Terrace city council continued to press for provincial assistance to deal with the impacts of the LNG Canada project in Kitimat when it met with various cabinet ministers at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Vancouver.
“There’s inequity in the City of Terrace when LNG Canada comes here. Our neighbours to the south, Kitimat, they get substantial revenue money from Rio Tinto, and we know that they will be getting another $75 million from LNG Canada in the first 10 years,” says Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc.
This stream of revenue to the District of Kitimat will be from property taxes as the LNG Canada facility is within Kitimat municipal boundaries.
“Our social issues, our policing costs, our housing pressures… and we get a big fat zero when it comes to any kind of dollars to help us. That was a message loud and clear through all of the ministers we met with,” says Leclerc.
In a meeting with the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA), Leclerc says Premier John Horgan was sincere and recognized the need for a revenue sharing agreement through a commitment to negotiate with northwest B.C. municipalities who are members of the alliance.
It’s possible the city will see a revenue agreement tied to LNG Canada’s operations, she says, but money is needed in the short-term.
“We’re hurting today, so we will be going down to Victoria and not doing ‘speed-dating’ like you do at UBCM, we’ll be going and having face-to-face meetings,” Leclerc says, noting the trip will likely happen in early December.
The UBCM convention is the main forum for policy-making among local governments in the province, providing an opportunity for them to share experiences and take a united position through passing resolutions on issues of the day.
All Terrace councillors except for Coun. Lynn Christiansen attended the Sept. 23-27 convention held in Vancouver.
More RCMP officers on their way
The need for more RCMP officers was discussed with Hon. Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, who said Terrace is getting five more officers, though none of them will be for Terrace proper.
Four officers will for a relief team meant to ease short term operational requirements in the northwet and the fifth officer will be a provincial position, meaning the position is paid for by the province and rural residents. The officer will be able to work within the city if needed.
“There’s apparently an RCMP shortage across Canada, so for five to come into the northwest, I think we have to look at the positive with that,” Leclerc says.
Terrace RCMP says the detachment is still negotiating the details surrounding those new positions. No further details will be available until those negotiations are completed, and no time frame is currently available.
Three other RCMP officers requested by the city were approved earlier this year, though it’s not known when they will arrive.
‘People get it — but what are they going to do about it?’
On Sept. 23, the first day of the convention, mayor Carol Leclerc spoke at a session on opioids and addiction along with Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart, a provincial medical health officer and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy.
The panel gave the city an opportunity to speak on the impacts opioids and addiction have on smaller communities like Terrace in contrast to bigger centres, Leclerc says.
“We definitely need more money to be put into [services], whether it’s detox centres or safe injection sites, more policing, more help with trying to get rid of stigmas… it was a good session,” Leclerc says.
In her presentation, the mayor noted the City of Terrace spends around $75,000 to clean up needles and garbage. Northern Health told the city more than 58,000 needles were given out in Terrace area in 2018, and while the health authority says it recovers 90 per cent, that still means 5,800 needles are left on the streets.
“That’s our tax dollars going to pick up needles and other garbage to make sure our parks and areas are safe for our residents,” Leclerc says. “If you’re giving out the needles, you need to be able to help local governments deal with the ramifications that come when you hand out these harm reduction products.”
No meeting with the premier
Despite the city’s efforts, Premier John Horgan did not meet with the City of Terrace during the UBCM. Leclerc says no reason was given.
“We did have an RBA meeting, but we wanted to talk about the impacts of LNG Canada, and we wanted to talk about the resources for our police, and making sure our social service agencies are properly funded,” Leclerc says, mentioning some agencies have told the city they struggle to operate without secure budgets.
“We’re pushing our message out passionately, and people get it — but what are they going to do about it? That’s why part of the plan is to go back down [to Victoria] and have one-on-one meetings.”
No luck with resolutions
This year, council sent two resolutions to the UBCM convention proposing liquor tax sharing revenues and a provincial universal plan for childcare facilities without depending on municipalities to create and run them.
With 276 resolutions submitted, the two from Terrace did not make it to the floor because of time constraints, though a similar resolution from the City of Courtenay about the sharing of liquor tax revenue for policing was endorsed.
Leclerc says Terrace’s two resolutions will be seen by UBCM’s executive board.
Lanfear Hill project still on the list
Council members also pressed cabinet ministers for support in lobbying for $10 million from a federal-provincial program to reconstruct Lanfear Hill.
“We’ve got our 10 per cent ready to go, but we need to get the rest of the grant,” said Leclerc.
Establishing a hotel tax was discussed with tourism minister Lisa Beare as a way of generating revenue for tourism and marketing initiatives in Terrace.
A conversation was had with municipal affairs and housing minister Selina Robinson on tracking the impacts of social housing projects, like Sonder House on Olson Avenue.