The Prince Rupert Northern View chatted with north coast MLA Gary Coons in late 2011 to discuss provincial and local highlights and low points of the year past, as well as what the politician’s concerns and considerations are going into the New Year.
Provincially, Coons said he considers some of the highlights of 2011 to be the two leadership runs for the Liberal and NDP, something he says reconnects people with politics and “reinvigorated both parties and the public to a certain degree”, the referendum that abolished the HST tax, and getting the ship building contract in British Columbia despite BC Ferries and the government’s previous claims that the ship builders in the province were not capable of the work.
The MLA considers a low point of 2011 to be the ongoing issues with BC Ferries.
“I think it was huge that there was legislation that came forward in June about having a review of BC Ferries. The BC Liberals rebooted the Coastal Ferry Act, and did the quasi privatization of ferries and we’re seeing results. Skyrocketing fares, rider ship down, a forty-million dollar loss this year and basically breaking the social and economic contract with ferry-dependent communities. So we’re having a review of the whole process of how we got here.”
Coons said he is looking forward to the Ferry Commissioner’s report and recommendations coming out in January.
Locally, Coons considers a high point of the past year being operations at the Prince Rupert Port, Ridley Terminals Inc. and Grain operation.
“They are basically at record numbers and moving forward. In the years to come, we are going to be the force to beat as far as ports on the west coast,” Coons said.
He also mentioned highlights caused by two proposed projects, the first being the proposed Canpotex Potash Terminal Project getting started with their environmental assessment, before moving on to say he is looking forward to doing other initiatives like the Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group and CMC Engineering and Management’s proposed pellet export facility, once it’s in a more suitable location.
Additionally, Coons said he considers Wally Oppal visiting Prince Rupert as part of The Missing Women’s Inquiry Commission another highlight.
A low point of 2011 for the MLA was when funding from the government for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (or PNCIMA) initiative was stopped, an initiative Coons has been a part of for five years.
“The PNCIMA process was working well and hard for probably eight or nine months of this past year and the federal government pulled out of the funding arrangement,” he commented.
Looking forward to 2012, Coons said he’s currently preparing for the Enbridge meetings happening early in the New Year and plans on attending each meeting held in northwest communities and will be making a presentation at the Prince Rupert meeting.
“I’m hoping that the joint review panel understands the issues with Enbridge. Basically here on the coast it’s all the risk with no benefit,” he said.
Coons also touched base on the process of the District of Port Edward working towards getting itself a new, smaller school.
“Hopefully the new funding formal the Minister of Education is putting out there will include extra funding for small communities like Port Edward,” he mentioned.
Other considerations and concerns Coons has for 2012 is continuing the process to construction of a hospital in Haida Gwaii, closing the gap between the rich and poor, finding a seniors’ advocate and the upcoming election.
“I’m looking forward to an election coming up… People are realizing that the due date on the BC Liberals is up. It’s time for a new kind of politics in British Columbia,” commented Coons.