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REPORTING · 20th September 2011
Merv Ritchie
BC Premier Clark arrived to a bus and a half full of supporters at Maher Terminals in Prince Rupert on Monday, September 19, 2011. The pro Liberal/Conservative crowd was punctuated as Blair Lekstrom introduced all the gathered dignitaries. After introducing the local Mayors, himself and Pat Bell as MLA’s, the head of CN and the Prince Rupert Port he introduced the Premier. Left out from these introductions was the local MLA, Gary Coons.

It was a political “Freudian slip” as Coons is an NDP MLA. It was serious though as he is the Provincial representative for the area, the person who addresses all the concerns of the region where this press announcement was being made; the provincial representative directly responsible for the Port at Prince Rupert. Lekstrom made up for his error later in the presentation after both the Premier and Bell finished their speeches by stating he was ‘remiss’ in not mentioning the presence of Coons. Coons had commented to us earlier, as he looked around the room of Liberals, that maybe he got on the wrong bus.

Clark delivered her speech in great form. She accentuated the points about jobs, the economy, the exciting future and the great Asian markets to rounds of applause and standing ovations. The speech was as well written as it was delivered except there were no specifics. The litany of benefits of the Asian markets and the supply route to and from all points in Canada and beyond were highlighted. The potential for many, many new jobs, jobs closer to home for people all across BC was promoted but in the end it was proven to be an announcement of money committed only to preparing one spot, Ridley Island, for a potential new shipping holding terminal. It is a plan for the future though as Clark referred to it by a new title for Prince Rupert, which received cheers and more applause, “Canada Starts Here”. The plan is to increase the amount of goods transferring though the Port at Prince Rupert by a factor of 5.

The spin off of this, according to the speech, will create jobs all across Canada. The logic seems somewhat unbalanced unless the claim by Don Krusel, the CEO and President of the Port at Prince Rupert comes true. Krusel was the only speaker that provided the details to the potential economic boon time coming. His claim was startling and dramatic. The politicians used adjectives and emotion to win applause. Krusel, taking the podium after Coons was finally acknowledged, provided the details.

“In the next ten to twenty years we are going to witness the largest migration of people in the history of mankind. It is estimated that over 350 million Chinese will move from their rural agricultural lands and move into the major cities of China. And it will also witness over the same period of time a tremendous economic transformation as the middle class of China increases by between 30 and 40 million people every year.”

Krusels claims were, at this point just numbers. For many these numbers did not paint the picture so Krusel continued to attempt to elucidate this by providing an example for perspective; painting a clear picture.

“Just imagine over the next ten to twenty years there are going to about 35 cities like New York being built in China. And all that means that they are looking for the resources, the raw materials, the agricultural products that are in abundance here in British Columbia, in Western Canada and indeed in all of North America.”

Krusel then went on to paint a clearer picture of why Prince Rupert and the Port, he is presently the head of, is best positioned to benefit from this Chinese growth.

“As the Premier stated, you are standing on the closest and the shortest land sea link between that tremendous economic miracle that is happening in Asia and the resources that that economic miracle is looking for, right here at the Port of Prince Rupert.” said Krusel as he continued, “[…] this is the Port, the closest Port, in all of North America to that economic miracle that is occurring in Asia.”

Krusel then turned to face east, inland.

“And just imagine the trade corridor that this port links to the rest of North America. And if you could imagine traveling along that trade corridor it wouldn’t take you too long to run across your first saw mill, your first pulp mill. You’d come quickly to a coal mine, to a copper mine, to several other concentrate mines to wood pellet plants, to plywood plants, to wheat fields. And those are the resources that that economic miracle on the other side of the ocean is looking for. And you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that this is North America’s gateway, this is the gateway to Asia.”

Turning to acknowledge Premier Clark Krusel stated, “Indeed Canada does start here.”

“The Port of Prince Rupert has a plan; indeed it has a vision. We call it the 20:20 gateway vision. And that vision is to expand this Port at the pace and to the size necessary to ensure that those raw resources, those consumer goods, those materials and those agricultural products find their way to those 35 cities the size of New York that are going to be built in the coming years.”

Krusel then addressed the real cause of the announcement. Jobs will be a result if and when all of these systems are in place but this announcement was not about jobs for British Columbians or a jobs plan, it was about the commitment of money to a shipping terminal.

“This road rail utility corridor that we’re going to build out at Ridley Island is the foundation of that plan. It is going to open up nearly a thousand acres of prime waterfront industrial lands where the private sector can come here and build a multitude of high velocity; bulk, break bulk and other logistics facilities to ensure the resources and consumer goods that are mined and built in this great province find their way to the economic wonder that is happening in Asia.”

To a great round of applause, Krusel announced they were looking to add up to a hundred million tonnes of capacity to the Port at Prince Rupert. To put it in perspective he claimed the annual shipping current record is about 18 million tonnes. This means a 5 fold increase to the capacity of the Port at Prince Rupert.

To summarize, the announcement yesterday is about one thing and one thing only, an Industrial Park.

This will be no ordinary Industrial Park to be sure; it will be a facility for the prime purpose of hosting a staging ground for the shipment of North American Products to Asia. As stated, this funding announcement is to develop and prepare the infrastructure for private industry to secure their holdings within this thousand acre plot of shipping terminal.

CN Rail is committing 30 million. The Prince Rupert Port Authority is committing 30 million. The Province is committing 15 million and they are awaiting the Feds to commit another 15 million. The total, should the Feds come to the table, is just under 1/3 of the planned $300 million development.

The jobs will come but they are a long ways off.

When questioned about specifics, Premier Clark had none. She stated we should wait till later this week. When questioned about ensuring the jobs went to Canadians or British Columbians, unlike what is currently happening at the decommissioning of the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter at Kitimat, where the majority of new jobs are going to Americans, she could not be clear or concise. Premier Clark avoided the question and then dropped it all together explaining she would announce her plan later in the week.

Watch our direct questions of Premier Clark on the question of jobs for British Columbians attached below.

Minister Bell also confirmed the $15 million Provincial commitment announcement was simply for seed money for the new private shipping terminal at Ridley Island. See our interview with Bell at the Mayer Terminals mechanical shop attached below.

CN President and CEO Claude Mongeau also spoke on CN's $30 million investment and the "Canada Starts here" initiative.

Watch his presentation attached below as well.