Saturday, September 30, 2006

Boom Times could bring Bad Times

Social agencies and Police services in Prince Rupert are already in the planning mode when it comes to dealing with the social negatives of fast growth, boom times and the dark side of the pending economic expansion.

With the Container Port Project moving along its path, there could be other elements of society looking to not only cash in on the growth in the city, but prey on those who live here as well.

The Daily News examined the more unseemly possibilities of life in Prince Rupert once the boom comes with a front page story in Friday’s paper.

Sadly it’s not really a recent issue, nor is it limited to a future problem. It was some twenty years ago that another Daily News reporter, Kim Pemberton - now of the Vancouver Sun, reported on the hidden sex trade in the city. The arrangements made with visiting ships and the repercussions to the city that flowed from that economy.

Now over twenty years later, the issue is still part of the underside of Prince Rupert’s society that doesn’t get discussed much. The advent of the container port only makes the story more worrisome as the operational years approach.

Keeping a handle on things will prove to be a daunting process not only for the local RCMP, but for the various social agencies that are left to deal with the fallout from the part of fabric of Prince Rupert that nobody wants to know about.

Groups warn that human traffickers and sex trade gangs may proliferate
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Friday, September 29, 2006
Pages One and Two

A woman is kidnapped off the street and lost to the brothels of Southeast Asia. A young girl is lured by the promise of ‘the good life’ from a small town to turn tricks in a Vancouver apartment. A would-be refugee flees deplorable conditions overseas and finds a worse world of sadistic sexual slavery.

These are not the fictional plots of weekend made for TV movies, but the grim world of human sexual trafficking. And these all-too-true stories are expected to become more common as Prince Rupert’s container port develops.

“Human trafficking is already happening right here in Rupert,” said Capt. Nancy Sheils, who is hosting a public ‘First Annual Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for the Victims of Human Trafficking’ on Saturday at 12:30 p. m. in the Salvation Army.

‘I’m concerned as our container unit comes in – which we’re all excited about it, and is a good thing – that it also brings the dark element as well.”

While prostitution may not be in the face of many in the community, Sheils notes that women have been taken out to ships in the harbour to perform sexual services. The issue is simply one of volume: as more ships are in the harbour, the potential for illegal activities simply increases – and when it comes to sexual services, much of it can be coerced.

“There was a young girl in Prince Rupert, 14 going on 15, who got involved with a group of men in their early 20’s that were promising the world to her,” she said. They were going to set her up in an apartment in Vancouver, she’ll have a good job, and when she turns 16 she’ll have a car – all this grandeur.

“Her parents called me because she disappeared – I was able to get some relevant information that helped the police find her and her parents were able to get her out of town.”

The girl was headed south as a recruit for the sex trade. In Canada, police estimate some 16,000 people- mostly women and children although young boys as well – are trafficked through Canada on a yearly basis. First Nations people from the rural north are particularly susceptible to being trafficked to urban centres in the south according to the 2006 report Release the Captives.

Marlene Swift, of the RCMP based North Coast Victim Support Services, sits on a broad-based committee spearheaded by the Salvation Army that was set up because of the port development.

“I’ve been getting the information and trying to learn what I need to for the North as well looking at the aboriginal communities and how many are actually being taken out,” she said.

It’s a scary issue, but I think as a community we need to be aware of it – whether we want to acknowledge it or not.”

As part of that work, Swift recently met with a Prince Rupert woman living in Vancouver who had escaped the sex trade.

“It was an eye opener… as a young girl, she was lured into this sexual exploitation… by two very lovely ladies,” she said.

“It’s just very interesting how people can be brought into the sex trade.”

Included in the B. C, strategy to tackle the problem members of the Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET) are being trained province-wide.

Swift said Victim’s Services will also be brought on-side and she is attempting to bring a video on the issue into the community.

“I think it’s important that our community as a whole sees this,” she said.

“It’s definitely something that I can see is going to occur.”

Along with the event Saturday, the Salvation Army around the world prays for those involved with human trafficking every Friday.

The group is also advocating for legislative changes, including raising the age of consent from 14 to 16 and allowing a 45 days grace period where human trafficking victims rescued in Canada would not have to fear deportation.

RCMP Officer involved in shooting incident in Prince Rupert

An RCMP officer discharged his weapon in an incident on the edge of the downtown area of Prince Rupert on Friday afternoon.

An American woman from Las Vegas was shot in the abdomen, after she attacked the officer who had responded to the call to Pa's Market at the corner of Fulton Street and Sixth Avenue West.

The woman had entered the store and claimed that "some people were trying to kill her", the RCMP officer attended to the call and tried to calm her down.

She then apparently grabbed a pair of scissors and first caused lacerations to the officers hand as he tried to disarm her, before attempting to attack him in the course of the incident.

It would seem that that point the officer fired the shot that entered the woman's abdomen.

The Major Crimes squad is investigating the shooting, as is the case in all officer involved shootings.

CKNW filed a story on their website on Saturday morning with details of the event.

Woman Recovering From Gunshot Wound
She Received From Mounties Gun
CKNW Vancouver
Sep, 30 2006 - 11:40 AM

A 23-year old American woman is in hospital in Prince Rupert recovering from a single gunshot wound to the abdomen she received from a Mountie's gun.

RCMP say around one this afternoon, they were called to a disturbance at a local convenience store where a distraught woman was claiming people were out to kill her.

An officer attempted to calm the woman, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

She grabbed a pair of scissors and an unsuccessful attempt to disarm her resulted in the officer suffering lacerations to his hand.

She then attacked him, leading the member to discharge his weapon.

The Las Vegas woman is in hospital in stable condition.

Major Crimes is investigating.

And it’s South from Alaska, the rush is soon on!

The Mayor just back from trip to the Last Frontier (conveniently located one ferry ride away) reports back that the Fairview Container Port is starting to catch the attention of the folks of Southeast Alaska.

During his recent visit to the Southeast Conference in Ketchikan, he said he was finding quite a bit of interest in the progress of the port and what the possibilities to come may be. In fact, a number of Alaskans are making plans to attend the upcoming ‘Change Brings Opportunity conference, scheduled for November 8 and 9.

The increased interest in Rupert, gave him the opportunity to once again think about the Gateway shuttle, a fast speed day boat (hmm FastCats anyone?) that one day is the dream to connect Ketchikan with Lax Kw’alaams within eight hours round trip and then on through to Prince Rupert.

While he didn’t actually say the bridge word, could this be the ever popular dream of the connector between Prince Rupert, the Airport and then on to Lax Kw’alaams? Since the Alaska Marine Highway System currently arrives at Fairview and the mayor mentioned Lax Kw’alaams specifically, one can only work under the assumption that some kind of road and fixed link between Lax Kw’alaams and Prince Rupert would have to be involved.

It will be interesting to learn more about the Gateway Shuttle and how it would impact on the transportation system in Prince Rupert.

The Mayor recounted his visit for the readers of the Daily News in Thursday’s edition.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Page One

After years of talking about the potential of the Fairview Container Terminal to the city’s northern neighbours, Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said a number of key business people may be coming from southeast Alaska to the November conference on container opportunities in Prince Rupert.

Pond recently returned from a meeting of the Southeast Conference in Ketchikan, where he said interest in the port project, both in regards to import and export, is mounting.

“I’ve been talking about the container port for years and it has gone from ‘who cares’ to ‘oh that is interesting’ to ‘how do we get involved?’ and I think we will see a number of key business people from southeast Alaska coming to the port’s conference,” said Pond.

Community Futures and the Prince Rupert Port Authority are holding the Change Brings Opportunity’ conference Nov. 8 and 9 with speakers including Yeun Pau Woo, president of the Asia Pacific Foundation; George Stalk Jr. of the Boston Consulting Group and David Fung of ACDEG International, each respected experts in the field of import/export.

Pond noted that taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the container terminal also had people at the Southeast Conference talking about enhancing the link between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert.

There continues to be a real interest in developing the gateway shuttle between Ketchikan and Lax Kw’alaams, connecting in through Prince Rupert, he said.

The idea is to custom build a day boat that would be able to do that run in less than an eight hour round trip.

“That’s being driven by people in Ketchikan who want to see an improved connection with Prince Rupert. They are frustrated with the existing shipping schedule of the marine highway system,” he said.

The city is a charter member of Southeast Conference, dating back to the 1950’s. The organization that is made up of municipalities, business and government agencies from the southeast Alaska panhandle and the North Coast and it is considered an extremely powerful lobby group.

The biggest priority for Alaskan communities at the conference was energy development,” said Pond.

“They have a project called the Intertie, which they are very keen to move on. Many of the communities in southeast Alaska use diesel fuel to power their communities and yet as a whole in southeast Alaska they have tremendous hydro generation capacity, he said.

The desire is to tie the communities together, develop their hydro projects and export the hydro through British Columbia, either by tying into Highway 37, or by laying a sub-marine cable to Prince Rupert,” said Pond.

“Either way gives them access to the North American grid, which gives them the ability to see that power.”

Everyone's a critic

Weary of such titles as Beerfest and Jackass II, a rural movie theatre owner in Illinois decided to send Hollywood a personal message.

Greg Boardman, owner of the Lorrainne Theatre in Hoopesville, Illinois decided to have his screens go blank for two weeks rather than offer up Jackass II as the featured attraction to the farming community of 6,000.

Boardman recently shut down the theatres when the distributors saddled him with Beerfest, Boardman says he will continue with his policy so long as Hollywood keeps sending the drivel and so far quite a few folks in the area are supportive. Most of whom however, are certainly beyond the Beerfest and Jackass demographics.

Most of those who thought he was doing the right thing were above the age of fifty, those who figure he's a "crybaby" were below the age of 35, leaving a gap of fifteen years we guess for folks that might find something they like in Hoopesville.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pictures of Podunk: Cruise season is ending

The 2006 Cruise Season has almost come to a close, the big ships destined for warmer climes and calmer seas. The industry which is still in its infancy on the North Coast runs from mid May to mid October. Only one more trip is scheduled for Prince Rupert, a visit by the Mercury on October 11th.

Council knows best!

There will be no public meetings held in Prince Rupert to hear what local citizens wish to see done with the 2.5 million dollar Northern Development Initiative Trust funds. Council has apparently decided that the money will go to create economic development and generate funds, but are rather short on details at the moment. Floating ideas such as a cold storage facility or hydro generation, the city wants to be a clearing house for projects that will generate a financial return to the community.

While other cities and town across the Northwest held public meetings regarding the fund, Rupert chose to go in camera for the discussions and no further ideas for public consultation are planned. It was a situation that did not sit too well with the local MLA, Gary Coons, who on September 13th called for public consultation on the monies available.

The Mayor posed and then answered his own question in the Daily News, when he suggested that cities that called for public requests have received many tine projects to investigate, which will be a time consuming process. Calling it “a road that we don’t want to go down,” he said that the plan they are following will “give the city its best bang for the buck.”

Only Councillor Joy Thorkelson stated that she was uncomfortable with the decision of council to not go to the public, suggesting that the community should have been consulted on whether this was the way to go.

We guess she was the only one on council that took the time to read the press release from the Province earlier this week proclaiming this week as “right to know week”

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Pages One and Three

Despite the protest of one council member and the North Coast MLA, the city of Prince Rupert will not be holding any public meetings to hear what people want to see done with $2.5 million Northern Development Initiative Trust funds.

While all of council supported a strategy that will see the money put to work to create economic development and generate funds, Coun. Joy Thorkelson said the city should at least let the public have a chance to have a say about the funds.

“What I do have a problem with is we haven’t asked the community whether they think this is the way to go. There may be some real objection, maybe the community strongly feels that we need to take that money divide it up and move forward with doing some kind of projects immediately because that’s what other communities have done with that money,” she said.

“I don’t think we should as for requests for proposals, but I don’t think it would hurt to have a meeting where we invite the public to come and say how they want this money to be spent.”

The $2.5 million is the city’s portion of the $20 million northwest trust fund set up by the province out of the proceeds of the lease of B. C. Rail to CN.

Thorkelson’s comments echoed earlier remarks from North Coast MLA Gary Coons, who had taken phone calls from constituents who were upset about a private meeting the city held with staff from the Northern Development Initiative Trust earlier this month.

”Everybody’s been talking about it in the back rooms, but nobody has been talking about it publicly,” said Thorkelson. “I don think we have not had a real public discussion about the NDI money. This would be the first discussion we are having … and we should open that discussion to beyond here.”

However, no one else on council would support a public meeting.

“My understanding is, we need to get to work on this right away. In terms of Coun. Thorkelson’s concerns about community involvement… hopefully, people will be hearing about tings in this part of the council agenda and we will get feedback if people aren’t happy as we go along,” said Coun. Sheila Gordon-Payne.

Councillors discussed at length how they would like staff to come up with projects that will employ some people and at the same time, generate a financial return. That money could then be re-invested in other projects that would create a financial return and be reinvested again. Projects that were mentioned by council included hydro power generation and cold storage for fishermen.

None of the council members wanted to see the fund eaten away with small projects that wouldn’t have a long-term impact or return on investment.

“I don’t think this is an opportunity for us to win favour, I think this is really an opportunity for us to put that money to work. Them, I think people in general will applaud what we’ve done,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

He said the way the trust is structured puts the city in the position of being the clearing house for project applications for the city’s share.

Other cities have made general requests for proposals, and then received many tiny proposals that city staff have to vet and then monitor, he said.

“The fundamental question is “Do you want to go down that road and with the resources we currently have?” and I would say ‘no’. What we want to do is be strategic with the money and get the best bang for our buck,” he said.

Coun. Kathy Bedard said she felt the money should benefit the city as whole, not individual groups within the city.

“My intent of that money has always been that we would put it to work to create economic activity that we can build something in the community that will give us a return. I am assuming that’ what that motion means,” said Coun. Ken Cote.

“We are going to take that money and put it to work as soon as possible.”

Meet your City Staff! City goes one letter down the alphabet to replace Ireland

The city introduced its new corporate administrator on Monday, as Douglas Jay officially took over the job from the recently re-located Tom Ireland.

Jay is yet another new face at city staff, a floor of offices that have a number of new occupants taking up jobs over the past year.

The Daily News retraced the line up changes Thursday to your City Hall scorecard.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Page Three

The city welcomed a second senior staff member on Monday.

Douglas Jay is the city’s new corporate administrator, taking over the permanent position from long0time corporate administrator Tom Ireland and acting corporate administrator Tannalee Hesse, who has been filling the position for the past several months.

Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said Jay comes to Prince Rupert via Kelowna and Nelson.

“It’s my great pleasure to welcome Mr. Doug Jay not only to the community but to the staff here at the city,” said Pond.

Jay has been involved in local government for the past 12 years.

His educational background includes graduating from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts degree. While at UBC, he studied public administration, local government administration in British Columbia and federalism in Canada. He has completed a number of training programs within the sphere of local government and management.

He was involved in the Local Government Management Certification program with the University of Victoria before transferring to the Capilano College program in Kelowna. He is also working toward the completion of his Certificate for Local Government Statutory Administration.

“He’s a good Rotarian, believing strongly in their motto, ‘service before self. He enjoys baseball and hockey along with being an avid cyclist and outdoor enthusiast,” said Pond.

Ireland left the city after almost 25 years to accept the position of Duncan’s administrator.
The city has been working to replace a host of senior management in the past year. In fact, the only remaining senior post not to see a recent change is that of director of engineering services, held by Bob Thompson. Public Works head Gordon Cox retired in 2005 and city administrator Victor Kumar moved to Grand Forks. The position has been filled by Gord Howie. In September 2004, Chief Financial Officer Corien Speaker left to pursue an opportunity in Elkford. The next year, Lucky Butterworth, manager of financial services, was hired by Parksville. Currently, the position is being filled on an interim basis by Jim Bruce.

Pond said they are still looking for a permanent Chief Financial Officer.

And they will walk five hundred miles, and then five hundred more

Local shoreworkers took to the streets on Thursday to express their concern over the Employment Insurance regulations as they stand now. A system that they claim is unfair and in need of an overhaul as soon as possible.

With the fishing season not as bountiful as past years and the Northern Regions insurable hours required increased to 595 hours, a fair number of them will be looking for social assistance this year to make ends meet. Something they feel should not happen, instead a re-examination of the system should make EI available to locals who won’t find the necessary hours to top up their claims and qualify for the program.

Prince Rupert is lumped in with the more successful areas of the region in Fort St. John and Prince George, locations where the economy is percolating pretty well and the jobs are bountiful. At this time the same can’t be said for the North Coast and the protestors believe that special provisions need to be made for unique situations.

The Daily News featured coverage of the protest march on its Front page on Thursday.

Scores march through city calling for urgently needed overhaul of system
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Pages One and Two

To the shouts of “We Want Work” and “EI Not Welfare”, shoreworkers and supporters took to the streets yesterday to protest employment insurance rules that will force many onto social assistance.

“What we’ve set ourselves out to do is change the EI system, what we’ve set ourselves out to do is change the welfare system, what we’ve set ourselves out to do is to change the fishing industry licensing system so that we can have more jobs,” said Joy Thorkelson, United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union (UFAWU-CAW) northern representative and city councillor. “What we want is dignity – we’re calling this the dignity campaign because what we want is the dignity of work.”

The number of hours required to qualify for EI is based on a geographic region that compromises more successful economic areas, meaning more hours are needed to be worked before benefits can be collected. The North Coast is included in an area with Prince George - which is harvesting pine beetle wood at record rates and where employment is high – and Fort St. John, which is in the middle of an oil boom.

This means local shoreworkers require 595 hours to earn their benefits instead of the usual 420. Making the problem worse is a non-existent pink salmon run and record low processing numbers – only 209,122 48 pound cases of salmon have been canned this year compared to 479,715 last year.

“In talking to a lot of the older people in the industry and people that have retired they’ve never experienced a year like that, there’s absolutely no pinks,” said shoreworker Ellis Young. “We were expecting a lot but for some reason they didn’t show up and there’s been no explanation.”

Young, who has been processing fish for 30 years, wonders why the government can’t do what it does for farmers.

“They’ve been having a drought problem in the Interior there and the cattle industry has been greatly affected but they seem to have insurance through the government and they’re expecting major help,” he said.

“I don’t see why the fishing industry can’t have the same sort of thing from the government.”

“We’ve had some bad years, shoreworkers have suffered, fishermen have suffered, the whole industry has suffered and we’ve never been able to get any help,” said Young.

Coun. Kathy Bedard is heading to Ottawa to make just that case. But rather than asking for a hand out, Bedard will be advocating for equity in the EI rules by encouraging the government to adopt the 2005 report Restoring Financial Governance and Accessibility in the Employment Insurance Program.

Among the 28 recommendations are that 360 hours be sufficient to claim EI up to a maximum of 50 weeks anywhere in the country. A private members bill from the Bloc Quebecois endorsing the report has also been put forward.

“We want you to know that we think this is unfair,” Mayor Herb Pond told the rally while pledging the support of the city.

“We just think this is not right and when you believe you’re fighting for the right cause it energizes you.”

On the provincial front North Coast MLA Gary Coons added that the NDP would also continue to fight the province over some of the lowest welfare rates in the country.

The UFAWU is now asking those in the industry to write letters explaining the problem for Bedard and Coons to present to government.

Hmmm, somebody let city council know about this!

Here's a fine little invention from the Provincial government, "Right to Know week", where government is supposed to become open and transparent. A wonderful goal and an admirable ambition.

Of course, it's taking a bit of a hit in Victoria, where the Provincial government won't even hold a fall session this year. And who are having a wee bit of trouble disclosing facts and figures about things like the Olympics and BC Ferries. But as they say baby steps, baby steps.

Perhaps it might be a worthwhile program for our municipal government though, especially considering the tendency for the "in camera" meetings and the rather secretive way of handling some of the affairs of the city over the last little while.

We can think of one particular hot issue these days, that could benefit from the simple belief that the public has a right to know!

Pervez to the Remainder bins

Memo to Coles and Chapters, don’t order too many of the latest offering of Pervez Musharaff. Somehow we don’t see his new biography becoming a best seller above the 49th.

The President of Pakistan, who apparently is taking time off of running that failing example of a government and the ever constant search for Osama Bin Laden, in order to sell copies of his testament to himself, put his very large foot in his mouth regarding Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan.

Musharaff made few (if any) friends in Canada with his declaration that while “his country has lost 500 troops" to terror in Pakistan, Canadians have nothing to complain about "You suffer two dead and cry and shout all around the place that there are coffins”.
Disregarding the arrogant jerks crappy math skills, (its 36 not two), perhaps if his nation was a bit more on the ball in the terror department, there wouldn’t be a need to have any involvement over there at all.

There is every indication that Pakistan is shall we say dragging their feet in the quest for Bin Laden and indeed in battling the Talebon, in fact it was his government that set up a special arrangement with them, to handle their own affairs in the border areas near Afghanistan, carte blanche to come and go as they wish. A decision which certainly makes for an unusual approach to multi national co-operation and hasn't done much to stem the flow of fighters and arms into Afghanistan.

Musharaff, who seems to be enjoying his time on the talking donkey tour, appeared this week on Jon Stewart’s The Daily show, 60 minutes and of course made that bizarre plug for his book while in the middle of a press conference with George Bush.

He made his disparaging remarks about Canadians in harms way, in an interview with the CBC, squeezed in between big time American press functions, a little bone for the potential book buying public to the north. For which we should no doubt be thankful that such a great man could spare a few moments for the bumpkins.

Today he’s in England, arriving just in time to see accusations of his own military’s assistance to the elements of terror that Musharaff says he’s fighting. A rather annoying bit of reporting from the BBC that probably wouldn’t be allowed in Perverez’s paradise of South East Asia.

We just assume that things are great in Pakistan, there’s no real issues to deal with, no hunger, no poverty, no unemployment, no anxious public worried for their futures and no need for that bothersome democracy thing. Otherwise a leader wouldn’t be able to dedicate such a lengthy bit of time out shilling for his book. Yes, we can only assume that Pakistan is a paradise, Musharraf its genial ruler and purveyor of kindly sentiment.

One can only suggest that if Pervez Musharaff is indeed working on the side of the angels here, then perhaps the war on terror really is lost. Because if this is the guy who is our “best hope”, then perhaps we had best stop hopin’ and look for something a little stronger to see us through.

Our only consolation is that the history of Pakistan suggests that the Prez’s time in office is running out. Since the electoral process in Pakistan is kind of a shaky proposition at the best of times, we can only guess that like the current, ahem, former Prime Minister of Thailand, Musharaff will probably soon find himself forced out of office.

Either by a military coup, seemingly the crowd favourite way of government replacement, and which is how Musharaff came to power, or perhaps at the hand of one of the many factions there that don’t particularly agree or like the gentleman.

Whichever way, we suspect that there won’t be many more updates to his publicity seeking tome “In the Line of Fire”. There comes a time in pretty every politician’s life when his arrogance and sense of hubris overtakes his true worth, tick, tock, tick, tock that’s the clock ticking for Musharaff.

We still are waiting for the Government of Canada to say something about Musharaff’s dismissal of Canadian soldiers and his complete disregard for those Canadian families that have suffered such a horrific loss. To stay silent and not express outrage, or at least strong concern is a baffling strategy and not a particularly great moment for the government of the day. If this is the quality of a supposed close ally, then perhaps we need to make some new friends. Lets try Dehli for instance, that might get the attention of the tin pot dictator of Pakistan.

As for his book, well we look forward to waiting for its arrival in the remainder bins across the country, the repository of those books that no longer hold appeal.
Something that the President of Pakistan would have already accomplished even without a book to flog.

Blogger is annoying me!

Well I'll tempt the blogger Gods by screaming out in anger!


For whatever reason, the old blogger system is taking forever to post these wobbly little themes I weave from time to time.

Even worse, I seem to have lost my ability to move YouTube material onto my blog, which really will annoy me when I want to tie something together once and a while.

I've taken a bold leap of faith and moved my product over to something called Blogger Beta, God have mercy on my soul, so far I can at least post items, but still no YouTube access, which is not cool at all..

I know you generally get what you pay for, but if Google (Bloggers corporate owners) really want world domination, they should at least keep their propoganda machines up and running.

Ok, there it is rant is over, if you find my blog postings start to dwindle you'll know either Blogger isn't doing its thing for me, or Google ordered a hit...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fuel for the fire debate: The Empire fights back

Whew, must be getting hot at city hall, as after the Daily News report on Friday about potential legal troubles over the staffing issues at the Fire Department, the municipal government rang their own alarm bells for a rebuttal.

The Fire Chief Ron Miller offered the municipal response to the comments of Lorne West, the firefighter’s union vice President, who set off the flare up with his comments to the News on Friday. Miller did an admirable job of protecting the integrity of his department and its firefighters. And to be fair, the debate around town has never singled out the Chief or the department for any perceived lack of protection or disregard for public safety.

In fact, probably of all civic services the fire department is the most highly regarded, considering the job they do and the conditions that they work in. With a history of huge fires in this city over the years, the fire department and its members have a pretty special place with the population of the city. Any issue that affects them gets the public’s attention pretty quickly, as the mayor and council have thus learned.

The real target of the backlash would be city council which has used its budgetary requirements to shape the nature of fire protection in the city, reducing the previous four man teams to three, calling into question the response time requirements and ability to enter structures under WCB guidelines.

For his part the Mayor seems to be digging his heels in. Stating in the Daily News article that “the city would never put its employees, or the public, in an unsafe environment”, and suggesting that the tempest is more about bargaining than anything else “We’ve got good protection, we’ve got good firefighters… but clearly the union needs to bargain and that’s their role and we respect that.” From there he compared the firefighter issue to the concept of safety in general, using a rather peculiar analogy of posting guards at every street crossing to make things safer. It was a comment, which seems to dismiss the gravitas of the fire staffing policy and concerns of the union.

He finished off his comments by stating that the three man rule would not be revisited by council, which may be his desire and indeed his final word, but public outcry may make him wish he hadn’t said no to a review.

Frankly it seems a rather strange platform to make a stand on. One would think that a clearing of the air on the issue and a simple presentation of the facts for the public would go a long way to diffusing this issue. Not to mention making those that live here and pay the taxes, feel a little more secure about the services provided by its municipal government.

The municipal response makes for interesting reading, but we doubt if it’s the final word on the situation, even if the mayor wishes it were so.

Chief Miller says Prince Rupert is being protected by the very best
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

City officials say they’re insulted by allegations that they would condone unsafe working practices for firefighters.

“I read Friday’s paper and was very disappointed in the accusations,” said Fire Chief Ron Miller in response to comments made by International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) vice-president Lorne West.

“Our fire department is one of the best in the province. Our response times are amongst the very best. Our employees are amongst the very best – as is our training, equipment and just about anything else you can mention.

“That’s what Prince Rupert deserves, that’s what they get and for someone to phone from out of town to suggest differently is totally out of line.”

West and the local fire fighters executive are concerned that a 2004 city resolution, which sets the minimum number of on-duty fire fighters at two persons, is putting the public at risk because they say four people are required under WCB rules to enter a burning building. In practice, three fire fighters are usually scheduled with a fourth called in from home if there’s a fire. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) believes this creates a delay that compromises public safety and that of firefighters – who have been trained to enter a burning building regardless of the number of the people standing beside them – and that the policy is in violation of WCB rules.”

“That is totally wrong,” said Miller. “Furthermore, to suggest that we encourage or condone unsafe work practices is insulting, particularly to me as the chief and a firefighter. It is absolutely insulting and nothing could be further from “the truth.”

The city contends WCB does not regulate or mandate the number of firefighters required for a response, but it has rules for building entry that state “where fire fighters must enter a building which has a contaminated atmosphere (smoke), the initial entry must be made by a team of at least two fire fighters.” The city adds the regulation also requires at least one additional fire fighter to remain outside to act in a rescue capacity for the entry team.

“This procedure meets all British Columbia Worksafe (WCB) requirements,” the city said in a press release.

“This does not mean that we do nothing until the additional personnel arrive on scene,” said Miller. “Exterior fire fighting operations are permitted and are immediately initiated by the initial response crew.”

Mayor Herb Pond added that the city would never put its employees, or the public, in an unsafe environment.

“What we’re talking about … is that a three man crew can only do certain things and have to depend of a fourth arriving. In the meantime, the deputy chief and the chief fulfill that fourth role and are on the scene very quickly,” said Pond.

“We’ve got good protection, we’ve got good firefighters … but clearly the union needs to bargain and that’s their role and we respect that.

“But council’s role is public safety and we’re comfortable that the level of protection provided to the public in Prince Rupert meets or exceeds the standards in any other similar community.”

According to the IAFF, fire fighters must reach a fire within the first five to 10 minutes to have a chance at either saving someone or attacking the blaze, rather than just containing it. The international union adds on-call situations move the response time to beyond the 12 minute range and raises the question of what level of delay is acceptable.

“I suppose if we were to position crossing guards at every crossing in Prince Rupert we could raise public safety, there’s a lot of things we could do.” Said Pond, noting the city did look at the legal liability issue and believed there is none.

“The challenge of choosing priorities, particularly priorities for expenditures, is looking at something that is acceptable to the public.

“I would suggest that today in Prince Rupert we have a level of protection that is higher than many communities our size and the public is well protected and we’re comfortable with that.”

However, the legal liability issue may not be so cut and dry. After the Daily News’ first story on Friday an anonymous package was delivered with two letters from 1992 detailing warnings from lawyers Boyle and Company to a fire chief in the Okanagan about staffing and time response issues. The lawyers note “if it were shown that the city knew or should have known that its equipment or its staffing was deficient then that would be sufficient to establishing liability at common law as the foreseeable result of an act or omission.”

The Municipal Insurance Association of B. C. added “it would appear that potential delays in responding to emergencies as a result of the number of personnel required to perform various assignments … could expose the city to additional property losses, personnel injuries, WCB fines (if applicable) and liability for third party loss.”

However, Just v British Columbia outlines that a municipality can be taken to court only for an operational decision and not a policy decision… generally one that involves deciding how to use public money… unless it is “unreasonable.” Therefore a potential lawsuit against the practice would likely have to show that the current system employed by Prince Rupert is an unreasonable risk in light of an expected delay critics argue exist with the on-call system.

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue has now fought 20 structure fires under the three man system.

Pond said the rule would not be revisited by council.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sending out an S.O.S to Ottawa

City Council is planning to weigh down Councillor Kathy Bedard with mail to be delivered to the Employment Insurance bureaucracy. The councillor who will be in the nation’s capital on a visit in the month’s ahead, will find packed in her belongings letters from local shoreworkers, anxious to look for fairness in the current Employment Insurance system locally.

The crux of the problem seems to be the geographic area that the North Coast falls into, under the current EI system, local workers fall into the same catchment area as those workers in the hot box jobs areas of Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Prince George, this despite the obvious decline of job opportunities in our part of the Northern BC region.

Because of that, local workers here need the same amount of insurable hours of 595 hours, which is getting harder and harder to attain in the dwindling industries such as the fishery. For the city it’s a worrisome problem as those that don’t qualify for EI will move over to the welfare rolls, a problem that the provincial government should be more pro-active about as well.

Of course the best case scenario would be a vibrant local employment scene, with industries locating here to take the strain off the existing employment base. Having the city become a tad more successful in its economic development projects might be helpful, but that it seems is a longer term project, dependent on many other outside forces and out of town investors.

For now, city council has seemingly decided that the short term solution is to try to squeeze more money out of the feds, sending the councillor to send the not so glad tidings from the north coast.

The Daily News had the full story in its Tuesday edition.

Councillor Bedard will deliver letters about flaws
in the EI system while on a visit to Ottawa.
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Page One

Prince Rupert city council will be joining the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union (UFAWU) in its efforts to restore some sense of farness to Employment Insurance Levels.

The union is in the process of working to increase winter work for local plants and fishermen as well as restoring fairness to EI levels, which have been set at a level that many local shoreworkers and fishermen a will not be able to attain.

Conrad Lewis, speaking on behalf of the local UFAWU executive, explained that this year the harvest of pink salmon on the North Coast was the smallest in memory and the run failed on the Alaskan coast as well.

With next to no pink salmon available for both catching and processing, seine fishermen and shoreworkers are not only having an extremely poor season, but most will not have worked enough hours to qualify for EI this winter.

“Shoreworkers and fishermen are facing another hungry winter,” said Lewis.

He went on to explain the EI hours are based on the unemployment rate over a region that stretches from the Queen Charlotte Islands to Alberta and from the Yukon to Quesnel.

This includes the booming economies of Prince George and the northeastern part of the province.

While Lewis made it clear neither fishermen or shore workers want to remain unemployed, and they are working to find fish processing work in the off-season, they have also embarked on a letter writing campaign about the unfairness of EI levels. They will also hold a march on Wednesday starting at 1 p. m. at Fishermen’s Hall.

Council agreed to ask Coun. Kathy Bedard to deliver letters from the union to federal representatives when she visits to Ottawa in the coming months.

“It sounds to me like this is a scenario where a cookie-cutter approach is being used,” said Coun. Tony Briglio.

But “the richness up the line” doesn’t match the disparity of the coast,” he said.

“It would be helpful for her (Coun. Bedard) to have a half pound of letters,” said Mayor Herb Pond.

Currently, shoreworkers are facing an increase from the 420 hours that used to be required, to 535 hours, a 42 per cent increase.

Lewis pointed out that the Federal Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Employment Insurance tabled a report called Restoring Financial Governance and Accessibility in the Employment Insurance Program back in February of 2005. The report recommended that EI regions be split into smaller areas and that job projects programs be more quickly implemented so workers can learn new skills while working at jobs that are EI insurable.

So far however, the recommendations have not been implemented.

Losing the shirt (and jobs) off our backs

Another Canadian manufacturer has called it quits in the Great White North, Gildan sportswear, makers of many of the tee shirts, socks and underwear that cost conscious Canadians wear, has decided that it can’t make a go of it anymore in Canada.

Gildan today announced it was eliminating 546 jobs, mostly in the textile industry of Quebec, relocating to cheaper locales overseas and farming out any ancillary business in Canada to a third party.

And the decision by Gildan may only be the tip of an iceberg looming for Canada’s already declining manufacturing sector, a report released today (coincidentally on the same day as the Gildan announcement) suggests that 2007 will be one of the more challenging years for manufacturers in Canada.

With global competition becoming increasingly more intense, many Canadian companies are finding it harder and harder to not only make ends meet, but even survive on a day to day basis.

The question for all levels of government is what can be done to keep a vibrant manufacturing sector alive in the nation, or is the wave of globalization too great to stem now.

It’s a trend that has to be worrisome for average Canadians, those that aren’t part of a resource structure in the nation. The only “growth” areas it seems are in those much valued natural resources such as oil, gas, lumber and such, and in even some of those competition is taking its toll on the long term structure of the industry.

True some outside forces do wreak havoc on Canadian industry, currency fluctuations, energy and transportation costs can cause some serious damage, not to mention taxes and such.

However, another simple fact is true as well, if these companies keep laying off staff and eliminating jobs, eventually that pool of consumers will grow smaller and smaller each year. They may not actually disappear but they’ll have no choice but to cut down on their spending as well, which will continue the cycle that seems to lead to nowhere good. In other situations, towns will see their populations reduced, as those displaced workers look for a more promising future somewhere else.

Now Gildan’s announcement won’t have any real impact on the North Coast, maybe at your local clothing outlet, which may find that their shirt supplies are coming up short in the future. But the reasons for the announcement can resonate with workers here, who have seen jobs go and industries fail with similar arguments and concerns. And their case highlights the struggles that many Canadian companies face and the unhappy result that comes when they can’t compete anymore.

No nation can really move forward if they have nothing to offer but natural resources, ready for the taking with no finished product to show for them. While a troubled industry such as the textile one is probably not the final warning, nor the best example even, it surely offers up yet another indication that the way things are done now, needs to be changed.

If governments need a simple equation for this problem, how about this one:

Unemployed workers = unhappy voters!


Unhappy voters = Unemployed politicians!

Perhaps that might help out those that are not paying attention to the warning signs.

Ripped from the Headlines, on Law and Order

Well, we're on a Law and Order theme night we guess here at the Podunk.

Here's a PR blurb for an upcoming episode of Law and Order.

"a celebrity who is pulled over for drunk driving while wearing blood-soaked clothes, and whose religious prejudice comes out after his arrest."

Hmmm, sound like anyone in Hollywood?

Chevy Chase will take on the subject character for the November 3rd edition of the long running TV show, portraying that "celebrity with prejudice".

It's a role that will most likely be closely watched by many in Hollywood, wondering who might be next for the Law and Order feature vignettes.

The show frequently draws inspiration from the misdeeds of those with a high profile, part of it's ripped from the headlines charm that has made it a network mainstay for NBC for some 17 seasons now and spawned two successful spin offs and one that didn't make the cut.

Are seniors being left in the dust by Northern Health?

More bad press for the embattled Northern Health authority, the Daily News featured a front page story on Tuesday about home support cuts. Using concerns that seniors are at risk, the Daily quoted extensively from local MLA Gary Coons who took offence to the changes apparently being implemented even more annoying to the MLA is the secrecy that Northern Health has put in place over the issue.

Pointing out that Northern Health seems to be going against the Ministry of Health’s own policies when it comes to care designed to maintain a safe and supportive home. Coons calls for memos, budgetary information and other documentation on the issue to be provided, all to no avail thus far.

Now we’re not sure that targeting the seniors is possibly the best cost cutting adventure that Northern Health could take on at the moment. Having already fought the Acropolis Manor battles over and over again, one wonders why they seem to have a hard time finding some common ground with those over 65 and well the optics are just horrible.

Talk about going out of your way to draw unwanted attention to your struggling bureaucracy. Instead of trying to sweep the controversy away, perhaps the folks at Northern health should get busy sweeping away the dust bunnies instead.

The Daily had the full story on the front page on Tuesday.

Clients no longer getting the help they need to keep homes clean
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Pages One and Three

Northern Health has potentially left local residents living in filth after cuts to home support services that provincial guidelines state they should be offering.

“It came to my attention recently talking to seniors in the community and family members that light housekeeping was deleted from the tasks home support would cover,” said North Coast MLA Gary Coons. “I’ve got a major concern that seniors are at risk.”

According to the Ministry of health’s policy manual housekeeping includes a “minimum set of household tasks required to maintain a safe and supportive environment for clients and includes cleaning, laundry and meal prep.” The Ministry of Health’s web page and the latest version of the Home and Community Care Guide note that home care services include ‘light household tasks that help maintain a safe and supportive home.”

“This is their policy, and it’s key because the whole concept of health care is preventative,” said Coons. “When we look at where we’re going with home support and maintaining seniors in their home the necessary support for a bit of light housekeeping is a necessity.”

However, a letter dated January 27, 2006 from NH informs home support recipients that the services’ we provide are designed to supplement, rather than replace the efforts of individuals to care for themselves with the assistance of family, friends and community supports.’

Housekeeping and cleaning services were cut on February 15, although recipients were told they could appeal and the exceptions may be granted ‘where health and safety are demonstrated to be at significant risk.”

The result has seen some local senior’s home support – which is designed to keep community residents independent and a major focus of the province’s health care strategy – cut as much as 50 per cent. However, the real impact is unclear as the health authority seems unwilling to provide answers to anyone, he said.

“I’ve asked for the documentation of how many clients there are in Rupert and the Charlottes, total hours for the region, what was budgeted for home support in Rupert and the Charlottes over the last four years, what’s the budget now and was there any recent directions for memo’s from Northern Health to cut back,” said Coons.

“I’ve been after Northern Health for over two months and still nothing.

“I thought I could get the information, and I’m really concerned that if an elected representative can’t get it from Northern Health, then how can concerned family members, how can seniors and how can the public?

The North Coast MLA, who wonders why the health authority hasn’t held a board meeting in his riding since November 2003, is calling on NH to come clean on their activities surrounding home support and care. He’s also encouraging local home care recipients to contact him (624-7734) if they’ve been harmed by the cuts and is interested in organizing a health care summit to address issues like this and Acropolis Manor.

“Their reason for the cut is that everywhere else has cut back and our region is the last,” said Coons. “Yet you can easily see the numbers in Prince Rupert and Charlottes have gone up dramatically and … they’ve got more clients and older clients over the last four for five years, it’s the trend.

“We shouldn’t be the last to cut back if we have a need for it. For that matter, light household tasks are part of home support and everyone should be offering it.”

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I smell a movie of the week

We’ve got a famous hockey player, a famous politician, a spurned wife spitting bullets over having been threatened with “financial extinction” and enough innuendo to make the most arrogant cad blush.

Welcome to the Belinda and Tie story. Llove match or business relationship? It all depends on whose court document is being read at any given time.

Today’s wild developments included Belinda calling out about double standards, Leanne Domi painting the former Toronto Maple Leaf as a mean spirited bully who has tossed his family aside with his relationship with the Liberal MP and one time Conservative leadership candidate. The soon to be ex-Mrs. Domi has made the marital relationship very much an open book in the last 72 hours.

It’s a story that is finding traction not only in the political section of the nation’s newspapers but in the sports section as well. A quick scan of the Canoe sport site on Tuesday night found five separate stories on Belinda and Tie, and Belinda has never put on a pair of skates, though she apparently has scored once or twice in her career. In fact, a quick glance would show that her stats may be better than Domi’s.

A Google search of Belinda Stronach on Tuesday would give 162 options about young Ms. Stronach and we would wager a safe bet that not many of them were inclined to share her thoughts on political policy.

Of course Belinda comes with a fair amount of relationship baggage, her star crossed or was that floor crossing relationship ended with Peter McKay, the luncheon dates with Bill Clinton, all of it show that her rolodex is very much the A list of the eligible and the not so eligible.

Domi on the other hand, hasn’t had quite the press as his new pal but scandal has apparently knocked on his door as well.

However, the soap opera may soon come to an end, as it's reported that the two sides have come to a temporary settlement in the most celebrated marital break up in a long time. They say that a divorce can be at times a kind of war and if so, then this one seems to have gone thermo nuclear!

And people say Canadians are dull!

Pierre Trudeau, another famous politician with a few hig profile friends over the years, once said that the courts, had no right in the bedrooms of the nation. But it would seem that while the courts should butt out, the average Canadian might be inclined to try and peek through a window from time to time, or at least peek at a paper or a website.

In the end though, it’s a marriage of those two great Canadian loves, hockey and politics, which surely must be a made for TV event if ever there was one.

But alas, in the end this one deserves better than your typical bad Canadian TV version of the movie of the week. A simple re write can move Tie to the Rangers, Belinda to the Democrats and let the bidding begin.

Law and Order: Canadian Case Load

So not one, but two Law and Order shows decided to play a Canadian card in their shows on Tuesday night.

Law and Order: Criminal Intent had a storyline of a teacher that was involved with her student, saw his father killed, framed her husband and hit the road for Toronto. “Oh! Canada, where the age of consent is 14,” was the memorable Canadian quote of the show. That and Logan declaring that he’s a Canadian buff.

Law and Order: SVU weaved the tale of a gal with Turner’s syndrome, a condition where a young woman would look to be a young girl. The Canadian connection to the plot was her father apparently scoping out apartments and schools in Vancouver, in order to avoid an ugly custody battle with an ex-wife recently on the scene.

Rene Balcer one of the head writers of the Law and Order franchise, apparently pulled out all his Canadian stops, he occasionally drops in references to Canadianna, but the man has outdone himself this time. However, we’re not so sure that Tourism Canada wants us to be known as the land of teenage/teacher lust and suspected kidnapping Dads.

No authorization required.

There is yet another twist in the ongoing dispute over the Fairview Container Terminal project. One of the two current notices of application filed by the Coast Tsimshian bands has been rejected by the Federal Court.

The same judge that ruled in favour of the Coast Tsimshian last week, issued his judgment yesterday over the issue of the need for a judicial review on the Federal Minister of Transportations approval of the terminal.

The judge stated that as the Minister is not required to give authorization on the project, the filing was rejected.

This would mean that one avenue of slowing the development down has been exhausted, though there is still one other notice of application pending.

And still to be seen is what the Coast Tsimshian may wish to do with the judgment of September 21st, in which Justice Finckenstein agreed with the Coast Tsimshian, calling the governments position during the process of consultation “skewed” and “unreasonable”.

The judges findings led to the Coast Tsimshian calling on the port to halt construction of the terminal. And it could provide an avenue for further legal action against the project.

The Vancouver Sun posted the latest details on the issue on their websit on Tuesday morning.

Court rejects authorization of native terminal
The Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, September 25, 2006

The Federal Court of Canada has dismissed a notice of application filed by the Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla first nations bands against the federal transport minister over the development of the Prince Rupert container facility, ruling that the minister is not required to authorize the project.

The two bands had requested a judicial review of the minister's pending decision to approve the terminal development, alleging they had not been properly consulted and accommodated for the project.

But in a judgment dated Sept 21, Justice Konrad von Finckenstein said no pending decision existed, as the minister is not required to give authorization.

"In my view this failure by the applicants' to properly plead their case is fatal and accordingly, I have no choice but to dismiss this application," von Finckenstein wrote.

Heroes of Hartley Bay won’t have to pick up the tab after all

For a while there it seemed like the ultimate in poor party manners, the provincial government was determined to host a celebration for the heroes of Hartley Bay, but only if they were willing to pay for the privilege.

Those that raced out to assist the stricken and eventually sunken Queen of the North and those that opened up their doors to the rescued travelers were invited to a fancy gala in Victoria; the only catch was that they had to pay for their own accommodation and transportation.

It was a bit of a disappointment to the good feelings that the invitation initially generated, as things progressed the folks of Hartley Bay decided to attend anyways “biting the bullet” as they put it in the Daily News, to pay the estimated 25,000 dollars expense to attend the gala. Hoping that by doing so, that they would find the most embarrassing way possible, in which to showcase the silliness of the plan by the provincial government.

As thing turned out, according to a report on CKNW on Tuesday morning, it seems that the travel tab will be picked up by the government, which will provide the transportation and accommodation for the rescuers to be honoured for their efforts.

Of course one wonders why the province didn’t offer to provide a village feast at Hartley Bay, flying in some top end chefs, some entertainment, bringing the Lieutenant Governor, the Premier, Head of B. C. Ferries et al to Hartley Bay to let everyone share in the recognition of bravery shown that March morning. It might have been a fiscally prudent move, one that included everyone and showed that their efforts were truly appreciated. A kitchen party if you will in the main kitchen at Hartley Bay.

Short of that, picking up the travel tab of the honoured guests seems like a sensible move, it’s refreshing to see that eventually after a bit of embarrassment, some common sense eventually can prevail.

The Daily had the before the change of direction story on its front page on Monday, painting the Provincial government as a rather inept lot at party planning.

By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Monday, September, 25, 2006
Page One

It may be the most expensive dinner date Hartley Bay has ever experienced. And they’re not happy about it, either.

Earlier this summer, the Hartley Bay rescuers – who didn’t think twice about heading out into the ocean in the middle of the night back in March to assist in the rescue of 99 passengers and crew when the Queen of the North hit the rocks off Gil Island – were surprised to receive fancy invitations from Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnolo inviting them to a special dinner in Victoria, where they would be honoured for their bravery.

That pleasant surprise, however, quickly turned to disappointment for the community when they found out the individuals being honoured would have to pay out of their own pockets for both transportation and accommodation.

“The initial reaction (was) surprise,” said Bob Hill, chief of the band council “I phoned around to confirm (whether it was taken care of) to find out that no, they don’t cover expenses. The buck started passing around after that.”

Government House told Hartley Bay that they had sent out the invitations at the suggestion of the First Nations Emergency Services Society, but that group said it was actually, the B. C. Fire Commissioner’s idea. Then, that association suggested it should be up to B. C. Ferries to pay.

In the end, the Hartley Bay band council decided to stop in and pick up the cost of transporting people to the event because the band said the rescuers deserved to be recognized for their bravery of that night.

“We took it for granted there would be no cost,” said Hill. “But my bottom line – the rescue of the people itself was so important, these people deserve to be recognized.

“So, we bit the bullet, and decided to go through with this, and embarrass the government the best we can.”

The cost of the transportation and accommodation is estimated at $25,000, and that’s after Hartley Bay decided to send their rescuers down south by the cheapest route possible - first up to Prince Rupert by ferry, and then driving all the way from Rupert to Vancouver, and then across via ferry to Victoria.

“The majority of the rescuers can’t afford it themselves,” said Hill. “So (we’re going to) pay for their mileage. I could go even further and tell them to bring their own sleeping bags - you’re sleeping in the van – but I won’t do that,”

There is still the possibility that someone, perhaps even the government, may step forward in the end and offer to cover the costs for Hartley Bay, said Hill. After all, if not for the community’s quick response to the sinking, it’s anyone’s guess what might have really happened that night of March 22, where currently, only two of the 101 people aboard that night is believed to have perished in the accident.

”I want the public to know how this government operates,” said Hill. “It’s like ‘we want to honour you, but by the way, you have to pay for it.” That’s just stupid. How would you feel?”
The dinner to honour the 21 rescuers is scheduled for Sept. 30 in Victoria.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Road Not Taken

With a court case come and gone and a call by the Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams for the port to stop construction on the Fairview Container Terminal, the northwest waits for the next shoe to drop, in the controversy between the Federal Government and the Coast Tsimshian Nations.

The issue that first came to light at the start of the year has meandered through the legal system in Ottawa, all while construction continued on the site at Fairview. Throughout the discussions there have been suggestions that the two band councils involved were offered a “fairly attractive” package, but no real specifics were ever released, perhaps in a bid to bring the matter to resolution without the court challenge that would eventually arrive.

In the end, the “deal” was obviously rejected and we were brought to the point where we are today, a project that still goes ahead, though very aware that it could be ordered to a halt at any time. A process that may have long lasting repercussions on time tables as well as completion and operational dates.

For the most part, many in the northwest wondered over the last number of months about what was in those “attractive packages”, and if the Daily News has the full story then they can wonder no more. In a front page story on Monday, The Daily obtained court documents and printed details of the deal offered to the two First Nations bands.

The article highlights a deal that apparently offered to the two bands, job guarantees during construction, training programs, business loans, further involvement in port development, job opportunities that reflect the current demographic of the Prince Rupert population and action plans that would award contracts to qualified Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams businesses for service industry jobs related to the port development.

The timing of the release of the documents is curious, coming so soon after the court decision and it will be interesting to see the reaction that the revelations bring to the community. In a town steeped in rumours on a daily basis, the article will surely provide fodder for coffee shop conversation and letter to the editor writers for weeks to come.

What effect this latest twist will have on the dispute remains to be seen, but no doubt the questions of the day will be why this deal was was rejected? What is it that the two band councils would like to see regarding the project; if this was not it, what is? And what is the next step and what impact will that have on the project both short and long term?

We await the next step in the most intriguing story in the region.

Bands were in line for $7.65 million port windfall
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, September 25, 2006
Pages One and Five

People from Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams could already be benefiting from construction of the Fairview Container Terminal had the two bands accepted a $7.65 million federal offer of accommodation presented earlier this spring.

According to court documents obtained by the Daily News, the Conservative government, including Carol Skelton, Minister of Western Economic Development and David Emerson, Minister of the Pacific Gateway made an offer worth $7.65 million plus positions that would guarantee further involvement with port development. One of the conditions of the offer was that the two bands, which represent approximately 3,500 people on and off reserve, drop their lawsuits against the terminal conversion.

If the lawsuits result in the delay of terminal construction, it puts the entire project and the future of the Northwest in jeopardy, port executives had said on numerous occasions.

First off, the offer included having the port “make reasonable efforts to ensure Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams people are given special opportunities for employment in the construction … operation … and economic development opportunities that flow from the operations of the container facility.”

During terminal construction, the port was going to negotiate with contractors to hire up to 45 per cent of their required labour from qualified Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams people. There are currently 100 people working on the container conversion.

Following construction, the port was going to work with the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union, Maher Terminals, CN Rail and the Canadian Border Services Agency to ensure the new workforce at the container port “reflect the current demographics of the general Prince Rupert population.”

Then, in order to ensure the two communities’ participation in other areas, the port was going to establish an action plan for awarding contracts to qualified Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams businesses providing port related services such as warehousing and security.

Maher Terminals also indicated to the port it would consider special arrangements for a fuel tender with Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams.

The Federal Government was going to provide $4 million for an Aboriginal Training Organization of which $2.67 million would be specifically dedicated to Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams people. The port would also add another $175,000 to hire a skills training coordinator for three years in order to ensure both communities could benefit as much as possible from the opportunities.

To help the communities develop outside business opportunities for the container port, there would be an additional $3 million from the feds and port provided for a revolving loan fund for aboriginal businesses.

Finally Western Economic Diversification would provide another $150,000 for business planning and feasibility studies related to port development.

Lastly, the port would offer a position to the communities on the board of directors of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, which would ensure their future involvement in port related decisions.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sharing the LNG story

WestPac LNG will be in town on October 3rd to host an open house about its plans for a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) receiving terminal for Ridley Island. The session will include a number of informational displays about the proposed terminal, transportation and environmental issues and the economic contribution that it will make to the area. The hours for the public open house will be from 4-8 pm at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.

Expected to be completed and on line by 2011, it will provide for 300 construction jobs and approximately 30 on site operational full time jobs when completed.

Page three of Friday’s Daily News had the full details of the proposed open house. For those anxious to learn more about the wonderful world of LNG, the WestPac website has a number of links to information about the industry and the company's plans for Prince Rupert.

WestPac LNG to hold an open house to explain its Ridley Island plans
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, September 22, 2006
Page Three

The company planning to build a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) receiving terminal on Ridley Island will outline its vision to the public during an open house October 3 at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.

WestPac LNG is proposing a $350 million dollar terminal where it will receive gas from sources outside North America and ship it into the North American marketplace.

“This is the first opportunity we have to update the community on our plans and our environmental work,” said Wayne Stanley, vice president of WestPac LNG Corporation. “We are looking forward to meeting with the community and sharing information on our progress.”

The open house, which takes place from 4 to 8 p. m., will feature a number of educational displays that will provide information about the proposed LNG Terminal, as well as LNG transportation, storage and use, environmental safeguards and the economic contribution LNG will make to Prince Rupert.

It will also provide an update on WestPac’s environmental assessment activities that are currently underway. A number of senior WestPac representatives and LNG industry experts will be on hand to answer questions.

LNG is created by cooling natural gas into a liquid state at a temperature of minus 162C. This reduces the space natural gas occupies by 600 times making it practical for transport and storage.

The WestPac project will include a new marine berthing facility and up to four onshore LNG storage tanks. There is a proposed natural gas liquids extraction and storage facility; infrastructure for LNG load-out by barge, rail car an trucks; and LNG re-gasification facilities with a capacity of up to 130 million cubic feet per day of natural gas. There will also be related infrastructure for interconnection to existing natural gas pipelines at the project site.

The company expects there will be about one tanker delivery per week.

“LNG is one of the fastest growing segments in the energy industry with an expected 10 to 15 per cent annual growth rate over the next decade,” said Stanley. “This project will be a catalyst for future investment and will help us ensure the long-term economic health of the region.”

The Prince Rupert LNG terminal will create at least 300 jobs during construction and about 30 full-time jobs. It is scheduled to become operational in 2011.

This June, the company took the first step toward building the facility by filling a project description with the Port of Prince Rupert, the very first step in the environmental assessment process, which should take 12 to 14 months.

The WestPac project is not the only LNG terminal proposed for the North Coast. Gavelston LNG has received its provincial environmental permits and negotiated an agreement with the Haisla First Nation to build a $500 million Kitimat LNG receiving terminal. Gavelston has also entered into a partnership with Pacific Northern Gas to build a 470-kilometre pipeline from Kitimat to Summit Lake in order to get its product to market.

Site preparation for the Kitimat LNG terminal is expected to begin this fall, with operations scheduled to commence in 2009.

Dog the Apology maker

With the prospect of some time in a Mexican jail staring him in the face, Duane “Dog” Chapman, better known as Dog the Bounty Hunter is hoping that a simple apology, fine and charitable donation will keep him out of the grasp of some Mexicali justice.

Chapman is presently sitting in a Honolulu jail, awaiting a decision on Mexico’s request for extradition, this as part of a bounty sting that Dog and his crew launched on convicted rapist Andrew Luster, the heir to the Max Factor fortunes. Luster was in Puerto Vallarta when Dog and the crew repatriated him for American justice and thus ran afoul of Mexican ones.

As bounty hunting is considered illegal in Mexico, Chapman and his associates were arrested for kidnapping and posted bail and left the country. They claim under poor advice of their Mexican attorney.

The Luster case, pretty well made Dog’s career and led to the A & E program that seems to control that networks programming grid on most days. Chapman’s lawyer is hoping to have the issue solved before the October 13th deadline, resulting in a free running dog to go seek out future bounties for justice and A & E.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It’s Showtime-Music-Bob Seger

Hope I die before I get old”, it's the ageless anthem of rock and Pete Townshend’s immortal but apparently disregarded advice to all rockers (including himself it seems, with the Who set for a North American Tour).

Count Bob Seger among those that chose to take a pass on the suggestion, not only living to a fine old age, but still rocking as he crosses over into his sixties, he’s still kicking out the Jams.

This past week saw the release of his first new album in eleven years, with Face the Promise, a return to the straight ahead mid west rock and rol,l that defined his brand of the Detroit City sound through the seventies and eighties.

The Hair is significantly shorter and greyer than in those halcyon days of Stranger in Town and Night Moves, but the beat is still strong, the chords furious and the lyrics still poetic, as Seger sings the song of the middle class. Perhaps with the benefit of time he brings a better understanding to his songs through the years gone by.

The voice isn’t quite as strong as the Katmandu days and we’re pretty sure he probably isn’t moving around quite as fast as the legendary days of the Live Bullet shows, but still for a dose of some good old Heartland Rock and Roll, the CD is worth checking out.

With contemporaries like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Neil Young still going strong with current and vital music to be made, why should one of the biggest acts of the height of the rock era sit on the sidelines.

Seger is still singing and with tunes like Face the Promise, Wait for Me and No More, there will be an audience out there waiting to give him a listen. In an industry full of one hit wonders and celebrity rockers with nothing to sing, it's kind of nice to have someone come back with some music that makes you think for a bit.

As long as a troubadour has a song, he’ll be found singing it somewhere, maybe even on your iPod!.

Libs see dead people

Getting out the vote is a key to any candidates bid for his or her parties leadership, the more delegates you have on your ledger by the time the convention rolls around, the better it is for you when the voting comes. The key is to have them in place on voting day to put you over the top.

But what happens when your supporters have a forwarding address that’s a little hard to reach.

Liberal candidate Joe Volpe finds himself under the micro-scope again, after it was disclosed that his campaign workers have “recruited” a number of people for membership in the Liberal party, a couple of whom seem to be no longer among the living.

The Toronto Star conducted an investigative report into the chase for memberships and identified some 75 possible problems from the Quebec list. From that list they found that only a couple of dozens had actively sought out the Liberals and paid their own way into the club, some said they had not received phone calls, nor mail solicitations and hadn’t paid the fee nor signed anything. Yet they’re on the list, apparently ready to select a delegate to choose possibly the next Prime Minister of Canada.

This many months after the sponsorgate scandals, it seems there’s still a slight democratic deficit in the land of the Liberal. This could lay to waste all this penance that the party has done for the last few months since the Conservatives ended the long running Liberal show on the Hill. Not to mention hand the Conservatives and Bloc an issue that could help them quite nicely on any election trail.

You can rest assured now that a closer look will be made at all the other candidates and their membership lists, in a quest to see if things really have changed in Liberal land.

For Volpe, it’s the second major controversy to strike his bid for the leadership, early on in the campaign he ran into some trouble over donations of $108,000 from pharmaceutical executives, their spouses and families, including a couple of famous donations apparently made on behalf of 11 year old twins.

At the time it was considered an oversight by Volpe’s campaign team, who apparently weren’t paying particularly close attention to details. A situation that seems to have come back to haunt them once again. As they stand accused of improperly signing up new members to help put their guy in the leader’s chair.

Volpe is apparently set to address the issue on Monday, but with his campaign already in a bit of trouble, one wonders if not this might be an opportune time to take his bows and release his delegates and members (both living and dead). Otherwise it won't be long before some young smarmy web based mischief maker brings out another website for the dead, like the one for young fund raisers of a few months ago.

All in all, considering the interest in the souls of the departed, perhaps instead of a delegate count at the end of the convention on December 3rd, the Liberals could just pull out an Ouija board, or the Magic Eight ball to help them make the right and divine choice.

Unauthorized construction? The port project comes up with the short stick in a court judgment.

The long awaited decision by the Supreme Court on the Fairview Container Project has come in and for the Coast Tsimshian it seems that going to court has been a successful adventure.

The Hon. Justice Konrad von Finckenstein, agreed with the Coast Tsimshian, calling the governments position during the process of consultation “skewed” and “unreasonable”. A judicial comment that has spurred the Coast Tsimshian to call for the construction permits to be pulled, construction on the project halted and the government to do the “honorable thing.”

The Port for its part claims that the Federal government did engage in meaningful consultation and that a generous offer of accommodation was made due to that consultation. For the Port its full speed ahead for the project, with no stoppages planned to address the issue.

With two opposite impressions of the situation at hand, the tipping point of the controversy is surely fast approaching. What the next step will be by the Coast Tsimshian has not been revealed yet, whether they plan on shutting down construction or have some other method of getting their grievances across will be developed over the next little while.

However, with the situation far from clear at the moment, it remains to be seen what the final impact on the project will be. Though one must wonder how the tight timelines in place would be met, if the project was subject to a stop work order or some other form of protest that set the project back in any way.

Another concern is the prospect of a lengthy delay in the project and what the ramifications for contracts signed both for construction, completion and operation of the container port. Rupertites can only really wait and see what happens when the next shoe drops.

The Daily News tried to clear up the muddy water of the issue for its readers and also provided a number of quotes from the main players during the course of the report. With nothing seemingly solved yet, we’re left with many more questions than answers concerning Prince Rupert’s largest construction project in many years.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday September 22, 2006
Pages One and Seven

The Coast Tsmishian are demanding a halt to the construction of B. C’s newest container terminal following a judgement by the Federal Court of Canada that says government failed to properly follow the process to accommodate First Nations rights.

”The court has now confirmed that the Crown acted unlawfully,” said Gary Reece, chief councilor of Lx Kw’alaams, which alongside the community of Metlakatla, took the federal government to court. We demand that further work on the Port cease immediately until our rights have been met.”

However, the court did not rule on whether the actual $7.65 million accommodation offer that was presented to the two bands back in February was reasonable and the Port of Prince Rupert plans to continue with construction activity.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority, Maher Terminals and CN Rail have partnered to spend close to $200 million to convert Fairview Terminal into a facility which can handle 500,000 containers per year.

Following extensive consultation and negotiations with the Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams bands, an offer of accommodation was presented by the federal government on February 28, 2006. The $7.65 million offer of accommodation features employment opportunities, human resource development initiatives, and support for First Nations business ventures associated with the Port development.
Specifically, the proposed agreement includes $4 million to an Aboriginal Employment Training Organization; $3.4 million to an Aboriginal Economic Development Organization; $175,000 to employ a Skills Training Coordinator, and $150,000 for economic development studies and business planning. The Coast Tsimshian have yet to respond to the offer.

However, the bands agree the offer means nothing because the process was skewed.

In their case before Hon. Justice Konrad von Finckenstein this August, the Coast Tsimshian argued the Ministry of Transport should not have authorized construction because that the federal government had failed to adequately consult and accommodate their interests. Government had taken the position that it only needed to consult over the new portion of the terminal, (.72 hectares) that was being built, arguing it did not need to consult over the 22 hectare existing terminal, which was built back in the 1960’s.

In his decision, which was handed down yesterday Justice Finckenstein agreed with the Coast Tsimshian, calling the governments position during the process of consultation “skewed” and “unreasonable”

“I fail to see how the court can find the consultation and the accommodation offered to be reasonable where the process started out on such a misconception and minimization of the Coast Tsimshian’s claim,” he said.

This opens the door for the bands to pursue further legal action that could force the federal government to pull the port’s construction permits.

“Normally you would expect the Crown acting honourably to respond to that (and pull the permits) and it’s not fair for us to assume that they won’t. We have to give them a chance to read (the decision) and a chance to do the honourable thing,” said Greg McDade, Ratcliff and Co., legal counsel for the Coast Tsimshian.

However, Justice Finckenstein added a review of the actual offer that was presented by the government to the Coast Tsimshian was outside the scope of the case and the Justice dismissed the application because of a procedural error. The review of that offer will be presented to the courts in another case being presented to the bands. A date has yet to be set for that court hearing.

In response to the judgement, the Port of Prince Rupert said it plans to continue with construction.

“We look forward to the Crown demonstrating to the Court, at the appropriate time, that meaningful consultation did occur, that the consultation was appropriate, and that indeed a generous offer of accommodation was made as a result of that consultation,” said Don Krusel, Prince Rupert Port Authority President and CEO.

“We remain on track with construction and are confident in the scheduled completion of the project during the Summer of 2007.”