As provincial and federal funding announcements were being sprinkled all over northern B.C. last week as part of the New Building Canada Plan, Prince Rupert and Port Edward took centre-stage on Tuesday.
B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone arrived on the North Coast and was welcomed by Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain and Port Edward Deputy Mayor James Brown in council chambers at City Hall in Prince Rupert.
Two funding announcements, one in each municipality, highlighted the minister’s stay.
First, a $4.4 million contribution by the federal and provincial governments to help upgrade Prince Rupert water lines and dam infrastructure through a Raw Water Supply Grant was provided to the city.
$2.193 million from each of government make up the total contribution.
For Port Edward, $2 million was put towards the construction of a Wampler Way bypass designed to divert traffic from the community’s core and Skeena Drive and enable vehicles to exit the highway before the entrance of Watson Island onto a road looping behind the community’s current footprint. Wampler Way then reconnects to Skeena Drive near the proposed LNG development on Lelu Island.
The provincial and federal government contributed $1 million each for that project.
“Here in the north, our expanding resource sector is driving rapid growth in our provincial economy and so making the types of investments such as the ones that we’re here announcing today are going to be key in insuring our communities are going to be prepared for the continued growth,” said Minister Stone.
“Today is a very exciting day for Prince Rupert,” added Mayor Brain.
“That’s $4.4 million towards the existing, almost century-old original water lines and water dam upgrades. They’re a critical piece of infrastructure that we absolutely need to address … Not only is this going to help ensure the safety of the water supply for our residents, but it also is one of the requirements that we had to ensure that ExxonMobil were to proceed on Lot 444 for their LNG proposal.”
Port Edward Deputy Mayor Brown was equally as excited for the funds injection for Wampler Way.
“I’m proud to be from Port Edward. We all work very hard together here at the District of Port Edward,” he said.
“This contribution … would make [former Mayor Ed Wampler] really proud today. He was a real true leader. He taught us how to go and fulfill your goals and your vision … We’re doing [this] for the people of Port Edward.”
Minister Stone commented on his personal experience as eyes across the province and in Ottawa have shifted to northwestern B.C. with industry advances have helped make the region become a lightning rod for prospective job growth.
“We are so excited about what’s going on in northwestern British Columbia,” said the minister.
“It’s been far too long that this part of the province has often lagged behind from an economic perspective, but today this is the epicentre of some of the greatest employment opportunities that we’re going to see in our province for the next 50 years … These are where the jobs are going to be, so we’re going to be there with infrastructure improvements so that infrastructure doesn’t in any way represent an obstacle to the economic growth that this region is beginning to feel.”
Along with the funding announcements, Mayor Brain mentioned a new program which incorporates the water system upgrades, called ‘Re:Build Rupert’, an infrastructure renewal program designed to address the $288 million infrastructure deficit that the city will tackle in the months ahead.