Notwithstanding the new federal government and the difficulties at Essar Steel Algoma, the bid to establish a world-class, deep-water Port of Algoma is still very much alive.
Port of Algoma Chief Executive Officer Anshumali Dwivedi provided that assurance last night at a meeting of Sault Ste. Marie City Council.
Dwivedi asked for, and received, extensions on the timelines for the first two phases of the local port initiative.
The $3.1-million first phase, originally expected to be completed by the end of last month, may now continue until March 31, 2016.
That part of the project involves 22,000 hours of preliminary work including traffic forecasting, environmental assessment, infrastructure planning, project coping and consultations with First Nations.
"We have been in touch with various entities both at the provincial and federal level," Dwivedi responded.
"We've had calls from funding agencies that look at these kinds of projects from the federal level. They have so far been very encouraging."
"They like the fact that we are are now looking at this as a national asset from a Canadian economic development perspective. We are looking at a much wider footprint for the project. We're looking at attracting a much wider customer base," Dwivedi said.
The port CEO acknowledged what everyone in the Sault already knows - that local businesses are experiencing a "bit of a slowdown."
Port of Algoma Inc. is 99 percent owned by Essar Ports, a subsidiary of Essar Steel Algoma's parent company, Essar Global Fund Ltd.
Ward 1 Councillor Steve Butland commented that it makes even more sense to proceed with the port now that Essar Steel Algoma is experiencing difficulties.
"They are separate entities but the reality is that they are complementary at the same time," Butland said.
But Butland argued that we can't just sit around and wait to see how the difficulties unfold at our troubled local steel mill.
"All the more reason to give it more emphasis than ever before," he said, "Let's get to the table with the new government."
Bombardier Inc., the Quebec-based multinational aerospace and transportation firm, is already lobbying hard for federal assistance, Butland said,
"We need to get to the table, not only with the port, but also Essar Steel," the councillor said.
Jerry Dolcetti, the city's commissioner of engineering and planning, asked councillors to approve the timeline extensions last night.
"The original timelines, although aggressive, were accepted by the consultants and the project management team," Dolcetti said.
"It was understood that every effort was being made to meet the federal election in the fall of 2015. It was not anticipated, though, that the election campaigning period was to be extended one month, this reducing the time period for government to be in session."
(PHOTO: Anshumali Dwivedi speaks at a press conference September 26, 2014 announcing funding for planning and design of the proposed Port of Algoma. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday.)
Earlier SooToday coverage of this story