Meet the Mayor
April 22, 2015
I feel that it is time I made some sort of comment on the progress of Fair Share negotiations. This comment will not get to the depths of negotiating in the press but I think that I owe it to the people of Chetwynd to interpret some of the stuff that other participants in the negotiations have been free to reveal.
As you may know, all the municipalities in the Peace River district, with the exception of Hudson’s Hope, were part of a Coalition to establish a united front to protect municipal interests in the ongoing rapid industrial development that is occurring in our region. The concept seemed good and right a year ago but as time moved on some of us became increasingly uneasy with the direction the Coalition appeared to be taking with respect to potential Fair Share negotiations.
Dawson Creek was the first to leave. A few weeks later when it became apparent that Chetwynd’s interests were not being served, Chetwynd withdrew. Tumbler Ridge and Pouce Coupe soon followed.
With the Government’s call for Fair Share negotiations with a completion date of April 30, 2015, the four South Peace municipalities and Hudson’s Hope hired a negotiating team consisting of Blair Lekstrom, Don Lidstone, Municipal Lawyer, and Chris Cvik, Regional District Administrator to represent our common interests. Fort St. John and Taylor elected to remain with the Coalition.
This creates a three-way negotiation. South Peace municipalities and Hudson’s Hope have taken the position that we are open to negotiating a settlement that can be acceptable to all parties. We recognize that the Government is in a difficult position both financially and politically. Politically, in the entire north east we are represented by only two MLAs. We are both envied and resented by the rest of the province which sees us as the rich kids who want more.
This, of course is an entirely wrong view. With our Fair Share grant we are still only in the middle of the pack of industrial municipalities with respect to revenues.
The Coalition and the Government have both resorted to negotiation in the press so their positions are well known. The Coalition is demanding that the 2005 MOU be kept intact with its 8.7% compounded-annually increase. (This has brought the total grant to $46,000,000 for 2015.) The Government put an offer of $600,000,000 over fifteen years on the table which reduces the annual grant to $40,000,000 beginning this year.
This is not acceptable to anyone.
The South Peace municipalities with Hudson’s Hope have taken the position that, though we are not willing to give away the farm, we are prepared to help ease the political and financial burden of the Government within what we consider reasonable bounds.
I’d better not get into the bad practice of negotiating in the press so this is about all I can tell you at the present. Furthermore, I’m not on the negotiating team. I’ll leave that job to the experts.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor