Up in the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bev Vandersteen had a number of recommendations for consideration in the 2014 budget. She stressed the need for more local hires, as many people in the area fly-in, fly-out for work, and suggested implementing a carbon tax grant program for northern and rural communities. 

“We need to recognize that for B.C. residents in the north and in rural areas, this is an unfair tax. “Our businesses here, like businesses everywhere, will do everything they possibly can to reduce costs and create that profitability, but the use of diesel fuel and gasoline is unavoidable here as well as other rural communities.” 

She argues that puts companies like in the Horn River at a “competitive disadvantage”, and argues a grant program, along with a provincial northern travel deduction would help bring both workers and their families to the north. She also pointed to better healthcare, like maternity services and B.C. Ambulance, as critical to residents and in need of funding, along with skills training. 

Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman echoed that sentiment, maintaining that northern and rural municipalities need help with recruiting and retaining medical professionals, appropriate college funding, and more funding for programs like Northern Opportunities. Ackerman also suggested measures to ensure the wealth the north provides the rest of the province is properly recognized. 

“Although the majority of voters happen to be in the south, the north is creating wealth,” she reminded the committee. “When we look at policies, they need to be broad enough to ensure that they’re not cookie cutter-type policies that really do not allow for flexibility to ensure achievement of success.” 

A focus was also placed on the local school district, which is in need of two new elementary schools, and soon a new middle school.

“The school district did receive approval from the local governments for school site acquisition charges, and Mr. Chair, I can tell you that that was approved two years ago and is sitting on someone’s desk in Victoria, while the land prices in Fort St. John, I can guarantee you, have not remained status quo,” adds Ackerman. 

Today is the last day for submissions on the budget. The committee’s report is due by November 15, 2013.