A group of Northwest municipal leaders says the region is “woefully unprepared” for future major project activity.
The Northwest BC Resource Benefits (RBA) Alliance has publicly released its submission to the NDP government’s Rural Development Strategy public engagement process.
The RBA says it supports the creation of a strategy that will bridge what it calls the urban-rural divide, but says any plan will have to take into account the needs and circumstances of different rural regions.
“The Northwest is unique in terms of the potential high level of major project activity that we are already having to prepare for with inadequate local government revenues,” says Phil Germuth, RBA Co-Chair, Chair of the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and Mayor of the District of Kitimat in a news release. “That doesn’t even take proposed LNG projects into consideration, which have required significantly more dollars than our local governments have.
The RBA submission recommends that the province:
- Develop a framework for rural development that is flexible enough to meet the needs of different regions.
- Ensure the work done to create the Rural Development Strategy includes adequate research on existing conditions in different regions of the province.
- Make sure the strategies developed take into account the level of current and potential economic activity within different regions, with a focus on translating that activity into sustainable communities.
- Recognize that the benefits of economic development in rural areas must improve the long-term sustainability of rural communities.
- Commit to working closely with groups, such as the RBA, in each region to formulate a governance model for a particular region.
- Use the proposal put forward by the RBA as a pilot project to develop and test strategies to support sustainable economic development and sustainable communities in rural BC.
The RBA says the existing $25 million available in the Rural Dividend program is totally inadequate to deal with the issues rural communities are facing.
The alliance says it continues to meet with the provincial government with the hope that it can reach a benefits sharing agreement for the Northwest, but that has yet to happen.