Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Council approves of a correspondence from Mayor Lee Brain to seek immediate financial assistance from BC Cabinet on critical infrastructure issues

Mayor Lee Brain making his case Monday night for approval of council
for a letter directed to the Premier and cabinet to seek immediate
funding for infrastructure issues in the community

If the current collective of Prince Rupert City Council were to look to channel an iconic TV show when it comes to their escalation of the battle over the Port Property Tax Cap issue, the best example might be taken from elements of the legendary program the Sopranos  

With the Council members going to the mattresses as they would say on Monday, firing off a sharp reproach of the Provincial Government over the issue that has become their all consuming mantra of late.

The theme has been on the high boil for weeks now, a push perhaps even orchestrated to time with the end of this council's mandate which comes at the end of this month. 

The narrative taking up much of the attention for a good portion of the ongoing election campaign for the next council; leaving any review of the previous work of the class of 2018 for the most part unexplored.

The issue recently gained some additional traction through the introduction of a petition movement designed to galvanize the community behind the current mayor and Council. 

Mayor Brain providing for the majority of the communication of their goals towards more fairness from the province, that mostly through his very active social media stream and his frequent updates on the progress of the movement.

Monday night, an agenda item served to accentuate some of those recent talking points as Council gave their approval towards a correspondence to the province.

"That Council authorize the Mayor to send a letter to the Premier and Cabinet members requesting immediate action on providing funding and new/restored revenues to enable the City of Prince Rupert to respond to our critical infrastructure renewals as soon as possible."

And while the text of the motion appeared somewhat generic, in his commentary to explain what Council has in mind for the correspondence, Mayor Brain left no doubt as to what the target of the city's frustrations is.

"I'll just quickly speak to this. I mean the wording can probably be more specific, but we can  include it in the letter.

Essentially this is referred to the Port Property Tax Act, what is clear is that we have issues at the Ministry of Finance level interpreting their own reports. 

Clearly the reports that they've generated on the Port Property Tax Act articulate some of the challenges and some of the solutions that have been presented around how to solve the Property Tax Act. And it seems that there needs to be a little bit more encouragement at the Provincial level.

I'm not sure if the rest of the cabinet feel the same as the Ministry of Finance on this issue, and so I think what's appropriate now is that we actually have the Cabinet together and make a decision on the Port Property Tax Act specifically.

I think that the problem is so complex, but also should not be left to just one ministry given the impact  it has on a community like ours.

The fact that we lose revenue every year from it, there was a recent statement that was put out by the Ministry of Finance saying that we were compensate for the Port Property Tax Act, which is not necessarily true.

We receive a stipend, but it does not keep up with depreciation, which means we still have to make up for the tax loss on residences and small businesses.  

And a variety of data has already been provided,  reports have already been provided, reports have been generated to the provincial government that absolutely show that there's pretty much no argument remaining for the Port Property Tax Act to remain in place, given the unintended consequences of its lasting beyond its temporary use."

The Mayor also presented a rather dystopian look at the future for the community if the province does not see the issue as the city has presented it.

"So what this would be, is requesting that the Premier and Cabinet make a decision on that and consider a decision on it. 

And also in the letter, we would outline some of our immediate infrastructure needs, cause we are at reaching critical failure on some of our infrastructure.

We all see McBride and we're looking at issues like that happening all over the community. 

We have a one hundred year old water system, distribution system within the town site and it needs immediate replacement, or we could be facing longer term consequences."

Mr. Brain then pointed towards what Council's goal seems to be.

"And we need every tool under our belt to collect as much resources as possible and we need to be able to charge accordingly with these industries that are here. Particularly the ones that are classified Marine export industry, a variety of other challenges like that.

So, we need to make its very clear, and I think Council needs to send this letter off and authorize a letter like that. To raise it up the chain so that we can get some of the traction that we need to come to a real resolution on this issue" 

None of the council members in the chamber on Monday, followed up on the mayors comments with any observations of their own.

The city's concerns towards the Port Tax Cap and their belief that the Provincial government has it all wrong have served as the narrative for much of the timeline of their ongoing  discussion of the topic.

Though how the council membership has made their financial decisions over the last eight years towards priorities and where they have spent the money that they did have, doesn't seem to fit into the conversation or message making that the city is seeking to deliver to the province and the public.

The bulk of the City Council communication on the Port Poperty Tax Act issue to date  has been culled mainly from the Mayor's talking points, community vision presentations and social media dispatches. 

None of which have allowed for the provision of the reports and other information mentioned from the province or the Port for a review, something which would allow for a balanced examination for residents towards all the facts of the issue.

The introduction of the motion and the Mayor's soliloquy to the topic can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive starting at the 40:30 mark of the night's work.

So far neither the Mayor or the organizers of the #ScrapthePortTax initiative have provided for an update on the tally of signatures received from the month long campaign and Sunday's one day blitz.

More items of note on the #ScrapthePortTax themes can be reviewed through our City Council Financial page archive.

Further notes related to the Monday Council session can be explored through our Council Timeline feature.


  1. I am started to wonder about the mayor. Why now eight years of raiding the Legacy Fund now all of a sudden he screams he needs money. I once mentioned to a person I respected “that’s not fair”. His reply was sometimes life isn’t fair, get over it!

  2. If folks don’t understand how residential and small businesses taxes continue to go higher as large corporations are protected by the port tax cap, they must not yet have had time to avail themselves of the facts. If NCR still needs to listen to more propaganda from port spin Drs that proves NCR agrees with local residents and businesses paying higher taxes to protect the large corporations. Get a grip NCR.

  3. There is room for more than one way of looking at the issue. The "stipend" the mayor mentions is an annual Port competitiveness grant of $1.8 million from the Province, which according to PRPA is $1.2 million less than if the designated properties were taxed at the major industry rate. But rather than focus on the shortfall, the preference is for the ideological purity of scrapping the tax cap so that city has the Freedom to tax 'wealthy' port operators as much as it wants. Clearly there is a middle ground about the adequacy of the grant that can be pursued.

    As for wanting to deal with the Cabinet rather than the Ministry of Finance alone, trying to go over the minister's head is a poor strategy. Nothing will happen at the Cabinet level without first getting agreement from the minister.

  4. Yet the crisis point only arrived as the end of this Council's mandate arrives and the Mayor will bid us adieu?

    At any rate, hardly taking the spin of the Port, or the spin of the Gov't I guess for that matter.

    Though they have seemingly answered some of the Mayor and Council's previous challenges .. with an apparently unsatisfactory reply.

    Simply noting that the 'only' information or 'facts' as they state that are shared by the city is their interpretation of the situation ... which some may perhaps view as 'propaganda' as well.

    I don't want to see anyone realize higher taxes, but I also would rather City Hall prioritize the spending on the money they do have in hand to the issues that the Mayor noted on Monday night.


  5. Funny the mayor brings up the McBride St. water line project. The city was well aware of the problem and choose to rebuild CN Station. The money used for the station would of paid for the entire project. Hopefully the taxpayer will at least get a glimpse of plans the city has then bring forward for discussion rather than push this stuff through.
    Counting on a new mayor with less “Vision” and some transparency.

  6. Hard to apply for a grant to pay for a waterline break you don’t know is gonna happen. Just saying.

  7. The grant was not applied for it was given to the city for any project they deemed worthy.
    Look into the background of these funds.
    The city decided to rebuild CN Station. I would much sooner some of it be spent on Crestview Dr.