Transportation Minister Todd Stone made his rounds throughout the Northwest last week, and perhaps this is the meaning of Christmas in July.
Like Jolly Ol' Saint Nicholas, Stone made his way from community to community and pulled a major funding announcement (in conjunction with the federal government) out of his bag to leave below the proverbial tree.
For the City of Prince Rupert, it was $4.4 million for desperately needed improvements to the aging water system.
For Port Edward it was $2 million for Wampler Way, a bypass road that forms a critical component of that community's plans for growth and the catalyst for millions of dollars more in development.
For Lax Kw'alaams, $400,000 per year for additional sailings to Prince Rupert, a commitment for engineering to pave Tuck Road and an indeterminate cheque for the refurbishment of the Spirit of Lax Kw'alaams. Those three combined will do a lot to better connect the people and economy of Prince Rupert with that of Lax Kw'alaams.
And for the Average Joe resident, the two governments committed $37 million to eliminate the level rail crossing on Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Port Edward. Granted that work won't start for another two years (as outlined on Page 18), but that is something that has been wanted in the Northwest for a long time.
While there is certainly a saying about looking a gift horse in the mouth, one would have to be blind not to realize the announcements come the same week as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was rumoured to be looking at an election and fresh on the heels of the passing of a project development agreement that would bring billions of dollars in investment to the region and, oh yeah, was opposed by the NDP.
Coincidence? I think not.
Regardless of the backdrop and not-so-subtle political statement of the funding, one cannot argue that these investments are going to go a long way to preparing the region for a potential LNG boom.