Last Tuesday Smithers council decided not to waive the need for non-essential off-site infrastructure works to be completed as part of the CT scanner upgrades to the Bulkley Valley & District Hospital. In making this decision, it seems that most of the residents who depend on that hospital for their immediate health care needs were forgotten.
According to the 2016 census, 6,583 people in RDBN Area A and Telkwa utilize the hospital, (and the ambulance service, also stationed in Smithers,) compared to 5,351 Smithers residents. We all pay for the hospital through our property taxes, as we also pay for the Bulkley Valley Pool and our regional Secondary School. (Both also located in Smithers.) We are also home to the majority of shoppers, service users, business owners and workers who help to support Smithers’ property tax base.
Having crunched the numbers on Smithers’ annual revenues per capita compared to Telkwa’s, it appears that Smithers has at least double the amount per resident to spend on community services and infrastructure, which is clearly evident to anyone living in either community. This is despite Telkwa homeowners paying significantly more in property taxes and charges, on average, than their Smithers neighbours.
It was with great frustration that I read the comments of certain members of council, (in an online article of this publication) stating that they thought that it would be a good idea to approach the NW Regional Hospital District for a tax increase to pay for those municipal infrastructure works. I don’t believe Smithers taxpayers have paid for any facility or infrastructure project in Telkwa or Area A. My response to the assertion that our policing is subsidized is this; the detachment is in Smithers, there is an exponentially greater presence in Smithers, Telkwa provides the majority of RCMP housing, and the crime statistics from both communities suggest that we aren’t much of a burden. Also, should Smithers take this up with the federal government and get them to change their (admittedly ridiculous) formula, I’d be happy to pay my share. It would be a fraction of what we contribute to the three services noted above.
Telkwa and Area A have never asked Smithers taxpayers to pay for our sewer, water and road infrastructure. Smithers council members, in consideration of the circumstances outlined above, shouldn’t ask us to pay for their’s.
Instead, I would recommend that Smithers council promote this as a powerful example of why a fair NW Resource Benefits Alliance agreement with the provincial government is essential for the livability of our communities, and advocate tirelessly for the signing of an agreement. That money could then be used for the off-site works for facilities like the BV & District Hospital.
We’ve lived without the proposed off-site upgrades for decades. Surely, we can wait a year or two longer.