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Last week the provincial government announced $65 million dollars for Prince Rupert to deal with immediate issues to the water system infrastructure to ensure the community of more than 12,000 people has clean drinking water. Although that will alleviate the immediate issues, Prince Rupert still need hundreds of millions of dollars to replace aging infrastructure over the next decade.

Today we’ll speak with MP Taylor Bachrach about what he saw on his port tour and how he’s pushing the federal to support Prince Rupert. And we’ll hear from Mayor Herb Pond about what the $65 million dollars will be used for and what Rupert needs to realize it’s potential as Canada’s third largest port, now and into the future.


Welcome to Cick News, the only news source in the north truly dedicated to local stories on the ground, cick News addresses the diverse needs of the underserved communities between Burns Lake and haideguay. Through firsthand stories and in depth interviews, cick News funding is made possible by the Community Radio Fund of Canada, the only organization mandated to financially support campus and community radio stations in Canada, as well as the government of Canada. We are your hosts, Pam Hassan and Dan Mesec. And we are on the dial at 93.9 FM, Smithers Community Radio. Our call letters are CIC and we are broadcasting from the Unseated, Git and Dem territory, home of the Wetswett nation. Follow Cick News or follow us on Facebook or Instagram at smitherscommunity radio. 

Today on Cick News. Prince Rupert has been dealing with major infrastructure issues for years. The collapse of the fishing industry and the loss of residential tax base has only worsened the situation over the past decade. Now things are at a critical point with the development of the container port and the subsequent expansion. Despite the local economy rebounding a bit, roads, housing and especially drinking water infrastructure has not kept up with the city's growth over the Christmas break. This past year, two major water mains ruptured in Prince Rupert due to an extreme cold snap. 

Those water mains were more than 100 years old. 

Last week, the provincial government announced $65 million for Prince Rupert to deal with the immediate issues to their water system infrastructure to ensure the community of more than 12,000 people has clean drinking water. Although that will alleviate the immediate issues, prince Rupert still needs hundreds of millions of dollars to replace aging infrastructure over the next decade. After years, the provincial government has finally provided critical funds to Prince Rupert. However, the federal government has still not provided financial support for Rupert's infrastructure needs. Now canada's third largest port, next to Vancouver and Montreal. Last week, Skena Buckley Valley MP Taylor Bakarak was joined by other MPs from all parties on a cross country tour of major port infrastructure. 

There was a clear distinction between what MPs saw in Montreal and Vancouver, which ports are surrounded by millions of people, and major metropolitan centers to support these ports. However, in Prince Rupert, 12,000 people and very few options to expand the tax base of the community are tough obstacles to overcome to keep the more than $50 billion worth of international trade and shipping moving through that community. Today, we'll speak with MP Taylor Bachrach about what he saw on his port tour and how he is pushing the federal government to support Prince Rupert's needs. And we'll hear from Mayor Herb Pond about what the $65 million will be used for and what Rupert needs to realize its potential as Canada's third largest port now and into the future. Stay with us. 

Taylor Backrack, member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley here in Smithers. 

Taylor, you just completed a cross country tour looking at infrastructure issues across the country, as you mentioned, started in the east on the East Coast in St. John's and ended up in Rupert. Maybe tell us a little bit about why you undertook this tour to begin with some of your colleagues. 

Yeah, so as the transport critic for the NDP, I sit on the Standing Committee on Transportation Infrastructure and Communities and we're tasked with looking at all kinds of transportation and infrastructure issues. And this tour was really focused on port infrastructure and expanding port infrastructure across the country. The federal government invests a lot of money in ports and the question is, how do we do that in a way that's efficient, in a way that supports Canada's trade objectives and in a way that meets the needs of communities that are part of the supply chain? So here in the Northwest, of course, that's a very topical issue because this is a major trade gateway for Canada. The west coast. 

The port of Prince Rupert over the past 15 years has grown in leaps and bounds and certainly comes with lots of benefits and some concerns from other communities as well, certainly along the rail corridor. So the committee is composed of MPs from all parties. And we traveled around, started in Montreal and then headed out to Halifax, Newfoundland, and then Hamilton and back here to Prince Rupert. So I was really pleased to have a chance to host my colleagues from different parties and show them Prince Rupert. The port was very generous, took us out on the water and people got to see some of the work that's been done, like the Fairview Ridley Connector Road and some of the big plans the port has. So really appreciative for the time that they spent with us. 

And then we take this all back to Ottawa and we make recommendations to the federal government based on what we've seen. This is also coming at an interesting time because the Transport Minister, just a little over a week ago, tabled bill C 33 in the House. And C 33 is a bill that looks at the Marine Act, it looks at the Rail Safety Act, it looks at a bunch of different aspects of the supply chain, and we're going to be debating that over the coming weeks. So it was interesting to be touring these ports and talking to port authorities and taking that information back to Ottawa as we debate and amend this major legislation that's been put before Parliament. That's what were doing. 

And one of the other aspects of the context here, of course, in Prince Rupert, just a couple of days ago, david Ebie, the new Premier of British Columbia, was in town, made a major announcement about civic infrastructure in Prince Rupert. $65 million. It's the largest provincial contribution to that city since it was founded. And that's because Prince Rupert has a major water infrastructure crisis over the holidays, the council and mayor had to declare a local state of emergency because they had so many water main breaks in short succession. And the city staff were very worried that the entire water distribution system, which is very old and crumbling, that it could collapse and leave the entire city without water, which would require evacuation of the whole city of Prince Rupert. 

And so it's really wonderful that the province has recognized the urgency of this situation and has come to the table with unprecedented support. Now I'm working in Ottawa to bring the Feds to the table because this should really be a partnership between the provincial and federal government. And as much as $65 million is a lot of money. The challenge Rupert faces is actually bigger than that, and it's going to require even more investment in order to replace all these aging water pipes and ensure that the population has safe and reliable drinking water from here forward. So that's part of the context here. It was great to see the announcement and it came right on the heels of this big tour we've been doing. So it's been a busy week. 

Yeah, no doubt. Maybe tell me a little bit about some of the concerns and issues and also maybe some of the high points. 

Of touring those other ports. 

Obviously, as you mentioned, rupert is the. 

Third largest port in Canada. There's quite a lot of business done through that port every year. And obviously we've seen the traffic on the rail line grow in the last number of years. But are they facing are these other ports facing the acute infrastructure issues that Prince Rupert is? We saw a state of emergency in December, 100 plus year old water mains burst because of freezing weather. But are these issues the same everywhere, or is this just specific to Prince Rupert? And Prince Rupert sees the big deficit infrastructure dollars. 

It's pretty unique to Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert's situation is very different from other ports because Canada's other major ports, if you look at Prince Rupert, is the third largest port in the country. As you said, the two larger ports, Vancouver and Montreal, are surrounded by massive metropolitan areas. And the situation in Prince Rupert is that you have this growing, this large and growing port that's hosted by a very small city of 12,000 people. And so the challenge is that the municipality just doesn't have the revenue tools in order to accommodate the growth of the port, because, of course, the port relies heavily on the city. That's where the workers live. Those are the municipal services it relies on. And the port has big expansion plans. They're going to be trying to attract thousands of new workers to Prince Rupert. 

And all those workers are going to need housing, they're going to need services, they're going to need drinking water. And so it's a unique situation in all the country. Every port went to is very different context. The Port of Montreal is a very old port. They're somewhat constrained by geography and by the city of Montreal. And of course, the markets that they serve are very different from the ones that we serve. Much more European trade and different contexts there. Then you go to St. John's. A lot of the St. John's harbor, there's less container traffic. They do some container traffic on the East Coast, but very limited. A lot of their port economy is based on servicing ships that work on the offshore. So a different context altogether. 

Yeah, I think it was helpful because I'm always raising Prince Rupert in Parliament, but for many Parliamentarians, they've never been to the west coast, they've never been to the north coast, at least a Rupert. Many people have been to Vancouver, but it was an eye opener for them. We had a chance to meet as a committee with the mayor and council and kind of hear firsthand the challenges that they face. And of course, the current mayor in Prince Rupert, Herb Pond, he was the mayor 14 years ago and really part of that initial push to get the port up and running and that first sort of spurt of port growth, and it's been so successful. And now there are these issues as a result of growth that need to be dealt with. 

And so he was able to really paint a picture for the committee of. 

What needs to be done, I guess, going forward here. 

Taylor, what are the next steps to. 

See about bringing the Feds to the table? As you mentioned, we saw the $65 million from the province. Mind you, Prince Trooper is looking at a multi hundreds of millions of dollars still needed to fill the gap with infrastructure needs over the next ten years. But where are the Feds at on this file? I know you've brought this up in the House several times now, but how much longer is it going to take for them to come to the table and actually put some money on the table to help Rupert as the third largest port in the country? 

Well, that would be a good question to ask Dominic LeBlanc, the Minister of Infrastructure and Intergovernmental Affairs. It's really up to him. I've had a chance to meet with him in Ottawa and lay out the case for investing in Prince Rupert infrastructure. I think he understands the uniqueness of the situation and the importance of Prince Rupert to the national supply chain and Canada's trade economy. So we're awaiting a federal budget. It's going to be coming down in a little over a week, and hopefully, based on that, there are going to be programs that will be applicable to this situation. When I met with him, he certainly indicated that he wants to see something happen. I raised a question in question, period, and his response was fairly positive. He said he hopes that we can look forward to good news soon. 

So we're going to keep the pressure up, and there's certainly no guarantees, but as an opposition MP, I think my job is really to hold the government accountable and to make sure the voices of this region are heard in the capital and heard by the government. So we'll be keeping that up as soon as I get back there. 

Okay, Taylor. Thanks so much. We'll leave it there for now. 

Thanks, Dan. 

That was Taylor Bakarak, a member of Parliament for Skin of Beakley Valley. Up next, we'll hear from Prince Rupert mayor Her Pond. 

My name is Her Pond. I'm the mayor of Prince Rupert, and I'm in my office in Prince Rupert. 

Great. Mayor Pond, thanks so much for being with us again here on Cack. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, there was a big announcement last week, $65 million coming from the provincial government to Prince Rupert to help with some infrastructure, maybe. Tell me a little bit about what came into pulling this together and the announcement and what it means for Prince Rupert. 

Listen, this is huge. I'd like to think that it's huge for Prince Rupert, but it's also huge for the entire trade corridor. If Rupert can't get done what it needs to do, the people that are trying to sell pellets and the people that are trying to move grain, and the people that are trying to send energy products to market, and even the CN workers up and down the line will all suffer. We had that state of emergency over Christmas. One of the challenges with Rupert is were built from the get go as a planned community, which meant that a whole lot of our infrastructure went in the ground all at the same time, disproportionately a whole lot of it's, aging and hitting sort of catastrophic failure all at the same time. 

Over the course of the last year or two, our staff have worked with engineering companies to identify those areas that are most likely to fail and then also identify which of those areas would have the most grave consequence. We've been able to put together a pretty comprehensive assessment of what most needs to be done. And at this point in time, there's about 26 pipe. The staff have been working very closely with provincial ministries. I can't say enough about the people we have working here. Most of the senior management team is born and raised in Rupert, products of the public school system, and any other municipality would be tickled to have any one of them. 

And then on top of that, our MLA, Jen Rice, has just done a marvelous job of making sure that the issue is kept alive, but also helping us get into the right room with the right people to be able to make the case. Since the beginning of January, I've had, I think, four meetings with the Premier, all very substantial. Also with Minister Kang, the Minister of Municipal Affairs. So, yeah, it's just been one solid push. They completely understand that both the strategic importance to the corridor that Rupert represents and should Rupert have to sort of slow down or shut down for a while we play with water or failing water system, that would have really detrimental impact one of Canada's most critical trade corridors. 

But they also appreciate the work that's been done to get ready for this, so we know exactly what we have to tackle. 

Mayor Pond I know that these infrastructure issues have been long standing, and they're not over yet. Obviously, 65 million is great to hear. It's going to fix some immediate issues, but there obviously is more to do. There's hundreds of millions of dollars that Prince Rupert is going to need to put into aging infrastructure over the next couple of decades. There's about 14,000 people that receive water from this facility currently, but there's also waiting in the wings and expansion of the port, which may see thousands more people come into community. What needs to happen between now and then? Obviously giving it about a decade or more until we can see that come to full fruition. 

But what needs to happen between now and then to prepare the community for that expansion, which it has expanded since the first time you were mayor, and we're still dealing with a lot of these serious infrastructure issues. 

Yeah, you set the context well that last time around, so I've been out office 14 years, and coming back that last time around was probably the time when we most should have been in the ground addressing these things. But of course, that was the era when the entire Northwest collapsed and the economy of the Northwest collapsed and our population fell from 18,000 down to 11,000. And the last thing were able to think about was finding money to go into the ground and start digging up pipes. We were trying to reinvent an economy right. And transition from what had been a very vibrant coastal economy of logging and mining and fishing into what we now have, which is much more centered around global trade along this corridor, what we have in front of us. 

And your question is a good one, because getting $65 million is not insubstantial, but it's not going to get the whole job done by any means. We're certainly going to press the federal government to come match or at least come alongside what the province is doing. And that, too, won't get it all done, but it'll have a tremendous impact. But this is renovation, Rupert. I tell people all the time, if you think about renovating your own home, and most of us have done it and lived in it's just unavoidable that you have drywall dust in the cereal in the morning. Right. And that's what it'll be like for much of the next few years. This money is intended to take us for about a three year water pipe replace basement program. But as we're doing that, there will continue to be breaks. 

I'm very worried about next winter and the winter that follows that, because while we'll be attacking some of the worst parts, we won't get to them all in one year. It'll be three year process. Right. And then you still have to talk about sewage treatment, and then you still have to talk about a couple of key bridges. And the other piece that will be disappointing, I think, for a lot of people, is we have some really bad roads in town that need replacing, but the key vulnerable water pipes aren't in those areas. So we'll be bypassing some of the places that look most like they need work. Right. It'll be a challenging time. But you're also right, we need to build up some housing. We need to prepare for the influx of more people. 

And all of that is setting the stage for what I believe will be a really prosperous time for this community over the next few decades, and indeed for the entire corridor since we've expanded the port in Prince Rupert. I know there's more CN jobs up and down the line, and I know that it's unfortunate what's happened recently in Houston, but when Houston comes back online, they'll be moving a lot of their lumber out through this terminal. So anyway, it's the entire corridor that's always on my mind. 

Yeah, it's quite interesting speaking with MP Taylor backrack. He recently came off a cross country tour looking at specifically port infrastructure going to the major ports in the country. And it seems that a lot of people, a lot of citizens don't realize that Prince Rupert is the third largest and busiest port in Canada, next to Montreal and Vancouver. That's a pretty big deal. There's 50 billion worth of exports and imports going through that port, going through Prince Rupert every year. And the federal government still hasn't shown up to the table to put money on the table to help some of these infrastructure issues. Clearly, it is very important to the local this corridor's economy, but also the national economy. So where are the Feds with this issue? 

And what are your conversations with federal officials about getting some funds to help with some of this infrastructure? 

Well, I got to give a shout out to Taylor. He's really been all over this, and he had when he was here with that transport, the House Select Standing Committee on Transportation Infrastructure and Community that you just described, he made sure they came and sat down with us, and what was supposed to have been about a three quarter an hour meeting was double that. They had so many questions and the thrust of the conversation was exactly as you frame it. Canada's busiest port is Port metro Vancouver, but there's 2.3 million people that are hosting that port. Montreal is number two, and we're very close in numbers to Montreal. There's 4.6 million people hosting that port complex. And up here on this northwest corner, there's 12,000 of us. Right? It's just so disproportionately large to the community. We're thankful for it. 

Don't ever take anything I say as being anything other thankful for all those jobs, but it does mean that the task in front of this community is outsized. And so, yes, we're having meetings with the federal government. They have not been as fulsome an embrace as we received at the province. But the good news is Premier EB is also prompting his federal counterparts and making available all of the resources of the province to help us in clarifying things with the Feds. And I'm hopeful, I've got to say, the most recent conversations with the federal government, I'm hopeful that before the end of April, we will hear at least some good news. I don't want to back them into too much of a corner, but yeah, Canada needs to step up. 

When the whole concept of a container terminal in Prince Rupert was launched and we had much more strength across the corridor pushing for this, it was Edmonton that was pushing for this port. It was the number one ask for the Chamber of Commerce in Edmonton. Ralph Klein was the Premier of the day, and he was talking constantly about Port Edmonton, meaning Prince Rupert, because they've got all kinds of products that need to move to market. But it goes way further than that. When, when I was lobbying, you know, 20 years ago for investments in a container terminal in Prince Rupert, I would go back to Ottawa and the Mayor of Guelph, Ontario, would come with me because he saw benefit to his community. It is an important trade corridor. Canada needs to understand well, they do understand it. 

They just need to understand that one of the key pieces of it lies in the hand of a little community with 12,000 people. 

Okay, Mayor Her Pond will leave it there for now, but thanks always, as usual, for your insight and I'm sure we'll speak again in the future. 

Yeah. Thanks so much, Dan. I so much appreciate your putting this out there, because everybody in your listening area is part of this trade corridor and we want to do what we can to contribute to it. 

You've been listening to Cick news. If you have any hot tips or news stories you think we should cover, contact us at or follow us on Facebook at cicknews. Cick news is made possible by the government of Canada and the Community Radio Fund of Canada, the only organization mandated to financially supporting campus and community radio stations across Canada. You can also catch our fresh shows each or subscribe to our podcasts on Apple Podcasts spotify wherever you find your podcasts. Thanks to our producer Pam Hassan, and all of our roving reporters. I'm Dan Messick. Thanks for listening. 


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