The federal minister of International Trade, Ed Fast, and BC MLA Rob Howard, (who was standing in for the Transportation minister, Blair Lekstrom) were in Prince Rupert on Friday to sign a deal that officially provides government funding for a railway utility corridor on Ridley Island.
“ We want to position Prince Rupert and Vancouver as the gateways of choice for the Asian economies to ship their products into the North American markets. So I’m happy to be here today to deliver on our government’s commitment,” says minister Fast.
The federal and provincial governments are both contributing $15-million towards the $90-million dollar project which is expected to greatly increase Ridley Island’s ability to attract new industrial operations, while expanding the capacity of those already there.
“Some of you may be asking ‘what are we getting? Are we getting a bang for our buck?’ I’m very pleased to tell you that in 2011, our exports to China alone increased by 27 percent,” says Fast.
The government contributions to the project are not new. Premier Christy Clarke came to Prince Rupert last fall to announce the province’s contribution and Ed Fast was in the city in February to the federal government’s.
But with a stroke of a pen at a signing ceremony in the Port Authority’s new interpretive centre in Cow Bay, the money the deal was made official.
With all of the funding lined up for the railway corridor, all that remains before the project can become a reality are some remaining regulatory reviews. Port CEO, Don Krusel, says that once those are done, construction can begin before the end of 2012.
“We are finalizing all the environmental review procedures and we expect to get all of that wrapped up with permits in place in September or October. Once that is over, we will be getting shovels in the ground as soon as possible,” says Krusel.
The federal government is already looking for future ways to improve the country’s transportation infrastructure to promote expanded trade with Asia. Federal Transportation minister Dennis Lebel is currently traveling across the country to talk to municipalities and other stakeholders in order to have a national infrastructure plan in place by 2014.
When asked if that meant Prince Rupert could expect federal support for the Phase II expansion of the Fairview container terminal, Fast did say yes definitively.
“I’m certainly working hard to make sure that a significant portion of that [2014 infrastructure plan] is focused on the Asia-Pacific Gateway. We’ll continue to have those discussions, and we’re very pleased to see what’s happening here in Prince Rupert,” says Fast.
Krusel, however, says that there is no need for the federal government to spend any money on the expansion at all.
“The public investment isn’t required for Phase II, the private sector is stepping up to the plate because of the success [of the initial public investment to open the container terminal]. There is no longer this need for the support of the federal government; the private sector is taking over,” says Krusel.