Negotiations over a resource benefits sharing agreement between northwest B.C. leaders and the provincial government are moving forward.
During the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) annual convention last September, B.C. premier John Horgan confirmed he and his senior government officials would collaborate, beginning immediately, with the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA).
Since the UBCM convention, RBA representatives have travelled to Victoria to meet with the provincial government.
According to RBA chair Bill Miller, discussions are ongoing.
“Both parties are working collaboratively and diligently to explore an agreement that would provide the best outcome for the northwest region and the whole of B.C.,” said Miller last week.
Miller remains optimistic that an agreement will be reached in due course. During the UBCM convention, provincial government and RBA leaders expected to reach an agreement within six months – by the end of March 2018.
Earlier this year, Miller commended the NDP government for its “steadfast commitment” to the RBA.
“After four years of empty promises we have finally gotten to the negotiation table,” he said. “Senior government officials understand this type of agreement will not only benefit the northwest, but the whole province; it is a critical component to enable the northwest region to reach its true potential and contribute to the province’s economic future in a very positive way.”
Miller said it’s important to educate the provincial government on how much revenue is generated in the northwest and what residents currently see in return.
“They [province] see us as a burden, which doesn’t make sense at all because at the end of the day we’re the ones that are producing the dollars that pay for their highways,” Miller said earlier this year. “We are revenue generators.”
According to the RBA, while infrastructure spending by both levels of government has been significant since the 2009 recession, the northwest infrastructure deficit has not been reduced. Local governments estimate that current infrastructure needs total $600 million.
“Revenue sharing would provide local government with the resources we need to properly address the infrastructure and service gaps in our communities and create a legacy for our children,” states the RBA. “A revenue sharing agreement would make the northwest more livable and sustainable, creating a vibrant local economy to complement and diversify the region’s resource base.”
Formed the 2014, the RBA is comprised of 21 local governments in the regional districts of Bulkley-Nechako, Kitimat-Stikine and Skeena-Queen Charlotte.