Thursday, August 31, 2006

After a deadly August, Canadian soldiers prepare for a major battle in Afghanistan

Canadian Forces in Afghanistan are apparently on the eve of a major confrontation with Taliban forces, in a sector of the country that has brought much misery and sadness over the last few months.

In a blunt warning to those in Afghans living in the Panjwaii district, NATO commanders warned that the NATO forces massing outside the district will soon be launching an operation designed to retake and hold the area for the long term.

Afghanis in the area suggest that the Taliban members in the area are prepared for a long and bloody fight, having been told to stay and to fight. They say that the Taliban are unlikely to heed the warning to prepare to give up; or prepare to die warning that NATO has issued.

The area of engagement is one which has cost many Canadians their lives in the last few months, a section of scrub land that has become well known to the Canadians and other NATO allies in the area. It’s an area that they have repeatedly gone into and cleared out only to see the Taliban return time and time again.

August was a particularly deadly month for the Canadian Forces in the area, with the highest monthly amount of casualties being recorded in the last 31 days, as 8 Canadian soldiers were killed and 7 wounded in the hostilities, most in the area in question today.

The clashes while on patrol can be frightening things to behold, YouTube is full of snippets of these engagements such as the one below. They can be profane and violent, so obviously not for the younger eyes in the household, yet for Canadians who don’t follow events that closely, they do make for an eye opening experience. They make for a blunt reminder of the dangers that soldiers sent on behalf of us, face each and every day.

Whether you think the commitment is valid, or believe we should leave as soon as possible, the one thing that Canadians should do is become better informed. The CBC offers up a fairly in-depth web feature about the Canadian involvement as do CTV , the Globe and Mail , the Toronto Star. There is also a rather useful background rescource site, operated under the name of Maple Leaf Web, from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.

This current military engagement is unlike any other we have been involved in for a good number of years. It’s dangerous work, facing a foe that has made violence a part of its fabric over a number of decades, having fought in the mountains and the scrub lands in a most violent fashion. It’s a far cry from the days of the Blue berets and the peace keeping missions that we may have remembered from years gone by. The closest this operation comes to in modern times, may be our involvement in the Balkans, which was another part of the world steeped in ancient hatreds.

There is a fascinating book by Eric Margolis, The War at the Top of the World; that examines the history of Afghanistan and the surrounding nations of that part of Asia. It paints a picture of lands that seem to have known nothing but war, for times dating back to the days of Genghis Khan. If you want to try to understand just what Afghanistan is all about its well worth a read. It certainly doesn’t answer all the questions, but it surely gives you a glimpse of the area and its ancient troubles.

If nothing else, it will provide you with a vivid picture of what Canadian soldiers are facing day after day, in a bid to try and secure a peaceful existence to a people who haven’t seen much of it in their history. You just hope that they can complete their mission without further casualties, but somehow you know that sadly that most likely won’t be the case in the short term.

History is showing us that it’s a dangerous place where we walk today, names have already been added to the rolls of the fallen, let us just pray that not many more have to follow, before the mission is complete and our contingent has returned home.

Cross your legs and hope to fly!

It must have been quite the sight last Saturday on an Ottawa to Winnipeg Air Canada Jazz flight, as the flight crew discovered that the Captain was stuck on the outside looking in.

With about twenty minutes to go before landing in the Manitoba capital, the pilot of the flight felt natures call and retreated to the on board washroom at the back of the plane. Upon the completion of his mission, he returned back to the cockpit only to learn that the door would not re-open, leaving him stuck in the passenger area while the first officer and a stewardess were holding down the fort on the other side.

The captain pounded on the door and frantically used the in plane communication system to get the attention of the crew, only to learn that the door was stuck and not coming unstuck by normal methods.

The duo finally managed to remove the door by removing its hinges, allowing the captain back into the cockpit in time to bring the plane in and reach the gate. But it must have made the paying folks in cattle class a tad nervous to see their pilot locked out of his own office.

Considering the stringent security regulations in effect these days, we're surprised that they found anything capable of taking a door off a hinge, of more concern suggest terrorism experts is the possibility of terrorists taking a pilot hostage should he have to take a bathroom break

One assumes this means that they may have to revisit the ban on plastic bottles eh!

The latest in diet fads: The Photo shop diet!

No need to fast, no need to exercise, it's just a simple matter of a few clicks of a mouse and you'll just melt those pounds away.

It could be the next big thing in the self image world, the photo shop diet!

CBS is finding itself in a wee bit of a media storm over the networks recent publicity photos revealing a svelter version of the soon to be Evening news star Katie Couric.

Only problem is that Ms. Couric has not actually physically lost any weight, she was "shrunk" for the networks publicity rag Watch!

The heir to the Dan Rather chair seems to have magically lost about 20 pounds in a rather quick amount of time, which if she had done like the rest of us would have raised concerns about possible health concerns.

It seems that the CBS press department went on their own in the Couric Diet, deciding without consultation with either Couric herself or with CBS News in their decision to shed her pounds for her.

Trick photography has been in the news quite a bit of late, most recently with the doctored photos by a photo journalist in Lebanon on behalf of the Reuters service. The doctored photos resulted in a firing and promise to be more aware of their finished product from now on.

CBS mindful of their own troubles over the years with questionable news presentation, will surely be equally as cautious as they roll out the new anchor goddess on September 12th.

No doubt keeping their PR people closer to the office and far away from the photo shop software.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fishing season finger pointing

Fishing season finger pointing

With the days running short in the 2006 fishing season, things continue to be rather heated when it comes to the fishing industry and the government’s interpretations of what is best for it.
From Vancouver, the Bill Good show today tackled the contentious issue of a ”Race Based Fishery”, with a number of guests, ranging from Phil Eidsvik of the Fishermen’s Survival Coalition to leaders of the Sto:lo nation and Native Brotherhood, debating the current status of fishing regulations in the province this season.

With the Prime Minister recently wading into the issue and talk of a judicial inquiry possibly being called into the current system in place, it will remain as a front burner issue long after the last fish has worked its way up the Fraser River. It was at times a heated discussion, and you can listen in for yourself through the CKNW Audio Vault choosing Wednesday from 9-10 am. One thing is certain, it’s an issue that is easily inflamed and doesn’t seem to have a simple answer to it.

In Prince Rupert, as another summer fishing season dwindles down and with local fish plants not pumping out the volume of years gone by and the fishing fleet struggling for another year, the inevitable and almost annual amount of finger pointing here has begun anew.

Once again, a number of government agencies find themselves at the pointy end of those fingers as DFO and Provincial environment officials find that they are the subject of much scrutiny as August moves into September.

One of the more stunning issues is the current debate over the large run of sockeye salmon and the fact that the fishing fleet has been shut down after reaching its steelhead bycatch limit. A halted fishery that union Representative Joy Thorkelson says will result in lost opportunities for fishermen and shoreworkers and a massive glut of dead salmon outside of spawning areas.

The issue of fishing became one of the key discussions of the northwest this week, it has caught the attention of the local MLA Gary Coons and of the Mayor and Council with the Mayor wondering aloud about who is really in control of the fishery these days..

The Daily News provided details of those findings and concerns in their Wednesday edition.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Pages One and Three

Federal and Provincial government indecision is costing local fishermen hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The fishing fleet, which has struggled to make ends meet for the last decade, has been shut down despite record runs because neither Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) or the Ministry of Environment will decide if additional steelhead bycatch needed to continue fishing for sockeye is acceptable. Fishermen could have earned an additional $150,000 in a two-day fishery last weekend if they were allowed to have one per cent more steelhead bycatch.

“I have yet to encounter anyone who will say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, I have only heard from people who are pointing at other people saying it’s up to them,” said Mayor Herb Pond. “In short, you have the Department of Fisheries saying ‘yes, it’s their jurisdiction but they won’t open the fishery without the Ministry of Environment agreeing” … and you have the Ministry of Environment saying it’s really DFO’s call, it’s really got nothing to do with us.”

“One wonders whether or not they’re allowing time to make the decision so they don’t have to.”

The commercial fleet, consisting of 135 gillnetters and eight seiners, has caught around 33 per cent of what all sides are calling an “extraordinary” sockeye run – 1.8 million were estimated at the start of the season and well over three million have returned so far.

Despite being entitled to 41 per cent of the run, they have caught their maximum allotment of 24 per cent of the steelhead, which also has strong numbers, in the process and fishing has been halted. Last year, the fleet only caught one per cent of the steelhead due to a nearly non-existent Skeena fishery.

“They know they can’t harm the steelhead stocks, and they know we could go fish (sockeye) and make money doing it, and they know our fishing families have suffered for years and they’ve got like mana from heaven all of a sudden (but) there’s nobody in the whole system to say let’s do it? I’m profoundly disappointed in the government structure,” said Pond. “I am very seriously considering getting on an airplane and camping out on someone’s front door to have them stare me in the eyes and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

If history proves accurate, the concerns over the steelhead conservation – the whole reason for the 24 per cent bycatch limit – may have the ironic consequence of wiping out future sockeye runs.

“We put huge numbers of fish on the spawning grounds in the mid-90’s and … there is only so much room on the spawning grounds,” said Joy Thorkelson, United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (UFAWU-CAW) northern representative.

“What happens is sockeye dig a nest, called a red, and lay their eggs but if you let in too many fish, the other sockeye dig up the reds and nothing survives in the winter time.

“That happens with every species if there is an over-escapement.”

To prevent this from happening in the past officials have closed the gates to the spawning channels leading to countless fish mortalities.

“I have pictures of a million to a million and a half fish lined up by the gates leading back to Babine Lake and they just sit there and rot and die,” said Thorkelson.

These fish also carry two gill diseases which usually don’t harm the fish unless they’re stressed out. However, this crowded environment triggers that stress response.

“The gill diseases take over and even fish that get on the spawning grounds are stressed,” she said. “Then what happens is the fish on the spawning grounds don’t have enough oomph to dig their nests and so they deposit all their eggs into one red instead of three reds, they don’t bury their eggs deep enough (and) then the babies from those eggs don’t survive.

The danger of over escapement is that four years later you have no fish coming back and in fact in 1998 and 1999, which were the years four years after the escapement we were totally shut down.”

North Coast MLA Gary Coons is calling on Environment Minister Barry Penner to step in quickly and tell DFO the province supports extra fishing for the local fleet.

“The agreement (on steelhead bycatch) is between DFO and the Ministry,” said Coons. “If the Ministry said they don’t have a problem with the situation and due to the amount of money it will mean in the pockets of fishermen and shoreworkers in our community, I would think that a bit of pressure would allow a bit of leeway.

“The Minister of the Environment can make this decision and has failed to, he’s failed to support rural communities.”

The extra fishing days would also provide more work for shoreworkers, many of whom are struggling to gain enough hours for employment insurance over the winter.

“It’s a no-brainer and it’s going to fall back right on the Minister,” said Coons. “Perhaps it means more workers who can’t meet their federal EI hours falling back on provincial social assistance.”

Rumsfeld takes the point

In military terms the point man is the guy that blazes the trail, ready to take on and engage the enemy first. In the George Bush cabinet it seems that Donald Rumsfeld is the “point guy”.

Rumsfeld the Secretary of Defence has been quite busy of late making public speeches and carrying the flag for the Administrations Iraq policy.

Whether it’s visiting with American families in Alaska or appearing in front of Legionnaires in Utah, Rumsfeld has been the loudest of proponents for staying the course in Iraq, a notion that is finding a less and less receptive audience along the home front.

So in order to try and revive support, the new approach seems to be to suggest an opinion other than that of the current holders of the White House is akin to appeasement.

Rumsfeld made that comparison in his speech to the brave men and women that fought in the Second World War, Korean War and other military engagements through the years, a group that probably don’t need an introductory course about serving their country.

The trouble with his analogy is that it puts the us against them mentality into a debate, one that surely could use a bit more research. Tying the war in Iraq into the war against terrorism is an approach that isn’t gaining much cache with many Americans at the moment, having been led down the reason for war path a few times already under different parameters. Suggesting that having a contrarion opinion to that of the Administration is appeasment is just plain dangerous.

Tracking down the terrorists of 9-11 in Afghanistan, that was a cause. America, with the smoke from the World Trade Centre in the air at the time could understand the reason to send troops to a far off place hardly anyone had heard of before. Tracking Osama Bin Laden and his gang of thugs was a task that America was up to and probably looked forward to completing, but somehow that task got sidetracked with the Iraq war.

The mixed messages from that involvement in Iraq seem to be another manner, a search for Weapons of Mass Destruction morphed into, democratizing the Middle East and fighting the terrorists in one place on their turf and not Americas, only problem is that while the wars in Iraq rages on, the terrorists continue to plot and come close to revisiting their successes.

Last month in England was yet another warning that it’s only through hard and dedicated police work that these acts can be stopped. So far, about the only positive thing from Iraq has been the removal of a despot who tortured his own people. After that the people there continue to suffer in a cauldron of violence that won’t be called a Civil War, but for all intents and purposes seems to be just that. They are as far from democracy today as they were when Saddam was toppled, perhaps further as the daily toll of violence spirals upwards and upwards.

Suggesting that your involvement is not necessarily helping things along, isn’t quite the thing of appeasement. It’s quite possibly a simple fact, the longer that American forces remain the longer apparently it seems the violence will continue.

True, they probably can’t cut and run now, but somehow they need to return the governing of Iraq back to those with a vested interest in their own well being. The sooner Iraqis are able to not only govern themselves, but police themselves the better it will all be for a people that have suffered far too much over the years.

The White House says that they hope that nobody tries to politicize the War, but yet do that very same politicizing on their own letterhead. By their words and deeds they make the War political, as all wars eventually become. With mid term elections coming up fast in November, it seems that the war rhetoric will heat up on all sides.

Already the Administration has launched a bit of damage control, with the Department of Defence suggesting that the Secretary's speech was mis-characterized by the media, perhaps indicative as to just how controversial his comments became.

Rumsfeld drawing comparisons from today to the Second World War might be a tad disingenuous, but it could come with a significant backlash effect. In fact the Guardian newspaper of England published papers that show that appeasement comes in many forms and in many families.

If the Guardian is to be taken at their word and research, the Bush family itself benefited greatly from relationships with the German government of the Nazi era, despite sending their children off eventually to fight that very same menace. By the way, they were not the only high profile American family to do so, as you'll discover upon reading the story. Possibly points not touched on in front of those vets by the Secretary of Defence.

We suspect that the comparisons to the Second World War will probably be scaled back, lest anyone wonder about certain Saudi families which may have had a business relationship with the latest generation of the Bush name and other high profile Americans.

Whatever the reason, the lines seem to be shaping up to be you’re either “with us, or agin us” again down in the USA. Something that in a country as ideologically split as it is, might be a rather dangerous political and social path to travel down.

These are troubled times for the USA and for the world for that matter, there truly are no doubt many enemies out there fueled by hatred, wishing to do harm.

As we said earlier, the point guy is the one ready to take on and engage the enemy first, a brave soldier doing his duty for his unit. The folks in the White House though should remember one thing foremost, their own citizens are not among their enemies.

Membership has its rewards

It’s an unusual approach for a Canadian politician, auctioning off friends and acquaintances to raise money for a political campaign, setting up some for potential embarrassment should they not be in high demand. A situation that could possibly not only strain a political campaign but a friendship as well.

However, Liberal leadership hopeful Michael Ignatieff has thrown caution to the wind and created his own personal eBay (iBay anyone?) on his website where political junkies can bid for such enchanting things as hockey coins, a Kitchen party and hot date with a sexy Liberal MP, (no it’s not Belinda).

Ignatieff’s campaign has opened up bids for a number of items and so far the response has been uh, well, one suspects that the daily Podunkian here gets more action in a day (not that that says much).

By far the most intriguing of the items has been the lunch date with Ruby Dhalla; the MP for Brampton-Springdale, according to the Iggy site, the lucky bidder will be able to talk anything from politics to parliamentary procedure. In keeping with everything P we assume the menu will cover everything from pizza to proscuitto. So far Ruby is the leader of the pack, with the top bid of 2,501 dollars and counting

A tip of the hat to the Borque site for the deliciously titled slug line, Rubeeeee don’t take your love to town! Perhaps the restaurant will pipe in some Kenny Rogers for the luncheon date.

Other items up for bid include a round of golf with John McCallum for 301 dollars which makes him a better golf date than John McKay who only commands 102 dollars, you can buy a Nike putter left handed you know, as well for sixty bucks for the big match.

John Turner earrings go for 29 bucks, who knew that Turner wore ear rings! Well to be fair they’re the novelty kind so it’s doubtful that Chick ever wore em, but hey a guy nicknamed Chick, you just never know.

Commemorative 50-cent silver coins honouring Canada's hockey legends have so far fetched a bid of $165. But don’t go looking for a certain famous Montreal Canadien goaltender! The coin set does not include famous Habs goalie Ken Dryden, he just happens to be a rival candidate for the leadership and somehow didn’t make it to the auction block.

Speaking of famous Quebecois, a St. Pierre of Trudeau pin goes for 61 dollars while a Trudeau cover from the 1984 convention comes in at 116.

Paul Zed will help you host a Maritime kitchen party complete with Moosehead beer all yours for 261 (beer and GST included we assume)

And for 620 dollars it will be Everyone loves Marineland as Nigara Falls, Ontario will be your destination with MP’s Albina Guarnieri, the MP for Mississauga East-Cooksville, and John Maloney, the MP for Welland.

One hopes that this doesn’t mean that Mr. Ignatieff’s leadership chances will soon sleep with the fishies!

Happy Labour Day! A fable to make Donald Trump proud

Radio Shack stands ready to receive the accolades for the most callous of employers for 2006. The Fort Worth, Texas based electronics chain, which has been suffering some serious financial problems of late, conducted a mass firing Tuesday morning of 400 of its employees, most of them working for the head office.

However, instead of the traditional sit down face to face with a store, district or department manager, the unlucky 400 were dismissed by e mail, deleted if you will as easily as it is to purge a file from a desktop file.

Radio Shack justified its horrible handling of formerly valued employees by stating that they had previously informed the workforce on an in company intra net that there would be a purging of the ranks. Just leaving out the names and details and no doubt letting everyone suffer sleepless nights together. Company officials took pains to explain that they had asked for on line questions from the sheep, er employees. This is truly a hands on operation!

While the warnings were probably there, they had after all closed over 500 stores and liquidated a large number of stock to cut costs, the impersonal nature of the announcement probably set a few back on their heels, despite the severance packages being provided.

In a perverse kind of reward, Radio Shack shares actually went up 29 cents after the mass purge, though we suspect that their stock of office supplies dropped dramatically as the 400 cleaned out their in boxes and desks.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Taking a tour down east

It’s an idea whose time may have come. A group in Nova Scotia has come up with the idea of creating a pre-season circuit for the NHL. Patterned after the Grapefruit League of Florida or the Cactus league of Arizona, NHL teams would set up camp in the small maritime communities and work out the off season stiffness while enjoying some good old down home hospitality.

The Southwest Shore Development Authority building on its success with the New York Islanders hopes to bring seven more NHL franchises to the Maritimes for next year, developing something they suggest could be called the Bluenose League.

It’s an idea that would no doubt catch on in the hockey mad Maritimes which boasts of a number of Junior A teams in the Quebec Junior League.

No doubt the idea is to have fans of the participating teams perhaps making a weekend trip to the East Coast to check up on the progress of their favourite NHL squad, which probably means that the target areas will be the Atlantic Northeast and Ontario.

The Halifax Chronicle-Herald had full details in its pages today. Which we provide below.

Southwest explores NHL exhibition League
Yarmouth Bureau
Halifax Chronicle Herald
August 30, 2006

YARMOUTH — Pro baseball has the Grapefruit League, Florida’s famous spring training destination, so why can’t the Maritimes have something similar for professional hockey? Perhaps something called the Bluenose League, the Southwest Shore Development Authority has suggested.

The New York Islanders will land their chartered jet in Yarmouth next month for the second year of a three-year fall training camp contract.

Now the people who worked to bring a very successful 2005 Islanders training camp to Yarmouth are working to put a league of their own together.

Under the plan, eight NHL teams would bring their fall camps to various Maritime towns or small cities, said Frank Anderson of the development authority.

The training camps would end in a pre-season exhibition series in Halifax over a few days. "It’s not that far-fetched," Anderson said. "If Florida can do it with baseball, why can’t we do it with hockey?"

The development authority has hired former Halifax Mooseheads president Kevin Cameron to work with the agency to bring what Anderson calls the Bluenose League to fruition.

"We’re hoping for 2007 to have three of these teams on the ground," said Anderson.

That’s because three NHL teams have already been in touch with the development authority, and the Islanders would be back, making four teams.

Corporate sponsors are also a help and more are becoming interested in the concept.

"They see value with being associated with this," said Anderson.

Some of the Islanders fan base is also expected to begin coming to Yarmouth and ultimately Halifax, organizers hope.

"Their booster club has already contacted us," said Dave Whiting of the development authority. He works on the logistics of bringing the Islanders training camp together.

The Islanders loved training in Yarmouth last year, coming from a previous training centre in West Virginia, he said.

Anderson said he’s confident the Islanders will return to Yarmouth every September for many years to come.

The Southwest Shore Development Agency is also confident seven more NHL teams will establish annual training camps in other Maritime centres, he said.

Campbellton, Truro and Amherst are interested, said Anderson, and the list is growing. The Islanders arrive in Yarmouth on Sept. 14 and will fly out of Halifax 10 days later.

Fifty-two players will make up the largest part of the 88-person contingent, said Whiting. Both ice surfaces of the Yarmouth Mariners Centre will be used. Morning practices from 8 a.m. to noon will be open to the public for $10 per person.

Tickets for intra-squad games Sept. 17 and 19, and games against St. F.X. and Acadia University squads Sept. 21 and 23, will sell for $25 each or all four for $75.

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

Ghosts of projects past reappear in government document

It was a Pig Iron Plant that didn’t fly, but somehow it still remains on the books as a part of the Province of BC’s Major Projects Inventory, a guideline of projects currently on the books in the province.

It was six years ago that Pacific Iron and Steel Products proposed building a $750 million pig iron steel mill, which would have provided for 300 new permanent jobs and 1,200 construction jobs for 16 to 18 months. It was just one of the many big time projects that never seemed to get off of a drawing board around here, destined to be just another dream that eventually would die off.

Its reappearance on the provincial projects rolls has become s a bit of a mystery to all concerned. The Daily News took us down memory lane with a page five story in its Tuesday edition.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News’
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Page Five

A long dead proposal to build a $750 million pig iron steel mill in Prince Rupert is refusing to die off the province’s books.

For some reason, the B. C. Iron and Steelworkers Plant, which was proposed by Pacific Iron and Steel Products back in 2000, is still being listed as on the province’s Major Projects Inventory as if it will be going ahead.

In fact, the inventory lists the a potential construction date as early 2007 with a finish in 2009, with the last project update provided in March 2006.

Yet no one in town seems to know anything about it.

“As far as I know that project is dead. I have no idea why it’s still on the books. They (the Ministry of Economic Development) are usually pretty good at filtering stuff on that list,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

“If it were going ahead, you would be hearing about I going through environmental reviews right now.”

The proposed plant was put forward back in 2000 by Pacific Iron and Steel Products Inc. The company was hoping to build a plant to manufacture 1.5 million tonnes a year of steel slabs for export to markets and Asia and the U. S.

The project, had it gone ahead, would have created 300 new permanent jobs and 1,200 construction jobs for 16 to 18 months.

However, the company was unable to get a commitment from the province for low electricity rates in exchange for job creation and for help with infrastructure at its Ridley Island site. The company backed away from the project in 2001.

“The government clearly is not going to give anything worthwhile, so we’ve tried and that’s it,” Marcus Foster of Pacific Iron and Steel Products Inc. told the Daily News at the time.

In 2001, the company was looking at taking an equity position in a proposed Brazilian steel mill and the Brazilian government was quick to make an offer to help the company.

The contact listed for the project in the project inventory is the Port of Prince Rupert.

Barry Bartlett, manager of corporate communications and public affairs for the Prince Rupert Port Authority, also confirmed that despite the listing, the project fizzled out in 2002.

On target OR is the target?

“Where we stand right now, we are on target”, the thoughts of Bruce Wishart as the Great Northern Salmon Classic passed the mid way point.

Wishart, the tournament organizer and executive director of Tourism Prince Rupert appeared in front of City Council on Monday night, to give a bit of a progress report on the rather controversial fishing derby. He delivered his state of the derby address providing more anecdotal evidence than any hard numbers to show that the derby has had an impact on local tourism.

Council was given the word from Wishart that the people “he has talked to” have suggested that the Derby has provided an increase of awareness of Prince Rupert and recreational fishing opportunities in the area.

The Daily News covered his appearance in its Tuesday edition with a front page story, which included some anecdotal evidence of their own, from local fuel depots and DFO officers. Two groups which suggest that there hasn’t been any great increase in boats on the recreational fishing grounds.

We fish and cut our bait with the Daily News article below.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Pages One and Three

Early indications from the tourism industry are showing that the Great Northern Salmon Classic has managed to draw people to the community, said Bruce Wishart, executive director of Tourism Prince Rupert.

“Where we stand right now, we are on target (for the number of derby tickets sold) and we believe the promotion is working,” said Wishart, while addressing council last night.

The derby, with a top prize of $100,000 for the largest coho caught, is an attempt to draw people from B. C. and Alberta to Prince Rupert in August and September in order to offset some of the traffic lost after the sinking of the Queen of the North.

“We haven’t had a chance to talk with too many businesses but we have started to see a bit of impact for accommodation businesses. In most cases when I talk to hoteliers they say they’ve begun to see a difference, but until they tabulate their results at the end of August they don’t know for sure,” said Wishart.

However one hotel property that has been keeping very close track told Tourism Prince Rupert that year-to-date, the group traffic they should be getting from the ferry is down42 per cent, and their fully independent travelers are down by 64 per cent year-to- date. However, since the beginning of August 2006 their fishing-related bookings are up 21 per cent.

The two principle Prince Rupert booking agents are also reporting substantial increases in 2006 for fishing charters and there is also a trickle down effect on other tours,” said Wishart.

However, on the other hand, local fuel docks have seen no noticeable increase in sales and DFO enforcement have not noticed any major increase in boats out on the recreational fishing grounds.

The Creel survey being conducted by a consultant to keep track of the derby’s impact shows about a 10 per cent increase historical recreational fishing levels, said Wishart.

“What they are noticing is a higher level on non-resident fisherman and they are not noticing a higher release rate,” he said.

The halfway point of the derby was last Monday night, and at that point the Great Northern Salmon Classic had sold 973 tickets and weighed about 750 fish.

“The leading fish for size was 18.56 pounds and the average was roughly eight to nine pounds. Our anglers are almost an even split between male and female anglers and most of the prizes so far awarded have gone to people from Northern B. C. and Alberta though there have been a number from farther afield,” said Wishart.

Their target for the Great Northern Salmon Classic was 2,500 sold and the break even point is 2,000 tickets.

“We are certainly on-line to come out of this as we anticipated. Of course, we’d love to see more but we won’t count on those,” said Wishart.

“And quite frankly there is a ripple effect from this kind of thing – everybody I talk to in northern Alberta and B. C. and even beyond is talking about recreational fishing in Prince Rupert, and if we accomplish nothing else, that is certainly something to accomplish. Whether we have made a significant difference in traffic patterns so far this summer remains to be seen but we are hopeful,” he said.

Coun. Joy Thorkelson said there have been some major discrepancies between what the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been telling people in the commercial sector and the recreational sector and the result is driving an unnecessary wedge between the two,

“What the department said is they had no idea the derby was going to last six weeks and the prize was going to be $100,000. The concern the commercial sector expressed was that someone should have come and talked to the commercial sector (in case it was going to impact the commercial catch),” she said.

If an event like this happens again, there should be a larger community discussion, she said.

Wishart quoted from a letter he received from the recreational manager for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans saying they had reviewed the derby plans and there would be no impact from the event.

Coun. Tony Briglio said if there were any issues, they should be borne by Fisheries and Oceans and not the derby organizers.

“I simply do not buy that DFO would authorize a derby and not know the particulars of the derby. If there are issues, they ought to be born by DFO. The rest of the folks involved in this derby should be applauded,” he said.

Just deserts for a despot or Cruel and Unusual punishment?

You're the former leader of a Middle Eastern dictatorship, best known for your iron rule of thumb and violations of numerous civil rights. A mass murderer of some record you now while away your time in a prison cell, awaiting judgment for your heinous crimes, including those of genocide.

So if you're Saddam Hussein how are you spending your down time? Well if this report from Yahoo news is correct, you're being forced to watch yourself in cartoon form on a video of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.

Matt Stone co-creator of the South Park crew says that he has it on good authority that the US Marine Guards currently watching over the Butcher of Baghdad regularly make him watch the movie over and over again.

Guess he'll be joining the chorus though and Blaming Canada too!

And if Saddam gets what he truly deserves, when he gets to his final destination, his co-star in that epic film will have the DVD all set up so they can watch it over and over again in perpetuity!

Water, Water every where, but if you're a tourist nary a drop to drink or to bathe in!

Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island offers some stunning views of the Ocean, close to Pacific Rim National Park it's probably one of the most scenic places in the world. A place that many say they must visit before they die, just dont forget to bring your own water.

Tofino today, is in the midst of a Category Five Water emergency, closing businesses and sending residents into a bit of a panic as water levels reach dangerously low levels.

Among some of the drastic moves in place all tourist resorts must close down immediately until further notice and water is being trucked in from Uclulet 30 kms away and a traditional rival to Tofino. Of major concern of the district is the ability of Tofino to fight a major fire should some such incident happen during the emergency.

The News 1130 website had this update on the emergency.

Water shortage forces hotels in B.C. tourism town of Tofino to turn off taps
29, 2006 - 4:13 pm


Hotels, resorts and other commercial businesses in this Vancouver Island tourist town are being told to shut down because of an extreme water shortage, a situation the mayor is describing as one of panic.

Mayor John Fraser said water is so scarce there are concerns about whether there would be enough if there were a fire in the town. "That's why the panic's on," he said Tuesday afternoon. The District of Tofino issued an order to move to Level 5 regulations. The highest Level 6 means a complete shutoff of the taps.

"This is serious," said Leif Pederson, administrator for the District of Tofino.
"We're communicating with resorts, asking them to contact guests and advise them they possibly don't want to come out there right now.

"It's going to close all commercial activity in Tofino."

Pederson said the district is now looking at ways to truck in water, including from Ucluelet, about a 30-minute drive away.

He said fire trucks will be bringing in water to top up the Lovekin Reservoir, at the south end of the district.

"It will be going on constantly," he said.

Meanwhile, the town is getting its water from a secondary source, Ginnard Creek, and residents have been told to boil it as a precaution.

Municipal staff spent Tuesday morning calling local businesses, asking them to cut back or shut down.

Tofino is a remote tourist town just outside the breathtakingly beautiful Pacific Rim National Park. It is home to some world-renowned resorts, including the beach-front Wickaninnish Inn.
It borders on a UNESCO Biosphere and Clayoquot Sound and draws visitors for a variety of natural attractions from whale watching to surfing.

The public notice issued Tuesday was blunt, using capital letters to hammer home the severity of the problem.

"The WATER SHORTAGE has become extremely severe," it reads.

"All lodging, food service businesses are asked to shut down PRIOR TO FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2006 until further notice. Other commercial water users must not consume any water whatsoever."

The notice said priority will be given to continued residential use.

The order, which will stay in effect at least until it rains significantly, affects hotels, restaurants, pubs, stores, and bed-and-breakfasts right near the end of the busy tourist season.

Pederson said the water shortage was caused by high demand and low supply, the result of low rainfall since July.

He said the district's main reservoir on Meares Island has been drawn down and not enough water is coming across the inlet to Tofino.

When asked how much water was left, Pedersen replied: "We don't know."
Coun. Derek Shaw said the district needs at least two days of rain before commercial activities can resume.

He said the district has been vulnerable for a long time because the last significant water-supply upgrade took place in 1991 and nothing has been done to add capacity since then.

Al Krukoff, general manager of the Tofino Consumers Co-op, said customers have all but wiped out the store's supply of bottled water.

"We had a run on it this morning," he said.

"There might be an odd bottle here or there. We're mostly cleared out."

Krukoff said the store contacted suppliers Tuesday morning and a semi-truck carrying 12 pallets full of bottled water should be arriving in the afternoon.

Whaylon Arthur, a Tofino resident, said municipal staff should have had more foresight and warned people this could be coming.

"It's a bit drastic and it's a bit panicky," he said.

But Pedersen said the district did its best.

Last week, the municipality implemented Level 4 water regulations, meaning residents were prohibited from washing boats and vehicles or watering lawns and gardens.

But things escalated more quickly than expected, he said.

Geoff Lyons, Ucluelet's administrator, said because fish-processing plants haven't been running full steam, his municipality has enough water to assist Tofino.

It’s much more than a simple television commercial!

Slate examines a current television commercial for the Ford Motor Company, which in the throes of financial troubles, seem to throw the family unit to the dogs as well.

The commercial in question features a typical family out for a drive, enjoying the sun and the fun times together, the Ford Freestyle then pulls up in front of the house, Dad gets out and the weekend is over. The Freestyle then pulls off with family in tow, Dad resigned til his next visit shuffles off to his lonely little hovel. Makes you want to rush out an purchase an SUV right!

The commercial part of the Ford “Bold Moves” plan to increase market share and hopefully increase the stock share as well, is just one of many approaches that the struggling auto maker is trying to use to stay relevant.

Slate‘s Seth Stevenson does not only a fascinating job of eviscerating the approach of the ad, but also the unusual strains in the whole Ford rescue plan, complete with an Orwellian phrase as Stevenson points out, worthy of Chairman Mao.

And you thought those thirty second spots were all about flogging cars! There’s much more drama deeper into those commercials, much more than you may have thought!

This just in to CNN... We're out of toilet paper in the ladies restroom!

Sometimes my blog items just seem to write themselves!

CNN viewers got a treat this morning as President Bush was busy giving his speech commemorating the landfall of Katrina one year ago, CNN anchor Kyra Phillips was running her own commentary in the ladies room.

It would appear that Ms. Phillips neglected to turn her roving microphone off when she left the anchor desk and set sail for the facilities. Forgetting the first rule of broadcasting, that any mic can be live at any time, Ms. Phillips chatted on about a number of things with an unidentified lavatory mate.

Among the things we learn about the chatty anchor is that she adores her husband and thinks that her sister in law is a control freak, oh, uh, uncomfortable Sunday dinnners coming her way soon.

Perhaps Wolf Blitzer can investigate things further on the Situation room.

Newsbusters has a transcript of the on air gaffes, for those that like to read along while they listen.

CNN boldly going where no anchor has gone before!

***Update*** No doubt subscribing to the theory that when you are handed lemons, you make some lemonade Ms. Phillips translated her bathroom confessional into a gig on the Letterman show. Geez there may be hope for her as a newsie after all, she managed to not take herself too seriously and deflated an embarrasing moment all in the same week.

Sonia set to sail to Rupert?

The Vancouver Province is reporting that B. C. Ferries has completed its negotiations and has purchased the Sonia for service on the Northern routes.

The final cost of the purchase and modifications required for service in the north will be an estimated $91 million dollars.

According to the Province B. C. Ferries has booked time at the Esquimalt Graving Dock, with work on the Sonia expected to be finished by late February of 2007.

The Province story is provided below.

Vessel Sonia to serve northern routes
Frank Luba and Chris Montgomery,

The Province
Published: Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The long-rumoured replacement vessel for B.C. Ferries' northern routes has been bought, The Province has learned.

The Sonia -- a two-year-old ferry that has been sailing between Trinidad and Tobago and more recently in Spain -- will cost an estimated $91 million to buy and modify for B.C.'s purposes, a source said yesterday.

Another ferry to serve the north coast has been needed since the Queen of the North sank in March after hitting Gil Island while travelling from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy. The 117-metre-long Sonia, which can carry 1,200 passengers and crew, as well as 220 vehicles, will replace the aging Queen of Prince Rupert.

The Prince Rupert is to be retired when a new, $133-million ferry from German firm Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft is put into service as the Queen of the North's permanent replacement in the spring of 2009.

B.C. Ferries' spokeswoman Deborah Marshall would not confirm the Sonia purchase yesterday, saying paperwork remains to be completed. "We will make an announcement when everything is official," said Marshall.

The Province, however, obtained a schedule showing B.C. Ferries has booked a spot for a vessel identified as "Sonia" at the Esquimalt Graving Dock, where ferry retrofits and modifications are carried out.

The schedule indicates work at Esquimalt dock will take place from mid-January to the end of February 2007.

B.C. Ferries is believed to have had as many as 20 managers and senior engineers aboard Sonia, watching as she operates, and making notes as to what has to be done to prepare the ship to sail in B.C. waters.

© The Vancouver Province 2006

Location, Location, Location, but your plans must fit into the vision

As any casual wanderer in the Cow Bay area would be able to tell you, there’s not a lot of action happening down along the Atlin Terminal area these days. Approximately 58,000 square feet were offered up for development by the City earlier this year and despite a few nibbles of interest, nothing substantial has been started on as of yet.

Listed through Colliers International, the city had hoped that development would result in a year round usage of the Cow Bay area with a vision of ground level retail, service and restaurant use topped by residential or hotel use in the upper levels. However, it would seem that would be developers and the city aren't quite on the same page yet.

From the Colliers website the property is listed as such:

Property Description:
Colliers International on behalf of the City of Prince Rupert is pleased to present the exclusive sale offering of the Atlin Uplands Waterfront development sites. The Atlin Uplands represents 3 land parcels of prime waterfront development opportunity. Located along the harbourfront in the Cow Bay area of Prince Rupert, the lands provide for mixed-use development with spectacular views, easy access, and close proximity to local amenities. The Atlin Uplands are arguably the most strategically located development opportunities in the City. The City of Prince Rupert is seeking Proposals for a Purchase and Sale or Lease of the lands in an effort to promote year round activities on the lands. The lands are comprised of three distinct yet connected sites totaling approximately 70,000 sq.ft

Location Description:
Incorporated in 1910, the City of Prince Rupert has a total land area of approximately 54 sq. km, and a population of approximately 15,000 people with a trade area of approximately 26,00 people. The City is located approximately 1500 km northwest of Vancouver, and approximately 720 km west of Prince George. The City of Prince Rupert is accessible by highway, water (BC Ferries, private boat or cruise ships), and by air.

The location offers easy and convenient access to/from downtown and other local amenities. The sites, characterized by spectacular water views, in close proximity to marinas, ecotourism opportunities and the Atlin Cruise Ship terminal offer the development community a unique setting in which to develop a comprehensive mixed use development.

The Atlin Uplands Development sites are owned by the City of Prince Rupert and fall under the jurisdiction of the City with respect to Subdivision, Zoning , Development Permit and Official Community Plan matters. Given the sites location relative to Cow Bay, it is entirely likely that the "Cow Bay Development Area" guidelines will establish future built form and design considerations.

Additional Types:
Retail (land)

Retail-Pad (land)

Special Purpose (Other)

The deadline for proposal to purchase or lease was June 22nd and the mayor says that council is working with several proponents on number of proposals. None of which however have captured the vision that the city had for its Upland Development area.

The Daily News lists the latest developments in its Monday edition in what is hoped to be Prince Rupert’s next big development.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, August 28, 2006
Page Three

The city has received several proposals for the remaining lands in the Uplands Development, but none encompassed the vision it was hoping to see.

So council is now working through proposals with the proponents to see if any can be altered to meet the city’s vision for Cow Bay.

“The best way to describe it is – it’s in the works,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond, of the Cow Bay real estate that the city put on the market earlier this year.

“We did receive a few proposals, none of which on the first glance met our expectations. We are working through them with several of the proponents to see if we can modify things and get a proposal that works for us as well as them.”

This spring, the city advertised three parcels of land in the Uplands Development area through real estate agent Colliers International. They did not specify a price, but rather sought out development proposals. The lots include the 14,492-square foot triangular lot created by the realignment of Cow Bay Road, Manson Way and First Avenue East, a corner lot on First Avenue East and Cow Bay Road and the 31,613 square foot lot across from Atlin Terminal that is currently used as a parking lot.

The lands were marketed as prime waterfront lands, totaling 58,000 square feet, with potential to build off of cruise ship opportunities, although council stressed in their advertising they would prefer to see year-round development.

The Colliers package described the real estate as offering”an opportunity to enhance the Cow Bay area while capitalizing upon the growing cruise ship industry.

“The city’s vision is for these sites to be developed with ground-level retail, service or restaurant uses with the potential for upper storey development in residential or hotel uses.”

“The city’s preference is for year-round uses, which can capitalize upon cruise ship traffic, yet offer the community year-round retail and/or residential opportunities and will serve to strengthen the Cow Bay area.”

The deadline for proposals to purchase or lease the sites was June 22/

The development of these lands are part of the financial return the city hopes to receive for investing $3 million in the $12 million cruise ship terminal and Uplands Development.

Pond said council has seen the proposals and are actively working with several proponents.”

“Each proposal is different but there was overlapping interest,” he said, noting some proposals included more than one piece of land.

“There was also some local interest.”

Pond said the city would like to see some construction begin to take place by early next year, but added it’s something that it cannot control and whether that happens remains to be seen.

“It’s a little bit open-ended but we are actively working on it,” he said.

The idea of developing year-round retail and residential is to avoid the pitfalls seen in other communities in Alaska with cruise ship terminals where everything closes down in the winter and storefronts are empty.

Other land within Cow Bay was put up for sale by the province and sold in the last few years.

In 2004, the province put up for sale the B. C. Building Corporation and forestry building next to the courthouse, as well as the lots along Marketplace, between the museum and the carving shed and the residence at the south side of the court house, which make up the bluff behind the Sunken Gardens.

Concern about the potential loss of this green belt and the need to keep the remaining greenery in Cow Bay then prompted a group of local citizens in 2005 to take action and pressure council to rezone the remaining woodlands, known as Eagle Bluffs, as a parks area.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bring them in peace to Prince Rupert

It will be an inter-denominational day when World Religions Conference takes place in Prince Rupert on September 15 at the Lester Centre of the Arts.

With a goal of promoting peace within society the Conference will bring together speakers on behalf of a number of different religions, including Christianity, Sikhism Native beliefs, Buddhism and followers of the Islamic world, all speaking from the same podium.

The one day discussion period will take place from 7-10 pm and will focus on Religion and Social peace.

The Daily News had a front page story on Monday about the upcoming event in its Monday edition.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, August 28, 2006
Page One

In a world where religion often divides, it is faith that will bring people together in Prince Rupert this September.

The B. C. branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is hosting a free World Religions Conference in Prince Rupert on Fri. Sept 15, at the Lester Centre of the Arts from 7 to 10 p. m. A panel of five people representing the five major world religions will speak on the topic of Religion and Social Peace from their own perspective in an effort to promote inter-religious discussion.

“People are killing one another in other countries… but here in Canada we can come to the same podium and talk about those issues. If we disagree, this does not mean we should start fighting,” said Naseem Mahdi, national president and missionary in charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Canada.

“The purpose of these forums is to promote peace within society. We bring people from different religions- Christian, Jewish, Native, Buddhist and Muslim speakers from the same podium. Instead of attacking one another and criticizing one another, when we talk about the beauties of our own religion, then we come to the conclusion that there are more commonalities in our religions than differences. We have experienced this in many many different communities across the country and we have found this is the best way to promote peace and harmony.”

Mahdi will represent Islam as one of the five panelists. Other panelists include Balbir Singh Parmar, or Prince Rupert, who will represent Sikhism. A devoted member of the Prince Rupert Sikh Missionary and Society for the last 19 years Parmar is an active member of the community and is fond of inter-faith dialogues – he believes that people must be brought together on a common platform to put forth the beauties of their faith.

Rev. Jim Whaley, also of Prince Rupert, will represent Christianity. Another active member of the community, he serves as the chaplain for the hospital and Acropolis Manor senior’s residence and in 1983, he accepted a call to serve at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Prince Rupert.

Representing Buddhism will be Judith Johnson of Prince George.

She is a Zen student practicing in the Rinzai Zen Buddhist tradition taught by Eshin at the Vancouver Zen Centre and by her teacher Joshu Sazaki Roshi at the Mount Baldy Zen Centre in California. She works as a biology instructor at the college of New Caledonia in Prince George.

And Leonard Ward will represent Aboriginal faiths. Born on a Cree First Nation Reserve in Alberta, Ward is now retired after a career as the community developer for the Carrier Sekani Family Service. His knowledge not only comes from his experience but from listening to his elders.

Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond will chair and moderate the event.

“Peace, whether it is at home, whether it is one’s own peace of mind, or peace in the society – these are the issues that are hot and burning topics. Everybody wants to know more about this. When we will be speaking, the representatives of other religions will come, and what we say we will say will be from our own scriptures,” said Mahdi. “It will create dialogue, debate, discussion questions and answers. I think this will be a good opportunity for people to talk.”

There have been two conferences in Prince George in the past three years and they have been well received, he said.

“Every time people say for God’s sake come again. They say it is such a beautiful atmosphere – in one meeting in two or three hours we have gotten knowledge of those religions we have been hearing about but that we have not gone and read their books,” he said.

Anyone wishing to attend is asked to RSVP by calling 1-877-767-1965, in order to allow the organizers to inform the caterers of the number of people to expect, however it is not necessary to RSVP to attend.

This little on-line universe of ours, is it the last bastion of free speech?

Rafe Mair waxes eloquently on, on behalf of those that express their opinions over the internet, in support of what he sees as the last pulpit for opinion unfettered by corporate yoke.

Mair who famously exited CKNW a few years ago and more recently hosted a talkfest on AM 600, a station mired much further down the ratings pile, has pitched his tent recently in the on line world, both with his own website and as a contributor to the

They are places where he continues his axiom of keeping their feet to the fire, more or less. Certainly the numbers are much smaller than his halcyon days at NW, when he battled the powerful daily from his studio, single handedly it seemed bringing down the Vander Zalm government of the day, picking fights with politicians of all stripes federal and provincial.

It’s a combative voice that doesn’t seem to exist on the once fiery Vancouver talk show lines. Today’s crop of hot liners are more sedate, more inclined to explore the issues, rather than take the strident activist tones of days gone by.

To be fair, a few examples of the British Columbia media still get the job done, Bill Good and Michael Smyth on CKNW do a very good job of keeping BC’s big issues on the front burner, but theirs is a measured approach, you just don’t see them working into a good rant like Rafe Mair could once he got an issue and ran with it.

Mair’s thinking on the whole de-fanging of the media is that since most of our media is now held by one or two large multi media corporations; there is little benefit to attack those in power. Convergence has brought us diversions, as in Mair’s opinion the newspaper or radio station in your home town, is unlikely to take on a politician too hard these days. With an ever decreasing media world, the current players don’t want to lose out on a valuable licence opportunity in some other form of the media universe, by saying the wrong thing about the wrong person.

It’s a thought that has been made before, with the ever growing monopoly that the Asper Empire claims through print, radio and television, many feel that they control the news that best benefits their bottom line and not the public good. This perhaps makes them the poster children for Rafe’s greatest fears.

The same could soon be said for the Bell/Globemedia Empire that continues to absorb other media options at an alarming rate. Will the Globe tackle a government issue if the absorption of the Chum stations is at risk?

This means that the independent voices, lost in the wilderness of the internet may be the last bit of free thought and speech left in the nation. It will mean much more work for those looking for independent thought, for every good on line resource out there; there must be dozens or more that are pure nutbar like theories. I like to call them the conspiracy quackers, those that find something ominous in every situation. They’re not too hard to find out there, painted up like a news source only to spew out some of the silliest stuff you‘ll ever spend a mindless night surfing over.

Yet, Mair is probably partially right, the net provides each and every citizen to contribute to the process. Have an opinion, set up a blog, a website or an on line shopping list of opinion and share your word.

My friend Sean late of seanincognito (presently appearing with an occasional post at his Etymologica site) dropped out of the day to day blogging world almost eight months ago, if Rafe were to have his way (me too by the way), the incognito brand would be back on the blog block without delay, providing that all important independent point of view.

Many others have dropped out over the years, as a part time hobby became a millstone and they chose to give up the tiresome drain of keeping a site up to date, informative and entertaining.

However, today Rafe has called you all back to the battle, the torch is there for you to pick up and light the way. Hard to believe it at times, but the net may be the last hope for the exchange of free thought and expression, don’t waste your little corner of it.

This Man is Not Santa Claus!

Donald Rumsfeld did a tour of the Alaska military bases over the weekend, talking to the troops, boosting morale and fielding questions from families desperate to hear news that the war in Iraq might soon be over and their boys and girls will be coming home for good.

In what was described as a lively give and take debate with those families of Alaskan based soldiers who had their homecomings delayed due to a mission extension, Rumsfeld and the families exchanged thoughts on the current mission and how it may impact their loved ones in the future.

The 172nd Stryker brigade was all but packed up and heading for home, when their tour of duty was extended by four or more months. Owing to a detirorating situation in Baghdad, the 172 was required to stay on longer to try and bring some order to a particularly unorderly part of the world these days. In fact some of those from the brigade who had returned home, had to pack up and head back over to Iraq again. Giving new definition to the term military snafu.

Prior to that gathering Rumsfeld held discussions with reporters en route to Faribanks, during that session Rumsfeld stated that: "I’d love to be Santa Claus. I’m not"

Which gets us to wondering if Rumsfeld has ruled himself out as Santa, and most likely the President probably doesn't fit the bill either, then who in the administration might be the closest to the guy with the white beard, a jolly elf with some helpful elves and reindeer.

The options don't seem particularly good, none of the Presidents current administration, nor the lights of the past, has really shone in the required traits to be a good Santa. Now the Billy Bob Thornton version, well geez where's the line up to start!

But hey there may be one that fits the bill in a few categories. Maybe it's Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, we figure this since Homeland Security is supposed to be keeping an eye on things. A very important Santa trait we assume.

Surely Homeland Security would have a list and checked it twice, most likely they know who is naughty and nice.

So if Santa is a bald, skinny guy, with stubble then this could be our guy!

With time running out, a better deal is sought

Nathan Cullen puts himself firmly on the no side of the softwood debate. With the clock ticking on either acceptance of the deal put together with the US, or a decision to fight on in the courts Cullen suggests a better deal is possible. And with that belief may come a chance to take his thoughts to the people in an election campaign.

To refresh our memories on a rather winding road of lumber disputes the issue goes back as far as 1982, the CBC put together a time line for Canadians to follow along with. (provided here)

Since the beginning of this file the debate has raged on across the country, many say that Canadians should hold out for a better deal, Canadian companies have won time and time again in the courts and in world opinion, yet the American side continued to stall with counter suits and challenges.

Canadian governments then of course ignored those rulings that went against their case and before you know it, a twenty four year stalemate was in place. One that went through six Prime Ministers, four Presidents and a parade of bureaucrats and lawyers.

The latest developments in the debate could end up sending Canadians back to the polls sooner than we first tought, below are some links to the latest opinions on where the two sides are at and where they might be going.

Softwood deal a broken election promise
Softwood deal widely panned
Lumber Bill could force an election
Harper: BC's friend or foe
PM's hardball on softwood
Defeat of lumber deal will mean election
The Island softwood test
Softwood deal tears a hole in NAFTA
Simpson calls lack of support a slap in the face
US group lobbies for significant changes in softwood lumber agreement
How a spat with US over lumber might trigger an election

The Daily News had a complete look at the issue from the NDP MP’s point of view in its Friday edition.

Cullen wants a better softwood lumber deal
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, August 25, 2006
Pages One and Three

The federal government’s deal is a sell-out to U. S. interests and does nothing to protect lumber jobs and communities here or elsewhere in Canada, said Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.

“This agreement is nothing more than political blackmail,” Cullen said. “The prime minister is telling Canadians it’s the best deal we’re going to get so we’d better take it.

“A better deal is possible and it’s Stephen Harper’s job to go after it.”

The Northwest forest industry has been suffering since 2001, when Skeena Cellulose closed down its Terrace and Prince Rupert operations. While a group of businessmen were able to get the Terrace sawmill off the auction block and operating, they’ve had to close, given the ongoing costs associated not only with high cost of harvesting in the region, but also because of costs associated with the softwood lumber dispute.

However, the current proposal is not the answer to anyone’s woes, said Cullen and he has challenged Harper’s assertion that the agreement had received support from “a clear majority of Canadian forestry companies.

“Originally, Ottawa sought 95 per cent approval from industry. That was a non-starter and now the prime minister is side-stepping questions on just how much support he has for the shoddy deal he’ll put before Parliament as a confidence vote next month.”

Cullen pointed out the support of some Canadian companies was clearly reluctant.

“West Fraser, for one, said it had ‘serious reservations’ about the substance of the deal and the process that led up to it.”

Cullen said he is looking forward to the cross-country softwood hearings the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on International Trade will hold before the vote in Parliament.

These hearings, which include one in Vancouver, were announced Monday and are the result of strong pressure from NDP international trade critic Peter Julian.

The NDP have been calling on the Conservatives to hold a vote on the softwood lumber agreement.

The federal government will bring in legislation next month to implement the controversial softwood lumber agreement with the United States after a “clear majority” of lumber producers have shown support for the deal, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday.

Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson, the NDP’s forestry critic, painted a dire picture for the industry if the deal goes ahead.

“I think we’re going to be forced into looking at ways of putting more logs across the border and less lumber because logs aren’t subject to any tariffs and shifting lumber production, particularly remanufacturing and value-added south of the border and over time I believe more dimensional lumber will also shift south of the border,” he said.

Industry operating in the North Coast, Kalum and Nisga’a Forest Districts already see a significantly larger per cent of raw log exports. The province passed an order in council that allows for 35 per cent of the timber harvested locally to be exported in raw form, while the limit in other areas of the province is five percent.

With files from the Prince George Citizen.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Winter sports debate in Toronto

One assumes that with training camp still off a bit that the key board pounders for the Toronto newspapers have exhausted all possible angles of off season hockey and basketball. So what do you do when you hit the wall, you try to start a sports fan brawl.

The Toronto Sun’s hockey and basketball writers have squared off to stake a claim for their sport, this after The Sun’s Al Strachan wrote an article suggesting that the Maple Leafs would be much better off (as would the Southern Ontario hockey fan) if only the folks at MLSE would unload that dinosaur of a basketball team.

Strachan suggests that the Leafs are being weighed down by NBA salaries, a poor draw and poor ice due to the need to lay down the basketball floor at least 41 times a year.

His argument was countered by Steve Buffery, who pooh poohed the idea that the Purplish b-ballers were the cause for all that ails the Leaf Nation. Buffery reminded Strachan that MLSE pulls in a fair hunk of change from the NBA’s various television contracts, a far more rewarding deal than that which the Leafs will receive from the OLN package that the NHL has in the USA, and don’t even get him started on the NBC plan of purchasing time to show hockey.

It makes for a lively point/counter point in the dog days of summer which have seen the Blue Jays fall on their sword before the Labour Day weekend, leaving the Toronto sports fan with only the Argos to tide them over until the hockey pucks and roundballs begin to show up at the Air Canada Centre.

You can view both sides of the debate and see what’s getting all of Toronto excited in that hot Southern Ontario summer sun.

Dumping Raps frees up cash for Leafs
Al Strachan
The Toronto Sun
August 25, 2006

The Maple Leafs never tire of telling us about the reverence with which they regard their fans.

They insist their priority is to win a championship "for our fans" and they take pride -- as they should -- in the work that their players do for the community.

As Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum said last year, "We are the No. 1 franchise in the NHL. As far as I'm concerned, we will always continue to be the No. 1 franchise in the NHL."

If that is the case, it is the fans who deserve the credit. Without the fans, the Leafs would be nothing more than the Florida Panthers, a team with a nattily attired coach playing in a mostly empty building.

It is the Leafs fans who pay the freight. They're the ones who buy the sweaters and all the other regalia. They're the ones who purchase the subscriptions to Leafs-TV. They're the ones who shell out the exorbitant prices to see their heroes in the flesh.

So isn't it about time the Leafs did something to reward those fans? And wouldn't that be doubly true if MLSEL were to make a profit in the process?

The answer is simple.

Dump that money-losing aggregation known as the Toronto Raptors.

For starters, the Leafs could lower their ticket prices by about 10% because they would no longer have to cover the Raptors' annual losses.

Furthermore, the United States is full of self-centred idiots with money. It is a virtual certainty that someone with deep pockets and a lust for media attention would buy the team and move it to his home town.

That would put at least another $200 million into the MLSE coffers, enough to satisfy the corporation's lust for profit yet keep Leafs' tickets at a reasonable price for years to come.

And think how happy hockey fans would be. Everyone who whined during the National Hockey League lockout that no one should earn a million dollars a year for playing a sport can wave goodbye to the people who truly are overpaid.

Curiously enough, while hockey fans were complaining about million-dollar players, the Raptors were coughing up $12 million a year for Jalen Rose. And no one spoke out.

The Raptors spend more on defunct coaches and acquisitions who never played a minute than the Leafs have ever paid a player in their history.

And to make it worse, none of that money stays in Canada. Most hockey players live in Canada and pay taxes here. The basketball players get out of the country as fast as they can and pay American taxes.

On the hockey side, the ice in the Air Canada Centre, notorious throughout the league, could be improved because it wouldn't have to be covered at least 41 times a year to convert the building to a basketball facility.

(The use of "at least" in the above paragraph refers only to the addition of pre-season games to the schedule. It would be wrong to interpret it as an inference that the Raptors will ever make the playoffs.)

And think of the radio air time that could be returned to hockey fans. Instead of listening to a bunch of American hosts drone on about things like small forwards (apparently anyone under eight feet), zone presses and other esoteria, we could listen to hockey talk like the rest of the country.

Once you're outside the Toronto environs, no one cares about basketball. In fact, other than radio hosts, there aren't that many people in Toronto who care. The building is usually half-empty, even though tickets are so easily acquired they are given away with pizza.

The people of Vancouver had the good sense to ignore their team to the point that it went somewhere else.

If the people of Toronto were to follow that course of action, they'd be doing a favour to Leafs fans, hockey fans and even Canadian taxpayers.

It's a slam dunk, so to speak.

Selling Raptors won’t help Leafs
Steve Buffery
Toronto Sun
August 25, 2006

Al, my good friend, you make me laugh.

You're not the first angry hockey guy to argue the Raptors are dragging down the Maple Leafs.

Your premise, however, that the folks at MLSEL would voluntarily cut the cost of hockey tickets if they sold the Raptors is, well, almost too funny for words.

Al, buddy, pal ... have you seen what they charge for Leafs tickets these days? Or, for that matter, a hot dog at the Air Canada Centre? These are people who care about putting money back in the pockets of hockey fans?

I digress.

From his bunker somewhere in beautiful New Brunswick, our esteemed hockey columnist Al Strachan argues that by selling the Raptors, MLSEL would be doing Leafs fans a big favour. His argument is that the Raptors are losing money and that drags down the Leafs.

Wrong. Al, you know this.

The teams operate as two separate businesses and the selling of the Raptors would not affect the financial viability of the Leafs in any way. As it is private operation, MLSEL does not release specifics on how much, if any, money the Raps lose. But consider this -- the NBA signed a $4.6 billion US TV deal in 2002, worth approximately $765 million annually. The Raps receive a lot more money from TV than the Leafs ever will. What does each NHL team receive from that OLN package? A box of Sudafed and $37? Or has it reached the point where the NHL has to pay TV to televise their games?

Another reason Al believes it's a good idea to get rid of the Raptors is that the ice is poor because they have to put in the floor for at least 41 basketball games a year at the ACC. True, I suppose.

But Al, what do you tell the hundreds of workers at the ACC: "Sorry gang, in the name of better ice, we're getting rid of the Raptors, so count on working 41 fewer nights a year. But hey, Darcy Tucker's happy."

Al says the ACC usually is half-empty for Raps games. I guess that means the ACC holds 35,000 people. The Raptors averaged 17,057 fans last season, which is pretty good for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in four seasons.

The Raps have cracked the top 10 in NBA attendance in eight of 11 seasons. As for giving back radio time to hockey fans? Al, I assure you, the Leafs are well represented on the airwaves in this city.

Didn't you catch those updates on Nik Antropov's tennis game? Wasn't that fantastic?

And Leafs Lunch. I mean, wow. Not only did we get to rehash the Hal Gill signing a million times, we get hourly reports from the Bill Watters holiday compound in fabulous Orillia. "Looks like Wilber's barbecuing chicken breasts this afternoon. Nice goin' Bill."

No one's arguing the Leafs don't outsell the Raptors.

But so what?

Every city has its most popular team. In Toronto, it's the Leafs. The Raptors, however, have a very loyal fan base. And unlike Leafs fans, they don't sip martinis and nibble on sushi all night and clap when the scoreboard tells them to.

However, Al is right about some of the ridiculous signings the Raptors' braintrust have pulled off over the years. But a dopey general manager is no excuse to sell a franchise.

I hate to break this to you Al, but the 1960s are over. The next time you're back in Toronto, take a look around.

This ain't the Toronto I grew up in. (I was going to say the Toronto you grew up in, but you're a Windsor boy).

Many -- I would say most -- new Canadians relate to basketball more than hockey. You may not like it, but there it is.

Al, this rebuttal comes from a guy who loves hockey, a guy who lost his front teeth, broke two shoulders and suffered numerous other ailments playing the game we love.

But it's time to take give your hockey helmet a shake.

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

Pictures of Podunk: Westward Ho from Podunk

The last stretch of blacktop before you leave the city. From these lanes you can travel north, south and west. Ferries leave from Rupert for the Queen Charlottes, Port Hardy, Ketchkikan Alaska, Port Simpson and the Prince Rupert Airport.

Get on the bus and then stay with us!

Now that they have a bus for you travel on, perhaps you would like to stay at their choice of hotel. The next phase of the “Connections” program run by the Northern Health Authority may be reduced cost hotel accommodations in Prince George, Vancouver and Grande Prairie.

In a Prince George Free Press article from August 23rd, the Health Authority explained they had sought out proposals from hotels to provide discounted accommodations for those traveling for medical needs to the those three centers.

The article also provides us with the news that the NHA is looking into creating a call centre for those seeking out medical information around the Northern region. With a portion of their 4 million dollars in Connections money still unspent, they are busy looking for other ways to respond to new needs.

Too bad, they don’t have the call centre in place, at least then we could give them a call and give them a few ideas!

NHA will address accomodation issues

By Arthur Williams
Free PressAug 23 2006

The next phase for the Northern Health Connections program may be providing reduced-cost hotel stays for patients spending one or more nights in Vancouver or Prince George for medical treatment.

Currently, the program provides low-cost bus transportation for patients needing to travel for medical services. Patients referred to the program will be able to travel round-trip for $20 to $80.

Patients travelling from Prince George to Vancouver pay $40 return and are able to bring one family member or caregiver at the same rate.

The first bus routes began running in July and more are scheduled to begin service in August and September, program manager Sean Hardiman told the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board of directors Thursday.

“One of the things we’ve heard from people in the North is there is a lack of reasonable accommodation options,” Hardiman said.

Hardiman said Northern Health requested proposals from hotels to provide the discounted accommodation.

“We have one lined-up in Vancouver, one in Prince George and one in Grande Prairie,” Hardiman said.

Because discussions are still underway, Hardiman said he couldn’t reveal which hotels they are in discussions with or how much of a rate reduction patients can expect to see.
Northern Health also examined the idea of creating a call centre for health service information in the North, he said.

However, none of the proposals received met the needs of Northern Health within the program’s budget, he said.

Hardiman said Northern Health plans to revisit the concept and see if it could be made workable in another way.

The provincial government provided $4 million a year funding for the Connections program, he said, and Northern Health has not used the whole amount to provide some leeway to respond to new needs as they arise.

“This is a totally new concept. We’re not sure how this is going to work out in the long term,” he said. “We expect we will encounter some road blocks, but we will work around them.”

For more information about the Connections program, go online to or call 1-888-647-4997.