Standing (L-R) are the three co-chairs of the Resource Benefits Alliance, including Prince Rupert mayor Lee Brain, Terrace councilor Sean Bujtas (with son George) and Houston mayor Shane Brienen; and British Columbia premier John Horgan. Standing in front is Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selena Robinson. (Black Press Media file photo)

Resource Benefits Alliance hires project manager

The new project manager for the Northwest British Columbia Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) started his permanent position on April 1.

Kris Boland previously worked as a director of finance for the District of Mission.

The RBA formed in 2014 and is made up of 21 local governments – including municipalities – from Vanderhoof to Masset in northwestern British Columbia.

The alliance seeks to secure a funding agreement with the province to ensure the region benefits more from the economic development of the area.

It has been talking with the provincial government on that goal since 2017.

READ MORE: Northwest B.C. shared revenue talks continue

Boland was chosen by Ron Poole, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine based on the two working together at the District of Mission in the Fraser Valley.

“I had worked with him for four years. I knew his skills. When I was hired for this initiative, we were looking for someone specific,” Poole, who signed on with the Kitimat-Stikine regional district in his new role in January, told Black Press.

“He has a good financial background. He has also worked with political bodies. He’s got political acumen. He’s done work with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.”

“Kris will be undertaking the movement of the RBA. He’s going to be shepherding it better than we’ve done in the past. It hasn’t had the focus until this point,” Poole said.

Under the RBA’s memorandum of understanding, Poole is the manager of the alliance but as a staffer Boland handles most of the workload, including reports and strategy.

“I’m not doing the real grunt work in terms of working with the initiative and pulling together the information that’s needed,” Poole said. “It’s such a large region it’s really difficult to keep the communication out there. That’s where he’s going to be the feet on the ground.”

The alliance has set aside $100,000 to cover the costs of Boland and Poole with 80 per cent being Boland’s salary and the remaining $20,000 to cover Poole’s time. But Poole’s earnings aren’t necessarily on top of his regional district salary. His work with the alliance is regarded as part of his regional district job, and the district is compensated by the alliance for that time spent on alliance duties.

With Boland’s role in place, Poole said he hopes the RBA’s direction can become clearer.

“How will we communicate to the public? What’s the strategy of the RBA? Where the funding’s coming from? What’s our strategy on the administrative level? We’re hoping to get out to the regional district meetings on a more regular basis.”

The RBA’s budget is currently funded by the regional districts of Bulkley-Nechako, North Coast and Kitimat-Stikine. They put in $100,000, $120,000 and $200,000, respectively.

Added to that $420,000 is $165,000 remaining from the $300,000 grant to the RBA from the province last year. That funding was meant for public engagement, Poole said.

READ MORE: Province gives $300,000 to Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance

The varying amounts each regional district has given would be balanced out through reimbursement once a funding agreement is reached with the province, Poole added.

Communities in the region welcomed the recent $100 million infrastructure grant from the provincial government, but in itself it didn’t push forward the RBA’s goal, which is long-term, stable funding.

LOOK BACK: Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

However, the grant showed the province is paying attention to the economic inequality between northern and southern B.C, said Sean Bujtas, a Terrace city councilor and one of three co-chairs of the alliance.

Bujtas works alongside the other two co-chairs — Houston mayor Shane Brienen and Prince Rupert mayor Lee Brain.

“[Horgan] was quoted as saying, ‘The message was abundantly clear, for too long the resources in the North have been feeding the people in the South and there has not been a rapid turnaround of benefits coming back to the region’. Premier Horgan recognizing that resources have been leaving the area with very little return is positive news for the RBA,” Bujtas explained.


Blair McBride
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