Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Mayor, MLA make use of the weekend to hail Provincial government's funding announcement

Premier Horgan and Minister Robinson along with a collection of
 Northwest politicians on hand in Terrace Saturday, as the
BC Government announced a new grant funding program for the region
(BC Government photo)

For those that were away for the Family Day weekend and may have missed it, there was a fairly significant funding announcement for the Northwest announced on Saturday.

That as Premier John Horgan assembled area Mayors along with Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson and MLA Jennifer Rice in Terrace in the middle of the Family Day weekend.

The collective were brought together at the campus of Coast Mountain College to announce a new Capital and Planning Grant funding program; an initiative that will distribute 100 million dollars to a number of communities and regional districts from Vanderhoof to Prince Rupert.

The timing of the announcement was a curious thing, coming as it did late in the morning on a Saturday, smack dab in the middle of the long weekend and on a day when a lot of attention was focused on Prince Rupert where the final day of the All Native Basketball tournament was taking place.

And while hosting the announcement in Terrace may have been good for logistics for all the partners; the photo opportunity that Prince Rupert would have offered, what with the backdrop of one of the biggest events in the Northwest of the year, is one that may have helped to spread word to a larger audience to hail the province's commitment to the Northwest over the weekend.

Still, at the end of the day, it's the funding that's important and whether the media release is datelined Terrace or Prince Rupert, the announcement was welcome news for Mayors and Regional District Directors across the region.

We outlined the background to the funding program on Saturday, with our notes available here on the early details of the funding program that is expected to bring up to an additional eight million dollars to the City of Prince Rupert this year for use on infrastructure pursuits.

For Mayor Lee Brain, who was part of the larger Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance initiative, the funding makes for some recognition by the province of the challenges that the NWBCRBA had been raising with successive provincial governments for close to half a decade.

Now to be sure, eight million dollars as a one shot injection of cash, won't solve all of the city's infrastructure problems of which there are many.

But it does provide for a cushion to try and leverage some funding from the other two levels of government and hopefully, it provides for the blue print for a longer term solution for the province to the funding woes that many communities are finding in the Northwest when it comes to infrastructure needs.

Mr. Brain who should be accorded some credit for his extensive efforts on the file over the last few years, followed up the Premiers announcement with some background delivered to his Facebook portal on Saturday afternoon.

Among some of the key elements of the new funding and how it will be used are:

This new revenue is a major game changer for us as we’ll be able to allocate these funds strategically into various parts of the community, helping us become more sustainable and begin to tackle the many issues facing Prince Rupert - like being able to leverage grants for our water treatment facility or make improvements into roads, parks, downtown / waterfronts, etc. 

Long term our goal as a region is to secure this type of revenue on a consistent and yearly basis with the Province through the RBA in a 25+ year agreement, and those discussions will be ongoing moving forward.

The Prince Rupert Mayor will have his first opportunity to expand on the city's plans for the eight million dollars later this month when City Council holds their final Council session for February on the 25th.

The meeting will also provide a forum for the Council members to perhaps say a few words and outline their views on how the city should proceed with the funding and what priorities should be addressed first.

It's also a Committee of the Whole night, which offers the opportunity for residents of the community to share some thoughts with the City Council members as to how they should approach the winfall.

Kudos should also be given to MLA Jennifer Rice, who has managed to pry open the vault at the Legislature to deliver some much needed financial assistance to the communities across the Highway 16 corridor.

Though the list is a long one as to things that still need attention in her home constituency, so residents will be hoping that this is just the first of a number of photo ops to come to share word on what the government has planned for the North Coast and Haida Gwaii.

Ms. Rice also made use of Social media on Saturday to provide some additional background on the funding program announced on Saturday and how it serves to reinforce the province's commitment to the region.

More background on the work of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Association can be found here.

Notes of City of Prince Rupert Council discussion themes can be explored here, while our reviews of the work of the North Coast MLA at the Legislature can be reviewed here.

To view the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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