November 12, 2015 - 8:30 PM
KAMLOOPS - The possible annexation of New Afton Mine brought Community Minister Peter Fassbender to Kamloops earlier this week.
As the minister responsible for boundary extension queries, Fassbender joined Mayor Peter Milobar Monday, Nov. 9, to meet with those potentially impacted by the proposed change, including First Nations and mining industry officials.
“He was quite accommodating to listen to everyone’s perspective on the issue,” Milobar says of Fassbender.
The pair took a helicopter ride over the mine in order for the minister to understand what a boundary extension would physically look like.
Milobar admits after Fassbender’s visit, there is not likely to be a great leap forward in the boundary extension debate.
“(The province is) only one component of the entire process,” he says, adding the Tk'emlups and Skeetchestn Indian Bands play an instrumental role in the annexation’s fate. “Only time will tell. I think everyone wants what's best for the region.
“Technically we could just file paper and try to force it through. (The province) wants us to keep discussing. I think that's a reasonable request.”
For the past few years heavy industry players — Arclin, Domtar, Lafarge and Tolko — have been saying Kamloops’ tax rate is nearly double that of other parts of the province. The group originally asked council for a tax break to keep their operations competitive and since those initial discussions Arclin has shut down.
The idea of boundary extension was first raised in 2013. By including New Afton within the city limits, the heavy industry tax burden could be shared across more companies, effectively lessening the amount each would have to pay.
The Tk'emlups and Skeetchestn Indian Bands previously said they are opposed to any boundary expansion in the area because it would infringe upon their traditional territories. In 2014 the bands threatened legal action if New Afton was included within Kamloops boundaries.
The city has also explored alternative options to annexation, including revenue sharing agreements.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015