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In Our Opinion: What cards will the city play on Ridley Island tax share?

Prince Rupert and the District of Port Edward are locked in disagreement over a 1981 tax share deal
Prince Rupert Landfill Site is ready to hire the right construction crew for its expansion. (File photo) Prince Rupert raised non-resident rates 45 per cent for its landfill in 2015. (File photo)

A debate meant to be between candidates has become an open debate between municipalities.

Port Edward and Prince Rupert are locked into the Ridley Island Tax Share (Dis)Agreement, technically indefinitely, or until one side breaks, or gives up.

The tax sharing agreement made in 1981 was signed in perpetuity, which means forever and ever.

No one can blame Port Edward for taking that and running with it. But at what cost?

First of all, the View has been writing about this ongoing dis-agreement for years.

Back in 2015, things got dirty. The city started charging Port Edward residents a non-resident surcharge to use the landfill, and then as a result, there was a rise in illegal dumping around Kloiya Bay.

In 2016, when Pacific NorthWest LNG was knocking on Port Edward’s door to potentially set up shop, Prince Rupert was excluded from a joint benefits agreement, and just last week Mayor Lee Brain raised this point as a sore spot, despite the cancelled project being so 2017.

However, during the LNG-hype, a deal was made in fall 2016, seeing Port Edward pay $500,000 to Prince Rupert in exchange for a two-year service agreement, with the renegotiation of the tax share to take place at the end of the second year. The non-resident rate for using the landfill was also dropped in the arrangement.

But now we’re back at square one. The renegotiation never happened. We have a Port Edward council saying in the debates that the only renegotiating they want to do is for a bigger cut of the taxes, this time to include Watson Island profits now that a propane terminal is setting up there. After all, they’re the ones who have to deal with all the extra train traffic and coal dust.

While the city can’t legally stop paying Port Ed a 20 per cent tax share ($600,000-$900,000), it can re-evaluate its own cards and see which one to play next. Maybe the city will start charging a 45 per cent increase on the already full landfill. Or maybe they’ll push a little harder.

When asked what Rupert’s next steps were the mayor said: “It’s not going to be fun and there’s no point to that.” Let’s see a publicly moderated debate before we get to that point.

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