B.C. Premier John Horgan, fifth from the left, meets with northwestern B.C. local government representatives belonging to the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance. (File photo)

Benefits alliance to hire fulltime manager

Its goal is more money from the province for local governments

A coalition of northwest local governments is hiring a manager to better pursue its goal of securing more money from the provincial government for its members.

Formed in 2014 and now taking in 21 local governments and three regional districts from Haida Gwaii to Vanderhoof, the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance has been readying itself to negotiate with the province for a portion of resource taxation revenues.

It argues that while local governments shoulder costs such as roads, water, sewer and policing arising from the impact of large-scale industrial activity, they don’t receive tax revenues in return.

“This isn’t just something we can do off the sides of our desks anymore,” said Sean Bujtas, a Terrace city councillor and one of three co-chairs of the alliance, said of the plan to hire a manager. “We need someone full -time.”

To date the alliance has been hiring consultants to press its case and while the alliance may still need consultants on occasion, having a fulltime manager will reduce that need, Bujtas said.

“We expect that person to be hired by April,” he said in adding that the hiring is being handled through Ron Poole, the Kitimat-Stikine regional district’s chief administrative officer.

So far the alliance has been financed by an annual $55,000 contribution from each of its three member regional districts – North Coast, Kitimat-Stikine and Bulkley-Nechako.

An annual expenditure of $100,000 has been set out for the alliance’s new manager.

Bujtas said the manager’s salary will come from within the allocations from the three regional districts.

The alliance’s financial position was bolstered last year by a one-time $300,000 grant from the provincial government.

The provincial government did recognize the alliance’s argument that money is needed for infrastructure in the north last month by saying it would divide $100 million between its membership as well as the Fraser-Fort George regional district and its municipal government members.

That’s a one-time payment but the alliance’s goal is a regular income stream of a percentage of tax revenues collected by the province or an annual allocation.

The alliance also takes the position it is hard to recruit and retain people in the north if recreational, educational and health services available elsewhere in the province are lacking.

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