The Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) is urging newly-elected MLAs in the northwest region to work together to achieve a revenue sharing agreement for the region.
All four elected MLAs – John Rustad, Nechako Lakes; Ellis Ross, Skeena; Jennifer Rice, North Coast; Doug Donaldson, Stikine – have expressed their support for a revenue sharing agreement in the northwest.
The MLAs were recently invited to a meeting with RBA chairs.
“With 85 per cent of the local population in favour of revenue sharing, and all 21 local governments across the region committed to resolving this issue, this is a movement that cannot be ignored,” said Barry Pages, RBA’s Vice-Chair. “We will be in Victoria making sure that government addresses this issue promptly, but we’re starting at home by inviting the four successful candidates to an initial meeting as soon as possible.”
Rustad said that reaching an agreement with the provincial government will depend a lot on what happens once the final vote count is concluded and what the future of LNG will be.
“This won’t be easy,” he said. “I can tell you we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Phil Germuth, RBA’s Vice-Chair, said that regardless of which party forms government, the fact remains that local governments in northwest B.C. provide expensive services that are crucial to sustain the high level of current and planned economic activity, without a sufficient tax base to fund them.
Bill Miller, RBA Chair and Chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, said that even though there is still some uncertainty about how the government will form in the coming weeks, many interpret the close election result as a vote for greater collaboration among the parties going forward.
“In that spirit, we are asking all of those elected from the northwest to work together to help solve a real and urgent problem for the region,” he said.
Prior to the provincial election, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan was the only major party leader that committed to begin negotiations with the RBA by September 2017. While Liberal leader Christy Clark has expressed her support for a revenue sharing agreement, she did not commit to a date to begin negotiations.
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.
The RBA estimates that current infrastructure needs in northwest B.C. total $600 million.