Friday, December 30, 2022

Infrastructure, housing and how to pay for it all, how to get it built ... some of the key areas for City Council for 2023

Work on First Avenue East water infrastructure was just one of a number of
job sites for City workers and contractors in the last few weeks of December.

Prince Rupert City Council put an exclamation point on the year that was 2022 just before Christmas, with an extended cold snap, bringing a snap of some water lines that highlighted just how tenuous the city's long neglected infrastructure needs are.

A sixteen minute Special Council Session called on Saturday, December 17th providing the overview over just how challenging the last few weeks were going to be for the community.

Clearly the days of kicking cans down the road should be over, with the first priority ahead finding funding, in whatever form, to start to rebuild the lifeline of the community, the civic water supply lines.

While other any number of other projects tended to dominate the attention of past councils, some progress was delivered in the four years previous to the new council's arrival; highlighted by the completion of the Woodworth water dam in October, somewhat behind schedule most likely beyond original cost. 

But a job completed that at least secured that aspect of the city's water supply.

Mayor Brain, MLA Rice and others at the official
opening of the Woodworth Dam in October.

Though, as of yet, we have yet to be told officially by City staff if we have returned to the Woodworth water supply.

However, as we saw with the declaration of a State of Local Emergency on December 17th, the community's water mains and those lines to our homes, businesses and industry are fragile ones which should be the focus of most importance for the Councillors and Mayor upon their return to work on January 9th.

If it means some of the vision planning of the past must linger on sketch pads for awhile, or get put up on a shelf, so be it.  

The main job of a civic government is to ensure that the basic requirements for a community are delivered and if the talk of Council and the MLA of December was an indication, that in the case of water may not be a guaranteed thing unless immediate action is taken.

The MLA, through a letter to a range of ministers both Federal and Provincial last week relayed the wish of her office and seemingly that of city council for some direct Federal infrastructure intervention. 

Though it's not really clear how much money that Ms. Rice or the City Council collective may be anticipating arriving from a direct deposit from Federal sources.

Nor if the Federal Government or her own Provincial government, can even respond as hoped for, without having to do the same for hundreds, if not thousands of other Canadian and British Columbia communities with similar infrastructure issues, who likewise would expect the same level of assistance.

Something that might suggest, that City Council best be looking to create a Plan B, to find a solution to the long running issues of the city's waterlines.

The other key area for Council to focus on for 2023 is to take their past approvals for housing lots, and full scale housing projects to some kind of shovel in the ground phase.

Land once proposed for a large town home development on Drake Crescent
remains unmoved the project still one of many that were once proposed
that have yet to ever move forward 

Few reasons as to why those never moved ahead were ever delivered to the public, a rolling wave of new proposals replacing the old, neither of which seemed to find some success.

We've heard many suggestions towards why there's been a lack of success.  

From financing concerns of the builders, to obstacles in the way of available land, or as Councillor Niesh would tell you, the ever present muskeg, which the councillor seems to suggest is what is keeping most projects from ever seemingly getting a start. 

Still if the City council hold to their belief that great things are destined for the community, twinned with port expansion; they had best find ways to get some housing stock in place, there's not enough now for those who desperately need some, let alone for newcomers looking to put down their roots and take up the jobs that will come with the future.

We've seen no shortage of studies, plans and vision statements on housing, hopefully 2023 brings the vision of some shovels digging and framers framing, indicating that the housing issues are finally finding some traction.

The Council members also took a cue this month from their Chief Financial Officer, noting of a dark shadow looming in 2023 when it's time to craft the next budget for 2023.  

The first signs of some tightening of a belt coming with the Community Enhancement Grant allocations announcement this month, which saw some limitations put on expectations.

As they plan to deliver on the financial themes of the year ahead, there seems to be a desire from some in the public towards a more dedicated approach to information sharing on both the spending and the revenues.

Whether it's Watson Island, CityWest, the use of the Legacy Inc financial mechanism,  or any of the growing list of other instruments and endeavours that the City has created in recent years. 

The City Council's of the past few years have moved forward to build a model of growing empire of agencies and initiatives, with few details for the public as to how it all works.  

Explaining how those elements are impacting on revenues and expenses and how they will continue to be used would seem to be a good start towards a more transparent approach to their use. 

In the end, the key question for the City Council ahead is how to balance it all towards what the community really needs, as opposed to what the Council members believes it needs.

For the resident at home the key question for the year ahead will be what kind of additional funding that the public will be called upon to provide towards infrastructure, elements which should all be part of the program ahead when it comes to consultation with residents. 

Others are taking a more direct action approach to local issues, as seen through the efforts of People for Public infrastructure, which has expressed concerns over any potential private/public partnership on infrastructure, something that seems destined to be a significant conversation in 2023.

Mayor Pond and his Council will get their start of the Big issues ahead for 2023 on January 9th, with the first of their 20 scheduled Regular public Council Sessions.

Hopefully the public City Council sessions will provide for much more disclosure from Council members on the issues facing the community and some key questions to ask of staff when it comes to plans when they go over budget, or fall behind schedule.

Recent years have seen the Council Sessions serve more as announcement forums, than they are any kind of actual discussion of how things are, or what needs to be done. 

The real work of Council it would seem is done during the course of their workshops, internal meetings and the list of Closed sessions that  reached 20 in 2022.

Events of the last month suggest that the community will be looking for much more in the way of some public  guidance and reassurance that City Council has the issues of concern in hand, with workable solutions in mind.

Tomorrow we'll take a quick peek back at the stories that our readers found the most interesting of 2022.

Our annual trip down memory lane will be published at 4PM on New Year's Eve.


  1. The money that is going to CN / Wheelhouse would of paid for the recent emergency leaks plus McBride.

    1. Yes. Enough of “Vision 2030” start fixing stuff. Even little steps is better than no steps.