Monday, March 22, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Monday, March 22, 2010)

Possible privatization is in the cards for Ridley Terminals, same ole financial flow for the School District and water, water everywhere and the Daily goes for a look, some of the items of interest from the Monday news files.

Daily News, front page, headline story
COULD RIDLEY TERMINALS BE PRIVATIZED AFTER ALL?-- The economic ghost of Dan Veniez rises up on the shores of Ridley Island as George T. Baker hears word (maybe from the Mayor?) that there is a move afoot to purchase the coal terminal (we gather not the same kind of purchase as Hawkair!) from the federal government. According to the Baker scoop,  a consortium of coal, lumber and other investors are about to scoop the terminal up from under the noses of the Prince Rupert Port Corporation. An abridged version has already made it to the news wires with a publication called Product Design and Development having it out in the wired universe before even the Daily News had a chance to hit the streets.

School District 52 will receive 25 million dollars  in operating fund grants for next year, the exact amount that they received this year. A move that has come under fire from Gary Coons the MLA for the North Coast, who calls the situation effectively a cut and expresses his thoughts that the government is misleading British Columbians and School Boards with their moves. With the status quo funding, Coons says that the School District will have no room to work with for such things as salaries, no increases for full day kindergaretn and MSP, all costs that he says will be downloaded onto the local School District.

For those that enjoy a fine glass of Prince Rupert water from time to time, Monica Lamb Yorski takes us on a tour of the City's water infrastructure, from Wooworth and Shawatlan lakes to the Frederick Street water station.

And to reinforce the idea that sometimes a story is so good it needs to be told twice, the Daily repeats Friday's efforts outlining Hawkairs concerns about what it called minsinformation on the recent change of ownership status that the airline went under. For those that missed it on Friday (see here) it fills up some of the white space of page ten in the Monday edition.

The paper also provides the conduit of best wishes, with a page 5 recreation of a letter from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as his reply to the mass mailing of local students of earlier this year. In his letter the Prime Minister expresses his "inspiration" from the youth of Prince Rupert and offers his best wishes for a "wonderful centennial celebration"

The Sports section featured a review of the weekend's novice hockey tournament at the Civic Centre and provides an update on the current floor hockey season in town, which saw the regular season schedule come to an end, with the playoffs set for March 28th

(Archive for Daily News Articles for March 22, 2010)

Could Ridley Terminals be privatized after all
SD 52 to receive status quo funds
Water, water everywhere, but which water do we drink?
A twin performance at the Olympic games
Update on Hendy trial in Manitoba

The Northern View
No new items were posted to the Northern View website for Monday

CFTK TV 7 News
No new articles were posted on the Northern View website on Monday

CBC News British Columbia, Daybreak North 
No new items were posted to the Daybreak North website on Monday

Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now. The most recently posted items for this week can be found on the weekly archive for Daybreak North click here

The Daily News, headline, front page story
Could Ridley Terminals be privatized after all? 
By George T. Baker 
The Daily News
Monday, March 22, 2010

It appears that Dan Veniez was right about one thing.

The former chair of Ridley Terminals Inc. had previously stated that a consortium of RTI users were readying a bid to purchase the coal terminal from the federal government.

Ridley Terminal Users Group, a consortium of coal, lumber and other investors, are furthering their interest in purchasing the Crown corp. It appears that the major B.C. coal firms could be ready to make a bid on RTI just when it appeared that the Prince Rupert Port Authority was about to merge the coal terminal under its wings.

Mayor Jack Mussallem told the Daily News he was made aware of the RTUG’s plan at a Northern Development Initiative Trust meeting last week and that northwest elected representatives were still pouring over the details the RTUG had outlined for the purchase.

 “They are one entity that is interested in the operation of RTI. And of course they have a vested interest because [of who they are]. They certainly understand the need to keep that entity operating and they would like to ensure there is a degree of consistency that meets their needs,” said Mussallem.

 RTI pulled in $25 million worth of revenues in 2008. It would be a valuable asset for northern B.C. coal firms operating out of the Peace River region, such as Peace River Coal and Western Coal Corp., both charter members of RTUG.

 Western Coal’s Wolverine mine in Tumbler Ridge is one of the major feeders of coal supply to RTI. The company’s overall sales figure of $302 million was down 36 per cent from the $474 million in sales over the same time frame in fiscal 2009.

By late March, Western will announce their fiscal 2011 guide, which will outline the company’s capital expenditures. Nearly all of the profit made in the third quarter is expected to be re-invested into the Wolverine operation.

A call to Western Coal about their interest in RTI has not been returned.

In the past, RTUG have lobbied the federal transportation ministry in an effort to gain the ministry’s approval of their plan. 

The group hired Global Public Affairs, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious lobbying firms.

 Dan Veniez, former head of RTI, had raised the possibility of privatization last year, saying in a letter to the Minister of State for Transport, Rob Merrifield, that he had received, “unsolicited expressions of interest from world-class terminal operators who wish to invest in RTI’s potential.” He also named The Jim Pattison Group and Kinder Morgan as having sent in “detailed written proposals.”

One, from KRT Terminals, included an offer of $131-million conditional on due diligence and agreeable terms with the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

 “We believe that if a well-managed process were to occur, more interested and serious parties would emerge and the government would have an enhanced basket of alternatives from which to create value for the taxpayer and secure RTI’s future.”

 Bud Smith, chair of RTI, said Thursday he had no comment about the RTUG proposal because it was the first he’d heard about it.

Mussallem said that, while there might be concern that a move to privatize the terminal would limit other coal firms from using RTI, the group has assured elected officials that this would not be the case.

 “When they met with elected representatives they said first and foremost that the terminal would be open to anybody who wishes to ship product through there. There are opportunities to not only ship coal, but wood pellets and in the future perhaps sulfur and even other products,” said Mussallem.

RTUG will meet with effected MLAs later this week to outline their plan.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons told the Daily News that he had some questions about why they wanted to buy the terminal and what would happen after, but added he wouldn’t support or dismiss it until they presented their plan to him.

 “Issues that come to mind are: What are the costs to taxpayers? What infrastructure upgrades will accompany the proposed take over? What about other users that may want to use the facility, will there be any roadblocks for them? How will current employees be accommodated as far as their negotiated contracts? What will be the benefits to our community and region?” asked Coons.

 “I, as well as many others, need a comprehensive understanding of the pros and cons of this proposal. I look forward to our meeting on the 24th and hope that we can move forward with positive results.”

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