DAWSON CREEK, B.C. — The Peace River Regional District held a discussion at their June 8 board meeting on whether to reapply for membership in the North Central Local Government Association in 2024.
At the meeting, directors passed a motion to defer discussion and decision on membership until fall 2023.
The PRRD opted out of membership in NCLGA in 2022 and again in 2023, based on a lack of perceived benefit resulting from participation. $21,641 was paid by the PRRD in 2021 for membership.
Fort St. John Mayor Lilia Hansen is in full support of membership with the NCLGA and believes it’s a good investment for the PRRD and local municipalities.
“I think it’s important that we speak with a unified voice of everyone at the table here. We share many common interests and concerns, and the government will listen to us more readily and with more open ears – because we’re coming with multiple mayors and directors,” said Hansen.
She added while it does cost money, it’s allowed the City of Fort St. John to take resolutions to the Union of BC Municipalities through the NCLGA.
“I think working together, we’ll go farther,” Hansen said.
Tumbler Ridge Mayor Darryl Krakowka expressed concern over how fees to the NCLGA are paid, noting it should be a shared cost through the PRRD.
“I’m not looking for it to come from electoral area directors, I believe it should be a shared membership from the all directors’ municipalities,” he said. “But before we were to do that, I did talk to staff about reaching out to the NCLGA in regards to regional districts.”
He further added that a credit to municipalities from the NCLGA would be reasonable, if they’re already paying both a regional district fee and their own individual membership.
When asked by Hansen on how membership was previously funded, PRRD CAO Shawn Dahlen clarified it was paid for by the electoral areas from 2006 to 2016, paid by the entire regional district in 2017 to 2020, and paid again solely by the electoral areas in 2021.
Electoral Area E Director Dan Rose feels rural residents would be underserved by membership in the NCLGA and said it’s premature to make a decision without more information, suggesting it would be better to defer to the fall when budgets are discussed.
“I think it’s actually a bit of a conflict to try and reduce your municipal rate and offload it onto the rural areas. And I do agree with director Hansen that a unified voice is fine, but our rural voice many times is quite a bit different than the municipal voice,” he said.
“So, I think there needs to be more information, and you have no idea that NCLGA would even accept that kind of a proposal anyways, because it would affect all their other fee structure throughout the NCLGA area,” added Rose.
Electoral Area C Director Brad Sperling agreed that more information is needed to make a decision, noting there’s also the formalization and expansion of the Peace River Local Government Association (PRLGA) to be discussed from a report in the committee of the whole.
The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM) and representatives from neighbouring First Nations communities are two partners who’ve been considered to include.
“I’d like to have that conversation before, at least at the time that we’re looking at this. I have talked to the Northern Rockies, they are interested in having that conversation. And maybe if it goes one way, the whole Northeast would belong to it.” said Sperling.
He added that the membership structure and large fee has made it difficult to bring electoral area issues forward, noting there’s a reliance on PRRD board approval, rather than speaking independently.
“We have to go there with regional issues, we don’t have the opportunity to only go there with electoral area issues, and that’s part of the problem that we saw with paying that kind of money,” Sperling said.
The NCLGA’s new board of directors was selected at its 68th annual general meeting in early May.
Written by Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative