Friday, October 31, 2008

Everyone celebrates Halloween!

We'll rattle through the YouTube Universe to set the theme for tonight's ghoulish festivities....

Is it a Trick or a Treat, you decide.

























Folding and counting with Forbes

For ten years now, Forbes magazine has tried to make Gary Bettman a centerfold, the American business magazine has provided its an annual review of the state of the NHL and not surprisingly it offers up glad tidings to the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Forbes has valued the Leafs as the NHL’s top property, a 448 million dollar cash machine, and the most successful in financials of the NHL’s 30 member franchises. With the support of the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund which is the financial muscle behind the organization, the Leafs have parlayed the Toronto Raptors, Leafs TV and the ownership of the Air Canada Centre into a profit making centre to rival all others in the NHL.

The New York Rangers claim the second most successful spot in the game, 411 million dollars of pre meltdown monetary value. Making them the best of the NHL brand in the USA.
The third star for Forbes was the Montreal Canadiens, who are estimated to be worth a handsome 311 million dollars, making George Gillette’s 2001 purchase price of 181 million dollars a pretty smart move, a successful acquisition that still leaves one puzzled as to why not one Quebecer or Canadian felt that the Canadiens were worth the investment.

Canada actually fared pretty well on the Forbes review, spurred on by last years strong Canadian dollar, the financial maneuvering required wasn’t near as complex as in years past. Vancouver holds down the number eight spot, Ottawa grabs lucky thirteen (judging by their start we wonder if Eugene Melnyk is superstitious.
Calgary checks in at number fifteen, while their provincial rivals in Edmonton were slotted in at number 20.

The five least successful teams in Gary Bettman’s brave new world include the Phoenix Coyotes who are ranked dead last at number thirty, described as just a mess these days, thanks to Arizona’s collapsing real estate market (part of the arena deal was to involve a heavy emphases on real estate development, oh oh, poor timing on that power play). Phoenix is valued at 142 million dollars (Mr. Balsillie please take note)

The Islanders weighed down by the worst arena deal in the league (and some questionable past contract arrangements we would suspect) are in at number 29, valued at 154 million a far cry from the 181 million that Charles Wang paid for the team back in the year 2000.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are said to be worth 157 million, making owner John P. McConnell worth 77 million more on paper than when he bought the team in 1997.

Likewise the Atlanta Thrashers have increased in value for their owners Atlanta Spirit who have since seen the value increase 78 million dollars from the 2004 purchase price of 80 million dollars. Though the spirit of Atlanta is seemingly waning, with reports of much infighting among the group of owners and expectations that the Thrashers will be on the market very shortly.

The last of the bottom five is surprisingly the Washington Capitals, while there has been much improvement on the ice in the last few years and the Caps truly seem to be the team on the rise, Ted Leonis is still hoping to see his team increase in value from the current valuation rate of 160 million dollars. That would be just a little bit more than Alexander Ovechkin’s thirteen year 124 million dollar contract.

While it’s doubtful that the Caps are even close to being put on the market, they do make for an interesting study.

If you’re a would-be owner trolling for franchises at reasonable prices, wouldn’t the Capitals be just the kind of team you would be looking for? They’re talented, stocked with up and coming players and finally finding success on the ice. They would be the perfect kind of squad to launch your days in the comfy confines of the NHL owners club. And you could pick them up at a fairly reasonable pricing structure at the moment, considering the future that may be just around the corner.

With Gary Bettman suggesting that he would like to see expansion come to the NHL in the near future (a rather laughable idea considering the state of the NHL’s bottom lines in many communities and that of America in general at the moment), why would any sane businessman want to go that long term route.

Spend more than what a current franchise is worth and start from scratch, or take the wiser course which would be to seek out some of the teams in distress and bring your ready made roster on to a new location.

Hmmm, wonder which way those multi millionaires might go eh, as they anxiously watch the stock markets these days, and look for the next best bang for their bucks.

The full Forbes report can be found on their website (link is here). It’s a fascinating bit of information on a rather secretive league, complete with background information on each of the NHL’s thirty member franchises. Highlighting what they’ve been doing right and how things are going wrong.

It will no doubt make for some very interesting reading in the NHL head offices, who will no doubt be offering up the spin in a very short time now.
Cross posted from the HockeyNation blog

Thursday, October 30, 2008

You can never find a plumber when you need one................... Joe the No show

Perhaps Joe was busy finishing off the details on his pending country music career, was in conference with his publicist, or offering up more sage advice on issues of Middle Eastern political intrigue.
Whatever the reason, when John McCain needed him today, Joe wasn't there.


Maybe he was reading the latest polling numbers and figured that some distance might be best all of a sudden, or maybe he just went all rogue with Sarah!

Then again, and we're hopeful here...

Maybe, just maybe, his fifteen minutes of fame (already well past expiry) have finally, thankfully passed us by...

Just when they think they’re out, they pull them back in!

Like a scene from the Godfather, the Daily News continues to help to keep your head to spinning, as they update the staff roster today with some familiar names.

A few weeks ago, the word was out that the entire production team had been exiled from the backrooms of the Daily News, a story that seemed to be backed up by the fact that the pictures of Ann Ferguson and Trevor Kayzer both disappeared from the Page four left side roster of worker bee Daily Newsies around October 21, banished it seems until today's edition.
A rather unusual thing considering the fact that paper and its union were in the midst of rather heated labour negotiations,and making for a move that no doubt was considered by some to be a certifiable punch in the nose to the union one would suspect.

Now, as we open up our Thursday edition and scan the page four listings, it’s shazam time, as they’re back at work we guess, as the two production employees have returned to the printed roster of hard working serfs to the Glacier Ventures empire.

It all leaves one just a little confused as to what is going on at the paper these days, what with a strike mandate still out there waiting to be acted upon, labour negotiations maybe on, or maybe off and employees coming and going at the roll of the presses…

As the paper seems to get thinner and thinner these days and the ad levels on those pages that still get delivered seem to feature more and more in house promotional items (shop local, avoid driving on the wrong side of the road) one wonders what is next in the ongoing tales from the printing press.
Update: Friday's Daily News has the production side of the paper once again exiled from public distribution, as the photos of the two workers from that department once again have gone missing from the staff photos on page four.

Ferry issues continue to be of concern to Haida Gwaii

They must be starting to wonder if the mainland really wants them anymore, besides the current troubles with Canada Post over mail delivery, residents of Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlottes are still expressing concern with the rather casual attitude that BC Ferries is showing them.

Of urgent concern for residents of the Islands is the planned schedule change and service disruption just ahead of this February’s All Native Basketball Tournament, which sees a pair of deadlines, construction work on the Skidegate dock and the opening ceremonies for the tournament running much too close for comfort.

Wednesday’s Daily News features two articles on the frustrating state of affairs for the island residents when it comes to their relationship with the Ferry corporation.

Islanders feeling washed up over ferry loss
By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Pages one and seven

The hype is already building as Prince Rupert approaches the opening date for the 50th annual All-Native Basketball Tournament this coming February. And because it is the 50th, the ANBT is scheduled to be longer lasting, to allow as many teams as possible who wish to compete time to take part, as well as allow time for all to participate in what is being referred to as a "cultural celebration" that will take place on Fri., Feb. 6.

The only problem is that one particular nation that has been a staple at this tournament since its inception is being hampered by a decision by BC Ferries to shut down the Skidegate-to-Prince Rupert sailing from Jan. 2 until Feb. 7, leaving the Haida scrambling for alternate solutions to get to the tournament.

"Guys are worried," said Skidegate's Masters team coach Kevin Borserio. "That's what's in the back of our minds, and we have to deal with this."

Skidegate traditionally sends a Masters, Senior Men's, and Intermediates team to the tournament, and, of course, the village of Skidegate usually empties at this time, as the fans also travel to Rupert for the annual tournament.

But they aren't alone, as the Haida nation also always sends four teams from Old Massett, including a women's team in addition to Intermediates, Masters, and Senior Men's.

All those teams and fans are now wondering how they will get to the ANBT.

Arnie Bellis, vice president of the Council for the Haida Nation and long-time coach for the Old Massett Guardians, said that everyone on Haida Gwaii is wondering how they are going to get over to Rupert for the tournament.

"Of course we're concerned about that, everyone is," he said.

BC Ferries has stated that the company will offer air service to some affected passengers during that time period, and they've also hinted that the work on the ferry dock in Skidegate could be completed earlier than the Feb. 7 deadline.

But everyone on the North Coast is aware how winter storms can affect timelines, and Borserio wonders how that will impact the ferry schedule.

"We talked about it last week, and we're going to need more fundraising," he said. "It's going to cost tens of thousands of dollars to get everyone over there."

Hansen hears calls for ferry fare reductions
By George T. Baker and Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Page one

Colin Hansen would not guarantee Skidegate-to-Prince Rupert ferry users a February-extension for the 33 per cent ferry fare reduction imposed on BC Ferries by the province last week.

Hansen said he had heard the concerns of locals on Monday morning about the two-month reduction but that no formal announcement regarding an extension was imminent.

"This was something that was brought to my attention by All-Native Basketball Tournament president Clarence Martin and it's a suggestion that I will take back to discuss with my colleague Minister of Transportation Kevin Falcon," said Hansen.

North Coast MLA and ferries critic for the NDP Gary Coons wants the pressure to stay on the provincial government to ensure that the extension is given to North Coast ferry users.
Coons wrote to B.C. premier Gordon Campbell last week seeking an extension to the ferry fare reduction time-frame.

Coons wrote: "Specifically, I would like to know if users of the route between the Queen Charlotte Islands and Prince Rupert will entirely miss out on the fare decreases, which you have announced for January, given that ferry services are scheduled to be completely absent during that time. In the interests of fairness, will your government apply the fare decreases to the route once it resumes in February?"

Last month, it was announced that BC Ferries would be temporarily cancelling its ferry service between Skidegate and Prince Rupert for the majority of January. The cancellation is meant to accommodate work on the current docks to allow for the arrival of the new ferry, The Northern Adventure, which should be calling at the port in late March.

Changing ponies on the pony express?

There may soon be a solution to the recent reduction of postal options for Queen Charlotte Island residents.

Subscribing we suspect to the theory that one person's pain, could be another's gain. Pacific Coastal Airlines has been sending feelers out to Canada Post to take over the contract for next day mail delivery on the Queen Charlottes, a service that was discontinued when Air Canada decided to end their end of the partnership with Canada Post.

As with any sensible idea, this one it seems is lost in some kind of bureaucratic no man's land, with Pacific Coastal cooling their engines while Canada Post bounces the idea up the bureaucracy chain.

In order to try and gain some movement on the idea, Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is seeking a meeting with Canada Post officials in order to try and bring resolution to the problem and return the Charlottes to confederation as a full member, one which receives postal service on a reliable schedule.

The Daily News featured the latest development on the issue with a front page story in Wednesday's paper.

Pacific Coastal Airlines offers to pick up next day delivery where Air Canada left off
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pages one and five

Pacific Coastal Airlines has flown into the fray between the Queen Charlotte Islands and Canada Post.

Pacific Coastal CEO Darryl Smith said his airline has been in contact with Canada Post's British Columbia regional representatives and is hoping to, in the near future, get in touch with the mail service's Ottawa reps.

"Our cargo guys have been talking to Canada Post (regional representatives), who have been told they need to get clearance from Ottawa before they can do anything," said Smith.

Canada Post was notified that Air Canada wanted to bail on its $35-million contract to carry next-day mail to the Islands and Canada Post was given 120 days to find another solution.

Millions have been spent on buying DC-10 airplanes to fly in between major centres but Canada Post has spent no new money on keeping up the priority service for Islanders. Canada Post has said that the situation on the Charlottes is no different to that in many rural regions of the country.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he would be talking to Ottawa-based Canada Post representatives this week.

"That decision was apparently originated in Ottawa - it wasn't even done at the regional or sub-regional level," said Cullen. "People should keep in mind as a Crown corporation, Canada Post makes an extraordinary profit. It was never designed to make this much profit that then gets rolled into general revenues. Because of that, you see decisions like this where they just simply cut off service from people who deserve it and we are going to have to reverse this decision."

According to Canada Post's annual report for 2007, the Crown corporation has increased revenues each year since 2005, generating $7.5 billion in 2007, which is up from $6.9 billion in 2005.
However, the corporation has been steadily losing its profit share in the same timeframe.

In 2007, Canada Post generated $160 million in profits, which is markedly down from $282 million it generated in 2005.

It expects a lower return for 2008.

Queen Charlotte City Mayor Carol Kulesha doesn't care how much profit Canada Post is making, She just wants next-day service returned to the QCI soon, and hopefully before Christmas.
Kulehsa has been leading a petition to get XpressPost service back to the QCI but has not been able to convince the corporation that Islanders deserve to have the service returned.

Well if it's your time to go, this is probably the way to go

It's high on the ugh factor, but one suspects that somewhere in mouse heaven is one very satiated mouse.

A PEI farmer made one of those horrifying discoveries that probably will swear the family off cheese for life, after the father of two cut into a block of cheese and found a very full grown and very dead mouse firmly encased in the middle of the block of cheese.

The incident is considered to be a rarity in the world of food processing, it yet apparently can happen from time to time and unfortunately for the PEI farmer, it was his block of cheese where coincidence struck.
The CFIA immediately seized 300 blocks of Maple Dale's Caribbean brand cheese from stores in eastern Canada as the Ontario based food processor began the process of finding out what went wrong in the world of quality control.

It's suspected that the unfortunate mouse was not actually prowling the cheese factory but smuggled himself/herself in with a bag of jalapeno peppers.

We suspect more mouse traps are on order... just in case.

Employee perks issue resurfaces, just in time for the election

The letters to the editor page has been the early battleground over what may turn out to be one of the issues of this year’s municipal election.

The subject of those perks for city employees that proved to be so controversial over the last few months have be re-introduced into the mix, a back burner item that may find itself moved to the front of the political stove over the final weeks of the municipal campaign.

In the short term however, the topic seems to have evolved into a collection of “who has worked in the worst weather” stories, all spurred on by an October 15th letter to the Daily News. We don’t have that particular salvo on file, but we do have a couple of the replies since…

Letter to the Editor
Prince Rupert Daily News
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Page four

Jack is right about freebies

To the editor,

In response to Jaime Stephens’ letter to the editor (Workers Deserve Thanks, Daily News Opinion, Oct 15).

Before criticizing Mr. Mussallem, perhaps you should find out the opinion of the majority of citizens of Prince Rupert as it pertains to perks for city employees. Do you think the majority of taxpayers are pleased that not only are city employees receiving a good wage, but they have also been given the use of the pool free of charge? I understand that this perk was offered to some federal employees as well.

You don’t work for a company, you work for a government, so you shouldn’t compare yourself with employees that work for private enterprise. To answer your question, “Why is it different for city employees?” The difference is, there is a perceived conflict of interest when city (gov’t) employees can use a city facility free of charge.

No one is saying you don’t work hard, but you are really blowing your horn if you think you are one of the hardest working in the city. Perhaps you should get out more and see what others do for a living in our weather conditions. I vote for Mr. Mussallem getting behind a desk at city hall

Jacquie Jones

Letter to the Editor
Prince Rupert Daily News
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Page four

I’m no stranger to outdoor work

To the editor,

Recently, Jaime Stephens wrote a letter to you, which was printed in the Daily News on Wed., Oct. 15.

Jaime Stephens took exception to my comment about free use of recreation facilities by city workers and then wrote, “I suggest that Mr. Mussallem leaves the comfort of his office and works outside for eight hours in the freezing cold and wind.”

“Let him become acquainted with the elements that chill you to the very core.”

Well, constructive comments are appreciated – baseless comments are not.

Jaime Stephens should investigate the facts before running off at the mouth with that comment.

For the last three years Jack Mussallem has worked as a construction worker, as a timber faller, and as a marine cargo surveyor.

All these jobs involve work outside in the “freezing cold rain and wind.”

Jack Mussallem

For some, it wasn’t quite as easy as just marking your X

Questions remain over voting rules and the impact they may have had on the recent federal election. The new regulations that were in effect this election, required voters to provide proof of residency in the riding before they could cast a vote.

The reports that have come in so far after the election suggest that more than a few BC residents were left on the outside of the electoral process, when their ID wasn’t sufficient or they neglected to bring enough of it to meet the requirements.

It’s an in issue that has the local MP Nathan Cullen, as well as a provincial advocacy group both expressing concerns for the disenfranchised voters of October.

The Wednesday Daily News outlined the controversy and the concerns that have been raised over it.

MP Cullen concerned about hurdles for would-be voters
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Page five

Two weeks have passed since Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen was re-elected for a third term but he remains concerned about voting across the region – or better put, the voting that did not happen.

“We have a number of reports coming in from right across the entire Northwest and other parts of the country, where we are hearing about hundreds of people being turned away from the voting booths because of our new election law,” said Cullen.

Cullen said the NDP had voted against the changes, which made having a current address on your identification as the only valid form of identification.

The new identification rules for voting in this federal election had caused some concern going into Oct. 14 because the rules did not allow Canadian passports nor First Nations status cards as valid forms of identification. It also excluded the homeless from voting, because voting would require a home address.

According to Elections Canada, there are no statistics available relating to how many people were turned away nation0wide because of insufficient identification. But media relations contact Diane Benson said they are studying the issue and have heard anecdotally that there were some problems.

“We have received reports that this did happen and we have asked people to get in touch with us if they had something happen or if they want to explain to us what there situation was, because each voter will have a different situation,” said Benson.
BC Civil Liberties Association president Rob Homes said that he personally experienced the new voting identification process when his family went to mark their ballots.

He said his eldest daughter, who is studying away at college, only had her passport and election card with her address on it at the polling station. She was told she was not eligible to vote.

“Your passport, is your passport, it’s a photo ID. But they said no that the photo ID had to have your address on it. What would you do if you just moved in to a polling district? You would have to et a neighbour to vouch for you but who would do that considering you just moved in?

The BC Public Interests and Advocacy Centre (BCIAC) has taken the issue to the BC Supreme Court, which expects an early June hearing on the matter. The case is based on a section three of the charter of rights, which is supposed to protect Canadian citizen’s right to vote.

Currently, the BCIAC is touring the Lower Mainland looking for sworn affidavits from people who have been rejected or had trouble placing their votes.

Jim Quail of the BCIAC said that he also didn’t have the statistical information on how many have complained so far, but said that number is a bit of a red herring.

“The bigger number is going to be the people who knew about the rules that didn’t even bother going to the polling place. There is now way they are counting them but I suspect that the low-voter turnout is not a complete coincidence,” said Quail.

“It was just a real fiasco,” said Cullen. “We had a lot of angry voters who were disenfranchised - weren’t able to vote in the end - and we are frustrated. This is the last thing we want to do with an electorate that is already not coming out in huge numbers.”

According to, there were almost 1.9 million B. C. voters this year, down from the 2.75 million who chose to participate in the 2006 federal election.

The toll free number to let Elections Canada know about how the vote went is 1-800-463-06868.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NDP successful with by-election victories

By-elections are never particularly kind to the party in power, normally they don’t provide much in the way of a balance of power shift and usually are found to be useful by the electorate (those that bother to vote in them) as a way of sending a message to the governing party.

Such is the case today, as the NDP claimed both seats in by elections held in Vancouver on Wednesday night.

NDP candidates Jenn McGinn and Spencer Herbert will both join the side of the opposition when the Legislature resumes sitting next month, McGinn defeated a high profile doctor in Vancouver Margaret MacDiarmid in Vancouver-Fairview, while over in Vancouver-Burrard, Herbert easily deflected the challenge from former Canuck’s and Grizzlies owner Arthur Griffiths, who has long been contemplating a jump into politics and now will have to decide if the jump is worth making again next year.

The two victories move the NDP seat total to thirty four, holding one and gaining the other, still well below the Liberals majority at 45 but regardless they are victories that provide a warning shot for Gordon Campbell that next years provincial election campaign may be a closer contest than the Liberals would like to think.

The two campaigns never really gathered much in the way of momentum, lost in the flow of the recently completed federal election and the much more inflamed nature of the various municipal campaigns around the Lower Mainland. There were no real issues of note, no great debate, instead it seemed as though the entire exercise was just a matter of picking somebody to fill in a spot, much like a bowling team might need a spare for a couple of Friday’s while the league runs out the schedule.

While victorious on Wednesday, both new MLA’s would be advised not to get too comfortable in their new digs and not to recycle those campaign lawn signs just yet. They will serve but seven months as members of the loyal opposition, destined to be back out on the hustings in May seeking to keep that which they claimed Wednesday night.

Vancouver Sun-- Premier concedes byelection races
Georgia Straight-- NDP's Carole James's affirmative action vindicated in Vancouver by-elections Globe and Mail-- Voters choose NDP candidates in B.C. by-elections

Council hopes to turn the page on the Hesse hiring controversy

Admitting that they were wrong in the handling of the issue, but not in the actual hiring, City council addressed the Tanalee Hesse controversy for what they no doubt hope will be the last time.

Council was responding to the findings of the George Paul report, the third party investigation conducted by the Prince George administrator who outlined his thoughts on the controversy.

He also was on hand to answer the six submitted questions of the concerned citizens group, who still have their reservations about the entire controversy and the process that led to the hiring of Ms. Hesse.

The Daily News provided some background on the Monday night session of council, which focused a good portion of its attention to the issue which according to the city’s financial officer has so far cost over 10,000 dollars to investigate.
While council members may wish to see the controversy move on, that will no doubt be a decision made by the concerned citizens as far as their concerns over the immediate issue goes .
As for the larger issue of the fall out from the controversy, the procedural process that went astray and the issue of transparency and accountability, those will be issues that the voters and taxpayers in the city will probably update council over as we lead up to the November 15th election.

Concerned citizens pose six contract questions
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Page three

“We are guilty. We are guilty. We’re guilty,” said city councilor Joy Thorkelson at Monday’s regular council meeting.

The mea culpa was based on what she saw as errors made by city council in the awarding of non-tendered contracts to Tanalee Hesse, the former temporary Corporate Administrative Officer, and wife of city manager Gord Howie.

While Thorkelson admitted there were errors, she had hoped, as did all of council last night, to put the Gord Howie, Tanalee Hesse hiring problems behind them.
And Thorkelson remained unapologetic about the hiring of Hesse.
“I am convinced by this (George Paul’s) report that city staff did not commit a cover-up,” said Thorkelson.

“Would we do it all over again? We might hire Hesse but we would not do it in the same manner.

The city invited special investigator George Paul to council to answer the six questions posed by the Committee of Concerned Prince Rupert Citizens regarding whether or not there was any wrongdoing by Mayor Herb Pond and city council.

Paul answered for the second time in two weeks that the city erred in its handling of the contract as far as tendering it but that there was no unethical behavior by city staff behind the freedom of information requests or the awareness of the contracts to Hesse.

He did say that FOI requests that are not burdensome should be handled by the city immediately.

“Simple straightforward requests for information from local governments shouldn’t be put through a rigorous and bureaucratic process. A lot of that information should be provided,” said Paul.

Paul recommended that the committee should reapply their FOI request for the full details of Hesse’s activities as a hired contractor for the city.

“That request is certainly reasonable,” said Paul.

In answering the committee’s six questions, Paul advised that Howie had not received a stipend for sitting on community groups and acting as liaison to Tourism Prince Rupert and the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

As a chair for CityWest, Paul determined that Howie has been paid $600 per month, like all of CityWest’s board members.

Paul said that council should not provide the legal opinion that address the legitimacy of the contracts and procedures followed in retaining Hesse’s services.

“It certainly is not good practice and nor is normal practice for local governments to release legal opinions,” said Paul.

Paul found that the request to provide the committee with the same background material provided to himself on which he based his conclusions reached on Oct. 165 to be “reasonable” and again advised the committee to reapply its FOI request.

If the non-tendered contract cost the city some face, it has also cost it some money.

According to city’s Financial Officer Rodin, the city has spent between $9,000 and $10,000 on the investigation.

Mr. Hansen fills in some of the blanks on the Campbell ten point plan

The Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce was the host for Finance Minister Colin Hansen on Monday afternoon, as he spoke over the lunch hour about many of the provincial government’s initiatives, as outlined by the Premier last week.

Of particular interest to Chamber members would have been the small business pension plan which will provide pension options for employers and employees, who prior to last week most likely could not look forward to a pension plan of their own.

The Daily News featured the Finance Minister’s visit as their front page story in Tuesday’s paper.

Finance Minister Colin Hansen in town to talk about provincial initiatives, hear ideas
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Pages one and three

Coming off last week's 10-point plan for the B.C. economy, Minister of Finance Colin Hansen was in Prince Rupert to inform local business people about the plight and might of the provincial economy.

One of the main points from his speech at the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday was the provincial government's plan for a multi-employer pension plan.

The plan is to provide a new pension option for small business employers and employees that would add to what Hansen calls "the two pillars of retirement savings," the Canadian Pension Plan and private investments.

Hansen is proposing a third pillar - a multi-employer plan, which he said most small business owners do not provide, and some cannot provide, this option on their own.

“This is really complex for a small company. So what we are proposing is a multi-employer, private sector pension plan. Government would spearhead it, set up and make sure the regulatory and framework was there, so that those pensions were properly protected,” said Hansen.

According to Hansen, the multi-employers plan means there are options available around how the small business pension plan will work.

“The options would be that you could wind up with an employer contribution on behalf of the employee. Or you could wind up with a mix of an employer contribution and an employee contribution. Or you could wind up with, if a worker was working with a company that didn’t opt-in to this plan, the employee could still contribute to his own pension plan even if the employer wasn’t officially a part of it,” said Hansen.

The last option would allow employees, if he or she changes jobs, to be able to build the pension benefits throughout their career, regardless of where the employee worked, so that it does not collapse when they leave.

Some Prince Rupert small business operators liked the idea initially and said they would love to see how it worked.

Newly-minted Rupert merchants Nancy Blom and Samantha Nault of Rubicon Designs said they liked the idea.

“Being self-employed you need to have a little bit of security otherwise (without the proposed pension plan) you wouldn’t have that,” said Blom.

Current Port Edward mayor Dave McDonald said that this plan could help the tiny business community in the district.

“I agree (with Hansen) with giving the businesses, who don’t have a pension plan, the option to start one,” said McDonald.

Community Futures general manager Knut Bjorndal said that small businesses in Prince Rupert have a hard time attracting employees in the $10-to-$20 range because larger firms, who pay the same wages, have access to pension benefits.

Rainforest Books owner Gordon Blumhagen said the pension plan could help some people who are capable of putting money aside.

“It looks like a government sponsored savings plan. There are a lot of small businesses that are still not going to buy in to it because they are too small to do so. It’s as simple as that,” said Blumhagen.

Keep those passports in a handy place!

While the prospect of competition from Russia may be spooking the NHL a little bit on the talent front, the economic troubles of the last few weeks may do more to knock down that threat than anything else.

While the NHL will have to handle its own financial fallout from the credit crunch and the deep and long recession that many suggest has arrived, compared to the state of the Russian situation these days, the NHL might be in a wee bit of better spot than their Russian competitors.

The Meltdown of the Russian Market, features particularly stunning losses for the Russian banking and energy sectors, which have seen some $230-billion, or 62 per cent of their net worth disappear in all the financial carnage. MMC Norilsk Nickel one of the major mining interests in Russia, has seen its shares plummet from a high of over $300 (U.S.) in May to a close of $58.25 yesterday.

Much of the oligarch economy of Russia is behind the development of sport leagues and the ownership of franchise in Russia and beyond. With their stream of revenues receding like an outgoing tide, one wonders how high on their priority list the vanity of sport will remain.

It makes for a situation that may make the funding and operation of the ambitious plans for the Kontinental Hockey League a little problematic in the short term.

The league which has recently signed a number of high profile former NHLers and made a fair bit of noise about wanting more may suddenly find that the pool of available money isn’t as deep as it was just three weeks ago.

If you’re an ex-NHLer like Ray Emery, Jaromir Jagr or Chris Simon to name a few, it may be sooner, rather than later that you start making those long distance phone calls back to this side of the ocean.
Looking to pack a parachute for troubling times.

Cross posted from the HockeyNation blog.

Tax Exemption in their favour

The annual list of Municipal Tax Exemptions for 2009 has been published by the City of Prince Rupert, providing for $398,496.85 in tax revenue that the city is not going to collect on in the name of permissive tax exemptions.

The list is made up of a number of religious, recreation, service and cultural properties across the city.
The biggest fish of the tax exempt pool is the Lester Centre for the Arts which clocks in at $144,649.36 on the abacus; the Prince Rupert Golf Course is listed as being exempt at $71,438.92, followed by the Museum of Northern BC which gets a break on its bottom line with an exempt amount of $51,662.92.

At the other end of the exemption scale, the Jehovah Witness Hall and Annunciation Gym both appear on the list with an exemption value of 0.

Beyond the many religious properties in the city, in between the highs and the lows are such properties as the SPCA, Curling Club, Transition House and Kaien Seniors Housing.

Those with particularly good eyesight can check out the Monday Daily news and the page five listings for the tax exempt properties for 2009, or you can just check out the details on the city website which has provisions for zooming capabilities, for those really dedicated number crunchers.

CityWest outlines its advantages!

Perhaps concerned that their operation may become a political hot potato in the upcoming Municipal Election campaign, CityWest launched a public relations offering in Monday’s paper, providing for an opportunity to get ahead of the rhetorical curve that could possibly follow.

A page three advertisement that outlined the humble beginnings of the company from providing telephone services to the multi media platform that it has become since the acquisition of Monarch cable a few years ago, in their synopsis, CityWest outlines the benefits to the community that they claim to deliver to the city these days.

From employment for the local population to annual dividends (well almost annual eh, lets not talk about 2006 right now ) they provided a snapshot of the economic benefit that they feel they provide to city residents and taxpayers (shareholders too, though silent ones it seems). They even promise that expansion is in the future to continue on with the CityWest advantage.

It will be interesting to see if the theme of that CityWest Advantage takes hold in the upcoming mayoralty and council campaigns, more than a few residents have offered up a different opinion on the CityWest advantage, we suspect that we may hear a few more of their concerns before November 15th. When it comes to CityWest, it always seems to be high on the local radar screen.

We look forward to their interpretations of the CityWest numbers and the outline of the company’s benefit to the community, an open and frank discussion on the city owned company would make for a welcome addition to the political debate in this election campaign. Giving those shareholders (yes you Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer) an opportunity to seek out some information on their investment.

From the October 27 edition of the Daily News, here’s the page three outline from the Third Avenue communications room.

The CityWest Advantage

CityWest has been serving Prince Rupert for almost 100 years. The original vision to build a locally-owned telephone system has now evolved into a fully integrated multi-media provider. The legacy of CityWest continues to benefit the community today.

CityWest has a direct impact on the local economy by creating employment, paying an annual dividend and buying local whenever possible. A recent study found that the direct economic impact CityWest has on Prince Rupert each year was over 7 million dollars. That means that roughly 35% if all revenues earned by CityWest remain in Prince Rupert. This is the CityWest advantage, and it will continue to grow as CityWest expands in the future.

We would like to thank all of our customers for supporting CityWest through the years and look forward to serving you in the future.

City West

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mayor Pond challenges MLA Coons observations on homeless issue

Last week’s criticism by MLA Gary Coons over the city’s lack of interest in a UBCM survey at the recent Penticton convention , has astonished the Mayor, who suggests that Mr. Coons needs to do more research on what the city is working on regarding the homeless file in the community.

With a provincial election campaign on the horizon next year, some suggest that the Coons declarations are simply the opening salvo in what may be a rather interesting electoral battle in the community.

As we have pointed out a number of times here on Podunk, Mayor Pond is contemplating a run for the Liberal nomination in the riding, a move all but confirmed by Frank Visentin in a recent Daily News Daily Discussion feature, where he advised he had signed the Mayor’s nomination papers. (Note to the Daily News, that Daily discussion article of October 20, might actually confirm the rumour you are speculating about in today’s paper)

With the temperature of the local political scene running a little hot these days, perhaps putting the potential Liberal candidate on the defensive might be seen as a warning shot that the campaign will be a long and rather vigorous one.

The only problem with the potential politicking in these early days (and perhaps a tad premature as well) is that the serious issue of homelessness in the community may get lost in all the salvos.

It’s a situation that would serve no one, politician, city resident or the growing numbers of the homeless in any capacity. Turning them into the rope of the tug of war between competing politicians certainly won’t enhance the image of either of them one would think.

Perhaps a little more progress and substantive developments on the issue and a lot less political rhetoric and self promotion from all sides might help improve things for those that are in the most need.

The Daily News featured the Mayor’s response to the Coons challenges in Monday’s paper.

City’s homelessness stance lauded
Mayor Herb Pond takes aim at MLA for his negative comments
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Monday, October 27, 2008
Pages one and three

City of Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond responded Friday to criticism levied against city hall that the municipality did not take part in the Union of British Columbia Municipalities policy paper number two.

The policy paper number two was a call for more funding from both the federal and provincial governments to give a hand in helping municipalities deal with homelessness.

Pond said city council has worked hard on the issue and that the criticism from North Coast MLA Gary Coons was unfair.

“I’m astonished,” stated Pond.

“This policy paper was entirely a UBCM initiative, which Gary had nothing to do with. It was our organization at work – and the city has been involved from the beginning.”

Pond said there was a sub-committee working on the policy paper itself, which he was not involved with.

He said the city gets hundreds of similar survey requests and that it does not have time to participate in every single one.

“We have to be fairly strategic in where we place our time and energy. I was sitting at the table and so we weren’t responding on that particular survey,” said Pond.

Pond would not speculate about whether Coons’ comments were meant to be a first shot in a possible provincial election campaign that might pit Pond and Coons against one another.

Rumours are circulating that Pond will be named as the BC Liberal candidate for the upcoming provincial election but he would not confirm whether or not that is the case nor would he said whether he would consider this the first punch in the provincial election boxing match for the seat of the North Coast MLA.

He did say that work is getting done and that they did not sit idle at the UBCM as it relates to affordable housing and homelessness.

“Prince Rupert’s council booked a number of meetings and used one such opportunity to bring Prince Rupert concerns directly to Rich Coleman, minister of housing and social development.

“In addition to describing the challenges that still face Prince Rupert, councilors had the opportunity to outline the many positive initiatives that the community already supports – donating land for a new Transition House; donating land and waiving all development fees for the new Acropolis Manor so that seniors could access modern multi-level care; donating land and buildings to Kaien Island Daycare to help working families get on their feet; considering affordable housing as part of the new development proposals,: said Pond.

The mayor also noted that city staff have also invested significant time working with the homeless steering committee.

“I’ll repeat what I’ve said many times,” said Pond.

“The City of Prince Rupert is a paper thin organization, only recently hauled back from the edge of bankruptcy, yet we’re still seen as leaders in the province because we focus our resources very strategically.

“We simply can’t participate in everything, but on homelessness and affordable housing, we put our money where our mouth is.”

Oh, the wheels on the campaign bus fall off and off

Imagery is everything they say, and as the final week of campaigning unwinds, so to it seems does the McCain/Palin campaign.

Tuesday's developments provided the most delightful of scenarios of not one but two bus metaphors to work with, the straight talk express (SUV edition) forced to the side of the road by a flat tire and the Palin media Bus to somewhere sitting on the side of the road, stopped by mechanical problems (or a wish to shoot the messengers we suspect).

Perhaps symbolic as to how far off the road the Republican election campaign has deviated from the centre lanes and taken to wandering off in any old direction, hoping against hope to find a way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at the end of the day.

Clearly they're not using a GPS, or even an updated AAA road map in their quest for high office, in fact like many a trip with far too many back seat drivers, the McCain/Palin tour de America (those parts that are really America, the Good America if you will ) has had a few diversions along the way.

First there was the inability to decide on how best to label the opponent, so far in just the last few weeks Barack Obama has wandered the roads as a friend of terrorists, taken the path of Socialism, apparently in the opiniono of a TV reporter with ties to the Republican party he's since moved on to Communism and today, became some kind of King of warehouse distributorship (The Big Box of wealth spreading), where he will re-distrubte all the money he can find.

As troublesome as all that has been for the Republicans to decide upon, even more worrisome for the McCain/Palin ticket (more so for the Palin end of it we think) have been the flurry of commentary about the VP candidate.

After her boost for the base of the post St. Paul convention, it's been a bit of lost highway for the Governor of Alaska. From those heady days as a fresh face and a game changer, the one time Maverick has in the last fourteen days, morphed into a rogue, a diva and today's nom du jour a "whack job".

This coming from inside the Republican campaign, apparently from upper echelon staffers punching out the missives from the McCain blackberry's. Not exactly the kind of promotion that you would think would result in a confident electorate ready to pick the McCain/Palin vision for the next four years.

The buses went off the road for a bit again today, not the first time this has happened and probably not the last as these final six days play out.

Kind of appropriate one guesses for a candidate that jumped to her fame trumpeting her opposition to a Bridge to nowhere, judging by the comments of her own party handlers, that's a destination this campaign is now aiming the bus for.

The tour to obscurity is nearing its final destination, a road that's leading to Nowhere...

Podunkian Music Club October 28

The Grouch-- Mom and Pop Killer

We found this weeks offering for the Music club through our trolling of Boing Boing TV, a fascinating little archive of interesting things for the digital era.

From it we discovered this bit of social satire taken from the musical stylings and camera lens of an Oakland rapper called the Grouch.

It's a testimony of sorts to the laying of waste of small towns across America by the march of the Big Box stores, the imagery of Going out of business signs is rather reminiscent of Podunk's second Avenue, of course without the benefit of a Wal Mart on the outskirts of town to suck those stores out of the tax base.

The video is a well done bit of social commentary, which also provides for a catchy musical beat.

We suspect there won't be many requests for it at the Big Box Christmas parties this coming holiday season, unless of course their feeling a little triumphant..

As for the Grouch, he's certainly found the platform for his success, from the multitude of hits that Boing Boing can deliver through to the viral delivery of You Tube, suddenly a rather unknown Rapper out of Oakland is becoming a sensation.

Artist-- The Grouch
Recording-- Show you the World

Contractors start your backhoes…

The much discussed Rushbrook Interpretive Walkway is about to see some forward momentum, with a call for tenders expected on November 1st for those that wish to bid on the opportunity to clear brush and build the trail along the east side waterfront between Rushbrook Floats and Seal Cove.

The story became a bit of a controversy earlier this summer when a pair of local residents began to inquire about its status and the nature of the completion date sign for the project which appeared to be a tad optimistic. It was the tone of that inquiry that seemed to raise the ire of the Mayor and made for a healthy addition to the local news cycle for a few weeks.

The Daily News featured the forward momentum on the project as their front page, headline story in Monday’s paper.

Rotarians are ready to look for contractor to begin clearing brush from waterfront walk
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Monday, October 27, 2008
Page one

The next step on Rushbrook Olympic Interpretive Walkway is about to be taken – on Nov. 1.

The Prince Rupert Rotary Club, in conjunction with the City of Prince Rupert, will tender a contract on the first of November so that bidders looking to clear brush and build the trail will be allowed to submit their offers for services.

“The city will handle the tender and that’s probably where this story will be when we find the successful organization,” said Rotary club president Larry Sherman.

Sherman said that the city is handling the bid process because of its expertise in such matters, although the Rotary is the lead on the project.

According to Sherman, the trail upgrade has had to fight through layers of bureaucratic red tape and, while it has been an exhaustive enterprise for the volunteer committee, it will be worth it when they get the trail back up to safety standards.

“Everything is all approved to go ahead and there has been a bunch of challenges through the different levels of bureaucracy,” he said.

The trail improvement project came under some scrutiny last month, when some questioned why the promised completion date of June 2008 was not met. However, the work will now go ahead and it is set to be completed before the hard deadline of March 31.

Sherman said that the construction project is not a straightforward affair because there are certain challenges specific to Rushbrook that must be understood before the work gets done.

“(The trail) it’s pretty hodgepodge and that is what is taking the most time because you have to go around the drop zones and it’s basically the construction of that which is taking the most time,” said Sherman.

The Rushbrook Trail upgrade will cost $350,000 with half of the funding coming from the province and half from private donations and help from the city of Prince Rupert. The city will provide $25,000 worth of gravel for the pathway.

Monday, October 27, 2008

City Council Tracker October 16

October 16, 2008
City Council (Special session)

In attendance:

Mayor Herb Pond
Councillor Kathy Bedard
Councillor Ken Cote
Councillor Tony Briglio
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne **arrived at 7:40 pm
Councillor Nelson Kinney
Councillor Joy

Council minutes for October 16 special council meeting

Upcoming event-Regular city council meeting planned for October 27, 2008

Another troubling sign for the economy

While the stock markets may be dropping as is the dollar, the job losses mount and the banks look to the governments for salvation, one indicator is rising up on the horizon to highlight just how bad things might be getting for the economy.

The Globe and Mail is reporting on their website that the Salvation Army is just one of a number of charities facing some tough times due to the dwindling economic forecasts. The long time face of assistance across Canada is having troubles delivering its services these days as the donations slow down and the demand increases.

A worrisome trend that has many of Canada's other major charitable groups keeping a watchful eye on the economic trends and the impact that they may have on them. From the Canadian Red Cross, the United Way and Canadian Cancer Society all are more than aware that as times get tougher, the quest for funding becomes much, much harder.

When those that used to donate slow down or stop their usual contributions completely, the fall out can be troublesome for the charities. '

The situation becomes even more desperate when those charities that directly interact with people suffer the economic crunch, the early indications as 2008 winds towards its end and Christmas beckons is that this may be the most challenging year in a long for charities such as the Salvation Army.

Salvation Army reports giving down
The Canadian Press
October 25, 2008 at 7:23 PM EDT

TORONTO — A major Canadian charity is struggling to deliver services as its critical holiday donation period approaches due to a decrease in financial gifts and an increase in the number of people seeking help amid a global financial crisis.

While the Canadian Red Cross, the United Way and Canadian Cancer Society are among those who say they're monitoring the financial crisis but still are unsure of its effect on operations, the Salvation Army of Canada says the economic situation has already hit its bottom line.

“We're seeing, really, an increase in demand for services and a decrease in total donations, particularly in our food banks and utility assistance programs across the country,” said Salvation Army spokesman Andrew Burditt.
It's a worry for an organization that provides social services in more than 400 communities across the country as the holiday giving period draws near.
“As that season approaches, there is concern that the demand will increase because obviously we have growing costs. Individuals families are struggling to pay fuel, utility, food bills, etc.,” Mr. Burditt said.

In Merdian, Alta., food bank supplies at the Salvation Army's care centre are being depleted as the number of daily users has nearly doubled from 15 to 28.

In Wallaceburg, Ont., located in Ontario's hard-hit manufacturing heartland, the group's food bank saw a 25 per cent jump in the number of households using its services between June and July alone, and a 20 per cent increase in new requests per month.

Aside from direct donations, the Salvation Army is also able to generate revenue through its second-hand thrift stores.

The demand in that area appeared to be “consistent,” Mr. Burditt said. Several U.S. media reports suggest business at thrift stores south of the border is booming as people try to save money in hard times.

Other Canadian charities say it's too early to say what impact the sagging economy will have on their work.

“What you don't know is where it'll end up,” said Bonnie Morris, a vice-president with the United Way of Canada, which raises upwards of $480-million annually.

“If people are no longer employed then they may not be in the workplace to make the contribution that they did, but we just don't know yet,” Ms. Morris said.

“The returns that are in are good, in fact some of them are even ahead of previous years.”
The organization hasn't yet noticed any regional differences in giving but expects there will be, especially in areas where there have been plant closings.

Heather Badenoch, senior public relations adviser with the Canadian Red Cross, says “lots of things affect rates of giving.”

Canadian generosity shone earlier this year after campaigns to aid victims of the Myanmar cyclone and Chinese earthquake disasters raised a combined total of more than $50-million, Ms. Badenoch said.

Douglas Lamb, a personal financial planner in Toronto, believes people fall into two categories when it comes to charitable giving – those with long-term budgets, and those without.

“Of course charity is discretionary,” Mr. Lamb said.

“It's the people without a plan ... [who] probably panic and shut the tap off, but I think the serious givers are probably people who have a plan and incorporate that into their plan.”
But he admitted the situation is different for someone who has lost their job, dramatically impacting their cash flow.

“Obviously they would probably adjust their charitable giving,” he said. “It's all a matter of degree.”

Mr. Lamb noted many people have emotional attachments to their charity of choice, something the Canadian Cancer Society can attest to.

“Everyone knows someone who's been touched by cancer,” said corporate development director Lesley Ring.

Even in times of past economic trouble, Ms. Ring said Canadians have continued to support the work of the society, which received nearly $200-million in donations in its last fiscal year.
“Canadians will still continue to be diagnosed with cancer,” Ms. Ring said. “So our needs to fund research, to provide support to Canadians will continue.”

Even in tough times, people tend to continue spending on some discretionary items that make them feel good, whether it's clothing, alcohol or something else, Mr. Lamb said.

Of Mickey Mouse, Forrest Gump and Herb Pond (not necessarily in that order)

Well, we guess we they won’t be sending out a fan club photo this time around, as Glen Boychuk takes to the letters page of the Daily News with a review of the political career of Herb Pond.

The recent contributions to the Daily News letters to the editor page have provided for more than a few comments about our soon to be departing Mayor Herb Pond.

Over the last number of weeks, we have seen letters from those seeking answers about the recent high profile hiring issue, to letters of praise for a job done well in hard times, as it is, the Mayor has been the hot button issue (and target) for a couple of months now. (One wonders why anyone might wish to challenge for the job some days, such is the temperament of the populace these days).

The latest of the contributions to the letters page, this one from Mr. Boychuk, is shall we say definitely not in the affirmative when it comes to the impressions over the Mayors two terms of office, all part of the ongoing discussion over his legacy as mayor of the city.

Letter to the Editor
The Daily News
Friday, October 24, 2008
Pages four and five

Pond has gone too far

To the editor

In a letter to the editor recently the question was asked: “Has the mayor gone too far?” (Daily News Opinion, Oct. 10) Well, I suppose if you were to ask him he would say, “No absolutely not… are you crazy?... you must have me mixed up with someone else!”

However, on the other hand, often where there’s smoke there’s fire.

When someone is reporting directly to his office in secret meetings with timesheets requiring his signature only for payment?

Do we smell smoke?

Our Mayor loves the Carver Policy on Governance, a series of principles when acting as a group there must be an Owner/Representative (mayor) and the rest follow into Servant/Leader roles. In effect, basically cutting out any access by any private citizen or members of a board, etc, thus making m most of the decision-making in and behind closed-door meetings. Didn’t our “short term got a better job offer” former city administrator and current mayor set that one up?

As for owning a pulp mill, of course he would! Setting himself up as the CEO, holding secret meetings and trying to convince any and all that only he has the steady hand to guide us through whatever lays in front of us.

From citizen to alderman to mayor, always promoting himself, promising everything and delivering nothing, that’s right… nothing.

No roads, bridges, buildings should ever be named after him.

That will be our reward for all of the years of smiles, smirks, silence and ineptitude we had to endure while his personal agenda was of much greater importance than that of our city.

Months ago, the paper reported that our mayor was to carry our city’s banner high on his trip to the Orient, but really he should have carried and delivered the ‘tax past due’ notice on the pulp mill, but then that would interfere with his other agenda of making sure he was more recognizable than, say Mickey Mouse should he decide to represent our area as an MLA.

Forrest Gump said it best, “stupid is as stupid does” We deserve better.

Glenn Boychuk