Five days after the announcement that the private port of Kitimat will become a public port under federal jurisdiction, Transport Canada is now promising to consult District of Kitimat officials as the Douglas Channel waterfront transitions to a public port.
Both Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan and Economic Development Officer Rose Klukas, after numerous calls and attempts over the past few days, finally spoke to different Transport Canada officials Friday.
According to the mayor, both were told that Kitimat will not become a public port for at least one year because the change from a private port to a public port requires a change in legislation. (Something Transport Canada may only just be realizing since Bill C-57, introduced Monday to cover all the changes for what the Harper government calls a “world-class” tanker policy makes no mention of Kitimat).
Transport Canada is now promising “extensive public and stakeholder consultation will occur before the legislation is changed,” the mayor was told.
On this Mayor Monaghan commented, “It seems to me that now they want to do consultation….sort of like closing the barn door after all of the cows got out!”
Transport Canada says that beause there are no federal lands in the Kitimat harbour, the amending legislation will only cover navigable waters in Kitimat.
Transport Canada will appoint a harbour master and the cost of that office will be “paid by offsetting fees charged to ships coming into the harbour.”
But it looks like the fees charged to incoming ships by the federal government could be causing a headache for Rio Tinto Alcan. Claudine Gagnon, an RTA spokesperson based in Shawnigan, Quebec, told Radio Canada, the French language network of the CBC, that the company is trying to assess the impact of the announcement on its operations in Kitimat. Among other things, the change in the port’s status could result in higher transportation costs for the company.
Google translate of Radio Canada story.
At this point, Transport Canada officials told the District is unlikely that there will be Port Authority in Kitimat like the one in Prince Rupert.
Asked about the port announcement during a post budget news conference on Thursday, Skeena Bulkley Valley MP and NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen said, “I’m as surprised as everybody in Kitimat is. I’ve been phoning around to local leaders to find out if anyone had been consulted or spoken to about this. And it’s a shock for everyone including people from Alcan.
“This doesn’t make any sense at all. The conversation around a public port is a good one and one we need to have and we’re open to the idea, but what a terrible start to the process, when a minister flies in from Ottawa, announces something, doesn’t tell any of the local government about it and then expects everyone to pop the champagne corks. You want to get this thing right. You want to make sure the public interests are met.
“There’s a real arrogant feeling, when a minister flies in from Toronto and says this is how it’s going to be and there’s no need to talk to anyone in the region about it.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan interviewed by Andrew Kurjata on CBC Daybreak North (Friday morning before Transport Canada returned calls to Kitimat)
Cullen was also asked about the provisions in the safe tankers announcement on Monday by Transport Minister Denis Lebel and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver that the federal government appears to be taking over responsibility for navigation aids on the British Columbia coast, something that until now, Enbridge Northern Gateway has said they will pay for.
“Suddenly taking costs away from a multi-billion dollar oil company, seems to be what this Conservative Canadian government wants to do. It’s so wrong, I can’t describe it any better than that,”Cullen said, “that we’re supposed to be picking up the tab for Enbridge’s project, while all the while running huge deficits and not getting the training support and cuts to health care programs that continue.”