Opinion

City of Prince Rupert and Port Authority should get on the same page

There is a very interesting dynamic growing between the City of Prince Rupert and the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA), and it’s one that needs to be changed for the betterment of the community.

The letter sent from the City outlining their concerns was so critical of the Port Authority and CN that I was taken a bit aback. The letter, signed by the mayor of Prince Rupert, basically says the PRPA broke its promises to the community, isn’t to be trusted when it comes to train traffic projections and has failed to declare a conflict of interest that completely undermines the Environmental Assessment process. Some of the points they raise are valid, others are not and at least one point is factually inaccurate.

It was very strongly worded and fairly negative toward a group that many see as being responsible for shaping the future of Prince Rupert. In fact, some would argue that the economic future of Prince Rupert will be decided not at City Hall, but out of the port’s offices in Atlin Terminal. Port activity is driving the economy of Prince Rupert, it’s something anyone in town will tell you and something the City itself has acknowledged. The growth of Prince Rupert as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific has effectively replaced the jobs lost by the decline in forestry and fishing as Prince Rupert continues to move from the resource-based economy of decades past to the transportation-based economy of the future.

Put it this way, if Fairview Terminal hadn’t been converted from a break-bulk facility to a container terminal I shudder to think what the population in town would be. And when you talk about optimism in the community it all centres around port-related projects – Phase II expansion,  the Petronas LNG terminal, the BG Group LNG terminal, the Canpotex potash terminal and the Pinnacle pellet plant.

The tricky part in this is that, if the Port Authority wants to do something on their lands, there is nothing that the City of Prince Rupert – the people elected to represent residents – can do about it. The City’s zoning bylaws don’t apply to port lands, the Official Community Plan doesn’t apply, the public hearing processes don’t apply, and if council votes to oppose something the result is non-binding on the project.

As representatives of the citizens of Prince Rupert who are tasked to look out for the people’s best interest, this can’t sit too well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Prince Rupert is a town in transition and not every part of that transition will be welcome by everyone in town. It means more rail traffic and less waterfront access in exchange for more jobs and disposable income. This transition can be a very positive thing if everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction. This latest letter shows that the City of Prince Rupert and the Prince Rupert Port Authority are not on the same page about how to move forward.

And they need to be.

It’s time that these two groups that have such an impact in our lives sit down at the table, air their grievances and mutually agree upon a way to move forward that creates several benefits and minimizes negative effects surrounding future development.

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