Skip to content

Officials explore economic development topics

Cross-ministry team will review opportunities and challenges

A meeting with a BC minister in Victoria recently led to a commitment to have provincial staff review the City of Powell River’s economic development initiatives.

Mayor Dave Formosa, Councillor Chris McNaughton and Stan Westby, chief administrative officer, met with Pat Bell, minister of jobs, tourism and innovation. His ministry is partnering with three communities—Campbell River, the Barriere to McBride corridor and North Fraser—in economic development pilot projects, aimed at attracting investment, identifying opportunities, economic diversification and job creation.

Formosa said he asked Bell why he had not chosen Powell River. During the conversation that followed, Formosa said Bell offered Powell River the opportunity to do the same program, but at an advanced level. Bell, who said he had read the city’s business plan and agreement-in-principle with Catalyst Paper Corporation, said he would assign four senior staff to work with the city on its ideas. Formosa said he, McNaughton, Councillor Debbie Dee and Westby are going to Victoria for a meeting on March 13 about the initiative.

A council priority has been the identification and development of alternative revenue streams, McNaughton said. “A cross-ministry team will meet with us to review a comprehensive list of economic and new revenue initiatives,” he said. “We will also take a close look at obstacles to economic development, such as transportation costs.”

Some of the topics they’ll discuss include: Freda Creek run-of-river project; expansion of the Powell River Community Forest Ltd. tenure; airport development; liquid waste management planning; a fuel tax to support transit and pavement management; international student programs at Vancouver Island University and School District 47; road and bridge links; and replacement ferries.

McNaughton said he and Westby also met with Glen Brown, executive director, local government infrastructure and finance branch, about the city’s unsuccessful application to the Innovations Fund for co-treatment, a proposal to treat the city’s sewage at Catalyst’s Powell River mill. “In spite of the challenges that we face right now, we’re going to continue to pursue those opportunities,” McNaughton said.

In a letter to the city summarizing the meetings, Don Fast, deputy minister of the ministry of community, sport and cultural development, wrote that there will be a future meeting with Brown and Westby to discuss the city’s Innovations Fund application, “in order to review the existing application and make amendments as necessary and appropriate, thus enhancing the opportunity for success in the next intake.”

Fast also expressed interest in council’s support for the auditor general for local government and for the city to be considered as a potential pilot community once the office is operating. “While I am unable to make any commitment, I would certainly like to hear more from you and any proposal the city may have,” Fast wrote.

The city received $75,000 from the provincial government for a service review in 2011. Council has seen a confidential draft of the document and a revised report will be released to the public after both management and union representatives have provided feedback to the author.

McNaughton said the review addresses internal operations of the city and identifies potential cost savings which the author details in a series of recommendations. “The auditor general for local government could take the service review further by evaluating the value for money of city-provided services,” he said. “This expanded review would examine community interest in funding current service levels and could recommend where strategic cuts could be made, optimizing efficiency and service delivery.”

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks