B.C. Premier Christy Clark kicked off her much-hyped jobs tour in Prince Rupert this morning, announcing a $15 million contribution by the Province for the development of the Ridley Island road, rail and utility corridor project.
“Canada does indeed start here as our western-most port city,” said Clark in prepared comments, referring to the slogan for her jobs plan: “Canada starts here.”
The announcement also included funding commitments by the Prince Rupert Port Authority and CN Rail, which will both be contributing $30 million to the project. Port CEO Don Krusel and CN president & CEO Claude Mongeau also made comments at the announcement affirming their contributions to the project.
The road, rail and utility corridor project has been highly promoted by the Port. It would consist of a 7,818 metre rail loop corridor around Ridley Island, with 14 inbound and 11 outbound tracks, and a total area of 125 hectares (about 309 acres) of land.
In June of this year, the Port and Canpotex jointly published a project description, which detailed proposed plans for construction of the rail corridor and a potash terminal. Canpotex has not yet made an official decision whether or not to build a potash terminal, but the federal government has invited public comment for its comprehensive environmental assessment for the dual project.
The estimated cost for phase one of the road, rail and utility corridor project is $90 million – so, with all the announced contributions today, the dollar figure is $15 million short. That money is expected to come from the federal government, but no commitment has yet been made.
“The federal government continues to work through its process to determine its participation with respect to the remaining $15 million,” states a press release by the Province that was distributed at the announcement.
The over-arching theme behind this announcement was to take advantage of growing markets in the East. Clark’s first “pillar” of her jobs plan is to expand markets for B.C. products, especially to Asia. Pat Bell, provincial minister of jobs, tourism & innovation, said B.C.’s exports have continued to rise to countries like China, Japan, India, and Korea; meanwhile, trade with the U.S. is dropping. Port CEO Don Krusel said the rail facility at Ridley will help the Port expand its capacity as it brings in raw materials such as coal, grain, and goods “as far away as the potash mines of Saskatchewan.” Rupert’s close proximity to Asia was also mentioned quite frequently in today’s announcement, which took place in the maintenance building at Fairview Terminal.
In her remarks, Clark said this contribution would help tie together the “web of infrastructure” all across the country.
In a media scrum after the announcement, Clark said the Province would continue to focus on Prince Rupert like a laser beam. “This is not the last time you’re going to see investment in Prince Rupert,” she said.
Clark was also asked if her jobs plan would include finding work for local unemployed people. She answered that more details would be coming out by the end of this week as she continues her “Canada starts here” tour, but did hint the government would be making investments in education, which might include helping people find training in their communities.
“If you live in Prince Rupert, you shouldn’t have to move to get a job,” said Clark.
After the officialdom ended and the premier left for a helicopter ride over Ridley Island, MLA Gary Coons gave his opinion on the announcement. He said he’s supportive of port expansion in Rupert, but added the contents of the announcement were not new – he said it was a commitment from 2006.
Coons also said any jobs plan must include investment in post-secondary education and training. “We know that good jobs and a meaningful jobs plan need to support increased accessibility and affordability of post-secondary education,” he said. “We must have jobs for those in our community, our region and throughout the province.”
-Written by Chris Armstrong