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DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – The Peace River Regional District is directing staff to draft a bylaw to fund future Hockey Canada events. During Thursday’s meeting, the board voted 7-5 in favour of the new bylaw.

Several board members favoured the bylaw due to what Hockey Canada events bring to communities, including an economic boost, supporting hockey’s growth and promoting health.  A referendum of approval will be needed for the bylaw as taxpayers will be required to pay more to fund the events.

Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead believes past events have brought “a strong regional approach to bringing residents together”.

“This is about building a regional initiative that helps enhance and build quality of life. To me, quality of life is health and happiness, and the amenities that we provide in our communities are what helps enhance and build them.”

Bumstead adds opportunities the region has to bring in international visitors are few and far between. He also mentioned the economic impact assessment shows the events have generated millions for the region.

Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman called the bylaw a “slippery slope” as taxes would increase to fund the events.

“The fact that we approve it is going to go out there for consideration by the public under the premise that we approved it. We will be held accountable for that when their taxes are impacted by it.  I am just not in favour of doing stuff that is not a necessity right now.”

“I can’t look my taxpayers in the face and say to them, I’m going to tax you for this, I’m going to create a special function for this.”

Tumbler Ridge Mayor Keith Bertrand and Hudson’s Hope Mayor Dave Heiberg were initially hesitant of supporting the motion but couldn’t deny the success of previous events in the region.

“Even if you’re not a fan of the game, it still can bring a community together,” says Tumbler Ridge Mayor Keith Bertrand.

Both mayors were heavily in favour of the impact the events have on youth.

“To have the opportunity for them to see something like this, of this calibre, within reachable distance is something that I think in terms of aspirations for these players is something we need to consider,” says Hudson’s Hope Mayor Dave Heiberg.

Electoral Director Dan Rose was among those who chose not to support the motion, saying there are more important needs to be addressed, including expanding fire protection in Chetwynd and health care scholarships. Chair Brad Sperling echoed Rose’s concerns, stating the benefits are great, but taxpayers pockets are only so deep.

“When I look at the infrastructure and the things that I’ve got to do in my area over the next couple years, it’s I am afraid we’re gonna lose it all,” says Sperling.

The economic impact assessment for The 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge shows $3.3 million in economic activity was generated across the province. In total, just under $300,000 was spent by visitors in Fort St. John during the event.

 

 

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