Friday, September 26, 2014

After a week of UBCM setbacks, City Council might have some new additions for the Provincial Budget Consultations

Considering how things have gone at Whistler this week for the City of Prince Rupert delegation, the deadline to make further submissions for the upcoming Provincial Budget Consultation sessions may be one date that the City won't want to miss.

During this week's UBCM gathering in Whistler, the City has seen a number of the key concerns they had prior to the convention more or less  swatted aside by the provincial government.

One involved the recent UBCM Ferries review and the call for a return to previous levels of funding and service for the ferry system, a recommendation from the municipal body that for the most part was dismissed by the BC Liberal government.

Transport Minister Todd Stone's rather vocal criticism of the UBCM review appeared to set the tone of the week, suggesting that the two levels of government in the province appear to be very far apart on a key transportation issue.

Then there was the Monday speech from LNG Development Minister Rich Coleman, where  he cautioned against expecting too much out of taxation on the LNG industry as it seeks to find its footing in the province.

A review which even had the Minister highlight aspects of the current port taxation system in place in Prince Rupert, observing to the larger UBCM audience, that it perhaps would make for a good blue print for the province to put in place when it comes to LNG development.

A declaration, which as the city's past comments on the port revenue situation indicate, would be a system that doesn't quite deliver the level of financial reward that northern cities might be hoping for.

Those cautionary notes from Mr. Coleman however, were but the preamble to the larger bombshell delivered on Thursday from far off Malaysia.

Comments from Petronas chair Shamsul Abbas, provided for some serious sabre rattling yesterday, points of concern from the energy giant that appear designed to deliver a message to the provincial government on financial expectations and the lack of progress on moving the LNG files ahead.

The threat of outright cancellation of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project for Lelu Island, which at the moment is the most advanced of all the proposed developments for the region, was a talking point that echoed across the North Coast for most of Thursday.

It has been a week of rather faced paced developments, many which suggest that the financial picture today for the region, could change with very little warning.

Offering up the  prospect of the City having to revise their own budgetary expectations for the years ahead, as well as to again address what they might wish to see the Provincial Government take action on when it comes to issues of concern for the region.

All of which leads us to the Provincial Government's budget consultation process, as the All-Party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services continues with their current public engagement efforts.

The Prince Rupert public hearing session appears to have slipped under the radar this time around, taking place earlier this month according to the schedule posted to the Committee website.

Leaving interested North Coast residents or groups to provide any further contribution by way of a written submission, or sending an audio or video file submission to the committee.

Participants can also make use of an online survey available on the finance committee website.

For the City, the race to the deadline on the consultations could provide one more opportunity to deliver more background to their concerns, as well as to deliver their thoughts regarding the impact that the Provincial budget planning could have on the community.

The key date for Prince Rupert Council and any other local groups interested in making a submission is Friday, October 17th, which is the deadline for submissions.

You can learn more about the process from the Standing Committee on Finance Website.

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