Friday, February 29, 2008

School closure concerns reverberate around the region

The controversial recommendations and observations of the School District’s Visioning Committee have been heard loud and clear in Port Edward and the reaction to the prospect of closing the Port Edward Elementary School has left that community in shock and ready to fight.

Leading up to Thursday night’s public school board meeting Port Ed officials were making plans to attend the public session to express their reservations about any plan that includes closure of the school in Port Edward.

That prospect seemed to come out of the blue in the last few weeks as the possible Port Ed closure was added to a growing list in Prince Rupert that now includes, Westview, Seal Cove and Kanata schools.

The Port Edward closure if it were to take place, would see students from that community do much the same as students from Dodge Cove and Metlakatla do, travel daily back and forth to Prince Rupert for their education. However, the volume of students travelling from Port Edward would be higher in numbers, than those that currently take water taxis and then bus to school in Rupert.

Those closure recommendations and a number of other issues that are percolating around the school district have made local Education the main attraction in the news this week.

The Northern View presented a review of the current closure situation, which included a look at the closure plan as well as the suggestion that one of the city's high schools be closed and turned into a junior high.

Over at CBC's Daybreak North they examined the issue with a comprehensive review of the controversial decisions on Wednesday, including an interview with Eric Mercer who is the Superintendent of School District 52.

Thursday’s Daily News devoted two stories to education, the first a front page headline story focusing on the worries of Port Edward over the status of their school and the second one featuring details of the District’s plans to help those students considered most “at risk” in our community.

Angry mayor says closing school ‘will kill us’ and vows to find a way to save it
By Patricik Witwicki
The Daily News
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Page one

Port Edward councillors plan on attending tonight's school board public meeting intent on making it clear that they will fight to the end to keep their school from closing.

At first, Port Edward didn't realize how serious the threat of closure was that hung over Port Edward Elementary school, even though Mayor Dave MacDonald was suggesting everyone on council attend. But when the realization clicked in that the District Visioning Committee has recommended closing the Port Edward school by 2010 in addition to the Rupert schools (Kanata, Seal Cove, and Westview) during Tuesday's council meeting, the mood changed and the battle lines had been drawn.

"If they close the school, they're not bringing it back," said MacDonald. "That would just kill us. So we have to find a way to fight to keep it open."

Coun. Murray Kristoff questioned the logic of closing the school, when busing Port Edward’s kids to Rupert would be so expensive.

“The way I see it, if you close the school, you bus all the kids to Rupert,” he said. “And a Grade 1 kid on the bus (with teenagers)?

Discussion regarding the closure of Port Edward Elementary has come up before, and the district’s Chief Administrative Officer agreed with Kristoff’s comment.

“The last time this came up, when they were talking about this, (I was told) they would go into the red $120,000 busing the kids,” he said. “So it would be even more now,” Kristoff then asked how much money from the collection of school taxes within the community actually went back into local schools.

“We collect $400,000 to $500,000 for schools in our community, and that goes to Victoria,” said Bedard.

Coun. Christine MacKenzie reminded council that it wasn’t set in stone, and that these were simply recommendations from the DVC. But that doesn’t mean the recommendations won’t be pushed through in the near future, and MacDonald reiterated the importance of tonight’s town hall meeting.

“We all know we want a lot more discussion before anything happens.”

Members of the public are invited to attend tonight’s Town Hall meeting at 7 p. m. It is being held in the Charles Hays multi purpose room and will be hosted by senior school district staff and school board trustees, who will answer questions and hear concerns.

Those interested in posing questions are asked to submit them in writing to Secretary Treasurer Kim Morris by emaling

District desperate to help its 'at risk' students
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Pages one and three

With one of the "neediest" student populations in British Columbia entering the Prince Rupert school system, there are a number of actions District 52 plans to implement to give students an improved education.

In conjunction with the School District 52 Senior Staff Recommendations presented at Monday's special board meeting, Director of Instruction Bill Ford presented the District's Improvement Team's new Student Achievement Plan, which aims to address the rising number of at-risk students and the low graduation rate of Aboriginal students.

Based on the results of the Clyde Hertzman’s Early Development Instrument (EDI) data and District 52’s own Kindergarten Assessment tool, there is concern about a large percentage of children entering the school system. Based on the district’s Kindergarten Assessment, 47 per cent of Kindergarten students this school year were considered “at-risk” in terms of basic skill development for entry into school, while 74 per cent of students entering kindergarten were considered “at-risk” in phonological development.

What is also concerning is that these percentages for at-risk kindergarten students have doubled during the last four school years in both categories. The only positive aspect is that the percentage of aboriginal students in these at-risk categories has decreased in that time period – although only slightly.

What the new Student Achievement Plan is looking to implement in hopes of combating these negative trends is capping kindergarten class sizes at 20 students and ensuring that all kindergarten classes have a dedicated child care worker, as well as expanding the all-day program, but based on the successes of these two schools and the Ministry of Education’s interest in implementing the program province-wide, soon every school could be utilizing full-day Kindergarten classes.

“So far, we have one year’s worth of evidence in terms of how those pilot programs are operating, so we have qualitative evidence based on our Kindergarten Assessment, and we also have qualitative evidence based on parent and teacher feedback,” said Ford.

“All indications are that this all-day model that we are piloting is a success. Based on the needs of the kids walking through our doors in kindergarten, I’m not sure how we as a district could not embrace this as a model.”

Other changes the Student Achievement Plan calls for are increasing the amount of time elementary counselors spend in district schools – the district currently employs two full time counsellors.

Ford says those two counsellors have reported a significant increase in the demand for their services, especially in the last five to seven years, as each of them has reported 100 students on their direct caseloads this past year.

Another increase would come in the form of teacher-librarian time, which Ford says currently equals 0.2 of a full-time position dedicated to the library for each of the district’s schools.
Some other key actions that the district could soon see implemented with the re-allocation of resources from school closures are the establishment of reading program mentors at all elementary schools to promote literacy among students, as well as a rethinking and redesigning of the current alternate school program for students in Grades 8 to 12.

The District Improvement Team is also looking to establish more learning experiences in classrooms that reflect Aboriginal cultures to better engage Aboriginal students, such as the establishment and staffing of Aboriginal cultural rooms in both secondary schools that would hopefully improve those students’ sense of welcome and belonging.

Voices from the changing nature of the fishing industry

CBC’s Daybreak North examined the state of the fishery on the north coast this week, by talking with those that have lived their lives on the waters.

Daybreak's Carolina de Ryk, stopped in at Pacific Net and Twine where fish stories have been traded in for stories of frustration and laments for a way of life that seems to be passing the North coast by now.

Pacific Net and Twine seems to be the place where the rumours get tossed around, what DFO has planned, why the stocks are so perilously low at times and how the corporate fishing industry has squeezed out the small fishermen.

It makes for some interesting listening as a number of current and former fishermen recount the downward spiral of the industry and how it’s changing the nature of Prince Rupert and the people that work or once worked in the industry.

From the large number of canneries that no longer exist to seasons that once extended into November and now may only provide a few weeks of employment, the reports are an interesting trip through a once vital industry that is just barely hanging on now.

The worrisome item for fishermen this season is the concern that the fishing season will consist of less than seven days of fishing, a rumour that has many that gather at Pacific Net and Twine wondering about what may lay ahead.

Monday’s sessions at Pacific Net and Twine can be heard here, while Tuesday’s follow up session can be found here.

Suspicions of Arson on Fulton Street

An early morning fire this week fortunately claimed no victims, but has popped up on the RCMP radar as suspicious in nature.

CFTK TV's website is reporting that the RCMP suspect arson in a fire on the 600 block of Fulton earlier this week.

Prince Rupert Fire and Rescue responded to a 4:30 am fire call on Wednesday morning, in which a home on Fulton had been set afire while people were inside.

The fire was put out before any serious damage could occur and none of the occupants were reported as injured during the incident.

Describing the fire as a targetted act, the RCMP is asking for anyone with details or information on the fire to contact the local detachment.

Targetted Arson
Thu, 2008-02-28 17:32.

Local NewsR.C.M.P. believe someone deliberately tried to set fire to a home in Prince Rupert yesterday while people were inside.

Police say they were called to the home in the 600 block of Fulton Street around 4:30 in the morning yesterday.

Fortunately, the fire was put out before causing any damage.

But investigators say a deliberate attempt had been made to set fire outside the residence and police believe this was a targetted incident, not a random act.

They're asking anyone with information to call them.

One Day you too will be a Zoomer…

A Boomer with zip, that's the definition of a Zoomer!

Moses Znamier (that's him in the bubble bath) who brought the world MuchMusic, MuchMoreMusic and City TV to name a few, has signed on to help recreate the image of the aging but still vigorous ones, those who aren’t quite ready to shuffle off to the shuffle board tables, but perhaps don’t quite understand what the hell that noise is on Much Music.

Znaimer has taken over as director of CARP, an association dedicated to reflect and make life better for those over 50.

With the catchy new name now out of the way, Moses will lead his people on to other vital concerns in their lives, issues of health, wellness and the economy.

With some 44 per cent of the population or 14 million Canadians now in that window of the Zoomer, Znaimer will be the lifestyle leader for over one third of all the nations’ residents.

And the numbers are still on the side of those heading towards those Zoomer years, providing we can keep the annual rate of attrition down to a minimum, the middle aged of today will be the Zoomers of tomorrow, with a declining birth rate in the nation perhaps the future belongs to the those getting older.

A mighty force of humanity that will keep the young whippersnappers in their place Znaimer’s Zoomer generation may not quite be up to fighting for the right to party, at least they’ll be on board to fight for the right to stay up past nap time…
Considering Mr. Znaimer's past in the world of music, we suspect that he won't be tapping the Who's My Generation to be the official anthem for his Zoomers, after all they wouldn't appreciate Mr. Townshend and Daltrey's opening thoughts, then again....

Photo from the National Post website

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

Everyone needs an exit strategy...

There are just some times when you get the feeling that things aren't going to work out.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A hunting they would go and they’ll be carrying bows... if only city council doesn’t say No!

As reviewed a few weeks ago on this very blog, a group of local bow hunters are seeking permission from Prince Rupert City Council to conduct a hunt of wolves and the deer that attract them inside the city limits.
By removing a source of food for the current stalkers of the wild, its thought that the wolves would then perhaps move on to greener pastures and become less of a threat to local residents.

The group gave a presentation to City Council on Monday evening, outlining their plans and providing letters of support from a number of local archery groups as well as the provincial body that oversees the sport.

Suggesting that they would be sending a message to wolves that encounters with humans would not be in the animal’s best interest, the group proposed to the city that it was a win-win situation for the city, as it would cost the municipality nothing and would provide the opportunity for local bow enthusiasts to pursue their sport.

There would be a number of protocols put in place should they actually ever get to raise their bows in quest of local wolves and deer, they won't be able to hunt in the more urbanized areas and are restricted away from areas where residences or recreational areas.

If they are to get the green light on their plans to begin their hunt they will require the city remove its bylaw that restricts the discharge of bows within the municipal boundaries.

That was a possibility that didn’t seem to be overwhelmingly received by some members of council at Monday night’s meeting.

The Daily news had the background of Monday’s discussion in the Wednesday paper.

Hunters set sights on Kaien deer
Archers lobby city council seeking its permission to trim the deer population
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Pages one and three

A group of bow hunters is proposing to reduce the population of deer and wolves on Kaien Island.
But Prince Rupert city council has not yet taken the bait.

Jeff Beckwith and Colin Bennett spoke to Prince Rupert city council Monday night, suggesting that a bow hunt in the non-residential and recreational areas of Kaien Island would be the best and safest way to reduce the attractants that are bringing wolves into town.

"The intention of a bow hunting season on Kaien Island is not to eliminate either species, but to provide a buffer zone between residential areas of the city and the wildland and re-establish the lost sense of security for our citizens," said Beckwith.

Beckwith came with the support of both local archery organizations - The Eagle Eye Archers and Rainbow Archers - as well as the British Columbia Archery Association and United Bow Hunters of British Columbia.

There have been a number of wolf attacks on pets in Prince Rupert in recent years and a pack has established its territory around Kaien Island.

The result has been that some neighborhoods have lost a sense of safety and a number of pets have been injured or killed, Beckwith said.

During a presentation by the B.C. Conservation Officers service earlier this year, a number of options were presented to the city to deal with the problem of increasingly bold wolves.
These included a number of options specifically aimed at reducing the number of attractants that bring the wolves to town.

"The Ministry of Environment has reassured us that 'there are no conservation concerns for the deer and archery is a well used tool to provide a safe hunting opportunity' on Kaien Island," said Beckwith.

In fact, the Gulf Islands have been allowing bow hunting to curb the deer population around human settlements for a number of years, he said.

In order to allow bow hunting, the city would have to remove its bylaw that restricts the discharge of bows within the municipal boundaries.

However, any hunt would still have to take place under provincial trapping regulations that state any bow hunting cannot take place with 100 metres of any dwelling or recreational area such as a trail.

It's a win-win situation as the hunt would curb the deer population, send a message to the wolf packs that encounters with people are not in their best interest, give local sportsmen the opportunity to practice their craft and cost the city nothing, Beckwith said.

However Coun. Sheila Gordon-Payne said she would like to look at all the options before deciding on any hunting opportunities.

"We have had a number of letters since the Ministry of Environment's presentation," she said. "For me personally, my number one priority is dealing with the people-based wolf issues. We have residents feeding wolves or leaving food out for wolves."

She asked staff to bring forward a report on their options.

"We don't want to strike up hope or alarm people before we look at all the options."

City Council Tracker February 25

February 25, 2008 City Council session

In attendance:
Mayor Herb Pond
Councillor Joy Thorkelson
Councillor Tony Briglio
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne
Councillor Kathy Bedard
Councillor Nelson Kinney
Absent - Councillor Ken Cote
Minutes for February 25 council meeting.
Minutes for February 25 Committee of the Whole meeting

Daily News voting summary--How council voted on February 25, 2008

Upcoming event- Regular City Council session scheduled for March 10, 2008

Motions from City Council

We continue with our reproduction of the Daily news scorecard for the council meetings, this version covers the city council meeting of February 25, 2008

Council meeting February 25, 2008

The Questions:

Question 1. The city schedule a public hearing for March 10 at 7 p.m. to hear comments on the application from Chances Prince Rupert to extend the hours of operation for its new lower floor convention centre facility from midnight to 2 a. m.

How they voted on this motion:

Mayor Herb Pond- In Favour
Councillor Ken Cote-Absent from council this week
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne- In Favour
Councillor Joy Thorkelson -In Favour
Councillor Nelson Kinney- In Favour
Councillor Kathy Bedard- In Favour
Councillor Tony Briglio- In Favour

Motion 1 passed

Question 2. That council approve the first three readings of the bylaw that brings the new for bylaw infraction tickets with the new dog control bylaw.

How they voted on this motion:

Mayor Herb Pond- In Favour
Councillor Ken Cote-Absent from council this week
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne- In Favour
Councillor Joy Thorkelson -In Favour
Councillor Nelson Kinney- In Favour
Councillor Kathy Bedard- In Favour
Councillor Tony Briglio- In Favour

Motion 2 passed

40 per cent decline in student population at the heart of school decisions to come

The declining student population of Prince Rupert on a downward trend since 1997 has proven to be the contributing factor in the need for a consolidation of some of the district's schools. With the average Prince Rupert school operating at around 56 per cent capacity, the ability to operate that many buildings and their associated costs is starting weigh heavily on the School District.

The prospect of consolidation is a task that is no doubt a hard one to work on, but with only so much money to go around for the many needs of the district's schools, it is an issue that will be addressed this spring.

School District 52 which holds a special meeting Thursday evening (this evening), provided some background on Monday night as to the factors that are going into the decision making that may see any number of schools close under a variety of different scenarios.

The most mentioned schools for closure thus far have been Seal Cove, Kanata and Westview, which all seem more or less now assigned to their fate it seems. But recent discussions have also added the Port Edward School to the mix, a notion that has not been well received on the other side of Mounts Hays and Oldfield.

The Daily News provided a fair amount of background on the revelations from Monday night as part of the Wednesday newspaper, though it only scratches the surface of what the Visioning committee has been working on over the last year.

For complete information on the District Visioning Committee's deliberations so far the School District website has posted full reports for the public to view.

While Thursday's (tonight's) meeting will no doubt be a heated and emotional affair, it most likely will only be the opening discussion in what will be a long and contentious spring for all of those involved or interested in education in Prince Rupert.

Advisors explain school closure rationale
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Pages one and five

After months of public uncertainty about why the District Visioning Committee was recommending closing Seal Cove, Kanata and Westview elementary schools, Monday night's special school board meeting saw a detailed explanation of how the committee had reached its conclusion.

Superintendent and DVC Chair Eric Mercer began by explaining that School District 52 has seen a 40 per cent decline in enrollment since 1997, placing it among the top 10 districts in British Columbia for decline in student enrollment.

After looking at all facilities in the district, the DVC realized there are $13 million in non-funded capital projects for schools, and another $4.3 million in annual maintenance costs.
All schools in the district are in need of new roofs and upgrades to their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Mercer said that while the committee was encouraged to look beyond school closures, members felt the issue must be addressed in order for any further planning and visioning to occur.

Elementary schools in Prince Rupert are operating at an average of 56 per cent capacity, with Seal Cove and Kanata representing the lowest capacity schools in the district. The two schools also have the third- and fourth-highest costs for facility upgrades in the district, after Conrad and Roosevelt. Westview was brought into the mix because it is one of the smallest schools in the district, and despite being almost full, the school would not be able to absorb an influx of students should other schools close and therefore does not serve the immediate needs of the district.

"It is one of the smaller 'small' schools, and the French Immersion program could be transferable to any central location," said Mercer. "The one school that has the greatest capacity is one of our larger 'small' schools, hence Roosevelt became a potential site for the French Immersion program, because it would fit."

Deciding that the option of doing nothing to fix the problems of declining enrollment, building improvements and maintenance was unacceptable, the DVC was left with a total of 10 scenarios.
While several of the proposed scenarios would reduce capital costs by millions and bring capacity utilization up to at least 75 per cent, it was 'Scenario 10' that was identified as the "solution," to which the rest of the committee agreed.

In Scenario 10, students from Seal Cove, Kanata and Westview would be moved to Conrad, Lax Kxeen, Pineridge and Roosevelt.

It was between December 2007 and February 2008 that district's senior management detailed the business case and logistics of Scenario 10, which they believed would increase opportunities and achievement for local students. In their recommendations presented to school board trustees, they calculated that by following the plan of Scenario 10, the district could save nearly $8 million during the next five years - all of which could go directly into educational programs for students.

In backing the DVC's recommendation for school closures, senior staff calculated that schools would be near or greater than the ministry-recognized 'small school' size of 250 students.
Three-way grade splits, which are problematic for students and teachers, could be reduced from six existing classrooms to only four, and the larger student populations could mean even fewer two-grade split classrooms.

The district could save $426,568 in operating funds in the first year of closures, and $801,568 in operating funds in the second and all subsequent years of closure.

In addition to the savings in operating costs, the three school closures would amount to a reduction of $4,360,445 in known capital project budgets, and bring the district average capacity utilization up to 87 per cent. Furthermore, senior staff pointed out that having District 52 schools at 87 per cent capacity would mean the district could get on the Ministry of Education's waiting list to receive a new school, a list with a current wait time of at least four years.

The senior staff recommendations also made note that schools operating below the 'small school' requirement of 220 to 250 students do not qualify for adequate funding, and therefore take funding away from other district schools and programs in order to cover costs. Staff stated that the district net shortfall this year will amount to $892,000, money that could have been spent on more teachers, child care workers, computers or building improvements.

The Daily News would like to note that this only represents a brief summary of the DVC and District Senior Staff recommendations and reasoning behind those recommendations. Anyone wishing to find out more about the issues is encouraged to visit the School District 52 website at where all documents are available in full.

Members of the public are also encouraged to attend Thursday night's Town Hall meeting at 7 p.m. in the Charles Hays Multi-Purpose Room, where senior staff and school board trustees will answer questions and hear concerns.

Those interested in posing questions are asked to submit them in writing to Secretary-Treasurer Kim Morris by Thursday night at

See tomorrow's Daily News for the Distict's Improvement Team's Student Achievement Plan and what the group hopes to implement in the district as soon as possible.

Seeking to make us a nation of savers

The Federal Government’s budget was a cautious document, one designed to reflect a country that may need to begin thinking for rainy days that may soon arrive.

With little on the spending side and no particular perks for the populace, other than a new 5,000 dollar savings plan, it will allow Canadians to put five thousand aside for each member of the family tax free. It’s a financial vehicle that the government hopes will inspire Canadians to return to their days of the past as frugal savers.

With an American slowdown on the imminent horizon and some severe troubles in the auto sector in central Canada, the government will provide what were described by some observers as moderate measures, but for the most part it was relatively uninspiring bit of financial tabulating.

The Daily News fixed its gaze on that tantalizing five thousand dollars and explained how it will benefit us all, from the perspective of International Trade Minister David Emerson.

That and a few other opinions from other observers appeared on the front page of the Wednesday paper.

Feds make few big ticket spending announcements in this year's budget
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Pages one and three

The Conservative government is hoping Canadians will get on the saving wagon with a new proposal announced in yesterday's federal budget.

Although not big on new spending proposals, the budget includes a new, personal, tax-free savings plan.

"That's a nifty little device that allows every Canadian family, for every individual in the family, to put $5,000 aside for each person and all of the income that accrues to that investment ... accumulates income tax-free," said David Emerson, Minister of International Trade in an exclusive interview with the Prince Rupert Daily News. "And you can take the money out of it any time you want tax-free. It's an incentive to save and a significant vehicle for families that want to make some tax-free savings over time."

Emerson stressed that the budget, titled Responsible Leadership for Uncertain Times, has to be looked at in context of the government's economic statement in the fall and past budgets.

"If you add it all up, you are really looking at tax reductions for Canadians of over $200 million over the next five years. Seventy per cent of that is going to go to individuals and families," said Emerson.

Program spending, which excludes debt-servicing charges, will total $208 billion in 2008-09, up $6.9 billion - or 3.4 per cent - from last year. About $1.5 billion of the spending increase goes to new discretionary initiatives this year. This is combined with last October's $60-billion in corporate and personal income taxes.

Debt repayment, which has stood well above $3 billion annually for a decade, falls to $2.3 billion this year and $1.3 billion in 2009-10. Surpluses are projected at zero, and there's no prudence or contingency funds built in.

While the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP denounced the document and vowed to vote against it, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion quickly killed any lingering suspense over whether the minority government would fall.

"Under the circumstances, I don't see enough in this budget that would justify that we precipitate an election that Canadians do not want for now," Dion said outside the Commons.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen criticized the budget for failing to get the balance right and attacked Dion for playing puppet to the Conservatives.

"The cost of all government services will be increasingly paid for by individuals and less and less by corporations," said Cullen.

For every $1 that the federal budget is spending on programs, they are handing out $6 in corporate tax cuts, he said.

"They wrote a budget for Bay Street, not Main Street and they were hoping no one will notice," said Cullen.

He noted not one new doctor will be trained because of this budget, not one new child care space created, not one new affordable housing project completed. And he said the Conservatives completely missed boat on the environment. Cullen noted there is $250 million for the oil and gas sector coupled with millions to study nuclear power, and a commission to study carbon trade. But little else.

"I think that is an intellectual mistake, but it's a political mistake as well," said Cullen.
However, Emerson said this budget balances the need for a strong economy and with incentives to move people toward a greener future.

"If you look at the lack of action over the last 13 or 14 years in terms of environmental strategies and approach, this budget has got the investments in science and technology that is environmentally focused, it has a major quarter of a billion investment for carbon capture and storage, it has a major investment for putting the infrastructure in place for a carbon trading system and there are tax incentives for environmentally friendly initiatives," he said.
With files from Canadian Press

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

Back in the days when smoke filled your television screen.

Take this guys smokes and prepare to be taught a lesson!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Location, Location, Location

The Port of Prince Rupert is looking for a few good places to get stuffed.

Joining with the Provincial Ministry of Economic Development, the Port is looking at potential locations for container stuffing facilities which will service the Fairview Container Port.

While other locations around the province are being examined, there is also a push locally to see some of these stuffing facilities located in Prince Rupert, providing quick and easy access to the Container Port and of course adding to the secondary industry aspect of the Container port development on the North Coast.

Andrew Hamilton, who is the business development manager for the Prince Rupert Port Authority says that the idea of locating stuffing terminals in the city makes sense. With many containers sitting idle in Prince Rupert before shipment back to Asia, some material could be forwarded to Prince Rupert in break bulk form and then loaded onto containers for shipment.

According to Hamilton, there is a very strong demand to stuff containers in Rupert for the port. The ability to stuff containers locally would make for a situation that would provide for more economic opportunity and job creation at the port.

The Daily News had some background on the possibilities in Tuesday’s paper.

Port looks at best places to back-fill containers
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Pages one and two

The Port of Prince Rupert is working with the provincial Ministry of Economic Development to determine the best location to stuff B.C. goods into containers.

During a chamber of commerce lunch meeting last week, Andrew Hamilton, business development manager for the Prince Rupert Port Authority, said the organization has had a lot of inquiries from Prince Rupert and the region from people wanting to export products.
However, there needs to be central locations for stuffing so that it can happen quickly without having containers drift off the main trade routes, he said.

"There are a lot of key assumptions people have to understand (when it comes to exporting using containers,)" said Hamilton.

"The first is, the shipping lines own the containers, this is key because they are the landlord and they dictate where these containers are going.

"Let's say there is product up in Fort St. John - some wood products - but there is a lot of apprehension by the shipping companies to let their containers drift off the supply chain because what they want to do is get a higher utilization out of their hardware."

In addition, he noted the shipping lines make more money on the inbound than the outbound journey.

"We have to be very very quick about getting product in to containers, again not letting it drift off into the hinterland."

Currently, CN Rail has developed container-stuffing facilities in Chicago and Memphis to handle cotton and other goods. Future plans include the development of a facility to stuff DDGs (derivative grain products sold as animal feed.)

It also has stuffing facilities in Edmonton, Grand Prairie and Prince George to handle forestry and agricultural products. However, there is a lot of interest in stuffing in Prince Rupert and developing other facilities throughout the province.

"The Ministry of Economic Development and port have been trying to work on a loading study that would determine in a logical basis the best place to load each product," he said.

"One thing we've seen from shippers is a very strong demand to stuff at the port. There's a lot of opportunity for more economic opportunity and job creation at the port," said Hamilton.

It makes sense to stuff in Prince Rupert because equipment dwells here for a couple of days before it gets on vessels, he said. Goods could be moved here in break-bulk format and then stuffed for shipping.

However, people need to realize not everything can go into a container.

"Shipping lines have contracts about what goes into containers say that are moving electronics into North America. The importer, like Best Buy, Sony or whomever, will have some say to stipulate what goes into that container on the back-haul. It reconfirms not everything can go into a container," he said.

Chances to roll the dice on a Terrace entertainment/hotel complex

There may not be much money left to be made in the Terrace Lumber yards from lumber, but in the future there may be a lot of money changing hands in that very location.
Chances Gaming entertainment, hot off the success of the Prince Rupert centre is making plans to move into the Terrace marketplace.

The Prince George based owners of the Prince Rupert Gaming Centre have come to an agreement with the Terrace Lumber company to purchase 20 acres of the former sawmill site with an option for the remaining 53 acres.

The plan for the original 20 acres would include a hotel, convention centre and entertainment complex to service the Terrace/Kitimat area, much like the Rupert operation provides those services locally.

WestCoast president Craig Briere who steered the Rupert operation through its approval and construction phase is the person laying the groundwork for the Terrace operation.

No time frame for the project has been announced yet. But should it be approved and constructed in a timely fashion it will be interesting to see what impact it may have on the Rupert operation which at the moment finds a fair amount of traffic arriving from out of town to sample the entertainment and hospitality options offered by Chances in Prince Rupert.

The details on the Chances bid in Terrace was posted to the Northern View website today as well as to the CFTK TV website .

Chances owners strike a deal to purchase Terrace Lumber Company land The Northern View
February 27, 2008

The owners of the new casino in Prince Rupert say they've struck a deal with the Terrace Lumber Company to buy 20 acres of its former sawmill site. And they say they have an option to purchase the remaining 53 acres that are up for sale.

WestCoast Hospitality Inc. says it wants to build a hotel, convention centre and entertainment complex on the 20 acres.

It says additional lands would be used for small retail, restaurants, box stores and residences.
In addition to the just-opened Chances casino in Prince Rupert, WestCoast Hospitality owns the Coast Hotel in Prince Rupert and it has a majority interest in the Treasure Cove Hotel in Prince George.

"Terrace has a tremendously bright future and with the developments in Prince Rupert (container port), Kitimat (Alcan) and mining to the north, Terrace is perfectly situated to continue to be the service centre of northwestern B.C.," says WestCoast president Craig Briere.
Deal Reached for TLC Lands
Wed, 2008-02-27 10:42.
Local News
Some big plans for the former Terrace Lumber Company mill site. TLC has come to an agreement with WestCoast Hospitality, the owners of the Coast Prince Rupert Hotel and majority shareholder of Chances Prince Rupert and the Treasure Cove Hotel in Prince George.
WestCoast has agreed to purchase 20 acres of land from TLC, where it would develop a hotel, convention centre and entertainment complex.

WestCoast also has an option on the remaining 53 acres owned by TLC, which would be used for small retail, restaurants, box stores as well as residential development.

WestCoast President and CEO Craig Briere says the site present a great opportunity for a full comprehensive development. He adds Terrace has a tremendously bright future, and with developments such as the Container Port in Prince Rupert, Alcan in Kitimat and mining to the north, it's perfectly situated to continue to be the region's service centre.

John Crawford

Saving the species, one smolt at a time!

Concern over the incursion of fish farms into wild salmon migration routes has wild salmon advocates on the Queen Charlotte Islands demanding that the province take action to protect the wild stocks.

Using a number of recent studies into the issue of fish farms and their impact on wild stocks, the activists have called on the government to move the fish farms away from those migration routes.

Concerns have also been expressed that current fish farm owners may be looking to expand creating larger farms instead of reducing their impact on the coast.

They have also applied to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for permits that would allow them to capture wild salmon fry from the Ahta River and transfer them away from the last fish farm, a form of fishery medevac designed to save the smolts from infection.

They provide more details on the threat to the stocks and their plans to salvage their livelihoods on their website adopt-a

The Daily News presented their efforts as the front page story in Tuesday’s paper.

By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Pages one and three

A group of Queen Charlottes businesses people and First Nations representatives has met with the B.C. Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Pat Bell, to demand that the province move fish farms away from wild salmon migration routes.

The group said it was acting on the evidence gathered by recent studies confirming that salmon farms are producing sea lice concentrations that are devastating to migrating juvenile salmon, and they informed Minister Bell that they are prepared to move the smolts themselves if need be.

"Wilderness Tourism pours $1.6 billion dollars into the B.C. economy annually," said delegation member Brian Gunn of the Wilderness Tourism Association.

"We believe the B.C. Government is being reckless, risking B.C.'s wild salmon populations and B.C.'s lucrative $1.6 billion-dollar tourism industry. The B.C. tourism industry relies on healthy wild salmon populations to sustain their businesses, whether they are fishing lodges or wildlife viewing operations."

Broughton-area fishing lodge owner Chris Bennet was one of the first people to notice the sea louse epidemic in the area. He told Minister Bell of the serious decline in salmon populations and the years that he and other stakeholders have been waiting for the situation to improve. Bob Chamberlin, elected chief of Broughton kwicksutaineuk ah-kwa-mish, also told Bell the importance of a sea lice solution.

"My people need wild salmon to survive. Our fates are intertwined," he said. "We consider tourism an industry with important promise for our economy. What do we think will be left if the wild salmon are killed and disappear? Nothing that people will want to see."

Salmon researcher Alexandra Morton has studied fish farms for years, and points out that there are 22 fish farm leases that have expired in the Broughton Archipelago area that are up for renewal. She said many of the companies are applying to the B.C. government to increase their farm sizes, which her research confirms will create more lice and fewer wild salmon.

"We know removing fish farms can save young wild salmon. To date, the only thing that has worked to reduced lice and help wild salmon numbers rebound is when the province ordered the Fife-Tribune migration route cleared of fish farms," she said.

"The province must take similar action now. We need fewer farms, not bigger farms," said Morton.

Members of the Broughton community are also preparing to take "run-specific actions," and have already applied to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for permits that would allow them to capture wild salmon fry from the Ahta River and move them beyond the last fish farm. The delegation has also launched a campaign at, asking people to donate $20 and adopt a salmon fry to fund the relocation effort.

"The time for talk is over, it is time to bring action to this situation," said Morton. "The science is done, we have seen the impacts first-hand. We must not be sidetracked by the Pacific Salmon Forum. A wild salmon cannot compromise or negotiate, they can only live or die. We have just come from asking the minister for assistance. We hope he is with us to help protect the B.C. wild salmon."

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

It used to Be Bo that knew sports...

Now it's Shaq on the attack.

One more try for the STV

The Single Transferable Vote, a plan to try and reform the voting procedures in British Columbia will get one more shot to endear itself to British Columbians this year.

The Provincial Government has announced a share of the funding of 1.5 million dollars to provide information from both the pro and the con sides of the debate, all leading up to a referendum in next springs provincial election.

The Province will provide 500,000 dollars for those in favour of the STV, 500,000 dollars for those that suggest it's not a great idea and 500,000 dollars for the creation of an office to provide unbiased information on the issue.

The changes to the voting procedures of British Columbia were first brought to the attention of the public from the deliberations of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, their report back in 2004, provided recommendations which were put to the vote of the people in the provincial election of May 2005.

In that election year, the vote on STV gained 58 per cent support but fell short of the 60 per cent the government set as the bar for it to pass.

The Tyee has an informative piece on their website that details the past debate in 2005 over the controversial transferable vote system. In it, questions are raised as to how the money will be spent and whether it will truly provide an informative forum, or rather will result in a massive dis-information program which may make things more confusing than educational.

Regardless of those concerns, the money is on the way. And this time, it seems that the province is hoping that a better funded debate will provide for a more definitive decision on the way we may go to the ballot box in the future.

The Tyee--Funding Found for New Vote on How BC Elects

Kitimat pipeline project back in the starting gate

Enbridge is dusting off its plans for the Gateway pipeline, that's the four billion dollar project that would run twin pipelines to and from Alberta. One for moving imported diluent from Kitimat to Alberta, and one bringing crude oil from the Northern Alberta oil sands to Kitimat for loading into tanker ships.

It was put on the back burner last year when the Calgary based energy company decided to concentrate its efforts on the energy needs of the US marketplace.

However, renewed interest from Asian markets and homegrown developments have made the project a feasible plan once again and Enbridge is putting forward its plan to win regulatory approval for the project.

Globe and Mail--Enbridge revives $4-billion pipeline

Financial Post--Enbridge rekindles oilsands pipeline plan

Calgary Sun--Gateway pipeline back on track

Prince George Citizen--Enbridge makes pipeline progress

The TV 7 website posted its story on the proposed development on its website on Monday.

Pipeline Project Revived
Tue, 2008-02-26 18:26.
Local News


The Northwest can brace for more activity by Enbridge in the coming year.
The Calgary pipeline company has revived its $4-billion plan to build a line from the Alberta oil sands to port at Kitimat.

Enbridge officials told a recent conference that they've lined up enough support from customers in Southeast Asia, along with producers in this country, to move forward with the Gateway project.

That means Enbridge is accelerating work on winning regulatory approval.

The company put the brakes on the Gateway project more than a year ago to concentrate on transporting oil to U.S. markets.

The Gateway project would include twin pipelines -- one moving imported diluent from Kitimat to Alberta, and one transporting crude oil from the oilsands to Kitimat for loading into tanker ships.

While the proposal has been welcomed by some Northwest residents for the thousands of jobs it would create during construction, others are worried about the environmental impact of the line and potential oil spills on land and at sea.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

School consolidation up for debate at the School District

The prospect of large super schools replacing the smaller more neighbourhood friendly ones of today at School District 52 was the topic of a wide ranging discussion last week.

The recent release of the final report of the District Visioning Committee has been the main focus of the debate for the last few weeks, as local teachers through their union the PRDTU express their concerns for the level of education in the district and where the future may be going.

The Visioning report has called for the closure of Seal Cove and Kanata schools at the end of this current school year, with Westview school on the west side of town to close at the end of the 2009 school year.

Other topics from the report included the potential closure of Port Edward school and the movement of its students to a school in Prince Rupert, the merger of the two city high schools into one school with a junior high school set up at the school that is closed.

While those items are ones of potential controversy, at the moment its the creation of large elementary schools on both sides of the city that has the main stage, providing for many questions over the timeline of the committees recommendations and whether the decisions were already made even before the committee had finished its work.

The Monday Daily News provided some helpful background on the issue, a situation that hits home for many Prince Rupert residents. At the moment the deliberations of the Visioning Committee seem to have created far more questions than they have provided answers for.

The report leaves it to School District Managers, trustees, teachers and parents to sort out the details and figure out where to proceed from here.

Bigger is not better say teachers
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, February 25, 2008
Page five

Last Tuesday's School Board Meeting saw a number of questions arise around the future of education in Prince Rupert, brought forth by members of the public, teachers and support staff.

The Prince Rupert District Teacher's Union made a presentation that outlined research they feel points to the benefit that smaller schools provide students and communities, and ultimately posed some questions to the board.

"Is the vision we have for education in Prince Rupert a large Roosevelt on the West Side and a large, possibly rebuilt, Conrad on the east?" asked one teacher on behalf of the PRDTU.

"What will the social map of Prince Rupert look like should the small schools on the east side, and possibly Port Edward, consolidate into one large school? Which schools will gain the reputation as 'rough' or 'poor'? Which will be seen as the 'elite' schools? And I encourage you to ask yourselves: 'Is this equitable?'"

The District Visioning Committee's final report was delivered to the board, which included 13 recommendations in total, the most notable being the closures of Seal Cove and Kanata elementary schools as of June 2008, with Westview to follow in 2009.

The other recommendations from the final report include studying the continued viability of Port Edward Community School, centralizing district staff at another site, providing transportation services for any families adversely impacted by changes, exploring the possibility of creating a single secondary school and a middle or junior school at one of the present secondary school sites, an expansion and development of the present alternative education program, using any district savings to enhance current educational programming, and lastly that the District Visioning Committee continue its role of supporting district change.

The question and answer period following the board meeting focused largely around the topic of transparency, with most parties wondering if the DVC decision-making process would be revealed in detail and whether DVC representatives would be available to answer questions from school board trustees and the public.

"As a brief participant in the visioning committee, it was my understanding that was never a committee that was supposed to be shrouded in secrecy," said Joanna Larson, PRDTU president. "So it's puzzling to me why these people wouldn't be invited to actually speak to their opinions or how these decisions were made. They were supposed to represent the public at large, so I would like to think if they were requested to be at this town hall meeting to answer questions, possibly to the public but at least to the board, that they wouldn't feel any reason to not be able to do that."

Superintendent and DVC Chair Eric Mercer responded that what Larson was asking for amounts to a fundamental change in what was agreed upon by participants last year when the committee was formed.

"At the outset, committee members asked us, 'Are we going to be used as a scapegoat here? Will we be held publicly accountable for the recommendations and research we've done?'" said Mercer. "I told them that no, they would not, as the final decision does lie with the board."

"That's fine, but it speaks volumes," said Larson.

School Board Chair Tina Last then said that the onus falls on trustees to ask committee members how they arrived at their recommendations, and what information they took into account.

"I don't believe it's fair to ask the two stakeholder representatives to stand up and be the public spokespeople for the majority recommendations. That's not what we asked them to do," said Last. "If some members of the District Visioning Committee choose to be there and answer questions we wouldn't keep them from doing that, but that wasn't what we asked them to do."
Other concerns were voiced around the lack of information that had been released to the public regarding the DVC recommendations.

"[The DVC has] come to these conclusions and you talk about the visioning committee doing all this research, but [they] want to put children into Conrad school and there's more structural and safety concerns there," said parent June Lewis.

"You're telling us with all this that you're trying to be transparent, but there's nothing being shared with us. That's why we're all asking questions, because there is no transparency."
Speaking for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 882, Colleen Wiens stated it was clear that closing Seal Cove and Kanata was a done deal even before this committee met for the first time in November of 2007, as maintenance workers had already been told to prepare Conrad for an influx of students in September 2008. Wiens said the reasons for closing schools were weak, and that the only reason the I.U.O.E. would even consider recommending school closures was if the district was in financial debt.

"I would hope that on (Feb. 25) when we meet again that's exactly what it's for, to make it quite apparent how the District Visioning Committee came to these decisions," said another member of the public. "So on Monday, when we see what other people saw and how they came to their conclusions, we might be absolutely satisfied with those decisions."

Tonight's special open board meeting will commence at 7 p.m. in the Charles Hays Secondary School Multi-Purpose room, when the District Visioning Committee recommendations will be looked at in further detail and school district senior staff will present the board with their own recommendations on education and facilities plans.

The Championship season

A fourteen year drought is over at Charles Hays, as the Hurricanes senior boys basketball squad claimed the zones championship for the first time since 1994.

In an exciting weekend of basketball the east side high school, tipped off against their Kitimat rivals a number of times in the double knockout format, the first battle was Friday night which saw the Kitimat Eagless squad send the Hurricanes over to the losing bracket of the tournament, only to see the Rupert school battle its way back to the championship final on Saturday evening.
With a home court advantage of a loud and boisterous crowd, the home side gave their fellow students, faculty and fans something to cheer about as the Saturday evening final came to an end, with the Hurricanes on the winning side of an 80-71 thriller of a victory.

The Daily News' Patrick Witwicki recreates some of the drama and excitement of the weekend of basketball in Monday's Daily News.

Hays boys raise game to new heights
By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Monday, February 25, 2008
Pages one and six

They did it.

The Charles Hays Secondary School senior boys basketball team won their first zones banner since 1994, defeating Kitimat 80-71 in the final on Saturday night at Charles Hays gym.

"We did it," said Hays coach Ben Pyde. "I think we really wore them down. And everyone on this team ... they wanted it really badly.

"I'm speechless, I'm numb ... it feels great.

"I feel like we just won the Stanley Cup."

The tournament was a true double knockout format, so when Hays beat Kitimat 61-58 Saturday afternoon, it forced a second and deciding game for Saturday night. And although it was close throughout, including nine lead changes and five ties, the Hurricanes took control in the final five minutes of the contest, outscoring Kitimat 17-10 to close out. And when that final buzzer hit, it kick-started a celebration of players, fans, and teachers alike as the lengthy drought was finally over.

"We worked so hard all year for this," said player Erich Pyde. "And it felt really good to win it for my dad."

Hays also hit their free-throws down the stretch, including Pyde's six-for-six in the final few minutes to ensure the victory.

"We knew in the clutch we could come through," said Erich Pyde. "We worked a lot on that in practice - shooting free-throws when we're tired, so coming down the stretch, they're nothing."
Kitimat led 56-53 after the third quarter, after they had come back from a 45-32 deficit, out-scoring Hays 24-8 to conclude the third stanza. In fact, all tournament long, Kitimat had never gone away, and had eliminated a 12-point deficit in Friday's round robin game that Kitimat eventually won in overtime to send Hays tumbling into the losing side of the bracket.

But that third-quarter comeback would be their last, as they seemed to run out of gas in the final quarter

"They ultimately beat us because of good coaching, and great work ethic," said Kitimat's coach, Wes Nyce. "When you have a short bench, fatigue is a factor."

They come for the halibut, but for now they can only have half of it!

Sport fisherman making plans for a north coast vacation this spring will be heading back home with a lighter load due to some new allocations in the halibut fishery.

DFO has issued a change to the recreational daily limit, cutting in half the daily fishing limit to one from April1 to May 31, the allocations return to a daily limit of two and a possession limit of two from June 1 to December 31.

The background on the decision and more details on what to expect were found in Monday’s Daily news.

Daily catch limit for halibut is halved to one fish
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, February 25, 2008
Pages one and three

The official fishing management regime for the 2008 recreational halibut fishery was released Thursday, changing the daily and possession limits.

In order to manage within domestic halibut allocations, DFO has changed the recreational fishery daily limit to one and the possession limit to three from April 1 to May 31. However, from June 1 to Dec. 31 the daily limit will be back at two fish, and the possession limit will also be two.

"We took another month so we could finish up all of the planning with the sport fishing community to make sure what we implemented is what they would like," said Gary Logan, DFO North Coast Fishery groundfish manager.

"We try to work very closely with the sport fishers, and commercial fishers if it's something that affects them as well.

"The Sport Fish Advisory Board and the Sport Fishing Institute are the primary mechanisms by which we communicate with the sport fishery, and we've been working with them on this since last fall as to how we can approach this next fishing season."

Logan said that talks worked through a range of options, but did include up-front principals, such as minimizing the in-season changes, and trying not to focus changes in one specific geographic area to avoid local economic impacts.

"It's always difficult when you're cranking things down, and we've had a reduction in the total allowable catch for halibut in Canada, so of course we have to manage accordingly because it is a treaty with the U.S.," said Logan.

"We're trying to do it in a manner that will achieve these objectives but at the same time minimize the impact on the fishers and their businesses themselves."

Logan also says reports that a weight limit on halibut had been imposed are entirely erroneous, and that the idea was simply one of many suggestions that DFO had brought to the table when the process began.

"When we develop management options and talk with people, you have to put everything on the table. Was [weight limit] something we talked about? Absolutely, but it was dismissed," said Logan.

"When we talk with fishers, some of the ideas fall off the table right away, but that's how you get to a point when you can agree on something. So we always start out with a giant list, and you whittle away at these things."

The Sport Fishing Institute of B.C. says that opting not to implement size limits was an obvious choice because it didn't make any sense.

"While most recreational halibut that are caught tend to be smaller, people still want to go fishing to try and catch a big fish," said Eric Kristianson of the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C. "Taking away that opportunity struck everybody as impractical and counterproductive."

However, he says the department's decision to implement a one halibut per day restriction up until June will have a dramatic impact on individual anglers and the charter boat sector.
"Effectively, for a third of the season charter boat operators will be faced with a new restriction, and that's going to have an impact on them. Where charter operators have to travel greater distances to get to the halibut grounds, that's going to really discourage customers and we're very disappointed in that."

Kristianson said DFO was in the process of seeking to acquire quota from the commercial sector, in order to provide the recreational sector with greater ability to catch halibut in the future.
"But really, what it underscores at the end of the day is that the allocation policy itself, that put us in this position of 88 to 12, is flawed," he said. "This is the direct result of that policy, a policy that we've been pushing the minister and department to revisit, because it's the source of the problem in the first place."

Their thoughts are with us, just not their wallet, just yet

The Province is still a big booster for the Port of Prince Rupert, but last weeks provincial budget didn’t include much in the way of financial assistance for the next phase of development.

That’s not a sign of any kind of trouble on the horizon, more it’s an indication that the phase two plans aren’t quite ready for prime time yet.

The Daily featured Finance Minister Carole Taylor’s observations on the development as part of a front page story in Monday’s paper.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, February 25, 2008
Pages one and three

While there was not any funding commitment to Phase II of the Fairview Container Terminal in the 2008 provincial budget, that does not mean the province is not fully committed to developing Prince Rupert as part of the Asia Pacific Gateway.
Carole Taylor, the province's Minister of Finance, said in an exclusive interview with the Prince Rupert Daily News that the reason there were no funds directed toward the development of Phase II in this year's budget was that the plans for the terminal's expansion were not far enough along to have determined specific funding amounts.

However, to show faith in the development of the Asia Pacific Gateway, the province increased that budget for the Ministry of Economic Development by $40 million.

"This will help us get going on the trade policy," said Taylor.

The province is also pursuing a number of other initiatives that will support development of the Asia Pacific Gateway in this year's budget.

Taylor noted he B.C. government will be reducing the provincial tax rate for ports, sawmills and mines and other large industry.

"We are going to reduce the rate to meet the current rate for commercial business. Right now, these big industrial properties are paying extra tax to us and we know many of them are in industries that are facing some stresses," she said.

"So to try and help them, we will reduce it. That will mean $24 million every year that our major industries will save. That is an important one for all our communities."

Another initiative that will benefit ports is the $30 million Green Port's Initiative.

"It is our plan to electrify our ports so that when ships come in, they will be able to plug in, rather than keep their engines going, which can be quite polluting," said Taylor.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority had planned to offer this service starting with Phase II of the terminal, however this funding could help them move the project forward sooner.

In addition, the province has decided to extend the Ports Property Tax Act, which caps the level of taxation by municipalities on port properties. The province in turn then compensates municipalities for some of that lost revenue.

"For the first time, it will tie it to inflation and there will be an increase every year that will go towards that," said Taylor.

For the past three years, Prince Rupert has been receiving the biggest top-up from the province of all eligible municipalities: $1.38 million.

However, North Coast MLA Gary Coons has expressed concern that although there will be an increase based on inflation, the revenues handed over to the municipalities will continue to be based on 2003 levels of assessment.

Municipalities already must manage hazardous materials and provide policing for ports.
"These costs were downloaded onto communities by the federal government, and now the provincial government is denying them the ability to leverage the revenue they need to meet these obligations," said Coons, earlier this year. "Yet, they have fewer revenue streams than senior levels of government. Really, their only tool is property taxation. The compensation being offered is insufficient. And since it is not indexed to property value, every year it becomes even less adequate. It doesn't cover even half of the potential revenue losses most municipalities are absorbing currently."

We'll be right back after this short commercial message February 25

The Day that Pigs really did Fly

It's in the air, everywhere

Monday, February 25, 2008

Where's the gang from South Park when you need them

Oh, no! They've killed You Tube....

Pakistan wreaked havoc on the world's ability to be voyeurs over the weekend, as they not only shut down You Tube within the Asian country's borders, but managed to wipe out You Tube service to most of the world.

It was on Friday that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority ordered 70 Internet service providers to block access to, because of anti-Islamic movies on the video-sharing site.

Over zealous officials posted a link that redirected traffic into the dark holes of the world wide web, but instead of just Pakistani's being denied the wonders of skateboarding and small town musical stars, close to two thirds of the world's Internet viewers found themselves without their fix of You Tube for over two hours.

If we're looking for a theme for the blame game, with a few small changes perhaps this South Park classic could be reworked.

We'll be right back after this short commercial message February 24

With mortgage lenders in the news so much these days...

A peaceful bit of reflection of your mortgage requirements

Unique urban nesting sites provide for a worrisome trend in Vancouver

"This is the place that scares me the most." --Vancouver community outreach worker Judy Graves, quoted in a Tyee article about homelessness.

Last Thursday, we provided a link to Dan Rather’s recent documentary on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, a troubling look at some of the issues that have become common place in a ten block stretch of that city centered on the Hastings and Columbia area.

Rather’s report provided details of the exploding rate of HIV infections in Vancouver, the growing number of people at risk in the area and some visuals that would shock most Canadians who like to think of their cities as “World Class” or First world cities.

Some of the scenes and situations presented seem hard to believe possible in Canada’s third largest urban area, but are shown as truly happening each and every day.

And if that wasn’t enough of an eye opener for British Columbians, then a recent piece in the Tyee should certainly set the province to thinking. A piece from Monte Paulson, posted to the Tyee website on Thursday presents a horrifying image of homeless people living underneath the pilings of perhaps one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver, the downtown site of Science World.

Located just across from where the residences for the 2010 athletes village are being constructed, Paulson describes a massive labyrinth of squalor, where the homeless gather nightly that strikes fear into outreach workers in the city, who fear for the safety of those at the most risk in society.

Following Judy Graves around on her tour of the dark under the surface canyons of urban nests, a scene more suitable for a Stephen King novel appears. Pitch black at night, crawling with rats, its here that some of those living on the streets of Vancouver choose to spend their nights, ironically because it is where they feel the safest from the troubles above the ground.

It’s a fascinating and more than a little troubling article, about the course of development in downtown Vancouver and how it continues to push the homeless further and further beyond the margins of society. It’s probably a world that few in Vancouver know exist and should be horrified because of its existence. It’s an almost subterranean development of quasi shanties, held together with soggy blankets, newspapers and cardboard.

If ever there is an example that the provincial government needs to take some form of constructive action on the homeless crisis in urban areas, it surely must be these self made condos of sort, hidden away from the public, but closer to them than they may have ever thought.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Water worries may soon be a part of the past for Dodge Cove

Residents of Dodge Cove may soon be able to have a drink of water without having to boil their water. A combined federal/provincial infrastructure grant provided to the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, is designed to help that community improve the efficiency and reliability of the water treatment facility and end long-standing boil water restrictions that have been placed on the Cove’s residents.

More than $533,000 is set to be put towards a number of projects designed to improve the area's water supply. They include, infrastructure improvements that will deliver upgraded water treatment facilities, development of a standby power source, and new mechanical and electrical components for Dodge Cove's water supply system

The money provided and completed projects will go a long ways in finally providing residents of Dodge Cove with better access to safe, clean drinking water.

A welcome bit of news for a part of the region that sometimes must feel rather isolated from the rest of the region, despite being located in such close proximity to the city of Prince Rupert.

While the power may now flow out of Kitimat, there’s some other money ready to flow in!

The seven year battle between Kitimat and Alcan and its most recent owner Rio Tinto is over, as the BC court of appeal ruled against an appeal from the District of Kitimat over the issue of power sales.

Last week Alcan was given the green light to continue on with its plans to sell excess power to BC Hydro, a move that Mayor Rick Wozney and a number of other Kitimat residents believe will only lead to a major reduction in employment at any renovated Alcan works site.

What remains now for Mayor Wozney and his followers is a need to keep an eye on the modernization project and as the Mayor puts it “hold Alcan to its promise to modernize the smelter.” A move which Wozney claims may very well result in the loss of over 400 jobs at the facility.

While the news as far as the Mayor would be concerned may have been grim, a few other developments for the city are decidedly more positive.

Kitimat will benefit from two separate government grants that will push forward a pair of important projects for the future of the city.

Close to $632,000 dollars will be provided to the District of Kitimat from federal and provincial sources to upgrade its sanitary sewer system. A government news release from Friday described the planned project as designed to improve the structural integrity of the sewer system and replace failing sanitary sewer lines across the municipality. There will be approximately four kilometres of sewer lines revitalized using a new relining technology that reduces the infiltration of ground water.

When complete the upgrade to the Kitimat lines will improve Kitimat's sewers system for years to come.

The second bit of good news for the city of Kitimat involved their desires to increase the capabilities of the Port of Kitimat. The Federal government is providing the Kitimat Port society with $160,000 to complete a study examining the feasibility of converting the private Port into a public break bulk and shipping terminal.

That money will enable the Port society to complete their 4-phased study that will examine the logistics of converting the Port of Kitimat into a public facility. Work includes evaluation of costs, potential environmental and socio-economic impacts, and the development of an implementation plan.

The boosters of the Kitimat Port plan have been touting it as a second port on the northern part of the West coast, designed to make the Northwest transportation corridor even more attractive to world shipping lines. Roger Harris the former Liberal MLA for riding has become the Executive Director of the Society and his vision is to make Kitimat an important player in the National Asia-Pacific Gateway Strategy.

The money should make for a short term consolation prize for the city after their lengthy battle with their largest employer, though the long term concerns for the community will no doubt still remain on the front burner.