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War of words in Fair Share talks

The war of words between Taylor, Fort St. John and the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development has heated up with the mayors of the municipalities accuing the ministry of making "misleading" statements about the Fair Share agreement.

The war of words between Taylor, Fort St. John and the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development has heated up with the mayors of the municipalities accuing the ministry of making "misleading" statements about the Fair Share agreement.

The province and Northeast B.C. municipalities are currently negotiating a new Fair Share agreement. The province has said it wants to reach a deal by April 30.

The Vancouver Sun quoted Minister Coralee Oakes as saying that “the current Fair Share agreement is simply unsustainable and not reflective of the amount of money government is actually receiving from the rural property tax.”

The province paid northeast municipalities $26 million more than it collected in rural property tax from industry last year under the deal, Oakes said.

“Since the Fair Share MOU extension was signed in 2005, oil and gas revenues collected in the northeast have fallen by over 80 per cent,” Oakes said.  

Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman takes issue with the minister's statement.

“When the minister portrays that Fair Share is funded by the provincial rural property tax, it diverts attention away from the fact that from 2003 to date the province has taken over $20 billion in land sales, royalties and other taxes out of Northeast British Columbia," a release from both Taylor and Fort St. John states. “Over that same period, the growth of the rural industrial tax base through the Fair Share Agreement resulted in $100 million distributed over a 10-year period to the Peace Region municipalities and the Peace River Regional District. The province received $20 billion in new revenue generated from development of B.C.’s vast natural gas resources, while the municipalities that service all of this economic expansion receive less than one half of one per cent of all of the new growth revenue.”

Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser said Oakes' statements are misinformed.

“They collect somewhere around $16.5 million in property taxes, but those are for things like policing, roads and that sort of thing,” Fraser said. “The $16.8 million that [the province is] talking about in that press release really has nothing to do with Fair Share. The money they collect from Fair Share is talking about provincial revenues, general revenues.”

In Fort St. John, Fair Share payments rose from an average of $12.5 million annually between 2005 and 2012, to an expected payment (under current terms) of $22.4 million annually between 2013 and 2019.

Fort St. John got $21 million in 2014 from the arrangement. 

In Dawson Creek, Fair Share payments rose from an average of $8.6 million annually between 2005 and 2012, to an expected payment (under current terms) of about $15.3 million annually between 2013 and 2019. Dawson Creek got $13.6 million in 2014 from the arrangement.  ​

These figures do not include extra money given in 2005 by the province as one-time payments.

Total revenues to the provincial coffers from oil and gas activity in Northeast B.C. from land sales, property taxes and oil and gas revenue have plummeted since 2005.

From 2005 to 2010, this revenue was about $2.3 billion annually. From 2011 to 2014, however, this revenue was only about $663 million annually, according to information from the City of Fort St. John.  ​       

reporter@ahnfsj.ca