Friday, March 24, 2023

Budget Decision making will test council's guarded ways

The Conclusion of Wednesday's Budget presentation came with a number of calls for participation in the process for the public to take advantage of.  

Whether online through the Rupert Talks Portal and its range of tools to use, or a more personal contribution through the two public engagement sessions that are ahead.

Council members have put both the April 10th and 24th Public council sessions as the forums for conversation from the public and already we imagine the list of areas where residents may want more information is probably being formed.

The comments that have been delivered to our review of the Budget Presentation have already offered up some indication where some residents of the city have as areas of interest.

With some themes noted from the works of CityWest and its expanding footprint, to the status of development for Watson Island and the use by Council of the Legacy Fund.

All three are topics that don't make for many updates from the council membership, the city owned Communication company in particular is of some interest owing to its ongoing expansion. 

As well as we've noted a few times this year,  so far the management of CityWest has not as of yet announced what their distribution payment to the City will be

The annual amount which is something one might consider as a loan payment on some outstanding funding from the City of Prince Rupert towards the days of the purchase of Monarch Cablevision years ago.

When it comes to the highest profile of a corporate investment by the City, residents have not had a public update from their communication company in a number of years, whether at a City Council Session, or by way of any kind of town hall session. 

So how it's all going seems somewhat of a need to know thing among Council members.

Watson Island and the use of Legacy Inc funding has always been a popular topic of interest, the industrial site morphing from an abandoned pulp mill site to the its newest rebirth as the home for Pembina's LPG terminal and  a few other uses. 

Though again updates on the latest developments and what kind of revenue streams are flowing, or if any past expenses in the remediation process are still outstanding have been few and far between.

The Legacy Fund which came from the days of the end of the Jack Mussallem mayoralty and by way of some LNG Terminal considerations by Exxon is even less discussed in public by Council.

The last time that either made for a conversation topic was during the State of the City presentation from June of 2022

An event somewhat notable for then Mayor Lee Brain's thoughts on how the city was using the Legacy financial instrument on spending for infrastructure and other projects. 

"Remember we have a six hundred million dollar deficit, you cannot do that with taxes so without Legacy we can't offset and do the big builds and the big spends that we have to do that's what offsets it. 

So if it means you know some people questioning transparency versus saving the town, I'l choose saving the town over that" -- Former Mayor Lee Brain in June of 2022

So, with few opportunities to hear of the process of such ventures, you can kind of understand how residents may want more from their elected members of Council. 

Particularly as to how they are making use of the evolving focus for the City of Prince Rupert's own ambitions in industrial development  and how they use the resources that come from them.

A look at the proposed Capital Spending requests also will likely make for some areas of interest for residents facing the prospect of a 15.7% tax rate hike, should they take up the challenge of participation in the Budget Process.

Some that may come to the top of the list include:

The CN Building Revitalization project, while the City notes that it is using grant money towards its renovation, though as it goes well beyond its original completion date an update on whether the city will have to cover off any unexpected financial overages from the delays should be offered up.

The Canfisco Warehouse Roof improvements, the facility now one that the City leases to local groups and apparently is required to provide maintenance towards.

There was never any discussion prior to the City taking on the facility and in December Councillor Cunningham seemed to suggest that the City had been "sort of put into a corner" by the Canadian Fish Company, a theme he never followed up on, but a topic that residents may want to hear more about. 

What has been somewhat of a controversial decision was the plan to move the City's Operations to the old McCarthy GM building on Portage Road. The announcement from last year has since moved forward with the renovations now in motion. 

Another topic that often generates discussion is the larger Waterfront Development plans, which come by way of grant funding and will feature the relocation of the city's airport ferry dock to the area near Kwinitsa Station. 

What residents may want to know is if there any additional costs that will come out of the city's finances towards that work as it moves forward.

Also on the list for 2023 is more funds to complete final payments for the recently opened Woodworth Dam, considering how that project went beyond its first completion date residents may want to hear more about the final tab on the project and how much if any it went over budget and how much was required from the taxpayer towards wrapping it al up.

Many of the items on the Capital Spending listings are areas that most of us will agree are required things like funding for Bridge repairs, Water infrastructure requirements, Fire and Policing themes.

While there are a number of others where participants in the public forums ahead may ask if they are truly necessary in a time of  high tax requests and maybe a need for some civic fiscal restraint.

You can review the full list of the Capital Spending, Special Spending and Operation Spending requests here.

The list from the presentation and the larger Budget Document which you can review here, provides a very thorough look at the challenges and requests for funding that make for the budget and is well worth a read for residents who may want to have a say on the proposed call for the significant increase in the tax rate.

Not even in the conversation yet, is how the city may move forward with their thoughts on Private/Public partnership themes floated recently over the future for the city's water projects.  

A hot topic when introduced but one that has seemed to fade from view of late.

The process now turns to the public, if the last few years of budget engagement serve as an barometer, the Council members may be off the hook when it comes to any tough questions.

The attendance at Budget forums in recent years has been rather sparse, which doesn't offer much in the way of guidance for the council members.

However, an eye-catching recommendation for a 15.7% tax hike,  may serve as a pretty good conversation starter.

You can follow the city's budget process along from our archive page here.


  1. Thank you for the top list items. Always a good read!

    The two public feedback sessions are planned for Tuesday April 11th and Monday April 24th at 7 pm in Council Chamber upstairs at City Hall.

    1. Hope to see lots of people there in council chambers!!