Monday, November 24, 2008

Tougher economic times may see tighter financial assistance for the North coast

The current financial troubles sweeping around the globe may impact on Prince Rupert through some of the projects that are on the drawing board for this region as well as see hoped for funding for a key local concern up in the air.

Bulkley Valley-Skeena MP Nathan Cullen is still hoping to gain the attention of the Federal Transportation Minister over the issue of the Alaska Ferry Dock at Fairview, which the City of Prince Rupert is seeking assistance on over the $600,000 share that the city will have to pay when all is said and done.

With the Federal Government outlining its plans in last weeks Speech from the Throne, one of the driving forces behind their handling of the economic troubles will be more scrutiny of the financials of government spending and keeping a tight hold on the purse strings for many items that thought they had clear sailing three months ago.

It remains to be seen if the MP can impress upon the Government the international nature of the Ferry Dock and the need for the Federal government to share the burden of keeping those important transportation links up to date and safe.

The City will no doubt be anxiously awaiting the next update from the regions MP, hopeful of good news of his lobbying on their behalf.

MP fears tightening of belt could hit projects
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, November 21, 2008

Page one

MP Nathan Cullen said that Wednesday's throne speech in Ottawa with its focus on the economic turmoil affecting the world markets was long overdue for Skeena-Bulkley Valley residents.

"We've had an economic downturn for quite some time and in some ways it's refreshing that there is more attention in parliament, but now we have to have solutions," said Cullen.

One solution that he is not sure will occur to Ottawa is an answer to the problem of paying for the Alaska Ferry Dock. The City of Prince Rupert is on the hook for the dock's retrofit even though it is a federal border crossing from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan. In Wednesday's throne speech, the Conservative government announced that it would be scrutinizing and tightening its budget, which could mean that the city will get stuck with the whole bill.

"Good projects are good projects. The Alaska Ferry Dock is something that the federal government needs to step up to the plate with. We are preparing some things for the minister of Transportation right now. Good things that lead to further investment, and government doing its responsibility remain good things," said Cullen.

That doesn't mean he thinks the government is in anyway guaranteed to actually fund the remaining two-thirds of the cost to pay for the retrofit.

The provincial ministry of transportation has picked up one-third of the bill but so far there has been no indication that the federal government will at least do the same.

The project will cost $900,000 and right now the city is on the hook for $600,000 of that bill.
Cullen reiterated that the throne speech suggests the money will not be made available if federal government does not believe the work is a priority.

"I've been indicating this to mayors and councils in general because of the enormous investment in two things, the military budget has grown significantly and the cutting off from the revenue from corporate taxes has cut another big hole in the federal budget.

"The government is going to have to make some choices when it comes to plugging those holes up. And what they've told us is that there is going to be less spending right across the board."

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