Friday, March 31, 2006

The future of transportation for the coastal communities?

Heather Ramsey who lives on the Queen Charlotee Islands. occasionally offers up some interesting pieces for the Tyee website. She has a pretty good article there right now about the sinking of the Queen of the North and the impact on the economies both on the Charlottes and along the North coast.

With an eye towards our Alaskan neighbours, she looks at possible solutions to what could be a devastating hit to the tourism industry along the Northwest. What we might learn from the coastal communities of Alaska and where things may go in the short and long term with BC Ferries is all part of her article.

Check it out here at the Tyee website.

Perhaps the Big Type edition put it over the top!

Canada's news stands are crowded with edition upon edition of magazines, something for everyone and many that make you wonder how they survive with such a limited appeal. Head down to Eddie's News sometime and do a quick calculation, with an average cover price of between 5.99 and 7.99, you would quickly spend your retirement fund just to keep up.

Yet what venerable old magazine has once again thumbed its way to the the top of the Canadian magazine pile? Macleans, The Hockey News, Time, People or the Enquirer. No, no, no, no, no and no!

Canada's most popular publication is none other than the grande dame of publication, The Reader's Digest. It seems that Canadians can't pick up enough of the compilation mags which mix corny jokes, real life adventure and republished epics from elsewhere all under one cover. In fact last year over 7 million Canadians picked up a copy of the Readers Digest for a quick or lengthy glance through.

With an aging population across Canada, one suspects that the Digest's target audience will only grow larger. And to think I though they were only sold to dentists and doctors all these years!

Pictures of Podunk: The Terminal

The Grain Terminal chutes wait for a ship, from Prince Rupert Grain, Canada's Northwest Pacific port sends grainships far and wide with the grains that make Canada's prairies famous!

Putting the valuable into MVP

He's one of the best guards to play the game, seemingly single handedly able to bring his team back from deficit to victory. His skill on the court is becoming the thing of legend in a league that thrives on such stories, but it's what's happening off the court that is really starting to generate the buzz.

His is a fascinating story in today's Globe and Mail, a tribute that shows that Steve Nash is much more than just one of the most talented basketball players on the planet.

Nash received his 2005 Lionel Conacher athlete of the year award today courtesy of the Canadian Press (much deserved and far too long overdue by the way), as his Phoenix Suns made the trek to Toronto to play the Raptors in an NBA matchup that featured louder cheers for the Sun guard than for the Raptors line up. And probably not one Raptor would begrudge the Victoria lad his due, for Nash seems to be the real deal.

In a sport sometimes known for hot dogs and thugs at times, Nash seems to have his head and priorities decidedly in the right place. Perhaps the most thoughtful scholarly basketballer in a long time, Nash's reputation is taking him far beyond the game of roundball. In fact, most of our other major sports leagues could take a page from his ability to mesh pro commitment's to humanitarian endeavors.

With a foundation that bears his name, Nash is dedicating not only monetary support but personal time and connections to build bridges in far flung parts of the world and doing his bit to make the world a bit more optimistic place than it seems some days.

Check out the entire article from the Globe here, it paints a true Canadian hero, someone who would fit the bill of role model for any of our youth today. No pretense here, he's a hell of a ball player and just as dedicated a humanist, a pretty good double double!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pictures of Podunk:Just East of Prudhomme Lake

A look to the east just past the Prudhomme Lake campground area.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Trying to find solutions

With a weekend to digest all that has happened on the North coast on the last five days, the attention turned to what is going to happen to the service on the North coast in the spring and vital summer seasons. As well as the longer term plans for the entire North Coast. With the Ferries providing a vital link for goods and services on the North Coast and Queen Charlottes a quick solution is needed to keep the freight moving to the various dependant communities.

In addition to the concern over the actual transportation problems, there is worry over how the tragedy will impact the area’s tourist industry. With tourism one of the few bright lights in the local economy at the moment, any disruption to the schedules or actual fear of travel to the area could have long lasting ramifications.

The Daily had two stories in its Monday edition that addressed both of those issues.

We provide them for your reading below.

By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Monday, March 27, 2006
Page One

B. C. Ferries President David Han is adamant that the company will come up with a solution to address the immediate and long-term concerns of the North Coast in the aftermath of the sinking of the Queen of the North Wednesday morning.

“Our job is to get service up and running,” he said. “We’ll move on this as fast as possible, and try to get solutions that work for everybody.”

In the short-term, that will mean the addition of the Queen of Prince Rupert, which should be up-and-running by mid-April. Currently, the ferry is out of service undergoing a refit but that process will be completed as soon as possible.

A barge service is already up and running, moving goods and services over to the Queen Charlotte Islands.

While the refit is almost complete on the Queen of Prince Rupert, some other minor adjustments are necessary, as crew members will no longer sleep in cabins below deck (underneath the car level).

“We’re moving all the crew upstairs, so there’s a change in cabins,” said hah. “There will be less cabins for passengers, except for those with medical (needs), and the elderly.”

A search is underway for another vessel to join the route, most likely to handle the sailing between Rupert and Skidegate on the Queen Charlotte Islands. Currently the Queen of Chilliwack is undergoing a refit, and could be the ship added on the route, even though the vessel is smaller than its predecessor, said Hahn.

Still, it should be able to handle the summer conditions.

“If this was the middle of winter, you wouldn’t run it,” he said. “In the summer though, it’s okay.”

However, B. C. Ferries is keeping a lookout for something better.

“We’re out there searching now,” he said. I don’t know what the international market is going to turn up. But (those ships) will (have) to meet Transport Canada regulations, and have the capacity that we need.”

B. C. Ferries has already had the task of reassuring staff on all their vessels that the service is still safe. Now it will set about taking the message to the public, something it sees as integral to ensuring tourism along B. C.’s coast doesn’t decline this summer, or in the future.

“People have got to look at the overall safety record of the past 45 years,” said Hahn, pointing out that the Queen of the North is the first B. C. Ferry to sink.

Still, there are stakeholders throughout the North Coast who are hopeful a B. C. Ferries Advisory Commission will convene in Rupert in the near future to address all of those concerns. Hahn said that will happen, but not until they have some definite options in place.

“That takes time to plan,” he said. “You have (MLA) Gary Coons running around trying to get meetings, but we don’t do that until we have all the pieces of the puzzle in place. Otherwise, it ends up being nothing but bureaucratic. When you have something meaningful on paper, then you can sit down and talk.”

As for the future, plans for the three new vessels for the North Coast are being fast- tracked, said Hahn.

“We will order those ships sooner than fast,” he said. “This should have been done 15 years ago.”

By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Monday, March 27, 2006
Page One

For decades, the pristine beauty and wilderness of B. C.’s North Coast was one of the best kept secrets in Canada. But during the past few years, tourism in the North, with the focus on Prince Rupert and the Queen Charlotte Islands, has been increasing to the point where the North Coast enjoyed huge tourism numbers in both 2004 and 2005.

However, there is shared concern within all northern communities that Wednesday’s sinking of the Queen of the North could have a serious negative impact on tourism, which in turn could affect the economy of the North Coast.

It’s an issue that Tourism Prince Rupert needs to address quickly, said Bruce Wishart, Executive Director.

“It’s far too soon to know exactly what impact that is going to have,” he said. “I know Prince Rupert Tourism is addressing this. (We need to get) the message out very quickly that it’s a safe option.”

Tourism Prince Rupert has already had discussions with Tourism B. C., as the economic impact could be felt throughout the North, never mind just coastal communities.

“It’s a circle tour,” said Wishart.

People don’t want to stop and then turn back. The Inside Passage affects all the heartland area.

“People who want to travel the North… that will inevitably lead to the Inside Passage.”

People on the Queen Charlotte Islands share Wishart’s concern.

“We need some solutions fast,” said Masset mayor Barry Pages. “We want our marine highway on schedule.”

Currently, there is a push to get B. C. Ferries Advisory Commission to meet in Prince Rupert and come up with solutions for the future, but that may take some time, said Wishart.

The provincial government and B. C. Ferries’ main concern is still with those missing passengers, and concerns with passengers and crew that were on that ship,” he said.

“Short-term, whatever it takes to get service back to coastal communities, whatever it requires for the safety of the crew and passengers, let’s get that up and running as soon as possible.”

Short-term, barge service is expected to provide the Charlottes and coastal communities along the Inside Passage with supplies, and the Queen of Prince Rupert is expected back in service in mid April.

But it’s the summer months that has everyone concerned.

“Tourism has a huge impact in the summer months,” said Wishart. “Now, we’re realizing the major tour operators like from Germany an other countries, they’re already booked in for the summer.

“We need to address that. And for the summer, (we need) a vessel the same size as the Queen of the North, and running on the same planned schedule.”

Warnings of the Past

Looking back at the last few days of coverage of the Sinking of the Queen of the North, one story in particular seems to jump out at the observer of the last few days of events. It is a sense of foreboding that seems to have been intimated by many, including BC Ferries own executives over the last few years. They are warnings that seem to have not been properly addressed by the various levels of government. Especially considering that the expiry date for the end of service of the vessels was pushed back and more stringent government regulations given “special dispensation” to keep the ships at sea.

With ships that were supposed to be out of the water by 2004 still in service, it’s pretty obvious that a lack of decisiveness has come back to haunt all the stakeholders involved in the ferry file.

The Daily News did an admirable job of tracing the last five years of bureaucracy regarding all three vessels of the Northern service; it’s provided below in Podunkicized form.

By Patrick Witiwicki
The Daily News
Friday, March 24, 2006
Page one

With the North Coast still reeling after the sinking of the Queen of the North Wednesday morning, it is widely anticipated that people will now be concerned about the safety of B. C. Ferries other single-compartment vessels, including the Queen of Prince Rupert.

The Queen of Prince Rupert is being rushed back into service, and B. C. Ferries hopes to have it running between the Queen Charlotte Islands and Rupert by next week. However, that doesn’t address any of the concerns regarding safety, nor answer what will happen in the summer, said North Coast MLA Gary Coons.

Funding was approved earlier this week for the construction of three new ships, but they won’t be available until 2009, although B. C. Ferries President David Hahn suggested this week that the timeline could be moved up.

Coons though, who is the Opposition’s ferries critic, wants answers.

“We need to sit down and figure out what to do,” he said. “We’re devastated, and it’s going to be devastated for years to come.”

Concern about the safety of BC Ferries’ ships came up in the legislature Thursday afternoon, where Coons and his colleagues wanted others to know more about a report that was released in November of 2001. At that time, Bob Lingwood then president and CEO of B. C. Ferries, made a presentation regarding the northern fleet to the North and Mid-Coast Ferry Advisory Committee, said Coons. I dealt with changes to Transport Canada’s Damaged Stability Regulations, and was documented that those changes “will impact all three of the vessels used on the Northern service.”

Coons said the recommendations in 2001 were as follows:

Regarding the Queen of the North – “The Damaged Stability regulation means that the vessel will be used only in the calmer periods of the year (summer)”

Regarding the Queen of Prince Rupert – “The Damaged Stability regulation means that the vessel is no longer serviceable beyond 2004.”

Regarding the Queen of Chilliwack (which has been touted as a possible option for the upcoming summer runs) – “The Damaged Stability regulation means the ship will not be serviceable after the 2003 summer service schedule, and must be retired.” (Source –

However, with the North Coast needing a ferry service, the B. C. Government went out after the 2001 report and asked for exemptions from Transport Canada, and were given special dispensation to continue using the vessels, said Coons. But he said he is more interested in finding a way to move ahead than he is in apportioning blame.

“If we don’t do something, for the next four years, we’re hoped,” he said.

Coons would like representatives from both sides of the legislature to gather in Prince Rupert to look for ways to safely service the North Coast, instead of arguing about what to do in the legislature.

“We don’t need to blame each other,” he said. “I mean they’re to blame for dragging their feet, and we had the Fast Cats. That’s not the point here. I want the premier and the transportation minister (Kevin Falcon) to come to Prince Rupert so we can come to some solutions. Tourism is all we’ve got… we’ve lost everything else.

“You don’t solve problems by pretending they aren’t there.”

Monday, March 27, 2006

Pictures of Podunk: Prince Rupert Grain

The Grain Silos of Prince Rupert Grain. From the Peace through to parts of Manitoba, grain arrives at the shores of the Pacific for transit the world over.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Pictures of Podunk: Port of Prince Rupert sign

Directions please. The Port of Prince Rupert welcomes visitors at the Galloway Rapids Bridge.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Alternate Transportation links being pondered.

The options are being considered for a temporary solution to the sudden transportation problems caused by Wednesday's sinking of the Queen of the North.

Barge service is being set up for transport of goods to the Queen Charlottes, extra flights are being organized for passengers looking for a way to get to their destination and possibly even a new port of call for the Alaska Marine Highway vessel Matanuska is in the cards.

Alaska's Governor Frank Murkowski has apparently offered BC Ferries the option of allowing the Matanuska to call on Prince Rupert on it's weekly run from Ketchikan, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington.

There has been no word received yet if the plan will move forward, there may be a few logistical things to work out before it happens. But the offer is there should BC find itself running short of options to keep the connection to Vancouver Island a going concern.

Utilizing the Alaska option would make for a reasonable solution for the short term, since passenger loads are traditionally light at this time of year and probably would fit comfortably into the Matanuska's available onboard spots. But when the high tourist season arrives it would probably not be the optimum solution to what is going to prove to be a challenging season. There will still need to be a permanent British Columbia solution to this pressing transportation problem.

None the less, considering the history of the Alaska Ferries and Prince Rupert (in 1997 the Malaspina was held for three days behind a picket line set up by fishermen protesting fishing issues, a situation which resulted in the Alaska Ferry service being suspended to Prince Rupert for 19 weeks and which also gave birth to the name of this blog -see why a Town Called Podunk above!) it's a rather neighbourly (or should we say neighborly) thing for the Alaskans to offer.

Flesh tone Simpson's

Ever wonder what Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie would look like in human form? Well, your wait is over! The Toronto Star has an interesting story on a special edition Simpson's about to come our way.

A British film crew has filmed their version of the ever popular Simpson's opener, complete with a Nuuuuuuclear Homer, skateboarding Bart, saxophone carting Lisa, checkout Maggie and Road runnin' Marge.

The plan is to have the live action short take the place of the usual animated opening on this Sunday's episode on Fox. You can get a head start on the viewing by checking out YouTube's version here.

He’s been working on the railroad, all the live long day!

It’s payday for E. Hunter Harrison and the head of Canadian National Railways is certainly going to like the look of all those zeroes on the pay stub. Figures published in the Miami Herald paint a picture of what should make for a pretty happy scenario when payday comes around the Harrison household.

CN’s board of directors released figures announcing that Harrison’s salary increased in 2005 by over 50%. It’s compensation for a job apparently well done.

Harrison who as President and Chief Executive Officer, has overseen a CN business strategy which has resulted in the highest profit margins among North American railroads, watching the share value of the railroad jump 27% in the last year. In the four years that Harrison has been in charge of the railroad, the share value of CN stock has risen by 151%. Which makes it the darling of North American railroads.

With a combined package of cash, stock and stock options, Harrison pulled in $30.7 million including a $3.85 million bonus and something called a long term incentive plan payout that tops up at $17.3 million. Harrison made a further $22.5 million last year by exercising stock options, bringing the compensation package for 2005 to $53 million.

Quite a jump from his 2004 T4 slip totals of $14.1 million. Since Harrison took over the throttle at CN the railroad’s performance has been described as extraordinary, a term that might fit in nicely with the Chief’s compensation as well!

CN of course has a large presence in the Northwest; it’s the only railroad from Prince Rupert to Edmonton and promises to become a larger force once the container port is developed. It will make for a situation that should add further to the company’s bottom line and eventually the Harrison family cookie jar as well.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A storm warning for the Fairview Container Port?

Like any good mariner, the Port of Prince Rupert needs to know which way the wind is blowing, and at the moment there’s a possible storm brewing in Mexican waters, with a landfall heading for the Fairview Container Port project.

In an article in the business section of Wednesday’s Vancouver Sun, Wincy Leung has put together a piece that suggests the Port of Prince Rupert had best get on with it’s building plans before the dynamic of North American trade changes. Leung interviewed an industry specialist from the Boston Consulting Group, a fellow by the name of George Stalk Jr. who claims that Prince Rupert has the chance to turn itself into a destination port, which could be major money maker, but adds that time is being “frittered away” by the provincial and federal governments.

It’s one of those articles that will cause some sleepless nights at the Port Corp, in an industry where optics seem to be everything, suggesting that our community may be missing the wave could affect the confidence of the shipping lines seeking a spot to berth their ships. Leung did not receive a reply from the Port Corporation, so did not provide any feedback from them on the theories being presented to the Prince Rupert Port Corporation by Mr. Stalk.

One comment in particular should set alarm bells ringing down at the Atlin Terminal, Stalk suggests that “The longer it takes Prince Rupert to get its act together – the less likely it will be a destination port and – it will be a nice story that never happened.”

Not the kind of publicity that the Port Corporation would want to hear after all their hard work thus far on the project. Words that could resonate around the shipping world and provide for needless energy to be used proving the illusion to be wrong..

It’s an interesting read which takes kind of a crystal ball approach to where the shipping industry is heading, how competitive it is and how one mis-step by one location could be a bonanza for another. Check it all out below.


Container Traffic Could head south expert warns

By Wincy Leung
Vancouver Sun
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Page C1 and C2

The Port of Prince Rupert could lose out on lucrative shipments if its expansion is outpaced by Mexico’s port development plans, an industry expert is warning.

George Stalk Jr., senior vice-president and director of Boston Consulting Group, said Prince Rupert has the opportunity to turn itself into a destination port, which could pull in higher profits. But time is being “frittered away” by the provincial and federal governments.

“If it can get itself up and running quickly – it will attract the premium segment (of shipments) and make more money,” Salk said in an interview.

“The longer it takes Prince Rupert to get its act together – the less likely it will be a destination port and – it will be a nice story that never happened.”

Mexican officials announced that they plan to study the feasibility of developing the harbour of Punta Colonet, about 250 kilometers south of the U. S. border, into a port that would be comparable to facilities at Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Mexico is also planning to expand container ship capacity at the country’s deepest port, Lazar Cardenas, as the country hopes to capture overflows from the already-clogged
U. S. ports.

While these Mexican ports would immediately drain shipping volumes from the U. S, Ports, they would likely have little short term impact on volumes at Prince Rupert and Vancouver, since the bulk of shipments to B. C. are destined for the rest of Canada, stalk said.

But before Mexico charges ahead with its plans, measures need to be taken to ensure freight can easily reach the U. S. from Prince Rupert, he added.

The Port of Prince Rupert plans to open a new container facility by 2007, capable of handling 500,000 TEU’s, or twenty foot equivalent units, per year. Future plans include expanding its capacity to two million TEU’s per year.

“If Prince Rupert reached that point, Mexico wouldn’t make that much of a difference,” Stalk said.

Otherwise, the port would see only low-value overflow shipments. “It will carry companies not wanting to pay a lot,” he said.

Boosted by surging Asia-Pacific trade, freight demand on the west coast of North America has been growing at a rate equivalent to one Port of Vancouver a year, according to Stalk.

But, he said, authorities have shown little sense of urgency in addressing the influx.

In a report titled, “The China Rip Tide: Threat or Opportunity.” Stalk wrote that close to 100 new container loading berths will be built in China over the next several years. In comparison, only a handful of berths are planned for the west coast of North America.

Vancouver Port Authority spokesman Duncan Wilson said most of the expansion projects at the Vancouver port are on schedule, though expansion plans at the Delta Port are about a year behind due to delays to its environmental assessment.

”We’re planning on tripling our capacity by 2020. That’s a substantial expansion,” Wilson said.

“I think the criticism is ….. we should be building more, but sport infrastructure must be expanded at the same rate as the land-side transportation structure,” such as road and rail developments, he added.

Repeated calls to the Prince Rupert Port Authority were not answered by Wednesday evening.


Fingers pointing everywhere

It was predictable but still sad to see that in the wake of the Queen of Prince Rupert disaster, our political class has descended into the age old practice of pointing the finger at the other side.

Whether it’s the Liberals blaming the NDP for their fast cat folly, or the NDP countering with the we told you so’s, the whole process of assessing blames is appearing unseemly to most.

I think the average British Columbian can do the math and realize that the NDP wasted valuable years and money on their vanity project of boats that never sailed. Likewise it was five years ago that the Gordon Campbell government took the helm of the good ship BC, they’ve been warned by their own BC Ferries CEO that the northern ships were particularly vulnerable, so they can be as disingenuous as they wish, but the simple fact is they’re the one’s in charge at the moment.

That means that they need to provide the leadership in making sure that replacement vessels are provided without delay, vessels that are up to date and suitable for the open ocean sailings that the North Coast requires.

With what appears to be the tragic loss of two lives in the sinking of the Queen of the North, the time for the politics at the expense of the ferries should come to an end.

Two of British Columbia’s most read commentators weighed into the debate today with columns on the issue, they should be made required reading in both the NDP and Liberal caucus offices. Vaughn Palmer (read here) and Michael Smyth (read here) hit the nail on the head with their comments over the ferries fiascos of the last fifteen years. We’ve been talking about the age and safety concerns of our ferries for far too long; yesterday we found that many of those concerns were not only valid but prescient.

The only goal now should be a common one for both government and opposition, Management of BC Ferries and unionized workers alike, a safe, modern form of transportation for the people of the North Coast.

The pointless jockeying for the moral high ground can come to an end. The apologists and acolytes for each political party and special interest should remain silent. There is no high ground any more, no need for scoring cheap political points, just a sobering reality that something went terribly wrong and should be addressed without delay.

The memories of those who may have perished deserve no less, as well as concern for those that suffered such fear early Wednesday morning . Likewise the long suffering residents of the northern runs should be attended to now, they have been made far too many promises in the past, and seen far too little interest in their safety since.

Required Reading 101: Your Ferry Fiasco now, Mr. Premier

The Vancouver Province’s Michael Smyth weighs into the debate over the Queen of the North disaster off of Gill Island and the state of the BC ferry corporation due to political maneuvering. Required reading for all on the North coast and through the province!

$44 Million Waste:
NDP blew it, but Liberals have ignored safety risks for years.
By Michael Smyth
In the House column
The Vancouver Province
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Page A7

It didn’t take long for the terrifying sinking of the Queen of the North to turn political at the B. C. legislature.

Premier Gordon Campbell, after first offering comforting words for the ferry passengers and praising the heroic efforts of rescuers, was quick to highlight the failure to invest in the ferry fleet during the 1990’s.

Ah, the 90’s: the dark decade of the NDP, when the notorious “fast ferry fiasco” swallowed up $463 million of public money into a black hole of scarcely believable government waste and mismanagement.

The high-speed aluminum catamarans were the brainchild of then premier Glen Clark, who famously guaranteed that the three sleek ‘n’ sexy vessels would cost $210 million “right down to the toilet paper.”

Not only did the Pacificats go obscenely over budget, they also didn’t work as promised. After Campbell’s Liberals took power in 2001, they unloaded the three floating lemons for pennies on the dollar, selling them for a paltry $19 million at public auction.

Net loss to the B. C. taxpayers: $444 million. Net damage to coastal residents who rely on our ferry system: incalculable.

Think of what that $444 million could have done for our aging fleet of ferries over the last decade. If that money had been strategically invested in the system, there’s little doubt the ill-fated Queen of the North would have been near the top of the replacement list.

The 37 year old ferry was obsolete. It was a single compartment hull vessel, unlike modern ferries that feature hulls divided into watertight cells to prevent flooding in exactly the type of accident that occurred yesterday.

In fact, Transport Canada had ordered the ferry corporation to replace the creaking Queen of the North by 2012. If not for the fast ferry fiasco, the ferry may have been reduced to scrap metal well before now.

None of this gives Campbell and the Liberals a free pass to blame every problem in our ferry system on the NDP, however – though they always do just that.
The Liberals have been in power for five years and have known all along the safety risks of an aging ferry fleet.

In fact, NDP MLA Gary Coons warned just last month that the three ferries that serve the north coast were in danger of sinking in an accident.

“The biggest problem is that the vessels have single compartments that could fill with water if the hull is breached,” he told the Queen Charlotte Island Observer.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon wrote a letter to the newspaper accusing Coons of “fear mongering.” But yesterday Falcon refused to say whether the two remaining ancient northern ferries are safe, saying that’s federal responsibility.

That’s hardly reassuring. But it’s sickening to think that if so much money hadn’t been wasted on the fast ferries, the argument might be academic by now.

Listen to Nightline B. C. with Michael Smyth every weeknight at 7 p. m. on CKNW AM 980. Voice mail: 604-605-2004 E mail-

Required reading 101: Government Dithering

The Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer adds to the discussion on the Queen of the North disaster off of Gill Island and the state of the BC ferry corporation due to political maneuvering. Required reading for all on the North coast and through the province!

By Vaughn Palmer
Vancouver Sun columnist
Thursday, March23, 2006
Page A3

The B. C. Government has known for a long time that the antiquated northern ferry fleet needed replacing.

The oldest of the vessels, the Queen of Prince Rupert, was slated for the scrap heap as far back as June 1994.

The QPR was then 28 years old and increasingly expensive to maintain. A scheduled refit was put on hold because it was cheaper and smarter to build a new ship.

A new state-of-the-art replacement would be in service no later than mid-1997, Promise.

A companion vessel, the then 25 year old Queen of the North, was to remain in service. But its days were numbered as well.

The single-compartment hull made the ship more vulnerable to taking on the water than the multiple compartment structure then emerging as the industry standard.

If safety standards changed, it too would have to be replaced, sooner rather than later.

The premier who presided over the so-called “northern strategy” for the ferry fleet: Mike Harcourt. The Minister for ferries at the time: Glen Clark.

Readers wondering what ever happened to their northern fleet strategy would need only note that on the same day Harcourt and Clark also committed the government to building three aluminum-hulled catamaran ferries.

The New Democratic Party’s northern ferry strategy, like that NDP government itself, was a casualty of the fast ferry project.

Enter the B. C. Liberals with their own designs on how to improve the ferry service.

Though upgrading the fleet was a prime goal when they took office five years ago, they can hardly claim to have moved with all deliberate speed.

Not until 2003 did the Liberals ask the reorganized BC Ferries to being developing a replacement plan for a northern fleet that was well along the age continuum from antiquated to senile.

The “northern strategy,” the Liberals called it, and you wonder if that was a coincidence or somebody found an old policy paper in a desk drawer.

Development would consume another three years. More planning, More consultations. Plus the Liberals insisted that this be an exercise in “alternative service delivery,” meaning time was spent exploring whether a private operator was interested in providing the northern services.

As time marched on, the ferry corporation didn’t dare ignore the increasingly decrepit state of the vessels. In 2004, it spent $10 million on the refit of the Queen of Prince Rupert that was said to be a waste of money a decade earlier.

Safety standards did change. Transport Canada decided the time for single-compartment hulls was past. The QPR and Queen of the North were given an extended lease on life on the expectation that they would be replaced.

But time was running out. In an interview with the Vancouver Sun this year, BC Ferries chief David Hahn said the need for new ships was urgent.

“It’s important to do. It’s a big deal. They probably should have been done 10 years ago.”

He said the single-compartment design meant that if the hulls were breached as a result of a grounding, they could fill entirely with water.

Which may well be what actually happened to the Queen of the North early Wednesday morning, though one ought to wait for the investigators’ reports before saying so.

Hahn’s comments, coming only last month, hinted at the corporation’s frustration over the time it was taking the B. C. Liberals to make up their mind on the northern strategy.

Finally the paperwork was put on the March agenda for treasury board, the cabinet’s budget-making committee.

There was a brief postponement while the committee chair, Finance Minister Carole Taylor, fielded her budget estimates in the house.

So the Northern strategy was pushed ahead to the treasury board meeting on the morning of March 22, by which time one of the vessels in need of replacing had been sitting on the bottom of the Inside Passage for several hours.

“Ironic.” Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon called it. Those given to a darker sense o humour noted that overnight developments had at least ruled out the option of going for another refit.

After what one presumes was a well-focused discussion on Wednesday morning, treasury board green lighted the subsidy need to underwrite the construction and operation of three new vessels for the northern run.

Nobody was saying how much, I’d guess an annual operating subsidy in the $50 to $60 million range and construction costs exceeding $350 million in total.

But even if the plan proceeds with all deliberate speed – and they still have to sort out whether BC Ferries or the alternative service provider gets the nod – construction won’t begin for some time.

Falcon said the soonest they could get something built and into service on the northern runs is 2009, a decade and a half after the first replacement was promised.

No names yet, but the Queen of Unconscionable Delays ought to make the short list.

Pictures of Podunk: The ocean beyond

A view of the Pacific from the shores of Podunk, like the vista from Gil Island where the Queen of the North went down on Wednesday, it's beauty and danger all in the same frame.

Unanswered questions and remarkable heroes!

With authorities still unsure of the fate of the two unaccounted for passengers, the actual search of the floating debris field has given way to a missing persons investigations. With reports that the two were seen in Hartley Bay during the evacuation of the Queen of the North it’s becoming a bit of mystery just what happened to them. It’s thought perhaps they caught a ride with a local fishing boat leaving Hartley Bay, but no contact has been made with them since the survivors were brought ashore and on to Prince Rupert. Giving many cause to worry that perhaps they were still aboard the vessel when it took its fateful drop to the bottom of the channel. There are not many answers to be had at the moment as to what may have happened to them and for now it will remain one of the unsolved mysteries of a rather incredible day on the North coat.

The story of the sinking of the Queen of the North now moves into the investigation into what happened and why early on Wednesday morning. With the Transportation Safety Board and Transport Canada now on scene, it’s expected that a long and detailed investigation will commence. Questions as to whether the vessel was off course and what happened as the ship made it’s way through BC’s inside passage on its way to a destination it would never reach.

For the moment the only thing we know for certain is that the Ferry crew reacted with incredible resolve to ensure that their passengers were quickly evacuated from the stricken ship. From all accounts we’ve read and listened to thus far, the situation while no doubt terrifying was handled with pure professionalism and seems to have worked for the most part like clockwork.

It was most fortuitous that a Canadian Coast Guard vessel was so close by at the exact time of the incident, it’s almost an unbelievable stroke of luck that the only major governmental resource in miles was within an hour of being on station and aiding in the rescue mission. With it’s fast responder vessel able to reach the scene in even less time.

We have also learned of the amazing response of the people of Hartley Bay, who showed no hesitation to take to their boats in order to speed to the rescue of 100 people in mortal peril. The small first nation’s community answered the call for assistance and opened their doors to the shivering and frightened travelers.

The Daily News put together a number of stories on today’s developments; we provide them in our Podunkicized format for those that may not have access to the local newsstands.

Queen of the North goes down early Wednesday after leaving Prince Rupert with 101 passengers and crew aboard
By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Pages one and three

North Coast fisherman Daniel Danes of Hartley Bay is used to taking his boat out into unpleasant conditions – usually consisting of heavy rain and wind – but not after midnight, which is what transpired in the early hours of Wednesday morning when he heard The Queen of the North was in trouble.

The passenger ferry had a hit a rock just off of Gill Island en route to Port Hardy. The vessel had left Prince Rupert at 8 p. m. Tuesday evening.

By around 12:30 a.m., barely minutes after the first report of the accident had come through, Danes had donned his survival suit, and was ready to take his boat out to help with the rescue.

“I run the hatchery here,” he said,” and I have a pretty good speedboat, that can do about 90 horsepower. It was pretty dark and raining.”

When he reached the dock, other members of the Hartley Bay community were already preparing to head out as well, but Danes immediately grabbed a couple of the men to go with him, since he knew his boat would get there quicker.

“We were the first ones out there,” he said. “By the time we got out there, people were already in lifeboats.”

All 101 of the people aboard – 42 crew members and 59 passengers – were initially reported accounted form, although later reports suggested two people may still be missing.

The Coast Guard’s boat the Sir Wilfred Laurier reached the scene in 19 minutes, said Captain Leah Byrne.

“The first vessel on scene was a fishing boat,” she added, referring to Danes. Danes and another boat from Hartley Bay were first on the scene, and immediately offered assistance.

“My first concern was the young people, and the elders, he said. “I took eight people on my boat and we were on our way.”

Shortly after beginning the trip back to Hartley Bay, one of the survivors exclaimed that the B. C. Ferry was beginning to sink.

“A passenger looked back, look, she’s going down,” said Danes. “It went down pretty quick.”

Barely an hour after crashing, the Queen of the North was underwater.

David Hahn, B. C. Ferries’ president was initially convinced everyone survived the accident.

“Anytime you have a major incident and you have no one hurt or killed in this type of thing, you always think it’s a miracle,” he said. “And you (are) - thankful for the crew. They’ve done their ob once again.”

At the time the ship hit rock, many of the passengers and crew members were asleep. North Coast MLA Gary Coons complemented the crew on the hasty evacuation of the ship.

“We have to congratulate the Queen of the North on getting everyone off the boat in time,” said Coons reacting to initial reports that everyone was accounted for. “My biggest concern when I heard, was not only constituents, but my neighbours and friends.”

Danes was also thankful with how the rescue went, considering he too knew some of the passengers aboard.

“The passengers were complimenting the crew,” said Danes. “We were lucky with the weather. It wasn’t bad. I was quite surprised.”

Meanwhile, the villagers were quick to help the survivors.

“Other members of the community were getting ready with refreshments and blankets,” said Hartley Bay resident Chris Bolton. “Once (we) heard what had happened, that’s when everyone started moving to help.”

Danes said that the survivors were pleasantly surprised by the reception they received upon arriving in Hartley Bay.

“A lot of people were grateful we were close by,” he said. “They were surprised to see us out there to greet them.”

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, who changed his plans for the day upon learning of the accident, reacted to initial reports that everyone survived.

“It’s chilling to think about what could have been,” he said in a released statement. ”Today is a day to be together and be thankful no one was hurt.”

Patients with minor injuries were flown into Prince Rupert via helicopter at 8 a. m. Wednesday morning. Eleven patients in all were treated for various cuts, bruises and stress related to the incident, but no one was admitted to the hospital.

As for the other survivors, the Coast Guard was in the midst of transporting them back to Rupert at press time, with all passengers expected to arrive around 5 p. m.

Premier Gordon Campbell was expected to stop near Hartley Bay to survey the incident, before arriving in Prince Rupert with Hahn, also Wednesday afternoon.

“I can assure everyone that extensive reviews will take place with B. C. Ferries and federal regulators to find out what happened,” said Campbell in a released statement.

Campbell also went on to thank the community of Hartley Bay for their help in the rescue.

“I want to recognize the local residents of Hartley Bay and private vessels who came to the aid of the passengers,” he said.

Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Pages one and three

The question of safety with B. C. Ferries will be at the forefront of discussions following Wednesday mornings sinking of the Queen of the North.

After the vessel got into trouble, the passengers and crew were ushered to safety in the nearby village of Hartley Bay, and the Coast Guard was also able to respond within 20 minutes.

“It is a credit to the crew of the vessel, and the safety procedures they have in place, that all passengers were able to be rescued in tremendously challenging conditions,” said B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell after initial reports said everyone was accounted for. He was expected in Prince Rupert later Wednesday afternoon.

The crew of the North acted quickly in getting everyone off the boat in time, considering the choppy conditions, including 75 kilometre winds. But already people are questioning what might have happened during the busy tourism season, either around Christmas or in the summer, when up to 700 passengers would have been aboard the vessel.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons, the opposition ferries critic, has been attacking the Liberal government about how the B. C. Ferries in the northern fleet needed replacing – and more quickly than by the proposed 2009, 2010 timeline.

“We’ve needed ferries on the North Coast for a number of years,” Coons said. “And the government’s been dragging its feet. We need a full fair public investigation.”

The Queen of the North was one of two vessels (along with the Queen of Prince Rupert) that handles the routes on the North Coast.

The Queen of the North carried out trips up and down the Inside Passage to Port Hardy, and from Rupert to Haida Gwaii. But the single compartment design – meaning the vessel could fill entirely with water if the hull was damaged in a collision – may have led to the Queen of the North submerging quickly, while newer designs in the B. C. Ferries fleet that have multiple compartments likely would have given rescuers more time to respond.

Bruce Wishart of Prince Rupert tourism is thankful that this incident happened during the off season, and that all 101 passengers and crew members on the ship reached safety.

He also hopes that this accelerates the process of addressing safety concerns within the northern fleet, as so many residents all along the coast depend on B. C. Ferries for transportation.

“The message is … we’re concerned about this as a highway system,” said Wishart. “We are close partners with B. C. Ferries, and we have a high regard of the crew. “What happens in the future... we will work with B. C. Ferries and the provincial Liberals to make sure it’s safe and reliable and work towards a permanent solution.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Stories of the sinking of the Queen of the North

We provide the links to some of the media reports on Wednesday's sinking of the Queen of the North.

CKNW Audio Vault
Bill Good Show Wednesday 8:30-10:30am portion
Nightline BC Wednesday 7:00-9:00 pm

Canoe on line

Passengers stranded on lifeboats in stormy seas
Captain of one of the rescue vessels describes the scene
Ferry service in much of coastal B. C. is considered the local highway
Questions swirl around cause of B.C. Ferry sinking on North Coast


RCMP takes over search for two missing ferry passengers
BC Premier to meet with ferry passengers


Couple feared missing after B. C. Ferry sinks
Ominous bang preceeded Ferry disaster
Ferry service considered highway in coastal BC
BC government approves funding for new ferries


Two missing after ferry sinks


Passengers stranded in lifeboats as ferry sinks

Couple may be missing from Queen of the North sinking

The Globe and Mail has just updated their website with further details of the sinking of the Queen of the North. There is some discrepancy between the numbers accounted for and those that appeared on reservation sheets and passenger mainfests.

For the benefit of those that don't have access to the Globe site, we provide the article below.

Couple may be missing after ferry crash
Globe and Mail Update

Two people may be missing after a passenger ferry carrying more than 100 people struck a rock in the dead of night and sank in choppy waters near Gil Island in Wright Sound.

Coast Guard officials had previously said all passengers and crew aboard B.C. Ferries' Queen of the North were accounted for, but confirmed with that two people, who had made a reservation with the ferry, have yet to be located.

Coast Guard Captain Leah Byrne said the RCMP are helping with the search for Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, both of whom had booked reservations on the ferry. The pair, both from 100 Mile House, were travelling together, officials said.

Capt. Byrne said no one has heard from the pair, including their families, but that there was no confirmation that they were actually on the ferry.

Anyone who knows of there whereabouts is asked to contact police or the rescue effort.
The rescue efforts continue on the scene.

"We're continuing to check and double check and triple check," Coast Guard Captain Leah Byrne said. "Just as a precautionary measure, we still have a vessel in the area."
She couldn't say how long the final sweep of the area would take or when the search effort would officially be concluded.

The accident happened shortly after midnight on Wednesday.

The Queen of the North — carrying 101 passengers and crew — was sailing south to Port Hardy from Prince Rupert, a 450-kilometre trip along what is known as B.C.'s Inside Passage, a series of islands just off the north coast of the province.

The 125-metre-long vessel had left Prince Rupert about 8 p.m. PST on Tuesday and was about five hours into the trip when the accident happened.

The Coast Guard said it took about an hour for the ferry to sink, allowing time for all passengers — some of whom were asleep at the time of the accident — and crew to make their way to safety.

The 101 passengers and crew members aboard B.C. Ferries' Queen of the North were safely taken from the scene in lifeboats.

Those aboard were taken to Hartley Bay — a tiny coastal community about 120 kilometres south of Prince Rupert and accessible only by air and water — where members of the community provided shelter and comfort. Passengers were then taken on to Prince Rupert on a Coast Guard vessel later in the day.

Appearing on CBC Newsworld, B.C. Ferries president David Hahn refused to speculate on what went wrong, but noted that the vessel involved had travelled the same waters "many, many times over many years."

"I think something went catastrophically wrong," he said, adding the immediate focus is making sure passengers and crew are cared for.

"We'll have to dig through the evidence. We don't want to draw any quick conclusions. Everybody's asking me to guess, what it is. I refuse to do it."
"I think you want a proper investigation."

Both Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board have been notified of the incident.
Safety board spokesman John Cottreau said three marine investigators from the TSB's Richmond office heading for the scene and would be joined by five specialists from Ottawa.
He said the downed ferry would not be raised but instead probably will be examined using divers and remote operated vehicles.

"Also, as part of data gathering we're going to be conducting interviews with passengers and certainly with the crew," he told "This is the type of data gather that we'll be doing in the first few days, and we'll be exploring how best to gather data from the vessel itself."
He could not say how long he investigation would take.

"An investigation is an interesting thing," he said. "It can lead you anywhere, and any door you open can lead you to another 15, so there's no speculating on how much time it can take."
The goal of the probe, he added, will be to learn lessons from this incident in the hope of making transportation safer.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell was to travel to Prince Rupert with Mr. Hahn Wednesday to meet with the crew and passengers of the vessel.
In a statement, Mr. Campbell promised an "extensive review" of the accident to find out what went wrong.

"This was undoubtedly a harrowing experience and I am heartened to learn that all passengers and crew on the Queen of the North were able to get off the ship and be rescued without serious injuries," Mr. Cambell said, hailing both crew members, private vessel operators and Hartley Bay residents for their efforts.

"Once again, those whose lives depend on the sea and who live in coastal communities have come to the aid of those who need assistance," he said.

"Our immediate attention is directed at the care and comfort of the passengers and crew. The Provincial Emergency Program and Emergency Social Services are already providing support on the ground in Prince Rupert."

According to federal figures, there were 25 incidents involving ferries last year. Nine serious injuries were reported in three of those accidents.

In the past 10 years, two fatalities were reported as a result of accidents involving ferries, although neither involved passengers or crew members onboard those vessels. In September, 2000, two people on a power boat were killed when it collided with the Spirit of Vancouver near Victoria.

Nicole Robinson, a receptionist at the nursing station in Hartley Bay, said she talked to several members of the ferry's crew who were sleeping when the ship began to take on water.
"They heard a loud bang like it grinded a bit and they said the cabin started filling with water," she said.

Some people were hurt, but not seriously, Ms. Robinson said. Many were "stunned."
"We've just had a few patients come and go, minor injuries, the community all got together with blankets, everybody's pretty cold but they're all down at a community hall," she said.

Some reports suggested fishing trawlers responded to the initial call and helped in the rescue. Seas were reported to be choppy and winds were blowing at about 75 kilometres an hour.

According to the B.C. Ferries website, the ship was built in Germany in 1969 and refitted in 2001. It can hold up to 700 people and 115 cars.

The book The Ships of British Columbia says B.C. Ferries bought the boat for $13.8-million in 1974 and named it the Queen of Surrey. The ferry was retired in 1976.
When B.C. Ferries decided to put it on the Queen Charlotte run in 1980, more than $10-million was spent to prepare it as The Queen of the North.

Wednesday's incident is not the first in recent memory involving a B.C. ferry.
Last June, the Queen of Oak Bay ferry lost power on its approach to the Horseshoe Bay terminal last week and the captain steered the vessel into a marina, where it crushed 22 boats. A missing cotter pin has been cited as the probable cause of that accident.

With Canadian Press files.

Recent B.C. Ferries accidents

June 30, 2005: Ferry Queen of Oak Bay loses power as it enters the Horseshoe Bay terminal at West Vancouver, slamming into a nearby marina and crushing 22 boats. There were no injuries.

Sept. 14, 2000: Ferry Spirit of Vancouver Island hits a 10-metre power boat outside the Swartz Bay ferry terminal near Victoria. Two people on the power boat are killed.

Nov. 7, 1995: Ferry Mayne Queen crashes into private marina on Bowen Island, damaging several moored boats. Blame is placed on mechanical or human error in transferring control between two consoles as ferry left dock.

Aug. 13, 1992: Two people are killed at the Departure Bay terminal in Nanaimo when the ferry Queen of New Westminster sailed from the terminal as a van was driving across the ramp leading to the ship's upper deck and plunged 15 metres into the water.

March 12, 1992: B.C. Ferries vessel en route to Nanaimo slams into Japanese coal freighter Shinwa Maru shortly after leaving the Tsawwassen ferry terminal south of Vancouver. Seventeen ferry passengers injured.

Feb. 6, 1992: Private high-speed catamaran passenger ferry Royal Vancouver collides with B.C. Ferries' Queen of Saanich in early-morning fog in Active Pass. Some 23 Royal Vancouver passengers injured. Inquiry blames fast ferry for not tracking bigger car ferry on radar.

August 1985: Ferry Queen of Cowichan runs over pleasure boat near Horseshoe Bay terminal in West Vancouver, killing three people.

Queen of the North sinks!

The BC Ferry Queen of the North hit rocks off of Gill Island and sank on Wednesday morning, all 101 passengers and crew were safely transferred to lifeboats and taken to Hartley Bay by the Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

The incident took place approximately 135 kilometres south of Prince Rupert at 12:43 am as the ferry was making the regular trip between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy. The vessel was fully submerged within an hour of striking the rock.

It's expected that they will be returned to Prince Rupert by the Wilfrid Laurier later today. And local hotels have been asked to provide rooms for the returning passengers.

The Queen of the North was built in Sweden in 1969 and purchased by BC Ferries in 1974, it first came into Northern service in 1980 and was fully refitted in 2001 for continued use in the Northern area of the BC Ferries system.

David Hahn The President and CEO of BC Ferries is to arrive in Prince Rupert later in the day as well to assess the situation and address the needs of the passengers and crew.

The sinking also creates a logistical nighmare for the Ferry Corporation, as the Queen of the North was also pulling double duty by traveling the Queen Charlotte route as well as the Port Hardy run, with the Queen of Prince Rupert in refit until June, the Ferry Corporation will have to find a way to provide service on all of its northern routes now.

For now though the immediate concern is the status of the passengers and crew and a full investigation into what happened at 12:43 on Wednesday morning, the Canadian Transportation Board will begin it's investigation into the incident today.

Update 1:52pm, The Globe and Mail and CBC are reporting that Coast Guard crews are still searching the waters for possibly two passengers from the Queen of the North. Officials at BC Ferries are not sure if a couple from 100 mile house actually boarded the ferry at Prince Rupert, but as they had reservations for the sailing they may have been aboard. While the Coast Guard searches the area, RCMP are asking for anyone with information about the couple to contact them with a hopeful thought that they missed the saling. Details are in the story here.

The Building Block

Things are down to the old cliché of one game at a time and on Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks claimed one of their first of the one game at a times.

Vancouver came out flying in the first period, playing the body with more authority than of late, their four lines were involved for that first twenty minutes and assisted by a serious case of the brain cramps by the Oilers, they quickly took the lead and never looked back on their way to a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

It wasn’t at all what many of the Canuck faithful was going to happen, the play of late had many wondering if the Canucks would be able to hold off an Oiler team that seems to have had their number this year, up until Tuesday night.

Alex Auld held his own in the Canuck net, making key saves and not giving up any troublesome rebounds in the Canuck end of the ice. Todd Bertuzzi was more involved in the flow on Tuesday, delivering some bone crusher hits and setting up shop in front of Dwayne Roloson, wreaking much havoc in the Oiler end of the rink.

The Sedins and Anson Carter continued their effective play as a unit, benefiting from numerous power play opportunities to control the puck and take some scoring chances. Daniel Sedin scored twice on the night, once on the power play and once into an empty net at the end of the game. Trevor Linden and Ryan Kesler also contributed to the Canuck score sheet on Tuesday.

It was by far a much better team effort than what Canuck fans have seen of late, with only the general ineffectiveness of the Canucks power plays to worry about on the night, from 5 on 3 to 5 on 4, the Canucks continued to have their problems in creating scoring chances and directing shots on target. The Oilers dug themselves some deep holes, but the Canucks couldn’t shovel the dirt into the hole to totally rout them on Tuesday.

But in the end, it’s all about the two points and on Tuesday the Canucks collected two very important points in the west. They can add to their total on Thursday night and again on Saturday, when they face the Oilers again, in rare back to back games at home against the same opponent. It’s in effect a three game mini series, and so far the Canucks have taken a 1-0 lead in the face off with the Oilers.

The above item first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Want your kids to leave home, stop feeding them cheese!

Geez, who knew that those once unique, but now irritating television commercials for the Dairy Council were hitting the nail on the head. Well not quite on the head, but yet something is happening to the normal progression of life in Canadian families.

Boomerang kids are all the rage it seems, children who have left home only to return a few short months later to camp out in the basement, sometimes for the better part of a decade.

A study compiled by Martin Turcotte for Statistics Canada finds that the folks don't mind their not so wee ones' anymore, coming back home for the cooking, laundry and television privileges they once took for granted.

The only problems that seem to crop up between parents and their boomerang kids are apparently financial ones and problems over the division of chores.

Hmm, the more things change, the more they stay the same!

City to pony up the cash for Games’ bid

While they’ve cut the budget of the library, already spent money on a cable company, suggested that an auxiliary fire department might be a good thing and put forward a number of cost cutting measures across the city, the folks at City Hall have still decided to move forward financially with a bid for the BC Northern Winter Games of 2010. A bid that requires $70,000 in funding to move forward to the competition stage, as the city’s plan has now reached the stage where it’s time to as they say; hold em, fold em or cash em out.

Councilor Kathy Bedard who has been spearheading the campaign to host the event from February 4-7 of 2010, says in order for the project to proceed any further, the city would have to send a letter committing support both financial and in kind towards the games process. She did point out that the money would not be spent unless Prince Rupert actually won the competition for the games. Kind of a spend if necessary, but not necessarily have to spend platform.

The games were last held in Prince Rupert in 1999 and provided a financial impact of $850,000 to the community. It seems that the thinking around the council chamber table is that the financial situation in the city is going to improve over the next few years as we head towards 2010 and thus we can afford to support the bid with dollars today (despite our financial troubles at the moment) in anticipation of a better day to come.

One wonders why they might not have launched a community based fund raising campaign for the bid, taking donations from those establishments in town that would directly benefit from an influx of visitors to the city. Surely the hotel industry, restaurant industry, banks and credit union, Citywest (even if that is taking from one pocket to give to the other) and such could have provided the necessary seed money for the project, thus relieving the city of a cash call it may have problems being able to meet. If nothing else, that strategy would give everyone in the community a vested interest in making the bid and subsequent games a huge success.

Interestingly enough, the City of Terrace won the rights to the 2010 Winter Games (full province version), so it would be worthwhile to learn if the powers that be would schedule two winter games in the same area, within weeks of each other, or whether they would prefer to spread the wealth out a bit.

For now the city has decided to spread some of its own wealth around a bit, putting forward a bid that no doubt comes from the nothing ventured, nothing gained agenda.

For a full report on the council decision, we provide the Daily News article from Tuesday in Podunkicized form.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Page Three

The city has committed- $70,000 in funding - $30,000 in cash and $40,000 in kind, toward hosting the 2010 B. C. Northern Winter Games.

Councilor Kathy Bedard , who has been preparing the city’s bid to host the event February 4-7, 2010, said in order to proceed any further, the city would have to send a letter committing support both financial and in kind.

“It’s come down to the rubber hits the road as the city has to decide if it’s willing to set aside some money to contribute towards the games,” she said.

The support of the school district will also be required because the school district will need to set aside the Friday of the games weekend to allow the use of all their facilities during the games, she said.

“We’ve gotten great support from the community and sports groups,” she said.

“From my perspective, it’s important how we put that money together,” said Councilor Tony Briglio.

In future years, he said he could see the city being able to set aside money.

“But this year, I say we pass,” he said.

“Nominal amounts on the first two years and then we catch up in future years.”

Bedard noted the funding will only be required if the city wins the bid.

“It should be noted the last games held in Prince Rupert in 1999 brought in an impact of $850,000 to the community,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

“And left a legacy of $30,000, which was given the to the Prince Rupert Community fund.”

Councilor Sheila Gordon-Payne spoke in favour of the games regardless of whether the city’s financial state improves in the next two years, because of the $850,000 that will come from a small investment of $30,000.

“We will reap huge benefits and it also ties in with our 2010 city anniversary,” she said.
The city of Terrace has won the bid for the 2010 winter Games and the B. C. Northern Winter Games follows on the heels of that event.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Local companies winners at the Casino and nary a handle has been pulled!

While the Legion site has yet to see any real change towards its new future as Prince Rupert’s “Entertainment Center” some local companies have already had lady luck smile on down.

Marcan Construction and A. H. B. contracting received contracts for the soon to be started project. A. H. B, for the demolition of the old Legion hall and Marcan for construction of the new gambling, bingo and entertainment emporium

The 7 million dollar project is going to miss it’s window of opportunity for the 2006 tourist season and thus won’t be able to separate our numerous cruise ship visitors from their greenbacks, but by February of 2007 locals will be able to take advantage of the “numerous gaming options” available at the Chances Prince Rupert site.

The architects for the project is the Boni Maddison firm out of Vancouver and visitors to the casino in Prince George might have an idea as to what our local gambling venue might look like, Boni Maddison was the project architect for Prince George’s Treasure Cove Casino and Hotel.

The Daily covered the contract announcement on it’s front page in Tuesday’s edition, here’s the story in Podunkicized form.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Page One

Despite missing the boat on opening for the tourism season, the proponents of the Community Gaming Centre are ready to begin construction of the $7 million facility.

And at least two local contractors will be part of the demolition/construction project.

Chances Prince Rupert is being built on the property known as the old Royal Canadian Legion, said Craig Briere, business manager of the Prince Rupert Bingo Association.

“Demolition of the legion building has begun with preliminary work on the interior; removal of the exterior can be expected within several weeks with substantial construction beginning in the spring,” said Briere in a press release.

Construction is expected to last until January, with the opening of the facility to the public happening in late January or early February.

Boni Maddison Architects from Vancouver have been chose to head the design team on the project. Boni Maddison has done extensive work in Northern B. C. and has most recently designed the new Treasure Cove Casino and Hotel in Prince George.

John Marogna (Marcan Construction) of Prince Rupert has also been chosen to manage the construction side of the project.

“We are pleased to have a local construction team, especially one with tremendous experience in the North Coast and ties to the community, said Briere.

The initial demolition of the legion building has also been awarded to A. H. B. General Contracting from Prince Rupert.

In January, Prince Rupert City Council approved the Community Gaming Centre as well as the inclusion of slot machines, off track horse betting, electronic bingo, lottery and keno products.

The developers have proposed a 36,000 square foot building with 16,000 square feet of initial space for the Community Gaming Centre.

The Prince Rupert “Chances” will not only boast several gaming options but a full service food and beverage area, interactive video games, indoor golf simulators and many more entertainment options, said Briere.

“The Prince Rupert Chances Community Gaming Centre is going to be an anchor to the Prince Rupert tourism and entertainment district,” he said.

The Prince Rupert Bingo Association teamed up with the business partner last summer after the association, which represents more than 30 local charities, discovered that it was in financial trouble.

By offering new gaming options in addition to bingo, as well as non-gaming entertainment – such as live shows, pool, simulated golf and other arcade style games – Briere said Prince Rupert will be able to attract new players and increase revenues.

From the inbox

As I've mentioned previously I occasionally get e mail besides the normal spam of mystery potions to enhance my ahem, happiness. From time to time, someone sends me a story or a joke that is worth passing along. One popped in my inbox today, so I'll share it with the many dozens who peruse my site from time to time.

By the way if you're Amish, please insert your favourite group in place of our lead in the following comedy skit, then again if you're Amish, you're probably not reading this right now!


An Amish boy and his father went to a shopping mall. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and then slide back together again.

The boy asked, "What is this, Father?"

The father (never having seen an elevator) responded, "Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life; I don't know what it is."

While the boy and his father were watching in amazement, a fat old lady in a wheel chair moved up to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened and the lady rolled between them into a small room. The walls closed and the boy and his father watched the small circular numbers above the walls light up sequentially.

They continued to watch until it reached the last number and then the numbers began to light in the reverse order. Finally the walls opened up again and a gorgeous young blonde stepped out.

The father turned to his son and said "Go get your mother."

Pictures of Podunk: Diana Lake Dam

With Spring here, it may be time for a clean up around the Diana Lake Dam. Logs clog the space under the walkway, while ice still sits on the water side.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fiddlin' while the Liberals burn

Add another "name" to the list of wannabes for the chance to lead the Liberals out of the political wilderness.

With Belinda testing the waters and six or seven dwarfs also checking to see where the winds are blowing, we find another celebrity name seeking to make Canada a better place for those to the left of the Stephen Harper agenda.

Ashley MacIsaac, the Cape Breton fiddle master with the long list of attention getting activities has decided that politics is calling him. MacIsaac claiming that the nation is in danger of splitting apart has contacted his local newspaper in Nova Scotia and outlined his desire to be a force for change and to bring his youth to the party, all in a bid to end the mockery that "his party" currently suffers under.

It's apparently been a few years of soul searching on his road to Jerusalem and the quest of the Liberal grail, in an interview seven years ago with an Ontario newspaper, MacIsaac at the time was unsure as to his future direction in life. It would seem that with the departure of Paul Martin and an apparent vacuum in the leadership department, perhaps MacIsaac has found his calling after music.

Of course, by simply joining the race MacIsaac will probably ensure that his high profile past experiences will be highlighted, no doubt causing the old grey suits int he party to recoil in horror at the prospect of some of his more outrageous practices becoming considered Liberal standards.

Then again, it could just be an elaborate bit of marketing for his new recording that has just made it into the stores of the nation. If nothing else, over the years MacIsaac has shown himself to be well versed in the ways of publicity (both good and bad)!

Should he stay the course into politics, he'll certainly provide something that might be missing so far in the long march to December's leadership convention in Montreal, more exposure than they might possibly want.

We can hear the folks at Air Farce, 22 Minutes and Mercer Report working on their bits as we write this today. Sometimes the material just drops in your lap, with Belinda on one side and Ashley on the other, the potential for satirical joy at the expense of the Liberals has never looked better.

Slip Slidin' Away

“the more you near your destination, the more you’re slip slidin' away”

Paul Simon perhaps best described the state of the 2006 Vancouver Canucks with his pop hit of the seventies. At the start of the season, the western favourites were far and away the Canucks, a team that had been assembled for success and seemed on the cusp of fulfilling former GM Brian Burke’s goal of a Stanley Cup parade for Robson Street. The year long labour disruption and the still lingering ramifications of the Todd Bertuzzii/Steve Moore incident seem to have cast an evil eye over this core group of would have been Stanley Cup champs.

Burke, who by the start of the season had been exiled to Anaheim, is busy in the process of rebuilding the team that Donald and Mickey built and it’s not lost on many in hockey, that it may be his Mighty Ducks that deliver the mighty blow of sneaking by the Canucks for the final playoff spot in the West.

Vancouver has been a troubled team since probably just before Christmas, with injuries to their goaltender Dan Cloutier and veteran defenceman Ed Jovanovski, they have been unable to get untracked since the holidays. While Alex Auld has stepped up to fill the Cloutier void, the rest of the team seems to have left him to his own devices at times.

The latest embarrassment and perhaps the definitive blow to their playoff hopes was Sunday night, a match up available only on pay per view (Suckers!!!) which featured a tired Detroit Red Wings skate into GM Place and provide a clinic in successful hockey.

By the time all had cleared, the Wings were winners by a score of 7-3 and the Canucks were an even more dispirited group than usual. With only a win over Columbus to show for their last seven games they’ve watched the Calgary Flames tail lights grow dimmer while the high beams of Anaheim and San Jose start to flash around the rearview mirror.

Once again the Canucks found little to be happy about in their effort, the first line, the big money line (or tandem as it’s become) of Naslund and Bertuzzi continue to struggle on the ice, if not for the second line of the Sedins and Anson Carter the goal scoring output would be even more anemic than it has become.

This team has been called fragile far too many times for one that was supposed to be of championship timbre, fragile is for teams that are just getting their act together, long suffering squads of youngsters and old guys looking for one last hurrah. That was not what Vancouver was supposed to be. They’re tentative in their play, stupid in their penalty taking and at times seemingly devoid of effort any more. It's as though they want the season to end and take their parting gifts to wherever they disperse.

The next three games will surely tell the tale of this high budget but suddenly low expectation squad, by a quirk of the scheduling Gods the Canucks play three games in a row against the Edmonton Oilers. Their very own little elimination round, lose all three and they can surely let the blood letting to come begin early in Vancouver. Edmonton has the opportunity to squash the Canucks into the ice over the next three games. On the other side, the Canucks can shake the troubles off with a sweep of the Oil.

That may be asking for too much however, the Canucks don’t seem to listen to their coaches anymore; they surely don’t seem to care about their long suffering fans and by all accounts don’t seem to be listening to each other in the dressing room. Sunday night was an example of polar opposites in the world of the NHL, Detroit a long time champion and still the class of a league, a pure definition of a team if ever there was one. In some other part of GM Place were the Canucks, a team in name only which nowhere near understands the concept of the term.

There perhaps is no more dysfunctional squad in the league right now. So much potential at the start of the season is quickly free falling into disaster by the end of it.

Come to think of things, perhaps put away that old Paul Simon chestnut. A more appropriate tune could come from Tom Petty. They’re bad boys for breaking our heats, this skid continues and they'll be leaving the playoffs for a while. These Canucks’ are Free falling…. They’re just free falling.

The above post first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

A onetime kingpin of the Pulp world passes away.

Last week a major player in the history of Prince Rupert’s development passed away, a name that for good or for bad, was synonymous with controversy in the history of Prince Rupert.

George S. Petty, the former owner of the Skeena pulp mill and its wide interests in the northwest, passed away last Wednesday (March 15), bringing a close his tempestuous association with the Northwest.

Petty, who first appeared on the scene in 1986 became one of those classic hero and villain characters, sometimes in the same week. Depending where you were on the local spectrum at the time, you either respected the guy’s drive or despised of his managerial style. One thing is certain no one could ever say that they didn’t have an opinion about George S. Petty.

Legendary for his bluster at the bargaining table with local unions, he oversaw the rebirth of the then financially troubled mill, only to see things come crashing to the ground leaving in its wake the now idled mill at Watson Island and a shattered local economy. He shared both in the credit for its successes and in the blame for it’s eventual failure, though one suspects that there is enough blame and responsibility to go around about the happenings of Skeena at the time.

While he held the helm of the Mill however, it was a wild ride, more akin to the old days of the mill boss in a mill town and more suited it seemed to labour relations of the days of thirties as opposed to the late eighties and early nineties. Many grew concerned over his other ventures and the flow of venture capital to and fro, his pet project a new style of pulp processing in New Brunswick was perhaps the most controversial of the time, many fearing that his fascination with the new technology was draining monies from his other operations, including those in the Northwest.

At the time, those operations did provide paycheques to local families and Skeena was certainly the engine of a community that was continuing to take hits in its fishing industry. When times were good, the money was flowing throughout the city and as we have seen when it closed, the resulting earthquake would have long standing ramifications.

Certainly, as the closure of the mill has shown, the mill while in operation was by far the greatest contributor to the economy of the city and still causes a sizeable shadow over the financial well being a community in economic transition.

Petty even made a return to the scene for a brief replay with the much discussed and eventual disappointment of the New Skeena option, a bid that fell short and left many once again shaking their heads locally about the roller coaster ride they had just gone on.

It’s of interest to note of his passing, as once again the mill he called “the bane of his professional life” once again returns to the local radar, as the latest suitor for the operation the China Paper Company weighs their options as to whether they will operate the mill. Their decision is anticipated for April 27th, when the next chapter of Petty's former mill will be decided.

During his time as owner of the mill, he certainly became as well know a citizen as any other that came to the Northwest to run their industries and chase their dreams. In a city full of colorful characters through the years, Petty surely made his own contribution to the tone and timbre (not to mention timber) of the local area.

Below in Podunkicized form is the Daily News report of his passing from last week.


George S. Petty, a man known for more than three decades of work rebuilding mills across Canada, died last night from complications arising from kidney transplant surgery. The 72 year old passed away peacefully in Key West, Florida.

Petty was known for purchasing, refinancing and revitalizing nine pulp and paper mills, which had been shut down by previous owners, between 1972 – 1997 – including Skeena Cellulose and then New Skeena Forest Products.

During roughly the same period, companies under his control are said to have created 10,000 skilled jobs.

Repap Enterprises, which he took public on the Toronto and Montreal Stock Exchange in 1986, is credited with investing in excess of $2 billion between 1980 and 1995, and another company he helped found Tembec Inc. went on to become a major factor in the Canadian Forest Industry, with more than 50 different operations around the world.

Based in Temiscaming, Quebec, Tembec was created in 1973 when the eastern Canadian community refused to give up on the old Canadian International Paper Co. pulp mill that was being shut down. Local entrepreneurs unionized workers, the community and different levels of government forged a company that had employee-profit sharing and control through a board of directors. Petty left Tembec in 1978 to run Repap Enterprises and Skeena Cellulose, which shut down in 1997.

Petty acquired Prince Rupert’s Skeen Market Pulp Mill and Terrace sawmills and related woodlands in 1986 from the government for $109 million and, after initial success, was blamed for later troubles.

In 2002, he was the chair of NWBC Timber and Pulp, and a driving force behind the repurchase of Skeena from the provincial government.

At the time of the purchase, Petty told Daily News reporters it was the Skeena operation, which he as then struggling to revive with partner, CEO Dan Veniez, which had been the bane of his professional life.

He said it was his goal to revive Skeena through his new company New Skeena Forest products and the Northwest economy along with it.
Petty’s career in the pulp and paper industry began in 1954. During that time, he has held the position of the chairman of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association and a director of the American Paper Institute and the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada