Saturday, March 31, 2007

Podunkian Music Club

U2-Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Tonight, we bring to an end our month long celebration of the contributions of the Irish to the world of music, with the grand finale!

Right here on our humble little portal of the Music club, we showcase a band that without a doubt, has become the most successful and most recognizable of bands ever to come from the shores of Eire.

Consisting of Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullin Jr. and Adam Clayton; just four Irish lads who put together a band called U2 and conquered the world. From those early beginnings in 1976, they have become one of the longest lasting and still vital bands in the world of rock.

Politically charged, yet not particularly tied to politics, the songs of U2 over the years have reflected not only Ireland’s struggles and achievements, but have offered a wider vision of the world and given countless millions cause to sit back and think about where the planet has been, where it’s at now and where it may be going in the future.

Music with a message, but delivered with a driving rock beat that is as tight as any act has ever kicked out. They’re a favourite here on the Music Club and have converts world wide to their high tempo fusion of social conscious and rock and roll.

They have offered up a number of sea changes in their music, from the early days of the punk explosion, into the songs that are now the staple of classic rock, through the strange ways of the electronic era and back to the anthemic rock that made them famous along the way, U2 has remained relevant from the very first days that they arrived on North American shores.

Tonight’s selection is perhaps one of their strongest songs, Sunday, Bloody Sunday. It’s a powerful recollection of troubled times in their home country, which when done live as showcased tonight and found from various locations in the world on YouTube, is as powerful a song that you will ever come across. It offers up a hope of pages turning and a new life ahead. The pounding drumbeat from Mullin, tied in with Edge’s driving guitar and Clayton’s bass lines, set the electric background to Bono’s declaration that change must come.

“How long must we sing this song? How long, how long”

It’s a song that demands attention, makes you listen and try to understand where that time and place was and whether hope ever does prevail.

As the band progressed on their way to world domination, many more issues would come to the front of the line, taking Bono and the band from song writers and singers to social activists, led by their never camera shy front man, who has taken the use of celebrity in aid of social justice, to a new level of activism.

All along the way the music remains vital, fully charged and hugely popular. They have become a member of the giants of the rock scene, peers of the great bands of the sixties and seventies that blazed the trail, and surpassing many of those in sales, concert attendance and social impact.

In the parade of the musical saints that March offered up for our Music Festival, no other band or artist has reached the lofty heights that U2 has elevated themselves to.

No artist has had the same impact on not only the music industry but the international community as much as the four lads of Ireland. We celebrate our month of Irish music, with the band that put music made in Ireland, into a whole new category and has brought a world of attention to their musical brothers and sisters across the island.

U2, they belong to Ireland, but are true citizens of the world!


"This is better than the other theories, because it is the only theory that works"

Credit French Architect Jean-Pierre Houdin with the courage to stick to his theories despite all detractors, his boastful quote listed above, completes some eight years of study into the eternal question of; How did they build the Great Pyramid of Egypt?

Houdin examined the 4,500 year old pyramid over the years, settling on his theory of the use of inner ramps used to move the massive stones into place. Running counter to many others who contend that the massive structure, consisting of some three million stones weighing 2.5 tons each were moved into position using outer ramps.

Houdin's theory of pyramid evolution goes against both main existing theories, and may finally lay to rest the ages long debate over how the Egyptians constructed the gigantic structures.

One ageless myth down, more to come.

Can solving that ageless secret, as to how they get the Caramilk into the Caramilk bar be far behind.

We'll be right back after this short commercial message, March 30

It's still snowing, it's still cold, so we'll keep with the theme.

Now these might get you up that hill!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Province expresses disappointment in cancelled seismic tests for North Coast

The recently cancelled seismic testing scheduled for the Douglas Channel area, has been greeted with surprise and disappointment by the Provincial government. The tests were designed to learn more about how the northwestern part of the continent was formed, but were deep sixed when concerns about whales and marine life were raised.

The decision to cancel has Richard Neufeld, the provinces minister of Mines and Resources scratching his head. The Daily News provided a bit of background on the tests and some detail as to the concerns by the minister over their cancellation.

Minister laments Ottawa’s batholiths decision
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Friday, March 30, 2007

The provincial Minister of Energy and Mines is disappointed with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ decision not to allow seismic testing off the province’s North Coast.

“The federal government has been a bit disappointing,” said Richard Neufeld. “It absolutely astounds me that the federal government allows this on the East Coast, in the gulf of St. Lawrence ... all over the place. They have done the work.

“But when it comes to British Columbia, they are hands off.”

Earlier this month, a study that would have used marine seismic testing in the Douglas Channel to explore how continents are formed was called off because of concerns about the potential impact on whales from loud noises.

Canada’s National Science and Engineering Research Council has withdrawn its application for an environmental assessment of seismic testing to explore how batholiths — large bodies of rock — interact with the pre-existing crust of the continents.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada claimed there is a lack of sufficient and appropriate data to determine whether or not the testing would result in harm to marine creatures, particularly those recently listed under the Species At Risk Act, including orcas, fin whales and humpback whales.

The department said it would take four years to complete its assessments — called recovery potential assessments — on the West Coast, despite the fact that these studies have already been completed by DFO on the East Coast and seismic testing is permitted there.

Neufeld said the study, had it gone ahead, would have been a good opportunity to gather all kinds of information about the North Coast.

“There’s a whole void of information there. It amazes me to be perfectly honest and I am a bit disappointed. When the project was promoted I thought this would be good because we will be able to garner some good science from it finding out what is in that area and what isn’t, all those kind of things,” he said.

Seismic testing uses airguns to emit noises that are then measured to provide two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of the composition of the continent.

The B.C. government is interested in developing many offshore resources such as tidal and wind power as well as offshore oil and gas. Although those involved with the batholiths project explained that science for oil and gas exploration could not have been gleaned form their research, questions have now been raised about any seismic testing that would give government and industry a clearer picture of the resources in the Queen Charlotte Basin.

“We have been trying to work with two different federal governments in moving that file forward, so we can actually start getting some science along the coast,” said Neufeld. “We are doing some of it ourselves through the University of Victoria and University of British Columbia so we can get some of the information we need.”

In 2007, British Columbia in the new BC Energy Plan re-affirmed its commitment to offshore oil and gas exploration and development, its request to Canada to lift the federal moratorium and reiterated that the provincial moratorium will be lifted at the same time.

Northern Health has plans

Expanding care facilities and local support for seniors is high on the spending list for Northern Health, outlined in a recent 2007-08 service plan.

The Daily News examined some of the highlights of the planned expenditures for the next year.

Healthy sum to be spent on the region’s hospitals
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Friday, March 30, 2007

Northern Health will spend an additional $115 million on projects in the region during the next 12 months. Among those on the North Coast are the completion of the new Masset Health Centre, the replacement of Acropolis Manor and the replacement of the CT scan and x-ray room at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

“A major focus of our budget and service plan will be to expand care facilities and local support programs for seniors,” said Jeff Burghardt, Northern Health board chair. “We continue to see enhancements in a wide range of areas, which are helping us to better meet the health needs of Northern British Columbians.”

The spending was outlined in the health region’s 2007-08 service plan and budget plan, which was released at a recent board meeting.

Other projects include a new clinical information system, new residential beds at hospitals in Hazelton, Houston and Fort St. James, an expansion at Quesnel’s Dunrovin Park Lodge, completion of the maternity ward at Prince George Regional Hospital, additional residential care beds and assisted living units at Dawson Creek’s Rotary Manor, expansion at Terraceview Lodge, and an addition of residential care beds in Fort St. John.

Along with the hefty list of capital expenditures, Northern Health is also proposing an increased operating budget of $552 million, which must be approved by the Ministry of Health. It includes a 6.1 per cent increase in base funding from the B.C. Government. In the last fiscal year, which ends March 31, the health authority spent $532 million and is expected to have a $3.5 million surplus.

“The surplus from our last fiscal year will become part of our operating capital budget for the 2007/2008 year,” said Burghardt. “This will help us to meet our ambitious capital plan over the next year.”

Around the region, next year’s service plan calls for increases in hospital services, including an additional 28,000 surgical procedures; more seniors care services, including six more residential care beds next year and 83 more by 2008-09 as well as 59 more assisted living units next year and a total of 289 by March 2009; enhancements to mental health like $550,000 in new mental health observation units at a number of hospitals designed to offer more support for people with mental illness; and public health programs such as $180,000 in additional spending for the Tobacco Reduction Program. There will also be an additional 9,435 hours for home care support services.

Again for 2007-08, NH will also operate more acute care beds than mandated by the province.
With 20 per cent more hospital bed capacity than government expectations, the health authority will provide 5,540 beds at hospitals throughout the region. The extra beds are a response to both the poorer health status of people in Northern B.C., and the difficulty in operating some non-hospital services in small communities that would be common in urban areas.

NH has also initiated a community consultation on improving mental health and addictions services around the region. The health authority will begin visiting communities in late May to gather input.

Snowy Daze sends city to digging

The sudden burst of winter did not go un-noticed at the Daily News, which featured two stories and a number of photos on Rupert's days of post winter surprise.

By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Friday, March 30, 2007

Environment Canada may have other ideas on the subject of snow in Prince Rupert, but for most long-time Rupertites, it was a late-March snowstorm that no one has experienced in a long, long time.

The previous heaviest March snowfall for a single day in Rupert, according to Environment Canada, was 22 centimetres, recorded on March 7, 1995, and even though no official word has been released on the Wed. March 28 total snowfall by Environment Canada (the website currently states that Rupert received 49.5 millimetres of ‘rain’ that day), nearly every local involved with the storm will tell you it sure felt like a record-breaker.

In fact, the heavy wet snow caused numerous problems, from various accidents, transit coming to a halt, and even an overnight power-outage.

“This certainly is unusual,” said Bob Gammer, BC Hydro’s community relations coordinator for Northern B.C.

“Many crew members were working well into the night.”

For Rupert specifically, most of the problems, such as power and cable outages, were fixed by Thursday afternoon. But in Terrace and the outlining areas (including the Nass Valley), 5,000 residents were still without power, and could be continue to be into Saturday.

On the North Coast, coastal villages like Port Simpson and Metlakatla are also expected to be without power until Saturday and landslide and avalanche warnings throughout the area have made it difficult for B.C. Hydro to respond, said Gammer.

Stewart is also currently without power.

The main problem that both B.C. Hydro and the city of Prince Rupert had was getting to all the problem spots, because the snow continued to wreck havoc on the area.

“The heavy wet snow weighed trees down, and brought them down on our power lines, and broke poles as well,” said Gammer. “And the snow slowed down calls.

“Because it’s so widespread, (it’s been difficult) getting around to all the areas impacted.”
There were rumours that B.C. Hydro was short of workers in the area, but the fact is there were so many widespread problems, the workers were spread too thin. More workers have been brought in from Vancouver to help deal with the crisis, however.

As for the city, the municipality also had trouble keeping up with the snow, especially after one of its three ploughs broke down at approximately 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night.

“One plough lost the blade on it, so we had to shut it down,” said Bill Horne, operations field manager for city works. “And then, a chain broke on another plough, and took out a blade at the bottom.”

The repair on the second plough took 90 minutes, and by then, catching up to the chaos was almost impossible.

“Normally, streets like Herman (see related story on page 3), Pigott, and McKay are priorities, but (Wednesday) night, we just couldn’t keep up,” said Horne.

“So we just stuck to the main routes.”

The city kept their mechanics on call all night, however, worried that something else might happen to the remaining plough.

“The toughest part was keeping up with the snow,” said Horne. “It made it rather difficult on the east side.”

Once the power went out in Prince Rupert shortly after midnight, cable followed, but went back into service late Thursday afternoon.

Chad Cunningham, marketing manager for Citywest, agreed it was an early spring crisis that no one in Rupert could have predicted, nor was ready for.

“This is a huge snowfall that caught everyone by surprise,” he said. “We’re asking our customers to be patient, and we’re looking at disaster planning right now, so if there’s another freak snowstorm next year, we’re ready for it.”

Citywest has been busy working with B.C. Hydro to get all customers back online, and while Rupert is back with power, other areas of the North Coast are still without cable, and in some instances, power. Citywest also pointed out that B.C. Hydro’s first concern was safety issues with fallen wires, and once the most dangerous concerns were fixed, they could move on to restoring people’s power and cable.

B.C. Hydro has been working hard at restoring that power, but even they need a break, said Gammer.

“Many of our crew members were working well into the night,” he said. “But regulations state that after working 16 hours, they must have a mandatory rest of eight hours.

“So that’s why we didn’t have that many out this morning.”

Once the snow stopped, the massive clean-up began on Thursday, luckily, under sunny skies.
“This is Prince Rupert,” said Cunningham, summing up his thoughts on the unpredictability of the region’s weather. “Look at it (now), it’s actually quite beautiful. Who would’ve known that (on Wednesday)?”

By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Friday, March 30, 2007

The Prince Rupert fire department lived a month in one day on Wednesday, in response to all the emergency calls that came in due to the unprecedented snowfall.

“It all seems to come in all at once,” said fire chief Ron Miller. “I think we received 12 within half-an-hour. We got multiple calls almost simultaneously. That’s probably the heaviest (snowfall) in such a short period of time in my 30 years (working here).”

Perhaps the hardest to deal with was one from the top of Herman Street, one of the steepest roads in Prince Rupert. An ambulance arrived on the scene to deal with a 911 call, but couldn’t get up the hill.

The fire truck arrived, and made it to the top of the hill, but due to concerns about the road, officials had to resort to plan B to get the patient into the ambulance and off to hospital.

“The ambulance wasn’t able to get to where it needed to go, but happily we joined together and got the job done,” said Miller. “It was our crew members in their private vehicles that helped us out.”

The city also attended as quickly as possible to plough Herman Street in an effort to help both the fire department and the ambulance services.

“There was a fire truck at the top, and an ambulance stuck at the bottom,” said Bill Horn, operations field manager for city works. “We got there as quick as we can.”

But the city was having trouble keeping up with the calls as well after one of their ploughs broke down (see story on pages 1 and 2).

The other problem occurred when the power went out, especially on the east side of town where only the major streets had been cleared.

“Whenever you have power surges or outages happen, you do get a lot of false alarms,” said Miller. “But you have to respond to all of them.”

Keeping on top of every call throughout the night was difficult, but manageable, he said.

“We didn’t run into any delays in any of our calls, but some calls took longer than they normally would (due to the weather or backlog),” said Miller. “All in all we got through it.

School District makes public comments on police investigation and charges

The recent sexual assault charges laid against a Prince Rupert High School teacher have resulted in the School District moving to reassure parents and students that the safety of students, both present and past remains a priority in the city’s schools.

It marked the first comments that the School District 52 had made, since the arrest and subsequent court appearance of Michael Kolesar this week.

The details of their statement were presented in the Friday edition of the Daily News.

Teacher suspended
The Daily News
Friday, March 30, 2007

Page one

Following news reports about the arrest of a teacher at Charles Hays Secondary School, the Prince Rupert School District is assuring parents and students that its priority continues to be the safety of students, past and present.

The school district was told on March 28 about the arrest of Michael Kolesar and that charges were pending, the district said in a press release.

Kolesar, a special needs teacher and athletics coach, has since been charged with two counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual exploitation of a person with a disability.

The school district says it is cooperating with the RCMP with regard to the charges and conducting its own investigation into the allegations.

Kolesar is suspended from his duties. Anyone with concerns is asked to contact either the RCMP at 627-0700 or Brian Kangas, the superintendent of schools, at 624-6717.

Are we there yet?

Courtesy of the Boing Boing website is this rather humourous link to some driving instructions from Google maps.

As the map shows, the shortest distance is apparently not a straight line, but one with a fish hook to the north.

Pay special attention to instruction number 23, it's most important but might cause some trouble with your vehicle!

In the long range forecast, a chance for a siesta!

It's not a testimony to powerful speaking!

The KUTV news went to their regular weather report yesterday, featuring all the details that the good folks of Salt Lake City would need to plan their day.

A forecast that must have provided for a lazy, hazy kind of day, judging by this reaction by KUTV anchor Mike Headrick!

North coast issues examined on BC’s most listened to talk show.

The Northwest was high on the agenda of the Bill Good show on Friday morning, as two issues currently in the news in our part of the province were discussed at length on the popular Cutting Edge of the Leg segment.

Keith Baldrey and Vaughn Palmer joined with Good as they do every Friday, to examine the state of the Queen of the North sinking investigations.

All were confused, if not a tad angry about the situation that they say has Gary Coons, the MLA for Prince Rupert appearing to be the only person in BC not demanding that those crew members currently holding their silence on the issue be forced to speak out. They noted that he has been rather effective in his criticism of the Ferry Corporation regarding the tragedy but hasn’t proceeded with the same zeal when it comes to the unionized workers who have refused to talk thus far.

With pressure building from all corners of the debate, many it find it incomprehensible that the two members of the crew on board the ship that night with the most knowledge as to what happened, are allowed to keep their silence. They discussed how the Northwest’s MLA was caught up in a scrum in Victoria last week and could offer no answers, nor any explanations why he as ferry critic wasn’t demanding that the two speak out as well.

A telling point about the MLA’s interaction with the press was made as it was revealed that it was the first political scrum in a long time where an opposition member had to be rescued by a member of his or her staff, so as not to face the heat any longer on a controversial issue.

When that topic was exhausted, the trio turned their attention to the decision yesterday by the Supreme Court of BC to back Alcan in it’s battle with the District of Kitimat, a decision that outlines that the basis of Kitimat’s fight, the subject of power sales was never considered part of the original deal between Alcan and the government.

As the three read the judgment, in effect the court has said that Alcan had the right to do what it wishes with their surplus power and that the issue is not tied in with the state of the smelter in the city. And as if to reinforce the point, they stated that Alcan was awarded court charges, meaning that Kitimat must reimburse the aluminum company for the time and trouble of having to take the issue to court.

All seemed to agree that instead of weakening Alcan, the decision to go to court and then to lose, only strengthened the hand of the company leaving Kitimat with fewer and fewer options to turn to now.

You can examine the issues yourself by checking out the CKNW Audio Vault, select the Friday March 30 broadcast and the 10am-11am hour to get an interesting perspective on how our issues are being handled on a province wide basis!

Advantage Alcan! Is it time for Kitimat to fold their hand?

The District of Kitimat is reported to be "disappointed and weighing their options", which is a polite way of saying “whoops maybe we’re in a world of trouble here.”

It was only a few months ago that the District was heralding a ruling from the BC Utilities Commission as a sign that they were correct in their fight with the aluminum giant over the status of power sales in the province. Alcan subsequently has gone on to appeal that decision.

But having forced the issue to the Supreme Court of BC and receiving the ruling yesterday that Alcan is free to do what it wishes with its surplus power, the wind may have finally gone out of the Kitimat sails. One thing is certain this week's decision was a welcome bit of news in the corporate offices of the aluminum company.

The two sides have been fighting a bitter war of words for the last three years over the plans to build a new modernized smelter which may see job reductions, versus the money that Alcan makes from selling energy above what it uses to produce aluminum. The city has already seen the aluminum company shed some 1,000 jobs over the years. Kitimat argued that Alcan was in violation of the spirit of their 1950 agreement, which saw the Aluminum giant draw power from the Nechako River through its Kemano generating station.

The debate has split the community which continues to see population declines and caused friction between the municipal government and the business class in the city. At one point in the highly charged rhetoric, Alcan seemed to suggest that the plans to modernize the smelter were at stake should things continue down the path they were heading.

What remains to be seen now is if Kitimat wishes to launch an appeal of the decision requiring yet more work for the lawyers and another round of courtroom appearances, or if they decide that the fight is lost and it’s time to try and minimize their losses as much as possible.

It has been a hot button issue in the Northwest and beyond for a number of years, with the likes of Rafe Mair and Ben Meisner wading into the fray from time to time, arguing against the Alcan position. It’s expected that all of those concerns will continue to be aired as the debate continues on.

As is always the case, the population will await the word as to their fate. They are trapped between their elected officials and the corporate powers, both of which seem to be playing a game of chicken with the residents featured as the feed.

Dirk Meissner of the Province, provided a bit of background on the factors in the court case and what the court decision may eventually lead to in Kitimat.

Alcan free to sell power
District of Kitimat disappointed with ruling
Dirk Meissner
The Canadian Press
Friday, March 30, 2007

VICTORIA -- B.C.'s economic development minister says the northwest B.C. community of Kitimat needs to focus its energies on building a prosperous future after losing a bitter court battle with Alcan, the company town's largest employer.

Kitimat should consider the B.C. Supreme Court loss as an opportunity to unite behind a proposed $2-billion Alcan smelter upgrade project, even if it means a loss of 500 full-time jobs, Colin Hansen said yesterday.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled that aluminum giant Alcan faces no restrictions on what it does with the electricity it generates at its power stations.

Back in the 1950s, Alcan gained rights to water in the Nechako River system, allowing it to build the massive Kemano hydroelectric facility to power an aluminum smelter that essentially founded the community of Kitimat.

Kitimat argued unsuccessfully that the B.C. Industrial Development Act and the original 1950 power-sales agreement between Alcan and the B.C. government allowed the company to only use its power to run the smelter or create jobs in the Kitimat area.

Kitimat argued Alcan stands to make huge profits selling power generated by a public water resource and ultimately will cut smelter jobs in favour of power sales.

"Alcan is very much committed to the generation of aluminum," said Hansen. "Alcan has shown a commitment to British Columbia over the last 50-some-odd years, and in the discussions that I've had with senior Alcan executives, they certainly indicated to me that they want to continue to be a good corporate citizen in British Columbia."

Alcan proposed a $2-billion plan last summer to upgrade its aluminum smelter in Kitimat. But the plan included a power-sales plan which meant selling power to B.C. Hydro, and a loss of about 500 jobs.

The Kitimat smelter currently employs more than 1,500 people. It used to employ more than 2,500.

Alcan's smelter upgrade proposal was put on hold after the power-sales option was rejected as too expensive by the regulatory B.C. Utilities Commission. The utilities commission decision is under appeal.

Alcan spokesman Michel Jacques said the court decision is a step in ensuring the sustainability of its operations in B.C.

The company still needs final approval for the upgrade project, he said.

Hansen said he believes the smelter project will proceed now that Alcan has the right to manage the power it produces.

"Now that the courts have decided what that interpretation should be it actually allows [Kitimat and Alcan] to sit down and move forward," Hansen said. "Everybody wants what's best for the residents of Kitimat."

The most recent census results revealed that Kitimat registered the largest population decline of any community in Canada from 2001 to 2006. Kitimat's population dropped more than 12 per cent to about 8,900 people. During the early 1980s, Kitimat had about 14,000 residents.

The District of Kitimat issued a statement saying it was disappointed with the court ruling and is weighing its options.

"We have been fighting to protect our community and one of the largest water resources in British Columbia for a number of years now, standing in where the provincial government should have been," said a statement attributed to Kitimat Mayor Richard Wozney and his council members.

"We are trying to make sure the benefits of our public resources go to British Columbians. If the provincial government had stood up for the use of this raw material in a value-added and profitable industry, the outcome surely would have been different. Why are they giving away our resources to multinationals?"

Kitimat district manager Trafford Hall said the community has yet to decide if it will appeal the ruling.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

CN to spend 20 million dollars on Prince George container yard

CN rail issued a press release on Friday outlining its plans for an intermodal yard to be built in Prince George, designed to service the Port of Prince Rupert's Fairview Container terminal.
The yard will feature an 84,000 square-foot warehouse, as well as 10 acres of outside storage, it is expected to open in fall 2007. The release goes on to describe how the yard will operate in the scheme of things regarding container traffic.

"It will load containers with products arriving at the facility by rail or truck. The loaded containers will then be lifted onto railway flatcars at CN's new adjacent intermodal rail yard, and daily service will be offered from this terminal to the Port of Prince Rupert."

It's expected that the Prince George operation will be a central terminal for the Highway 16 and 5 corridors, loading empty containers bound for Asia with lumber, panels, wood pulp and paper, as well as ores, plastics and some metals products.

Updated at 6:42 pm with information from the Opinion 250 website.

The Wal Mart Watchers!

We’ll take one part J Edgar Hoover with a splash of G Gordon Liddy, when it comes to internal security at America’s largest big box chain. The folks at Wal Mart security could probably give seminars at the CIA or FBI, if only for the reason that so many of them came from those organizations originally!

While browsing the portals of the net this morning I came across a link on The Tyee website, which featured a story by Michael Barbaro of the New York Times .

Barbaro has put together a list of reports on the no messing around investigative policies of Wal Mart and found that there are over 400 employees tasked to investigating employees who may run astray of Wal Mart’s code of ethics.

It’s a piece that features security officials listening at hotel doorjambs, a war room that featured a bank of television sets like the FBI might have and shows how far the company will go to protect its image and prosecute those that threaten the Wal Mart way.

One target of the Wal Mart security squad calls “Wal Mart the ultimate in Big Brother in America.” Which is saying quite a lot. considering what many say about the federal government and its agencies in the US some days.

It’s an interesting look at corporate security and how far a company may be prepared to go to protect what it believes is its corporate structure and code.

However, it might make you wonder the next time that the Wal Mart greeter acts so darn friendly and leave one with cause to wonder what’s happening the next time you hear a PA announcement at your local Wal Mart and they call for security!

Make it a Bud Light!

If the RCMP in Prince George need a bit of help, we humbly suggest they check up on the whereabouts of these two!

Beer Theft
By 250 News
Prince George, BC
Thursday, March 29, 2007 11:36 AM

Prince George RCMP are looking for 10 cases of Corona and Bud Light stolen from a delivery truck.

Police say the beer was on a truck parked on River Road in Prince George, near Papason Trucking. Bolt cutters were used to get to a locked compartment and boost the suds sometime overnight.

Police are hoping anyone with information will give them a call.

We'll be right back after this short commercial message, March 29

We milk the sudden snowfall for one more night on the Podunkian Advertising Festival.

It clears your lane and warms your night!

People get ready, cause there’s jobs a comin’

People get ready, cause there’s jobs a comin’

Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest has released a report that points to a growing gap in the skills needed by employers and those currently held by those looking for work.

The Gateway Skills Initiative report findings were shared with the Daily News who revealed them with a front page story.

Experts expect city will have more jobs than local workers within a few years
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Pages one and two

A new report claims that not only does the North Coast labour market not have enough people to fill the jobs expected in the next several years, but those in the labour force lack the skills necessary to fill those positions.

Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest released its report Pacific Northwest Gateway Skills Initiative Inventory of Workforce Skills last week.

Maynard Angus, general manager of Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest, said there will be gaps in available employees in all sectors and there will be skill shortages in all areas – trades, retail, tourism.

That’s what jumps out the most from this report,” said Angus.

“Yesterday, there were a lot of people looking for work and not a lot of job opportunities. Today, there is a lack of skilled labourers to fill a lot of jobs.

“It has kind of reversed itself – there are a lot of jobs but we’re requiring a skilled labour force.”
The report is concrete and only looks at those jobs that the researchers were able to verify would exist in the future - such jobs associated with the container port, new community gaming centre and developments on Ridley Island. Multipliers were not used to calculate additional indirect or induced jobs that might be created, nor does the report include construction jobs.

“The information in the report is based on information provided by companies and industry, so that is what we have gone on, keeping it in perspective. We didn’t use indirect numbers or induced numbers, it is specific to direct jobs that will be created,” said Angus.

According to the report, there will be gaps in all trades; 150 in three years, 115 in five years and 170 is 10 years; technical and skilled labour, 264 in three years, 125 in five years and 225 in ten years; in retail services and hospitality, 350 in three years, 150 in five years and 235 in 10; an public administration and governance, 55 in three years, 55 in five years and 55 in ten years.

According to the report, communities on the North Coast face three challenges in filing future employment. First, many of the region’s skilled trades people left when the pulp mill closed. Second, there is a strong growth predicted for B. C.’s economy. And third, there is a skills shortage world-wide and Canada’s population is aging.

“By the year 2010, for the first time in our history our workforce is expected to be shrinking as declining birthrates combined with an aging population see more people exiting the workforce than entering,” reads the report.

The study goes on to say that only a portion of the skilled labour requirements for Phase 1 of the development of the container port could be filled with existing labour. Either former residents would be lured back or new skilled workers will need to be recruited or trained. For Phase II, this type of labour will increase, meaning that training and recruiting of skilled labour would need to be expanded.

“The purpose of this is to gather enough data so we would know what Phase II would look like, where are those gaps going to be and what kind of training needs to be in place,” said Angus. ”If in three years, we know we are going to need 10 millwrights, then BCIT and the college can get together and plan for that. That’s really where we want to go with this.”

Well it worked for Pat Boone!

Oh, man this seems so wrong in so many ways.

Karl Rove, key behind the scenes gatekeeper to the Bush White House took to the hip hop stage on Wednesday night, appearing at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner.

Rove flailed away for what seems like a very, very, very long painful time, proving that he's no threat for Chuck D or Snoop Dogg.

Though they may wish to give up the music if this is the new wave of rap!

There are four and six minute versions of this epic on the net for your viewing pleasure, but we just couldn't torture Podunkians that much I'm afraid.

Snow storm coverage moves CBC to the top of the media pile in Prince Rupert

The surprise blast of late winter; in early spring, has left a number of Rupertites with sore backs and shoulders from shoveling, more than few cars with dents and bruises and perhaps left a few media egos a little battered as well.

With the first flakes of snow arriving around noon hour on Wednesday, most Rupertites probably figured we were in for a bit of a weather bomb by the time four o’clock rolled around. Little did residents know that by Thursday morning, there would be but one source of information available in Prince Rupert.

With the huge amounts of snow came power outages and radio blackouts, as the private Standard radio stations heard in Prince Rupert The Mix and CJFW went off the air, along with CFNR, also leaving us out of the communciations loop with the world was CityWest's cable vision service to the city which suffered a major outage for most of the day. Leaving only the CBC to keep Rupertites up to date about the developments of Wednesday and the school closures and road and business related information needed for Thursday morning.

Even the Daily News seemed to suffer the transplanted late winter blahs, offering up only a solitary picture of a bus and a tow truck on their front page on Thursday, despite at least twenty four hours of advance notice that something big had hit the city. Not one story on the storm appeared in print Thursday, nor did anything appear on their website. They perhaps will provide a full report on the snow day for Rupert in the Friday paper, complete with contributions from the digital camera happy folks of the city, as the Thursday paper had taken to asking for submissions from readers for upcoming editions of the paper.

Fortunately and surprisingly, one of the victims of the big blast of 2007 was not the Internet, for those in the mood for a little self serve information there were always the forum boards of hackingthemainframe, or some snippets of information from the likes of the Terrace Standard, Opinion 250 or the CBC British Columbia webpage. You could be your own weather detective at Environment Canada and follow the opening and closings of the highway at the Drive BC website.

But for the latest in up to date information, it fell to the folks of the CBC Daybreak North who, with the only working transmitter in town and a front window view of the mayhem of Third Avenue on Thursday morning. They provided frequent updates and interviews for the community, becoming the much listened to town crier of the air.

Days like Wednesday and Thursday are what local news is supposed to be all about, comprehensive updates, fast, frequent, informative and available. While their competitors could only sit on the sidelines and probably grind their teeth, the CBC was able to keep Rupertites up to date on one of the more interesting of days the city has seen for a while now.

The CBC occasionally gets a rough ride from folks, the nature of their split studio programming and the wide territory that they must report in, sometimes leaves the locals in Rupert feeling a little left out and under reported. But, as they proved on Thursday, when it’s time to provide local information, they’re the ones that we can apparently depend on.

With the private stations having downsized their operations many years ago, local programming has declined in content quite a bit since those golden days of radio. Thursday, due to the problems in getting their signal out to the public it not only declined, it was non existent.

One wonders why the private operators don’t have an emergency back up system in place to provide their signal, especially in times of civic need such as Thursday provided. It might make for a nice condition of licence at the next renewal hearing.

Kudos to the CBC for their work on Thursday, while they don’t subscribe to the national ratings services (being a public broadcaster there’s no commercial purpose to the ratings for them) we’re pretty sure that in Prince Rupert, they’ll be number one for a long time to come, with or without working competition.

We have no doubt at all, that anyone with a radio on Thursday had it tuned in at 860 on the old AM dial, that long forgotten form of radio broadcasting.

Thursday the CBC was surely the popular choice locally, if only because they were the only ones that proved to be reliable when needed most on Thursday.

Stories of the Storm

A few snippets of coverage from afar of the late March blast of winter that surprised the Northwest on Wednesday and Thursday.

Snowfall hampers Northwest Communities
By Margaret Speirs
The Terrace Standard
Mar 29 2007

THE NORTHWESTERN communities of Terrace and Kitimat were virtually shut down as near-record heavy snowfall closed roads, closed the regional airport and cut power March 29.
Nearly a half metre of snow – 73cm – fell beginning late March 28 up until late afternoon March 29, leaving residents digging their vehicles out and children home for the day as schools were closed.

Highway 16 west of Terrace remained closed going into the night due to a high avalanche hazard.

Crews from private road maintenance contractor Nechako Northcoast were working hard to clear off accumulations of snow so the highway could be re-opened.

Nechako Northcoast sent out every piece of equipment and every employee it could muster in addition to bringing in help from other places.

“We’re starting to get a handle on things,” said company general manager Peter Lansdowne late in the day.

Crews on the highway and elsewhere were interrupted by falling power lines and trees downed by the sheer weight of wet heavy snow falling from the skies.

Power outages left thousands of residents in Terrace, neighbouring Thornhill, down south in Kitimat and north in the Nass Valley in the dark for most of the night and morning.
Downed power lines also blocked Highway 37 South between Terrace and Kitimat for periods of time.

BC Hydro crews worked throughout the day to restore power and two extra crews were brought in to assist them.

By the end of the day, most of the power was on except for outlying rural areas and in the Nass Valley. Power there may not be restored until Saturday, March 31.

For a time, Nechako Northcoast and transportation ministry officials were worried that roadclearing equipment would run out of fuel because the power outages meant pumps weren’t working.

The Northwest Regional Airport, located on Hwy37 South between Terrace and Kitimat, was also closed March 29. Flights belonging to Air Canada Jazz, Pacific Coastal Airlines and Hawkair were affected meaning that hundreds of of passengers could not either leave for Vancouver or return to the northwest.

March Arrived in Pacific Northwest as Lion...Leaves As a Bigger Lion
By 250 News
Thursday, March 29, 2007 11:08 AM

Long time residents of Terrace, Kitimat, and Prince Rupert are saying this is one of the worst winters they can remember.

About 12 to 15 inches of snow fell in Kitimat in the past day.

City Manager Trafford Hall says "We have power lines down and some trees broken off. The best snow removal in the world is in Kitimat and we have been taxed overnight." Halls says "March came in like a Lion and went out like a bigger Lion."

Over in Terrace, Jack Hodgins says that in the 25 years he has lived in Terrace this is the worst winter he has ever seen. " I have never seen it this bad this late in the time I have lived here" says Hodgins. "The power was off at my house since 8.00 am. I can’t begin to tell you how many power outages there are" Power was cut during the interview, when Opinion250 reconnected with Hodgins, he talked about lots and lots of snow "We got about 8 to 12 inches here, but it really depends on what side of town that you;'re in as to how much you got. I do know this, it is raining and snowing now so that makes it doubly hard to move."

Things are also pretty bad in Prince Rupert . Ron Bolton, who has lived in that community fore the past 20 years said this is the worst he's ever seen. "There really is lots of snow here today. It’s a snow day for the school kids here in Prince Rupert , and the people from Stewart just laugh when we tell them we got a foot. In some places up there they got as much as three feet of new snow."

The Nass highway is open in only a few spots as efforts are made to re connect power to the 1,000 homes without power in the North West and efforts are made to try and get the main roads re opened. Highway 16 was closed west of Agate Creek to 40 km west of Terrace because of a high risk of avalanche. HIghway 16 from Terraces to east of highway 37 has heavy snow, and on highway 37 hydro lines are down.

If you are heading to the coast, check the Drive B.C. website for current road conditions

Posted on Thursday, March 29, 2007 11:08 AM in News by 250 News

CBC News
A blast of winter weather has hammered a wide area of northwestern B.C., knocking out power to thousands and shutting down highways in the region

The overnight snowstorm dumped up to 37 cm of snow in some parts of the Prince Rupert area, and the snow started falling again later on Thursday morning, with up to 10 cm more expected.

Schools and the college in Prince Rupert are closed Thursday, and about 1,500 homes and businesses in the area were without power.

Municipal buses in Prince Rupert are delayed or not running at all, and the accumulation of snow is making getting to bus stops difficult.

B.C. Hydro said most of its customers in the Terrace area and about 1,000 people in the Nass Valley area were also in the dark.

Hydro spokesman Bob Gammer said the heavy wet snow is breaking lines and even bringing down poles.

He said the snow has also made it difficult for crews to reach some areas to repair the downed lines.

Downed hydro lines are also blocking the highway between Terrace and Kitimat.

Hydro says many people will not have their power back until Saturday, while 750 customers in Stewart will be out until Friday.

The highway areas between Prince Rupert and Terrace and through the Nass Valley are closed due to avalanche hazard.

Travel advisories are in effect for travel in the Prince Rupert, Terrace, Kitimat and Nisga'a highway areas due to heavy snow and slush.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Shocking development from School District 52

An article from the Vancouver Sun and The front page story in Thursday’s Daily News will most likely be remembered long after the huge snowfall of Wednesday is long forgotten.

The Daily News provided a page one piece based mainly on a press release from the RCMP on the charges that have been laid against a local Prince Rupert teacher. The Sun posted a story on their website, which is destined for the Vancouver papers print edition on Friday.

The Daily News
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Page one

Prince Rupert RCMP announced today they have arrested a local teacher in connection with alleged sexual assaults.

Michael Anthony Kolesar, 57, of Prince Rupert, who is a special needs teacher and athletics coach, was arrested and charged for the alleged sexual assaults of a student and a former student, said Constable Steve Richards.

Kolesar appeared in court Wednesday to be formally charged with two counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual exploitation of a person with a disability.

The offences are alleged to have happened between September 1997 and March 2007.

The investigation is ongoing, and police are concerned that there may be additional victims, said Richards.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 627-0700.

Officials from Charles Hays School and School District 52 have been informed, said police, and provisions have been made to protect and provide support to students.

Kolesar was set to appear in provincial court again today at 1:30 pm.

**this story was corrected on March 30, to correctly reflect the years of the alleged offences, from 1997-2007.

Special-needs teacher faces sex charges
Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, March 30, 2007

A special needs teacher in Prince Rupert appeared in provincial court on Thursday after being charged with sexually assaulting a current student and a former student.

Michael Anthony Kolesar, 57, was arrested Tuesday afternoon outside his residence after police received a tip during an unrelated sexual assault investigation on Monday morning, said Const. Steve Richards of the Prince Rupert RCMP.

He said police took quick action because of concerns about the vulnerability of special needs students.

“It is an important investigation to us, involving a vulnerable group. Any sexual assault investigation is pretty important but definitely with the group that this involved, there was all the more need to move on it quickly.”

Police are not releasing any information on the victims and a publication ban is in effect.Kolesar faces two charges of sexual assault and two charges of sexual exploitation of a person with a disability. He appeared in provincial court for a show of cause hearing Thursday afternoon. He was released on bail with several conditions that include avoiding “anywhere that children under the age of 14 years are reasonably expected to be present.”

Police allege the offences occurred between September 1997 and March 2007, and that Kolesar used his position as a teacher to facilitate a relationship with his victims.Richards said police released Kolesar’s photograph to the media because “we’re concerned there may be more victims.”

“While the students would probably know his name — he’s also taught some athletic teams at the schools and we thought, perhaps the students or their parents might not remember his name — but seeing his photo, [they] might remember him.”

Local teacher charged by RCMP

The RCMP arrested and laid charges this week of sexual assault and sexual exploitation against a local teacher from Charles Hays Senior Secondary, in case that is certain to shake not only the local educational community, but the city as a whole.

The Press releases from the RCMP website posted on Thursday March.29, 2007.

Prince Rupert School Teacher Arrested for Sexual Assaults
March 29th, 2007,
Prince Rupert BC -

57 year old Michael Anthony KOLESAR, charged for the sexual assaults of a student and one former student appeared before a Judge today in Provincial Court. KOLESAR has been charged with two counts of Sexual Assault and two counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Person with a Disability. A publication ban has been issued prohibiting the disclosure of the names of the victims.

KOLESAR was released on bail with a number of conditions including:

- Not to have any contact with his victims or go within one block of their residences
- Not to change his address without written permission of his bail supervisor
- Not to possess any weapons, with the exception of knives for the immediate preparation and consumption of food
- Must surrender his passport
- Must not attend any park, swimming area, day care, school, playground, community centre, or anywhere that children under the age of 14 years are reasonably expected to be present
- Not to seek, obtain, or continue any employment or volunteer work in a capacity that requires being in a position of trust or authority for any person under the age of 14 years
- Not to be alone with anyone under the age of 18 years except for his daughter
- Not to go within one block of Charles Hays Secondary School
- To keep the peace and be of good behavior Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact the Prince Rupert RCMP at 627-0700.

Anyone observing KOLESAR breaching these conditions is asked to contact the Prince Rupert RCMP at 624-2136 or call your local police.

Prince Rupert School Teacher Arrested for Sexual Assaults
March 29th, 2007,
Prince Rupert BC -

57 year old Michael Anthony KOLESAR of Prince Rupert, a Special Needs teacher and athletic coach, was arrested and charged for the sexual assaults of a student and one former student. KOLESAR appeared before a Justice Wednesday, charged with two counts of Sexual Assault, Section 271(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada and two counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Person with a Disability, Section 153.1 CC. A publication ban has been issued prohibiting the disclosure of the names of the victims.

The offences are alleged to have been committed starting September 1997 up to March of 2007 and that KOLESAR has used his position as a teacher to facilitate a relationship with his victims. The Police investigation is ongoing and Police are releasing the name and photograph of the accused in an effort to further the investigation. Police are concerned that there may be additional victims who have not yet come forward. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact the Prince Rupert RCMP at 627-0700.

Officials from Charles Hays Secondary School and School District 52 were informed of this investigation in the early stages, allowing them to take internal actions to protect and provide support to their students.

KOLESAR is scheduled to appear in Provincial Court again, Thursday at 1:30pm for a show cause hearing.

[image 1]

Steve Richards, Cst.Prince Rupert Media Relations / Community Policing
100 6th Ave West
Prince Rupert, BC V8J 3Z3
Phone: (250)627-0764
Fax: (250)627-3013

We'll be right back after this short commercial message, March 28

Our power problems of last night prevented an update to the advertising gems of podunk, so we'll catch up today.

Go ahead, play in the snow!

37 centimetres and counting?

While most parts of the city probably don't have quite that much, the CBC website is reporting that some parts of the Prince Rupert area (Summit Ave perhaps??), received up to 37 centimetres of snow in the last 24 hours, with weather warnings issued of more snow to come!

Power outages are reported in parts of the city with some 1,000 businesses and residences without power, cablevision reception is out in some places, most streets are clogged with snow and the highway between Rupert and Terrace has been closed, due to a high avalanche risk in a number of areas.

All radio stations with the exception of the CBC were knocked off the air, leaving the public broadcaster as the only link for immediate information in the city.

School kids get a break from their studies as public and private elementary schools, the two high schools and the community college all stayed closed this morning. With cryptic threats to open this afternoon, we somehow suspect that attendance will be low to say the least.

If you're a hardware store, today is the day that the last of that snow shovel and ice blast
inventory will find welcome buyers, providing they can make it to your store.

Snow storm buffets northwestern B.C.
Last Updated: Thursday, March 29, 2007 9:26 AM PT
CBC News

A blast of winter weather has hammered a wide area of northwestern B.C., knocking out power to thousands and shutting down highways in the region.

The overnight snowstorm dumped up to 37 cm of snow in some parts of the Prince Rupert area.
Schools and the college in Prince Rupert are closed Thursday, and about 1,000 homes and businesses in the port city are without power.

B.C. Hydro says another 500 customers in the Terrace area and about 1,000 people in the Nass Valley area are also in the dark.

Hydro spokesman Bob Gammer said the heavy wet snow is breaking lines and even bringing down poles.

He said it's also made it difficult for crews to reach some areas to repair the downed lines, and said they hope to restore electricity by some time Thursday evening.

Downed hydro lines are also blocking the highway between Terrace and Kitimat.
The highway between Prince Rupert and Terrace, and through the Nass Valley are closed due to a high avalanche hazard.

Travel advisories are in effect for travel in the Prince Rupert, Terrace, Kitimat and Nisga'a Highway areas due to heavy snow and slush.

Mayor relays his weekly message through the Northern View

There’s nothing like the one way mirror of a newspaper column to get a view or two across, no debate, no but; but’s and no there’s no around one to interrupt either, then again with the flock of free papers to choose from, there may or may not be that many people reading either. So for those that may have missed His Honour’s treatise on the good and the bad we’ll provide it below.

The mayor’s spin on the state of the city appeared on the same day as what surely will be a record snowfall for recent times leaving the streets a rather treacherous obstacle course to navigate, as well as the day that the Daily News featured stories of Regional District looking for extra taxpayer funds due to a personnel termination and a tale of woe over the state of the ice at the Civic centre.

This week’s installment provides the good news that the census stats are wrong, both in how bad things really were and how now the city is on the rebound, as the mayor tells it hundreds are back to work and the speculators have been quick to come to town to buy up our properties.

Despite the challenges of potholes that eat cars, roads suddenly impassable due to snow, ice skating rinks with little in the way of usable ice and costly personnel terminations aside, as the mayor sees it the Rupert ship is coming into harbour and woe be the person who misses that rising tide.

Prince Rupert is turning the corner from census stats
By Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond
Mar 28 2007

Well the census data is in and the outside world is agog that the population of the Northwest plunged so precipitously – hardly a surprise to those of us who have been hanging on by our fingernails. Now the gurus of predictive statistics are burning through erasers to revise downward their previously optimistic forecasts. They were wrong before, they’ll be wrong again, and here’s why.

The 2001 census that showed Prince Rupert just shy of 15,000 was a snap shot taken before the calamity really struck. The Skeena pulp mill and West Fraser’s sawmill were both active. Coal, grain and lumber shipments were still moving. The wholesale retreat of the major coastal forest companies was yet to come, as was the mass exodus of our skilled trades and professionals. The flurry of closures without replacement of many long-time local businesses was just beginning, as were the worst years for our salmon industries.

In truth, the stats miss how bad it got. Without doubt, at the bottom Prince Rupert’s population dipped well below 12,000 from a high of 18,000 in 1996. We entered into a full blown crisis and struggled to convince others of just how bad it had really become.

But then the picture changed, or more accurately, local people changed the picture.
Both Ridley Terminals and Prince Rupert Grain completely rebuilt their businesses, establishing new competitive advantages. Both have diversified their operations and are growing well beyond previous levels, adding sulphur, wood pellets and specialty products to the expanding commodity list.

The Port, the City, and senior governments together built a cruise dock and since opening day, an incredible troop of volunteers have faithfully welcomed each ship. As a result, 2007 will bring 100,000 visitors and more than $10,000,000 in spending to our community. Local entrepreneurs have stepped up to the plate, offering what is without doubt the best tour product and speciality retail in Northern B.C.

The board and staff at Northwest Community College lead a partnership that constructed a new campus, with local businesses putting up big cash to put in place the programs we need.

And the biggest story by far, the Port of Prince Rupert crafted a partnership with Maher Terminals, CN, British Columbia and Canada that will bring a new container terminal on line this fall, transforming the Northern B.C.’s economy in the process and opening entirely new opportunities for our seafood and forest industries. It’s a project that resulted directly from local initiative and garnered regional support.

We are well on our way towards modernizing our local retail with the approval of a 25 acre shopping complex. An $11 million private sector investment is creating the most lavish community gaming centre in all of B.C. New health care facilities are being built. Major retailers, like Safeway, are spending millions on upgrades.

Companies from San Francisco, Toronto, Calgary, Prince George and Vancouver are investing 10’s of millions in commercial real estate and upgrading properties. Homeowners are regaining personal wealth as the value of private homes rise. Last week we created our first new residential sub-division in over 15 years, and more are under review.

In short, when the latest count was taken last May we were already on the mend and just beginning to take a whole new stride. Today, hundreds of people are working who just two years ago were not. Very detailed and extremely conservative analysis suggests that there are 3,000 jobs to be filled in the next three and half years across all sectors of the local economy.
So what does all this mean? Well I take away two messages.

The first is that the ugly years were indeed every bit as tough as we all believed and it will take some time for families, businesses and even the City to recover (potholes are just a symptom).

The second is that we are on the rebound, the signs and opportunities are everywhere. Whoever misses that second piece, and many will, risk wasting the opportunity of a lifetime.

Civic Centre provides thin ice for politicians

It’s an old axiom of politics not to get the soccer moms, hockey parents and skater moms and dads on your bad side. So one wonders what it is exactly that our local politicians might be thinking after a rather serious blast of ill will destined their way over the deteriorating state of the city’s only ice surface.

The Daily News had the slushy details of a rather challenging night for the Prince Rupert Figure Skating Club as ice problems at the Civic Centre made for a rather tense grand finale to the skating season.

The problems at the local rink have been a long running affair with the city’s Zamboni apparently having long lived past its effective life. Financial constraints have made stop gap measures the order of the day, and that’s not sitting well with anyone associated with minor hockey or figure skating in the city.

The less than happy residents are demanding action on the ongoing problem and no doubt city council will be happy that hockey and skating season are over giving them a few months to try and find a solution suitable to all.

Broken zamboni drives skaters mad
By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pond hockey is an aspect of Canadiana that makes the country unique. From coast to coast, young kids take to the frozen pond in the dead of winter to play some pond hockey.

In Prince Rupert, the rainy climate doesn’t usually allow for that type of phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. The only problem, according to local skaters, is that too often in the past three years, pond hockey has taken place inside the Jim Ciccone Arena.
Now, you can add pond figure skating to that list, after the Prince Rupert Skating Club had to struggle through Oliver Lake-like conditions to ensure their season-ending Ice Show could still take place, as it did Saturday night, due to a broken zamboni.

Not surprisingly, figure skating coach Sheri Pringle has had enough.

“It’s an ongoing issue, and it needs to be addressed,” she said. “Anyone who walks into that building can see it. Something needs to be done.”

Nearly two weeks ago, the hydraulic pump broke,and because it’s a specialized part, the recreation centre had to order a part from out-of-town. They had hoped to have the arena operational in time for last weekend, but the part didn’t arrive in Rupert until Tuesday afternoon.

“There’s a reason why we had to go out of town for this,” said Dave Walters, maintenance coordinator at the civic centre.

“It’s a specialized part.”

Needless to say, that made “A Night at the Oscars” Ice gala almost a tribute to another movie coming out later this month — Blades of Glory — in the fact that the skating club managed to get through it.

“It was okay for the little guys, but our older kids did struggle out there,” said Pringle. “The ice is stickier, and the texture is different, (so) when they’re (toe) picking, it’s a totally different feel.”

The arena staff, in preparation for the event, used a hose to flood the ice Friday night, forcing the skate club to change their dress rehearsal to first thing Saturday morning.

Then, staff had to use a squeege to fill in the cracks after the water dried, and then, they hosed it down again after the skating club was finished practicing, said Pringle.

“The arena staff was awesome,” said Pringle, thankful the gala wasn’t cancelled outright. “The ice guys have gone above and beyond to get the ice ready for us.

“But it’s administration that isn’t doing anything, and that’s got to change.”

Minor hockey was also affected, as several practices and season-ending games (specifically in the novice division) were cancelled.

Organizers of the annual high school hockey game were also concerned that the event, after three months of planning, wouldn’t happen this Saturday, and the Adventure Paving Raiders female hockey team were also worried their Friday night charity event would end up cancelled as well (see related story on page 6.)

Minor hockey representative, and coach for the Charles Hays Secondary School hockey team this weekend, Bruce Tessier, agreed with Pringle that it’s about time the city of Prince Rupert did something about it.

“We’ve lost it (the ice) three times in the past four years,” he said. “The last two times, we blew a head gasket, this time, it was the pump.

“The mayor of Prince Rupert knows that the zamboni has to be replaced. I know the city’s finances aren’t in good shape. But we definitely need a new zamboni by 2010.”

That year, Prince Rupert is hosting the Northern B.C. Winter Games in celebration of their centennial year.

“And no out-of-town teams are going to settle for pond hockey for a gold medal game, and naturally, no figure skater will step foot on the ice if they know they first need to bring a shovel,” said Tessier “The (city) knows that zamboni has lived well past its life expectancy.”

Pringle meanwhile now only has one day to prepare her skaters for their final test day, which happens on Thursday. It’s akin to taking away a piano from a musician for two weeks prior to a final exam, and she’s not happy, but she’s hopeful her athletes can persevere and get the job done.

“Of course I’m concerned about it, but you have to deal with it,” she said. “Luckily, it’s the lower-end tests, so the skaters should be okay.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Regional District woes could leave Rupertites a little light in the pocket book and more than a little bit concerned about government

The little understood and frequently ignored Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District may soon find that curious Rupertites will be keeping a more watchful eye on its happenings and its budgetary requests.

With the termination of a nineteen year employee recently, Regional District has found itself in the midst of a bit of a political hurricane, with severance due to the terminated employee and a rather serious split of the voting members of the District not to mention a rather poorly timed request for more money.

The entire process has been under the microscope at the Queen Charlotte Islands Observer and at the local website, which has waded in with a number of articles on the state of affairs at Regional District.

The Daily News gathered up some interesting information of its own on the story for Wednesday’s paper including details of the request for an additional 243,007 dollars from the taxpayers, as well as the current status of personnel matters at the District offices and the plans for a couple of high paying jobs to come.

A rather nice option for a form of government that few have dealings with on a daily basis, and probably couldn’t explain what it is that they do anyways.

More importantly it sheds a light on a form of government locally that seems to do much of its work whether by public ignorance or by design, behind closed doors and out of any public debate.

Which begs the question; Do we really need a Regional District? Perhaps suspending this form of the governmental process would send a message to Victoria about how dire finances are up here for the moment.

Rupertites must surley wonder just what kind of blank cheque is expected from the increasingly siphoned off Prince Rupert taxpayer base?

Most of all we have to wonder if any of these latest developments are gooing to be able to pass the smell test?

The Daily News
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Page one

For the first time Friday night, directors of the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District admitted they are in the process of terminating Janet Beil, administrator-planner and employee of 19 years.

Director Tony Briglio brought up the issue during budget deliberations at the regional district’s regular public meeting in order to explain why the district will be asking taxpayers for an additional $243,000 in 2007.

“When there is an administrative individual that gets relieved of duties there’s a cost to the organization for that. That’s what this budget represents,” said Briglio, director for the city of Prince Rupert and vice chair.

Given that it appears the district will pay Beil severance, the termination would likely be considered ‘without cause’. However, the cost of that severance has not yet been released.
Work at the regional district has been choppy since Beil was suspended a month and a half ago in what appears to have been a decision that split the board.

Des Nobels, Ian Hetman and Karl Bergman all were rumoured to have opposed the suspension.
Beil’s signing authority for financial transactions was removed at the last regional district meeting a month ago.

Board members have been trying to keep the decision behind closed doors.

Previously, when asked directly by the Daily News if she had been suspended, board chair Barry Pages said Beil was “off sick” and “out of the office”. Yet, he reportedly told the Queen Charlotte Island Observer she had been suspended and then reinstated.

Now, Pages says they have posted for a new position, Chief Administrative Officer, and an ad was posted last Friday.

Since then, Tana Lee Hesse has been appointed as interim administrator. Previously, Hesse filled in as interim corporate administrator for the city of Prince Rupert following the departure of Tom Ireland. She moved to Prince Rupert with her husband, Prince Rupert’s chief administrative officer, Gord Howie.

According to the job positing, the salary range for a Chief Administrative Officer would be in the $80,000 to $90,000 per year range and would be “commensurate with qualifications”.
Pages noted the regional district is also seeking an manager of operations.

The district previously posted for the position but was unable to find a qualified candidate.
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To the well, to the well, to the well once more!

Prince Rupert residents must be wondering if their local politicians will ever stop coming up to them asking for even more money than they already provide.

Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District is seeking more money from a shrinking taxpayer base, after approving a five year financial plan at a rather combative Friday meeting.

The plan was approved despite the uncertainties expressed by three of the district councilors, who questioned some of the financial figures that were being used to develop the plan.

The heated meeting included an interjection from Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond, who was participating in the Friday evening meeting by teleconference. Pond expressed his outrage at the questioning of the accuracy of the figures by declaring those accusations are baseless and spurious allegations.

The Daily News featured a review of the Friday night fireworks and a bit of background on the controversial issues in the Wednesday paper.

The Daily News
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Page Three

The Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District will spend an additional $243,000 in 2007 terminating its administrator/planner and hiring new staff — and it looks like it will be asking tax payers to foot the bill.

At Friday night’s meeting, SQCRD board members approved a five-year financial plan that sees the budget balloon from $587,964 in 2006 to a projected $831,757 in 2007.

“We have kept this budget equal to last year with no increases except in areas of administrative cost going up,” said Tony Briglio, director for the city of Prince Rupert and vice chair.

Projected audit and legal expenses are expected to increase $87,000 in 2007 (up from $13,067 to $100,000,) plus an increase in salaries of $100,000 due to the termination of Beil who was doing three jobs (from $196,145 in 2006 to $300,000) with staff benefits also doubling (from $26,000 to $54,000.)

The amount of money it will be requisitioning from member municipalities — including Prince Rupert, Port Edward, Masset, Port Clements and the village of Queen Charlotte — is up from $180,000 to $266,978. These municipalities in turn will be asking their taxpayers to foot this bill.

Other oddities in the budget included an anticipated $244,000 grant in lieu of taxes listed in the 2007 budget that did not exist in 2006 that was used to balance the numbers.

Three directors refused to support the budget. They were Des Nobels, Ian Hetman and Karl Bergman.

“I tried and tried and tried to understand this budget and I can’t see anyone being comfortable with this,” said Karl Bergman.

“There are nothing but questions.”

Nobels said he believes the budget will increase taxes for his constituents, yet they were not able to have comment on it.

The draft budget was passed out to members of the public in attendance at the meeting just prior to the public comment period.

He added that he believes the budget will eat into the district’s reserves. In the past, he said, the district has passed balanced budgets that either maintained or lowered the requisition from taxpayers. However, in this year’s budget that is not the case.

Janet Beil, former administrator planner at the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, took a look at the figures during that period and described them as “totally inaccurate”.

After pointing out what she believed were glaring inaccuracies between 2006 and 2007 figures, she questioned how they could do this to the taxpayers.

“I am just wondering how small municipalities are going to pay for this budget, especially municipalities that have lost assessment value,” she said.

However Carol Kulesha, representing the Village of Queen Charlotte, said they were following the provincial process and had only had a very short time to put together the budget.
“Is everything perfect? No. Things are difficult when you are in the midst of revamping things. Nevertheless, we have followed the process of the ministry,” said Kulesha. She added that the numbers are based on those provided to them by auditors. The regional district will be having auditors do an even more in depth analysis in the coming year.

Allegations that the figures were inaccurate seemed to infuriate director Herb Pond, city of Prince Rupert, who participated in the meeting by teleconference.

“These are baseless and spurious allegations. They are not identifying any single truth but laying general statements to which they have never once in our process, which has been extensive, objected,” said Pond.

“The broad statements that cast aspersions on the best work that could be done under the circumstances should be stopped.”

At this point, chair Barry Pages ended the conversation and the budget was adopted with the three members opposed.