Let’s go for a fair share taxation pitch

Province needs to share tax revenues with those of us in the boonies

Dear Sir:

I have been informed that the City of Terrace has begun to lobby the province to give them a “fair share” program just as the province did for northeastern B.C. some years ago.

The fair share program was designed to share provincial revenues such as oil, gas, and stumpage revenues with towns and cities in specific districts of the province.

The fair share concept was given to the Peace River district by Dan Miller about 15 years ago. Given to does not mean it was developed by Dan, it means it was delivered by Dan.

Taxation is a way to generate income for the government, but the only taxation revenue that cities have comes from property taxation.

The province has many income streams, royalties on many items, oil and gas, timber, agriculture and range leases, fur royalties, property taxes, income taxes and other minor ones, water permit and sundry permits.

Districts of the province have long held the position that revenues generated by resources that lay in the boundaries of the district should be shared with the districts.

This is not a new or novel idea, the regional district here began the idea with Marty Allen, myself, Alice Maitland, Pete Weeber and Frank Armitage. That, my friend, was in the pre-history that no one knows about or cares about.

We knew that all the stumpage money, millions of dollars, went straight to general revenue in Victoria.

That the resources were local didn’t matter to Victoria, they just kept the money so the local governments had to fix roads and things with the money they got from property taxation.

The regional district worked on that for quite a long time, but like Ford Edsel, it failed.

But the idea was correct and it was sound.

Dave Barrett, first socialist to be premier, understood some of that, and felt sorry for the outcasts in this diverse province and brought in a revenue sharing program that was doomed by the new government and never again saw the light of day.

The Mike Harcourt government brought in a beast he called forest renewal that took money from stumpage fees and put that money back into projects initiated from all districts.

It was an attempt at sharing that was handicapped by just a whole bunch of loony ideas, like shearing porcupines to make slippers. But it did get its money back to the boonies, where the resources came from.

Then along came Dan Miller, interim premier with the NDP. The northwest cities and regional districts saw a chance to make changes and put the pressure on Dan to do their idea of “fair share”.

Their idea was to take the royalties collected from oil, gas, timber and agriculture and give a portion of that back to the region they came from. Fair share. What a wicked socialist idea!

So Dan went along with that, and put it into legislation. And it has been a success, at least the population of the Peace are happy about it. But the concept was never expanded to include anyone else.

Now the city wants the same thing as those guys got.

But the city has no resources. All the local resources are in the regional district. Not too much wrong with that, Fort St. John has no gas wells in town, they are all outside, somewhere.

Their cities have to do a fair share of their own, so will Terrace.

The city is organizing, getting all the gang together, it went to the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Victoria as a group, even getting the press on their side for help.

I was and is the right thing. So good luck with that.

We have, in Victoria, at this time, a government that is fragmented, unsteady and never did believe in sharing anything – especially not money.

Go for it anyway, and good luck with that.

Les Watmough, Terrace, B.C.