Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson has suggested the mayors of Quesnel, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and Wells as well as the chair from the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) get together with Premier John Horgan in the near future to make a case for more funding for the region.
Simpson gave the suggestion at last Friday’s (June 7) CRD general meeting which was held at Shiraoi House in Quesnel.
He pointed out that despite shrewd management of the city’s funds they might still find themselves in a spot of trouble with upcoming projects.
“We as a city have taken care of our core infrastructure,” Simpson said. “We’ve taxed accordingly and we don’t have an infrastructure deficit but we have very big bills coming our way that I think we need some help on, so I think going down and saying we need an account specifically for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.”
The Quesnel mayor pointed out that the towns along the Highway 16 corridor have been afforded an infrastructure account to help them accommodate growth, so it would only make sense for the communities that might be struggling due to the recent forestry industry downturn to be awarded for all they have contributed in past years.
The regional districts of Fraser-Fort George, Bulkley-Nechako, Kitimat-Stikine and North Coast, and their 22 participating municipalities are all eligible for the $100 million Northern Capital and Planning Grant to better prepare themselves for the upcoming growth due to the influence of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.
“The fact that they established that fund, the fact that it’s now rolling out and the fact that we’re just on the front end of the rationalization of our traditional forest economy means that we need to get down directly to the Premier’s office as a delegation,” Simpson said. “I’m suggesting that the chair and the four mayors go down and ask for a meeting with the Premier to kind of lay out our argument.”
Simpson bluntly laid out what he thinks needs to be put across to the head of the provincial government.
“You did a specific funded infrastructure account for a group of communities that are going to be rolling as a result of an industry that you’re forcing into existence as a result of your tax regime and we still have nothing in the Cariboo-Chilcotin to help us out.”
Some of the upcoming pinch points the city is facing were pointed out by the Mayor to the CRD board.
“We are trying to do our three-year budget framework but in conjunction with the recession in our industry, we’re losing $400,000 property taxation when Tolko deconstructs.
“That is a direct hit to us that we somehow have to endure.
“At the same time we’re doing a fundamental review of our landfill to meet all of the new standards.”
Simpson says the review could cost upwards of that $3 million to bring the landfill up to grade as well as accommodate a planned expansion.
He also pointed out a large upcoming price tag as a result of Health Canada changing the manganese standards for drinking water.
In addition, the City will have to put more money towards West Quesnel land stability in the near future.
“We’ve invested almost $21 million in that big slide over on the west side – now we have to go and look at the ongoing monitoring and enhancement of the dewatering program there.”
CRD Chair Margot Wagner was quick to agree with the suggestion.
“I think it’s really important because we all know about the millions of dollars that came out post fire because of the high price of logs and we just got what we usually get back,” she said, adding: “There needs to be some other form of sustainable funding to deal with the problems we’re facing.
CRD Vice Chair John Massier concurred and added some figures from the region.
“I know that the increase in stumpage for the B.C. timber sales only just in the Williams Lake and 100 Mile region brought in the neighbourhood of $20 million right after the fires from the burnt timber that was on Crown Land.
“Our resources are still bringing in huge cash flows into the provincial government that don’t seem to be making it’s way back to our region.”
Simpson said the next move needs to be a tactical one on the CRD’s part.
‘We shouldn’t go down there to make the same old arguments. We should be going down there with a specific business case, with a specific request that is unpinned from the old ‘we need our fair share back,’ or old ‘what are they getting’ tactics.”
A motion was made to meet with the Premier’s delegation and speak to a specific business request for funding, which was quickly passed.