Meet the Mayor
March 11, 2015
I haven’t said much about Fair Share, the Provincial grant in lieu of access to industrial taxation in the rural areas surrounding the municipalities in the Peace Region because there hasn’t been much to say about it. You know, it just comes and I get to carry a big check to District Office once a year. However, all the area Mayors and CAOs have been talking a lot among themselves over the past year or so about the importance of Fair Share to our communities and the importance of attempting to secure the grant beyond 2020, its present expiry date. We’ve even been strategizing.
In 2014 the total Fair Share grant amounted to in excess of 40 million which was distributed among the seven participating municipalities and the Peace River Regional District according to a formula established approximately 20 years ago. Chetwynd’s share in 2014 was 2.525 million and in 2015 it will be 2.683 million. It doesn’t take an economist to recognize the importance of Fair Share to the communities in the Peace Region; a Mayor can do that quite easily.
Well, the time has come, as the poet memorably noted, and we have to jump to our positions and defend the cause. Perhaps more in line with the position Chetwynd is taking on Fair Share negotiations, we have to be prepared to find the common ground with the Government. On February 24 Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Coralee Oakes, notified all the north east Mayors (with the exception of Fort Nelson that has a separate agreement) that the Government intends to reopen discussions (negotiations) to be conducted directly with all local governments in the region. The Province’s goal is to have a new agreement in place by April 30, less than two months away.
This seems like an ambitious undertaking but I have no doubt that the Ministry has been working on it for some time and is prepared. I also sense that the communities in the north east can pull together the final details of their final preparations in time to meet the kick-off date of mid March.
So what is at stake? Lots. Much. Even more than that. The Fair Share grant is approximately equivalent to the revenue the District receives in direct property taxation of all classes. To be a little more precise: in 2014 property taxation brought in 10 thousand more than the Fair Share grant; in 2015 taxation is projected to exceed Fair Share by 120 thousand.
Can Chetwynd live on without Fair Share? Maybe. But not easily. Major changes would have to be implemented. There would be increases in tax rates. There could be restructuring – a euphemism for reductions in staffing. Please don’t be alarmed. This scenario is not imminent. We firmly believe, based on our communications with the Ministry, that Fair Share is going to exist in some form beyond 2020 and, as responsible local government, we will join the negotiations with confidence.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor