Metro column: Maritime Centre story turns political

Kevin Falcon, B.C.’s Transportation and Infrastructure Minister, will meet with federal counterpart John Baird in Ottawa this week to iron out funding details for a number of stimulus projects slated for British Columbia.

While transportation programs have garnered much of the attention and promised cash to date from senior levels of government, municipalities in Metro Vancouver are putting forth other shovel-ready projects, from housing to hospitals to water treatment facilities.

And then there’s the National Maritime Centre for the Pacific and the Arctic, slated for construction near Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.

The centre promises to be a major cultural attraction, complete with historic artifacts, nautical exhibits, and boat festivals. And it is considered key in revitalizing the historic Lower Lonsdale waterfront area. It also has the potential to become a tourism showpiece for the region.

The provincial government has already committed $9 million to the centre.

During last week’s throne speech, Premier Gordon Campbell pointed to it as an example of the province’s support for a “creative economy.” The centre also represents the future for the Vancouver Maritime Museum, which currently suffers from its residential location and a lack of exhibition space. The museum plans on loaning some of its popular artifacts to the new facility.

All of this should make the National Maritime Centre a sure thing.

But with no funding from Ottawa to date, this ambitious venture runs the risk of sinking faster than the Titanic.

Don Bell, the former MP for North Vancouver and a longtime backer of the project, is sounding the alarm over its omission from the latest federal budget from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It’s not like the centre is short on profile or promotion.

Jennifer Clarke the former Vancouver city councillor and NPA mayoral candidate in 2002 has served as a lobbyist for the centre for the past three years, in her role as project manager with the City of North Vancouver.

Clarke, in an interesting twist, announced last month that she is seeking the B.C. Liberal nomination in North Vancouver Lonsdale.

Fair or not, the funding fate for the maritime centre could change the course of Clarke¹s own political future on the North Shore.

Nautical and political enthusiasts, in the meantime, are keeping watch. And so is one of Clarke’s toughest opponents in her North Van nomination battle: Don Bell.

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Filed under Culture, Heritage, Neighbourhoods, Politics, Tourism, Transportation

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