Tuesday, June 30, 2009

They’ve been working on the railroad, all the live long day...

There are no tracks; there are no trains, just lots of pay!
You may not have seen a BC Rail engine on your tracks in a long, long time but down in North Vancouver the days are still long and productive it seems. At least that’s the impression one would receive according to the public payroll compensation list released yesterday by the Provincial government.

From that list comes an interesting revelation when it comes to the railway that once was the economic engine of northeastern BC and now is part of the Canadian National empire.

Under the Crown Corporations and Agencies section of the salary listings, we find four senior executives of the railroad still on the public payroll, this despite the fact that we don’t actually own a railroad anymore.

Kevin Mahoney, President and CEO of the railroad was paid $494,182 last year, John Lusney, the President of BC Rail properties took in $268.572, Gordon Westlake VP in Corporate Affairs made $232.999 and Linda Shute VP in Finance and the CFO of the organization managed to squeak by with $213,412.

One might wonder what the four must do with their days, what with CN running the railroad under that much discussed and now controversial agreement of a few years ago.

Perhaps there are some loose ends to tie up during the course of a work day, old railway ties to count, selling off BC Rail caps in the company store, fishing off of railway trestles up to Prince George and back.

Or maybe they just pull into work, head to the coffee room and tell some tall tales of the old days when the trains ran on time and normally on the tracks.

One thing that they will have to adjust to however are a few new edicts passed last April.

On April 2nd, the Board of Directors decided to discontinue the Discretionary Allowance, the Lunch Club Membership Policy and the Golf Membership Policy.

Leaving the foursome still in the upper reaches of the corporate caboose to make their own lunch and golf arrangements, which we imagine at least probably gives them something to do during the day.

The continuing misadventures of the Daily News

Monday's paper never quite made it to print and Tuesday's paper time warps into Wednesday!

To say they're having their problems at the Daily News might be an understatement.

Tuesday's paper (er, or is that Wednesday, July 1st as that's what is on the masthead tonight) at least made it to print, though it seems a tad bereft of some of the weekends breaking news.

Nowhere in today's edition (Tuesday) was there word of the firing of Dan Veniez at Ridley Terminals, nor of his replacement named yesterday by the Transport Minister.

(As a public service, details of both can be found here and here)

Tuesday's edition would feature no information on the departure of the Secretary/Treasurer of the School District (see here), a situation that just adds to the chaos currently reigning in those offices. In fact the DAILY NEWS was scooped by the WEEKLY paper on that one, The Northern View was quick to post it's report on those breaking developments to its website yesterday.

Perhaps there were more items of note over the weekend, but they're somewhere out there lost in the print run that never was.

Even more curious is the fact that there was no form of explanation as to what might have happened to that Monday edition.

A simple item providing a reason for the disappearing Monday edition might go a long way to gaining some good favour from the subscriber base and/or advertisers. It's just sensible PR to admit to a problem, offer up an explanation and move on from there.

Perhaps the thinking is; if they don't mention it, then no one will notice?

And indeed, there they were back in business today (even if it says Wednesday), so all seems well for now.

There are details of the Canada Day party planned for Mariners Park on Wednesday July 1, (that would be tomorrow for everyone else other than the Daily News it seems). Perhaps it's fitting that they add that to the front page, after all if anyone could use a few days off it perhaps might be the folks at the paper.

At some point however credibility must start to wane with the readers and advertisers. Especially in light of the ongoing dedication to the more "community friendly" and "positive" stories, that seem to make up the bulk of the print run, when it runs. A change of direction that we are frequently advised was something that the readers were asking for.

But beyond credibility, perhaps more of concern might be relevance.

If in the end no one notices, or cares if the paper makes it to print, or if it has the proper day of the week on the front, then it's but a fast trip from your door step to the bird cage or the recycle bin.
Update and corrections (sort of): After a day of research with our Podunkian retail sources, we have determined that yes indeed, there was a Tuesday edition of the Daily News, and one dated Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at that, but only one for home subscribers it seems.
Our independent verification this afternoon (ie: numerous trips to various retail outlets to determine if the phantom Tuesday edition made it to news stands or not) concluded that indeed, a most interesting form of distribution took place for the Tuesday edition.
One where home delivery subscribers were provided with both the Tuesday and a futuristic looking Wednesday edition. Leaving those that only acquire their Daily News at news stands to lose a day of news gathering, hopefully content with their advance look at the news of July the 1st, but left forever to wander in wonderment as to what may have transpired from the Tuesday edition.
So without hesitation the Podunkian corrects our conclusions, as portrayed in the posting above, of the status of the paper`s editions from yesterday, for indeed there was a Tuesday edition for some.
And now we begin our search of a helpful neighbour with home delivery, who may be willing to share his or her rare copy, of the limited edition of the Tuesday Daily News.

Good compensation in Administration!

The Province of British Columbia has released its public service compensation tables for 2009 and one thing seems pretty clear, if you want a six figure income administration in public service is where you want to steer your career boat.

Of Interest to Northwestern BC will be the remuneration highlights for some high profile positions in education and health care for our part of the province.

With School District 52 in the news so much these days, it’s of interest to note and a timely note at that, which shows that the Superintendent’s position provides for a comfortable living, though judging by the recent developments there’s more than a bit of pressure to go with those six figures.

According to the report the Superintendent at SD52 would make an income of 140,977, when you total in the pension, health and other benefits available with the job.

The University of Northern BC is also a fairly financially rewarding place to hang your hat, The President of the University makes $294,000, the VP, $189,000 and the Vice Provost of Medicine close to $317,000. But by far the compensation award for 2008-09 went to Don Cozetto, the Former President and Vice Chancellor who received a compensation package worth $647,000 last year.

Over in Health Care, the money is also pretty good. Though not quite in Cozetto range, the President and Chief Executive Officer at Northern Health receives almost $303,000, The VP of Medicine is a close second at $301,000 while the Executive Director of the Northern Cancer Strategy collected a $235,000 paycheque.

All in all, a fairly rewarding 365 days at the office for some of the higher executives of Northern British Columbia.

You can examine all the reported figures from across the Province at the Government of BC website, it’s listed under the Ministry of Advanced Education and labour market Development’s webpage.

No wonder the province likes to describe BC as the "Best place on earth", while those of us seeking out services in those areas may disagree, if you're in administration you're certainly not going to argue the point!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Meet the New boss, not at all the same as the old boss, Ridley Terminals gets a temp

There certainly seem to be no second thoughts coming out of Ottawa!

The Federal Transportation Minister hasn't wasted much time in finding someone to grab that corner office at Ridley Terminals from the recently removed Dan Veniez.

With Mr. Veniez's quotes and letters still wafting through the air (and the Internet) the Transport Minister, John Baird outlined who will steer the terminal through these testy times on an interim basis, while the government seeks out a permanent CEO and President.

Stepping into the suddenly controversial job will be Bud Smith, a former cabinet minister in the British Columbia government back in the Social Credit days. Smith was in cabinet from 1986 to 1991, a familiar name in the Kamloops area which he represented and across BC.

From his days in the hard knuckle environment of Social Credit provincial politics he went on to serve on the Boards of Directors for a number of provincial and federal Crown Corporations, included on his resume are stints with British Columbia Development Corporation (BCDC), Canada Post Corporation, and Prince Rupert Port Authority.
As well as his public and private interests, Smith found time to sit on a panel at the Fraser Institute, which chronicled the implications of the Delgamuukw decision, outlined in the Fraser Institutes report Beyond the Nass Valley. A perspective that may of interest, in light of the recent agreement signed by the now departed Mr. Veniez and the Coast Tsimshian.
Smith brings to his Ridley position some background with the workings of the Terminal from his time at the Port Authority and as well during his work with the British Columbia Development Corporation, as the Ridley lands were being assembled for development during his efforts at BCDC.

Both Minister Baird and Minister of State for Transportation Rob Merriwether had high praise for their new appointment, Merriwether who has been in the eye of the Veniez storm in particular provided the positive spin on the new arrival at Ridley. "Mr. Smith's experience and familiarity with the north coast of B.C. and the Port of Prince Rupert is of benefit to RTI, Prince Rupert, and Canadian shipping."

Of course, Mr. Smith is not unfamiliar to Conservatives, thanks to his appointment to the Prince Rupert Port Authority and he has been known to attend one or two Conservative functions in his past.

Mr. Smith will take on his duties immediately and will serve in the capacity of President and CEO until a new chairperson is appointed.

In a rather telling bit of descriptive theatre, the press release issued today outlines the focal point of what the government suggests Ridley is all about, the last line in particular could be taken as a rather sharp rebuke to the just departed holder of the chair and Presidency.

"The terminal was built in the early 1980's to support the development of the coal industry in Northeastern B.C."

That isn't quite the impression as to the mission statement that one would have received over the last few months, especially as the Ridley drama played out in the media leading up to Friday's definitive moment!

Are the wheels on the School district administrative bus falling off?

Like a disruptive class of grade fives, things are becoming a little chaotic at the School District offices and seemingly no one can get to the blackboard to bring a little order.

Following on the heels of last Friday's surprising reversal on the configuration/middle school debate came Monday's blockbuster announcement that Kim Morris, the Secretary Treasurer for SD 52 has decided to move on.

The Northern View was first to publish the details of Ms. Morris' departure, part of the "swell of chaos" as they put it surrounding the configuration issue these days. In the course of their story, the nature of her decision to leave was outlined, listed as being made for "personal" reasons, making her the latest of high profile administrators to leave the district in recent months.
Her move out of town follows the mysterious departure at mid year of former Superintendent Eric Mercer, who received a rather generous parting settlement after he and the School District parted ways.

Prior to his leave taking in February, the School District had seen a number of other high level administrators move on to other opportunities to the south.

The educational administration confusion continued through the school year as the School board struggled to come to some kind of closure on the middle school/grade configuration issue, putting parents, teachers and students through what now appears to have been a rather unnecessary emotional roller coaster in the last two weeks.

In addition to the controversial school closure issues still to be resolved, there is a need to get a final reading on a five year capital plan, which will outline where the district is taking the school system over the next five years. Though at the moment, they seem to be having problems handling the next five minutes at times.

With all that drama going on in the School District offices, it's no wonder that there may be a few officials seeking out more sedate pastures from which to pursue their careers.

All of this is taking place before yet another new Superintendent takes on her duties in September, when Lynn Hauptman is set to return to the Northwest and replace the temporary Superintendent, Dave Stigant, who handled the district's administrative affairs following the Mercer departure.

On the upside for Ms. Hauptman, if things continue on this vein, she will at least be able to hand pick her own administration staff. However, one can't help but think that she certainly is walking into what could charitably be called a "challenging situation".

All of the dramatic developments haven't gone un-noticed to the south, The Vancouver Sun's education blog "Report Card", featured the latest developments of SD52 in a posting made today, if things keep up, the Sun may have to create a special section on that blog just for late breaking developments from Prince Rupert.

A disruption to the Daily News routine

Podunkians had to make alternate arrangements to their evening routine as troubles at the Daily News offices prevented the Daily paper to make its early afternoon appearance around town.

There was no home delivery by 7 pm, nor news stand offerings around town by the same hour.

A few of the stores sampled by your humble blogging servant offered up the possibility of computer problems to printing difficulties, perhaps both related.

No further word was available at the retail end of the delivery system to offer up hope for a Monday night edition, leaving Podunkians until Tuesday perhaps to learn of the pressing issues of the day from the Daily News point of view.

This highlights the drawback to the fact that the local daily paper no longer offers a presence on the Internet, having not updated their website for a number of months now. Despite the obvious ability to update their subscription base as to the problems of the day, the lack of web offering also denies the paper's journalists the opportunity to get their stories to the public whenever the print version has a setback

The Daily News falls short of the Northern View in this case, as that paper updates breaking news on a daily basis from their portal on the web. It makes for a situation which puts it almost on the cutting edge of news gathering in the local market, a rather remarkable thing for a paper that publishes but once a week.

Hopefully, the Tuesday edition will offer up an explanation as to the woes of Monday, so as not to leave the details of their troubles to the imaginative wondering of the local populace.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's getting crowded out there on the seas

Every time a BC Ferry heads out of a British Columbia port there are dangers lurking, whether it be crab boats tending more to their catch than their navigation, whale watching tourists keenly watching for whales while missing the looming boat on the starboard side, or fellow travellers of the ferry fleets on the west coast who may not quite know the rules of the straits.

The Vancouver Sun has outlined five near misses for BC Ferries in 2008, where action had to be taken by ferry crews in order to avoid potential disaster.

Put into the context of the ferry fleet's 185,000 sailings a year, five near misses does suggest a pretty impressive safety record. But it only takes one tragedy to change lives forever. The details of the reports filed with Transport Canada do provide an outline as to the need for attention at all times when the fleet heads out.

All five reported near misses took place in southern waters, part of the heavy traffic patterns of the Strait of Georgia, the area known as Active Pass an apparently appropriately named part of the strait.

Of the five cases detailed, one does have a northwest connection however, as an incident between the Alaska Ferry Malaspina and the BC Ferry Coastal Renaissance made the list. The December 26th rendezvous between the two resulted in the BC Ferry making a 360 degree turn in order to let the Malaspina pass. What appears to have been a misunderstanding on the proper procedure between the two seems to have been the cause of that particular near miss.

The Malaspina of course may be a tad nervous in Canadian waters anyways, it was in Prince Rupert back in 1997 that it was the focal point of a blockade in Prince Rupert harbour over the then controversial issue of Alaskan fishing policies and the interception of BC bound salmon by the Alaska fleet.

The full examination of the five near misses was detailed on the Vancouver Sun website.

Defending Chairman Dan

The surprising (well perhaps not so for some) decision of Friday, to sack President and CEO of Ridley Terminals Dan Veniez, has started to generate some news copy with the province's news services.

As we outlined in our blog on Saturday, the Globe and Mail was first to post the latest development in the ongoing saga of Ridley Terminals, which had recently seen Mr. Veniez taking a very public profile in his quest to change the business direction and make up of the Prince Rupert based coal terminal.

While his reputation across the Northwest has made him a rather controversial figure locally, for the provincial and national media, his thoughts, commentaries and occasionally bombastic declarations have been the food chain of many a column or profile. And with his forced march out of the coal pile, he once again is proving to be making for some good copy.

The CBC posted a story on it's website today that highlights the political nature of the firing, asking questions of both Prince George MP Jay Hill and Transport Minister Rob Merrifield (he of the you can't quit, you're fired letter decision) but as of yet receiving no replies to their queries.

The CBC piece examines the side of the story that Mr. Veniez is apparently offering up, that of a political move to silence him due to the feedback of coal companies who don't agree with his thoughts that they should pay more for shipping their coal out of Ridley Terminals.

Over at the Vancouver Sun, Mr. Veniez received a most favourable ear as he outlined his tales of battle with the Conservatives. With a rather declarative title of Ridley Terminals chief fails to kowtow, is fired, columnist Don Cayo takes offence with the Conservatives handling of not only Mr. Veniez but how the Terminal is operated. Suggesting that Messrs. Hill and Merrifield would feel quite at home in the NDP with their thoughts on how the Terminal should proceed.

His impression of the situation seems to be that the close relationships between the MP and the Minister, with the coal interests of BC and Alberta is what is at the heart of this turn of events.

Cayo includes Mr. Veniez's most recent correspondence with Minister Merrifield, (prior to his dismissal), cc'd to a list of notables, including Prime Minister Harper, Sheila Fraser and Jim Flahterty to name a few.

It reads with the kind of bravado that many in the Northwest might remember from his days at New Skeena, in fact if you try you can probably picture him with a microphone at the PAC delivering this agenda for the New Ridley.

The closing paragraph outlines his state of mind as he outlines his thoughts on his efforts to move RTI forward according to what he believes was his mandate. `The onus is on you, Minister, to provide clear guidance to RTI's Board, not on us to defend our record of accomplishment and service. We welcome an opportunity for a complete and thorough review of these and other important facts.`
One might suggest that the Minister provided for his guidance with his letter of dismissal of Friday, but that will be for the pundits (and maybe the lawyers to divine).
And if we think that Mr. Veniez is going to quietly clean out his desk and walk into the sunset, think again.
In the Cayo column for the Sun, he suggests that he's more than willing to testify before a Commons committee, after all as we all know on the North coast, the man does enjoy a good dramatic reading it seems. The contents of his letter to the Minister more than sets up that tempting possibility of a public appearance in Ottawa to outline his talking points to federal politiicans.

Interestingly enough, earlier this week NDP MP Nathan Cullen had made statements that suggested he was going to investigate the entire Ridley Terminals situation, though many would suspect that his investigation probably was going to deal more with Mr. Veniez`s fast moving desire to reach privatization.

Now it seems that if Mr. Cullen and the opposition parties want to keep up with the fast flowing curve of point and counter point, they had best expand that examination to much more of than the Veniez angle of the Ridley story.

Regardless, the events of Friday are no doubt going to reverberate across Northern British Columbia for months to come.

By removing what had become a rather troublesome stone in his shoe in the form of Mr. Veniez, Minister Merrifield may have opened up his office to much deeper investigation than he might have planned for.

Ground control to Major Tom... and over to Commander Jake..

The CFL launches its new command centre with the Wednesday kick off to the 2009 season.

Tom Higgins, the league's Director of Officiating introduced Jake Ireland as the leagues lead command centre official, he will bring his 557 games of experience to the replay office, helping the new crop of CFL officials perform to the top of their profession.

Ireland will be watching the same replays that those of us at home will see from our TSN broadcasts, however he will have access some toys and tools that the most dedicated football cans could only hope to have on hand, DVSport has developed computer technology that will slow down and isolate images in order to get the right perspective on any calls in question.

The system put in place for the CFL will mirror what DV Sport provides for NCAA football in the United States.

Ireland will have a light workload during his nightly watch, under CFL rules coaches are allowed to challenge two calls made by on-field officials during each game, if they are successful on those two challenges they will be allowed a further third challenge, but only if the call in question falls into one of three categories; including catch/no catch, down-by-contact, and whether the ball crossed the plane of the goal line.
Deciding whether to request a challenge is one of the strategy points for all CFL coaches, a successful one can change the direction of a game, while an unsuccessful one or poorly chosen one can leave a team empty of chances when one may be needed most.
Cross posted from the blog twelvemenonthefield

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Middle school muddle

"We are moving backwards [from Thursday] and we looked bad then and we look bad now," --School District 52 trustee, Russell Wiens expressing his frustration at the School District's reversal of it's plan to abandon the middle school option.

The controversial plan to introduce a middle school to School District 52 will live on, that after the School District board reversed their own vote of Thursday night and now will consider grade configuration again after a consultation period with parents and educators in the fall.

As the Northern View first reported on Friday, and we reviewed on our blog, it was a surprise decision announced by the School District board, which for all intents and purposes seemed to have moved beyond the concept of the middle school option after a rather contentious forty eight hour push for judgement.

Instead, at a special meeting held Friday, the proposal was resuscitated and brought back into the educational debate, though no longer as a rushed plan, but one that will be presented to parents in the fall with an eye towards a vote either before Christmas or in the spring.

The head spinning developments do tend to provide the impression that the board doesn't really have a handle on what it's doing at the moment, a thought made quite clear by trustee Russell Wiens who advised the board that they weren't looking too good in the public eye at the moment with their handling of the issue.

Wiens had been a proponent against the middle school option and more than likely felt that the debate had been settled for good on Thursday night. However, it would seem that the proponents of the middle school plan, whether on the board or in the administration are keen to keep the topic up for debate.

While decisive action is preferable considering the angst this issue seems to cause, it would be better to have that decision made after a full and transparent accounting of what it all means for parents, students, teachers and staff. Perhaps the slowing of the process which seemed rather rushed this past week is one that will benefit both proponents and opponents alike, now both can prepare their side of the story, hopefully with a full accounting of cost and risks and benefits to students and the structure of education in the city.

With a proper assessment in place for September, not to mention a new Superintendent in place to oversee it all, then perhaps we will all received the proper answers we need to provide informed opinion to those that will have to make the decision.

One thing seems certain all the drama of the last week will certainly set the table for a very interesting fall session of school district meetings, interesting enough one hopes to get more parents involved in understanding where the schools in the community may be heading for 2010.

The Daily News on Friday outlined some of the background on the debate that ran through the School District meeting on Friday, highlighting how the tensions of the discussion have impacted on the board and the decisions they will have to make.

Middle school issue not dead yet
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, June 26, 2009
Pages one and five

The middle school option is back on the table.

Less than one week ago, the

School District 52's Trustees decided to reject implementing a middle school plan. One of the reasons given was a lack of understanding as not enough time was given to study the implications of opening a middle school in the district.

Now they say that they will give more time to look at the option and bring it back in September when the district meets for its first session of the fall ..

But one trustee wasn't buying it.

"We are moving backwards [from Thursday] and we looked bad then and we look bad now," said Trustee Russell Wiens who was not in favour of the middle school option last Thursday.

Wiens felt that there was pressure to make a decision to change the grade configuration and voted against the motion to reconsider middle schooling in Prince Rupert.

"If this motion passes tonight we won't be making a five-year capital plan. Once again we look like idiots."

Chair Tina Last did not agree with Wiens' assessment and said that she too felt pressure. Not for passing a middle school, but for passing a five-year capital plan that expands Charles Hays to accommodate 1,000 kids when in a few years after the expansion the school would be way under capacity, again.

"I don't think we look like idiots” said Last “The reason for voting down the middle school was lack of consultation. If you reconsider the motion and bring it back. in September, you have time to bring it to the public."

Last added that by passing a five year capital plan without a middle school "really limits what a school district can ask the ministry of education for," she said.

The real deadline for the five-year capital plan was May 15 but the district had been given an extension by the ministry to figure out the middle school option by the end of the school year.

But with the motion to reconsider. they will not be able to enter a five-year plan until next May. even though locals were told that the rush to move the middle school option decision through was to have a the capital plan ready by last Friday.

Trustee Leanord Alexcee said that he still backed the middle school option citing a need to improve standards for aboriginal students.

"The schools aren't working for our aboriginal students and we all know it," said Alexcee.

Once the decision to reconsider the motion passed three-to-two (Last and trustees Terri-Lynne Huddlestone and Bart Kuntz voted for it, Wiens and trustee Janet Biel opposed it) the debate then centered on how long the consultation would last.

Wiens said that the decision should be made in March to give locals a full six months to digest the information. But Huddlestone disagreed and said that the decision could be made in November because if the district included the first three months of consultation, then the school district would actually have given six months of consultation to the subject.

Podunk Below the Masthead June 26, 2009

The Coast Tsimshian and Ridley Terminals agree, the School Board finds differing opinions and it's a world class fishing resort due south of Rupert, some of the highlights of the Friday edition of the Daily News.

RTI AND COAST TSIMSHIAN MAKE HISTORY ON THE DOTTED LINE-- It was hailed as an historic agreement between the management of Ridley Terminals and the First Nations of the Coastal Tsimshian, as participants from both sides outlined their new partnership for the two, which will see the Coast Tsimshian receive preferential treatment on contracts above $500,000. (see story below)

The Middle school issue gains another life, as School District 52's board reverses their decision of only a day before to move beyond the introduction of a middle school for Prince Rupert. The process will now resume in September when a new consultation period will begin, leading up to yet another vote on the now controversial issue and the potential for more school closures to follow as part of the fall out. (see item from blog here)

Most of us only see the place when it's being towed out of Prince Rupert Harbour towards its summer location south of Hartley Bay, but regular readers of exotic travel magazines will know that the King Pacific Lodge is one of the top resorts in the world for those that wish to fish.

Conde Nast magazine has apparently placed the lodge as number four in the world according to its readers survey, a pretty high tribute for the local fixture. Those that do stop by for a visit dig deep for their four night stays, the cost of a visit to the Lodge is towards 8,000 dollars for the four nights, one imagines that you're somehow guaranteed a fish for your efforts.

Stock cars ruled the day in the sports section with a preview of the upcoming races in Terrace.

Total pages in the Friday edition (18)

Front page, headline story:

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, June 26, 2009
Pages one and three

An historic agreement was finalized Thursday, leaving the Coast Tsimshian that much closer to fulfilling the promise of self-sufficiency.

Chances Gaming Convention Centre was the location of an official opportunities agreement between Ridley Terminals Inc. and Tsimshian communities, Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams.

It will be a test case for other business interests on the North Coast to watch.

If it works, it could payoff handsomely for both RTI and the Coast Tsimshian.

"Today is a positive step in reclaiming our history as some of the best traders in the world," said Lax Kw'alaams author and protocol agreement consultant, Calvin Helin.

Helin, who is also the brother of Lax Kw'alaams elected chief John Helin, said that the agreement with RTI was more than just overcoming a challenge of a working agreement with a nonaboriginal business.

"It is about Canada acknowledging that this is not a new reality but an already existing one," said Helin of the need to work with First Nations communities across the northwest.

The agreement will in effect open doors for the Coast Tsirnshian at RTI. It will give them preferential treatment on contracts above $500,000.

That means that those opportunities priced above that threshold will be divided in to portions that would allow the Tsimshian to get involved in some capacity, providing job opportunities.

On hand for Metlakatla was David Lees Jr. who was there on behalf of elected chief, Harold Leighton, for the signing ceremony.

"Today is a great day and marks a significant milestone," said Lees. "For Prince Rupert, and the region, we now have an opportunity and potential."

RTI Chairman Dan Veniez, who is currently embroiled in a war of words with northern B.C. municipal leaders, some wings of the federal Conservative party and Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen over the possible future privatization of lITI, was also on hand to sign the documents.

"I just want to tell you how proud I am of you and how proud I am to be here," Veniez told a full room of Tsimshian hereditary and local community leaders.

Also on hand were mayors Jack Mussallem and Dave MacDonald.

The agreement has been in the works since a memorandum of understanding was signed in October at the Lax Kw' alaams office.

That was a subdued event that took place a couple of days after a much more elaborate event at Chances was quashed after some hereditary leaders said they were concerned about the lack of consultation.

One of the critics that day was Buddy Helin, John and Calvin's uncle, who said at the time he felt the agreement was a surprise.

Yesterday he personally shook Veniez's hand and celebrated the historic agreement.

The momentum from the morning took the Tsimshian up the hill to the Crest Hotel from Chances Gaming Centre.

Led by a rhythmic drum beat, the Coast Tsimshian dropped in on the Prince Rupert Port Authority's annual general meeting.

It was there, during an annual financial review by PRPA vice president of finance, Joe Rektor, that the Tsimshian interrupted proceeding to remind the PRPA that after five years of negotiations, there is still no agreement between them.

They presented the opportunities agreement to PRPA chairman Dale McLean, and president and CEO Don Krusel.

"We are here to send you a message that we are trying to get there with the port. Five years is too [long]. We are not going anywhere and you have to negotiate with respect and honour," said Helin.

McLean responded by thanking the Tsimshian for coming to the meeting, and that an agreement was very close.

Krusel echoed that sentiment. "We would be very disappointed if an agreement is not reached by the end of 2009," he said.

Dan Veniez removed at Ridley Terminals

You can't quit... You're fired!
Stating that he was not acting on the governments agenda for Ridley Terminals, the Government of Canada fired Dan Veniez, the President and CEO of Ridley Terminals yesterday.
Rob Merrifield issued a statement yesterday that outlined the government's position that Mr. Veniez had “been pursuing a corporate strategy and debating options for the future of Ridley Terminals Inc., in a manner that appears to be inconsistent with the government's expectations of your role as chair.”

An interesting background item to yesterday's letter of dismissal is that Veniez himself had previously offered his resignation, on June 23rd to take effect at the end of August, instead it seems that the Minister chose to set the timing of Mr. Veniez's departure, which it seems is immediate.

The Globe and Mail outlined the hectic and dramatic events leading up to the dismissal of Mr. Veniez, the letter by letter exchange is highlighted in a piece posted to their website today.

The fast moving events come but one day after Veniez heralded a new arrangement with local First Nations of the Coast Tsimshian, what now becomes of that agreement signed on Thursday without Veniez at the controls remains to be seen. It like many of Mr. Veniez's other intitiatives may come under review once the new CEO is appointed and has a chance to see what he or she has inherited.

The termination of Mr. Veniez's time at Ridley brings to an end for now the rather public attempts by Mr. Veniez to bring Ridley into the private sector away from it's current Crown Corporation status.

Over the last few months, Veniez had become a fixture on the pages of the national newspapers and local media, offering up his vision of where he wanted the coal terminal to go, a vision that seemed to run counter to just about everyone else that had a stake in the terminals future.

From Conservative power brokers such as Jay Hill, to the local NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who had just begun an investigation into Veniez's handling of the Ridley file, to politicians and community leaders across the northwest, few it seemed shared his thoughts on the privatization plans for Ridley.

In fact it seems that the opposition that he generated to his plans may have contributed to his demise at Ridley, in his letter to Merrifield he in his traditional bombastic nature outlined how he had become a “regional political toy and hostage to special interests”.

The Government clearly had taken notice of the outcry over his plans and rather than suggesting they were of special interests, perhaps believed that the groundswell of public opinion and interest was turning against him.

As his public appeal for privatization become the thing of a religious fervour, it seems that there were far more people against his privatization plan than were on his side of the argument, and most importantly, his bosses decided that his public campaign had become an impediment to their plans for the coal handling facility on the West coast.

In short, he no longer had the confidence of the Government to run their Crown Corporation, in the end he seems to have forgotten that it wasn't his company yet.

We'll update the breaking news as we discover more items on Mr. Veniez's departure.

June 28-CBC--Fired head of B.C. coal-handling terminal says he was let go because of politics
June 28-- Vancouver Sun- Ridley Terminals chief fails to kowtow, is fired
For archival purposes, below is a transcript of today's Globe story.

Ottawa fires head of B.C. coal-handling terminal
Patrick Brethour

Globe and Mail
Saturday, Jun. 27, 2009

The federal government has fired the head of Crown-owned Ridley Terminals Inc., in Prince Rupert, B.C., after he publicly proposed privatizing the bulk shipping operation, with Ottawa saying he was not acting on the government's agenda.

But Daniel Veniez, the former forestry executive recruited by the Harper government to turn around the floundering operation, said he was simply doing what he was asked to do – and that the real reason he is being fired is that the Conservatives are unhappy that he has forced coal companies to pay higher rates for shipping.

Mr. Veniez wrote to Rob Merrifield, the Minister of State for Transport, that Ridley has become a “regional political toy and hostage to special interests” who have complained to Mr. Merrifield and to government House Leader Jay Hill, who represents a B.C. interior riding with significant coal production. “The heart of the matter is this: RTI has upset certain users who are constituents of yours and Mr. Hill,” Mr. Veniez wrote in a June 23 letter, in which he offered his resignation effective Aug. 30.

Mr. Merrifield rejected that resignation, issuing a letter yesterday to Mr. Veniez that terminated his appointment immediately. He gave no explanation, but in early June, Mr. Merrifield wrote in a letter that Mr. Veniez had “been pursuing a corporate strategy and debating options for the future of Ridley Terminals Inc., in a manner that appears to be inconsistent with the government's expectations of your role as chair.”

In late May, Mr. Veniez spoke to The Globe and Mail about private-sector offers that Ridley had secured that could have generated $131-million for the government. He also talked about concerns that complaints from coal producers were derailing efforts to build Ridley's revenues.

Mr. Hill said he had met with coal producers and passed on their concerns – and that it was part of his job as an MP to do so. A senior government source acknowledged that Ottawa did not intend to pursue privatization of the facility, although the government has committed to selling $2-billion in government property this year. Shortly after that, Mr. Veniez issued a bluntly worded message as part of Ridley's official annual report.

If the government continues to operate Ridley, Mr. Veniez said, it will have to spend between $200-million and $250-million over the next five years to maintain and modernize the aging facility.

Over its three-decade history, Ridley has continually struggled, and had to turn to the government several times for loans. In 2005, Paul Martin's Liberal government decided to sell the troubled asset to an Ontario-based coal-mining firm for a comparative pittance – just $3-million, far less than the $400-million that the federal government has sunk into Ridley over the past 27 years.

One of the first acts of the newly elected Conservative administration in 2006 was to cancel that deal.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Allied Tsimshian turn their attention to the Port of Prince Rupert

“We are waiting too long for that agreement, and we are giving them notice that we want a settlement there as well. We have been at negotiations with the port for too long and our leaders are getting frustrated. Before there is an uprising, which there will be if there isn’t an agreement, we are giving them notice,” -- James Bryant of the Allied Tsimshian, expressing frustration at the pace of discussions with the Port of Prince Rupert.

If Thursday's Port of Prince Rupert Annual General Meeting was to be compared to a baseball game, then James Bryant, representative of the Allied Tsimshian Tribes probably delivered a pretty high and fast brush back pitch.

Bryant and other representatives of the Allied Tsimshian Tribes marched directly from the Chances convention centre and their successful signing ceremony with Ridley Terminals, over to the Crest Hotel where the Port was hosting its Annual General Meeting.

Upon arrival at that meeting, the Tsimshian provided the Port with a protocol document, outlining their frustration at the pace of negotiations and expressing how they are giving the Port notice that they want a settlement.

Highlighting the morning session with Dan Veniez at Ridley as an apparent template for success, they pointed out that they went from a Memorandum of Understanding with Mr. Veniez in October to the signing ceremony of today, a pace that they would like to see the Port Corporation adapt to in the quest for closure on the outstanding issues of their discussions (or lack of discussion as they suggest).

During their presentation the group outlined how there needed to be progress on the issue soon, before members lost their patience with the pace and tone of the process.

The Port in reply to today's presentation, was quick to urge that things are coming together, suggesting that they could see a signing ceremony of their own by the end of 2009.

The Northern View provided a pitch by pitch account of today's meeting of the two sides with an article posted to their website.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rupert positioned for growth according to the latest Economic check up

Praveen Vohora continues to find positive trends for the North coast economy, as he releases the annual BC Check Up regional report for the Chartered Accountants of BC.

For the last few years now, the Prince Rupert accountants reports have sought out the positive trends in the local economy, as can be seen from our archived accounts of the yearly reviews and his other thoughts on the local economic picture.

November 2008— Finance expert looks on the bright side
June 2008— Northern Economy is finding strength in diversity
August 2008- Vohora optimistic about economic growth
May 2007— Dollars flowing back into the region
October 2006— Jobs and new business rebound in the Northwest

This year’s offering examines how the local business community and local industry has diversified to battle the troubled times of the recession. With the port playing a much more prominent role in the economy now, the report suggests that we will soon be positioned for a long awaited growth period once the troubling economic times return to more positive trends.

City official Bob Thompson seems to agree with the positive vibes, pointing to housing starts in the city as an indication of better times to come. Thompson says that at the moment there are lots of houses being built in town, compared to a few years ago when there was nothing happening on the building front. He also believes that the city is poised for growth in the future, with an expectation of sizable development in the area.

While the trends may seem positive, on the streets it may seem like a different picture, what with the large number of empty storefronts and seemingly fewer job options to choose from than in the years of the past.

Locals may be hoping that these rosy predictions soon come to pass, so that we can all share in this anticipated period of growth that apparently keeps popping up on our radar. Many are probably wondering if the statistics, evaluations and pronouncements and such are going to move on from the prospects phase to the delivery phase shortly.

The Daily News outlined some of the details in the 2009 review in the Thursday paper.

Economic diversity in Rupert holds against the recession
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Page two

Local accountant Praveen Vohora believes that steps taken by local business interests to diversify the city's economy will payoff handsomely whenever the economic recession eases.

As documented in Vohora's BC Check-up, Regional Edition, published by the Chartered Accountants of B.C., the North Coast region saw positive results for employment numbers, capital investment, business incorporations, and business bankruptcies in 2008.

"The generation of new economic opportunities in the North Coast in recent years -[Fairview] container ship facility, the Prince Rupert Cruise Ship Terminal, and another year of strong mineral exploration - helped to buffer the region against the economic downturn," said Vohora.

According to Vohora, northwest B.C.'s economy had the highest rate of job creation in the province last year, at 6.3 per cent.

All of this growth took place in the services-producing sector, but the biggest industry increase was in public work.

The most significant increases were in health care and social assistance (1,000 jobs), public administration (800 jobs), followed by accommodation and food services (500 jobs), and transportation and warehousing (200 jobs).

The Port of Prince Rupert's cruise business drove gains in the accommodation and food services sector.

The total economic impact of cruise industry in Prince Rupert is mated to have exceeded $10 million in 2008.

However, to date, cruise ship has declined in 2009 and may stay way for the next three years, reported Vohora.

"That said, the Port now plays important role in our region.

While employment in the transportation and warehousing industry in the Northwest has been in a down trend for over two years, a surge of employment during the summer of 2008 pushed annual employment he said.

The volume of goods through the Port of Prince Rupert increased moderately over 2007, despite a global economic downturn that resulted in declining traffic through most other North American ports on the west coast.

"In addition, the container facility's loading and unloading times are significantly faster than many other Ports. The industry has taken note, and as the world trade traffic increases, Prince Rupert will definitely be on the radar screen of both shipping lines and their customers," reported Vohora.

While the positive 2008 North Coast numbers were affected by the 2009 economic recession, in Prince Rupert the gross value of construction permits has remained flat for the first five months.

Based on a statistical analysis on a five-year average that excludes 2008, which includes the construction of the new Acropolis Manor, the average gross value of building permits in Prince Rupert from January to May is $2.9 million since 2004.

Through the first five months of this year, Prince Rupert saw $3.02 million in building permits, a slight increase.

The totals include residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and accessory construction projects.

Right now, the city's general manager of engineering and public works, Bob Thompson, said that he estimates there are three-to-four new house projects on every year.

"For a long time we had no new housing being built in Prince Rupert and now if you go around there are a lot of houses being built," said Thompson.

Thompson said that the gross value figures are not the only way city staff reads the statistics. It can look at the gross value of building permits or it can look at how many building permits the city has through out the community.

"We look at it from a workload perspective, sometimes," said Thompson.

Thompson added that the workload would be expected to increase through the construction of phase II of the container expansion and the construction of a logistical road, which the city of Prince Rupert has already committed to helping the port attain.

"We are very nicely positioned for growth," said Thompson. "You can't hold back the west coast of Canada forever.

"At some point it is going to break loose and there is going to be sizeable development in this area of the country."

Podunk Below the Masthead June 25, 2009

Some new feet on the beat, half filled glasses for some city observers and Telus seeks out the bad neighbour award for Port Edward, some of the items of note for the Thursday edition of the Daily News.

RCMP AUXILIARY FORCE ACKNOWLEDGED AND INSTALLED -- The city's rather dormant auxiliary policing program got back into swing with an installment ceremony at the Highliner Inn this week. The front page, headline story outlines the training program and interest shown by Rupertites in joining the RCMP's auxiliary force in the city (see story below)

Telus found out that not everyone is thrilled with towering cel phone poles, especially those neighbours who have to live beside them. Telus reps appeared at Port Edward council, first with an apology for not discussing the situation with the affected neighbours and then with an explanation as to the need for the tower on Evergreen Drive.

Praveen Vohora issued his annual report on the state of the local economy, an item that seems to seek out the positives in the community on a yearly basis. This year he recounts how local business and industry have diversified in order to battle the ongoing recession, steps he says will pay off once the recession eases off. (see blog item)

The Sports pages outlined the success of Rupertite Marc Hrehirchek at a recent half Marathon in Kitimat.

And the paper had special pages devoted to the Grad class of Charles Hays Secondary which had their Graduation ceremony on Thursday at the PAC.

Total pages in the Thursday edition (18)

Front page, headline story:

By Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Pages one and three

It was an evening to celebrate and acknowledge the hard work and volunteer efforts of the people in our community that serve as auxiliary RCMP.

Eight new recruits were installed and four active auxiliaries were acknowledged for their service Tuesday evening at the Highliner Plaza Hotel.

"Prince Rupert is very fortunate," said Constable Krista Vrolyk who taught the auxiliary program.

"It's a huge sacrifice to everyone and their loved ones."

To become an auxiliary, a candidate takes a five-month course, meeting Tuesday and Thursday evenings, for a total of 96 hours plus another 40 hours of self-defence training.

Once they graduate, each auxiliary is expected to volunteer 160 hours a year in community policing.

Retired plumber/pipefitter Bill Keating received recognition for over 15 years of service. He joined the program in 1992.

"He knows this program," said Vrolyk.

"He's talking about pulling the pin and retiring but I'd like to see him make it to 20 years."

In response, Keating congratulated the new recruits telling them the hard part starts now.

"Listen to the members. Do what they tell you. If you don't know something, for God's sake ask. Remember, what's said in the car, stays in the car.

You're going 10 have lots of fun.

Enjoy it; just take care of each other."

Many of the new recruits applied to the program over four years ago but due to funding restraints the program could not be offered until the fall of 2008.

The program began in July with a formal recruiting process and Vrolyk described the new recruits as great ambassadors.

"I had a great time teaching them,” Vrolyk. "I missed their baptism 4 christening when they got pepper sprayed. I was away with work. They how to respond to that now." The Justice Institute responded to the class scores on the exams, stating they were some of the highest they have ever seen. "This class was very dedicated.

There were many late night study sessions for midterms."

Some of the new recruits have expressed interest in areas of home security, bullying and different crime awareness programs and Vrolyk said she's looking forward to getting them on the road.

Valedictorian Keith Morris, who has a five-month old baby, said many of the students waited four years to take the training.

"During the program we made sacrit1ces but we did attend cheerfully," he told the audience.

On behalf of the City of Prince Rupert, Mayor Jack Mussallem lauded the auxiliaries.

"Prince Rupert is a community of giving people," he said.

"People have the ability to give and tonight here is an example of people who are willing to volunteer. They take courses and put in time so they can contribute."

City Council Scoresheet for June 22, 2009

The Wednesday, June 24 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 June 22 session..This weeks feature appeared on page three of the Wednesday edition.
Question One: That a public meeting be held July 6, 2009 for the City to present its annual report. Copies are available at City Hall's development services on the main floor and on the City's website.
How council voted:
Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Yes
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Absent
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes
Question Two: To approve an operational policy were staff at the landfill can refuse to accept refuse from any company that does not pay its landfill tipping fee account within 45 days of invoicing.
How council voted:
Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Yes
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Absent
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes.
Question Three: In response to a letter from Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District regarding the Kaien Island Bike Trail Study, that council direct city staff to analyze the proposal, seek funding and report back to council.
How council voted:
Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Yes
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Absent
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes.
Question Four: That council introduce and give three readings to the Automated Voting Machines Authorization Bylaw No. 3285, 2009. The option would be to purchase two machines for $15,650 or rent two machines for $4,750.
How council voted:
Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Yes
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- No
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Absent
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- No
Question Five: That City council writes a letter in support of the North Coast Monitoring, Compliance, and Traceability Planning Project. The project will bring together local recreational, commercial and aboriginal fishermen to collectively design a plan for effective and supported solutions for fisheries on the North Coast.
How council voted:
Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Yes
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Absent
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes

City Hall Tracker June 22 2009

Council gathered on Monday evening to examine those pressing matters of concern, including the need to purchase a new fire apparatus for Prince Rupert Fire Rescue, examine the potential of developing a bike trail on Kaien Island and the apparent wish and need for voting machines.

Regular council meeting Agenda for June 22, 2009
Committee of the Whole Meeting Agenda for June 22, 2009
Notice of closed meeting for June 22, 2009
City of Prince Rupert 2008 Annual Report

City council session for June 22, 2009

In attendance:

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


Councillor Kathy Bedard

Regular City council minutes for June 22, 2009

Daily News voting summary
Wednesday, June 24. 2009 edition

Attendance at City Hall to date archives

Upcoming events-- City council meeting July 6, 2009

Ridley Terminals and Coast Tsimshian announce terms of new agreement

"Forging a new relationship with the Coast Tsimshain [first nations] simply makes good business and economic sense,"-- Dan Veniez outlining the genesis of today's announcement with the communities of the Coast Tsimshian.

It's a new arrangement on the current business plan for Ridley Terminals, as members of the Coast Tsimshian will be offered first right of refusal on all future capital contracts awarded by Ridley Terminals.

That was the outcome of today's announcement at Chances convention centre, as Dan Veniez, President of Ridley Terminals and John Helin, chief councillor of the Tsimshian community of Lax Kw' alaams, Elmer Derrick, from the Gitxsan First Nation and Chief Councillor of the Metlakatla First Nation, Harold Leighton, praised the new vision of cooperation from Ridley Terminals and outlined the nature of the new relationship between Ridley Terminals and the Coast Tsimshian.

According to an online story posted on the Vancouver Sun website, The Coast Tsimshain communities will be given an opportunity to bid on, or form business partnerships with other firms to bid on, all request-for-proposal worth more than $500,000.

In order to make that feasible, Ridley is expected to "make commercially reasonable efforts" to solicit first nations' participation by breaking up large contracts into smaller components that they can handle.

Exactly what kind of ventures the two will partner on has yet to be determined or announced, but a better idea on those issues may come within thirty days.

As part of the announcement today, the two parties agreed to form a Joint Implementation
Committee, tasked with developing open and frank dialogue between Ridley and the Coast Tsimshian as they relate to all matters pertaining to new projects at the Terminal.

The Joint Implementation Committee will also review and consider all aspects of such projects and performance under the terms of the new agreement.

Vancouver Sun-- Natives offered first-refusal rights on Prince Rupert coal terminal capital contracts

If you can mark an X, you may soon have nowhere to mark it!

The City hasn’t even had time yet to count all that extra tax revenue from the recent 3.8 percent tax hike and already they’ve come up with some new ideas on how to spend it.

In one of the more interesting of trial balloons floated in a town full of them and at a rather curious time (the week before the property tax bills are due), Prince Rupert City council voted Monday night to explore further the prospect of introducing voting machines to our civic duties every three years.

Apparently the lengthy process involved last November in counting all those paper ballots ("we were here until midnight!") has moved some members of council to action, seeking out to replace the X marks the vote concept with the more unfamiliar “American” style voting machine.

The sudden fascination with the latest in electoral technology does make one wonder if perhaps council is not addressing our priorities in the proper order. For a town that continually seems to be under the gun financially and insists on raising taxes each year as though it’s an expected part of the municipal compact, the idea of spending additional money on such an idea seems rather ludicrous.

If one was to survey Podunkians as to their concerns these days about the current state of the city whether it is financial, social or criminal, we suspect that the call and clamour for voting machines would be fairly low, low down the list. Especially when you consider the rather chequered reputation of the technology (see Gore v Bush in Florida for further historic details)

Even beyond the concept that there really must be better things to concern themselves with, one has to wonder why a city that is suffering a decline in population feels that the machines are a much needed addition to our municipal infrastructure.

For the sake of an election every three years, one imagines we can find better things to spend our tax dollars on than a machine that may cut down the counting time by a couple of hours.

More importantly, the actual cost of using the voting machines will actually result in an increased expense for the city, not something that they should be considering during these rather troublesome economic times for Prince Rupert and its citizens.

The last few years have seen some rather strange ideas come out of council chambers on Third Avenue, issues that have not only had locals shaking their heads, but occasionally shaking their fists.
Whether it was the concept of free recreation passes for civic workers, fancy banners for downtown “districts” or outdoor exercise equipment for a city lodged in a rain forest with monsoon like rains and with a wee bit of vandalism, it's decisions like the latest one that occasionally gives the locals get the chance to roll their eyes in amazement.

Now we suspect that the voting machines will be added to the list of things that make residents wonder aloud as to what's in the water at city hall.
Maybe council can try their the future is here agenda again, when our much discussed boom times arrive and we as a community are flush with cash for such folly.
For now though, hopefully when the issue next comes up for discussion on July 13th, Councillors Thorkelson and Kinney who voted against the idea on Monday will be able to sway some of their fellow councillors back onto the theme of common sense.
Council votes on voting machines
By Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Pages one and three

To go for automated voting machines or not, that was one of the questions council members wrangled over at Monday evening's regular council meeting.

Under Bylaw No. 3285, 2009, Chief Financial Officer Dan Rodin recommended council give three readings to the City switching from hiring ballot counters to purchasing or leasing automated ballot counting machines.

Rodin told council after the municipal election he surveyed all the candidates and they were concerned about the time it took to count the ballots.

"We were here until midnight," Rodin said.

Automated vote counting machines would speed up the counting process and the City is considering purchasing two of them.

The city of Prince George used the counting machines after the last municipal election and their final tally was completed by about 9:30 p.m., Rodin noted.

Ballot counting machines cost around $8,000 each or can be rented for just under $5,000.

Rodin suggested it would make more sense to purchase the machines rather than lease them.

In addition, there is a $3,500 cost for ballot counting equipment for each election or referendum.

The cost for the 2008 municipal election in Prince Rupert was $4,845 for ballots and hiring people as counters.

Councillor Joy Thorkelson said she would prefer the money be spent on employing people.

If the machines were purchased, she added, the city would be left around $9,000 in the hole.

"It's a change in technology that will make the elections more efficient," responded Rodin. "It's like the argument of going toward computers."

Councillor Anna Ashley wondered if the city could look at purchasing one and leasing another and Rodin said that could be a possibility.

When it came to the final vote, Thorkelson and Councillor Nelson Kinney were opposed while Ashley and Councillors Gina Garon and Sheila Gordon-Payne voted in favour .

The issue of automated voting machines will be presented again for a second and third reading at the next regular council meeting on July 13