Thursday, April 30, 2009

Candidates face the voters at Prince Rupert debate

The three candidates running locally in this springs BC election met on Wednesday night at the Lester Centre for the Arts, eager to outline their platforms and accept questions from the public.

It was a lively crowd which assembled at the Centre, digesting the various ideas being offered and offering up their commentaries both in the accepted question format and with occasional outbursts directed to the stage.

In the end, it would seem that not many in attendance would be swayed away from their first choice of election day, the bulk of the audience appears to have been made up of supporters dedicated towards one party or the other.

The NDP candidate Gary Coons continued on the theme of concern over the current governance of the province by the Liberal party, relying on many of the issues that he has made public over his four years in opposition in Victoria.

Lisa Girbav representing the Green Party, stuck mainly to the talking points of her party, providing short outlines of the Green philosophy but not quite as much personal input into the issues as many might have hoped to have heard.

Herb Pond was the more polished of the three candidates, his many years in the public eye coming in handing in delivering his message, though he seemed to rely on much of his time as Mayor as the main thrust of his candidacy. Defending Liberal policies to date didn't seem to factor in as much in his participation, though he did pay some attention to such Liberal platform items as the Pacific Gateway and run of river power production to name a few.

Two of the three candidates weighed in on the potential of a raise to the minimum wage, a popular topic for those in the audience that may be working at low wage jobs at the moment, but an issue that probably scares the heck out of the small business owners that were also in attendance, they were more likely to find comfort in the thoughts of Mr. Pond who relayed the Liberal thoughts on that issue.

Interestingly enough, the Chances gaming centre seemed to become a centre piece of the debate on Wednesday, with the Green Party candidate suggesting a moratorium on further gaming centre development, the NDP candidate seeking to address poverty issues that might go hand in hand with the centres and the Liberal candidate reminding the audience that 95 local residents were employed by the centre, though he did say that there was a need for more access to treatment for people affected by social problems. It could be an Achilles heel for the former Mayor, for it was a constant topic of the last council the need for an addictions program in the Prince Rupert area, but one which never seemed to develop as was discussed.

The night ended on a rather bizarre note, as a local resident demanded to be heard after the night's debate had come to an end, the clearly agitated audience member took to the stage to address Gary Coons at one point about a number of issues that seemed out of hearing range and seemed rather confusing to a large portion of the audience in attendance.

The night, organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, was one of the few opportunities for Rupertites to learn more about their candidates, though there wasn't really much in the way of revelations about what they may offer the voting public on May 12th.

The Northern View provided a short synopsis of the evenings deliberations posted to their website shortly after Wednesday nights debate came to an end, a handy showcase of their ability to bring the important news of the community quickly to a public forum for our study.

The Daily News missed its Thursday window of opportunity for details on the debate of Wednesday night, as there was no mention of the political discussion in the Thursday edition.
We imagine they have plans to provide a report in the Friday paper, helpful but certainly not timely considering the access to information on the debate available from such portals as the Northern View website and hackingthemainframe's message boards, which provided a feedback forum for those that attended Wednesday's debate.
Though it seems to be a rather partisan bit of back and forth going on there at the moment.

Daily News Pressing Questions April 29, 2009

As part of their Election Coverage, the Daily News is asking questions of the candidates and printing their replies in the Wednesday and Friday editions of the paper.
The following was the "Pressing Question" for Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What kind of investment is necessary for the North Coast?

Gary Coons -- New Democratic Party

I believe that we must invest in our greatest resource ... the people of Be. I believe that a fair and just society is determined by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.

We need to restore Campbell's cuts to health care, education and to our social safety net.

We must realize that small businesses are the core to any community and that post -secondary opportunities must be accessible and affordable.

It's nice to bring in mega-projects but investing directly in our communities, sharing the wealth of our region and focusing on the services, resources and opportunities will reap benefits for all.

Lisa Girbav – Green Party

The most important investment we could make is pushing forward the construction of the sewage treatment plant in Prince Rupert.

Currently we dump our sewage straight into the harbour.

This contaminates the sea life in the harbour along with the beach and is simply an embarrassment.

Constructing the plant would provide local jobs as well as cleanup up our "pristine" coastline.

Herb Pond—Liberal Party of British Columbia

Prince Rupert is the transportation hub for the region. Investment in port and transportation infrastructure is vital. Investing in community forestry and seafood and connecting them to the hub will expand the benefits.

On the north coast land development costs are extremely high and hold us back. Policies that recognize this fact would assist in attracting private sector development in retail and industrial services.

Invest in an effective road and ferry system between Metlakatla, Lax Kw' alaams, the airport and Prince Rupert.

We must invest in our people. Today an educated trained workforce is crucial for success.

Podunk Below the Masthead Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kindergarten rules the front page, Gordon Campbell's emissary offers up some kind words about the port but no cash and another week of civic governance is scored. All part of the Wednesday edition of the Daily News.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE LITTLE PEOPLE-- It's a sure fire way to sell some papers, a front page picture of some kindergarten aged students and the story of their success in raising money for the local Wildlife Rehab shelter.
Wednesday's tale of the efforts of Mae Jung Bowles class was the featured story in the paper, outlining how she enjoys taking her students out into the local environment and how their interest has translated into a welcome donation to the Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehab shelter.
Though the article was a bit confusing in identifying which school's class was responsible for the 1800 dollars plus destined for the shelter. The article starts out by mentioning Westview and then thanks Conrad school's parents, staff and teachers for their help. We'll go with the picture and caption saluting Conrad as the school which offered up the donation.

It being an election period, the usual arrival of the political class has begun, as the BC Liberal cabinet minister for Aboriginal Relations and reconciliation dropped in town, offering up his interpretation of the developments between First Nations of the region and the provincial government. All part of the reconciliation process that the government has instituted to try and develop a different form of government to government relationships.

The Daily News also provided their regular Prince Rupert City Council feature which highlights some of the key questions of the recent council session and reports on how councillors voted on the issues.

And their election coverage continued with their Pressing Questions, this time around asking the three local candidates for the Legislature "What kind of investment is necessary for the North Coast?". We outline their answers later on this blog.

The Sports edition for Wednesday featured a look at the weekend in high school soccer from Terrace as the two Rupert schools took part in a Saturday of action.

Total pages in the Wednesday edition (16)

More details trickle out on the Mercer departure

While the recent departure of Superintendent Eric Mercer hasn't really resonated much on the radar of the local media, the Vancouver Sun has been tenacious in its bid to learn more about why a school district would remove its Superintendent in the middle of the school year.

The latest installment of the Mercer Chronicles, has Vancouver Sun Education reporter Janet Steffenhagen receiving the details of her recent Freedom of Information request, providing some idea of the cost of replacing the superintendent in February after the mutually agreed departure between Mr. Mercer and School District 52.

The FOI details outlined further the severance package for Mr. Mercer, who in addition to the payment of $144,802 described as a "retiring allowance", was allowed to keep a Blackberry and a lap top computer kind of a parting gift we guess. And with the departure in place should anyone ask, the terms of the departure were that "anyone seeking a reference in future will be given only the media release that says his departure was a result of a mutual agreement."
It makes for a serious bit of bureaucratic speak, that doesn't really offer up much in the way of explanation as to what transpired to result in the replacement of the Superintendent in the middle of the year.

The cost of a temporary replacement, wasn't quite as expensive, but still Dave Stigant who is filling in for the remainder of the school year will be compensated more than adequately. The FOI revelations outlined that his contract for services calls for $52,083 for his five months salary as acting superintendent , he will receive a $5,000 living allowance, a $1,500 moving allowance, $350 per month car allowance, seven days of sick leave and 15 days paid vacation. His contract started on March 1 and runs until July 31, 2009.

Also in the Freedom of Information request, but an item which didn't furnish quite as much detail was an inquiry as to the status of Gary Doi in the process of Mr. Mercer's departure and the subsequent hirings of Mr. Stigant and that of the full time superintendent, Lynn Hauptman set to start work with the new school year in September.

The School District provided little in the way of background detail for Ms. Steffenhagen's request on Mr. Doi's input on the situation, leaving the reporter to wonder aloud if Mr. Doi was compensated in any form for his efforts, or whether he provided his services under contract or on an informal basis.
Her interest and subsequent questions on that item arose after a quote by School Board chair Tina Last, which suggested that the Board turned to Mr. Doi in a consultative role to help assist the board in the events of the last few months.

The sense you get from the latest of articles posted to the Sun's Education blog Report Card, is that there are still many questions that need to be answered and it would seem that at least with the Vancouver Sun, those issues still warrant further study and clarification.

It will be interesting to see if the local media pick up on the latest details and perhaps seek out some of the answers to the questions that have been offered up on the Sun's education blog. With over 200 thousand dollars spent thus far on salaries and with little in the way of explanation why, they are questions that local residents may also wish to seek out details on.

The swine flu arrives in Northern British Columbia

“The severity of the illness will depend on the person’s level of health, how old you are, how fit you are, some will show nothing, and others will have symptoms.”-- Northern Health doctor William Osei, Medical Health officer for the Interior offering up a synopsis of the potential impact of flu in the Northern health region.

Northern Health has its first confirmed case of swine flu, or the H1N1 virus as its officially known.

A male resident of Prince George, recently returned from Mexico reported in at the Prince George Regional Hospital last Saturday, suffering symptoms of the virus. He had been vacationing in the Cancun region of Mexico and upon his return began to feel ill, it's suspected that his wife may also have become susceptible to the virus.

He is one of eleven reported cases in the province so far of the virus, including one case which has closed a school in Vernon for the next week after a student at Bearisto elementary came down with the virus.

Health officials are expecting more cases of the virus to be reported over the next few weeks as the infection rate rises with more contact with the provinces residents.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

City Council Scoresheet for April 27, 2009

The Wednesday, April 29 edition of the Daily News featured their regular scorecard on city council issues, this one featuring the deliberations and votes from selected items of the April 27 session.
This weeks feature appeared on page three of the Wednesday edition.
Question One: That council introduce and give first, second and third reading to the 2009 Property Tax Bylaw No. 3281, proposing a 3.8 percent tax increase.

How council voted:

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- No
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Yes
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes

Question Two: That council receive the application from the Museum of Northern BC to convert the existing commercial building to two strata units.

How council voted:

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Yes
Councillor Gina Garon-- Excused for conflict of interest
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes
Question Three: That the property located at 1307 Overlook be declared a nuisance under the Community Charter and the owner be required to clean up the property within 30 days.

How council voted:

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Yes
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes
Question Four: That council support the Lester Centre of the Arts In its application to Canadian Heritage for a grant to help the community celebrate its centennial in 2010, by writing a letter of support to accompany the application.

How council voted:

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Yes
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes

City Hall Tracker April 27, 2009

They weren't singing where in the world is Mayor Jack Mussallem, but little information was provided to the gallery and television audience at home, regarding another absence of the city's top politician from council's deliberations.
With Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne holding the gavel as acting Mayor, another in our twice a month sessions was underway.
Among their talking points for Monday were an extension for the Inlander Hotel demolition schedule, the inclusion of Sun Wave taxes in the budget process and five year plan and discussion on a land use strategy for Prince Rupert and School District 52, patterned after similar efforts in Burnaby.

April 28, 2009

Regular council meeting Agenda for April 27, 2009

Committee of the Whole Meeting for April 27, 2009

Notice of closed meeting for April 27, 2009

City council session for April 27, 2009

In attendance:
Councillor Anna Ashley
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne
Councillor Nelson Kinney
Councillor Kathy Bedard
Councillor Gina Garon
Councillor Joy Thorkelson

Absent from council:

Mayor Jack Mussallem

Regular City council minutes for April 28, 2009
(none posted yet)

Daily News voting summary

Summary from April 29 edition of the Daily News

Attendance at City Hall to date archives

Upcoming events-- City council meeting May 11, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Previewing Wednesday night's debate, Nathan Cullen sends a scare through vacation planners across the Northwest and hey the Port has a new name on the Board of Directors list (wherever did the Daily learn that), all part of the Tuesday edition of the Daily News...

A TRIO OF CANDIDATES WILL BE DEBATING ISSUES OF THE DAY-- The Daily News provides a preview of Wednesday night's candidates debate at the Lester Centre for the Arts. Outlining the possible approaches of the three candidates as they take to the only local forum planned so far in this election campaign. The preview was featured as the front page, headline item in the Tuesday paper.

Elsewhere in the Tuesday edition, NDP MP Nathan Cullen is already protesting, even though the subject of his protest hasn't come to pass yet. Cullen put a scare into vacation planners across the Northwest with his speculation that Air Canada may soon cut Jazz adrift, leaving the regional airline in a tenuous situation and air travel in the Northwest in a rather confused situation if the speculation proves correct.

The problems for Jazz could come about as Air Canada prepares to realign its financial picture, which some suggest would be better served without the various regional Jazz operations across the country. Where that would leave air travel in the Northwest remains to be seen, but just in case Air Canada has any thoughts of change, Cullen is putting them on notice of sorts.

The Port Corporation announces a new member of the board, former Rupertite Ray Castelli, most recently of the NaiKun Wind corporation. Regular readers of the blog first heard word of the announcement in the early, early hours of Monday morning with our item posted to the Podunk blog shortly after midnight on Sunday.

The Sports section provided some background on a former PRSS Rainmaker making good on the College scene down south as well as providing an update on the Skeena 97 peewee rep team at a Vancouver tournament.

Total pages in Tuesday's paper (12)

Follow the flu to the Canadian border....

The sudden occurrence of swine flu in Mexico and now moving to other nations has given the World Health Organization cause to raise the level of threat to that of five, which is but one level short of the pandemic stage.

So while we all try to make sense of what that means, we find that Google has decided to be a helpful partner in the goal of information with what they are calling the Google Flu trends tracker, which outlines the state of the flu in the American states of the union.

It's of interest to note, that while they offer up interpretations of data for both Mexico and the United States, their tracking stops at the Canadian border.
So we gather this means either we are still relatively flu free and our battles are but mild doses, or perhaps the horses of the apocalypse are preparing to gallop.
Or maybe they're just waiting until we have more cases to report to make colouring such a large map as ours worthwhile...

Northwest First Nation reaches compensation settlement with Federal Government after half a century

Fifty years ago the government changed the flow of the Bulkley River and with it the economic and cultural purpose for the village of Hagwilget. From a thriving fishery based economy in the late 1950's the village in the late 1950's, fell on hard times after the plentiful salmon stocks of the area suddenly no longer were within the grasp of local fishers.

Now with just days to go before the case was to go to trial, a settlement for compensation has been agreed to by the Federal Government which will see 21.5 million dollars transferred to the small village located between Terrace and Smithers.

The court case which was originally started back in 1985 was delayed through the years as treaty negotiations took place, but with no settlement in place through the treaty process it was back to the court room, a trip now avoided as the Federal Government draws up the transfer details.

Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail outlines the story, tracing back to those early days of 1959 when the "Government people" arrived to move boulders out of the Bulkley and changed the future of an entire community.
Interior News-- Suit settled for $21.5M
CTVBC News-- Aboriginals win $21 million fishery settlement

Cruise industry continues to cut back on West coast

The Alaska cruise industry continues to scale back their sailings out of Vancouver, as yet another major cruise line reduces its schedule for 2010.

Norwegian Cruise Line is shifting its Alaska-bound cruise ship, the Norwegian Sun away from its Vancouver base and over to Europe for next year, a move that will see Vancouver lose some 38 million dollars in revenues from the lost sailings.

The move reduces the Norwegian Cruise Line footprint in Vancouver to half of what they have this year and is indicative of the cutbacks from the major cruise lines in the wake of a new form of taxation in Alaska on cruise ship passengers.

The fifty dollar a passenger fee has become a bone of contention between the State and its cruise line operators, Vancouver is getting caught in the cross fire, with Carnival Cruise Lines having previously announced its new plans for 2010 which will see the company relocate to Seattle next year, taking 18 million dollars out of the Vancouver economy.

Prince Rupert's 2009 cruise ship has also seen reductions, with one major ships port of call at Northland Terminal cancelled this season, leaving the city to try and entice other cruise lines to take up some of the slack in 2010, that may be a job that won't find a lot of success in the short term, considering the mood of the cruise lines regarding Alaska these days!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tax collecting on an Island of ghosts

"We spent Skeena Cellulose money longer than we should have because council was convinced if the taxes didn’t come from Skeena Cellulose it would come from the government and our residents paid for it,” -- Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne, outlining her disapproval of the inclusion of potential revenues from the still non-operating Sun Wave owned pulp mill at Watson Island.

The Northern View outlines an interesting approach to financial prediction, as the City of Prince Rupert decided to include in its budget estimates this year, the estimated level of taxation that the Watson island Pulp Mill might provide to the city.

It's a controversial bit of financial guesstimating, one that in the past has come back to haunt the city as the anticipated revenues were calculated in, but in the end never collected as the pulp mill lands went through the various twists and turns under the ownership of the Sun Wave group.

This time around the anticipated revenue stream is included in the city's budget estimates for the 2009 five year Financial plan, one which will see a 3.8 per cent increase in civic taxes as well as a number of service cutbacks put in place.

It was an inclusion that did not sit too well with Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne, who highlighting the past few years where the city included money that never came in, suggested that it might be best to leave the Sun Wave projections off the books until they show that there is an operating mill in place.

On the other side of the argument was Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who outlined her thoughts that the city would be the owners of that land, should Sun Wave reneges on its commitment to pay taxes or if no other company purchases the land to pay those taxes.

It is a distinct possibility that the land could end up in the City of Prince Rupert's hands this year, but if it does, it is unlikely that it will be a revenue generating location in the short term. Still unknown is if the City will be responsible for any expenses should ownership be turned over to the city, unknown costs that may come to pass as Sun Wave exits the scene, should things come to that point.

Councillor Thorkelson seemed to sway the remainder of council, as the issue came to a vote Councillor Gordon-Payne held the only dissenting vote when it came to inclusion of pulp mill revenues in the projections.

Time will tell in the end which councillor was on the right track when it comes to the revenue stream of Watson Island, though if you are working on recent history, one might think that Councillor Gordon-Payne was showing the most prudent opinion when it comes to spending money on hand, rather than money that might be beyond the grasp.

Podunk Below the Masthead Monday, April 27, 2009

Writing the history of Rupertites, living in the shoes of the abused and concerns over the statistic gathering for the unemployed highlight the Monday edition of the Daily News.

TELLING THE TALES OF OUR LONG-TIME CITIZENS-- The front page, headline story in Monday's paper provided a look at a project that spanned the winter featuring a group of Rupert writers, all of whom have been chronicling the lives of some of Prince Rupert's seniors. Tracing their arrival in the city and what events contributed to them deciding to make Prince Rupert their home.

The results of their work can be found in the main hallway of the Civic Centre. It's one of the first major presentations of the Rupert Writer's group which first gathered together back in 2007.

Other stories of note in Monday's paper included a recent session put on by the North Coast Transition Society, which commemorated last week's Prevention of Violence Against Women observations with a workshop called "In Her Shoes". The workshop was designed so that participants could select a character and follow through that character's daily routine with a number of alarming discoveries about domestic abuse along the way.

A page five story highlights the concerns over statistical interpretation that are on the mind of NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who has long been suspicious of the reporting methods used by both provincial and federal agencies to determine unemployment rates.

The MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley outlined his concerns that the current methods of collecting and reporting unemployment data does not provide for a true picture of the situation, one which seems to discard those employees that are no longer collecting EI or have stopped looking for work for whatever reason.

The statistical peculiarities of the government is something that regular readers of our blog would have learned about last Wednesday, when we asked if you were an R4, R8 or didn't rate...

The sports page featured a review of the local high school soccer scene after weekend action in Terrace for the girls teams.

Total pages in the Monday edition (12)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Attention shoppers, now available in our meat department...

Dinner has other plans at an Irish supermarket...

We understand that the bull was looking for a china shop, but none was to be found in that part of town...

Pandemic Pandemonium (April 2009)

The weekend saw the sudden rise of reported cases of swine flu, with Mexico the apparent starting point for what some fear will become a world wide pandemic.

By Monday morning, the death toll in Mexico had gone over 149 with thousands more suffering symptom of infection.

Reported cases were also listed in the United States, while Canada had six reported cases listed by Monday, two of them in British Columbia. Numerous provincial health departments spending Sunday hosting press conferences to try and keep the flow of information within the realm of fact and not rumour.

The outbreak became the lead item of the news cycle for the various all news networks, all with their particular level of interpretation as to the risk involved.

As the swine flu suddenly wrested the headlines away from the economic troubles, it brought the heavy on graphics and urgent music approach to lead item status. As the media speculates whether the swine flu will be a temporary blip much like the bird flu of a few years ago, or if indeed the next great pandemic is underway.

We will keep track of the news items on the topic here, providing an archive of sorts for the tracking of the flu and any developments from it. The archive will be found in our right hand column under the items of special interest banner.

British Columbia's political leaders square off in radio debate

Last week Vancouver radio station CKNW hosted what was described as the only radio debate between the three major political party leaders in the province.

Bill Good hosted the hour and a half debate which featured Gordon Campbell of the Liberals, Carole James of the NDP and Jane Sterk of the Green Party outlining their party's positions on a number of issues featuring a number of key campaign discussion points from carbon taxes to economics, health care and employment.

The leaders took questions from Good, responded to submitted questions from CKNW listeners and also responded to callers to the program, who kept all three on their toes with their observations and questions.

You can access the CKNW Audio Vault Archives for a full review of the Thursday debate, select the 8 -9 and 9 -10 hours for a full replay.

Or if you prefer you can download the podcast of the debate, allowing you to replay key points over and over again should you find something of interest to help you make your informed decision on election day.

Ray Castelli to join the Board of Directors to the Prince Rupert Port Authority

The NaiKun wind may be far behind him now, but for Ray Castelli the North coast is still proving to be a beneficial place to seek out one's future.

Castelli the recently departed President of the NaiKun Wind Power group has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Prince Rupert Port Authority. The announcement was made April 24th by John Baird, Canada's Transport and Infrastructure Minister, who cited Mr. Castelli's wide-ranging experience in the public and private sectors as a key factor in his appointment.

The press release outlined his past experiences with the Canadian government, Alcan and Weatherhaven, though there was no mention of his most recent business engagement that of working on the NaiKun file on the North Coast until last year.

He will take up his duties shortly with the Port Authority board and sit on the board of directors for a three year term.

Profiles of the candidates from the Daily News – Lisa Girbav, Green Party

Profiles of the candidates from the Daily News
Lisa Girbav, Green Party
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, April 24, 2009
Page 8

What gives a 19 year old the gall to run in an election? How can someone with no "life experience' run in an election with two well seasoned vets?

Lisa Girbav doesn't believe that's an issue at all.

Age - AGE? - age has nothing to do with this. It's about the economy, the environment and social change or, as the Green Party candidate would like locals to understand, it's about the Green Party agenda.

And Girbav thinks that the time couldn't be better for voters to find an alternative to the polarized politics of the North Coast riding.

"I don't feel like a lot of politicians today really represent the youth and so I think that we are under represented and that sort of discourages young voters to go out and vote because they think 'my vote can't make a difference,'" said Girbav.

Statistics from the last provincial pony race show that age makes a difference when voters hit the polls. Young voters have been brandished with the tag apoplectic when it comes to voting and there is evidence that the "elusive" young vote is quite difficult to grasp.

According to Elections BC, in the last provincial election only 35 per cent of voters aged between 18-24 showed up to the polls, while the entire voter turnout was 58 per cent. The dismal numbers might change; but would it change because younger candidates are making a difference?

In the northwest, Girbav is joined by Skeena riding candidate Donny van Dyk of the BC Liberal party, whom is only 22. Traditionally, young candidates don't necessarily mean more young voters. But Girbav thinks on the North Coast, her youth will translate.

"My views are concurrent with a lot of the youth, the environmentalist community and the First Nations community," said Girbav.

Those views will be plain to see when the budding politician defends her party's platform at the all-candidate forum next Wednesday.

One of her party's tenants is an economic plan heavy on providing small businesses with interest

free loans so that these businesses can invest in their own green energy sources. Whether that is wind power or solar energy, the idea would be to cut down on energy costs and possibly sell left over power to other businesses or residential buildings in need.

The Green Party would also institute a gambling tax that would be used for educational services for gambling prevention.

"That's to let people know the risks in gambling and getting addicted," said Girbav.

In a town that is home to the popular Chances Gaming Centre, it might scare voters who spend time and money there. Though Girbav isn't saying her party wants to stop gambling, it certainly isn't casting a positive light on the operations.

"I think if people are going to gamble they are going to gamble whether there is a tax or not," said a resigned Girbav.

Social issues are at the core of many of the Green Party's plans. One thing the party is promising to do is end homelessness and poverty. However, in its platform the party has yet to announce just how that would be achieved.

In comparison, the BC Liberals are already guaranteeing to spend $469 million in 2009-10 on housing programs but make no concrete promises in ending homelessness. The BCNDP have offered to _ end homelessness in five years by restoring BC's affordable housing program and converting the

$250 million BC Housing Endowment Fund into an investment in housing to build 2,400 housing units immediately and 1,200 more units each year for four years.

Much has been made of the hard to house situation in Prince Rupert. Girbav said that her party is looking at poverty as a services issue.

"British Columbia has the highest poverty levels in Canada at over 16 per cent and over 20 per cent for child poverty. We would like to protect our children by securing our youth with universal and affordable child care as well as encourage businesses to take up on-site child care for people that are working," said Girbav.

Another way to decrease poverty would be to raise the minimum wage, reasons Girbav. The theory goes if you raise the minimum wage and decrease the work week that would increase job opportunities, because shop owners would need to hire more staff to fill the work hours.

The BC Liberals have refused to raise the minimum wage, suggesting doing so would destroy small businesses.

Girbav said she was unsure what her party's plan would do to small business in B.C. but she felt that the benefits to ending poverty outweighed the risks to small business.

She is concerned about the outlying villages and Haida Gwaii's dependence on diesel power for energy and said that the province needed to get off its natural gas and oil kick.

She cited the run-of-river, one-megawatt hydro project in Hartley Bay as a major example of what can be accomplished when a community understands its needs and marries that to its surroundings.

The Green Party supports run-of-river projects and other renewable energy projects but would institute more local control and environmental protection before the projects are given - well - the green light.

"Wind energy capital costs are really high but after 10 years it pays itself off and after that you are pretty much set. It just keeps on bringing more revenue for the area and you don't have to do anything," said Girbav.

Girbav's expectation might be muted to some.

While winning the North Coast seat is definitely something she wants, being realistic, she doesn't see May 12, 2009 as the day Prince Rupert turns Green.

That isn't really Girbav's point in this election.

She is taking the long view. She said that her stated goal in this election is to influence incumbent Gary Coons and Herb Pond as they campaign.

And she wants to learn in the process. In some ways, as she answers questions in her youthful voice, she has become a quick study.

"I don't want to see this world turned to crap because these people are just selling out our province," said Girbav.

Perhaps not well seasoned ... well-versed in political posturing - you bet.

Daily News Pressing Questions April 24, 2009

As part of their Election Coverage, the Daily News is asking questions of the candidates and printing their replies in the Wednesday and Friday editions of the paper.
The following was the "Pressing Question" for Friday, April 24, 2009

Is the Recognition and Reconciliation Act the right way forward for the province and the many First Nations' communities in B.C.?

Gary Coons - New Democratic Party

No legislation has been tabled. We have called for the standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs to be empowered so that an inclusive and transparent reconciliation and recognition process unfolds. Being a member of this committee, we have not met once in 4 years!!

During the Nisga'a Treaty, the Standing Committee met 27 times and involved everyone including the then Liberal Opposition. Rather than continue this process Jordon Campbell took the treaty to court and held a divisive and racist referendum!

The policies of the BC Government must be guided by he UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Lisa Girbav - Green party

I believe the Recognition and Reconciliation act is a step forward for our society.

I like the idea of the government working together with the First Nations people to establish aboriginal title and rights on one single bill.

Also, I agree with the choice to postpone the finalization of the bill until after the Be provincial election. Something like this takes time and should not be rushed into.

Herb Pond – Liberal Party of BC

Yes, as Mayor it became obvious that progress on jobs and pressing social issues in our city was hampered by the lack of formal recognition of the Tsimshian and their territory. We took action. Prince Rupert and Port Edward reached an accord with Tsimshian Communities. I am extremely proud of the accomplishment.

This is about mutual respect and recognition; new certainty on the land base; closing gaps in education, health, housing and economic opportunity. The new approach is producing results in the north. Arrangements and partnerships between First Nations, government and business are announced regularly. I support these new partnerships.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead Friday, April 24, 2009

City streets could see more bike traffic in mid May, a wind of setback blows in for NaiKun and wolf tales once again dominate the local conversations. Some of the items of interest from Friday's Daily News.

COMMUNITY INVITED TO PUT THE MEDAL TO THE PEDAL-- Prince Rupert is about to join many other communities in the annual Bike to Work week awareness campaign, as local cycling enthusiasts get out the message. From May 11 to 17 Rupertites are invited to leave the car keys at home and hop on their bikes, marking the first time that the north coast will be involved in the campaign. Local businesses are getting involved either as a way of sponsoring the week long effort or organizing their workers to take part.

Local sporting goods story Farwest Sports is taking the project to heart, with the plan to offer a celebration station outside the store on 1st Avenue West during the week long project as well they will be offering free spring safety checks and daily prizes for those that drop into their shop from 7:30 to 9:00 am.

While the wind continues to blow on the north coast, the pace of progress on the NaiKun wind project has run into a setback as the company's application for a formal review was rejected after a number of "deficiencies" was listed.

First Nations concerns were among some of the deficiencies identified, as well as worries over accommodations for the volume of temporary workers expected to take part in the construction phase of the project.

Other concerns that might have been of interest seemed to have disappeared from the story, further details promised for page five, seemed to have gone missing as they weren't featured on page five nor on any of the other pages of the Friday edition.

Spring seems to be wolf time in Prince Rupert, as more and more people finally get out of their homes and eventually cross paths with a wolf or two around the city. Friday's paper outlines the latest in local wolf sightings around the Omineca Avenue area of the city.

The election campaign continues on and the Daily News continued on with their candidate profiles this time featuring the Green Party candidate Lisa Girbav. They also continue on with their Pressing Question, the Friday version asking "Is the Recognition and Reconciliation Act the right way forward for the province and the many First Nations' communities in BC?"
We'll outline the candidates answers later on the blog with an item dedicated to that question, as well as provide the Girbav biography in full.

Prince Rupert Youth Soccer is underway for another year and the sports section featured some background on this years season and the challenges that soccer in the spring can bring to the city.

Total pages in Friday's paper (18)

Prince Rupert is the hub for two of the world's top ten ferry rides

While there are some concerns that recent tax increases in Alaska may result in a reduction of cruise traffic along the coast this season, a recent bit of recognition for both BC Ferry Service and the Alaska Marine Highway System could help bring more traffic to Alaska through Prince Rupert.

BC Ferries was recognized as the number five ferry attraction in the world by the Society of American Travel Writers, joining the ranks of the Hong Kong ferry, the Staten Island Ferry and the Ferries of the San Francisco Bay area.

The Travel writers organization found the BC Ferry system to be a "world apart" and gushed about the scenery and conveniences found on the ferries that carry the BC Ferry colours.

Likewise the Alaska Marine Highway System got high marks, clocking in at number eight on the list, as the travel writers found the service from the Last frontier to be a bargain with its many stops ready for exploration.

Considering Prince Rupert's convenient location for the boarding of either of these top ten services, you would have to think that Prince Rupert is bound to benefit from increased visits, if either gets a significant bump in ridership thanks to the top ten recognition.

Hey, we're up here! Looking to be part of the recovery too...

It might be time for a bit of a public relations push over at the Port of Prince Rupert, seems that if your towering cranes and stacks of containers are out of sight, you're out of mind.

The Vancouver Sun ran an article last week that outlines the advantage that Vancouver as a Gateway and the Port of Vancouver in particular will provide in any economic recovery that the province will have.

The article outlines how British Columbia is set to take advantage of the importance of Asia in the world economy and an anticipated recovery of demand for commodities within the region, including demand for energy, the transportation gateway of Vancouver is apparently ready to take on the task of growth.

Not a mention of that little port to the north of the big city, the one that was making all the news a few months ago and apparently has caused other ports to rethink some of their more traditional ways of moving freight.

The blue print for future success was outlined at a Vancouver conference sponsored by the Vancouver Real Estate Forum, so perhaps the northern oversight was to be expected.

Still, in the competitive world of trade first impressions are everything and with the weight of a major newspaper providing the spin, the Port of Vancouver seems to be getting a good little push on the recovery angle.

Before that rush of goods begins to flow again, it might be time to provide a timely remember to the southern media, that in British Columbia there is more than one gate in that gateway to the province, the nation and the continent.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bulkley River flooding results in evacuations in Smithers

An ice jam on the Bulkley River overnight forced the quick evacuation of four families to downtown hotels in Smithers.

As the jam occurred in the early morning hours, the water rose quickly flowing over the banks of the Bulkley River and resulting in the need for the fast evacuations.

The high water has affected several homes in a Smithers subdivision, but is not causing any worries in the downtown area.
April 26-- CBC News- Flooding hits Northern B. C. town
April 26-- 1130 News- People near Smithers evacuated over flood fears
April 25-- CTVBC News- Smithers faces state of emergency over ice jam

Friday, April 24, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rehearsal time is almost over for local musicians, four years of fish plant work for local workers and if you follow the money, Mr. Briglio faces a haircut. Some of the items from Thursday's Daily News.

COMPLETELY PLUGGED' INTO THE LOCAL MUSIC SCENE-- The rehearsals are all but done and anticipation is building for Sunday's music show dubbed "Completely Plugged" set for the Lester Centre of the Arts. Eight local bands will take to the stage starting at 3 pm, ready to entertain through until 6, offering up a variety of sounds and all completely plugged as they say.

The Daily News made the upcoming show the front page, headline story, providing some valuable advertising for the likes of the Undecideds, Men Who Listen, Spine, Ring System, X-Ray John's, AWL, Mermaide Cafe and Triple Bypass.

Off the arts beat, other items of interest included details on the recently completed four year contract between Canfisco and the UFAWU-CAW, which will secure employment for plant workers until 2013. In a move that runs counter to past negotiations, the Company asked to begin negotiations before the current deal came to an end.

The new deal could see more hours for local workers who have been hit hard in recent years, which have resulted in shorter seasons for workers and troubles for some in claiming EI at the end of the season.

With a new deal in place Cannfisco officials say that will now be looking to source out larger quantities of salmon which may result in a longer season for shoreworkers at the two plants the company operates in the city.

Workers will see a small wage increase for regular and probationary workers, while qualified trades workers will gain a 14 per cent increase in their wages.

The new deal will also bring the once lucrative herring fishery operations back to the north coast, as part of the new contract Canfisco will once again pop and grade herring, a process that was sent down south over the last decade.

If you provide the cash, there will be some serious appearance changes in store for some Rupertites next week.

Some famous names will be submitting their manes for a trim on April 30th, as a number of high profile Rupertites will lose their locks in a bid to help the fight against cancer. Haircuts will be the order of the day during Bluey Day at the Northern Savings offices on Third Avenue West, and ready to take your donations in exchange for their follicles will be Tony Briglio, Corey Kitchen, Larry Hope and Farley Stewart.

The hair won't fall however unless some targets are met, Mr Kitchen gets a trim at $2,424, Mr. Hope set $1,916 as his total while Mr. Stewart added another fifty bucks to the brass ring at $1,961. But by far, the one who loves his locks the most is Mr. Briglio, setting the bar rather high at $6,000, a target that should find more than a few residents ready to empty their piggy banks in the goal of a buzz cut for Briglio.

All proceeds from Thursday's haircut day will be donated towards the purchase of cancer diagnostic equipment for the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

Swimming and Hockey were the featured items in the Thursday sports section, with reviews of the recently completed under 16 Best Ever tournament and a look at the results from the Rupert Rapids swim club recent trip to Prince George.

Total pages in Thursday's paper (16)

Fact checking not a priority for US officials

"Unfortunately, misconceptions arise on something as fundamental as where the 9/11 terrorists came from," -- A clearly exasperated Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson once again having to knock down an ongoing urban myth of America...

Hey Mr. Obama! When should we stop banging our heads on the wall?

Short days after the Canadian government had Ambassador Michael Wilson reinforce for the American government that they have their history wrong, another high profile American repeats the now common belief that the 9/11 terrorists came through Canada.

It's been one of the greatest irritants between the two nations, as our American neighbours continue to forget the much documented evidence that all of those that took part in those heinous crimes of 2001 were already living in the United States at the time of their crimes.

The Canadian Embassy is back on the debunking patrol after former Republican Presidential candidate John McCain repeated the apparent mantra of the less than knowledgeable that "some of the 9/11 hijackers did come through Canada", his less than accurate observations were recounted for Fox News on Friday, which of course will send the word across America to a vast audience which never seems to consider research as a worthwhile trait.

The latest outbreak of the uninformed comes days after Janet Napolitano, the U.S. homeland security secretary offered up her assessment that the terror suspects of 2001 came through Canada.

When she isn't quoting unreliable facts, the Secretary is busy burning bridges rather than building them. Her latest thoughts on border security have caused a fair amount of distress on our side of the border, as she targets Canada's immigration policies and suggests that the Canadian border is just as dangerous as the Mexican one and should be guarded much the same.

Progess is slow, the Homeland Security has corrected herself, but listening in to the debate you get the feeling that the underlying theme of her beliefs and commentary will endure..

Considering the tone that seems to be coming out of the States from a number of departments, Canadians will have to just come to the realization that just because new neighbours have moved into the house next door, it doesn't mean that they will be any more understanding or cooperative than the folks that just moved out.

With all this misinformation becoming national policy a quote from that great American philosopher Forrest Gump comes to mind by way of explanation...

Vancouver Sun-- Comments simply border on the bizarre
Calgary Herald-- Harper must deal with border blather
Canadian Press-- Liberal leader raises concerns about Napolitano in talks with Obama officials
Winnipeg Free Press-- American ignorance

If it's family values the Republicans are banking on, best to throw Madam Palin from the train...

The last time we were paying attention to the political trail of Sarah Palin, the current Governor of Alaska was doing her very best to return some clothes and taking time to suggest that the Republican candidate for President John McCain and her running mate had not made best used of her political skills.

Since that it's been all down hill for the Palin clan, as revelation after revelation seems to come at rapid fire now, outlining that the pursuit of power sometimes comes with more than a few skeletons to take care of.

The National Post has provided a handy little guide to Palintology 101, a guide to Mrs. Palin's continued quest for relevance to the Republican base and more importantly a handy laundry list of those events that should ensure that the base will be getting further and further away as the months drift by.

Among some of the lesser known developments are questions regarding the once and now not likely son in law Levi, who was granted an apprenticeship a highly regarded program, despite what many suggest were less than credible qualifications, a criticism that brought the Governor to the barricades against her critics, at one point chastising the media for all their attention and for their attempts to ruin the young man's life.

Of course, young Levi wasn't long for the Palin inner circle it seems, despite being the father of the latest in the Palin family lineage, his appearance on the Tyra Banks show of all places, seems to have sealed his fate as someone to be exiled from the family.

His comments regarding his relationship with the Governor's daughter Bristol, elicited sharp rebuke from the Governor and we suspect that if banishment were allowed, Levi would be even further north than one could be than Wasila.

No more talk about ruining a young man's life, the boor was to be out of the family loop from that point on, the now quite chatty Levi making frequent talk show appearances and regaling all about how he was being prevented from seeing his child. Now, feeling more than a little used by his girlfriends family, he is set to add to the festival of family values, by threatening to sue for custody of the youngest of the Palin line, which will guarantee many more months of headlines for all concerned.

While the Governor was considering that possible scenario, she may or may not have had time to keep up to date with the court registry in Alaska, which saw her sister in law arrested twice for burglary and the mother of now her spurned son in law arrested on drug charges.

All in all, a rather sombre month for the family values platform, while the Republicans begin their process of rebuilding the brand, one wonders how long it may be before they stop accepting phone calls from north of the Canadian border.

Political baggage is always the wobbly leg of any politicians potential platform, judging by the way things are unravelling in Anchorage, it won't be much longer before the Palin platform collapses from all that weight, sending the Governor back to the relative obscurity from which she was plucked.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Daily News Pressing Questions April 22, 2009

As part of their Election Coverage, the Daily News is asking questions of the candidates and printing their replies in the Wednesday and Friday editions of the paper.

The following was the "Pressing Question" for Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Should the provincial government appeal the Supreme Court's decision to enforce mariculture as a federal jurisdiction?

Gary Coons -New Democratic Party

Federal-provincial jurisdiction is a complicated issue.

We do want control of our ocean resources which is a key economic driver on the North Coast. Open net fish farming is very controversial and as a member of the Sustainable Aquaculture Committee I heard loud and clear "no fish farms on the north coast".

Contrary to Gordon Campbell's push, the BC NDP would implement the recommendations of the committee, including a transition to closed containment and promotion of the shellfish industry... including testing facilities on the North Coast.

Implementing the 52 recommendations would protect our, wild salmon and make the Supreme Court decision insignificant.

Lisa Girbav - Green Party

Yes, I believe the provincial government should appeal the Supreme Court's decision to enforce mariculture as a federal jurisdiction.

The Green Party of BC believes in restoring power to local governments and allowing them to make informed decisions on what happens in their region.

Why should the politicians in Ottawa make decisions on what happens on the West Coast? They probably don't even know what a fish looks like.

Herb Pond - Liberal Party of BC

The Supreme Court of BC recently determined that fin fish farms are a "fishery" and therefore fall under the exclu sive jurisdiction of the federal government.

I support the decision of the provincial not appeal this decision and to work with the federal government over the next 12 months to clarify roles and responsibilities.

I support communities on the north and central coasts who are currently working hard to create jobs and business opportunities in shellfish and kelp operations.

I will work with those First Nations communities to ensure responsible management, attract investors, find markets and train workers.

Podunk Below the Masthead Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An outspoken voice joins the Pacific Salmon Commission, the city looks to work with the Port on infrastructure and another pressing election question were among the notable items of the Wednesday edition of the Daily News.

THORKELSON HAS SOME NEW FISH TO FRY-- Joy Thorkelson will bring her years of experience in the fishing industry back to the Pacific Salmon commission, as she joins the Northern panel of the commission.

The task for the Northern panel will be to assess the strength of the individual salmon runs, set catch levels for fishermen on both sides of the border and resolve disputes arising from fishery issues. All a process that Thorkelson who is also a city councillor in Prince Rupert is more than familiar with. She last served on the panel over ten years ago and was known for her strong advocacy on behalf of the Canadian side of the debate.

With the fishery continuing to suffer its decline and the situation on the north coast much worse than ten years ago, it would seem that she will once again be called upon to present the Canadian side of the argument. With a belief that the treaty is not working she will no doubt be rattling a few cages when those sessions resume again.

Elsewhere in the paper, the City and the Port may soon be working in concert to develop infrastructure projects related to phase two of the Port expansion. One key development would be the city forgetting about the plans of a Wantage Road bypass to the container port and instead should team up with the port to seek out access on the foreshore between the Container Terminal and Ridley Island. That and a more aggressive approach to seeking government monies such as those that have been poured into the Delta port project some 2.35 billion thus far.

The Port and the city seem to be on the same page when it comes to a more dedicated approach to highlighting the Prince Rupert option to various levels of government, especially in light of the ongoing backlash to the Delta port project in the lower mainland.

The latest offering in the Daily News' "pressing question" was featured in the Wednesday paper, asking candidates if the "Provincial government should appeal the Supreme Court decision to enforce mairculture as a federal jurisdiction". We'll highlight the candidates answers in a separate posting.

The Sports page featured high school golf as the main story of the day, a review of the rain soaked recent play day between high schools.

Total pages in the Wednesday paper (16)

The Mercer departure continues to raise interest from afar

The Vancouver Sun's education blog has continued on with its interest in the mid year departure of former Superintendent Eric Mercer.

Following up on some previous postings on the Sun Blog on the issue, Sun reporter Janet Steffenhagen provides a bit more background on the ongoing debate in this community as to the circumstances surrounding the Mercer departure.

Quoting from a correspondence from a reader described as an "anonymous" but "well informed reader", Steffenhagen provides some timely observations on the departure and the fall out from it since February.
In the piece posted to the Sun's blog, some background is provided as to Mr. Mercer's initiatives while superintendent and then raises some points on the issues of accountability and transparency .
One interesting point of view from the contribution to the blog, is the observation that with his departure and eventual severance, perhaps a good portion of many of the cost savings instituted by Mercer during his time frame here were lost. All in the new goal of a change of direction, from the costs associated with the pursuit of that goal and from the assocaited costs surrounding the parting of ways between Superintendent and School Board.
All of which could make for some interesting feedback locally, especially if those issues and questions are ever brought up at the next budget consultation meeting planned for May 6th at the Charles Hays Library at 7:00 pm.
The full Vancouver Sun article and link to the Education blog can be found here.

Alaska Marine Highway still has Rupert Ferry dock on their purchase list

It's budget time in Alaska and the Alaska Marine Highway Service has been prioritizing its list of spending for the finance department this spring.

Among the many items that they have in the spending side of the ledger is the ongoing quest to gain ownership of the dock at Fairview Bay, the Alaska Marine Highway is hopeful that the city will sell the dock to the Alaska based transportation service, allowing it to continue to invest in the required repairs for the link to southeast Alaska.

Marine Highway representatives outlined for Public radio in Alaska the process so far, indicating how the City of Prince Rupert isn't inclined to spend much money on the dock, or actually be in the ferry dock business anymore for that matter and how the Marine Highway service was seeking spending authorizations from the Alaska government should the dock be put up for sale by the City.

You can listen to the entire report from the KBRD website, it outlines some of the background on the condition and repairs to the Fairview Bay dock and what remains to be done and at what cost.

Class was in for the candidates at NWCC

The first face to face meeting between the three candidates in the provincial election took place on April 17th at Northwest Community college, a lunch hour discussion period where students and interested citizens could ask questions on the topics on the issues that they were concerned about.

The Northern View provided a brief review of the noon hour session, a short snapshot of the candidates tone and early observations on the issues.

Not surprisingly considering the venue, among some of the talking points that they reviewed at the session was education, with Green Party candidate suggesting that her party would offer up an immediate tuition reduction of twenty percent and an incentive based plan that would see tuition refunds for graduates who live and work in BC for five years after graduation.

Also high among some of the talking points that they examined, was the environment which was also a key point of discussion for the candidates, with NDP candidate Gary Coons outlining many of the current concerns of his party such as coal bed methane development, renewable resource development and the need to ensure that energy resources remain in the hands of the public.

Liberal candidate Herb Pond outlined the key elements of how his party would handle such developments as the independent power process, building a strong economy and touched on the issue of the proposed Enbridge development and the potential arrival of tanker traffic on the north coast.

The April 17 debate was a warm up of sorts for what will for the main event of April 29th when the issues will get another look by the three candidates at the public forum at the Lester Centre for the Arts.