This map shows the proposed route for the Connected Coast project.

Strathcona Regional District creates corporation to oversee Connected Coast

Organization will be stand-alone corporation answering to regional district

The Strathcona Regional District has taken its next step toward expanded Internet service.

At the latest meeting on June 19, a majority of the board voted to establish a stand-alone corporation, the Strathcona Connected Coast Network Corporation (SCCNC), to oversee the Connected Coast fibre optics expansion project.

For this project, the SRD is working alongside Prince Rupert, which created the CityWest subsidiary, to establish or improve high-speed Internet to 154 B.C. coastal communities. The SRD’s portion of the $45.4 million in federal and provincial funding is worth $33 million, which is to cover installation of the undersea fibre optic cable and landing sites by 2021. The network will run from north of Prince Rupert, to Haida Gwaii, south along coastal B.C. to Vancouver and around Vancouver Island.

One of the conditions of the funding is for the project to operate under the auspices of a stand-alone corporation, which will report to a single shareholder – in this case, the regional district board.

“Given the scope, complexity and magnitude of the Connected Coast project, we have been advised that the best way to approach the project is through the creation of a subsidiary. This will minimize operational risk for the SRD while allowing the board to retain control of the project,” SRD Board Chair Michele Babchuk said in a news release. “The excitement around the region for the project is building as people are starting to realize how life-changing this project will be for our rural and remote communities. The SRD board will start the task of appointing the SCCNC Board over the coming weeks and we look forward to seeing the corporation stand up.”

The SCCNC’s will have its own board, which will include the SRD’s Chief Administrative Officer David Leitch as the shareholder’s representative, along with four other SCCNC board appointments. According to a regional district news release, these are to be skills based, with the SRD board will retain the authority to appoint or remove directors. The regional district expects to have the SCCNC board in place later this summer after which the board will begin work to hire the senior management team.

A bylaw for the incorporation of the SCCNC passed with Area C Director Jim Abram and Area D Director Brenda Leigh opposing. Abram had expressed concern about the need to add more concise language about the makeup of the board to the articles of incorporation.

“I just want it to be hard to change,” he said.

Leitch responded that advice from legal counsel was to keep the incorporation language broad and add an attached policy, which should come before the SRD board at an upcoming meeting.

A subsequent motion to establish a policy to guide the establishment and implementation of the corporation passed unimously.

Another part of the project requires the SRD to establish the authority to borrow up to $6 million to lend to the subsidiary should overruns occur during building, though the actual $33 million in funding for the project will come from the provincial and federal grants.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh reiterated her opposition from a previous meeting, citing liability concerns, and voted against the loan authorization bylaw.

“This is really worrisome…. There has to be some controls in place,” she said.

Charlie Cornfield, one of the Campbell River directors, said the loan bylaw was a formality in order to meet the criteria for project funding.

“It’s a fully-funded project that needs a loan authorization,” he said.

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