The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) is moving forward with its proposed boundary expansion.
Bill Miller, RDBN Director of Electoral Area B, and other RDBN directors met with provincial representatives during the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria last month to further those discussions.
This all started when a neighbouring regional district – the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) – made a request to the provincial government to expand its boundaries. The RDKS wanted to expand its northwest and northeast boundaries to encompass two areas of the Stikine region that are currently under provincial jurisdiction.
The RDKS’ request would end up isolating a portion of the Stikine region located directly north of the RDBN. Therefore the province informed the RDBN board earlier this year it was considering adding that area to the RDBN. The province’s suggestion sparked a discussion between the RDBN directors, who became interested in exploring other possibilities to expand the regional district’s boundaries.
While it still hasn’t been determined which areas would be added to the RDBN, Miller said the proposed plan is moving forward.
“The boundaries are going to change; we don’t know where they will be, but the boundaries are going to change,” said Miller. “The proposed timeline is to have this in place by the next local government election, two years from now.”
When asked about benefits, Miller explained that there’s potential for significant revenue from mining and forestry activity. In addition, he said this change would make the RDBN administrative boundaries more in line with some of the provincial administrative boundaries.
“It’s important for us to match our administrative boundaries the best we can,” he explained. “If those boundaries match, it makes it much easier from an administrative point of view; if the timber supply area and our boundary are the same, then we deal with only one office.”
“Right now there are overlaps all over the place; the province has done that to us a lot,” he continued. “We have for instance in our regional district, two hospital districts – the Stuart-Nechako Regional Hospital District and the North West Regional Hospital District.”
“We don’t want to take areas that only are going to be a burden on our tax payers,” he added. “It has to make sense, so that’s what we started to do.”
The provincial government and RDBN staff are currently collecting data and assessing which areas could be added to the regional district.
“We’re at the stage now where we’ve asked both the ministry and our staff to start to draw those boundaries; [to see] how they make sense to our transportation corridors, our forest districts and cultural lines.”
Miller said consultations with First Nations will be a vital part of the process.
“It’s more than just consultation, they [First Nations] have to be a part of the decision-making process,” he said.
Melany de Weerdt, Chief Administrative Officer for the RDBN, was also at the meeting in Victoria. She pointed out that these discussions are still “very preliminary.”
“We do not know if there will be a boundary expansion or not and multiple parties will need to be consulted before any decision is taken,” she said.
Also at the meeting were Rob Newell, Director of Electoral Area G (Houston rural); Tom Greenway, Director of Electoral Area C (Fort St. James rural); Fort St. James Mayor Rob MacDougall and Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repens.