Telkwa water tower a reinvestment

This editorial appeared in the January 25, 2017 edition of the Interior News. You can read or download the original here.

University of Northern British Columbia professor Greg Halseth likens it to constantly removing money from your bank account without any deposits. Eventually you’ll go broke.

And that is why Halseth, as the Canada Research Chair in Rural and Small Town Studies, says it is so important for governments to reinvest in communities located in areas where the province reaps natural resource revenues. Without our communities being strong, the natural resource economy the province is dependent upon suffers.

Which brings us to a stark example of a lack of reinvestment by the Christy Clark government. Something so basic as municipal water infrastructure. Telkwa is in need of a water tower to provide adequate coverage for existing and expanding areas of the village. At an estimated sticker price of $2.7 million, the project is costly for a small municipality but not unreasonable when the beneficial outcomes of expanded business and residential opportunities are considered along with safety concerns around water flow for firefighting.

However, the project has been repeatedly turned down for government funding. It’s a frustrating situation, especially when you can see other spending decisions by the BC Liberals that don’t come anywhere near the importance of this kind of reinvestment in communities. Take, for example, the decision by the Christy Clark government to almost double its advertising budget to $15 million this year leading up to the May 9 provincial election. Spending millions of dollars more to let you know how good the government is doing when the Telkwa water tower application is rejected seems like an obvious case of mistaken priorities; or a Premier that is more interested in campaigning than governing.

There is also the rejection by the current government of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance. Comprised of 21 local governments in our region, the Alliance seeks to return more of the wealth created through regional resource extraction to communities through ‘fair share’ agreements with the province in order to address infrastructure and other needs. Discouragingly, this reasonable group of local representatives can’t get the ear of the Christy Clark government.

It all comes down to priorities. If we reinvest properly in rural, northern communities then the system will not ‘go broke’ and we will have robust communities that can support the natural resource activities that bring prosperity to others in the province.

– Doug Donaldson is the MLA for Stikine and the Official Opposition spokesperson for energy and mines.