Skip to content

Mayor remains hopeful province will provide cash

Infrastructure needs are paramount in the region
34032272_web1_231004-HTO-benefits.alliance.with.premier
Northwest mayors and councillors from local governments belonging to the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver gathered for a group photo with provincial officials. That’s Houston mayor Shane Brienen standing right beside Premier David Eby. (Submitted photo/Houston Today)

Houston mayor Shane Brienen says he remains confident the provincial government is going to eventually share the taxes it collects from large scale industrial projects in the region.

One of three co-chairs of the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance, Brienen has been at the forefront of the efforts by northwestern B.C. municipalities to get a share of taxes paid to the province from industrial projects outside of their boundaries for nearly 10 years.

The local governments argue that they provide water, sewer, road and other services for the employees of large projects yet don’t receive a share of the taxes paid by the projects.

“I think we’ve been moving along steadily. I think we’re at the point that we want to be so yes, everyone’s happy,” said Brienen just back from the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver where he and council members met with numerous cabinet ministers and other government officials.

It’s a crucial time as the province each fall begins to prepare its spending plans for the next budget year.

“We’re trying to get it in front of the government and into the budget for the next year,” Brienen said.

“I feel it’s doable. We’ve been feeling very positive about it. We’ve been working on this for nine years. And we’ve been back and forth, proving our case and looking over the numbers and making a strong case for an agreement,” he added.

The alliance also wants a change in how the province provides money to smaller local governments for infrastructure and other projects.

Grants from senior governments are often tied to smaller municipal governments also coming up with money and that’s not always possible, said Brienen.

“Communities in many cases have been built by industry and were not set up to maintain them on residential taxation. Se we have things falling apart and we aren’t able to match grants,” he said.

“If you’re trying to get a grant on infrastructure, which there are a lots out there, we have not been able to do that in the past.”

Local governments also want to change grants, for which they have to apply, into a guaranteed annual income stream to better plan infrastructure and other projects.

“We’re after a sustainable funding model that we can work with,” Brienen said.

“That’s been one of our key points from the beginning,” he continued. “We wanted to provide long term sustainable funding for capital projects and operating costs. That’s always been a shortfall for us. And we’re actually in a spot where we’ve fallen so far behind now that it’s getting almost impossible to keep up.”

He did acknowledge one time payments such as the $150 million provided directly to northwestern local governments in 2019 and 2020.

Houston has been allocating its portion to either cover the costs of inflation on some projects or to significantly beef up large scale projects such as the rebuilding and renewal of 9th and 10th in the downtown core.

The province so far has not committed itself to regular payments to northwestern municipalities but Premier David Eby, while at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver, did agree the municipalities need money.

“We are committed to partnering with northwestern communities to help stabilize their infrastructure and growth over the long term,” he said in a news release.

A financial analysis prepared for both the province and the benefits alliance indicated that northwestern municipalities increasingly depend upon money from senior governments for infrastructure needs.

That’s because they generally have small property tax bases and low borrowing limits.