I Went to A Garden Party

Kitimat - it’s time we build from within

By Doug Thomson

Like, ‘70’s heartthrob, Ricky Nelson (and that tells you a lot about my age) I went to a garden party and, to quote Nelson, “I learned my lesson well.”

For Nelson, the garden party happened in 1971 at Madison Square Garden when he had the audacity to sing some new material including a cover of the Rolling Stones’, Honky Tonk Woman, instead of his “old” hits.

His loyal fans booed him off the stage. In response, he wrote what was to be his last and rather bitter hit, Garden Party.

Now, lest you think for one second that I was performing on stage anywhere, let me quickly disabuse you of the thought, the first note sung by me would clear the auditorium before the booing began. No, I went to a council meeting.

Here’s the thing, I know the mayor and councillors quite well and I like them a lot. They are very good people who devote a whole lot of time trying to keep the town we all love functioning, and I consider all of them friends at one level or another.

So, I was at my garden/council party, with a couple of other Museum Board members, to remind Council that perhaps our museum is in want of replacement, and that maybe, just maybe, it would be a good idea to start a fund for that purpose.

The existence of such a fund, we sang, would allow the museum staff to leverage other monies, grants and philanthropic contributions. It really isn’t a new suggestion – I’m told it’s been on record for a couple of decades and there are one or two mouldy reports hanging around that support the concept of a new museum. I’ve never seen them but apparently they are not just a figment of my imagination.

Regardless, the museum is 50 years old – far, far too small, leaky, poorly designed and not accessible to anyone who requires an elevator – not exactly a facility that presents Kitimat in a good light. We really can’t do a great job of preserving or presenting Kitimat’s very unique history in this building – that’s a fact.

So, unlike Nelson, we were singing an old hit, but the response from our audience was not overly enthusiastic. We weren’t booed off the stage, but there wasn’t a whole lot of applause, either. We were told that the fate of the museum lies hidden somewhere in a 900-page report on the buildings the municipality owns in Kitimat, a report that apparently doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the state of our buildings.

Let’s play the chorus again – a 900-page report on buildings owned by the municipality that suggests problems. We are a small community, without a city hall, that has a significant industrial tax base, and we have 900 pages of sad song? How can that be? How does one spell, “inattention”?

Kitimat has long been accused of being spoiled, and, you know, it is the truth.

A few years ago we waited with baited breath for the Kitimat Modernization Project (KMP), and that was a biggie, but, you know, we got it and today Kitimat’s economy is stable; maybe it’s not as big as we might want, but it is stable. We can move ahead.

Well, maybe we can move ahead. Except that it now seems that any action taken in our community depends on a positive, Final Investment Decision (FID+) by one or more of our LNG proponents. But, what if the FID+ never happens and we have instead a FID- i.e., “Sorry, no, it just isn’t on!” Oh, no!

Will we abandon all hope, tear our clothing and spread ashes? Or, will we get on with the job of building a community?

If you look at the 2016, Taxes and Charges on a Representative House (http://www.cscd.gov.bc.ca/lgd/infra/tax_rates/tax_rates2016.htm), a document that probably gives the best comparison of property tax and fee charges among B.C. communities, Kitimat weighs in at 139th of 164 communities.

The owner of a representative (average) house in Kitimat paid $2,174 in taxes and charges, our neighbours in Terrace pay $3,100 and in Prince Rupert, the citizens fork over $3,874.

We obviously are not over taxed. So why do we have such problems with our buildings that we need a 900-page report to tell us we have problems?

We require our infrastructure (water, roads, bridges, sewage and buildings) to be in good shape and if inattention has allowed us to get into a difficult spot, we need to acknowledge the problems, fix them now, and get on with life.

We cannot base the health of our community on the largess of multinational corporations – we must take charge of our own destiny, even if it costs us dollars.

That night at Madison Square Gardens, Ricky Nelson said he learned that he had to take control of his career. The lesson for Kitimat is the same.

We must look after ourselves, regardless of the actions of multinationals. If they come, they come, that’s good, but regardless, we will be okay.