B.C. NDP leader John Horgan is the only major party leader that committed to begin negotiations for a revenue sharing agreement with northwest B.C. by September 2017, should his party be elected.
“The B.C. NDP has always supported the principle of ensuring that resource-dependent communities benefit from economic development in their region,” said Horgan. “That’s why I am proud to say a B.C. NDP government will undertake negotiations with northwest communities to ensure that benefits from future economic development stays in those communities.”
The Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) – a group comprised of 21 local governments trying to achieve a revenue sharing agreement between northwest B.C. and the provincial government – sent letters to each of the major party leaders on April 12, 2017.
“We are asking for your promise and a confirmation response, that beginning no later than Sept. 9, 2017, your government will negotiate in good faith with the RBA to reach an agreement under which the region will receive a meaningful share of provincial revenues generated by economic development activity in northwest B.C.”
While Liberal and Green party leaders have expressed their support for a revenue sharing agreement, they did not commit to begin negotiations by Sept. 9, 2017.
“The B.C. Liberal Party has always been clear the northwest should share from its success and look forward to those discussions,” said Liberal leader Christy Clark in a statement. “Key to those talks, though, is having something to share; our party has a clear plan to grow the economy and see LNG has an integral part of the region’s future.”
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said the B.C. Greens are committed to building a “more respectful relationship” with communities and local governments.
“At this point we can commit to engaging with local governments across B.C. to establish an effective funding base for communities as soon as possible upon forming government, whether it would include this particular revenue sharing model would need to be examined further,” he said.
Bill Miller, RBA chair and chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, explained that making candidates commit to a date helps hold them accountable.
“Last election we received a general promise that wasn’t kept,” said Miller. “This time around we need a specific commitment to promptly negotiate from each party leader so we can hold them to account after the election.”
Miller said the RBA plans to start negotiations by asking the provincial government for three per cent of the revenue generated in northwest B.C.
“We’re not asking for big sums of money,” said Miller. “What we’re asking for is a percentage of what goes out; if there’s no development, there’s no revenue flow. So it’s certainly not going to impact their coffers.”
The RBA estimates that current infrastructure needs in northwest B.C. total $600 million.
“Can you imagine if our communities had $2 or $3 million coming out of resource generation? What that would do to our budgets… what that would do to our services,” added Miller.