Tuesday, October 16, 2012

MLA's hear Prince Rupert presentations on budget consultations

The touring band of MLA's on the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services made their Prince Rupert stop this week, a Monday morning session which saw local presentations on how best to allocate financial resources to communities across the province.

The committee, which includes soon to be departing North Coast MLA Gary Coons heard the concerns of local residents over a variety of issues, making for an interesting review of the concerns of residents in Prince Rupert.

It was a diverse group that addressed the Committee on Monday morning, some of the highlights of the morning session can be found below.

Ken Shaw who has become the voice of the Pinnacle Pellet Plant opposition made a presentation that touched on that project and how the City of Prince Rupert and Port of Prince Rupert interact, and how the Port's Property Tax is impacting on the city. Detailing how the City needs to be allowed more input into growth on port lands.

The Port made a presentation as well, with Ken Veldman outlining the growth of the Port in Prince Rupert and how the province's investment of 2007 has paid off in the Northwest with increased revenues and job creation. He also touched on some of the concerns of Ken Shaw in his presentation and how to best manage growth

The Committee also heard from Transition House and Friendship House, where both presentations outlined how funding issues have an impact on the delivery of services to the community.

Joanna Larson of the Prince Rupert Teachers Union discussed public education and the fears of the two tiered education system that the Teachers' Union believes is being created in the province.  The funding of schools also made up much of her presentation, expressing concern over the need to address the taxation issue in the province, increasing taxes to the wealthiest of British Columbians, introducing new upper income tax brackets for those making more than $100,000.

The Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce provided a bit of history of the region's economic downturn over the last decade and some of the improving situations currently seen in the community. Their presentation then focused on the rising rates of Ferry transportation on the North Coast as well as the need for affordable post-secondary education in the community.

Mayor Jack Mussallem had a list of eight concerns of City Council, seeking continued support for the Northern Gateway, concerns over heavy industrial taxation, infrastructure funding, unconditional grants,  deficit funding, trade missions, job training and library funding. He expanded on each point with the Committee during the course of his presentation.

Rocque Berthiaume, an instructor at Northwest Community College addressed the Committee to reinforce the importance of that institution to the Northwest and how funding issues are impacting on service delivery across the region.  His presentation was followed shortly later in the proceedings by a similar one delivered by Northwest College Student representatives Innes Shanoss and Joe Daniels, who discussed recent cuts to programs at the Prince Rupert campus and the impact they are having on students.

Councillor Jeniffer Rice, who may one day be laying claim to Gary Coons seat in the Legislature on behalf of the NDP, also made a presentation to the Committee, outlining a number of issues of concern to her from corporate taxation, to BC Ferries and the cost of transportation of goods on the north coast.

All of the talking points of the participants above can be found on the official transcript from the Monday session, a record which develops their conversations with the Committee more fully.

The committee moves on  towards the Interior and then Vancouver Island this week, before wrapping up their consultations in Victoria on Thursday.

CFTK TV-- Budget Consult (video)
CFTK-- Government committee consults Prince Rupert on upcoming budget
The Northern View-- President Prince Rupert and District Teachers Union is one of many to share input...

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