Northwest B.C. needs at least $1.3 billion in capital investments in local infrastructure, according to a recent analysis conducted by the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA).
Kris Boland, the alliance’s project manager, said the findings of the Infrastructure Needs Analysis — a sort of wish list for 21 local governments across the northwest, from Vanderhoof to Masset — weren’t surprising.
“The RBA members already know there is a significant infrastructure deficit in the region, and the RBA local governments are struggling to solve that deficit due to small populations and a limited tax base,” said Boland.
According to the analysis, over the past five years more than $13 billion in capital spending has occurred on major projects in the region — mines, pipelines, transmission lines, clean energy projects, port expansions, LNG plant site preparation and an aluminum smelter replacement.
But instead of benefiting the region, this activity has hurt it, states the report, as most of the economic activity is outside of municipal boundaries, generating little local government revenue while imposing significant costs on nearby communities.
Existing standards of basic public services in many communities across the northwest are significantly lower than those enjoyed by other British Columbians, the report states.
Meanwhile northwest B.C. has $154 billion of major industrial projects being built or proposed — approximately 60 per cent of the provincial total, the report adds.
“The RBA communities are in general not feeling prepared enough in terms of sustainability and livability to support the variety of increasing demands these industrial developments would impose on the communities,” Boland said.
And the estimated $1.3 billion needed in capital investments is likely to increase, said Boland, noting that’s a “preliminary figure.”
“What became apparent through this process was [that], in some communities, additional planning work needs to be completed to gain a more complete understanding of the necessary infrastructure projects and their costs,” Boland said. “My guess is that the $1.3 billion needs figure would increase significantly through more robust planning efforts.”
The report will now be used as the basis to support the RBA’s request for a revenue-sharing deal between the province and the region, with the goal of achieving a funding agreement prior to the next provincial election, said Boland.
At the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September, B.C. Premier John Horgan committed to these negotiations.