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North Coast MLA pens letter to Feds outlining global implications and severity of failing water infrastructure in Prince Rupert

Water system failure would likely require community evacuation, shut down port operations — Jen Rice
North Coast MLA, Jennifer Rice and parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness outlined in a two-page letter, which can be seen on her Facebook page, to the Feds the severity and impacts to global trade if the water infrastructure distribution system failed in Prince Rupert. (Image: J. Rice Facebook)

A recent state of local emergency brought home the global implications of port growth and international trade from Prince Rupert and the severity was outlined in a Dec. 22 letter to the federal government by Jennifer Rice, North Coast MLA.

“The city has demonstrated that immediate investment in the water distribution infrastructure is required as a failure would likely require the community to evacuate and completely shut down port operations,” the letter stated. “A failure of this magnitude would jeopardize all of the federal investment, the federal reputation for the Canadian port industry and national revenues.”

Rice states in the two-page letter posted on her social media page the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness is working with the City of Prince Rupert on an emergency plan if the water distribution system “cavitates and the community is forced to evacuate.”

“I must stress that this is not a solution. The solution is to protect your economic investment and financially support the City of Prince Rupert particularly with water infrastructure funding,” the correspondence reads.

“I wrote to the federal government to remind them of the global significance of Prince Rupert hosting the fastest growing port in North America, doing $60 billion in global trade operations annually, not to mention how remarkable it was the PRPA maintained supply chain integrity for our entire country during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rice stated in a social media post.

“If they are not going to help with Prince Rupert’s failing infrastructure for the sake of our people, maybe they want to consider it for the sake of Canada’s revenues? Not to mention the risk to Canada’s reputation in the global trade market,” she said.

“The Feds have to agree to support the province/city of Prince Rupert during this current emergency event which is greatly appreciated but for the sustainability of the Port and viability of our community, we need help in a much bigger way when it comes to city infrastructure,” Rice, who is also parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness said in her post.

In her letter, addressed to the Minister of Transportation Omar Alghabra, and cc’d to eleven other politicians, including the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development Mary Ng and Premier David Eby, she states the enormous undertaking of upgrading the city’s water system at significant cost is “untenable” for a small community with a limited tax base.

“The juxtaposition of our small city of 12,000 people with a regular operating budget of [approximately] $45 million annually, providing services for a booming port conducting over $60 billion dollars a year in global trade operations is not only ironic but unjustifiable,” Rice stated.

She said she supports the National Trade Corridors Fund (NTCF) investing $75 million in Trigon and the Port of Prince Rupert’s new berth to increase port growth and reduce overall trade congestion.

“However, I also strongly feel the City of Prince Rupert’s infrastructure needs are being overlooked and discounted,” the letter states.

Rice understands the City of Prince Rupert has discussed with the Feds the critical infrastructure deficit and the failing water distribution system. She said she has been discussing the challenges for some time and has been personally championing funding allocation through the Resource Benefits Alliance and the province’s Northern Planning and Capital Grant.

“… I have also personally been leading the provincial dialogue regarding the provincially legislated tax caps and federally mandated PILT [payment in lieu of taxes] which don’t allow the city to collect much-needed revenues to reinvest in infrastructure replacement.”

“I understand that the City has recently sent a Letter to Transport Canada requesting a re-evaluation of the NTCF to allow communities affected by large port-related development an opportunity to apply to the fund for infrastructure upgrades in communities supporting the trade corridor. I would like to submit this Letter of Support to endorse the City’s suggestion that the Arctic and Northern Communities stream be re-activated, and that Prince Rupert is added to the eligible communities,” the MLA stated in her letter.

K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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