Prince Rupert city council is writing to the Fisheries Minister about owner-operator licences for the Pacific Coast. (File photo)

Council briefs: Owner-operator licences and 2018 budget

The March 12 meeting addressed Prince Rupert’s proposed budget and heard reports from council

Budget 2018

The first of two public consultations on Prince Rupert’s 2018 budget was held during the March 12 city council meeting. Chief financial officer Corinne Bomben first presented the budget on Feb. 26.

“After taking into account the expected revenues and expense items, the city is happy to present a balanced budget, meaning no increase,” Bomben said during her presentation. In 2018, taxes are expected to be spent largely on RCMP services at 24 per cent, the fire department is expected to make up 15 per cent, recreation will be 12 per cent, while road and sidewalk maintenance will be nine per cent and grants are allocated six per cent.

The next and final public consultation will be on March 26 during the regular council meeting, where the public can speak. During the March 12 meeting, only one member of the public raised concerns. Anyone with comments or questions can email finance@princerupert.ca.

READ MORE: Mill rate could stay the same for Prince Rupert

Owner-operator licences

Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who is also the president of the United Fishermen and Workers Union, moved to write a letter to Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc regarding owner-operator licences on the Pacific Coast. Proposed changes to the Fisheries Act were announced on Feb. 6. Currently, owner-operator licences only apply to Atlantic Canada and Quebec, while the Pacific region continues to be privatized.

Thorkelson, who was phoned into the March 12 meeting, also called to forward the resolution to the provincial government and the regional district to ask for their support. Mayor Lee Brain suggested that the resolution also be forwarded to other coastal districts.

Councillor Barry Cunningham added that he recently looked up statistics in Nova Scotia, which showed 4,000 registered fishing vessels and 5,700 commercial fishing licences in 2013. Meanwhile, Prince Rupert’s fleet has been shrinking, he said, and fishermen can’t afford to fix their boats.

Cunningham called owner-operator vessels a “win-win” situation for the North Coast.

“It’s absolutely astonishing to me that the rules on the east coast are that drastically different than on the west coast,” Brain said. “Even at that level, it should be an even playing field.”

READ MORE: How four changes to the Fisheries Act may affect the North Coast

Thorkelson said it is important for fishermen to see the value from their product, not just the people reselling it at a higher value elsewhere.

“If fishermen don’t see the value, then it doesn’t do much for our communities, because our fishermen will always be poor,” she said.

Crosswalks and empty lots

Councillor Wade Niesh asked city staff why different paint was used on crosswalks last year. He said he’s noticed the crosswalk paint has faded.

“There are crosswalks all over this town that you can’t even see anymore. They’re completely gone and I’ve noticed more and more and more of this,” he said, and asked if the city chose the environmentally-friendly paint or if it was provincial legislation.

Niesh also asked if city staff could look at what to do with empty properties in Rupert and try to generate tax revenue.

Fish market

Cunningham asked to follow up on a fish market potentially started in Rupert. Mayor Brain said the North Coast Innovation Lab led by EcoTrust Canada is discussing the fish market project on the marina. The lab is working with city staff, and recently finished the interview stage of their process. Brain said it’s in the works, and Cunningham added that he hopes it is ready in time for Seafest as an added attraction.

READ MORE: Growing economic and social projects in a North Coast lab

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