Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Conservatives offer up a post Halloween trick of their own for the stock market

I’m not the most astute person when it comes to matters of the stock market, it sometimes seems the thing of witches potions to me, the way that the securities industries move their money and build their wealth.

But, I do know a good warning when I see one and the Globe and Mail offers up a beauty for those that will be looking at the early morning paper on Wednesday.

Market’s reaction will be ugly. That the interpretation of the Globe and Mail into the moves by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to move against the income trust industry, a wild west of a financial vehicle that was providing for some nice little returns for their investors protected as they were from the taxman. Wednesday's headline in the financial section says Flaherty drops a bomb on income trusts, which isn't the thing of stability one would think.

With the changes planned by Ottawa and set to come into effect in 2011 a massive leak from the federal treasury will be fixed, but a much treasured investment project will change forever.

The Conservatives originally had campaigned on a platform of not touching the Trusts, so there will be some political fall out from their core group of supporters over the change of direction. On the other side of the fiscal equation, the NDP are congratulating them on their vision on the impending doom for the nations finances had the trust system been allowed to carry on as it had.

Regardless of who is talking or listening, one thing seems certain the first day of November is going to be a rough ride for many sectors of the Toronto Stock Exchange. Of particular interest will be the state of stocks for Telus and BCE (Bell Canada Enterprises) both of which had hoped to turn into Income Trusts but now will be denied the opportunity to benefit fully from the tax benefits of the former trust system.

Many will be watching that TSE ticker with interest on Wednesday, looking for a sign that the money people are looking for a safe haven for their cash. We’re advised to brace ourselves. Those that have money in the stock market should take heed and keep a careful eye, for those of us who just play the voyeur; there could be some nervous faces to watch over the next few weeks.

Market's reaction will be ugly
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

November 1, 2006

Brace yourself, because this is going to be ugly.

Starting Wednesday, the federal government's move against income trusts is likely to cause an extended period of turmoil for both the stock markets and the investment portfolios of everyone who owns trusts. Trusts are held by even the most mainstream mutual funds, so few investors are going to be spared.

Trusts will survive — don't worry about that. Also, the government has tried to blunt the impact of its new trust policy on seniors by announcing a pair of new tax breaks designed especially for them. Still, investors have to be asking themselves now whether trusts are going to be worth owning in four years, when Ottawa's new anti-trust tax measures take hold. Given how the stock market hates uncertainty, you can bet trusts will fall when the stock markets open today.
Income trusts are businesses that pay little or no corporate tax. Instead, they distribute their earnings to investors, who in turn pay taxes on this income.

Beginning in 2011, trusts will be taxed more like corporations. Experts were still deciphering the government's announcement last night, but the net effect seems to be that paying taxes will leave trusts with less money to dole out to their investors. In turn, this will undermine the rationale under which scores of seniors and others have bought these investments — at a time when bonds and guaranteed investment certificates pay barely 4 per cent, trusts offered returns of 5 to 10 per cent or more through their monthly or quarterly cash distributions.
Give the Conservatives credit for decisive, if cold-blooded, action. It's not hard to imagine that the previous Liberal government had something similar in mind for trusts last fall, before a decision was made to leave them alone while trying to quell the trust market by making dividend stocks more attractive to investors.

Decisive or not, yesterday's announcement is going to feel like a stab in the back to small investors, especially those who recall the Conservatives saying during the last election campaign that they would not tax trusts.

Let's start an assessment of the damage to come with a look at shares of two corporate giants owned by scores of investors, BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. Shares in BCE and Telus jumped in value recently on anticipation that the two companies would convert to income trusts.
Yesterday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the companies will not be able to enjoy the full tax benefits of trusts because they have not yet completed their conversions. Expect both shares to fall hard when the stock markets open today.

Next, there are the many income trusts now trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They'll operate under the status quo until 2011, but big institutional investors, such as hedge funds, could start dumping them right away.

It's worth recalling that when the Liberals announced a review of their trust policy a little more than a year ago, the resulting uncertainty cost the trust market about $23-billion in value.
In a tacit acknowledgment of the importance of trusts to seniors, Mr. Flaherty announced a pair of tax measures yesterday to lighten the tax burden on those aged 65 and older. The age credit amount, a tax credit that helps reduce the income-tax burden for lower- to middle-income people, will rise by $1,000 to $5,066, effective for the current tax year.

Also, the government will permit income splitting for pensioners starting in 2007. When spouses have unequal pension income, one can end up paying far more in taxes than the other. With income splitting, both spouses have equal income and the overall tax load can fall.

Income-splitting for pensioners will provide more than $1-billion in tax relief per year, according to the federal Finance Department. Will that take the edge off the chaos to come in the trust market?

No chance. Trusts are found in mutual funds, pension funds, individual investment accounts and registered retirement accounts. All kinds of investors are going to be hurt, and the pain will be unavoidable as the stock markets adjust to the uncertain new future for trusts. Better brace yourself.

Flaherty drops bomb on income trusts
Surprise move breaks major Conservative campaign promise to avoid taxing trusts
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

November 1, 2006

OTTAWA — The federal government slapped a levy Tuesday on income trusts — which pay little or no corporate tax — to stem a growing revenue bleed and curb the growth of a vehicle it says threatens Canada's economy.

The surprise move breaks a major Conservative campaign promise to avoid taxing trusts.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he had no choice because he feared that increasing numbers of corporations were preparing to convert to trusts — a trend he said threatened Ottawa's tax base.

"Quite frankly, things changed a great deal this year and we're faced with a situation where Canada was moving to an income trust economy," Mr. Flaherty said, noting that in 2006 alone, the market value of companies converting to trusts was approaching $70-billion.

"Left unchecked, such corporate decisions would result in billions of dollars in less revenue for the federal government to invest in the priorities of Canadians."

Federal officials said they were also concerned about the prospect of financial institutions such as banks — or portions of bank assets — converting to trusts.

Income trusts pay little or no corporate tax, instead shovelling out the bulk of earnings to investors, who are taxed individually. Critics said Ottawa and the provinces never recouped all the lost revenue and ended up losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year.
Mr. Flaherty announced that Ottawa will start taxing trusts in the same manner as corporations, effective immediately for new trusts and starting in the 2011 tax year for existing trusts.

He acknowledged this will force Telus and BCE to reconsider their plans to convert to trusts that would have ranked as the largest in Canadian history.

The measure is expected to roil markets today, driving down the unit prices of most trusts and hammering the shares of Telus and BCE.

Tax expert Jack Mintz, with the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, predicted that Ottawa's actions will spell the end of conversion plans for both companies.

"I would not expect the trust conversions to go ahead. That's for sure," he said.

The tax rate on trust distributions will start at 34 per cent — to mirror federal and provincial taxes on companies — and will drop to 31.5 per cent by 2011. Ottawa will remit to the provinces a 13-percentage-point share of the revenue.

This effectively ends any tax advantages for investors in trusts over corporations.
Finance watchers said they expect the measure to stop almost all corporate conversions to trusts — and may encourage some that have already converted to rethink the move.
"Perhaps over the next four years, some who have already converted may go back to a corporate structure," Toronto Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond said.
Mr. Flaherty said this will restrain a wave of conversions that he said threatens corporate productivity, because pressure on trusts to distribute all profits cramps Canadian productivity by eroding trusts' ability to reinvest and innovate.

The trust tax is certain to hammer the retirement savings of millions of Canadians who've come to rely on trusts for hefty returns, including many seniors, whom the Tories consider a key voting group.

The Conservatives tried to cushion the blow of the trust tax by unveiling more than $1-billion in annual tax breaks for seniors and enacting a half-percentage-point rate cut in the general corporate tax rate, to take place in 2011.

The corporate tax cut will "ensure there will not be more government revenue generated from the corporate sector," Mr. Flaherty said.

The senior-targeted tax relief, which goes into effect in 2007, takes two forms. Ottawa will allow senior couples to split their pension income and thereby reduce their income tax bill. It's also boosting a tax credit for low-and middle-income seniors called the Age Credit Amount by $1,000, to $5,066.

Concern over income trusts spiked in mid-October when Mr. Mintz estimated that Ottawa and the provinces stood to collectively lose $1.1-billion in annual revenue after Telus and BCE converted.

Yesterday, Mr. Flaherty said federal government losses alone were about $500-million annually and would have climbed to $800-million after Telus and BCE converted.

The Tories are tackling what the Liberals left unfinished last year. The Liberals considered everything from a trust tax to lightening the tax burden on corporations. They eventually decided to cut the effective rate of tax on corporate dividends. This reduced the tax advantages of trusts, but critics considered it a half measure.

Liberal finance critic John McCallum accused the Conservative Party yesterday of hurting Canadians' retirement savings by breaking their campaign pledge.

"I think Canadians who invested in income trusts secure in the belief that the government will keep its word will have a real shock," Mr. McCallum said. "There's absolutely no doubt there's going to be some big losers out there as a consequence of this broken promise."

The New Democrats, however, praised the Tories for closing the tax gap between income trusts and corporations.

With reports from Simon Tuck and Alex Dobrota

Two games from their destiny

By far the dominant team in the CFL over the last couple of years has been the BC Lions, with perhaps the strongest line up, the most reliable quarterbacking collection and the one of the most knowledgeable and well prepared coaches in the league.

Last year the blue print called for a Lions victory at home, the Party on the Pacific sidetracked a bit by the Edmonton Eskimos, who dispatched the Lions in the Western final, in their very own home. It was not a happy day for a program that had worked hard to make a bid for the Cup on their own turf, at their own party. A lesson learned, of which they try to remember as the their playoff destiny unfolds.

With that opportunity lost, Buono and his coaches got to work on the job at hand retooling the Lions for the 2006 season. And for the most part they improved the squad in every category. They control the defensive play game in and game out, offensively they can rattle off the points regardless of who takes the snaps. While they lost four games on the year, they are still considered the favourites to be standing on a cold field in Winnipeg in three weeks time.

The Lions have given the team a week off, while the coaching staff are taking the week to prepare for either Saskatchewan or Calgary and if they are looking at the year in review they may wish to cheer on the Stamps this Sunday. Of the four losses on the year, two were at the hands of Saskatchewan, one to Calgary and one to the recently eliminated Eskimos.

Past history has also given the Riders a bit of a push when they play BC at BC Place, so when they pull out the pom poms on Sunday, Buono and the gang might want to look for the Red and White Ones.

However, if they take the counsel of Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail they’ll be wondering how many pairs of long johns to pack for the eventual trip to Winnipeg. Brunt wrote over the weekend that the Grey Cup is the Lions to lose.

Considering the caliber of the talent and the preparation they receive, it’s hard to argue with Mr. Brunt. He reviews the season for us and contemplates the future, the Lions and their fans are no doubt hoping he's on track.

Brunt: Grey Cup is B.C.'s to lose
Globe and Mail Update
October 29, 2006

This is what we know at the conclusion of the 2006 Canadian Football League regular season:

There is one very good, very well-coached team in Vancouver that this morning is the odds-on favourite to win the Grey Cup in Winnipeg three weeks hence. It's been the favourite all year, really.

There are five other teams in the playoffs, all of them with question marks, all of them obviously flawed.

The dispersal of the talent from the deceased Ottawa franchise at the beginning of the season, which was supposed to enhance the quality of play across the board, apparently did no such thing. A new interpretation of the blocking rules on kick returns, which no one bothered to adjust as the season progressed, all but mandated a flag on every play, eliminating the happy possibility of a return touchdown.

And a league that has always lived and died by the quality of its quarterbacking suddenly found itself thin at the position - only one quarterback as a most valuable player nominee, no realistic candidates - a turn of events that nobody saw coming.

Put it all together, and you wind up with some idea why this season has seemed so lacklustre, why so many games seemed to drag, why the three-down sport's one unassailable strength over the years - its entertainment value - was for the first time in living memory called into question.

The CFL has been called all kinds of things, some more valid than others, by those who liked to run it down, but until this season you didn't often hear it labelled "boring."

That, rather than the usual back room shenanigans, is the story heading into the playoffs, even with a lame duck commissioner and no replacement in sight, even with a return to Ottawa looking less likely by the moment.

If the post-season is going to redeem the year, some team other than the B.C. Lions is going to have to step up and mount a credible challenge. In the west, there's at least the possibility that one of Calgary, who at times have looked close, and Saskatchewan, now playing out the final days of the Roy Shivers(already departed)-Danny Barrett(soon to follow) era of unfulfilled potential, with give the Leos a tussle in the final.

It's an awful lot harder to find encouragement in the east, with the weekend games only confirming what's been obvious since the Montreal Alouettes began their long slide downward, that there wasn't a decent team among the four.

Winnipeg has Charles Roberts, the second best player in the league this season behind Geroy Simon, and that gives them hope of making a longshot run and winning two playoff games on the road. But with Kevin Glenn hurt in the final game against the Lions, that task becomes considerably more difficult.

The Bombers' first opponent, the Toronto Argonauts, proved on Saturday what's been obvious for some time, that they just can't stop the run - which could be good news for Roberts. Still, their pass defence is tough, and if they ever managed to make proper use of their resources on offence (John Avery, Ricky Williams, Arland Bruce..) they'd score plenty. Problem is, in the season in which he became professional football's all-time leader in passing yardage, Damon Allen seems to have finally grown old.

Anthony Calvillo is a young pup by comparison, but his slow fade this season has been a big part of the dysfunctional Montreal story. The Alouettes somehow slipped by Toronto for first place, winning a game they should have been out of by halftime, and maybe that will finally snap them out of a half-eason-long malaise. They'll be playing in front of a big home crowd for the Eastern Final, and know that Robert Edwards is running at full steam, but they're nothing like a lock against whichever team emerges from the semi-final.

There's still time to put everyone on the edge of their seats. There's still the chance to recreate dramatics like those in last November's spectacular Grey Cup game

It's getting late, though, and it's taken plenty of patience even for the hard core to remain committed thus far.

Time for the CFL to put on a show. It's long overdue.

The above post first appeared on my Twelve Men on the field blog, for more Canadian Football news check it out.

Monday, October 30, 2006

It’s Showtime: Television: Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip

Oh, oh, this can’t be a good sign! After a weekend of death rattles along the blogsphere about NBC’s supposed can’t miss hit show of the season, NBC picked this week to have the program disappear from its regular spot.

Normally Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip airs on Monday nights (Sunday on CTV in Canada), first hint of something was last night when it failed to appear in its regular spot on the Canadian dial. A quick check of the Studio Sixty website informs viewers that tonight NBC would air an episode of its Friday Night Lights show, a program that has been struggling to find an audience despite its good reception from the critics. On the website, an all new episode of Studio Sixty is promised for next week!

For Studio Sixty however, the temporary (they hope) absence from the schedule will not help in the chatter on the internet about its impending demise. The Fox website suggests that the end is very nigh and Slate normally a high end friend to television shows wonders aloud if the show can even be saved!

It was supposed to be the ultimate in television insider shows, A West Wing type of program about a thinly veiled Saturday Night Live sketch show. It featured the drama behind the scenes, the battles for that cutting edge and the sub plot soap operas of the characters. Considering the pedigree it should have been a hit. The West Wing when it first came out was one of those must watch shows, people would block off the hour to watch, or make damn sure the VCR was working and had a tape in it to tape the show.

As the seasons of West Wing went on, the show began to stumble the original producers were tossed overboard and in the end the show was a mere shadow of what it once aspired to be. However that process took a number of years and more than a few Emmy awards to meet its end.

So far Studio Sixty has condensed all of that into less than seven weeks, without the Emmy awards to put on the mantle. The most crushing of lines regarding the show belongs to the above mentioned Fox story, as they put it, "Even worse: no one cares whether or not the people from the Bartlett White House puts on a comedy show. That's what 'Studio 60' is, essentially: the "West Wing" annual talent show. "

And judging by the reaction, a not very good talent show at that!

Last weeks episode was taken to the woodshed over at Television without Pity and you have to wonder if the folks at Brilliant But Cancelled might be planning a revision of their deathwatch odds.

Perhaps the show has gone in for a re-tooling, finding a way to make the show as cutting edge as was promised in those breathless promo days of August and early September.

The show so far has had a few good moments, Matthew Perry has pulled his weight on the show making the most of his character, Bradley Whitford has seemed to be slow out of the gate and truth be told he is still closely associated with his West Wing days, so parts of that character still pop up in his new gig at Studio Sixty.

As has been pointed out in many blog items over the last few weeks, the biggest problem seems to be the section of the program that is dedicated to the actual presentation of a show, it generally falls flat and seems like a tedious waste of television time. Look for the actual show part of the program to take an even greater backseat to the wanderings around the backstage in the episodes to come.

That is if there are many more episodes to come! One hopes that they sort out their problems on the show. Defying the critics of the blogosphere that are calling for an end to the stumbling show.

When Sorkin and Schlamme are on their game, they provide some of the fastest, funniest and provocative television there is, as with anything though when things go off the rails, you’re left with a train wreck.

The Places your travel agent won’t book you into

MSNBC went counter culture for a brief moment today, featuring a Newsweek “web exclusive” story on a recently released DVD, featuring tours of some of the worst places on the face of the earth.

The Vice guide to Travel, is the creation of Vice Magazine, a pop culture publication that is certainly more in your face and less concerned about the conventions of modern journalism than oh lets say Newsweek.

Some of the sunspot destinations that Vice checks out for the faithful include, checking in with illegal-arms dealers in Pakistan, sharing some quality time with dirty-bomb dealers in Bulgaria and just in time for hunting season a quest for the wild, radioactive boars of Chernobyl. Now let’s see you get that package from the Travel agency in the Rupert Square.

MSNBC claims to provide a few samples of the DVD’s “tours” on the story page, though they refused to load for me when I tried to access them. I’ll blame the recent cutbacks at NBC; most likely they fired the guy that embeds the clips to the website. When in doubt always blame the management!

The magazine is definitely shooting a at least one decade and maybe two, below my demographic, but that doesn’t stop me from trolling it’s web platforms pages on occasion. If for no other reaston than just to see what it is that I’m missing out on, as I ponder the sunset years on my horizon. It makes generous use of YouTube video and takes an approach to current events that the mainstream outlets won't dare to try anytime soon.

Be warned ahead though, they like to drop the F bomb ( a lot) and it's not something you want to be surfing at, when the young ones come around to see what Mom and Dad are doing on the computer!

One of the publishers, Shane Smith is a Canadian, who takes on the role of guerrilla tour guide himself on some of the expeditions. He started the Vice project while living in Canada but has since moved himself and his idea down to New York, using it as his base for world travel.

He offers one hint as to what it takes to successfully go into places that most journalists, let alone travel writers would have difficulty finding. “We dress up the part and go with them. They say, don't act like an American and you won't have problems. When you're just kind of bummy, wearing an old T shirt and have a beard with food in it, then no one looks twice.”

Foreign correspondents of the world take note!

In the Newsweek piece, Vice's creators expressed concern over its recent affiliation with the MTV network in the USA, feeling that they probably don’t have as much in common with them as that pop culture network might think.

Though you have to wonder how they must feel about the attention from MSNBC and Newsweek, we gather it’s probably a lot like the feeling that kids get when they find out that the parent’s have actually figured out what they’ve been up to!

No need to retire to the dog house for McKay

The speaker has spoken and he's not inclined to let out any more leash on the Great Dog Debate of the House of Commons.

Stating that; "The official record is not helpful", Milliken closed the book on any further parliamentary action regarding what McKay may or may not have said, in regard to Liberal member (and former girlfriend) Belinda Stronach.

Last week the issue became the tempest of the session, as Liberals claimed that McKay seemed to refer to Ms. Stronach as a dog. A toss away line thrown out in the heat of a highly emotional debate over climactic change.

At the height of the rhetoric over the remarks in the Commons, calls were made for McKay to be censured or forced to resign. Some Liberals suggested that should he come forward and say that the reports were indeed true, then he should be brought up on charges of lying to Parliament.

Which probably accounts for why he's not inclined to dig a ditch any deeper for himself.

Speaking of digging, if Ms. Stronach was upset with the comments attributed to McKay, wait til she gets word of the ramblings of Norman Spector (who writes a weekly column for the Globe and Mail) on the Bill Good Show on Monday morning.

Spector as part of the Monday Morning quarterback session on CKNW, used a most unparliamentary term to refer to his impression of the MP who seems to find herself at the centre of many a public storm. (Listen in to the heated opinion from the NW Audio Vault, Monday, 10-11 am)

If nothing else Spector will have taken the heat off of McKays reported slight. Which if combined with last weeks report over the obvious lack of work going on on the Hill these days, leads us to believe that late October is now officially the Dog Days of Parliament?

Colonel Sanders and his boys make it finger licking healthy?

I dunno, somehow the idea of a "healthier" Kentucky Fried Chicken sounds a lot like that "New" coke experiment, do you really want to go there.

But then again, when you don't have a choice you have to make the best of it I guess. With the current mass hysteria over trans fat in our diet and pending legislation to ban the evil fats, the staple of the land, that bucket of the Colonel's finest is getting a health concsious upgrade.

KFC is switching to a canola based oil which will result in zero trans fats delivered to our arteries, as we dive into the snack packs and buckets at will. They follow the trend a Canadian fast food franchises to reduce the levels of the trans fat in our diets, while still hoping to protect their market share.

But we wonder if it will now qualify for the Healthy Heart program?

I'll show my age a bit here, but I long remember those days long gone by when picking up a bucket of chicken after a baseball practice was the norm at our house. A quick solution to the night's dinner choices and a finger licking good experience of the times.

A little further down the years in my life I vaguely remember a restaurant chain in Manitoba called Mary Brown's that used a secret cooking recipe to take on the KFC goliath. The selling point at the time was that their fried chicken was a healthy alternative to the established brand, which considering it was fried chicken seemed like kind of an oxymoron.

Regardless, I don't seem to see as many of them around the nation(and even that one in Manitoba seems to have disappaered) as the Colonel can muster, so I gather the epic battle over chicken domination never took off.

I'll give the folks at KFC the benefit of the doubt and wait and see (and since we live in a KFC free zone at the moment there's a lot of benefit of a doubt to come). But I look forward to the day when I can see if the new and improved KFC passes the finger lickin' test..

The east-west divide of Northern BC

The EI system in the northern part of the province once again finds itself under the microscope, with a hot economy in the east and a lukewarm if not outright cold on in the west. The system is in need of an overhaul according to the local MP Nathan Cullen, who calls on the federal government to take a longer look at the current crisis in the area.

Suggesting that the reporting area be divided into Northwest and Northeast sections, Cullen feels that once that technical matter is acted upon, the Northwest will gain better access to job retraining funding.

He also touched on the second reading of the anti replacement worker bill currently working its way through the House of Commons, though his comparison of the House of Commons, to a “house of Pastry” as reported in the final paragraph of the story kind of leaves you wondering what it is that he’s trying to get across. Unless of course he’s comparing MP’s to apple turnovers, cream puffs or possibly hot cross buns, which might work, we guess.

The Daily News had the details in its Friday edition

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, October 27, 2006
Pages one and two

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is looking at shorter term solutions to fix the Employment Insurance (EI) system in northern B. C. while a bill to overhaul the system works its way through the House of Commons.

“We are trying to work on a specific measure right now to separate the region. The region as it’s designed right now, goes from the Queen Charlotte Islands all the way to For St. John, with obviously a huge stretch of economies. We want the federal government to split the region into a ‘northwest’ and ‘northeast’, much the way the federal ridings are,” said Cullen. “We are also looking for serious training dollars from EI and Western Economic Diversification in Prince Rupert and this riding area.”

Currently, shore workers in Prince Rupert are having trouble accessing EI because of the failure of the pink salmon run this summer and the fact that the EI region includes the booming economies of Fort St. John and Prince George.

Last weekend, shoreworkers held a rally, barbecue and letter writing campaign at Fishermen’s Hall to try and keep their spirits up.

Cullen said he doesn’t know yet where the best boundary split would be but its clear things can’t stay the dame.

“We have to talk with some communities and people who follow the employment numbers to see what the natural fit is (to split the region.) The federal boundaries might make sense, they might not,” he said.

“I think the main point is to get the federal government to understand you can’t mix apples and oranges and have one program that fits both of them and that’s what we have.”

“When Rupert is doing as well as Fort St. John, then we can talk, but it hasn’t been that way for a long time and it shows how out of touch the program is with the reality on the ground.”

In the meantime, Cullen said he was pleased a second reading of what he called an “anti-scab” bill was passed Wednesday evening in the House of Commons.

Bill C-257 is the third legislative attempt to outlaw the use of replacement workers at the federal level.

“The bill got through and it came through resoundingly. It exists in B. C. and Quebec already and we are looking to make it happen right across the country. It has been shown to lower labour disputes’ intensity and length,” said Cullen.

He said amending the Canada Labour Code to ban replacement workers during disputes will help bring balance, fairness and economic stability to the workplace and the country.

“Labour disputes are also prolonged, making strikes and lockouts even more costly to the Canadian economy in the short term an, as a result, lingering animosity can infect workplaces for years.”

Cullen said that removing the ability to use replacement workers results in smoother labour relations and shorter labour disputes with less risk to everyone involved.

“Watching the labour movement come on the hill and get second reading of the anti-scab bill really showed the House of Commons has the potential to return back to a House of Commons, as opposed to a house of pastry, and listen to average working folks." he said.

Survey will say…

On Friday, The Daily News completed its week of almost non stop Community Futures stories, with an article about the upcoming workforce survey to determine if Prince Rupert is ready to boom.

And while it certainly is worth trumpeting the achievements of the local office and highlighting its plans for the future, you have to wonder if maybe there aren’t one or two stories in the city missing out on some valuable newsprint.

It seems that not a day went by this week without mention of the happenings of the 3rd Avenue economic development office (well ok Thursday was Futures free) including a bio on the General Manager.

The week wrapped up exactly where it began, providing a bit more information about that now well promoted Skills survey about to be conducted by the folks at Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest.

Now that’s what one calls a news cycle…

Huge survey will look at whether workers have the skills they will need
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, October 27, 2006
Pages one and two

A massive workforce skills assessment is underway in the Northwest, the likes of which has never been done before.

And Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest is hoping people both employed and unemployed will take the 15 minutes required to participate in the analysis of the existing workforce.

”The more we know about the strengths and weakness of our current workforce and existing jobs, the better prepared we will be to tackle the future,” said Maynard Angus, general manager of Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest.

Called the Pacific Northwest Gateway Skills initiative, the project will assess what jobs are out there now, which skills those jobs require, which jobs may be coming in the community in the future, and the skill sets those jobs require.

Understanding the size, availability and skills of the local workforce, whether employed or unemployed, will be critical in predicting how effectively Prince Rupert will be able to take advantage of new jobs and business opportunities that will created with the opening of the container port and other developments on the horizon.

Information will be gathered through interviews with representatives from industry, labour and the business community.

However, in addition to identifying skills needed by industry and the business community, the Pacific Northwest Gateways Skills Initiative will also be compiling an inventory of existing workforce skills, based on information gathered from telephone interviews and questionnaires.

Each interview takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete and Community Futures is hopeful that when people are asked to participate, the public will contribute their time.

“This is an important survey, and we need as many people to participate as possible,” said Angus. “The more people we can interview, the more accurately we will be able to identify existing skills needs and the training required to prepare for future job opportunities.”

A number of agencies in town are involved with organizing interviews through their own membership networks. The Career Resource Centre, Hecate Strait Employment Development Society, the Friendship House, Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society and the North Coast Transition Society are all helping deliver the survey. Students from Northwest Community College have also volunteered to conduct one on one interviews and will be out in the community asking people to sign up for a phone interview.

The skills assessment areas covers the eight communities in the Community Futures Pacific Northwest Region, including Prince Rupert, Port Edward, Oona River, Dodge Cove, Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla, Hartley Bay and Kitkatla.

Data collectors have also been hired in Hartley Bay, Kitkatla and Lax Kw’alaams and will be going door to door to collect information.

To participate in the Workforce Skills Initiative, please contact Community Futures at 622-2332 or 1-877-622-8288.

Boom time bonanza

A town with so much demand that the jobs go begging. Complete with stories of 12-14 hour days, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, including the tale of a Hotel operator that can’t open up their restaurant, because no one wants or needs to work there.

They’re on the other side of the province and at the other end of the financial spectrum and Dawson Creek is as they say a hot, hot , hot job market. The current boom in the northeast is providing the city of 12,000 with enough money to build a huge new leisure complex.

Dawson Creek of course is part of the same territory that Prince Rupert shares in terms of Employment Insurance reporting, but in reality is a completely different world than that which we feature here. It makes for a fascinating study of two towns of similar sizes in completely different economic situations.

It’s all part of life in the oil patch boomtown and the Vancouver Sun provided an interesting look at how things can quickly change when the boom times come..

Oil and gas boom sets Dawson Creek on fire
The northern town is a hub of B.C. industry

Scott Simpson
Vancouver Sun
Monday, October 30, 2006

First of a series.
DAWSON CREEK -- Two guys came by Curtis York's office the other day, looking for work.
They were heavy-duty vehicle drivers, one from Prince George and the other from Prince Rupert.

They'd gone as far east as Grande Prairie, Alta., looking for a sense of the opportunities available in Canada's booming Western oil-and-gas sector, and were stopping into Dawson Creek on their way home to scope out gas and oilfield service opportunities in one of British Columbia's hottest boom towns.

York needs drivers to deliver drilling fluids to the gas-exploration rigs that are swarming across northeast B.C.

Things are so crazy in Dawson Creek that when a new Best Western hotel opened this summer, the accompanying restaurant stayed closed because the operators couldn't find anyone who needed a job.

It crossed York's mind that the men might be what he was looking for, and the northeast needs in abundance, people with a strong work ethic who will eat up some of the high-paying hours that a vigorous gas industry is throwing his company's way.

No such luck.

He wanted to know when they could start. They began to hem and haw.

"Are you near sour gas?" one asked.

"Well, this is the oil field," York responded.

"Is it harmful?"

"Well of course it is," he replied.

And so on. It soon became clear to York that they were more interested in backtracking than hauling.

"I said: 'I think you better just keep trucking back to Prince Rupert or wherever you've come from. You're just wasting time.'

"They didn't really want it," York reflected in an interview, adding that he has encountered "a lot of people" who make tentative inquiries but lack commitment.

Not York.

He is so confident in the future of B.C.'s gas exploration and development industry -- and the provincial government's commitment to the industry's future -- that he relocated the main office of Gerry's Oilfield Services from Bonanza, Alta., and spent $1 million on a new facility in Dawson Creek.

Companies such as his are springing up like mushrooms in the city's main industrial park in the wake of EnCana's record $400-million purchase of gas- drilling rights on a 362,000-hectare property a couple of hours' drive north of town.

Entrepreneurs such as York, who sniffed out the opportunity and bought into the B.C. government's commitment to supporting an expanded gas industry, are working flat out, making money hand over fist, and creating hundreds of new jobs for British Columbians.
"We made a commitment here," York said. "We've invested a big chunk of dollars in Dawson. We've gotten our return back on it for sure.

"With what was going on in British Columbia we thought it was in our best interests to come in. These are exciting times here and hopefully they will continue."

Perhaps they will.

In a report released last week, BMO Financial Group's economics department said oil-and-gas services will rank as the fastest- growing industry in Canada in 2006-2007.

"Oil-and-gas services are being driven by massive investments in energy resource and infrastructure development," noted BMO Group assistant chief economist Earl Sweet in the report.

"While down from their earlier exaggerated highs, prices for oil and natural gas are projected to remain relatively elevated during the next two years," he added.

"This will ensure that development of Canada's conventional and non-conventional oil and gas fields continues at a brisk pace."

Manny Kutchinski arrived here two years ago, after an oilfield- service career spent mostly in Alberta, to assist in a new pipeline facility business that his son was setting up in Dawson Creek in recognition of the Cutbank Ridge opportunity.

"We got into it right away," Kutchinski said. "In total we've got 100 people working for us here, and we've also got a branch office in Grande Prairie.

"EnCana got things rolling for us."

Paul Gevatkoff, a city councillor in Dawson Creek, said EnCana's decision to run Cutbank as a year-round operation rather than a conventional B.C. winter-only enterprise was a turning point for the economy.

"That's what supports these guys moving in here. Big public companies have moved right into Dawson Creek and set up shop based on being able to work year-round," Gevatkoff said.

Long-time area residents are also participating.

Allan Armstrong, who manages PC Oilfield Supply, took it from a startup in 2003 to "a multimillion dollar company with 20 people."

People are pretty much on the payroll at PC and every other oil- service company in town from the moment they open their eyes in the morning until they close them at night.

"I think on average, everybody is working 120-130 hours in a two-week period," Armstrong says.

"For the most part, our people have a fairly high level of ambition. If you're going to be putting in the hours and the days that we do, you have to have that drive or you're not going to survive."

His own workday begins before 5 a.m., and goes past 9 p.m.

"I worked 325 days last year," says Armstrong.

"We worked Christmas Day. We have never even advertised, really. We get out there and work just seems to follow."

The economic benefits are spreading through the community.

With a population of just 12,000, the city recently undertook a $35-million recreation and leisure complex.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Houdini, Harry Houdini

Long before James Bond became the template for all things mysterious and exciting it seems there was someone else in Her Majesties Service who didn’t need the fancy toys of the famed 007.

A new book set for release on Halloween suggests that Harry Houdini, spent his hours helping out Scotland Yard keep track of Russian anarchists. When he wasn't helping out Her Majesty, Houdini was busy lending assistance to the U. S. Secret Service in their quest to track down counterfeiters. Apparently all in a days work for the illustrious escape artist.

Unlike the spies of today, it would seem a public profile was just the cover to pry loose information on behalf of the Queen or the U. S. Government.

Houdini of course died in 1926 at the age of 52, the victim of two separate incidents of someone punching him in the stomach. They were assaults that the authors suggest may have been related in their planning.

But instead of payback from any number of foreign agents, it’s suggested that perhaps aware of Houdini’s extra curricular activities, that the Houdini hit was organized by rival spiritualist groups. A rather prominent organization in the 1920’s which was feeling the pressure after Houdini and his wife targeted their traveling road shows as frauds.

Spooks and ghouls, ghosts and spies all part of the mythology of Houdini and his demise.

Trick or Treat, Exxon is the company to beat!

The world's largest oil company Exxon, has reported its second best performance ever for its stock, reporting third quarter profits 10.49 BILLION DOLLARS.

The third quarter numbers are the second largest quarterly profits ever achieved by a publicly traded company.

And they aren't too terribly upset about only claiming number two, the number one spot went to Exxon back in 2005 with a fourth quarter profit of 10.71 BILLION dollars.

The increase in profits of Exxon come as the world's oil market prepares for an OPEC production slowdown, which combined with an uneasy world situation, could very well result in higher prices at the pump, which most likely will help Exxon try and eclipse their own record

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Podunkian Music Club-October 28

Lou Reed

Walk on the Wild Side

There are more than a few musicians that can stake a claim to New York City, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have forever been known as the sound of New York, Billy Joel reflected the state of mind of New York, while Frank Sinatra in the fifties and Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen in later years all crossed over from New Jersey to develop a sound that was uniquely New York, and over the years have come to represent that city’s sound and atmosphere.. But for sheer energy of the New York streets and a complete understanding of the parade of characters that make New York the cross roads of the world, you need look only as far as Lou Reed.

From his days with the Velvet Underground to his many changes in direction musically, one constant has remained true, the sound and streets of New York belongs to Lou. His music is nothing but poetry of the American culture of the city that never sleeps.

Walk on the Wild side is New York unmasked, a steady collection of characters that had to be culled from any Soho or Greenwich Village sidewalk. From a he that’s a she, to the ladies of the evening sharing their affections with the boys in blue an entire subculture of New York is described in those short three and a half minutes.

It’s not a surprise that the song had a wee problem collecting mainstream airplay back in the seventies; it was a bit too realistic for the safe old AM radio airwaves and their super tight play lists. But over on the FM dial was a land made for Reed, the album rock format adopted his sounds and made him the standard bearer for a format just starting to push its way to the forefront of the music industry.

For many the song probably is tied to a television ad for Honda that aired a number of years ago, a bleak prospect it that’s all anyone associates the music and the man with.

From that inescapable sound of Wild side would come many more classics from Reed, his New York album a definitive sampling of the musician and his city, a true celebration of rocks big city roots. His career has been examined and celebrated for many years, indicative of his place in the history of American music.

Many in the genre make a pilgrimage to New York to pay their dues and prove their bona fides; others never leave the city, their place in its musical history already long assured.

Artist- Lou Reed

CD- Transformer

Better here than there today

Sunshine and warm temperatures in Podunk, snow, slush and road closures to the east.

A reminder that we're heading into the winter driving season for the Northern part of the province today.

Highway 16 between Houston and Burns Lake was closed on Saturday due to the elements.

From the Drive BC website:

Highway 16 Both Directions

Closed in both directions from Houston to Top of Priestly Hill, 30 km east of Burns Lake (115.3 km) because of Compact Snow with Plowing & Sanding. Updated on Sat Oct 28 at 10:51 am. (ID# 23734)

Oct 28, 2006 10:51 AM

Highway 16 Both Directions

Travel Advisory in effect. Compact Snow with Slippery Sections from Wakefield Road, 30 kilometers west of Houston to Top of Priestly Hill, 30 km east of Burns Lake (146.7 km). Travel is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. Updated Sat Oct 28 at 8:16 am. (ID# 23725)

Oct 28, 2006 08:16 AM

And so the fall turns to winter before the time has a chance to change!

Complimentary not competitive

The prospect of a port catering to bulk goods in Kitimat is not considered a threat to the Port of Prince Rupert. That’s the impression provided in a front page story in the Daily News on Thursday. The plans that are in the works would provide shipping services to the forest products, steel and energy industries from a port between Methanex and Alcan in Kitimat.

A break bulk goods port once was on the shores of Prince Rupert at Fairview, but never seemed to reach its potential as far as volume goes. It made for a situation that spurred on the move to containerization on the North Coast.

While the Rupert Port now seems fairly dedicated to that concept of shipping, they haven’t completely ruled out a return to bulk goods at some future date. Though one wonders what kind of demand would be there should Kitimat have their bulk port up and running.

The full story can be found in the Thursday Daily News.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Pages One and Three

The Port of Prince Rupert doesn’t see the possible development of a break-bulk port facility in Kitimat as a threat, or even a rival.

“We take kind-of a regional perspective and we’d like to think on one hand there’s enough opportunities for all of us and we should be working together to see how we can compliment each other for the benefit of the region and not just focus on one community at the expense of another community,” said Barry Bartlett, manager of corporate communications and public affairs for the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

The Kitimaat Port Development Society is currently completing a $775,000 four phase feasibility study that explores the potential of building a common carrier break bulk facility in between the Alcan and Methanex docks in Kitimat.

An earlier consultant’s report indicates there is an opportunity to develop the facility in Kitimat. The mutli-phase study will outline markets, determine long-term prospects, identify revenue sources and examine capital investment needs.

During a recent Northwest Corridor Development Corporation meeting in Terrace, Steve Wilson, president of the Kitimaat Port Development Society and chief councilor of the Haisla First Nation, also said the two projects could be complimentary.

“Because of the focus on containers in the Vancouver area and the containerization in Prince Rupert, there’s a loss of break-bulk capacity. Really that’s the opportunity that preserved itself and we decided as a group to take advantage of that,” said Wilson.

The Fairview Container Terminal currently under construction in Prince Rupert used to be a break bulk terminal that shipped lumber, pulp and agricultural products with a focus on exports. The new terminal will focus on container imports from Asia.

“We don’t want to compete with Prince Rupert, we want to be complimentary to them because it’s good business and it’s good for the region,” said Wilson, who described a break-bulk facility handling forest products, steel and energy products.

However, just because the Kitimaat Society is looking at break-bulk doesn’t mean the Port of Prince Rupert has given up on its possible future in the break-bulk business, said Bartlett.

“If you look at the (federal government’s) Pacific Gateway Strategy, there is also the recognition there is going to be a very vibrant break-bulk capacity required. Right now, we are focusing on the container port, but we certainly do have the capacity, particualry for example with Ridley Island to accommodate a break bulk facility as well as other facilities,” said Bartlett.

In the Pacific Gateway Strategy, British Columbia outlines its vision for future shipments through the province’s ports. This includes upping container shipments from 2.1 million per year in 2005 to nine million per year by 2020 and increasing break-bulk shipments from 62 million tones in 2003 to 95 million tones in 2020.

The Haisla have been spearheading the Kitimaat Port Development for the past four years.

Although Kitimat is a private port, it exports up to 11 per cent of British Columbia’s Gross Domestic product annually.

“What we need is a common carrier port because Kitimat as a port right now is really Alcan, Eurocan and Methanex. Opportunities for common carriers are zero. Allowing other businesses to use the port of Kitimat have been limited because all he land is privately owned,” said Wilson.

Wilson added that the province really needs to look to the North when it comes to finding ways to meet the goals of the Pacific Gateway strategy.

“Right now, the Gateway strategy is really limited to ports that have containers and most of the focus is on Vancouver, which I think is wrong.

“The centre of the world is not Vancouver, I think that both Kitimat and Prince Rupert deserve more a full look at the opportunities that are there because there are a lot of good opportunities and we can compliment each other,” he said.

“What this does is it presents an opportunity to as a region work together to benefit everybody… on the coast.”

Queen of North sinking had an impact on Prince George Tourism

Tourism Prince George has gone through the summer numbers of May to September and determined that tourist vists to that city were down 6% from the same period of time in 2005.

A high Canadian dollar, high fuel costs and reduction in VIA rail frequency were considered part of the cause to the downturn, but the sinking of the BC Ferry in March seems to be the main reason that the numbers dropped by that six percent amount. The reduction in the Ferry service in Prince rupert resulted in reduced circle tour opportunities and less hotel stays in Prince Geroge for west and east bound travelers.

While six percent is a good chunk of missing traffic, Tourism Prince George is happy with that number considering the challenges that 2006 provided for them. The full story was found in the PG Free Press of October 25.

Numbers down, but expected

By Bill Phillips
PGFree Press
Oct 25 2006

The bad news is there were fewer tourists in town this season. The good news is that numbers were expected to be down and weren’t as bad as expected.

“We did a comparison from May to September,“ said Deborah Kulchiski, Manager of Tourism Prince George. “We were down six per cent compared to 2005.“

From May to September 2006, the Prince George Visitor Centres welcomed approximately 21,000 visitors. This same period in 2005 experienced approximately 22,500 visitors. Overall, this reflects a decrease of approximately six per cent in visitation this season. Highlights demonstrate the strongest market was from those visitors traveling within our province, with the U.S. visitor ranked second, and European market third. Visitation from Europeans was especially strong during the month of September, when typical travel trends depict their down swing from Alaska and Yukon destinations.

The loss of the Queen of the North, decrease in Via Rail frequency, high fuel costs, and strong Canadian dollar were a few of the challenges northern communities were faced with this season.
“The community doesn’t realize the impact (the Queen of the North sinking) has on Prince George,” she said. “People coming through going to the ferry stop and stay here.”

The Queen of the North sinking also limited circle tour opportunities through the area.
However, the challenges were met with good marketing programs that helped bring tourists to the area.

Two of the programs that proved successful to enhancing awareness of both Prince George and visitor services were the Northern BC Summer Series program, and HOST

“We take pride in the fact that our counsellors are very well informed about the product and services we have to offer the visitor. When we have the opportunity to exceed our visitor’s expectations, they often make the decision to stay in our community an extra day.”
Kulchiski also credits the professional approach taken by this summer’s seasonal staff, boasting their achievements on a provincial level.

“Each season, Visitor Centres across the province prepare for their Quality Service reports, based on their score received from Tourism BC’s secret shopper. Both Visitor Centres’ staff welcomed the challenge, with Hwy. 16 and 97 scoring 91 per cent, and the downtown Visitor Centre scoring 93 per cent - well above the provincial average.“

Looking forward to 2007, Kulchiski says they will be focusing on the independent traveller, or the rubber tire traffic. They tend to spend more time in an area, she said, and they are often return visitors. The Prince George Visitor Centres will also be working with groups trying to get more events to the community. Events like the recent West of the Rockies rodeo and even the Bonnie Raitt concert draw people to the community.

Kulchiski said they saw people from Calgary travel to Prince George to attend the Raitt concert.
“Events are one of the reasons why people come to communities,” she said.

Also in 2007 communities throughout the north will be working more together on attracting tourists to the area. There is a common good to getting tourists into northern B.C.

Hawk Air looks to Albertan skies for salvation

Hawk Air, the Northwest’s alternative to Air Canada, is hoping to forge an alliance with an Alberta based airline, Bar XH, in order to get itself out of creditor protection.

It’s been a year since the airline entered into supervised creditor protection status suffering increasing fuel prices, insurance sots and leasing problems from aircraft suppliers. The potential loss of a valuable alternative link to the lower mainland has a number of people in the northwest worried about the state of the local aviation industry.

The Terrace Standard and The Daily News both featured stories outlining the scope of the discussions and the path the airline has traveled since the protection began last year.

Hawkair in talks with Bar XH about the future, “a good thing” says CEO
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Pages One and Three

A partnership with an Alberta-based airline now appears to be Hawkair’s best opportunity to get out from under creditor protection.

Yesterday, Hawkair announced it was in discussions with Calgary-based Bar XH Air about a formal on-going relationship and has used Jan. 15 to present an agreement in B. C. Supreme Court.

“There is a deal for Bar XH to take an equity position and help us secure aircraft to move forward. It’s a good thing overall,” said Rod Hayward, Hawkair’s chief executive officer. “But there are a lot of details to be worked out.”

Hawkair, which operates passenger service between Northwest B. C. communities and the Lower Mainland, entered into court supervised creditor protection status in October 2005, a process similar to the one undertaken by Air Canada.

At the time, the company blamed escalating fuel prices, insurance costs and problems with getting what it describes as ‘fair’ leases with its aircraft providers.

Between its September and October 2006 court hearings, Hawkair was supposed to re-work its original Dash 8 purchase deal with Maritime-based IMP Group Ltd. to lower its payments or find replacement planes.

However, Hayward, in his court submission, said IMP has been unwilling to negotiate but at the same time the market for turbo prop planes has tightened considerably, making it difficult to find replacements.

“The world market for turbo prop regional aircraft has turned around considerably in the last year. In September 2005 there was probably 40 Dash 8’s available for sale. Right, now they are down to a handful,” said Hayward.

“Finding replacement aircraft has proven very difficult, especially while under CCAA.”

Given the limited quantities available, companies selling or leasing out Dash-9’s simply aren’t interested in talking to a company under court protection, he said. However, an agreement with Bar XH provides a new opportunity to find replacement aircraft.

“It’s pretty exciting when you look right at it. Bar XH has been in the aviation industry back to 1967.

”They have 50 pilots and are pretty well established operation out there in Alberta,” said Hayward.

Bar XH has been thinking about moving into larger aircraft and Hayward said they see a merger as a good way to get there.

“They want to get into the oil field communities out there with all the crews being moved around… so they decided they want to get into some bigger aircraft,” he said.

Bar XH also wants to establish a facility in British Columbia for servicing Hawkair, Bar XH and also third party aircraft.

In effect this affiliation will expand Hawkair’s and Bar XH’s respective capabilities in both B. C. and Alberta.

While some details of the Hawkair, Bar XH transaction were reported in other media, Hayward said these reports are not accurate because the deal has yet to be firmed up.

Despite being under court protection Hawkair is reporting a profitable fiscal year-to-date for 2006. The company employees 100 people.

Hawkair strikes a deal to sell

Oct 25 2006
Terrace Standard

HAWKAIR HAS reached a tentative deal that will see the local company sold to an Alberta aircraft charter company called Bar XH for $1 and to receive a loan to help pay its creditors.
The intent is to restore Hawkair's financial stability by clearing its debts and take it out of its year-long, court-approved creditor protection status.

The deal, details of which were released Oct. 20 in B.C. Supreme Court, also means a strengthening of each company's charter operations while continuing Hawkair's scheduled air service in the northwest and northeast.

The Oct. 20 court hearing was critical to Hawkair as it had to show substantial progress was being made to restructure its operations. Creditor protection status was extended to Jan. 15 to allow Hawkair and Bar XH to finalize their arrangement. A crucial part of the deal calls for Bar XH to try to reach a deal with the company that sold Hawkair the two Dash 8-100s it now flies or failing that, to find other aircraft. Hawkair has spent the last year trying to re-do its original Dash 8 purchase deal with Maritime-based IMP Group Ltd. to lower its payments.

The aircraft are now considered worth less than what Hawkair originally paid for them and troubles with meeting the payment schedule was one of the reasons the company sought creditor protection status in Oct. 2005.

Hawkair chief executive officer Rod Hayward, also the company's sole director, hopes Bar XH will get a better reception from IMP which had sought a court-order to have the aircraft returned.

"It's not a done deal with IMP by any means and we may not be able to secure those aircraft but that's our hope," said Hayward following last week's B.C. Supreme Court date.

Bar XH has been operating since 1967 and has bases in Medicine Hat and Calgary.

It services Alberta's oil and gas industry with charters and has an air ambulance contract with the Alberta government in addition to servicing aircraft belonging to other companies.

IMP was the only company in court last week to object to an extension of Hawkair's protection status. Earlier this year it was saying it had a deal in place to send the two Hawkair Dash 8s to an American company.

It's been trying to get its aircraft back for months but has not been able to convince the Supreme Court to grant its wish.

Even if Bar XH can't reach a deal with IMP to keep the two Dash 8s, Hayward's confident replacement aircraft can be found.

He said Hawkair's creditor protection status didn't put it in a favourable position when it was all by itself in trying to put together financing for a new deal with IMP or to find replacement aircraft.

Hayward added that it was too early yet to indicate how the ownership structure would work stemming from any Bar XH/Hawkair relationship.

Hayward, who called the Bar XH-Hawkair deal a merger, said Hawkair is developing an extensive fishing charter business in the summer months while Bar XH does a lot of oil field work in the winter months.

"With the way the timing the way it is, the services were really complementary to each other," said Hayward.

The tentative deal calls for the cancellation of Hawkair's currently issued shares and for the issuing of new shares, all of which would be issued to Bar XH or to someone else of its choosing.

Bar XH would acquire all of Hawkair's assets, including its licences and spare parts.

A shareholder loan of $200,000 and debt restructuring would result in an offer to creditors of more than they could expect if Hawkair went into bankruptcy, indicate documents filed with the court.

Those same documents indicate Bar XH wants to expand its charter service in light of the booming Alberta economy but doesn't have the time to assemble the people and regulatory approval it needs to take advantage of the opportunity.

"Since Hawkair has both aircraft, trained personnel and regulatory approval (ie licences) this should enable Bar XH to accept and service the new charters provided they have immediate and uninterrupted access to these resources," the company stated.

Bar XH also said it sees potential in adding to Hawkair's scheduled passenger flights.

There's no indication of the effect on Hawkair's nearly 100 employees but Bar XH does state it would meet "severance obligations to those few employees not selected to remain with Hawkair."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Dogs that ran away

My friend Sean from over at seanincognito has tipped me off to a interesting point of view about Winnipeg’s former NHL hockey team, now wandering the desert of Arizona looking for a sign of better days to come.

With a woeful record so far this year and every indication that things are going to be worse before they get much better. The Coyotes travel through the NHL wilderness looking for a little love, while they look they should keep their eyes south, for from the old hometown there's not much coming their way. With a better them than us approach, Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press recounts the days of the Dogs since they left Manitoba.

And while he provides a pretty solid case for absence not making a heart grow fonder, my guess is, as as bad as the Coyotes appear to be (and yes they do look that bad), they would be welcomed back to the Peg with open arms.

Mind you I’m pretty sure that the affection would not be returned, many of the soldiers (and managers too) in the current platoon of Dogs most likely wouldn’t be particularly keen on being based in Winnipeg.

After all, what better way to get away and forget about how bad you’re playing than to sit by the pool, play a round of golf or duck over to Vegas for a day or two. None of which you can do in Manitoba in a cold January.

In Winnipeg you might have to work on your hockey game, not your golf game. And that just isn’t right now is it?

They say on the prairies that you can watch your dog run away from home for miles, seems like that’s exactly what their doing from their vantage point at Portage and Main.

Good thing we lost Jets Can you imagine paying
to watch the Coyotes they morphed into?
Thu Oct 26 2006
Randy Turner
The Winnipeg Free Press

MAYBE it was the agony etched on Wayne Gretzky's face as he watched in horror while his Phoenix Coyotes were stomped 6-1 by the Calgary Flames the other night.

Perhaps it was taking note that the Coyotes are now 2-8-2 on the season, were a pathetic 0-9 on the power play versus Calgary, and are now dead-last in the Western Conference.

Or maybe it was just being reminded that Phoenix hasn't made the playoffs since 2002, and despite considerable optimism this year -- what with the signings of Ed Jovanovski and Jeremy Roenick -- seem destined for another season of utter futility.

Regardless, it got me to thinking: Geez, that could have been us.

You know, there still remains much bitterness and a pang of loss about the departed Jets, but maybe at least one way it was a blessing in disguise.

Really, can you imagine having shelled out upwards of $12,000 on season tickets over the last nine seasons to watch THAT?

The average season ticket in Phoenix this year is US$1,300. Top-end seats are worth $2,700. All for the pleasure of watching a team now ranked 27th on the power play and 27th in penalty-killing.

Hey, you can't say the Coyotes aren't consistent.

"I think we hit rock-bottom about a week ago," lamented Roenick after the loss in Calgary. "We're just remaining there. It's something I've never seen in my life. It's utterly embarrassing."

And to think, we could have been paying through the nose for the privilege of sharing in Roenick's pain. Think of all the forests that would have been sacrificed this last decade to document a franchise with a draft record rivalled only by the Oakland Seals. Take the year 1998, for instance, when the Coyotes selected a goaltender named Patrick DesRochers 14th overall.

Five picks later, the Colorado Avalanche chose defenceman Robyn Regehr. Three picks after that, the Philadelphia Flyers drafted forward Simon Gagné. Both Regehr, now with the Flames, and Gagné are NHL all-stars and mainstays on Team Canada.

Later, the New Jersey Devils took Scott Gomez 27th, while the San Jose Sharks, not to be outdone, selected Jonathon Cheechoo, who led the NHL in goal-scoring last season, with the 29th pick.

Today, DesRochers is toiling for ETC Crimmitschau, a second-tier professional team in Germany (No, really).

And so it has gone for the Coyotes, whose only draft function seems to be supplying the ECHL with a healthy stock of prospects. In fact, the Coyotes' only decent first-round pick, Daniel Briere, waited until he was traded to Buffalo before exploding to NHL stardom.

So if the Jets hadn't left, that could have been you breathlessly watching that same 1998 entry draft as your home team proudly selected Pat O'Leary in the third round (73rd overall), just before the Devils took a young prospect named Brian Gionta.

Last season, Gionta scored 48 goals for the Devils. O'Leary scored one goal in nine games for the ECHL's Reading Royals.

In fairness, we should point out that the Coyotes made the playoffs in four consecutive seasons after moving to the desert. Which meant you could have paid even more money to watch them lose every time in the first round of the post-season.

You could have had a front-row seat to the franchise's demise since 2002, as the Coyotes haven't made the playoffs since, all the while cobbling together a tedious 93-118-29-16 record.

You could have seen the club dismantle, dumping former Jets stars Nikolai Khabibulin, Keith Tkachuk and Teppo Numminen, to be replaced by a revolving door of underachievers and burnouts like Brett Hull, who retired after just a handful of games in a Phoenix jersey, itself another tragedy for which the Coyotes are responsible.

Think you've missed anything, Jets fans? Well, consider that every single individual franchise record -- most goals, points, assists, penalty minutes, etc. -- is still held by a Winnipeg Jet, almost all high marks established in the early 1990s.

How bad are the Coyotes? They can even drag down the reputation of the Great One. Indeed, it's like everything that touches this franchise turns to crap.

Of course, there's no guarantee that had the Jets stayed, Winnipeg hockey fans would have been subjected to -- and had to pay dearly for -- this level of spectacular incompetence. But just consider the possibility for a moment. It's good for the soul.

They're in a desert in more ways than one
The Phoenix Coyotes' record since leaving Winnipeg:

* 1996-97: 38-37-7, lost in conference quarter-finals to Ducks (3-4)
* 1997-98: 35-35-12, lost in conference quarter-finals to Red Wings (2-4)
* 1998-99: 39-31-12, lost in conference quarter-finals to Blues (3-4).
* 1999-00: 39-31-8-4, lost in conference quarter-finals to Avalanche (1-4).
* 2000-01: 35-27-17-3, did not qualify for post-season.
* 2001-02: 40-27-9-6, lost in conference quarter-finals to Sharks (1-4)
* 2002-03: 31-35-11-5, did not qualify for post-season.
* 2003-04: 22-36-18-6, did not qualify for post-season.
* 2005-06: 38-39-0-5, did not qualify for post-season.
* 2006-07: Currently 2-8-0.

© 2006 Winnipeg Free Press.
All Rights Reserved.

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

Triple Play news days for Community Futures

Community Futures is three for three on the pages of the Daily News this week, as for the third day in a row the local Community Futures office received its fair share of publicity.

The latest article is a page three review of an award given to Maynard Angus, the Manager of Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest. Angus was honoured with a National award as one of the top aboriginal economic developers at a gathering in Saskatoon earlier this month.

The story examined the award that he received and looks back at his experience with Community Futures, what some of the projects that they were involved with locally were and featured his involvement with the local community.

Community Futures manager honoured with national award
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, October 25, 2006.

Maynard Angus, general manager for Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest, has been recognized as one of the top aboriginal economic developers in the country by the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO)

Angus, who was nominated in the ‘individual’ category, received the runner up award during a CANDO conference in Saskatoon earlier this month.

“It was an honour to be selected because there was only two of us in Canada,” said Angus.

Each year CANDO chooses two individuals and two businesses/community projects for its Economic Developer of the Year awards. The individuals and businesses then make a presentation during the annual conference and delegates vote for the winner.

Angus, said when he was first asked to speak, he thought it was under the business/community category for the Community Futures project called the Resources, Access and Information Network (RAIN). This project brought high-speed internet and many associated opportunities to remote communities. When he found out that the nomination was in fact in the ‘individual’ category, he was asked to re-write his presentation and talk about his individual achievements.

“It was pretty difficult to do that… trying to put my presentation together from an individual standpoint. Because of all the projects we’ve don and we’ve done many, they are not mine,” he said. “The projects that don’t belong to me, they belong to the communities.”

Angus who is from Kincolith, has been General Manager at Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest since it opened in 1999. In that time, the organization has helped leverage more than $10 million for community projects such as the container port, Northland Cruise Terminal, the dock and wharf rebuild in Kitkatla and the cultural centre in Hartley Bay.

With 22 years of business experience in small and corporate business, Angus was recognized for his ability to bring his education, experience and commitment to the community in his work with the Community Futures.

In addition to his work at Community Futures, Angus is involved with the Rotary Club, is chairman of the Coast Community Future Fisheries Legacy Trust, is a member of the First Nations Technology Council, has a Directorship on the Nisga’a local government and is a member of the CFDABC’s Enhanced Aboriginal Service Delivery Program.

He also sits on the steering committees for the B. C. Pacific Northwest’s regional infrastructure development strategic project.

CANDO is the only national organization that focuses on education and professional development for EDO’s working in Aboriginal communities or organizations.

Angus said he enjoyed the Saskatoon conference because it offered him a look at what is taking place in other parts of the country.

“There was a lot of young people at the conference. It was interesting from that perspective and it was interesting to see what was going on in Canada with regards to aboriginal communities,” he said.

“You begin to realize they (aboriginal business people) are starting to make their mark. In areas like small business, they are the fastest growing small business segment, 6.8 per cent last year.”

This year’s winner of Economic Developer of the Year was Gary Swite, an entrepreneur/business owner and board member of All Nations Trust Company (ANTCO,) who for the past 25 years been developing business and economic opportunities in the central Okanagan economy.

His varied business interests include trucking, landscaping, commercial and residential property development.

It's all in how you play the game

The World series traditionally becomes the focal point of the sporting world in October, as sports fans who may not have been able to tell you the difference between a lead off batter and a designated hitter in August, suddenly become the fountains of information on all things baseball.

It's one of the more deserved championships in Sports, only eight teams can qualify for post season play (it used to be only four before the wild card plan was thought up), normally the teams that compete for the Series have been contenders all season long, so for the most part there's no real sneaking in a back door and making a run for the prize here.

This year it's the Detroit Tigers with Jim Leyland at the helm, a Cinderella story of sorts, having come from laughingstock to championship stock in a few short years. The take on the St. Louis Cardinals, a long time fixture in the National League, led by the always in high esteem Tony LaRussa.

So far, the Cards have been the team in command, some timely hitting and solid pitching taking them to a 2 games to 1 lead over Motown's suddenly hit less Tigers.

Game Four faced an obstacle that even a George Steinbrenner could never control, Mother Nature, who washed out Wednesday nights match up, and threatens to wreak havoc the rest of the week as well.

A situation that will give the pundits and fans more time to think over the big controversy of this series so far. That unusual blotch on Kenny Rogers hand!

Rogers the Tiger's pitcher found himself the centre of a mini storm of his own a few nights ago, a mysterious substance spotted by the Fox cameras on his pitching hand, in a sport with legendary pitchers who may have played on the shady side of the rules, Rogers unclean hand has become one of those great stories of the game.

Was it pine tar? Or some other kind of concoction designed to give him an edge against the Card hitters in a pivotal game, a game which the Tigers won? Not much of a stink was made about the substance at the time, it disappeared as quickly as it was spotted and from that point on Rogers went on to have a masterful pitching performance to lead the Tigers to victory.

Yet a few days later, they're still wondering what it may have been and what the league should have done about it. Territory that baseball has been in before, the championship games always seem to bring out the world of the strange.

Slate has provided a handy guide to the best of the ways that a pitcher can try to get an edge by "doctoring the baseball", read up on it and you'll be the smarterst person at the water cooler the next time the World Series comes up for a review of the action from the night before.