wells said the province handed over more money to ICET, which could deliver specific programming to provide economic development support for businesses as it related to COVID.
“We need to go from a sinking fund to a permanent fund,” he said. “Otherwise, even if we get another $50 million, we’re going to be out again.”
With a perpetual fund, ICET could invest and spend the interest amount while the principal grows.
The organization is requesting a $150 million base amount in order to reach a principal amount of $200 million.
“That should allow us to do what we’re doing right now, and grow the fund incrementally every year,” Wells said.
In terms of reconciliation, he said many structures exclude certain parts of the citizenry. Ideally, First Nations will get a seat at the ICET table to be part of the discussion and decision-making process.
“Which is such an important part of reconciliation,” Wells said.