How ready is Prince Rupert for the boom?
Hearing Port Edward councillor Murray Kristoff and Prince Rupert mayor Jack Mussallem speak at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday, I couldn't help but notice how different the two communities are handling the potential boom coming to the north coast.
Port Edward seems to be taking an aggressive approach to development - buying additional land, beefing up access to the dock, reviewing the Official Community Plan and talking with companies about a road to open up more of the town.
Prince Rupert, on the other hand, seems to be taking much more of a wait-and-see approach, with no concrete plans to speak of. Mayor Mussallem said the City "would consider" things like increased policing and health care and was talking to other towns that experienced a boom, like Kitimat and Fort St. John, but I didn't get the impression there were solid plans in place should the thousands upon thousands of workers needed for projects proposed in the area come to town.
There is certainly something to be said for playing it cautiously, but there is also something to be said for preparedness. As you can see on Page 4 of this Prince Rupert Northern View, the sheer number of workers needed for even half of the expected projects boggles the mind. Without taking into account workers needed for the Phase 2 expansion of Fairview Terminal or the conversion of Watson Island to a private port, there are more than 6,000 positions needing to be filled — roughly half of the current population of Prince Rupert. When you take those two projects into account I don't doubt the actual number is closer to 8,000.
To handle those kinds of numbers, the City needs to start preparing now. No, we don't need to bring in the extra police or extra health care workers now, but those plans should be — to use a popular construction phrase — shovel-ready plans.
If and when the LNG projects get the green light and Canpotex and the Prince Rupert Port Authority announce their terminal and Phase 2 expansion respectively, getting the community ready should be as simple as following the plan.
Prince Rupert has a huge opportunity for an economic boom in the next five to 10 years the likes of which may never be seen in the area again.
It's not something we can take for granted, or take lightly.