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Councils mull province's Fair Share offer

'It's up to the municipalities now to make their decisions': MLA Mike Bernier

Negotiators representing municipalities in Northeast B.C. have received a draft offer from the province for a new Fair Share deal, which they have taken back to their respective councils for consideration.

A confidentiality clause bars participants from discussing the details, but South Peace MLA Mike Bernier said it represents “a final agreement that was presented.”

The offer has been brought back for consideration in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, Pouce Coupe, Taylor and Hudson’s Hope — all signatories of Fair Share.

Fair Share gives local governments in Northeast B.C. tax revenue for industrial activity that takes place outside city boundaries, but draws heavily on their resources. In Northeast B.C. that's mostly oil-and-gas related.

"It's up to the municipalities now to make their decisions," Bernier said. "I can tell you that I have heard pretty well from everybody in the South Peace and they have made their decision on the terms of the negotiations. I won't tell you whether they've voted for or against, but they have made their decisions."

In February, the province pulled the rug out from municipalities in Northeast B.C. on the last four years of the Fair Share deal, which was supposed to run until 2020. Since then, the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, represented by former Deputy Minister Dale Wall, has lead a renegotiation of the deal.    

The province had said it wanted a new agreement to run from 2016 through 2030.

Fair Share makes up over 20 per cent of Fort St. John's budget and about one-third of Dawson Creek's revenue.

Blair Lekstrom represented Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, Pouce Coupe and Hudson’s Hope in negotiations, while Fort St. John and Taylor were represented by Colin Griffith, “but they were all at the table at the same time,” Bernier said.

Bernier added that “everybody was part of the negotiations together. Nothing was negotiated separately.”

Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead said he is hoping for a joint announcement on the deal with the Peace River Regional District this week.

District of Chetwynd Chief Adminstrative Officer Doug Fleming acknowledged that the town has made their decision on the deal.

Bernier said he has been happy with the way negotiations have proceeded.

"I can confirm that probably in the very near future we'll be able to make public where we are at with the terms of the negotiations," he said. "I am working with the local mayors and kind of being a conduit for them with the ministry and the province and I am very happy with where we have landed."

Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman confirmed that a draft had been sent, but could not offer further comment.

Mayor Rob Fraser of the District of Taylor was not available for comment.      

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