Meet the Mayor
June 3, 2015
Fair Share has been with us for almost 20 years. Starting small, the grant has grown substantially over the years. In fact, the growth has been such that the Government felt constrained to open negotiations to reduce its impact on Government resources.
At a growth rate of almost 8% Chetwynd’s share of the provincial money pot would have more than doubled in the next ten years. When looking at the pot from the Government perspective, it is not hard to see what Government saw – an unsustainable drain on provincial resources.
There was a political drain as well as a financial drain. It was becoming increasingly difficult to explain to the rest of the province why we in the Northeast were receiving Fair Share and none of the rest of the province was so lucky. From our vantage point the explanation was not difficult; we understood the governing principles of Fair Share and we knew why the Northeast needed, deserved, and must continue to receive Fair Share in some equitable manner. It didn’t take a degree in economics to recognize where industrial infrastructure was located and where the stresses on social infrastructure were located.
There is another factor that complicated the picture. At the beginning of the grant, Fair Share was located in the Ministry of Finance where it should be. Some years ago the wisdom of Government transferred it to the (now) Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development where it became a major drain on Ministry resources and a hard political sell to the other communities.
When Premier Clark promised during the election campaign to extend Fair Share for ten years we all assumed that her promise included the same conditions that we then enjoyed. Wrong assumption. Back in Victoria cooler, apolitical heads explained why this must not happen and here in the Northeast we began to be just a little uncertain about its future. (Do I need to explain why Fair Share is crucial to Chetwynd’s ongoing viability? It represents 46% of District revenue.)
Fact is, we were only a little surprised when, in late winter, we received a letter from Minister Oakes notifying us of the Government’s intention to open discussions and have a Fair Share agreement completed by April 30 (this year!).
It’s done! The new agreement retains much of the language of the old agreement but with a new name and a tapering off of the steep climb in the rate of increase. The Northeast received its regular grant for 2015 of approximately 46 million. For 2016 the grant will be topped out at 50 million and remain at 50 million for the next three years when a COLA will kick in.
This brief comment represents the essentials of the agreement. For Chetwynd the new agreement means that we can continue with regular infrastructure upgrades in streets, water, and sewer. With the completion of the District Office there is an additional half million annually to put towards infrastructure upgrades.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor