Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why waste your time with the chickenpox, when you can solve chicken neck!

Canada’s medical profession is questioning the surge in practitioners forsaking general medicine and heading for the bountiful bucks of the cosmetic variety. It seems with the demand in cosmetic surgery; some doctors are splitting their time, giving mornings for the sick and afternoons for the enhancements. Others are just passing on the sick folks completely.

It’s a trend that has a few worried about the future of the Canadian medical system and others outright mad that doctors who were educated at public expense turning their backs on the care of the sick, for the land of vanity medicine.

The Botox exodus as its being called is resulting in a number of doctors choosing not to spend their days with those that are sick and in the greatest need.

As with anything in the medical debate money seems to set the agenda at times, a doctor could earn 60 dollars for providing a patient with a physical, or take 200 dollars to the bank for a ten minute Botox injection. You do the math and ponder the visuals… it’s not hard to see the path that some have decided on.

However, you have to wonder if perhaps it says more about our current craze for vanity enhancements than the state of medicine. Regardless it’s going to be an issue that the provinces will have to deal with and rather quickly, for it will lead to an even larger doctor shortage than we already face and in some communities the word crisis doesn’t do the situation justice.

It’s sure to become part of the continuous debate over the public/private model of medicine, but the numbers being bounced around probably show that more doctors will choose the relative joy of the cosmetic lines as opposed to the day to day drudgery of sniffles, wheezes and worse.

Industrial Park avoids unexpected elevation to a new location

The city’s fire service was put into action on Monday at the Prince Rupert Industrial Park after what is called a “propane emergency”, a propane leak was reported just after 9 am and Prince Rupert Fire Rescue and the RCMP responded to secure and evacuate the area.

The malfunction of a shut-off valve on a propane transport vehicle was the culprit and resulted in roughly 2,000 litres of liquid propane were spilled in the incident, with a large vapour cloud moving through the area at one time.

At one point even the Butze Rapids trail area was searched, in order to make sure that any wayward hikers were aware that the pathways on Monday held a possible danger more worrisome than the usual wolf encounters ahead.

All the excitement was over by 11:30 in the morning; when the area was given the all clear.

The Daily News had full details in Monday’s paper.

The Daily News
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Page three

Firefighters raced to the city’s outskirts yesterday morning after a propane emergency forced the evacuation of the industrial park.

“Prince Rupert Fire Rescue responded to reports of a major propane leak in the Prince Rupert Industrial Park shortly after 9 a. m. (Monday) morning,” said Fire Chief Ron Miller. “The malfunction of a shut-off valve on a propane transport vehicle resulted in approximately 2,000 litres of liquid propane being spilled.”

Several businesses in the industrial site were evacuated as a very large cloud of propane vapour moved through the area before dissipating, RCMP assisted in blocking off access to the industrial site and also checked the Butze Rapids Trail for any hikers who might have been in danger. No injuries were reported.

Individual buildings in the area were checked and cleared by firefighters to ensure the scene was safe. People were permitted to return to work by 11:30 a. m.

A roof on your head and the wind at your back!

The local skateboard enthusiasts may soon find that the current skateboard park is more user friendly, thanks to an initiative from Constable Phil Peters, a recent graduate of the RCMP depot in Regina. The constable and a number of concerned youth and parents are hoping to launch a fund raising drive to put up lights and provide a cover over the old Kin Hut location across from the Civic Centre.

The thinking is that by making the park more user friendly the problem areas downtown where skateboarders tend to congregate may clear up a bit. With the rather wet weather that Rupert is known for, the skate board crowd tends to use the Ocean Centre Mall as a kind of covered urban park; the hope is that with improvements to the skateboard park that crew will return to the actual skate park off McBride. More adventurous suggestions call for an expansion of the park providing more flow for the skate board crowd of the city.

The Daily news featured the story as it’s page one headline item in Tuesday’s paper.

Boarders and police want a roof over park to encourage more use to it
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
January 30, 2007
Pages one and three

Local skate boarders are hoping to kick off a new fundraising effort that would see some major renovations to the skate park. The initiative is being helped along by Const. Phil Peters a recent Depot grad looking to make a positive impact on his new community.

”We get a lot of complaints from businesses in the downtown area about all the kids hanging around there,” said Const. Steve Richards, RCMP media liaison and community policing officer.

“Just talking to some of the kids down there, it sounds like the skate park is decent, I guess, but it’s always pouring rain.

“So they’re going to try and raise enough money to put a cover on it and some lights.”

Skate boarders, youth, their parents and supporters are being asked to meet at Charles Hays tonight at 7 p. m, to begin the process of forming a committee and looking at what can be done to improve the area.

“At the meeting, we’re hoping everyone will have a say and we’ll get some good ideas for where to go,” said Marc Page, Loaded Sports.

“Our meeting is going to be to sit down with some people and the community together and come up with a goal.”

Alongside the investigation into a roof and some lighting, Page would like to see some improvements at the skate park that he thinks will also increase local use and encourage some of the city’s youth to move away from the downtown core.

“A lot of the kids tend to skateboard outside of City Furniture at the mall there… during the evening and when it’s raining out because it’s one of the only places for them to go,” he said.

“For me, I’d like to see some modifications. That park has no flow to it. We need to open it up. What I’m thinking will cost a lot of money but I’d like to see it made bigger.”

He notes that the fenced area before the creek could be pushed back to open up the site making it more user friendly.

”It’s very difficult for the kids to have fun there,” said Page
“You might land this super smooth clean trick, but when you land there’s something in the way, there’s another rail or box right there, so you’ve got to … dodge something.”

“Also, when the park was built the kids asked for a six-set and a nine-set which are different heights of stairs, but when they built them they built them the same height just with different size stairs- that’s the kind of stuff that happened, but there’s a lot that can be done.

“I want to throw the idea out there that first we renovate the park and then we put the roof on – it could be fundraised for all at the same time.”

Gitxaala Nation tests the wind

Katabatic Power is continuing with their formative plans to build a relationship with the Gitxaala Nation regarding the Banks Island wind power development.

The energy company and the Gitxaala Nation are in the process of drafting a letter of understanding, a guideline for future cooperation on the project and an important step in the development of the development.

The process involved and what the next steps are in its evolution are detailed in the Daily News from Monday.

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

The winds of change are blowing on the North Coast as the Gitxaala nation begin working with Katabatic Power to develop an enormous wind energy project on Banks Island.

Katabatic first officially met with the Gitxaala Nation of Kitkatla back in July 2006.

“We met once more in the fall, and are looking forward to building a strong partnership in the coming years,” said Anthony Duggleby, Katabatic’s CEO. ”Katabatic recognizes that Banks Island is within the traditional territory of the Gitxaala nation,”

“It’s clean energy, said Cliff White, Chief councilor of the Gitxaala Nation.

“It’s environmentally friendly, and that’s what people are looking for.

“Right now, we are working on developing an ongoing relationship. We are looking at the long term benefits that wind energy can bring to the Gitxaala Nation and to the North Coast.”

A letter of understanding, designed to guide the relationship between the Gitxaala and Katabatic on the proposed Banks Island wind power project, is being drafted.

The document provides a framework for developing future cooperation agreements in areas such as environmental and cultural protection, training and education, employment and partnerships.

The centre of the Gitxaala Nation is the community of Kitkatla on Dolphin Island, 60 km south of Prince Rupert and 20 km north of Banks Island. Access to the community is by boat or seaplane.

A joint venture between Katabatic and Deutsche Bank AG, announced earlier this month, has brought the project closer to reality.

“The Banks island Wind Farm is a rare find and the joint venture with Deutsche Bank is a vote of confidence in the local resource and Katabatic Power,” said Duggleby.

It not only represents a key milestone in the development of B. C.’s West Coast wind potential, but it could also advance the province closer to its goal of energy self-sufficiency, he added.

Under the terms of the joint venture, Katabatic will develop the first 700, megawatts (MW) of the full 3,000 MW Banks Island wind resource during the next two years, with construction set to commence in early 2009.

The full 3.000 MW project will be owned by Katabatic and Deutsche Bank AG through North Coast Wind Energy Corp., a subsidiary of Katabatic.

Development efforts during the next two years will focus on project design, environmental permitting, turbine supply, and electricity purchase agreement acquisition.

Total potential investment in the Banks Island wind resource is estimated at $6 billion.

Katabatic’s goal is to begin environmental assessment for the project this summer.

Katabatic is also involved in the development and construction of a smaller wind farm on Prince Rupert’s Mount Hays, pending applicable regulatory approvals.

In September 2006, Katabatic signed a 25-year electricity purchase agreement with B. C. Hydro, the province’s primary electricity provider, for the output of the 25.5 MW Mount Hays wind farm.

The $40 million Mount Hays project is scheduled to become the first commercial wind farm in the province, providing power to B. C. Hydro customers by the fall of 2008.

Ricky Bobby, meet Sidney Crosby

The NHL is anxious to reverse it fortunes in the Deep South, with a number franchises showing more than a red line on the bank books and interest on the wane, there is talk that the league is approaching the grand daddy of all marketing kings of the deep south, NASCAR to lend a hand.

Or to be precise they want to poach from NASCAR, Eddie Gossage said to the be the brains behind the NASCAR explosion of the last ten years is reportedly being wooed by Gary Bettman and his New York suits for a little tender lovin’ care for the game on ice.

While we probably won’t be seeing Dale Earnhardt or Kyle Petty peeling out with the Zambonis between periods, nor will we see the Iceland 500, Gossage would be expected to bring the NHL a higher profile.

Having taken the car circuit from the dusty back lots of rural America to one of the lynch pins of television and a marketing man’s dream he could be the one to revise the declining fortunes of the NHL in America.

Sponsorships are the key to NASCAR with the corporate elite of the States lined up waiting for a chance to tie their product to the racing scene, the NHL which at the moment is a little light in the marketing minds of America’s big brands would probably be happy with but one tenth of the power that NASCAR brings to the table these days.

It’s sure to be an interesting move if it should go forward, probably one that will continue to ignore the Canadian backwaters and concentrate on the buying power of the big American cities.
What remains to be seen however, is one simple fact, after all the fancy marketing is done and the sideshows have ended, will there yet be hockey fans in some of the more troubled markets of the south.

So far the evidence is against the concept, the Atlanta’s, Miami’s and such haven’t really adopted the game as their own yet, maybe they need some sizzle, but in the end we have to wonder if they will ever want the steak!

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

Liberals launch counter attack on the web

Well if nothing else, technology is going to rule the next election campaign, whenever that may arrive. Both major political parties are taking to the creative departments to get their messages across to the nation.

Hot on the heels of the Conservatives advertising buy this week, with commercials less than flattering about Stephane Dion's abilities in matters environmental, comes the Liberal response.

Posted January 30 to the Liberal website is a blistering reminder of Harper's days in the Canadian Alliance and their desire to "block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto Accord."

Included on the website is a link to a letter, which the Liberals say was written by Mr. Harper in 2002 and points to a completely different tune on the environment than the Conservatives are whistling at the moment.

The letter (which at times is hard to make out) apparently describes the Kyoto Accord as a socialist scheme, designed to suck money out of rich countries. While at the same time, the design of the letter seems to attempt to, er, shall we say suck the money out of fellow Alliance members and their friends. The letter by the end of it's blustery self becomes kind of a fundraising screed to rally the troops and collect some cash.

However it's use in a Liberal vein, all points to a serious ratcheting up of the rhetoric with the current session of Parliament but now only two days old, who knows where it all leads to next, but surely You Tube videos and Blackberry alerts are on the way.

And no doubt we're all in store for a refresher course of the pros and cons of a place and document called Kyoto.

It's a whole new era in political message making, it could very well end up that the last side left clicking wins!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

All telephone lines lead to Victoria

“What we’re doing is streamlining the process.”

Well that is always a fateful quote when a company issues that one, and for the north coast it means that all ferry reservations will now be handled from a central office in Victoria, as the Ferry Corporation moves its northern phone reservation services off of the North Coast.

Starting this week, local residents and those heading this way will call the centralized number out of Victoria for reservations, weather conditions and sailing delay information.

In an interesting approach to customer service, anyone looking to gain information from the local office will have to actually drive or walk down to the Fairview Terminal and look for somebody to talk to, as the phone numbers will eventually not be made public.

BC Ferries says that the plan will not result in local layoffs and will allow the local staff to be able to concentrate on walk on clientele, without the nagging sound of the phone in their ears we assume.

The Daily News had the full story in the Monday edition.

People after tickets to the Islands won’t get a local agent
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, January 29, 2007
Page three

Beginning this week, people phoning for reservations on B. C. Ferries Inside Passage and Queen Charlotte island run will be speaking to someone in Victoria, rather than someone on the North Coast.

“The Terminals up north are actually the only ones in the fleet that book reservations. All the reservations on all the other routes are actually done down here at our call centre in Victoria,” said Deborah Marshall, B. C. Ferries spokesperson.

“What we are doing is streamlining the process.”

Customers dialing the local terminal numbers in Skidegate, Prince Rupert, Bella Bella and Port Hardy will now be transferred to Victoria. People wanting to speak with someone at a local terminal will have to go down there personally, because according to an internal memo, the company will not be giving out its new local number to the public.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons said he has received a number of phone calls from people concerned that another portion of the service is being moved down south. Concerns include the possibility of layoffs and inferior service for locals.

However, Marshall said the shift will make service better, allowing staff at local terminals to focus on walk-in clientele. And there will be no decrease in the staffing level.

“There is no impact on our ticket agents, what it does give it is better customer service to their face-to-face customers,” she said. “Right now, they are dealing with the phone as well as the customers who are in person,”

Meanwhile, weather updates, informing passengers of conditions that may impact sailing times, will also be updated from Victoria.

“We certainly will still provide those updates because we those are very important for customers,” she said.

Commercial traffic will also be making their reservations in Victoria. Marshall said they are working a new system out that will allow commercial customers to make reservations quickly but she said the company will be making those arrangements directly with their commercial clients.

Currently, 75 per cent of reservations for the Northern Routes are handled out of Victoria.

Hospital story carries over the weekend

The Daily News finally got their opportunity to present the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital infection story, a report that first received its debut on Thursday night with the CBC and then was featured by the Vancouver papers and the Globe and Mail by the time the weekend had come to an end.

With the Friday paper probably on the printing presses before the noon hour on Friday, the paper was left out of the information presentation loop until Mondays paper finally hit the streets.

So what do you do when the story is all but out there and you’re not even at the party yet?

Well it’s all in the details we suppose once it’s no longer of the breaking news variety. And so the Daily News took the angle of looking at the different stages of the situation.

The Daily examined the background of the story with the interesting detail, that perhaps Northern Health didn’t receive, or interpret the cleaning instructions correctly from the manufacturer. That point, as well as an examination of the regular procedure for sterilization of utensils, the bureaucratic path to investigate it, as well as the delay in the timing of the announcement, all can be found from the front page story from Monday’s edition.

NH says 74 patients at “very, very low” risk after equipment improperly cleaned
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Monday, January 29, 2007
Pages one and three

An improper cleaning procedure used on a surgical instrument at Prince Rupert Regional hospital has prompted Northern Health to issue warnings to 71 patients who were operated on between March and August of last year.

Although the equipment was sterilized and the risk of disease transference is considered to be very low, letters were sent out to those who may be affected as a precautionary measure.

”When this equipment was ordered for Prince Rupert Hospital the manufacturer’s specifications around the disassembly and cleaning of the equipment between cases somehow didn’t get transmitted correctly,” said Dr. David Butcher, NH’s vice president of medicine.

The equipment is known as an endoclench grasper, essentially a pair of scissor handles with a long shaft and an alligator clamp. Surgeons manipulate the clamp by the scissor handles to hold tissue in place while operating.

“They were following the same procedures they follow for all equipment… it’s taken apart, washed, dried and ten sterilized by being placed in an autoclave which is a high-pressure, high-temperature instrument that will remove any bacteria or viral particles,” he said. “But in this instance one part of the grasper was not completely dis-assembled down to its component parts. That additional missing step was noted by a staff member and the concern was raised that may have allowed contaminated material to go through the cycle of sterilization.”

The problem was identified back in August prompting the health authority to change the local cleaning procedure and initiate a review to determine if the incorrect practice was occurring across the region or just locally, as was the case. NH then initiated a policy review around how information around cleaning materials was relayed and changed some of their policies.”

“(Then) we looked at the use of this instrument to limit as specifically as possible to the number of patients whose surgery involved this piece of equipment said Butcher. “This particular piece of equipment was used by only one surgeon and used only in some of the procedures that he does,”

“We couldn’t go further and say specifically this equipment was used in every one of those cases, just that it had the potential to be used in these cases and we were able to narrow it down to those 74 patients who received notifications.”

Northern Health then initiated a full risk assessment alongside the B. C. Centre for Disease Control to determine the worst-case scenario in terms of the potential risk of harm to patients.

“The risk assessment said even if there was residual material left in the instrument, assuming the instrument each time went through the autoclave, it should have been rendered sterile,” he said. “They came back with a very, very low risk, but were not able to say the risk of transmission was absolutely zero. At that point we felt we had a responsibility to disclose to patients.”

That determination had been made in mid-December; however it was decided sending a letter to patients just prior to Christmas when a family physician may be less accessible would only heighten the potential anxiety of patients. Instead, the health authority waited until the new year, ensuring family doctors had all the relevant information and were available to help those who may be worried or want to undergo testing, he said.

“It took (five months) to go through all of that to make sure we weren’t notifying people unnecessarily,” said Butcher,” and at the same time so when we did notify people we had all the facts available.”

On the Hill, it’s Game on!

Are they telegraphing their punches or taking the first shots in the upcoming battles?

The Conservatives kicked off a new session of Parliament with some visual aids, in the form of some early round attack ads all designed to welcome the new leader of the Liberal party to the House of Commons. The television launch acted as the teaser campaign for what was to follow in the first session of Parliament for 2007, with a loud and boisterous session of Question Period.

Normally the thing of the last stages of an election campaign, the ads take the very words of Mr. Dion’s contemporaries for the leadership and turn them back on them, a rather sneaky but effective way to pain the new leader into a corner right form the get go.

It marks the return of the political season to the national capital, the season of peace and good will giving way to the snarky, snide and salacious. No doubt it’s a bit of payback for the Liberals scare em wherever they are campaign of the last election, which in some ads all but promised troops on Canadian streets should a Harper government get elected. And while the Harper crew knocked and entered the doors at 24 Sussex, the only streets that Canadian troops are engaged on are the streets and paths of Afghanistan, and originally sent there by the Liberals to boot!

The new salvo in the political debate should set the tone for the remainder of the political calendar, with a budget destined our way shortly and no doubt a pre election one at that, the time is fast approaching to stake out your political turf. Credit the Tories with a being the first ones out with the shovels, ready to dig their foxholes (and other forms of dirt) and prepare for the political battles to come. But there may be a danger to some blow back due to the negativity of their early messages.

In the meantime, if you work for an advertising agency this could be the golden year for the operation, re-loaded with cash and ready to spend, Canada’s political parties are set to provide only the best in revenue streams for the advertising world.

Next week Herouxville council turns its attention to the proper identification of heretics…

Never mind pot holes, snow removal, taxes and cable TV, they’re worrying about the big picture in a small Quebec town. The town council of Herouxville has just laid out a list of acceptable behavior from anyone wishing to relocate to the rural Quebec town.

In what seems like a place in need of a screening of Little Mosque on the Prairie, (better rush out the French version soon!) the town’s politicians have put together the dos and don’ts for any would be Muslims that may wander their way.

Things like not to stone your wife, concerns over covering one's face other than on Halloween and equal opportunity in the town swimming pool and such, top the list of acceptable behavior for the would be townsfolk.

So far it’s a list with no one to read it, of the town’s 1300 residents, not one is an immigrant, let alone one of the Muslim faith and judging by the way things seem to be in the town, probably there is little chance of that situation changing in the near future. At least until the townsfolk get a better handle on society outside the town limits.

Things don’t seem to be too out of control in the bigger centers of Montreal, Quebec and where those English folks live, for the most part, the newcomers seem to understand these strange rules of the new lands and tend to follow them without the top ten list at the city limits.

Perhaps with more time on their hands, the council can work on a few other would be issues that aren’t likely to pop up, maybe a guideline on how to spot witches and a review of the McCarthy hearings, just in case they get a few more residents who inadvertently stumble into town.

From the Tony Montana school of labour negotiations

The International Steelworkers Union is circling the wagons and launching an internal investigation, this after the business manager of local 97 in Burnaby ended up in a Washington State jail, arrested under serious drug charges and providing a trail that apparently leads back to BC and a cache of 43 guns.

US Border officials arrested Perley Holmes on January 18, after spotting suspicious behavior on the back roads of the state and following his tracks in the snow of a remote rural part of the area near Spokane

While Holmes, the business manager of local 97, awaits his fate at the hands of American justice, the union is taking a good hard look at the way business was conducted at the local during the Holmes years. With an audit of the books expected to be completed by the end of the week. The union issued a press release expressing complete shock at the events and Holmes’ alleged involvement in them, stating that No one would have expected this kind of thing.

Also caught up in the periphery of the situation is the Liberal Party of Canada, of which Mr. Holmes was apparently a very strong supporter of. He recently provided a 100 dollar donation to the Stephane Dion campaign, a donation that they probably didn’t even know they had, but something that we are sure they are working on as we write this. While it’s obvious that Mr. Dion has nothing to do with this situation, the Liberals will want to make sure that there is plenty of distance between his name and that of Mr. Holmes.

But it will raise a few eyebrows about the party which has seen a few run in’s with the law over the last few years. Regardless, it will present a scenario that will no doubt be the fodder for not only Question Period but all the Canadian satire shows over the next little while.

There have been a number of characters in the history of Canadian unions, but this could be the first one that leaves one with a scenario that brings to mind a negotiating style more in keeping with that of Tony Montana, than that of Buzz Hargrove.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The sound of a television clicker passing them by

The ratings are in for last weeks NHL all star game, and for the American footprint it's not a very big step.

Versus, the controversial cable carrier of the NHL in the USA, carried the All Star game last week from Dallas, but it would seem few bothered to try and find the station on their local cable or satellite provider, even if it was provided in their hometowns.

Wednesday's game in Dallas drew a 0.7 Nielsen rating on Versus, viewed by an estimated 672,948 viewers, down significantly from the 1,985,000 households that saw the '04 game on a Sunday afternoon on ABC. That was the last year that the all star game was televised, as the lockout year knocked it out in 2005 and the Olympic break sidelined it in 2006.

To give you an idea of how the numbers translate, at 672,948 viewers for hockey, that puts them roughly 36 million, three hundred and twenty seven thousand and fifty two viewers behind the number one show of the night American Idol. Hockey's 672 thousand viewers probably equals the amount of people that may have made a bathroom break at the same time during the idol show.

In Canada, the CBC could at least trumpet their numbers for the return of the exhibition shinny match. The estimated audience on CBC was up 6 % from last time with 1.238 million viewers parking in front of a television on Wednesday night. The Skills competition on Tuesday however was a different story, facing a 13% drop in attention with only 1.038-million viewers tuned in.

So while the Northern flank is doing well in Mr. Bettman's empire, the southern domain is in serious erosion mode, the startling drop in the numbers is listed as a 76% per cent loss in audience viewership, a good portion of which can be blamed on the delivery service.

Versus in the United States is not a top level provider of content, formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network there, it was once the home of hunting, fishing and BBQ shows, now they've added hockey into the mix and well the folks are buying the soup very much.

Part of the problem is that Versus is not carried in many markets and there's not much in the way of cross promotion available. Unlike the days with ESPN, hockey is supposed to matter more to Versus than it did at ESPN, but despite their efforts to increase the profile they seem to be coming up short. Simply put, the new arrangement doesn't seem to be getting the job done and that will affect the attendance figures for years to come.

The NHL left ESPN over a dispute earlier last season, a move which has seen hockey reduced to a novelty item on the largest sports networks in the USA. Before, hockey at least factored into the ESPN day, whether it be with promos and updates, but now with it's fate in the hands of Versus it's becoming a mythical sport, one which people say may exist but can't provide actual visual proof of.

The Commissioner plans on sticking with Versus, having recently signed an extension until 2011. He says they treat the league very well, and by all accounts they cover the sport with dedication and professionalism, it's just too bad that apparently nobody can find them or sticks around long enough to watch the games.

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

Sunday, January 28, 2007

An inconvenient portfolio

Much is being made this weekend over a disclosure about Premier Gordon Campbell's personal finances, as it turns out that both he and his wife Nancy, have (or had) investment portfolios that consisted of an undisclosed number of shares in stock of Alcan Incorporated.

For the Premiers part he said on Friday that his shares in Alcan were sold by January 11th and that he no longer has any shares in the company and for that matter is not sure if he made any money on them. His shares were included in a discretionary equity portfolio which is managed by a Vancouver brokerage house.

Of course even the fact that he owned stock as recently as January 10th has raised a few flags of interest in the province, considering the current situation between Alcan and the BC Utilities Board.

The aluminum smelter and now apparent provincial energy provider is in the midst of a serious game of hardball with not only the community of Kitimat, but the British Columbia Utilities Commission.

The Commission late in December turned down the plan put together by Alcan and BC Hydro plans to sell electricity generated by Alcan to the province, a decision which has led to a fair amount of sabre rattling about planned modernization plans to the aging Kitimat Works plant.

The Premier has been a rather vocal booster of Alcan and its contribution to the British Columbia economy, and was quite expansive in his praise of the Aluminum giant when it announced its planned refurbishing of the Kitimat plant last summer.

Of course what's good for Alcan it would seem to some, might also have been good for the Premier's portfolio, a situation that is making a few observers a tad uneasy over perceptions of conflict and such.

It's an interesting situation, on one hand you might think that a public official might not want to be investing in businesses that may benefit directly from any form of governmental decision making, but then again it's possibly a sign that the Premier is so bullish on the BC economy that he's investing in it.

But the way the storyline is being presented, it seems that his involvement is possibly the byproduct of a large investment pool investing in a number of Canadian companies, a situation which it's suggested would be nigh impossible to monitor on a day to day basis and to which he probably would have little control over anyways.

There have been no accusations of wrong doing made thus far, nor suggestions of funny timing on stock purchases, rather it's more the optics that seem to have some people upset. That of a sitting Premier holding shares in a company that is currently looking for governmental support in its plans for not only Kitimat, but to remain a player in the energy sector in the province as well.

The NDP is keeping an eye on the situation and were making some hay of it over the weekend, suggesting that they will be approaching the province's conflict of interest commissioner, to see if ownership of the shares put Campbell in a conflict of interest situation.

Once the smoke clears on the current tempest, it will be interesting to see if this gun is a smoking one, or one that has fired blanks...

Here's some reading material on the issue from some of the weekends news sources:

Campbell's reveal Alcan Holdings ... Georgia Straight
Campbell says he dropped shares...
Conflict allegations silly says financial advisor... CBC News
BC Premier accused of conflict over Alcan... Globe and Mail
Campbell faces conflict probe... Globe and Mail
NDP question premiers Alcan holdings... National Post
Campbell accused of conflict... Victoria Times-Colonist

90,000 dollar Quality of Life survey goes to second phase

The City commissioned survey into the quality of life in Prince Rupert moved into its second phase this past week, as a number of focus groups got down to the task of determining the state of community spirit and pride, as well as the thoughts of participants regarding arts, culture, housing, recreation and safety to name a few.

The consultations are being conducted to help prepare the city for its work on the Official Community Plan review, a process that will the see the dusty 20 year old plan get a bit of an update and stake out some ground for growth in the community for the future.

The focus group process is just the start of project, which will look for further community input as things progress, a relief to many who feel left out when they weren't invited to take part in the focus groups this week.

The Daily News provided details of the project in Friday's newspaper.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, January 26, 2007

There’s no reason for people to fret if they were not involved in the focus group meetings for the Quality of Life survey this week , says the city.

According to Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond, there will be plenty of future opportunities to have a say in the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP) review.

“It’s important for everyone to understand there are a number of phases in the process and facets. Just because you may not have been asked to participate in one, does not mean you won’t have access and it doesn’t mean there is going to be a product you don’t get any input on,” said Pond.

The consultant will be putting together an initial report that will be used for discussions about the OCP review and she has been holding focus group meetings this past week to talk about issues relating to community spirit and pride, including such subjects as arts and culture, recreation, education, housing the environment, safety and transportation.

While Pond has dropped by a few meetings to say hello to participants, the focus group meetings have been politician-free.

The process is the second step in getting some basic information on which to base the OCP review.

The first step included the Community Wide Survey that was conducted by telephone this past December. Participants were selected randomly and they gave a community-wide perspective, rather than simply having the loudest voices heard.

While there have been some concerns raised at council by Coun. Joy Thorkelson that everyone should have a chance to speak before any documents are produced, Pond said the first document will only paint a very fuzzy picture, a starting point for discussions.

“There will be a report produced and then we move to the next phase, talking about that publicly and asking what you want the community to look like,” he said.

“There’s going to be a lot of public opportunity. You can’t do a good official community plan without public input,” he said.

Pond added that the Quality of Life Survey allows the city to collect statistically accurate background information so in five years, they can look back and see how they are doing.

“We can benchmark ourselves so we don’t have to say ‘we think we are doing a good job or poor job’ on something but we can actually test it,” said Pond. The city is spending $90,000 reviewing its 20-year-old Official Community Plan.

At council last week, Coun. Joy Thorkelson also suggested inviting Prince Rupert’s neighbouring communities, such as Port Simpson and Metlakatla, to have a say about what amenities they would like to see.

Both of those communities have ferry docks in Prince Rupert and most residents shop locally.

Can we get a witness from the video generation?

The camera phone and the digital camera, they are the lifeblood of many a teenager, the intrusive instruments of unsolicited infamy and they are getting used more and more each day, by people that are being called the citizen paparazzi.

The Slate website has an interesting and rather entertaining short film about the camera phone and its new place in day to day events of our lives.

From Saddam’s hanging, to the latest celebrity snapshot, revealing those that can’t park a car, or just wish to share a rude moment with the world, more and more often we are finding that the hand held attachment to your arm is gaining more and more celebrity.

And now it’s going to feed your bank account, You Tube is working out the details on paying that growing number of participants who post their mini epics to the website, so if you’re stuff is up to snuff, that five minute tribute to your skateboarding acumen or cute pooch pics could be your ticket to not only fame, but maybe if the hits line up fortune as well!

No more hot air, just clean air

Fresh from his success as host of a flim night at NWCC in Prince Rupert, Nathan Cullen is setting about to get to the hard work of putting together a new approach to the environment with the start of Parliament on Monday.

Cullen who recently has toured his riding presenting Al Gore's An Incovenient Truth, intends to take the findings of his constiuents with him to Ottawa, as joins in on an All party committee to tackle the hot issue of the day our environment and world responsibilities towards it.

The Daily News provided a look at his schedule ahead and the lofty goals and hard work ahead to see things through to fruition.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, January 26, 2007

When Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen sits down with an all-party committee to rewrite the Clean Air Act on Monday, he will take the thoughts of hundreds of locals with him.
The NDP’s environment critic recently wrapped up a week-long tour of the riding, during which forums were held to discuss climate change. The turnout was 100 people or more at each venue, leaving Cullen with a strong sense of residents’ feeling that the country needs to move faster on climate change.

Parliament resumes on Monday.

“The overarching goal is to get Canada back on track when it comes to our emissions of greenhouses gases,” said Cullen. “We are the worst performing nation on the whole right now and a lot of that has to do with a lack of effort.”

The Conservatives released Bill C-30, known as the Clean Air Act last October.

While Cullen had various minister’s tell him this bill would literally knock his socks off, when it was finally released, Cullen’s socks stayed firmly in place. In fact, none of the parties would support the Conservatives’ bill and it looked like it was dead.

The first major point in time when industry would really have to meet their targets was in the year 2030.

There were some things that were going to happen in the year 2013 but not many.

However, NDP leader Jack Layton asked the Prime Minister if the bill could be sent to an all-party committee for a re-write and much to most people’s surprise, he agreed.

For Cullen, moving up those emission reduction targets is key.

“For big polluters in the country, this will force some change on pollution and will help fund a lot of the environmental projects that we are interested in getting done — new energy projects,” he said.

Cullen said the party also wants to help consumers buy better and newer cars with lower emissions and start a national energy program to help people with the cost of heating homes.
Under the Kyoto agreement, Canada is committed to reducing its carbon emission levels to six per cent below 1990 levels.

“The most recent environment Canada reports that we have, the 2004, 2005 years, show Canada approximately 27 to 29 per cent above 1990 levels. The current government has claimed that by 2012 at current trends we will be at 50 per cent above that Kyoto commitments,” said Cullen.

If Canada is above, the country will face two penalties. One is that it will cost the country five to $10 billion in international carbon credits each and every year. The second penalty is that Canada must commit to 30 per cent more strict targets in the second phase of Kyoto after 2012.

Return of the wolf packs

In what is becoming a more frequent occurrence in the city lately, yet another report of wolves inside the city limits has been made. This time a Rupert family walking near the Civic Centre pathways on McBride reported an un-nerving episode of stalking by the four legged visitors.

It picks up the stories of late last year of wolves wandering too close in the city, spooking the locals and causing a bit of concern from authorities.

The Daily News featured the lateste episode in its Friday paper.

Warning after wolves slink back into town
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Friday, January 26, 2007

A new year is bringing with it yet another batch of wolf sightings by Rupert residents.
Recently a local women and her family was approached by an animal before passing motorists frightened it off.

“We were heading towards McDonald’s a couple of days ago and we got to that crossing before the Civic Centre and it came from the westside towards us,” said Pamela Gonzalez, who was walking with her husband and children along McBride Street.

“It was coming close to us but two or three cars scared it away ... and it just went bombing down (Hays Creek).”

It was a lone wolf in this case and described by the Rupert woman as “about dog size, although it runs like a cheetah”. No one was injured, although the family was frightened.

“It was coming towards us before the car came and my kids were really scared,” said Gonzalez. “They’re okay now but they get scared when they walk at night.

“It just ran so fast, it was so scary.”

Last summer, there were a number of sightings at the golf course and the city dump.

Conservation officials confirmed that there was indeed a pack of wolves roaming that area, but that it would be highly unusual for them to approach humans.

Although this did happen in one case, Conservation officers explained they had very limited options when dealing with wolves due to it being an urban area. The main options are generally leg-hold traps, which often means putting pets at risk, or shooting the wolves, which puts people at risk.

An employee at the dump had his dog chased by a wolf last May after people were spotted feeding the animals in the area — a serious crime. The wolf was destroyed near the landfill a week later after it came right up to a Conservation officer sent from Terrace to investigate. The wolf was expecting to be fed.

The so-called ‘scraggly’ wolf with a limp that had aggressively approached a number of people and that killed several small pets in town was shot by Conservation Officers near Cow Bay in August 2005. In February 2005, a wolf was also shot in the Sherbrooke area of the city.

Conservation recommends that people keep their pets — a major attractant to wolves — on a leash. People should consider carrying a walking stick and think about whether they will be in an area where wildlife interactions may occur. The landfill, golf course and Butze Rapids are prime areas for wildlife encounters.

If people are approached by a wolf or a pack of wolves, they should back away from the area — don’t turn and run. Try to look as big and intimidating as possible by yelling and waving and leave the area immediately.

If people are approached by a wolf or wolves they should report the incident to Conservation at 1-877-952-7277. Call police only if it is an immediate threat.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Podunkian Music Club

The Police—Message in a Bottle

With the rumours swirling of a reunion by the Police gaining some traction the last few days, we decided to put their name on the Music Club Marquee for this week.

When they first appeared on the music scene in the late seventies they provided a sound and look that hadn’t yet been heard on your local FM station, that of a fusion of punk, jazz, rock and reggae, elements of a little bit of everything could be found on a Police recording. Taking advantage of a new visual format of the music channels and the plethora of video shows that were beginning to take root across the musical world, The Police quickly reached up into the super stardom category pretty quickly.

From the early days of Outlando’s D’amour with its brand new sound the stripped down trio introduced the world to a whole new direction for the still in its infancy new wave movement. Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers would soon be the face of new music, their enthusiastic recordings, videos and performances a standard that many others following would try to ride the wave with.

They provided something that was fresh, a welcome change from the excesses of the disco era a return to a more energy driven form of rock and roll. Adding new elements and stylings that caught the ears of radio programmers and radio listeners alike.

Our selection tonight comes from the Regatta de Blanc recordings, Message in a Bottle became one of the most recognizable of Police songs ever recorded, with its driving guitar work and catchy lyrical riff of sending out an S. O. S., and it quickly propelled the band into the mainstream of the music industry of the eighties.

They became the darlings of the MTV generation, in fact they were almost the MTV House Band by the time they imploded among internal disputes and ego driven discord.

The recordings would continue for a few more years, delivering hit after hit after hit, their legend growing with each elaborately constructed offering, but for the true essence of the band it’s the early material that provides the hints of the great sound they were about to offer the world.

If the reports are true, they’re working out the rust in a North Vancouver sound stage, with a guest appearance at the Grammy awards and supposedly then a tour in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Roxanne.

A much anticipated reunion and one that should bring back a few memories of a creative time for music, when the legends were huge and the album sales the equivalent of many a countries GDP.

Artist—The Police
Recording—Regatta de Blanc

Oshawa to celebrate Stephen Colbert day March 20th

With his reputation on the line, the Saginaw Spirit took their game to a top level, defeating the Oshawa Generals Friday night by a score of 5-4. The spirit scored their winning goal early in the third period and then keeping the Generals at bay as well as Stephen Colbert's honour intact.

The game a regular season contest in the OHL, became much more than just a sporting event thanks to the team boosterism of television's Colbert.

The Comedy Central political satirist and host of the Colbert Report, has taken the Spirit as his team, after learning that they had named their team mascot Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle (pictured above) , after him. Since then, he's provided the OHL with more publicity than they could ever hope to buy, as he frequently updates his Colbert Nation with details of the Spirit as they travel the back roads of Ontario taking on the Peterborough Petes, Ottawa 67's, Sarnia Sting and other teams of the OHL.

Earlier this week, Colbert made a wager with Oshawa Mayor John Gray, the wager was if the Generals won, Colbert would wear an Oshawa jersey for a full episode of The Colbert Report. If the Spirit won, Gray would decree Colbert's birthday Stephen Colbert Day in Oshawa, Ont.

With the Spirit on the winning side of the ledger, the scene is now set for Stephen Colbert Day, which will actually take place, at Colbert's request on Mayor Gray's birthday of March 20th.

Expect to see full coverage of the Happy event on the Colbert Report next week and again in late March when Oshawa lays on the big day!
The above post first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Potential of Rupert Port keeping CN optimistic for 2007

While the Canadian economy may weaken in 2007, CN Rail is still pretty bullish on things for the railway, partly due to the expectation of the containerization of the Port of Prince Rupert.

With a profit increase of 34 per cent, clocking in at 2.09 billion dollars, the railway is proving to be a pretty good investment for those that are putting their pennies into the railroad these days.

Hunter Harrison, CEO of CN conducted a conference call to discuss the railroads fourth quarter results and where the Chairman sees 2007 going for CN.

The Daily News provided the details on CN’s results and predictions.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Page one

CN Rail is coming off a record performance in 2006 with high expectations for continued earnings growth this year, despite the prospect of a weakening Canadian economy.

The Montreal-based railway raised a quarterly dividend by 29 per cent on Tuesday as it announced profits rose 16 per cent to $499 million in the fourth quarter and annual profit in 2006 was up 34 per cent to $2.09 billion.

“I’m extremely optimistic about the outlook for 2007,” CEO Hunter Harrison said in a conference call to discuss its fourth-quarter results.

“This story is a long way from being over.”

James Foote, executive vice-president of sales and marketing for CN, pointed to two factors that suggest a positive revenue outlook for the company in 2007. They include a solid demand and service reliability supporting sustainable growth and price volume and the opening of the Fairview Container Terminal in 2007.

The company is targeting revenue growth of five to six per cent in the coming year.

For 2006, CN Rail reported record annual revenues of $7.72 billion in 2005. In the fourth quarter, revenues rose to $1.94 billion from $1.89 billion.

“These accomplishments were achieved in the face of some severe weather conditions during the fourth quarter of the year that disrupted our main lines and the operations of key customers in Western Canada,” said Harrison.

“The strength of 2006 positions CN well for 2007. The year ahead is one of opportunity for the company, and we’ll have the people, network capacity, locomotives and freight cars in place to take advantage of new traffic.”

Company executives went on to explain that revenues benefited from strength in coal, grain and fertilizers, intermodal, petroleum and chemicals, and metals and minerals.

Revenues from grain ships were up by 14 per cent, coal shipments up by 24 per cent and intermodal shipments by six per cent.

In fact, grain shipments were so good, that in late in 2006 it was announced that CN must pay Ottawa $2.7 million because their revenue from transporting Western grain exceeded federally-imposed caps.

Ottawa established the revenue cap in 2000, and it applies to sales generated from the movement of grain from terminals at Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Churchill, Man., and Thunder Bay, Ont.

However, revenues for 2006 were affected by the unfavourable C$255 translation impact of the stronger Canadian dollar on U. S. Dollar-denominated revenues.

CN earlier estimated its 2007 capital spending will be about $1.6 billion, up four per cent from 2006, including $1 billion for trackage to increase average speed and capacity and raise productivity. That includes double stack clearances on the B. C. North Line ready for the Prince Rupert intermodal terminal opening in the second half of 2007.

32 million on the table

If you have an idea on how to reduce the impact of the Mountain pine beetle, there could be a rather worthwhile reward for you. The Northern Development Initiative Trust has put 32 million dollars out there in the form of grants and loans for those who have some good ideas.

An “open call for expressions of interest” has been made to try and attract some workable ideas on how to tackle the Mountain pine beetle problem and provide for long term partnerships between communities, First Nations, business and organizations.

The Daily news featured the developments with a front page story in Thursday’s paper.

Some $32 million is available to help towns move ahead in the coming years
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Pages one and three

The Northern Development Initiative Trust has put $32 million on the table for anyone with a plan to lessen the impacts of the mountain pine beetle.

Expressions of interest for the grants and loans will be reviewed by a team comprised of members from community beetle action coalitions, the First Nations, Forestry Council, and the Northern Trust.

“In the past year, we’ve approved $27.5 million in investments for Northern and Central B. C., with a total value of $173 million,” said Bruce Sutherland, Northern Trust chair.

“Now we’re going to dramatically ramp up that success with an open call for expressions of interest.”

Proposals will be invited that diversify the economy of communities that demonstrate how they are impacted by the epidemic. Preference will be given to proposals for long-term partnerships between communities, First Nations, business, and organizations.

“We will work together on economic diversification opportunities that showcase the strength, resilience and collaboration of Northern B. C. to the rest of the country and the world,’ said Sutherland.

“We (also) hope that taking the lead will spur some further good news announcements (from the federal government).

Northern Trust will work side-by-side with communities hardest hit by the pine beetle, with whom they developed the new funding program through the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC), the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition (CCBAC), and the First Nations Mountain Pine Beetle Initiative.

“This fund provides opportunities to develop and leverage partnerships on projects that are planned by First Nations with recently-signed forest agreements,” said Chief Leonard Thomas of the First Nations Forestry Council.

”It recognizes that First Nations have a role in the development of the North.”

Vanderhoof Mayor Len Fox, chair of the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition, said the new fund will work by “providing a link between community needs and funding sources.”

“The challenge; will be over the next five or 10 years to keep our communities whole with a different type of economy. That’s going to take a lot more resources than the $32 million.”

Quesnel Mayor Nate Bello, director of CCBAC and the Northern Trust Board, adds that the ‘ Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition is building industry diversification strategies, and proposals the to the Northern Trust will grow the economy of the Cariboo.”

“The time (has come) to turn the plans into positive projects, and I don’t think the announcement of this account could some at a more opportune time,” said Bello. “Our coalition has done a few economic development planning scenarios around agriculture, around tourism… around retention and recruitment of businesses and also about retention of population so they don’t go south any more.

“If (people) are staying north, we have to provide them with a quality environment.”

While the initial infusion was $30 million, the Northern Trust has grown the Pine Beetle Recovery Account another $2 million through investment. As part of the group’s 2007 strategic plan, it is estimated that $215 million in loans and grants could flow into investments that help communities reach their economic potential. Those interested in applying for grants or loans through the trust can visit

"If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't,"

It's a fine line between common sense and outright stupidity, but sometimes a man's gonna cross the line to the dark side.

A fellow in Washington state is in trouble with the law, but evern more distressing for him is the fact he's in trouble with his mother in law.

Aaron de Bruyn, was released from a Washington state jail after being charged with fourth degree domestic violence, after an incident which saw him taser his mother in law.

The problems began when de Bruyn, swatted his child on the butt after the young seven month old toddler made a grab for some electrical wires. Grandma objected to the use of physical affirmation towards his young one, which resulted in an argument with the mother in law.

Apparently not in the mood for a lecture, de Bruyn ordered his mother in law out of the house, she refused his request so he pulled out his 50,000-volt Taser X26 energy weapon and gave her a shot in the arm.

Police were called and in the end the one who left the house was de Bruyn. It's not known if he's returned to his house, or even been allowed to return to his house. But one thing is certain, he probably won't be going to the Mother in Laws house for Sunday dinner any time in the near future.

Friday, January 26, 2007

In Rock and Roll this will be the year of the Dinosaur!

It’s almost Chinese New Year, a celebration of the year of the Pig. But for rock and roll, well it can’t be any other year than the year of the Dinosaur.

Now Rupert is no stranger to the touring minstrels of the bygone days, Chilliwack and Trooper two prime examples of bands that still plug the amps in night after night. But 2007 is going to see some big names of the eighties grab their instruments and hit the road.

So far acts that have announced that they are making a comeback this year include, REO Speedwagon, who will be re-uniting the best of the power ballads for the casino night club scene. They are penciled in for the Red Robinson show room of the Boulevard Casino for two nights in February the 9th and 10th. Earlier this month they brought in the heroes of arena rock of the late seventies Cheap Trick.

Also getting those get back together vibes apparently is the crew from Van Halen, including the always entrancing David Lee Roth. Diamond Dave and Eddie and the gang have been having a love/hate thing going some twenty years now. They occasionally talk about a reunion, then something seems to happen and poof, you end up with Sammy Hagar. The talks are apparently still in the formative terms, so who knows, there’s still lots of time practice your fist pumping and reciting the lyrics to Jump, though we wonder if Dave still fits into his costumes.

And finally on the dino patrol, the much anticipated reunion of The Police may finally be at hand. Rumours persist in the Vancouver Province, including a front page story, that Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland have been busy rehearsing at a sound stage in North Vancouver, all part of their plan to tour for the 30th anniversary of Roxanne, the signature song that launched their unique blend of reggae, rock and new wave upon the then virgin ears of the musical youth.

The rumours about the Police reunion are the thing of high intrigue, including a proposed debut at an 80’s themed concert at the Coachella Valley Music Festival, which apparently is taking early phone reservations from those that have been given the password of “Roxanne”. It's apparently an omen for many that the reunion is on and the trio will soon take to the road.

While we poke fun at the possibility of the old songs and the old faces, we must keep in mind that the Rolling Stones are still on the road, a band that was already in their prime when the young punks of the eighties began their climb on the pop charts. And its no wonder that the eighties crowd want back in, the Stones are reported to be rolling in cash, having made some 150 million dollars in 2006.

As long as there’s an audience there will no doubt be a show. And we suspect that all three will find that their fans will show up for the night, maybe a little wider at the hips, a little fuller at the belly and little less forested on the top. But they’ll be there, ready to rock, if they can remember the words!

PRRH infection warning risk gains province wide and national media attention

The story of the warning letters in early January from Northern Health over possible infections risks has gained some provincial attention, with a comprehensive story on the issue in the Globe and Mail.

One of the newspapers British Columbia contributors, Mark Hume has provided some background on the story, wrapped around the ordeal of one of the recipients of one of those letters.

The article was the front page story of the British Columbia section of the Globe, (and available nationally on their website) explained the involved process that Northern Health took part in to get to the warning stage, disclosed some of the concerns that Health officials may have and raised the question of timing regarding the advisory.

The incidents which are of concern, took place from May until August of last year, but as the article explains advisory notices were not sent out until January 8th, providing anywhere from a four to seven month delay. It’s a situation which has many wondering why Northern Health took so long to provide their information. It’s a lengthy delay that has been rather unsettling for those that received their letters this month.

While the article featured the story of one local man, it no doubt resonates with 73 other local residents who had a most unexpected and no doubt unwanted correspondence arrive in their mail boxes in the second week of January.

Hospital warns 74 of infection risk
Equipment used in surgical probes was under scrutiny for bad sterilization
January 26, 2007
Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- Robert Nelson spent yesterday "wandering in circles," waiting for the results of a battery of blood tests.

"Getting tested was a pretty major thing," he said shortly after leaving Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. "They took seven vials of blood out of me to test to see if I am now HIV-positive, have hepatitis C or B, and a number of other things.

"It was a bad day."
Mr. Nelson, 56, was one of 74 surgery patients who received letters on Jan. 8 advising them that equipment that might have been used on them at Prince Rupert Hospital was not properly sterilized.

Following an investigation by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, Northern Health sent a warning letter to the patients saying there is "no appreciable increased risk" that they were infected -- but suggesting they see a doctor to decide if they want to get tested for blood-borne diseases, such as HIV.

The letter says that last August staff realized a piece of new surgical equipment, used in laparoscopic surgical procedures, was not being sterilized according to the manufacturer's cleaning instructions.

"We can not be sure that your procedure involved the use of the particular piece of equipment. However, this equipment was used in about one-third of laparoscopic surgical procedures such as the operation you underwent," the letter said.

Northern Health said the equipment was sterilized according to standard procedures, but a step was missed in the process, raising concerns.

"The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has been consulted and has confirmed that this sterilization process was sufficient to destroy any infectious agents (virus and bacteria) so that there is no appreciable increased risk of transmission of infection to you as a result of the cleaning problem," the letter said. "However, we believe that we have a responsibility to inform you that this situation occurred so that you have the opportunity to discuss it with your physician, should you wish to do so."

Mr. Nelson said he has been worried since he got the letter.

"I left Prince Rupert to come down here [to Greater Vancouver] on Monday. . . . I was sitting on the plane thinking, 'Do I have any infection?' "

Mr. Nelson, who came to Vancouver to be fitted for a heart pacemaker and have the blood tests, said he is concerned that if his tests are positive, it could complicate his treatment.

"I came down here to look after my heart. You are thinking about all these crazy things that might be in your body and you just don't know what it all means," he said.

"It's been very stressful."

Laproscopy is a technique in which a small camera is used to facilitate appendix, hernia, gallbladder and colon surgery.

"I had an operation for a hernia," Mr. Nelson said. "They scoped my stomach and bowel, so of course I'm concerned."

He said that when he read the letter he was stunned and annoyed, because the sterilization problem was discovered last August.

"My question is, why did it take so long to notify us?" he said. "This is January. Seven months later? Come on, you guys."

David Butcher, vice-president of medicine for Northern Health, said the delay was necessary because the situation had to be fully investigated before patients were notified.

"We needed to identify as closely as possible which patients may have been involved and so that chart audit process took a while. . . . Secondly, we needed to understand just what the risks were, so risk analysis [had to be done], and thirdly, there was consultation with the medical staff around the disclosure and around the notification."

Dr. Butcher said that although a review showed there was no appreciable extra risk of infection, the BCCDC could not absolutely rule out the possibility of infection, so it was decided to notify patients.

"They could not give us a report that said there was no risk of transmission. And so with that information we felt that the right thing to do was to disclose, knowing that it would cause some people anxiety, knowing it would cause a concern, but in the larger picture knowing also that it is very important that we are transparent and accountable.

"We have to balance the issue of upsetting patients with the need to disclose when there is any risk," he said.

Dr. Butcher said the equipment was being disassembled and sterilized according to standard hospital procedures, but a staff member noticed that one step in the disassembly process had been missed, raising the possibility that a small part could have remained contaminated.

He said Northern Health so far is not aware of any postoperative infections linked to the laparoscopic equipment.

Ten percent increase in reported incidents to Prince Rupert RCMP in 2006

The Prince Rupert Mounties were a busy lot in 2006, as the local police detachment had a 37.5% increase in the amount of charges laid in 2006, compared to the numbers recorded in 2005.

RCMP statistics for 2006 show that a total of 1043 incidents were reported to the local detachment, 900 more incidents than the 9143 incidents reported in 2005.

Of the incidents called in to the police, Provincial charges resulted in a 42% increase, charges which include traffic and liquor offenses, which jumped by 712 incidents from last year.

The Prince Rupert RCMP responded to less Municipal Offenses in 2006, but increased the number of charges from those that they did attend, with the loud parties of Prince Rupert the prime culprit and a guaranteed opportunity of a ticket being issued. Loud Parties and disorderly groups have been a targetted objective of the local detachment in the last year, with a less tolerant attitude towards them than was seen previously in the past.

The Traffic section found its numbers up as well, responding to 580 traffic incidents in 2006, a 64% increase, with 17 more Criminal Code traffic charges laid in the last year. The majority of which were for Impaired Driving, Refusal to Provide a Breath sample. Other charges included such things as leaving the scene of an accident, Dangerous driver and driving while prohibited.

The details of the local crime statistics were provided on the RCMP web page.

A Busy 2006 for the Prince Rupert RCMP
January 26th, 2007,
Prince Rupert BC-

2006 was another busy year for the Prince Rupert RCMP Detachment. The total incidents reported to the RCMP in Prince Rupert increased nearly ten percent. 10043 incidents were reported in 2006, up from 9143 in 2005.

The most significant increase was in the number of charges laid. 868 more charges were laid in 2006 compared to 2005, that's an increase of 35.75%. Most categories saw an increase in 2006, including a 42% increase in the number of Provincial charges. This number includes most traffic and liquor offences and increased from 1685 charges in 2005 to 2397 charges in 2006.

While the number of Municipal Offences investigated by the RCMP declined again in 2006, to 764 calls down from 925 in 2005, the number of Municipal charges increased, with more tickets being laid by members called to loud parties.

RCMP members responded to 580 traffic incidents in 2006, up 64% from the previous year. That number is mostly collisions, both minor and major but includes miscellaneous traffic calls not covered as a moving or non-moving violation. 104 Criminal Code traffic charges were laid in 2006, up from 87 in 2005. The vast majority of these were for Impaired Driving or Refusal to Provide Breath Sample but also included: Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Dangerous Driving and some Prohibited Drivers.

-->Steve Richards, Cst.
Prince Rupert Media Relations / Community Policing
100 6th Ave West
Prince Rupert, BC
V8J 3Z3

Conservative Government set to announce compensation package and apology in the Maher Arar case

He may not be able to go to the States anymore, but Maher Arar will at least be able to put the legal haggling behind him as far as Canada is concerned.

CTV News is reporting on their website today, that the Federal Government is set to announce the terms of its settlement package with Arar, the Canadian citizen who was sent to Syria, where he was subsequently tortured.

The settlement package is expected to provide Arar with 10 million dollars in personal damages and 2 million dollars to cover his legal fees as well as an official apology for Canada’s bungling involvement in the scandalous situation, which saw Arar transferred to American custody, which then sent him off to the hands of the Syrian government.

CTV also reports that the Prime Minister will take the Americans to task over their refusal to remove Arar from their terror watch list, a refusal which saw the US Ambassador, David Wilkins relive the bad old days of American diplomacy where he publicly scolded Canada for its continual insistence on the matter.

For Arar, the money will no doubt be of use, but considering the hell he went through in Syria and the long drawn out road to clearing his name in his own country, the money is probably the least the nation could do.

There is still the matter of having his name cleared in the US, though considering the belligerent tones of the Ambassador one must wonder if Arar would even want to go there even if cleared. (For that matter many Canadians must be wondering if it is worth all the trouble to visit the US anymore)

The friction on this issue, combined with the growing list of other irritants between the two nations, combined with the growing list of other irritants between the two nations is going to se the tone for Canada US relations for the rest of the term of the George Bush presidency.

The Bush administration may wish to take the pulse of their own people on the issue, since it seems that there is some respect for the Canadian position and a desire to see Arar's name cleared.

It will be with interest that Canadians watch how the Prime Minister deals with the intransigence of the Americans on the Arar situation; it could be just the beginning of many more troublesome discussions between the two nations.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Phasers on stun?

The US military is testing out a new weapon that they feel may be quite helpful in the future for those missions where they need to move people along and away from the area of operations.

The ray gun will send out a 130 degree F ray of heat, from as far away as 500 yards. The firing mechanism is mounted on what seems to be a satalite like dish which is mounted on top of a mobile vehicle such as a Humvee. While the rays won't burn the subject, it will make them feel as though they are going to burn, giving them a reason to head for a less uncomfortable area.

Designed by the military but built by Ratheon, the new weapon is seen as the wave of the future for military forces who may have to operate in crowded urban areas and other locales where lethal force is not required for the task at hand.

Like the crew of the Starship Enterprise when faced with unknown situations, the operators will merely have to fire off a quick burst of energy to take care of business. There are many possible uses for this science fiction like weapon, though if this video clip from You Tube is any indication, it may find use as a way of sending television reporters giggling off into the woods.

Northern Health sends out advisory letter to 74 past patients

While the expectation is that the risk is low, Northern Health has taken the unusual step of issuing a public notice to former patients, who underwent laparoscopic surgery procedures at the Prince Rupert Hospital last year.

There is the possibility, all be it slight, that they could have become infected by a piece of new equipment that was improperly cleaned last year. The machinery known as an endoclinch grasper was used between March and August and while it was always sterilized; it wasn’t necessarily taken apart each time that it was cleaned, leading to the advisory issued on Thursday.

Concerns were raised by hospital staff in August and the situation was taken care of then, though it does lead one to wonder why there is a gap between August and January before any notification to the public was provided.

The risk of transmission of infection is rated as low, but because the Hospital could not guarantee zero percent of risk, they decided to make their concerns known.

Patients have been advised to contact their family doctors should they have any questions or concerns about the situation.

The CBC website has the full details on the notice and posted it to their site on Thursday evening.

Prince Rupert patients warned about possible infection
Last Updated: Thursday, January 25, 2007 4:12 PM PT
CBC News

Health officials in northern B.C. say there's an "exceedingly low risk" that any patients contracted an infection from a piece of improperly cleaned surgical equipment at the Prince Rupert hospital last year.

The Northern Health Authority has sent letters to 74 patients, alerting them to the problem, and advising them to consult their family doctors if they have any concerns.

The new piece of equipment — an endoclinch grasper — was used by one surgeon between March and August.

It's an alligator clip on a long shaft that's used to hold the patient's tissue during laparoscopic surgery.

Officials say it was always sterilized, but staff didn't completely disassemble it before it was cleaned.

A staff person raised concerns in August, and the problem was fixed.

Dr. David Butcher said the risk of transmission of infection was very low.
"Having said that, we couldn't guarantee there was a zero risk," he said.