The province’s latest offer to extend Fair Share is “completely unacceptable” to Taylor and Fort St. John, their mayors said at a joint press conference yesterday.
The proposal put forward by the province would ultimately result in far fewer dollars for Peace Region municipalities on a per capita basis through the term of the deal, they say.
“We are calling on the premier to immediately halt the current process to impose a new Fair Share agreement on municipalities in Northeast B.C.,” said Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman in a release. “We are reconfirming our position that the current process and offer from the province is unacceptable in every way.
"It is a slap in the face to municipalities in the Northeast, and in our view sets a very dangerous precedent for British Columbia," she added.
Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser spoke against the process outlined by the province. “It can only be characterized as an attempt to force municipalities to accept a provincial cost cutting agenda, which unfortunately would break the existing Fair Share agreement,” he said.
Fair Share is a pact between the province and the Northeast that compensates municipalities for stresses placed on them from the oil and gas industry. The grant is projected to make up about 22 per cent of Fort St. John's revenue of approximately $93 million this year.
According to information released by Fort St. John and Taylor, the province's proposal would result in progressively lower revenue per capita over the lifespan of the Fair Share deal, based on a very conservative population growth rate of 2 per cent. (Fort St. John grew 4.7 per cent last year.)
In 2014, the province was offering about $1,000 per capita. By 2029, under the province’s new terms, that falls to only $600 or so per person.
Ackerman also criticized some other municipalities' approach to negotiations.
“Some municipalities are focused on a ‘political quick fix’ solution that has resulted in regional disharmony and the opening of the door for the province’s cost cutting agenda which could result in a loss of $70 million during the remaining five years for the current Fair Share agreement.”
When asked whether her comments were directed at the communities which pulled out of the Northeast B.C. Resource Coalition — Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge, Pouce Coupe and Chetwynd — Ackerman said the question should be put to those municipalities.
The primary function of the coalition is to negotiate a new Fair Share agreement.
The only other member of the Northeast B.C. Resource Coalition, the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, agreed.
“We are in support of what they’re doing,” said Mayor Bill Streeper. “It’s very hard dealing with some of these provincial people.”
Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm said the position of the coalition “was reasonable [in] that they have said, ‘Yes, the province has seen some short term pain.' But we’ll address that with some proper research to make sure we’re going down the right path.”