Despite a lacklustre letter from the minister of municipal affairs, the Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance is moving forward with optimism after an upbeat meeting with Premier John Horgan.
RBA board members met the premier at the Union of BC Municipalities conference last week, and said in a press release that Horgan confirmed his government will collaborate on a revenue-sharing agreement.
“Yesterday’s meeting was unequivocally the most positive meeting we’ve had with the provincial government since the beginning of the RBA. After four years of empty promises we have finally gotten to the negotiation table,” said Bill Miller, the RBA chair.
“The senior government officials understand this type of agreement will not only benefit the Northwest, but the whole province. It is a critical component to enable the northwest region to reach its true potential and contribute to the province’s economic future in a very positive way.”
The RBA expects to reach an agreement in the next six months, a timeframe strengthened by the unified support from the two NDP and two BC Liberal MLAs in the Northwest.
In August, following a series of meetings in Victoria, the RBA publicly praised the new provincial government for its commitment to start negotiations. But that attitude wasn’t reflected in a Sept. 20 20 letter addressed to the North Coast Regional District, from Selina Robinson, minister of municipal affairs.
The minister appeared to downplay the province’s level of commitment, noting that the Northwest already receives per capita provincial funding of $758 per person, compared with $473 in the Northeast and $46 in the Lower Mainland.
Robinson added local governments, First Nations and non-profits in the Northwest have also subscribed to the Rural Dividend program, which supports community economic development and diversification. About $3 million has been awarded so far, and a third intake is now under review with requests for over $3.3 million.
Nonetheless, following the UBCM meetings, the RBA says it was reassured the government is committed to finding a way to make the revenue-sharing agreement happen.