The Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) has always fostered a positive, healthy community, and the prospects for the future are even more exciting and diverse today. WLIB is in a time of productive and exhilarating change. WLIB understands that their nation must have a long-term strategy as they work towards greater control of their lands and self-government.
Following the lead of other successful First Nations communities, WLIB started to use their land assets wisely, exploring and implementing beneficial taxation and leasehold strategies to solidify long-term prosperity. With these revenues, WLIB can respond to community needs better than with simple government program funding mechanisms.
Presently, WLIB does not have extensive development on their lands, but they do have a spectacular location and vast untapped potential. WLIB’s main reserve sits along Highway 97 in British Columbia, the primary transportation corridor to the north and south, mere minutes from Williams Lake. Blessed with amazing views, the economic development potential of these lands will be dramatically enhanced by the four-laning and other improvements currently being made to Highway 97. WLIB is also landlord to Pioneer Log Homes, which is featured on the hugely successful reality television show Timber Kings. Timber Kings has provided considerable exposure to WLIB lands, and to the region generally.
Currently WLIB has a number of band-operated ventures. The successful band-run Chief Will-Yum campsite continues to generate revenue which is reinvested in the campsite to improve services. They also built the Coyote Rock Golf Course in 2010, which brings in steady revenues to help sustain its operation.
Other interests include Chief William Heritage Site and RV Park, Sugar Cane Wood Products, Sugar Cane Petroleum Products and Chief Will-Yum gas station, Sugar Cane TreadPro, and Borland Creek Logging. WLIB collects property tax revenues from several utility companies and railway companies all of which have infrastructure cutting through reserve lands.
Lease revenues, taxes, and development are essential for long-term security. WLIB is developing a new residential development adjacent to Highway 97 which includes 28 fully-serviced leased lots under a head lease, with sub-leases sold to purchasers. They are exploring the most beneficial method to build on the lots to help solidify a long-term tax base to fund community operations and development.
Another initiative is a Development Cost Charges law which would see future development contributing to the cost of community infrastructure. This law allows WLIB to raise tax funds for specific developments and the infrastructure to support those developments.
Property tax provides a solid revenue base so they can build, maintain, and improve facilities, rather than trying to salvage them as they deteriorate. Through taxation, they can also significantly contribute to culture and language efforts and other community needs.
WLIB realizes they cannot rely on INAC funding for the long term. The dwindling federal government funding means it is up to them to develop own source revenues and build a solid future. Taxation is a jurisdiction the community is embracing. It is a valuable tool for development, sustainability, and building community.
This is an exciting period for WLIB. The First Nation is just starting to tap into the many creative and lucrative opportunities available, and through their efforts today, they will be able to protect their lands and work together to strengthen their Secwepemc culture. Living in a healthy, prosperous community is the vision, and taxation is helping to achieve this.