Friday, October 24, 2014

Northwest Benefit Alliance outlines its mission for City Council

For the bulk of Monday evening's near hour and half review of what the Northwest BC Benefit Alliance is all about, City Council members sat fixed on the multi media screen in Council Chambers.

From there, through charts and information boxes, Dr. Bruce Bidgood, Andrew Webber and Bob Marcellin provided a large amount of background on the main points of their collective approach to resource issues and revenue generation in the Northwest.

The visit to Prince Rupert was a courtesy call of sorts for the Terrace based group, offering Prince Rupert Council with the thumbnail sketch of what the Northwest communities that currently make up the group, hope to achieve from their alliance.

The trio opened up their review by outlining some of the economic troubles of the last decade for the member communities and how today, with economic development increasing at a rapid pace in some locales, the need to provide for services and address key issues has become a major concern for those members of their Alliance.

Of particular interest for Council members was the review of the topic regarding Caps on assessment, an issue that the Northwest Benefits Alliance hopes to head off when it comes to future economic matters related to resource development.

It was a theme that Councillor Cunningham in particular seized upon. Seeking to learn more about how the Alliance was planning to address the issue and wondering if they would take up the cause of the City's concerns over port related caps, should the City sign on with the group.

Council members also listened closely to the larger focus that the group has regarding infrastructure concerns and other issues involving a share the financials that come to the province out of resource development.

Through the presentation itself and as part of the follow up commentary, Council members outlined some of their familiar themes when it comes to getting a fair share of the development pie in the region.

Stressing issues related to housing, infrastructure and civic services, they sought some more background on how Prince Rupert would benefit from the shared arrangements and provisions of the Benefits Alliance program.

Councillor Kinney added his thoughts on any potential partnership, reminding Council that there is a need locally to become more inter-connected with the neighbouring communities on the North Coast, a first step perhaps for some, before any larger alliances are considered. He advised the guests that he would be waiting for further information from the City Manager before making his mind up on joining in on the venture.

While the lengthy dialogue on the Northwest Benefits Alliance probably cleared up a number of questions for Council,  the City on Monday didn't seem quite ready to take the plunge as far as signing on the with the regional alliance.

As the presentation came towards its end, Councillor Thorkelson offered some thoughts on the nature of the differences in the level of  taxation between the various communities of the region and how that would be balanced through the Alliance, and how those questions would be addressed by those communities.

Calling on her days of the past which she described as when she was a radical socialist, the Councillor expressed her support for the concept of equitable treatment and then asked for some parameters as to how the Alliance sees the process working out,  particularly when it comes to the taxations question.

Describing that concept as a lofty ambition, Councillor Thorkelson was advised that there is no plan envisioned towards a more universal approach, or method of rationalization on taxation. Though he did highlight now revenue sharing could provide benefits to communities.

Working towards her final points and questions on the topic, Councillor Thorkelson asked how the City could learn further information on the proposal.

Expressing concerns over other programs that the City is involved with that haven't delivered the results that the City had anticipated. She tied the Northwest BC Alliance prospect to some of those concerns, suggesting that there is a need for more discussion required on the project.

Prince Rupert would appear to be one of the last of the regional communities of the Northwest to look at the possibilities of the Northwest BC Benefits Alliance.

Among the other bodies that they have met with in this region, the Alliance member have made presentations or held discussions with the members of the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, with the exception of Prince Rupert.

As well, they have become engaged in conversations with The District of Port Edward, which the Alliance group stated has become a signator to this prospective

As for any future engagement from Prince Rupert, the Mayor advised that the City would task Mr. Long and City staff to compile more information on the Northwest BC Benefits Alliance and provide a report to Council for further study, before they make any decisions.

The proponents of the Alliance advised that in the past some communities have agree in principle to investigate the concept, suggesting that if Prince Rupert were to do that, then the City's CAO would invited to one of their working groups to explore the process further.

You can review the full presentation from the City's Video Archive it starts at the beginning of Monday night's Council session and continues on through until the one hour twenty minute mark.

More background on the Northwest BC Benefits Alliance can be found here, as well as from our previous item on the topic from September 18th.

For more items on events at Prince Rupert City Council see our archive page here.

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