Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We'll be right back after this short commercial message October 31

When traffic gets a little to heavy

You'll feel like you're driving on air..

Mills may close, but raw logs will still ship from the North coast

While forest industry workers wonder about the state of their profession along the BC coast, the logging industry is looking revitalize itself with an increase in the number of raw logs to be shipped out of the country.

The recently revised Coastal Forest Action Plan laid out the plan by the province on Monday by to include the Queen Charlotte Islands in the coastal area category, under which logging companies are allowed to export up to 35 per cent of raw logs.

The export of raw logs has long been controversial in the province, with many seeing industry jobs going away with each log that is destined outside of the country. And it does appear that the province's resources aren't being utilized to their fullest potential, with a declining ability to produce value added products, milled in BC.

Instead, the appearance of the huge log carrying ships in B. C. harbours is quickly becoming symbolic of an industry that is quick to export the raw material, while the province's labour force wonders if there is any room left for it on the job site anymore.

The Daily News featured the latest developments in the forests as the front page story in Wednesday's Daily News.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pages one and three

A new plan aimed at revitalizing the Coastal Forest sector has expanded the number of raw logs that can be exported from the North Coast.

Under the new Coastal Forest Action Plan announced on Monday by the province, the Queen Charlotte Islands will now be included in the coastal area under which logging companies are allowed to export up to 35 per cent of raw logs.

Around the year 2000, government passed an order in council to allow up to 35 per cent of logs to be exported from the Northwest and the mid-coast timber supply areas to support local employment because logging costs are high and there are few manufacturing facilities.

"Shifting to more second-growth harvesting provides stability and sustainability, and improving log export policies will help keep logs in British Columbia, supporting local communities," said Rich Coleman, Minister of Forests, about the new plan.

In the southern areas of the province, before logs can be exported, they must be offered up for sale to domestic buyers and if there are no domestic buyers, then they can be exported with a fee.

The province is also lowering the export fees on the North Coast for raw logs. Fees currently range from five to 15 per cent but are being dropped to five per cent across the board.
The expansion of raw log exports comes on the heels of the news that one of the last remaining processors in the region is closing its doors.

West Fraser announced last week the shutdown of its Skeena sawmill in Terrace.
The company is uncertain as to the length of the shutdown and any start-up of the facility will be determined by market conditions.

"The current market conditions just do not justify the operations of this mill," said Hank Ketcham, the company's president and CEO.

And they don't expect things to improve in 2008 due to a build-up of timber and the slow-down of the U.S. housing market.

In recent years, the Northwest has seen the demise of Skeena Cellulose, both at the pulp mill in Prince Rupert and the sawmill in Terrace, as well as West Fraser's North Coast Timber speciality sawmill in Prince Rupert.

Collectively, these operations directly employed about 700 in Prince Rupert alone.

The remaining significant operation is the West Fraser pulp mill in Kitimat.

Other elements of the Coastal Forest Action Plan include enhancing the shift to second-growth harvest; encouraging the harvest of hardwoods like alder, birch, cottonwood and maple; using science and technology to develop markets for hemlock and balsam; and promoting the value-added sector.

"There is no quick fix for the challenges facing the coastal forest sector, but I believe the actions outlined in this plan will help us regain our competitive edge," said Rick Jeffery, president and CEO of the Coast Forest Products Association. "The plan was formed through a collaborative process with key stakeholders, and I'm particularly excited about the research and development into maximizing returns from hemlock."

The coastal forest industry directly employs 12,000 workers and generates $250 million in revenue to provincial and local governments.

Big Oil must pay Big Rail for Big Mess

A long standing disagreement between Imperial Oil and CN Rail has finally worked its way through the judicial system, with Imperial Oil ending up having to write a check to pay for the clean up of the old tank farm area along George Hills Way.

The issue which goes back many years into the past century came to an end last week as the Hon. Justice Bryan Findlay Ralph made judgment in favour of the Railroad ordering Imperial Oil to pay $724,000 for soil contamination on a portion of the site along George Hills Way. The bill could have been higher, but the Court decided that Imperial Oil was not responsible for a clean up of the whole site, bouncing that back into the boardrooms of Canadian National.

The Daily News featured details of the long running saga in Tuesday’s paper.

Oil firm told to pay clean-up costs
Contamination of site on George Hills Way ruled on in B. C. Supreme Court
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Pages one and five

The B.C. Supreme Court has ordered Imperial Oil to pay CN Rail almost three quarters of a million dollars for environmental damage done to property in Prince Rupert.

In a ruling handed down last week, the Hon. Justice Bryan Findlay Ralph ordered Imperial Oil to pay $724,000 for soil contamination on part an old fuel tank site along George Hills Way.
For much of the last century, the land was leased from CN to Imperial Oil.

According to James Kay, a civil engineer who was called as a witness for CN, there is fuel and metals present in the soil, specifically arsenic, that exceed the criteria for commercial land use.
"The potential sources of arsenic include the oil itself, sandblasting operations, sand bedding for the tanks, residue from the tank bottoms, residue from the boiler house, and from operations such as tank maintenance, construction and demolition," Kay told the court.

Heavy metals also may have been transported to the site in fill brought in by Imperial Oil, he said.

While Imperial Oil admitted its activities caused the hydrocarbon contamination at the property, it denied responsibility for the presence of heavy metals.

The court ruled Imperial Oil has to pay for the clean-up of those areas of land where substantial soil testing has been done, about 2,350 square metres of land.

CN had asked for a settlement to cover the entire area where Imperial Oil conducted activities, 6,000 square metres. That may have cost as much as $3.1 million.
However, the court ruled there was not enough evidence to force Imperial Oil to pay for a clean-up of the whole site.

The cost of testing this area to produce evidence was estimated to be in the range of $400,000, and according to the court, CN was reluctant to undertake such testing.

It is unknown whether CN will appeal the ruling or pursue further remediation costs, under the Environmental Management Act. It is also unknown if CN has begun to remediate any areas of the site or what it plans to do with the property in the future.

“We have received the decision and we are reviewing it, said Kelli Svendson, CN Rail spokesperson.

The case goes far back into Prince Rupert’s history – Imperial Oil first leased the property from the railway company’s predecessor, the Grand Pacific Railway Company, on Aug. 1, 1914, in order to distribute oil.

Imperial Oil constructed at least 16 above ground storage tanks (AGSTs) to hold petroleum products on the site. There was also a boiler house, a pump area, and product transfer piping that ran to a location on the waterfront. It appears that during the Second World War, the company moved a number of storage tanks off a bluff onto areas on the site that had been partially blasted out of the rock cliffs in the southern portion of the property. In 1993, Imperial Oil decommissioned its operations on the site and the storage tanks and other structures were removed from the property. Imperial Oil did not, however, seek to terminate its lease until Aug. 27, 2002.

One less webcam to watch

Alas, our opportunity to all be virtual long shore workers has come to an end.

The web cam installed at the Fairview Container Port has now been assigned a password, destined for use by only those with a need to know and official permission. A decision that is going to leave countless Rupertites off the invited list, no longer able to view the happenings at the container facility.

It was an expected change of access, no doubt the workforce and management on site, who are now busy unloading container ships, probably weren't too thrilled with the idea of busy bodies at home watching them work, take their breaks and do whatever else there is to do on a busy waterfront.

But for locals who had found the camera handy to track the progress of the port it will mean having to go cold turkey from their routine of watching the activities.

No longer able to peer through the lens, we'll have to actually physically wander down to the observation site, if it's open to the public yet and watch things in person. A prospect that many may choose to forgo, once Novembers big storms arrive on our coast.

Trick or Treat!

A few diversions before you go trick or treating tonight!

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

I had no idear, absolutely no idear...

Where's the package...

Delivery Day!

The long anticipated arrival of the first container ship at Fairview Terminal is at hand, in just a few hours, The Antwerp (seen above in Oregon waters) will ease up to the container terminal dock and the process of moving thousands of containers onto rail cars and on to mid America will begin.

The debut of scheduled container service at Fairview has once again sparked a wave of enthusiasm locally, with Mayor Herb Pond dropping tantalizing hints of potential investment tied to the development of container service to the North coast. Pond recounted a recent visit from “a group of serious investors”, which left him very encouraged for future development.

The first containers are set to be unloaded Wednesday morning; setting the scene for what many hope will be better days for Prince Rupert’s economy.

The exuberance over the first delivery was captured on the front page of the Tuesday Daily News.

With first container ship about to arrive tomorrow, the world is watching Rupert
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Pages one and three

With the first vessel expected to arrive at Fairview Terminal on Wednesday morning, Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said the opening of Canada's newest trade corridor continues to attract unprecedented international attention.

Canada's ambassador to Japan visited the city earlier this month to get a look at the new facility. Joseph Caron has been Canada's ambassador since 2005. Prior to that he was ambassador to the People's Republic of China with dual accreditation to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and to Mongolia.

"He said for four or five years he has been a sales booster for the Port of Prince Rupert ... but he really wanted to come see for himself what is going on. He was very impressed and understood completely the advantages of this gateway," said Pond.

"He will be returning to Japan in an even better position to speak confidently about this port."
The Fairview Container Terminal will receive its first ship, COSCO's 5,500 TEU (container units), The Antwerp, for unloading Wednesday morning. According to the Prince Rupert Port Authority's vessel report, The Antwerp is due in the harbour today around 9 p.m.

The city also played host to what Pond described as a "group of serious investors" who have been touring the North looking at different properties.

"While I do have those meetings often and I don't often comment on them, and I always keep their business private, I have got to tell you, it was extremely encouraging. They were very excited about what they saw here," he said. "These were foreign investors with a tremendous amount of clout and have the capacity to carry out any project they put their mind to.

"There's a level of interest in Prince Rupert that continues to rise and we have to take advantage of that."

The new terminal was also highlighted last week for its geographic and intermodal advantages in a report released by the Conference Board of Canada.

Called Addressing the Gaps in the Transportation Network: Seizing Canada's Continental Gateway Advantage, the report lauds Fairview Terminal for choosing intermodal, or ship-to-rail, as its primary form of transport. Shipping companies looking to get their goods to market on time tend to want to avoid the border using trucks because of the bottleneck effect caused by the new passport requirements.

"The companies that expect to use trucks to go in to the U.S. market are going to find that the border congestion becomes to next bottleneck," said Mary Brooks, the chair of commerce at Dalhousie University and report's author, to CanWest News Services last week.

Rail, by comparison, has fewer crossings and the railway companies have invested heavily in recent years in scanning equipment that alleviates the concerns of the U.S.

Geographically, Prince Rupert is two days closer to Shanghai than Los Angeles or Mexico.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Campbell Government asked to intervene in Terrace’s West Fraser Mill closure

The NDP MLA for Skeena, Robin Austin has called on the Forests Minister Rich Coleman, to make a trip up to Terrace and examine some options to keep the last mill in the region operating.

Austin made his request in the legislature last week, after West Fraser Timber announced the shutdown of the Skeena saw mill in Terrace, the mill was set to reopen after the three month coastal forests dispute, but now instead will finish off a few outstanding projects and then prepare the mill for an indefinite shutdown, that many fear will be a permanent one.

The issue was examined in Monday’s Daily News.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, October 29, 2007
Pages one and three

Skeena MLA Robin Austin is calling on the provincial government to intervene in the closure of the West Fraser Sawmill in Terrace.

In the legislature last week, Austin called on Forest Minister Rich Coleman to visit Terrace and explore options to keep the last mill in that community in operation.

“This government’s failed forest policy has created chaos in the industry, and the minister continues to refuse to help communities facing mill closures. Terrace has just found out that the last mill in town will be closing indefinitely, another devastating blow to my home community,” said Austin.

However, Coleman defended the Liberal’s forest policy, pointing to the high Canadian dollar and slow housing markets as the reasons for the mill’s shut down.

“The price is way down for our products going through to the largest market that we have. The company has actually advised me that they’d never seen, in 30 years, all these features coming through with regard to a commodity that they actually produce. For the member to actually say that anybody’s policy affects the dollar and the housing starts in the United States just shows an abject misunderstanding of commodity markets in the world,” said Coleman.

Last week, West Fraser Timber announced the shutdown of its Skeena sawmill in Terrace.

The company is uncertain as to the length of the shutdown and any start up of the facility will be determined by market conditions.

The planer at the plant will operate on a temporary basis starting today for six weeks in order to process the existing inventory of rough lumber at the mill.

Skeena Sawmills employs approximately 80 hourly workers and 20 salaried staff members. Wherever possible, salaried staff will be re-assigned to other duties within the company.

The news came just as the company’s workers were returning to work following a three- month strike by the United Steelworkers Union.

Austin was not satisfied with Coleman’s assertion that the markets are to blame. He accused the B. C. Liberals of pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into cost overruns for the Vancouver Convention Centre, while ignoring rural communities.

“The auditor general confirmed the convention centre cost overruns may go even higher than $400 million,” said Austin, New Democrat Critic for Rural Communities.

Austin was responding to the auditor general’s report that casts serious doubt on the $883 million price tag Liberals said would be the final cost. Originally the premier claimed the centre would cost $496 million.

“This news comes just as working families in Terrace learned that the West Fraser sawmill will be closing indefinitely,” said Austin. “The Campbell government has done nothing to help them. The premier has millions to spend on cost overruns at the convention centre, but only callous indifference for working people in resource communities.”

Austin added that northern and rural communities generate much of British Columbia’s wealth, yet get nothing in return.

What if… the tankers put us at risk…?

With Halloween on the horizon, it seemed only fitting for a story of potential horror be told to an anxious group, listening to every worrisome word.

On Friday, the Living Oceans Society presented a rather stark picture of life on along the coast of BC in the event of troubles on coastal waters; highlighting some of the main concerns for residents in the aftermath of any form of tanker spill in the waters of the north coast.

With talk increasing over the last few years about an increase in tanker traffic into Prince Rupert and/or Kitimat, they felt the time was right to provide some information on what could happen if things were to go horribly wrong.

The folks in Hartley Bay received a small sample of what could happen when the Queen of the North sank a year and a half ago; the fear is that with increased traffic along the north coast, the potential for even more catastrophic disasters is increased as well.

They presented their thoughts on the issue to a group of stakeholders last Friday featuring a digital interactive presentation which showed the potential damage from a variety of spills of different sizes. (Which you can view from their website here)

The Daily news featured their worried vision as the front page story of Monday’s paper.

The Living Oceans Society uses digital model to show how bad things could be
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, October 29, 2007
Pages one and three

Tankers full of toxic condensate could pose a serious risk to the coastline of northern B.C., according to the Living Oceans Society, which brought its warning about possible scenarios to Prince Rupert on Friday.

In the past few years, several oil and gas companies have put forward projects that would see tankers travelling into the ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert, which if approved could result in more than 300 tankers a year moving through northern coastal waters.

Oonagh O'Connor, energy campaign manager for the Living Oceans Society, was in Prince Rupert on Friday to speak to stakeholders on the issue, and also to give a demonstration of a new digital interactive oil spill model.

The Living Oceans Society model was developed to assess the impacts of an oil tanker accident, and allows people to see what spills of various sizes, at different times of year and in different locations would look like on B.C.'s North and Central Coast.

“In 1972, the Canadian government imposed a moratorium banning oil tanker traffic from the North and Central Coast of B. C. and in 2003 a commission of scientists concluded it should stay in place,” said O’Connor.

“We thought we were a lot more secure than we actually are, especially since 75 per cent of British Columbians polled thought tankers should be kept out of coastal waters.”

In fact, what happened was the federal government already began violating the long-standing moratorium in 2006, when it began allowing tankers carrying highly toxic condensate through to Kitimat, she said.

O’Connor said that, aside from a handful of people, most First Nations representatives and other coastal residents were not informed that these tankers were traveling through traditional territories and coastal waters. As of July 10, condensate tankers have come through B. C.’s coastal waters.

Condensate is chemically classified as a highly toxic petrochemical that kills marine life on contact. It’s used in Alberta’s tar sands to thin the tar-like oil that is extracted, thus allowing easier movement of the oil.

Canada produces much of its own condensate and does not need to import the substance.

However, it is cheaper to bring in condensate from South America, she said.

The risk posed by these condensate tankers alone is enough that North Coast residents should be alarmed, said Dr. Rick Steiner of the University of Alaska, who gave a presentation alongside O’Connor.

Steiner gave a brief history and the hard lessons that were learned first hand from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

“You need to put a system in place here to minimize the risk as much as possible, even though you can’t get it to zero,” said Stenier.

“There’s a huge amount of risk with these condensate tankers, and every one needs to be escorted by a rescue tug (boat) around Inside waters. There are not tugs around these tankers.”

Steiner also believes that in order to minimize the risk that all tankers bring to B. C. ‘s coast, there is a need for weather restrictions that will keep tankers either at sea or at dock in all cases of risky water conditions. As well, routing agreements need to be made by the federal and provincial governments to determine which routes tankers would be bound to when navigating inside coastal waters.

“If it’s blowing 80 knots, do you really want a condensate tanker going up Douglas channel with a cross wind and no rescue tug?” asked Steiner. “They also need to tracked 24/7, 365, if they’re in territorial waters, and out of here. They’ve got millions of gallons of oil on board.”

The Living Oceans Society interactive oil spill model was demonstrated by O’Connor, and the results it yielded were highly disconcerting to the stakeholders gathered a Fisherman’s Hall.

As an example, an Exxon Valdez-sized spill at Grenville Rock (a hazard shipping area identified by Transport Canada) in the wintertime would see oil spread all the way to waters off the coast of Masset. This means that the shores of Rose Spit would be oiled, and salmon spawning and migratory routes would be severely affected, as well as all kinds of birds, grey whale populations, sea lions and orcas.

According the model, a summer spill of 1.26 million barrels at Ness Rock (another Transport Canada hazard zone) would see oil spread all the way down to Bella Bella after 32 days, covering every shore in between.

“Even before any safety measures are put in place, we should have a conversation (with government) about whether we want any of those condensate or oil tankers coming into our waters,” said O’Connor. “We haven’t even been asked.”

It's in the mail, really it is...

(Well, they can hope can't they)

The loonie, strong and flying high has Canadians running for the border, even if only as far as their computers.

With Canada's currency suddenly on fire and heading higher and higher each week, Canadians are busy shopping, making pilgrimages to favourite American shopping sites and ordering as fast as they can.

In fact, we're ordering so much and so fast that Canada Post and Canada customs are having a hard time keeping up with the flow of goods.

There is such a backlog of goods waiting at three Canadian sorting plants, that many consumers are finding that they are waiting four weeks or more for their items to clear the Post office and be on their way.

Part of the problem has been a price gap in Canada from old prices that were posted on items such as books with a dual pricing structure.

With Canadians finding they have a little extra change in their pockets now, they're just ordering from the States and taking advantage of the exchange. Regardless of the wait, which by all accounts may get worse before it gets better.

With the Christmas shopping season just around the corner, unless Canadian retailers become more competitive with their pricing, the trend to order on line from the USA is expected to increase quite a bit. And with it,will come more delays in getting item A to point B in any short period of time.

Canada Post swamped by Internet shoppers
Canadian Press
October 30, 2007 at 5:17 PM EDT

EDMONTON — A surge in Internet cross-border shopping by Canadians trying to cash in on the soaring loonie is creating headaches for consumers, border agents and Canada Post.

There are already complaints of delivery delays as mail sorting centres try to dig out from heaps of Canadian Internet orders from the U.S. — and the holiday shopping season is barely under way.

Officials say the volume of parcels has choked three main international mail-sorting centres operated by Canada Post and the Canada Border Service agency in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

There are reports of parcels from the United States languishing for days and even weeks at the centres before being released for delivery.

Bruce Cran of the Consumers' Association of Canada says he is getting plenty of complaints and is warning that the backlog is going to get worse.

Canada Post and the border service agency say they are working to speed up service and are urging consumers who plan to cross-border shop for the holidays via the Internet to place orders as early as possible.

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

Baseball season is done for another year.

Time to put your gum on the bedpost until spring training..

But what we’re really curious to know is if he shot anything. (or anyone perhaps)

Be vewwy, vewwy quiet in the woods was the rule of the day in New York State Monday.

We're not sure if The New York times was posting a public warning or a news story, with their details of Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to an exclusive New York State Rod and Gun Club.

It was said that the Vice-President was in a quest for pheasants, at least we hope it was pheasants, one missing letter and his trip would have taken on a whole new meaning.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Is the U. S. Government smarter than a Canadian fifth grader?

The answer to our question above is clearly, no, not really…

The State Department has commissioned a Disney travelogue, (which you can watch here) designed to showcase the wondrous vistas of the American landscape.

Called: Welcome: Portraits of America, it takes viewers on a seven minute race across America to enjoy the many sights and sounds of the Republic, well six minutes and fifty six seconds if we wish to be picky as you'll soon learn.

From the Biggest of the cities to the wide expanse of the plains, through the Rocky Mountains to California’s charms, it’s all there for the watching.

And if it’s not enough to show off the 50 states, well it seems that they can always poach off the neighbors. One small but significant attraction highlighted in the seven minute video presentation is a stunning view of the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls.

The tell tale horse shoe prominent in the video spectacular, just another reason to come visit America! Of course the only problem with that picture is, as a fifth grader might suggest, that uh, excuse us, pssst Mr. Hollywood producer….

The Falls are actually in Canadian territory.

Small technicality we know, but it is after all why we have maps and borders and such.
The US Government did a bit of spin on the issue by suggesting that it’s a treasure that they take great pride in sharing with us, even if it seems that we weren’t aware we were sharing.

The plan to highlight the Horseshoe Falls may prove to be difficult for the US, considering the current border requirements and such for a visitor to the USA to head across to Canada and then back just for a glimpse.
Even more important, sending folks in quest of the Horseshoe Falls is potentially dangerous to the US Tourism industry, after all once their visitors make that trek across the bridge, they may find that there’s a whole new land to be discovered…

Giving them a glimpse of a land where even more spectacular vistas abound in a safe and friendly environment, and a land that doesn’t have to portray the neighbour’s attractions as their own.

When you think about it though, considering the producers Disney come from Hollywood it’s not unusual, to find a bit of Canada in an American production. After all how many times in a feature film has Canada subbed in for America, whether on an Alberta range, the wild coasts of British Columbia or as a big city dressed down to reflect the urban decay of some large American city.

We’ve become the stand in for Hollywood for years.

So our four seconds of fame its just business as usual eh, Canada, we’re ready for our close up….

Trick or Treat, watch their feet, maybe they'll close the school on your street!

Just in time for Halloween, Education Minister Shirley Bond has donned the robes of the Educational Grim Reaper, wriggled her finger and suggested that for school districts in the likes of Prince George and Prince Rupert it can’t be business as usual much longer.

Citing declining enrollment statistics in the province which have seen 7,000 less students in British Columbia’s schools this fall, Bond said that Ministry figures show that there is a 24 per cent decline and 19 per cent in Prince George, part of a growing trend not only in B. C. but across Canada and in some other parts of the world.

For her part, the Minister said she didn’t want to speculate on school closures, but seemed to intimate that possibility, with a statement that “Our primary consideration is making sure resources go into classrooms and not into half-empty buildings.”

The thumbnail lesson plan for declining education was reported on in the Vancouver Province and appears on that papers website this morning.

Parents should brace for more school closures in the province
Due to declining enrolment, B.C. has an excess of $8 billion in school buildings, says minister Shirley Bond
Kent Spencer
The Province
Monday, October 29, 2007

Parents should brace for more school closures because B.C. has an excess of $8 billion in school buildings, says the province.

Education Minister Shirley Bond told The Province that enrolments across B.C. declined by another 7,000 students this year.

"I don't want to speculate on closures, but I can tell you the loss of 7,000 students will have an impact over time," she said. "Our primary consideration is making sure resources go into classrooms and not into half-empty buildings."

Before the 2005-06 school year, province wide enrolment had dropped by 50,000 in just six years. More than 130 schools were closed during that time. "Fifty thousand is an entire community," Bond said.

Enrolments have declined 37 per cent in Vancouver since 2000-01,24 per cent in Prince Rupert and 18 per cent in Prince George.

"Those school districts cannot expect to operate with the same configuration," said Bond.

Maple Ridge, whose parents have won a year-long reprieve for three elementary schools, has lost about five per cent of its students since 2000-01.

She believes taxpayers don't want to see their money wasted on empty space: "Taxpayers want to make sure the space is used."

She said the dwindling student population is a worldwide phenomenon.

"When I met recently with Australia's education minister it was the same story. People are having fewer children. It is a significant shift in world demographics. It includes places like Quebec, Ontario, Ireland and Oregon."

Bond admitted the process is heart-wrenching to the parents and young students involved. "I've been a school trustee and I'm a parent. It is very challenging for families and school districts. Trustees have to find the appropriate balance," she said.

The ministry is looking at utilizing space by filling partially empty facilities with community programs.

"We're looking at the community hub model, including daycares and learning programs. It would use excess space all across the province."

B.C. Teachers Federation vice-president Susan Lambert called the closure of schools "unconscionable" during the current economic boom.

"The province has a $3.2-billion surplus," she said. "Every time a school is closed, it is traumatic for parents.

"The community fabric is woven over a neighbourhood school. Every parent wants their child to go to the same school from kindergarten to Grade 7. They want to minimize disruptions and maximize stability.

"Being able to walk to a nearby school increases physical fitness and fights obesity. I know some Grade 1s who spend two hours a day on buses. When schools close, it means ripping out the heart of the community," Lambert said.


Tell us by e-mail at provletters@ or by fax to 604-605-2223.

Please include your name and address.

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

Spuds for Bud, the original Party animal...

He is the party!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Playpen antics over booster seats

Perhaps we can call it the booster seat boo boo, that put the Liberals in some doo doo!

Like toddlers holding onto a favourite toy, the BC Liberal Government is finding itself under fire for a rather selfish little scheme, which distributed booster seats across the province only from Liberal constituency offices.

The controversy over the plan became public this week after it was disclosed that through Minister for State for Child Care, Linda Reid, the province had launched a rather sensible program to help low-income families meet the new requirements for car booster seats. As part of the project, the taxpayers of the province picked up the tab for 2,000 booster seats destined for those in the most need.

But as seems to be the case with good intentions, raw politics once again gets in the way of the doing the right thing, in the right way.

In the legislature this week Reid admitted only Liberal MLA offices were given the opportunity to distribute free booster seats. This meant that the closest office to the Northwest for distribution was Smithers, leaving the local NDP MLA Gary Coons fuming over the way that the project was implemented.

Coons rightly points out that while the Berry Patch in Prince Rupert was lucky enough to receive 20 of the booster seats, there were many areas of this riding that did not receive one single seat.

It’s a situation that isn’t right, and could have been avoided by a little common sense. By not involving all members of the Legislature in the program launch, the government missed a golden opportunity to appear to be doing the right thing. Smart political optics would have suggested having the local MLA receive the seats courtesy of the Provincial government would only serve the Government with nothing but positive feedback. Providing for a scenario which very well could have resulted in even NDP MLA’s patting the government on the back for a considerate and helpful gesture for those in the most need.

Instead, the Liberals look like selfish little brats, unwilling to share their goodies with the rest of the kids in the playpen. Taking what should have been pure political gold and turning it into a nasty display of petty party politics.
The BC health guide suggests that we should: "Set a good example for your children by always wearing your own seat belt, and always insist that they buckle up."
Hmm, setting a good example for the children, now there's something that the Government may want to get a handle or a buckle on.
Judging by the reaction from the press this was one plan that needed a bit more thought and lot less politics and now needs some serious damage control.

The Prince Rupert Daily News had details on the plan in Friday’s paper.

Booster seat row has Coons calling for fairness
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, October 26, 2007

North Coast MLA Gary Coons is alleging the Liberal Minister for Child Care is playing partisan politics with child safety, following the revelation that only Liberal offices benefited from a booster seat program.

Earlier this year, the provincial government announced a safety program that included new rules requiring booster seats for children younger than nine years old or under four-foot-nine.
Through the Minister for State for Child Care, Linda Reid, the province implemented a program designed to help low-income families meet the new requirements, and as part of it, taxpayers picked up the tab for 2,000 booster seats.

However, in the legislature this week Reid admitted only Liberal MLA offices were given the opportunity to distribute free booster seats.

Coons said that while the Berry Patch Child Care Resource and Referral Centre (CCRR) in Prince Rupert did receive 20 seats for distribution, it is a shame that neither the Healthy Beginnings program in Bella Coola, the CCRR in Masset nor the CCRR in Queen Charlotte received any seats.

"I find it interesting that the minister put on record that all areas of the province were treated fairly and equitably and that all regions of the province received seats," said Coons.

"The minister of state wants us to believe Liberal offices were used out of fairness, but not one booster seat made it to the Queen Charlotte Islands."

Coons believes that the program would have been much more effective if constituency offices had been left out of the picture altogether, and the seats distributed by ministry offices.

"She could have sent booster seats to the Ministry of Children and Family Development office in Queen Charlotte City. She could have sent booster seats to the Employment and Income Assistance office in Masset. That's where professionals who work with low-income families work," noted Coons.

"The Berry Patch, in Prince Rupert, did get 20 seats, but Bella Coola was left out, as were communities on Haida Gwaii. This program would be much more effective if the government cooperated with all constituencies to distribute the seats," he added.

The nearest constituency office to distribute seats in the Northwest was Dennis Mackay's office in Smithers, he noted.

In the legislature, Coons directly questioned Reid about her failure to reach families on the North Coast.

Coons, who said he is disappointed about the government's actions, has written a letter to the minister requesting seats for those communities that were left out in the initial phase of the program.

"Constituency offices are supposed to be non-partisan; they are there to serve the people of British Columbia, regardless of who they vote for," said Coons.

"I hope that the minister responds to this criticism by correcting her initial mistake and giving seats to every community that needs them."

Activities for ghouls and goblins galore

As Halloween draws closer the plans for a number of local events are almost complete.

Two separate activities are planned to help set the mood for All Hallows night, one for the littlest of trick and treaters and another for those a little further down the age scale.

Tuesday night sees a Haunted House for the under ten age group set to open at the Tom Rooney Playhouse put on by the Hecate Strait Rotary Club and the group at the Tom Rooney playhouse. Last years event, which had little to no advance advertising attracted some 75 participants and organizers are hopeful for even larger numbers on the night before Halloween.

On the big night itself once again the focus will be on the Civic Centre, where a number of activities are planned for Halloween fest. Those that are under the age of 12 can take in the free swim from 3:30 to 5:00 pm and then enjoy the Costume Party from 6 until 8 including lots of free candy, food and drink.

The always popular Fireworks will take place at 8:15 with viewing best over the sports fields and golf course area.

This year there is special attention focused on teenagers at the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre, where a special teen swim is set to start from 7 pm and go on through the evening, with a number of organized games planned from 8:00 to 9:30 pm.

The Friday Daily News had two stories on the events planned for this week.

Night before Halloween will set the stage
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, October 26, 2007

Kids will be helping kids next week thanks to the Hecate Strait Rotary's Haunted House.
"For the second year in a row the Hecate Strait Rotary Club is holding it's Haunted House for kids, and it's in partnership with the Tom Rooney Theatre gang," said Ann Jackson, Rotary past president and the chair of this year's Haunted House event.

"It's geared for the under-10 crowd, so it's really for the younger kids."

The haunted house will be inside the Tom Rooney Playhouse on Third Avenue on Tues., Oct. 30, from 4 to 7 p.m.

"We had a really great time last year," said Jackson. "I think the Rotarians had even more fun than the kids."

With minimal advertisement, last year's Haunted House was well attended with around 75 kids and parents going through, but Jackson hopes to see even more families out for this year's event. Hecate Strait members and the Harbour Theatre group have been busy organizing the night, and will be spending time preparing for Tuesday night at the end of this weekend.
"It's two dollars for kids, and the adults who come with them are free," she said. "We also have a treat bag for the kids at the end of it as well."

Once again this year, all the money raised from the Haunted House will go toward one of the Rotary's youth-sponsored programs.

"This year, we're targetting the Everyone Gets To Play, so we can have underprivileged kids be able to use the recreational facilities around town," said Jackson. "Our club is geared towards all youth programs, but we want to make sure we support that and give back as much as we can to the community."

With so much going on for Halloween, parents might be thinking they'll have to choose between taking kids to the Rotary Haunted House and Halloween Fest at the Civic Centre.

"Absolutely not, we've been trying to work together for a couple years but it's so involved that we haven't quite got there," Jackson said.

"Our thing is a little smaller scaled and little more controllable for the amount of people we have, but a lot of fun."

On Tues., Oct. 30, the public is welcome to go to the Tom Rooney Playhouse between 4 and 7 p.m. for what's sure to be a fun time for kids and parents alike.

"We had so much fun last year, we're pretty sure we'll have a good turnout this year," said Jackson, who notes that kids are encouraged to wear their costumes if they can. "It would be great if in the spirit of things, kids could dress up and get in gear for the next day too."

Halloween event set to make a big splash
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, October 26, 2007

Kendal Sheppard wants every teenager in Prince Rupert to be at Halloween Fest this year, and he is making preparations to accommodate them all.

"I'm calling out to teens to let them know what's out there for them on Halloween night," said Sheppard.

"We've got a haunted house, lots of games with prizes for each one, and pizza and pop at the end of the night with the award ceremony."

Sheppard is the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre's full-time lifeguard and organizer of this year's poolside portion of Halloween Fest, and he has been busy making all the arrangements to get as many teens to take part as possible.

"There's a bus service from city transit running from 6 until 8:45 to the civic centre and the pool, and taking people away as well," said Sheppard.

"There's been a lot of donations from local businesses already, but I'd like to ask any other businesses that would like to contribute prizes to the teen swim and encourage them to get off the street to get ahold of me."

Sheppard said the prizes available for participating teens this year are phenomenal, and those that attend for the full three hours of Halloween Fest will be amazed by what they'll be eligible to win. The list of businesses that have donated prizes for the teen portion of Halloween Fest include Loaded Sports, Javadotcup, Hairtech Studio, Salty Crab, Tangles, Leanne's Pet Shop, Shames Mountain, Totem Lanes Bowling, JVA Family Entertainment, East Wind Emporium, Subway, 7-Eleven, Cowpuccinos, Farwest, Envy, Concrete, the Prince Rupert Men's Floor Hockey League, and the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre.

The Teen Swim begins promptly at 7 p.m., with the Haunted House running for a half-hour. When teens exit the Haunted House, there will be roaming games for them to play for an hour, followed by organized games.

"Roaming games will be the dunk tank, gut-grab for eyeballs, octopus tentacle escape, pumpkin basketball shoot, water polo skull shoot, and that's just those games," said Sheppard.

"The organized games from 8 to 9:30 will be things like the diving board competition, pumpkin raft wars, barrel wave wars, pumpkin removal, the dead man relay, and if there's any water balloons left over, we have a water balloon fight."

After all the games and excitement, everyone gets free pizza and pop, and the prizes are given out to all the night's top performers in the games Sheppard said.

"We're expecting to see 60 teenagers, but I'd love to see more," he said. "For some of the prizes, and I won't say which ones, they're based on attendance. So just for being there from 7 to 10, teens will be able to win some of our bigger prizes."

Sheppard says there's no problems if teens show up late because there will be plenty of prizes to be had by participating in games, and plenty of candy to go around.

With six lifeguards on hand, and high school volunteers helping out, he's sure the night will be well supervised and a good time for all the teenagers who come out. As long as participants are between 13 and 18 years of age.

"Let's just say everybody should have a chance of winning something, but any other businesses that want to contribute can get ahold of me at 627-7437 and leave me a message," said Sheppard.

We'll be right back after this short commercial message October 27

The way to the Mean man's heart, was through a coke..

All in all a fair trade...

Podunkian Music Club

Trammps-Disco Inferno

Earlier this week, I found myself sidetracked for a bit over a thread on the htmf site, the local bulletin board site that I tend to wander through from time to time, in search of tidbits from this corner of the World Wide Web.

Somehow a thread got hijacked and diverted onto the theme of some of the big songs of the Disco era, a momentary jump into the time machine and a transit back to the days of big hair, big shoes and wide pants and that never ending Disco beat…

Now I have to admit that while not a devotee of the musical styling’s of that era, I did from time to time find myself exposed to the sounds and trappings of that time which few now wish to talk about.

The late seventies to some were the sign of the musical apocalypse, as Rock and Roll radio stations gave way to 24 hour a day Dance parties and disco night clubs with their mirror balls and fashion parades took over many a city nightlife.

The era of Studio 54 and all of its excesses came to symbolize all that Disco was about, every large or medium city seemed to have its own version of the "In club", where most went to be seen as opposed to listen to the music. In fact it seemed for the most part, that the music was merely the elevator music of the times, providing the atmosphere of the night life, a background mix of sounds always accentuated by the booming beat of the bass.

There were a number of one hit wonders to come out of that era and more than a few artists that managed to navigate the boom and bust era of the disco craze in fine style, Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, Village People, Chic and KC and Sunshine band to name a few all found that the disco beat was the ticket to fame and fortune for the late seventies.

The flash point of the Disco explosion was 1977 and the motion picture Saturday Night Fever featuring John Travolta as a hardware store stock boy by day, but dancing God to Brooklyn by night.

In its day the movie and the soundtrack owned the theatres and the record stores and only the country stations and the revolutionaries at the album rock stations avoided the non stop musical interlude offered from it.
The bubble would last until the late part of 1979 when the backlash began and the retreat was sounded for a musical flash that would no longer rule the charts or the clubs. But it is still a sound that can be heard from time to time today, found in the techno sounds and like minded offerings of Madonna and her fellow travellers.

There still seems to be life in the memories of the Disco era, with the producer of Saturday Night Fever offering a retrospective most recently found on tour in Asia.

Tonight on the Music Club, if for no other reason than to provide a history lesson for the young and to scare the hell out of the old timers, we take you back to the time of change.

A lost half decade or so when the music was considered hot and even award winning. The Tramps would pick up a Grammy award for their heat inducing efforts, which urged us all to burn, baby, burn in a disco inferno…

Artist—The Trammps
Recording—Saturday Night Fever soundtrack

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More forest woes for Northwestern BC

The three month forestry strike had barely been settled and the contract offer only just ratified, when the hammer fell on West Fraser Timber's Skeena Sawmills.

West Fraser Timber citing the decline of housing starts in the US and the sudden rise of the Canadian dollar announced on Wednesday, that the Terrace sawmill would close for an indefinite period of time.

The decision puts 80 salaried workers, with no anticipated date of recall. West Fraser said that it would try and reassign the 20 salaried staff members within the company, if possible.

What isn't known yet is the impact on the 400 or so positions associated with logging in the Northwest, people who used to feed product to the area sawmills and now have less and less options for their work. With no markets for the logs, they will be the largest group involved to suffer from the closure.

The Terrace sawmill closure adds to the list of forestry related troubles in the Northwest over the last ten years, an industry that once was considered the backbone of the region is now but a shell of what it once was, with little in the way of a brighter day on the immediate horizon.

The closure announcement was covered by the Vancouver Sun, Terrace Standard and Opinion 250.

The Daily News featured the latest blow to the Northwest economy on the front page of Friday's paper.

Loggers ponder mill closure impact
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, October 26, 2007
Pages one and five

The remains of the forestry industry in the Northwest suffered another blow yesterday as West Fraser Timber announced the shutdown of its Skeena sawmills in Terrace.

"This was a very difficult decision for the company to make, but unfortunately it has become necessary due to current market conditions," said Lou Poulin, general manager of Skeena Sawmills.

"These conditions include low U.S. housing starts and the unprecedented and rapid rise in the value of the Canadian dollar."

The company is uncertain as to the length of the shutdown and any start-up of the facility will be determined by market conditions.

The planer at the plant will operate on a temporary basis starting Oct. 29, 2007, for six weeks in order to process the existing inventory of rough lumber at the mill.

Skeena Sawmills employs approximately 80 hourly workers and 20 salaried staff members. Wherever possible, salaried staff will be re-assigned to other duties within the company.

The news came just as the company's workers were returning to work following a three-month strike by the United Steelworkers Union.

The $2-billion industry was idled July 21 when 7,000 workers walked off the job. They were upset about work scheduling. Twenty major sawmills and innumerable logging operations were shut down during the dispute, including West Fraser's Terrace operations.

Skeena Sawmills produces approximately 90 million board feet of dimension lumber annually on a one-shift basis.

Bill Sauer, manager of the Northwest Loggers Association, said he polled members Wednesday to find out how severe a blow the closure will be.

"What's going to happen now is a good question," he said. "We were all assuming that once the strike was over, we would be able to go out and ship fibre again.

"It's not as if this has not been expected. But it's kind of like a bad marriage. You are expecting it to end but the day the wife kicks you out of the house, it's a shock."

The Northwest forest industry has been on a long downhill slide for more than a decade. The closure of Skeena Cellulose, the region's largest forest company, in the 1990s and the subsequent failed attempts to restart it, first under government intervention, and then venture capital, was the first major blow.

The main problem is that more than 50 per cent of the timber supply in the Northwest is old and decadent, good only for pulp logs. The rest is good quality and under a program introduced by the government, contract loggers can export up to 30 per cent of their logs for a premium and then sell their sawlogs to West Fraser. They lost money on the pulp logs but were able to remain profitable as long as the other two markets were functioning.

The only bright spot, said Terrace economic development officer Sam Harling, is that the rest of the regional economy is strong. A new mine is under development and forest workers' skills are transferable to other sectors, he said.

-With files from Canwest News Service

All the News that’s fit to invent

“I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government,” --Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary

It’s no secret that government agencies prefer it when they can manage the news, the ability to “guide a reporter onto the message"is a gift that can make or break any public affairs manager.

But when you want to get your message out and don’t have the time to assemble those wicked wretches of the media whatever can you do?

Well, if you’re FEMA, you create a reporters pool, made up of inside staffers posing as reporters anxious to get to the bottom of the issues.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the wonderful group that brought America the federal response to Hurricane Katrina two years ago, has added to their legacy, with as Secretary Chertoff said one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things seen in government...

Last week they created a press conference to brief the public on the federal response to the California wildfires, with apparently little time to round up the usual suspects of press, they instead loaded the room with inside staffers posing as reporters to ask the “tough” questions of the day of Vice Admiral (retired) Harvey E. Johnson, the Deputy Administrator and Chief Operating Officer.

Questions that didn’t exactly hold anyone’s feet to the fire shall we say.

Instead they were considered soft and designed to fluff up the folks at FEMA as hands on and involved. They even managed to keep a straight face when the deputy director asked for just “one last question”.

Though considering the administration friendliness of Fox News. We suggest for them this possible blaring type headline graphic that all these news channels seem to thrive on now, FAUX NEWS, FROM FOX NEWS!

Normally the Fake News stuff is left to the likes of your Jon Stewarts, Rick Mercers and the gang at Air Farce, but now it seems that creating the news is to be a government department.

During the worst of the Katrina debacle, George Bush once said of the then (and very soon to be former) director Michael Brown, "that you’re doing a heck of a job Brownie"…

No word on whether Harvey got the same salute, but judging by Chertoff's response it's doubtful that he'll be getting a congratualtory phone call anytime soon!

To tweak a phrase made famous by McLuhan, "the manipulation is the message."

We'll be right back after this short commercial message October 26

Why fathers should never teach their children to drive (or many other things it seems).

Your wrong choices, become their wrong choices.

Friday, October 26, 2007

CityWest opens the lines for better communication

With competition on the way and the grumbling from the locals getting a little bit louder each week, CityWest the city’s communications provider has decided that the time has come for a little get together.

They plan on offering a chance for its shareholders (the public) to find out what’s happening with their investment and to see how things shape up on the financial statements.

After having missed a few opportunities to hold their required annual meeting, the Prince Rupert based telecommunications company, has set December 5th as the date for its first general meeting in a couple of years.

Among the possible topics of conversation at the 7 pm meeting at the Crest, will be the debt load of CityWest, after borrowing 23 million in 2005 for its purchase of Monarch Cablevision and another 6.9 million in 2006 for reasons which were not specified at the annoucement.

There are possibly some questions to be asked about management and consultancy fees associated with the company, fees which reached up to 600,000 dollars over the last few years.

And participants may wish to inquire as to why CityWest has been a little light the last few years, when it comes to the annual dividend payment to the city of Prince Rupert.

Mayor Herb Pond said the city has been encouraging the company to hold its annual information meeting, which considering the fact that it’s actually a legal requirement, was quite helpful of the city.


City representatives will be on hand as well as CityWest officials at the December 5th meeting at the Crest.

The Daily News featured this new dedication to openness and transparency, as the front page story in Friday’s paper.

Perhaps they could make use of the night to circle a date on the calendar for next years meeting, just as a reminder in case they forget about the annual sessions of togetherness.

CityWest invites public to quiz its board, hear plans
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, October 26, 2007
Pages one and three

CityWest will be holding its first public information meeting Wed., Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. at the Crest.
"We are going to give people an overview of what we have been up to. Our financial statements are posted on our website so they are all there but if there's any question about any of that, we will talk about that," said Rob Brown, general manager of CityWest.

CityWest was incorporated in the fall of 2005, taking it from a department of the city of Prince Rupert to an incorporated company, with the city as its sole shareholder.
Although the company has been incorporated for nearly two years, this will be the first time it has held a public session.

"We will give an overview of our operation ... our different sections, cell, fibre, telephone cable and leave it open to questions from the public," said Brown.

The company's shareholder, the city of Prince Rupert, as well as members of the board of directors, will also be in attendance.

CityWest has undergone rapid expansion since its incorporation, in anticipation of other companies, such as Rogers, entering the telecommunications market in the Northwest.
In 2005, the company borrowed $23.3 million to purchase Monarch Cable, and it now offers cable television services throughout the Northwest.

In 2006, CityWest installed a $6 million fibre link to Terrace along Highway 16 to enhance the company's services.

Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said the city has been encouraging the company to hold its annual information meeting.

"There's a legal requirement to hold a annual general meeting that has to be fulfilled but there's also a need to ensure the public is informed at the appropriate level about what it's done and where it is going," said Pond.

According to the company's financials for 2006, in its first full year of operations, CityWest brought in $18.3 million in revenue from its operation and had $15.9 million in expenses. This left the company with a net income of $2.6 million.

CityWest brought in $17.6 million in cash receipts from customers and paid $10.4 million to suppliers and employees.

In 2005, the company borrowed $23.3 million from HSBC for the purchase of Monarch Cable Systems. The loan is expected to be repayed at an interest rate of 5.5 per cent per year for the first two years and then prime plus 0.25 per cent each year after that.

In 2006, CityWest borrowed another $6.9 million, bringing its total loan to $27.2 million. That year, CityWest's financial statement shows the company paying off $1.2 million in long-term debt and $1.4 million in interest.

In 2006, the company also paid a $1 million dividend to the city of Prince Rupert, half of its normal $2 million dividend.

The company's financial statements also note that in 2005, the city itself paid $280,000 in consulting fees related to the purchase of Monarch Cable Systems.

In addition, in 2005 and 2006, CityWest paid a total of $350,000 in management fees to the city of Prince Rupert.

Could the Northwest Transmission line drain jobs from BC ports?

The proposed Northwest Transmission line, a $400 million dollar project to link a transmission line from to Terrace to Bob Quinn Lake could be a Trojan horse kind of development, one which opens up a corridor to Alaska and would result in a drain on B. C.’s ports.

That seems to be the impression of a group that has been organized to stop the development in its tracks. The Protect Our Ports committee appeared in Terrace last week to outline their concerns over the electrification project, including the thought that the power development would then be followed by the Bradfield Connector a highway to link Highway 37 to Wrangell, Alaska. A development that would shift the trade patterns of Northern BC from North/South to East/West, leaving the Provinces northern ports to deal with reduced output.

The Thursday edition of the Daily News, provided some background on their thoughts from the finance committee meetings in Terrace last week.

Power line will fire up Alaska, not B.C. critic suggests
By Leanne Ritchie ,
The Daily News
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Pages one and two

The proposed Northwest Transmission Line will increase the possibility of a road connecting Alaska and B.C., and drain economic goods away from B.C. ports as a result, says an organization out of Stewart.

Speaking to the province's finance committee in Terrace last month, James Bourquin of the Protect Our Ports committee explained how the proposed $400 million 287-kV transmission line from Terrace to Bob Quinn Lake will cause accelerated mining development and the development off the Bradfield connector road between B.C. and Alaska.

"B.C. Hydro's proposed 287-kV northern transmission line would be to the long-term detriment of Northwest British Columbia mining service communities and Northwest B.C. ports," he said.
“The pace and scale of 287-kV energy-intensive, open-pit mining could shift the northern Northwest B. C. economy from flowing north-south along Highway 37 to eventually flowing east-west, connecting Northern British Columbia mines to southeast Alaska ports and communities via an American Bradfield industrial corridor.”

The British Columbia Transmission Corporation is currently proposing to develop the $400 million transmission line project with $150 million in capital costs being provided by NovaGold, which is developing the Galore Creek mine in the region.

The government of Alaska has been proposing to tie in its electrical system with the new line in order to sell electricity to the Lower 48. Currently, Alaska’s electrical system, like its road system and rail system, is isolated.

And part of its future infrastructure plans include building the Bradfield connector, $300-million northern access road that would link B. C. along Highway 37 to a deep water port at the head of the Bradfield Canal near Wrangell, Alaska. The province of B. C. and Alaska government funded a study in 2004 to examine the cost of such a road link.

“If we have a big transmission line, it’s going to put so many trucks on Highway 37 that there’ll eventually be an industrial haul road under the Alaska-B.C. electrical inter-tie,” said Bourquin.
“All those resources are going to flow to an Alaskan port, so we’re going to basically change the geopolitics of that area up there. It’s going to report to the Alaska economy rather than the Northwest B. C. economy, if we overbuild electricity,” said Bourquin.

Bourquin argues NovaGold only needs a 138-kV line to operate.

With the 287-kV line, secondary mining such as Teck Cominco’s Shaft Creek copper-gold and Imperial Metal’s Red Chris copper-gold project, will all come on-line at the same time.
Instead of providing jobs for 100 years, if all the projects come on line at the same time, it will create a boom and bust situation as well as providing an incentive for the Alaskan’s to build the Bradfield Connector.

Not particularly standing on guard for thee

The RCMP and Canadian Border Services Agency dropped a bit of a bomb shell on British Columbians today, with the announcement of the arrest of a Surrey based Border guard, who seemingly had crossed over to the dark side when it comes to keeping guard on Canada’s border.

The thirteen month investigation into the happenings at the Pacific Border crossing in Surrey, found that Border guard Baljinder Kandola, 35, allegedly used his position to allow shipments of guns and drugs to proceed into Canada

On Thursday morning, the border guard and two other men were arrested after police found restricted handguns, cash and 208 kilograms of cocaine worth $6 million inside two vehicles.

It’s the second bout of bad publicity that the Border Services Agency has suffered in the last few months. CBSA members recently made news when inappropriate remarks and less than flattering pictures made on the Facebook social network were made public.

At the time some critics of the Agency suggested that the use of part time students for border security left the Agency in peril of potential problems.

Those and other concerns have left more than a few wondering aloud about the state of Canada’s borders, considering the latest developments out of Surrey they may have more to worry about than even they thought!

B.C. border guard busted on drugs and weapons charges
2 other men also arrested at Surrey crossing
CBC News
Friday, October 26, 2007

RCMP have arrested a border guard in Surrey, B.C, alleging that he used his position to allow cocaine and guns to be smuggled across the Canada-U.S. border.

As part of a 13-month investigation, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency have been closely watching the Pacific Highway Border crossing in Surrey. On Thursday morning, a border guard and two other men were arrested after police found restricted handguns, cash and 208 kilograms of cocaine worth $6 million inside two vehicles.

"This operation began after information was received that a border officer was a key figure in a criminal enterprise," Insp. Dan Malo, who's in charge of the investigation, said Friday.
"Nobody in Canada smuggles this quantity of cocaine without being involved in organized crime."

Police allege that two luxury SUVs were allowed to pass through a commercial inspection booth without examination.

Other border guards were disheartened by the news that one of their own had been arrested, said Kim Scoville, director of the CBSA's Pacific Highway District.

"It's a sense of betrayal they're experiencing and it is something that we take seriously," he said.

Border guard Baljinder Kandola, 35, and two other Richmond men, Shminder Johal, 34, and Herman Riar, 26, are all charged with importing cocaine to Canada, possession for the purposes of trafficking, conspiracy to import cocaine, as well as importing restricted firearms. Kandola is also charged with breach of trust and bribery.

One window too many?

Vandals continued on along their travels last week, making Gary’s Lock shop the latest casualty of a broken window, a result of some of the unsavory evening activities in downtown Prince Rupert.

And while it’s most likely just a coincidence, this week also saw Prince Rupert City Council begin to take more of an interest in the growing problem of vandalism and downtown rowdyism.

A number of high profile incidents over the last few months have had locals talking quite a bit about a growing problem, while the reaction from city hall seems to have been muted for the most part.

The city took the question to heart at this week’s council meeting during a question and answer session with a local resident Larry Golden.

During the course of the discussion, Mayor Herb Pond announced that the city has approached a number of service organizations to address the issue of vandalism, but ruled out the prospect of a curfew for local teens, a frequently mentioned solution for some in the city.

Interestingly enough, no mention was made of returning the RCMP to a full staff situation; the local detachment has been working with reduced numbers during the last number of lean years for the city.

There was also no discussion at council of creating a Youth squad through the RCMP, which we once had in the city, nor was there any talk of directing the RCMP to perhaps reallocate some of their current resources towards the recurring problems of the downtown core. They are two possibilities that are often thought could help in trying to get a handle on the increasing problems in the city.

The approach of service organizations by the city for assistance is a process that many in the city will be watching with interest, hoping that the plan is not just a way of putting a controversial topic on the back burner until it fades from view.

Judging by the increasing amount of petty crime and vandalism that have plagued the downtown area of late, it’s most likely an issue that will stay in the public eye for the long run. One which will need to be addressed with tangible results from the city.

The Daily news examined the city’s plans in Friday’s paper.

City keen to trash vandalism epidemic
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pages one and three

Faced with a 50 per cent increase in petty crime, the city is hoping to work with other community organizations to get out in front of the vandalism problem.

"The problem has not escaped us. Just like others in the community, public buildings are not immune," said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

"We have seen problems at the rec centre and city hall properties.

"It isn't up to the schools or the RCMP or any one group, it is up to all of us to get together and find some solutions."

Pond was responding to a question from Larry Golden, who asked the city what it was doing to deal with the issue.

During the summer Golden, like many other people, noticed an increase in vandalism..
The RCMP informed him that between January and September 2006, 320 acts of vandalism that each caused less than $5,000 in damage were reported. This year, during that same time period, there were 480 incidents.

“That’s 50 per cent increase,” said Golden.

While the city has put in a new camera to keep an eye on its own property, and wile it will be adding a camera to the front entrance of the Performing Arts Centre, it is not helping anyone else in the city, he said.

Golden suggested bicycle licencing and a curfew as two possible solutions.

Pond said the city has initiated a response that will hopefully bring together a number of service organizations to address the issue.

“the reality is in a small community, and I have seen this with break-and-enters, vandalism and other types of crime like that, when you are a small community, your stats really spike easily up and down based on the actions of two or three people,” he said.

“It only takes one small group of two or three people, doing home break ins for example, and your statistics go through the roof and then someone puts handcuffs on them and your statistics fall off again,” said Pond.

While he stressed action is being taken, Pond said curfews are not something the city can consider.

“You can’t discriminate based on age. You can’t say if you are 16 and under you have to be home by 9 p. m. … it’s a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Various municipalities have tried it and … it hasn’t worked,” he said. “But saying a curfew is not the answer does not mean you throw up your hands and say there is nothing that can be done. We are very much looking for solutions and looking to implement them quickly.”

North Coast Transition Society outlines plans for new Transition House

The North Coast Transition Society made public its plans for a new 29 bedroom facility and office complex last week, designed to take full advantage of the setting of the 1.4 acre piece of land they hope to develop in partnership with B. C. Housing.

The society promises to leave as “small a footprint” as possible on the site just off of Park Avenue and bordering on Moresby Park , and plan on being environmentally responsible as they proceed with their plans.

The Daily News provided full details on their plans, as the papers front page story in Thursday’s edition.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Pages one and three

The proposed new facility for the North Coast Transition Society would not impact Moresby Park, according to the project's planners.

During a public hearing to officially amend the community plan and zoning for a new two-storey facility on Park Avenue, Peggy Julseth, program development coordinator, said the society wants to keep the development as green as possible.

"There may be a perception out there in the community, because that is a treed area right now, that the property we are applying for is part of Moresby Park. I think that has been made clear that is not the case," said Julseth.

The North Coast Transition Society is looking to build a new 29-bedroom facility and office complex on a 1.4-acre piece of land in partnership with B.C. Housing.

"Our intention is to only request as much property as we need for the building. We don't want an excess of land we have no use for," said Julseth.

And in the back area toward the ridge, they intend to leave it as natural as they can.
“There’s no plan to go in and wipe out the whole square lot in order to get the building in to the property,” she said.

“And if you walk that area, there is also a significant amount of land between there and the ridge. From the Moresby pond and park area, you will not be able to see our building.”
During the public hearing, staff and board members represented the society.

“I think this is a really positive thing for your community. North Coast Transition house Society has naturally been growing in size. We currently have two offices and we are just looking at a third office within days for another program we are working on,” she said.

“This is consolidating all our programs services into one complex and we will be able to add additional length of stay.”

The complex includes 21 bedrooms for the purpose of the Transition House and Supportive Recovery Programs and eight one-bedroom units for intermediate supportive housing.
“Our intention is to end the cycle of homelessness as much as we can and that’s why second stage transitional housing is part of our proposal. It’s up to a maximum stay of two years,” Julseth said.

The only opposition to the development as it was proposed was from the Ministry of Highways, which expressed concern about the request from the society to reduce the number of required parking spaces.

Zeno Krekic, the city’s planner, said the Highways Department has a higher than normal interest in the project because it is technically located off Highway 16, however any concern will not impact the zoning or OCP amendment process.

Rather, it will be up to the two parties to resolve the concern before the city issues a development variance permit, which is the next stage in the process prior to construction.
Julseth explained that they have requested to reduce the number of required parking spaces to a total of 15 because the minority of people coming to the building does not own vehicles.
“The intent of this project is to go green… part of that is to try and reduce the number of parking stalls, paved and concrete areas in our proposal. The other thing is to make sure we are environmentally-friendly with the parking we are putting into place,” she said.

“We are encouraging people to use car pooling, bicycling and public transit as much as possible and also as part of the process we will have a covered bicycle are.”
In light of the presentation by the society, council concluded the process by rezoning and amending the official community plan later that evening, allowing the project to proceed.