Local government lobby urges port protect measures

The province's municipalities are urging the government to introduce measures to protect our ports from potential competition in Alaska. The municipalities are concerned mining companies operating in northwestern British Columbia could ship their commodities via a port near Wrangell, Alaska rather than ones located in-province.

The Clark administration and the federal government are spending $250 million on a transmission line to encourage mining development in that region. In addition, according to a resolution endorsed at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual general meeting last week, "many mining and similar projects in Northwestern BC benefit from the taxation and investment policies of British Columbia and Canada."

As a result, the union is calling on the province to "adopt and implement" a "Canada First" policy to ensure bulk cargo and similar goods are shipped through our country's ports rather than the one in Wrangell.

The resolution warns the alternative is an environment where British Columbia communities might be denied "the economic and social benefits of increased economic activity in the northwest corridor."

But, in an interview with Public Eye, Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell was less than enthusiastic about that resolution, hinting it could prompt retaliatory measures from the United States.

"One would presume that if we were not wanting U.S. ports to ship Canadian goods that, conversely, we wouldn't want to ship American goods from our ports," said the minister, before adding that such a situation would be more of a loss than a gain for British Columbia.

"We're actually doing pretty well in terms of shipping U.S. goods out of Canadian ports as well as inbound goods coming to Canada through to the U.S. It's an important business for us and one that we want to maintain - an open border," he explained.

Nevertheless, the United States Federal Maritime Commission is already considering unrelated protection measures that that border.

According to The Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson the commission's chairman Richard Lidinsky is mulling a "major new levy" on cargo entering the United States from Canadian ports.

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