On Wednesday, June 6, the North Coast Riding Association held an AGM and dinner at Theanne’s Greek Palace in Prince Rupert, where Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Pat Bell was the guest speaker, and discussed a number of issues the North Coast, and Canada should be paying attention to.
“Typically I try to get to the Northwest a couple times a year. It’s a big area from an economic perspective, it’s very important to the province. It’s like the key that could unlock prosperity, not just for northern British Columbia, but also for Canada,” commented Bell, who is BC’s Minister of Jobs Tourism and Innovation.
During Bell’s speech to members, he discussed the need for BC to aim at continuing to increase its tourism and exporting industries, and the need to look to countries such as China to keep learning about the economy.
In an exclusive interview with The Prince Rupert Northern View, Bell touched on local topics such as the announcement the provincial government and CN Railway made last fall about expanding the railways surrounding the port in Prince Rupert.
“It’s proceeding very well. All the pieces are in place and we’re expecting to see them move forward. We’re in consultations with First Nations right now, to make sure we respect any of the specific cultural issues pertaining to the site. It will be full steam ahead.”
Aside from the port, Bell said he thinks there are a few “sleepers” in terms of industries in the region, the first being the forest industry.
“Traditionally it’s been a real it’s been a real challenge for the area because of the cost of extracting the timber from the bush, but I think that’s about to change because of the price of lumber, the central interior will see a downfall in terms of the amount of supply. There’s really no global supply opportunity out there and as the United States starts to build more homes and we continue get growth in China and India, there will be an overall shortage of fiber. This is one of the areas that have significant potential.”
Another area Bell said people should watch out for is the opportunity around international education and educational tourism.
“In BC we have about 94,000 students that come from other countries to get some level of education… Each of those students adds $50,000 roughly to the economy and it’s not an area Prince Rupert’s had a lot of attention, but I think there is an opportunity for an expansion of international education. It’s a logical location for people to come to given the natural of the trading relationship that we have internationally.”
Changing topics to move on to the Liberal Party, Bell discussed what he believes would help his gain popularity in the North Coast. Bell says there is three things people are looking for that Liberal candidates should think about when running. He says this includes the economic outlook for people’s personal lives, such as is there going to be a good paying job for them, and health services and an education system that meets the needs of them and their families.
As for the possibility of the Liberal Party changing their name, Bell says he doesn’t have an issue with it.
“If people thinks that’s important I’m okay with it, but after eleven years people know who I am,” he commented.
Bell has visited the community a number of times in the past for work, and says he has always enjoyed spending time here, mentioning a particular way he likes to spend any extra time he may have.
“If I had half an hour [to spare], I would go to the museum. I think it’s spectacular. The quality of Aboriginal artwork that’s in there is really second to none.”