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UPDATE: Prince Rupert mayor, WatCo CEO comment on Watson Island ruling
On Dec. 14 the Supreme Court of B.C. Ordered that the Certificates of Pending Litigation (CPL) on Watson Island be lifted, opening the door for the City of Prince Rupert to sell the property to the Watson Island Development Corporation (WatCo).
In his 16-page ruling, Master Muir said she was satisfied that the City of Prince Rupert had demonstrated hardship and inconvenience as a result of the Certificates of Pending Litigation based on the risk of an environmental spill, the costs associated with cleaning up any such spill and the fact that WatCo has offered to pay for immediate clean-up of the chemicals if the “lingering issues related to ownership are dealt with”.
The ruling also refutes any claim Sun Wave has made about being given ownership of the land once more through the current legal dispute.
“Sun Wave has not argued that it can avail itself of any statutory exceptions contained in the Local Government Act of the Land Title Act sections relied upon by Prince Rupert... Sun Wave is entitled to proceed and obtain a declaration that the actions of Prince Rupert [related to the tax sale] were ultra vires, if that is the case. Sun Wave is, however, barred from recovering the Lands by the statutory provisions set out above,” reads the ruling.
“I am therefore of the view that the claim of Sun Wave to an interest in the Lands is overcome by the statutory provisions of the Local Government Act and the Land Title Act and hence there is no foundation for a Certificate of Pending Litigation to remain on the titles.”
And while the ruling closes the door on Sun Wave possibly reclaiming ownership of Watson Island, it does not preclude financial damages being awarded to the company.
“Damages are sought, however, and could be awarded in this action,” reads the ruling.
“While I appreciate that the power to cancel a CPL should be exercised with very great caution when a party is seeking specific performance, I am satisfied here that damages will provide adequate compensation to Sun Wave.”
While not commenting on this ruling specifically, Prince Rupert mayor Jack Mussallem said he's glad to see progress on the being made on the Watson Island file.
“It is good to see the court dealing with these applications because anything that is cleared up going forward allows for more opportunity for Watson Island,” he said.
WatCo CEO Perry Braun said he too was happy with the resolution.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision today. It addresses one of the major conditions in our acquisition of Watson Island and paves the way for the purchase to move forward,” he said in a statement.
“We believe in the future of Watson Island as a multi-product bulk terminal that will provide good-paying jobs in the region. The next step is to complete the remediation and development plan that would allow the purchase to be finalized and the site to be redeveloped in an economically and an environmentally sound manner.”
A representative for Sun Wave Fores t Products was not immediately available for comment. Look for Sun Wave response as it becomes available.