Sunday, April 14, 2024

Blog Watching: Week ending April 14, 2024


This past week was a Council week, featuring the first of two public sessions for Prince Rupert City Council for the month of April.

As it often is on Council weeks, many of our items found large audiences and for this week two themes dominated the focus for readers.

The first was the use once again of dividends from the City's Legacy financial instrument, this time Council using some of those resources towards topping up the cost of design work from the estimate of last year.

The other topic that generated significant attention was another round of the city's work on derelict or nuisance properties, though in this instance, the prospects of demolition for the old Mohawk site on Second West now seems very unlikely.

Also this week,  the Prince Rupert Port Authority announced their latest Board of Directors appointment, with Hilary Cassady and Lee Brain announced as the appointees, Ms. Cassday from the Port Users Group and Mr. Brain to serve as the choice of the City of Prince Rupert and District of Port Edward.

The last of the list of five notes of the ongoing investigation into last weeks Fire at a townhouse complex on Immanuel,  the incident sent one person to hospital with serious injuries and saw Prince Rupert RCMP take one male into custody.
 
When it came to the most read item of the week however,  the latest dip in the funds of the City's Legacy accounts provided for our top article.

Legacy Fund Dividends come to the rescue for preliminary planning for City's McCarthy GM Facility for Civic Operations use --  At their Monday session, the members of Prince Rupert City Council approved the use of $290,000 of Legacy dividends to cover off the revised price of the original price of75,000 dollars for the design work on the McCarthy GM facility. That's the early process towards making use of the old auto dealership for  use by Civic Operations.   More notes related to the Monday Council Session can be explored here. (posted April 8, 2024

That article was followed by: 

City of Prince Rupert looks to accommodate property owners on Second West towards remediation goals for former Mohawk property site    -- Monday's council session brought comments from the property owners during the public comment period, along with a review of a report from staff that outlined steps for the property owners to take care of,  that to eliminate the prospect of demolition for the boarded up structure.    (posted April 10, 2024)

Former Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain one of two new appointments to the Prince Rupert Port Authority Board of Directors -- The City of Prince Rupert's nomination and selection process delivered a familiar name to a prime civic appointment. That as former Mayor Lee Brain was selected by  civic officials in Prince Rupert and Port Edward, to serve as the City of Prince Rupert/District of Port Edward representative on the Port Board. Also selected by the Port Users Group for placement on the Board, was Hilary Cassady an accomplished businesswoman with Prince Rupert roots.   (posted April 8, 2024

Prince Rupert's 'Still standing', so Jonny Harris is coming to town Sunday for a look-- Comedian Jonny Harris, host of the popular CBC TV program Still Standing was in the city for much of the week researching the community for his show at the Civic Centre on Sunday evening, the event one free to the public.   (posted April 9, 2024

One person injured and in hospital from Saturday's East Side fire, one in custody as Prince Rupert RCMP continue investigation -- Quick work by Prince Rupert Fire Rescue on April 6th limited the spread of a  fire at a townhome complex on Immanuel. Though as a result of the fire one person was taken to hospital for treatment of serious injuries, while Prince Rupert RCMP announced one male was in custody related to the fire.    (posted April 7 , 2024

You can find our weekly Blog watching feature posted every Sunday morning by 9AM, making for a handy way to catch up to the week that was, at a leisurely weekend pace. 
 
You can also review the full listings of the week just past, from our Blog Archive index page found on the right hand side of the page. 

For updates on new items posted daily to the blog, we direct you to our CharlesMHays Twitter feed, where we post notification of new stories as we post them. 

Our archive of weekly Blog Watching can be found here 

 To view the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

MLA's Week: April 8-11, 2024



Health care dominated much of the discussion for the week at the BC Legislature, with the members of all three opposition parties taking note of a string of concerning issues across the province and seeking more from the government towards how it plans to address them.

The topic one of some note for Prince Rupert residents, as the city's hospital once again announced more overnight Emergency Department closures during the week, a continuation of the string of closures for the health care facility last month

While it was a fairly low profile week for North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, she did make note of some news from the province.  The MLA relaying word of a new program to match up patients who don't have doctors with physicians, though for Prince Rupert it may be more of a longer term option, that as a number of doctors plan to leave the community in the next few months.


Ms. Rice also made note of the recent Haida Agreement, speaking to the topic late in the week as part of the Thursday session.  Her comments in the Legislature followed approval of the 'Rising Tides' Land title agreement by the Haida Nation membership last weekend.


Skeena MLA Ellis Ross was one of the Opposition members to speak to health care issues, raising a number of health service related concerns from residents in Kitimat as part of the Legislature debate this week

Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen also had an active week, that through a pair of committee sessions related to his Ministry in Lands, Water and Resource Stewardship.

Opposition members also turned a spotlight on the NDP government's Clean BC program, taking note of  a percolating controversy related to concerning allegations from that program


As for more on the work from the House, the sessions of the week  unfolded for the three regional MLA's as follows:

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On the week, Ms Rice was mentioned once  in the record  for the week in the  Legislature from April 8-11.

Her contribution to the Legislature proceedings was a statement to the Chamber related to the recent Haida Gwaii land title agreement. The discussions led to  resolution of the long standing issue between the province and the Haida Nation (see video here)

Ms. Rice currently serves as the Government's Parliamentary Secretary for Rural health.



The North Coast MLA also addressed a range of themes and relayed  a number of government announcements through her Social Media Stream.

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For our readers from the Terrace-Kitimat region, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross  was  mentioned three times in the record  for the week in the Legislature from April 8-11, 2024.

Tuesday afternoon, the Skeena MLA spoke as part of the Budget Health estimates for the Ministry of Health, with Mr. Ross raising a number of concerns on health from the Kitimat area. As part of his presentation and questions, the MLA noted of Emergency Room Closures, shared ambulance issues for the region. He also noted of concerns over the loss of services, along with filling open physician posts as part of his questions for the Health Minister (see video at  17:51 of the discussion)

During the Wednesday session, Mr. Ross had two opportunities to speak in the Chamber.

His first commentary was a salute to the Terrace River Kings following their Coy Cup victory in Powell River, as well the MLA noted of a number of regional sports teams that found success this spring (see video at 13:45)

The topic of Clean Energy, LNG Development and some notes on the growing importance of the Port of Prince Rupert as part of the energy infrastructure for the province made for some extensive comments in the  Wednesday session as well. (see video at the 14:16 mark)

Mr. Ross serves as the BC United critic on LNG and Energy

Committee Membership for MLA Ross for the Spring Session at the legislature has yet to be detailed:

The Skeena MLA also addressed a range of themes  featured as part of the MLA's social media work.


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For our readers from the Bulkley Valley area, Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen  was  mentioned  once  in the record for the week in the  Legislature from April 8-11, 2024.

Tuesday Morning the Stikine MLA paid tribute to members of Ducks Unlimited who were  in the gallery, Mr. Cullen noting of their work on environmental themes (see video at 10:06 AM )

Committee Membership for MLA Cullen for the Spring Session at the legislature has yet to be detailed:

The Stikine  MLA participated in two Committee Sessions this week relate to the Budget Estimates for his portfolio in Water, Lands and Resource Stewardship  (see Monday afternoon session here and the Tuesday morning Session here

Mr. Cullen serves as the Government's Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship.

The Stikine MLA also had comments on a range of themes through his Social Media stream this week

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There is more background on all three Regional MLA's available from our  MLA's Week Archive, as well as our constituency archives below.





Members return to the Chamber on Monday morning.


A larger overview of provincial issues can be found on our  Political Portal D'Arcy McGee.  




Friday, April 12, 2024

Digby Island Ferry begins transit southbound for refit program

Out of Port ... the Digby Island Ferry is on a southbound
transit for its refit program in Victoria 

The navigation chart reads southbound for the Digby Island Ferry today, with the long serving vessel that connects the city with its airport destined for a Victoria area shipyard for what may be its last refit.

The Vessel Tracker website Marrine Traffic had the vessel last reported just south of Oona River at 3PM this afternoon, that as it began its journey to the southern tip of Vancouver Island.


City Council approved the contract for the refit in October of 2023, with Point Hope Marttime awarded the work, the last refit for the vessel was in 2019.

Those who travel through the Prince Rupert Airport on Digby Island are  now using a barge and tug service, which takes the airport buses and cargo truck across the harbour between Fairview and the Dock on the Island.


At the April 4th Town Hall Forum Mayor Pond noted that the current vessel is a the end of its life cycle, an information graphic as part of that presentation listed a replacement cost of 40 million dollars today,.

A number likely to rise once the next five year cycle comes to an end.

More notes on Airport Services in Prince Rupert can be reviewed here.

As Recreational Fishing and boating season nears, the City reminds Rushbrook users of some rules

The city's automated parking kiosk at Rushbrook Floats one of two in the area,
with a second unit located along George Hills Way across from the CBSA office

The spring and summer means more activity at the Rushbrook Floats as recreational and sports fishers, along with pleasure boaters and the commercial fleet all make use of the city owned Boat launch facility.

With those busy days just ahead, the volume of those using the facility is sure to increase, which could make space at a bit of a premium.


The City of Prince Rupert today through their social media stream has reminded all of those who use Rushbrook, including those who walk the trail to Seal Cove, of some of the rules and regulations to be aware of.

In their advisory they note of the two fixed kiosk locations one at Rushbrook, the other on George Hills way across from the CBSA offices. 

As well the City highlights the option of their Passage Pass app that allows you to pay online.

You can access that app program here.


Further information related to the Rushbrook Parking Improvement Area program can be reviewed here.

More notes related to City Hall themes can be explored here.

Lester Centre of the Arts ready to raise the curtain on Shakespearean works

Prince Rupert theatre goers are now less than one week away from the debut of the latest in Lester Centre productions and another much anticipated showcase of local talent.  

That as a three man ensemble tackle the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, the cast and crew now winding down their rehearsals in anticipation of the curtain raising on Thursday, April 19th. 

Planning for the project began in the fall of 2023, when the ambitious production first hosted auditions.

The three night run for the 37 plays of the Bard in just 97 minutes, is to be delivered by the trio of Andy Enns, Sam Brennan and Tristan Higginson with show times of 7:30 Thursday through Saturday.

To whet your appetite most verily for the grand occasion, the Lester Centre has provided for a short preview of what's ahead come Thursday night.


Ticket information for each of the three nights can be accessed here.

For updates on the countdown to showtime, follow the Lester Centre Social media stream.

More notes on the region's Arts scene can be reviewed here.

The Legacy Cookie Jar ... City Council's Fund of choice to get out of tight spots or tough decisions

The City's use of some funding from their Legacy Financial instrument was once again a talking point at City Council this week.  

That as we noted from our council reviews of the week, coming from the request for an amendment to the 2024 Financial Plan. That request one to top up the funding required for design work on the city's ambitions for the McCarthy GM building on Portage.

April 10 -- "Bumps on the road" -- City Councillors approve use of Legacy Dividends for McCarthy designs work, but raise questions on path forward 

April 8 -- Legacy Fund Dividends come to the rescue for preliminary planning for City's McCarthy GM facility for Civic Operations use

It marks the most recent occasion that City Council has used the financial instrument towards a project or civic initiative that needs a bit of extra cash to move forward, or has seen a cost over run.  

The use of the Legacy instrument something which over the last few years is akin to the Ghostbusters getting a call, whenever  Council sees a few financial ghosts. 

Legacy was created in 2014 during the exuberance of the days of LNG when local officials suggested we were going to be the centre of the then percolating industry, with hyper economic growth to go along with it. 

Yet curiously as years moved forward, at times some seemed to work to make sure that those LNG ambitions didn't come to pass in this part of the Northwest. 

The seed money for what became Legacy came from the bank account of Exxon-Mobil-Imperial, which was here kicking tires on Lot 444, the property across from Seal Cove which the city moved inside the city limits during that period.

However, by early 2018 Exxon and their components had announced that their planning was to come to an end, leaving behind their thank you notes by way of a reported 18 million dollars.

Towards the city's use of the financial instrument, the Legacy entry on the city website doesn't take long to work through, with only a few additions to it since the original notice of 2014.

Tracking just how often Council has used Legacy Dividends, or principle from the original Legacy money isn't an easy task. 

Curious residents over the years would have to dig deep into the Financial notes at budget time for nuggets of information. 

Or keep a watchful eye for Reports to Council through the year from the Chief Financial Officer, to determine whenever another few dollars were distributed to projects, vision planning work or other initiatives.

Last Fall saw a presentation for the public that noted of the many Budget initiatives for 2024 and where the Legacy option was put to use.  Most of the areas where money has been used residents likely would find sensible, a few others probably not so much so.

Still for most of us, without a current and updated document available on the civic website to review, it's hard to say if Council is using their cookie jar as the public may wish it to be used.  

Or if they consider it their own account towards the execution of their vision planning elements of recent years.

Setting up such an easily accessible resource on the civic website, listing each of the times that the Legacy instrument has been put to use, would at least give residents some kind of an idea as to how their money ...  for it is the community's cash not Council's, is being used.

In recent months we've seen some hints as to how Council makes its decisions, for instance the topic of the 4th Avenue West stair and walkway remediation program, despite much public engagement stalled last year; the idea of using Legacy Funds seemingly not something that Council seemingly had an appetite for.

Same for what has become the annual Budget time request from Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa that Council use the financial instrument to reduce the burden on those who pay property taxes each July.

Though as we saw this week, should a project, in this case the plan to move Civic Operations to the McCarthy facility find itself facing a significant cost estimate spike, it's Legacy to the rescue.

The workings of the Legacy Instrument, along with how it relates to the operations of Watson Island, and much like how the City oversees CityWest, another element of the city's financial portfolio; all seem to be divisions which never seem to gain much interest from Council towards  regular and informative public reviews or oversight.

And despite the concept that residents of Prince Rupert in effect hold the position of shareholders for all three; there never seems to be a Shareholders meeting called to outline where the City is going with those entities, or for the public to ask questions about them.

The closest we get is during events like the recent Town Hall Forum of earlier this month or previous State of the City forums, where Legacy is praised for its contribution to civic finances.  

Or as was the case in 2022, a few highlights on the use of the instrument through infographics. 

But when it comes to actual details on operations, or how Council is shaping its vision, let alone if Council priorities are in line with what the public may want. 

Those are elements that don't make for much public discussion.


Council for the most part in recent years seems to have lost their way on why they have been elected, that to act as advocates for those who send them to 424 Third Avenue West.

Instead at times they appear quite content and indeed enthusiastic, to have become part of the sales team that represents City Hall Inc. to the public.

That approach probably has evolved owing to a lack of interest by the local media in any form of local government function, from City Council, to School Board, to the work of the MLA in Victoria.

That disinterest when it comes to taking note of Council's work, putting their deliberations into a spotlight and seeking accountability, leaves the message making to the elected officials, Senior Staff members  and the communications team.  

And that's not really offering the kind of review that digs into areas that the public should want to have explored.

Then again, the voters of the community share some of that responsibility towards those issues and the current situation.

The 2022 municipal election saw just 2,835 voters cast a ballot


Over the years the election turnout for municipal and all elections for that matter, has been concerning creating somewhat of a democracy deficiency.

With most residents taking a pass on their civic duty on election day, a message likely not lost by those that shape policy at City Hall, the School Board office or at the Legislature, as well as by those who are supposed to be reporting on it.

Yes, every once in a while an issue pops up, such as this week that catches the attention of the public.  

But without any follow up and engagement with civic officials by residents and what's left of the media in the region; the cycle surely will return to a pattern that seems pretty predictable by now.

We've explored the Legacy theme in particular more than a few times over the years since 2014 and there is very much a sense of a Ground Hog day vibe around it all. 

You can review much of that previous work through our Council Discussion  archives over the years.



2024 Business Excellence Award Winners and Finalists celebrated by Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce

And the winners were ... the Commercial Class of 2024
on stage at the Lester Centre on Saturday night

(image from PR & District  Chamber of Commerce FB

The Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce is saluting both the winners and finalists for the 2024 Business Excellence awards,  with the awards handed out last Saturday night at a Gala event at the Lester Centre of the Arts.

The night one to celebrate the resilience of the local commercial sector and to highlight those in the community who provide for excellence in customer Service.

The nomination period closed at mid February, followed by online voting in March by the community, those results provided for the names in the envelopes for Saturday night's celebration.

The full list of the thirteen Award winners for 2024 was posted to the Chamber's Facebook page on Wednesday.

Through this week the Chamber has provided a look at both the winners and finalists of the 57 business or individuals up for consideration.  

That by way of their social media page, included in all of that is a collection of photos of those who took away the top prize in each of the categories.

You can review those notes through Chamber of Commerce Social Media stream

More notes on Commercial sector developments in the region can be be reviewed through our archive page.