Friday, February 23, 2018

Northwest BC Resource Benefits Missing from BC Budget overview

With a few days to digest the full overview from Finance Minister Carole James Budget document of Tuesday, one group that may be wondering if they've been forgotten could be the member communities of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance.

The collective of northern British Columbia officials had spent a good portion of their time in the fall lobbying the Provincial Government to hear their call for a larger share of the provincial revenue pie, making key ministers and Premier Horgan himself the target for some of their networking at last fall's UBCM meeting in the provincial capital.

It made for a full on press from the regional officials who had launched their initiative during the final years of the Christy Clark Liberal government, with few indications at that time that there would be a shift from the province.

With the election of the NDP in May, the group looked forward to the chance to take the new Premier up on his interest in regional issues as outlined through the May election campaign.

The September 2017 meeting of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits team
and the Premier and MLA Rice struck an optimistic tone on the potential
for revenue sharing; though it was a theme that didn't get a mention
during the course of Tuesday's NDP Budget.

As part of a media release at that time, the members of the NWBCRBA offered up a number of highlights of their talks, noting how they believed that the new government was listening to them.

“The John Horgan government really understands that we experience great inequity in the northwest,”  ... “The Northwest is the backbone of BC, and in order to ensure our communities continue to support economic development activities that contribute to the province, we need a share of the revenues to stay in the Northwest. The Premier sees that investing in the Northwest is not just about making up for lost time, but spurring growth in the region. It is an investment from which the entire province can expect a large economic return " -- RBA Co-Chair Phil Germuth in September 2017 following meetings with Premier John Horgan

Following those meetings, the Northern members counselled patience, noting that they felt progress had been made from their inquiries of the new NDP government and they were hopeful of even more forward momentum, that following a tour of the region in the fall by Premier Horgan and MLA's Mungall and Rice.

Northwest BC officials had high hopes of a new relationship
with government following a tour of the region by Premier Horgan last fall

When Finance Minister Carole James rose to deliver her Budget plan for the Legislature on Tuesday, one imagines that regional officials across the Northwest were listening closely and reading the fine print very carefully looking for some mention, any mention really, of their goals for the region when it comes to a better distribution of resource revenues.

However, with the roll out of the NDP's First Budget in seventeen years, a document which highlighted a large volume of social programs and spending on housing, education and other initiatives,  the concept of giving the regions a larger share of those resource revenues doesn't seem to have made the final draft for Budget Number One.

The prospect of Revenue Sharing with the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance
did not gain a mention during the course of this weeks Budget presentation from
the NDP Government Finance Minister Carole James

So far the members of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance have not had much to say on the Budget (or much of anything else related to their work) through any of their information portals, one option the NWBCRBA website hasn't featured any new material since the fall of last year.

While the last note of interest on the Alliance's Facebook page was in October of 2017.

Hopefully that's not a signal that their initiative has stalled and would seem to suggest that there is the need for an update on how their plans are progressing, if they are, and when the Northwest may see some results from the regional approach to engagement with the government of Mr. Horgan.

One area of potential concern for the organization must be the recent scaling back of many of the large industrial projects that they may have hoped to receive a greater share of the economic pie from.

When the City of Prince Rupert signed on with the group in January of 2015, the backdrop to those early days was that of a region which was in the midst of much expectation when it came to a range of potential projects, many of them LNG related.

“There will be a potential of $16-32 billion dollars of new revenue available to the Province through LNG and other industries in Northwest BC, and the RBA is designed to negotiate as a collective voice with the BC Government to receive a fair distribution of those resources”  ... “At this stage, Council feels it to be a low risk to join the RBA, and it also does not limit our ability to negotiate taxation agreements directly with potential LNG companies here in Prince Rupert.” -- The City of Prince Rupert's main takeaway from their decision to sign on with the Northwest BC Resource Benefit Alliance in January of 2015

The string of cancellations related to a number of LNG projects through the last year, would seem to take a number of potential revenue sharing opportunities that the Alliance may have had in mind off the table.

With a new NDP government putting forward an aggressive spending program through the recent budget, a focus that reflects a number of their key priorities for the moment, it remains to be seen where the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliances hopes for more revenues will rank on the Horgan government's To Do list in the months to come.

More notes on the Resource Benefits Alliance can be reviewed below:

October 2017 -- Ellis Ross returns to themes on RBA initiative during Committee session
September 2017 -- Northwest politicians hail progress on Resource Benefit Alliance negotiations
September 2017 -- NDP government appears to cool towards Northwest Resource Benefits calls for increased revenues
August 2017 -- Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance members hail new government's engagement on revenue issues
August  2017 -- Northwest Resource Benefits video highlights Alliance talking points from Victoria trip
May 2017 -- Resource Benefits Alliance hails NDP leader's support for better arrangement
August 2015 -- Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance to hold Summit on Revenue sharing
August 2015 -- Northwest leaders meet on Resource Benefits Alliance
January 2015 -- City of Prince Rupert signs Memorandum of Understanding with Northwest BC Resources Benefits Alliance
October 2014 -- Northwest Benefit Alliance outlines its mission for City Council
October 2014 -- Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance to make presentation to Council tonight
September 2014 -- Council giving thought to joining Northwest Alliance initiative

More notes on provincial issues can be found through our Legislature Archive and from our political portal D'Arcy McGee.

For a look at City of Prince Rupert Discussion topics see our Council Discussion archive here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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