Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ellis Ross returns to themes on RBA initiative during Committee session

The Revenue Benefit Alliance was a topic of discussion for MLA Ellis Ross
during a Finance Committee session at the Legislature on Tuesday

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross was looking for some guidance Tuesday on the path of progress for the Resource Benefits Alliance initiative in the Northwest, taking advantage of a Committee of Supply Session from Tuesday afternoon to raise that topic and a few other notes with Finance Minister Carole James.

Speaking to the topic as part of the review of Estimates from the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Ross noted that the RBA initiative was an important issue for his constituents and that he was looking to find out what kind of timeline that the provincial government might have in mind when it comes to commencing with discussions with the RBA representatives.

Towards some background on the process of review for engagement on the Northwest issues, the Finance Minister offered up a short synopsis on the process ahead for the MLA.

I've had an opportunity, and I know a number of our colleagues have had the opportunity, to meet with the Revenue Benefits Alliance as well. As well, the deputy minister in our ministry and the staff have met and received the report on October 17. They're going through their analysis of the report and will be sending back a response. There is no money, as you know, in the September budget, but all issues are considered when it comes to the budget for February. We'll be giving a response back, and we've had good discussions about their proposal. 

I think there are a number of things that will be taken into consideration, based on all the requests that will come forward for the February budget. I think the member wasn't here when we started off estimates, but I was saying that I think one of the biggest challenges will be the demands and the number of requests that come forward for programs and services. It really will be about having to set priorities and having to make those determinations. 

In this particular case, it will be looking at what other communities would be impacted and what the regional processes are in place now, taking a look at other parts of the province and weighing fairness for all communities. I think all of those issues will be taken into consideration and weighed again, as I said, on many more programs and services than are going to be able to be funded in the February budget.

As for the timeline of any engagement, the Finance Minister indicated that November appears to be the target for further opportunity to review the issue.

Again, it's hard to give a firm timeline just based on the work that's coming in and the priorities that are being looked at, but I expect in November. The report was received October 17. So I think to give time for staff to do proper work and to be able to have those conversations, I expect that sometime in November they'll get a response back.

Finance Minister Carole James offered up a short review of the
provincial governments consideration of the Revenue Benefits Alliance initiative

The Skeena MLA followed up that inquiry with another on the nature of how the funding may be developed.

Thank you, Minister. Most of my questions have been around the funding needed to support negotiations, but the RBA is actually talking about the overall value of the RBA in terms of future royalties coming from resource development coming from the area. I do know that's a huge question in terms of priorities. But does the government feel that that's where the funds will come from, as per the request from the RBA alliance?

Ms. James noted that for the government a range of options are seemingly under consideration, with a report to be delivered to outlined the best course.

I think the member has pointed out one example of revenue-sharing, of an opportunity that is there. I think there are a number of models, so we're not closing the door. We're taking a look at all models. There are, sometimes, equity issues that come up around revenue-sharing — if there isn't revenue in one area of the province, for example, and they don't get anything. All those issues are being reviewed as part of the review of the report that's come in.

Mr. Ross also presented a pair of questions related to the future of the Mills Memorial replacement process seeking some understanding as to the role of the Finance Minister when it comes to engagement on the development of a capital plan.

In response, Ms. James outlined how the Finance Ministry reviews those forms of funding proposals.

As the member knows from the discussions that happened in Health estimates, each of the ministries and each of the ministers come forward with their capital plan each year. So that's a process that each of the ministers will be going through. 

We go through that process over the fall, and late fall at Treasury Board. Then, Treasury Board will make a decision about setting the envelopes for capital, and then the capital budgets are adjusted by the ministries. That's a process that would come forward from the Minister of Health to Treasury Board, and then Treasury Board would make those decisions.

The final point from Mr. Ross provided a review of some concerns over the carbon tax plans from the government.

The full review of his discussion points can be found at the 15:22 point of the minutes from the Legislature's Committee archive here.

The Committee Session is also available through the Legislature Video Archive, with the Tuesday afternoon committee proceedings available here, Mr. Ross enters the discussion around the 3:22 PM point

Residents of the Skeena riding, and interested observers from the North Coast can keep track of some of the Skeena MLA's work in the Legislature from our archive page here.

Some more background on the Resource Benefits Alliance work since the NDP government took power can be found below:

Wildfire recovery, overdose concerns, economy and housing issues among themes for Premier's UBCM address
Northwest politicians hail progress on Resource Benefit Alliance negotiations
NDP government appears cool towards Northwest Resource Benefits calls for increased revenues
Northwest Resource Benefits video highlights Alliance talking points from Victoria trip
Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance members hail new government's engagement on revenue issues
Mayor Brain offers best wishes to Premier Horgan and MLA Rice

A larger overview of politics on the provincial scene is also available from our political portal D'Arcy McGee

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