Skeena Liberal MLA Ellis Ross says he’s looking for substantial provincial spending commitments this year so that Kitimat and Terrace can better absorb the impact of the multi-billion dollar LNG Canada project.
Topping his list is a start date for the new Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, improvements or a replacement for the Haisla Bridge in Kitimat and money to improve a road leading to the Bench residential area of Terrace.
Both the new Mills Memorial and Lanfear Hill Road vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, speak to the prospect of an increasing population driven by the LNG Canada plant and spin-offs, while a substantially rehabilitated or replaced Haisla River Bridge is necessary to accommodate a growing amount of industrial traffic going to the plant location.
Announced in early 2017 by the former BC Liberal government and again in early 2018 by the current NDP government, the business plan for a new Mills remains a work in progress.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done to prepare both Kitimat and Terrace,” said Ross.
Currently, the District of Kitimat faces borrowing $20 million to either refurbish the existing Haisla Bridge, or as one-third payment for the replacement of the bridge, the other two-thirds possibly coming from the province and the federal government.
Ross said a commitment for the Haisla Bridge project is needed soon from both the federal and provincial governments and thinks there’s an opportunity to put pressure on Ottowa leading up to the federal election this October.
“How do you create that tension?” Ross said of securing federal finances for the bridge project. “How do you get your name on the list?”
“It’s important that the provincial government be involved. You need that kind of infrastructure in place.”
Ross said he’s also keeping an eye on the Mills Memorial replacement plan, currently estimated to cost in the region of $380 million and will be pressing the government for a recommendation from the Treasury Board which approves all large-scale expenditures.
“I’m one of those who doesn’t count their chickens before they’ve hatched,” said Ross.
“Where is that commitment? If there is one, don’t sit on it. Is it in the [provincial] budget? If not, why not?”
As for improvements to Lanfear Hill, a key route leading to the Bench residential area of Terrace where close to 200 building lots are being proposed, Ross said Terrace needs senior government assistance to handle a projected population increase.
“There are a number of things going on in Terrace — like the [Skeena Sawmills] pellet plant,” he added.
Ross made the comments as the provincial legislature prepares for its spring sitting which began with a speech from the throne Feb. 12. The budget was released Feb. 19.
– with files from Gerry Leibel