Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More Podunkian Diversions

On the weekend I found the Globe and Mail caption contest and added it to my Podunkian diversions list on the right hand side of this blog. That got me to thinking about the CBC's Rick Mercer Report. (By the way if you missed the show on Tuesday, check out the blog site and play the Liberal staffer ad and the viagra ad, they both are pretty good)

I've been remiss to not add his Photo Challenge to the Podunkian Diversions section, for those at home with photoshop capabilities, there's much fun to be had. Mercer puts a photo up for the masses to get busy with, the creations are rather hilarious and quite entertaining.

The latest batch about Jack Layton are priceless, the happenin' party, the alien leader and Batman photos were quite well done. Check them and many others out on Mercer's blogsite.

So if you have some time on your hands and rather unmerciful streak inside of you, here's your chance to remake some memories. There will be a link to the photo challenge on the blog in the Podunkian Diversions section of the blog. Enjoy!

Twenty eight days of decisions

February may become one of those pivotal months of historical lore for Podunk. The next twenty eight days will see decisions made, that will impact two projects which could turn the entire economy of the Northwest around with two strokes of a pen. As reported yesterday, the First Nations of the North coast have put off further court action regarding the container port until February 24th, as they await word from the new federal government of Stephen Harper as to their concerns over the project.

As one deadline nears, so does another, making this February one of the most interesting twenty eight days in Prince Rupert in a very long time.

Also to come this month ahead is a decision on the fate of the Watson Island pulp mill, the process of the China Paper Group’s potential purchase of the mill began in the year of the Rooster and as we enter the year of the Dog, decision day is apparently on the horizon. The pulp mill story had faded from the headlines as the Chinese took their paperwork back to China and the container port project became the talking point for Podunk. But once again the mill rises to the top of the news cycle for another shot at fame.

For a bit of background on the situation at the mill, here is the Podunkicized version of the Daily News story from Monday!


Daily News
Monday, January 30, 2006
Story appeared on Page 1

The China Paper Group hit its one year anniversary this weekend for involvement in the potential purchase of the Watson Island pulp mill, but the company still has a month to decide whether it will complete the sale arrangement.

It was during Chinese New Year last year that officials from the company first visited the North Coast to explore the pulp mill operations and while some locals had speculated an announcement could be forthcoming at the same time this year, a decision has yet to be made.

Currently, the China Paper Group is in the first phase of the process – it has taken its decision overseas for discussions with the Chinese government. The most current timeline gives the company until the end of February to make its decision.

The company is currently footing the bill for the facility, paying the ongoing costs of the extension including utility and security costs.

The China Paper Group, through a B. C. subsidiary Sun Wave Forest Products, put in an offer on the Watson Island land in May 2005 after purchasing the mill equipment from Maynard’s Auction.

While the purchase price for the lands in Rupert, new Hazelton and Carnaby as well as the Carnaby Forest Licence is no more than $5 million, a decision to operate the pulp mill will represent close to a $100 million investment on the part of the China Paper Group.

The pulp mill, which had more than $450 million poured into it from the province during its operating years, was set to be sold in a fire sale last year when local politicians were able to start a dialogue with the company about operating the facility.

In 2005, the China Paper Group signed a tax deal with the city of Prince Rupert as well as a labour agreement with the union representing pulp mill workers – the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada Local 4.

The mill formerly employed 300 to 400 people but was shut down following its sale by the province to Northwest B. C. Pulp and Timber in 2002. However, the company was never able to find adequate financing for the start up of the forestry operation.

A job nobody seems to want!

It was only a little over a week ago that Paul Martin thanked his campaign workers and then made plans to go walk in the snow, stating “I will not lead you into the next election”.

And since then, it’s been everyone for a lifeboat, as one high profile Liberal after another takes a pass on rebuilding and rebranding the once natural governing party. The exodus from the favourites list began with John Manley, making far too much money in the private sector, the once Finance Minister chose to sit this one out.

Liberals got excited when Frank McKenna resigned his perch in Washington, this is it many a Liberal said, Frankie’s coming home and it won’t be long til we’re back at 24 Sussex Drive. But, then Frank said public service wasn’t for him at such a high level, he didn't want the cheese, not willing to give the eight to ten year commitment to the Liberals he felt was needed to refloat the mighty ship Grit.

The trifecta was complete today when Brian Tobin announced his intention was to stay away as well, stating that he had his run, Tobin suggested that it was a time for new blood, new ideas and fair bit of healing for his party.

But where will that new blood come from? With the three highest profile Liberals taking a pass, suddenly the Liberal convention looks like it could be a remake of Snow White (Belinda) and the Seven Dwarfs (pick seven Liberals of your choosing, there’s not much between anyone there at the moment).

Names mentioned apparently with straight faces thus far include, the aforementioned Belinda Stronach, plus, Scott Brison, Martin Cauchon, Hedy Fry, Glen Murray, Stephane Dion, Ken Dryden, Maurizio Bevilacqua and Joe Volpe, Carole Taylor, Christy Clark, Michael Ignatieff and former NDPer, Ontario Premier and now apparent Liberal Bob Rae. Now it seems that anyone with a Liberal membership card gets an automatic placing into the gene pool for the next great leader.

Perhaps the Liberals should contract out the process to that new CTV reality show, our next great Prime Minister. In which four former PM’s (Clark, Turner, Mulroney and Campbell) listen to the candidates and then select the one person they figure is going to make the grade as the next great national leader.

And they may be on to something; we can turn the process into a glorified Canadian Idol audition without the warbling. Instead of ballads there will bombast, policy wonks will recite statistics like Celine Dion hitting a high note, stage presence will count large and the ability to master the twenty second television clip will be the key to success.

While it’s good to see everyone has goals and aspirations, none of the B list candidates really resonate with great leadership potential just yet. Perhaps one of them will sparkle as the days march on to the eventual convention, but right now the list of hopefuls reads like a who’s, who of whos?

Stepehen Clarkson, who has chronicled the Liberals over the years put things into perspective with his comments to CTV news. Clarkson -- a University of Toronto political scientist and author of The Big Red Machine, a book about the Liberal Party -- expressed some disappointment with the quality of the remaining candidates. "They're not dredging the bottom of the barrel, but they're not particularly strong, given the party's been so powerful in our recent past," he told CTV. Ouch, that should put a few egos on the shelf for a while.

Suddenly replacing Paul Martin is not going to be as easy as everyone thought. It’s got to be worrisome for the Liberal machine, to realize that anyone with a track record doesn’t seem to want to get anywhere near the train wreck at the moment. Perhaps one of the Big three will reconsider with appropriate draft, but content in private industry they suddenly have come to realize that it’s probably more profitable and lot more private shilling for major corporations than running a country.

Hope Big Paulie hasn’t made any post retirement plans just yet, just when he thought he had broken away, they might be dragging him back in. It may be that the best choice for tomorrow may end up being the one that was made yesterday!

Twenty six days to breathe

The Lawyers have been told to stand down for now, as the North Coast First Nations postpone the beginning of their legal challenge to the Prince Rupert Container port project. With a new government soon to be in place in Ottawa, the First Nations have decided to let the Stephen Harper government get up to speed on the issue; however they won’t be able to take their time.

If there is no resolution to the problem which addresses the concerns of the Allied Tribes, it’s back to the court room on February 24th. Below is the article from the Daily News, once again Podunkicized for our legion of readers.


Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, January 30, 2006
Story appeared on page 1

The Coast Tsimshian have agreed to provide the federal government with some breathing room and officially postponed any further court action in connection with the container port until February 24.

This should permit the new federal government sufficient time to review the issue of the Coast Tsimshian’s exclusive aboriginal rights and title interests, and their fiduciary duty to consult and accommodate based upon the strength of those interests, said Chief Councillor Harold Leighton of the Metlakatla Band Council, Chief Councillor Gary Reece of the Lax Kw’alaams Band and James Bryant, president of the Allied Tsimshian Tribes Association, which represents the nine tribes of the Coast Tsimshian.

“Our rights and title interests are without question within the Prince Rupert harbour, and we now wish to provide the new government an appropriate amount of time to review the situation,” said Harold Leighton, chief councilor of Metlakatla, in a press release.

“Through our tribal system, we solidly support the actions that have been taken to protect our aboriginal rights and title interests, and we will continue to work very closely with the band councils of Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla in these matters,” said Bryant.

Accompanying the press release was a statement of support signed by 30 members of the various tribes, with at least one signature for each tribe.

The nine allied tribes include, Gitlan, Gilutsau, Gitandoah, Gitsiis, Gispaxlo’ots, Gitandoiks, Gitzaxlaal, Gitwillygots and Ginaxangiik.

“The Coast Tsimshian have always been willing to negotiate with the Crown. We hope that the new government will take this issues seriously and recognize their legal duty to accommodate the Coast Tsimshian’s exclusive aboriginal rights and title interests,” said Reece, in announcing the need for breathing room.

Earlier this month, the two band councils announced they had filed an application in court against the federal government for failure to consult and accommodate with them over the development of phase one of the container port.

Western Economic Diversification has put forward and offer with regards to consultation and accommodation, however the federal government’s most recent legal position is that First Nations only have right to consult about .72 hectares of new construction at the end of the dock. Transport Canada also didn’t get involved in the negotiations until late in the game, October 2005.
Last week, the federal government granted the Prince Rupert Port Authority a permit to proceed with construction of the container terminal

Steve Rhodes, manager of strategic initiatives and intergovernmental affairs with Western Economic Diversification, said the government offer addresses issues of employment, employment training and economic development as well as an offer to talk about involving First Nations in the decision making process with the port.

The two bands also filed an application against Western Economic Diversification, the Minister of Environment and the Prince Rupert Port Authority back in October seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision to fund the project, and a more stringent environmental assessment.

A Day Late and More than a Vote short (redux)

Well it was funny the first time, but now you begin to wonder about the get out the vote squad for Mike Scott, or the get out the mail squad at Canada Post.

Today, Tuesday January 31st, 2006 is eight full days after voting day, and yet here again came an urgent appeal from Mike Scott, asking us to Stand Up for Canada!

As was the case last week, we received a voter information postcard from the Conservatives telling us that Michael needs our support. The reverse side of the post card features bundles of ten and twenty dollar bills, which one assumes is meant to remind the voters just how much money the Liberals spent on friends and lobbyists.

Then again perhaps it represents the amount of money that Scott should have spent to make sure that his mail absolutely, positively got there!

Pictures of Podunk: Summit Avenue Park

One of the many lookout areas of the Prince Rupert harbour area, this one is taken from a small park on Summit Avenue, just down the road from the Prince Rupert Harbour. Beyond the totem pole is a terrific view of the downtown area and the harbour!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Litres and Litres in your tank and Billions and Billions in the bank!

There's some serious Black Ink in all of that Black Gold out there. It's the kind of PR that make Oil execs blush and head for the Oil Barons Club, fourth quarter profits for Exxon-Mobil were released Monday and to say it was a very good three months for big oil would be an understatement.

In a quarter that was supposed to have been hit hard by refining problems in Hurricane ravaged Louisiana and supply problems in some of the worlds hotspots things turned out pretty good for the folks at Exxon.

Fourth quarter revenues checked in at 99.66 BILLION dollars up from last years paltry revenues of only 83.37 BILLION dollars. In a year that saw the price at the pump jump to heights not seen since the seventies, Exxon had net revenues of 10.71 BILLION dollars good enough for a profit surge of 27% in the last three months.

The financial results paint the picture of a record year for Exxon Mobil, and has put them on the radar of American legislators. All six large American oil companies have declined to attend US Senate hearings into the increasingly high price at the pump. For the Senators we offer up this site, which should more than explain how the oil industry really works.

However, it's not all profit taking at Big Oil, the industry has re-invested some of that 36 million dollar profit made this year! Exxon took out ads in major American newspapers on Monday to try and explain how it is they made so much money, while the folks paying the price at the pumps had to lose so much!

And one can understand why they can't make it to the Senate right now, that must be one big abacus they're using at the Exxon World Headquarters. Perhaps they are all far too busy punching in those numbers into their adding machines. It takes a lot of time to get all those zeroes into a Billion! Even longer to buy a round for all their pals at the Club later.

The Thinning Blue Line

When Team Canada heads for Italy in February they may find that they're heading further and further down the depth chart for defencemen. Ed Jovanovski one of the anchors of the Canadian Blue line has pulled out of the Olympic games to tend to some immediate surgery on his abdominal area.

While the news for Canada is bad, it's potentially worse for his club team the Vancouver Canucks. It's expected that Jovanovski will be out for at least eight weeks, but some are suggesting he may be done for the season. That being said, Canucks GM Dave Nonis has a bit of breathing room in trying to find a replacement for Jovo, the Canadian team does not.

For Team Canada the list of defencemen is getting smaller and smaller each passing day, Bryan McCabe is expected to return to the Maple Leaf lineup this week, should he find his form quickly he may be promoted from the taxi squad to the regular rotation. But considering his time off due to injury of late, will the Canadian team be getting the same McCabe that was burning up the NHL in the first two months?

Another question mark is Scott Niedermayer from Anaheim who will have to decide this week whether he will head in for knee surgery during the Olympic break or take his wonky knee across the ocean to Italy. It's a tough call for any player, but one has to wonder what is the most important aspect to consider here, the need to play for one's country, to make sure you're ready to help out your club team for the playoffs or indeed to make sure that your personal health concerns are addressed above all.

If Both McCabe and Niedermayer join Jovanovski on the Injury list it could open up the roster to a whole new direction. Scott Hannan, Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf and Dan Boyle are among many of the potential names being bounced around for inclusion to the Canadian Team at Turin.

It will be a tough decision to make for the Team Canada braintrust, losing the quality play of a Jovo, McCabe or Niedermayer won't be easy to deal with. Someone will need to step up and seize an Olympic moment. The next couple of names we hear could be the difference between gold, silver of happy to be there.

The above post first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A picture is worth a thousand words

If you have a little idle time on this Sunday, check out the Globe and Mail and put on your thinking caps. They run a weekly web feature called the Caption Contest, where Canadians take the provided picture and add their own particular wit for a caption.

Some are good, some are bad. Quite a few are rather entertaining. It's all in your taste I guess.

At any rate, for your chance to be witty and gain national fame, click on the link and send off your caption for this weeks picture. If you have lots of time on your hands you can go through their archive of past suggestions!

For future reference I've added the link to my Podunkian Diversions section on the right hand column.

Musical themes that won't be used in a commercial anytime soon!

While browsing the iTunes music store, I discovered this little gem from a band called the Postal Service. The Album is called GIVE UP! Hopefully not an indication of what to expect from your local letter carrier.

However, a further examination of the albums track listing doesn't give one much hope I'm afraid.

Among the offerings from Give Up!

Sleeping in

This place is a prison

The district sleeps alone

Nothing better

One gets the feeling that Canada Post may take a pass if someone offers these guys up as a musical tribute to mail delivery!

Pictures of Podunk: Eagle Bluff at Cow Bay

Located in Cow Bay, this little bit of land was a controversial subject over the spring and summer. With Cow Bay Development starting to take place, many feared the Bluff would be bulldozed and cleared for the trendy shops to come. So far, that's not the case and the numerous tourists can watch for eagles that take up roost in the trees from time to time.

Gung Hey Fat Choy!

Happy New Year, 4703 for those counting at home and if you're a Dog then this is your year, enjoy while it lasts because your next one won't come by again until 2018. The celebrations began today in Beijing where citizens traveled great distances to share the holiday with their families.

This Chinese New Year is one for the Dogs, however in a cruel twist of fate for us canines this will apparently be a year of tribulation for those born under the sign of the Dog.

It's a day filled with family, food and red envelopes.

For those inclined to try and figure out all this destiny stuff, check out the following sites to see what kind of a year it will be for you. Dog or not, it's a new year and a new start..

Find Your Chinese Sign
Find Your Chinese Element

The Year of the Dog Horoscope

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Rainy Day Diversions

A windy, rainy (near sleet at times) kind of day. No better time to attach oneself to the computer than today.

Here's something to help while away the hours, a couple of on line games of an Olympic theme to get you all geared up for Turin in a couple of weeks.

As previously reported on Podunk, the Canadian Olympic Association has a wonderful little curling game on their Olympic website. Start sending those rocks to the button.

Over at NBC there are three sports you can brush up your skills on, you can take to the Bobsleigh run, do a little snowboarding or feel the G force of slalom skiing. These take a little bit of time to load up, but once you have them added you can compete for prizes (I think, didn't actually read the fine print, so perhaps the prizes are limited to our friends below the 49th and in that little patch of land known as Alaska). Even if you don't compete for the bling, bling, it's still a bit of a hoot to send your sled flying down the track. Just stay away from the walls is all the advice I have to offer.

All of the games listed can be found on the right hand side of the blog, under Podunkian diversions. As I discover more things to test out I'll add them there. Stay dry and enjoy!

CFL releases 2006 schedule

The CFL released its 2006 schedule Friday, two games on June 16th featuring the BC Lions and Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes and Edmonton Eskimos, the four teams chosen to kick off the 94th season for Canada's league. The Friday Night Football double header will feature the Eskimos taking part in a Grey Cup rematch with the Alouettes at Molson Stadium, while the Leos and Eskies will do battle at BC Place.

Once again this year Atlantic Canada will see some CFL action, the Als and Renegades will bring pre-season football back to Halifax on Saturday June 3rd, as the CFL continues to test those expansion waters of the Atlantic coast.

As for the regular season, rivalries once again rule the schedule makers computer programs, with key match ups timed to hit the high profile dates on the calendar.

The usual rivalry games are featured once again over Labour Day, the Stamps and Eskies and Ti-Cats and Argos will renew the ages old battle for bragging rights on Labour Day. While the day before, the Riders and Bombers will stoke the prairie fire that has become their annual Labour Day match up. The Renegades and Alouettes will launch the Labour Day weekend festivities with a match up on Friday Night Football.

Lions fans will have five straight Friday night home games to kick off the season, as BC Place is home to Friday Night football until September, as a matter of fact 6 of the Leos 9 home games fall on a Friday night this year.

The twenty week schedule leads up to the 94th Grey Cup celebration, this year at Winnipeg's Canad Inns Stadium on November 19th. For the full schedule, click this link here.

The above item first appeared on my Twelve Men on the Field blog, a much neglected labour of love that I should really keep better updated. Check out the old stories and keep watching for new material soon.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A hands on approach to Health Care?

Perhaps the incoming Prime Minister is taking the health care issue seriously after all; Stephen Harper spent part of Thursday night at the Emergency ward of the Ottawa General Hospital. Harper was apparently suffering from a respiratory inflammation, something that sent the Ottawa media into a tizzy trying to describe the man’s malady. Harpers stay at the General gave the media corps time to let fly with all sorts of possibilities, from asthma attack, to bad chest cold to possible heart problems, the media took the story and ran with it for most of Friday.

The Prime Minister in waiting’s press people did him no favours with conflicting reports over his late night visit. Resulting in a situation that tended to stoke the fire of a story, which probably shouldn’t have been one at all. Now that he’s the big fish in the fish bowl, the media will want to have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Something that his handlers may wish to keep in mind so as not to create problems where no problem need be created.

Of course it’s a thin line this “need to know” versus “personal privacy”. Canadian leaders tend to get much more leeway with their health updates than does the President of the United States or even the Prime Minister of England or Australia. The Americans are quite fixated on the health of their presidents, we’ve learned of cancerous polyp removals, blood pressure readings and the latest Dick Cheney heart scan, all provided by an anxious press who send teams of reporters out there to get to the bottom of things.

In Canada, we’re lucky half the time to know if the Prime Minister has a cold or a cough. One wonders how much information we really do require, is it necessary to be in the loop for every health concern, or should we just be concerned about any major ones. Most Canadians treasure the privacy aspect of our health care, should a Prime Minister expect any less privacy? It may all be a moot point though, as that may be changing if Thursday night is any indication. Even the Conservative leader’s handlers now realize that perhaps they need to be a tad more informative early on, to avoid the kind of silly guessing games that went on all day Friday from Ottawa.

As for Harper, well he did say he wanted to get to work on the waiting time problem in Canadian Health care, one suspects he has a better handle on the issue today than he did two days ago. Though all in all, he probably would prefer to do his fact finding on paper and not first hand!

Pictures of Podunk: North Coast Timber. What once was, is no more.

All that remains of what used to be North Coast Timber. The Prince Rupert Sawmill shut down a number of years ago and was dismantled last year. What remains is a log sort and chipping machine, a couple of sheds and a whole lot of land!

Container Port takes another step forward

More positive developments on the Container terminal front, with Maher Terminals announcing that it has placed the order for the Cranes to lift containers to and from the ships to come. We provide our Podunkicized version of the Daily News story below for your perusal.

Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, January 26, 2006.
Story appeared on page 1

Following the announcement by the port of the first major construction contractor for the container terminal, Maher Terminals has ordered the three cranes that will be used to move containers off ships and onto rail cars.

Yesterday, Maher, the terminal operator, said it will order three new ultra-post-panamax container cranes for the Prince Rupert container terminal from ZPMC of Shanghai, China.

“The Prince Rupert Port Authority’s announcement of the first major construction contractor selection sets the stage for us to proceed with our crane order,” said M. Brian Maher, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Maher Terminals Inc.

“This sends a strong message to the maritime and shipping community that the development of a container terminal in Prince Rupert is continuing to progress.”

The port has now begun the process of turning the bulk shipping facility that used to handle lumber and pulp into a modern container transfer facility. Maher Terminals of Canada Corp. the Canadian operating arm of Maher Terminals, Inc., will manage and operate the container terminal at the Port of Prince Rupert.

Maher Terminal’s crane order will provide the Port of Prince Rupert with some of the world’s largest container cranes. They will stand more than 300 feet high and be able to reach 200 feet out across the dock to lift the 20 foot long containers.

They will be the tallest structures in Prince Rupert standing, two times the height of the Highliner Inn, currently the city’s tallest structure.

These cranes, together with other essential container handling equipment, will arrive and be fully commissioned in Prince Rupert to support the target terminal opening in the third quarter of 2007.

“With a planned opening during the third quarter of 2007 and estimated Phase 1 annual capacity of 500,000 TEUS (standard size containers), this new terminal will be a welcomed relief to ocean carriers and shippers experiencing congestion at existing West Coast ports and seeking further port diversification,” said Maher.

Maher also applauded the collective efforts and support of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, CN Rail, and the federal and provincial governments of Canada and British Columbia, all of whom are key stakeholders in the development of the Port of Prince Rupert as a significant container gateway.

Meanwhile, Hunter Harrison, president and chief executive officer of Canadian National Railway (CN), told investment analysts from North America’s major financial institutions that the last obstacle, the federal government permit, had been removed from the project and construction is now proceeding.

“It may be delayed a quarter, but it will be up and running in 2007,” said Harrison during a conference call Tuesday to discuss the company’s 2005 financial results.

In a press release, Harrison also confirmed CN will start is terminal and rail-infrastructure work this summer.

CN’s rail network will connect the new intermodal terminal with the principal cities of Canada and mid-America.

CN has committed $5 million to track upgrades along the Northwest corridor to allow for the passage of double-stacked container cars as well as $10 million for terminal trackage and $15 million for an intermodal yard.

Meanwhile, Harrison also painted a bright picture for two other terminal operators in Prince Rupert, the grain and coal-handling terminals.

Canadian coal shipments are up 39 per cent and the full impact of the mines that opened in last quarter of 2005 are now being felt, he said.

“There are solid prospects for Canadian coal,” he said.
CN has also seen good levels of export of barley and other grains to Prince Rupert Grain, and the Canadian grain outlook from December showed the largest available stocks in the last ten years.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hide under your blanket! The corporate raiders have arrived!

A company that once opened up the Northwest to exploration and trade will now feature a decidedly southern twang as it tries to re-invent itself in the era of the big box stores.

The Hudson Bay Company, once the Company of Adventurers that defined a nation, and Canada's oldest retailer has been sold off to the highest bidder, an American venture capitalist by the name of Jerry Zucker.

Zucker the 143rd richest man in the United States, has been trying to convince Bay shareholders for a number of months now that his plan to buy the ailing company was the best one and offered the best hope for survival for the Canadian icon.. He first started buying up shares in 2003 and has had the Bay, Zellers and other HBC properties in his sights for a long time now.

His bid at $15.25 a share was accepted by the Board of Directors today, after competing bids by Canadian investors came up far short of the Zucker financial package.

With Zucker the winning suitor, many are waiting for the other shoe to drop for the future of the Bay and its affiliated companies. With little actual experience in the world of retail, there are worries that Zucker merely intends to make the Bay more attractive for a merger with the likes of Sears or Target stores.

In order for that to happen, it’s expected that many of the unprofitable operations under the Bay or Zellers brand may be closed or consolidated Besides the brick and mortar stores of the Bay there are vast tracts of real estate that are held by HBC, Zucker may wish to sell those off, reaping a handy profit from his investment.

Whatever path Zucker will eventually chose one thing is certain. The age old vision of the Bay as a Canadian icon is probably living on borrowed time. It may still stand alone as a symbol of Canada’s birth and the expansion of the nation. But in a world as bottom line as retail sales there’s no more need for romance, it’s the bottom line that tells the tale of success or failure.

Instead the Hudson’s Bay Company may travel down a very different road in the future, making for a path that long ago left behind the remembrances of beaver pelts and Hudson Bay Blankets to the historians and cultural purists.

The retail shopping industry today is a what have you done for me lately kind of world, kind thoughts of age old traditions seemingly have no place anymore in it. Perhaps it’s surprising that the Bay could hang on as long as it has, destined to follow the likes of Woodwards and Eaton’s before it. All dinosaurs of a forgotten age, The Bay was lost in a business plan that didn’t seem to make much sense in today’s retail climate.

In the end the chain’s fate was sealed by its customers, they may have liked the history of the company and its importance to the Canada of yesterday, but when it came time to do the shopping they found that there were many more options available today.

More than a day late and a vote short!

Perhaps this explains the vote gap between Mike Scott and Nathan Cullen, received in my home mailbox today was an advertisement urging me to vote for Mr. Scott on January 23rd.

Uh, today is the 26th, three full days after the voting booths were open for business, two days since they've closed.

It's reassuring to know that Mr. Scott was going to work to limit political donations to 1,000 dollars, prohibit corporate, union and ogranization donations and extend the amount of years before ministers, staffers and senior public servants can lobby government.

Maybe it will come in handy for the next election, for now its a message that never got through in a timely manner.

Not sure who dropped the Canada Post lettermail post card in the mail, but it certainly didn't make it anywhere near on time to be of use to the candidate.

Either it's a rather poor advertisment for Canada Post's delivery schedule, or it's an indication as to the confused state of the Scott campaign. It would be interesting to learn who dropped the mail sack on this one!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Calming the waters in Podunk

The good folks in Podunk are calming down a bit this week, after a weekend of tension and fears for the latest project of renewal for the community. The latest announcement from the Prince Rupert Port Corporation that the Environmental Assessment has been signed off on by the Federal Government and some preliminary construction is set to take place, has taken a bit of the anxiety out of the air in the city.

Though the original hot button issue, the resolution of land issues with First Nations has not been resolved as yet, there seems to be some movement there as well. Hopeful signs, that it too may find a successful conclusion. A situation that gives everyone a bit of time to settle down and hold back on all the rhetoric.

The announcement of potential court action over the project by First Nations, sent everyone into a bit of a tizzy last week. Flame wars on local computer bulletin boards and anxious letter to the editor writers were the rule of the last few days. Some of the comments were constructive, but much of the commentary proved to provide no solutions and only tended to exacerbate the increasingly tense situation.

With a bit of luck, cooler heads will prevail all around and this bump in the path to economic rebirth will quickly smooth out.

The Daily News carried a story in Tuesday's edition outlining the developments of late and the timetable for the initial phase of the project. As we have done since the issue first appeared on the radar, we shall podunkicize the Daily News story for the benefit of those that missed it or don't get the Daily.

Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
January 24, 2006
Pages 1 and 5

The Prince Rupert Port Authority has been granted its Environmental Assessment permit to proceed with construction on the Fairview Container Terminal, allowing the construction to begin and the project to proceed in a timely fashion.

However, the question of First Nations consultation and accommodation remains.

Gary Reece, chief councilor for Lax Kw’alaams, said they expect to hear from the Conservatives, following statements made by John Reynolds, co-chair of the Conservative campaign, on behalf of Stephen Harper during the election.

“They need to take rights and title seriously,” said Reece, “I believe they will, I think we are going to be hearing from them.”

Given the results of the election, Reece indicated they would hold off on the legal action until discussions occur with the new government.

Western Economic Diversification has put forward an offer; however the federal government’s most recent legal position is that the First Nations only have the rights to consult about .72 hectares of new construction at the end of the dock. Transport Canada also didn’t get involved in the negotiations until late in the game, October 2005. Reece said they hope to get back to the negotiating table to discuss their options.

“We’d rather be negotiating than going to court,” he said.

On Friday, in an interview with the Daily News, Reynolds said they would attempt to get back to the negotiating table in an effort to see the project move forward. The project is a high priority for the Conservatives as part of developing a Pacific Gateway to Asia.

Meanwhile, Don Krusel president and CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, said the first part of construction will happen in Vancouver, where steel pilings will be welded together and then barged up the coast. Physical activity at the site should begin in three to four weeks.

“We are pleased to be in a position to proceed and see construction commence on the new terminal,” said Krusel. “This is a significant first step in the construction program. The construction of the container terminal in Prince Rupert is now progressing and the terminal is expected to be operational in the third quarter of 2007.”

A joint venture partnership of Fraser River Pile and Dredge and Western Industrial Contractors has been selected to complete wharf construction, which is the first contract relating to the terminal development.

The marine portion of the Fairview Terminal conversion consists of extending the current dock face out into deep water through the construction of a new berth that will eventually be 400 metres long. This new wharf will extend 20 metres into the channel to a minimum water depth of 17 metres, sufficient to accommodate the next generation of super post-panamax ships. The new wharf upgrades will support the installation of three super post-panamax container cranes. It is expected to cost $110 million, one third of the construction budget.

Western Industrial Contractors of Prince George will carry out the concrete and civil work on the marine portion of the project. The company will construct both the new deck and the structure to carry the new rails for the three large container cranes to be installed at the terminal.

Fraser River Pile and Dredge will complete the pile driving and marine-related work.

CN Rail was also pleased to see the port proceed with construction. The rail company has committed $30 million toward the project.

“This is good news for shippers, who will gain from the terminal a new North American Gateway for goods moving between Asia and the principal markets of Canada and the United States,’ said Hunter Harrison, president and CEO of CN Rail.

The tenders for the civil portion of the project should be awarded by February, followed by the building and electrical contract.

A report, the Prince Rupert/Port Edward Container Port Business Opportunities, found that Phase 1 of the development (expected to be completed in early 2007 with a capacity of 500,000 standard size containers (TEU’s), there will be 1,025 person years of direct and indirect construction jobs. Other employment impacts include jobs at the terminal (150) jobs, jobs at a container port servicing businesses and a variety of indirect jobs (135).

As for government negotiations with First Nations, Steve Rhodes, manager of strategic initiatives and intergovernmental affairs for Western Economic Diversification has made a formal offer to the First Nations that is still on the table.
Although they can’t get into the specifics, it addresses issues of employment, employment training and economic development as well as an offer to talk about involving First Nations in the decision making process with the port.

Pictures of Podunk: Strip Mining at Seal Cove

Not quite as bad as it looks! An operating gravel pit in the heart of the Seal Cove area. The city uses the rock taken from the mountainside here for local road projects and such. None the less, it makes for an interesting site for those flying in from the various villages around the area.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The media and the message!

Voting day is like the Grey Cup or Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s a multi-media driven event, the networks pull out all the stops and bring all the gizmos to make you put down that clicker Yet we sit around watching the tube squinting at the crawler on the bottom of the screen telling you if your candidate has won or lost, clicking from network to network to spot a trend, an insight or if we're lucky a gaffe.

Things started off in an interesting form, the broadcast wasn’t even on the air for ten minutes and the CBC decision desk had announced a Conservative minority government, apparently following the folks at CTV by scant minutes. It’s a good thing that the poll times were brought closer together across the nation, giving us the chance to exercise our right while it still meant something. Why bother counting the vote when Peter has spoken! Ours is truly a first past the post system, first past the electoral post with votes and first past the electronic post with results.

This election, like those in the past had the networks trot out their big stars and prize panels. The CBC had St. Edward of Broadbent to sit back and bask in the glow of the NDP charge. And just to keep his place in book of lore of the NDP, he did not have to watch and see them pass his record haul of seats in decades gone by. The Mother Corp brought in Hugh Segal and John Manley to bookend the panel with the Conservative and Liberal agenda. Peter Mansbridge played ringmaster with a little Rex here, and old flame in Wendy there and inexplicably even Ron McLean and Don Cherry (they really want to get Cherry fired at the CBC don’t they, giving him the chance to really put his foot into it, fortunately for Don his time was short and his words not sharp). The coverage there was good, with lots of reports from the boonies and a fair amount of explanation as to what was going on.

CTV once again counted on Count Floyd Robertson to use those dulcet tones to reassure the nation. They brought together Brian Tobin for the Liberals and tried their darndest to get him to declare himself as a candidate in the soon to come leadership campaign. Joy MacPhail carried the NDP flag, enjoying the ride as socialists more than doubled their seat totals. An annoying guy from the PQ tried to make the best of a rather disappointing situation for the Bloc, however he spoke those famous words that forever identify what the Bloc is all about “If it’s good for Quebec, we’ll take it”, now that’s what consensus is all about bien sur! Campaign co-chair John Reynolds was the Conservative representative on the CTV Panel, he did an admirable job of explaining the Conservative campaign, though you know he had to be mildly disappointed that he wasn’t able to explain what a Conservative majority government was about to provide in the way of governance.

With the benefit of a satellite dish, I was able to surf across the land from coast to coast, stopping in Toronto as Jack Layton and his wife giggled at their good fortune to be able to live in the same city for a couple of years. Over to Quebec where the talking heads discussed the merits of a radio shock jock heading for the halls of parliament. A stop in the Maritimes and the careful ruminations of Bernard Lord, the guy that might have been the next leader had things not gone the Conservatives way. His words were guarded but one can see the wheels turning and the internal clock a ticking. Back to our coast and Victoria’s A channel, which for a small outlet provided some pretty sage advice in the form of Rafe Mair, his comments as usual had a British Columbia bias, but were full of great insight as to the machinations of power and what may lie ahead for Western Canada.

By far the most bizarre bit of television though happened on Global, for some reason Kevin Newman got it into his head that the Liberals may wish to not concede defeat and instead should have approached the NDP to form a coalition government. An idea that just seemed insane to me, I mean I’m sure that it’s hard to give up power, but even the Liberals wouldn’t have seriously considered sending the nation into a constitutional crisis. Imagine the drama of asking the Governor General of the nation, appointed by Martin, to ignore the vote totals and allow him to retain the government. Perhaps it might make a good mini series for Global, but it was never going to fly. Newman should have dismissed the idea within the first ten minutes of bringing it up and gotten back to explaining how a new minority government might work. I tried to stay with Global for a bit, but their weird conspiracy plans sent me away, looking for a bit more solid information and a lot less wild speculation on things that aren’t going to happen.

It was not as dramatic a night as anticipated, the Liberals did not disappear from the electoral scene, the Bloc did not get to declare unilateral independence and the NDP got to dream of some golden years one more time. In the end, there was no real sea change of Canadian opinion, just a cautious nod to the other guy to check things out and see what he can do. It was much the same for the viewers of the coverage; we surf and surf and surf until we find that wave to ride for awhile. I never found that perfect wave on election night, but there were some pretty good rides while I was out there!

Monday, January 23, 2006

A bit of crow with my humble pie!

Hmm, guess Math never was my strongest subject after all.

First off THE LOCAL RACE, which I will fully admit I blew chunks on. It was nowhere near as close as I thought it would be, part of that is due to a solid campaign from Nathan Cullen, who tended to stay focused on the local issues, without the hyperbole of the other competitors.

At over 18,000 votes, Cullen bested Mike Scott by close to 6,000 votes. The imploding Liberal vote instead of splitting as I thought it might went almost entirely to the NDP. The Liberals lost 3237 votes from the last election, the NDP went up 4446! That was the margin of victory and defined the impact that Cullen had in collecting that Liberal dissatisfaction. The Conservatives even lost 176 votes from the last election. That drop is perhaps a bit indicative of some public discomfort with the candidate that they ran and his approach to the race.

The NDP took the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding with 48 % of the vote. Up 11 % from the last election. That is a pretty good endorsement of his work in Ottawa and providing a measure of the respect he has achieved while working in the riding and on its issues. The Skeena-Bulkley Valley voters chose to have a check and a balance, as opposed to a government backbencher. In that decision, the riding was not alone, it’s a theme that was shared with a number of other ridings across the country.

And now on to the How I did as opposed to as I said I would do.
(Slight fluctuations will occur as leads change hands in a few ridings)


CONSERVATIVES 157 Actual Seats won125
LIBERALS 67 Actual Seats won 103
BLOC 58 Actual Seats won 51
NDP 26 Actual Seats won 28
IND 0 Actual Seats won 1
GREEN 0 Actual Seats won 0

The Liberals held the urban areas better than I thought, I had felt that the NDP would give them trouble in the urban areas and they did, but not enough to allow some of the Conservative candidates to come up the middle there. Conservative gains were mainly in the rural areas of Ontario and Quebec for the most part, they took all of Alberta with no surprise and did not do as well as I thought they would in BC.

The Conservative gains in Quebec bode well for a federalist beach head in the province, the Bloc not only lost seats which surprised me greatly, they also lost popular vote. The losers there of course were the Liberals which saw the bulk of their vote bleed over to the Conservatives as the campaign wound down. But even with the loss is a glimmer of hope, they weren't wiped off the map as the Bloc had predicted, so there is room to rebuild . The Bloc will become rather marginalized in the upcoming Parliament which isn’t going to be brought down anytime soon, with the Conservatives making inroads there and the Liberals preparing to rebuild the brand, the days of peeking at that 50% popular vote may be at an end for the Bloc.

The NDP picked up two more seats than I predicted, for the most part though they did very well, no doubt benefiting from the park a vote crowd in the Liberal ranks who chose not to listen to Buzz Hargrove. They took the labour stronghold of Hamilton back from the Liberals, which is a major gain for Layton and a major embarrassment for Hargrove who seemed to cuddle up too close to the Martin campaign. The NDP also scored well in Toronto and Vancouver, two large urban areas that will continue to be a well of support for them in elections to come.

The lone independent (or is he an independiste?) is interesting, Andre Arthur a rather controversial talk show host in Quebec City wrested the seat from all the mainstream Quebec parties. So unlikely was it that he might win, that nobody put together a profile of the guy. Imagine Howard Stern in Congress and think of the wonderful repercussions that may come our way. Could be the first time that CPAC will have to install a seven second delay.

If Stephen Harper wishes to get rid of the CRTC, he’ll have one vote for sure!

As for Harper, it’s probably one of those nights of mixed emotions, he’s achieved the Holy Grail of Canadian politics, but without a mandate for massive change that many in his party probably had wished for. There is an upside to his minority government, he’s probably guaranteed at least two years of uninterrupted governance, the Liberals about to launch a leadership campaign won’t be looking to head back to the polls anytime soon, nor will the NDP with their increased numbers want to tempt fate anytime soon.

The Conservatives have been handed a chance to show that their plans for government won’t be the things of scary Liberal advertisements. A cautious agenda with some strong social legislation, combined with fiscal prudence may just reassure those Canadians who had concerns about giving him the keys to 24 Sussex Drive without any questions. There is political hay for him to make in a minority government situation, while for the Conservatives a majority would have been better, having the chance to prove themselves will be a true test and a chance show that they are the regenerated party that they say they are.

The results are not the worst thing that could have happened to Canada. The people expressed their distaste for the sense of Liberal entitlement of the last dozen years. The proponents of separation in Quebec were dealt a setback, despite the feel good spin they tried to put on things (losing popular vote and seats is not the fast track to independence, no matter how you spin that!) They rewarded the NDP for being the conscience of the nation and they did not succumb to the idea of being fearful of a leader from the right side of the political spectrum.

Harper’s challenge in a minority government will be to provide solid leadership and policies while balancing the intricacies of the minority situation. The Conservatives now have to address just what it is that Canadians want in their government and redesign their party template, otherwise that 155 seat majority will remain elusive for them.

In short, Canadians are taking Harper for a test drive. If things are smooth and there are no flat tires along the way, they just may buy that shiny new car. If not, well there will be a few more models coming on line in a couple of years and one of them will have someone brand new behind the wheel!

Noticing the boomtown!

The word is out, there's oil in that thar tundra!

CBS News Sixty Minutes did a twenty minute report on the oil sands of Fort McMurray and the possible oil supply solution sitting on America's doorstep. With the price of oil increasing daily and turmoil in the Middle East making dependability of supplies there suspect, the prospects of Fort McMurray going into even more frenetic development seems likely.

With the likes of T Boone Pickens, the legendary oil man singing the praises of the Tar Sands one senses that the Americans will be paying a lot more attention to the tracts of land between 54 and 60 degrees. Not to mention lining up for jobs, the report last night painted a picture of a modern day gold rush with thousands of jobs to come and hardly anyone around to fill them. Then there is China which is also starting to develop more than a curious interest in the vast supplies of oil in the tar sands of Alberta.

It's taken a little bit longer than most thought to finally get the worlds attention about the Tar Sands project, but in these tumultuous times in the world, safe, sedate, boring little Canada may become one of the largest players in the world of energy. All of a sudden we're going to be the most popular gal at the dance. Best to take our time as we decide who to dance with.

Pictures of Podunk: Boats at Rushbrook Floats

Some of the boats tied up at the city's Rushbrook Floats marina area. Located on the east side of the city, Rushbrook has a boat launch, showers and in the summer months features a take out food place called Bobs on the Rocks (see previous pics of Podunk).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

If you can mark an X................

The clock is ticking and the embargo is about to begin, as most Canadians know the news gatherers and broadcasters cannot provide political coverage on an election day until the polls have closed across the nation. And while it seems ridiculous in this wired world of ours, the bloggers of the world (or nation at least) are expected to follow suit.

Now frankly I find it rather silly to think that Elections Canada will be monitoring each and every blog in the free world for election details, but hey who am I to argue against full employment. And if they're still looking for monitors, I'm more than available (at a handsome price I might add) to spend the election night surfing the net, I may not actually look for political sites but I'm available anyways.

However, I will abide by the convention that says it's now up to the voter to make his or her declaration in our adventure with democracy, the vote. Podunk will return to the political wars following the vote count, but for now the pencil is in the voters hands.

Regardless of your political affiliation take the time to vote, it may seem sometimes like a waste of time to some, but it is our right and should be used. There are many parts of the world that only wish they had the opportunity for a say, or even a chance to have a say. Right or Left, Right or wrong, one vote, one person can make a difference.

Thinking of spoiling your ballot? Well don't bother,
technically it's illegal, but more importantly they don't record it, so you'll be making a statement that no one will actually ever hear of.

An interesting note on the voting day hours has popped up, it seems
a bogus e mail has been making the rounds advising that we can vote over two days, both Monday and Tuesday, it's not true and there is only one day to vote, Monday, January 23rd. In BC the polls are open from 7am-7pm. Check here for the hours in the rest of the country.

Once the polls have closed you can check out some of these sites for details on how the vote has gone, what the issues are and where the future may lead

Globe and Mail election coverage web portal
CBC News Election website
CTV Election homepage
Canoe's Canada Votes
CPAC's election page
Politics' Watch
Toronto Star's Election Special
Global National's Decision Canada
Tyee's Election Central

And now for the favourite Canadian past time, the prediction page.

You can compare the podunk pundit picks with the
UBC Stock Market the prognostications of nodice.ca or just wait until the votes are counted to either hail podunk or bury it....

Keeping in mind that John Diefenbaker once said that polls were for dogs, we'll compare our Nostradamus act with a trip to the political kitty litter box, after a bit of digging we present our gems for your consideration.

To Review last election the standings were:

NDP 19

Needed for a majority 155

When the dust settles!

Conservatives 157
Liberals 67

Bloc 58
NDP 26

And since I'm feeling pretty brave my picks by the Province

Canada 308 seats in total

Newfoundland and Labrador (7 seats)

Conservatives 4 Liberals 3

Nova Scotia (11 seats)

Conservatives 5 Liberals 4 NDP 2

Prince Edward Island (4 seats)

Liberals 3 Conservatives 1

New Brunswick (10 seats)

Conservatives 5 Liberals 4 NDP 1

Quebec (75)

Bloc Quebecois 58 Conservatives 10 Liberals 7

Ontario (106 seats)

Conservatives 57 Liberals 37 NDP 12

Manitoba (14 seats)

Conservatives 8 NDP 4 Liberals 2

Saskatchewan (14 seats)

Conservatives 13 Liberals 1

Alberta (28 seats)

Conservatives 28

British Columbia (36 seats)

Conservatives 26 NDP 7 Liberals 3

Territories (3 seats)

Liberals 3


Conservatives defeat the NDP in a very close race, the Liberal vote splits towards the Conservatives for the most part.

Make a difference, get out and vote!

The whole world is uh, watching, sort of, maybe.

Canada doesn't normally garner much attention on the world stage when it comes to our domestic politics. And while we're certainly not on the front pages of the worlds major papers, every now and then we somehow sneak into the copy. Giving the rest of the world a small glimpse into our trek through the winter to the polls.

Starting with the neighbours downstairs, where at the Washington Post a story about the anti US attitudes of the Liberals appeared to have drawn a backlash against the governing party. The more strident and alarmist Washington Times paints a picture of a Canada on the brink of chaos (one suspects that they don't think that is a bad thing from an American point of view), titled Canada Crumbling, the Times suggests we are about to enter a period of uncertainty to rattle our national structure. A tad overblown, it reads like something Bill O'Reilly might put together over at Fox News.

The LA Times wonders aloud what's gotten into the kids upstairs as we head to the polls with a few changes on our minds. USA Today gives a fairly accurate account of the campaign for its readers, calming everyone down with the suggestion that change in Canada is not exactly as earth shattering as portrayed by some of its competitors!

Something called the Asian Tribune, takes a more socialist bent blaming the Chretien/Martin crew as having launched an attack on the working class. Calling the Liberals the most right wing government in the country since the depression! Apparently they missed the Diefenbaker and Mulroney years. One can only wonder how they'll deal with a Harper government, should it come to pass!

The Guardian of the UK, which has always had a bit of a leftist bent, plays on the theme of a Harper victory and an eventual separation of Quebec. Suggesting that the far left bent of the Bloc Quebecois will not mesh well with Harper's right wing drift, resulting in a collision of beliefs which will eventually lead to the dissolution of the country, at least that's the view from the Guardian.

The BBC goes for an unusual approach, looking at how the blogsphere covered the campaign, they also feature a number of other items on their site for those wishing to know more about how the old colonies are doing these days.

A Dutch publication Reformatorisch Dagblad, also takes a look at the future of Canada with a change of government on the horizon. Having a professor Dr. A. A. Moens, at Simon Fraser University put together the project for them, the piece is a rather well researched track of the campaign from start to near finish.

And then there are the Aussies given to understatement. The Age.au recounts a story on how the Liberals are painting the Conservatives as putting Canadian rights at risk. But for pure entertainment value in a story there is Canadian PM faces wipeout, which screams at the reader from the byline by the Weekend Australian. A publication that Scott Reid may wish to keep away from his boss.

Ah it's ok world, two more days and you can all go back to sleep and forget about us once again. We'll no doubt return to that sleepy not so little land mass that nobody really thinks about. And you know, that's quite all right with us!

Bono can you hear me!

Prime Minister Paul Martin (who still hasn't found what he's looking for) works on his demo tape, on the off chance he needs to make a career change on Tuesday morning. Be afraid Edge, be very afraid!

(photo from Canadian Press, via Globe and Mail site)

Suddenly they noticed this English guy getting some attention!`

The rumours of a Conservative breakthrough in Quebec, may not be as far fetched as once believed. The Bloc Quebecois has suddenly decided that this Harper guy, might actually gain a foothold in the land of the Bloc and thus have decided to go on the attack. A sure sign that something must be up in the land that once was barren land for anything resembling a Conservative and especially an anglo Conservative at that!

The final weekend of the campaign saw ads appear in rural Quebec newspapers suggesting that a vote for the Conservatives was a vote for an Alberta agenda. Featuring a cowboy hat and warnings of Calgary setting the course for the future of Quebec, the Bloc suggested that voting for the Conservatives was taking the province into the clutches of the blue eyed sheiks of Alberta, allowing them to do as they wish with the dreams and aspirations of the land that the Bloc wishes were a country. Built around the theme of the Kyoto protocol, Duceppe suggested that the Conservatives would bend over backwards to appease Alberta while they ignored the wishes of Quebec.

In an interesting bit of theatre, Gilles Duceppe said that by voting Conservative, Quebecers would be supporting Alberta oil companies over Quebec aluminum smelters. Somehow the subject of transfer payments (Alberta makes them, Quebec collects them) never came up in the demonization of the various Conservative positions, nor the announcement by Harper to address the fiscal imbalances in Confederation, something that has attracted the attention of the francophone mainstream press in Quebec.

With Harper finding his party endorsed by the likes of La Presse newspaper and by Mario Dumont of the Action Democratique, its no wonder Duceppe has taken to borrowing a page from the desperate Liberal campaign to warn of an Alberta apocalypse on the horizon.

At the start of the campaign, the Bloc had stated that they would get over 50% of the vote and most likely make the Liberal party disappear in Quebec. They probably won't achieve the latter and now even the former seems beyond reach, even worse for the seperatist party, a lot of that former Liberal vote may migrate to the Bleus, something not even considered back in November!

Monday night may bring more than a few surprises to Canadian television sets, not many bigger than the story that seems to be developing in Quebec.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Making some political hay in the rainforest

Much as we’d like to think that our local issue is of the utmost importance to the powers that be, we somehow suspect that Paul Martin, Stephen Harper and even Jack Layton probably have more pressing matters this weekend.

However, that didn’t stop the local candidates from making the container port controversy one of the hot button issues in the last days of the campaign. Of course an issue like this, gives each party the opportunity to paint the other as incompetent on the file and not worthy of trust to continue with it. And there was no shortage of such comments made on Thursday.

Below we offer up the Daily News recap of the container port portion of the candidate’s debate, podunkicized for your educational benefit.


Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, January 20, 2006
Story appeared on Pages 1 and 2

Concerns about a lack of consultation by the federal government around the container port has worked its way up the Conservative ladder. While standing next to leader Stephen Harper this morning, Conservative Party campaign co-chair John Reynolds told The Daily News by phone that if First Nations have been insulted by the fact the Liberals didn’t enter the negotiating process until October, the Conservatives will apologize and get back to the negotiating table immediately.

“It’s unfortunate the Liberals because of their arrogance didn’t meet with First Nations as they should have done.” He said, during an interview from Ontario where he’s touring with the Conservative leader.

From his experience as a former B. C. MP, he said First Nations people are usually interested in what’s best for the whole community and the Conservatives will make it a priority to continue an immediate dialogue.

The port was also a hot topic at last night’s election forum, with Conservative candidate Mike Scott promising his party will ensure the container port project doesn’t fall through the cracks.

New Democrat Nathan Cullen pledged to visit Port Simpson today to sit down for discussions about the recent turmoil surrounding the project.

The forum, hosted by the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce, included a panel of community representatives that asked two questions each and, while none of them asked directly about the injunction filed by Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla against the container project, the issue continually reared its head throughout the evening.

“A Conservative government will not let the container port fall through the cracks. We will ensure it gets built and it gets built with speed – whatever has to be done,” said Scott.

“We don’t know what’s occurred behind the scenes with negotiations, so certainly if we form a government this will be our first priority, my personal first priority the day after the election.”

Cullen described the threat of the injunction as “a little bit of a snag” and committed to visiting the community today to see what could be done.

“I will go to Lax Kw’alaams (today), talk to the First Nations there and begin the process of resolving this dispute because I ultimately am an optimist, I believe things are possible.” He said.

Liberal candidate Gordon Stamp-Vincent said now is the time for cooler heads to prevail.

“This is not the time for inflamed or inflated rhetoric,” said Stamp-Vincent. “In a situation such as this, you have an opportunity to see how your future MP would conduct himself and each has a very different style.”

Following the forum, Scott said Cullen’s visit to Lax Kw’alaams was window dressing and an attempt to capitalize on a serious situation.

“I wish Mr. Cullen had started dealing with this back in October when he became aware of the problem.” He said. “This is a serious situation, we can’t afford to misstep.”

“People are saying on hone hand Mr. Cullen suggests he’s responsible for the port and on the other hand, if he was involved with the port, why is he only going to Lax Kw’alaams now,” said Scott.

Meanwhile, Stamp-Vincent questioned Cullen’s involvement in the port project.

“He likes to take credit for the port, when things go well, he’s right there. When they go bad, he needs to take responsibility.”

He added that if Cullen’s up to speed on First Nation’s talks, what talks did he have to get up to speed on with Transport Canada.

“If he’s going to take credit, it’s a two edged sword,” he said.

Stamp-Vincent noted the Liberals actually put forward the funds for the port project as well as brought forward the $500 million Pacific Gateway Initiative.

“: We do need negotiations to get this resolved and we need to get it resolved quickly. It’s always about balance, about keeping the communications line open, about always talking,” Stamp-Vincent said.

Cullen said the Conservatives by saying they will ensure the port will go ahead, are trying to pick a fight with First Nations while what is needed is dialogue. As for concern that a delay might kill the project, Cullen said he would bring the parties together as soon as possible to discuss the problem.

Another critical situation presented to the candidates was the issue of employment and problems with access to employment insurance.

The Green Party’s Phil Brienesse said with the container port development, there’s a chance to use logs currently being exported in a raw state for value-added industries.

“You can’t have a large amount of dignity when you are on EI.”
Rod Taylor, candidate for the Christian Heritage Party (CHP) said his party advocates a massive infrastructure renewal program with interest-free loans from the Bank of Canada for municipalities. Under this program, the province, federal government, First Nations and Crown Corporations could being renewing and developing infrastructure, which in turn would provide jobs and kick start the economy.

Cullen said the EI fund needs to be fixed so hours don’t fluctuate and the $50 billion is used for its original purpose; helping people.

Stamp-Vincent said he would change EI so the Prince Rupert’s rate, which applies to fishermen and shore workers, is not tied to the rates of unemployment across Northern B. C.

“The shore workers are really tied to a totally different type of industry – it’s tied to government management, it’s tied to a resource that is prone to collapse from time to time through either mis-management or because of the cyclical nature of stocks,” he said. Government also needs and enhancement and stabilization process for fishermen, deckhands and shore workers.

Mike Scott said in other parts of the country when disasters occur in the grain industry or cattle industry government responds.

“We step in and we help because the Canadian way. But when it comes to fisheries in British Columbia, shore workers and their communities seem to be forgotten,” he said.

“I will guarantee you I will do what I can to bring some justice and some fairness – to the people of Prince Rupert. This is not a handout. This is help for people who really need it for the collapse of the fishery through no fault of their own.”

Do you have the stones?

A little diversion for visitors to Podunk, check out the curling game from the Canadian Olympic Committee's home page. Take on the computer or dare your friends to cross the hog line and take their shots to the house.

If you really get the fever, you can check out the Canadian Curling Associations website with their learn how to play feature.

All that's missing is the beer in the lounge after the game.

A Burden to heavy to bear!

The Canadian Olympic Committee is having a wee problem at the moment, seems that they can't find anyone willing to carry the flag into the opening cermonies in February. The general excuse thus far has been that those athletes asked have said that they perform shortly after the opening ceremonies and thus want to remain focused on the task at hand and not of the ceremonial sideshow.

There is also the jinx factor involved, superstitious athletes are fearful that carrying the flag will somehow render them a lost cause when it comes time to count the medals. A quaint little opinion, except for the fact that Canada has not exactly been a world power at the Olympics over the years. Featuring flag bearing atletes or not.

It's a bit surprising that no one seems to be inclined to carry the nations flag into the competition, especially as none of the folks wearing Canada's colours, ever seem to have a problem picking up a sponsorship cheque or Sport Canada pay envelope. Not to mention taking advantage of the few endorsement deals that may come their way from time to time.

It used to be that carrying the flag was an honour that most any athlete would gladly take on, selected as the one person that the nation felt embodied the spirit of the competition and our athletes. If we are to take the lead of the slacker generation, we'd be best to change the lines of O Canada from Stand on Guard for thee to Pass the buck for thee.

As with any bureaucracy there is apparently no shortage of paper work involved in picking a flag bearer, which perhaps could account for the shortfall of applicants. Who wants to spend time filling out forms, when there are the sights of Italy awaiting.

Ah but hang on there Canada, there may be some hope from the hog line. Canada's curling team has suggested veteran curler Russ Howard as the guy to carry the load. If nothing else he could ensure that we get our team through the ceremonies quickly, he could yell out Hurry, Hurry as we enter the stadium and if he wants he can hang around some of the events, should we get shut out in the competition he could chant sweep, sweep.

Pictures of Podunk: Butze Rapids view

A view of Butze Rapids taken from the Industrial Park vantage point. Butze features a reversing rapids attraction, a western version of the famous New Brunswick phenomenon. However it's an attraction which is rather hard to get to from the viewpoint. A good hike is needed to get to the shore line, but it's an enjoyable walk in the woods when the weather is fine and the bears and wolves are sleeping!