Resource benefits negotiations on track

Northern RBA directors say the new government is favourable to sharing resources with the north

By Quinn Bender

They’re calling it an “overwhelming reaffirmation” of the NDP’s promise to negotiate a fair share of resource revenues with the region.

The Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) met with the new provincial government last week over the proposed revenue-sharing model, following the party’s election promise to begin negotiations this fall.

“The ministers are already familiar with the RBA issues, so we are confident that the right team will be put together quickly,” said Alliance co-chair and Mayor of Prince Rupert Lee Brain.

Victoria is now determining which ministry and senior staff will lead negotiations.

The RBA consists of 18 communities and three regional districts seeking a share of government revenue from future resource developments. They say it will help transform a “have-not region” into one reaching its full potential.

In a press release, the RBA praised the NDP government’s “steadfast commitment” and fresh approach to their proposal over that taken by the former Liberal government. In their meetings last week, the RBA reiterated with ministers that in the past five years resource developments have generated $500 million in provincial tax revenue, but none of that has been shared with the 21 local governments in the alliance.

Instead, the w contends, residents and businesses subsidize the provincial government with service and infrastructure developments, creating significant competitive disadvantages for the Northwest.

The group expects $30-billion of new investment flowing into the Northwest for future resource development projects, but generating very little revenue locally, as most projects fall outside municipal boundaries.

“Essentially what we’re asking for is a fair return of that revenue to come back to our communities so we can support social services, support infrastructure, support healthcare without having to always do tax increases on our residents,” Brain said.

Currently, Alliance members are responsible for more than $600 million combined in infrastructure debt.