Friday, March 1, 2024

Travellin' Times and Tips with Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond

Prince Rupert City Council members received a travel update from Mayor Pond on Monday night, the City Council version of the PBS favourite ... Where in the world is Herb Pond.

The travel themes coming after a very hectic period for the Mayor who made a couple of trip south in the last two weeks.

His commentary of review included notes on the UBCM Housing Forum and the opportunities it provided to meet with Provincial ministers, among them Minister of Municipal Affairs Anne Kang.

"It gave me an opportunity to spend a considerable time with Minister Anne Kang and remember this in the lead up to a decision yet to be made on the RBA. And Minister Anne Kang is the Minister of Municipal Affairs, that decision is driven by her and her ministry.

And so I wanted to make sure that we had as much face time with her as possible and she was very generous with that time. She and her staff at the Housing conference"

He also outlined his attendance at the Globe 2024 Environmental Conference and how at that form he was able to announce that Watson Island was to be an energy hub in Prince Rupert.  

From that he advised that Director Venditelli has already received some inquiries about the opportunities that may be available there.

"It's a large, large environmental focus conference and as the result of some assistance from the province of British Columbia the City of Prince Rupert was able to announce at a media event, I stood in front of the podium and announced that we were launching an innovation energy hub in Prince Rupert largely focused on Watson Island. 

And that we were seeking expressions of interest for projects that could range everything from biomass energy, through to wind, through to hydrogen ... bring us your ideas and we're eager.

The idea being that that expression of interest will lead to a winnowing process that will eventually lead to RFP's, where people put some cash on the table and say we're a serious proponent, we want to do business in Prince Rupert.

The expression of interest I believe closes in August if Im correct. 

Quite frankly there wasn't a lot of media at that particular event, but there was enough that word got out and I'm told by Director Venditelli that there's been significant response and enquiries from all over, with regards to the opportunities that are available broadly in the city of Prince Rupert but specifically on Watson Island and Lot 444.

From that session the Mayor noted of his conversations with Federal Minister Sean Fraser who is in charge of the Infrastructure portfolio, with the city's quest for federal funding a main topic of conversation.

"That conference then gave me the chance to have  face time with Minister Sean Fraser, who is the minister who holds the application federally for the water pipes. 

And if you're beginning to think that I'll show up wherever there's a minister that might have money for us, I will. 

And so I was able to explain to him our urgency and he fully appreciates it and I am very hopeful that we will have word from he Federal Government sooner than later"

As we noted yesterday, his review of his time in Victoria also highlighted the success for the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Association that came from the BC Budge presentation last week.

However, the Mayor's outline of his travels also shines a light on the long desired wish of the community for an improvement when it comes airline  access at YPR  for Prince Rupert residents

The Terrace airport flight board
That as both the Mayor and Councillor Cunningham noted of the need sometimes to make that drive to Terrace and its bounty of flight opportunities.

"I want to give you a real quick update since we were last together.

 You know that I left the Council chamber here,  got in my car and I drove immediately to Terrace.  

Got in there at 11:30 at night, grabbed a hotel room. So I could leave the next morning on the 5:30 flight, they have a 5:30 flight out of Terrace.

Some people have questioned why, why would I go use the Terrace airport instead of using the Rupert airport.

I use the Rupert airport every possible chance I can. 

But I also want to make sure that we're where we get to where we need to be and that's the only way you get to Vancouver to be there on time for an 8 o'clock meeting. 

And so it's a matter of trying to do it all"

Councillor Cunningham also noted as to how sometimes the Terrace option makes more sense.

"Back to your flying out of Terrace, people gotta realized that I've done that where you've left in the morning and come back at night you save hotel bills like crazy. 

And even if you stay at a hotel in Terrace it's 150 bucks versus to 500 in Vancouver right now. 

So it does save, even though it's a little bit of a hardship on you, it does save money"

Had either the Mayor or Councillor Cunningham lived in Kitimat, they may have been able to take advantage of some travel assistance that the District of Kitimat offers to its residents.  

That by way of a financial subsidy for those that use the Terrace airport.

The Mayor's need to use the Terrace airport is not a topic that most of us would likely quibble about , as it is part of his duties and responsibilities as Mayor to attend those conferences. 

But the travel talk of Monday does highlight the lack of air service to this community and that is a topic that City Council should explore further.  Especially as there seems to be a growing volume of Prince Rupert residents that follow them down Highway 16 for better flight options.

The first step on that path should come by hosting a public information session at a Council meeting with Airport officials, something that has been a rare occurrence over the last decade.  

The session one to discuss any number of themes on aviation in the community. 

Areas of concern ranging from what efforts are ongoing to try to bring more flights to Prince Rupert, the cost of airport operations for the city, as well as what are the impediments currently in place that hold us back when it comes to realizing  a larger volume of flights.

They could also ask for an update on a recent report from Transport Canada on an incident at the Digby Island airport and outline for the public any of the challenges that may be in place towards flight operations at the airport.

They may even want to consider if the airport as it currently operates is even feasible for the community at this level of population, and if the Kitimat transportation subsidy option may be a better use of valuable civic funding.

Now we're not suggesting that the airport should close, clearly the preference should be to keep it an active aviation port of call.

But there should be a discussion on the current situation, including a conversation on what the options are.  

With all of Councl's recent talk of attracting more residents and recruiting  professionals, some kind of plan to improve access to aviation for residents in Prince Rupert needs to be developed.

You can review the full account of the Mayor's travels through the City's Video archive starting at the one hour six minute mark.

More notes on the Monday Council session can be explored through our Council Archive page.

A review  of Aviation themes in the Northwest is available through our archive page

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