Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Council offers much in way of gratitude for Province's 65 million dollar waterline funding; warn of range of other challenges still to take on

There was really only one major topic for discussion at the end of Monday's City Council session, with the period of time that is handed over to Council members for comments or questions used to share thoughts on Friday's 65 million dollars in funding provided by the Province for the city's waterline issues.

The conversation a mix of thanks for the province's understanding of the current situation, while also replaying the frequent theme of some Budget challenges to come. 

That as the Council membership begins work on the financial plan for the years ahead.

To those themes Councillor Nick Adey led off the discussion around the room,  the main focus for the conversation that of Friday's funding announcement by Premier David Eby that will see Prince Rupert receive 65 million dollars towards municipal water infrastructure replacement work.

"I think I would be remiss in expressing my appreciation to the province for the shot in the arm that they gave us on Friday, I was present when Premier Eby was here and made his announcement ... I do want to just offer the sort of rider on that. 

That as we will likely discover through the budgeting process.  It is help in a very specific way, it's massive help but it's help in a specific way that doesn't necessarily address some of those other pressures that we're under and I'll leave it to the budge process to bring those other aspects out. 

But we should not be anything but appreciative of that one very massive infusion of cash and I hope that it helps us get to a place where we're not as vulnerable with respect to  our water pipes as we have been recently. 

So if we can get to where we've solved that problem, preferably before the next winter and the next critical massive problems emerges; then that would be a good thing, so I am appreciative of that"

Mayor Pond picked up on that theme, noting how it was important for people to understand that the Provincial money of Monday has nothing to do with lowering the city's operating costs and may actually oblige the city to spend more than planned.

"I think it's really important for people to understand precisely what you have outlined right, is that this has nothing to do with lowering our operating costs. As a matter of fact, you know there's a chance that it may oblige us to spend more than we were going to spend. 

The analogy I like is you know you're living in a house, the roof desperately needs repair, you've got buckets everywhere catching the rain and you know that to build, or repair it is well beyond your ability to get up there and do it yourself.

And along comes somebody and says here's a pretty substantial sum of money to help along the way to fixing the roof, it doesn't fix the whole roof, but it helps you fix the roof.

Quite apart from that you've got your family's budget, meals, gas, clothing, sports, that didn't change because that person gave you the money to help you fix the roof. 

And if anything you probably sit down and have a discussion as a family and say OK, we've got this money that can help us fix the roof are we prepared to do something more so we can get the roof  done.

So I hope people can separate it in their mind, this is massive in helping us deal in a backlog, but it sure doesn't deal with it all.

But the budget of running police, fire, recreation, all of those other things and ongoing road repair and everything else, is a completely separate matter"

Councillor Randhawa also thanked the province for the funding and thanked staff for their work on the situation. Councillor Forster also echoed that praise for the funding.

Councillor Cunningham, agreed with the Mayor's analogy on the work required, he also observed how the one shot, big infusions of funding, are not solving the problems. 

The councillor noting of some areas of sustainable funding that the city continues to work on

"We need sustainability, the RBA, we've got to settle the Cap, the Fairness in taxes and things like that.  

These are the things that take care of the day to day running of the city. And if we're successful with the RBA and we start getting six, seven, eight million dollars every year that we know we're going to get every year, we can start to look forward to doing things.

As it is right now, you know we've still, we've not turned the corner, we've just straightened out the road  a little bit till we get to the corner"

Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven also offered his thanks for the funding and  paid tribute to the work of staff and previous members of Council for the work towards the recent funding announcement.

"Just the work of the work of staff over the years, past and and present and previous members of council just kind of what led up to where we are now.  And the other thing is just really kind of emphasizing, yeah there have been a lot of catastrophic failures that we've experienced in town, there's a lot of things that will have to be maintained irregardless of this injection. 

But also I'm also really hoping that this encourages the Federal government  to make a move in that regard as well because there's a lot going on and a lot more we need to do as a municpality"

For his part Mr. Pond paid his own tributes to the work of MLA Jennifer Rice and how she helped to bring the city and province together, he also noted of the work of MP Taylor Bachrach towards bringing the city's concerns to light.

"We had tremendous support from our MLA, she got us to the places and the people that we needed to be at.  

During the ceremony at the museum,  Minister Kang mentioned that she had met with me four times since she just got into this ministry. Those were substantial meetings,  that wasn't sort of bumping into each other in a hallway somewhere, those were substantial meetings.  

I've had four substantial meetings with the Premier, and much of that occurring because of the hard work of our MLA to make that happen.

On the Federal side, our MP has been equally hard working for Prince Rupert. I have met with him in Ottawa, in Victoria and here in Prince Rupert. I've met with him twice here in Prince Rupert two very separate occasions.

He brought to us a House Select Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities.  

We met here, in this room with that Committee and it was at Taylor Bachrach's insistence that not only did that committee come to see the Port, because Port Legislation is what they look after.  But indeed you've gotta come talk to Mayor and council  

And so those of us that could met with them here and we had a very fruitful meeting that went well over time because of the kinds of questions that were being asked of us.

And we're very hopeful that with Taylor's help, and with other help and the Premier's help in fact we'll be able to get Ottawa to give us a little bit more attention and little bit of assistance as well.

Mayor Pond also singled out the work of senior staff and the management team at City Hall was instrumental in the work to access the funding.

"Coming back, I have the luxury of having been here before, I've been away for fourteen years come back. 

 I can tell you that  the management team at the top here within City Hall is first class, any other community would just die to have any one of them.

There are four senior managers here inside this building who are all Prince Rupert born and raised, products of  the public school system here in Prince Rupert.

Our CFO Corinne Bomben, our Corporate Administrator Rona Miller ... our Ec Dev Paul Venditelli and our Director of Operations, but he's so much more than that Richard Pucci.

And the credibility we have with Ministry staff is astounding, it's just astounding. They trust each other, they call each other, they know who to talk to they're on a first name basis. 

 That's what makes 65 million dollars possible, if that's not happening you're just getting a request that goes into a bin.

I just can't say enough about the horsepower that's here. 

The Mayor also carried on further with the theme of how the 65 million dollars while a helpful and a fantastic week, how the bigger issues remain,  how some of the current waterline woes will take a number of years to address.

The other piece of it is, and I think it's kind of been touched on, 65 million dollars doesn't go and fix ... so we've identified 26 kilometres of very high risk water pipe, that you know is just on the edge of catastrophic failure.

You can't get to that in a year. We'll get some of it done this year, we'll get some of it done next year and we'll get the remainder of it done in a third year, but I'm worried about next winter.

Because we'll have tackled some of it, but next winter it could be pop, pop, pop,  pop again.

The next few years will bring much more in the way of 
work on the city's waterlines and road closures for
city residents

To conclude his comments the Mayor returned to his house analogy and then offered his kudos to the Council membership current and those of the past.

All of that is to say, last week was a fantastic week, I'm looking forward to more fantastic weeks. But people in Prince Rupert need to know we're on a four to five year renovate Rupert.

And everybody I know in town has done renovations at home and lived in the house at the same time and there's no way to do without getting drywall dust in the cereal ...

Finally Council, to you kudos, you have permitted me what I thought needed to be done, but also you guided that, you shaped it and you were there whenever you were need to respond to these different things.

And so both from Councillor Forster and I who are new on the team but also to you who were here before and those who were part of that team.

I've said the other day, I mean it from the depths of my heart, serving on a council is not a sprint, it is a relay race, where you hand the baton to the next council.

And every council does the best they can with what they've got and then they take that baton and they hand it to the next and the next carries it on.

So we were able to carry it, race isn't over,  we'll carry it again and we'll pass that baton on to the next council"

The full relay of thanks, kudos and themes of what's to come for the budget process can be reviewed from the city's video archive starting at the 42 minute mark.

The Budget process for 2024 will start tonight, with a Special  City Council Committee of the Whole session at 7PM.

At the session, the City's Chief Financial Officer Corrine Bomben will outline some of the early themes to the Budget and how the Council will engage with the public towards its development. 

A wider overview of Monday's Council Session can be reviewed through our Council Timeline feature.

More notes from the Council session can be explored as part of our session archive page.

For a review of some of the infrastructure challenges ahead, see our archive page here.


  1. Renovate Rupert!

  2. "Finally Council, to you kudos, you have permitted me what I thought needed to be done."

    To call the state of emergency was a display of leadership by our Mayor.