While the eyes of British Columbia’s energy industry are on Prince Rupert, the eyes of many in Prince Rupert are on the aging and failing infrastructure around town.
Potholes and sunken manhole covers that make the daily drive more of an off-road challenge than an urban commute are a constant reminder of the fact that Prince Rupert needs work. It is something that is certainly not lost on the people who call the community home.
But what residents should be concerned about it what they can’t see — a water supply dam that is nearing its centennial birthday feeding water pipes under those potholed streets that are decades-upon-decades old. The failure of the dam or the water lines would be catastrophic not only to the typical resident, but to the city coffers. Repairing a sunken street or a flooded neighbourhood certainly isn’t cheap.
The other thing that isn’t lost on people in Prince Rupert is that the city is broke. With cutbacks to community grants, $800,000 budget deficits and simple tasks like travelling to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities drawing questions about fiscal responsibility, it is obvious the city is pinching its pennies and trying to do a lot with not very much.
The British Columbia government wants to see Prince Rupert boom and welcome thousands and thousands of construction workers and employees. Let’s be honest, the majority of people and businesses in Prince Rupert want to see the same thing following years of a struggling economy and population loss.
And while the people and the government want to see that influx of workers, one has to question whether or not the city’s aging infrastructure — including some wooden trestle bridges straight out of western movies — can handle it.
During her presentation to the provincial budget committee, Prince Rupert chief financial officer Corinne Bomben outlined a total of $148 million worth of infrastructure needed. That amount doesn’t take into account the need for a new RCMP detachment and a fire hall that won’t crumble to the ground in the event of a major earthquake. When that is considered, we’re probably looking at more than $160 million in spending.
Taking a generous population of 14,000 into account, we’re currently below 13,000, it works out to a bill of $11,428 for every man, woman and child in Prince Rupert.
The math doesn’t add up.
If the provincial and federal governments want Prince Rupert to be Canada’s energy gateway, they’re going to need to contribute in a major way.