CSRD Electoral Area C director Paul Demenok submitted an open letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan regarding the disproportionate distribution of COVID Safe Restart funds to electoral areas. (File photo)

CSRD Electoral Area C director Paul Demenok submitted an open letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan regarding the disproportionate distribution of COVID Safe Restart funds to electoral areas. (File photo)

Column: COVID-19 funding formula unfair to residents of CSRD electoral areas

Director’s Notes by CSRD Electoral Area C Director Paul Demenok

By Paul Demenok

Electoral Area C Director, CSRD

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are my own, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board or its staff.

On February 23, I sent the letter below to Premier John Horgan, provincial ministers and the secretary for rural development expressing my outrage regarding the very unfair formula used to distribute the COVID Safe Restart funds. This formula was applied across the province and resulted in huge inequities in the amounts of funding received by municipalities as compared to electoral areas. These inequities were discussed at length at the recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Electoral Area Directors Forum, and it was clear that electoral area directors across the province are angry and dismayed at the deliberate funding discrimination exhibited by the province.

This is not the only example of discriminatory funding between municipalities and electoral areas in B.C., but it is certainly one of the most egregious.

If you are as outraged as I am by this development, please take the time to make your views known to our provincial government. Here’s my letter:

Dear Leaders,

This letter is in support of correspondence you have received from Grace McGregor and a number of other electoral area directors across the province of British Columbia in regards to the unfair funding formula used to allocate the COVID Safe Restart Funds. These funds do address important local government needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, so thank you for making them available and distributing them so quickly. I think that was a good move, and speaks to the urgent need for this funding.

My concerns and questions are the same as you are hearing from other electoral area directors across the province; please explain to me, so that I can explain to my rural constituents, why we are receiving significantly less funding on a per capita basis than our neighbouring municipalities.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District received $645,000. The table below shows the funds received by the CSRD in comparison to its constituent municipalities:

Golden: $1,263,000 received, 3,708 population, $340.61 amount per capita; Revelstoke: $2,105,000, 7,547, $278.92; Salmon Arm: $3,598,000, 17,706 $203.21; Sicamous: $927,000, 2,429, $381.64; CSRD-All: $645,000 51,366, $12.56; CSRD-electoral areas: 19,976, $32.29.

It’s obvious our municipal counterparts received a much greater allocation of these relief funds on a per capita basis. To be clear, I am not being critical of the need for these funding amounts to municipalities, nor am I trying to create any divisiveness between municipalities and electoral areas in competition for funding, but please note that recovery and ongoing costs directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic are the same in the regional districts and electoral areas as in the municipalities.

Read more: Decisions: Salmon Arm council, staff decide fate of $3.6 million COVID-19 restart grant

Read more: Local governments in B.C. to split $10M in extra COVID restart funds, says Municipal Affairs Minister

Please note as well that the funding received by the CSRD is for all residents of this regional district, including those that live in municipalities because they participate in joint services. The difference is the municipal partners do not have to us any of their funds to help us with any losses on joint services we share. This again is unfair, and doesn’t address the overall objective of working together to defeat this crisis.

At your news conference in September 2020, Premier Horgan, you stated, “The pandemic continues to challenge us in unprecedented ways, but fundamental priorities remain the same. We need to protect people’s health, we need to help the economy open safely and we need to support communities.”

If we truly are in this together, I would ask that you revisit the COVID Safe Restart funding formula to look for a more equitable and fair way to support all residents in all areas across this great province.

Thank you for your kind consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Paul Demenok

-Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District

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