Terrace city councillor and RBA co-chair Sean Bujtas poses for a photo with Premier John Horgan following the province’s recommitment to establishing a revenue fair share agreement between northwest B.C. municipalities. (Sean Bujtas contributed photo)

Province commits to negotiating revenue-sharing agreement with northwest B.C. municipalities

Premier made RBA announcement at UBCM conference in Vancouver

One of Mayor Lee Brain’s wishes are closer to coming true after the province has committed to negotiating a revenue-sharing agreement with northern local governments, meaning more money can be coming our way.

Premier John Horgan made the announcement Friday at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention held in Vancouver.

”Urban communities depend on the hard work and resources of rural communities. Rural communities depend on urban centres for services. We are interdependent. I’m proud to be a part of a government that understands this,” said North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice

The announcement follows a long-standing lobbying campaign by 18 municipalities and three regional districts in northwestern B.C. known as the Northwest Regional Benefits Alliance (RBA).

“That type of funding and partnership with the government on a yearly basis is essential to help grow the North. We’ve been through a long period of decline over the last 20 years. And now all these projects are coming online: there’s LNG, mining, the port is growing, and so the RBA is our opportunity to really be able to participate full heartedly in the next new century of development,” Brain said in a previous interview with The Northern View about why this was a top priority on his agenda at the UBCM.

Horgan commended Brain, Terrace city councillor Sean Bujtas and Houston Mayor Shane Brienen for their work on the RBA board to advocate for communities dealing with infrastructure and social impacts caused by major industrial developments, like the $40 billion LNG Canada facility in Kitimat.

“It’s not all sunshine and roses when it comes to [significant industry development], there’s social disruption that comes with it, strain on infrastructure,” Premier John Horgan said to local government leaders.

Formed in 2014, the RBA has been seeking a share of what the province receives in taxation from industrial projects, saying that while those projects have an impact on services provided by local governments, those local governments don’t often have a way to tax those industries in return.

“This week we recommitted to ensure the work that has been done by governments right across the North, and by officials in Victoria, is a reality in the years ahead. We need to get an agreement in place that will stand the test of time, that means if a government changes, we will be ensuring that resources that are created in a community, to the best of our ability, stay in that community so everyone benefits,” Horgan said.

This commitment from the province provides clarity on the government’s level of responsibility when it comes to negotiations with northwest B.C. municipalities to establish a fair revenue-sharing agreement.

In February, the province announced $100 million grant for northwest communities to help northern communities address outstanding infrastructure needs.

A revenue-sharing agreement would ensure funding is sustainable over the long term, Horgan says.

“Although I’m not going to stand here and say we’re going to solve all those problems, I have been saying, as my minsters have been saying, we’re going to make sure we make those challenges disappear in the long term, if not in the short term, and we do that by working together,” he said.

The RBA could be a major tool when helping rural communities prepare for positive and negative impacts that come with regional economic activity, communities with budgets ill-equipped to deal with complex, expensive ramifications.

Revenue sharing agreements have occurred between the province and local governments before when major industry developments lie outside local tax assessment areas.

with files from Jenna Cocullo

City of TerraceJohn HorganNorthwestUBCM

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