PREMIER Christy Clark was evasive this afternoon at a local election rally when asked if her BC Liberal government would negotiate a revenue sharing agreement with the northwest.
In discussion are the hopes of more than 20 local governments in the northwest who are part of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance, which has been pressing the BC Liberal government to return a greater share of what it earns from resource industry taxes in the region.
The idea is that industry in this region brings the province a lot of tax revenue, but uses infrastructure that is paid for and maintained by local governments.
In a brief one-minute interview, Clark was asked whether she supported the alliance.
“I’m absolutely prepared to talk to the region about resource benefit sharing,” she responded, disputing the suggestion that support has been given by NDP leader John Horgan.
“The funny thing about John Horgan is he doesn’t want to get any of our resources out of the ground so there would be nothing to share. That’s the problem,” said Clark. “Under a John Horgan government, there would be nothing to share.”
Building up to the election, the benefits alliance has made accusations that Clark has previously backed out of a commitment she made during the last election in 2013 to negotiate a revenue sharing agreement with northwest local governments.
But Clark denied those accusations.
“No, it’s not (correct),” she said. “We’ve got a $100 million in our rural dividend fund which we’ve been distributing across the province and we’re going to continue to do that. We’ve extended it again.”
But the alliance says that the challenge is that industrial developments are located outside of local governments, thus they can’t be taxed by those governments.
The alliance has been lobbying recently to have northwestern candidates and party leaders state their positions on resource benefit sharing.
Skeena NDP candidate Bruce Bidgood has said an agreement should be similar to one already in place in the peace river region, where the province provides money to local governments there.
Earlier this week, Horgan endorsed the alliance, saying “a BC NDP government will undertake negotiations with northwest communities to ensure that benefits from future economic development stays in those communities.”
Clark’s response about the alliance came a brief, half-hour rally at the Thornhill Pub in Thornhill this afternoon, May 5.
More than 50 people gathered to see Clark, who came to speak in support of Skeena BC Liberal candidate Ellis Ross.
This was Clark’s third stop out of five planned visits in the region today as the election campaign heads into the final stages leading to the May 9 vote.
Also making an appearance in Thornhill, complete with his trademark bus, was the third person running in Skeena, Merv Ritchie of the Land Air Water party.