The cat has definitely got the cream with a $65 million infrastructure boost for Prince Rupert, announced by Premier David Eby, on March 17.
The funding announcement from the Critical Community Infrastructure fund, has jokingly been referred to as “the cat in the bag” is a direct response from the Province to the ageing water system and underground pipe infrastructure crisis in the city, which caused multiple water main breaks and a state of local emergency in Dec. 2022.
“Prince Rupert is seeing huge economic growth because of the port. We are building today for a stronger tomorrow. So today, I’m very proud to announce that our government is [providing] $65 million to upgrade Prince Rupert’s aging water distribution system to help ensure reliable resilient water service for people and industry in the community,” Eby said.
“$65 million — it’s a big cat,” Mayor Herb Pond, told The Northern View, referring to “the cat in the bag” comments made by officials and politicians at an NDP fundraiser the night before the official announcement was made.
“Today’s announcement allows us to tackle the most critical areas of water infrastructure and secure our supply for decades to come,” Pond said. “Securing our water-supply infrastructure is essential to securing one of Canada’s busiest trade corridors.”
The announcement, made at the Museum of Northern B.C. saw Eby, Municipal Affairs Minister Anne Kang, Skeena Bulkley MP Taylor Bachrach, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, Pond, Port Edward Mayor Knut Bjorndal, as well as city councillors and others, applaud the major funding declaration.
Eby said Prince Rupert can feel like it is a world away from the lower mainland.
“It is literally the end of the road, Highway 16, but the gateway to the world for British Columbia and for our country. It is the third busiest seaport in North America, the fastest growing and no doubt because you offer the shortest and most direct route to Asia.”
The Premier said while the city is surrounded by water, it’s ironic that it was a water shortage issue was the reason for his visit.
“Everyone in the community deserves a reliable system of drinking water. It’s basic, but for Prince Rupert residents, that hasn’t always been the case. Much of the city’s infrastructure is aging and in need of renewal.”
Eby made a special note thanking the city workers who shouldered the water crisis maintenance and repairs during the past holiday season and said they saved the day, but he knows that is not a sustainable remedy to the problem.
“We can’t be responding to crisis after crisis in the water system. These are risks we can’t take, both for the economic security, the physical security and safety of Prince Rupert residents but also, in fact, the entire country,” the provincial leader said.
“It’s time to make up for decades of underinvestment by previous provincial governments, deferral of necessary maintenance and repairs. We see the cost that comes with that. We couldn’t afford short-sighted thinking then and we certainly can’t afford it now,” he said.
Minister of Municipal Affairs Anne Kang addressed the crowd explaining the $65 million is additional to the city’s portion of the $1 billion Growing Community Fund announced last week, of which Prince Rupert will receive $4 million to put toward infrastructure.
“More people are choosing to live, to work, to study in B.C. because of the opportunities that families can have here in our beautiful British Columbia. This has caused an increased demand to our infrastructure here, which puts a strain on local resources,” Kang said. “Local governments are working hard to ensure communities are welcoming and vibrant, and we are here to support them.”
“I just can’t wait to see how Prince Rupert will be choosing their projects to support the vibrancy and the livability of their community. I know there’s just so many wonderful things happening here,” she said.
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice said she is grateful for everyone’s efforts in securing funding and remedies to the issues at hand.
“I just want to say a few words, that as a resident of Prince Rupert, I can tell you the impact that this funding will have not only in securing our drinking water system but also reducing the entire stress on our community,” she said.
“This is a huge lift for our community,” Rice concluded.
Mayor Herb Pond referred to battling the infrastructure issues as not a race but a marathon where the baton has been passed from one council to another, with this current council carrying it across the finish line to reach the win.
The mayor expressed his pleasure at the announcement and the benefits it would bring to the community.
“Last night at an event, the premier was getting close to letting it out and he actually said “you know I’m getting too close to letting the cat out of the bag.” That became the analogy all night long — the cat. At one point, I said I’ve seen the cat. It’s a nice cat. It’s a pretty big cat. $65 million is so big that I think we lose our comprehension of what $65 million is. Quite frankly, it is by far the largest investment that British Columbia has ever made in Prince Rupert in a single moment,” the city mayor said.
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