I know that many of you have heard the term Fair Share over the last decade. I’ll guess from the safety of the Mayor’s office that you don’t know what it is, why we have it, how secure it is. Right! I knew you wouldn’t know. Not many people do.
The District of Chetwynd and the Regional District take every available opportunity to explain Fair Share to government officials in Victoria and to our colleagues in local government around the province. You can be sure that it is a source of some consternation to many elected officials in local governments as well as in the provincial government. For the security of Fair Share, it is crucial that they understand why we, on this side of the rocks, have a Fair Share agreement with the Province.
Sadly, there are good folks around the province who harbor the attitude that if we can’t have it, it’s not fair for you to have it either. It is an attitude based on ignorance of background and nature of Fair Share and those who hold the attitude need to be disabused. If they continue to hold to their error, the pressure on the provincials to end the agreement will only increase. Hence, the importance for you to have some level of correct understanding of the program.
Let’s start with clarifying your minds on what Fair Share is not: Fair Share is not a local government transfer grant; Fair Share is not revenue sharing. Got that clear? Good; let’s proceed.
The Fair Share MOU with the provincial government recognizes the existence of $3.3 billion in industrial assessment in our region that does not contribute to municipal taxation revenues while the industries holding the assets make a heavy draw on municipal resources through their various services. Furthermore, the majority of the industrial workforce resides within the communities. This circumstance is unique to the BC Peace region. That is to say, it does not exist in any other region of the province.
Fair Share is an agreement between the Province and the eight Peace region local governments to 1) recognize a Regional Property Tax Pool and 2) implement an industrial development tax sharing program.
Under the Fair Share MOU, the Provincial Government collects the taxes from the industrial infrastructure in the region and returns a Fair Share of that tax to the local governments through the Regional District.
The BC North East, one of the richest industrial regions in the Province contributes the bulk of provincial revenues. Even so, there are those who would like to relieve us of the burden of Fair Share. Continual vigilance is essential to our continually receiving this industrial tax.
When I was 14, my uncle taught me that nothing is sure but death and taxes. In retrospect, I’d say he was quite mistaken, but we’ll certainly need Fair Share taxes until death do us take. Yes, we’ll continue our vigilance on the Fair Share issue.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor