Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ghosts of the past may haunt November municipal election

Podunkians don’t go to the polls municipally for another seventy five days, with almost eleven weeks of thought to come over who may or may not be the best bet to work on behalf of our interests.

But when we do, will we be thinking of some past items of some note that are starting to come back into view?

While the current controversy swirls around the hiring decisions of Mayor Pond, two echoes from the past are starting to stir again, issues that while not directly linked to the current tempest, do have tentacles that reach towards it in the form of a common denominator.

The message boards of hackingthemainframe have once again been the equivalent of our brown envelope, providing some background to two of the more contentious news events of the last few years. And perhaps providing some incentive for our local newspapers to revisit these past controversies with a new light.

On Sunday, Janet Beil, the long time employee of the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, outlined some of the behind the scenes maneuvering at the Regional District office prior to her removal from her post.
Hers is a contribution that provides Podunkians with an inside look at the state of affairs of those tumultuous times.
For reference, here are a few of the past items on Regional District from the Podunkian archives:
March 28,2007

That was quickly followed shortly after on the same portal, by a review by Wilf Rimmer, of the behind the scenes moves during the purchase of Monarch Cable by CityWest. Mr. Rimmer asks many of the same questions that have been popping up around town ever since the surprise announcement that the City was going into the Cable TV business.

It was at the time a purchase that was made in a most secretive manner and to this day still causes a fair amount of talk in the community, as to whether it was a wise or unwise course of action with a city owned asset.
The Cable TV purchase by CityWest has long been a favourite topic of this blog, with these just a few of our many entries on the CityWest file:

Both letters frame their situations with the view that the City’s management and many of its elected politicians seemed to be rather inclined to hardball when push came to shove, as far as their wishes and ambitions for their plans were concerned.

The letters also point to a less than transparent bit of business conducted on behalf of the taxpayers, who clearly didn’t seem to have much information provided as to what the city was doing in their name and with their tax dollars in both of these cases.

The contribution of the two letter writers in both instances, will serve to remind the public that there is still a fair amount of unfinished business and questions for our public officials to be held to account on, and perhaps these two reminders will make the 2008 election campaign a very interesting experience for all.

The Big Easy awaits her destiny

An uninvited guest named Gustav is about to crash the usual party of Bourbon Street and environs by mid Monday morning.

As has been documented all day long on CNN, Fox and MSNBC to name a few, Hurricane Gustav is making its beeline for just west of New Orleans.

It marks the second major hurricane in three years for the city so decimated by Hurricane Katrina. A situation that in this instance has seemed to spur the locals there to a more concentrated effort to avoid the wrath of the storm as it comes ashore.

While the early predictions of a Category Four or even a Five storm have been downgraded since those early reports yesterday, the call for evacuations was generally heeded quite seriously by the residents of the city.

They say that there are but 10,000 folks left to face the storm, a number which if accurate is quite a remarkable feat considering the population of the city is somewhere around 300,000 or so.

By bus, train and plane they made their exodus over the last 24 hours, destined for Houston, Memphis and beyond to ride out the storm. Making New Orleans one of the largest near ghost towns on the continent.

Since then the potential rage of the storm has been downgraded to a Category 3 with some suggesting maybe a Category 2 by the time it washes up through the belly of Louisiana. Though as always the unpredictable nature of Hurricanes could mean a sudden intensification or possibly a slight move to the east which the experts suggest would be a very bad situation.

With memories of Katrina forever burned into their minds, officials of the state and city have been quick to set up a pre hurricane program of police, National Guard and medical professionals set to spring into action should disaster come with Gustav.

The Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin, who is well remembered for his emotional appeals in the hours and days after Katrina, initially had referred to Gustav as potentially the mother of all storms. Since that time he’s revised his thoughts on the status of the storm, calling it still a dangerous storm, but seeming to be less emotional on the pending arrival. Perhaps the reaction of his residents to the evacuation orders has given him comfort that they and his city have been more pro-active in the face of the storm.

The Governor Bobby Jindal seemed to be a permanent fixture on the television for most of the afternoon, conducting what was surely more than one news conference, but at times seemed to be one long rolling public session that stretched over the hours. He provided weather reports, road reports, details on emergency plans and medical alerts all the while still urging the state’s residents in the low lying areas to move on to higher ground before it became too late.

The US Federal Government has been far ahead of the curve this time, with Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff quick on the scene to coordinate the Federal resources ready to await the arrival of the storm.

Canada has even deployed one of our C17 Globemaster lift planes to the area, ready to provide transport for medically vulnerable residents, sending a medical team and supplies while standing ready to lend assistance should the worst that is feared become reality.

Those fears are well founded, Gustav passed over the Western end of Cuba on Saturday, raging in at a Category Four and leaving injured and homeless in its wake. Fortunately there were no deaths there, though Gustav's record of chaos did result in deaths in its run through the Caribbean.

Perhaps Canada might find some time to lend a hand to those disaster scenes as well, parts of the world that are already in need of aid, suddenly found themselves tested by yet another challenge.

For now though, we suspect that all eyes will be on New Orleans, waiting to see if Gustav causes as much havoc or more, than what Katrina visited upon the Southeastern end of Louisiana.

The New Orleans radio stations have been in Hurricane mode for most of the day today, with frequent updates on the progress of the storm, tales from residents on the evacuation trail, coverage of the political scene with its many public updates and calls from those that have chosen to ride out Gustav in their homes, wherever they may be whether on high ground or below the levees.

You can follow along if inclined by checking out their programming at the following stations.


Likewise the local paper the New Orleans Times-Picayune has been updating it’s website with details and stories through the day,

New Orleans Times-Picayune

The three cable networks in the US have been devoting the bulk of their programming today to the storm on the horizon, they will no doubt be following its progress and the fall out of it as the storm arrives.


The next twelve hours will be the test for all on the Southern Gulf states, a nerve wracking half day that will bring much fear and trepidation with each gust of the wind and each drop of rain.

Having seen the human misery that Katrina brought, one hopes that they ride out this one with little in the way of death or injury and that any potential damage does not leave the region once again as devastated as Katrina did three years ago.

Local contractors express concern over BC Housing contracting policies

It seems to have been a week of interest by locals over governmental policies into hiring, from City Hall to a major apartment complex it would appear that Rupertites would like to know what’s going on!.

A number of local contractors in the city have criticized BC Housing over a recent bidding process for the renovation project at BC Housing’s Mariposa Gardens complex, a 2 million dollar renovation that was awarded to Port Moody’s Yellowridge Construction Ltd.

The local tradesmen and women are concerned about what they suggest is an inconsistent bidding process on construction work done in the Prince Rupert area.

The Daily News outlined those concerns as well as provided background from BC Housing in the August 26th edition of the paper.

Local B. C. Housing bid not done ‘fairly’
Rupertites wonder why local businesses didn’t get chance to bid on project
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Pages one and three

BC Housing is being criticized for an inconsistent bidding process on construction jobs in Prince Rupert.

Ken Lippett accused the provincial housing agency of picking-and-choosing contracts to be tendered.

“B. C. Housing will tender stuff under $5 million – they will tender to mow the lawn,” said Lippett.

“If it’s a for a construction job and it’s under $5 million, well we don’t need to do that.
Lippett is frustrated that the $2 million Mariposa Gardens project was awarded to Port Moody company Yellowridge Construction Ltd. without an open calling for proposals on the government’s catch-all bidding website

B. C. Housing is allowed to hand all ministry contracts under $5 million to contractors without a bidding process.

However, there have been instances in the past when it has tendered contracts for jobs under that threshold.

And one included Mariposa Gardens, which back in 2006 had three bids for a $215,000 project that was awarded eventually to Uni Construction out of Terrace.

Lippett thought that there is a serious flaw in the way that B. C. Housing awards its contracts, which he believes are not metered out fairly.

“It is political and when the bureaucrats run the government agencies and not the minister you end up with things like this,” said Lippett.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons agreed, saying that the B. C. Liberal government risks looking like it gives out special favours to its preferred contractors.

“A fair bid process means that taxpayers can get the best value for their dollar on public projects, and it gives the local companies the chance to do the work on local projects,” said Coons.

B. C Housing said that it has tendered contracts in the Prince Rupert area before and received no bids for them.

Sam Rainboth, manager of public affairs, said: “We have a roster of pre-qualified contractors for projects just like this when there hasn’t been previous response to construction bids and Yellowridge was on that roster.”

Rainboth did say that Yellowridge had hired local subcontractors to actually do all the work, which Lippett acknowledged.

But a local contractor dispute B. C. Housing’s assessment of this particular contract.

“Of course we would have bid on this contract.

“We bid quite often on contracts BC Housing tenders,” said Mark Rudderham, president of Rupert Wood N’ Steel Construction Ltd.

“That’s huge dollars for a small company in a small community and for them just to give it to these guys… jeez.”

Rudderham said that he wasn’t sure that B. C. Housing hiring subcontractors made things even.

“I don’t know who BC Housing says is doing subcontractors, I mean Yellowridge is doing all the work themselves.

They’ve mainly hired kids off the street to do it.”

Haida Heritage Centre celebrates Grand opening with large crowd

Last weeks grand opening of the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate provided an opportunity for local clans to celebrate their involvement in the weekend festivities.
The CBC website has a number of pictures taken by former North coast broadcaster Russel Bowers posted to their site, from last years public opening, which provide an interesting window into the various aspects of the Centre.

The Daily News outlined the Grand Opening celebration’s high points, with a front page story in the August 26 edition.

Haida nation and guests celebrate under soggy skies.
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Pages one and three

In true Northwest fashion, even more people than expected braved the wet weather on Saturday for the grand opening of the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate.

An estimated 1,200 special guests and members of the public were in attendance for the historic day on Haida Gwaii that began with the Haida Clan Parade, where people of all ages donned their regalia and drums and followed their chiefs for a half kilometer march to the Centre from Jag’s Beanstalk.

Jason Alsop, operations manager for the Haida Heritage Centre, said the turnout and enthusiasm was astounding, from that first event right through to the last performance of a Haida language play in the evening.

“Each clan came really proud to show off who they are, singing proudly and showing off their banners and crests,” said Alsop.

“Some of them had even made things to tow their kids in, like one wagon that was turned into a canoe. So people really took ownership of that event and were happy to take part.”

Skidegate Chief Councillor Willard Wilson said he received a call on his cell phone in the morning from Premier Gordon Campbell with the news that he and the other government officials were stuck at the airport due to fog, and wouldn’t be making it to Skidegate as expected.

However, that didn’t stop the celebration from proceeding as planned, with the arrival of three newly carved Haida canoes shortly after the parade wrapped up.

“I’ve always been partial to the canoes, and I was so proud to see the three new ones as they came onto the beach,” said Wilson.

“I see Haida art in so many places, it just amazes me what our ancestors did and what our carvers do to this very day.

“I’ve been to the museums in Victoria and Vancouver, and I didn’t even get to see all the Haida art that was there because there’s so much. They left us with a rich legacy and now it’s up to this generation to do the same.”

With 850 place-settings prepared for the seafood barbeque, everyone was pleasantly surprised when there more mouths than utensils.

Old Massett Chief Councillor Elizabeth Moore was one of many community members from the Massett area who made the trip to be a part of the festivities, and was overwhelmed at the amount of food there was on-hand to enjoy.

“I kept kind of low key in the background with the regional manager from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and visiting Chief Ray Jones from Gitsegukla who was really enjoying his crab and sockeye salmon,” said Moore.

“I noticed the speeches were open for everyone, including the Queen Charlotte City Mayor and her council, which was really good for building partnerships on the island.

“And my two youngest children just love that museum.

“So I know the Centre is going to be very inspirational for our young Haida people to learn more about their culture and further their education.”

All Native Tournament season ticket holders reassured over their seating arrangements

With the City of Prince Rupert and the organizing committee of the All Native Basketball Tournament launching a program to fund renovations to the basketball seating at the Civic Centre, more than a few season ticket holders were beginning to wonder if they still had a place to sit this February.

The questions were becoming so frequent that ANBT President Clarence Martin and Vice President Paul Haugan felt that there was a need to clarify the situation and reassure those long time supporters that all was well for this years Tournament.

They outlined the program’s finer points in an article in the August 22 edition of the Daily News. The article also provided an update on the success so far of the fund raising project and what may be the first mention of a potential loan that the city may take out to finance the project, should their fundraising at least make it to the 50% mark by their September 12 deadline.

All-Native clarifies city’s new seating plan
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, August 22, 2008
Pages one and six

Basketball fans around the North Coast community worried about the status of their seasons tickets for the All Native Basketball Tournament – especially considering the 2009 tournament is the 50th annual – need not be concerned.

All-Native Tournament Board President Clarence Martin and vice president Paul Haugan reassured tournament season ticket holders that their seats were indeed safe. They wanted to clarify that the seats in the soon-to-be-newly renovated Jim Ciccone Civic Centre would not be sold off to sponsors for the Russell Gamble Gymnasium new system seating upgrade.

“The message we want to get out to the people that they will not lose their seat,” said Martin.

The City of Prince Rupert had advertised seeking sponsors with its slogan: “Buy the SEAT of our ANTs.”

The slogan has caused some confusion amongst fans, many who make the trip to Prince Rupert from great distances to see the tournament.

The City needs $380,000 of funding for the seat upgrade by September 12, according to Michael Curnes, Director of recreation and community services. He said the city is one third of the way there and would consider taking out a loan if they could at least hit the halfway mark by the cutoff date.

Curnes was also sorry that the information might have mis-construed fans of the tournament but said that has made sure that people know the facts when they call him.

Martin said that he was not upset in any way with the city but he was concerned that the wrong information was circulating around about who is actually going to get in those seats come next year.

Fans have already purchased all the available season tickets to the games with a $25 deposit and this has caused some fear that they may not get the seat they’ve paid for.

“All of us (in the ANBT) are getting calls asking us why we are losing our seats,” he said.

“And they are not. It’s just a bad word that they used. Using the work ‘buy’… they should have used ‘sponsorship.’

The ANBT board would like to see the word changed to end the confusion.

“We don’t want to cause any consternation between Michael Curnes and the board,” said Martin.
“The sponsorship of the chair is one thing,” added Haugan. “You don’t own a chair you are just sponsoring a chair. There might be some reassignments because of the configuration of the new seating is a little different from what we originally planned but there isn’t going to be a bad seat in the house.”

The new renovations will also enable the ANBT to increase attendance at every game during the tournament. Plus, the change in seating could provide help for North Coast media, such as the radio broadcasts on CFNR

After all, during the final quarter of the Senior Men’s Final between Bella Bella and Hydaburg, Alaska, the noise in the Civic Centre was so loud, it made CFNR’s broadcast of the final few minutes of that contest rather difficult. The upcoming renovations could ameliorate this situation, suggested Haugan.

But with that in mind, the city is seeking sponsors to help pay for the Civic Centre’s new seating, which is to be installed by January.

Haugan said the All-Native group is 100 per cent behind the City’s project.

“The Civic Centre has needed new seating for a long time,” said Haugan. “Because it’s our 50th anniversary, it’s coming at a perfect time and we just want the people to know that they can get involved by sponsoring chairs.”

Haugan suggested that prospective sponsors would be able to mount a plaque with a memorial or a family name on each seat sponsored, which would sit on the chairs for the life of the chair.

Sponsorship for a chair costs $200 each and up to $180,400 for an section.

The ANBT will take place from Feb 6-14 in 2009.

Focused on coal now, but still thinking of the forests

Dan Veniez still has the North coast’s forest industry on his mind, while he currently is running the show at Ridley Island; he still apparently has a fond spot in his heart for the regions once mighty forest industry.

Veniez was leading the eventually unsuccessful charge in 2002 at the time to try and rebuild the Skeena Pulp Mill empire, so with his past experience in matters of forestry has offered up his thoughts once again through the familiar instrument of the printed and published word.

First quoted in a Vancouver Sun article on August 17 and then with his own Letter to the Editor on August 20, that in response to this article from Ric Slaco on the state of our forest industry these days...

A clarion call for revival
Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ric Slaco's op-ed piece Tuesday ("B.C.'s forests can lead fight against climate change") was a terrific reminder of the intrinsic value of B.C.'s forest industry, particularly at a time when market gloom pervades its leadership and policy makers.

When forests aren't rehabilitated to stay healthy, as in the northwest, the economy suffers and so does the environment. For example, most people are unaware that the forests along the Smithers to Prince Rupert corridor are net emitters of CO2.

Changing that requires an ambitious plan to harvest and replant those trees. The fibre can feed pulp mills and go into clean energy, such as pellet and bio-refinery projects. Such a renewal would have a dramatic and positive impact on investment, jobs and first nations.

Slaco's important contribution should be front and centre in a process led by the premier and minister of forests to bring the forest industry into the 21st century.

Daniel D. Veniez
Chairman, Ridley Terminals

The Daily News provided a synopsis of sorts of the Veniez rebuttal, published in the local paper on August 22.

Ridley Terminals keeps eye on forestry
Adapting to change integral for the forestry industry
By Robyn Burns
Special to the Daily News
Friday August 22, 2008
Pages one and three

A port industry leader believes that the forest industry in B. C. is in dire need of a facelift. Daniel Veniez, Ridley Terminals Chairman is standing by this point.

An article published this week in the Vancouver Sun prompted him to respond with a passionate letter-to-the-editor.

He responded to the special editorial written by Ric Slaco, Chair of B. C. Forestry Climate Change Working Groups and VP of Interfor.

Slaco’s article outlined how B. C. wood products make a difference and he called for change in the forest industry.

“This was music to my ears; I’ve been preaching this for years,” Veniez said.

According to Slaco, using forest fibre to its full potential is not only an economic answer for B. C., but it’s a way to lower carbon emissions in the province.

Veniez believes that imagination and thinking outside of the box is what will save the forest industry in this province.

The numerous mill closures throughout the North in recent months may have some industry leaders guessing, what’s next?

A price tag of $5 million bought Veniez and George Petty the assets of Skeena Cellulose Inc. in 2002. By 2003 they had to walk away.

According to Veniez, 60 per cent of the forest in the North West of the province is dead. He believes that with an aggressive harvest and reforestation program the forestry industry can be rejuvenated.

“Our stretch of geography can make a real difference,” he said.

Recent studies have brought concerns over carbon emissions to the forefront.

Many industries are now on the hunt for alternative energy sources.

Veniez believes that rotting wood is a viable option in creating bio energy fuels.

“there is a high demand for places where alternative energies could be developed and 50 per cent of the fibre basket is (rotten) and it can’t be used for anything else,” Veniez said.

“I see tremendous opportunities to create some real jobs.”

He said that the Provincial Government’s good intentions just aren’t enough.

“The government has shown that it can’t manage the forest industry and shouldn’t be asked to.”

The Port of Prince Rupert sits at the backdrop of this potential economic future Veniez sees.

”The port is a huge advantage,” he said.

A lack of imagination in the Legislature is what Veniez contributes to what he calls a self induced decline in the forest industry over the last 15 years.

Veniez said, “It’s time to change the paradigm to think and focus on the fundamentals, we’ve got a rotting fibre basket.”

Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Nations seek longer if not permanent moratorium on coalbed drilling

The recent announcement from Shell that they are taking a one year moratorium on coalbed methane drilling in the Sacred Headwaters, is a start but certainly not the final result they are seeking.

With a number of questions and concerns over the proposed project, the regions First Nations are going to wait and see what Shell’s next move may be, before they contemplate any further actions or approaches on the issue.

The Daily News featured their thoughts as the Front Page story in the August 22 edition of the paper.

Past articles on the coalbed moratorium included:

Shell reverses field on Sacred Headwaters plans

A one-year moratorium isn’t long enough, say First Nations
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, August 22, 2008
Pages one and three

Representatives from First Nations around the north coast region are taking a wait and see approach in regards to Royal Dutch Shell’s announcement that there will be no drilling in the Sacred Headwaters in 2008/2009.

Gordon Sebastian, executive director of the Gitxsan Nation, and Ken Gosnell, assistant co-ordinator for economic development and sustainability for the Nisga’a Nation, argued that this is not the final word on drilling on the North Coast.

“If things went wrong with their project then our community would be really harmed, Gosnell said.

Gosnell is a former commercial fisherman and he said that the Nass River should not be an experiment for Shell when the salmon stock is just starting to turn around.

He wonders why this project does not have to pass an environmental assessment unlike a mining or forestry project.

Gosnell said that any drilling that could harm the river would be toxic for the whole Nass River region, including Prince Rupert.

“Right now the salmon stock in the Nass River is finally on the comeback,” Sebastian said. “If this drilling happens to go through within the next four or five years of their contract, those numbers can fall off again; and not only fall off, it’s going to effect the wildlife and resources that we have and right down to the coastal line in B. C.”

So far this year there has been a commercial surplus of 100,000 sockeye salmons in the Nass river, down from the average 200,000 surpluses according to the department of fisheries.

The salmon stock is a valuable commodity along the Nass.

According to a 2006 Sierra Club of BC report on the salmon fishery in the Nass River, the salmon stock is worth $10 million annually to commercial and First Nation fisheries.

“The coalbed methane project is an eye opener for us. And it should be an eye opener not just for our (Nisga’a) community in New Aiyansh but also for Terrace and Prince Rupert,” Gosnell said.

In 2004, Shell was awarded 400,000 hectare tenure for coalbed methane development in the Sacred Headwaters, also known as the Klappan.

The Sacred headwaters feeds in to three rivers in Northwestern B. C., the Skeena, Nass and Stikine, two of which (Nass and Skeena) empty out in the Hecate Strait near Prince Rupert.

Currently there is no research or prior experiments of coalbed methane work in salmon-bearing watersheds.

For Gitxsan executive director Gordon Sebastian that is just not good enough.

“We do not want the water affected in any way,” Sebastian said.

“We have indicated to them that the water comes through the Skeena but they indicated that it is not coming down our way and that it is heading to the north.”

Sebastian said the Gitxsan have not been consulted on the coalbed project but if the water or salmon in the Skeena becomes affected they would hear from them.

“If they consult with us after the fact they will be dead in the water,” Sebastian warned.

And neither Gosnell nor Sebastian claimed victory this week.

“You know that one-year moratorium on drilling is going to be at least one year too short,” Gosnell said.

“They should have just pulled out all together.”

Mayor Pond recounts his observations of Governor Palin

The Mayor has been providing a little inside information on Alaskan politics to the Vancouver Sun, which publishes an article in Saturdays paper that includes a thumbnail sketch of Pond's impressions of the now nominee for Vice President of the Republican Party Governor Sarah Palin.

Mayor Pond examines her plan for oil drilling in the Arctic slopes and offers up his own impressions of the oil industry possibilities, with his belief that drilling for oil can be done without environmental damage, given appropriate safeguards and technologies.
In the course of the article he appears to offer up his own his support for oil and gas drilling on the coast of BC, a position that ties in nicely with the ambitions of the Provincial Liberal party.

It's a position that very well may help to speed up the ever popular rumour in town that he has higher ambitions than just being the Mayor of Prince Rupert in his future.
And considering the now fairytale like rise of the Governor of Alaska from her local PTA and small town Mayor, to Governor and now VP candidate, who knows where the Mayors own ambitions may reach.

In the course of the Sun article, the Mayor recounts the occasions where he crossed paths with the Governor, from her inaugural ball in 2007 and later that year at the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region meetings.

Palin at odds with Canada on Arctic refuge drilling
Larry Pynn
Vancouver Sun
Saturday, August 30, 2008

Canadians who oppose oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because of its potential impact on shared caribou herds will be "horrified" at the choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as John McCain's Republican vice-presidential running mate in the U.S. election.

That's the opinion of Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond, a politician from northwest B.C. near the southeast Alaskan border, who admits to having invited himself to Palin's inaugural ball shortly after she was elected the state's first female governor in 2006.

"If your primary concern is protecting the wildlife refuge and making sure no activity ever happens out there, you'd be horrified," he said in a phone interview Friday.

But Pond says he is not one of those people, and personally believes that drilling for oil can be done without environmental damage, given appropriate safeguards and technologies.

"I think it's possible," said Pond, who also supports an equally contentious proposal for oil-and-gas drilling off the B.C. coast.

"The real challenge is the regulatory regime. How high are you going to set the bar, and how do you ensure the benefits are well distributed to the people who actually live there, who are impacted by it?"

Palin supports drilling in the 7.7-million-hectare refuge, calving grounds of the porcupine caribou herd on Alaska's north coast, bordering Yukon. Canada is opposed to such drilling.

Pond said he attended Palin's inaugural ball in January 2007 in Juneau following her first-time win as Alaska governor.

He met her again in 2007 at a meeting of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, a partnership of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, B.C., Alberta and Yukon aimed at promoting greater regional cooperation to enhance global competitiveness.

He describes Palin as a pro-development conservative who isn't afraid of the tough issues.
"She is very dynamic. She's sharp. She listens well. There's a lot of good reasons why they picked her."

But he added: "I don't want to pretend she would know me. I'm not best buddies with the first Republican female nominee."

Pond said Palin's selection as McCain's running mate will help to shed light on a northern region often overlooked by urban politicians to the south. "It can't hurt to have someone who understands this part of the world on the international stage," he said.

Pond added that Palin supports Trans-Canada Corp.'s pipeline bid to deliver natural gas through Alaska and Yukon and end near the B.C.-Alberta border. From there, the gas would enter TransCanada's Alberta system, which feeds U.S. markets.

"If it goes ahead it will be one of the largest construction projects on the planet," he said.

West side fire leaves family facing extensive damage to their home

A fire on Beach Place on the west side of the city last week, left a local family looking to rebuild their home and lives. The Daily News had some background on the fire in their August 21 paper.

Fire wipes out Beach Place home
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Page one

A housefire on Beach Place Tuesday night forced a family of three to evacuate the residence and caused excessive damage to the home.

The Prince Rupert Fire Department, assisted by the Prince Rupert RCMP and B. C. Ambulance Service, responded to a call of a fire in a residence on Beach Place at 10:22 p.m. Tuesday evening.

A family of three and their dog got out of the home safely, and it took a total of 10 firefighters approximately one hour to get the blaze under control.

“It was a tough fight because it was on multiple floors,” said Deputy Chief Dave McKenzie.

“It was a house with a suite in the basement, and we had fire in the basement and the top floor with no fire in the middle floor.”

Concerned neighbours were quick to offer the displaced people clothing and a place to stay for the evening, as smoke billowed out of the Westside home.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but investigators said there is no suspicion of arson.

Social issues high on the minds of City Council

With a fishing season that hasn't provided much in the way of work for local fish plant workers, City Council was left to ponder how all that may play out in the fall and winter of this year. With many workers expected to be left unable to qualify for unemployment insurance, many will likely require assistance from welfare.

With that as their narrative, Council discussed the various social issues that may be more prominent this fall and winter.

The Daily News had details of the issue in their August 21 edition.

Homelessness needs addressing
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Pages one and three

Prince Rupert City Council has deemed homelessness in the city a priority topic of discussion when city representatives travel to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities next month, as reported in Wednesday’ edition of the Daily News.

This is a decision that local homelessness coordinator Alex Weir is pleased to hear.

As Community Homelessness Coordinator with the North Coast Transition Society since early 2008, Weir has been tasked with helping in the establishment of an emergency shelter in Prince Rupert before Spring of 2009.

The local Aboriginal Steering Committee on Homelessness, chaired by Marilyn Bryant, encouraged the Transition Society to recruit someone to coordinate this implementation phase, after it was concluded in the March 2007 community homelessness report- headed by City of Prince Rupert Director of Recreation and Community Services Michael Curnes. – that an emergency shelter was necessary to address the growing problem.

Weir’s position supports local organizations in achieving the goals of past community efforts, identifying an organization that will oversee the development of the emergency shelter, scheduling events and activities surrounding homelessness and producing appropriate reports.

“As this project on homelessness not only here in B. C. has been moving forward, there have been a lot of other exciting things that have come along,” said Weir.

“Various support issues for homeless people have been raised, such as a report by a Vancouver Police Detective titled ‘Lost in Translation,’ which talks about how the mental health system in that city is broken. Although it’s referring to Vancouver, that report gives us a springboard to move forward with the similar problems and challenges faced by the “hidden homeless” here in Prince Rupert.

Since Weir began his work in the city he has helped organize the Homelessness Action Committee, comprised of the leaders of the five organizations most involved in providing shelter and support for transitional people in the community. The group includes the Gary Sheils of the Salvation Army Corps, Farley Stewart of the Friendship House, Christine White of the North Coast Transition Society, Mary Clattenberg of the Community Enrichment Society and Joe Viscount of Fairview Management Services.

In addition to forming an action committee, a Homelessness Advisory Committee comprised of roughly 40 individuals has also been established, with experience in fields such as mental health and family services.

“The purpose of the committees is to make sure the significant stakeholders who are providing not only shelter but services to assist the homeless are all getting an opportunity for input,” said Weir.

“I’m not a leader in this. I’m just a frontline coordinator giving all the people with a burning desire to assist homeless people a chance, and to assist the Homelessness Action Committee with its movement forward to gain funds for the emergency shelter and efforts toward increasing the amount of affordable housing.”

Weir applauded city council for recognizing the issue as one of the most prominent for the community, and said the decrease in affordable housing combined with increasing homeless numbers is cause for alarm.

He also pointed to the ‘hidden homeless’ as a major concern for the community, meaning those people who remain on the verge of becoming homeless, because most statistics collected on homelessness fail to account for that growing sector of society.

“There are people who are chronically in the streets, who would probably be there even if there were accommodations available,” said Weir. But there are certainly some on the streets who simply can’t find affordable housing at all.

“It’s becoming an emerging issue even for rich Alberta, where people are getting jobs but are living in a park. We’re also seeing homes with many different generations of people cramped in one home, and a number of people who receive welfare that are forced to live in cramped living conditions, as the amount of money in the welfare system for accommodations doesn’t match the available rental prices.”

The Homelessness Action and Advisory Committees are anxiously awaiting a call for proposals from B. C. Housing for a new stand alone shelter. So far both the Salvation Army and Transition Society are prepared to submit proposals to operate an emergency shelter, which the Action Committee has determined should serve men, women and families deemed to be homeless.

Also positive is the recent provincial government announcement proclaiming the week of October 12 to 19 Homeless Action Week, for which Weir is currently planning local activities and events.

Podunk Below the Masthead August 2008

A daily look at the BIG TYPE headline of the Podunkian Daily News..

We'll list that day's BIG STORY, the one the Daily puts out in the big type just below it's masthead, for all Podunkians to ponder..

There will be a link to this feature on the right hand side of the blog..

On Wednesdays and Friday's you can access all the stories of the Daily News free on their website (though for most of August that wasn't the case), on the remaining days you end up at a dead end, asking you to go purchase your paper, for (as Paul Harvey would say) the rest of the story.

AUGUST 29-- WIND ENERGY PROJECT GETS THUMBS UP FROM COUNCILLOR-- The Queen Charlottes express their enthusiasm for a project wind energy project (see story here)

AUGUST 28-- TEAMWORK AND COMMITMENT MOST IMPORTANT FOR TOURISM -- The stratagies needed for a successful North Coast Touris industry were up for discussion at a recent conference in town. (see story here)

AUGUST 27-- METLAKATLA RESIDENT DEMANDS FIRE DEPARTMENT REINSTATEMENT-- Fire protection and local politics come up on the radar across the harbour in Metlakatla (see story here)

AUGUST 26-- HAIDA HERITAGE CENTRE GRAND OPENING A RESOUNDING SUCCESS-- The official opening attracted a large group of officials and residents to join in on the celebrations. (see stoy here)

AUGUST 25-- RUPERT CITIZENS DISPLEASED WITH CITY’S ‘UNUSUAL’ CONTRACT -- Controversy jumps to the headlines as a backlash against the Mayor's hiring of the wife of the City Manager comes up for discussion at City council (see story here)

AUGUST 22-- LOCAL FIRST NATIONS REFLECT ON COALBED MORATORIUM-- The controversial plan to extract coalbed methane gets a review (see story here)

AUGUST 21-- NEW TOURISM PLAN ON THE TABLE -- Tourism Prince Rupert prepares to release details of a comprehensive survey into tourism issues in the region (see story here)

AUGUST 20-- HUGE WEEKEND FOR HAIDA GWAII -- Haida Gwaii prepares to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Haida Heritage Centre (see story here)

AUGUST 19-- SHELL DECIDES TO HOLD OFF ON COALBED DRILLING-- Shell decides that they'll take a break from their plans to drill for coalbed methane in the Sacred Headwaters (see story here)

AUGUST 18-- MERCHANTS REACT TO LOSS OF WEDNESDAY CRUISE STOP -- The annoucement from Royal Caribbean that they are pulling out of Prince Ruper in 2009 found the Daily News learning the mood of the business community on the decision (see story here)

AUGUST 15-- ROYAL CARIBBEAN TO DROP WEDNESDAY SAILING IN 2009-- One of the major cruise lines that calls on Prince Rupert announces that they will be taking Rupert off their itinerary in 2009. (see story here)

AUGUST 14-- REFINERY GLITCH MAY SQUEEZE RUPERT GAS PUMPS -- Problems at Petro-Canada's Alberta refinery may leave local residents seeking out alternate gas stations for their fuel (see story here)

AUGUST 13-- POTASH FIRM’BULLISH’ ON RUPERT PORT PROSPECTS -- Despite a costly week on the stock exchanges Canpotex still expresses confidence in its plans to build a terminal at Ridley Island (see story here)

AUGUST 12-- ALASKAN ERUPTION SENDS ASH ACROSS PRINCE RUPERT-- A volcanic eruption in Northwest Alaska leaves Rupertites watching the skies as a trail of ash passes over (see story here)

AUGUST 11-- NAI’KUN INKS METLAKATLA POWER TRANSMISSION DEAL -- The Nai'Kun Wind Energy company comes to an agreement with Metlakatla over transmission route interests (see story here)

AUGUST 8-- FRUSTRATED GILLNETTERS FEAR DFO WILL CALL END TO SEASON-- North Coast Gillnetters wonder about what DFO's next move will be in the salmon fishery for 2008 (see story here)

AUGUST 7-- FOUR DEAD AFTER HELICOPTER ACCIDENT NEAR ALICE ARM-- A Helicopter crash northeast of Prince Rupert claims four lives (see story here)

AUGUST 6-- CRIPPLING UNEMPLOYMENT RATE STILL BLIGHTING RUPERT--The Regions unemployment rate continues to cause concern with a poor salmon season expected to add more to the ranks in the fall (see story here)

AUGUST 5-- DFO RETHINKS DAILY LIMIT FOR NORTH COAST SOCKEYE-- DFO considers its options for increasing the limit on salmon caught in the Skeena this season (see story here)

AUGUST 1-- 'BIGGER IS BETTER' AS PORT BREAKS YET ANOTHER RECORD-- The Port of Prince Rupert welcomes the Napoli as the latest and largest container ship to call on the Port since Fairview opened for business (see story here)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tourism Prince Rupert readies new tourism plan for the future

Tourism plays a large role in the seasonal employment scene of the North coast, with summer the peak season for visitors to the North coast. Having struggled over the last few years with a number of setbacks from BC Ferry issues to flooded highways, the numbers have been slowly climbing back over the last few years.

With tourism such a key part of the local scene, Tourism Prince Rupert was preparing last week to host a public session outlining the details of recently compiled report into the state of the industry on the North Coast.

The Daily News provided a preview of the report as the front page story in the August 20 edition.

Presentation at Chances will outline the report’s findings on tourism in Prince Rupert
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Page one

Tourism Prince Rupert is set to announce a new tourism strategy plan next week.

As part of the provincially funded tourism strategy Community Tourism Foundation. Tourism B. C. is guiding community tourism boards around B. C. to come up with a region-specific plan to help boost visits to their cities. “I don’t mind saying the research alone is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bruce Wishart said, Executive Director for Tourism Prince Rupert.

According to Wishart, Prince Rupert was one of the first communities to apply for the program when they applied in March 2006.

Tourism BC sent Linda Lee of Strategex Consulting Group, a Howe St. consulting and management firm, up to the North Coast to measure the city’s tourism needs and to speak with tourism stakeholders. According to Wishart, when Lee finalized her initial research she found what they needed then was not the CTF,

“Lee went away with the resolution that what we really needed was consumer research. Tourism B. C. spent 2007 researching our needs and came up with a massive 700-page document on tourism,” Wishart said.

A team of researchers spent several days in Rupert scouting high traffic tourist spots, finding out how much money tourists were spending, how many days they spent here and who they were as tourists.

They followed that research and made random phone calls to people around the province to ask what their impression was of Prince Rupert.

Wishart was really impressed with Strategex’s work.

“They are one of the province’s best – I consider them top drawer,” Wishart said.

Once the research was done, the a group of 20 of the city’s top layers in tourism got together to come up with a model they could use to promote tourism business between Cow Bay and the Port of Prince Rupert and spots beyond.

“We came up with an industry-drive situation analysis gradually developing a five-year tourism plan with measurable statistics and creating some of the real basis of marketing going forward,” Wishart said.

A presentation will be held at Chances Gambling Centre’s lower level on August 26 at 6 p. m. to lay out what this plan is.

Lee, along with Caterina Papadakos and Jill Greenwood of Tourism B. C. will be on hand to present their findings.

Tour de North draws closer for local participants

The annual Cops for Cancer fundraising project the Tour de North is fast approaching and Corporal John May who will be riding for Prince Rupert's detachment is continuing with his training regimen in anticipation of the September event.

The Daily News had a background piece on the long running and effective awareness and fundraising campaign in their August 19th paper.

Cops for Cancer continues to raise awareness
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Pages one and three

With the Seventh Annual Cops for Cancer Tour de North fast approaching, participating Prince Rupert rider Corporal John May wants the community to know he’s ready for a challenge.

Cpl. May will be one of 25 officers participating in the 866 kilomere ride from Prince George to Prince Rupert next month.

The Tour de North is one of four Cops for Cancer rides in the province and as 2007 riders Blade Ward and Brad Burnett already know, it’s a tiresome journey. The seven day Tour de North will see riders bike through 11 communities, traveling as many as 165 km in one day such as the gruelling peddle from Vanderhoof to Fraser Lake by way of Fort St. James.

Last year was the first time that they extended the trip by including Fort St. James, even though it’s off the Highway 16 track.

”I do lots of mountain biking, but not really road biking,” said Cpl. May. I’ve never really rode in a pack where you stay nice and close to save up to 40 per cent of your energy. Because of the distance between the riders, we haven’t had a chance to meet and practice. It’s going to be a steep learning curve.”

The RCMP Marine Section officer normally spends seven days in a row aboard the Inkster patrolling British Columbia’s coastline and fighting crime.

Beginning September 5, Cpl. May will trade his marine duties and service pistol for a a speed bike and helmet with one goal in mind – fighting pediatric cancer.

He set he feels physically prepared fo the riding, but has heard from previous participants that the real test of endurance comes each afternoon when riders put their bikes away and attend local fundraisers.

“I’ve been told the tougest part is the rush to the event after riding all day and taking a quick shower,” said Cpl. May. “You stay up until 10 or 11 at night and then wake up to do it all over again.”

In addition to his own personal fundraising efforts, Cpl. May is hoping to receive donations through a fund-raising dinner and silent auction, set for Friday August 29 at chances Event Centre/

Tickets are $25 and are available at Re/Max Tinker Realty, The Northern View, Cooks Jewellers and the Prince Rupert RCMP Detachment.

Silent auction items are also still needed to make the event as successful as possible, even though Cpl. May said many great items have already been donated.

If you have an item you wish to donate to the silent auction, please call Elaine Hembroff 250-624-4331 or Bonnie Repole at 250-622-7069.

In 2006the Tour de North raised roughly $170,000, and last year’s 21 riders surpassed that with $250,000.

With several more riders this year and even larger public awareness for the event, the RCMP, Re/Max Tinker Realty, the Canadian Caner Society and all other sponsoring groups are extremely hopeful 2008 will see even more money raised to fight childhood cancers.

Rampage ready to head to camp

Prince Rupert's entry into the Central Interior Hockey League is working out the last minute details in preparation for the beginning of their season on September 27th.

The Prince Rupert Rampage have their evaluation camp set for the first week of September and then will assemble their line up for the debut year in the CIHL.

The Daily news provided some background on the progress of the team in the August 19 edition of the paper.

Rupert Rampage schedule now set
By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Pages one and six

A Rampage is only two months away from hitting Prince Rupert.

After an absence of senior men’s hockey for more than 20 years – with the exception of a brief return in the mid-1990’s – professional hockey is finally returning to Prince Rupert, as the Rupert Rampage officially join the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) for the 2008-09 season, with the campaign officially getting underway in Kitimat on Sept. 27.

“We’ve worked with the city to get (our) schedule worked out,” said team treasurer Bruce Tessier. “People are looking to gee the season get going… and they want to see good hockey.”

Rupert’s home opener is set for Oct. 11, also against Kitimat.

The thirst for local hockey was truly evident last season, first when the RCMP and Firefighters hosted a charity hockey game, followed by the Rupert midget A Seawolves hosting the Northwest single A zones.

From that point onward, local organizers have worked hard to make Rupert’s heralded return to the league a reality.

The next step is ensuring that the people of Prince Rupert can afford to attend games at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, and the announcement regarding season tickets is just around the corner.

“We’re looking at season ticket prices,” said Tessier.

“And we’re looking at making season tickets affordable.”

One individual who won’t have to worry about paying for season tickets is none other that the Daily News’ CFL guru Reggie Huskins, who was the lucky draw winner in “naming the team” raffle.

Tessier said the name Rampage was not one of the entries, so they placed everyone who sent in a name suggestion into a raffle, and pulled out a name – and voila, Huskins won.

A winner for submitting a logo will also be named at a later date, possibly at the unveiling that will be announced in the very near future, said Tessier.

“We’ll release the logo at the last minute,” he said. “The logo is being drafted up as we speak.”

The team has decided to go “Canadian” choosing Team Canada white, red and black as the primary colours.

Meanwhile, sponsorship is also going well, said Tessier, as local businesses continue to come on board to support the team.

“Some are coming on gradually,” he said. One aspect Rupert has done to ensure the team works is to combine it with the local rec hockey league. In this manner, the senior men’s team and the rec league is now insured and recognized by B. C. Hockey, but it also means that any player who suits up for the Rampage must also compete in the rec league.

Meanwhile, the ice is already in, and shift hockey has begun, so players interested in making the team can start playing hockey.

“Guys can dust off their skates and get going,” said Tessier.

A three-day dry-land conditioning camp is set for Sept. 3, 6 and 7, while the actual try-outs for the hockey team will be held Sept. 8, 10 and 13. For more information contact Tessier, Mike Slubowski, or Ron German (all phone numbers in the book) or email

Shell reverses field on sacred headwaters plans

The emotional debate over proposed coalbed methane drilling in the Sacred Headwaters region of the Skeena had a temporary reprieve, as Shell announced they were planning to suspend their planned drilling project for the 2009 drilling season.

Those opposed to the plan are hoping that the delay will prove to be more than a temporary situation and that Shell will reconsider its plans after considering the well documented concerns of those living in those areas affected.

The Daily News provided details on the reversal in their August 19th edition with a front page examination of the issue. They followed up on the announcement with the opinions of the projects opponents, published on August 20.

Skeena sacred headwaters to be left alone… for now
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Pages one and three

Royal Dutch Shell announced Monday that it temporarily suspended its planned 412,000-hectare coalbed methane drilling project and exploration project in the Sacred Headwater.

Larry Lonalee, senior communications representative for exploration and production, said that Shell hasn’t put a timeline on the moratorium but he said the expected drilling pause would last the entire 2008-2009 season.

“That means for the winter there will be no re-entering of three wells and the drilling of up to 14 newly licensed wells,” said Lonalee.

The announcement represents a battle victory for local area groups opposed to the project. They want the project terminated forever.

“We are very pleased with this announcement and we applaud Shell for doing it,” said Shannon McPhail, executive director for the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition (SWCC).

Several environmental groups, including the Northwest Watch and Sierra Club of B.C. and the SWCC fear that any coalbed methane drilling would kill or damage the amount of wild salmon that use the river for spawning.

Julia Hill, Co-Chair of the Northwest Watch said that she was convinced that the reason Shell has paused at this time was because of the action taken by the groups and concerned people around the North Coast region.

”I think they realized there would be a huge blockade of people in front of their trucks, if they were to begin drilling this fall,” said Hill.

She added that people as diverse as hippies to cowboys had voiced their opposition to the proposed drill site.

McPhail hoped that Shell was starting to get all the groups’ message.

“The people who Shell have consulted through open houses have told them that they don not want this project and Shell has to listen,” McPhail said.

According to SWCC, the Skeena River bring $110 million annually in commercial and tourist fishing to North Coast economy and is vital for many small towns along the river’s banks.

One such town is Hazelton.

“Every house in my town cans fish and every freezer in this town is probably half full with fish,” Hazelton Mayor Alice Maitland said of the 350 people in her city who rely on the river for the salmon.

“That’s our main food because a big percentage of our population is unemployed and they rely on whatever food they can get from the river.”

At this point, Hazelton has taken an iron-clad approach to any plans for Coalbed drilling. Maitland said because Hazelton is the first developed area on the Skeena after it leaves the watershed they could not support this project.

“They should not be doing coalbed methane at all until they can prove to us exactly what they are doing and exactly what the environmental impact will be,” said Maitland.

Lonalee defended Shell’s environmental practices saying that Shell had done 25 environmental studies since 2004, covering fisheries to water sampling. He said they would continue to work on their environmental studies in the Sacred Headwater, also known as Klappan.

He also said that the main reason for Shell’s pause is because the Tahltan nation, whose territory the Sacred Headwater exists in, had asked for it and not because of public pressure.

But that did not deter Hill.

“There is still a huge amount of work to be done,” Hill said. “We’ve a huge battle but not the war.”

Skeena sacred headwaters getting the reprieve it needs
Politicians and scientists alike applaud Shell’s decision
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Pages one and three

Political opponents are praising the decision by Royal Dutch Shell to suspend drilling plans in the Sacred Headwaters land for the 2008-2009-winter season.

NDP Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said on Monday that he was very pleased with Shell’s decision as it proved that people do have power in decisions over their land.

“The reaction I found has been incredible,” Cullen said. “The more people learn about this project, the greater the opposition.”

Cullen said that he is finalizing final consultation meetings plan between Shell and North Coast communities for this fall, which is to allow people to continue to voice their opinions on the project.

The province is pretending that it is only the immediate vicinity - a few square kilometers – they ignore that rivers flow and I believe that everybody down the Skeena are a stakeholder,” he said.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons said the project should not go any further until Shell can prove that it would not hurt the wild salmon population or the water’s safety.

“Part of the reason people opposed Shell’s plan to drill for coalbed methane with such intensity is because there is a real sense of the environment of the northwest being under attack right now, said Coons.
“People here look at the pace and the scale of development in places like northeast British Columbia and northern Alberta, and they don’t want to see the wholesale destruction that has occurred there to happen in our backyard.”

According to Dr. Gilles Welding of GW Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in groundwater studies, there is no way Shell should be allowed to drill until they can prove there would be no effect on the watershed.

“When extracting for coalbed methane they extract both water and gasses and in order to extract the gas they have to reduce the pressure on the surface depth,” Wendling said. “Doing that there is a high risk of dropping the water table, which effects all the surface water that are fed in large part by ground water.”

Wendling said in the history of coalbed methane this has happened every time, although he did say that every drill project is case specific.

“There is no known positive result from coalbed methane extraction, it has always been associated with negative effects – either water quantity or water quality you name it.

“Shell doesn’t know but they should know. If they pop in and see, it will be too late. We need to know before hand not in forty years when the wetlands are dry and say oh my gosh we should have known.”

The Oil and Gas Commission act does not require that coalbed methane license holders conduct and environmental assessment before drilling the ground. But Section 17.1, subsection 8 does state that the oil and gas commission can amend, suspend or cancel a license or permit.

Shell owns 412,000 hectares of land near the Sacred Headwaters, also known as Klappen.

According to the ministry of natural resources Shell would have paid up to $32,000 per-hectare for a drilling license.

Minister for Richard Neufeld is on holidays and was available for comment.

Plans aplenty to serve the world of container shipping to America

Port expansion continues to be a popular topic these days, with the details just released on a five billion dollar investment, which result in the creation of some 80,000 jobs and a dedicated rail link to the USA, all set to be in place by 2012.

No it’s not Phase Two of the Fairview Port, but Mexico’s entry into the world of logistics and world trade Punta Colonet.

The Mexican government announced details of the much anticipated project today, outlining how they hoped the ever growing demand for port facilities will make Mexico one of the continents leading destinations for shipments from Asia.

By 2020, it’s expected that Punta Colonet would be handling up to 6 million TEUs, twenty-foot equivalent units annually, providing Mexico with more than double the nation's current freight capacity.

The plan is one which will no doubt be watched with great interest by those at the Port of Prince Rupert, who have their own ambitious expansion plans on the board as well.

The developments in Mexico will also of course be of great interest to investors and shipping lines, who always are on the lookout for cost savings and new options for the wide range of vessels that head for North America with their Asian goods.

The details on the Mexican plans were picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle and posted to their website today. Their evaluation followed a number of other reports on the latest entry to the shipping links between North America and Asia.

San Diege Untion-Tribune-- New port on horizon
Los Angeles Times-- Punta Colonet, Baja California
Fairplay Shipping News-- Punta Colonet bids starting

Mexico to build port in Baja to serve U.S.
Dan Keane, Associated Press
Thursday, August 28, 2008

(08-28) 04:00 PDT Ensenada, Mexico -- President Felipe Calderon opened bidding Thursday for construction of a huge new seaport that could eventually compete with Los Angeles-Long Beach, the largest port complex in the United States.

Mexico's $5 billion Punta Colonet project would transform a wind-swept bay 150 miles south of the U.S. border into a booming port city, creating an estimated 80,000 jobs, drawing freighters from Asia and funneling manufactured goods north.

"We're looking to be sure we don't fall behind in making Mexico a strategic logistics platform for trade and global investment," Calderon said while touring the foggy beach where the port will stand.

A planned railroad would link Punta Colonet to the United States, allowing freight to skip Southern California traffic and head directly to points across the Midwestern United States, including Chicago. Planners have yet to determine where the tracks would cross the border - although El Paso, Texas, and Yuma and Nogales, Ariz., have been mentioned.

The port would be the largest infrastructure project of Calderon's administration, which has pledged hundreds of millions of government dollars for highways, railroads and airports in the last year in an effort to create jobs and pump cash into Mexico, even as the world economy slows.

At Punta Colonet, however, Calderon is seeking private bidders to build the port and accompanying railroad before running it on a 45-year lease.

The bidding should conclude late next year, and the port should start operating in 2012, said Jose Rubio, project director for Mexico's Baja California state, which is working with the federal government to develop the port.

By 2020, the port should be able to annually handle 6 million TEUs, or twenty-foot equivalent units, a measurement used to estimate container traffic - more than double the nation's current freight capacity, Transportation Secretary Luis Tellez said.

Los Angeles and Long Beach processed a combined 15 million TEUs in 2007 - 40 percent of all freight entering the United States, including 80 percent of imports from Asia.

Punta Colonet is one of several competitors to Los Angeles and Long Beach. A massive expansion at Canada's northern Prince Rupert Port will also use rail to move goods to U.S. markets. and a $5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal will make it easier for Asian freight to reach Miami, Atlanta and other southeastern U.S. cities.

Haida Gwaii celebrates Grand Opening of Heritage Centre

The celebration has been taking place for most of the year, but this past weekend the Grand Opening finally arrived.

The Daily News provided a preview of what was planned for the official opening of the Haida Heritage Centre, the details of the weekend event were featured as the front page story of last Wednesday`s paper.

The long awaited opening of the Haida Heritage Centre takes place this Saturday
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Pages one and two

This weekend will mark one of the Haida Nation’s largest and most significant celebrations in recent years, as they welcome over 1000 guests to the grand opening of the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate this Saturday.

While the facility has been open to the public since the “soft Opening” in July of 2007, this week marks the official unveiling of new exhibits and works of art to Haida Gwaii residents and visitors from as close as Old Massett and Prince Rupert to as far away as Europe.

Whether those in attendance are Haida, locals or visitors, the 53,000 square foot cedar complex will have many diverse and exciting offerings over the weekend as the cultural celebration gets underway.

Jason Alsop is operation manager for the centre, and said it will be a great relief to finally see years of planning and coordinated efforts come to fruition.

“The whole centre contains Haida culture, works from the past and present, which complete the theme of natural history and environment in our culture and how those two elements interact together,” said Alsop.

:One of the things I’ve rally been excited about for the last year is the canoe landing, because we’ve watched them work on the canoes since the whole logs were dropped off last July.

“We’ve watched all three different crews go through the carving, steaming and designing processes, and now we’re actually going to see them float, so it’s been a very special project watch.”

Two of those three newly carved Haida canoes will remain at the Heritage Centre as part of their vessel fleet.

Another big attraction staff are excited to unveil is a new temporary exhibit at the Haida Gwaii Museum, which will showcase work from contemporary Haida artists, as well as revered works of art from masters like Bill Reid and Emily Carr.

“We’re really excited for this weekend, because it’s been a dream of the community for a long time,” said Nathalie Macfarlane, director of the Haida Gwaii Museum. “The museum is a big contributor in terms of all the work the community has done over the last 30 years to bring together collections of Haida art pieces and totem poles.

“Now to be able to showcase that material and knowledge and make it accessible to people is really what we’re all looking forward to with this new centre.”

The three partnering groups on the project since it was proposed in 1994 have been the Skidegate Band Council, the Haida Gwaii Museum and Parks Canada/ Council of the Haida Nation’s Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, the latter who provided $6 million in funding to the project.

Dennis Madsen, chief of resource conservation at Gwaii Haanas, said he and the rest of the staff are excited to provide information to visitors about the national park.

“Whether you’re planning on going to Gwaii Haanas or just visiting the Centre, we have displays that talk about the reserve, the things you might see if you travel down there, the intertidal coastal life and everything else,” said Madsen.

“We’re going to be busy on Saturday, involved in all the events and showcasing our exhibits for everyone who makes it out to the grand opening,” said Madsen.

All Haida have been invited to participate in Saturday’s first event, the Haida Clan Parade, where young and old will dress in regalia, drum and march a half kilometer from Jag’s Beanstalk to the Haida Heritage Centre, just in time for the canoe landing on the beach.

The day will then proceed with a welcoming of dignitaries like British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell, an opening ceremony and prayer, and the cutting of a cedar roper to mark the official public opening of the whole Centre.

A celebration song and performance by the HlGaagilda Children’s Dance Group will follow, and throughout the afternoon guests will be invited to explore the different areas and exhibits, including a tour of the Centre’s six exterior totem poles, a dance performance by the Old Massett Xaayda Kluu Naay Dancers and the Hltaaxuulang Guid Ad K’aaju dance group of Skidegate.

Another major unveiling will be the Heart of Canada Pole, a project that will permanently reside in the Centre after being worked on by many different people.

“The Heart of Canada Pole was funded by Communications Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and Reg Davidson was selected to carve it in 2003,” said Alsop. “It did a 15 city tour and was at the Canadian Pavillon to bring attention there, and people had a chance to pay money and carve on it.

“Now it’s finished it’s tour and it will be raised for only the second time, permanently in our pole gallery. Reg was here doing some touch0ups on it last week, so we are excited to get that up for everyone to enjoy.”

A large seafood barbeque is planned for 6 p.m., followed by performances of a Haida play entitled Sinxii-gangu (Sounding Gambling Sticks), which debuted last year to much praise and acclaim from audiences.

The center at Kaay Linagaay is a 53,000 square foot cedar multi-complex consisting of five contemporary monumental timber longhouses, and is home to the expanded Haida Gwaii Museum, the Parks Canada Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, additional temporary exhibition space, two meeting rooms/classrooms, the Performing house, Canoe house, Bill Reid Teaching Centre, the Carving Shed, a gift shop and a small restaurant/café.

Economic troubles leading towards a path of poverty for some

We`re winding down our catching up sessions, with details of how the troubled fishing season has local officials concerned about a growing social issue in the city.

Homelessness and poverty are destined to increase many say, as local workers in the fishing industry come up short for Unemployment Insurance and find it harder and harder to make ends meet over the course of the fall and summer.

The Daily News examined the potential troubles in the Wedensday edition of the paper last week.

Brutal fishing season has council discussing homelessness
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Page three

Homelessness and poverty became central issues at the City of Prince Rupert’s public council meeting on Monday.

A recommendation was tabled for the council to bring the city’s homeless concerns to the next Union of British Columbia Municipalities meeting in September.

Coun. Joy Thorkelsen blamed the season’s poor fishing results for the potential increase in Prince Rupert’s poverty and homelessness.

“I can’t believe what I am saying after what I said in 2006,” Thorkelsen said.

“I said that summer that I have never seen such a bad year in my whole life. Well I guess you start saying those things and someone wants to prove you wrong because this year has been… if it gets any worse we will not open the fishing plant doors.”

Thorkelsen was referring to the poor catch results that saw local commercial fishermen catch only 500,000 salmon out of a potential 2.5 million salmon run. She said that a poor fishing season directly relates to poverty in the city.

“People with 15 year seniority have had four days work this season. How can you work in an industry for 15 years and get four days work? It has been absolutely devastating,” she said.
“Two years ago we had almost no pink salmon. You can only hope when you have a small run that the juveniles do well and unfortunately the juveniles from that run did very poorly.”

Thorkelsen added that she thought council should be discussing homelessness and the impact of people having no money from a poor fishing season.

“As we see apartments going up in rent it’s something we haven’t seen in a long time but we are going to see people having a much more difficult time finding affordable housing, which has not been a problem in our community like everywhere else in the province,” she said.

Currently, there are 343 affordable housing apartments and townhouses in Prince Rupert according to BC Housing. City council feared that might not be enough.

Coun. Tony Briglio agreed and urged city staff to get to work on researching the issue.
“Time is of the essence,” Briglio said.

“We are going to have to get city staff to come up with some report soon. A discussion about the report is needed with the people who are close to the issue.”

Mayor Herb Pond said that he thought a meeting next Thursday with city staff would be the appropriate date to begin discussions on the issues that surround homelessness and affordable housing in Prince Rupert.

He said if the city wanted results from senior levels of government it had better be prepared for the UBCM.

“My experience with the province is if you just simply bring them problems they will wish you a nice day.

“It might be nice to have some strategy and research for the UBCM with some real clarity we think the issue is,” Pond said.

The city meets with other municipalities at the UBCM convention on September 22 in Penticton.

Winning their share of the vote one stomach at a time

Credit the New Brunswick based McCain Foods with a creative attempt to build market share, based on the shared name with a more famous brand below the border.

Ready to launch the largest marketing campaign in three years for the world renowned French fry maker, McCain Foods USA is about to embark on their own version of a Presidential tour, with the goal of making sure that McCain's french fries are a crowd favourite from the White House to the average American's house.

While many corporations tend to avoid politics at the best of times, McCain's is hoping that American's will get the joke and take the campaign in a purely nonpartisan way, voting with their stomachs for the Blue bags of fries available in frozen food counters almost everywhere.

The Globe and Mail examined the marketing strategy in their Report on Business section posted on line on Wednesday.