The announcement of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) and the province proves one thing.
The members of the RBA (mainly the mayors of Northwest B.C. municipalities) are very diplomatic.
Way too diplomatic, in fact.
When the MOU was announced during the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference last week, the mayors of several towns lauded the MOU as a positive step forward.
Basically, this thing is an agreement to come to an agreement on revenue sharing from large industrial projects, which are generally located outside municipal boundaries (and beyond municipal taxation), but nevertheless have major impacts on our towns.
The RBA has been around since 2014 with very little to show for it. And they’ve had an MOU before. In 2019, also at UBCM, also with great fanfare, the province “committed” to negotiating a revenue-sharing agreement.
Three years later, another MOU?
Even Sean Bujtas, now-mayor-elect of Terrace, was complimentary of the new MOU in a manufactured quote for the press release.
Where is the Bujtas of 2021, who famously coined the acronym WTF (where’s the funds?) at a council meeting?
Granted, the then-councillor was talking about federal funding, but the sentiment rings true for the current situation with the Province.
Once again, the RBA is poised for heartbreak, like a bride left waiting at the altar, bouquet wilting.
The province cites its $150 million Northern Capital and Planning Grant disbursed in 2019 and 2020 and the $50 million Northern Healthy Community Fund as progress.
That is all well and good, but northwest communities don’t need another “father knows best” grant program. What we need is a gas-tax style, no strings attached, piece of the industrial pie.
Prince Rupert is $650 million in the hole.
Smithers is in danger of being fined for non-compliance of its wastewater treatment system.
Terrace’s bridges are sorely inadequate to handle the ever-expanding traffic patterns of industrial growth.
Every town up and down Hwy 16 is desperate for affordable housing.
And all with no means of increasing revenue except further burdening already struggling residential taxpayers.
We don’t need MOUs, working groups, grant programs and endless rounds of talks.
We need the cash.