The City of Terrace will receive $8 million from the province’s new infrastructure grant program announced here Feb. 16.
Faced with a $23.5 million budget and aging infrastructure, Mayor Carol Leclerc says she was “wowed” by the announcement. This is the largest grant the City of Terrace has ever received, and represents one-third of its annual budget.
“All of these natural resources are coming through the North and we’re not getting much from it — until today,” Leclerc says.
“For us to get $8 million, here you go, take it and do whatever you need to do for infrastructure — it’s like, ‘Holy smokes!’”
The money is part of the $100 million Northern Capital and Planning Grant announced by BC Premier John Horgan in Terrace on Saturday.
Funding will go to 22 municipalities and four regional districts including Fraser Fort George, Bulkley Nechako, Kitimat-Stikine and North Coast to address long-standing infrastructure needs that could not keep up with resource development.
Local governments with populations of more than 10,000 people will receive between $6 million and $9 million, municipalities with populations fewer than 10,000 will receive between $1 million and $6 million.
The money was taken from last year’s provincial budget and will be included in the 2019 budget as the province finalizes it next week. Changes to the Local Government Grants regulation will be done by early March to help authorize the funding program before the end of the fiscal year.
The need for revenue was brought to light through discussions between the province and the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefit Alliance (RBA), a coalition consisting of 18 communities and three regional districts seeking revenue from future resource developments.
“The message was abundantly clear, for too long the resources in the North have been feeding the people in the South and there has not been a rapid turnaround of benefits coming back to the region,” Horgan said in Terrace Saturday.
For Terrace, there is not much industry to pull from within city boundaries, Leclerc says, with Skeena Sawmills estimated to produce around $400,000 in tax revenue a year.
Yet with up to 7,500 workers to be housed in Kitimat over LNG Canada’s construction years, infrastructure, goods and services in Terrace are expected to face increased demand.
And that’s even more so with the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, mining projects in the region, and the continued build-out of the Skeena Industrial Development Park.
“It’s like getting to the end of the diving board, you want to go and you want to dive in, but it’s an empty pool — there’s no money, no funds to get you to the next level,” Leclerc says.
With over 80 kilometres of streets in Terrace, there is only room in the budget to reconstruct 400 metres of road a year. Adding on one more street would have required a 10 per cent tax increase, Leclerc says.
Outside of the RBA, the city has lobbied the province for more revenue, including a meeting with Horgan in January, where the city’s application for a grant for the reconstruction of Lanfear Drive, social issues in the downtown, and residential development growth on the bench area were discussed.
So what does this mean for the City of Terrace?
Leclerc says city staff will discuss priorities, but a possibility could include putting the money toward the city’s proposed multi-million dollar reconstruction of Lanfear Drive to improve access to the bench.
“That is a $10 million dollar investment — you can’t piecemeal something like that. We need help to do it, because the growth in our municipality is up [on the bench],” Leclerc says.
Other items include funding for studies on geotechnical work, wastewater and water management systems and other tasks identified in the city’s Master Transportation Plan and Recreational Master Plan.
Leclerc wants more consistent provincial revenue annually and will continue to work with the province and the benefits alliance on a long-term revenue-sharing agreement.
“Our infrastructure is desperate, it’s absolutely desperate, and having this money is going to be a huge help — but it’s only the tip of the iceberg,” Leclerc says.
“It’s hard when you’re at the budget table and every single department has a need…They’re just dreams if you don’t have the money.”