Monday, July 31, 2006

Playing Catch up with the July News (July 27)

We try to pick and choose the big stories of our sabbatical, to archive for future generations of Podunkians.

The July 27th recap

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Pages One and Seven

Three men accused of illegally harvesting more than 11,000 Northern abalone will have a month to prepare their defence.

Prince Rupert’s Michael (Stanley) McNeill along with Skidegate’s Daniel McNeill and Randall Graff appeared in Prince Rupert Provincial Court Monday on charges that carry fines of up to $500,000 and five years in prison if convicted in what Fisheries calls the largest seizure of Northern abalone in B. C.’s history.

“The operation was the result of a three-year investigation which stemmed mainly from public complaints,” said Trevor Gray, fisher officer, of the February arrests. “Fisheries Officers believe that the three accused are part of a larger group of abalone poachers and are continuing their investigation.”

All three are being charged with violating Section 63 of the Pacific Fishery Regulations (fish for abalone during a closure). Section 33 of the Fisheries Act (illegal possession of fish) and with Section 32 (2) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) (possession of a threatened species).

Abalone were closed to commercial, sport and First Nations fishing in 1990 due to low stocks. In 1999 it was listed as threatened under SARA.

“What that basically means is that the species is likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed – i. e. poaching,” said Gray.

For four continuous days in February, Federal Fisheries Officers from Prince Rupert set up a surveillance operation in Port Edward.

Their targets were these three individuals on board a vessel who were believed to be out harvesting abalone on the weekend. The operation lasted four days and included two Canadian Coast Guard vessels and additional Fishery Officers from Terrace, Hazelton and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

“The officers waited in the bushes around the clock waiting for the vessel to steam into Port Edward,” said Gray. “During the early hours of Monday, February 20, their patience paid off.

“Fishery Officers stopped the suspects after they had loaded up the illegal abalone into a truck and were leaving town under the cover of darkness in the early morning hours.”

The suspects were arrested and taken to the Prince Rupert RCMP station. A 1993 Ford F150 truck and the Zomby Woof, a 35 foot aluminum super punt, were seized along with nearly 2,500 pounds of abalone. Officers then spent the following two days returning the mollusks to the ocean.

“This was a very time consuming job,” he said, because abalone have to be placed in specific rocky areas to increase their chance of survival.”

Fisheries believes the abalone, which can fetch $30-40 still in the shell for less than half a kilogram on the black market, believe the haul was likely headed offshore as part of a larger poaching operation.

Last year there were three Northern abalone cases, in which all individuals were convicted. Punishments included fines of $35,000 and $35,000 as well as a sentence to perform 80 hours of community service under the supervision of the Prince Rupert Restorative Justice Program. A research project, designed to educate the public about the detrimental effects of harvesting Northern abalone, was to be organized by the offenders at their expense.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily news
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Pages One and Two

Fishermen are setting their reels as the largest non-invitational fishing derby in Western Canada gets underway Tuesday.

The Great Northern Salmon Classic starts at 12:01 a. m. Tuesday August 1 and fishermen will chase prizes of $100,000 and a Dodge Dakota until Sept. 15.

Margo Cullen of Vertigo Link Charters and chair of Tourism Prince Rupert has been contracted by the Northern Management Fund Committee to act as the derby manager on the ground.

“During the weigh-in staff and volunteers will be on the dock at Atlin Terminal,’ said Bruce Wishart, Northern Management Fund Committee member.

Weigh-ins will occur between 4 p. m. and 6 p/ m. each day with the exception of Thursday’s where weigh-ins will occur between 4:45 p. m. and 6:30 p. m.

All participants must arrive at the Atlin Dock by boat and once a fish has been weigh using a digital scale, the derby official, participant and an observer will agree to the weight of the fish.

There are many chances to try for a prize. The under 18 category, female category, and mystery weights provide opportunities for all anglers to become involved.

The event was designed following consultation with communities along Highway 16 and will hopefully draw traffic along the Highway to replace the tourists lost following the sinking of the Queen of the North off Gil Island March 22, said Wishart.

“The response from Prince Rupert residents and across the region has been overwhelming,” he said. “We’d like to thank people for the outpouring of support.”

The Northern Fund Management Committee, which received $450,000 in one-time funding from the provincial government to come up with strategies to increase tourism this season, includes representatives from Prince Rupert, the Alaska Highway region, Haida Gwaii, Prince George and the Northern B. C. Tourism Association. They’ve committed $160,000 for the derby.

Other prizes include $10,000 for the largest eligible coho salmon caught by a female angler, $5,000 derby long mystery weight eligible coho, $5,000 largest eligible coho salmon caught by an angler under 18 years of age, $500 weekly for the largest eligible pink salmon caught by an angler under 18 years of age. $%00 weekly for the largest eligible Chinook salmon, getaway packages awarded to the largest eligible coho salmon caught weekly and daily mystery weight prizes valuing $100. Tickets for the derby are $35 and include three weigh ins.

All the rules and derby information are available on line by visiting

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Page One

Any attempts by the federal and provincial governments to deny the existence of a crude oil tanker moratorium in the Queen Charlotte Basin is an effort to rewrite history, said Dr. Gerald Graham, oil spill expert and consultant.

He knows, he says, because he was around at the time and was thrown for a loop when he was recently told by government that it doesn’t exist.

“It’s a contentious issue. Up until about a year ago, it was generally assumed there was a crude oil tanker moratorium,” he said. “It came as a complete shock to me. Government is essentially rewriting history.”

The issue of the tanker moratorium has resurfaced because of a proposal by Enbridge, a Calgary based company, to build a billion dollar pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat in order to export crude oil to China and the U. S.

Government and the company say the moratorium doesn’t exist, only a voluntary moratorium for U. S. tankers traveling from Alaska to the southern United States. But others, like Graham, say it does.

In fact, he said it pre-dates the offshore oil and gas exploration moratorium.

Graham said that in 1972, at the urging of David Anderson, the Federal Government imposed the moratorium on crude oil tankers traveling through Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and the Queen Charlotte Sound.

“Then someone said we have to be consistent and that’s when the offshore oil and gas moratorium was imposed,” he said. “In a nutshell, the original moratorium was a tanker moratorium.”

And any future changes to this policy require strategic environmental assessment as a result of a cabinet directive passed in 1996.

Graham says it’s ridiculous for government to try and ignore the existence of the moratorium given two of their own recent panels studying offshore oil and gas recognize it.

The terms of reference for the Priddle Panel, the most recent public panel exploring offshore oil and gas development in the Queen Charlotte Basin, expressly mentioned the moratorium.

And the Royal Society of Canada, which conducted the scientific review, only made two recommendations, he said, one of which was to keep the crude oil tanker moratorium.

Graham is a consultant of 33 years who used to work for the Canadian Offshore Oil and Gas Lands Administration. He also wrote about the tanker exclusion zone as a consultant for Canada’s Public Review Panel on Tanker and Safety and Marine Spills Response Capability, the so-called Brander-Smith Panel in the late 1980’s.

The panel was established following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Alaska and the Nestucca barge spill in Oregon. The Panel’s Final Report led to a complete overhaul of Canada’s spill response regime.

Graham isn’t the only one claiming the current Conservative and former Liberal government are trying to re-write history.

Former Minister of Environment David Anderson, who pushed for the tanker moratorium, recently told the Victoria Times-Colonist that the policy exists.

“The idea that somehow you can pretend it doesn’t exist is stretching it a good deal,” he said.

And critics were recently outraged when, they say, the moratorium was violated.

In late June, a tanker carrying approximately 350,000 barrels of condensate – a mix of chemicals and petroleum derivatives used to dilute crude oil – entered B. C.’s inside passage bound for Methanex’s terminal in Kitimat. The tanker off-loaded its condensate into railcars for transport to Encana’s operations in Alberta.

Enbridge is also proposing to import condensate alongside its crude oil exports at its proposed Kitimat Terminal.

However, provincial Minister of Energy and Mines Richard Neufeld said the current government says the moratorium doesn’t exist.

“They agree with us,” he said. “There is no moratorium.”

Playing Catch up with the July News (July 28, 2006)

We try to pick and choose the big stories of our sabbatical, to archive for future generations of Podunkians.

The July 28th recap

Gusts of money prepare to blow into Rupert

The announcement by BC Hydro that it approved of the Mount Hays Wind farm project could pump millions of dollars into the local economy. With purchase agreements reached with BC Hydro, Katabatic Power can now get busy preparing the plans for its 14 turbine wind farm expected to be in operation by 2008.

The Daily News had the details on yet another project that goes from the could be, to the will happen phase of development.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, July 28, 2006
Pages One and Three

Some $230 million-worth of power projects on the North Coast that will generate enough “green” electricity to power 81,000 homes got the thumbs up by B. C. Hydro Thursday morning.

B. C. Hydro announced it has agreed to purchase power from Katabatic Power- which is proposing a 14 turbine wind farm on Mount Hays – and the Anyox Hydro Electric Corp – which is proposing to restore the old power generation facilities around the old company towns of Anyox and Alice Arm.

Province-wide B. C. Hydro accepted 38 contracts from independent power producers in order to meet the growing demand for electricity.

Representatives from both Katabatic and Anyox said they can now move ahead quickly with their respective projects.

“We are thrilled with the acceptance of the bid and we are very happy to see B. C. Hydro buying wind power. They accepted three wind power bids, one of them was ours and tow others in the Peace Region,” said Jonathon S. Raymond, chief operating officer for Katabatic Power.

Katabatic’s project is worth $52 million, will generate an estimated 25.2 megawatts and is expected to be in operation by 2008.

Each megawatt generated can power 1,000 homes.

Katabatic is pleased to be the first to take advantage of the world class wind site that has been identified on the North Coast and the company believes the development of a wind energy industry will follow, said Raymond.

“We believe in wind on the North Coast. This will be the first wind farm up there and hopefully the first of many,” said Raymond.

The site proposed for the wind farm is on the back side of Mount Hays, with access from Wantage Road, and only one or tow of the turbines will be visible from town.

The company is currently two-thirds of the way through its environmental assessment – it will be holding an open house in Prince Rupert in September- and has financing in place. Katabatic expects to be able to announce its financial partners within three weeks.

“then we have some contract work to do with the turbine supplier, finish off our construction agreements and then we just have to pick a date to go into construction.” He said.

Meanwhile, John Turpin, director of operations for Anyox Hydro Electric Corp, said the company hopes to move into full construction within 60 to 90 days.

“With this contract in place we can finalize our financing and proceed with full construction this fall,” said Turpin. “It’s a big day; we’ve been waiting on pins and needles for a few months.

“We are very excited about the opportunity and happy the power will be used in B. C.”

Anyox is proposing four projects worth about $180 million, with a combined output of 56.5 megawatts, and the company hopes to be on-line by Jan 1, 2009. The projects include refurbishing the old dam system at Anyox, installing a hydro electric project on the upper Kitsault River at Kitsault Lake and installing tow small run-of-river hydroelectric projects on Trout Creek and Homestake Creek.

All four projects are slated for a remote area, on streams that flow into a narrow fjord system with its terminus at Portland Inlet and all are on water systems where natural barriers have prevented fish from entering the waterways.

The company has been working on the Anyox and Kitsault projects for the last five years.

Most recently, Anyox Hydro Electric expanded its camp to 73 beds. The camp will house the crews needed for construction.

The company hopes to do its tunneling at Anyox this winter. It has to install a tunnel to carry pressurized water three and a half kilometers form the dam, through the mountain to the powerhouse where electricity will be generated.

They hope to start general construction in the spring and have hired Finn Conradsen as a full time coordinator in Prince Rupert.

“We have a lot of excellent suppliers in Prince Rupert and we have been doing a lot of business there over the last five years getting ready for this,” he said.

“We are excited about the next two years; I think there will be a lot of spin off benefits in Prince Rupert, the Nisga’a and communities in the Nass Valley. We will be drawing a lot on the local labour force.

Casting off for fame, fortune and bad feelings

The Great Northern Salmon Fishing Classic gets underway on August 1st, and while the sports fisherman are out seeking the coho, the rest of the northwest is feeling a little left out. The Daily had a report on the backlash to the tournament in its July 28th edition.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Friday, July 28, 2006
Pages One and Five

Communities from the Queen Charlotte Islands, north to Stewart, along the Skeena River and into the Nass Valley all feel left out in the cold when it comes to a Prince Rupert centered fishing derby.

“It would be really nice if the Charlottes or Terrace and Kitimat and other great fishing destinations could be part of it as well and have the benefit of additional tourism<’ said Urs Thomas of the Golden Spruce Motel in Port Clements. “ We are all suffering form the loss of the ferry and to me it would spread out the money a little it, maybe even the fishing pressure.”

The $160,000 fishing derby launched by the Northern Fund Management Committee – which was given $450,000 by the province in the wake of the Queen of the North sinking – has left a bitter taste in the mouth of some people throughout the region, many who feel the initiative will draw tourism away from their communities.

“If you would have the option to fish on the Charlottes or fish in Rupert and maybe have a similar fishing experience but have the chance to win $100,000 with your biggest coho, what would you decide?” he said.

Thomas contact Tourism Prince Rupert and was told other communities could not participate for a variety of reasons.

“They were always saying there are too many scales and about rules and regulations,” he said,”but on the other side, I just talked with an enforcement officer here on the Charlottes and he said there’s actually no concerns as long as they’re within the (fishery) regulations.

The derby is just the latest apparent misstep on the Charlottes by the Northern Fund. They’ve also raised the ire of people there about plans to distribute 100,000 brochures to tourists in Alaska telling the QCI’s are still accessible

We had a look at the draft and we’re not that excited about it,” said Thomas. “We kind of stopped that project for the moment.”

“We’re not even sure if it makes sense at this point because in our opinion the season is more or less over,” said Thomas.

Concerns are also coming from up river, as Terrace and Kitimat – who were left off the committee by the province –are wondering why they weren’t given a chance to take part.

“They’re not unhappy that money is coming to the Northwest to promote tourism but they are concerned by centralizing the fish derby solely in Prince Rupert. that it’s going to attract all the fishermen to go (there) and have quite an adverse effect on little communities like Kitimat,” said Skeena MLA Robin Austin.

Over the Labour Day weekend in September, Kitimat has traditionally held a fishing derby.

“(The Rupert Derby) is going to draw tones of tourists and fishermen who would normally pull their boats down the Kitimat River or into Kitimat.. to Rupert to take advantage of what will be a huge prize,’ said Austin. ”People just wish it would spread out a bit and say have a weigh station in Kitimat for people to partake.”

Tourism representatives in Terrace are congratulating Prince Rupert for their good marketing efforts, but say the whole situation is very unfortunate.

“What inadvertently happened is, they’ve actually pinned one community against another when we were really working well together as communities for tourism,’ said Jennifer Lewis, Terrace Tourism Society executive director/ “It’s really unfortunate, but it’s too important that we stick together in the North.”

While there may be some pull away form other Northern communities to Rupert, there is some benefit in that more people should be coming down Highway 16, she said.

Our lodges are not going to go empty because of this fishing derby,” said Lewis. “I think it’s a benefit all the way around, but it’s hard when you live in these communities and one of them gets something when everyone’s supposed to be represented.

“It’s all those bad feelings when your brother gets the best piece of pie and you get a little slice. It’s those feelings that hurt and make you feel excluded, but I think we do really need to rally around Prince Rupert.

Playing Catch up with the July News(July 31)

We try to pick and choose the big stories of our sabbatical, to archive for future generations of Podunkians.

The July 31st recap

Harness the wind and Harness the future!

The Mount Hays Wind Farm gets a go ahead from BC Hydro, which has chosen that project as one of three wind farm programs to enhance the provinces electrical needs. The full story was a page one feature in the Daily News.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, July 31
Pages One and Three

B. C.’s Hydro’s acceptance of three wind farm projects as part of British Columbia’s future power supply is a sign that wind power will be part of the province’s future, said the president of Nai Kun Wind Development.

Former Rupertite Ray Castelli is the new president of Nai Kun, the company proposing a large-scale wind farm off the northern tip of Haida Gwaii.

“I think wind power is the future. When you look at the energy needs the province has – the availability of hydro and some of the other options compared to the abundance of wind B. C. has, particularly in the north – I think large-scale wind projects are very much a part of B. C.’s energy future,” said Castelli.

Nai Kun plans to submit its proposal for phase one of its plans to B. C. Hydro during Hydro’s next call for new power suppliers in the coming year.

“The next two calls by Hydro are going to be relatively large. We wanted to get everything ready and in place before we put that bid in.” said Castelli.

He explained the company is planning on building the project in phases. The first phase would produce 320 megawatts (MW) and would connect up with the existing power transmission system just south of Prince Rupert.

The first phase is worth $800 to $900 million and construction on Phase One is expected to being in 2009.

“Phase Two of the project would be approximately the same size but once you have the infrastructure in place – once you have the transmission lines- it’s simply a question of putting more turbines in place,” he said.

The overall project includes five phases of development that would see 1,750 MW of capacity- enough electricity to power more than 600,000 homes.

Castelli was born and raised in Prince Rupert and still has lots of family in town, however he hasn’t lived in B. C. for a long time.

He was most recently Senior Vice President of Quadrem, a Dallas based procurement and e-business company focused on the natural resource industry.

“I’m excited to be coming back to British Columbia. I’ve been away for several years. I spent the last five years in Dallas, Texas, with an internet company, and before that with Alcan for five and six years and before that five or six years in Ottawa with the federal government. I was looking for an opportunity to get back to British Columbia,” he said.

As director of Corporate Development for Alcan Aluminum of Montreal, Castelli was involved in evaluating acquisition and development opportunities around the world, including smelters and electricity projects and as a Director of Corporate Affairs for Alcan British Columbia, he was responsible for resolving energy-related issues and negotiations of a Power Purchase Agreement with B. C. Hydro.

Although he will be based in Vancouver, Castelli said he will be spending a fair amount of time up north, both in Prince Rupert and on Haida Gwaii.

“We are likely going to try and use the port facility in Prince Rupert as a staging area for the development. A lot of the parts and equipment come in by sea, so we will be talking to the port about using the port facility.”

There are several companies currently exploring wind power projects on the North Coast. Katabatic Power was one of three companies to sign a purchase agreement with B. C. Hydro for its Mount Hays wind farm proposal last week and the company is looking at opportunities on Banks Island.

English Bay Energy Limited, which has 283 wind turbines in the Tehachapi Pass in Southern California has also installed four test masts on the North Coast near Banks Island, Porcher Island, McCauley and Stephens Island.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you!

Like a page from the new Miami Vice movie just released on Friday, real life drug and gun law enforcement found itself played out on the front pages of the Daily News. The 800 Block of Fulton street was the scene, the Daily News had all the details.

The Daily News
Monday, July 31, 2006

Page One

RCMP say they have seized cocaine, heroin and a variety of stolen property from a residence on Fulton Street.

The find was made after police obtained a search warrant under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for a residence in the 800 block of Fulton. Charges of possession for the purposes of Trafficking are pending against one adult male and one adult female who occupied the residence.

RCMP are continuing to urge the public to report all thefts of personal property when they occur as often these drug-related warrants turn up a quantity of property believed to be stolen.

Anyone with information on stolen property or drug activity are asked to contact police at 624-2136 or, to remain anonymous Crimsetoppers at 627-TIPS.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Speaking of trails!

All this talk about hiking trails and bus transportation has reminded the Podunkian that we are shutting down the blogsite for a couple of weeks.

It's time to recharge the batteries and take a break from the onerous task of tracking the life and times of Podunk.

We're hitting the dusty trail ourselves and hope to be back in place in not too long a period of time. (Current apocalyptic like world events [hello Korea, how's it going there Middle East] not rendering our minor local diversions moot!)

At any rate, we're off to travel here and there, eventually returning to the here of the Northwest.

We'd like to say we'll update along the way, but truth be told it's not likely to happen; it is after all a vacation! Don't everyone rush out and get a job without me!

See ya'll around on the back end of the round trip!

Trails West!

Well here’s a dilemma for you, you can keep the secret of your favourite trail to yourself or, you can cash in on your knowledge by sharing your favourite spot with the world and maybe win yourself a prize.

The MP for Skeena Bulkley Valley, Nathan Cullen is partnering with local tourism associations, municipalities and community organizations to share the word on the favourite hiking trails of the northwest.

The Daily News had the details in its Monday edition.

The Daily News
Monday, July 17, 2006
Page One

If people believe Prince Rupert has some of the Northwest’s best hiking trails, now is the time to speak.

Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is working with tourism associations, municipalities and community organizations to host a contest for the people’s favourite local hiking trails.

Cullen says that the Northwest B. C. has some of the very best hiking trails and he wants to know who agrees with him.

“Nominations will be accepted throughout July,” said Cullen.

Partner groups will make contributions to a cash prize that will be awarded to caretakers of the overall winning trail after the August voting.

The 2006 winner, along with nominees, will be highlighted in a 2007 printed passport document.

“We believe that highlighting local trails will provide another product that can be used to market the Northwest of B. C. as the best place to visit or live,” Cullen said.

“We all know how wonderful Northwest B. C. is; now we can offer information about another way to experience it.”

Voting will take place online, from Aug. 1 through Aug. 31, 2006, and people can check Cullen’s website – – for updates. The winner will be announced the first week of September.

In Prince Rupert, anyone who would like to nominate a trail can contact Erika Rolston at 622-2413.

All roads lead to Prince George!

Northern Health began its Northern Connections service today, and also began the selling of the program to anxious Northwesterners. For those concerned that this may be designed to turn Prince George into a regional health care centre, the selling of the service is shall we say a tad ominous.

Using Prince George as a hub for the transportation, the early going of the program seems pretty dedicated to servicing the Prince George market, with many of the routes terminating there as though a giant funnel of health care is directing the populace into the Northern Interior city. Though Northern Health does try to pacify worry warts in Prince Rupert, by describing the convenient schedule to the Terrace area for those in Rupert!

We’re not sure that will turn the tide for those in Rupert that are less than swayed by the introduction of the service. Since in the end, it seems that mostly its people leaving Rupert for health care, rather than health care coming to the people.

The Daily has all the spit and polish on Northern Health's view of progress, in a front page story from Monday’s paper.

NH explains new bus schedule
By Sarah Fox
The Daily News
Monday, July 17, 2006
Page One

Northern Health says short-distance bus routes that allows Prince Rupert residents to access medical services in Terrace are not as much of a priority because Rupertites will be able to access the long-distance buses earlier this summer.

“We’re implementing 15 routes over the span of about three months or so and what we’ve tried to do is implement the routes closest to Prince George where our (bus) contractor is,” said Sean Hardiman, regional director for the Northern Health Connections Program.

“It’s also where we have a large number of our routes terminating and so we wanted to look after Prince George in that sense ... and then to roll it out to other communities as we proceeded.”

Northern Health will begin phasing in the low-cost transportation program – Northern Connections – starting with the Prince George and Quesnel to Vancouver routes beginning the week of July 16.

Hardiman says the long distance, Prince Rupert to Prince George routes will be starting the week of July 24 and this long distance route will allow Rupertites to get to Terrace Thursdays in the morning before the bus continues on to Prince George.

Clients using this service will then be able to catch the bus returning from Prince George to Terrace and on to Prince Rupert later the same afternoon.

“The way that the long haul routes are structured, Prince Rupert is going to benefit from day trips to Terrace within the next week,” said Mark Karjaluoto, director of communications for Northern Health.

“So while it appears that the one-day dedicated, same-day service is going to be later in the implementation process, we’re actually going to be able to offer same-day service.”

The long distance buses will leave Prince Rupert Tuesdays and Thursdays, heading for Prince George and all stops in between and returning Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

As of Oct. 2, Prince Rupert residents will also be able to access the dedicated short-distance bus to Terrace on Mondays.

The government of B. C. has provided $6 million a year to health regions in new funding to improve access to specialized health services for rural residents.

Of that funding, the B. C. government has provided $4 million a year to Northern Health that NH will use to fund its Northern Connections bus program exclusively.

According to Hardiman, the NH buses are not rented, they have an operating contract with Diversified Transportation, which has taken on the costs associated with those vehicles.

NH doesn’t own them.

Hardiman says that the $4 million is covering the retrofitting of the buses to allow for wheelchair access and to cover the cost of gas for the volume of service they will be providing.

“The long distance buses will be running over 700,000 kilometres per year and that of course is going to cost a little bit of money to do that,” said Hardiman.

“If you look at the budget for the program, the actual value for the contract for the long-distance run is approximately $1.8 million and the value of the short distance runs – of which there are 11 different routes spread out throughout the North – you’re looking at approximately $800,000 a year.”

Although the majority of the buses will be based out of Prince George, NH is confident that the service between smaller northern communities won’t be substandard.

Hardiman says that Diversified Transportation will be able to care for the buses from a variety of points in northern B. C.

Rupert Port Noticed from a far!

The Prince Rupert container port project has been noticed from afar, mind you it was in comparison to a similar project in Mexico, a project which seems to have caught the authors fancy.

At any rate, from the blogging world, is something called Wealth Creation Tips, an interesting look at containerization and its potential for your financial well being, though according to the author it's pesos; not loonies that eventually will rule the shipping world!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The New Boom In Tex Mex Railroading
by Tom Dyson

My encyclopedia calls the container box, “One of the most important contributions to growth of the world economy in the 20th century.”

They say it “paved the way for Asia to become the world's workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the world.”

Think about it. The container box is a simple, yet brilliant, innovation...

They go everywhere. You can load them onto ships, trains or trucks. When they’re not in use, you can stack them up in neat piles. They’re easy to move around with specialized cranes.

They are secure, anonymous and private. No one can see what’s inside. Customs guards may not like them, but it’s a great selling point for shippers.

They are easy to load and unload. It’s much harder to load a railroad boxcar or a tractor-trailer. The boxcar has doors on the side and the trailer has an annoying chassis. Container boxes save the shippers time and money.

Right now, there are 20 million of these simple metal boxes moving around the world. They carry 95% of all goods coming into U.S. says MSNBC.

Today, we’re going to profit from the container box.

I found these statistics in this month’s issue of TRAINS magazine: One out of every two loaded containers in America carries goods manufactured in China. And between 2000 and 2006, the number of containers arriving in the U.S. from China doubled.

There are three major West Coast container ports, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Tacoma/Seattle. There are two smaller ports in Vancouver and Oakland.

The thing is, even though the ports have made big changes in the last few years, there still isn’t enough capacity. It’s a dangerous situation. Any small disruption could back up the container trade for weeks. Remember all those containerships mooring offshore when the L.A. longshoremen went on strike in summer 2004?

It’s not just about getting the boxes into port either. Then they need to be hauled away. Problem is, the railroads are also at full capacity.

To take some pressure off, two new super ports are under construction, one in Prince Rupert, British Columbia and the other at Lazaro Cardenas, on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

I’m interested in the Mexican port for the following reasons:
1. Lazaro Cardenas is the deepest port in Mexico. This is a key competitive advantage. It’s the only port in Mexico that can serve the super-large container ships.

2. Lazaro Cardenas is 600 miles closer to Houston than Los Angeles. It will steal some of the California ports’ Midwest business.

3. At the moment, California ports serve Mexico too. Lazaro Cardenas will steal a large slice of this business to become Mexico’s most important container port.

4. Any congestion at the other west coast ports will push more traffic to Lazaro Cardenas.

The Port’s marketing manager says they’re already getting requests from leading shipping companies to create additional facilities. And in case you’re worried about banking on the Mexican government to pull this one off, this port is owned by Hutchinson Whampoa, a giant Hong Kong-based port operator who knows how to build these ultra-modern facilities.

Hutchinson Whampoa already has operations in 20 countries, so it doesn’t make sense to invest directly in this massive port operator on the basis of one new port in Mexico. There’s a much better play:

We buy the only railroad that serves the port… Kansas City Southern (KSU).

KC Southern is the smallest of the seven Class I railroads in North America. They call it the “Tex Mex railroad.” Unlike other railroads, which tend to run east/west, KCS runs north/south - connecting the U.S. heartland with the Gulf of Mexico. They also own the routes from Texas to Lazaro Cardenas.

In an August 2005 report, UBS analyst Rick Patterson thinks Lazaro Cardenas could generate $45 million a year for KCS by 2010, “roughly doubling its current intermodal revenue.”KC Southern has doubled in the last two years, so it’s not a cheap stock, especially when compared to the other railroads. But if you’re looking for a way to invest in the Tex Mex railroad boom, this is it…

Good investing,Tom

Let the Good Times Roll?

The headline proclaims that the economy has turned the corner! However it comes with the caveat that the local project of growth, that being the Container Port won’t be causing a giant boom in jobs for the population as projected by many of those locally. That and a few other interesting interpretations, make for interesting reading for those locally awaiting the change in the seas that the city has sailed through the last few years

A report from Credit Union Central of British Columbia is normally considered the yardstick by which a community gauges its potential growth or whether tougher times are on the way. The report released today suggests that things are turning in a more positive direction for many of the beleaguered communities of the Northwest.

However a few things will be of interest for locals, the pulp mill situation isn’t painted in glowing terms by the report, which sees the pulp industry in general facing some challenging times ahead, which could factor into any debate into re-opening the Watson Island mill. The afore mentioned job situation regarding the container port, which may not be quite the sonic boom we’ve been tantalized with and an already stable supply of houses that may slow down any great housing boom in the short term.

None the less, it does suggest that things are decidedly making a turn for the better, with a number of projects in the incubation stage which could change the dynamic in the Northwest quite a bit.

The Daily News had the full story on its front page.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Monday, July 17, 2006
Pages One and Three

With billions of dollars in ongoing projects and billions more planned over the next three years, the Northern economy is looking up, says the Credit Union Central of British Columbia in its latest economic analysis.

Rising investment in natural gas, mining and related manufacturing, and transportation as well as housing and non-residential buildings are all leading to higher growth.

“Favourable energy and metals prices and improved domestic demand underpin the outlook,” said Helmut Pastrick, Central’s Chief Economist. “A massive $3.2 billion in major projects are currently under construction.”

These include the $500 million Prince Rupert container port expansion, an oil pipeline expansion from Valemount to Burnaby, a coal mine near Tumbler Ridge and hydro electric infrastructure near Stewart.

A further $16.5 billion in major projects are proposed for the North ($11 billion of which are on the North Coast), and almost $9 billion of which are scheduled to start construction by 2009. These include more port construction, two liquefied natural gas (LNG) offloading facilities in Prince Rupert and Kitimat, wind power projects in Rupert and Masset, twin oil condensate pipelines from Edmonton to Kitimat and a competing condensate pipeline along a different route.

“It’s not likely we’ll see all of those $16 billion worth come online, but certainly a fair portion of it will,” said Pastrick. “The container port, I think, is fairly certain. Phase One is under construction and I think there’s a very good chance we’ll see the whole project completed I think 2009 or 2010. If it doesn’t occur in that time frame there’s every indication that the Asia-North America trade volumes will continue to expand.

“As long as that occurs, the demand for port services like that container facility can only increase, I think the outlook for that looks good and we certainly need more transportation capacity.”

One thing the port may not lead to, at least initially, is the massive population boom some locals have been forecasting.

”I don’t know how dramatic that might be, but obviously for Prince Rupert the container facility is a fairly significant change,” he said.

“It will obviously have some impact but ports tend to be very capital intensive.

“It will add jobs, I’m not certain how many will be at play .. (and) there will be some spin-offs obviously but whether those jobs are met by the local labour market or as a result of immigration remains to be seen. I suspect they’ll be filled by the local market.”

That being said, some growth is forecasted between now and 2008 and it should impact both the economy and the labour market positively. This includes both more immigration and possibly less out migration of people. Employment is forecast to rise by about two per cent per year through 2008 with job growth in construction, health care, professional, technical, transportation and storage services. The shipping and mining industries are also expected to grow.

“(The outlook for facilities like Ridley Terminals) should be positive to the extent that we see increased mining activity and that will have to be exported to markets, typically Asia,” said Pastrick.

“It should be positive for port activity and the Northwest does have considerable potential for mines.

“The metals market has shown considerable improvement in prices and the outlook for the next five to 10 years still looks quite good as long as we have strong growth in emerging markets – the China’s, India’s and the like.”

Weaker employment growth is seen in education, agriculture, manufacturing and public administration as well as forestry and number of challenges facing pulp producers.

“The pulp market is very competitive and certainly more supply is coming on from other parts of the world, so it makes it tough,” said Pastrick about plans to reopen the Skeena pulp mill.

“Certainly the existing mill could potential be competitive depending on its cost structure, even in a more difficult pulp market.

“It really depends on its operating costs and primarily the price it pays for its fibre. It’s certainly conceivable .. but in general, the pulp and paper industry is not going to be facing strong market conditions going forward.”

Housing markets are also forecast to expand into 2008. Total residential unit sales are forecast to rise about 10 per cent in 2006 and 5 per cent in 2007 and in 2008 as employment and income gains materialize. Mortgage rates are seen remaining favourable for borrowers and only slightly higher.

“The fact that we haven’t seen a lot of new housing in Prince Rupert indicates that the market was adequately supplied, but there is typically a time lag between improvements in the housing market and new construction,” he said.

“I suspect that we’ll see some higher construction levels occurring very soon in Prince Rupert, whether it’s this year or next.

“I don’t think we’ll see a tight, tight market but we’ll see enough signals in the generally rising prices that builders will begin to invest and bring some more supply on.”

Pictures of Podunk: Tsunami Zone

Recent additions to the low lying areas of Podunk are these tastefully coloured signs indicating that the reader is standing in a Tsunami Zone. This picture was taken at the Seal Cove Sea Plane base. Should a big wave come ashore it's recommended to stop reading and start running!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pulp Friction

It’s getting pretty costly to sit down and enjoy a daily newspaper around Prince Rupert these days. (On those days that the paper doesn't get bumped off of Jazz or is forced to stay in Vancouver due to poor weather.) This month has seen both the National Post and the Daily News increase the price of their offerings, giving the newspaper buying public a few hard decisions to make by the time they put the papers out at Eddies and other newsstands across the city.

The Post decided to increase its price to match that of the Vancouver Province and the Vancouver Sun on a daily basis, giving up the dollar charge to join the big boys at close to two dollars a day for a read of national and international news.

This despite the fact that it seems that the Post is getting thinner and thinner on its weekly editions, combine that with the fact that they have little to no coverage of provincial matters in their pages and it will be interesting to see if they continue to sell high amounts of papers locally.

By contrast the Vancouver sun on Friday had eight sections ranging from 16- 12 pages each, many of course classified ads and advertising, but still if you’re going to pay 2 bucks plus for a newspaper, you at least want to feel the weight of your investment!

The local paper followed suit earlier this month as well putting its news stand price up to 71 cents before taxes, which on a weekday early in the week works out to roughly 7.1 cents per page, a pretty good corporate return for an investment that features a lot of filler in between the odd local story.

The Friday paper seems to be a more cost friendly option for the consumer as it can reach up to the 20 page plateau, which works out to a more reasonable price ratio per page, if not in content.
Of course you can pick up the Daily through a carrier for 45 cents an issue, but that comes with the inevitable risk of being held hostage to a paper carrier who may or may not be the most dedicated handler of the news, having learned from personal experience that you and your paper carrier may not have the same idea as to what constitutes on time delivery.

The Daily enclosed a letter to its readers with the Thursday paper explaining their decision to raise the price and promising more changes to the product as the months go by.

Regardless of your preferences, it’s a costly little exercise now to read the news. If you were inclined to read all the national and provincial options here in the northern trading district you would be shelling out close to eight dollars a day. The Post, Sun and Province are all in at 2 dollars per issue, the Globe while a day late, checks in at a bargain at under a dollar and the Daily News thin as it is at 10 pages on a Monday, is 75 cents with taxes. Picking a newspaper is beginning to require the sage studies of a stock investor, which paper gives you the best return for your daily investment!

There are all those free papers that clutter up your mailbox and the news stand entrances, but it’s debatable if they are read at all let alone have much an impact on the daily seeker of news information.

Of course for those dedicated to the concept of thumbing through newsprint, a trip to the Library saves you the need to break a ten, but you had best move fast, the requests for papers there goes up incrementally with each increase at the news stand.

Then there’s the net, with a simple use of the Google search engine at Google News Canada, you can put together the newspaper of your interests with a click of a mouse, leaving you a fair amount of money to spend on other interests and keeping your hands free of ink.

Then again it offers up its own health hazard, eye strain could soon be the affliction of the future for those that need to know the news as it happens!

Former Auditor General To Lead Ferries Safety Review

The much demanded and long awaited safety audit into the practices of B. C. Ferries will soon begin as Former Auditor General George Morffit has been charged to conduct a review. Morfitt will investigate and review the ferries’ safety policies, procedures and practices.

Of course this being B. C. Ferries, nothing can happen without a bit of controversy and this announcement came with questions over the independence of the chosen investigator, since he was an employee of the government previously.

Regardless of that concern and others, Morfitt will begin his report and offer up a public compilation in late 2006.

The QCI Observer had some of the details of the announcement and the controversy on line on Friday afternoon!

Independent safety audit underway at ferries
Queen Charlotte Islands Observer
Friday July 14, 2006

BC Ferries has hired former Auditor General George Morfitt to conduct an independent review of the company's safety policies, procedures and practices.

Work on the safety audit began immediately, with the report expected to be completed and made public by late this year. The review will assess BC Ferries' compliance with the Canada Shipping Act's regulations, codes and standards. It will also review the company's compliance with its own safety management system.

BC Ferries president David Hahn said the company intends to repeat the safety review every five years.

The safety review announcement comes almost four months after the sinking of the Queen of the North, a devastating blow to BC Ferries, which calls itself “the safest and finest marine transportation system in the world”. Two passengers aboard the QN are still missing and presumed to have drowned in the incident.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons, the opposition critic for ferries, said his first thought was that the independent safety review was an excellent undertaking. However, he said he was surprised to learn that Mr. Hahn and the BC Ferries board of directors will be able to read Mr. Morfitt's report before it is released to the public.

That's a problem, Mr. Coons said.

“For public confident to be fully restored in BC Ferries, we need to see the unvarnished truth,” he said. “If it goes through the board of directors, users of the marine highway system will be left wondering what got edited out.” Mr. Coons has been calling for a safety review for the past several weeks, since former BC Ferries safety director Darin Bowland launched a lawsuit against the company.

He also said the terms of reference for Mr. Morfitt's review make no mention of some critical areas, like how BC Ferries, Transport Canada, the provincial Ministry of Transportation and the federal Department of Transportation interrelate, and how BC Ferries got exemptions from Transport Canada for the northern vessels to keep sailing until 2012.

History Detectives of the North West

The Daily has a front page story on a Washington State professor and museum curator who is on the search for some lost Haida works.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Friday July 14, 2006
Pages One and Three

A Washington State museum curator has turned international sleuth in the hunt for the last depiction of a traditional Haida village.

Robin Wright, University of Washington art history professor and Burke Museum curator, is trying to track down 14 hand carved Haida house models from a set of 29 that have been lost for more than 50 years.

“We’re trying to get out the word for people to look in their attics or basements, it will probably be collectors or dealers that would have the knowledge of these, “said Wright. “All we know is there are 14 of them out there somewhere.”

The houses, commissioned from Haida carvers for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. are around three feet square with accompanying totem poles that are three-to-five feet tall. The models are an accurate representation of the traditional village of Skidegate before the last house came down in 1905.

“When the World’s Fair ended much of the anthropology building – became incorporated in what is now the Field Museum, it was the core of their founding collection,” she said.

“They displayed them until around 1900 or so when they decide to get rid of some of them. It was ‘seen one, seen em all’, and they’ve got 29 so they figured they could exchange them with other museums and get collections they didn’t have.

“I suppose they were considered dioramas or exhibit props rather than works of art at that time. They probably weren’t valued the way we would value them today.”

Chicago’s Field Museum, which still has 10 of the houses and 15 freestanding poles, conducted two significant exchanges – one with the Brooklyn Museum in New York and one with the University Museum in Philadelphia. One of the poles was also sent to Vienna, Austria where it remains in the ethnographic museum there.

“One was also give to the Marshall Field (department store), which gives its name to the Field Museum and they used it as window dressing for many years,” said Wright. “The last I was able to track, they’d auctioned off a bunch of their old window dressings in about 1960 and it disappeared from there.”

In the case of the Haida Houses sent to the Brooklyn museum and the University Museum in Philadelphia, the institutions have lost track of that part of their collection.

“The University museum loaned theirs to the children’s museum which is part of the Philadelphia Art Museum and there’s no record of them coming back,” she said.

“The Brooklyn museum has one complete model house and parts of two others.”

One of the houses from the Philadelphia children’s museum has been located in the Portland Art Museum in Oregon. It was purchased from an art dealer in the 1950’s.

“That gives me hope that maybe they’ve got into the market and are in private collections somewhere,” said Wright., who is working with a team of three Haida curators on the search.

“I suspect that because they were so large … if we find them, that the houses may have been discarded but that the pole, which was the one piece with the elaborate carving on it, would have been kept.”

However, that doesn’t mean Wright or the Haida themselves have given up on the houses. For those they can’t find, they hope to commission a new generation of Haida carvers to replace them.

“We have photographs of the models as they were presented in the Chicago World’s Fair,” said Nathalie Macfarlane, Haida Gwaii Museum director.

“We’re going to do our best over the next year to find the pieces that are missing, but if we can’t we’ll commission artists to create new replicas for an exhibition in 2010.”

The plan would also see the houses and poles that have been located at other museums borrowed and displayed in the new Haida Heritage Centre in Qay’Ilnagaay, which is scheduled to open next year.

The exhibition would be a more genuine representation of the Haida than the World’s Fair display.

The original model included tags written by James Deans, an adventurer and once indentured servant of the Hudson’s Bay Company who was charged by Franz Boas, the father of anthropology, to procure the models.

However, the Haida themselves were not brought to the fair, although First Nations from Fort Rupert and Alert Bay were.

”We’d be bringing back this model village, but interpreting it in a much richer way than it was in Chicago,” said Wright. “Of course with the cultural situation in Chicago in 1893 the emphasis was all on the industrial nation, how great the United States was and to do that, to allow industrial nation’s to blow their horn, they would display cultures from around the world that were “less developed” or “primitive.”

In order to offer a more accurate story, the research team will be taking advantage of the Haida Gwaii Museum’s perpetual genealogical research project which collects information not only on the ancestral aspect of family lineage but also the newest generation of Haida.

“The (model) houses themselves are connected to certain clans and certain houses in Skidegate, so it’s really a wonderful project because the museum’s been involved in doing genealogical research and actually identify where each of the clans lived, represented by this model,” said MacFarlane. “We can ultimately link the historical material to present day families in Skidegate, that’s the great part of it, that’s the community in the research.

The search for the Haida Houses is a collaborative project with the Haida Gwaii Museum in Skidegate, B. C., and the Field Museum in Chicago, to develop a traveling exhibit of the house models and document them in a book.

The research is partially funded by the UW Royalty Research Fund, a Canadian Embassy Senior Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Exhibit Planning Grant.

Anyone who believes they know the location of a missing house or pole should email .

Friday, July 14, 2006

Vandals hit local politicians office

Perhaps it's time for a get tough with crime program for the NDP, the local riding office for both the Provincial NDP MLA Gary Coons and Federal NDP MP Nathan Cullen was vandalized early Friday morning.

The door was broken and glass shattered around the offices as the RCMP attended as did Mr. Coons with broom in hand. The QCI Observer has the scoop!

Vandals damage MLA's office in Rupert
Queen Charlotte Islands observer
July 14, 2006

Vandals broke the front door to North Coast MLA Gary Coons's Prince Rupert office early Friday morning (July 14), but it looks like nothing was taken.

Mr. Coons told the Observer he was awoken at 3 am Friday by a call from the RCMP informing him of the incident.

He immediately went to the office, which he shares with federal MP Nathan Cullen, and spent an hour picking up shattered glass.

He then waited there until morning and called a repairman, who came and installed a new front door. It looks like the vandal simply picked up a piece of loose ceramic tile and tossed it through the office entrance, Mr. Coons said.

He does not think the incident was politically motivated.

Pieces of the North Coast for California

The streets of California may soon be paved with gravel from the North Coast as a gravel mine planned for Portland Canal begins operation. Gravel taken from the mine is to be shipped own the coast to California in a project that is expected to run over 18 years, creating up to 10-50 non seasonal full time jobs by the time it’s on line.

The Daily had full information on the project in Thursday’s paper.

By Sarah Fox
The Daily News
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Page One

A Vancouver based company, Ascot Resources Ltd., had got a green light from the Province to go ahead with their plans for a Swamp Point sand and gravel mine and ship loading facility on the coast between Prince Rupert and Stewart.

The mine will be located on the Portland Canal, 50 kilometres south of Stewart, B. C. and should be able to produce 3.3 million tones annually for 18 years.

Now that Ascot has received an Environmental Assessment certificate from the Ministry of Environment Assessment, they are free to pursue project permits required for development in mid-august.

“What we’re trying to do and it’s not confirmed yet, but we’re working on a small contract for this year and we’re still working on the large contracts,” said Hans Smit, Ascot’s Swamp Point project manager.

“The larger scale project is still not for sure going to happen in 2007 but we’re working hard to try and make that happen.”
Smit says that the Ascot sand and gravel mine is no different from sand and gravel pits that can be seen beside highways elsewhere in the province but that over time they do want to build the mine into a very large one.

“The design capacity would be three million tones which is a lot bigger than any of the ones along the highway,” said Smit.

“It’s ten times the size of any regular gravel pit.

“It’s still producing some kind of stuff just way more of it and shipping it much further distances.”

Studies done have indicated that there is 45.8 million tones of sand and gravel at the site, which could support a 3.3 million tonne per year operation, providing sand and gravel to California and other local Pacific markets.

“The market we designed the project around is California and they used 213 million tones of sand and gravel last year and there’s areas along the coast where we can deliver it cheaper from British Columbia than you can truck it in from in-land California,” said Smit.

Ascot estimates that 20 to 50 non-seasonal full time jobs will be created at the Swamp Point facility, however, Smit says they can’t really predict when those jobs will be created.

“When we start this year, that will be a contract, so that will mean a few months work and hopefully by next year we start securing long term contracts and we’ll start to build on that with employment,” said Smit.

“We can’t really hang our hats on when it will start but next year we hope to build on those contracts.”

The Swamp Point project life span is 18 years, however Smit says that there are areas around Swamp Point that could possibly be developed, further extending the life of the project.

The environmental assessment conducted by independent consultants on behalf of Ascot determined the Swamp Point mind will have no significant environmental, social or health effects on the surrounding area.

“We designed it right from the start to avoid environmental problems which makes it easier than having to make a 50 year old site meet today’s environmental standards.” Said Smit.

“Also, the site is fairly easy to mitigate, we’re not working in fish streams or anything.”

Smit also said that Ascot is not using any chemicals or metals that would contaminate the run off and silt that is produced from the mine.

Haida Bucks

The Provincial Government has made a one time contribution of $4 million dollars towards the research, design and construction of cultural exhibits at a $26 million dollar Haida Heritage Centre.

The project is expected create around 130 direct and indirect jobs in the Skidegate area and provide a home for an international teaching centre, archives centre, canoe house, arts theatre and headquarters for the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.

The Daily News featured the story on its front page in Thursday’s paper.

B. C. commits $4 million to Haida Heritage Centre
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Page One

The Province has contributed $4 million towards the Haida Heritage Centre at Qay’Ilnagaay (pronounced Kay-Al-nuh-guy), which will become an international tourism destination showcasing Haida art and culture.

“The Haida Heritage Centre at Qay’Ilnagaay will give visitors and students from around the world the opportunity to experience the unique culture, art and history of the Haida Nation,” said Premier Gordon Campbell this morning. “The people of British Columbia will be contributing $4 million dollars to ensure that this centre remains a lasting legacy for Haida culture.”

The Province’s one-time funding contribution will support research, design and construction of cultural exhibits at the estimated $26 million centre.

Scheduled to open in 2007, the 50,000 square foot centre will house an international teaching centre, a new oral history and archives centre, a canoe house, performing arts theatre and headquarters for the world-renowned Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.

“The energy, the spirit that are reflected here … are something that I believe that all British Columbians will join with the Haida people in taking great pride in,” said Campbell.

“It will help to build the respect of the whole world for Haida culture, it will help to build understanding, it will be a bridge that takes us forward and is firmly planted on the foundations of the past.

“Visitors will come from around the world and ask for permission to come and step on these lands and be part and share … this is a place that will touch the hearts of many in the years to come.”

Preserving the culture and traditions of the Haida are critical for the Haida, Canada and British Columbia as those traditions and history are a part of us,” he said.

“Our heritage centre is a place of inspiration, hope and sharing, a place to learn and teach, a place for the Haida voice to be heard,” said Skidegate Chief Councillor Willard Wilson.”

“I feel real warm in my heart today, to have a Premier come to our community and talk about partnership with the people of Skidegate,

“(Grand Chief) Ed John talked to me a few months ago and said ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we got together and started networking the communities in British Columbia that have cultural centres … and started to let the world know that we welcome them to our traditional territories to share what we have in each of our communities with the world.

“It makes me feel good when we talk about that.”

Over the course of the construction period and once fully operational, the Haida Heritage Centre will create approximately 130 direct and indirect jobs in Skidegate.

The centre lies at the heart of a long-term economic development strategy developed by the Skidegate Band, which includes a resort hotel, golf course, RV park and cabins, and new opportunities for tour guides.

The centre is anticipated to draw more than 10,000 additional visitors to Haida Gwaii each year.

Share the Wealth!

There's a bit of a backlash over the way that those provincial governments funds to counter act the Queen of the North sinking have been utilized.

The folks in the Bulkley Valley are taking a peek at the way the money has been spread out and noticed that none was earmarked for their community, despite the fact that many of the local business people say they've been negatively affected by the sinking of the ferry as well.

The Interior News had full details of the controversy.

Queen of the North bailout skips Bulkley Valley
By Rebecca Aldous
Jul 13 2006

The provincial government is forking out money to help get visitors up Hwy 16 after the sinking of the Queen of the North — but not to Smithers.

The Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Arts has earmarked $450,000 for the Northern Fund Management Committee (NFMC), which has been created to steer the one-time funding for the backlash the B.C. ferry sinking has had on northern tourism.

The money will pay for two summer tourism counsellor positions in Prince George, a marketing campaign to promote large events in the region, and a separate marketing campaign for the Queen Charlotte Islands, reports a press release from NFMC.

Bruce Wishart, executive director of Tourism Prince Rupert, said how the tourism association is spending the money was based on a consensus prior to the money’s arrival.

“Tourism Prince Rupert worked with all our northern partners and held stakeholders sessions,” Wishart said.

He said although no money is coming directly to Smithers, the three new programs will benefit all communities along Hwy 16.

Wishart said the two counsellor positions in Prince George will help inform visitors about the communities along the highway dispelling the perception that the Queen Charlotte Islands are unreachable due to the ferry sinking.

“For travellers on the road if they hear there is a problem on the circle tour they will turn around,” Wishart said. “We have the ability to steer some of those who would otherwise steer away, down [Hwy 16].”

He said like Smithers a lot of northern visitor centres need money for repairs and upgrades. Wishart noted the Prince Rupert visitor centre lost funding this year, knocking operation hours back.

However, he said the money going into the programs will increase the number of visitor to the region adding weight to the association’s requests, Wishart said.

“The more tourists that are coming to visitor centres, the higher the funding levels,” Wishart said.

Gladys Atrill, tourism coordinator for the Town of Smithers, said she is hopeful the two new positions in Prince George will prompt more tourists in the town’s direction. She said she has heard anecdotally, through people working at the visitor centre and hotels in the area, that tourism is down this year from previous years.

“The picture is not pretty,” Atrill said.

The two new tourism counsellors have been on a tour of the visitor centres along the highway, Atrill said, last week they were in Smithers. She said the money to pay for them to visit the region centres is worth it.

“There is nothing like seeing something to promote it,” Atrill said.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

First Nations education one of the topics of Education Minister’s visit

The Daily News had a sit down session with the Deputy Premier and Education Minister to learn more about the plans for First Nations education in the Prince Rupert area; they presented their findings in Wednesday’s paper.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Pages One and Five

An historic agreement that gives First Nations’ band schools control over the education of their students could vastly improve graduation rates and the educational experience of Aboriginal students.

“What is allows is for First Nations to actually shape the curriculum that they will use with children.. it will allow them to actually use a more culturally relevant curriculum while maintaining the standards of the B. C. school system,” said Education Minister Shirley Bond in an interview with The Daily News on Friday.

“We’d be the first to admit that the system than we have in place has not worked well for Aboriginal students in the province.

“We want to be the best educated most literate jurisdiction and to do that we really need to address the needs of First Nations students.”

The tripartite agreement signed last week between the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNES), B. C. and Canada gives band schools control of the curriculum, recognizes the importance of students being able to transfer between First Nations schools and public schools, allows bands to offer their own graduation documents as well as for students to receive the standard Dogwood certificate, and be eligible for admission to post secondary institutions.

“I think that First Nations have been looking for that kind of jurisdictional arrangement for decades in the province,” said Bond.

”I’m also pleased that the federal Minister Jim Prentice has said that the model we’re looking at is likely to be replicated across the country, we’re leading the country”

While in Prince Rupert visiting libraries and literacy programs, the minister said much of what she heard about the success of local programming had to do with Aboriginal students feeling welcomed and included while in a culturally appropriate setting.

The new arrangement can only help improve learning for aboriginal students, she said.

“We don’t think that if we can give them that solid foundation in the early years and if the curriculum is more relevant and culturally appropriate, we will absolutely see graduation rates improved,” said Bond.

“One thing I’m impressed about with this school district is that their aboriginal completion rates are actually significantly higher than the provincial rate.

“That means they’re doing something right here in the school district. One of the things I came to learn about was the intensive literacy program for aboriginal children … those are the type of things that will improve that graduation rate.”

The province is also hoping that the innovative programs developed locally and the new programs that will be developed in band schools will ultimately have a positive effect on Aboriginal students across the province.

“There are over 650,000 aboriginal students in public schools, and we really need to look at curriculum changes there as well as things like language and heritage,” she said.

“I think together we’re going to embark on a new way of doing business in British Columbia. Frankly I think it’s long overdue … I think students will benefit and that’s the whole point of doing it.”

The July 5 agreement fulfills a July 2003 commitment between the Government of Canada and B. C., and the First Nations Education Steering Committee to work towards a framework for jurisdiction over the education of First Nations children who attend band schools.

Speculators take a break from the Rupert Real Estate market

It’s like the lull between storms as far as the local Real Estate market is concerned as the buying and selling of properties in Prince Rupert returns to more normal patterns in 2006. Fueled by the excitement of the container port project announcement last year, the real estate market exploded with a number of investors gobbling up properties akin to a Monopoly player on a house buying binge.

As that project heads into its construction phase that frantic buying and selling has tapered off to a more sedate level, as the normal patterns return for a brief intermission.

It’s expected that upon completion of the port project next year the level of market activity will once again pick up and approach the wild days of 2005. With things leveling off in 2006, the average price of a house in Rupert at the moment is $124,000.

The Daily News had a look at the ebb and flow of market forces, complete with stats on the change over two years, all of it contained in a page two story in Wednesday’s paper.

By Sarah Fox
The Daily News
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Page Two

After a huge jump in sales in Prince Rupert last year, the market has returned to a more normal pace. However, numbers are still higher than 2004 and realtors are expecting another big real estate boom next year, once the container port is completed.

“The announcement of the container port financing accounted for the big jump in sales last year,” said Ted Shepard, president of the B. C. Northern Real Estate Board.

“When we had the announcement of the container port financing we had a jump in sales almost immediately last year and a lot of those sales were to investors or to people who decided now was the time to get into the market.”

Realtors in this area have sold a total of 94 properties through Multiple Listing Service so this year, compared to 151 by the end of May last year, but slightly ahead of the 83 sold in the same period in 2004.

The average price of a house selling in Prince Rupert is $124,000.

“The original flurry of investment money has died off and now we’re back to a normal market where people are moving in and moving out and we haven’t seen a net increase in the population,” said Shepard.

“But, when the container port gets up and running then we’ll have permanent full-time people working who will bring their families and they’ll buy or rent housing, and that will start the market activity again next year.”

Shepard says there is optimism in Prince Rupert over the future now that the container port construction has started and both Ridley Terminals and Prince Rupert Grain are doing well.

“There’s a feeling of optimism that we lacked until 2005,” he said.

According to the B. C. Northern Real Estate Board, sales through the Multiple Listings Service for all of Northern B. C. is up 33 per cent from last year and has reached a record high of $392 million in the first five months of this year.

This number includes sales from communities north of 100 Mile House and Burns Lake region right up to Prince Rupert.

“We knew the market was active in most of our communities, but until we got the latest statistical reports, we didn’t realize how active,” said Shepard.

“The economy in the northern 70 per cent of the province is definitely in a positive economic climate.

“The StatsCan release of average family incomes in the northern part of the province shows why people are buying real estate – they can afford it, because our prices still remain within easy reach of the average buyer.”

A housing affordability study of Northern B. C., prepared for the Northern Real Estate Board says, “owning a home in northern B. C. remains significantly more affordable compared with the burden home ownerships in Vancouver.”

The average price of a single family sold in Northern B. C. is 2005 was about $143,000 compared to more than $460,000 in Vancouver.

Local Teachers and Education Minister meet for a Bonding session

One member of the battalion of cabinet Ministers that descended upon Prince Rupert over the weekend was Education Minister and Deputy Premier Shirley Bond, who met with local teachers at the Prince Rupert Library last week.

Bond and local educators exchanged views on the government’s plans for Bill 33 and how it may impact education in Prince Rupert, and area that has been identified as one of the most vulnerable districts in the province.

From declining enrollment and budgetary concerns, to classroom sizes the Minister was given a front line report from those teachers who have to implement the government’s education plans on a day to day basis.

The Daily News covered the meeting in a front page story in Wednesday’s edition.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Page One

Local teachers greeted Education Minister Shirley Bond at the Prince Rupert Library last week with some tough questions about Bill 33, the legislation passed May that caps the total number of regular and special needs students in classrooms.

“Is there any possibility that you can look at the demographics of the individual school districts?” said teacher Jeanne Thom.

“We’re so much more needy per capita ... we’re not very big so relative to your billions of dollars in budget we don’t really need a lot of money to make a huge difference for these children.”

Like many teachers in the district, Thom, who said she had eight individual education plan students in her class last year, are hoping for some assistance to better help local students.

The group of teachers stressed that Rupert students are very different from the rest of the province due to the sheer amount of need.

“It’s just the guilt and knowing that it used to be different and seeing it change (that’s) so painful for me. I have, in the last three years of my 24 year career, had the hardest time of my career,” said Thom to murmurs of agreement from other teachers.

“It doesn’t have to be this way; I know it’s not this way at other schools. I just wish we could look at the specifics of this area because if we don’t get it now we can’t say in three years ‘okay we’ll give you Grade 6 again this year because we’ve got more money.

“We can do the Olympics and we can build these major mega-highways, we should be doing something for the children now.”

Teachers explained that the issue locally has less to do with the number of students in classes than it does with make-up of their classes.

If the three special needs student cap in Bill 33 was kept locally, Roosevelt school, for example, would require an additional 17 divisions, something teachers acknowledge is not realistic.

“There is not as you know a hard number at all … in fact we believe that principals and superintendents in consultation with teachers will decide what the best learning conditions will be,” Bond told the teachers.

“If you look at declining enrollments around the province, in fact this year there will be 7,000 less students and those dollars have not been taken out of the system.”

With funding at the highest level in the province’s history, less kids – including 30 per cent less locally due to declines over the last decade – and a new contract for teacher’s fully funded by the province that will see the education budget increase around a half billion dollars over the next five years, Bond said that districts are expected to operate within their funding envelopes.

“There are certainly no easy answers but my job is to make sure that as many dollars as we can (are) put into the system, and we’re going to do that, (and) that Bill 33 is going to be managed within the context that we have now,” said Bond, acknowledging that the district is needy.

“The other thing about Bill 33 is that we’re going to review it in a year, we’re going to have a look at it.

”I put that in the legislation for a reason, because it’s important that we look at the legislation to see if it works. The roundtable will continue to discuss where it goes.”

While the demographics in Prince Rupert and area very complex, the concerns expressed by local teachers are not unique to the area, she said.

To that end, a conference of rural and remote communities is planned for the fall to discuss changes to the school system and how to deal with issues like classroom organization.

The province is also aware of the vulnerability index data compiled by Dr. Clyde Hertzman, which listed the district as among the province’s most needy, and is looking at some developments in early learning and family resources in Rupert, said Bond.

Kitimat to study the possibility of creating a bulk port

While Prince Rupert dreams the dream of containers lining the shores awaiting transport, down the coast and up the highway the folks in Kitimat are doing a little dreaming of their own.

Kitimat has received $200,000 dollars from the Provincial Government to go towards the $774,000 cost of a study into the feasibility of creating a bulk port in Alcan city.

At one time of course Prince Rupert was a bulk port, the Fairview port site was the shipping point for many of those same articles that Kitimat wishes to now welcome to their city. The Fairview operation here struggled a fair amount before being reborn as the Container project, so it will be interesting to see what the success possibilities for the same type of port in Kitimat may hold. Then again with the world attention that the Fairview Container Port will receive, perhaps for Kitimat it will all be about the timing!

A bulk port would accept and ship those items that can't be put into the containers that soon will arrive on the North coast, items such as lumber, pulp and paper, wood pellets, automobiles and such.

The Terrace Standard has a complete report on the plan being championed by Roger Harris to get Kitimat and Terrace firmly entrenched into the world of international shipping.

Proposed Bulk Port to benefit Terrace
Terrace Standard
July 12 2006

LOCAL business people are excited about the prospect of developing a break bulk port facility in Kitimat, because it could mean economic spin-offs in Terrace.

Last week Premier Gordon Campbell was in Kitimat to announce a provincial contribution of $200,000 to help pay for a $774,000 study on the benefits of developing a break bulk port in Kitimat.

A break bulk port would be responsible for transporting large items that can't be accommodated in shipping containers via the Prince Rupert container port.

That includes items such as lumber, pulp and paper, wood pellets, steel, automobiles and other bulk products.

"I think this is an especially important announcement for Terrace because it clearly makes us the gateway to the Port of Kitimat and Prince Rupert in the movement of anything whether it goes in containers or not," says Roger Harris, the interim executive director of the newly formed Kitimaat Port Development Society, which will lead the study.

The society is made up of members of the Haisla Nation, Alcan Inc. and members of the K.T. Industrial Development Society and it has already been researching the proposal for some time and there is already significant interest from major corporations.

Executives from companies such as CN, Washington Marine Group, Enbridge, Encana, Greer Shipping and others joined officials from the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, the City of Terrace and members of the Haisla and other aboriginal groupsfor the announcement.

"This isn't a case of them coming to us and saying with our brains and your money we can make beautiful music together," said Premier Gordon Campbell, adding the presence of dozens of senior executives shows there is serious interest from the private sector in seeing such a facility come to fruition.

"We had 45 people who don't live here telling us this is a great place to invest," Harris says. "I think now what you are going to see from a shipper and CN's perspective, Terrace is the place where trains will come in and part of the product will end up in Kitimat and part of the product will go to Prince Rupert."

Campbell says the development of a break bulk port in Kitimat is not just a regional or even provincial initiative, but one that affects how and where companies across the country will ship large items to the Asian market.

"This partnership is a major partnership to meet Canada's needs here," he said, adding it could make Kitimat another gateway to the Pacific Rim.

The study will examine potential markets and customers for shipping, establish a business case, look at potential site locations and engineering needs and suggest a management and organizational structure.

Research on the project has been going on for months and last week's announcement demonstrates a will to move forward on a plan that has the potential to create jobs and establish Terrace as something of an inland port to feed the two port cities of Kitimat and Prince Rupert.
That builds on the City of Terrace's desire to develop the airport lands for industrial use.
Developing the port would also dovetail into creating other industry in the area, industries such as wood pellet production.

"It really makes our industrial lands more valuable because we have a low value fibre basket," Harris says. "This port would make pellet production in this part of the world a lot more feasible than it did today."

Terrace has a high percentage of decadent, high pulp quality wood that is suitable for pellet production.

And other business people in the area are excited about the plan.

Local business people such as Lloyd Hull say the port is an indication that diversifying the industry here is critical to stabilizing the local economy.

"It would sure be nice if they put it all together," Hull said. "We definitely have the people here for it, let's hope the north gets a real boost."

Roger Harris says the province's interest in supporting the study shows Terrace and the northwest are an important part of the Asia-Pacific strategy.

"The North Coast of British Columbia is in a unique geographic position, which makes transporting goods to the resource-hungry Asia-Pacific region faster than anywhere else on the continent," said Campbell. "We need to explore every possible opportunity for taking advantage of this geography, and this study will go a long way towards helping us do that."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Watching the Rotarians!

Slate has an intriguing look at the historical reaction to that rather sublime group of business people the Rotarians. Through the years since the founding of the service organization in 1905 in Chicago, it seems somebody somewhere has been busy casting a suspicuous eye at what they perceive to be the real motives of those who join.

The current Rotarian backlash it seems is in the fundamentalist Islamic world, where the likes of Osama Bin Laden and those belonging to Hamas all find evil in everything that a Rotarian may do.

It's a rather interesting look at how perception can change to hard dogma, without a lot of evidence to make your case.

Slate offers up both an on line version and a podcast on the story Check both out here.

Wheels on the bus begin to turn July 17th

The (er, much anticipated, discussed?) debut of Northern Health's Connections bus will take place on July 17th, when patients will be able to board the passenger bus provided by NH to take patients from hospital to hospital.

The first route to be introduced will be a Prince George to Vancouver run, next comes the Prince Rupert to Prince George run on the 24th of July. Other runs are to be brought on line as the next few months progress. The Rupert to Terrace run will not debut until October 2nd. Patients will be referred to the service by their doctors, who are presently being briefed about the different parameters for the service.

The service has been a controversial change to the Northern Health strategy and has received more than a few critical comments about the scope of the project and the way it has been introduced.

The PG Free Press had this story on it's on line edition on Wednesday.

NHA Making Connections
By Arthur Williams
Free Press
Jul 12 2006

Northern Health will launch it's Northern Health Connections program, starting July 17.

The program will provide low-cost bus transportation for patients needing to travel for medical services.

The first route will be from Prince George to Vancouver and 13 additional routes will be phased in between July and Oct. 9.

"Physicians are going to be referring people to the service," Northern Health communications director Mark Karjaluoto said. "It's something we're going to ramp up."

Northern Health will be holding information sessions for physicians and staff throughout the region on the bus service, he added. In addition, information posters and an add campaign will begin appearing shortly throughout the region.

A patient taking the Connections bus to Vancouver will pay $40 Karjaluoto said "about 10-15 per cent of the cost of providing the service.

The Connections bus service won't be restricted to low-income patients and one family member or caregiver will be able to accompany the patient at the same $40 cost, he said.

The program won't replace air and ground ambulance transportation, Karjaluoto said, but will be available for patients who would otherwise have to arrange their own transportation.

"This is for people who are well enough to travel," he added.

Karjaluoto said the initiative is designed to meet a need identified by northern health care users.

The route from Prince George to Vancouver will leave the north on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and return on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Vancouver route is the only route leaving from Prince George, but routes coming online in July and August will bring people from Fort St. John, Prince Rupert, Valemount, Mackenzie and Quesnel into the city.

Fares will range between $20 for short routes to $80 for the longest routes, round-trip.

Northern Health has contracted Diversified Transportation Ltd. to provide the service, which includes wheelchair-accessible buses.

The provincial government provided $4 million in funding for the initiative.

For more information, go online to

Ridley Terminals stands to benefit from increased mining in Northeast

With all the cabinet ministers in town over the weekend, there was no shortage of feedback on issues of importance to Prince Rupert. One of the key issues of the last year was the potential sale of Ridley Terminals to a private operator.

In fact as the last federal election got underway it looked as though the Terminal would be sold off to private interests while the campaign went on. But in the end, the new Conservative government derailed that deal and for the moment has left the Terminal as a publicly owned corporation, one that stands on the cusp of much better times.

The talk over the weekend was not about any privatization plans, but rather about the potential boom that could come with development of coal resources in the northeast and other mining projects on the drawing board.

The Daily News gave the Bill Bennett, the Minister of State for Mining a platform and he provided his take on the state of mining and the Terminal in the northwest.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Page One

As far as the province’s Minister of State for Mining knows, there are no future threats to the public operation of Ridley Terminals.

Bill Bennett, who was part of the effort to stop the federal government sell off of the coal handling facility to a private operator last year, said the current government has no further plans to change the operations of the facility.

“The federal government has said they are going to leave it the way it is right now,” said Bennett, who made his first trip to the province’s northern coal handling facility last week.

Bennett said it’s been made clear just how important the operation is to the future of the northeastern coal sector.

“You won’t have a Northeast coal sector without Ridley. First of all they are at capacity in Vancouver and secondly it is too expensive to ship all the way down in Vancouver,’ he said.

“It looks like Ridley has capacity for more product and that’s good.”

The Minister is meeting this week with a large international company interested in a new mine development which would add to the current coal tonnage being mined in the northeast.

“You could easily see coal shipments in the northeast doubling, tripling, quadrupling, there’s a demand for it in China and India,” he said.

Whatever happens with the terminal in the future, he said B. C.’s position remains that the terminal must allow B. C. companies to compete with their main competitor in the international coal markets – Australia.

“Australian coal ports are what they call operating on a ‘cost pass through’ basis, much like Ridley. Ridley doesn’t pretend to make enormous profits and that’s the way it has to stay if we are going to have a successful northeast coal sector,” he said.

“For us the bottom line remains, if the federal government is going to propose a change, it has to remain a cost pass through operation where you don’t give somebody the opportunity to gouge somebody moving coal through.”

In the meantime, the province is continuing to improve certainty for the mining sector through its Land Resource Management Plans, letting companies know where exploration is acceptable.

“We’ve got a pretty clear policy on mining now in this province, we’ve got go mining zones and no mining zones,” he said. “We don’t mine in parks or protected areas so any areas that has been identified in a land use plan that are protected, clearly the exploration companies know enough not to spend any money there.”

He added the industry has also been improving its relationship with First Nations.

“I wouldn’t claim that it is all positive and every company is doing a great job of it but there are now some excellent examples of mining companies who have very constructive relationships with First Nations. Nova Gold and the Talhtan is a prime example,” he said.

On the North Coast, he pointed to Swamp Point, a new large gravel operation as another example.

“They are going to ship gravel to California. It’s a partnership between Ascot Resources and the Nisga’a.”