Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce weigh in on election issues

During this 2014 civic election the electorate is asking the candidates what they stand for and what their take is on the issues of the day.

Editor:

During this 2014 civic election the electorate is asking the candidates what they stand for and what their take is on the issues of the day.

As the voice of the business community, we would like the electorate and the candidates to know where the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce stands in relation to those same issues.

LNG – We support the development of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export facilities in and around Prince Rupert and Port Edward as an economic generator and as a contributor to a greener solution to global energy needs. We welcome this industry to the North Coast and look forward to working with them to make sure that the community’s voice is heard on issues of environmental health, safety, quality of life, social licence and community aspirations for the future. This is an important industry that will diversify an economy that will continue to grow along with the Port of Prince Rupert as the Gateway to Asia.

Housing – We are not in a housing crisis at the moment, but more economic activity in the future will mean fewer housing options. What can we do? Prepare, prepare, prepare. Market demands will dictate when and if new housing goes up, what is sold and at what price. While social housing is a provincial matter there is a place for the municipality in lobbying Victoria to help our most vulnerable, but that lobbying must come from a place of partnership and not entitlement. In terms of the rental market, the city should move to relax the bylaw distinction between legal and non-legal suites to allow for more options.

Taxes – An ongoing reference during our municipal election, and echoed several times during the all-candidates debate, is the hardship that port activities and development are putting on the City of Prince Rupert’s tax base. It’s important for local taxpayers to remember that the city’s share of taxes directly related to port terminals and properties was almost $4 million last year. That makes up 21 per cent of the city’s tax revenues. By comparison, the average B.C. municipality only receives four per cent of its revenues from heavy industry. The truth is we have one of the best industrial tax bases in the province. In addition to port terminals, we should also remember the role it plays in supporting smaller employers across town, including Quickload, CBSA, shipping agents, Coast Guard, trucking companies and many others. In turn, these are the high-paying jobs that drive the success of contractors, suppliers, and retailers across the city. It’s time we shift the discussion to asking how do we best support continued growth of the port and its many associated businesses, and how do we best manage the enviable tax revenues it continues to provide to local government.

Infrastructure – There is no doubt the $258 million deficit in our aging infrastructure will be a challenge for the elected mayor and council. But remember folks, we created that deficit by not having a clear plan to deal with it when times were good. Now we need to make some hard decisions around priorities and expenditures. We need to work with senior levels of government to find a solution – not demand one.

Lastly, we encourage all residents to go out and vote. This is one of the most important elections in memory. This is a time for us to choose our leadership for the next four years – the length of time in which we could see our greatest prosperity realized.

John Farrell

President, Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce