Monday, June 30, 2008

Tracking the Terrible Ten

“If they don’t feel safe, then they don’t think we’re doing our job."— Constable Jane Coffin, outlining one of the guiding factors for a new crime intervention squad set up in Prince Rupert.

While it doesn’t have quite the same movie potential as the Dirty Dozen, Prince Rupert RCMP have a screenplay of their own to work with as they put ten of the city’s most prolific criminals on notice, that they are being watched very carefully.

After examining local crime statistics and trends, the RCMP have come up with a list of ten enfants’ terrible, who warrant special attention and immediate interaction should they return to their anti-social ways.

The Daily News outlined the latest in crime fighting methods with a front page story in Monday’s paper.

RCMP decides to give extra attention to the city’s core group of repeat offenders
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, June 30, 2008
Pages one and three

A new team of Prince Rupert RCMP officers have compiled a list of the city’s top 10 prolific offenders and are targetting those individuals in an effort to reduce crime rates in Prince Rupert.
Prolific or ‘repeat’ offenders will the primary objective of the newly formed Crime Reduction Team, comprised of Const. Jane Coffin, Const. Lisa Ramsay and Const. Jordan Forman who will also be studying crime trends and the social problems that contribute to crime. Relying on evidence-based policing, RCMP Crime Reduction Teams are focused on building effective partnerships and improving the RCMP’s accountability to the public they serve.

Pilot projects were originally conducted at five RCMP detachments in British Columbia, where it was discovered that having a core group of officers dedicated to dealing with the individuals responsible for the most crime and consuming the most police resources was an effective manner of policing. The success of those original Crime Reduction Teams has led to their implementation at other detachments including Prince Rupert, where Coffin, Ramsay and Forman have been working as a team for the past month.

Prince Rupert’s top 10 prolific offenders list was compiled after crime trends and the criminal histories of known offenders were analyzed, and those individuals had profiles created and letters sent to them by police, notifying them of their prolific offender status. The profiles indicate any court ordered conditions that these individuals are currently covered by, and any offenders found to be in breach of those court-ordered conditions are arrested and taken before the courts with an extensive summary of their criminal history.

“When these individuals are active, they consume a lot of our time,” said Coffin.

“We could deal with these people every night. Most of them are involved in property crime, the break-and-enters and the shoplifting. Most of them have addiction problems, so their crimes are going towards supporting their addictions.”

As of Friday, six of the 10 identified prolific offenders identified by the Prince Rupert Crime Reduction Team were in jail, most of whom had breached their conditions and had been remanded in custody, awaiting their next appearance in court. In addition to dealing with at least one prolific offender each day, the team also focuses on problem areas hit by mischief and vandalism, which can vary from week to week.

“Our goal is to keep those offenders in custody as long as we can, and we partner with Crown counsel and probation and others in the hope that they will either stop what they are doing, they’ll go to jail, or they’ll move away.” said Coffin.

“If they want to stop and deal with their addictions, through meetings with various groups in the community, we know what’s available and can point them in the right direction. That’s really our main goal, getting them the help they need, but they have to make that choice for themselves,”

Working with partner agencies including the B. C. Corrections Services, Prince Rupert Community Enrichment Society, the Ministry for Children and Families, Mental Health, Northern Health, Youth Probation, the Friendship House and Northwest Band Counseling Services, the Prince Rupert RCMP can assist these individuals in receiving the support they require.

Coffin said the local team hasn’t had any of their targeted offenders ask for help yet, and admits that it’s frustrating for officers to deal with individuals who learn the judicial system and believe their crimes don’t have significant penalties.

“They’ve been in the system long enough to know that they’ll get released, but hopefully with everyone involved we can change their behavior and line of thinking,” said Coffin.

“If you put someone away for two weeks, they’re not going to get any kind of program. You need to give them a longer sentence if they’re going to get any kind of help while they’re in jail.”

Although Coffin says she’s confident in the success of the Crime Reduction Team’s efforts in their initial month of work, it will take some time to evaluate the effectiveness of the program on reducing crime rates in Prince Rupert and possibly rehabilitating some offenders. Since its inception in May 2008, six individuals from the Crime Reduction Team’s top 10 list have been arrested resulting in recommendation for a series of 29 criminal charges including 28 breaches and one weapons-related offence.

“At the end of the day, the community needs to feel safe, and it doesn’t matter what our numbers say,” said Coffin. “If they don’t feel safe, then they don’t think we’re doing our job. So hopefully, in the long-term we can make people feel safer in their own community.

Tar sand oil backlash could speed up pipeline to the west

The American political scene is heating up the rhetoric when it comes to the development of oil out of the Alberta tar sands.

With the process of development one of concern to the environmental lobby of the USA, the developments north of Fort McMurray are suddenly becoming election year talking points, with no less a candidate for office than the anticipated Democratic nominee Barack Obama, making suggestions that Alberta tar sand oil may be the target of his administration as it weans America off it's oil dependency.

While it seems incomprehensible in this economic era, that a nation as dependent on oil as the USA is would turn its back on perhaps the safest supply of oil in the world for their needs, one must never doubt the power of an election year declaration.

And while that decision to end Alberta tar sand imports may very well be the case come January 2009, it may develop into a construction boom for BC, as Alberta's oil producers rush to move a pipeline from Alberta to the coast to ship the oil that America apparently won't want to markets that will want it.

A pipeline to either Kitimat or Prince Rupert is in the talking stage these days, one part big stick for the American government and one part realistic business plan to take advantage of the thirst for oil in the suddenly demanding markets of Asia.

The only roadblock other than the convenience of just shipping the oil south, is that there is an unofficial moratorium of sorts on the passage of oil tankers into coastal BC waters.

It will be worth watching with interest how this controversy evolves, if the US does decide to take a pass on the tar sands production, we could very well see a push to lift any restrictions on shipping oil out of BC ports.

While we wait to see how that possible situation shakes out, there's some fascinating reading on the topic available off the web...

Globe and Mail-- We are the best supplier
Calgary Herald-- Many buyers

Schools out but staffing challenges begin

School District 52 officials won't have much in the way of a summer vacation as the District makes its final arrangements to eliminate a number of teaching and support positions across the city.

However, when it comes to administration, the School District seems to have filled out its line up card for September as the final bells echo from last week.

The Daily News outlined who is moving where and what administrative moves have been made to take on the challenges of September.

School district firms up staffing plans
The Daily News
Friday, June 27, 2008
Pages one and three

With the school year officially over as of yesterday afternoon, senior staff at School District 52 can focus all of their attention on preparing for what is surely going to be a challenging new school year for everyone in the school district.

With Director of Instruction Bill Ford leaving Prince Rupert to take the same position in Kootenay Columbia School District 20 (the very district Secretary Treasurer Kim Morris recently moved from), former Port Edward Elementary School Principal Leah Robinson has taken on the new role of Assistant Superintendent.

The role that Ford previously held was large enough that he was performing tasks well outside of the understood duties of a Director of Instruction, and therefore an Assistant Superintendent position was created in order to better reflect the work necessary in the district, said the school district.

Super-intendent of Schools Eric Mercer also announced the finalized administration lineup for the upcoming school year, which includes changes from those previously announced in April.
With Kanata now closed, former Principal Debb Taylor will be assuming the role of principal at Lax Kxeen, and Sandy Pond will move from the position of vice principal at the Kaien Island Alternate School and become the principal of Port Edward.

Westview Principal Andree Michaud, who was previously slated to be moved, will instead remain at Westview. There was some backlash from the community over the prior plan for Michaud to be moved to Lax Kxeen, as it was argued that moving a fluent French-speaking principal from the school with the French Immersion program and replacing her with an administrator who may not be as fluent did not make sense.

Mercer said that an understanding of a natural rotation of administrators in the school district exists, but agreed that keeping Michaud at Westview does work out well.

Susan Kobza will be the new principal at Roosevelt, and Kathy Dann will remain the vice principal. Steve Riley, the long-time Roosevelt principal is taking on the role of principal of the re-vamped Kaien Island Alternate School, the new site for which is close to being decided, says the district.

Darrell Wright will remain principal of Pineridge Elementary, which should be fully restored from the smoke damage it incurred due to a fire in the staff room kitchen by the start of the new school year.

Conrad will have Marcy VanKoughnett and Judy Zacharias as principal and vice principal respectively.

As reported in April, both Charles Hays Secondary and Prince Rupert Senior Secondary schools will keep their current principals and vice principals.

Mercer said he is very optimistic about the shuffling of administration staff for the 2008-09 school year, but pointed out that administration positions are still subject to change because the plan for next year is being further developed and unfolded.

"Leah is very knowledgeable of our Achievement Plan and has worked very closely with it, so we don't see that as being a hurdle for her at all," said Mercer.

"Human Resources remains a growing issue for our district as teachers age, which you can see by the numbers of the latest retirements in the district.

"So, we clearly understand what's in front of us."

Three of the district's senior staff will work during the summer on meeting the many deadlines set by the Ministry of Education for achievement contracts, and on preparing for the scheduled district review that will be happening this fall. Getting the district Alternate School program logistics finalized will also keep the staff busy through the end of August.

It takes a team to bring in the potash crop for Rupert

They are spreading around the credit this weekend as Prince Rupert celebrates its winning of the Potash derby, with Canpotex selecting Ridley Island as one of their two key locations in British Columbia for shipping potash to Asia.

The 300 million dollar terminal for Prince Rupert came about because of the "teamwork" exhibited by First Nations and Canadian National, that according to Dale MacLean who praised their assistance in landing the multi million dollar deal last week.

The Daily News featured the story as their front page article in Friday's paper.

Chair of port board praises First Nations and CN Rail for being supportive of project
The Daily News
Friday, June 27, 2008

Pages one and two

The ability to place a competitive bid before Canpotex for a new potash terminal was only possible with the help of the Coast Tsimshian and neighbouring First Nations, said the chair of the board of the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA.)

Speaking at the PRPA Annual General Meeting yesterday, Dale MacLean said the announcement by Canpotex to site one of two new terminals on a 100-acre site on Ridley Island came after nine months of hard work.

This included visits by the Coast Tsimshian (Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams) as well as Gitxaala, Kitselas and Kitsumkalum to Canpotex's Saskatchewan operations

"When you look at the people that were involved, the organization and the partners, it's only appropriate to express thanks and appreciation to CN Rail and the Coast Tsimshian who collectively went with the PRPA as a unified team, presented a strategy and a competitive framework to Canpotex that surely demonstrated the viability of Prince Rupert and the advantages that this truly has to offer and can bring to Canadian exporters," said MacLean.

"When you see that kind of community come together, it only speaks to one thing, that's strength, it talks about commitment and it sets the stage for future growth."

The PRPA and CN still have to finalize commercial agreements with Canpotex; however the board of Canpotex has ended the site selection process, confirming its decision to go with Ridley Island and a site next to the existing Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver. The PRPA was competing with other ports for the new site, including Cherry Point, Washington.

Canpotex, which acts as the export agency for three potash producers including Agrium, Inc., Mosaic Co. and the Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, is looking to double its export capacity from 12 million to 23 million tonnes annually by 2012. Prices for the key ingredient in fertilizer has tripled in the past year as worldwide demand for potash has grown.

The new capacity will be split roughly 50/50 between Vancouver and Prince Rupert, with the Ridley terminal representing about a $300 million investment. Canpotex chose Prince Rupert largely for its direct connection to customers - it's a shorter ocean trip to Asia than from more southerly ports. And it's also a speedy link by train with potash producers in Saskatchewan.

And the relationship built between the Coast Tsimshian and the company did play an important role in the decision, said Jon Somers, vice president of planning and development for Canpotex.

"We'd like to say in a very positive way that we at Canpotex reciprocated with a visit probably a month and a half ago to Prince Rupert, meeting with the chiefs of the five bands - Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla as well as Kitselas, Kitsumkalum and Gitxaala," said Somers.

"We are very pleased to say we have made substantial progress and commitment to recognizing our potential engagements with their communities and their culture and vice versa to their supporting our project."

The timeline to develop the new terminal extends through the next three years, which gives all parties involved time to determine the exact nature of economic development opportunities related to the project.

Although the engineering and technical work is still being completed, Somers said the plan is to develop what he called "a traditional style terminal."

"You will have a rail track that leads on to the island as part of the existing CN service and then you'll have a storage shed. Potash has to be stored in doors, unlike the coal pile at Ridley. You will have a dumper pit where cars will dump the product and then a long conveyor system running to a berth in the water, running adjacent to the coal terminal," he said.

Similar again to the coal terminal, there will be large ocean-going vessels coming in and loading up to a capacity of 180,000 tonnes in the future and then turning around and heading off to Asia.
Canpotex leases its own fleet of 5,500 specially designed covered potash railcars.

"We have a preliminary engineering study that has been done and running concurrently with our negotiations most likely we will be doing further detailed engineering, assessing the land from a geotechnical perspective ... making sure the land is suitable to build on, which we believe it is."

At this point in time, Canpotex is unsure just how many jobs will be involved in terminal operations; however they estimate about 250 construction jobs will be generated during peak periods.

"Moving forward, it's a bit difficult to say at this point about employment because we haven't determined how the facility will be run ... suffice to say it will be a traditional bulk terminal manning model," said Somers.

However, the hard work ahead on reaching commercial agreements and forging new elationships did not put a dampener on the spirits at yesterdays AGM. For MacLean, a potash terminal is another way to develop and stabilize the future of the PRPA and the communities.

"It's another critical building block that will add to the diversity of the port," he said.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Has the mayor got a summer vacation idea for us!

"I only wish there was a way we could take more people over there so council could really understand what is going on and leaders in the community could understand what's going on." -- Mayor Herb Pond outlining some of what he saw and how he wished more could see, from his recent trip to China with Team Northern BC...

Everybody save your pennies for the group rate, if the Mayor could click his heels we'd all be going to China to see the potential of the worlds most talked about trading partner. Well we assume he means, all of us!
Like those old Bob Hope/Bing Crosby road movies, or maybe the John Candy classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles, there's a great adventure waiting out there for us, if only we had the vacation money and a few friends to travel with.

The Mayor outlined some of the thoughts he had from his recent trip to China, a much talked about visit that was designed to try and make Northern BC appear more frequently on the radar of Chinese industry and government.

The Daily News highlighted his findings in Friday's paper.

The Daily News
Friday, June 27, 2008

Page three

Standing and looking out at more than 300 ships loading or waiting for goods in Tianjin port, Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said the analogy that came to his mind was "trying to drink water out of a fire hose".

There is simply that much traffic and that much economic opportunity moving through Chinese ports.

"The numbers are absolutely staggering," said Pond, who spent last week in Beijing.

"They are adding 12 million TEUs (average sized containers) of capacity to their port. The analogy that kept coming to me over and over again as we enter in to this is "it's like trying to get a drink from a fire hose."

"There's a very dramatic rate of change occurring in China. The more we can understand that and play into that fact that we are linked now by this port, the better off we are."
Pond was one of several mayors who went as part of Team Northern B.C. (TNBC), a trade mission promoting the advantages of the Northwest Corridor.

In addition to politicians, the group comprised representatives from organizations including the University of Northern B.C., Initiatives Prince George and Rio Tinto Alcan.

The team even managed to cross paths with Don Krusel, president of the Prince Rupert Port

Authority, who was also in China promoting the port.

"Northern British Columbia was well represented at the B.C. Pavilion," said Pond.
The feature event was on a Thursday and communities and industry from across northern B.C. were joined by CN representatives worldwide from China as well as representatives from COSCO and others interested in making investments in northern B.C.

"We also spent a day at the embassy, getting directions and contacts from them," said Pond.

"I only wish there was a way we could take more people over there so council could really understand what is going on and leaders in the community could understand what's going on."
Gauging the response to the trip in Chinese media, it was successful in getting the attention of the Chinese logistics and purchasing industry.

The port has been trying to develop a logistics centre around its new Fairview terminal and Pond was one of several delegates who spent a day with the vice-president of the Chinese Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.

The delegates from Team Northern B.C. highlighted the latest development of the Asia Pacific Gateway Initiative and illustrated the importance of Prince Rupert Port and Prince George Airport, particularly how the expansion of these two transportation hubs contribute to the overall initiative.

According to media reports on the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, the vice-president then committed to give the Gateway Initiative comprehensive and long-term exposure to the Federation's members via its magazine, daily newspaper, website and TV channel.

He also extended an invitation to the Canadian delegation to attend the annual logistics entrepreneurs conference and academic seminar organized by the federation to further enhance face-to-face contact between the Chinese and Canadian stakeholders from both the private and public sectors.

At the end of the meeting, the federation and the Canadian delegation fundamentally agreed on the intent of a strategic partnership in terms of promoting the Asia Pacific Gateway Initiative and exchange visits of senior officers representing the logistics industry.

Your Podunkian potash primer

Suddenly it seems that we’ve been inundated with stories of potash, the main ingredient for fertilizer and perhaps the next big cash crop for Prince Rupert’s future.

With Canpotex making plans to develop a potash terminal on Ridley Island for shipment of the pride of the prairies, the news sites and internet portals are suddenly full of tales of potash and what it means for Canada’s export industry.

We’ve compiled them below, a potash primer if you will… we'll update the page as more items come across the google information delivery system...

Everything you’ve wanted to know about fertilizer and the way to ship it, but were afraid to ask…

June 26-- Globe and Mail-- Potash boom lifts Prince Rupert port
June 25-- The Northern View-- Potash port for Rupert
June 25-- The Windsor Star-- Canada potash miners plan growth at underused port
June 25-- Prince George Citizen-- Potash facility planned for Prince Rupert port
June 25-- Manitoba Co-operator-- Canpotex to raise potash shipping capacity

City Council Tracker June 23

June 23, 2008
City Council session

In attendance:

Mayor Herb Pond
Councillor Kathy Bedard
Councillor Tony Briglio
Councillor Joy Thorkelson
Councillor Nelson Kinney
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne


Councillor Ken Cote

Minutes for June 23 council meeting

Regular City Council Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the Committee of the Whole Meeting

Daily News voting summary--No summary provided for this meeting in the paper.

Attendance at city council to date archives

Upcoming event- Regular City Council session scheduled for July 7, 2008

New Acropolis looms large on Summit Avenue

The building has suddenly come to dominate the view along Summit Avenue, from it's early days as just a drawing on a blue print, to the now completed shell of a building, the New Acropolis Manor looks to be closer and closer to completion.

The much anticipated and frequently delayed extended care facility is set for an opening in early 2009, the Daily news provided a progress report on the construction phase in Thursday's paper.

Structure finished as new Acropolis shapes up
The Daily News
Thursday, June 26, 2008

Page one

Construction crews are making headway on the addition to the new senior's care facility that is being build adjacent to Acropolis Manor.

The structure is now complete and crews are shifting their focus to the interior of the building with plumbing, electrical, dry-walling and other finishing work now being undertaken.
The new facility is scheduled to be completed late this year and ready for occupancy by February 2009.

"It's exciting to see this important facility taking shape in our community," said city councilor Tony Briglio, who also serves as the Northwest Regional Hospital district chair.

"It will substantially improve care services for seniors in Prince Rupert, Port Edward and our outlying villages, providing seniors with the support they need and deserve as they age."

The new care facility will provide 15 assisted living units - to offer health assistance to seniors who can still live independently - and 56 residential care beds for seniors who can't live independently any longer.

"I think that it's clearly understood from the regional hospital district's perspective as well as Northern Health that the new facility will just meet the current needs without room for wiggle," said Briglio.

"I wouldn't be at all surprised if, within a few years, Northern Health will be adding on to that facility."

Despite the fact that the new facility will have 20 more beds than the current one, it will only match the number of beds that were originally at Acropolis Manor before it faced cutbacks.

"I think that there will be a handful more beds, that's it," said Briglio.

"Clearly, from my perspective and from the regional hospital district's perspective, we were looking for more beds ... I don't think that there's any spare room for additional needs than we already have in our community."

Briglio said that Northern Health is closely monitoring the demand for care, and has built the new facility with an eye to future expansion.

"The structure was actually built so it was a pod system, so extra buildings could be attached to it and that's how they're going to do it," said Briglio.

Once completed, the new facility will boast three respite beds for seniors who don't need a hospital bed but who require some short-term care, two palliative care beds for end-of-life care, and an expanded adult day centre, which can provide live-out seniors with care and recreation services.

A thousand acres of Potash…

Saskatchewan’s rising star in the potash world is proving to be a bonus for Prince Rupert, as the port begins the process of helping a Saskatchewan company develop its plans for a major increase in shipments of the valuable product.

With plans in development to double their annual production of potash shipments to world markets, Prince Rupert became a front of the business section story this week.

The news that Canpotex is developing plans for a potash terminal on a one thousand acre site on Ridley Island caught the attention of the Daily News of Thursday, as they provided a front page story on the prospect of Prince Rupert’s next big project…

Fertilizer component to be shipped through facility from its source in Saskatchewan
The Daily News
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Pages one and two

Record prices for potash are behind plans for a new potash terminal on Ridley Island.
Yesterday, Canpotex, the Saskatchewan potash export agency, announced plans to double its West Coast shipping capacity to 23 million tones a year by building a new terminal on Ridley Island and expanding capacity beside Neptune Bulk Terminals in North Vancouver.

"These projects are essential and strategic steps in preparing for long-term growth in global potash demand," said Steven Dechka, president of Canpotex.

Canpotex is owned by the three Saskatchewan potash producers - Agrium Inc., Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. and the Mosaic Co.

"With Canpotex shareholders working to significantly increase production over the next several years, we have a responsibility to build on our long-term ability to deliver this essential nutrient to offshore markets," Dechka said.

"In addition to increasing shipping capacity, the terminals will provide access to the fastest shipping routes to certain key offshore markets, such as China."

The price tag for both projects is in excess of $500-million.

Potash is a combination of Nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. Known also as N-P-K, the components are blended together in various quantities, and used as fertilizer.

Canada is the world leader in potash production, producing 18 million tons, with more than 22 million tons of capacity, versus world production of 50 million tons. Ninety-five per cent of Canadian potash is mined in Saskatchewan; where CN has single-line access to all potash mines.
While the construction of the terminal on Ridley Island is still subject to an agreement between the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) and Canpotex, Don Krusel, president of the PRPA said the port is pleased Canpotex has chosen Prince Rupert as its new site.

"We've worked very hard to support Canpotex in their site feasibility analysis and comparing alternate development locations," said Krusel.

"We are confident that the Prince Rupert gateway will provide Canpotex and the Canadian Potash Industry with significant advantages in growing their export business," said Krusel.
The terminal will include 1,000-acres of land on Ridley Island with deepwater access managed by the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

The site currently has rail access that services Prince Rupert Grain and Ridley Terminals Inc.
The PRPA is proposing to extend rail access and other infrastructure to the new terminal.
Demand for potash and other fertilizers has been soaring around the world, and prices for both these nutrients and the shares of their producers have gone along for the ride.

In April, for example, China agreed to pay $576 (U.S.) a tonne for potash (plus shipping), up a startling $400 a tonne from last year's contract, while Potash Corp., the world's biggest producer of the commodity, saw its first-quarter profit leap to $566-million (U.S.), up from $198-million a year ago.

Making up for lost time in Prince Rupert

We're back on the minds of the central Canada media these days, as the Globe and Mail takes a walk down our third avenue shopping district, chats with a mayor and takes the economic pulse of the city after the glow of the container port opening has faded.

The Globe presents a generally positive overview of where we stand at the moment, a far cry apparently from when Mayor Herb Pond says "People were crying in my office", a reference to the early days of the Skeena shutdown and the economic tsunami it unleashed in the city.

Patrick Brethour recounts the past days of misery for the city and how what he calls the "rising tide" of the port is beginning to change the dynamic of the city.

It will be interesting to see if the residents of the city find his findings accurate or a still a tad optimistic, based mainly on his examination of the rising cost of real estate as the main indicator of better times at hand and the "hundreds of jobs " created by the port .

It's an interesting look at our current situation, presented from someone not quite so close to the trees as it were.

Waiting for the boom on Third Avenue
June 27, 2008

PRINCE RUPERT -- Three decades ago, when forestry was still an industry, and your Grade 10 was all that was needed for a high-paying job, the retail strip on Third Avenue in Prince Rupert was the symbol of local prosperity.

The somewhat jealous phrase "Third Avenue merchants" was synonymous with the wealthy retailers who held sway over a prosperous northern coastal city. But no more: the main retailing strip - like much of Prince Rupert - has been in decline for many years.

In the boom days a furniture store sat across the street from city hall. It's now a low-end dollar store.

Decaying houses, a shrinking population, the end of blue-collar prosperity and double-digit unemployment are all chapters in Prince Rupert's story of economic disaster. Along the way there have been many false starts, too many false hopes: abandoned plans for a pig-iron foundry and an aluminum smelter in the 1990s, failed efforts to save the Skeena pulp plant this decade.

Mortgage foreclosures were rampant as unemployment soared, and incomes dropped.

"People were crying in my office," recalls Mayor Herb Pond, who has been in office since 2002.
Only recently has that story started to shift, with the startup of the container port last November, which gave Prince Rupert not just hundreds of highly paid jobs, but something more. A future. "We are catching up after 20 years, on so many fronts," Mr. Pond says.

For a town that has had precious little to celebrate, it has been difficult not to keep hopes from wildly outpacing reality. On the evening of the official opening in September, Mr. Pond led a crowd - numbering more than half of the town's entire population - in the chant, "Phase II! Phase II!" referring to a hoped-for expansion that will triple the capacity of the container port operation.

Then came the full force of the collapse of the U.S. housing market, and the decline in the U.S. dollar, both of which cut sharply into American demand for imports - and the need for trans-Pacific container shipments. And the November startup of shipments came at the start of winter, hardly the most auspicious weather for a newborn port being scrutinized on reliability, and the turnaround times of freighters.

The cheers have faded, with exuberance giving way to the realization that the container port will not be a cure-all for Prince Rupert. Next week, a second container ship will start docking at Prince Rupert each week, months beyond what even the less giddy experts at the Prince Rupert Port Authority had hoped for.

"We thought we'd be ramping up faster," concedes Don Krusel, chief executive officer of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, adding that it has been tough to meet expectations from locals that the port's expansion "would be a blast, a rocket ship."

Still, there are definite signs that the port expansion is changing the course of Prince Rupert's economy.

Foremost is the performance of the port itself. The expansion to a second weekly shipment, belated as it is, still means that Prince Rupert's bid to win traffic from elsewhere on the West Coast is working. Winning a share of new business would be impressive enough; taking market share away from other ports as container shipment volumes flat-line is doubly so. Twice-weekly shipments will boost employment income from the port, and turn many part-time positions into full-time jobs, many of which pay upward of $85,000 a year. This week's announcement by Canpotex Ltd. that it will build a potash terminal on the southern outskirts of the city will further galvanize the local economy.

Those dollars are starting to show up in the formerly dilapidated streets of Prince Rupert, where the housing stock largely dates from the Second World War. The cracked streets of the city - a stark contrast to the smooth, and provincially funded highways outside of the municipality - are a reminder of the city's own financial travails, when it had to write off an entire year's worth of taxes in the wake of the Skeena bankruptcy.

Today, the rising tide of the port-led economic expansion has both increased incomes and boosted housing prices, leading to a booming home renovation market. Even the city's top hotel, the Crest, is getting in on the action, and building a new floor.

Clint Logan, owner of J&J Construction Ltd., remembers the depths of the 2002 downturn, when he tried to sell his house for $150,000, only to see it malinger on the market after Skeena began its death spiral. It finally sold for $114,000 - after two years.
Earlier this year, the same house sold for $275,000.

Mr. Logan doesn't seem to mind much, though. His construction business is on a hiring spree, now that Prince Rupert residents finally have the money - and a reason - to spruce up their homes. "They're fixing up what they let go for years," he says.

The days of waiting for lone customers to call are long gone. "Now, you hate for the phone to ring," he says.

That is the new story of Prince Rupert: the world has come calling, and the time has come to make up for the lost years.

New staff sergeant a familiar name for the community

The city's RCMP detachment has a new staff Sergeant, a familiar face and name for many Rupertites from a previous tour in the city's marine detachment a number of years ago.

Staff Sergeant Jim Vardy last worked out of Prince Rupert in 1998 when he commanded the Inkster patrol vessel out of Seal Cove, he has returned to the city and will be land based for his second tour of the city.
His new duties have him managing the day to day operations of the detachment, supervising investigations and making sure that the city's constabulary is following the proper protocols and procedures.

Wednesday's Daily News provided a review of his career so far and his thoughts on what needs to be done locally as far a policing in the city is concerned, as well as a look at the issues that police officers are facing on the local scene these days.

Officer at home in Rupert - and on the open water
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pages one and two

With 28 years of police service - five of those being in Prince Rupert - any in the community will be happy to hear that Jim Vardy is back working at the local RCMP detachment.

The new Staff Sergeant at the Prince Rupert RCMP began his career on general duties in the Kootenays, before moving to Campbell River and getting into that detachment's marine section.
Having grown up on the coast of Newfoundland, it's no surprise it was marine work that became his passion and he has spent 17 of his 28 years working with that section of the force in British Columbia.

When he made the move to Prince Rupert in 1993, Vardy had completed his sea time and attained his 350 Ton Master Certificate from Pacific Marine Training Camp in North Vancouver, and became Vessel Commander of the first RCMP catamaran in Prince Rupert, the patrol vessel Higgitt.

And when in 1996 the new RCMP vessel Inkster arrived, Vardy became one of the vessel commanders.

Following his five years of service in the community, he moved back down south to Victoria to work in the Marine Unit there, in order to be closer to the post-secondary educational institutions his teenage children wanted to attend.

When 2004 rolled around, Vardy took the prestigious position of small boat coordinator for RCMP "E" Division, and was responsible for the province's fleet of 91 boats and with ensuring all detachments had the proper equipment and training for their vessels.

In 2005, he decided to make the transition back to general duty and became the detachment commander in Massett on the Queen Charlotte Islands, a role that came with a fair bit more responsibility than he had held in the past.

"Everything falls on the boss' shoulder from the bottom up and the top down, so it's pretty challenging, especially in a small office," said Vardy.

"You have a community you have to satisfy, and we had Massett, Old Massett and Port Clements, and each place has different issues and different services they demand from the police."

That experience in Massett prepared him for his new position here in Prince Rupert, where as Staff Sergeant he oversees the operations of the detachment, ensuring police work gets done, supervising investigations and enforcing protocols.

Since he's been back in the community, Vardy has noticed the changes that have taken place since the mid '90s when the pulp mill was still running full-force and when the downtown core was thriving. He is impressed by the improvements to Cow Bay and the addition of weekly cruise ships, but says most of the policing issues faced by communities on the Queen Charlottes are rooted in the same soil as those in Prince Rupert.

"The problems of drug and alcohol abuse are number one in the Charlottes, and it's number one here," said Vardy. "As a result of that, we have domestic violence and regular violence, all stemming from substance abuse. Trying to mitigate that is a tough thing in this day and age, so we're hoping to involved the community in some of these things by rejuvenating our Citizens On Patrol program, attracting more auxiliary officers and rejuventating our community consulting groups."

With his wife back working in the same ministry office she was at during their previous posting, and their now-fully grown children happy to see them back in the community where they spent their high school years, Vardy couldn't be more content about being back in Prince Rupert. Asked how long he plans to stay, Vardy says he has "no exit strategy" and notes that by the time he completes four years in his new role he'll have the 32 years of service required for retirement.

"Right now, I'm not looking too much to the future, I'm just taking it one day at a time and enjoying working with the good group of members we have here," he said. "My wife and I are both kayakers, so we're out there on Sundays in the harbour. We like the North, we like the slower pace and nature knocking at our doorstep. A lot of people think we're crazy, but you don't rust - it's only a bit of rain."

Canada Day preparations continue for July 1st celebrations

"Usually, by the end of the afternoon, Herb Pond is covered in icing."-- Special events organizer Joy Sundin explaining one of the many popular events for this year's Canada Day celebrations.

The Prince Rupert Special Events society hot off the hard work of another successful Seafest, have turned their attention to helping celebrate the nation's 141st birthday.

Featuring community picnic to cake, featuring musical and other performers for an afternoon of fun, Mariners Park will be the happening place next Tuesday.

The full agenda of planned events was covered earlier this week in the Daily News

Special events team sets their sights on July 1
The Daily News
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

With the Seafest successfully behind them, the Prince Rupert Special Events Society is in full swing with Canada Day preparations.

The annual picnic in Mariner's Park will include a few new activities this year, including the Canadiana Costume Walkabout, where Ruperites can show off their patriotic duds.

"At 2:30, we'd like people to come dressed in their best Canadian red and whites," said Sundin. "We're going to have a little walkabout type parade."

The Boy Scouts and Girl Guides will be on hand to give out Canadian flags and pins to make sure everyone has a little bit of patriotic memorabilia.

Animals will also get into the swing of things with the SPCA-run patriotic pet parade.

This year's picnic will start off at noon with a flag-raising ceremony and the singing of O Canada. The Prince Rupert Community Band will be playing the national anthem.

Local dignitaries will be in attendance to give speeches and hand out Canada Day cake.

"We have five huge slabs of cake that get handed out to everybody," said Sundin. "Usually, by the end of the afternoon, Herb Pond is covered in icing."

The special events committee is currently in the process of finalizing the afternoon's entertainment. They are still looking for local singers and dancers who would like to perform.

"We'll squeeze in everybody," said Sundin.

Adults can look forward to a Canada Day quiz, while there will be old-fashioned games for the kids as well as face-painting, temporary tattoos, balloons and bubbles.

There will also be some interesting party favours. This year, the special events society will be handing out 750 seedlings. The Celebrate Canada Committee for British Columbia provides the trees under an initiative called Watch it Grow, Canada. Anyone interested will be given a free seedling.

Of course, the can't-miss event of the day is the fireworks in the harbour. Put on by the volunteer pyrotechnic group, Prince Rupert Fireworks, the spectacle takes days to prepare.
"Mariner's Park will be full," said Sundin.

Methane extraction debate comes to council chambers

The controversy over Shell Canada's plans to extract methane gas from the sacred headwates of the Skeena Nass and Stikine rivers has been introduced to Prince Rupert City Council.

The Prince Rupert Environmental Society took their case against development to council on Monday night, bringing forward a resolution to have Shell suspend it's plans until more data has been provided to show that it's an environmentally sound process.

The same resolution was recently passed by Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District and has also been approved by a number of other communities in the province.

Council appears to have a number of directions happening with the potential resolution, Councillor Thorkelson called for it to be approved with Councils support, Councillor Gordon-Payne wanted more time to examine the issue, while Councillor Briglio suggested that approval of the resolution doesn't necessarilly mean that the development would never be allowed to happen.

The project has proven to be a controversial issue across Northern British Columbia, as opponents make their case against the prospect of the project in the key salmon rivers of the Northwest.

The Daily News provided some of the background on the issue in Wednesday's paper.

Council urged to take methane stand
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Page three

The Prince Rupert Environmental Society (PRES) wants the city of Prince Rupert to back its call to stop coal bed methane development in northern B.C.

On Monday night, Donna McNeil Clark brought forward a resolution that had already been passed by the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District as well as other communities that asks the province to suspend coal bed methane development until there is much more compelling evidence that it is environmentally sound.

PRES would like to see city council pass the same resolution.

McNeil Clark explained that Shell is planning to install 14 new wells in the Klappan this year as it explores whether or not coal bed methane development will be economically feasible for the region.

The area is located 180 kilometres north of Hazelton.

"This is where the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers all originate," she said.

Yet there's no scientific evidence the gas trapped in the coal seams can be removed in a way that does not harm the rivers and their salmon populations, she said.

Four years ago, the province of B.C granted Shell 412,000 hectares of tenure in which it is has exclusive rights to explore the potential of coal bed methane extraction.

Coal bed methane is natural gas that is trapped in coal seams but unlike natural gas, companies can't just install a well to extract it, it requires the breaking of the coal seam to release the pressure trapping the gas, either by using chemicals or by pumping out water from large underground lakes known as aquifiers.

Three exploratory wells were drilled in 2004 before work was curtailed due to native blockades and a flood that washed out a road.

Shell plans to resume work this fall after improving access to the area and the company intends to drill 14 exploratory wells to determine whether it should renew its tenure with the province of B.C. and continue the project.

It is the water pumped out from these wells that is of gravest concern to PRES.
Shell has stated they will truck out any water from the area produced by the 14 exploration wells, but the company has not yet said what it plans to do with the water.

A recent report commissioned by the Pembina Institute concluded there simply isn't enough science to know if such an operation can be conducted safely, calling the development "an irresponsible experiment."

Coun. Tony Briglio said the motion passed by the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District does not suggest the development is never allowed to happen.

"It suggests if it does happen that all the means are in place to engage the people of the region," he said.

Coun. Sheila Gordon-Payne said she wanted time to review materials presented by the group before making a decision and council agreed to defer a decision until the next council meeting, however Coun. Joy Thorkelson called for unanimous support on the issue.

Healing process continues for many in Northwest

Workshops hosted by the Northwest Band Social Workers Association have tackled a number of issues that hit close to home for some fifty Rupert residents.

The workshops held at the Nisga'a hall were designed to help those that suffered in the residential school program of the past, but a number of current issues for families in the Northwest also came up during the course of the sessions, proving for an opportunity to help the community address those concerns as well.

The Daily News featured details on the sessions on the front page of the Wednesday paper.

Many find strength to talk about abuse and continue their healing as a result of session
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Pages one and two

More than 50 residents of Prince Rupert and the surrounding communities were able to start or continue their healing process recently thanks to a Northwest Band Social Workers Association hosted workshop.

The workshop, entitled You Call This Love?, was the second of two put on during the course of three sessions at Nisga'a Hall. The first workshop happened in November 2007 with a focus on dealing with family violence, where participants first heard the life story of NBSWA Executive Director and workshop leader Geri McDougall.

"I was in some really violent relationships, and I wanted to give them hope because I did eventually find someone who gave me 17 years," said McDougall.

"It really opened the door for a lot of people to talk about their experiences and start healing. This time, we wanted to have part two of that, where the focus would be more positive."
McDougall said the primary reason the healing workshops began was to help residential school survivors and the inter-generations deal with the cultural shame they experience as a result of being condemned, devauled, humiliated and abused for being Aboriginal.

The workshop in November heard many horrific stories of abuse and neglect from residential schools, and last week several people shared their stories as well, some for the first time ever.
"I think we're on our healing journey, and next time we come together it's going to be better and better," said McDougall. "My message is that we have to start working on ourselves. We have to start making ourselves better, instead of waiting for someone else to make us happy.

"We have to take responsibility for our kids, because a lot of our parents have lost their skills because of residential schools."

Many of the people who attended You Call This Love? in November came back for the second part of the series, and the overall sentiment expressed by participants was that they had found both workshops very helpful in their personal healing and recovery process.

During the June 18, 19 and 20 workshop, nearly everyone who participated was able to summon the courage to speak about their anger and fear, their forgiveness and trust, and their process for moving forward.

While many people may not know much about the Northwest Band Social Workers Association, it has been in existence for 30 years and was incorporated as a registered society in July 1990. The organization is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the Band Social Workers and the communities they work in, and operates as a consulting and networking group that provides ongoing support, caring, sharing and trust. In association with Northern Health and the Ministry for Children and Family Development, NBSWA provides intervention programs, family counselling and support groups, and a residential school outreach program funded by the Aboriginal Healing Program.

The NBSWA head office that McDougall works out of is in Terrace, but they also have a Prince Rupert office located at 101 First Avenue East - Suite 4, from which counsellors Shirley Huson, Dean Wilson and Gina Wilson provide services to the entire community, free of charge.

The membership of the NBSWA includes representation from the Tsimshian, Haida, Nisga'a, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en Nations, but the association provides services to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the communities it serves.

The Prince Rupert NBSWA office can be reached at 627-8435, and toll-free at 1-866-627-8434.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sharing Gordon's money with a cause

The Tyee has been running an interesting feature on what British Columbian's have planned for their Carbon Tax rebate, arriving in most mailboxes this week if it hasn't already been invested around town.

Called Green Your Campbell cash, the project explores a number of options for those that just can't figure out what to do with an extra hundred dollars from the mailbox.

Among some of the ideas bounced around the Tyee website, from adopt a salmon fry to developing High school bike squads to just loading up on energy saving lighting British Columbians have a plan.

Northern BC has only come up with two ideas, one to protect the Sacred headwaters of the Skeena watershed, the other seeking contributions to yet another British Columbia political party, this one called the BC Refederation party.

Needless to say, despite any good intentions they might have, they're not finding a particularly successful run of it on the donation front, when it comes to spending our own tax dollars the prospect of turning it over to yet another political party isn't apparently going to wash.

You can examine the entire Tyee list here, maybe something will catch your eye, helping you decide how best to reinvest your rebate.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Solidfiying the Gateway message

"There's not euphoria but there is a growing confidence that wealth and prosperity are returning to the community."-- Mayor Herb Pond reacting to the news of an addition to the industrial base at Ridley Terminals.

They're getting ready to say some pretty nice things about us in the Thursday Globe and Mail, as word spreads about Canpotex's decision to ship potash out of Ridley Island.

In a story posted to their website on Wednesday night, the Globe examined Canpotex's plans for development and the positive vibes it is generating around the city.

Highlighting, the ports accessibility to both China and the Canadian prairies, the article provides a pretty solid bit of evidence that the growth for the Port is still in its formative years, as the advantage of shipping through a relatively unclogged port here is attracting attention.

Potash boom lifts Prince Rupert port
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
June 26, 2008 at 12:09 AM EDT

VANCOUVER — The potash boom touched down in Prince Rupert, B.C., Wednesday as Canpotex Ltd. said it would build a new export terminal to boost Asian shipments of the high-demand fertilizer as part of a $500-million expansion plan.

To nearly double its export capacity to 23 million tonnes a year from 12 million, Canpotex, which markets potash internationally for Saskatchewan producers, also plans to expand a Vancouver facility.

The win for Prince Rupert over a rival site in Cherry Point, Wash., is the latest and most visible sign of how the northwestern British Columbia port town is riding global demand for commodities.

Long battered by the declines of British Columbia's forestry and fishing industries, Prince Rupert has more recently been buoyed by increased bulk exports of coal and grain, the main products moving through the port.

About half of Canpotex's added capacity will be at the new terminal in Prince Rupert, which is expected to cost roughly $300-million.

Canpotex chose Prince Rupert largely for its direct connection to customers – it's a shorter ocean trip to Asia than from more southern ports.

And it's also a speedy link with potash producers in Saskatchewan.

“It's a gateway, a straight shot from Saskatchewan to Prince Rupert right to the heart of Asia,” said Jon Somers, vice-president of planning and development at Canpotex.

Prince Rupert is also far less congested, handling just an eighth of the annual tonnage that moves through Vancouver, and the rail links to the northern port are also less busy.

The price of potash, a key ingredient for fertilizer, has tripled in the past year and stock of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., the biggest domestic producer, has also almost tripled. Now the second most valuable company on the Toronto Stock Exchange, it is adding several million tonnes of production capacity.

Potash Corp. is one of the Canpotex's three co-owners, along with Agrium Inc. and Mosaic Co.
The other half of the new Canpotex capacity will be added in North Vancouver at Neptune Bulk Terminals (Canada) Ltd. where Canpotex has most of its existing capacity.

A container cargo terminal was also added in Prince Rupert last year. Completed for $170-million, it can handle 500,000 containers a year and is getting busier after a slow opening. A $650-million plan to quadruple the capacity is being studied.

Potash is adding further diversification to a city that has seen its population slide more than 20 per cent to 13,000 from 17,000 a decade ago.

“It's extremely significant for us,” said Don Krusel, chief executive officer of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, where potash could increase total bulk exports by 50 per cent.
“Prince Rupert is the gateway between North America and Asia for international trade. This just solidifies that message.”

Another winner in Canpotex's selection of Prince Rupert is Canadian National Railway Co., which serves the port. James Foote, a CN executive vice-president, said the decision demonstrates that CN's bulk transport business is strong.

In Prince Rupert, the city sees itself as one piece in a long string, according to Mayor Herb Pond. The port can be even more successful when containers that enter North America full also depart full on the backhaul portion of the route to Prince Rupert with products for export, he said.

“We suffered from a really bad decade. This is a significant step forward for Prince Rupert.

There's not euphoria but there is a growing confidence that wealth and prosperity are returning to the community. Our goal is to be a one-stop-shop port for all kinds of commodities.”

500 million dollar potash terminal planned for Ridley Island

Canpotex Limited, a major shipper of potash materials has announced plans to build a 500 million dollar terminal on Ridley Island as well as to expand its existing facilities in Vancouver.

It was an announcement that our Podunkian portal first suggested in May could be on the way to Prince Rupert .

The announcement today advises that with the new terminal in place the increased capacity for shipping is expected to almost double the company’s current output, that by adding 11 million tonnes of annual potash to their existing pace of 12 million tonnes a year.

The project is awaiting a final acceptance agreement from the Port of Prince Rupert, at which point construction will begin on the terminal facilities at Ridley. The need for increased capacity comes as the worldwide demand for potash rises steadily, with China becoming a major destination for the fertilizer products that are produced.

Prince Rupert’s location and distance to China makes it a sensible location for an export facility to be set up. No information as to how many jobs would be created have been released as of yet, nor has there been a timetable for construction provided at the moment either.

The Globe and Mail featured the story on its website today outlining the details of the Canpotex plans.

The CBC also had details on the developments, as did the Vancouver Sun, while the Northern View was the first with the local point of view on the story.
Update: Opinion 250 has posted a story which includes local quotes and an artists rendition of the project.
Update 2: The Windsor Star had some background on Canpotex's plans, the Prince George Citizen also provided some details on the plans while the National Post approached the story on how it impacts on the railroads.

Canpotex spending $500-million to expand port
Globe and Mail Update
June 25, 2008 at 7:59 AM EDT

Canpotex Ltd. has unveiled plans to almost double its potash shipping capacity on the west coast in the next three years.

The company expects to spend more than $500-million on a new terminal at Ridley Island, near Prince Rupert, B.C., and on expanding an existing facility next to Neptune Bulk Terminals (Canada) Ltd. in North Vancouver. It is seeking to keep pace with planned production increases by the three Saskatchewan producers that own it.
The expansion move is spurred by unprecedented global demand for fertilizer as farmers seek to boost crop yields to capture record prices.

Together, the projects will add about 11 million tonnes of annual potash shipping capacity to its existing 12 million tonnes, said the Saskatoon company. It handles offshore marketing for owners Potash Corp., Agrium Inc. and Mosaic Canada Crop Nutrition LP.

“These projects are essential and strategic steps in preparing for long-term growth in global potash demand,” Canpotex president and chief executive officer Steven Dechka said in a news release. “In addition to increasing shipping capacity, the terminals will provide access to the fastest shipping routes to certain key offshore markets such as China.”

Both terminal projects are subject to the finalization of acceptable agreements with port authorities in Prince Rupert and North Vancouver and other stakeholders, the company said.
Demand for potash and other fertilizers has been soaring around the world, and prices for both these nutrients and the shares of their producers have gone along for the ride.

In April, for example, China agreed to pay $576 (U.S.) a tonne for potash (plus shipping), up a startling $400 a tonne from last year's contract, while Potash Corp., the world's biggest producer of the stuff, saw its first-quarter profit leap to $566-million (U.S.), up from $198-million a year earlier.

The giant company's shares, meanwhile, have nearly tripled in the past year, closing at $229.99 (Canadian) on the Toronto Stock Exchange Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Local legion organization faces an uncertain future

They have lost some 290 members in nine years, carrying today a registered list of but 110 on their books. The money is tight and seemingly getting tighter and the prospect of building a new home seems to be further and further away.

The Royal Canadian Legion in Prince Rupert is facing many of the issues that have put Legion halls at risk across the nation. Much like the Rupert branch, the National organization is facing declining numbers and a growing lack of interest in the tradition that the Legion once held.

Dorothy Millington-Jones the local president of the Legion in Prince Rupert is fearful for the future of her organization, one which needs old members to return and new members to help carry on into the future.

Things seemed to have taken a decidedly bad turn once the Legion had to give up its home and sell off the land on 1st Avenue West to cover off debt. That land is still the centre of Prince Rupert entertainment coming in the form of the Chances Entertainment Centre.

It’s just a different clientele now, a new wave of people looking for fun and good times at the flick of handle or the flicker of bingo number, but not in the company of those that built the Legion over the years.

There is land that was once destined for a Legion on Park Avenue, but it recently saw a For Sale sign appear (see photo above), signaling perhaps the last post for the Royal Canadian Legion in Prince Rupert.

Tuesday’s Daily News features a background piece on the current situation and the dwindling options and hopes for the venerable Canadian institution in the city.

Future for local legion appears bleak
Rupert club and others across the nation hit by falling membership
The Daily News
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Page one

The governing body of Canada's largest veteran organization met this weekend in Ottawa to discuss sinking membership and the group's questionable future.

The Royal Canadian Legion's membership has dropped 27 per cent in the past 10 years, according to a committee report by the Dominion Executive Council.

Here in Prince Rupert, the local chapter of the Royal Canadian Legion is doing even worse.

"At the moment, we have 110 members in our books for Prince Rupert and the surrounding areas," said Dorothy Millington-Jones, the local legion's club president.

"Nine years ago when I became president, there were 400 members. In 2005, we had to sell our building to pay off debts."

The Prince Rupert Legion is now without a clubhouse, instead members use the Moose Lodge for meetings.

Millington-Jones blames the lack of building for the decline in membership.

"That's when our membership definitely declined because people said, 'we have no building so we're not going to join anymore,'" she said. "That's why it got really bad and I think that that has happened to branches all over B.C."

The legion club is best known for its Remembrance Day poppy campaigns. It also supports seniors' community programs. At one time, membership was only open to those who had served in the armed forces and their family members, but now anyone can join.

At the conference in Ottawa, the committee discussed various initiatives to bolster membership - from recruitment drives to creating a new branch for members-at-large.

"They send out pamphlets all the time to have membership drives," said Millington-Jones.

"I've had membership drives over the years and they don't come to anything. And if they do, we have people join, they come once and then we never see them again."

For now, the local legion keeps its paraphernalia in a storage area. But even that is becoming too costly for it to maintain. Millington-Jones said the legion's future looks bleak.

"There's a dark cloud hanging over us and I'd like to get rid of it," said Millington-Jones. "We go day-by-day now because we don't know ... It scares me because there's a big long tunnel and I cannot see the end."

MP's can use their summer to contemplate a "Tanker ban" bill

"We hope that the Conservative government will see that it is passed, which is what the polls tell us that a strong majority of British Columbians want."-- Charles Campbell of the Dogwood Initiative in Victoria, saluting a British Columbia MP for her private members bill designed to eliminate oil tanker traffic in coastal waters.

Catherine Bell, the MP for Northern Vancouver Island introduced a private members bill to Parliament just before the House of Commons adjourned for their summer vacation.

Bell's bill would have oil tanker traffic prohibited from waters of Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance and Queen Charlotte Sound, a move that would enshrine the voluntary ban that is apparently in place with a more formal edict excluding tankers from coastal waters in British Columbia.

The Living Oceans Society were quick to applaud her efforts with a press release saluting the goals of Bill C-571 and to push home the urgency in which they feel the matter needs to be addressed, they also provide an interesting animation presentation that shows the effect of an oil spill on North Coast and Queen Charlotte waters.

However, before anyone pops a cork in celebration, or yells out in frustration at another roadblock for industry we should all keep one thing in mind, it's rare that a private member's bill ever sees the light of day once its journey begins, let alone finds itself turned into a law.

The debate will no doubt carry on past this summer's intermission from politics on Parliament Hill and one day there very well may be a ban on tanker traffic and exclusion zones effectively put in place by legislation.

But for Madam Bell's efforts we suspect that there's a more likely chance of gas returning to 1 dollar a litre than there is for her bill in its current form as introduced last week, ever becoming law.

The Daily News provided some background on her quest for the ban, featuring the details of her proposed legislation, as the front page story in Tuesday's paper.

Vancouver Island MP wants assurances oil tankers will not cross B. C.'s coastal waters
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pages one and two

With the United States looking at offshore drilling to solve its oil crisis, a federal MP from Northern Vancouver Island has introduced a bill that would ban oil tankers from moving through the Hecate Strait.

Last week, just before the House of Commons finished up for the summer, Catherine Bell, NDP Member of Parliament (Vancouver Island North), introduced a private members bill that would prohibit oil tankers from the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and the Queen Charlotte Sound.

"Given the obvious threat that crude oil tanker traffic represents to B.C.'s marine ecology and the economic sectors that depend on it, like fisheries and tourism, the introduction of this legislation is an extremely important development in Ottawa," said Oonagh O'Connor, Energy Campaign Manager for the Living Oceans Society.

Currently, Canada has a voluntary agreement with United States not to move tankers through the strait; however despite public perception to the contrary, the federal government insists there's no official ban on tanker traffic.

"This legislation ensures that what has been the status quo for over 30 years will be maintained," said Charles Campbell of the Dogwood Initiative in Victoria. "Ms. Bell should be congratulated for tabling a law that will protect the economic and ecological value of B.C.'s coast. We hope that the Conservative government will see that it is passed, which is what the polls tell us that a strong majority of British Columbians want."

Earlier this month, U.S. president George Bush urged Congress to end a ban on offshore oil drilling, responding to consumer anxiety about record-high gasoline prices. With average U.S. pump prices piercing the $4-a-gallon level for the first time this month, up more than $1 from a year ago, energy policy has become a key issue in the presidential race ahead of the November elections.

Bush said opening federal lands off the U.S. coast - where oil drilling has been banned by both a presidential executive order and a congressional moratorium - could yield about 18 billion barrels of oil.

That would meet current U.S. consumption for about two and a half years, but it would likely take a decade or more to find the oil and produce it.

But of more immediate concern to environmental groups is the Gateway project.

They have been ramping up a campaign lobbying the federal government to implement a ban ever since Enbridge, a Calgary-based pipeline company, brought its plans for an oil terminal in Kitimat back off the shelf.

The project, anticipated to be operational between 2012 and 2014, would see twin pipelines run from the Alberta oilsands to Kitimat in order to supply Asian markets. Enbridge has already spent between $80 and $100 million developing the project.

With the primary season over, the politicians all resumed their normal activities...

They've had a tornado, a Stanley Cup championship (five times actually) and a celebrity studded wedding of The Great One, but perhaps a small little snap of a former President and a mystery gal will provide them with their most famous photo yet.

The Edmonton Sun most likely will never see the kind of attention that it has received this last week, that after a picture of former President Bill Clinton holding hands with an unidentified woman started popping up around the world.

The Sun which snapped the photo at a speech that Clinton was giving in Edmonton on Friday, has been inundated with requests for the scoop on the mystery gal and her connection to the Prez.

Alas, as dedicated to the news as the Sun might be, they could not dig deep enough into Edmonton's social calendar to divine who the mystery lady might be.

We have but one piece of advice for the former President, a fellow who occasionally seems to find himself in the middle of these gossip fueled storms. Listen, oh please listen, to Graham Parker, who long ago provided the essential primer for travel...

Wii would like you to learn IT…

"This is an exciting program that is a cut above anything we have seen in the country" -- Stephanie Forsyth, president of NWCC and chair of NPSC, expressing enthusiasm for a new program to be provided by Northwest Community college

It’s a computer user's dream course, play as many video games as you can and stay logged onto the computer as long as you want. As though your parents have moved away and left the computer room to you and your friends to do what you want when you want.

Northwest Community College is joining up with a number of other colleges in British Columbia and the Yukon to develop a new an innovative Information Technology program.

Accessing the participation of such major industry players as Cisco, Microsoft the Canadian Information Processing Society and the Information and Communications Technology Council, the program is designed to bring the best in computer training to the Northwest.

The Daily News featured details in the Tuesday paper, of the program that is taking computer technology knowledge to a new standard.

Students hook up with college's new IT program
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Northwest Community College (NWCC) is among a group of colleges that is encouraging students to play videogames and spent more time on the Internet.

Joining forces with College of New Caledonia (CNC), Northern Lights College (NL), and Yukon College, NWCC has developed a new and innovative Information Technology program.
Developed under the umbrella of the Northern Collaborative Information Technology program (NCIT), the program will be delivered through a combination of online and videoconference with hands-on learning that uses a variety of applications such as game development and social media.

Development of the program was done with significant input from business and industry including CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society), ICTC (Information and Communications Technology Council), CISCO, and Microsoft.

"The participation of these organizations has been vital to the creation of the program," said Dave O'Leary, Dean of Trades & Technology at NWCC. "They have brought ideas, resources, and support to the table that elevate the program to a new standard and ensures it incorporates leading edge technology and applications. These are some of the potential employers of our graduates and they have helped develop the program so that it meets the industry's HR needs."

An example of the contributions made to the program from industry include Microsoft's donation of full access to their XNA Game Development platform and Robotics Studio. Use of gaming applications is a unique feature of the program and provides a relevant and engaging way to introduce students to programming and its applications and creativity.

"Microsoft has a long history of supporting post-secondary education," said John Oxley of Microsoft Canada. "This unique cyberspace approach to the delivery of ICT training is a real step forward in meeting the current critical shortage of ICT Professionals."

"CIPS is thrilled to see a college program that makes professionalism a key component of the students' curriculum," said Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P. (CIPS President 2007-2008). "This is a direct response to the stated needs of Business and Industry."

The collaborative development of this program is funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education through the Northern Post-Secondary Council (NPSC).

"The NPSC was formed to enhance post-secondary opportunities and services in the north," said Stephanie Forsyth, president NWCC and chair of NPSC.

"The new NCIT program is an excellent example of the innovation that occurs when institutions and industry corroboratively draw upon their strengths to bring the very best training to northerners. This is an exciting program that is a cut above anything we have seen in the country."

NCIT is a dual credit program offering a one-year certificate and two-year diploma.
This year, the program is offered at Northwest Community College as the Computer Technology program.

In 2009, the program will add the diploma level and change to the Information & Communications Technology Professional Program.