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City chases resource dollars

THE CITY is continuing to pursue the provincial government for a share of the tax revenues expected when large industrial projects are developed in the region.

There’s no current mechanism in place for the city to benefit from projects in more remote areas even though its costs may rise because of resulting increases in population and demand for services.

Mayor Dave Pernarowski said the city has been looking at the provincial government’s northeastern Fair Share program in which municipalities and regional districts there will divide $35.3 million this year thanks to a very healthy oil and gas industry.

The program provides what the province calls grants in lieu of taxation and local governments are free to spend the money as they see fit.

“A precedent has been set in the province with with the northeast Fair Share program,” says Terrace mayor Dave Pernarowski of the approach being taken by the city.

“There are a number of projects in this region that will have an impact on the city.”

But Pernarowski said provincial finance minister Kevin Falcon has so far been less than enthusiastic about a similar Fair Share program for the northwest.

He’s not sure why, given the existing northeast Fair Share program, but says the city will keep pressing. “Lobbying is a delicate art,” said Pernarowski of the task of keeping the pressure on the provincial government. “You want to be careful. It’s a matter of timing. You want to have a reasonable and rational approach.”

“We’ll need to find our moment and make a good business case,” the mayor added. Pernarowski said it was important to remember that any kind of revenue sharing program would bring in other northwest municipalities and not just Terrace.

An idea of the kind of revenues the province might expect was provided by a press release earlier this month announcing  environmental approval for a run of river hydro-electric project to be built by Calgary-based AltaGas at McLymont Creek north of here.

The project, valued at $217 million, is expected to produce $140 million in provincial and local taxes would be generated over a 40-year lifespan, according to the press release.

In an expected three-year construction period for McLymont Creek alone, the provincial press release continued, $20 million in provincial revenues and $40 million in federal revenues are expected. Fort St. John will get the largest share — $16.638 million — of the $35.3 million in northeastern Fair Share money this year and Dawson Creek is next at $10.9 million.

The Fair Share total for 2012 is the largest yet in the 15-year life of the program which is scheduled to come to an end in 2020.

The Liberal MLA for Peace River North, Ed Pimm, is quoted as telling northeastern local government representatives that the agreement will be renegotiated.

“I know that [transportation] minister [Blair] Lekstrom and myself, as far as we’re concerned, this agreement is going to be in place. We’re going to keep the pressure on to keep this agreement in place and it’s an agreement that should be in place,” said Pimm.

 

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