Northwestern British Columbia is looking to get a fair share agreement of its own.
It was announced today that 21 local governments have signed on to round out the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance, which representatives hope will help light a fire under the province to get to the negotiating table over resource revenue sharing the region wants to receive from new LNG, mining, and forestry projects.
“The northwest has been forgotten for too long,” said Stacey Tyers, chair of the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine.
“We feel like it’s our turn.”
The alliance is looking for three per cent of provincial revenues from new resource development in the region, which spans from Vanderhoof in the east, Haida Gwaii in the west, Kitimat in the south, and the Yukon border in the north.
“We’re asking for piece of the provincial pie, not to increase the price of the pie,” said Tyers.
“if these projects don’t come to fruition and the province doesn’t see additional revenue, neither would we. We think that’s a practical way to approach (the issue).”
Tyers said the alliance has received $1 million under the Northwest Readiness Project, money that Tyers says help local governments with planning, but does little to address the real boost to infrastructure and services that are needed as development is poised to ramp up.
“We think it’s necessary to have the negotiations and a framework in place before these projects begin,” she said.
“When these projects come in to play, it will be too late.”
Kitimat, for example, is facing a $50-million infrastructure deficit, according to Tyers. The region, much like the northeast, is taking a huge hit on its infrastructure from development outside municipal borders, and is suffering from fly-in fly-out workers who are not investing and settling in the community.
Tyers said the arrival of any new LNG projects inside municipal boundaries, such as Shell’s LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat, could see property tax assessment caps from the province, lowering the amount of municipal taxes the projects would generate.
“That’s really the only way municipalities can actually generate revenue. If we’re looking at capping that as well… this region has right to be left better off than they were before,” Tyers said.
The alliance was first announced in July 2014, and now includes the Regional Districts of Skeena-Queen Charlotte and Bulkley-Nechako, along with the districts’ respective electoral areas and municipalities.
The alliance says Premier Christy Clark promised to enter into negotiations over revenue sharing with the region in her 2013 election campaign, and reaffirmed that promise at a September 2014 Union of BC Municipalities conference.
However, the alliance says it has been waiting ever since for Premier Clark to follow-through and come to the table, and has sent an “urgent request” to Clark, along with ministers and senior officials with the Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development.