Cullen releases summary of priorities for northwest

MP says these priorities will guide his advocacy for federal funding.

Repaving the Eighth Avenue/Centre Street corridor in Burns Lake and replacing Fifth Avenue’s water tower are among the priorities for the northwest listed in Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen’s latest report.

Beginning in January 2016, Cullen toured across the riding and held town halls in 10 communities from Queen Charlotte to Fort St. James. Cullen also held an online consultation for citizens unable to attend a town hall in person.

The summary report of Cullen’s tour highlights infrastructure priorities for the northwest for the coming years.

“As the federal government implements its first budget, it is important that residents, business leaders, and elected decision-makers speak with one strong voice on their shared priorities,” said Cullen.

The new Liberal government in Ottawa promised to spur economic growth and renew community infrastructure with massive investment pledges in its 2015 election platform. Cullen says the tour and the report will guide his advocacy with relevant ministers in Ottawa over the coming months and years.

The report notes that Burns Lake spends between $40,000 and $200,000 annually on roadwork and that repaving the Eighth Avenue/Centre Street corridor is a top priority. The report also says that Southside to Burns is a priority route.

Replacing aging infrastructure across the northwest such as Burns Lake’s water tower was another priority listed.

“Aging infrastructure across the northwest means hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades are required to serve existing residents, and even more is needed in additional investments to expand services to accommodate more people moving into our communities,” says Cullen.

According to the report, affordable housing is top of mind for many in the northwest. Throughout his tour, Cullen said he heard about the need for more affordable rental units and seniors’ housing stock, and for homeless shelters, assisted living, and graduated care for the disabled and elderly.

Communities also stressed the urgent need for an affordable and accessible transit system to link Hwy. 16 communities between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

In addition, communities asked for better internet connectivity in the region.

“For many communities, there is only one provider and some areas have very limited range or service quality; some areas have no service at all,” says the report.

Several communities also pointed out that the new $55-million hospital and health centre that opened last year in Burns Lake has helped alleviate the health needs in the Lakes District, and noted their own needs for significant health infrastructure improvements.