Friday, June 30, 2006

Provincial government responds to Aquaculture Committee findings of last week.

The Provincial Liberal government won’t be rushing to put in place the preliminary findings of the NDP led-Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, last week the Committee made its controversial recommendation, after heated meetings in Kitkatla and Prince Rupert. Having been admonished for a less than clear and respectful approach to the hearings, the committee chairman, Terrace’s Robin Austin, issued his call for a halt on any approvals of fish farms over the next year.

It’s a position that apparently didn’t find much interest from the Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell. Bell in Thursday’s Daily News is quoted as being “disappointed that the issue has become politicized,” (who would have though that could happen!) this after the committee split along party lines 5-4 in asking for the halt to any further approvals.

Where all of this leaves the status of the committee and the status of fish farming in BC is yet to be determined, however, as it descends into the pit of partisan politics, it’s sure to be a loud and vigorous debate over a most contentious issue.

Full coverage of Bell’s reply to the committee’s request can be found below in the story from Thursday’s Daily News.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Page One

A call to halt any approvals of fish farms over the next year by the NDP led Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture isn’t likely to be answered any time soon by the province.

“I’m really disappointed that they’ve decided to make this political, there’s no need for that,” said Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell.

“This was an opportunity that oppositions would normally cherish to contribute in a meaningful way to the decision making process.

“By calling for a moratorium they’re clearly demonstrating a pre-conceived notion of what the outcome (of their investigation) may be like.”

On Tuesday, June 20 in a 5-4 vote the committee, the NDP members for and the Liberal members against, asked Bell to halt any approvals – there were 12 going through the process when the committee started, one site received approval in April and decisions on two others are expected within a month.

“The potential of this decision is very troubling and raises important questions about how seriously your ministry is taking the work of the Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture,” NDP committee member Shane Simpson, Vancouver, Hastings MLA, wrote in the committee’s demand for a temporary moratorium.

“It is important that every opportunity be afford the Committee to find the proper balance that will allow a successful industry to evolve while ensuring the wild fishery and the marine habitat are protected.

“Approving fish farms in the middle of this process takes away from that potential,”

However, Bell notes that the NDP chair of the committee – Skeena MLA Robin Austin – had ample opportunity to not go forward with the rare opportunity of an opposition-led committee if he didn’t like the parameters they were going to operate under.

“There was an opportunity for MLA Austin (to protest) when we originally agreed to the terms of reference,” said Bell.

“The notion of whether or not the moratorium needed to be in place or not (was discussed) and we said we didn’t think that was necessary.

“That was agreed to and signed off on. There’s a little bit of backtracking here as well in my view,”

Bell requested the committee start being up front on the issue and start working on long-term, solutions rather then the current political posturing.

“Certainly that’s what we’re doing as a government,” he said, “and we hope the committee does that as well.”

Court date for Container Port dispute is set for late August.

The one key issue that is always percolating under the surface locally, is about to jump back to the front pages. The dispute over the Container Port project, between the Coast Tsmishian including Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla Nations and the Federal Government, will go prime time in August.

The Federal Court of Canada will hear arguments on the dispute in late August, as the First Nations put forward their argument that the Federal Government failed to consult the Coast Tsmishian before allowing construction of the Fairview Container Terminal and that they continue to fail in their obligations.

It has been a controversial development from the moment that the First Nations began to make their concerns and plans known to the local community. It continues to be a lightning rod of debate over the project and the latest development should ensure that the dispute and the project stay on the front burner around the community through until the court date in August.

The Daily News had the details on the decision today and the feedback from members of the Coast Tsmishian, including some stark comments about the project, comments that will certainly have people talking over the next two months and perhaps beyond….

The story is provided in podunkicized form below.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Pages One and Three

A date has been set for the federal court to hear arguments over the construction of the Fairview Container Terminal.

In late August, the Federal Court of Canada will hear arguments that the government failed to consult with the Coast Tsimshian before allowing construction of the Fairview Container Terminal and continues to fail in its obligations.

The Coast Tsimshian – including Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla – have been waiting months for a date in their case against the Federal Crown and Transport Canada.

“The federal Crown refused to consult about the aboriginal title held by First Nations on the basis they had already built the previous terminal,” said Greg McDade, of Ratcliff Co., legal counsel for Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla.

The original Fairview Terminal was in the1960’s.

However the Coast Tsimshian not only argue their title was not diminished by the previous construction, but that there is also the issue of where Aboriginal title ends – does it end in the foreshore or go out into the water.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the two bands won a preliminary decision in their second case against Western Economic Diversification and the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

In this case the Coast Tsimshian argue the federal government granted $30 million in funds prior to consultation and accommodation, a violation of prior directives of the Supreme Court of Canada.

But before the case could proceed, the federal government insisted the Coast Tsimshian return a memo they had obtained. The memo was one that was sent out to the federal cabinet prior to the announcement of the $30 million.

In early June, Mr. Justice Barnes dismissed Canada’s motion that argued the information in the document was protected under Cabinet Confidence.

The decision of the Federal Court now clears the way for a full hearing regarding a decision to fund the project.

“We’re pleased that the Courts have now ruled in our favour. Despite our court cases, the federal government and the Port have continued to ignore our rights,” said Garry Reece, chief councilor of Lax Kw’alaams.

“We know this development is important to Prince Rupert, but we will continue to do what we have to do to be recognized and treated fairly.”

“It is time for the government to acknowledge our rights and return to the negotiating table with a new approach,” said Harold Leighton, chief councilor for Metlakatla.

McDade said that although the decision was preliminary, it sets a significant legal precedent regarding cabinet documents.

“The court decided in this case the cabinet document should be produced,” he said.

In this case the federal government is trying to argue the funding decision was tentative and still is, despite the fact “cabinet had a memo in front of them,” he said.

“The port and the Crown have been saying there’s not merit to these court cases but they didn’t succeed in their first battle,” said McDade.

This case is expected to be heard in the fall, after the other case.

Both court cases request injunctions against further port construction until the issues are resolved.

However, they represent what the two bands describe as only the tip of the iceberg in their actions against the terminal.

“With respect to the port development, the nine tribes of Lax Kw’alaams and the Coast Tsimshian are really angry and will do everything they can to stop this port project,” said Wayne Drury, Coast Tsimshian.

“They are not going to be sitting back and waiting for the courts to make a decision.

“There’s absolutely no respect for the rights and title of the Coast Tsimshian – Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla.

“There’s no respect for history, no respect for the present and no respect for the future.”

McDade confirmed there’s a whole year of construction in which they will exercise their rights

”If this thing isn’t worked out in the next six to 12 months, there’s a question of whether the First Nations will even allow this port to operate,” he said.

He added the Coast Tsimshian have a good case to title over the whole harbour.

“It’s irresponsible to proceed with construction without resolving this,” he said.

Northern Health spins a tale of frustration (for them and for us!)

It’s not the most reassuring of scenarios being painted by the folks at Northern Health, as the latest crisis in the health care industry in the Northwest begins to become more commonly told. On Wedensday, Northern Health responded to the story in Tuesday’s paper of the mother shipped to Terrace to deliver her baby, due to local staffing shortages at PRRH .

In a front page story in the Daily News, Northern Health outlined the frustrations they have in filling many positions at the Prince Rupert Hospital, how the hospital is hostage to RCMP, transfers, spousal layoffs and relocations.

The Daily News story paints a hospital in dire need of staff and finding it very hard to attract people to our corner of the Northwest. It will act as a companion piece to a story out of Terrace about the overworked status of the radiology department there due to the departure of Prince Rupert’s radiologist Dr. Hudson. Resulting in a staffing situation, that has made for a heavier load for the Terrace department and left Prince Rupert without its own radiologist. That situation is explained in full detail on the Terrace Standard's website.

It also presented Northern Health’s side of the baby story, where the hospital simply couldn’t get anyone on staff to come in to work over the Seafest weekend, which one can only assume is going to get worse as long weekends and summer vacations begin to play through the summer. Reading of the nightmare scenario of trying to bring in staff over Seafest, you have to wonder if it’s possible that one weekend we may find the entire hospital closed due to a lack of staff unavailable or unwilling to come into work!

Health Care is always a controversial subject in BC, but the situation in Northwest BC seems even more dire than most communities around the province, it makes you wonder what’s going to happen here should the boom in population comes that is anticipated with the Container Port and other projects on the books.

A quick scan of the Northern Health website shows that the staffing situation is not just a Prince Rupert problem, but seems to affect most hospitals across the region.

Seemingly overtaxed at the moment, you have to wonder how they’ll cope should the population double or triple in a very short period of time. If we can’t cope now with our shrunken population, Lord help us if the place expands as we keep getting told it will. It’s something that should be get people thinking about our health care in the Northwest and what we’re going to have to do to make sure we have a proper level of service in the community.

Both articles are provided below for your information gathering purposes.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Wednesday, June 28, 2006.
Pages One and Three

Prince Rupert Regional Hospital is facing a serious staffing crunch after the sudden departure of three maternity nurses, but Northern Health is already going to great lengths to find replacements, says the head of the hospital.

“The biggest concern seems to be that (people think) we’re looking at regionalizing services and that’s absolutely not true,” said Sue Beckermann, Health Services Administrator for Prince Rupert and Queen Charlotte Islands.

“We want to maintain our services here, but with the nursing shortages in Canada, recruitment is really, really tough and the people we’re looking for have special training which makes it even tougher.”

Presently, there is a significant shortage of nurses in Canada and all the provinces are struggling both to retain the nurses they have and train new ones.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise that recruitment of health professionals is really tough, there’s a world wide demand for them,” said Beckermann.

The U. S. has done amazing things for years – they may offer double wages, they may offer completely free tuition to post graduate degrees, they’ll offer free housing.

“In terms of competition, it really is a fierce effort to try and keep our nurses at home.”

Most recently the nurses that have left town have done so as a result of their spouses transferring elsewhere to work. In recognition of the need to attract nurses to the community, NH goes so far as to help spouses try and find jobs locally.

“The challenge for us is that if a spouse finds a career opportunity in another community it does affect the hospital,” she said. “If we have a husband who is in the RCMP and it’s time to transfer , if we have someone who has lost a job or found one in another community, the nurses go with them and that’s really been the case with us in regards to maternity in particular over the last couple of months.”

In the hopes of dealing with that hurdle NH has looked to nurses that do want to stay locally, offering to support them financially if they wish to obtain specialized certifications.

Unfortunately, the skills require those nurses to leave the community – sometimes for as long as a year and a half – to gain the skills.

“That poses a real challenge for us in trying to support our nurses. If they’re young mom’s, or they have a family here or a husband working shifts, going down south for at least three months or longer to gain that experience isn’t practical,” said Beckermann.

“Last year we spoke to all of our nursing staff and offered to support month’s worth of education and acquiring these certifications.

“We have a very small number of people able to take advantage of that whether it’s because of personal circumstances or a desire not to leave the community.”

There are any number of nurses in town who are certified to provide maternity service as well, but most have moved on to other phases of their careers, she said.

“The doctors will talk about all these people in town and point of fact – we’ve talked to every single one of them,” said Beckermann.

“They simply don’t have any interest, they’ve move on in their career … it’s not something that they want to come back too.

“We’ve exhausted that resource in terms of bringing people back.”

With these opportunities seemingly not present, NH has posted jobs on their web site, on Workopolis and in newspapers across the country.

“There’s also a Northwest nurse recruiters looking overseas, particularly in the UK and Ireland where many health professionals are currently being laid off.

“We’re in daily contact with our staffing agencies,” she said.

“To date they haven’t been able to find us anyone beginning in September but they have been providing two (operating room nurses) until July.

“(And) we have used the nurse in Terrace, when she’s not scheduled there she’s scheduled here.”

With respect to Leslie Olsen’s experience – a Port Edward woman who was taken to Terrace to deliver her baby over Seafest weekend – there was simply no available to fill the shift with the three nurses gone.

“We’ve been trying since the previous Monday to try and fill that night shift; it was 12 hours from 7:30 p. m. to 7:30 a. m.,” said Beckermann.

“Normally we always have two RNs on the floor plus a maternity nurse plus two LPN’s. That night we could not get a maternity nurse at all, in fact we couldn’t even get the second nurse.”

“We tried our staffing agency, we tried calling everyone, it was Seafest weekend, there were going away parties for those staff members leaving and people simply didn’t want to come in.”

She explained that the two maternity qualified nurses working the next morning were both asked if they were able to come in that night, but neither were.

The unionized employees can only be asked, not ordered to come in.

My concern then was much more for the safety of the moms and babies,” said Beckermann.

“If someone had come in with an emergency and they were delivering right then we would cope with it, not an ideal situation but we would do it.

“In the afternoon well in advance of Leslie’s expected delivery her GP decided it would be wise to send her along well in advance of her delivery time.”

If people in the community have additional ideas on what NH could be doing to recruit more nurses locally, Beckermann is encouraging them to come forward.

“I’d really like to work with the community to find a solution rather than rubbing up against each other over this,” she said.

The Terrace Standard
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
(on line website)

THE NORTHWEST is short two radiologists, placing medical diagnostic services in the region under pressure, says a Northern Health Authority official.

Dr. Mark Hudson left Prince Rupert just recently as attempts were already being made to find a second radiologist for Terrace because Dr. Ernie Behm, who practises here, is swamped as it is, says Rowena Holoien.

"All this has really put us in a critical situation," she said.

Recruiting is made even more difficult because radiologists are in demand everywhere, Holoien added.

For now, physicians in the region are dealing by sending images to other places for analysis with new imaging and computerized storage technology, but it's not considered a permanent solution.
"The support plan that's been put in place is working. It's like covering a holiday schedule, but there really is nothing like having a radiologist on site," Holoien said.

That's particularly true for urgent cases where a hands-on radiologist is needed.
As well, Dr. Behm does not do nuclear medicine, which is a feature of imaging services at Mills, said Holoien.

The search for radiologists comes just as the Northern Health Authority has ordered a top-of-the-line $1.65 million CT scan machine for Mills Memorial Hospital.

And the shortage follows a new medical manpower plan which also lists recruiting of a second internal medicine specialist for Terrace as a "high priority" while the need for three psychiatrists is listed as "urgent."

Local general practitioners are doing good work initially with visiting psychiatrists treating patients afterward, but permanent ones would be good to have here, says Dr. Geoff Appleton, a Terrace doctor and president-elect of the B.C. Medical Association.

At the moment, one psychiatrist is in Terrace and none is in Prince Rupert or Kitimat. At one time, the northwest had five psychiatrists.

Numbers reached their current level around 2002 after a complete renovation and gutting of the regional psychiatric ward at Mills Memorial was completed.

In addition to radiologists, internal medicine specialists and psychiatrists, the medical manpower report suggests Terrace and area can use more general practitioners, one more opthalmologist, a second ear, nose and throat specialist and an orthopedic surgeon, all by 2010.

Appleton isn't surprised by some of those recommendations, saying that more general practitioners, for instance, would help in spreading out the on-call work at night and on weekends.

He noted that having an orthopedic surgeon is a long standing desire of the local medical community.

There are orthopedic surgeons in Kitimat and in Prince Rupert, but none in Terrace.

"The encouraging thing is that it is now on the list. But when you talk about surgeons you also need to talk about more operating room time and the costs that go along with it," said Appleton.

The Northern Health Authority report states there are 367 physicians of all kinds practising in the north but another 62 are needed to fill current vacancies.

Of those 62 openings, 12 are in psychiatry, making it the specialty with the largest number of vacancies.

By 2010, the authority estimates it will need 454 physicians, an increase of 87 over those practising today.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Do as we say, not as we did!

Those would be red faces that you see around the Conservative Party these days, the Party which claimed government mainly on the backlash of the Sponsorship scandal, has found itself in the middle of its own financial mis-step.

Treasury Board President, John Baird, the point man on the Conservative Governments battle to clean up government, had to inform a Senate committee that his own party may have accepted 1.7 million dollars in unreported donations surrounding its 2005 policy convention. Baird claimed that the Conservative organizers did not understand the financing laws as they existed in 2005.

It would appear tha the Conservative organizers did not read the not so fine print of the Elections Canada Act which stipulate that convention dues constitute a political donation.

It will serve to provide a stellar example of the care that political parties will have to take to ensure they don't violate old rules of political behaviour, let alone any of the new ones that Tories plan on making permanent during their term.

We see a lot of summer reading for political operatives of all parties this summer recess!

Now Playing Centre Field for the New York Rangers!

It worked in Edmonton, so surely it will be a hit on Broadway!

The New York Times has a story in their Thursday edition that there are discussions underway to hold an outdoor hockey game at Yankee Stadium in either December or January of this coming season, matching up those two favourite puck playing sons of Gotham the Rangers and the Islanders.

If the plan goes ahead it will mark only third time that a hockey game has been played at a large outdoor venue, besides the wildly successful Oiler event of a few years ago when over 54,000 hockey fanatics braved a cold Alberta day to watch the Habs and Oilers at Commonwealth Staidum.

College hockey were the pioneers of the big stadia showcase, having once put state rivals Michigan and Michigan State to the ice, er field at Spartan stadium. An event that brought 74,554 fans to the stands and thousands of dollars to the pockets of the two schools. Imagine the possibilities at Yankee Stadium at NHL ticket prices, it could give both the Rangers and Islanders quite a few more dollars in their hot chocolate fund.

The full Times story is reprinted below.

June 29, 2006
N.H.L. Proposal Could Put a Game in Yankee Stadium

The National Hockey League may be ready to take its sport outdoors, with Yankee Stadium among several stadiums being considered to play host to a hockey game during the 2006-7 season.

Rick Cerrone, the Yankees' senior director of media relations, confirmed that the team had been approached by N.H.L. officials about the possibility of a game being held at the stadium. It is believed that the game, which was reported yesterday by Newsday, would match the Rangers and the Islanders in December or January. The 2006-7 N.H.L schedule will be released next month.

According to Frank Brown, the N.H.L. vice president for media relations, similar discussions were under way with officials from a number of outdoor stadiums.

A game at Yankee Stadium could prove beneficial to all parties.

An experiment with outdoor hockey in 2003 in Canada was a rousing success, drawing the largest crowd in N.H.L. history. Despite freezing temperatures, 57,167 fans turned out to watch the Edmonton Oilers face the Montreal Canadiens, the only outdoor game ever played in the N.H.L. It took place at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium, the home of the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos.

The N.H.L. borrowed from college hockey when hatching the idea to match the Canadiens and Oilers outdoors. An Oct. 6, 2001, game between Michigan State and Michigan held at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing had an attendance of 74,554, the largest crowd ever to see a hockey game.

With an N.H.L. game, the Yankees would also bring in revenue during a time of year when their stadium is empty. Since the Giants last played in Yankee Stadium in 1973, the stadium has been almost exclusively used for baseball. In 1976, Ken Norton and Muhammad Ali met in a fight at Yankee Stadium and in 1938 the old Yankee Stadium played host to a fight between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling of Germany. In more recent years, the stadium was the site for a 1990 Billy Joel concert and a 1992 U2 concert.

The rival Boston Red Sox have profited by holding concerts during the baseball season at Fenway Park, including appearances by Jimmy Buffett, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. Red Sox management has also shown interest in opening the stadium for college hockey games.

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

City Council to put fish industry issues under committee study

It’s still one of the key ingredients to the Rupert economy, perhaps not the engine that it once was, but still a major employer of local residents especially in the summer. The Fishing Industry one of the long time anchors of the local scene, will now come under the studious eye of Prince Rupert City Council.

With Councillor Joy Thorkelson making what is described as an impassioned plea, the city will look into the state of the local industry and the erosion of jobs that it has suffered over the last few years.

Council feeling that it was not properly up to speed on the issues and bemoaning the fact that they have no expert on hand to guide them, decided to form a committee to undertake further study on the issue.

The Daily News had a wrap up on Thorkelson’s presentation and the city’s plan of action to come.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday June 27, 2006.
Page One

Prince Rupert council is no longer going to be adrift when it comes to the city’s largest private sector employer.

Following an impassioned plea from Coun. Joy Thorkelson, council agreed to set up a committee to provide them with a series of recommendations on the fishing industry.

“My problem is we are not getting into this.” The industry is the largest private employer in Prince Rupert,” said Thorkelson.

“If we keep losing it in bits and pieces it won’t exist. Soon the mass won’t be here – we will have lot them to Alaska or southern B. C.”

Council has extended an invitation to the Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, and the issues are intricate, but they need to understand them, she said.

And council has dropped the ball in the past.

For example, council will need to understand how the new Integrated Ground Fish Management Plan that was recently adopted is impacting the bottom line of small boat halibut fishermen.

She said the plan requires fishermen to buy quota for any species they catch inadvertently over and above their allowable by-catch. This cost is added on top of the cost of monitoring now borne by small boat fishermen.

“The consequence of that is that most small boat fishermen right now are threatening to sell out,’ she said.

“If we lose that little bit of halibut quota –which in a year like last year is what kept people going over the winter time because they had a halibut quota – if they sell out of that they will be forced to sell out of the commercial salmon industry as well.”

Council agreed they need expert help to keep them up to date on fisheries issues.
“I would be happy to support a committee like that. It’s clear the average council person doesn’t understand enough about the fishing community,” said Coun. Ken Cote.

It’s all in the delivery schedule!

More bad press for the folks at Northern Health as a Rupert woman was forced to go to Terrace to deliver her child. A Nursing shortage at the Rupert on the Seafest weekend, resulted in a Demerol fueled shuttle to Terrace in an ambulance as it became apparent that the delivery time was near.

Her plight and the other complaints over the months and years about services provided (or not) caught the attention of a few of the city councilors at Monday’s Council meeting. Ken Cote and Tony Briglio seemed to be the most vociferous about the issue, their comments and the background on the latest bit of bad PR were presented in the Daily News Tuesday edition, reprinted for your research purposes below.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Page One

Despite their best wishes, Leslie Olsen’s baby boy Callas just wouldn’t be born on Northern Health’s suggested schedule.

“On Friday the 9th I started to go into labour so I phoned down to (Prince Rupert Regional Hospital) to let they know,” said Olsen, who ended up having her baby out-of-town.

“They told us it would be fine as long as I went into labour the 9th or morning of the 10th.

“If I went into labour the evening of the 10th or the morning of the 11th they said I would have to go to Terrace because there’s no maternity nurses on.”

Baby Callas – happy and healthy despite his mother’s ordeal – wasn’t willing to comply, and Olsen ended up shuttled to Terrace in the back of an ambulance on Saturday the 10th to give birth to her child away from friends and family.

“The doctor came in and said ‘sorry we’re going to have to shoot you up full of Demerol and send you to Terrace in the ambulance because we have no nurses’,” she said.

”I ended up in an ambulance for an hour and a half with five minutes apart contractions sucking on an oxygen bottle.”

“It thought it was pretty horrible that I was going through all that and they’re like ‘you’re not going to be given any choice here, you’re going to have to do this.”

Olsen’s boyfriend and two friends were not permitted in the ambulance and made their way to Terrace at their own expense.

The same night a second woman was taken by medevac helicopter from Rupert to give birth in Terrace.

“When she came in her baby was already crowning,” said Olsen.

“Because there were no nurses.. her doctor actually had to come with her.’

While at the hospital Olsen was shocked to learn that while there was no maternity nurse that Saturday night in Prince Rupert, there were two scheduled for Sunday morning.

“It makes you wonder because it was also Seafest weekend on a Saturday, did everyone want to go to Seafest?,” she said. “I have friends that are nurses and I know if you don’t want to work you just don’t answer your phone, right?

”Why isn’t the person at the bottom of the seniority list forced to go to work? This is one of those essential services you’d think.”

She gave birth that Sunday morning in Terrace at 10:10, assisted by a maternity nurse – from Chilliwack.

“The lady there was from a temp company in Chilliwack,” said Olsen.

“They had managed to bring her up and give her an apartment and fill their spot. There was another nurse coming that was going to share her apartment that would also be temping. They’ve managed to find people in Terrace, why can’t they here?”

On Monday, morning Olsen wanted to return to Rupert with a friend but was told they would not re-admit her new born son with her to the hospital if she didn’t go back with him by ambulance.

She now says she’s waiting for insult to be added to injury in the form of a bill from B. C. Ambulance for the ride back.

“Because I had a c-section I had to hang on to my stomach the whole time because it was such a rough bloody ride.” She said.

“A friend of mine’s daughter had an epileptic attack and they billed her $350 for the ambulance ride

“I’m fully expecting to be billed, I’m just waiting for the bill in the mail, but we’ll see what happens.

The issue of Northern Health’s level of service was again front and centre for city councillors last night in light of Olsen’s experience.

“It’s time our city council got involved in terms o what our medical professionals have to tell us … what is and what is not happening.”, said Coun. Tony Briglio.

Coun. Ken Cote said he had an hour and 45 minute meeting with Health Services Administrator Sue Beckermann and there are some explanations for the many difficulties facing local health care.
“There are reasons why there are staff shortages, there are reasons why on a long weekend they have to send people out to Terrace,” he said.

“I would be in favour of extending the invitation to them to have the discussion I had. It will clear the air and give everyone the understanding of what are the pitfalls… of operating hospital.”

Briglio stressed that these are not conversations that can happen in private and that these explanations need to have community oversight as they once did prior to the creation of Northwest Health, the province’s largest health authority.

Ridley to see more shipments of coal

The mines of the Northeast of BC continue to bring good news for the folks at Ridley Terminals.

A British company called Cambrian Mining has released a business alert to its investors that points to more shipping through Ridley Terminals. Cambrian which makes up the majority of the shares of a company called Western Canadian Coal Corporation, has announced that it has secured a steady supply of coal from the Wolverine mine and plans on shipping it through the Port of Prince Rupert.

WCCC first began shipping through Ridley Terminals in January of 2005 and seems quite bullish about the prospects for this current year and the one to come.

WCCC is in the process of signing contracts with major steel mills world wide, in six countries spanning three continents, to sell its coking coal from Wolverine and have also reached an agreement with CN to transport the coal to Prince Rupert.

The current commitments amount to 880,000 tonnes, 70% of the companies planned Wolverine sales for this fiscal year.

Pictures of Podunk: Boardwalk at North Pacific

Tourist season is just under way, but there is still lots of work to be done at the North Paficic Fishing Village. This boardwalk was closed to the public cutting off a number of the buildings to those checking the site out for the first time.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Nonis takes charge and charts the new course

The Dave Nonis era has been anything but quiet in the last week, bringing to an end an unusual lull in the noise that usually comes out of the Canucks camp in a city that lives and dies with everything Canuck. The Vancouver GM has begun to put his stamp on the team, that two years ago seemed a lock for a Stanley Cup and now is being re-tooled and re-built to make another run for the Cup.

There was a too long amount of time between the firing of Marc Crawford and the hiring of his replacement, while Canuck fans waited for a decision the speculation ran rampant, any number of out of work coaches were supposed to be considered for the task at hand, rumours even made the rounds of a return of Pat Quinn to the Canuck family. Which would have made for a nice story as Quinn was perhaps one of the most beloved coaches in Vancouver history, but also carried the baggage of having been the GM and President here before.

To think that Nonis would launch his plan for a Canuck rebirth with as huge a presence as Quinn in attendance just seemed to be a silly prospect. If this was to be Nonis’ team, a clean break from the past was needed, that would mean no return for the big Irishman to the west coast this time around.

After he finally got around to announcing that Alain Vigneault had been named head coach, it’s been one announcement after another at GM Place, with the expectation that there may be a few more before they head to training camp in September.

Things got rolling late last week when Vigneault announced that he would be looking for new assistants for the upcoming season, as Jack McIlhargey and Mike Johnson were let go, a sign that the old gang was moving along, a new direction was being charted.

Then the bomb dropped, Nonis and Mike Keenan worked out a deal that sent Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld off to the Florida sunshine, heading to Vancouver (providing they can hammer out a contract) will be Roberto Luongo considered by many to be one of the top three or four goaltenders in the league and the marquee goaltender that Canuck fans always seem to demand but always find go wanting. Expectations will be high once again in Vancouver as they anxiously await the latest saviour for the nets.

The Bertuzzi deal finally exorcises almost all the ghosts from GM Place, only a few more things need to be cleared up before Vigneault has a free hand to sculpt the on ice project in a direction that Nonis wants it to go.

Dan Cloutier most certainly will be moving along, his salary far too high for back up status and his value in a trade still quite high for a team looking for a transition goaltender (hello there Toronto, Ottawa, goaltender deals in aisle five). Also with Bertuzzi now gone, more than a few people are speculating on the future of Markus Naslund who at the moment has a no trade clause in his contract. As last season wound down it seemed as though Naslund’s interest was waning as well, worn down and frustrated it seemed as though the joy of the game was being drained from his body, with his best friend now gone one wonders what his thoughts may be. He has always suggested that one day he would be finishing out his career back home in Sweden, you wonder if perhaps that day is a lot closer now than it was at the end of April.

There are other hurdles for Nonis to contemplate as he works on the master plan, Jovanovski is on the cusp of free agency and the Sedins and Anson Carter are also in the market for new deals. How he handles all of those issues will set the standard for what will come in September.

He has however announced that he’s not afraid to make the changes that need to be made to make his team better. In an era of stand pat GM’s and teams afraid to rattle a few cages, Nonis has shown that he’s more than ready to shake the trees a bit get his team back on track.

More importantly he's firmly taken charge and thus responsibility for the teams success or failure, something that Canuck fans will find admirable and welcome!

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

Sunday, June 25, 2006

C for Conservative, C for achievement?

The Toronto Star realizing that school is out (as is the House of Commons) took it upon itself to grade the current crop of freshman Conservative Cabinet Ministers (all Conservative Cabinet members are freshman you see!).

And while the Star is traditionally thought upon as a liberally inclined newspaper (aka Liberal), you can’t really quibble too much with their deliberations. Though they seem to find a few too many good things in the Ontario ministers and tend to dismiss some of the ministers from afar, but then again this would not be the first time that the Star has been accused of being Ontario centric!

It must have been a hard job trying to grade this cabinet, considering the cone of silence that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has enclosed his fellow Conservatives in. Most when challenged with a question seem to stammer or look like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck, a few stand their ground and give out a sound byte, many just take the back stairs and disappear.

It seems that those that don’t mind the thrust and parry of the Parliamentary Press Corp fared better than those that hid, go figure!

The Star handed out very few A’s only Ontario’s Jim Flaherty the Finance Minister and Chuck Strahl Agriculture and Wheat Board Minister took top marks this semester. Mom and Dad should buy them a nice present for their good marks this summer.

At the other end of the marking scale we present Michael Fortier, the controversial choice for Minister of Public Works and Government Services, safely hidden away in his Senate office and not accountable in the House of Commons he received a big fat F, they kindly suggest that perhaps a B be given to James Moore who has the unenviable job of filling in for Fortier at the Daily inquisition known as Question period.

D’s were handed out to five ministers with Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor holding the low end there with a D-, this despite this weeks expected orgy of defense spending and the long overdue program of new toys for big boys and girls. Tony Clement’s troubles in the Health Department left him looking for a better semester next term and Jim Prentice got roasted for his handling of Aboriginal affairs, though perhaps the Star could turn their gaze towards Queen’s Park in Toronto over their concerns over the current crisis in Caledonia, that’s one issue that perhaps Prentice is taking the heat on that isn’t particualry deserved

The Cabinet when it comes down to the averaging is very much a C quality crew, thirteen of 27 members were put in the C category. From BC’s David Emerson (his mark is pending review depending on the outcome of the software lumber wars) , through Stockwell Day and Peter McKay they all come out looking pretty average in the Star’s study.

Two students received an I for Incomplete, Carol Skelton at Taxation who has no profile at all at the Cabinet table and the unfortunate Greg Thompson Minister of Veterans Affairs who is dismissed with a two line summation of “Not a high profile ministry, not a high profile minister” ouch, so much for self esteem this semester!

Four made the grade as B students this session, John Baird, Rob Nicholson Vic Toews and the Prime Minister himself, Stephen Harper was graded as a B- for the term. The Star applauding his dedication to the job at hand, his discipline ( we assume personal and not his authoritarian ways with the Cabinet) and his focus on results. While many may not particularly like his agenda he is at least decisive, where as the previous guy in charge tended to dither over every decision that needed to be made. There is something to be said we guess for just setting a course and seeing if you actually get there.

On the whole it is an average grade for an average batch. Not quite the slacker generation, but surely not a bunch of over achievers either.

It would appear that being in power does make one a target, since there hasn’t been much of a report card made up on the Liberal’s, a group currently wandering the nation trying to inject some life and interest into their leadership campaign. Not an easy job when the only headline of note is when the fiddler guy decides he doesn’t want to be leader anymore, big sigh of relief from Liberal bosses there we bet. For the moment the Liberals are spending a lot of time looking to their left and wondering if they'll keep the centre much longer.

Having been given pretty well a free ride this session, it's now a free summer for the Conservative class of 2006, the A students can collect their gold stars, the B’s can enjoy their mark while pledging to study harder for next term.

As for the D’s and the F’s maybe they can consider a bit of summer school, a chance to cram for the next semester and get a better handle on their class load for the next semester.

For the thirteen average pupils, perhaps a summer of occasional study to go with the traditional summer relaxation might come in handy, surely some of those C’s can aspire to be a B- now can’t they? Study harder boys and girls and lift those expectations, it’s the least that you can do for your country!

North Coast fish farming issues gaining attention down south

The controversial debate over fish farms on the North and Central coasts of British Columbia is starting to gain some attention down in the urban jungle.

The Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer devoted his Saturday column to the issue, with a review of the week’s mis-steps by the Fish farm committee that traveled the North coast this past week.

Highlighted by a scolding in Kitkatla and a protest in Prince Rupert, the committee members seemed to spend more of their time apologizing as opposed to listening to testimony.

The local angle was covered by the Daily News and Palmer made use of their resources to expand on the debate and offer up the opinion that the committee is suggesting that no more farms be approved until they complete their work.

The column does a nice job of putting the issue into perspective and is presented below for your consideration.

Fish farming committee runs into stormy waters in first upcoast foray

Vaughn Palmer
Vancouver Sun
Saturday, June 24, 2006

VICTORIA - The New Democrats knew they had invited controversy when they accepted a government invitation to lead a legislature committee on aquaculture.

But I have to think they were not fully prepared for the contentious reception they received this week on taking the committee into northwestern B.C. for the first time.

The first jolt came Monday morning in Kitkatla, a native community 60 kilometres southwest of Prince Rupert.

Committee members had barely settled into their chairs shortly after 10 a.m. when they were greeted by a withering complaint from Clifford White, the local chief.

He blasted "the provincial government and the protocol process that has been almost non-existent in setting up this meeting . . . this was totally disrespectful."

The provincial government, mind. The committee is actually made up of New Democrats as well as B.C. Liberal MLAs, with Opposition, not government having the majority of seats.

But the distinction didn't matter to Chief White, who saw both sides, equally, as interlopers.

"The province comes waltzing in here, steps all over [us] and says that we're basically insignificant," he observed.

"Until you kill us off, until we sell you the land or until we give it to you, this is our territory and we want you to know that very loud and clear."

It fell to New Democrat Robin Austin, the committee chairman, to respond. "A miscommunication," he explained. He thought the chief was fully apprised of the committee's intentions, thought all the protocols surrounding the visit had been respected. "I apologize."

"Apology accepted," returned the chief, who then allowed the committee to proceed.

But the ordeal wasn't over for Austin and his colleagues. The afternoon stop was Prince Rupert, where they were met by another much-exercised native delegation.

This time it was the leaders of several first nations with a variety of complaints. The room was too small. They were not on the list of speakers. The committee had visited Kitkatla but not their communities. They, too, were insulted.

What to do but clear the agenda and invite all two dozen or so native leaders to say their piece? The MLAs spent the next three hours being reminded how the native culture really is an oral one. The committee rounded out the evening by hearing out the scheduled lineup of speakers, making for a very long day.

Austin again handled the apologies for the foul-up in Rupert. Poor advance work by staff in Victoria, according to what he told the Prince Rupert Daily News.

Blaming staff and bad communications. He may have a future in government after all.

Apart from logistics and protocol, the committee also delved into the fundamental divisions over aquaculture on the north coast.

There are currently no fish farms north of Klemtu in the midcoast and many would like to keep it that way.

The first nations leaders who crashed the session in Prince Rupert vowed a "united front" against fish farming. They'd take legal action to protect wild stocks in the Nass and Skeena Rivers.

Not so with Chief White and the other native leaders in Kitkatla. They have signed a contract with the largest fish-farming concern in the world, Pan Fish of Norway.

The first stage of the $75-million undertaking calls for three fish farms, one of them in the vicinity of the mouth of the Skeena.

And the natives who live in Kitkatla -- the Gitkaatla Nation -- are adamant about exercising their rights on their traditional territory.

"We will continue to assert our interests and exercise our nation's aboriginal rights over the three sites," Verne Jackson, one of hereditary leaders, wrote in an open letter published in the Prince Rupert newspaper last week.

"Through this economic development, the Gitkaatla nation will exercise its inherent right of self-government, self-determination and through Pan Fish provide an industry which is viable, sustainable and environmentally sound."

So one group of natives wants the region free of fish farming and another first nation sounds no less determined to introduce them.

Over to you Chairman Austin and members of the committee -- which side are you on?

Their interim report is due in the fall, the final report won't be out until next spring. But they've already provided one indication as to where they might be headed.

One of the New Democrats on the committee, Vancouver MLA Shane Simpson, made a motion this week calling on the government to hold off approving any more fish farms -- a dozen or so are pending -- until the committee completes its work.

The motion passed, with the NDP majority in support, the Liberal minority opposed.

Not binding on anyone, but a pretty strong hint of the committee's leanings vis-a-vis any more fish farming in the province.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Harriet the Tortoises’ passing leads to the best headline in a long time

The Vancouver Sun gets a nod for its creative headline writing with Saturday’s front page declaration that “Harriet the tortoise, 176, reaches the finish line”.

It recounted the life and times of the tortoise described as Darwin’s tortoise. Harriet is thought to have been the oldest living creature in the world at the time of her passing. Harriet spent the last seventeen years of her life taking things rather easy, as an exhibit at Brisbane's Australia Zoo.

Legend has it that the Galapagos turtle was discovered by Charles Darwin and studied by the famed naturalist. It is believed that Harriet may have been one of the study subjects that led to Darwin’s then controversial theories in his paper on the origins of species.

Yes, Harriet could very well have been the catalyst behind the study of evolution.

Talk about a life well lived! No doubt credit for Harriet’s longevity must go to having lived a stress free life and taking life’s challenges in a more leisurely way, some might say slower pace to life

Haida leader to receive award

Guujaaw the current President of the Haida nation is to be honoured with a major award for indigenous leadership. Described as a warrior by Ecotrust, he is to have his thirty years of dedication to the Haida people celebrated at a July gathering in Portland, Oregon

He is to be presented with the 2006 Buffett award for indigenous leadership on July 19th. In its five year history, the Buffett awards have recognized the achievements of twenty five aboriginal leaders for their contribution to their people.

Four other finalists for the award will also be honoured at the celebration in Portland.

The Magic spray explained!

Those that are new to the World Cup experience, must wonder just what the heck is in that spray bottle that the training crew bring out whenever a soccer player takes to writhing along the ground.

The scenario is pretty predictable, the player takes a bump, a kick or a twist to a leg or lands on a wrist or some other part of the body. Player rolls around as though snipers have picked him off from the tallest of the light towers, at which point the crack training crew (and their faithful handservants the stretcher bearers) trot out to the injured player.

Now one of two things happens at this point, either the player is loaded up on the stretcher, strapped in for the rough ride and taken to the sidelines, or the trainers pull out the magic spray, it takes but a few squirts on the damaged body part and before you know the player is up and running again as though nothing had happened.

It has to be the magic spray and now after no doubt taking a blood oath to protect their sources, Slate's website explains the ingredients and methodology to the magic spray phenomenon. It helps to guide the uninitiated into the ways of the Beautiful game and to some of the mysterious potions that keep the game moving.

American Roulette

It was the Fourth of July on the 24th of June, as NHL teams picked 10 Americans in the available thirty spots of the first round of the NHL amateur draft. And if you’re an American hockey player it would seem that playing or growing up in the mid-west is your ticket to the NHL.

It made for a record day for American citizens chosen by the NHL since the amateur draft became the major project that it has become. Leading the pack was the first round choice of the St. Louis Blues, Erik Johnson who may forsake College hockey to stand guard on the Blues blue line.

Speaking of standing on guard, Canada held its own on draft day as 11 Canadians were selected in the first round, the vast majority coming out of the nation’s Junior A leagues. The most prominent of those chosen, was Jordan Staal, brother of Eric and member of Canada’s latest hockey factory family. Staal was chosen by the Pittsburgh Penguins as the second pick overall and becomes the third member of the Staal family to be drafted by an NHL team, he joins brother Eric from Carolina and Marc who was chosen by the New York Rangers in 2005.

The remainder of the first round picks hailed from Austria, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia.

The St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes each had two first round picks to work with, either by way of poor performance last season or via a trade with more successful squads, they managed to put themselves in the position to improve their squads through the age old method of building through the draft.

The first round was broadcast live across Canada on TSN and in the USA on the OLN Network. The Vancouver audience added instant feedback to the trades and selections, either showing their approval with applause or registering dis-belief with either silence or a very audible groan. They weren’t quite sure what to make of Canucks’ GM Dave Nonis’ decision to select Austrian Michael Grabner, who played for Spokane this past season. Of course Canuck fans were still in shock trying to digest the moves from Friday which saw Todd Bertuzzi leave town to make way for the arrival of Roberto Luongo.

The most interesting response on the day though went to the introduction of Brian Burke, the former GM of Vancouver who now runs the show in Anaheim. Burke’s departure from Vancouver was not a well received event among the locals and they took advantage of the first opportunity available to welcome him back to the city that he owned at one time. They stood and gave him a long and sustained amount of applause before he made the first pick for the Ducks. It may very well be the last time that Burke will receive a warm welcome at GM Place, depending on the success of his Ducks in the years to come. With his 19th pick Burke selected a typical Brian Burke kind of player, Mark Mitera, a stay at home defenseman from the University of Michigan.

Just one of ten Americans to lay claim to a first round pick for 2006, a possible sign that the European invasion may have slowed down a bit from previous years and no doubt making Don Cherry one happy hockey fan by late Saturday night.

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

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Karaoke George

A little mindless surfing on the net on a Saturday night turned up the following gem of a video.

It seems that the leader of the free world, Commander in Chief and seeker of the evil doers likes his U2.

Some ingenious video maker has taken the time to put visuals to a bit that first ran on the Opie and Anthony radio show on XM Satellite radio. The finished product was posted to the site and is available for viewing there.

As Dick Clark would have them say, we’ll give it an eight, it’s got a great beat but can we dance to it?

The nickel tour over, the Russian guests head home.

Prince Rupert has finished playing host to a delegation from Vanino, Russia. The group came across the Pacific to learn more about the infrastructure in place in Prince Rupert and what is planned for the future.

From Ridley Island to Fairview Port and points along the way, the four visitors from Vanino discovered just what is making Rupert tick and what is hoped to keep the clock ticking into the future.

They met with officials from Maher Terminals and sat in at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon to learn more about WestPac’s plans for its LNG plant at Ridley Island.

The Daily News captured their final day with city officials and recorded the occasion in Friday’s paper, reproduced below.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, June 23, 2006
Page Two

The city of Prince Rupert has signed an agreement with the Russian delegation from the port city of Vanino that lays out a protocol to develop a future relationship.

“We hope this is a first step. It’s a little one but in a big way,” said Mayor Bogdan Musyanovich of Vanino at a signing ceremony at city hall on Wednesday.

“We hope to establish a relationship in business, culture, sport, in any field ... for the interests of the population of both countries.”

The Vanino delegation, which included the mayor and deputy mayor as well as mayor’s secretary and economic development officer, spent three days earlier this week touring Prince Rupert and the port facilities.

Vanino, a city of 40,000 people which sits on an inlet on the eastern coast of Russia, exports coal, fish and other metals.

They are currently building a new coal-handling facility to meet growing demands in Asian markets.

Like Prince Rupert, the eastern port city also sits on an underutilized rail head leading into Russia and hopes to increase its role as an international port.

Prince Rupert was the only Canadian city on the west coast which the delegation visited.

“T his is a sign of our potential,” said Jim Rushton of the Prince Rupert, Port Edward Economic Development Commission.

“There’s a growing awareness of the North Pacific in the world. It’s really coming into its own.”

The Vanino delegation also attended a chamber of commerce luncheon to hear speakers from WestPac Terminals of Calgary talk about the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas import terminal on Ridley Island.

They also had the opportunity to meet representatives from Maher Terminals, a New Jersey based company that will be the operator of the new Fairview Container Terminal.

“This agreement between the two cities is really a road map for how we can develop a relationship,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

“We really appreciate you taking the first step and coming here.”

Uncle Knowltie isn't happy

The CBC has been taking some heat over a rather bizarre decsion this week to bump its flag ship newscast the National to 11 oclock on selected evenings during the summer. The CBC will be simulcasting the ABC reality show The One: Making of a Music star, which will air on Tuesday nights.

The One will end up bumping the National at 10 pm on those Tuesdays and so while that show goes on, Peter Mansbridge will just have to go, well go back an hour to 11 pm. While its not unusual for the CBC to bump the National around during the hockey playoffs, the Canadianna like quality of hockey gives the CBC a bit of breathing space, but to move the news for an American entertainment show! That's the thing of cultural revolution!

The reaction has not been what the CBC might have hoped for, Canadian culture groups, unions and the NDP have all weighed in calling the decision strange and a sell out of its mandate.

The decision came hot on the heels of a Senate report that suggested that the CBC should get out of the commercial television business completely, abandon all sporting activities and reflect Canada more to Canadians.

Safe to say they probably didn't have The One in mind when they cobbled together their report.

While they suffer the barbs of the public and critics at large, the biggest blast came from within the family, or in this case from a favourite uncle who it seems isn't very happy with the way the kids are running the business these days.

By far the most crushing blow to the managerial egos at the CBC would be the blistering reply issued by Knowlton Nash, a long time fixture at the CBC and one of the nations most respected newsmen. Nash who is suffering from Parkinsons Disease had his wife read his treatise and she held back no punches as she attacked on Nash's behalf the short sighted ways of the CBC.

The most telling remark in his speech was a short line that was like Mothers milk to the audience assembled, reflecting on the sudden desire of the CBC to tap the reality televsion veing, Nash issued the following bit of advice.

"If the CBC really wants reality TV, let people get the reality of what's happening in the world by turning on The National at 10 p.m. every night."

A pretty good line and even better advice for a network that certainly seems to be losing its way in the multi channel universe.

Back to the Future for Bill Belsey

The Daily News covered the latest developments at the former Skeena Cellulose site, as Sun Wave Forest Products the new owners of the land that mill sits on announced a familiar name had joined their team.

Bill Belsey the former North Coast MLA and now a consultant who has been working to bring Sun Wave to the table to buy the mill, has been hired by that same Sun Wave to be their on site representative.

His job will be to transition the day to day issues and any regulatory issues that may crop up while the Chinese based company works on their financial plan to operate the facility which has been shut for five years now.

Much of Belsey's time as the representative for the North Coast was spent trying to get a handle on the state of the Skeena file, which became an ominous black cloud on the local economy and on the fortunes of the Liberal government in the area.

Belsey came by his knowledge of the Skeena situation through local experience, as prior to his time as the North Coast's MLA, he was an engineering and maintenance supervisor at the old Skeena Cellulose and since losing the last provincial election has been fairly prominent in the plans to try to bring the mill back on line.

That goal seems a bit off yet however, as factors such as the Canadian dollar and the prices of pulp on the world market conspire against the profitable operation of the mill at the moment it seems. They are but two things which despite his many skills, are probably beyond the reach and control of Mr. Belsey, who will instead concentrate on the nuts and bolts of the operation.

The Daily brought us up to speed on the developments at Watson Island, with a front page story in Friday's paper which you can check out below.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, June 23, 2006
Page One

The former Skeena Cellulose pulp mill on Watson Island has new owners following last week's purchase by Sun Wave Forest Products, but a familiar face is part of the team helping to guide the mill through the transition phase towards opening.

Bill Belsey of Points North Consulting, a former engineering and maintenance manager at the pulp mill and former MLA, has been hired as the site representative by Sun Wave Forest Products.

"I'm working under contract to transition through the day-to-day issues and regulatory issues," said Belsey.

Sun Wave Forest Products is still working with the Chinese government to secure the necessary funding to repair, rebuild and restart the pulp mill; however they were able to secure the funding to purchase the Watson Island pulp mill lands last week.

Despite not operating since 2001, some of the pulp mill is still in surprisingly good shape, said Belsey, There are parts which are in dire need of replacing, however they were in need of replacement five years ago when the mill shut down.

"The crew that has been out there providing the security and patrolling duties have done an incredible job of monitoring the conditions of the equipment and chemicals on site," he said.

There are 13 people currently employed on the site.

Meanwhile there are things which would help in a successful pulp mill restart. These include a decrease in the Canadian dollar, an increase in pulp prices, finding enough tradesmen, the fibre agreements which are being worked on and of course the millions of dollars necessary for a start up, he said.

However Sun Wave continues working on as many areas as they can and Belsey said it has been amazing to watch the company bring all the necessary people on board, including Coast Tsmishian Resources, the owners of Tree Farm License 1 and other First Nations forestry participants.

"I believe Sun Wave goes into a room without a lot of baggage. They sit down and listen sincerely," said Belsey.

Others have agreed.

"I think it is very exciting. It really hurts to watch how we are living because of a lack of jobs in our community," said Jim Angus, a member of the Gitxsan Forestry Committee.

The Gitxsan, who own 32,000 square kilometers in northwest B. C. have already been talking with Sun Wave about fibre agreements.

"The purchase of the pulp mill by Sun Wave and the reactivating of the pulp mill will filter jobs through our communities."

The pulp mill remains a necessary part of the northwest forest industry because of the decadent timber profile of the region.

"Because of our timber profile, we have a high percentage of pulp logs," said Belsey.

This can go as high as 90 per cent. Without a market for these logs, it makes logging in the northwest expensive and unprofitable.

"Those pulp logs have to be managed," he said. "They can be managed locally or shipped out of the area."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Don't miss the boat

The Queen Charlotte Observer has a cautionary tale for the traveling public that sail the Hecate Strait aboard the Queen of Prince Rupert.

With the Ferry Corporation running the route on a tighter schedule, travelers are urged to make sure they arrive at the Ferry Terminal with plenty of time to spare. Ferry passengers need to confirm their places ninety minutes to two hours before sailing, this apparently will enable the Ferry Corporation to process their passengers and stick to their schedule effectively. Reservations that are not claimed sixty minutes before sailing will be turned over to the stand by traffic waiting for a spot on the vessel.

There are a few other changes regarding the Queen of Prince Rupert and the terminals that service her, you can find them all out by checking out the story below.

Check in early, says BC Ferries
The Queen Charlotte Observer
Friday, June 23, 2006

BC Ferries is reminding Queen of Prince Rupert passengers that it wants them to check in 90 minutes to two hours before sailing time, so that it can process passengers efficiently and stick to scheduled departure times.

The absolute latest time to show up remains 60 minutes before sailing time, as it has been previously. Reservations not claimed 60 minutes before sailing time will be cancelled and the space given to stand-by traffic.

Stand-by passengers and commercial traffic should arrive two hours ahead of the scheduled departure time.

Since the summer schedule started last month, there have been a couple of incidents where passengers were left behind because they didn't show up before the cut-off time, said spokesperson Deborah Marshall.

The company is also advising travelers on the Skidegate-Rupert route to reserve well ahead of time, because of the reduced summer schedule.

"It is strongly recommended reservations be made as far as possible in advance of travel," says a service notice issued this week. "With increasing demand, passenger space this summer may be limited on certain sailings."

Ms Marshall said the Prince Rupert terminal will now be open all night when there is an early morning departure scheduled in order to make the new schedule a little bit easier on customers. The ferry to Skidegate now leaves Rupert at 6 am, meaning a check-in time as early as 4 am for some. Passengers can now stay in the BC Ferries parking lot overnight and use the terminal washroom facilities.

The Skidegate terminal won't be open overnight because the scheduled departure time from the islands is 3:30 pm.

Customers traveling on the Ministry of Health's Travel Assistance Program, or TAP, are also being advised to follow new guidelines. BC Ferries is encouraging these passengers to go to the terminal on non-QPR sailing days to process the pink TAP vouchers. They can drop by the terminal days or weeks before the actual travel date to redeem the pink voucher. To avoid the risk of missing their sailings, customers redeeming pink TAP forms on the day of travel must arrive at the ticket booth at least 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time.

Bertuzzi Florida bound in blockbuster trade!

Many said that Todd Bertuzzi wouldn’t return to his former self on the ice until he was clear of the Western Division, Friday night put Bertuzzi one skate closer to proving that theory right or wrong.

On the night before the 2006 Amateur draft, the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers finished the details on a blockbuster trade that will see Bertuzzi trade uniforms with Roberto Luongo, who now becomes the latest hope for the Canuck’s in goal.

It marks the first big move by new GM Dave Nonis and perhaps signals that changes are in store for the underperforming Canucks. They were a team that many had pegged as potential Stanley Cup champions, but didn’t even make the playoffs in 2005-06.

The power forward who had an inconsistent season for the Canucks will move on to his third NHL team joining Mike Keenan’s Panther circus in Miami. Rejoining the guy that brought him out to Vancouver in the first place, Bertuzzi joined the Canucks during the rule of Keenan in Vancouver, which resulted in all sorts of turmoil. Keenan is a big believer of Bertuzzi, so this may very well be the move that rejuvenates his struggling career.

Also packing up the sun screen for a trip to Florida were Alex Auld and Bryan Allen who both were sent to the Panthers as part of the deal. The Canucks picked up Lukas Krajicek and a sixth round pick in Saturday’s draft.

It brings an end to the Todd Bertuzzi era in Vancouver, at one time perhaps one of the most popular of Canucks, his last season found him the frequent target of the always intense Vancouver media. They of course has been having a field day with the Bertuzzi story since it first broke in Vancouver Friday evening, the Dan Russell show (listen to the program on the audio vault from 9- 12 midnight) spent almost the entire program discussing and dissecting the recently completed deal. Bertuzzi played under the shadow of the Steve Moore incident of a few years ago, he was constantly under the microscope in Vancouver and will more than likely welcome the relative anonymity of hockey life in South Florida.

Luongo’s arrival in Vancouver will send even more dominoes falling one imagines, with Auld already moved, the question remains what will happen to Dan Cloutier. Last year’s starting goaltender until injury forced him to the sidelines, but you have to wonder if he will wish to be a back up and if the Canucks want to pay that much money for a backup with Cloutier’s salary of 2.5 million dollars for next year.

The impression in Vancouver at the end of the season was that changes had to be made, the Canucks began that process with the firing of Marc Crawford and the eventual hiring of Alain Vigneault. Moving Bertuzzi is the first major sign that it won’t be business as usual at GM Place. Now questions will shift to captain Markus Naslund a close personal friend of Bertuzzi’s, will he ask to be traded with his linemate now gone to Florida. Will all these moves free up some salary cap money for Nonis to settle outstanding contract situations with other prominent Canucks up for negotiation at the moment. It certainly sends a message that the past is now the past and it's a new era in Canucks' hockey again.

It will be quite interesting to see how many of those that wore a Canuck’s uniform on the last day of the season, will be pulling that same uniform on at training camp. On the eve of the 2006 draft, the Canucks have so far made the most noise off the ice, Canuck fans are hoping that it all translates into a little noise on the ice in September and preferably late into June 2007.

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

Calls for Action

With the release of the Highway of Tears Report on Wednesday, many of the recommendations have made for points of discussion in the Northwest over the last couple of days.

The Prince George Free press studied the report and stressed the need for education for families across the North, to make sure that everyone is aware of the dangers that are traveling down Highway 16.

The Daily News picked up on the tone of action that the report stressed, with a front page story on Thursday. In addition to recounting the recommendations of the report it also highlighted a theory from the reports author.

It’s an approach that much of the other media didn’t seem to dwell on, so it made for an interesting change of pace from the recitation of the thirty some recommendations that were made.

The author of the report Don Sabo, was quoted in the Daily News as having studied the issue thoroughly and determining that there is a hunting pattern in place with the disappearances, which increase in the traditional hitchhiking season and in the cold winter months the predator or predators appear to move into the cities.

It’s a disturbing image but one that is probably not too far off the mark, someone is out on Highway 16 planning the next move, it’s the purpose of the report to try and take away the targets as best they can. The Daily also featured commentary from the local MLA Gary Coons who urged all levels of government to commit to the report.

You can read it in full detail below.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Page One

Offering a free shuttle bus for young female hitchhikers between Prince Rupert and Prince George is just one way to help stop the murders and disappearances along the Highway of Tears says a report released yesterday.

The report, a product of the discussions at the Highway of Tears symposium held in Prince George in March, was prepared by Don Sabo, a First Nations consultant, who wrote it after working with the RCMP and victims families.

“Out of 33 recommendations, 15 of the 33 address victim prevention,” said Sabo.

“The reason is quite clearly the victims’ families and communities want these disappearances and murders to stop. It’s not just up to the RCMP. There’s a lot communities can do.”

During a 35 year period, more than 30 women, mainly young and aboriginal have disappeared on the 724 km stretch of highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

The RCMP are officially investigating, however, all the cases remain unsolved.

The most significant factor linking these women, aboriginal and non-aboriginal is poverty, said Sabo. They had no other way to travel.

“Implementing a free shuttle would significantly reduce the need for young women to hitchhike said Sabo.

The report also recommends setting up a network of eyes and ears along the highway - including RCMP, public servants and highway residents – to record women who are hitchhiking and encourage them to use the shuttle.

“The RCMP does patrol the highway and they do a fairly good job. These patrols can no longer just drive past these women,” said Sabo.

“The reason why is because there is a predator out there hunting women. It would be irresponsible because the predator could be 25 minutes behind.”

Sabo said he envisions every resident within visibility of the highway would be given a 1-800 crisis number and asked to report lone female hitchhikers as well as note the description of any vehicle that picked them up.

“It’s about detecting and protecting,” he said.

After examining the many disappearances and murders, Sabo said there is a clear pattern.

The disappearances happen in the hitchhiking season and in the winter when its cold and no one hitchhikes, the predator(s) move into the city.

”I’ve researched this issue thoroughly and I can see the hunting pattern.” He said.

“Every year it’s one more. It’s a cumulative effect. This is a shared concern for all communities between Prince Rupert and Prince George.”

In order to implement the recommendations, Sabo suggests the six organizations that held the forum and commissioned the report establish a formal board. It is also suggested that each community along the highway establish a local board – including municipal, RCMP, urban aboriginal and rural aboriginal representatives – to implement recommendations locally.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons said federal, provincial and municipal governments all need to commit to the recommendations.

The report also calls for additional resources to be made available, such as safe houses and educational campaigns in communities struggling with issues of poverty.

“What we’ve seen from the report and what we have known for decades is the cause is poverty,” said Coons. “There’s a lack of resources and services in First Nations communities that cause young women to resort to hitchhiking for many reasons.”

He added that there needs to be more focus on solving the disappearances and murders in the north.

“This has to stop,” he said.

If we build it, they will come!

The selling of the concept and merits of an LNG Terminal for Prince Rupert has begun, as the President of WestPac LNG, Mark Butler gave a presentation to the Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce this week.

Mindful that a project such as this tends to find a lot of detractors (hence why there are not very many terminals dotting the shorelines of North America), Butler accentuated the positives as they say, as he pointed to potential economic development once the project is up and running.

Suggesting that the current pipeline from Terrace reduces our chances for large scale economic development, it was the prospect of economic potential with a terminal on our shores that was highlighted in his presentation. The impression made was that with the terminal in place we could more than pick up the pace of development for the North Coast

The Daily covered the speech and provided details in its Thursday edition, including a piece from the Canwest news service about the growing potential for importing natural gas into the county. Both are provided for your research purposes below.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Pages One and Three

WestPac Terminals hopes that building a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) receiving terminal in the industrial area on Ridley Island will act as a catalyst for other types of industrial development on the North Coast.

A secure gas supply for industry is a benefit that will come from the proposed $350 million development, Mark Butler, president of WestPac LNG, said at the Chamber of Commerce yesterday.

“You are currently constrained because of the size of the gas pipeline (from Terrace) but you will be able to attract other industries because of a stable supply,” said Butler.

WestPac is proposing to build an LNG receiving terminal on a 250 acre parcel of land on Ridley Terminals and are working with the Port of Prince Rupert on the first stages of an environmental assessment. They hope to employ 30 people when the terminal begins operations in 2011.

Butler explained that North America currently uses more natural gas than it produces and that situation is likely to get worse.

“LNG importation will help us to fill this gap,” he said.

The terminal hopes to receive LNG from Malaysia, the Middle East, the Falklands and Australia and then sell it into the North American market.

While there are more than 50 terminals proposed for the coasts of North America, many of those proposed for the West Coast of the United States are facing opposition because they are proposed for highly populated areas or will require the use of offshore platforms.

”Appropriate sitting of these terminals has proven to be a problem,” said Butler.

It will take 15 to 16 terminals to meet the needs of North America in the future and the WestPac proposal has a higher chance of success because of its chose location on Ridley Island, he said. He said the site is an industrial where the company has been able to secure a large footprint for the storage tanks and a tanker berth.

In addition, there is room for other forms of industrial development on Ridley Island and a ready, secure supply of gas will be attractive to developers, he pointed out.

“Ridley puts us close to a point that is looking for other industry,” he said.

He added WestPac would love nothing more than to see a co-generation plant – using natural gas to produce electricity – develop on Ridley Island.

Another benefit offered by the proposed site on Ridley Island is that it is closer to the gas production areas than other parts of North America.

“The distance turns into money for shippers,” he said.

It is unlikely, the terminal will mean any significant decrease for residential customers in the Northwest he cautioned, because imported gas sold into the North American market place is subject to the North American price.

Pacific Northern Gas, which supplies gas to homes in the area, buys its gas and sells it to the consumer at the market coast. It makes its profits on the delivery charge.

So while adding more gas supply into the market through the development of 15 or 16 terminals around North America could lower the overall market cost, it is unlikely that a price reduction would be attributed to a single terminal.

**(For more on the North American Natural Gas market, see Page Seven)**

LNG is natural gas that has been chilled to 250 degree Fahrenheit. At that temperature it condenses to a colourless odourless liquid, like water. It holds in that state without pressure as long as it stays cold.

It was developed by a butcher in Chicago in the early 1940’s. The butcher was looking for a cheaper way to chill meat.

Over the last 60 years some 33,000 shipments have been moved around the globe and at no time has there been a shipping facility said Butler.

“It is a way to store a tremendous amount of energy in a concentrated form.”

The WestPac operation is proposing a tanker shipment every 10 days.

Each ship would be about the length of a cruise ship and would carry 150,000 cubic metres of LNG, or enough gas to supply the needs of Prince Rupert for 330 days.

** Story referenced in Daily News article from page seven

Growing demand points to natural gas imports

Scott Simpson
CanWest News Service; Vancouver Sun
Thursday, June 22, 2006

VANCOUVER - North America's expanding appetite for natural gas will soon force utilities to take the unprecedented step of importing gas from other continents, according to an association that monitors energy issues in the Pacific Northwest.

The present gas supply situation is ``so fragile'' according to Northwest Gas Association executive director Dan Kirschner, that a heat wave last week in the northeastern U.S. pushed up the spot price of gas 20 per cent in a single day as utilities boosted electricity production to meet a surge in demand for air conditioning.

Kirschner said in an interview this week that adding new sources of supply including liquefied natural gas, or LNG, will help dampen price volatility for consumers.

U.S. gas market analysts have previously warned that by 2010, imports of LNG will be necessary to maintaining stable prices for North American gas consumers whose demand for gas is expected to grow 30 per cent by 2025.

Traditional high-volume producers such as Alberta are already experiencing declines in the amount of gas flowing from their aging conventional gas fields.

Substitute fuels such as coalbed methane are increasingly replacing conventional gas.
But the association says in a recent White Paper that imported LNG must also be in the mix because the Northwest is increasingly drawn into a continent-wide gas market.

New continent-spanning pipeline proposals pulling gas to the eastern side of North America will expose consumers in B.C., Washington, Oregon and Idaho to higher prices and market pressures that are already in play in more populous eastern U.S. states and Eastern Canada.

``The North American appetite for (gas) is growing more quickly than our ability to produce it'' the association said. ``New production capability across North America is struggling to keep pace with growing continental demand.''

There is some urgency attached to the situation.

The association said it takes ``years'' to develop new gas supply and delivery facilities and ``efforts to cultivate new non-conventional sources have encountered hurdles and time delays.''
The Northwest Gas Association is an alliance of gas utilities including B.C.'s Terasen Gas.

LNG landing terminals have been proposed at about 30 locations around North America including projects in Kitimat and Prince Rupert, B.C. where liquefied gas coming from Russia, Asia and the Middle East would be converted back into a gas and dispatched around North America via an expanding continental pipeline network.

Vancouver Sun