As a regional deal with the province for infrastructure money comes due for a review next year, Fort St. John has rolled out a campaign to showcase all it's been able to build since 1994.
In a news release on Wednesday, the city says it has now spent more than $375 million on developments with funding from the Peace River Agreement, last renewed in 2015, and its predecessors.
That includes the upgrades of more than 65 kilometres of roads, and other major projects including the downtown 100 Street rebuild, the new RCMP station and fire training centre, and upgrades to Kin and Surerus parks, among other capital works, says the city.
“As stewards of this funding, the City has invested over $375 million since 1994 to support Fort St. John’s development as a healthy, vibrant community and thriving economic hub for residents, businesses, and industry,” said outgoing Mayor Lori Ackerman in the release.
The series of provincial "fair share" agreements, as they used to be known, have compensated Peace Region cities, towns and rural areas for the burden of industrial development outside their tax bases. All municipalities rely on these funds for significant portions of their annual budgets to finance capital projects and day-to-day operations.
Fort St. John, for instance, received $25.9 million under the current agreement for 2022, about 28.5% of the city's budgeted revenues of $90.6 million for this year.
And the city has budgeted $64.98 million for capital projects this year with money from the agreement, or about 89% of the total $73.4-million capital budget.
The last iteration of the agreement was inked in May 2015 after some controversy when then-premier Christy Clark sprung surprise negotiations on the region — pushing municipalities to sign a new deal within 60 days, and several years before it was set to expire.
Ackerman at the time called the move "a slap in the face” and said the province’s offer was "unacceptable in every way."
A new deal was eventually signed and retitled the Peace River Agreement, promising $1.1 billion to the region over 20 years. Annual payments started at $50 million in 2016, with a 2% inflator started in 2020 that will last through to the end of the agreement’s term.
The deal, however, is scheduled for a review in 2023, and again in 2031, with "opportunities to re-open the annual rate of growth of the payment," according to the province.
The city says money from the Peace River Agreement has also funded the new festival plaza at Centennial Park, financed upgrades to the fire hall, arena, and fieldhouse, as well as replaced other equipment and paid for plans for stormwater, liquid waste, and transportation, parks, and cemeteries.
The city says it will be "recognizing this funding" throughout the year with mail-out and social media campaigns, a community video, and the installation of both temporary and permanent signs for projects that have been funded through the agreement.
Other municipalities that receive money under the Peace River Agreement are Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, Hudson's Hope, Pouce Coupe, Taylor, Tumbler Ridge, and the Peace River Regional District.
A timeline of Fair Share funding:
1994 - First "fair share" agreement signed with the province, bringing $4 million annually to the region
1998 - Renegotiated agreement signed, boosting annual payments to $12 million to the region
2005 - Renegotiated agreement brings $20 million annually to the region
2015 - New Peace River Agreement signed, bringing $50 million annually to region
Source: City of Fort St. John
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