Province gives $300K to Resource Benefits Alliance

Agreement would divvy up wealth with northwest region

Northwest B.C. has faced economic disadvantage for too long, and newly announced funds for a consultation on revenue-resource sharing is a step in the right direction, according to Bill Miller, chair of the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA).

The B.C. government has committed $300,000 to help the RBA consult with stakeholders — including businesses, industry and residents — to lock down a proposal to be sent back to the B.C. government.

The RBA hopes to see the province re-invest money from resources generated in the northwest from sectors such as lumber and mining.

The changes have been a long time coming, said Miller, who also serves as chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.

Huge amounts of wealth are generated in the northwest, even as economic activities cause local roads and other infrastructure to fall into disrepair, he said. “Our communities have had really no re-investment in them for a significant period of time.”

It’s symbolic of the region’s “have-not” status that local governments lack the funding needed just to carry out a consultation, Miller said. But he expressed optimism about the new direction indicated by the new funding commitment from the province.

“We’re going to have much more livable communities that have infrastructure supported by resources that are being taken solely out of our area,” he said, adding that upgrades to recreational services are also needed to keep people in the region.

One estimate indicates that close to 70 percent of the wealth generated in B.C. comes from outside of the Lower Mainland, said Miller. He added that money for the consultation will help the RBA develop a more detailed picture of northwest economic activity.

The alliance has lobbied the province for four years to arrive at a resource-revenue sharing model — but efforts of local governments have been going on for even longer, Miller said.

Premier John Horgan met in person with RBA board members during a tour of the area last month, at which time he signalled the money would be coming through.

“We believe that people should benefit from the prosperity generated by their hard work, and the resources of the regions where they live,” Horgan said in a press release.

The RBA consists of 18 municipal governments and three regional districts seeking a share of government revenue from future resource developments.

-With files from Quinn Bender, Terrace Standard

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