Reaching a revenue sharing agreement between the province and northwest B.C. is no longer in the distant future, says Kris Boland, project manager with the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA).
Formed in 2014, the RBA is an association of 21 local governments across northwest B.C. — from Masset to Vanderhoof — seeking to receive a share of provincial profits from industrial development in the region.
“We have a verbal commitment from Premier [John] Horgan to get an agreement in place within the current term of the provincial government, so we feel the end goal is in sight,” said Boland, referring to a commitment made by the premier last September at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention.
Provincial staff, who continue to work with RBA representatives on various revenue sharing options, expect to see some results of their work in the coming months, according to the province.
RBA representatives have also recently met with Premier Horgan in Prince George.
“The meeting was positive, and the message was consistent with the commitment that was made at the September 2019 UBCM Convention,” Boland stated in a recent report to municipal councils in the region.
Provincial staff have been reviewing the RBA’s list of infrastructure needs and are expected to carry out an analysis of the RBA members’ financial capacity, said Boland.
“The outcome of these reviews will be brought to an executive meeting of the provincial government for consideration and direction as to how to move forward with some form of revenue sharing agreement,” Boland stated in the report, noting the meeting is expected to occur toward the end of March.
The RBA’s Infrastructure Needs Analysis Report identified a need of at least $1.3 billion in capital investments in infrastructure in northwest B.C.
According to the analysis, over the past five years more than $13 billion in capital spending has occurred on major projects in the region, including mines, pipelines, transmission lines and port expansions.
But instead of benefiting the region, this activity has hurt it, states the report, as most of the economic activity is outside of municipal boundaries, generating little local government revenue while imposing significant costs on nearby communities.
In February, the province announced a $100,000 grant to support 26 northern local governments on strategic planning and upgrades to municipal infrastructure. The majority of the funding (approximately 80 per cent) went to the 21 RBA members.