British Columbia’s new premier, John Horgan, was the only major party leader who committed to start negotiations for a revenue sharing agreement with northwest B.C. by September 2017 during the election.
The Northwest B.C. Resource Benefit Alliance (RBA), a group of local governments committed to achieving a revenue sharing agreement for the region, is now actively preparing to work with the new NDP-Greens government.
However, Bill Miller, RBA Chair and Director of Electoral Area B (Burns Lake rural), says he expects some delays.
“The RBA has every expectation that negotiation of a revenue sharing arrangement will proceed in due course,” said Miller. “However, right now our thoughts are with the thousands affected by the extreme wildfire emergency affecting our province.”
“While negotiations were promised by September, we recognize that the current state of emergency and the long delay in swearing in the government will result in a delay,” he continued. “That said, the fiscal situation for northwest B.C. local governments continues to deteriorate, so it is important that negotiations not be delayed any longer than necessary.”
Miller added that the RBA is prepared to sit down with the new government as soon as that can be arranged.
“We also expect our local MLAs, all of whom expressed support for the RBA during the campaign, to work hard on behalf of the people of northwest B.C. to help us make this happen,” he said. “We expect to meet with the four northwest MLAs within the next few weeks provided the fire situation doesn’t worsen.”
Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen told Black Press that he will also continue to advocate for a revenue sharing agreement.
“There is precedent in other parts of the province, and we have a commitment to initiate negotiations this fall,” he said. “Sharing some of the wealth generated in northwestern B.C. with the communities and residents of northwestern B.C. is the fair thing to do.”
Miller said the RBA plans to start negotiations by asking the provincial government for three per cent of the revenue generated in northwest B.C.
“We’re not asking for big sums of money,” said Miller. “What we’re asking for is a percentage of what goes out; if there’s no development, there’s no revenue flow. So it’s certainly not going to impact their coffers.”
The RBA estimates that current infrastructure needs in northwest B.C. total $600 million.