Work is “well underway” to develop a plan intended to make northwest B.C. communities more livable and sustainable, according to the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA).
Earlier this year the provincial government committed $300,000 to enable the RBA to work closely with stakeholders to lock down a proposal to be sent back to the B.C. government. The RBA hopes to see the province re-invest money from resources generated in the northwest from sectors such as lumber and mining.
“The RBA has started to engage select proponents and major projects, and will reach out to local businesses, labour unions and community groups later this summer and into the fall,” explained RBA chair Bill Miller, who also serves as chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.
Miller said meetings with provincial government representatives are ongoing and that information about community meetings will be made available later this year. In addition, members of the RBA will be meeting with local First Nations over the summer to share information and objectives.
“The [RBA] website will be updated when information is available about upcoming community meetings, and we encourage stakeholders to reach out directly at any time,” he added.
Last fall Premier John Horgan confirmed he and his senior government officials would collaborate, beginning immediately, with northwest B.C. leaders on a resource benefits sharing agreement.
According to Miller, these changes have been a long time coming as “huge amounts of wealth” are generated in the northwest, even as economic activities cause local roads and other infrastructure to fall into disrepair. The RBA estimates that current infrastructure needs in the northwest total $600 million.
“Our communities have had really no re-investment in them for a significant period of time,” said Miller.
Although the RBA has lobbied the province for about four years to arrive at a resource-revenue sharing model, efforts of local governments have been going on for even longer.
Formed in 2014, the RBA consists of 18 municipal governments and three regional districts.
The $300,000 committed by the province is also expected to help the RBA develop a more detailed picture of northwest economic activity.
-With files from David Gordon Koch and Quinn Bender