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MLA Doug Donaldson in budget estimates with Minister Todd Stone re: Hazelton Arena

MLA Doug Donaldson in Budget Estimates with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

 

D. Donaldson: I have an infrastructure funding related question around the Heart of the Hazeltons, the Upper Skeena recreation centre project. I’d like to get an update, and the members of the community owners group are interested in an update on a particular component of the funding. I just want to bring the minister up to speed on the latest. The owners committee has commissioned the detailed design of the building, so they’re ready to go to tender. The hope is that the work will begin this fall, in 2016, which means in the 2017 season the communities are still without a recreation centre. Further delay could mean the loss of another year and another season on top, especially when you consider the weather related aspects where construction has to begin at a certain time of the year in order to get certain components of the work done before the cold winter weather sets in. Already in 2015-16, the community didn’t have a facility, but as the minister likely knows, they made the best of it and were able to, through volunteer effort, have an outdoor facility on artificial ice that I skated on, myself. It was a beautiful experience, but not the best experience for trying to have an extended season. To have what the community really wants and needs, it’s not the most ideal. The minister will likely know that Dr. Peter Newbery is leading the fundraising committee. He recently met with your staff, who’ve been very helpful. So $5 million has been raised locally. From what Dr. Newbery tells me, money from gas tax has been applied for and identified, but there’s still a shortfall federally that potentially could be identified from earlier unused Build Canada projects. What I’m told is that the province — members of the minister’s staff — is working on it with the feds. The owners committee appreciates that, but they want to emphasize that time is of the essence. Can the minister advise on how the conversation with the federal government is progressing on that aspect and if he has an idea of when an announcement might be made in regards to this funding?”

Hon. T. Stone: Again, I very much appreciate the member raising this question. I think we’ve talked about it. This is probably the third year, maybe the fourth year, in a row. On the one hand, it disappoints me that we are still talking about it. On the other hand, I really want to assure the member that this is a project that I very much want to see happen. It has been a challenge of moving parts between the very good work, the funds that have been raised locally, the availability of some federal dollars. Obviously, I will ensure that now the province is there as a partner, as well, in some capacity. In terms of where we’re at, part of the complication was the changeover in federal governments. We were making some really good progress and looking creatively at certain options with the previous federal governments, and there was a change in government. That being said, I’ve personally raised this project with the Minister of Infrastructure federally. I have personally spoken about this project to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs federally — her office. At the seniormost staff level, we have profiled this project as a priority for British Columbia. My understanding is that the discussions are going very well. We’re encouraged, very much encouraged, that there will be some gas tax funds allocated to this project. We’re also encouraged that the federal government is seriously considering an additional contribution from one of the handful of components of the Build Canada fund. And then, as I said, the province would very much, I think, be willing to be a part of moving this project forward as well. They say patience is a virtue. I certainly am going to continue to do everything  I can — as the member, I know, is — to once and for all push this project over the finish line with our federal partners so that the work can actually be done, preferably this construction season. We know that’s certainly the stated intention of the new federal government. They want to see projects just like this one move forward, and move forward in the current construction season, and I would certainly share that sentiment. So my efforts will continue to try and make that happen.”

 

Please direct your comments to info@heartofthehazeltons.ca.
Comments are reviewed by the Upper Skeena Recreation Centre Owners Group.