|The City is looking to the future for the Watson Island site|
However, an old voice from the past has returned
and has a few more thoughts on the always evolving saga.
While Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain and City Council have seemingly turned the page on Watson Island and served as midwives for turning the facility into a Trade and Logistics Park, the previous owner and a rather controversial figure in recent Prince Rupert history is looming over the horizon again.
Ni Ritao, the Chinese businessman who was the main stakeholder in the Sun Wave plans for Watson Island has blasted the City of Prince Rupert for its expropriation of the pulp mill lands and has also vowed to continue on with his bid to regain ownership of the site.
In this article in the magazine Business in Vancouver, the former Sun Wave owner observes how he believes that actions like he found in Prince Rupert, could deliver some damage to the reputation of British Columbia as a destination for future foreign investment.
Ni outlined some of his list of concerns related to the way Prince Rupert handled the discussions on the Watson site for BIV, painting a picture of a shift in attitudes towards his investment plans for the region.
“If the treatment I’ve seen is the treatment that foreign investors get – that they welcome your money at first, then confiscate everything once you actually invest – then I find it hard to believe anyone would want to invest here.”
The expansive article from Business in Vancouver provides a fairly good review of the timeline to the Watson Island story and offers up some glimpses to the negotiations from the Chinese investors side of the conversation, something that local residents perhaps have not heard before.
It's a commentary that offers up a different narrative as that which we have heard from City Council in recent years, that is when they actually offered up comment on the Watson story, which was not a frequent occurrence.
The article explores a number of themes related to the Chinese investor, including his time in Custody in China on other matters internal to that nation, as well as his troubles in gaining a visa to re-enter Canada to attend to his affairs here.
The Magazine also notes that they had attempted to get the City's side of the story, but those efforts met with little success.
Officials from the City of Prince Rupert did not respond to a media request to speak with Business in Vancouver about the case, and representatives of rural economic development group Community Futures British Columbia declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation between Ni and the municipality.
And while the Mayor and Civic officials seemingly had nothing to add publicly for the article, Business in Vancouver did find some material of use from the City, making note of the Mayor's video updates on Watson Island.
From those community vignettes the magazine did put some focus on the new vision that the Mayor and Council have decided on for Watson Island,
"The project is part of an initiative led by Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain in which much of the site would become a city-owned import-export “logistics park.”
BIV also noted how the City has declared the island open for new commercial opportunities, but also observes that the City is still working through some "legal challenges".
As for the former owner, Ni notes that he remains willing to work with the City on the redevelopment for the site, but continues to insist that the land was taken from him illegally, adding that municipal officials "unilaterally led and accelerated the disposal and sale" of his Prince Rupert assets.
The Business in Vancouver article makes for another twist in this never ending Watson Island saga, and seems to cover some areas of review on the file that didn't make it into the Mayor's recent Hays 2.0 presentation at the Lester Centre.
An event where the future of Watson Island was described as our golden nugget and a ticket out of our current difficulties, with a bold vision to have the new park fully subscribed within five to ten years.
(see video below at the thirty four minute mark)
It was also however a night where no mention of potential dark clouds was mentioned, nor any indication that some of the ghosts of the past may still be floating over Watson Island perhaps making plans to regroup and change Council's narrative for the industrial site.
Those are themes that perhaps the Mayor and City Council may want to offer up an update on related to the Mayor's recent Hays 2.0 update, so as to better outline how, if at all, the plans of the Chinese investor may impact on that vision plan.
You can review some of the past history for the site, (which may now be a prologue again) to the Watson Island story from our archives here.
The more current plans for the Island as part of the City's Watson Island Trade and Logistics Park can be found here.
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