Talks labour on for new Fair Share deal

B.C. Liberals plan to scrap current Fair Share arrangement that gives local governments in Northeast B.C. tax revenue for industrial activity that takes place outside city boundaries but draws heavily on their municipal resources

Northeast British Columbia’s municipalities are weighing their next moves after the province’s self-imposed deadline for Fair Share renegotiations came and went last week with no deal in place.

In February, the B.C. Liberals said they planned to scrap the current Fair Share arrangement, which was supposed to run until 2020, setting a deadline of April 30 for the new deal.

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That deadline has passed, but talks continue between the province and blocks within the region.

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 municipal resources.

Municipal leaders have taken different approaches to the province’s demands.

Fort St. John

Fort St. John City Council will decide today whether or not they will continue negotiating with the province, according to Mayor Lori
Ackerman.

The city recently learned that it would receive the money it had expected based on the current Fair Share agreement for this year only.

“[Receiving this money] gives us time to look at moving forward and so our staff will be bringing us a report and we will have a conversation and decide at that time whether or not negotiations will be initiated,” said Ackerman.

Dawson Creek

Meanwhile, Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead appears to be taking a softer approach.

"The province has responded to the counter proposal that we had made to them,” he said. 

Bumstead later added that the province and Dawson Creek hope to have renegotiations concluded by May 15.

This would give the parties time to have an “agreement in principle” signed, before it is subjected to further scrutiny for a final agreement.

“We want to have [the agreement] reviewed by our lawyers to make sure the wording is appropriate,” he said.

Taylor

Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser indicated he is “cautious to put a date” on when the negotiations would conclude. 

“It sort of sets a potential deadline where I’m not aware there is one,” he said.

Fraser would not say if the province had budged from its position put forward in March. That offer, if accepted by the municipalities, would mean a sharp reduction in Fair Share funds that the communities expected to receive until 2020.

Fraser said his negotiating block had discussions with the ministry on Thursday and a report would be delivered to council.

Taylor and Fort St. John's negotiator is Colin Griffith, while Dawson Creek chose to go with former MLA, cabinet minister and Dawson Creek mayor Blair Lekstrom.

The municipalities had been united as part of the Northeast B.C. Resource Municipalities Coalition, but that group mostly fell apart after Dawson Creek and others pulled out.

— With files from Jonny Wakefield and Business in Vancouver

 reporter@ahnfsj.ca

© Copyright 2018 Alaska Highway News

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