Saturday, February 21, 2009

Budget day offerings has MLA wondering about the focus on the port

This weeks provincial budget provided a number of items for consideration, a two year deficit plan, cuts to most ministries, a declaration that the province will face a couple of years of tough times before things begin to improve and a commitment to port development in Delta at the cost of about 1.1 billion dollars.

And while the government gave a nod to Phase II of the Fairview Terminal, there wasn't much in the way of concrete financial figures provided for the northern gateway for container traffic, an oversight that has the MLA for the region Gary Coons wondering where the prospect of Phase II stands with the provincial government.

He outlined his thoughts in a Daily News article from Thursday's paper.

Coons wonders what budget means to port
The Daily News
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Page five

While reaction to Tuesday's provincial budget was mixed across the province, North Coast MLA Gary Coons said it is too soon to know what outcome the offerings will have for Prince Rupert.

In Monday's throne speech, the provincial government said that it was still committed to phase two of the Fairview container terminal but finance minister Colin Hansen's $450 million-deficit budget committed no finances for the project.

"I was disappointed that port development for phase 2 was relegated only to a commitment to seek out opportunities for the expansion of Prince Rupert I hope that the premier's promise of last December holds true," said Coons.

Under the budget promises, there are significant infrastructure commitments for the DeltaPort, worth $1.1 billion but nothing for the Prince Rupert port.

However, in the throne speech Premier Gordon Campbell seemed to have suggested that there would be a commitment of some sort for the port.

"The Port of Prince Rupert is revitalizing northern and rural economies and creating a powerful platform for future development. The next phase of that port development will be pursued, in co "operation with First Nations and the federal government," was said in the speech.

Coons was cautious not to criticize the hudget too much, citing a need to sift through it first.

"It's a little early to pinpoint what may come our way on the North Coast but the budget promised to create thousands of jobs and build opportunities in every region of the province," said Coons.

The local MIA was concerned that the majority of the $14 billion promised would be mainly for southern B. C. interests.

"Hopefully, the commitment for seismic upgrading, road, sewer and infrastructure projects pour into the North Coast," said Coons.

There were little commitments for resource economies either, the provincial government citing a focus on health care, education and social services as its priority for 2009.

Association of Mining' and Exploration BC President and CEO Gavin Dirom said while he respects the financial constraints the province is under, and that smaller than expected deficit is a good thing, there could have been more done for the resource economy.

"We still think there are opportunities and we are still working with the government and other stakeholders to make sure that we are clear on our requests," said Dirom.

Coons said the New Democrat Party budget plan would start by building affordable housing, reducing student debt-loads and making work pay by raising the minimum wage.

The Campbell government said it would not raise the minimum wage because of the potential cost it would impose on small business.

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