Saturday, February 28, 2009

Will Steve Smith find some choppy waters on the way to the BC Ferries board?

"we have had business people in the past from various communities sitting on our board. So, clearly, we don't see it as a conflict of interest."-- BC Ferries public affairs VP Mark Stefanson , reacting to questions over potential areas of conflict of interest over the appointment of a familiar name on the North Coast to the BC Ferries Board of Directors.

The February 20th announcement that Steve Smith, the local hotelier and long time proponent of tourism on the North Coast has been appointed to the Board of Directors of BC Ferries, has popped up on the radar of at least one media service in the province.

While BC Ferries was busy trumpeting Mr. Smith's involvement in tourism and the hospitality industry on the North Coast of BC, those same selling points apparently caught the eye of the website for Vancouver's 24 hours, which has posted an item, exploring whether Mr. Smith's appointment may constitute a conflict of interest.

The February 26th article from Sean Holman, outlines Mr. Smith's business interests and how they are impacted by Ferry service to the north coast, the article quotes a senior BC Ferries official as stating that a thorough review was done on the Smith appointment and that the Ferry Service does not see his appointment as a conflict of interest.

He took on his new duties on February 11th and will also join the Ferry Service's
Authority Board effective April 1, 2009, his biography can be found on the BC Ferries website in the Board of Directors section, As Mr. Smith joins the board, another Rupertite is leaving the board, as Maureen Macarenko steps down from her position after a number of years of service to BC Ferries.

It will be interesting to see if anyone else picks up on the conflict theme over the next little while, and if it becomes yet another issue for the controversy generating Ferry service, which frequently finds itself to be in the media spotlight these days.

And yet another media case for the X Files

While we’ve been catching up on our reading from the “new” Daily News, we suddenly came to the realization that somebody went missing.

While the departure of former Editor Earle Gale (who penned his own departure article three weeks ago) was documented in a heart felt Patrick Witwicki editorial on January 20th, the removal of the by-lines and further contributions of Kris Schumacher seem to have gone unheralded in print.

Schumacher provided some fairly interesting and well researched articles during his time with the local paper, focusing it seemed most times on the tricky educational file and labour issues on the North coast.

It’s interesting of course to note the timing of his departure, seemingly on the same day that Mr. Gale left the paper and in the same period of time as the new direction of the Daily News was launched, a blue print that was outlined in an Editorial on Thursday.
If you were to play media CSI, here's the paper trail, on Friday, February 20th he was still part of the portrait gallery on the editorial pages of the Daily News, by Monday, February 23rd he was gone, picture removed with nary a note of his leaving.

It’s not the first time that a popular reporter has just disappeared into the ether in Prince Rupert, Leanne Ritchie likewise suddenly was removed from the picture gallery on page four without an opportunity to recount her time while living and working in Prince Rupert, likewise Schumacher now slips off without a farewell.

Last year was a period of much turmoil for the local paper, from thorny labour negotiations to the departures of a number of behind the scenes employees that helped to put the paper to print on a daily basis. Accentuated by the departure of Ritchie who during her four year stay at the paper, provided steady reports on the happenings in the region.

Now as the paper changes its direction towards a more softer focus on the news and a dedication to seeking out the positives, another voice that sought to explore all the issues has taken his leave.

While they seek out more of the good news for us, perhaps they could spare a few words about Mr. Schumacher and his past efforts, which for the most part provided a fair, balanced and thorough review for the readers of the Daily News.

Mr. Howie remains firmly at the helm

Personnel issues seemed to become the hot item of debate at City Council this week as the Mayor and his councillors discussed and debated the terms of contract extension for City Manager Gord Howie.

When all was said and done, Mr. Howie was rewarded with a two year extension to his contract, leaving him as one of the top earners over on Third Avenue West and of course once again found himself as the centre of public consideration, destined we suspect to be the most tracked civic administrator in recent Prince Rupert history and will be until the 2011 expiry date.

Even before his arrival back in 2006 to the post he once held , his name has been a lightning rod for discussion, from day one with the promise of an extra 24,000 dollars on the payroll "the best man for the job" has proven to be the focus of much attention among city residents. The most recent point of interest the employment prospects with the City of Prince Rupert for his significant other.

As the terms of contract renewal were being drawn up, but not released (leaving us to wonder if his remuneration has increased significantly from those 2006 numbers or if the terms of the position have changed), the debate over the process became a flash point issue for council.

Councillor Anna Ashley introduced a motion in council chambers to outline how the members of council voted on the contract extension, a move that seemed to provide for no shortage of harrumphs as the prospect of transparent and accountable voting seemed to send shudders through Council.

Unsuccessful in finding a seconding voice among the remaining five councillors, she again mentioned her quest in public forum of council, for which she received Mayor Jack Mussallem’s stern handy recitation of municipal ethics and the sanctity of the in camera session.

While there is no doubt a need for confidential dealings in some matters of personnel matters, we’re a little unclear as to how simply revealing the voting patterns of our six councillors and Mayor constitute a crisis in confidence. There was no request of any details of the personnel file, nor was there a desire for discussion of the expectations and remuneration of the top civic official in the city.

All it would appear Councillor Ashley was asking for was a simple tally of the votes, who thought it was a good idea to retain Mr. Howie and provide him with a generous income and who maybe might have had questions over it

Instead, she gets dressed down and the taxpayers remain in the dark (well I guess we all have our ideas) as to who voted which way.

There were no personnel details set to be outlined in council, no smoking guns, instead a request for a simple accounting of the vote.

It is baffling as to why council would not want to stand by their vote in public forum, it begs the question of why they would want to serve in a forum where there is no need for accountability and where the closed door, in camera sessions become a form of government to itself.

The debate has been an ongoing form of entertainment over at hackingthemainframe, the local information portal.

A quick scan of the board provides a snapshot of a community that seems split on the concept of transparency, some suggesting the Mayor (and five councillors) were correct in their interpretation of events, while others suggest that Councillor Ashley was simply reflecting the wishes of the electorate and residents in a more accountable ledger as far as conducting city business.

It will be worth watching to see if Council picks up on the thread that we really do want to know how they vote on all issues, the in camera session as used fairly often by council certainly won’t provide much in the way of reassurance that open government is part of the local process.

Secrecy proved to be the dark cloud over the last council, one wonders if those dark clouds aren't starting to gather again over City Hall for this latest group of Council and if they will heed the warnings that they bring.

Meanwhile, back in the world of economic tumult…

It’s the kind of item that perhaps the New and Improved Daily News won't be giving much thought towards, but over at the Globe and Mail, they still think that such things as the Global Economic crisis is still worth a few columns.

While we may soon learn much more about the Lutheran Church bake sale or a local tree planting venture by service groups, outside the city limits and over at the Globe and Mail the unwinding of the economic order has become kind of an interesting little front page item all to itself for the last few months.

This week they featured a fascinating discussion with Professor Niall Ferguson from Harvard University, his current book, The Ascent of Money, A Financial History of the World, is currently what they would call the “hot” read on the non fiction charts, considered to be a must for anyone trying to understand the current crisis the world’s nations find themselves in this time of economic duress.

His article with the Globe, titled "There will be Blood", is rather chilling in it’s examination of the crisis to date and the fearful possibilities for the future. Developments which portend a longer than currently forecast downturn, Ferguson suggests that our governments are soft selling the dangers if not out right lying to the public in order to boost up our confidence, he sees the changes to come as ones that will see major upheaval and potential violence around the world as nations come to grips with the changes that are to come.

The article even spawned a discussion piece in today’s on line offerings from the Globe, with Ian Brown's article over the seemingly never ending stream of doom and gloom developments over the last few months. The topic of the piece being an examination as to how all of this discussion could become self fulfilling prophecy over the years as we received tsunami after tsunami of details as to the crisis at hand.

The articles provide factual information and balance,a great starting point for debate, exactly what a newspaper is designed to do, provide the facts and let the readers sort through the details, good, bad and ugly… Serving its readers in the best fashion by informing and allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions.

Considering the perceived turn of events for local journalism these days, it’s refreshing to find content that still treats the reader as though they are capable of handling the tough issues of the day and is not afraid to report and comment on them, power of positive thinking is one thing, but it won’t stop the evolution of world events.

Thankfully, the Globe at least still understands that through their portal Canadians still deserve to know what’s ahead and how to best deal with what may come.

It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who put things into perspective in the teeth of the last economic disaster when he said, the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself…

The Globe articles are well worth the read and will provide some solid background on the debate, regardless of the tone or the nature of the material we can probably handle the bad news and find that its delivery to be helpful to our planning.

Friday, February 27, 2009

You’ve got to accentuate the positive…..

Recession! What recession? There’s a bake sale to cover!

The changing of the guard at the Daily News is bringing an apparent change in direction as far as what a newspaper should be these days.

Across North America many newspapers are struggling to retain their readership, with a good number of them looking for solutions to dwindling readership and revenues. For some it's too late with some well known papers closing their doors forever, others have entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while many seek to reinvent themselves as fast as possible to try and maintain their operations.

In Podunk it seems, the road to success will be on the wave of the Good News format. In an editorial in Thursday’s paper, the new team at the Daily outlined their dogma as far as what their newspaper shall be in this community.

We suspect that the change in mindset will be steering the paper away from many might consider to be hard news, you know that uncomfortable stuff that might make a person think and seek to make change.

Instead, we anticipate that you will be seeing a lot more pictures of your young ones at school, at sports at church bake sales and such...

We’ll probably hear about some great funding programs to come, but wonder if we will soon begin to read less and less about the issues that reflect the need for them.

It sounds like a risky move for what was once a pretty good record of what was happening on the North coast, once upon a time there were some very good investigative reporters on staff that sought out those uncomfortable stories that might not be much of a fit in the new era of journalism out of Second Avenue West..

The change at the Daily could provide an opportunity for the Northern View to find a larger readership, especially if the gap between what they report and what the New Daily provides grows too apparent, though it seems at the moment that they are both heading somewhat in the same direction.

The Northern View however is limited by their once a week approach to deadlines, which usually leaves them a week behind the news cycle, with the exception of their occasional postings to their website which have proven to at least understand that the Internet can be used to enhance your product and provide a conduit to the print edition.

The change at the Daily, as it’s been described certainly seems to signal the end of a journalistic era of the past for the long time fixture, one where News was news. Whether it was good or bad, now those less sunny stories may still get covered as indicated in the editorial, though one wonders if they will ever find space between the bake sales and church groups, celebrations of commercial endeavors and of course all those darn cute kids at school and play that we sense will soon be all through the paper.

The troubling thing about the editorial was the new think outline that if negatives are constantly recited then negative results will follow, so stress the positives and the positives come. Nice pop psychology but not particularly effective for what was once the record of events on the North Coast. It seems to suggest that the readers can't handle the truth, that we are unable to understand the troubles of a community, while still celebrating its successes.

Apparently in the new era and definition of journalism, if we only cover the stories of recession, of crime and other elements of daily life, well we may just not look at all the Super, Terrific Greatness around us it seems.

Even better, maybe if we don’t hear about those uncomfortable issues, well then maybe they don’t exist!

The proof we guess will arrive with the monthly circulation rates and the ad lines to come, there probably will be many that welcome the respite from the reporting of those things that aren’t happy, aren’t pretty and may be a tad controversial, but none the less those too need to be examined thoroughly.

One wonders how many Podunkians will wish to pay their daily stipend of seventy five cents for the new look and new viewpoint of the paper. Unless it's your kid in the paper, you have to wonder if it's not smarter to just head to the library and browse through their copy of the paper and leave them the seventy five cents.

There may be a short burst of interest, especially on picture day if the kids are front and centre, but eventually one wonders, how long before the delivery of the Daily News on the doorstep becomes but a nano second pause in the process before it gets tossed in the bin for recycling rather than reading, at least for those folks that actually still care about news.

The editorial challenges other media to follow their lead, a rather boastful challenge that we’re sure has been well received at other media outlets in the region, a challenge which if nothing else, indicates that hubris, probably will apparently rule the day on the pages of your daily newspaper.
For those that missed the Editorial and in the quest of balance and factuality, the ambitious Daily Blue print is outlined below.

Prince Rupert Daily News
February 26, 2009
Page four

One of the common themes mentioned by several speakers at the Opportunities North Economic Summit held in Prince George last week was the role that consumer psychology plays in the economic downturn.

In particular, the impact of the constant barrage of negative coverage spewing forth from the media since last fall as the crisis developed ... or as one politician referred to it, "The nattering nabobs of negativity".

In short, you can't have a good recession without the help of the media.

While the initial effects were felt on Wall Street and Capitol Hill, the tone and nature of the coverage by most of the mainstream media in Canada, would have made you think that Ground Zero was Bay Street and Ottawa.

At times the media seemed disappointed that things here weren't as bad as in the US.

Journalists in general are taught that their job is to just report the news, not make it. Nonsense: By its very nature the media exercises bias if only by what stories it chooses to cover and the treatment they receive in their publications or news broadcasts.

People love drama, real or imagined, and none so much as journalists who are taught that "if it bleeds-it leads". Bad news sells.

As a result, we see a media obsessed with covering every possible nuance of the economic slowdown, often in an effort to support their chants of impending financial doom.

Many of the larger media outlet like CBC, CTV and the Globe and Mail will even commission their own polls, just to convince us, as if we needed it, that things really are worse than we think.

Nowhere was this better illustrated than at Christmas, when the Guardian newspaper in the UK ran a story about how bad things are in the retail sector, even while they were interviewing thousands of people lined up for hours outside shops in London's High Street, waiting to pounce on bargains galore.

Whether they like it or not, the media has a responsibility for the psychological impact of the news they cover - and how they cover it - on the communities, readers and viewers they serve.

Nowhere is this more critical than during a recession or a war, when the media can playa crucial role in supporting or undermining the will of the people to support the cause of defeating a common enemy, be it economic or military.

One of the biggest blockbuster documentaries in recent years was a movie called “The Secret” The premise was we attract into our lives that which we think about the most. . Negative thoughts beget negative results and positive attracts positive. When we feel good about ourselves, we seem to attract more good things. There really is power in positive thinking. As a newspaper serving over 20,000 readers a week, we here at the Prince Rupert Daily News have a vital role to play based on the effect our coverage has on the minds and attitudes of our readers.

If we choose to fill the front pages of our newspaper with negative and "bad news" stories, we can't be surprised if our readers start to think that everything in our city and region is going to hell in a hand basket.

That does not mean of course that we will censor, distort or sugarcoat the news so that only positive items appear in our papers. A good newspaper should be a reflection of the community that it serves, and the reality is we live in an incredible city, filled with people who are doing some pretty amazing things.

Most of what happens here is great stuff, and our paper needs to reflect that reality, not the reality of some broker on Wall Street.

We here at the Daily News accept responsibility for doing our part in working our way through the current economic difficulties. Our papers will continue to strive to reflect the reality of our city and our readers, mostly positive, sometimes not so.

At the same time we challenge the other media outlets, radio, television and print to follow our lead.

There will be days when we may stumble in this endeavor - "please be patient. God isn't finished with us yet."

Together we will weather this latest storm, just as we always have. That's what they mean when the say "the Spirit of the North".

Sometimes it seems that washing your hands isn’t quite enough…

If you ever visit the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital you’ll notice all these signs that advise you to wash your hands regularly, going so far as to provide a little bottle of pink liquid hand sanitizer to help with the process during your visit.

Perhaps that is the first defense against the spread of flu, but sheesh, if the last week has been any indication you’ll need to bathe in the stuff to stave off the ravages of the winter season outbreaks.

Our humble little portal has been blank for most of the week now as we lapsed into a Nyquil/Neo Citron haze, finally admitting defeat we headed off to our doctor where the appropriate modern miracles of pharmaceuticals have at least delivered us from what seemed like deaths doorstep. Yes we exaggerate, but only slightly we think…

At any rate, like a prize fighter who has stumbled back to his feet in the last round, we suspect that this latest bout ended in a draw, though we’re not anxious for a return match with our most recent opponent.

While we took our unintended downtime, we noticed that a number of local developments have taken place that we would be remiss to not address, which we shall in short order.

Among those things we’ve found interest in; but little will over the last week to comment on, were the continuing drama of City Hall and that ever popular quest for transparency and accountability, the announcement of an iconic local name to the board of BC Ferries, the latest surprising departure of yet another local official, this time with the School District taking over from the usual suspects of City Hall and finally an apparent change of direction as far as news presentation goes over at the local Daily newspaper.

We shall weigh in on those over the next few days and of try to return to a more regular routine of updating our blog, while we hacked our way through the week we gave some thought to the format of the blog as well and we have given some thought to a few changes to come in short order.

We’ll get to work on things right after we wash our hands, they say it works after all and we’re going to follow all instructions...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

All your emergency services under four walls and one roof

Just because he wants to sell a fire truck doesn't mean he isn't thinking of the fire department in these challenging financial times.

Mayor Jack Mussallem provided some napkin sketch ideas for the future of Prince Rupert's emergency services last week, in an appearance at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon and high among his priorities it seems will be a new structure to house the fire service, the RCMP detachment, BC Ambulance Service and Marine Rescue, all to be found in a centrally located area of the city.

It's not the first time that a joint structure has been bounced around, but as the years have gone by not much progress has been made on the idea and the existing structures continue to age and see their usefulness begin to dwindle.

The Mayor touched on a number of items in his first major address to a local group outlining many points of interest from Sun Wave's lack of progress to potential new positioning statements for the city's tourism sector.

The Northern View was first to outline his thoughts with an online report on Wednesday, focusing mainly on the emergency services plans, the Daily News followed up with an item in Thursday's paper.

Mussallem shares his thoughts at Chamber luncheon
The Daily News
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Page one

Prince Rupert might have a one stop shop for its entire emergency needs.

In a speech during yesterday's Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Mayor Jack Mussallem said he was considering placing the fire department, the RCMP the paramedics and even the marine emergency response team in one building.

"We could have one emergency services centre. Very loosely the idea would be that on one side we could have the Fire Department, on the opposite side you could have the RCMP, on another side you could have the Marine Rescue and on the other side perhaps you could facilitate the B. C. Ambulance Service. Finding a central location is paramount.”

Mussallem, gave his first speech to the Chamber and noted that the city is looking at several different ways to improve finances in Prince Rupert.

While most of his speech was a repetition of things he has talked about before, such as the current state of the city’s infrastructure and the request for proposal that is about to go out for the Tsimshian Access Project, the Mayor did speak about new initiatives.

One would be to invite the chamber president to senior staff meetings to keep the chamber more informed on city initiatives. He also let it be known that in the Prince Rupert you are seven times more likely to have a water line failure than any other Canadian community.

The Mayor also updated the chamber on the conditions down at Watson Island, which he said were still under contention.

"We have received in writing that the SunWave Paper group has no intention in producing pulp from the mill," said Mussallem.

It wasn't all doom and gloom served with the afternoon coffee. There were positive messages as well from the city leader, hoping that the city can make good on promoting itself.

Among the ideas the city is working on is a way on selling Prince Rupert as commerce location. "It could be anything from 'Shop Prince Rupert' to 'Golf Prince Rupert' or even 'Gamble Prince Rupert,'" said Mussallem, who was clearly aware that nee his speech was being given inside the Chances Gaming Centre.

"Living in Prince Rupert is a gamble so we might as well promote it," joked Mussallem.

Budget day offerings has MLA wondering about the focus on the port

This weeks provincial budget provided a number of items for consideration, a two year deficit plan, cuts to most ministries, a declaration that the province will face a couple of years of tough times before things begin to improve and a commitment to port development in Delta at the cost of about 1.1 billion dollars.

And while the government gave a nod to Phase II of the Fairview Terminal, there wasn't much in the way of concrete financial figures provided for the northern gateway for container traffic, an oversight that has the MLA for the region Gary Coons wondering where the prospect of Phase II stands with the provincial government.

He outlined his thoughts in a Daily News article from Thursday's paper.

Coons wonders what budget means to port
The Daily News
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Page five

While reaction to Tuesday's provincial budget was mixed across the province, North Coast MLA Gary Coons said it is too soon to know what outcome the offerings will have for Prince Rupert.

In Monday's throne speech, the provincial government said that it was still committed to phase two of the Fairview container terminal but finance minister Colin Hansen's $450 million-deficit budget committed no finances for the project.

"I was disappointed that port development for phase 2 was relegated only to a commitment to seek out opportunities for the expansion of Prince Rupert I hope that the premier's promise of last December holds true," said Coons.

Under the budget promises, there are significant infrastructure commitments for the DeltaPort, worth $1.1 billion but nothing for the Prince Rupert port.

However, in the throne speech Premier Gordon Campbell seemed to have suggested that there would be a commitment of some sort for the port.

"The Port of Prince Rupert is revitalizing northern and rural economies and creating a powerful platform for future development. The next phase of that port development will be pursued, in co "operation with First Nations and the federal government," was said in the speech.

Coons was cautious not to criticize the hudget too much, citing a need to sift through it first.

"It's a little early to pinpoint what may come our way on the North Coast but the budget promised to create thousands of jobs and build opportunities in every region of the province," said Coons.

The local MIA was concerned that the majority of the $14 billion promised would be mainly for southern B. C. interests.

"Hopefully, the commitment for seismic upgrading, road, sewer and infrastructure projects pour into the North Coast," said Coons.

There were little commitments for resource economies either, the provincial government citing a focus on health care, education and social services as its priority for 2009.

Association of Mining' and Exploration BC President and CEO Gavin Dirom said while he respects the financial constraints the province is under, and that smaller than expected deficit is a good thing, there could have been more done for the resource economy.

"We still think there are opportunities and we are still working with the government and other stakeholders to make sure that we are clear on our requests," said Dirom.

Coons said the New Democrat Party budget plan would start by building affordable housing, reducing student debt-loads and making work pay by raising the minimum wage.

The Campbell government said it would not raise the minimum wage because of the potential cost it would impose on small business.

Is the Insite model in sight for the Northwest?

The possibility of safe injection sites springing up across the Norther portion of British Columbia has quickly become a discussion point for communities along Highway 16.

As we outlined on the blog on Thursday morning, a recent Northern Health meeting in Prince Rupert floated the prospect of the controversial injection sites becoming part of the health picture in the Northern Heatlh delivery areas.

While still clearly just in the talking phase, it was a subject that was quick to find some feedback on the local chat board hackingthemainframe and was of interest enough to become the front page headline story in Thursday's Daily News.

Medical professionals debating whether the time is right for inSite type facility in region
The Daily News
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Pages one and two

A meeting of the province's top medical officers in Prince Rupert last October might ultimately lead to a supervised injection site in the B.c. North.

According to Northern Health's chief medical officer David Bowering, the possibility was discussed at the meeting because of the evidence that was reviewed regarding the effectiveness of inSite injection site in Vancouver's downtown eastside.

"We like to take advocacy positions where we think there is strong evidence that some action or undertaking would benefit the public health," said Bowering.

While there is no immediate recommendation that a site open up in the North, inSite has been controversial since its opening because there have been many critics who have suggested that the site promotes drug use rather than helps to end it.

Proponents have suggested that the injection site is a clean way in dealing with the increase of HN and drug use by offering a clean and safe location

"In terms of improving the outcomes of the addicts that were making use of it and the local neighborhood safer and increasing the likelihood that people using the site will go on to treatment services, the evidence was very strong," said Bowering.

According to a December Northern Health update on HIV in the north, there were 13 people diagnosed with the terminal illness between 2006 and 2007 iri the Northwest, which includes Prince Rupert.

"We thought it was important that other health authorities be made aware that we think they ought to consider a similar undertaking as they confront this issue and let the health authorities look beyond the sort of traditional harm reduction activities like needle exchanges," said Bowering.

The December report also shows some interesting differences between the proactive approach men and women have when it comes to being tested.

Northwest health service delivery area (HSDA) reported that more than twice as many women than men were tested for HN infection in 2007.

The report estimated that approximately 30 per cent of people who are infected by HIV are not aware of it and therefore are not altering their behaviour to decrease the risk of spreading the disease to others.

One of the ways HIV is spread is through infected needles, which is why needle exchange programs came about.

InSite was set up in Vancouver to take that harm reduction process one step further by having a safe, clean and monitored place where drug users could inject narcotics and have easy access to addiction services.

It would also get dirty needles of the streets, reducing the threat of accidental infection to passers-by.

Bowering emphasized that no detailed consultation has been made with Northern Health communities to see if this kind of site would be a good fit for the community.

"1 think it is a good thing that we support harm reduction and that health authorities realize the continuum is quite broad and it include things like a safe injection site," said Bowering.

A detox centre in Prince Rupert might be a more realistic proposition for the North Coast.

Right now, the nearest centre is in Prince George, which is an eight-hour drive away.

"It is something that is being looked at by our mental health and addictions department and I know there is a model they are looking at for a detox, which may not be based on a free-standing detox centre, but I can't speak on that any further," said Bowering.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Perhaps it's just best to tell them you've died...

Telemarketers are once again finding that their intrusive ways are annoying those very customers that they would wish to convert.

The long distance telephone providers are quickly finding out that their less than ethical ways of soliciting customers are starting to stir up the population once again, this after the CBC reported on the story of a 95 year old woman that was signed up for a long distance service by a company that took advantage of her confusion on the incoming call.

It's the latest in the long list of horror stories revolving around almost everyone's pet peeve the unwanted, unsolicited and usually untimely ringing of the phone from some company or another trying to sell you something you generally don't want.

While much was made of Canada's new Do not call list last year, as we found out recently that particular instrument has become more of the disease rather than the cure, leaving us back where we started from when it comes to the unwanted communications.

Convergia Networks is the most recent group to find itself on the list of those with questionable ethical procedures, outed in a most public fashion by the CBC over their business practices and their apparent willingness to take advantage of seniors through less than respectable moves.

One hopes that all of this publicity for them pays off with a dramatically reduced profit margin and sudden unemployment for those that would take advantage of people that don't want and don't particularly need their service or their abuse.

Pacific coast school soon to finally open its doors

If nothing else the path that the Pacific Coast School has travelled this year is a handy study lesson, instructive in the process of municipal politicians, zoning snafus, archaic bureaucracy and misunderstandings among neighbours.

After what seems like the longest period in local history to get something approved, the alternative high school for the city is just about ready to open its doors and get to what it really was designed for, educating students.

The much delayed approval process, most recently thrown a curve by the Ministry of Transportation seems finally close to completion, the zoning approvals ready and the covenants or arrangements required now complete.
Having shown much more patience than really should have been expected, the staff and students of the new School will soon be getting to work, providing a course load designed to reinvigorate the learning process for many students that had fallen through cracks or lost interest in the process.

The Daily News featured the details of the final few steps before the doors open up and formal studies get under way at the Second Avenue West location.

School is about to come to life
Alternate school to get long-awaited approval from municipality
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pacific Coast School should be getting a final stamp of approval from the city very soon.
The red re-zoning sign was noticeably absent from the proposed school site on Second Avenue, perhaps suggesting that the imminent arrival of approval was at hand.

According to Mayor Jack Mussallem, the city is still waiting for the final approvals from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (Highways) before it approves the school, but he expects it soon.

"You'll see the bylaw finally adopted by council and at that point you'll see the school start at a full-fledged operation," said Mussallem.

The Pacific Coast School has gained much local attention with regards to its proposed location, the first being First Avenue in the Seasports building. That proposition was denied by city council after some opposition to the school from merchants in that area.

The second location has run into bureaucratic stumbling blocks, as the city did not have a proper handle at first on whose authority final approval for the school belongs to, considering Second Avenue is an extension of Highway 16.

Last week, the Daily News reported that the school would not open until the ministry was convinced that three covenants would be guaranteed by the city on the location as City Manager Gord Howie said the city needed to ok it with the Ministry first.

During the last city council meeting, the school district was told it was expected to enter into a covenant registered with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the City of Prince Rupert, to restrict a change in the use of the property unless approved by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the city.

It was also to have no new access under any circumstances.

There shall be no stopping in the travelled lane on Second Avenue for the dropping-off or picking-up of students. All vehicular traffic associated with the school must use alternate access for the site.

However, Ministry of Transportation media relations director Dave Crebo said that there were no covenants placed upon the school.

"What there was from Ministry of Transportation perspective is a request for a couple letters of confirmation that the ministry would be advised if this property were to change down the road - avoiding a kindergarten," said Crebo.

Crebo said a kindergarten would mean more young children being dropped off in front of the school, something the ministry did not want.

The other letter was from the school board confirming that they have permission from Rupert Square Mall that the school can use the parking space.
Crebo said both have been received.

With it turning out that the covenants are not needed, Mussallem said approval should be imminent.

"The ministry was thinking that they needed more documentation done but since then the ministry is thinking of a simpler process to pursue it and we could be dealing with that matter later this week," said Mussallem.

Seismic upgrades to come with stratospheric cost

The idea is to prevent the shocks from an earthquake from toppling PRSS, however the shock of the cost of the project to that, may just bring the place down anyways.

School District 52 was presented with a rather hefty estimate last week at the cost of reinforcing Prince Rupert Secondary School to withstand the wrath of Mother Nature, now the question is will the cost be worth the work or is it better to just build from scratch.

As the School district ponders the prospect of some 7.9 million dollars in required upgrades, the debate will heat up as to the future of secondary school education in the city, whether there will still be two high schools at the end of the day, or if a merger and creation of a junior high program will be the next step in the process of education in the city.

The Northern View was quick with the story last week, featuring the details first, posting them to their website over the weekend, The Daily News provided its background on the issue in Wednesday's paper.
Earthquake report puts PRSS on some shaky ground
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Page one

Two years after School District 52 commissioned a seismic study of Prince Rupert Senior Secondary School, the district's trustees have learned that the building would cost nearly $8 million to upgrade to current standards.
The Phase Two Seismic Mitigation Feasibility Study, completed by David Nairne and Associates Ltd. (DNA), outlines PRSS' construction history between 1958 and 1992, and identifies the materials that each portion of the structure was built with.

The building's superstructure is comprised of structural steel, wood, and masonry gravity and lateral systems, while the main floor structure is a combination of suspended concrete floor slabs, concrete slabs-on-grade, and suspended floors over crawlspace, with timber piles and concrete piers supporting the foundation walls and beams. Although the site was originally considered at significant risk from any seismic shaking from the bedrock beneath, more recent analysis found the seismic demand on the building to be less than what DNA originally considered.
However, DNA's general findings were still not very encouraging.

"Our seismic assessment of PRSS identified significant seismic deficiencies in the building structure and foundations that pose a high seismic risk," stated the executive summary of the study. "To address these seismic deficiencies, significant seismic upgrading will be required ...
We estimate that the total project cost for the structural seismic retrofit of this school to be $7,941,381 based on a Construction Management approach over a continuous 16-month construction period between February 2010 and June 2011."

The response to the extraordinarily high cost of maintaining PRSS from the SD52 board at their open meeting on Feb. 10 was nearly unanimous, with most trustees baffled at the prospect of spending $8 million to upgrade an old school. Janet Biel was blunt, stating that the obvious answer will be to tear down the building and build a new school in its place. Others were more reserved in their opinions, but it did not appear that anyone at the table was in support of such a complete retrofit given the extensive costs involved and the district's tight budget during the next several years.

The seismic study comes at an opportune time for SD52, as public discussion will begin next month when the board will host a Public Townhall Meeting to provide an update on their Long Range Facilities Plan and receive feedback on the scenarios recommended by the Matrix Planning Report in January.

A little belt tightening while we wait for the times to get better

Two years of tough times is the prognosis from the Finance Minister of British Columbia, as Colin Hansen delivered the Liberal government’s economic blue print in the Legislature this week.

With the economies of the world suffering trying economic times, perhaps the most trying since the 1930’s, BC too it seems will have to learn to make do with a little less and find a way to make what it has go a little more.

While there is the promise of economic stimulus, all be it at a cost of some 700 million dollars in deficit financing for the next two years, the message still is that these next years will be trying ones for British Columbians and their families.

Wednesday’s Daily News featured a wire service recap as the front page headline story, which reviewed the contents of Mr. Hansen’s budget and what the future may hold for the province.

Short-term outlook is gloomy but province expecting to rebound after two tough years
By Dirk Meissner
The Canadian Press
Wednesday, February
18, 2009
Pages one and two

VICTORIA - The B.C. Liberal government tabled a sparse budget Tuesday with few pre-election promises, except to say that things will get better.

Finance Minister Colin Hansen said British Columbians can expect two years of tough economic times that include a $495-million deficit for the fiscal year 2009 and $245 million for 2010. Then the westernmost province is hoping to win a little Olympic gold itself.

Hansen's budget forecasts a return to good times in three years, propelled primarily by a $10-billion economic impact from hosting the 2010 Winter Games.

Hansen wasn't making excuses for the lack of election goodies in the budget. Years past have seen governments show up on budget day with rebates and income tax cuts for voters.

"It's incumbent upon the government to tighten its belt in difficult economic times," Hansen told reporters in a briefing prior to the official release of his budget. "What British Columbia families are looking for today is a sense of responsibility from a provincial government, one that says, 'yes, we are going to provide stability in the vital programs such as health care, education and social service sector.'''

The Liberal government is seeking a third consecutive term in the May 12 election.

Hansen said his budget forecasts a recession with negative economic growth of -0.9 per cent this year.

He said the government projects its revenues to decline by $6.6 billion over the next three years.

"Compared to what we were forecasting as recently as September, we have seen more than $6 billion of revenue expected over three years vanish," he said.

The biggest ticket item in the budget was health care, which the liberals say will increase by $4.8 billion over three years.

Across the country, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador have all signalled they will also bring in deficit budgets this fiscal year.

The federal government expects deficits totalling $86 billion over the next five years as it deals with a worldwide economic downturn.

Only Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba have indicated they can deliver balanced spending.

Most business groups welcomed the no-frills financial plan in these volatile economic times.

"It's not an exciting budget," said Jock Finlayson, B.C. Business Council president. "We're calling it a realistic budget for the times. It sort of stays the course. In the environment we're in, I think that's understandable."

But the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia expressed disappointment at the lack of measures to stimulate the industry.

"We were hoping to see more of this reflected in the budget," president Gavin Dirom said in a statement. "The reality is that people are losing jobs today."

Nor were labour groups thrilled.

The Hospital Employees' Union said the budget lacked bold, decisive direction on health care, and the B.C. Federation of Labour said it indicates public sector layoffs and does nothing to help working class families struggling in a recession.

"I am underwhelmed by the meekness of the government's approach at a time when British Columbians are facing the most serious threats to their economic security in a generation," said HEU spokeswoman Judy Darcy.

Opposition New Democrat Leader Carole James called it an outright failure.

"It was a failure on behalf of the government to recognize the difficult economy," she said.

Hansen said the budget includes cuts across most ministries but protects vital health, education and social programs.

He said the government is saving almost $2 billion cutting advertising, travel. and contracting out costs money that will go toward health and education funding. There are, however, still $250 million in cost savings yet to be identified.

The government said it will rely on attrition and restructuring to revamp the civil service, although Premier Gordon Campbell, who did not comment on his government's budget Tuesday, earlier did not rule out layoffs.

There was no money promised for wage increases for government workers whose contracts that expire next year.

The budget also outlines $14 billion in infrastructure spending projected to create 88,000 jobs over three years. Most of the projects have been announced previously.

Hansen said British Columbia dug itself out of a financial mess created by the previous New Democratic government of the 1990s with surplus budgets and record job creation. Spurred by the Olympics, he said B.C. will return to financial stability by 2011.

However, the B.C. finance minister said he still couldn't provide figures for Olympic security costs.

Hansen said the federal government still has not completed its calculations but B.C is responsible for only 50 per cent of a portion of those costs, which have been estimated to have climbed as high as $1 billion.

Will safe injections sites soon be common to Northern BC?

"Makes the best of a bad situation” and reduces harm to the user and to their neighbourhoods. -- Dr. David Bowering, Chief Medical Health Officer for Northern Health, on the topic of possible safe injection sites for the Northern BC region.

Many communities have yet to have proper detox facilities or even proper help for those that are addicted, but on the burner it seems may be the option of safe injection sites for those living in Northern British Columbia.

Northern Health recently met in Prince Rupert and one of the main topics of debate appears to be the prospect that Northern BC communities may wish to look at the introduction of safe injection sites, locations that while still a long ways off and purely in the discussion stage, are certainly something that is on the radar for Northern Health.

The discussion came about after yet more disturbing figures show that the rate of HIV infections continue to be on the increase in Northern BC communities, with that in mind Northern Health has looked at effects of the safe injection sites currently in place and have determined that the evidence is that they "do reduce harm."

Doctor David Bowering, the It is something that is really a long way off. But can I see us talking about it.

It will no doubt be a conversation that may just prove to be as controversial here as they have been in in Vancouver where the Insite location has been operating for six years now. Other communities in the province and across the nation for that matter have begun the process of possible development of their own locations.

It will be interesting to watch the debate progress here as the plans, long range for now, become to edge closer to the implementation phase.

Opinion 250-- Medical Health Officers Support Safe Injection Sites

Satisfaction guaranteed for each employee?

They apparently are pretty good employers, so much so that Northern Savings has been acclaimed in a recent survey put forward by Hewitt Associates and the Globe and Mail.

Queen's University School of Business and Hewitt Associates conducted an extensive survey into the work atmosphere at many Canadian companies large and small, and in the small and mid size category, Northern Savings made the grade, scoring within the top fifty for its category, finishing in the 36th place on the list.

The success was hailed by a Northern Savings press release as well as with stories in both the Northern View and the Tuesday edition of the Daily News.

Credit Union praised for excellence
Local employer named one of the best places to work in the nation
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Page One

Northern Savings is a good place to work, according to the annual Best Employer competition sponsored jointly by Hewitt Associates and the Globe & Mail newspaper.

Northern Savings was recently named as one of the 50 Best Employers in the Small and Mid-Sized Business category for Canada. This recognition came after Northern Savings participated for two years running in the annual competition.

"This recognition is very meaningful to us," said Mike Tarr, Northern Savings CEO.

"The recognition gives credit where credit is due but participating in the competition also gave us some very clear indications of areas of our operations where we can improve and need to improve in the years ahead."

It's been a good 30 days for the local credit union.

Last month, Northern Savings was handed two awards by the Prince Rupert chamber of commerce.

During the Chamber of Commerce 100-year anniversary and awards dinner, the institution was recognized for its involvement with the Community Involvement award and named as Business of the Year.

With this award, the company looks to build its reputation in the North Coast community.
The results from the annual Best employers competition are compiled from an extensive staff survey carried out by Queen's University School of Business and Hewitt Associates, an international human resources consultant.

The primary measure that is sought out by researchers is the extent to which a company's employees are "engaged" as workers and therefore most likely to make contributions to improve working conditions, create better business processes and efficiencies and develop a reputation as a "great place to work."

"We will be repeating the surveys every couple of years so we stay on track and continue to focus on areas where we can do a better job of engaging staff and ultimately make our credit union a stronger competitor and a better community citizen," added Tarr.

Former teacher sentenced to forty five days on sex charges

It was a shocking case that took over a year to work its way through the justice system, but Monday brought to an end the trial for former Prince Rupert teacher Dana Monteith, who was sentenced to 45 days in jail for his crimes that rocked the community last year.

Monteith who has since left the province, was also provided with a number of conditions that must be met in addition to his time to serve.
The final outcome of the case appears to be a resolution that seemed to satisfy the Crown, and observers from both the School District and the Teacher's union who were in attendance at Monday's sentencing hearing.

The Tuesday Daily News outlined the details of the proceedings.

Ex-teacher pleads guilty to sexual charges
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Pages one and two

Former Prince Rupert high school teacher Dana Monteith was sentenced to 45 days in jail in Prince Rupert Supreme Court yesterday.

More than a year after Dana Allison Monteith, 38, was charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a young person, the former Charles Hays Secondary School science teacher pleaded guilty to one count and was taken into custody just after noon. The other two counts were stayed.

"It's not unusual to have more than one count [against an accused person] and proceed on one," said Deputy Provincial Crown Counsel Andy MacDonell.

"The Crown was initially satisfied that there was a substantial likelihood of conviction on all three counts. He made the decision to plead guilty to count two, and the Crown was satisfied that a plea to that count was a proper resolution to the case."

A preliminary hearing for the case took place in early November 2008, where the court heard testimony from young female victims.

The court had heard that the females, at least one of whom was a student of Monteith's and as young as 15, had visited his Cormorant home beginning in the autumn of 2005, and continued to visit during the next two years. They delivered testimony that before and during visits to his apartment they had consumed alcohol, as did Monteith, and that on several occasions inappropriate touching had occurred.

A joint order from both Crown Counsel and the defence sought the minimum sentence of 45 days for the guilty plea, as well as a probation order of one year with conditions of reporting to a probation officer, both of which were upheld by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Crawford. Optional conditions sought in the joint order were also approved by Justice Crawford, including no contact with any of the three alleged victims.

Monteith is also prohibited from attending public parks, playgrounds, schools, or any other place where people under the age of 16 can reasonably be expected to be present. The only exception will be to attend a community centre or public health facility with the written permission of his probation officer.

He is also restricted from ever seeking or obtaining employment in a capacity that involves the trust or authority of a person under 16 years of age.

Upon his release from Prince George Regional Correctional Centre, Monteith will be required to register as a sex offender, and provide DNA samples for the National DNA Data Bank.
Monteith's defence lawyer David Mardiros explained that since moving to Prince Rupert from his hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Monteith had suffered from "social isolation," and his increasing reliance on the consumption of alcohol led to a "downward spiral," ultimately ending in the behaviour he pleaded guilt to.

Mardiros also explained that since being charged, Monteith had been living back in Fredericton with his parents and working for their automotive business. He plans on relocating permanently to his hometown upon his release, and will have the support of his family in maintaining sobriety, as they expressed in character references Justice Crawford cited.

After calling a brief recess to contemplate the case, Justice Crawford reconvened court at noon and delivered the sentence of 45 days to Monteith, along with all of the conditions requested.
He stated that the charges fell "at the low end of sexual touching cases," and said he was satisfied that the acceptance of responsibility on behalf of Monteith had been met.

"There is a huge burden of trust on teachers, and they have to be vigilant of that trust. It's not an easy task in these days of increasing informality," said Justice Crawford.

"The effects have been devastating for the community and those parties involved. His Criminal Code record will stigmatize him, and his embarrassment will be never ending."

Prince Rupert District Teachers' Union President Gabrielle Bureau was in attendance at the ruling alongside a British Columbia Teachers' Federation lawyer, and said that they were satisfied due process had been followed with respect to the case.

School District 52 Superintendent of Schools Eric Mercer was also present, and felt the sentence and conditions dealt to Monteith were appropriate.

"First, for the fact he plead guilty and didn't take the girls and their families through an extended trial period," said Mercer. "He's given up his career, he'll be registered as a sex offender and have his DNA on record. These are all huge things. I also found it interesting that Justice Crawford addressed the increasing informality between teachers and students, the use of first names, and the way that some teachers are becoming 'friends' with their students. As I've maintained and made clear to our staff, you have to keep that professional distance with students."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

41 Job orders for 14 billion

The infrastructure monies are coming, the only question left is will Prince Rupert be on the list of recipients...

Stockwell Day the Federal International Trade Minister and Provincial Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon did the press conference thing on Wednesday, showering the province with it's share of the federal bounty all in the aid of spurring on the economy. Day outlined how the commitment was the largest ever commitment of federal infrastructure dollars at the federal level in Canadian history and while short on destinations he was long on political oratory on what this infrastructure delivery would mean to the province.

Calling the three party funding as thirty three cent dollars, municipalities will be contributing one third of the cost to the projects identified as most shovel in the ground ready, though some suggest that if the municipalities wish to participate in this process some may have to raise taxes to ante up their share of the funding, a prospect that may not be readily accepted in some communities.

One other potential roadblock on the road to infrastructure heaven is that some of the projects won't be providing immediate relief for hard hit areas of the province, as environmental studies and such may slow the progress down a bit.

Details on which projects are set to go and which communities are to benefit are to be released as the weeks go by(no doubt well before British Columbians go to the polls), perhaps when camera crews are prepared to best record the moment best.

Transportation Minister Falcon number crunched some 1750 jobs out of the 41 projects, most of which he must be hoping are on line before the spring election.

CBC News-- Province, Ottawa announce first of $14B in infrastructure projects for B.C.
Vancouver Sun-- Big money for infrastructure as B.C. faces two-year deficit
The Tyee-- No shoveling money off trucks around here: Krueger
Nanaimo Daily News-- Island projects included in $110 million for infrastructure
Canadian Press-- Province, feds announce first of $14-billion in infrastructure projects for B.C.

Tentative deal up for vote

As we outlined here on the blog over the weekend, the two sides in the ongoing labour discussions on the west coast waterfront finally came to a solution to their differences.

On Friday the ILWU and the BCMEA put the finishing touches on a tentative agreement that will bring a sense of reassurance to the shipping community that BC's ports will remain open for business without a threat of a labour dispute, providing of course, both sides ratify the agreement.

Tuesday's Daily News provided some background on the talks and some of the fall out from the sense of uncertainty that they provided over the last two months, the story was featured as the front page headline item.

Following lengthy talks, certainty now looks to have returned to the province's waterfront.
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Page one

The British Columbia Mariners Employers Association (BCMEA) and the International Longshore Workers Union local 514 have come to a tentative agreement.

According to the BCMEA vice president of marketing and information services Greg Vurdela, the deal was reached after mediation yesterday between the union and employers.

In October, federal mediators William Lewis and John Rooney were appointed by federal Minister of Labour Jean-Pierre Blackburn to help bridge a deal between the two parties but it took four and a half months to finally reach the tentative deal.

Vurdela said he could not reveal details in the agreement at this time.

"With respect to our customers and the union, who still need to ratify the agreement, we cannot comment at this point," said Vurdela.

The ILWU local 514 had voted for strike notice in late December and were legally able to strike as early as Jan. 2 but the local had avoided doing so, instead working through the negotiation phase of the collective bargaining agreement.

Should the deal be ratified, it would avert what potentially could have been a devastating strike at the Port of Prince Rupert and Vancouver.

It was estimated that 5,000 workers would have walked off the job in both cities as the 450-member dockworkers and foremen union strike would have closed the ports completely because other union members would not have crossed the picket line.

Pension payments and working conditions were the two biggest items and Vurdela said once the deal is officially signed, the details of the agreement might be released.

An industry expert, Captain Stephen Brown of the Chamber of Shipping, said that B.C. ports had lost 20 per cent of their business because of looming strike action.

The last time there was a major port strike was in 2005, which the provincial government argued was costing B.C. tens of millions of dollars per day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Housing concerns in First Nations communities reaching the alarm stage

It's been an ongoing problem now for a number of years, trying to make sure that the available funding for housing in First Nation's communities is made available in order to renovate or build accomodations for those residents in most need.

Now a UBC report if providing an alarming bit of data that provides a link between sub standard housing and health concerns in those communities. A situation that officials would like to see rectified as soon as possible, finding a way to speed up the process of infrastructure money and the work they are supposed to provide for.

Monday's Daily News oultined some of the conditions in those communities and what it may take to finally get the problems addressed from all levels of government responsible for the slow pace of replacement or repair.

Housing conditions causing alarm in villages
The Daily News
Monday, February 16, 2009
Pages one and three

A report by University of British of Columbia researchers is pointing to the direct links between poor housing for First Nations communities and health problems within those communities.

UBC a sociate professor of environmental health Karen Bartlett, along with a group of researchers, is currently looking at how coastal First Nations reserve housing is causing aboriginals increased incidence of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments.

The study is to be published later this year but the news does not come as a big surprise to Lax Kw' alaams elected chief John Helin, who said he is dealing with the housing situation right now in his own community.

"Mould is a problem or s and we do have a great deal of it and it does lead to health problems," said Helin Friday.

In an interview with CanWest news services, Bartlett said that the study was conducted in one specific First Nation community and added that it was symptomatic of a lot of housing, particularly on the coast B.C.

Helin said he agreed with that assessment, especially on the North Coast where the precipitation levels are much higher than the rest of the country.

He was critical of the federal government's infrastructure financing for First Nations communities, saying that it has not come on stream fast enough.

"So far, we haven't seen any money as far as finances from the federal budget - it is still early - but they were supposed to fast-track that," said Helin.

Helin added that the fix to the problem is having enough resources to deal with the problem.

"It always comes down to the funding and capacity," said Helin.

First Nations Summit political executive member Grand Chief Doug Kelly said that the money flow has not been as good as had been hoped.

"One of the things I expressed from the budget last month was announcements get made but the money doesn't leave Ottawa. It is hung up in headquarters in Ottawa and doesn't leave for the communities," said Kelly.

Kelly made the comments after it was revealed by the federal opposition Liberals on Thursday that funding commitments from 2007 by the federal Transportation ministry have not made their way to their intended destinations.

Kelly said that the same could be extended to the Department of Indian Affairs and that it was important that the financing gets to the places where it is needed most.

"Sure, making announcements and making commitments is great but get the money to First Nations, provincial and local governments so that they can undertake infrastructure activities."

Skeena-BulkIey Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he expected that the there were two goals that could be reached.

"One is about local employment and the other is about solving the (moldy) housing crisis. We (the NDP) have suggested that the federal government starts local apprenticeship programs at the community level, so that we can build homes that are more suited using local labour and materials," said Cullen.

He said there are four to five Northwest First Nation communities that are already on board to moving forward with the idea.

One of the ways that the Port Simpson community is dealing with its failing housing is through its BCIT-afliliated carpentry training program, which is located in the centre of the Lax Kw'alaams village.

With that program, the level on construction quality goes up and hopefully incidents of mould goes down.

"You have to have qualified people building the houses. If you don't have people doing that, you run into all sorts of problems with, not just mould but the problems stemming from leaking roofs, and that results in rot and mould," said Helin.

They may never get "tired" of all that recognition

The accolades keep rolling along for Entire, the Cow Bay area tire shop on 3rd Avenue East, which once again as been given an award, this one as the Small Business of the year.

The company has racked up a rather respectable number of awards over the last few years, as they continue to be one of the success stories in a city that has suffered more than a few setbacks over the last few years.

The Daily news outlined the secret to their success in Monday's paper.

Rupert business finds way to succeed
The Daily News
Monday, February 16, 2009
Pages one and three

At a time when it appears that the economy is struggling around the globe, there are still some businesses that are thriving. In Prince Rupert, one business that has been able to succeed in the time of recession is Entire Automotive,

According to owner Dwayne McNeil, his business totals were up 10 per cent for 2008 from 2007 and he doesn't expect a slow down in 2009.

"Every year, our business has grown 10-20 per cent and I think 2009 will be good. We'll probably do better than last year," said McNeil.

It's been a good year on many different fronts for the automotive repair company.

Last week, Entire was named as the Small Business of the Year: Trades/Industry/Manufacturing/Transportation and the numbers have been strong and earlier in the year the company was named as the BC Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year.

While the accolades have probably helped stir up business, there are other factors that have improved the economics for the company.

One of the keys, says McNeil, has been the way he has treated his customers. He has taken the old school approach of making sure he and his team treats their customers like they would their family.

"One of the first things I tell my guys is that it's all about service customers come first," said McNeil.

Another key is actually the downturn in the market. With less dispos able income around, McNeil said he expects car owners to stick with their current cars a little longer, meaning more repair work for auto mechanics in town.

"The after-market car industry will flourish," said McNeil.

And he and other auto repair guys might get some help from Ottawa.

Last week, Windsor Ontario based NDP MP Brian Masse said he would submit a "right-to-repair" private member's bill to make it easier for auto-repair shops to obtain the tools and technology needed to work on modern, computerized vehicles.

That would help McNeil with infrastructural improvements. But, for him, the most important part - and what he recommends to anyone thinking of starting or already running a business - is to plan for change this year.

"Those who rest on their laurels won't succeed in 2009.

Be positive, optimistic because this is the year to be aggressive," said McNeil.

50 years of basketball celebrated

The final days of the fiftieth anniversary of the All Native Basketball tournament took some time to honour those of the past who built the tournament into the showcase that it has become over the years.

They traced some history and saluted the names of the past on Saturday, part of the festivities that wrapped up this years edition of the tournament.

The Daily News featured details of that celebration as the front page, headline story in Monday's paper.

Great names from past honoured at end of 50th All-Native Basketball Tournament
The Daily News
Monday, February 16, 2009
Pages one and three

Fifty years is a long time.

Somewhere within that length, some remarkable things will happen and perhaps none bigger than those that cause great change.

For the All-Native Basketball Tournament, that moment might very well have been the day Roberta Etzerza (ne Carlick) stepped on to the court in 1992 to play against men.

It led to a fantastic change in the way the tournament was run. It also very well could have led directly to Friday night when little sister Judy Carlick was inducted into the ANBT hall of fame.

Carlick became the first female basketball player to be so honoured and the moment was not lost on her or fellow inductee ANBT Vice President Peter Haugan.

"I told everybody on the board there was no way I was going in by myself. It was time we got a lady in here," said Haugan.

That's what happened when Haugan, Carlick and player of the decade Roland Barton were all honoured for their significant contributions to the sport on the North Coast.

"It is very humbling when you get asked," said Haugan. "It is a great honour and this is my passion. I would not have volunteered for 43 years if I didn't like what I was doing," said Haugan.

As a commercial fisherman, Haugan said he now gets recognized up and down the coast for his work with the ANBT.

"That's pretty satisfying," he said.

Carlick was - and is - a well-rounded baller who has rebounded with tenacity throughout her career and has always been able to 'hit the outside shot. Back in 1993, the players were lucky if their jersey's matched, and the games themselves were just a mishmash of pick up basketball.

But even if it took a while for the women's game to square up. it might have never happened if the Carlick sisters didn't take part. Judy Carlick said there will be a time very soon that her sister Roberta is inducted in the hall of fame. It is just a matter of time.

"If it wasn't me (this year) it would have been her," said Carlick.

Carlick added that the tournament has become such a well oiled machine that she is proud to be from the Prince Rupert area.

"The organization is so much better. Any tournament that I've been to down south is not as organized as this," said Carlick.

Barton agreed with Carlick. The legendary player for the Coast Trojans said that the skill level keeps getting better each year.

"The guys got bigger and faster and there is no half-court game anymore," said Barton.

When asked if the younger version of Barton could compete against today's senior mens squads, Barton said he didn't know.

"Probably, but it would have to be 20 years ago."

A city council that says no to junkets, no to conferences?

Things seem to be changing in one corner of British Columbia when it comes to the never ending political cycle of conferences and trips abroad.

Prince George Mayor Dan Rogers has led the charge on two initiatives that will see that city return money to the province destined for a cultural exchange with China and bow out of hosting duties for an international conference.

Originally the plan was for Prince George to twin with Jiangmen, China, the province had provided the city with 50 thousand dollars in money to facilitate the exchange, but Rogers outlining the plan as not a priority at this time had some concerns over long term funding of the project and decided to skip the idea completely.

He also has cancelled the World Winter Cities Association of Mayors Conference, an initiative that the previous council had chased after and landed, however, the rising cost of the project that was to take place next year has now clocked in at 200 thousand dollars, a tab that was apparently too rich for the current council, so it too has been taken off the to do list.

While some suggest it's a short sighted bit of political theatre, judging by the commentaries made to the Opinion 250 site more than a few are in lock step with their new Mayor.

It would seem that at the moment the Mayor and his council for the most part are not wishing to add on more debt to the city's load than they already have, even if it means they don't get to travel or play genial host.
To be fair, the Mayor hasn't said no to all possible opportunities, but in tighter financial times he appears ready to pick and choose those that might have the best possible outcome for his city and its finances.

It will be interesting to see if other British Columbia municipalities catch the scale back fever that seems to have caught on in Prince George these days.

No Twin For P.G.
Council Cans World Winter Cities Mayors Conference

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Watershed concerns frame the debate in Victoria

While the BC Legislature has been recalled to deal with the economic storm that has appeared on the horizon, the MLA for the North Coast Gary Coons isn't going to let some of the other key issues slide under the radar during this sudden session.
Last week Coons rose in the Legislature to renew his call for a better stewardship of the environment by the Campbell Liberals, in particular their plans for the management of the North coast watershed, an area that the MLA suggests that the Liberals have no comprehensive plan in place to take care of the fragile ecosystem.

His talking points from the Legislature debate were outlined in an article in Friday's Daily News.

MLA says watershed must be properly managed
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, February 13, 2009
Page one

The health and sustainability of British Columbia's watersheds and coastal waters have been on the mind of North Coast MLA Gary Coons for some time, but he still feels the issue is being ignored by those in power.

This week, Coons rose in the legislature to express his concerns about the future of the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area, or PNCIMA.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in December of 2008 by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and coastal First Nations, but, to date, the provincial government has not become involved.

"The success of this marine plan depends on the involvement of all levels of government," he said.

"It's time for the Campbell government to stop being spectators and start working with the federal government and local stakeholders to ensure that our ocean resources continue to benefit communities for years to come."

The MOU outlines a "PNCIMA Model", including a proposed method of governing and support for PNCIMA initiatives within the area.

It also calls for the establishment of a steering committee and secretariat to guide and support future planning efforts and the involvement of all those with a vested interest in PNCIMA.
Coons said public support for such a collaborative management plan is greater than ever.

He pointed to a recent poll of British Columbians that revealed that nine out of 10 people in the province are not only concerned about the state of the ocean, but that said they also believe B.C. can have both a healthy environment and a healthy economy.

"What happens on our shorelines and in our watersheds has a vast effect on the health of our ocean resources," said Coons.

"Gordon Campbell is failing coastal communities by refusing to come to the table and work with local stakeholders and the federal government to build a comprehensive marine plan for the north coast."

DFO is currently planning a PNCIMA stakeholder meeting in Vancouver for March 26-27, and anyone interested in attending is encouraged to email