Economic conference picks more electricity as a top priority

Pat Bell, minister of jobs, tourism and innovation, was “the rock star of the whole thing,” according to Clearwater councilor Jon Kreke

  • Jan. 23, 2012 7:00 a.m.

A regional economic development conference held the weekend before last in Valemount came up with three priorities, according to District of Clearwater councilor Jon Kreke.

Reporting to town council last Tuesday, Kreke said the first priority identified was more and better electrical power for the Barriere to McBride corridor.

Mike Frazier, the mayor of McBride, was particularly active in pushing for BC Hydro to increase the amount of electrical power available in the North Thompson and Robson valleys. He also wanted to see the utility company add an alternate route so the two valleys are not reliant on just one power-line.

Electricity in McBride is so unreliable that there is a standby generator located permanently in the community. The situation in Valemount is not so bad but still many residences and businesses there have their own backup power.

Frazier described the lack of adequate and consistent electricity as the “white elephant” in the room.

“It was nice to hear that voice. It’s not just us,” Kreke said.

The second priority identified was fiber supply. Several of the approximately 100 people invited to the conference represented companies interested in alternative uses of wood such as fuel pellets or biotechnology. They have the markets and the products, and would like to invest in this region, but can’t get access to wood fiber because it is all tied up with the major forest companies.

Priority number three would be destination tourism. Mike Wiegele has ambitious plans for Blue River plus there is a proposal to develop year-round glacier skiing near Valemount.

The Valemount proposal would be a $900 million project, said Mayor John Harwood who, along with Kreke and chief administrative officer Leslie Groulx, represented Clearwater at the conference.

Also at the meeting were M.P. Cathy McLeod, Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake, Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, mayors and council members from the different municipalities in the corridor, regional district representatives, and leaders from various First Nation bands.

Pat Bell, minister of jobs, tourism and innovation, chaired the meeting and was “the rock star of the whole thing,” according to Kreke.

The local council member said he sat at a table with Yellowhead Mining CEO Ian Smith, Imperial Metals project manager Jim Miller-Tait, and Simpcw First Nations administrator Doug Brown.

“It was a really interesting table,” said Kreke.

The Barriere to McBride corridor is one of three regions identified by the province for immediate economic development initiatives.

Over 100 people recently participated in a parallel conference for the North Fraser communities of Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission. A forum for Campbell River will be held Jan. 30. A decision on a fourth region, a First Nation, will be announced shortly.