Terrace wants more control over work camps

Camps for construction workers called "shadow communities" by city councillor

TERRACE city council wants more control over the establishment of camps needed to house temporary workers brought in to construct large industrial projects.

While municipalities have jurisdiction over camps within their boundaries through issuing permits that’s not the case for locations outside municipal limits and the council wants to change that.

“Currently work camps can be proposed through several [provincial] ministries, so there is no overarching authority deciding on who gets the temporary permits,” city councillor Bruce Bidgood said at a March 5 council session held to discuss the issue.

Bidgood called the camps “shadow communities,” some of which could hold several thousand people.

Such camps already exist at Kitimat where Rio Tinto Alcan is rebuilding its aluminum smelter and one LNG project there, Kitimat LNG, wants to erect a 600-person facility in the area of the former Eurocan pulp and paper mill this summer.

City council resolved at the special council meeting that “the Union of British Columbia Municipalities request the provincial government establish a referral precess that allows local government and other government agencies to comment on the location of industrial work camps and establish an overarching authority to coordinate work camp development and monitor work camp operations.”

That resolution will now go to the North Central Local Government Association with the expectation it will be passed and then brought to the next general meeting of the Union of BC Municipalities this fall.

During debate March 5, city councillor Stacey Tyers said the Northern Health Authority has had concerns about conditions at some camps.

She said it is council’s hope established standards can be maintained.

Two other resolutions were passed at the March 5 meeting for presentation to the North Central Local Government Association.

One calls for lobbying the provincial government to “address barriers to trade and transportation and impacts to northern communities along Highway 16.”

The other wants the province to increase the amount of affordable housing in the north.

The message delivered by several council members, including Lynne Christiansen, is that road infrastructure needs should be looked at by the government before a crisis situation comes about, as she feel is now the case with housing.