A provincial NDP government, if elected, would negotiate a revenue-sharing deal with northwestern local governments, said its Skeena riding candidate Bruce Bidgood today.
Speaking at his Terrace campaign office, Bidgood said the BC NDP backed the aspirations of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance, a group officially formed in 2014 and which now includes local governments from the coast to Vanderhoof.
The alliance wants the provincial government to return a share of provincial resource taxation revenue to local governments to help buffer the strain large industrial projects put on local services such as roads, water and sewer facilities.
The problem, said Bidgood, is that most of the planned developments take place outside of local government boundaries, meaning they can’t be taxed by local governments.
“The potential is huge even if no LNG developments are ever built,” said Bidgood of what could happen in the region.
The revenue sharing being promoted by the benefits alliance is similar to agreements already in place in northeastern B.C. and in the Columbia area in southeastern B.C., he said.
Bidgood said BC Liberal premier Christy Clark had promised to negotiate a revenue sharing agreement in 2013 but walked away in 2014.
“The BC NDP is committed to this process and will make it a priority after May 9,” said Bidgood in referring to the general voting day.
Bidgood is a former City of Terrace councillor, a position that lead to serving as the chair of the Kitimat-Stikine regional district when that regional government was at the forefront of the alliance’s formation in 2014.
BC Liberal Skeena candidate Ellis Ross has also come out in support of the alliance but on a more cautionary basis.
He’s been skeptical because while revenue sharing is in place in the northeast where large industrial developments are located outside of local government boundaries, that’s not the case in this area. As an example, Ross has pointed to the Rio Tinto aluminum smelter located within Kitimat’s municipal boundary meaning it is taxed directly by the Kitimat municipal government
Still, in speaking today, Ross said he’s now in more support of the benefits alliance’s goals since speaking to some of its leaders.
But he notes the alliance’s geographic area is widespread.
“The one thing I have to make clear is that my priority is with Skeena and always has been Skeena,” said Ross.
Ross also noted there can no be revenue sharing without development in the first place.
“If you do want revenue from resource development, then you’ve got to support resource development in the first place,” he said.
Ross made his comments at a rally held just before lunch at the National Car Rental parking lot on Lakelse Ave. in Terrace.
The rally featured deputy premier Rich Coleman, who is in charge of the BC Liberal effort to develop a liquefied natural gas industry and did much to set the stage of LNG in past years, said Ross, a former Haisla chief councillor.
“This is the opportunity for Skeena to take its rightful place in the provincial economy,” said Coleman in urging people to vote for Ross.
The race in the Skeena riding was close, added Coleman in telling the estimated 60 people at the rally their individual efforts could result in a Ross victory May 9.