Thursday, December 21, 2006

Champion of the Northwest corridor named to federal panel

Jeff Burghardt has been tapped to take on an advisory role to the federal government on how the $591 million Asia-Pacific Gateway and corridor initiative fund. Burghardt and his two fellow panelists will be asked to best determine the strategies to follow to increase Asia-Pacific trade.

The Daily News profiled Burghardt and his new duties in their Wednesday edition.

Burghardt has strong voice as fed’s port advisor
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Page one

Prince Rupert’s Jeff Burghardt is one of three transportation experts who will advise the federal government on how to best spend $591 million Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative fund.

The federal government announced the three-member panel last week. Also on the panel are businessmen Arthur Defehr and T. Richard Turner.

“I am very pleased to do this on behalf of the federal government.

“This is a good opportunity really to determine the best strategies for increasing our Asia Pacific trade,” said Burghardt.

“And also to do it in a way that promotes private investment as opposed to public money being spent on infrastructure. Hopefully, this will lead to where we have a series of facilities and a series of Gateway connections both in the north and the south that offer value to Canadian goods and services as they leave the country.”

Burghardt is the president and Chief Executive Officer of Prince Rupert Grain and chair of Northern Health. He has also taken a leading role in helping develop the northwest corridor as a trade route, both as a director and past chair of the Northwest Corridor Development Corporation and a past director of the Western Transportation Advisory Council (WESTAC).
David Emerson, Minister of the Pacific Gateway, said Burghardt is among a group of strategic advisors that recognize the potential of the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative for enhancing Canada’s trade competitiveness.

“We have an opportunity to establish links into Asia for our exporters, as well as to break down the barriers for trade and investment into Canada,” said Emerson. “Their combined expertise in the financial and business sectors will complement the initiative, and their input will provide a sound basis for future investment and policy decisions.”

In addition to looking at ways to get private investors involved in the development of new facilities, adding value to Canadian goods heading for export markets is important, said Burghardt.

“The key is to really to try and figure out how to add value as opposed to adding cost. Our mission here, working on behalf of Minister Emerson, is to really try and help with what are the best strategies.”

While Burghardt said he will have to take a balanced approach as a member of the panel and represent all Western Canadian interests, he won’t forget what he knows about the Northwest transportation corridor.

“The northwest corridor is still today underutilized. Rather than thinking that Canadian taxpayer money has to be spent to solve congestion and land conflict issues in the port of Vancouver and in the southern gateway, I will certainly be advocating that greater usage of our corridor will be of benefit for Canadians. I will strongly carry that message in my discussions.”
Work for the panel is already underway and one of their first tasks will be to advise the federal government in the spring how to spend the remaining $270 million of Gateway funding announced earlier this year.

They will be researching the current transportation system, talking with stakeholders internationally as well as users of the system here in Canada. Ultimately, they want to try and understand what do these groups see as impediments to moving more products and they want to do it quickly given the competition Canada faces not only from American ports but the Suez Canal route to Asian markets.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he was pleased with Burghardt’s appointment. He was concerned that the voice of the Northwest would be lost amidst the needs to the Lower Mainland when it came to Pacific Gateway funding.

“Mr. Burghardt is a good choice, someone who knows the region and has been involved in a lot of economic development projects,” said Cullen.

However, while reading over the announcement, Cullen said he was unable to determine how much authority or advice this group can give. He hopes it’s quite a bit and will work to ensure that is the case.

The other two panel members both represent other areas of business. Arthur Defehr is currently president and chief executive officer of Palliser Furniture Ltd. and is a former chair of the Business Council of Manitoba. He has been involved in international development for more than 30 years. T. Richard Turner is currently chair of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s board of directors. Since 1995, he has been president and chief executive officer of TitanStar Investment Group Inc., a private equity business.

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