Broader revenue approach urged

TERRACE WON’T get everything it wants from the province to cope with an expected economic boom, says a provincial cabinet minister

TERRACE WON’T get everything it wants from the province to cope with an expected economic boom, says a provincial cabinet minister who toured the area last week.

And, says energy and mines minister Bill Bennett, the city might be better off developing a regional approach with other local governments when it comes to a piece of the revenue pie that could come from industrial projects such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants and mines.

“The important issue for now is having a regional voice and not presenting government with too many choices. Do we satisfy what Terrace wants? Do we satisfy what Prince Rupert wants? Or do we satisfy what Kitimat wants? We need the northwest to really think about what we think is about to happen,” said Bennett.

Bennett spoke to city council members Aug. 7 and was accompanied at the meeting by aboriginal relations and reconciliation minister John Rustad and community, sport and cultural development minister Carolee Oakes.

The three cabinet ministers were on a northwest visit that included meetings with First Nations and municipalities, as well as speeches at public functions including a Terrace Chamber of Commerce dinner hosted by the Skeena Valley Golf and Country Club on August 6.

Bennett repeatedly said that forming a regional alliance of some sort could help the northwest’s chances of forging an effective revenue sharing agreement with the province for infrastructure and community upgrades.

He said that LNG and other companies would invest directly in the communities once the contracts are signed and construction is underway on the proposed industrial projects.

“You should consider some sort of regional organization to figure out what’s most important and where you see yourselves 20 years from now,” said Bennett, adding that he feels Terrace needs to do a better job of prioritizing its needs.

According to Bennett, the amount of money allotted to specific municipalities would hinge on where tax-paying LNG facilities get built.

For this reason the details of a revenue sharing agreement with the government is hard to forge before the projects are given the go-ahead by the provincial reviews and corporate boards.

“If you have three LNG plants in Kitimat, a lot of that pressure will be in Kitimat,” said Bennett, adding that on the other hand it could turn out that Prince Rupert will have the bulk of the LNG processing facilities, in which case it would need a greater share of the revenue.

Bennett was presented with a city council shopping list which included city councillor Marylin Davies saying there’s a need for more doctors and more space at Mills Memorial Hospital and councillor Lynne Christiansen saying a new museum is a necessity.

Councillor Brian Downie wanted the aging aquatic centre question addressed and councillor Bruce Bidgood said the city needs $45 million to fix up its infrastructure.

“Is the new bridge first priority or third? Or is the hospital first? This next 20 years is going to be quite a ride so we need to hear from the whole area,” said Bennett.

Oakes said she has studied the revenue sharing report drafted by the city earlier this year and sees it as an important template for future revenue sharing based on the impact projects will have in the area.

However, she said that the BC Liberal Government won’t be using the term revenue sharing and prefers “rural dividend.”

During a campaign stop in Terrace during the provincial election, Premier Christy Clark promised that northwestern residents would receive a fair share of any taxation revenue coming to the provincial government from new industrial projects in the region.

Oakes said that part of the government’s jobs strategy is to make places of work attractive to potential workers.

“If we’re attracting good quality people here who bring their families we need sports, we need the arts here,” said Oakes.

Councillor Stacey Tyers was acting as deputy mayor for David Pernarowski who was on holiday.