Prince Rupert council skeptical of Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance

The City of Prince Rupert had a lot of questions, and no definite answer for members of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance.

The City of Prince Rupert had a lot of questions, and no definite answer for members of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance when they presented to council last week.

Dr. Bruce Bidgood, chair of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance, told the city the agreement is about actively working together to address the demands occurring as a consequence of a huge economic expansion.

“The overarching principle isn’t how much money we can get from you, it’s can you demonstrate need as a consequence of economic expansion. By that criteria, (Prince Rupert) should be included, and your unique situation should be part of the calculation,” Bidgood said.

Many councillors said they liked the idea in principle, but also had a lot of questions.

“I really like the idea, and I love your dream of grandeur that one day we have the whole north [included] because you don’t get too many stumpage fees out of Stanley Park, or royalties mining in Burrard Inlet. But we continually see this steady drain of our money into building bridges and infrastructure in the south, while our roads fall apart,” Coun. Barry Cunningham said.

Coun. Anna Ashley was curious about how money would be allocated to communities within the alliance.

“The regional district would be a perfect vehicle in terms of the dissemination strategy because they’re already in the business of allocating on the basis of service,” said Bidgood, adding the group has also had preliminary discussions with Northern Development Initiative Trust.

Coun. Joy Thorkelson pointed out that all of the communities within the alliance have different taxation structures, asking if the goal was to equalize all taxations within the area.

Bidgood said communities with higher tax reliance on homeowners, or business, could lower taxes with the shared profits.

“It’s a collective negotiation. Each receives their allocation, and [chooses what to do with it],” he said.

Cunningham pointed out that under the agreement’s resolution on conflict, it states that if different boards cannot resolve a conflict, it goes to the Regional District of Kitimat — Stikine, which Prince Rupert is not a part of.

Point taken, said Bidgood, who said the agreement would have to be modified as they didn’t expect the alliance to grow as it has.

While Bidgood hoped the city would approve joining the alliance, at least in principle, councillors agreed they wanted city manager Robert Long to do a report highlighting pros and cons of joining the alliance, which Thorkelson said should include insight from communities that are part of similar agreements throughout the province.

Long will present the report at a future council meeting.