Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Some big names in British Columbia journalism set to visit Prince Rupert.

We’re going to see more than a few familiar faces on the North coast in May, a few of which will have the locals taking double takes as they look around town.

Three of British Columbia’s most well known journalists will be in Prince Rupert in May, as part of the celebrations surrounding the three-day annual general meeting of the BC Chamber of Commerce, the 57th edition of the annual gathering is set to take place in the city from May 21 to 23.

Former Rupertite and current CBC News anchor Gloria Macarenko will return home as part of an impressive list of guest speakers for the three day event.

Joining her in the city will be Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer, he writes one of the most widely read political columns in the province for the Sun and is a frequent contributor to the Bill Good Show on CKNW. His knowledge of BC politics is vast and his opinions are among the most respected on the political scene in Victoria.

Politics will no doubt be a common theme for the meetings, with Keith Baldrey rounding out the journalistic component of the guest speakers roster, Baldrey is the Legislative Bureau Chief for Global BC, and also contributes to the Bill Good Show; he has been watching the machinations, scandals and governmental happenings in Victoria since 1986.

We imagine that the local media types will be clamouring for some of their time, eager to pick up a few tips on their trade and learn more of that mysterious land of Victoria.
But the appearance of the three high profile journalists in Prince Rupert has also caught the attention of Charlie Smith a writer with the Georgia Strait, who has had past run ins with two of the three, he outlines his thoughts on their appearance at a pro business function in a current on line story posted on the Straights website.

As for the big show in Rupert, also set to speak at the three day session will be the Honourable Perrin Beatty, the President & CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Maryscott "Scotty" Greenwood, the Managing Director of the Washington DC based, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP and Calvin Helin the CEO of the Native Investment & Trade Association.

Events at the Prince Rupert gathering are to be spread out over three venues in town, the Crest Hotel, the Highliner Plaza Hotel and Chances convention centre.

The three day event being an Annual General Meeting, the various sessions will be limited to members of the Chamber of Commerce only, so one would imagine that the local population will have to make do with just a few celebrity sightings around town.

Make sure to have the digital camera charged up and ready to go, you never know who you may run into downtown over those three days.

Podunk Below the Masthead Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Daily News expands on the local news angle with an interesting twist, by featuring not one but two stories about former Rupertites on the front page of the Tuesday paper.

When not recounting the adventures of the exiled, the paper also featured a review of the Chamber of Commerce's weekend celebrations at the Chances convention centre as well as the awards night success of the Prince Rupert Skating Club.

REAL LIFE DRAMA PLAYS OUT FOR FORMER RUPERTITE-- Tuesday's front page headline story sounds like it was ripped from the script writer's hands at Law and Order, the Daily recounting the real life adventure of former resident James Bourgeois who played good Samaritan in a rather frightening situation in Nanaimo. With tales of a pistol flashing in the morning light and a getaway made for television, Bourgeois recounts for the Daily how he managed to help a Nanaimo woman escape the potentially evil intent of her common law husband. The Canadian Press featured the story on its wire services on March 28.

Another former resident shared the front page Tuesday, as the Daily outlined the quest of James Chow to try and find some information on a sister, Suzan Chow, whom he has been separated from since 1948. He is in town for the next few days to try and track down some leads or learn more information about her and to try and discover more about his family history. He has plans to leave town on the Wednesday bus, so time is short for his quest but if anyone has anything to offer he does provide an email address of Joechow07@hotmail.com

A pair of weekend events also filled the pages up for the Tuesday edition, a review of the annual Chamber of Commerce Installation Dinner, AGM and Rising Stars celebration, this years installation featured the announcement that Deb Stava would be staying on for a second term as President, only the fourth time in the Chamber's 100 year history that someone has agreed to serve consecutive terms. The Rising star program was also saluted on Saturday night, where students and their mentors took their bows, highlighting the success of the program now in its fourth year.

Across town at the Civic Centre, success on the ice was being recognized as the Prince Rupert Skating Club held it's awards night, the paper's entire sports page was dedicated to items from the celebration. From a look back at the year of former Rupertite Francesca Amante who now skates in Penticton, to a review of the Rupert program this season and the news that Skating club coach Sheri Pringle was stepping down after ten years of service to the Club.

Total pages in Tuesday's paper (12)

The beaches are great, and you'll sure love the waterboarding...

"I didn't want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful," -- a rather enthusiastic endorsement of Guantanamo Bay from Miss Universe, the former Miss Venezuela, Dayana Mendoza.

It was sun in the fun for Dayana Mendoza, the newly crowned Miss Universe and her partner in surf and shore leave Crystle Stewart, Miss USA, as the two beauty queens took part in a "deployment" to Guantanamo Bay naval base on Cuba last week.

The two gals had a full schedule for their five day visit to build up morale, what with taking rides around the base in a jeep, visiting the local drinking establishments on base and we imagine avoiding the barbed wire and minefields that surround the base also known for it's hosting facilities for detainees held under suspicion of terrorism.

And it was a full access pass that the two ladies were on, in addition to their efforts with the troops they also had the opportunity to visit the Detainees camps, no doubt a highlight of any tour of Gitmo. While there the gals saw the jails, where they shower, how the(y) recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting."

Much like those TV commercials for Disneyland where famous athlete's proclaim that they're going to Disneyland, we can see a real marketing plan in the making for the new tourist destination in the Caribbean. All that they need is a helpful slogan to bring in the curious and those looking for a little less than the luxurious.

Over to you Miss Universe perhaps you can help out...

From her blog (which apparently has since been er, modified), we think she may have had just the right pitch...

Guantanamo Bay, "It was a loooot of fun!,"

Prince Rupert doctor listed among those to be honoured across BC

While the problems of the ongoing doctor’s shortage in Prince Rupert have been well documented over the last few years, those that have remained in the city have been doing their best to provide the level of medical care that Prince Rupert residents need.

It’s a process that must provide more than a few challenges to doctors and hospital workers on a daily basis, and most likely a fair amount of frustration at times.

Amid that backdrop comes some welcome news for the community, as one of Prince Rupert’s physicians is among eight from Northern Health and 62 across BC, who have been singled out for their dedication and commitment to improving primary health care in the province.

Dr. Herman Greeff has been commended for his efforts in the Prince Rupert area for his innovative ways in developing ways to eliminate the growing gaps in health care and seeking ways to improve the health of local patients.
Dr. Greeff most recently made news in Prince Rupert when he announced that he was closing his local practice in order to concentrate on those patients that are battling cancer, working with them through the Cancer unit at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.
It was a decision he made after considerable thought and with much awareness of the hardship that it would cause. His announcement highlighted the dire status of the health care situation in Prince Rupert, a situation that is being felt by many other rural communities across the province.
The physicians that are being honoured were selected by the General Practice Services Committee (GPSC), as a form of recognition for their contributions to the committee's practice support program.
Health Minister George Abbot joined in on the praise for those to be honoured, commending those that have been recognized for their leadership and for as he puts it in his press release, "their dedicated countless hours to supporting patient care and to acting as coaches and mentors to their fellow physicians."
The GPSC provides B.C. physicians with the opportunity to participate in a number of incentive programs that support patients with chronic disease, train physicians for the uptake of obstetric and maternity care and aims to increase the number of medical graduates entering general practice.

Opinion 250-- Eight Northern Health Docs Up for Awards

Podunk Below the Masthead March 30, 2009

Broadwater Industries gets that sinking feeling, the Cancer Society relays the information about their relay and the names continue to come in seeking change to Salmon farm legislation, some of Monday's news items in the Daily News.

BARGE UNDER THE WATER AT SEAL COVE-- The sinking Sunday of a work barge owned by Broadwater Industries was the topic of the weekend around Prince Rupert, as a fair amount of the locals gathered along the Seal Cove waterfront to watch the attempts to bring the crane and barge back to the surface. Monday's Daily News outlined some of the details of the mishap on Sunday, the cause of which is still not quite clear. The 42 ton crane and barge combination was in operation at the Coast Guard base last week and Doug Mackereth was first informed of the trouble early on Sunday morning. The incident complete with picture, was the front page, headline story in Monday's paper.

With the Cancer society relay for life coming up in June, the planning and organizing for the annual fund and awareness raising event continues. Monday's paper featured an update from organizer Cathy Quane who outlined the progress of the planning for the event.

They are up to 10,000 names with more on the way, as supporters for changes to the provinces salmon farm legislation continue to organize their forces. Alexandra Morton a long time opponent of the way that the provincial government has introduced the salmon farm industry to the province was high in her praise of the residents of the North coast, describing what local residents have done as a "miracle" in their proactive nature in slowing down the fish farm industry, she did however suggest that those fish farm owners will attempt to come back again.

Co-ed volleyball was featured on the sports page on Monday with pictures and an account of the recent playoff action.

Those locals that are keen eyed will no doubt be counting the photos of local politicians appearing in the pages of the Daily News in this run up to the May election. Monday's paper found two more check marks in the Herb Pond totals column, a submitted photo of the Liberal candidate with a couple of supporters signing his nomination list, as well as a well placed paid advertisement on the Daily News Hockey Pool page. A note for NDP or Green supporters, advertising space is still available on the Poolie page, right below the Liberal candidate. The city's hockey fans are there for the propagandizing..

Total pages in Monday's paper (12)

Cruise ship changes will have an impact on BC’s cruise industry

While Prince Rupert prepares for the beginning of a scaled down cruise year starting this May, Vancouver is reeling from the latest announcements from two of the major players in the Alaska Cruise industry.

Just a few weeks after Carnival Cruise lines announced their cutbacks; Princess Cruises and Holland America Line have delivered more bad news for the 2010 cruise year, as both of the high profile cruise lines announced reductions in their departures out of Vancouver next year.

When all the accounting is done, Vancouver expects to lose 62 sailings next year, taking 260,000 tourists away from the city and providing for a loss in revenues estimated to be some 120 million dollars.

The announcements have shocked Tourism Vancouver officials who are watching much of that business now being re-directed to Seattle, from where many of the redirected vessels may depart from next year.

The shakeout in the cruise industry may be an indicator of things to come in BC and the West coast for that matter in the future, a long time observer of the Alaska cruise industry, Phil Reimer, outlined for the CBC that it perhaps is an indication that the Alaska cruise industry is taking on some water and may be at the end of the boom years.

The current economic troubles and the increase of taxes on arriving ships in Alaska seem to be combining to force a restructuring of the Alaska cruise industry, a move which will sideswipe many communities along the coast.

As Reimer explains it to the CBC, “Alaska has had a great run over the last 15 years, and it could be that the market is starting to diminish as the cruise lines start to discover Europe is very hot this year," all of those changes could be a bad omen for those coastal communities that have spent their monies on infrastructure and services to try and lure the ships to their hometowns.

Fewer ships and a keen eye on cost recovery will mean much stronger competition for the remaining port calls and if Reimer is correct in his assessment of the state of the industry, those port calls will continue to become fewer and fewer as the cruise industry seeks out other destinations more inclined to fit into their financial blue print.

Monday, March 30, 2009

That grinding sound is more than coffee beans you hear...

Starbucks that beacon of all coffee consumerism, has run into some troubles due to the current economic climate.

The iconic coffee chain announced their first British Columbia store closing today, as the Starbucks location at Richmond's Aberdeen Mall was given its forty eight hours notice of closure.

Considering the vast number of Starbuck's locations across the Greater Vancouver area, one suspects that this would be but a drop in the percolator, but it's those other shoes that are about to drop that have coffee drinkers a little more nervous than having just too much caffeine in their systems.

Starbucks has a master plan of 100 closures to make in Canada, Richmond but the first with 99 more to come it seems, no details have been released yet as to where the closures will be made or what the criteria for closure will be. With 365 locations in BC (one for each day of the year?), there no doubt will be other closures made in the province where coffee is almost one of the major currencies.

It is of interest to note that the local operation at Safeway recently posted a sign advising that the Rupert location would be working on reduced hours, with no service available from your local barista after 7 pm.

Let’s get ready to grumble...

For a trade show that apparently no one was inclined to attend, the recently cancelled attempt at projecting Prince Rupert’s business community certainly has people talking around town.

The discussion over just why the Trade Show was cancelled seems to have pitted one of the Trade show organizers, Mike Slubowski, up against the City of Prince Rupert’s Michael Curnes, as each suggests that the other might possibly have their facts wrong.

The opening salvo came in last Wednesday’s Daily News when Mr. Slubowski was quoted in a front page story as suggesting that the rates from the City for the rental of the Civic Centre had risen two times from the rate from two years ago, making the normal venue unaffordable for the Trade Show this year.

That has apparently got Mr. Curnes from the Civic Centre just a little bit upset, expressing his unhappiness with that Daily News story from Wednesday, he found some equal time for his impression of the debate in Friday’s paper.

The page three review of the differences of opinion , featured his side of the controversy, where he said no blame should be assigned to the Civic Centre staff for the cancellation of the event, going so far as to suggest that Mr. Slubowski didn’t even wait for the rate discussions to take place before he took the show over to Chances.

From Friday’s Daily News, a seemingly upset Curnes outlines his thoughts on the issue, “The rates did not go up, and we hadn’t even got to the rate discussion yet when he booked with Chances without even telling us.”.

In the Friday article, Slubowski countered with “I know what the price was then – I know what was talked about this year.” He went on to say that he stood by his earlier claim over the increasing spiral of cost with the Civic Centre.

Both can at least find common ground in the idea that the absence of the car dealers (who apparently couldn't afford to attend this year) probably proved to be the final blow to the Trade Show option for 2009.

Clearly communication hasn’t been the strong suit in any of this, considering the mixed messages and confusing aspects of the math of it all. Though the drama of the ongoing discussion certainly has potential for some fine fund raising.

Perhaps instead of a car show for the trade show, they should set up the Boxing ring, give the two sparring partners some mitts and hold a ten round exhibition match, counter claims could give way to counter punches, each seeking that knockout blow to bring the saga to an end.

Though we must admit that in these more modern ages, physical conflict is no way to settle a dispute. So let’s take away those mitts and instead give each a microphone and a sheet of financial figures.

Rupertites have shown that they love a good debate, send the gents to neutral corners and have them come out with some furious calculating and amplified verbalizing…

We suspect that such a showdown might very well prove to be a powerful draw, providing the city with some of that 4,000 dollars that they suggest they lost by the Trade Fair organizers decision to relocate this year and adding something a little different to the usual offerings of the Trade Show program.

A school District 52 mystery that has intrigued the Vancouver media

While the school district heralds the pending August arrival of Lynn Hauptman as the new superintendent for School District 52, the sudden departure of the previous holder of the office Eric Mercer has caught the attention of the Vancouver Sun.

Janet Steffenhagen who writes on items of Education for the Sun posted an interesting article on her blog today at that paper.
In her piece for the Report Card feature in the Sun, Steffenhagen wonders aloud about the timing of Mercer's departure and why no reason has ever been made public about that sudden parting of the ways.

She reviews some old news items from the Northern View (ah tsk tsk, the poor Daily News doesn't even get a mention) but ends up with many more questions than answers after her research on the sudden departure.

She also points out that a similar kind of situation took place in Delta back in 2007, a personnel change which resulted in apparently far more of an outcry there than Mr. Mercer's departure here has provided for. Among the telling quotes of the day is a column from the Delta optimist of that time from Ted Murphy.

"If we don't get such information, we're all left to wonder whether this money was squandered in some sort of bureaucratic power play, done at the expense of an already cash-strapped school district. Trustees must understand that 'trust us' isn't a sufficient explanation anymore."

In the close to her piece, Ms. Steffenhagen suggests that the same should be expected by Prince Rupert residents, in her quest for information she goes on to ask for any help from the readers of the Sun in tracking down some of the background on the Mercer departure.

It will be interesting to see if the Sun finally unravels this mystery for local residents, who for the most part have been left quite in the dark over the flurry of changes at the School District.
We will have to keep a closer look on the Sun's Report Card feature to see if more details suddenly become available for her and us.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, March 27, 2009

The customer is watching (and reporting) at a local bank, Paramedics put negotiations on the critical list and the Civic Centre begs to differ with trade show organizers, a few of the Friday items of note in the Daily News...

INNOVATIVE PROJECT PROVIDES FEEDBACK TO LOCAL BANK-- Employees of the TD Canada Trust branch at the Rupert Square were given their report cards of sorts last week as the Business Administration Program in conjunction with the Customer Service Manager at the bank outlined the details of a "secret shopper" style evaluation of the branch services.

Students from the NWCC program dropped in on the branch and observed the state of customer service during a specific time period. They then compiled their reports for the bank and then discussed their findings and impression of the banking sector in the classroom. No details of the level of service and their findings were released to the Daily News for our review however.

The government of BC and the province's paramedics and ambulance workers seem to be on a collision course as the latest contract offer from the province has not been met with a warm reception by the membership.

At the heart of the dispute is the bid by paramedics to be paid on par with police and fire department employees, a level of remuneration that Health Minister George Abbot suggests isn't about to happen. The status of part time and on call para medics has also been a contentious issue especially in the rural areas, and those issues also have not found much in the way of common ground during the current negotiation phase.

Over the weekend, the paramedics and ambulance workers announced that they had given the government 72 hour strike notice, a move which will see the ambulance service moving supervisory personnel into key areas of operation, in order to keep the ambulance fleet operating at required levels of service. In the event of a strike, ambulances will be designated as an essential service, making for an ineteresting labour management scenario we would imagine.

Paramedics will be in a legal strike position on Wednesday.

The recent cancellation of the Prince Rupert Trade show seems to have shown some cracks in the past alliance between Trade Show organizers and the Civic Centre. This years show was scheduled to be held at chances convention centre, prior to its cancellation due to a lack of exhibitor commitments. At the time the impression that seems to have been made, was that the Civic Centre had priced itself out of the running, a notion that the City's director of of recreation and community services, Michael Curnes took exception to.

Friday's paper outlined his disappointment in the way that the Civic Centre had been portrayed in a recent Daily news article about the cancellation. Mr. Curnes suggested that the Trade show organizers could not have used the Civic Centre cost as a reason for relocation, as there had been no firm commitment of cost made for the show.

The Daily News had outlined that trade show organizer Mike Slubowski was unhappy with the increased cost of the event at the Civic Centre. The discrepancy seems to revolve around percentages with the City suggesting that the cost had been increased by 5 %, while Friday's paper quotes Mr. Slubowski as saying that the Civic Centre rate had doubled from that of two years ago.

Curnes expressed his disappointment in the loss of business for the Civic Centre and countered that they too had lost revenue, as they had to reschedule events for the now cancelled show.

Local track and filed once again was the main topic of the sports page, with a feature on local training for the upcoming high school track season.

Total pages in Friday's paper (20)

The doctors are in ( just not quite everywhere)

While folks waiting in the lobby of the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital may find it hard to believe, the province is of the opinion that they are turning a corner in the ongoing doctor's shortage across the province.

The BC Health Ministry home page is trumpeting the success of it's Doctors for BC program, with 72 family physicians having been hired to work in communities identified as being in need of their services, a success rate that the province says puts it past the 75 per cent completion rate of their initiative. When the program reaches it's goal of 100 percent, some 114,000 British Columbians will once again have the services of a family doctor.

While that's certainly good news for those communities that have been suffering from the shortages of a family doctor, the situation in Prince Rupert doesn't seem to have been alleviated to any great degree.

Should you pop into the hospital at any time during regular hours of 9-5 you will still find a large number of Rupertities sitting in the waiting area, hoping that they can quickly find access to an emergency room doctor, having no recourse but to use emergency as their family clinic due to the much documented departures and shortages currently in the city.

It certainly isn't a perfect situation and it hopefully will be one of the key items for debate in the upcoming provincial election campaign, if the Liberals in particular and politicians in general are lucky, that remaining 25 percent to come from the physicians for BC program will feature one or two who will be choosing Rupert as their destination.

If not, those quotes of success while true for other locations in the province, may ring just a little hollow on the North coast

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A hiring for City Hall that goes controversy free

Last weeks City council gathering featured the introduction of the city's latest in senior administrators, as Robert Grodecki was made welcome to the City Hall family.

Mr. Grodecki most recently of the Metlakatla Band Council offices, where he worked for over four years, will take over his duties as the City's corporate administrator on April 6th. Trading in the daily sailing across the harbour for a shorter drive to the office and perhaps even his own personal parking spot.

The hiring process this time around seems to have avoided the same kind of excitement that last years hiring of Tanalee Hesse provided, no unorthodox moves from the Mayor's office to raise eyebrows, no meetings of concerned citizens and no provincial coverage of the fall out from the decision to add to the city hall staff.

One imagines that all the proper procedures were followed this time, mindful of the lessons learned from August of 2008. Though in a wee bit of irony, Mr. Grodecki will take over the duties of Douglas Jay.
Mr. Jay left the city's employ after the fall out of the August controversy and amidst much behind the scenes discussion. A situation which to this day has left more than a few citizens concerned about the curtain of secrecy that sometimes envelopes the happenings of city hall.

In fact it could be owing to that perception of secrecy that this most recent hiring has been trumpeted to a degree on the city's very own website, where the announcement announcing Mr. Grodecki's arrival at city hall was featured on line.

Much like the new design of the Daily News and taking a page from their editorial turn, the city it seems is ready to accentuate the positive, no doubt with the hope that they have put the negatives behind them.

Anyone know the name of a good plumber?

The aging infrastructure of the Watson Island pulp mill is certainly showing it's wear and tear these days, the pipeline that feeds water into the moribund pulp mill has begun to spring some leaks along the portions visible along the road to Port Edward and in the above picture a serious geyser has developed in the line heading onto the pulp mill property.

The mill currently in the hands of Chinese owners has been the topic of much mystery and controversy of late, as the Sun Wave group keeps any plans or inclinations that they may have for the property close to their vest.

The most recent discussions were over the rate of taxes expected by the City of Prince Rupert from Sun Wave after they failed to have the mill up and operating by the agreed upon deadline.
Since that time the latest from their offices (wherever they may be) had them approaching BC Assessment for a more favourable assessment ruling, judging by the state of their pipelines, a plumbers bill might be the next item that they will be looking to renegotiate.

A familiar name returns to School District 52

The search for a new Superintendent for School District 52 has come to a short and successful conclusion with the announcement that a familiar name to education circles in the city will be returning to the North Coast.

Mrs. Hauptman held many positions in her time with the School District between 1981-95 including principal, vice-principal, counselor and teacher. Since those years she has been involved in education in a pair of school districts in the southern interior, currently as the Director of Instruction for the Okanagan Skaha school district.

Her arrival back to the North coast is set to take effect on August 1st, with the School District no doubt hoping that her knowledge of the issues of the north coast and familiarity with the district will lend some stability to the local education scene, which has had it's share of tempestuous times in recent years.

Dave Stigant has been filling in as acting Superintendent since the departure of Mr. Mercer, he will continue on in that capacity and will most likely play a welcome role in the transition to Mrs. Hauptman's stewardship of the district.

Podunk Below the Masthead Thursday, March 26, 2009

A captain returns to the fleet, Port Ed wonders about economic development and some bowlers hit the fast lanes, some of the items in the Thursday Daily News.

WORKSAFE BC SAYS THE CAPTAIN SAILS AGAIN-- The latest developments in the Queen of the North saga receive front page treatment as the Daily News recounts the return of Captain Colin Henthorne, who was captain of the Queen of the North, but not on watch on the night of the ill fated vessels sinking.

Worksafe BC ruled that Captain Henthorne had been discriminated against by BC Ferries and should be reinstated to his position. It was a story we outlined on this portal in the very wee hours of Thursday morning , in it's review of the details of the reinstatement the Daily News uses that ages old newspaper cliche of "The Daily News has learned"... with more than a curious eye, we wonder from where ever they may have learned of the story.
Also in Thursday's paper, some of the folks in Port Edward are curious as to what might be the best way to go about spurring on economic development on the North coast, suggesting that the current model may not be working in Port Edward's best interest. Highlighting a split of sorts between members of Port Edward council and staff and perhaps between Prince Rupert and Port Edward, on the vital need for a comprehensive approach to economic development. Port Edward councillor Knut Bjorndahl is the leading proponent of a change in the model in place and questioning the process in place, a move which led to a heated debate in Port Edward chambers.

The Sports page featured details of the success of some local bowlers in Terrace and the next step of the provincials for the, the article once again raised the possibility of Totem Lanes closing a move that would leave local bowlers without a venue for their talents. As well, it being Thursday the paper once again kept Nascar fans up to date with their weekly review of the details of the Nascar circuit. A feature that while interesting, may not be picking up much in the way of attention from a town more inclined towards hockey and basketball.

Total pages in Thursday's paper (16)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

City Council scoresheet for March 23, 2009

The Wednesday, March 25 edition of the Daily News featured their regular scorecard on city council issues, this one featuring the deliberations and votes from selected items of the March 23 session.

This weeks feature appeared on page three of the Wednesday edition.

Question One: The the garage located at 1005 1st Avenue West be declared a nuisance and that the owner be required to remove or demolish the building in 30 days.

How council voted:

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Yes
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes

Question Two: That the 2009 Strategic Priorities resulting from a two-day work session with the assistance of facilitator Gordon McIntosh on January 14 and 15 be approved as circulated.

How council voted:

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Yes
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes

Question Three: That council invite a representative from the Skeena-Nass Centre for Innovation in Resource Economics (SNCIRE) to make a presentation at the next meeting of the committee of the whole. Council received a letter from the organization asking for support but wanted more information before making a decision.

How council voted:

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Yes
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes

Question Four: That the City of Prince Rupert be an active supporter and participant in the global campaign for Earth Hour 2009 and encourage local businesses, residents and community organizations in this event.

How council voted:

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Yes
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes

Question Five: That the Inlander Hotel be declared a nuisance and hazard and that the owner be required to remove or demolish the building within 30 days.

How council voted:

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Yes
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne-- Yes
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Yes
Councillor Kathy Bedard-- Yes
Councillor Gina Garon-- Yes
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Yes

City Hall Tracker March 23, 2009

The final meeting for March went on without the stewardship of Mayor Mussallem, who was not able to be in attendance for the March 23rd gathering.

With an emphasis on environmental matters as part of the night's agenda and a couple of demolition orders to process, including one for the controversial Inlander Hotel, council carried forth with the business of the community.

March 23, 2009

Regular council meeting Agenda for March 23, 2009

Committee of the Whole meeting Agenda for March 23, 2009

Notice of closed meeting for March 23, 2009

City council session for March 23, 2009

In attendance:
Councillor Anna Ashley
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne
Councillor Nelson Kinney
Councillor Kathy Bedard
Councillor Gina Garon
Councillor Joy Thorkelson

Absent from council:

Mayor Jack Mussallem

Regular City council minutes for March 23, 2009

Minutes for the Committee of the Whole for March 23, 2009

Daily News voting summary

Summary from March 25 edition of the Daily News

Attendance at City Hall to date archives

Upcoming events-- City council meeting April 14, 2009

Is the Liberal campaign about to go off the rails?

In politics timing is everything, and for Gordon Campbell and his merry band of Liberals seeking elected office in this May’s election the timing on any number of fronts is starting to stink.

There’s the economy which continues to decline in British Columbia, caught up in the onslaught of the current world wide financial travails, not entirely the fault of the provincial government, but something that the opposition could make some hay over. After all this is the government that in the past has made much of its financial prudence, taking credit for the years of growth, so it’s not unexpected that they will take some blame for the downward direction.

Mr. Campbell has watched more than a few cabinet ministers decide to move on in their lives over the last few years, none more telling that the departure of his finance minister Carole Taylor. Mrs. Taylor had the good fortune of timing her exit to stage right just before the financial forecasts turned direction and painted a less financially prosperous future.
She was never really given a lot of credit during her time in the Campbell cabinet, however by leaving when she did she will forever be identified as the guardian of the financial purse during the expansive growth era, with his frequent micro management of all departments, the Premier now must wear the declining fortunes as his own, last one on the bridge and all of that.

The frequent revelations over at BC Ferries also will reflect on the Liberal government, which through its quasi privatization plans seems to have inherited all of the bad news as its own, showing a lack of responsibility and accountability over a vital transportation link. Every sailing now seems to be a reminder that with its hands off policy of late, the government has provided the Ferry corporation with the green light to do as it wishes with the service, a move that sometimes seems to be less inclined towards the direction of service and more towards those of a fiscal direction.
Every time an issue bobs up on those waters whether it be safety, matters of the Board of Directors or just changes to routes with proper consultation, it seems to float back towards the government, hands off or not.

We’ll give the government a mulligan on the Olympics, hell even the fiercest critic of the Liberals has to admit that the Olympics always seem to take on a life of their own when it comes to spending money. The Libs if things get too hot can even fall back on that traditional defence that they inherited the thing from the NDP, as it was Glen Clark who first got the Olympic circus ball rolling back in the day, a one time only special that may help to deflect any pain on election day.
There may be a payoff come February of 2010 in the spirit of collective good times and one or two gold medals, but the Olympics come well after the election this year, the costs, the inconveniences and such they happen now, something that voters tend to think of first not of the party to come.

But heading into that May election, the Liberals may soon find that it will be the hue and cry over a long done deal over the railways which could provide for more than enough scandal to derail their re-election plans.

The sale of BC Rail is once again back on the headlines and making for the best of television news coverage, what with that repetitive file video of police officers entering the legislature some five years ago.

Just in time for the May vote comes revelation after revelation of some of the concerns over that much trumpeted sale of BC Rail to CN Rail, a move that the Liberal’s hailed as a great day for the province.

Since those smiling photo ops, the rather unseemly nature of corporate machinations has taken the spotlight, questions of conflict of interests have dogged the Premier’s office with much discussion over the work of Patrick Kinsella, a former aide to the Premier and currently the key ingredient in the ongoing trial .

The Globe and Mail today has offered up the suggestion that the time for the Premier to break his vow of silence on the issue is at hand, regardless of the current "before the court" status of the trial.
For the Premier, continuing to appear to be ducking behind the facade of it's before the courts isn't insulating him very much anymore, if anything it is beginning to raise far more questions than it provides for answers.

The opposition and the media are beginning to see some blood in that political water, it will be well worth watching to see if it continues to flow right up until Election Day and if the issue becomes a key part of the upcoming campaign.
As the revelations continue you have to wonder if perhaps the saga of BC Rail, heralded as a turning point for the BC economy, may yet prove to be the derailing of the Campbell era.

Vancouver Province-- B.C. Rail paid Liberal insider

Drop on by and kick some tires here at the home of Les Habitant

The whispers turned into a roar this week as news finally was confirmed that George Gillett, owner of the Montreal Canadiens was seeking out a valuation of his franchise, perhaps in a bid to secure some liquidity for his many other business ventures.
Gillett like many other of the monied class is finding that the current economic upheaval is causing no shortage of troubles with his varied interests, from his stake in the English League's Liverpool squad, to his Formula one inclinations and on to any number of car dealerships across America, the bills seem to keep coming due even if the revenues aren't quite as rewarding as they once were.
While Canadians may think that the storied Canadiens franchise is the jewel in a financial portfolio crown, in reality considering the vastness of the Gillett holdings, it probably is just another line item on his financial prospectus, a rather treasured one for Canadians, but an asset none the less that could provide some fast cash in troubled times.
There hasn't been much said as of yet as to what his inclinations are regarding the Habs, though just the prospect of the team going up on the "For Sale" block has caused no shortage of angst in Quebec, where the hockey team is much more than a sports franchise, steeped as it is in the culture, one part emotional touchstone and one part financial status symbol.
Many in Quebec are putting together their own personal short lists as to which company or local notable should be getting ready to contact the lawyers to close the deal. A veritable who's who of Quebec society and financial muscle have been mentioned as potential investors, from the Desmarais family of Power Corporation fame, to Guy Laliberte; the owner of Cirque de Soleil as well as Las Vegas based chanteuse Celine Dion have all been floated as would be owners.
Even Jim Balsillie the perennial default guy for NHL franchises has been mentioned, though being a non Quebecois and from the occasionally despised locale of Ontario, one wonders how well he might be received.
The Parti Quebecois always quick to find something to fly the nationalist flag over, has called for a Quebecois to repatriate the club from foreign interests, apparently suffering amnesia that the last time the Canadiens were up for sale, it was only Mr. Gillett that offered up sufficient cash to purchase the team at anything close to the asking price, during that last offer for sale many of those now lauded Quebecois chose to sit on their wallets and purses.
It will be with great interest to see if they approach the table this time around.
In among all the hand wringing over the finances is the realization that this 100th anniversary season is certainly turning out to be a memorable one, but unfortunately for many of the wrong reasons.
The hockey team is in a tail spin and very well may miss the playoffs, the coach was fired one month short of the end of the season, and the taint of organized crime for a while seemed to be wafting through the dressing room of Les Glorieux, now comes the news that their white knight of a few years ago may be looking to ride off into the sunset.
All of which seems to sure put a damper on the birthday celebrations...
Montreal Gazette-- Sale talk adds to Habs' woes
Montreal Gazette-- If Gillett sells, Montrealers will miss him
Globe and Mail-- Gillett denies he's a seller
Globe and Mail-- Gillett is one year too late
Toronto Star-- Gillett's big garage sale may include Canadiens
National Post-- Players not worried about possible Canadiens’ sale
National Post-- Gillett ponders sale of share in Canadiens
Saskatoon Star Phoenix-- Canadiens haters could unite to ruin franchise
Vancouver Sun-- Potential Habs sale the LAST thing this team needs
Photo above from the Vancouver Sun website
This item first appeared over at HockeyNation

Podunk Below the Masthead, Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Harbour Theatre walks where angels fear to tread, a trade show gets cancelled and CityWest issues a warning about scammers, a few of the items of interest from Wednesday's paper.

HARBOUR THEATRE PLANS TO HAVE A 'NUNSENSICAL' TIME-- The Daily certainly swings to the "good news" side of the news gathering agenda today with a front page, headline story that celebrates the latest production of Habour Theatre, Nunsense. the article which goes on to page two as well, previews some of the entertainment to be found at the Tom Rooney playhouse starting on Thursday night.

Elsewhere in the paper, the Daily catches up with the cancellation of the Prince Rupert Trade show with echoes of recent news items found on other local portals, the story was first outlined in the Northern View and even mentioned on a certain blog in town.

CityWest issues a warning to customers to be aware of email and phone scams that seem to be popping up with regular frequency of late, many of which ask the recipient to provide account information and passwords. Needless to say that isn't something you should be doing at any time. The Daily News article seems to have been culled from this item posted on the CityWest website, which outlines the many scams currently making the rounds.

The ongoing discussions over the status of Prince Rupert harbour and First Nations claims had a wrench thrown into it this week, as Kitkatla entered the debate with their claims that the Harbour is also in their traditional territory. A move that has apparently surprised Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla officials who are examining their options for an appropriate response. If the Kitkatla claim is accepted it could possibly push the current discussions and negotiations between the First Nations, the Port and the Government of Canada back to the starting line.

Wednesday's Sports headline is a salute to the Friendship House "B" squad which spent Spring break up in Alaska at a basketball tournament in Metlakatla.

Total pages in Wednesday's edition (18)

Mr Pond outlines his credentials on Haida Gwaii

We have received our first glimpse of the talking points for the Herb Pond campaign in this springs Provincial election, as the Liberal candidate made his first trip to Haida Gwaii.

Mr. Pond provided a snapshot of his past political history for the Queen Charlotte Islands Observer, apparently describing himself as the "guiding force" behind Prince Rupert's container port, going on to explain that he "jumped in as mayor at the toughest time Rupert has ever seen."
He added that during his tenure, he brought together First Nations and non-first Nations groups, helped rebuild the local economy, and gave Rupert a global profile.

The Liberal's hopeful to be MLA, outlined many of his thoughts on further developing the economy of the North Coast and the Charlottes, stressing the need to attract investment and to foster partnerships and build on connections in the business world, all in a bid to take advantage of the "land of plenty" that we all live in.

When he's not busy travelling along the highways both solid and marine of the North Coast, it would seem that he's busy updating his Facebook page which has taken to providing for a number of updates on the status of his campaign so far. Though he seems to have been a little slow on the update from Haida Gwaii.

For that report we'll have to depend on the account of his itinerary which was presented on line at the Queen Charlotte Observer website.

Candidates off and running, as election day approaches
Queen Charlotte Islands Observer
March 25, 2009
By Alex Rinfret

With the provincial election less than two months away, candidates on the North Coast have started to campaign.Liberal candidate Herb Pond, the former mayor of Prince Rupert, made his first campaign visit to the islands this week.

He arrived late Monday night after spending 24 hours aboard the Queen of Prince Rupert."I went to sleep last night around 1 o'clock and I woke up this morning and we're still in Prince Rupert," he told the Observer Monday afternoon. "I was supposed to meet with the elders today, they have their quarterly meeting and I was on the agenda."

That's just the reality of campaigning in the North Coast riding, and one that Mr. Pond is familiar with. A longtime resident of Prince Rupert, he's been on the ferry advisory committee for several years, and the last time he took the ferry to Haida Gwaii his trip was also delayed."When I came over for the Kaay Centre opening in August, we got stuck," he said. "

Then we sailed through four and a half metre seas... Everybody was green."

Mr. Pond said he expects many islanders know him from his six years as mayor of Rupert and the guiding force behind Rupert's new container port. He said he has a close working relationship with Council of the Haida Nation president Guujaaw and vice-president Arnie Bellis, and has worked with the mayors and area directors on the board of the Skeena-Queen Charlotte regional district."

I jumped in as mayor at the toughest time Rupert has ever seen," he said, adding that during his tenure, he brought together First Nations and non-first Nations groups, helped rebuild the local economy, and gave Rupert a global profile."I like to think I can translate that to the whole north coast," he said.The main issues in the northwest remain jobs and the economy, he said.

The riding's residents live in a "land of plenty", yet that isn't translating into jobs and benefits."

Overwhelmingly, we need to attract the appropriate investment and jobs," he said. "

It begins with partnerships and strong working relationships... and having good connections out in the business world."

The container port could bring tremendous opportunity to the region, he said, and there are opportunities on the mainland and on Haida Gwaii to transport goods like seafood and wood furniture to world markets.Mr. Pond said this week's visit to the islands will be brief, but he will be back."

My plans are to knock on as many doors and talk to as many people as possible," he said. "I plan to be getting out to the islands a number of times."Meanwhile, NDP candidate Gary Coons says he can't do too much campaigning yet, as he is still hard at work in Victoria as the North Coast MLA.

He will be opening a campaign office this week, and said he's looking forward to getting out and discussing issues with residents.He said he will definitely be coming to the islands in April for the education forum being organized by the Haida Gwaii Teachers' Association, and will probably make several other visits.

The issues he's been hearing a lot about are tanker traffic in north coast waters, the health of the environment, and the economy.A longtime high school teacher who was first elected MLA four years ago, Mr. Coons has garnered attention as the NDP's very vocal critic for ferries and ports. He has consistently demanded more public oversight of BC Ferries, improved safety standards, and halt to fare hikes.

Three years after the sinking of the Queen of the North, he's still calling for a public inquiry, and says it's not right that the public still doesn't know what happened."We need an inquiry for the people who lost their loved ones and the passengers who were traumatized," he said. "

Although it's getting to be a bit late - three years later you're having an inquiry into why it sank?"

The provincial election will be held May 12. So far there are three candidates for the North Coast seat: Mr. Coons, Mr. Pond and Green candidate Lisa Girbav.

BC Ferries reinstates Captain of the ill fated Queen of the North

"WorkSafeBC has issued an order that BC Ferries must reinstate the captain for the Queen of the North. BC Ferries does respect the decision of WorkSafeBC and we will be reinstating that individual shortly,"-- BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall, responding to a Worksafe BC order.

BC Ferries has accepted the decision of Worksafe BC and reinstated Capt. Colin Henthorne to active duty, three years after the sinking of the Queen of the North in March of 2006.

He was dismissed from his duties on on April 15, 2008 — just over two years after the sinking of the Queen of the North, Worksafe BC ruled that his dismissal was “not directly related to the sinking of the Queen of the North.” A WorkSafe BC inspection report went on to conclude that Henthorne was discriminated against after he voiced concerns about health and safety.

Captain Henthorne was off duty and asleep in his cabin at the time of the Queen of the North tragedy, having left control of the vessel in the hands of junior officers on the night of March 22, a move that is not uncommon on BC Ferry sailings.

It was in the early morning hours that the vessel was put aground on Gil Island and sank shortly thereafter, resulting in the loss of two lives. A follow up inquiry by BC Ferries provided a report which blamed human error for the accident and singled out three other crew members for the string of events that led to the sinking of the Queen of the North.

With his reinstatement expected by May 25th, BC Ferries will now have to negotiate an agreement on compensation it owes for lost wages, benefits and interest since April 15, 2008.

Photo above from Canada.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sharing the experiences of the Maori, thirty days notice for the Inlander's owner and a former Rupertite longs for the luge, three of the items of note in the Tuesday edition of the Daily News.

PRIOR LEADER OF MAORI SHARES ABORIGINAL - GOV'T RELATIONSHIPS-- Maori leader Teru White shared his experiences of aboriginal self sufficiency in New Zealand with residents of Port Simpson on Monday night, outlining how the Maori people found ways to reduce dependence on governmental influence and became more self sustaining through the recent years. Similar interests would seem to inter twine the two peoples, the Maori have developed their lifestyle along fishing and tourism industries, similar industries as those First Nations of the North coast.

White was brought to the north coast by author Calvin Helin, who has long been a critic of the current structure of band councils and the Assembly of First Nations system and brought White to his hometown to share his stories and to help spark the spirit to take matters of development into their own hands at Lax Kw'alaams.

Elsewhere in Tuesday's paper, the Inlander Hotel, currently a burned out eyesore in the downtown core has been issued a thirty day demolition order by City Council. The order was unanimously passed by council at their March 23rd session, a number of councillors spoke out in favour of the order expressing their concerns over the nature of the structure and the hazards it may pose in its current state of damage.

Owner Ivan Rudman had been contacted earlier in the month by the Fire Chief regarding the public safety concerns but with the lack of progress in demolition since the March 4th fire, council stepped in and provided their order of demolition. The building currently sits as a burned out half shell of a building and has been the scene of occasional scavenging over the last few weeks. Monday's order should result in it's demolition and removal as a civic eyesore just before the spring and summer tourist season gets underway.

City council also received a presentation from 15 year old Emily Rudderham, who is working hard to make sure that Prince Rupert is one of the participating communities of Earth Hour this year, which takes place on March 28th from 8:30 to 9:30. Miss Rudderham outlined her hopes for the city's involvement and is looking for those willing to help out to step up and join her. City council did it's part, passing a motion later that evening naming Prince Rupert as an active supporter of Earth Hour.

With thoughts of 2010 on his mind, a former Rupertite has his eyes set on the luge track for the Vancouver Games. Tuesday's Daily News sports page profiled Brendan Hauptman, who left Prince Rupert in 1996 as a youngster now is a member of the senior men's luge team. As he continues with his training and works his way up the rankings nationally, he has ambitions to make it into the Olympic team line up.

Total pages in Tuesday's paper (12)

Highway of Tears to be featured in German magazine

Two German journalists have just concluded their own journey along the Highway of Tears, as they travelled Highway 16 from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

The Prince George Citizen provided a glimpse into their efforts with an on line feature on Tuesday that outlined the efforts of writer Dirk Bˆttcher and photographer Birthe Piontek who have been detailing the cases of the missing and murdered of Highway 16, stopping in a number of communities along the way to share the stories and the sorrow of those that have disappeared.

The two German journalists for Neon magazine, a contemporary affairs publication in Germany which sent the two to Canada to learn more about some of the more mysterious and tragic of unsolved cases on the RCMP files. The pair also believe that the story is of such interest that a potential documentary film may be in the offing as well.

Their observations provide an interesting viewpoint from those who are not close to the investigations, but perhaps offer some perspective from a different prism of thought.

Trade show suffers from slowing economy

It's not the first time that the Prince Rupert Trade Show has been cancelled, but Tuesday's announcement does bring back memories of past troubled times with the Prince Rupert economy and the impact that they had on the business community and past trade show efforts.

This years show which was scheduled for next month at the convention centre hall at Chances was officially cancelled on Tuesday, as a lack of interest from the business community amid the growing uncertain times made the hard decision necessary.

On the Northern View online site Tuesday, The Northern View which was organizing the show in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and Chances outlined some of the trends that resulted in the cancellation. With only a bit more than half of the 52 available spaces booked for the 2009 show, many of the usual participants had begged off owing to the current economic troubles.

While 2009 is apparently a washout, organizers still hope to get the Trade Show back on track for 2010.

Podunk Below the Masthead Monday, March 23, 2009

The Salvation Army features large on the front page, changes to the environmental review process don't sit well with the riding's NDP MP and a breakdown on election contributors highlights the Monday edition of the Daily News.

THE SALVATION ARMY IS EARNING ITS KEEP-- Monday's front page headline story examined the impact that the Salvation Army Thrift store has had on the community, highlighting revenues of 60 thousand dollars in 2008 which helped fund the food bank, food programs and provided clothing and household goods for 450 residents of the city.

The history of the thrift store through its many locations in the city was provided in the Monica Lamb Yorski article, as well as review of the generosity of Rupertites over the years towards the Salvation Army. Included in the article was a breakdown of some of the assistance provided which sees 150 people served daily at the soup kitchen, 40 to 50 for breakfast as well as providing food staples to over 300 families. Numbers that are up from 2008, which saw 125 people a day at the soup kitchens and 225 families using the food bank.

Elsewhere in the paper on Monday, Nathan Cullen is finding concern over revisions to the environmental review process as planned by the Conservative government. Cullen the NDP MP for Skeena is worried that the move is going to provide for the most dangerous changes to our environmental assessment process, the most dangerous in the nation's history according to Cullen.

Every political campaign needs a little money to move forward and when it comes to municipal politics there seemed to be enough to go around for all candidates. The page five report provides some numbers from November's election campaign, which in total resulted in $32,540.21 in donations.

The Daily News outlined that Mayoralty candidate Don Scott led the donation parade with 29 donations including 2,000 dollars from J Gordon Industries, 1,000 dollars from Canfisco and 200 dollars from Steve Smith from the Crest hotel.

Mr. Scott's competitor and the eventual winner of the election campaign Mayor Jack Mussallem collected $1,645 in donations, about 10,000 dollars less than the Scott campaign compiled during the campaign.

On council the incumbents combined donations amounted to $8442.98 for those that once again sought office, with Sheila Gordon Payne accounting for the largest share of $3,347.54, a little less than half of which came from the BC Nurses Union and the Rupert Square mall.

Of the would be newcomers Mario Castelli received $5,500, while successful candidate Anna Ashley received $2,475 and fellow newcomer to council Gina Garon received $800.19.

The sports pages celebrated the success of Friendship House Tribesmen who prevailed in the under 17 junior boys All Native basketball championships in Port Alberni. A feature on a former Rupert swimmer now swimming on behalf of Kitimat was provided as well.

Total pages in Monday's paper (12)