Monday, April 20, 2009

Profiles of the candidates from the Daily News - Herb Pond

Prince Rupert’s Daily Newspaper began its in depth look at the candidates on Friday, with the first of what we imagine will be three profiles of the candidates seeking our vote on May 12th.

The first candidate to be featured by the paper was Herb Pond, who outlined some of his thoughts on such issues as the container port, investment in Prince Rupert and the North coast and his impressions on the future of the riding and the various communities that he seeks to represent.

Daily News Election profiles
Herb Pond

By George T. Baker
Prince Rupert Daily News
Friday, April 17, 2009
Page 12

Relaxing in the depths of his campaign office chair, Herb Pond is gaining a certain amount of strength from his surroundings.

It's a confident atmosphere in an office that has a look of professionalism and success wrapped around it.

It reflects a man who was known for the past six years as Mayor that what he does best is sell - sell Prince Rupert and sell the North Coast.

That's not uncommon for a political candidate during an election. For what is a campaign but a drawn out hiring process where a prospective representative tries to sell his and his party's talents and ambitions to the constituency?

Pond is known for having a specific talent as the city's salesman - or booster if you will - and that will be an important personality trait that he'll have on offer during his campaign, which kicked off this past Tuesday.

Pond sincerely believes that he and the BC Liberals can deliver a prosperous future for the North Coast.

Optimistic is probably the best way to describe the positive ex-Mayor. Much about him seems well aligned with politics, often a place where optimism and positive messages seem to be the 9xygen those in Victoria breathe. Then there is the history of Prince Rupert, a roller coaster of a town that booms and busts with the best of them.

Despite rumours to the contrary, Prince Rupert has not yet reaped all the rewards of its natural gifts. It is something Pond made clear in a Daily News headline back in October, when he declared the city was "not booming yet."

"We have just started. This is just the very beginning. I think some people lose sight of that," said Pond with his customary enthusiasm.

"That's why ports in California are scared. It's not for the three cranes that we have on the waterfront today. They recognize that the plan that was drawn up by the people of Prince Rupert and that the corridor works and there will be more cranes."

If Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii and the surrounding villages are really going to gain long term traction, said Pond, the focus can't be on the direct jobs that are created by a port but by the economic region that is provided as a result of having a successful port.

The BC Liberals have committed to the Asian Pacific Gateway, which the party claims would provide the province a $76 billion gain in trade and add 250,000 jobs. Some of that money and job creation, reasons Pond, would have to make its way to the North Coast.

"We love longshore jobs - but it's not about a few hundred jobs. It's about having a shipping corridor that is so attractive that someone is putting a factory in Prince Rupert to make windows from our forestry products or furniture pieces or even reprocessing salmon in a different way,” said Pond.

The container port continues to create good buzz up and down the west coast and even as the 'little port that could' (with hopes that it will one day be the big container port that does) it increases business. Pond said it's that kind of investment that shows a commitment to the region by the BC Liberals.

However, even as the area gains a new identity, part of its alternate identity appears to have been lost. Fishing isn't what it used to be only a decade ago when the city saw a significant amount of money coming in with the fishing boats.

According to a 1999 survey on the economic value of the fishing industry in Prince Rupert, fishermen were paid $115 million in wages in 1997. Pond doesn't see those glory days coming back.

"I don't think you can go back in anything that you do. I don't care if it's as an individual or as a society. There is no question that people have fond memories of the 70s when cash was easy. [But] I don't think we are going to see that comeback in the fishing industry or the forestry industry. That doesn't mean there isn't a viable future or a really solid industry."

Instead, Pond believes that the fishing industry needs to focus on the Port, too. He said Alaska fish are going to come this way and Rupertites would be the ones processing them.

Talk about the port almost always comes with a caveat though - what about South Delta and why does it seem to be a BC liberal priority when the locals there don't support it and locals here are backing the Prince Rupert Port.

As reported in the Daily News on Thursday, the  Northern corridor has thus far been a poor sister to the southern corridor. Right now there is $2.35 billion earmarked for the south while only $46 million is in place for the northern route.

That's exactly why Pond is getting involved. He believes it's time for the riding to have someone the provincial government will bend its ear to.

"If you were looking for a reason as to why I want to sit as MIA, it's because I want to let people know that there is a Prince Rupert and that investment in Prince Rupert makes sense."

In a riding that has been an NDP stronghold for what seems like donkey years, it's going to take a real selling job to convince not only Rupertites but those on Haida Gwaii and those living in the North Coast villages that the BC Liberals is the party to lead the riding out of the wilderness.

Since 1972 when Graham Lea won, the NDP has held the North Coast/Prince Rupert seat with the sole exception of Bill Belsey, who won during the great NDP purge of 200 1.

To some, that election was seen as an extension of provincial disappointment - tired of the NDP 90s and looking for a change. When incumbent MIA Gary Coons won the election in 2005, perhaps that confirmed this.

Pond thinks he can change that. He feels he connects well with First Nations community members (Pond said he chose to run partly because of what was happening with the Recognition and Reconciliation Act) and the labour class, two traditional NDP communities.

"It wasn't just words. I've heard from First Nations leaders throughout the riding that they feel the reality of that promise," said Pond.

Pond added that if you don't believe he is a job deliverer then have a look at his track record as Mayor.

“At times I made people angry - but in the big picture, when you look at the track record of those six years, we delivered several hundred jobs in and around the container port," said Pond.

That's the sell job from the salesman himself.

It's a job Pond hopes to continue for the riding beyond 2009.

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