It was great to see the Skeena – Queen Charlotte Regional District throw their support behind the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance.
In reality, it’s probably the only way that the region as a whole is going to pressure the government into providing the much-needed financial support to keep the infrastructure of communities on par with the expected population boom that is coming with energy export development. And the “united we stand, divided we fall” mentality has proven effective.
I was working in Fort St. John the year the province announced its Fair Share revenue-sharing agreement with municipalities in the Peace River area. From Fort St. John to Tumbler Ridge and from Pouce Coupe to Chetwynd, regional leaders banded together to tell the province that if they wanted industry to succeed, municipal governments needed money to keep up roads, utilities and general amenities that make for an attractive quality of life. They weren’t going to be swayed with individual grants and promises, it was all-for-one and one-for-all.
The results speak for themselves. The Fair Share Agreement was announced in 2005 and saw the province-sharing tax revenue from the booming oil and gas sector with the communities housing the workers and support industries. In the first six years, the result was more than $180 million, or $30 million per year, coming into the Peace region.
Now, as liquefied natural gas takes centre stage, the Northwest as a whole faces a similar dilemma, which is keeping pace with major industrial development and the population growth and challenges it brings. Although it may be almost a decade later, the answer to these problems seems to remain the same.
The time is now for the Northwest to get its own fair share from the province and bringing this united voice to Victoria may be the only way to do it.