It was a beautiful day across the Peace Monday, April 4. The sun was shining, the snow was melting, and the Provincial Government was in the area handing out money.
The announcement took place in Taylor, where North Peace MLA and Minister of Energy and Mines Richard Neufeld invited South Peace MLA Blair Lekstrom to join him as he announced an extra $6-million for the Fair Share program.
The money is being given to the Peace River Regional District, who intend to distribute it among member communities, including Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Hudson?s Hope, Chetwynd and, of course, Tumbler Ridge. While exact figures were unavailable at press time, a best guess is that Tumbler will see between $350,000 and $400,000 of the $6-million, bringing our total Fair Share income to just over $1-million.
?There has been a lot of hard work trying to get something done with Fair Share. It was a good program in the beginning, but it needs change,? says Neufeld. The first part of that change is this infusion of cash. More importantly, says Neufeld, the Povincial Government is working with local municipalities to ?rectify the inequality? in the oil and gas industry.
Fair Share is a program whereby a portion of the property taxes generated by the oil and gas industry is returned to the communities in the Peace. Most of the oil and gas development in the region happens outside of municipal boundaries. This means that very few taxes are paid directly to the municipalities. Instead, most of the taxes are paid to the Provincial Government, which collected $1.3-billion in oil and gas revenues last year. Of that, it returned $12-million to the local municipalities.
Tumbler Ridge is an exception to the rule. While most municipalities have very small boundaries, Tumbler Ridge?s are very large. This was done so that the two mines–Quintette and Bullmoose–would fall within the boundaries and have to pay taxes locally. It has had an unintended side effect with the recent oil and gas exploration within the district boundaries; these companies now pay property tax directly to the municipality.
Still, the lion?s share of oil and gas development is outside of the town?s boundaries, and so the district receives a portion of the Fair Share money. ?With this, we are accessing the industrial tax base that has eluded us for so long,? proclaimed a jubilant Blair Lekstrom.
The restructuring of the Fair Share program is expected to be complete by the end of the year.