Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin, recently re-elected for his third term in office, made his first appearance in six years at a Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Thursday afternoon to give an address.
Despite their “philosophical and political differences” Austin said he will be happy to work more closely with the Chamber in his new role as the opposition critic for the newly created natural gas ministry.
In particular Austin hopes to forge a revenue sharing agreement that will bring a cut of LNG profits to the Northwest to boost community development.
“The good news is that there are people on both sides of the aisle in support of this,” Austin told the Chamber members. “I am speaking to you because you have strong connections with the B.C. Liberal Party.”
Austin said that the Terrace region needs seize the opportunity like other areas in B.C. In particular he cited the Kootenays and Peace River districts as setting an example as to how profit sharing deals can be forged between the province and municipalities.
The Kootenays receives a cut of profits generated by hydro projects in that area, Austin said, and the Peace River district gets a healthy cut of oil and gas profits through their Fare Share program.
Austin referred to a recent revenue sharing report by the City of Terrace.
He said he believes the report will be useful, though he would like to see First Nations claims put in there as well.
The report highlights how in 2011/2012 Dawson Creek, a town in the Peace River district of almost identical size to Terrace, received $13,443,219 in transfer payments from the provincial government while Terrace only received $3,654,208.
The report highlights this inequality and also shows stats that place the northwest at the very bottom in terms of poverty and health issues, all reasons why the region could benefit from a share of the wealth created by new industry coming to the region.