Federal infrastructure and communities minister Catherine McKenna rises in the House of Commons following Question Period Monday March 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Federal infrastructure and communities minister Catherine McKenna rises in the House of Commons following Question Period Monday March 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Council renews bid for federal money

Response from key minister found ‘shocking’ and ‘weak’

Terrace city council could reach out to a high-powered lobbying company in Ottawa to help set up a meeting with federal infrastructure minister Catherine McKenna.

The possibiity comes after McKenna, in a curt reply, turned down an invitation to visit Terrace to look at the city’s infrastructure problems, a list that includes eroding roads leading up the residential Bench area and the lack of a second vehicle overpass spanning CN’s tracks which run through the middle of town.

“Thank you for your recent email inviting me to visit the City of Terrace to discuss the community’s immediate infrastructure needs,” wrote McKenna on April 19.

“Unfortunately, due to a heavily-committed schedule, I am unable to accept your invitation at this time. Please accept my best wishes.”

Councillor Sean Bujtas, who prompted the invitation to McKenna in the first place, called her reply “shocking” and “weak”.

“It’s not as shocking that she’s not coming. It’s shocking how short and ‘get lost’ to me what she’s really saying,” he said.

He suggested telling McKenna council would happily have a Zoom meeting with her or travel to Ottawa for something in person.

Councillor Lynn Christiansen, who seconded the motion put forward by Bujtas to respond to the minister, called McKenna’s response “totally unacceptable” and that council has no option but to continue its campaign.

Bujtas also suggested the city prepare a visual package to illustrate the city’s infrastructure shortcomings.

Mayor Carol Leclerc suggested bringing in the Earnscliffe Strategy Group, a lobbying and public relations company with offices in Ottawa and five other Canadian cities. Other municipalities have used the company to set up meetings with high-level officials, she said. City staffers will be incorporating that suggestion.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan have also been invited to Terrace but neither has responded yet.

The city’s call for the trio to visit Terrace is framed around the development of LNG Canada’s $40 billion natural gas liquefaction plant under construction in Kitimat and its accompanying pipeline.

Council says the project is putting pressure on Terrace and its infrastructure but that so far there has been no direct financial recognition of that impact.