During the last Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District board meeting on Feb. 19, Director Lee Brain updated the board on his recent trip to Ottawa, which included meeting with larger city mayors and the Minister of Infrastructure, Amarjeet Sohi.
The topic at hand was how federal money may reach municipalities and direct grants to communities, with a new system coming into place possibly this year.
Under the current model of funds distribution, the federal government distributes money to the provincial government, which then allocates the funds to municipalities.
However, a more direct approach is being taken in 2016, with money earmarked for physical, social and green infrastructure directly transferred to the communities the projects affect, as opposed to the province potentially picking and choosing the areas where the funds may go.
A $60 billion infrastructure fund has been planned and is expected to be announced later this year, Brain said.
“We can have a more direct relationship with the feds on projects that relate to them as well. We’ll hear something this year, probably,” said the director.
Brain also spoke with the Minister of Transport Marc Garneau for the second time during his trip, and again discussed the Tsimshian Access Project – a vital transportation component to the City’s Hays 2.0 plan which links the city’s airport, Prince Rupert itself and the Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla communities.
Brain said that Garneau is receptive to the idea but the federal government needs to justify the cost that they could be contributing funds to – for example if the Aurora LNG (Digby Island), Woodside Energy (Grassy Point) and WCC LNG’s Lot 444 site move forward with their projects.
The director was happy to say that the government is opening a development case for the project, a necessary first step for any large-scale project in the country to get funding from the feds, and that the specifics of the project will be outlined one year from the opening of the development case.
In the meantime, a Wantage Road bypass is being explored to move the expected massive amounts of truck traffic with an LNG project go-ahead out of downtown and onto the bypass.
The access project would be funded one-third by municipality and area stakeholders, one-third by the province, and one-third federally.
“[The federal government] knows where we are and what’s happening here. The Minister of Transport will likely come again,” Brain said.
The Tsimshian Access plan has been in the planning stages for some time now, but the Mayor is happy to see traction, he said.