What most politicians in northern B.C. seem to agree on is that the provincial government has not been giving small communities the importance that they deserve. Or at least that these communities have not seen a fair return given all that is produced in these areas.
This topic came up during a regional district board meeting last month when directors were discussing the issue of traffic safety along Hwy. 16. According to the directors, safety does not only depend on the enforcement of speed limits, but also on making highways safer.
“The farther you get from Victoria, the worst the highways get in this province, and that should tell you something,” said one of the directors. “Our highways, as soon as the frost starts to go, the ground gets a little bit soft and the highways are gone because those trucks make ruts; you go down to the Lower Mainland, see if they got any ruts on their highways.”
And it’s not only on highways that we see problems. Communities up north often struggle to build basic infrastructure.
Telkwa has recently turned down a grant that the municipality had been pursuing for over a decade to build a water reservoir. That’s because the village could not afford to pay its one-third share of the $2.5 million grant.
“We don’t have paved roads, never mind libraries or medical clinics or swimming pools,” said Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen. “We don’t have paved roads and we have problems with our water and sewer systems, so something’s got to give.”
“I think we’re all aware that the wealth of the province of British Columbia isn’t generated by buildings or machinery, it’s generated by people,” he added. “And we have 1327 of those people living in Telkwa that are not seeing equal benefits as the people who are living in other municipalities.”
In Burns Lake, the village can only set aside $160,000 to pave portions of a chosen road each year while $42,000 is set aside to deal with the village’s potholes (and we’ve seen how many of those we had this year).
What politicians in the region have continually stated is that these same communities that can’t build basic infrastructure for its residents produce a significant portion of the province’s wealth. And when they approach the provincial government, they are treated with an attitude of “here comes that small town again asking for money.”
That’s why the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance, which was formed to achieve a revenue sharing agreement for northwest B.C., is encouraging residents to put pressure on MLA candidates. Maybe the Burns Lake all candidates forum, which will be held in the Heritage Centre on April 27, will be as good a time as any to ask the candidates if they support this initiative.