Wednesday, May 31, 2006

One if by land, Two if by sea, Three if you can pick up a copy at Eddies!

June 5, 2006, will it be the D-Day in yet another great newspaper war for Podunk?

It was on June 6th, 1944 that the invasion of Normandy began, it a much planned attack on an established force (enough of that bit of theatric symbolism, the Daily News of course bears no resemblance what so ever to the regime in place in France of 1944). Some sixty six years later another plan of attack is in place, all be it a little less earth shattering, but none the less still probably the most important skirmish since the nineties in the long running newspaper battles of Podunk.

Not since the debut of Prince Rupert This Week in 1990, will such an ambitious attempt have been made to unseat the Daily News as the paper of record in Prince Rupert.

Since the day that PRTW was bought out by the empire, small but generally unsuccessful offerings have been made to try and tackle the Daily News grip on Podunk. But perhaps this time things may be different. “The Northern Daily” will launch on Monday, June 5 in a Daily format, backed by the powers that be at the Terrace Standard, Interior News and Look Inside. It could be the first real move to offer a competitive force to the Daily News in many a year.

The news of a new conduit of information for the northwest was released in the Look Inside publication on Tuesday, with a story on page fourteen, preceded by a full page colour advertisement of the new dawn soon to come on page ten.

By Shaun Thomas

NORTHWEST- Beginning June 5, residents of the Northwest will have another way of getting the news of the day with the arrival of The Northern Daily.

This new newspaper, which is being done in partnership with Look Inside, the Northern Sentinel, the Terrace Standard and other northern members of the B. C. Newspaper Group, will be distributed free through street boxes and at a number of local businesses from Monday to Friday. The Northern Daily will have the latest in international, national and provincial news from the internationally acclaimed Reuters news service.

In addition, it will offer coverage of professional sports, entertainment and business news from around the world.In addition to the national and international coverage offered by The Northern Daily, we are committed to ensuring that residents of the Northwest continue to see all of the latest local news from communities throughout the region delivered t to their doorstep week in and week out with the continuation of our free regional newspaper.

Look for the Northern Daily at businesses and locations throughout the region June 5, and look for the latest issue of Look Inside Publications in your mailbox next week. Together, we can offer the best coverage of the news that affects the region....... free of charge.

Over the years Prince Rupert has been a newspaper graveyard for publishers, journalists and advertising reps who thought that they had the next best idea. They would launch with much bluster, only to see things fall apart rather quickly and without much of a noise being made, with the Daily news left as still the defining news source in the community.

The best bet for taking on the colossus that was the Daily News was probably Prince Rupert This Week, an edgy but free spirited weekly that really did shake up the community in the early nineties. It of course could not carry on it’s gravitas to any great degree and was but a mere shadow of itself by the time it was bought out and morphed into the Daily News stable and became a flyer wrap on Saturdays and no doubt a fine bird cage liner.

There were other weekly papers that came and went (far too many to try and remember them all, but feel free to list them in the comments if you can remember!), some with potential, and others nothing more than an ad grab for part of the dwindling advertising dollars of Podunk. For the most part though, the Daily News has continued on unworried by the pretenders and unchallenged for its market share. And that of course leads to a rather nice target ripe for another property to come along and try to usurp its hold on the market.

The Northern Daily will apparently be available at news boxes and retail locations around Prince Rupert for Free (avoiding what Mig from hackingthemainframe calls door to door spam) an interesting approach which will put the Daily News into a bemusing position. Should they too now offer their product for free, or keep that sixty cent news stand price as a gold standard for what they believe to be quality local journalism. You never want to demean your brand, but if your competitor is staking out your turf you have to respond in some fashion.

For the early going one can see the Daily News keeping to its course, it is the main news source in the community at the moment. Other local media have surrendered much of the news game these days, radio for the most part having long ago seemingly tossed newsgathering off the edge of a pier as an incidental to doing business in the community. The days of three person news teams and a dedicated sports department too seek out local stories is now almost a myth akin to Marconi. And television news locally still means getting breaking news on a tape (or digital byte) 90 minutes down the highway, hopefully in time for a supper time newscast, otherwise its wait 24 hours and hope that a few folks are still interested.

Almost by default newspapers in Podunk have become the last official record of events in the community, (we run the risk of offending the fine folks of hackingthemainframe, but an on line bulletin board, that can at times get overrun by rumor over fact, is not quite the same as a researched and documented news story).

This perhaps is why the folks behind the Standard, Interior News and Look Inside feel it’s worth that battle to take on the Daily News. If nothing else, it should help bring up quality of the product offered at the Daily News. Competition is wonderful thing, as it brings out the creative juices in everyone and sometimes scares the heck out of them as well.

Over the years the challengers have come at and been tossed aside by the Daily News, the next great newspaper war looms ahead. It will be interesting to view the upcoming skirmishes as the challenger tries to find its feet and the incumbent endeavors to retain its market and place as Podunk’s paper of record.

Ugh, man I’m not ready for this talk!

Bad enough you have to worry about your kid’s potential sex life, but now your parents too!

It seems that we need to blame the little blue pill and an apparently more willing seniors population, but the incidence of STD’s is rising at an alarming rate at seniors villages. With the old folks feeling healthier longer into their seniors years and still apparently ready to do more than play bingo and darts, there are some serious health concerns never actually thought of by your retirement health plan coordinators. Slate has the full story here.

There are reports of seniors hooking up with each other in the television lounge and heading off for Viagra pile before calling it an evening, leaving the medical staff to deal with the repercussions of unprotected sex.

Great, so now in addition to making sure that your folks are taking their meds, balancing their cheque books and eating regularly, now you have to add sex education to the to do list. And the cycle of life makes another circle!

Blogger ye break me heart!

So much to say and nowhere to say it!

Well that was a nice little break from blogging, if purely at the behest of the Blogger service. For whatever reason the Blogger system refused to let me log in for the last day and a bit.

They now seem to have solved whatever glitch had denied me access to my own house, so finally we can resume our mental meanderings along the blogosphere.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bewitching Belinda?

She’s back! Back in the headlines that is. Belinda Stronach, who when last looked for had left poor Petey McKay in a potato patch to collect his thoughts, has once again become fodder for tabloid reporting. This time she has made her mark on the big stage on New York City.

Belinda has been dubbed the blonde bombshell by the New York papers and now finds herself the subject of the “other woman” rumours that frequently dog the life and times of one Billy Bob Clinton. The former President who now runs around the world and collects huge fees for speaking engagements, apparently had din din with our little Belinda last week and that has set tongues a wagging into overdrive. She's described as the bewitching blonde that has cast a spell over Bill in one paper and finds herself featured in many others, doing her fair share to keep the pulp market prices high and Canadian pulp mills churning out the newsprint.

It seems that with Mrs. Clinton preparing a bid for her party’s nomination for President in 2008, all eyes are on the former Prez and his legendary wanderlust. Smack dab in the middle of the media storm is the gal dubbed “the Canadian Politician”; it seems our Belinda is frequently visiting with Clinton as he does whatever it is that retired Presidents do before they shuffle off to their reward. Tapped as a long time friend of the ex-Presidents, much of the tabloid press (and even the New York Times for cyrin’ out loud) is beginning to wonder if there isn’t a bit more fire to all of the smoke suddenly appearing.

The Australians have taken the story one step further than your usual political one takes a “friend” story, seems they are playing up the blonde angle of the project, comparing our gal Belinda to another famous Blonde who (ahem), found favour with a sitting (and other positions we guess) President of the USA.

The attention has heated things up so much that Media Matters weighed into the situation with a call for a bit of decorum from the media jackals as they nip at the Clinton's heels once again.

Seems that there is quite a bit of concern that Belinda is going to show up at a birthday bash for Billy Bob, an event which is also going to double as a bit of a coming out party for Hillary’s political quest for the White House. The appearance of Belinda, in her role as Marilyn we guess, might make for an interesting bit of theatre in the always excited States.

Best line from the story from Australia; “If history repeats itself and another glamorous blonde sings "Happy birthday, Mr. President" from the stage of Madison Square Garden, Democrats will be praying she is Hillary.”

No wonder Belinda surrendered her attempt to become leader of the Liberal party. Who wants to spend time wandering the political wastleand of the frozen north, when you can be the main topic of debate in the hothouse of American politics.

Podunkian googling

From the category that any good idea is worth stealing, we offer up a new feature for the right hand column. Taking an idea we first discovered on hackingthemainframe, we’ll keep a list of some of the stories that come down the pipe about our little corner of the world.

Check regularly to see how well and frequently Rupert Googles Up……

We begin with the May Googling (short as this list may now be)

May 31 $1 million campaign launched to boost tourism
May 31 Senior Hockey Loop Grows to nine teams
May 31 Pack signs All Star Hoopster
May 31 VP praises manager for Hartley Bay help
May 31 Summer groundbreaking for BC pellet fuel mills
May 31 Butt Out, It's World No Tobacco Day
May 30 Woyewitka to Yellowhead it
May 30 BC First Nations travel to Norway to Deliver anti fish farm proclamation

Corus pulls the plug on Mojo

More bloodletting in the halls of Corus Vancouver today as the nationwide radio chain killed off its all sports operation Mojo 730 on Tuesday. Stating that it hadn’t hit its financial targets, the chain decided to end its death spiral on the radio dial.

Originally designed along the lines of the Toronto Mojo, which was a decidedly all guys kind of station with off colour humour and much in the way of frat house like behaviour, it bombed early on and eventually morphed into the sports format which it used up until today.

It’s the second major shakeup of a Vancouver Corus station in the last little while; CKNW recently eliminated a number of positions once it lost the Vancouver Canucks broadcasts to all sports rival the The Team 1040. It also follows on the heels of the continual shake up of the long time top dog of Vancouver radio which saw long time talk show host Rafe Mair exiled from the NW towers a few years ago, followed by veteran morning man Frosty Forst.

Over at Mojo a number of high profile sports and radio personalities will be out the door including JP McConnell who was more involved with NW Sports and Mojo’s John McKeachie both long time radio fixtures on the Vancouver scene. Also now on the Job market is Blake Price and Bob Marjanovich, as well as a number of employees who toiled behind the scenes to bring sports radio to a small and apparently not very growing legion of fans.

The radio chain says that Mojo (no doubt to change it's name) will now change direction away from the sports world and into the wonderful world of traffic! They presently are running spots listing continuous traffic and talk coming soon (listen live to hear the continuous loop of what's to come).

The new format will debut on Monday morning and is apparently going to be heavily focused on traffic reports and rebroadcasts of the CKNW talk shows Good, Adler et al, (Good news for Dan Russell, who might be fearful of this sports exorcism at Corus, his is one of the shows they feature in their advertisements.)

It certainly will be an interesting experiment in listener maintenance, one wonders what they will talk about? Maybe where the traffic jams are and who is the worst driver in the Lower mainland. Of more importance to the Corus bean counters is where the listeners will go once they’ve reached their destination? One assumes if they are a sports fan it will be over to the Team!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

He’s a Pontificator, Predictor and Power lifter all in one buff body!

Ladies and Gentleman, our main bout, a one fall takes all for the undisputed championship of the world and the netherworld!

In the red corner, out to capture the souls of the world, we bring you Satan. And in the blue corner, able to power lift 2000lbs and ready to rumble with Beelzebub, it’s Pat Robertson.

While he’s pretty busy these days predicting the weather, compiling a hit list for the CIA and suggesting that God’s final judgment may just be around the corner, 700 Club founder and preacher Pat Robertson likes to stay pumped up. His website has recounted a modern feat of Herculean accomplishment with it‘s “revelation” that the Pastor Robertson can really lift that weight.

His television show has apparently aired a video highlighting his amazing athleticism by showing him lifting a 2,000 pound weight. It’s a fitness achievement which most medical and fitness experts suggest is rather unlikely, especially for a gentleman well into his seventies.

It’s just the latest bizarre proclamation from the land of Pat which seems to offer up some head shaking suggestion about twice a month now (Podunk passim here and here). This one however, has received more than a few humorous jabs on your local google search engine.

Does give some credence to the old country music standard, Drop kick me Jesus, through the goal posts of life! One would suggest that Pat would be the one lining up to do the honors for one and all that doubt his claim. I noticed the Blue Bombers are looking for a new kicker, at 2.000 pounds a press, Pat could be the answer to their prayers!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Nolan's frustrations come out in print

You might have heard Don Cherry refer to a Globe and Mail article from yesterday on Coach's Corner Tuesday night. The article featuring Memorial cup coach Ted Nolan, recounted some of the recent and past history of the former NHL coach of the year.

It examined the themes of racism as it pertains to Nolan's stagnation at the professional levels, a theme that Cherry wasn't particularly fond of, suggesting that Nolan's fate of late had more to do with his troubles with John Muckler from the Buffalo days and a job offer from Tampa Bay a number of years ago refused by Nolan for family reasons.

It's a fairly concise recording of the last nine years of Nolans hockey and personal travels, from his work with aboriginal communities, to his job interviews with NHL teams to his return to Junior hockey and the remarkable run of the Moncton Wildcats.

There's probably little doubt that Nolan has the talent to run an NHL squad, there are any number of floundering NHL teams out there that could use his smarts and motivational skills to bring their franchises back into the NHL mainstream. Any team with a young lineup and needing some steady guidance would surely benefit from Nolan's experiences both on and off the ice.

The only question is has Nolan further harmed his chances by speaking out as he has and will his ruminations on race get blown up further. He's been dealing with racism through his time in hockey, including an ugly situation in the Quebec league this year. By speaking his mind perhaps he confronts those issues upfront and lays it all out on the table.

By Sunday there's a very good chance his Wildcats will be the Memorial Cup champions, the second squad that Nolan would have guided to a national championship in his coaching career. Pretty good stats for any GM to consider, in the NHL it's all about winning, Nolan seems to be pretty good at achieving that goal, somewhere in the NHL there's a team looking for that kind of success. Many of those teams could do a lot worse (and many do) than hiring a guy that knows where he's come from and where he wants to go!

The Globe and Mail article is here, it's well worth a look to try and figure out one of the great coaching mysteries of the NHL in the last ten years. It helps explain why he's gone from the ranks and how he can get back to where he belongs.

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

Monday, May 22, 2006

Pictures of Podunk: Highliner Inn looking from the West

Prince Rupert's tallest building will one day be but a mere building block on the Podunk stage, with the completion of the crane system at the Container Port the title of tallest structure in the city will be handed off. But for now, the Highliner sits downtown as the center point to any photo!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rock and Roll is a vicious game!

Normally these kind of headlines feature the latest hip hop or rap sensation duking it out or in some cases shooting it out at some trendy US nightclub.

But, tonight it's an oldie but a baddie that is making the noise and throwing the fists in the city that never sleeps.

Axl Rose, he of the days of Guns N Roses fame got into a bit of an altercation with fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger on Thursday night, as the two got into a tangle at a new nightclub called Plumm.

Seems that Axl was doing a little housekeeping at the Hilfiger table, when he moved the designer's girlfriends drink, a gesture that apparently was not appreciated by Mr. Hilfiger who according to Rose began slapping the rocker over and over again.

The two eventually were separated and Hilfigers security team escorted him from the club, apparently before Rose took to the stage for a special appearance for actress Rosario Dawson.

It's been a while since Axl has been fodder for the tabloids, his exploits with the Gunners were the thing of rock and roll excess, but that was long ago and far away, and so much better than it is today (props to Meatloaf for the stolen lyrical remembrance).

However, it never hurts to get a little publicity in the rock and roll world, even if the story is three days old and not quite the same league as the showdowns of Tupac and Biggie Smalls.

Reviews archives

We keep our review links forever bookmarked here.

June 24 CD Review-Steve Earle- Exit O
June 24 Movie Review-Nacho Libre
June 24 Book Review-Jared Diamond-Guns, Germs and Steel
June 18 CD Review-Dixie Chicks-Taking the Long Way
June 18 Movie Review-A Prairie Home Companion
June 18 Book Review-Weiland and Wilsey-The Thinking Fan's guide to the World Cup
June 11 CD Review-Red Hot Chili Peppers-Stadium Arcadium
June 11 Movie Review-Goal! The Dream Begins
June 11 Book Review-Eric Margolis-War at the Top of the World
June 4 CD Review-Johnny Cash, Personal File
June 4 Movie Review-An Inconvenient Truth
June 4 Book Review-Ed Willes, The Rebel League
May 28 CD Review-Rob Thomas, Something to Be
May 28 Movie Review-Cars
May 28 Book Review- Dave Kindred, Sound and Fury
May 21 CD Review-Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome
May 21 Movie Review-The DaVinci Code
May 21 Book Review- Robert Shiller, Irrational Exuberance
May 14 CD Review- Neil Young, Living with War
May 14 Movie Review- Mission Impossible III
May 14 Book Review- Chris Ayers, War Reporting for Cowards

Monday, Monday what will you bring!

With a losing streak dating back to May 9th the North American stock markets have had a rather rocky time of it for the month of May as the stock markets take back some of the higher levels they had reached in the last little while.

And if the last two weeks have made for nervous times for the traders and investors, some observers say buckle up, because the ride might get even more interesting in the near future.

Tracing back some rather worrisome parallels the Timesonline has published a story on how the indicators of the last little while are rather eerily parallel to those just before the Black Monday crash of October 1987.

David Woo of Barclay’s Capital manages to maybe, issue a warning while at the same time keeping that traditional British sense of calm and order, as he surmises the situation as thus; “We are very uncomfortable about predicting financial crises, but we cannot help but see a certain similarity between the current economic and market conditions and the environment that led to the stock-market crash of October 1987,”

So one is left to wonder if we should be stuffing more bills than usual under our mattresses just in case, history repeats itself!

There has been an increase of late in the financial world of market followers suggesting that a correction is in the offing, it remains to be seen if the last ten days of May were the beginning of the correction or just a taste of what may be to come in short order.

Regardless, Monday in New York should be an interesting day to watch the markets, Canada will be given a day’s grace as the TSE and other markets are closed for the Victoria Day Holiday, normally Ontario features fireworks to celebrate the Sovereign’s Day, could be that the fiscal fireworks will follow on the Tuesday.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Roll over Aristotle and tell that Plato the news!

There’s a new philosopher for the modern age, a man steeped in wisdom, donuts and Duff Beer. Homer Simpson, the jovial doofus of Springfield, has been described as the rightful heir to the great philosophers of our times, the everyday man with the answers to life’s big questions.

In a piece for the BBC website, philosopher Julian Baggini writes a paean to the everyday wisdom of the family man who struggles through life one step away from complete humiliation, another close to pure genius.

Homer and his brood; the first family of Philosophy, provide us with much to think about in their weekly adventures. From Religion to Science and far beyond, the observations of Homer have become a part of our cultural make up, a grand examination of all our foibles and how we react to life’s everyday challenges.

His Tao is a simple but effective proclamation, D’oh, it sums up all that can go wrong and leaves a glimmer of hope for a better plan to come.

Homer is life’s lessons provided in less than half an hour with a chuckle or two along the way. This Sunday when you sit down to the season ending episode, you won’t so much as be wasting time in front of the tube, no you’ll be taking in a session with one of the great philosophers for the ages.

Land rush on the Highway

The much discussed shopping village on the BC Hydro site has once again caught the fancy of Podunkians, as the developers for the project, Royop Corporation attempt to secure even more land for their planned project.

Suggesting that there is great interest in the area, Royop is looking to pick up 25 more acres for their development of retail spaces and eateries to be located on the highway village site. A situation which will only cause more speculation as what name brand retailers might be inclined to set up shop at the end of Highway 16.

As for the slow pace of the construction phase, Royop says that if anything it’s the need for more land that is responsible for the lack of development on the site at the moment, preferring to increase the size of the project to reflect the suggested increased interest in the development.

This of course will send visions of Future Shops, Canadian Tires, Wal Marts, Boston Pizza’s and KFC’s dancing through the heads of the shopping and gastronomically starved Podunkians.

At any rate, for Podunk it’s at least until 2007 before the regular shopping treks to Terrace can begin to be cut back, the first phase of the development isn’t expected to be completed until mid part of next year.

The Daily News provides all the details except for the names of any potential tenants (still some kind of deep cover Royop secret it seems) in today’s paper.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, May 19, 2006
Page One

The Royop Corporation is forging ahead with the shopping village on Highway 16, and right now the company is busy trying to acquire more land.” The development business isn’t one of those businesses, where thing always go like you want them to,” said Melvin Foht, vice-president of development for the Royop Corporation.

“We’d like to acquire more land. If there’s anything holding things up, it’s the acquisition of more land.”

The land they are looking at is 25 acres owned by B. C. Hydro, he said.

In November, the city rezoned a 16-acre parcel in the area of the old B. C. Hydro building and amended the official community plan to allow for the development of what’s being described as a “shopping village,” including space for two major retailers and four or five smaller retailers. However, the company stressed this was just a conceptual presentation and there is flexibility within the plan.

Foht said there’s a decent amount of interest in the development and they need an area large enough for all the interested parties to locate.

While they had hoped to begin construction in the spring, Royop is currently busy with land acquisition.”

However, Royop officials have talked to a couple of local contractors and obtained preliminary figures on the cost of preparing the site to the point where buildings could be constructed.

The company has not issued an official tender for the work, just made some inquiries about prices.

Currently, the area is a combination of muskeg and marsh.

Royop has been developing retail shopping centres for 30 years, and not only focuses on large communities but on what they describe as small communities that are under-serviced in retail—like Prince Rupert.

The first businesses in the shopping development are slated to open around the same time as phase one of the container port, - mid-2007.

Foht described construction of the container port getting underway as “good news.”

Royop still isn’t tipping its hand about who the tenants could be, although speculation locally continues to be rampant.

“There’s solid interest in the development,” he said.

Foht is expected to be up in Prince Rupert two or three times this summer to do more preliminary work on the project.

Some of the businesses within the development are expected to want to own their property, so the city may see applications for further subdivision.

What happens to the Royop properties once they are developed varies. According to Royop’s web site, the company has developed properties and then sold them to private investors, Real Estate Investment Trusts, pension funds or continued to manage them.

Taking their message into the eye (and home) of the Hurricane

Representatives of Fraser Institute’s School performance study arrived in Prince Rupert on Wednesday night and faced a rather critical audience. Local residents and educators expressed their concerns with the Institute’s results and its methodology in arriving at its observations. Peter Cowley, a co-author of the report spent a good portion of his time in the multi purpose room at Charles Hays fending off criticism and attempting to present his view of the state of education across the province and what the report should accomplish as far as Prince Rupert is concerned.

Over the years studies have proven to be rather controversial as the more affluent areas of the province tend to score the highest, while those parts of the province with socio economic factors on the decline tend to rank the lowest.

This years report saw a number of Prince Rupert schools listed in the bottom level of the rankings, a trend that has been the norm for the Performance studies over the last number of years. Feeling at bit under attack, local residents expressed their concerns about the series and the damage it may do to the local education system.

The Daily had a full report on visit and the fallout, which we provide below.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Pages One and Two

The Fraser Institute made a presentation in Prince Rupert last night, and faced a slew of criticism for their ranking and analysis of the province’s schools.

Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies at the Institute and co-author of the ‘Report Card’ spent a significant portion of the evening addressing concerns around the think tank’s study, which has consistently handed out low marks for Prince Rupert schools.

The most common criticism of the report card was that it is too narrow in focus and doesn’t take into consideration other elements that make up school life.

“We have said from the very beginning that the report card should provide as much information as would be relevant for parents, if they want information about fine arts … they should have that information and we would willingly put it in the report card,” he said. “Ironically, it is the most vocal critics of the report card – who say it is too narrow in focus – who are precisely the same organizations who, if they wanted to, could generate data that would measure effectiveness in these other areas.”

Cowley uses the example of attendance records, one of the areas that some have criticized the report for not including. The Fraser Institute sent out letters to all 60 districts requesting the information; only six responded.

Vancouver offered them the data for the Vancouver School District at the cost of more than $140,000.

“I continue to strongly encourage the other education stakeholders to consider the development of more data,” said Cowley. “So far they’ve chosen not to do that.”

Another common criticism of the report card is that it’s just a snapshot and represents just one day.

“There are a number of different measures, with the elementary report card we look at six tests,” he said, adding that the data is also looked at over a period of five years in addition to the current report card year.

“I look at it not so much as a snapshot, but as a motion picture … it’s a whole bunch of snapshots over time giving you a sense of where things are going.”

Critics also claim the report card is unfair because it pits private schools, which can select their own students, against public schools.

“In fact, the vast majority, more than 80 percent of enrollment in private schools in this province do not select their students … on the basis of an academic test,” said Cowley.

“Look at Roosevelt Park. Is there a reason to compare that to West Vancouver’s Collingwood (private) School … there’s very little use. But there may be very interesting comparisons for other schools.”

Cowley also addressed the feeling, particularly by teachers, that the ranking makes staff and students feel demeaned and that a variety of social factors should be taken into account.

“The thing about the public reporting of results is, it gives you a place to start, you say ‘okay this is what we’re doing now’,” he said. “If you concern yourself with making an overall rating out of 10 that takes into account parents and family, in some sense you’re setting yourself up by suggesting it might be all right if we don’t do all that well because the characteristics of our kids.”

Cowley says a quote by former Education Minister Christy Clark that a B. C. student can get the same excellent education anywhere in the province, something people wouldn’t say about cars or restaurants, its enough reason for pause.

“The idea of rating as an incentive (from) positive competition is something we accept every day in virtually every other area of society except in schools,” he said.

The Fraser Institute provides report cards across Canada for 6,500 schools including
three in B. C.

It could be that the guys behind the bench, are better known than the guys on the ice!

Their names are like a who’s who of Canadian hockey, Don Hay, Dick Todd, Ted Nolan and Patrick Roy. The four are spending the next week seeking to guide their young junior players to the Holy Grail of Junior hockey, the Memorial Cup.

The four are well known in their own right for past success in hockey, Don Hay as a successful junior coach who had a shot at NHL glory before returning to the WHL and Vancouver. A former Memorial Cup winner he brings a wealth of experience and desire to his Vancouver Giant team.

There is Ted Nolan, who is of course best known for his time in Buffalo, named coach of the year and then promptly dismissed in a nasty bit of acrimony with then GM John Muckler. He has bounced around the world of hockey for the last few years, occasionally having his name associated with an NHL opening, this year he took over the Moncton Wildcats franchise and transformed them into a QMJHL powerhouse.

Dick Todd is long thought of as one of the deans of junior hockey, he is a bit of a legend in the OHL for his well thought out game designs and his success in sending many a youngster off to NHL success. His Petes were a middle of the pack kind of team for most of the season, but once the playoffs began they turned their play up a notch and surprised more than a few teams across Ontario.

And then there is St. Patrick, an icon in Quebec, the former Hab and Avalanche goaltender brings many years of Stanley Cup battles back to his Quebec City home and his stewardship of the Remparts franchise. All four bring a larger than life kind of presence to this tournament, which is always a first class event and full of high octane hockey year in and year out...

The tournament gets underway in Moncton, New Brunswick tonight as Roy’s Quebec Remparts takes on the Todd’s OHL champion Peterborough Petes. Tonight offers up the first of a week of nightly action that leads up to the final game next Sunday afternoon.

It’s the final stop on the long grueling path that is Junior Hockey in Canada, a season of lengthy bus trips to far flung locations in all parts of Canada and the USA, from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Vancouver, BC. Prince Albert, to Portland the CHL through its three national leagues provides a jumping start for a possible NHL career and high grade local entertainment for hockey fans everywhere.

All four of the teams competing this week have proven to be worthy champions of their respective leagues. Moncton as host received a bye into the tournament, but went ahead and collected the QMJHL title for good measure, the Remparts who had an equally impressive regular season record are worthy of inclusion as well as the representative of the Q.

Peterborough worked their way through the OHL playoffs, finishing off the defending Memorial Cup champs the London Knights. That OHL final, was a hard fought battle worthy of the OHL”s greatest rivalries. Todd’s team played his system to perfection to cast aside any thoughts that the Knight’s may have thought about claiming dynasty in the OHL. Pegged as the tournament underdog, it’s a spot that Todd will probably accept gladly, few gave his club a chance to win the OHL title, so bring on the Remparts and we’ll see what develops.

The Vancouver Giants were a rolling machine throughout the playoffs, led by Hay they rarely seemed to have to worry about any series they were in; when it was required they turned up the power and took control of the flow of the play, cruising past Moose Jaw for the Western League title.

Four teams with different personalities, four teams with very different coaches. They all are playing at the top of their game, heading into one of the most exciting tournaments in Canada. Sportsnet will be covering it all from the drop of the puck on Friday to trophy presentation on May 28th. While you keep one eye on the NHL playoffs, keep your options open for a night of fast paced junior action, you may not know many of the names of the players right now, but in a few years many will be household names in the NHL. Come watch a preview through the week.

Friday, May 19 Peterborough vs. Quebec (8 AT, 7 ET, 4 PT)
Saturday, May 20 Vancouver vs. Moncton (8 AT, 7 ET, 4 PT)
Sunday, May 21 Quebec vs. Vancouver (5 AT, 4 AT, 1 PT)
Monday, May 22 Moncton vs. Peterborough (8 AT, 7 ET, 4 PT)
Tuesday, May 23 Vancouver vs. Peterborough (8 AT, 7 ET, 4 PT)
Wednesday, May 24 Quebec vs. Moncton (8 AT, 7 ET, 4 PT)
Thursday, May 25 Tie Breaker if necessary (8AT, 7 ET, 4 PT)
Friday, May 26 Memorial Cup Semi-finals (8AT, 7 ET, 4 PT)
Sunday, May 28 Memorial Cup Final (5 AT, 4 ET, 1 PT)

All Games live on all Rogers Sportsnets!

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

Civics they maybe know, spelling not quite so!

One hopes this is not an indication as to the state of education in the province of Saskatchewan.

The Opposition Saskatchewan Party recently aired a TV commercial across the province that outlined what the party might do for the province if it ever forms a government there.

First thing might be to spell the province's name right. In the commercial which featured leader Brad Wall, Saskatchewan appeared on a backdrop missing the letter "e", changing the name of the province to Saskatchwan. Perhaps there is a subliminal message involved here, something like cutting costs by cutting letters was the intention of the ad.

The spelling woes continued for the opposition as they put out a press release stating some of the party's goals should it ever take the reigns of government in the province, only problem was that government was missing the letter "n".

That day may be delayed a bit, while the party faithful take a few remedial English lessons and brush up on their spelling. After all if you can't spell the word government, are you really fit to be the government?

The good news for the Saskatchewan party is that there are only 24 more letters to the alphabet and they'll be home free! Here to help them out, is a brief refresher course in the A-B-C's.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pictures of Podunk: Opening Day of Cruise Ship Season

The 2006 Cruise Ship season got underway in fine style on Wednesday, as a hot sunny day welcomed two ships of the Celbrity line to Prince Rupert. The Infinity (left) called on Rupert at 8:30 in the morning, departing around 3 in the afternoon, while the Mercury (right) then tied up for the afternoon departing later that evening. Combined some 4,000 tourists wandered the streets and sights of Podunk under a beaming sun. Thursday brought two more ships into port, but the Sun had given way to a more traditional feature of the area, that of the cloudy skies and occassional shower of rain.

Too much Opie, not enough Opus!

Ouch, man that pretty well summarizes the review from the Canoe website for the Da Vinci Code, a movie which apparently won't be counting Bruce Kirkland as a fan.

The movie which has attracted the attention and subsequent condemnation by the Catholic church, is to hit wide distribution this week around the world.

Already panned at Cannes, the film festival crowd didn't have many kind things to say about Ron Howard's interpretation of the Dan Brown book. And they aren't alone as critic after critic weighs in with a word or two about the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

It will be interesting to see how the largely negative press affects the box office potential of the movie. Though there are no doubt millions and millions of people willing to shell out good money to watch train wrecks develop on the screen.

As with anything that gets hyped to histrionic levels, The Da Vinci code is quickly finding itself unable to keep up to the original bombast generated about it prior to release.

A room with a view

There could soon be a new option for Seniors looking for accommodations between their own personal home and a stay at Acropolis Manor. With Senior’s housing a hot topic around Prince Rupert these days, a property developer has weighed into the fray with his own vision of seniors housing.

Not to be taken as a replacement for Acropolis Manor, a process that seems to go on and on for north coast seniors, the new development would be of the assisted living style providing three or four floors of apartments that seniors would purchase on a lease back basis.

It would be designed to fill in a gap in the local housing scene as far as seniors go and might help to take some of the pressure off the situation at Acropolis Manor or whatever new structure eventually is built to replace it.

Interestingly enough the developer suggests it would take only about nine months to have the building up and the seniors moved in, the way the Acropolis Manor debate has been going along the North Coast for the last few years, that is something akin to hyper speed in the world of Seniors’ Housing!

The Daily News has a front page look at the potential project, which we provide below.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Page One

A Prince Rupert developer is proposing to fill one of the gaps in available Seniors’ housing with a new assisted-living facility.

“I’m involved in another similar project in the Okanagan right now and it gave me the thought that this spot being so close to town would be perfect,” said Geoff Greenwell, 2G Holdings Ltd.

“Seniors don’t want to be stuck 20 miles out of town on the highway; they want to be close to amenities.”

The proposed site is located at the top of Fifth Avenue West and would see the construction of a three to four storey high assisted living facility for largely self-sufficient seniors.

The building would include around 20 units with a mix of one and two bedrooms, some with kitchenettes and some without, and provide amenities like 24 hour on site staffing, including maids and a nurse, as well as a dining room/restaurant style operation.

All the suites would be designed with a panic button, and the entire facility would be wheelchair friendly.

Seniors would pay to live in the facility using the concept of a “lifetime lease”, which would be bought back on a pro-rated basis when the senior moved.

All told, the development would have about a 4,000 square foot footprint, and cost between $1.6 - $1.8 million. It would take around nine months to build once all the approvals came in.

“Looking at where we are, we aren’t really going to affect anyone’s view,” said Greenwell. “I think it’s the best use for this lot, because there’s so little that is zone R-3 or multi-density.”

One potential hurdle for the development is the need to build an access road from Fifth West. Greenwell is hoping to have the city help with the $150,000 cost because the new development would generate about $25,000 per year in taxes rather than the $500 the empty lot currently does.

He would then build a retaining wall and wheel chair ramp down the other side of the property to access Fulton Street and the downtown core.

“I do think there would be a need here,” said Marion Weir, Senior’s Centre president.

“I think it’s a terrific idea and it would be the first downsize from your home.”

One concern Weir did express with the idea was the potential cost of such a facility to the seniors living there, although se surmised there probably would be enough seniors in town who could afford it to fill a potential development of that size.

Weir adds that what seniors are willing, and able, to pay may become more clear once a survey dealing with the issue being circulated by the North Coast Community Asset Development Initiative (NCCADI) is completed.

For the city’s part, staff report they have had some preliminary conversations with the wo8uld be developer but have yet to receive a rezoning application. Nonetheless, the city does say it is interested in the idea and does recognize the need for this type of development.

“I certainly welcomed him and encouraged him,” said Mayor Herb Pond. “The city is eager to achieve some assisted living space.”

A Soundtrack for their lives

Perhaps it was Baby, you're a rich man that was Heather Mills favourite Beatles song, then again she might be humming along to She's leaving Home. or perhaps any of the many heart tugging epics of the Lennon-McCartney tandem could be the soundtrack to the news out of London on Wednesday.

One thing seems certain, it won't be We can work it out. After four years, Sir Paul and Ms. Mills are calling it quits!

Suggesting that the pressures of the media led to their marital discord, the two stated that carrying on a relationship in the glare of the public eye proved to be too much to overcome. Of course they never seemed to shy away from the public eye when it suited their purposes, their recent visit to Newfoundland in April to protest the seal hunt, was a perfect example of their need to be seen and to use their celebrity to push forward their agenda. So it's rather hard to take their protestations of media overkill all that seriously when they have proven to be rather successful at media manipulation over the years.

regardless though, it's never a happy ending when a marriage comes to an end. Of course considering Sir Paul's celebrity (not to mention his wealth, valued at something like 800 million British Pounds or 1,681,927,462.87 Canadian Dollars ) the talk now turns to what kind of a settlement will the soon to be ex-Mrs. McCartney find herself entitled to.

Some legal observers in England suggest that she could very well find herself sitting with a pretty good parting gift for her four years as companion to the "cute" Beatle. The figure of 200 million pounds has been suggested as a possible final installment of their time together. Although other legal types (the non romantics in the land) suggest that Sir Paul could successfully fight that kind of pay out and drop Ms. Mills expectations quite nicely. And of course the cattier folks are suggesting that Paul wasn't the smartest Beatle, as he never held out for a pre nup.

Their marriage was quite the surprise when it took place and now the divorce is equally coming out of left field, though not with an unexpected outcome nor without an army of folks willing to say we told you so.

Theirs was a short four year burst of love and media ops, that only seems like it began Yesterday!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

San Jose sleeps with the fishies!

It was like the good old days at the place they used to call the Coliseum. The Edmonton Oilers spurred on by a rabid bunch of crazies starved for a playoff run for 14 years, completely finished off the San Jose Sharks by a score of 2-0, taking their six game series 4 games to 2.

The Oilers now move on to the Conference final against Anaheim, with game one scheduled for Friday night. It’s interesting to note that of the four teams remaining in the 2006 playoff hunt, not one of them made the playoffs when the NHL last awarded Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Things didn’t look good for the Oilers back when games one and two had come to a conclusion, trailing the Sharks 2 games to none, it looked as if the Oilers were going to have to live off of their amazing rout of the Detroit Red Wings, but as we’ve come to learn about this Oilers squad, the series is never over until the handshakes are finished.

The Oilers battled back one game at a time, improving with each period, by the end dominating a Shark team that couldn’t figure out what they had done wrong and how the Oilers had turned around their fortunes.

Game six was a hard hitting affair as the Oilers came out of the gate flying and crashing, sometimes too much. The Oilers gave the Sharks more than enough power play opportunities in the first period to put away game six and force a game seven; however, Dwayne Roloson was more than up to the challenge of taking on the Shark attack.

Roloson made key save after key save to preserve his shut out and the Oiler victory, what shots he didn’t stop his defencemen did as the Oilers once again played without fear in their own end, diving to block shots and crashing wayward Sharks into the boards.

The essence of the Oiler attack was to keep the Sharks off balance for most of the game and for the most part they were quite successful at it. They held onto a one goal lead going into the third period and then with time running down at eight minutes to go, Shawn Horcoff put away the insurance marker, adding his point to Mike Peca’s go ahead goal of the first period.

The Sharks launched one last power play flourish with Ryan Smyth in the penalty box, but the Oilers held tough and denied them a goal let alone the chance to get back into the game and the series.

The game ended just about as opposite as things could get for a Sharks team that seemed to have no trouble in game one, but now find themselves done for the year after game six. Shocked by their four straight losses and an inability to regain that swagger they had going into the third game, a swagger they would slowly watch fade away with each successive Oiler victory.

It was a very entertaining series as the pace of the play was high octane for most of the six games played. For the Sharks it must be a terribly disappointing end to what had been an amazing run that started after the Olympic Break. There’s good things happening in San Jose again, the addition of Joe Thornton, the play of Jonathon Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau bodes well for the Sharks in the next few years. They’ll learn from the setback against Edmonton and move on from there, another chance for Stanley comes up in less than a year, expect the teal clad Sharks to be in the thick of things again.

As for Edmonton, its one day’s rest and the Oilers are back at it and probably that’s just as well, they seem to perform at their best when they are challenged by a short recovery time. The Ducks who have been cooled off and rested for a week now may find that they have to keep a high pace to their game to keep up with the suddenly surging Oilers.

It wasn’t the safest bet at the start of the playoffs, but right now perhaps outside of the Buffalo Sabres, there isn’t a team left in the playoffs that has the momentum swing going so much in their favour. Sixteen years is a long time between Stanley Cup parades, the way the Oilers are playing right now, there’s a very good chance that Jasper Avenue may be closed in a months time!

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

Is the season over before it even begins?

While the huge cruise ships make their first appearance in Prince Rupert later today, all is not rosy in the Prince Rupert tourism sector this spring as we head into the summer season.

The sinking of the Queen of the North has already begun to have its impact on the 2006 tourist season for the North coast. And the financial ramifications of that tragedy will be felt from the Queen Charlotte Islands all the way to Prince George and beyond.

While B. C. Ferries said they would look near and far for a replacement vessel for the Queen of the North, so far that search has not been particularly successful. The chances for a return to the full level of service of past years along the North Coast routes seems completely gone for this season and that is going to cause a lot of hurt for small, medium and large businesses that depend on tourist dollars to keep their businesses healthy.

With a much reduced schedule for the remaining Queen of Prince Rupert, Tourism officials are expecting that the number of travelers along the Highway 16 corridor will drop significantly this summer and with that reduction a major hit is going to happen in many communities of the North.

A report commissioned by Tourism Prince Rupert has outlined a scenario where everything from Bed and Breakfasts to hardware stores and campgrounds will find the summer of 2006 to be a rather challenging year. With many businesses along Highway 16 struggling to keep afloat.

While the streets may seem a little crowded on Wednesday and Thursday with the teeming crowds from the Cruise ships, the larger and more profitable crowds of the long distance travelers will be much lighter this year.

We provide the Daily News story below with its complete report on the situation. It explores what the various communities expect from the year and what they have learned from this sudden and very expensive setback to what was a growing tourist sector.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Pages One and Three

Businesses that rely on tourist dollars are expecting a crippling season following the sinking of the Queen of the North, according to a report by Tourism Prince Rupert.

And the impact of the severed transportation link is going to ripple down Highway 16 and beyond into those industries that serve tourism businesses.

The report, which measures the short-term impact of reduced ferry service in the North, includes data from businesses all the way southeast to Prince George and west to the Queen Charlotte Islands.

“The reduced service to the Inside Passage is a huge blow to our property. Probably about 75 percent of our summer traffic is either arriving or departing on the ferry to Port Hardy,” wrote one hotelier.

Another hotel anticipates a loss of at least $200,000 from cancelled bus tours, and bookings at a B & B “appear to have dried up” since the sinking. Hostels are bracing for visitor reductions in excess of 70 per cent.

The Queen of Prince Rupert, which has to service both the Inside Passage and Queen Charlotte Islands this summer, will only be allowed to carry 250 passengers due to limited amenities on board and will have to continue on its winter schedule, with two sailings on the Inside Passage per week and three to the Queen Charlotte Islands.

The ripple effect from the loss of tourist capacity – from more than 45,000 passengers on the Inside Passage down to around 9,500 this season and from 57,000 on the Queen Charlotte Islands to 14,250 – carries all the way down Highway 16.

In Prince George, one bed and breakfast estimated they get 80 per cent of their business from independent travelers arriving from or going to the Inside Passage ferry.

Meanwhile, the Vanderhoof Visitor Centre and Chamber of Commerce said that Visitor Centre sees 6,000 tourists with more than 50 per cent going to or from the Inside Passage ferry. In Smithers, the impact is expected to be equally devastating.

“It was very clear that all of the impacts of this crisis upon Prince Rupert and all of the concerns of our residents, exactly matched those in Smithers and their immediate neighbours,” said Bruce Wishart, executive director of Tourism Prince Rupert.

The reduced service not only impacts businesses directly associated with tourism, but also those that serve the industry – from hardware stores selling fishing tackle, to kiosk operators at the ferry terminal, to campground operators, taxi services and vending machine owners, them pact is expected to ripple outwards.

The tourism sector has become an important part of the northwestern economy in recent years as other sectors, such as forestry, have experienced challenges.

And the growth in tourism has been tremendous.

“Some years, wildlife operators have seen increases of 100 per cent or more,” said Wishart.

The report, which will be forwarded to Tourism B. C., includes several suggestions to improve the situation in the short term – better communication to tourists and targeted marketing campaigns to increase travel from other market segments.

“One of the things that came through loud and clear is we have to be part of the solution,” said Wishart. “It’s really not good if you drive from Vanderhoof to Prince Rupert and get told you can’t make the ferry and have to drive back.”

Secondly, many visitors come from the northeaster part of the province or northern Alberta to fish.

“We need to target that market more effectively. It puts heads in beds and fills gas tanks and so on,” he said.

He said money has to go into marketing programs that will bring people immediately, but that local businesses who are hurting financially, can’t afford to pay for those campaigns.

On the upside, Wishart said the communications between agencies along Highway 16 did give him hope industry can build on its successes and rebuild traffic levels in the future.

“It left us with the feeling we aren’t alone, we will survive and succeed,” he said.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pretty coloured maps!

The portal has an interesting link to a provincial statistics package that shows the Northwest part of the province is one of the highest “at risk” parts of the province. We are apparently a heavily dependent part of the province for social assistance and find ourselves one of the more poverty stricken areas of the province.

Using a colour coded map of the province, the folks at BC Stats track a number of key socio-economic indicators for the province and paint our corner of the province as one heavily troubled area. Dividing the province up by either Regional Districts or Local Health Areas and unfortunately for the Northwest whichever version you choose to explore, the data comes up bad for the area.

The categories include Human Economic Hardship, Crime, Health problems, Education concerns, Children at Risk and Youth at Risk.

In all but the Crime category the Northwest is listed as the Worst in the province, in all other categories we are featured as a dark red splotch on a map with the more populated southern regions featuring a more sedate blue hue, indicative of a more vigorous economy and better results in the key categories surveyed.

It’s of interest to note that these statistics, if combined with the Fraser Reports recent report cards on education in the Northwest might give an indication as to the kind of stresses that families in the Northwest face. While not looking for excuses in any kind of educational debate, simply put, if Northwest families are facing as many problems as this data suggests, then it’s no wonder that the youth of the community would be having problems with their studies.

These results probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone living in the area, the economic meltdown the area has suffered over the last five years was a Petri dish for deep troubles down the line and judging by the Stats BC package those troubles have taken root.

The key is to see what the Government will do with its own data, there’s obviously a need for some kind of positive intervention in this area of the province. A simple look at a map full of red splotches, will give them an indication that in parts of the “heartland” there remain some very troubled communities just hanging on as best they can.

Of course it very well could be a matter of out of sight, out of mind. The far Northwest corner of the province is as far removed from the centre of power in BC as it is from the splotches of blue in the more affluent and ecoonmically vibrant portions of the province.

Their troubles will be ignored at the peril of the Government of the day, whether it is Federal, Provincial or Municipal. It’s an awful lot of red you see when you look at these maps from BC Stats; it’s only a matter of time before the residents of the area begin to see some red as well.

Searching for Georgie

Well he may have some of the worst polling numbers for a sitting President in a long, long time. And it's certainly the lowest point in his six years in office.

But George Bush can take solace in one thing, on the internet he's 'THE MAN'.

The President is far and away the most sought after person in searches on the internet. has listed George W. Bush as the number one person of the world wide web, as he has appeared on over 315 million websites. The only one coming close is Bill Gates and he's a fair amount off in the distance in second place at 117 million.

As far as politicians go, Bush is far and away the most listed guy on the net. Past American legends such as George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Jefferson and Bill Clinton were mere blips on the internet radar as they finished far, far off the pace of the leader of the free world and ruler of the wired one.

It's too bad that the Republican party can't try and tap into this wave of interest in their leader, but then again, doesn't say exactly in what form the Presidents exposure takes. A bit of diligent digging would probably find that of that 315 million web pages featuring the name of George Bush, a good portion might not be exactly on side, nor on message.

But for sheer shock value of numbers. Bush is number one. For a government that likes to condense it's messages to simple terms and leave out the nasty details, that will look pretty good on one of the many backdrops we see the President speaking in front of on Fox daily.


With our cruise season about to launch for another year, there was a timely article in the Vancouver Province last week outlining the changing face of tourism in Prince Rupert. From the B. C. Getaways section of Tuesday May the 9th, came the screaming headline of “MIRACLE ON THE SKEENA, North Coast: Rupert reborn as cruise-ship port and eco-tourism hub.”

What followed were two pages of glowing reviews of all things Podunk. A trip to the Cannery Museum, some jet boat fun on the Exchamsiks looking for wildlife, a visit to the Museum of Northern B. C. to name a few. The author Elaine Young, painted a rather vivid picture of Rupert as a tourist destination.

While you sense she took a few liberties with the article, which reads like she just arrived on one of our huge floating hotels and did the scene. Of course, we might have noticed her arrival since the Cruise ships don’t exactly slip in without attention. But for the purposes of the article and the much needed boost to tourism will play along.

At any rate, it’s the kind of publicity that the folks at the Visitors bureaus can only dream of, everything was nice, the weather worked in the authors favour and the locals did themselves proud.

The article explains the potential for growth in the cruise sector and highlights the importance it brings to a local economy that has been battered over the last five years or so.

You can check out all the glad tidings of joy below.

North Coast: Visitors are awed by the rugged wilderness, just on the edge of town.

By Elaine Young
Special to the Province
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
B. C. Getaways section
Pages C2-C3

“You’re going on a cruise to WHERE?” Yeah, that’s right. I’m going to Prince Rupert.

Admittedly, the rainy north coast of B. C., can be a hard sell to Lower Mainlanders hoping to bask on the beaches of the Caribbean, but I can’t help feeling a little smug as I roar down the pristine green waters of the Exchamsiks River on a jet boat. A bald eagle sits perched on a tree at the river’s edge and we are surrounded by rugged mountain peaks dotted with crimson hues.

This is the real wilderness.

The Exchamsiks River Provincial Park is about 85 kilometres east of Prince Rupert, right where the glacier-fed river joins the wife, meandering Skeena. The Park protects one of the only stands of old-growth Sitka spruce in an area that was, ironically, once known for its booming forestry industry. But times changed and the economy turned.

The Skeena pulp mill shut down and other resource-based industries were caught in the depression, too, sending Prince Rupert on a downward spiral.

However, times are changing yet again, this time for the better. The behemoth that brought me to this remote island city of 14,000 is also bringing thousands of other tourists and their much-needed dollars.

Prince Rupert’s $9 million cruise-ship terminal was finished less than 24 months ago. In 2005, 73 ships paid a visit, gently depositing more than 100,000 visitors at the city’s doorstep, 50 per cent more than the previous season.

And this year, though tourism officials expect the same number of stops, a couple of new cruise lines have added Prince Rupert to the itinerary.

During the next decade, the cruise industry is expected to bring more than $30 million into the city and create more than a thousand jobs.

Already, there are signs of optimism: 20 more businesses have joined Tourism Prince Rupert in the past couple of years.

“It’s been good for everyone, not just those people employed in tourism,” says Jillian Greenwood, the marketing director.

George Clark and his travel agency are a good example. He organized my afternoon excursion to the Exchamsiks and he’s doing double duty as a tour guide.

After more than 20 years in northwest B. C. servicing the travel needs of the shrinking local population, Clark realized he needed to diversify. He started planning day tours specifically for cruise-ship passengers.

I’ve pumped $400,000 into the local economy this season. Look a today’s trip, I’ve hired five local people to help out.”

Two of them are the owners of Silvertip Eco Tours. I’m in the jet boat Greg Knox is piloting and as we zoom up the Exchamsiks, he explains the flora and fauna around us.

“We have quite a variety of different wildlife here. Grizzly bears, black bears, moose, wolverines, a bunch of smaller critters. Most of them are difficult to see because the brush is so thick.” It’s part scenic cruise, part biology lesson.

By some stroke of luck, the torrential downpour has stopped and the heavy grey clouds have lifted. Rays of sunshine break through the patches of blue sky, bathing the pristine river valley in a warm glow. Don’t underestimate what a miracle this is – although the locals will tell you it really doesn’t rain all that much, according to Environment Canada, Prince Rupert is one of the rainiest places in Canada.

I got a taste of that earlier in the day while visiting the historic North Pacific Cannery, in Port Edward (20 km to the south). The oldest surviving salmon cannery in North America, it tells the story of a time when nearly 30 kg sockeye were the norm and thousands of men and women up and down the coast made a living off the sea.

Most of the one thousand other canneries have been destroyed, many leaving behind no trace of their existence. Fortunately, the North Pacific was declared a National Historical Site two decades ago, nearly a century after it was built.

But, for the non-profit group that runs the site, it’s an ongoing battle to keep the decrepit buildings from crumbling into the river. Our tour guide Tyler Lieb points to the rotting planks. “We have to replace a board or a piling every week to keep it up.”

Most of the cannery has been restored so a visit here is like reliving the “olden days,’ the good and the bad. Learn about the children who worked the canning lines, (the original machinery is still intact), window shop at the general store as you stroll down the boardwalk or take a peek into the houses where Chinese, Japanese, Europeans and First Nations lived in harmony.

However, the area’s history goes back much further. Try 10,000 years. Long before the arrival of Europeans, the northwest coast was one of the most densely populated areas of North America.

Prince Rupert lies in the heart of traditional Tsimshian First Nation territory. The Nisga’a, Haida and Gitxsan are their neighbours and the entire region is rich with their tradition and culture.

The Museum of Northern B. C. is the best place to learn more. Right in the heart of town, you can actually see the striking longhouse-style building from the cruise ship. Beautifully preserved artifacts and artwork weave a colourful history. You can even see modern artists at work in the museum’s First Nations Carving House.

Or participate in a Tsimshian Feast ceremony at the longhouse, complete with seaweed and soapberries, which apparently taste like – you guessed it- soap.

Fortunately, I am about to chow down on much tastier traditional food as I lounge by the banks of the Exchamsiks.

Bertha Haizimsque, a Nisga’a elder from nearby Aiyansh, is in charge of lunch for our tour. Boy, does she deliver. Freshly-caught Nass River sockeye salmon, barbecued over an open fire.

I’ll try not to make you salivate with the details, but suffice to say it was the best salmon I’ve ever eaten. Just a clean, wild taste, unlike anything I’ve eaten in the Lower Mainland.

“Now you can see why I wouldn’t eat any salmon when I was living in Vancouver,” Bertha laughs, with a twinkle in her eye.

And as we bid our farewells, she says, “in the Nisga’a language, there is no word for goodbye.”

How appropriate. Because I Know I’ll be back.


--Info:; 1-200-667-1994

--Getting there: Celebrity, Norwegian, Radisson Seven Seas, Silversea and Holland America all have itineraries featuring stops in Prince Rupert. These trips depart from Seattle (http://www.rupertport,com/ for an updated list)

B. C. Ferries also sails there through the Inside Passage but the itinerary has changed due to the sinking of the Queen of the North. The Queen of Prince Rupert returned to service April 15, but no cabins are available on this ferry. (

--What to see: North Pacific Cannery Village Museum (, Museum of Northern B. C. (

--Adventures: For jet-boat tours, grizzly bear and wildlife viewing, fishing expeditions, contact Silvertip EcoTours (

--Where to eat: Seafood is king here, so make sure you sample local salmon, halibut and crab. Lots of places are within walking distance of the cruise-ship terminal. There are amazing views from the Crest Waterfront Restaurant (250-624-6771). The Cow Bay CafĂ© is a favourite (250-627-1212). For a quick bite or jolt of java, stop at Cowpuccino’s Coffee House (205-627-1395)

--Where to Stay: The Crest Hotel (http://www.cresthotel.bc/) doubles from $109 sits right on the water with a killer view of the harbour. There are a few bed and breakfasts in town, too. Try Andree’s ( doubles from $75) or Eagle Bluff ( doubles from $65.

Pictures of Podunk: Port Edward Memorial Wall

The Memorial wall of remembrance at the Port Edward Park.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Readin', Writin' and Reportin’

Last month it was Prince Rupert’s high schools that bore the brunt of scrutiny upon release of the Fraser Institute’s rankings of secondary schools across the province, today the Institute turned its attention towards those schools that feed those secondary schools. In the second part of their annual study, the Institute released its elementary school findings.

And once again Prince Rupert’s educational system is under the micro-scope as a good number of Prince Rupert Elementary Schools, hold down positions close to the bottom of the list.

The controversial reports have long been the topic of raging debate as educators, administrators, parents and politicians divine their own personal view of the statistics and use them to bolster or challenge the concept of education in the province.

As I have reported in past Podunk postings, these yearly evaluations tend to draw up battle lines over the issue of education. Are the statistics indicative of a collapse of learning values in the Northwest, or do other unreported factors skew the numbers the way they do? It’s a topic that will no doubt get a full airing on Wednesday night at Charles Hays School as School District 52 brings Mr. Peter Cowley, Director of School Performance Studies at the Fraser Institute to town.

Mr. Cowley will be making a presentation on the Fraser Institutes “School Report Cards”, and is apparently prepared to face the masses to take and answer questions from the audience. His review of the numbers as they pertain to the Prince Rupert School District will take place in the Multipurpose Room at CHSS at 7:30.

As the statistics gathered were being presented an interesting roundtable discussion was taking place on CKNW’s Bill Good show, in the 9-10 am hour on Monday, Good had a number of panelists on to discuss the Fraser Report findings province wide and address the merits (or lack thereof) of the program. It made for some heated conversation and proved to be a most informative hour about one of British Columbia’s most hot button topics, that of the educational system. You can check out the discussion on the CKNW Audio Vault, just select Monday morning, the 9-10 am block and listen in to learn more about the entire process.

The Daily News had a comprehensive look at the Rupert numbers, including comments from local educators and union officials. We provide the article for our Podunk audience below.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Monday, May 15, 2006
Page One

The majority of Prince Rupert’s elementary schools are among the poorest academic performers in the province, according to the latest report by the Fraser Institute.

The Institute’s annual ranking of the province’s elementary schools ranks five Prince Rupert schools – Kanata (917), Lax Kxeen (933), Pineridge (933), Conrad Street (959), and Roosevelt Park (1,007) – in the bottom 10 per cent of its survey of 1,009 schools.

Nine factors were used to determine the rankings, including average Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) scores in Grade 4 and 7 for reading, writing and numeracy (math).

“The FSA results are the only objective data available that measure the extent to which BC’s public and private elementary schools are ensuring that their students have acquired the basic skills they need to further their education,” said Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies at the Institute and co-author of the Report Card.

According to the report, the city’s best public school continues to be Westview (528). The school outshines all others in the district including the city’s Catholic school – in the categories of Grade 4 reading, writing and numeracy and Grade 7 numeracy.

“We’ve got great parents, teachers and kids that are always working forward for continual improvement,” said Janet Gordon, Westview principal.

Annunciation, the only Rupert independent school, marked highest at 336. The school has the highest percentage of students that take the FSA tests yearly and also the lowest number of special needs and ESL students in the city.

While some of the results may worry parents and teachers, Brian Kangas, superintendent of schools, warns the FSA test are just a “one shot deal” and don’t tell the whole story about academic achievement.

”Our teachers are much more interested in the day-to-day business,” he said.

The FSA results are valuable when used to compare School District 52 with provincial averages, but are not as helpful when used on a school or individual level, said Kangas. In the case of a school like Roosevelt, which tied with two other schools for last in B.C., the issue is how far the students have come from where they started.

“The most important thing is to look at the individual programs those kids are using,” said Kangas, noting some students at that school have been identified as the most vulnerable in the province. “The progress those kids make from the time they enter to Grade 7, that’s the important thing.

“We’re very proud of the fact that the school completion rates for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students are well above the provincial average.”

Local teacher’s union president Marty Bowles gives the tests even less credibility saying students don’t perform on them because they know they don’t count for anything, they’re culturally biased and take time from teachers that should be used for helping students.

“How many of the results include the EDI results, the (Dr. Clyde) Hertzman data? How does this help our students?” he said.

“We spend a lot of time collecting data and giving it to (the government), but it’s ignored.”

Representatives from the Fraser Institute will be in Prince Rupert this week on Wednesday at 7:30 p. m. in the CHSS multipurpose room.