The Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District had some harsh words for Nichola Wade, executive director of the Province’s Northwest Community Readiness program under the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.
Wade, working on behalf of the Province of B.C., provided the SQCRD board members with several updates relating to population expectancy surveys, funding projects that have affected the region whether one or more LNG projects go ahead in the region or not (citing examples of upgrades to the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace, improvements to Prince Rupert’s water dam and a Highway 16-CN Rail level-crossing overpass) and some feedback from Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Peter Fassbender on the Union of B.C. Municipalities meetings last year.
SQCRD vice-chair Des Nobels offered criticism on how the Province has prepared communities for a potential LNG boom from the outset.
“You may have learned some things in terms of how to bring industry into communities, but I would suggest that the Province, on the LNG portfolio, has fallen flat on its face in terms of how we roll this out and the planning, or lack thereof, that took place within our region,” he said.
“This place has been blown to pieces by this. There was no early consultation of the province running this out as an economic model, no previous work done … but also a lot of other problems are going to be very tough to solve in terms of community fracturing, communities moving away from each other, all sorts of things that have been extremely disruptive within the region,” Nobels said, adding that with any project, adaptations that must be adopted based on community feedback, more often than not, is the communities that are the ones adapting and changing, based on the project’s needs and not the other way around.
“The problem is we have many ministries at different levels that are functioning at different aspects of overall projects, and it becomes very hard for those in the general public to know who they actually need to speak to, and it’s becoming more and more disjointed,” Nobels added.
In her report, Wade mentioned that emergency preparedness was something that she was working on, including putting in a request for more police officers (adding it can take three years from the request to actually receive one in an area) and she has worked with the University of Northern British Columbia’s Community Development Institute (CDI) to identify North America’s best practices for a major uptick in industrial activity and populations in a small region.
“What did [those communities] do right? So those are some of the best practices [we are working off of],” Wade said, mentioning that the Province has also spoken with federal government representatives to “make sure B.C. is poised to take advantage of whatever it is [involving infrastructure investments] that is announced”.
SQCRD director Lee Brain told other board members that while the Province may have fallen flat in the initial roll-out of preparing communities for LNG, Wade and the Northwest Community Readiness program have been very receptive to the City of Prince Rupert’s intel and feedback.
“Nichola’s been instrumental in helping her department evolve their approach … No one’s perfect, everyone’s trying to figure this stuff out at the same time. Our job here … is that if this does happen, we need to be ready regardless of people’s beliefs on the situation,” he said.
“Working with this ministry, we want to be that model about how to do this correctly, if this is going to proceed, and make sure that the pressure points on housing and things like that are being addressed. Our only planner, Zeno Krekic, has been knocking on this Province’s door for the last three years and I can tell you, there’s been some reception now and things are changing,” Brain added.
As well, the Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA), which many northwest communities have entered into, was another hot topic of discussion, with the District wanting to see progress made in terms of funding announced for the alliance (resource benefit sharing agreement), while the Province holds its position that there will be no movement on its part just yet, until the major projects and investments in the area are further finalized.