Thursday, February 29, 2024

Mayor Pond salutes RBA success with the province, spreads the credit on the initiative around

Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond used the Monday Council session to provide for some extensive notes on one significant element of last week's BC Budget. 

The Mayor speaking to the theme of the announcement from Finance Minister Katrine Conroy that delivered success for the proponents of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance Collective.

A Budget item from provincial spending that will see 250 million dollars of funding, over five years allocated to the 21 members of the NWBCRBA.

The Council session providing for a public forum to follow up on his Social Media advisories of the weekend.

The Mayor took advantage of the opportunity on Monday evening to pay tribute to those involved in the initiative across the region, as well as in the Council chamber. 

He outlined how now that it's in place, municipalities can count on the funding over the next five years, to be used on much needed infrastructure work.

"Together with my fellow co-chairs, there are there of us. Smithers Mayor Gladys Atrill, the Mayor of Terrace, Sean Bujtas and myself, each from different regional districts, representing those regional districts on the RBA, had let Government know some weeks ago that we would be present both for the Throne Speech and for the Budget Speech.

With the very clear intention to say you know, we know you've been working on this, we know you're getting very close. We will be there so that when you announce it, we can celebrate and we were not disappointed.

As you well know, the province announced 250 million dollars to be shared amongst all those RBA communities, 50 million dollars a year over five years.

And certainly once, you know distribute that, and the distribution formula is not yet determined. But you know it's not 50 to us, it's a smaller amount  obviously, but it's still significant.

And most significant is, it's an ongoing deal, that we can now count on. 

We can plan projects going forward knowing that there will be money coming in, in addition to taxes, this is not to offset taxes, this to help us to get more work done with taxpayers money and we can count on that.

And then future council's can sit as that agreement comes towards the end and renegotiate.

 And you know if anybody in this room is part of that you know you'll be renegotiating up"

Mr Pond noted how this process was similar to the Fair Share arrangement in the Peace Country evolved which is what the RBA was designed to use as guide. He further outlined how it was a case of the province investing in the communities of the Northwest and how it could benefit Prince Rupert.

"We don't see this as a handout from Government, but in fact a return of a small portion of the revenue that they earn off of all the economic activity that takes place within this region. 

And it's staggering the billions of dollars of investment that is taking place today and planned for the future. 

It's massive and the province gets to collect, PST and Sales Tax and Income Tax off of all of that, while those entities come inside of municipal paying property taxes some outside of the municipal boundaries, rely on the services of our northern communities and their pounding our roads and they using our rec facilities.

So, this isn't charity, this is investing in communities so we can be all the province needs us to be, all that industry needs us to be. We just had a discussion about keeping an ER open and a hospital that ER has to be open for industry to do what it does. 

And so these are all interlinked pieces of building the kind of community that can attract young talented workers who will choose to live here, bring their families here and become a part of making those industries work"

Mr. Pond observed as to how he keeps two sets of lists in his mind when it comes to funding grants and those to how the city can grow revenue streams such as Watson Island. 

He also noted  how there were still some challenges for this community to address, such as PILT and the Port Tax Cap, but with the RBA agreement one box had been ticked, paying tribute to the Council members for their support of the initiative.

"We know in spite of a much improved relationship with the Port that we still have to resolve the PILT, the payment in lieu of taxes and that's OK, we'll resolve that. 

They actually agree, for the most part, on the Tax Cap that the city should be made whole and that the province should be the ones to makes us whole. 

But we've put a gigantic tick mark by a big one and I want to thank everyone of you members of Council you have been fully supportive of every initiative, not only fully supportive, you've been, in terms of sending me away and backing me up when I'm gone. 

But you know, being at UBCM with bells on and pressing the flesh and making sure that every single minister on the list knew ... There are some people, a few, who  think that  these things just happen that it would have happened anyway.

It wouldn't have happened anyway, it happens because you go make it happen so I want to thank all of you for being such an active part of that "

As part of the discussion, Councillor Adey took a moment to acknowledge the work of former Mayor Lee Brain and former Councillor Mirau for their efforts over the years.

"Just for clarity it's a process that began quite  a long time ago and I think we would be remiss if we did not mention specifically in terms of Council members. The previous Mayor Lee Brain and councillor Blair Mirau"

Mayor Pond noted from that, that they had been among the first  people he contacted to share word of the success found last week, as well as to salute the work of MLA Rice and Minister Nathan Cullen on the RBA initiative.

"Absolutely and to that end I did have a note don't forget ... absolutely ten years, ten years different political leaders from local government in the Northwest have been pushing for this. 

And my first two texts after letting you know was to former Mayor Brain, former councillor Blair Mirau to say we did it, it's done"

He also paid tribute to the interest taken by Minister Kang and Premier Eby to deliver on the funding arrangement.

Councillor Cunningham recalled some of the work of Council at UBCM towards pushing for the RBA initiative and other infrastructure issues, in particular he praised the work of Councillor Forster during that convention period.

You can review the Mayor's commentary from the City's Video Archive starting at the one hour ten minute mark.

More notes on the Monday Council session can be reviewed through our Council Archive page.

A wider overview of the RBA ambitions can be explored here.

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