I am pleased to take an opportunity to respond to Shaun Thomas’s piece (Jobs not the focus of the NDP) in last week’s edition.
In particular, I would like to respond to Mr. Thomas’s contention that protecting good jobs for Rupertites hasn’t been front of mind in light of the ongoing “Buy America” controversy involving the Alaska ferry terminal.
Since this issue came about in November, I have stayed in regular contact with Prince Rupert civic and port authorities, as well as local business and tourism representatives. I’ve also been in regular contact with Canada’s international trade minister to relay the importance of the ferry terminal to jobs and tourism for Prince Rupert and communities across the Northwest. I think it’s the duty of any federal government to protect jobs for citizens on sovereign soil; but throughout this process, I have also stressed the need for both sides to keep communication open and seek compromise in light of the bigger economic picture for our two regions.
There’s no question Prince Rupert has seen hard times, but it’s equally true that things have been looking up. And in Ottawa, I have been looking out for Prince Rupert every step of the way since getting elected, having fought for over $36 million in funding initiatives for upgrades to the city’s port and airport infrastructure in just the past four years. And as we saw in a recent report by the port authority, employment related to the port has jumped 110 per cent in the past five years, providing good-paying, long-term jobs for the people of Prince Rupert.
It’s unfortunate that the Canadian and Alaskan governments played out their hands so early in the game, but it’s certainly not too late to come to the table. In fact, the precedent for a solution already exists. Just look at the Windsor-Detroit bridge, which is being built with both U.S. and Canadian steel. The decision by Alaska to set aside the upgrades is bad news, but it won’t be permanent – and it’s important to keep in mind that, just one year into a 50-year lease, cooler heads will prevail sooner rather than later.
For my own part, I will continue to work to get both sides back to the negotiating table, and to keep protecting and promoting good jobs in Prince Rupert’s port.
Nathan Cullen, Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP