Northwest communities sign memorandum on revenue-sharing with province

·3 min read

The provincial government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) on Sept. 15, which brings them one step closer to a new revenue-sharing agreement.

The RBA, made up of 21 local governments from Masset to Vanderhoof, have been calling on B.C. for a new funding agreement since 2014.

“I am delighted we are moving that much closer to an agreement by signing this MOU. A finalized agreement will be a game changer for all communities across the northwest, as it will give us the ability to maintain and upgrade infrastructure in our communities, which is so desperately needed,” stated Sean Bujtas, councillor for the City of Terrace and member of the RBA steering committee.

Most projects generating economic activity in the northwest fall outside of municipal boundaries which translates to little local government revenue and significant costs for communities in the region, the RBA website states.

Therefore the RBA is lobbying the provincial government to share the revenue received through these major projects with local communities. The RBA website argues that the provincial government gets enough money through major projects to support communities in the northwest while still making an “enormous contribution to B.C. government general revenue.”

“If successful, this agreement would be a revenue sharing deal with the Province that could see millions a year for Prince Rupert and other northwest communities,” Lee Brain, mayor for Prince Rupert wrote on Facebook Sept. 15. “This kind of resourcing would mean the ability to really mobilize and grow our communities much more quickly, without having to burden local taxpayers.”

The MOU that was signed outlines the province and RBA’s commitments to work together to assess the impact of current and new industrial developments in the region. It dictates the principles that both parties have agreed to follow during the process and the steps that will be taken moving forward.

“We know that northwestern B.C. has unique needs and is growing quickly,” Nathan Cullen, minister of municipal affairs said. “By signing this MOU agreement, our government is committed to listening to rural and northern voices, and we will work collaboratively to meet the needs of people in this beautiful region.”

The MOU states that a working group, made up of staff from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and RBA members, will analyze the financial need and capacity of communities and identify projects, causes and issues that require funding.

The working group will meet at least every six weeks with a target of providing a summary report by March 31, 2023. The intent of the report is to describe progress toward the common understanding of how historical and current industrial development may be affecting local government infrastructure and livability in the region, the MOU states.

“The Northwest Resource Benefit Alliance is an important opportunity for our member municipalities and electoral areas to partner and plan with our First Nation neighbours on infrastructure programs and shared services across northwestern British Columbia,” Kris Olsen, mayor of Daajing Giids stated. “Our communities are interconnected, and we all benefit when we are able to plan and work together.”

Kaitlyn Bailey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View