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Prince Rupert mayor touts regional planning in 2014

Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem is calling 2013 a year of change, both at City Hall and in the community.

The interest from major industry on the North Coast reached an unprecedented level at the same time as there was a complete turnover in the senior management team at the city, including the city manager, chief financial officer and corporate administrator. Yet with all of the industry walking through the door, Mussallem said the best part of the 2013 was what he heard from residents on the street.

"The highlight for me is talking to people and seeing them transition from one career to another, whether young people are moving from fisheries to longshore work or people who have been looking to get ahead in life being able to enroll in programs like the mechanical or electrical foundations. It's hearing people saying their family is doing better because of the activity we are seeing," he said.

"We're seeing a change of attitude because we were in a 10 year period of dormancy — what you're hearing now is optimism."

Part of that optimism was new businesses locating in town, in part driven by port expansion that included the beginning of the Ridley Island Rail, Road and Utility Corridor, the ongoing expansion of Ridley Terminals and the construction and commencement of operation of Westview Terminal.

"It was a productive year in terms of local trade and commerce considering we're the fastest growing port in North America," he said.

"Prince Rupert is a world-class North American gateway. As long as the demand for resource-based commodities remains strong, truly Prince Rupert's well-being is looking more and more secure."

With LNG terminals proposed for Ridley Island, Lelu Island and Grassy Point, Mussallem said 2014 should be a time of planning for what may be coming, but not necessarily a time of increased activity. In that regard, Mussallem said he has asked staff to gather information from project proponents about the number of workers needed for construction and operation and the project time frame, and will be looking to bring the region together to plan for growth.

"We want to take all of that information and look at what it could do to our fire rescue, our policing, our hospital, our recreation facilities ... we have to start looking at the effect it is going to have on all of us. It is incumbent upon all of us, particularly elected official as community leaders, to prepare for what is coming," he said, noting that Prince Rupert would be the service centre for any projects located in Port Edward or Lax Kw'alaams.

"It is the first time in history we would have that conversation and I don't think it is premature to discuss that because some of these projects could be started in the next year ... if you take into consideration everything proposed from Lax Kw'alaams down to Port Edward, we could see construction underway from 2012 right through to 2021, if not further."

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