Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We'll be right back (well ok, maybe not right back)

Well it's time to recharge the batteries and take a sabbatical from blogging, in other words, it's vacation time again.

The Winnebago is packed and the road beckons so we'll be absent from the Podunkian blogosphere until at least mid August (maybe longer if we're having a good time), enjoy your sunshine, won't it be interesting if there's rain at the destination end of the road trip....

We'll catch up with all matters Podunkian upon our return...

To tide the loyal followers over til we return, some vacation slides...


















Sunday, July 26, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Friday, July 24, 2009

A gillnet gathering at DFO, looking for some input on trails, and some First Nations are rejecting the governments Recognition and Reconiliation initiative, some of the items of note in the Friday edition.

FISHERMEN CONVERGE ON THE DFO OFFICE-- 35 commercial fishermen took their demands to the Prince Rupert offices of DFO last week, a last ditch attempt to convince DFO officials to review their recent announcement as to fishery openings, anxious to have DFO allow them to head out to the fishing grounds. (see story below)

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs are stepping away from the current process of regonition and reconcilliation, suggesting that there are too many questions stemming from the act that have yet to be answered. Of particular concern is the issue of land ownership which the Chiefs say is too important to be allowed to be legislated away. The latest in public opposition to the province's plans could prove to be the final word on the matter, with less and less inclination from First Nations to be a part of that particulary initiative.

Those that like to take a nice walk, or a bike ride on some of the local trails will want to drop into Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District's Open House on July 29, when a number of potential trail options are outlined for the public.
Three options are up for discussion, linking up Butze Rapids to the Shoe Tree Trail for bicycle use, a trail from Mount Hays road to Barrett Fort and on to Wainwright, Galloway Rapids and Port Edward, or a possible route involving the cemetery along the railway tracks and on to Port Edward. A consultant for the study will be in attendance at the open house from 2 until 8 pm to outline the different possibilities. The open house takes place at the SQCRD offices in Prince Rupert at 100 First Avenue West.

The Sports section provided a preview of the Prince Rupert Seamen rematch with Terrace, which was scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 25th.

Total pages in the Friday edition (18)

Front page, headline story:

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, July 24, 2009
Page one

North Coast fishermen want at the fish.

When United Allied Fishermen Union North Coast representative, Joy Thorkelsen, led a congregation of 35 commercial fishermen into the Prince Rupert Department of Fisheries and Oceans office to demand that they be allowed to fish as soon as next week, she chose her words carefully.

"I just want everyone to be ... no walls should be punched in. We want everyone to be respectful,' said Thorkelsen.

The fishermen were irate because an announcement made Thursday morning intimated there would not be a statement on fishery-opening until the following Thursday. This has created the fear that if they don't get in right away, it will be too late.

According to Thorkelsen,50 to 100 vessels have already given up on the fishing season and have gone home. But she and commercial fishermen believe that there will be enough fish available this year based on what has been seen in the water during the allocation for Aboriginal food fishing this year.

According to the spokeswoman, the fish are out there and are only waiting for difficult tides to settle.

"Fishermen with long experience say there are lots of fish in the pipe that are ready to come up," said Thorkelsen.

Earlier this year. the DFO allotted a 20 per cent cut of salmon stock for fishermen if numbers of salmon reached 2 million through monitoring, and 10 per cent if it was 1.5 million. Thorkelsen said the DFO is now predicting a 1 million season.

One of the challenges the DFO faces is that testing is done inside the Skeena at a terminal just southeast of Prince Rupert at a place called Tyee. The DFO representatives believe that Tyee is an accurate location for the test site and a proper net is used to determine how many fish are in the water at a given time.

What the fishermen want is a share of this information on food fish, plus better monitoring of sport fishermen to get accurate numbers on what is being caught and what is swimming upstream.

Dave Peacock, head of North Coast stock assessment for the DFO expressed his understanding.

"You are not getting cut a lot of slack, and I know you don't like it," said Peacock.

One fishermen responded that Peacock had no idea how much fishermen did not like it. But although heated exchanges might have appeared on the verge of boiling over, tempers were reigned in and a working arrangement was agreed upon.

"You are not-the enemy and we know that.

All we ask is that you monitor on a daily basis, and that you update us everyday," asked another fishermen.

Fred Wilson, 50, has been fishing with a commercial license since he was 16. He said when he first started, it was a five-day a week job during the summer. "Now we are lucky to have five days per summer," said Wilson.

12 million dollars in student aid cuts preview a Liberal Back to School welcome

In what seems to be a growing trend of announcements of financial adjustments from the Liberal government of Gordon Campbell, more cuts are apparently ahead for funding in education.

This time around it's to be twelve million dollars in cuts, cancelling a number of funding arrangements including a selection of student aid directives geared for the health education sector. Cutbacks which many will note were not even hinted at being required during the recent election campaign of May.

North Coast NDP MLA Gary Coons added up the costs and outlined his concerns over the budget slashing of 12 million dollars, while the NDP provided details of the changes in a press release, which provided a listing of the programs to be cancelled or reduced.
Included in the affected programs are:

The Permanent Disability Benefits Program
Debt Reduction in Repayment Program
B.C. Loan Reduction for Residential Care Aide and Home Support Worker Program
Nurses Education Bursary
Health Care Bursary
B.C. Early Childhood Educator Loan Assistance Program
Premier's Excellence Award program

The timing of the cutbacks is also of particular concern, considering that many of those students that are returning to studies this September will have most likely factored in the bursaries and aid provisions into their budgeting for the upcoming school year.
Interestingly enough, the cutbacks weren't really discovered until constituents across the province began to contact the opposition members outlining how programs that previously were in place, were no longer available. So far, no official explanation or accounting of what factors were considered in the decision have yet to be provided by Government officials.

Perhaps most worrisome of the bunch of cutbacks that have been discovered, is the focus on cutbacks in health education.
Considering the current troubles of the health care system and the purported focus on improvements to it, the planned reductions seem like a strange way of trying to reach that goal.

Via back on the tracks as both sides agree to binding arbitration

The nation's rail disupte lasted but one and a half days, Via rail which had previously cancelled all future departures of the national railway network, was busy on Saturday night trying to get the trains back on schedule.

The breakthrough in the labour dispute between the passenger carrier and its Locomotives union came when both sides agreed to meet in binding arbitration to resolve their differences, clearing the way for a full resumption of service on Sunday evening.

Full service to the entire network, which was shut down on Friday, is expected to be in place by Monday morning.

The prospect of a lengthy disruption in service at the height of the summer travel season had many concerned not only for the health of the Via service, but for tourist destinations across the nation which receive a healthy volume of visitors by rail.

Locally, the Skeena run had been cancelled earlier this week, as Via attempted to reduce the impact on travellers, the Prince Rupert bound train was stopped in Prince George, where travellers were to find other arrangements to their final desitnations.

The announcement of a breakthrough in negotiations came just hours after Via had issued layoff notices to the majority of their serive employees, layoffs that were rescinded once the two sides agreed to binding arbitration.

Service updates can be found at the Via website (click here) or you can phone their toll free number of 1 888 842-7245 for further details.

Canada.com-- Via Rail trains to resume service Sunday
Canadian Press-- Via Rail service to resume late Sunday

Friday, July 24, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead Archives July 2009

Our archive of the daily headline findings from Prince Rupert's Daily News newspaper, this one for the month of July 2009.

July 31-- PR MAYOR IS THE BEARER OF GLAD TIDINGS-- After a few years of growing concern, some of the main priorities of health care in Prince Rupert appear to be in the process of being addressed. The Friday paper featured the details of some upcoming initiatives by Northern Health for the North coast, the glad tidings the featured attraction of the front page (see story here)

July 30-- ARTWORK THAT LETS THE SUN SHINE THROUGH-- The front page, headline story of the day features a look at Doug Moore's stained glass windows. A commisioned piece, recently installed in his Prince Rupert home (see story here)

July 29-- COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN ARE GETTING IMPATIENT-- The boats remained tied up and the gill fleet wonders where its season is going if it's not already gone. The Daily News outlines the latest developments of the salmon season with a front page headline story in the Wednesday edition. (see story here)

July 28--RUPERTITES ARE TAKING A LONG LOOK AT THE HST-- The reaction is growing fast with the Gordon Campbell Liberals in effect yelling out "surprise" with their recent announcement that BC will harmonize its taxes with the Federal GST. And British Columbians are looking towards July of 2010 with a little bit of anger over the potential increases in tax collection on such things as haircuts and housing sales to name a few. Tuesay's Daily News outlined some of the background on the Harmonization project. (see story here)

July 27--HEARING IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE-- Front page headline status is given to the joys of grapegrowing in Podunk ad the Daily examines, the successful harvest of grapes of a Prince Rupert family. (see story here)

July 24-- FISHERMEN CONVERGE ON THE DFO OFFICE-- 35 commercial fishermen took their demands to the Prince Rupert offices of DFO last week, a last ditch attempt to convince DFO officials to review their recent announcement as to fishery openings, anxious to have DFO allow them to head out to the fishing grounds. (see story here)

July 23-- GROWING EXCITEMENT FOR THE GREEN THUMBS OF RUPERT -- The Annual Prince Rupert Garden Tour is here this weekend and Thursday's Daily News outlines the struggles and successful moments of gardening on the North Coast. They profile Andree Fawcett's contributions to the garden scene as the front page, headline story in the Thursday paper. (see story here)

July 22-- ETHNO-BOTANY PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN CULTURE-- A Northwest Community College course, which combines First Nations history with the study of plants that are found in the Northwest provides for an interesting combination. The Daily News outlined the details of the Ethno-Botany class offered by the college and how it is having an impact on learning more about First Nations culture (see story here)

July 21-- A ‘REEL’ EXPERIENCE FOR TEENS IN RUPERT-- Some local Prince Rupert youth are learning the ins and outs of film making, as the Reel Youth program once again returns to the Northwest. The details of the week long program were outlined in a front page, headline story in the Tuesday paper (see story here)

July 20--PRINCE RUPERT A HIT WITH THE 'R FAMILY-- Last weeks arrival of the weekly cruise ship Norwegian Star provided the city with one of those seven stages of celebrity seperation, as the 'R Family Cruise made its first ever stop in Prince Rupert. (see story here)

July 17-- ANNUAL ELDERS GATHERING A GREAT SUCCESS-- The 33rd annual gathering of Elders took place in Terrace this week and the Daily provides some of the highlights of the event which attracted over 3500 participants. The review of events provided for the front page headline story of the Friday edition (see story here)

July 16-- PROVINCIAL CHAMBER SHOULDERS LOCAL FERRY ISSUES-- The local Chamber of Commerce is already harvesting the fruit of its recent hosting session for the provincial chamber, as the province wide organzation comes in with support for a Prince Rupert initiative to improve Ferry service along the coast. Seeking to have the province recognize the ferry service as an extension of the highways system, the local chamber is hopeful that with the support of the provincial body those initiatives will move forward. (see story here)

July 15-- CITY LOOKS TO THE FUTURE OF WATERFRONT BUSINESS-- The waterfront's lure is apparently calling the city, part of the city's rezoning project is a plan to make the waterfront more attractive for business opportunities, one of which may soon be the long promised redevelopment of the old CN/VIA rail station. The Daily outlines the details on the new focus on the waterfront as its front page headline story (see story here)

July 14-- A MAN WITH A MISSION WANTS TO TALK TO THE COUNTRY-- Tuesday's paper outlines the cause of Rodney Graham, a Winnipeg man who is out to get the country to embrace hemp as the future for paper making when it comes to the unsolicited mail that we find piling up at our doors. The front page headline story, delves into his crusade and tries to draw a parallel of sorts to the days of the Great Trek to Ottawa of the Depression. (see story here)

July 13-- RE-ZONING STIMULATES THIRD AVE AND WATERFRONT-- Continuing on with their theme of silver linings at every turn, the Daily outlines how some recent developments along Third Avenue and on the waterfront portend for better things for the community. Providing some details on the status of a project on the waterfront in the old CN building as well as one new and one transplanted store setting up shop in the city's commercial hub. (see story here)

July 10-- GETTING READY FOR THE DANCE-- Friday's front page headline story features a look at the local Unglis Haida Dancers with a look at the training sessions that they have embarked on this year as well as the preparations that they made prior to their appearance at the recent appearance of the RCMP Musical ride in Prince Rupert (see story here)

July 9-- NEW ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OFFICER GETS DOWN TO BUSINESS-- An impressive resume and perhaps a different vision for the economic future of the city, that in a snapshot appears to be what Nellie Cheng may be bringing to her new position as the Economic Development officer for Prince Rupert and Port Edward, the Daily News provided some background on her as the front page, headline story (see story here)

July 8-- PORT EDWARD IS THE LITTLE COMMUNITY THAT COULD-- The opening of Port Edward's new playground is given full coverage as the front page, headline story in Wednesday's paper (see story here)

July 7-- A PEEK INTO CORAL GARDENS OF THE NORTH COAST-- If the newspaper came with a soundtrack we would no doubt be hearing that Disney favourite Under the Sea, as the front page, headline story in the Tuesday edition featured a look at the undersea coral arrangements of the North coast.(see story here)

July 6-- LOCAL INVENTION SOLVES FUMIGANT PROBLEMS AT TERMINAL-- Two members of the Rupert based CBSA operation have been recognized for their inventive natures, as they create a fumigation system for use on containers to be inspected (see story here)

July 3-- SUNWAVE HAS DROPPED THEIR ASSESSMENT APPEAL-- With Sunwave's parent company China Paper Group dropping their property tax assessment appeal, the rumour mill once again gets stoke at what the future for the old pulp mill site may be, the Daily News examines the latest developments in a front page story (see story here)

July 2-- LESTER CENTRE GATHERS TO CELEBRATE SEASON OF VOLUNTEERS-- The hard work of the volunteers of the Lester Centre was acknowledged during a celebration at the Arts Centre last week, the Daily News provided the details in their front page, headline story. (see story here)
July 1--LOCAL COPS RAISE TEN GRAND EN ROUTE TO SEATTLE-- The successful travels of two Prince Rupert residents is detailed in the Canada Day edition, as the Daily News reviews their efforts during the Vancouver to Seattle tour known as the Ride for Cancer. (see story here)

Fisheries issues percolate again this summer

The ongoing crisis in the Pacific fishery once again plays out this summer, as the Northern View outlines with a story posted to its website on Thursday, local commercial fishermen took their concerns to the Prince Rupert offices of the Department of Fisheries.

Thursday's item provides some background on the protest of about 60 commercial fishermen who expressed their concerns over the fate of the gill net fishery this summer, that after DFO announced the closure of the fishery yesterday and suggested that there would not be any announcements regarding its fate until next week.

After the meeting with local officials, the timetable for an announcement was moved up to this Sunday, a move that at least provides the local fishermen with a sense that their concerns are getting a review.

The Northern View article (read it here) traces the fate of the gill net fishery over the last decade, which has seen it drop from over 1400 active participating boats to but 258 now. The fate of the fishery overall is also one of concern for those that make their living from the resource, whether it be on a boat, or working onshore at one of the local plants, the nature of the industry has changed dramatically over the last ten years.

It's an issue that could use a little attention from the Federal Government, which over the years has been perceived as constantly mis-handling the file, and in a story in the Thursday Daily News, it seems that the sense of urgency here on the North coast isn't shared in Ottawa.

Thursday's Daily News provides some details on attempts by Skeena Bulkley Valley, NDP MP Nathan Cullen, thus far unsuccessful, to bring the Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to the region to learn first hand of the issues that continue to be of concern.

So far, despite the comments of her public relations handlers out of Vancouver of her interest in our issues, there isn't much in the way of evidence that she's as concerned as might be suggested.

The best way to learn about a problem and how best to address it is to assess it in person, until the Conservative Government and its Fisheries Minister take on that task, sooner rather than later, the perceptions that they don't have a handle on the file will no doubt continue.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Page three

She'll be comin' round, the mountain - NOT.

A request by MP Nathan Cullen for current Department of Fisheries and Oceans Minister, Gail Shea, to visit the North Coast has yet to find a receptive ear.

According to a Vancouver-based DFO media representative, Shea is not planning any trips to Prince Rupert in the near future, which will likely leave many local fishermen scratching their heads and asking why not.

"She is always interested in hearing the views of fishermen and people in their communities. In the limited time she has been a minister and with the limited time she is able to leave Ottawa, she has traveled to both the east coast and the west coast, and talked to harvesters, processors in the fishing industry,' said Terry Davis of the DFO.

The fishing industry has been hurting in recent years on the North Coast, with many fishermen no longer able to earn the incomes they once did. With an expected sockeye salmon run of 1.5-to-2 million salmon, commercial fishermen are allowed a 20-to-30 per cent catch rate.

According to the DFO, the numbers are being constrained due to concern for a number of Skeena sockeye and chum stocks.

Cullen hoped that by having the new DFO minister meet with fishermen as soon as possible, new facts coulq be interpreted in managing the west coast fisheries.

Davis said that Shea would still be pleased to meet with fishermen, but in the interim she encourages fishermen to make their views known to the DFO.

"She will be looking for opportunities to meet with the folks on the North Coast, but I don't have a specific time frame that I can quote," said Davis.

Cullen said he was very disappointed with Shea. "She had committed to me that she would visit the people on the North Coast during her last visit to B.G. We did everything we could to get her to fulfill her commitment, but she refused," said Cullen.

He criticized the fact that although announcements have been made for the west coast fisheries, none have involved commercial fishermen.

"In terms of help, the stimulus funding announcements in general have not even been worth the paper they have been written on."

The House makes its take and so does the town!

“They have been very reasonable corporate citizens to the community. They have funded as well sponsored various events in the community and so I think there are people who enjoy having that facility”— Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem, offering his thoughts on a successful year financially for the Chances Gaming Centre

As we outlined on our blog back on Monday, Chances Gaming Centre has had a rather successful full year of operation, that according to the financial picture presented by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation this month.

The local gaming centre which opened in the fall of 2007, celebrated a full year of operation in 2008 and it has proven to be a destination for many, both locals and visitors alike.

Thursday’s paper outlines the financial news from Chances, as well as how the centre is being perceived in the community now that it’s become a fixture on the local scene and a contributor to the city’s tax base.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Page 2

The motto at Chances Gaming Centre is "Fun is Good" - and fun is also profitable for the local gaming centre.

Numbers published by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation point to a successful 2008-2009 for the local gambling establishment. Chances generated $10 million in revenues last year, up from the nearly $4 million it had generated during the first year of operation.

While the $6 million in revenues might seem like a huge jump from the year before, it is important to note that gaming centre was not in operation for the entire 2007-08 year, which may have skewed numbers.

It was a controversial subject in the community when the previous city council accepted Chances' application to open in Prince Rupert. But according to Mayor Jack Mussallem, the good generated by the gaming centre has outweighed the negative feelings towards it.

And the good is there in tax revenue.

The city received $400,000 under casino revenues transfered from the province - a sum that the city is able to put toward productive use for the community.

"They have been very reasonable corporate citizens to the community. They have funded as well sponsored various events in the community and so I think there are people who enjoy having that facility [in Prince Rupert] ," said Mussallem.

Mussallem said that he understands those who say the gaming centre may cause social problems.

"Although there are people that have' some concerns, they are largely the ones who fear for people that get hooked on gambling," said Musallem. "But it is a lot like alcohol. There are some people who shouldn't drink and it may take them longer in their lives to come to the realization that they are one of those people."

Given the divided opinion surrounding the casino's original opening, the Daily News asked locals what they thought about the establishment now.

People on Prince Rupert's streets are still divided over whether or not the casino has provided as much public good as it had financial.

According to 65-year old, Fred Wesley, the city would be better off without it. Wesley, who is originally from Kitimaat Village, but has lived in Prince Rupert since 1965, said he felt that are too many people living on welfare in town to justify having a place where they might waste their money.

"If you are going to waste your money, I would just spend it on a lottery ticket instead," said Wesley.

But others don't mind the gaming centre and say that it's up to the gamblers to make a choice on how they will spend their own money.

"I am anti-gambling myself, but I love the restaurant and I have a drink from time-to-time there," said Holiday Ascroft, 19. She added that although she may not gamble herself, she does support Chances.

Podunk Below the Masthead, Thursday, July 23, 2009

Green Thumbs get ready to show off their talents, the Gaming Centre counts its cash and the Fisheries Minister doesn't enter us in her Blackberry, some of the highlights of the Thursday edition of the Daily News.

GROWING EXCITEMENT FOR THE GREEN THUMBS OF RUPERT -- The Annual Prince Rupert Garden Tour is here this weekend and Thursday's Daily News outlines the struggles and successful moments of gardening on the North Coast. They profile Andree Fawcett's contributions to the garden scene as the front page, headline story in the Thursday paper. (see story below)

The recently released numbers of Prince Rupert's Chances Gaming Centre make for a page two story. Regular readers of the blog learned of the jump in profits with a story we provided back on Monday, Thursday's Daily examines the thoughts of the Mayor as well as a few locals with their impressions of the impact that Chances has had on the community. (see story here)

Gail Shea, the Conservative Fisheries Minister has yet to respond to NDP MP Nathan Cullen's invitation to come on out and examine the state of her ministry on the north coast. Thursday's paper provides some background on the issues that should require the attention of the Minister. While a DFO representative out of Vancouver advises that the Minister is interested in hearing the views of fishermen, there is apparently no hurry in making that exchange of ideas take place any time soon. (see story here)

The Sports section features a look back at when baseball was a premier sport on the North coast, a history that goes back some one hundred years, but as Patrick Witwicki reminds us it has been fifty years since there was last a competitive and inter city rivalries to pack the parks.

Total pages in the Thursday edition (14)

Front page, headline story:

By Monica Lamb-Yorksi
The Daily News
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Pages one and five

Gardens may be slow this year, but that isn't stopping the Annual City Garden Tour.

Organizers have selected five gardens for the tour this year, in addition to the Sunken Gardens behind the Court House and the grounds at Pillsbury House on Pacific Place.

"The gardens we've selected have a wide range of styles and completeness," said Andree Fawcett of the club. "Some of them are a work in progress and we put them on so people can see how gardens are built."

Fawcett moved to Prince Rupert in 1982. She had been working in Kitsault as a blaster in the mine there before it shutdown. '

Soon after arriving she joined the garden club. She was already a gardener, but did not know how to work with bog and muskeg, she recalled.

"The club was very vibrant and 1 learned how to garden in Prince Rupert."

She also credits her dad with inspiring her green thumb.

At 87, he is still gardening and building things and his garden is one that will be featured on this year's tour.

"He tended to garden whenever he could so 1 sort of fell into it myself, and took a few classes along the way. You learn as you go and now I teach those classes," Fawcett said.

With a colder than normal spring, local gardens are behind about three weeks and will never catch up.

Fawcett admits we had some good weather, but that it was very late.

"A long, cold winter, that's just mother nature, and we weren't the only ones. 1 didn't plant annuals until the first of June, even in the Sunken Gardens."

Years ago, Fawcett started the annual garden tour because, working at the garden centre at Rona, she got asked lots of questions.

"1 heard how you can't garden in Prince Rupert and decided it was time for show and tell. Because of our temperate weather we have a fabulous garden season," Fawcett explained.

On Tuesday afternoon, Fawcett was digging up one of the garden areas in the front of her house to make it into a patio.

Stopping, she pointed out a huge oak tree growing beside her house.

"It was one of the Royal Oaks brought out when Queen's Elizabeth's father George VI was crowned in 1936. Twenty-five hundred [acorns] were sent out to the colonies and this one landed here."

The tree towers between Fawcett's house and the neighbouring home, and over the years has had to be pruned to keep it from encroaching on the buildings.

"It's a classic example of someone planting a tree too close to a house. Luckily the roots have never bothered the house."

Smiling and looking up at the tree. Fawcett shrugged. "Where not to put a tree - but, heh, it’s a bit big to move now; she added.

The Garden Tour begins at noon on Sunday and will be followed by the tea from 3 until 4 p. m. and a small plant sale at Andree's Bed & Breakfast at 314 4th Avenue West.

Tickets for the tea are available at Four Seasons Flowers, The Visitors Information Centre at Atlin Terminal and from Andree's B & B.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

British Columbia Chief becomes head of Assembly of First Nations

A hereditary chief from Ahousaht on the west coast of Vancouver Island survived a marathon voting session in Calgary on Thursday, to emerge as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Shawn Atleo, became the first British Columbia chief to head the national organization, after he emerged victorious on the eighth ballot of a voting session that spanned two days.

Chief Atleo quickly called for unity after his victory over the long tiring process with Perry Bellegarde, the two had split the vote for the majority of the twenty four hours that it took to come to a decision, and at that it took a concession from Bellegarde after ballot number six to settle the matter, as Chief Atleo still had come two percent short of the required 60 per cent majority for a win.

The nature of the lengthy voting process and an apparent split between treaty and non treaty First Nations quickly became the main talking points once the election results were tabulated. With many suggesting that an overhaul of the voting procedures was needed and future discussion was needed on a better method of moving events further faster.

For the new Chief the workload will come fast, as he picks up the files from now past chief Phil Fontaine, who had served three previous terms as head of the Assembly.

At 42, Chief Atleo will be the youngest head of the AFN and has offered up a path for the 700,000 Frist Nations members that the AFN represents, in his campaign he outlined his plans to build upon his work in British Columbia on behalf of the Ahousaht as a template for where he would like to move the AFN towards.

One thing seems clear from the debates and discussions of the week, the AFN will become much more of an activist organization, more demanding of Ottawa and the provinces in their goals towards rebuilding and restoring an authentic aboriginal identity.

Calgary Herald-- Change of 'generational guard' excites observers
CBC-- Atleo sworn in as AFN national chief
CBC-- A short agenda for Canada's newest national chief
Photo above from the Calgary Herald website..

Lead feet of the off duty law, gets Prince George officers in hot water...

An incident that took place on the highways of Prince George in May has just become public and with the time delay comes a number of questions for the RCMP in Prince George. That after North District command announced the punishment for three members of the detachment for highway offences while off duty.

The handling of the case has raised a few eyebrows in Prince George amid suggestions that special treatment may have been taken in the case, a suggestion that the North District has denied. And the timing of the Prince George incident once again raises the question of who should hold the police accountable in the province.

The three constables,described as junior members and all off duty from the Prince George detachment, were riding motorcycles on May 15th when they were spotted by a member of the RCMP's highway patrol, driving in what she felt was an unsafe manner.

The officer in the patrol car engaged her emergency flashing lights and siren but was quickly outpaced by the trio on motorcycles, deciding not to engage them in a chase, she instead radioed ahead and the three were pulled over further down the highway by other responding units.

According to the Prince George website Opinion 250, there were no tickets issued at the time of the incident as the attending officers consulted with North District superiors on how best to handle the situation. From there the Crown was consulted and the case was returned to the RCMP to be handled by the North District RCMP.

The three motorcyclists were then issued their tickets and further suspended from driving for four months, a suspension that took effect on June 26th. They were re-assigned to other duties not requiring a driver's licence for the duration of their suspension.

The three were charged with the following,

...Excessive speeding ( 40km or more over the limit)

...Driving without reasonable consideration for safety of others on the highway

...Failing to stop for police

The way that the three cases have evolved will no doubt be an item of interest to anyone who has ever been assigned a traffic ticket, with many thinking that there may be two rules of the road after all.

There will be a further internal review of the case by North District and perhaps further disciplinary action may be in the future, perhaps a further restriction of duties requiring vehicular movement might best send a message that their behaviour was wrong.

Maybe having the three walk a beat in downtown Prince George through the fall and into February, might prove to be helpful in reminding them that the ability to drive is a responsibility and one that must be treated in a respectful manner.

Opinion 250-- Three Officers Facing MVA Charges Got No Special Treatment
Opinion 250-- Lets Have Some Questions Answered
Opinion 250-- RCMP Offer Version of Events With Three Off Duty Officers
Prince George Free Press-- Three licenses lost

Growing the ferry numbers for the North

BC Ferries outlines its planning options for the North coast and the potential of a more dedicated link to the Lower Mainland is just one of the thoughts being put forward.

It was a project first outlined in the Northern View on July 14th, when Mayor Jack Mussallem threw his support behind attempts to increase the traffic flow to the North coast.

Wednesday's Daily News touched base with Tourism Prince Rupert's Bruce Wishart to get some more background on the plans of BC Ferries.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, July 22, 20093
Page two

Tourism possibilities could abound for Prince Rupert through proposed Be Ferries plan.

Over the next four-to-six months, the provincial ferry operator will be' looking at whether or not a transit route from Vancouver to Port Hardy is feasible. If it is, then the Prince Rupert could be seeing increased auto traffic from Vancouver.

It's all about capturing the innerprovincial tourism market, said BC Ferries spokesman Mark Stephenson.

"It would have a number of objectives and one of them would be to further stimulate growth in the north, in particular. Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver area is seen as a huge market for us and we still feel it's not fully tapped into and we would like to see more British Columbians take advantage of the circle tour," said Stephenson.

And if it is a feasible plan, Bruce Wishart believes it could be just the ticket to help get an already encouraged tourism market to a brighter stage.

The Tourism Prince Rupert representative said that tourism is doing better this year than would have been expected given the economic downturn. And if a boat connection to Vancouver were made available it could have some tangible benefits. "The first thought that I have is that it is a really cool idea. Having a full coast service like we did as recently as 1980s would certainly be a stellar product in and of itself," said Wishart.

His only concern was the use of the new ferry vessel, the $131 million Northern Expedition. That ferry currently serves the Prince Rupert-Port Hardy route.

"Over the short term that means one less sailing into Prince Rupert, so really it's too premature for us to determine whether or not it would be a good thing or not," added Wishart.

Tourism has become an increasingly desirable market for community investors as the city looks to rebound economically.

And for BC Ferries, who have reported less traffic thus far this year, it's an opportunity to increase the B.C. and Washington State markets by travelling to the North Coast and Alaska. That seems like a natural fit.

"We are looking forward to a conversation with BC Ferries to ask what this means for us." said Wishart.

Stephenson said there weren't many details to provide at this point, as it is still early days. But he said BC Ferries was optimistic this could work.

"It appears, in the early stages, to have some major pluses, but we haven't made a decision yet, although we are taking a serious look at it," said Stephenson.

Podunk Below the Masthead, Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A course in First Nations history and plant associations, BC Ferries has a long term idea for the North Coast and The World comes ashore to Prince Rupert, some of the highlights of the Wednesday edition of the Daily News.

ETHNO-BOTANY PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN CULTURE-- A Northwest Community College course, which combines First Nations history with the study of plants that are found in the Northwest provides for an interesting combination. The Daily News outlined the details of the Ethno-Botany class offered by the college and how it is having an impact on learning more about First Nations culture. (see story below)

BC Ferries floats the potential of better connections to Vancouver, a move that could benefit tourism in the Northwest, not to mention offer local residents another travel option in their efforts to visit the Lower Mainland. (see story here)

Prince Rupert Harbour gets a little more traffic on Thursday as the World arrives for a port call, a luxury residence of the seas, the cruise vessel features 165 private residences aboard, taking its residents to places beyond the horizon of the seas. The ship will be in town at the same time as the regular port visit of the Norwegian Star, the World makes but one trip to Rupert this year, leaving before midnight for other ports and other scenic vistas.

The Sports page offers up a call for more junior golfers, as the Junior Jubilee once again struggles to round out a roster for this weekends tournament. A preview of those that are confirmed is provided as well as some observations on the state of the junior game.

Sports editor/reporter Patrick Witwicki outlines his summer plans for his faithful followers, or one plan at any rate, his upcoming marriage, but a mere ten days away. Stand by for the car honking and confetti blizzards...

Total pages in the Wednesday paper (14)

Front page, headline story:

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Pages one and five

For students like the Sampsons, it's a perfect union.

As they picked plants and recounted their names in Sm'algyax, it became apparent to married couple, Dwayne (43) and Allison Sampson (35) that they were doing more than just learning names in order to pass a class. They were coming closer to an integral part of their history as Aboriginals on the North Coast.

The Tsimshian names for the herbs and berries for nonnatives might seem different -- Ts'uga'aamm, miiya mam, wal, sa'mn, but when given their English names, licorice root, sword fern, yellow cedar, sitka spruce, it becomes more clear. For First Nations here the opposite would have been the case - English names not making much sense _ but English supplanted Sm' algyax some years ago as the main conversational dialect.

Through Judy Thompson's Northwest Community College Ethno-Botany class, post-secondary students from around Prince Rupert are getting the chance to understand a little about their culture, linguistic pasts and current surroundings. .

The functional part of the course is to give students an opportunity to learn about the different kinds of plant life that are found in and around Kaien Island, of which there are plenty of good picking areas. But Thompson has married the curriculum to the Sm'algyax names provided by elders, Tina Robinson and Velna Nelson, which give the class a more potent learning concoction.

"To me, I think it is extremely important to learn about our history," said Allison. "For too long our history was taken from us and we didn't have the opportunity to learn about how we could use the land and about our culture."

Thompson, a member of the TahItan nation in Northern B.C., hopes that her class gives students a brief window into their past.

"I grew up in the area and the one thing I didn't know that I have been learning over the last five years is that students find out a lot" about food and their connection to land when they learn the Tsimshian name," said Thompson.

But it is also a chance to learn about the practical uses the plants have. Some plants obviously carry berries on their branches, which can be seen being picked and bagged around town from early spring until late fall. But there are also plants that have medical purposes like the common juniper (laxsa'nax'nox in Sm'algyax), good for colds when used as tea.

Thompson has also produced a book about the plants used by Gitga'at people of Hartley Bay. The book, 'Nwana'a laxYuup, documents the use and importance of plants and the environment to the" Gitga'at people, who had used some of the herbs and berries for thousands of years. The book is very specific with regards to use, all three names (Sm' algyax, English and scientific) and pictures to help identify.

The class began two weeks ago and the Daily News joined the students on their second field trip, following Robinson and Nelson around to hear them speak about the history and names of local fruits and herbs.

At times students would point out a plant by its English name and either Nelson or Robinson would identify it in Sm' algyax. At others they would already know the plant by its Tsimshian name - a success for Thompson's pupils. The Sampsons agree.

"Our culture has always been there, but we just have to exercise it. A lot of people say its gone and forgotten about," said Dwayne. .

While his wife concurred, Allison felt this knowledge could have another interesting use.

"You can't starve out here, there are so many vegetables and fruits. If you know how to eat, you never would need another cent in your life."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mr. Cullen would rather not see it coming around the mountain

CN's proposed pipeline on rails may have intrigued the officials of the Port of Prince Rupert, but as for the MP for the Northwest, Nathan Cullen will it seems prove to be a harder sell.

Cullen, the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, has expressed his hesitations and concerns over the planned project to transport oil and other bulk liquids to the North Coast via the railroad. He is of the opinion that there is just too much danger involved to send such commodities to the coast along the railroad, not to mention his previous concerns over tanker traffic on the west coast in the first place.

He outlined his thoughts on the issue in the Tuesday edition of the Daily News.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Page three

The hot idea to bring Albertan oil received a cold splash from Nathan Cullen.

When asked if there was anything happening behind the scenes that his constituents weren't aware of, Cullen weighed in on the subject of oil transportation via CN rail.

The Skeena-BulkleyValley MP said that he disagrees with Prince Rupert Port Authority president and CEO, Don Kruse!, who believes there has been some ongoing interest in bringing oil from Alberta through Prince Rupert. Krusel has indicated that bringing oil and other bulk liquids to the North Coast on rail lines is a good idea.

"On this one, I have to disagree with the Port in Prince Rupert," said Cullen. "The risks involved with putting this much condensate in tankers and running [rail cars] up and down the Skeena River is just fraught with danger.

"I can't be convinced that this is a good idea." Cullen said he didn't see how CN's plan solved the questions about tanker traffic in Hecate Strait.

CN believes that putting terminals on a rail tern would be like adding a peripheral to your computer - there wouldn't be any need for a massive new system.

Because the rail line already exists in Prince Rupert, the amount of work needed to move forward is less than a proposed pipeline project.

For Prince Rupert, the dilemma remains concerning the conflict between more tanker traffic and job security. While there has been discussion over the value of a pipeline project for Kitimat, that equation could change if an alternate plan proposes to bring oil directly to Prince Rupert.

But neither the PRPA nor CN have said that there have been any discussions between the two organizations concerning the possibility of bringing oil here.

Cullen said that the basis of CN's eagerness to do so was because that it would pass through an easier regulation process than Enbridge's Northern Gateway project.

"One of the reasons that folks at CN were proposing this is that they thought they wouldn't have to do any kind of environmental assessment, if they just put it on the rail cars as opposed to a pipeline."

Podunk Below the Masthead, Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lights, camera, action on the tour with some local flim makers, Mr. Cullen has his reservations with CN's pipeline plans and it's time to make the move at Acropolis, some of the items of note in the Tuesday Daily News.

A ‘REEL’ EXPERIENCE FOR TEENS IN RUPERT-- Some local Prince Rupert youth are learning the ins and outs of film making, as the Reel Youth program once again returns to the Northwest. The details of the week long program were outlined in a front page, headline story in the Tuesday paper (see story below)

Nathan Cullen is not inclined to be a supporter of CN Rails proposed pipeline on rails, the NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley expressed his concerns over the project, which could provide for a number of jobs in Prince Rupert. Cullen's concerns with the planned transportation system is over the potential impact on the environment especially in the fragile rivers systems along the Skeena River and CN mainline (see story here)

The long anticipated move at the Assisted Living units at Acropolis Manor is finally at hand, as the first phase of the big move recently got under way. The Assisted Living Units, part of the new home for the seniors care facility in town, will begin to fill up with with residents moving into their recently finished units. The first new arrival set up home in early July, they expect to have ten residents in place by the end of the month. Still to come will be the major move of the main portion of the seniors facility, which will soon take up residence only a few metres away in the new building.

The Sports section featured a preview of the Mixed Martial Arts club set to open up in town, Stacked Sports run by Kelly McMahon, currently awaiting final zoning approval, he is set to open up shortly on Third Avenue East in the old Club fore location. The Tuesday paper provided a bit of a primer on what he plans to offer at his club for MMA enthusiasts.

Total pages in the Tuesday edition (14)

Front page, headline story:

By Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Pages one and five

Nine Prince Rupert youths are engaged in film making this week.

They are interviewing eight young professionals in the community who love their jobs and their lifestyle.

Stepping up behind the camera, many for the first time, the young camera crew is being mentored by Mark Vonesch and Erica Kohn of ReelYouth (RY).

Reel Youth, a not-for-profit, media empowerment program began four years ago as a program to support young people to create and distribute films about their visions for a more just and sustainable world.

It's the third time that the program has been in Prince Rupert and this time they are here to assist in the creation of a DVD through the Community Futures of the Pacific Northwest’s North Coast Youth Awareness Project.

“The DVD’s purpose it to highlight professionals in our community that have received training or decuation in the Northern Region,” said NCYCAP's coordinator Christine Anonuevo, "Our team wants youth to discover opportunities in their own backyard."

The group spent Friday learning about camera equipment, lighting, sound and the basic concepts of filmmaking.

Ashlee Kollar, 17, is often out taking videos of her friends, but hadn't used a professional video camera before.

"I'm looking forward to learning how to interview people and what kind of questions you can ask," Kollar said Friday.

Before everyone left for the day, Vonesch told the group to think about different locations in Prince Rupert they'd like to feature in the filming and to bring back those ideas for day two.

Kollar said she thought Kwinitsa Station, with its view of the water in the background, would be ideal.

"There are also lots of spots in Cow Bay and the Sunken Gardens. I'm looking forward to it," she added.

Twenty-one year old Duran W'ilson said day one was awesome. It was the first time he'd used a \video camera and he described the experience as “pretty cool”.

“I learned about the program when I saw a poster at the Nisga'a hall. One of my buddies working there told me about it," Wilson said.

Although he grew up in Prince Rupert, Wilson on found that he was meeting a group of new people.

Vonesch decided nine years ago that there was a need for mobile video and animation programs for youth, and started working with youths and filming.

Four years ago he formalized his aspirations and founded Reel Youth.

"Youth are traditionally pegged as consumers of culture and we are trying to help them be creators of culture, rather than having to wait until they are adults," Vonesch said.

"Through the power of digital media, films that used to tour can now be viewed online. It is not unheard of for a film to get 2,000 hits over the Internet. Ten years ago you couldn’t do that.

Reel Youth has worked on 72 animations and videos, mostly in BC, some in Alberta, and recently in Nepal with ex-child soldiers.

Moments after Friday's session, Vonesch had posted a photograph of Wilson holding a camera with one sentence about Reel Youth in Prince Rupert to his twitter account.

Four minutes later, the site had received 13 hits.

"It's live and a great way to share news and show what's out there. With social media, the number of connections young people have today is exponential." .

Kohn joined Reel Youth a couple of months after its conception, jumping in to offer her support, she explained.

She grew up comfortable with cameras and videos around the house and strongly believes film is a powerful communication tool for youth.

"I think it's easy for them to underestimate the power they can express and then when they see themselves on film they realize the strength of the message," Kohn said.

"There is something about a youth voice that hits below the radar in the public. It can cut through our barrier to messages."

Describing the Prince Rupert teenagers as super engaged, diverse and possessing great senses of humour, Kohn said she's convinced it's going to be a good week.

"I think the films we create will be great," she added.

Banned in Beijing???

Nothing builds up your bona fides in the blogging world more than having a government enterprise consider you a potential adversary, and so we greet the thought that there are dedicated members of Chinese People's committee for blogging (if such a thing exists) contemplating our every word with more than a passing interest.

Or not...

Earle Gale, the former editor of the Daily News who has taken his craft to the emerging freedom of the Chinese journalism scene, recounts his efforts to track down the local reaction to his recent story on the Port of Prince Rupert, an item we outlined for our readers earlier this month.

In that recent article for the People's Daily online, which was re posted (and printed as it turns out in this era of electronic news gathering) in the USA edition, Gale focused on the growth of the Port of Prince Rupert and its potential impact on the Chinese and Asian transportation system.

It was a finely crafted article which interviewed a number of our local political class, (something one would imagine that would have found favour in official Chinese circles) featuring some colourful quotes "it is our destiny", and provided a fairly positive viewpoint of the Port and the future it could have in Asian trade.

So it was a bit surprising to learn of Gales efforts, unsuccessful as they were it seems, to view the article through the local portals of our humble effort Podunk and of the local social conversation site hackingthemainframe.

After a number of attempts of surfing to the two sites, our intrepid correspondent from afar continued to receive notices towards the theme that the "server is not available".

A not uncommon situation in the People's Republic, apparently for the good of public order.

Somehow we tend to agree with the thoughts of Mr. Gale that it's probably a technical issue at the root of his inability to access atowncalledpodunk or htmf and not some bureaucratic ban list. Surely there is no internal Chinese plot to keep those thirsting for the latest foibles of Podunk's City Hall, the current offerings from the Chamber of commerce or details on our vandalism sprees in the historic downtown area from staying in the loop.

Mr. Gale can rest assured he's not being banned on our end of the inter tubes, as we welcome all readers and contributors. Heck if the blogging committee overseer wishes to drop us a line, we're more than ready to correspond. However, we suspect it means we won't be seeking out a visa for travel to China any time soon, as we won't be making any house calls in the near term just to be on the safe side... (be your guest? uh let me get back to you!)

But hey, if it's banned we are, we'll wear it as our blogging badge of honour. We'll use this as our next defence whenever someone suggests that we have a leftist bent to our efforts, "but hey look we're banned in Beijing!".
We await our status next of Verbotten in Victoria, now there's a place where we suspect that politicians (at least some of them) may not like us...

The full article of Earl Gale's latest contributions from China can be found on the Northernview website, part of his continuing series of accounts from one of the worlds most interesting (if slightly authoritative) destinations...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Not like Canada" becomes the rallying cry of the American right

Those that are on the against side of the debate over federal health care funding in the USA, are finding Canada as a useful bashing instrument in which to make their points.

To hear the likes of Mitch McConnell (he of the I know a friend who has a friend style of research)

as well as the yammering yokels at Fox,

we must be piling up the dead in the streets like firewood, thanks to the evils of universal health care.

Now while we do have our problems with some of the ways our health care is handled, and those come mainly due to the direction the system is given by the provinces and federal government, the actual prospect of Canadians ever wanting a USA user pay system seems rather remote.

For the most part, Canadians would more than likely rather have our system, troubles and all, compared to the insane system in place in the USA, one which seems to find that your level of care is directly attributable to your ability to pay.

The doctor shortages, wait times and other much documented troubles of our system are worrisome for Canadians no doubt, but the concept of having your financial statements at the ready as you head into an emergency room isn't something that is likely to find much sympathy in this land of "socialized medicine".

The disinformation campaign is playing out on the American cable news channels every day, countless television commercials some ostensibly featuring Canadians, begging Americans not to follow the path we've taken.

And while you have to feel some compassion for someone who has suffered a medical emergency and felt that the only answer was a trip to the USA, you do have to wonder as to the motives of those behind the commercials. Left unsaid was the nature of the medical emergency, what actual course of action had taken place in Canada prior to the trip south and of course, what the costs were to the patient, both up front and those that come along later.

We for the most part feel that when the life and death situations arise, the line quickly parts and those with the most need get the priority in treatment, without concern for cost or whether it is covered. All in all, not a bad trade off, in the long run.

Not since South Park put Canada into song, has everything that would be wrong for America been attributed to north of the border... We can hear the chorus warming up now as they get closer to what horrors that the "Canadian socialized system may bring"

Via's Skeena run among those cancelled due to strike deadline

Via Rail Canada has cancelled The Skeena run until further notice, part of a nationwide cancellation of the longer distance options for some of the railroads 16 train routes in anticipation of a strike deadline of this Friday.

The potential labour dispute comes amid the height of the tourist season and could send many travel plans into disarray as Canadians and visitors to the country seek out alternatives to their planned mode of transportation to their destinations.

The dispute could have an impact on local hotels, restaurants and services as Rupert bound travellers will have to decide if riding the bus or renting a car is in their travel plans in order to make their Prince Rupert rendezvous. Many travellers use the Skeena as part of a circle travel route, connecting with the BC or Alaska Ferries to continue their travels to the Pacific.

Via, currently in the midst of labour negotiations with its Teamsters union representing its locomotive engineers, began the process of shutting down its railroad on Tuesday, in order to not have passengers stranded far from their destinations on deadline day.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference issued their 72 hour strike notification on Tuesday, putting the union in a legal strike position at noon on Friday.

The Via train departing from Jasper and expected in Prince Rupert Thursday night, instead will terminate in Prince George, the planned departure from Prince Rupert eastward on Friday has thus been cancelled as well.

Other lines in the national service have also been cutback or cancelled, with all trains expected to come to a stop at the noon deadline Friday.

In a press release issued Tuesday, Via advised that while they were still hopeful of a negotiated settlement in time for the Friday deadline, they felt it best to begin the process of suspending services for the benefit of their customers.
Customers with concerns or questions can contact Via Canada at 888 VIA-RAIL (842-7245).

You can access the list of cancelled trains from the Via website here.

National Post-- Via Rail cancels trains across Canada after strike threat
Globe and Mail-- VIA Rail faces strike, cancels routes
CBC-- Via Rail faces Friday strike deadline

What they have here is a failure to communicate

It’s finger pointing time when it comes to who has the real story with recent service changes with the Minister for Children and Family services.

As we outlined last week, the Ministry is transferring some of its service delivery resources to First Nations organizations in the Northwest, a move that may see current employees transferred, or as events might require in some circumstances laid off.

While the Minister may be technically right in her interpretation of the current change, the handling of the issue by the government certainly could have been explained much better, as it turned out the news cycle was dominated by the union position that cuts had been made.

And in the end they may have the final say, if in fact any of the current staff members should be laid off, then the concerns expressed last week would be validated.

As it is, the situation is a rather confusing little mess, something that could have been avoided with a bit more thought and attention to the proper procedures and flow of information.

At the moment however, it would appear that it’s turf protection time, as we learn from the latest developments as relayed in the Daily News.

Lost in all of the confusion it seems is the mandate of the Ministry of properly serving the families and children of the province, considering the way that this change has been handled, the lack of information regarding the coming changes and the impact that they could have on many lives, those families didn’t get very good service from the government last week.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Monday, July 20, 2009
Page two

How much child poverty services will be affected by recent job transfers depends on who you talk to.

According the BC Government and Services Employee Union (BCGEU), the Ministry for Children and Family Development has cut six full time child protection positions in Prince Rupert, Kitimat and Terrace.

The BCGEU are upset that they were not told about the cuts before they implemented.

Darryl Walker, president of the BCGEU, said he's concerned by the news.

"Poverty is at the root of most child protection cases." said Walker in a press release. "With rising unemployment and more people on welfare, the economic downturn has put even more pressure on families-particularly in northern communities like Terrace."

Minister Mary Polak said that she is upset, too. She is angered at what she calls BCGEU spin doctoring.

"To say that somehow services have been cut is absolutely ridiculous," said Polak.

There are 90 employees working for the Ministry of Children and Families in the northwest.

Polak, said that her ministry has not cut the jobs.

She said that they have merely transferred them to aboriginal agencies that would take the responsibility because she felt they would be best suited in that role in communities with high First Nation populations.

In fact, the ministry argues that they have increased the positions in Prince Rupert to 24 from 19.

The Nisga' a Child and Family Services agency will get five positions - four in Prince Rupert and one in Terrace - while the Northwestern Inter-Nation Family and Community Services Society received three positions, two in Terrace and one in Prince Rupert.

"There are no layoffs taking place, there are no positions being eliminated," said Polak. "What is happening is the delegated agencies are taking over increasing responsibility for aboriginal children in the area, And as they do that, and this isn't the first time and won't be the last, naturally we transfer the funding."

Polak said it would be up to the Aboriginal agencies to decide who works under them to fulfill the child poverty worker roles. That could mean that current employees could lose their jobs if the agencies feel that another candidate, especially one of Aboriginal ancestry, fits more in-line with where they believe they need to be heading.

However, this does not always mean lay-offs, the minister said they have the option of transferring to another region.

The BCGEU staff said they were told efforts will be made to implement layoffs through attrition and leaving vacancies unfilled, but they were warned layoffs may occur. They were also encouraged to apply for vacant positions in Dease Lake - 600 kilometres to the north.

The disquiet over the changes reflects a concern about how B. C. deals with child poverty.

Though the child poverty rate has declined over the last three years, according First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, B.C. still ranks as the province with the worst child poverty rate in the country.

The BCNDP reacted with anger that the cuts were coming.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons and Skeena MLA Robin Austin say that child-protection workers in the northwest are the latest victims of Gordon Campbell's pre-election budget deception.

"Gordon Campbell didn't campaign on cutting services for vulnerable children," said Coons. "This is more proof of the B.C. Liberals pre-election budget deception," said Coons.

The BCGEU says that six full time child protection worker positions will be eliminated from the region that includes Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert because of budget shortfalls.

Coons worried that the provincial government was not putting the best interests of children ahead of budgetary concerns.

"Instead of protecting vital social services the premier puts children's lives at risk," said Coons.

"With poverty deepening due to deteriorating economic conditions we can expect an increase in children needing the services of the ministry," said Austin. "This is a cruel and senseless cut that puts children at risk."