Friday, August 23, 2019

Have Prince Rupert's fish workers been kicked to the curb by area politicians?

Politicians from all three levels of government in the region may want
to pop into Fishermen's Hall and see what support they can offer workers
from what is a disaster of a fishing season

It's been said that the Fishery is a dying industry, and if the results of the last few years and the impact on the local economy are any indication, then indeed someone, somewhere may very well be engraving that tombstone as you read this piece.

However, for the moment, there are still hundreds of North Coast workers and their families who once made a living from that industry and at this moment in time, in a very troubled fishing season they are facing some very tough times. 

And as we put an end to August, it doesn't seem that their plight is making much of an impact on many of those that they may have elected to office.

Yesterday we made note of a letter from Shane Simpson the Provincial Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, responding to a call from UFAWU-Unifor to have the Federal Government provide for some assistance for those that are in dire straits this fishing season.

The Minister's letter was included as part of a Facebook post from the union page, which also seems to indicate the level of their frustration in getting the message across that help is needed as soon as possible..

That last line again:  Thank goodness someone is listening

That does indicate that there is some work to be done from elected officials a little closer to the Fraser Street Union Hall, where as we noted earlier this month, the current campaign to draw attention to what is described as a disastrous fishing season was first issued.

Since that time however, that call to action has not seemingly found much resonance from the MLA's office, the MP's office, or that of Prince Rupert City Council.

Three levels of local representation which seem to have let the summer fishing woes slide off their radars through much of month.

A review of their social media fields, which of late seem to be the main vehicle for political statements on the North Coast, have not offered up much in the way of common cause for the union call for some help from Ottawa.

Ms. Rice did make mention of the Provincial Government's letter today on her Facebook page, but scroll down on her portal and you'll find that the only other comment of the local fishery came on August 3rd, which was a shout out for an ecotrust Canada initiative

A program which while a valuable addition to the dialogue is not part of the current call for urgent assistance from the union.

The immediate issues facing North Coast residents seems to have slipped off the radar of MP Nathan Cullen as well, his social media feed  more of a farewell travelogue this month as opposed to raising the visibility of the fishing community.

For Mayor Lee Brain and the members of Prince Rupert City Council, the plight of the local workers has not made for one comment of concern, or any calls for a show of support through the relaxed summer months of Council sessions.

When it comes to fishery themes, for the most part, with the exit of former Councillor Joy Thorkelson prior to the last election, the once frequent topic of fishery concerns for Council sessions has seemingly headed off towards its own particular sunset around the Council chamber.

At the most recent Council session of Monday evening, Mayor Brain offered up a view of a Prince Rupert looking forward to what will apparently be bountiful days of economic growth through Port development.

That buoyant view of the Port dominated future comes while an industry that once built the city's economic foundation struggles; leaving as its largest casualties those employees (and their families) who once earned an income working the boats of the fleet and in the city's fish plants.

That's not to say that all three levels of government on the North Coast haven't spoken out in the past, or called for some form of Federal action on fishery issues.

The call for adjacency in the fishery has made for a theme from all of them in the past, a common cause that is more of a long term issue, one still awaiting resolution from the Federal government and a Fisheries Minister who has still to visit this community.

That long sought after quest for equal treatment with the Atlantic provinces was part of a Wild Salmon Report delivered in March, some of those elements also made for the recommendations from a Commons Committee review published in May.

But that is all policy work and something still off in the distance, the more immediate concern today, is the disaster that is the 2019 fishing season.

A three month period highlighted by low stocks, few fishery openings and even fewer calls to work; a trilogy of events that has made an already bad situation for local workers even worse.

Earlier this month,  the Mayors of the Highway 16 corridor, along with regional MLA's banded together to demand Federal action for those forestry communities that are facing their own challenging times.

A call echoed by the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.

Those who are facing the impact of a fishing season and fishing industry in as much, if not more trouble than that of the forestry, can only wonder why their own political leaders aren't taking charge of a similar initiative closer to home.

For a look back at this fishing season and other notes related to the industry see our archive page here.

Lower Hydro bills may be in the future ... should BCHydro's lower rate request be granted

A break on your Hydro bill could be on the way next year as BC Hydro makes an application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission to seek a decrease in the rate it charges its residential, business and industrial customers.

BC Hydro has based its request from its audited fiscal results for 2019 and the latest financial forecast that anticipates higher than expected income from its trading subsidiary Powerex, as well as lower than anticipated forecast debt financing and lower than anticipated purchases from Independent Power producers.

Chris O'Reilly, BC Hydro's President and CEO notes that if approved by the BC Utilities Commission, the rate decrease would come into effect as of April 1st of 2020.

“As a result of our updated financial forecast, we’re in the unique position to apply for a rate decrease for our customers that would start on April 1, 2020, if approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission. BC Hydro. We’re committed to continue to work with government and the B.C. Utilities Commission to keep rates affordable while ensuring we continue to provide safe, reliable power to the province.”

If approved by the BC Utilities Commission, the updated rate will reduce the average residential customer's annual electricity costs by up to $16 starting in April 2020

Commercial customers' annual electricity costs will be reduced by up to $715 and industrial customers by up to $230,000

 Over the next five years, the cumulative bill increase is estimated to be 6.2 per cent – 23 per cent lower than the 8.1 per cent net bill increase announced following phase 1 of government's comprehensive review of BC Hydro.

The forecast net bill impacts over the next four years are estimated to be:

April 2020: decrease of 0.99 per cent 
April 2021: increase of 2.7 per cent 
April 2022: decrease of 0.3 per cent
April 2023: increase of 3 per cent

BC Hydro outlined the nature of its rate reduction request through their website.

BC NDP Cabinet Minister, Michelle Mungall got to take on the task of sharing some welcome news for consumers. With the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources outlining some of the notes on the BC Hydro request today.

“For the past two years, our government has been focused on making sure BC Hydro works for people again.I am thrilled that BC Hydro is now able to apply for a rate reduction for the first time in decades. If approved by our independent regulator, lower rates would make life better and more affordable for British Columbians.”

The Provincial government's notes on the announcement can be reviewed here.

The BC Utilities Commission is  not expected to make a final decision on BC Hydros rate request until early in 2020.

At the moment, the Commission is putting together its public review process for BC Hydro's year one evaluation of the Customer Crisis Fund

For more items of interest related to BC Hydro see our archive page.

Friendship House the centre for the Fraser Street Block Party on Saturday

It's become an end of summer/back to school event and this year organizers of the Fraser Street Block Party are offering a wide range of activities tomorrow to help celebrate the 7th anniversary of the Popular event.

Centred around the Friendship House, Saturday's event will feature Live Music, a BBQ, Fry Bread, and a number of games and Crafts.

They also have plans for a Scavenger Hunt, Fish Pod, displays of Art Work and the always popular Bouncy Castle.

There are also a number of Door Prizes to be awarded for those who stop by the event site from 11 AM to 3PM.

The Party is on Fraser Street Saturday, as the neighbourhood around
the Friendship Centre celebrates the 7th anniversary of the
popular Fraser Street Block Party!

You can follow the latest notes on the Block Party from a special Faecbook page set up for Saturday's event

Find out more about Friendship House events from their Facebook page or website.

For more items of note on Community events on the North Coast see our archive page here.

Ridley Terminals sale an example of the rising cost of Social Licence?: National Post article

Social Licence, it was a term first made famous in the Northwest by Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen in 2013, who made it a guiding principle over the years as he spoke to the issues related to resource development in the region.

In a household mailer to constituents at that time, Mr. Cullen described Social Licence as follows:

"A "Social License to operate" means having the support and input that every company needs from the community before and during development. Even though it isn't written into law, companies and communities alike are starting to realize that a "social license" is one of the most important permits they need to achieve before shovels can hit the dirt" 

The talking point of ensuring that Social Licence was considered for regional projects gained wider attention as the list of LNG Terminal and pipeline proposals began to appear, many of them planned  for Prince Rupert, all of them now long since abandoned as the fates would hold.

Since that introduction to the topic from the soon to be departing MP, the concept of Social Licence and the need to address it has become a working element of many of the industrial or resource based projects across the region, mentioned often by federal, provincial and municipal politicians.

The impact of Social Licence is the narrative to a recent National Post article which explored some of the factors related to the recent sale of Ridley Terminals to a pair of American investment firms, with a ten percent stake diverted and to be shared by the Metlakatla First Nation and Lax Kw'alaams Band.

Jesse Snyder is the author of the article and he notes how the move by the Federal Government to deliver the ten percent share of the coal terminal to the First Nations is a possible signal of the "rising cost of winning Indigenous support for natural resource projects"

Seemingly suggesting that the Federal Government initiative is a transfer that is akin to a gift, Mr. Snyder notes that both Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams (the latter after a change of local government) were both set to benefit from a range of agreements that they had reached with the Malaysian energy company Petronas, which had negotiated a number of benefit agreements between Pacific Northwest LNG and both First Nations.

Those benefits however became historical documents with the cancellation of the Pacific Northwest LNG project back in 2017.

At the time of the Petronas decision, Mr. Cullen had highlighted the lack of Social Licence as a key factor towards the cancellation of the project.

The sidebar of the latest Ridley Terminals story seems to suggest that the ten percent share of the North Coast industrial site is some kind of consolation gift in the wake of that now dead LNG deal.

You can read the full article here.

It's an interesting look at the Ridley Terminals sale, and in an ironic political twist, while the apparent application of the Social Licence concept is the guiding theme for the National Post story; Mr. Cullen the prime advocate for the initiative in the Northwest has been one of the loudest critics of the sale of the Terminal.

Though much of his commentary is more concerned with the handover of the Canadian asset to the American firms, as opposed to the share of the facility now held by the two First Nations.

You can find more background on Ridley Terminals from our archive page here.

Make it a Cow Bay lunch date with MLA Rice next Tuesday

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice is hosting an informal meet and greet event
on Tuesday at the Atlin Terminal picnic area

Residents of Prince Rupert who may have a few questions or comments on local issues for MLA Jennifer Rice will have an opportunity to catch up with their representative at the Legislature next week, as Ms. Rice hosts a lunch hour get together at the Picnic area near the Atlin Terminals.

The Bring Your Own Lunch event is scheduled for Tuesday, August 27th from 12 to 1:30 PM.

As the summer begins to wind down, there are any number of topics that constituents may want to bring with them for the picnic chat.

With the most topical of them for the moment, the BC public school teacher negotiations that are now underway, as well when it comes to education,  Prince Rupert residents are still awaiting more updates on the progress towards a long promised new Middle School

Health issues are also a frequent concern for residents, something that City Council has made note of recently as they watch the growing commitment towards the new Mills Memorial hospital in Terrace and seek to ensure that Prince Rupert remains on the radar of the provincial government when it comes to medical services in this community

As well, there are the always popular themes of Ferry transportation to and from the community and more housing resources for those that are in the most need.

Ms. Rice has been on a bit of a tour of the riding of late, most recently catching up with residents in Masset where they joined her for a scoop or two of free ice cream while they chatted about issues of note on Haida Gwaii.

You can follow the MLA's summer travels through her social media feeds of Facebook and twitter.

For more items of interest about the provincial political scene see our archive page here.

Metlakatla election campaign nears end with vote Wednesday

After just over two months of hearing from a range of candidates on a number of local issues, voters in Metlakatla will be making their decisions next week; as the campaigning for positions on the First Nation's Council heads into its final weekend, with the voting booths set to open on Wednesday, August 28th.

Twelve candidates put their name into nomination, with two contesting the Chief Councillors position, four standing for office as On Reserve Councillor and six seeking office as In Territory Councillors.

We outlined the names of those seeking office back in June when the nomination period closed and the candidates began to share their thoughts and ambitions for the community as part of the summer long campaign period.

Among the races, Long serving Metlakatla leader Harold Leighton is looking to retain his position and secure another term as Chief Councillor, he is facing a challenge from Randall Cobb.

The On Reserve positions feature four candidates, Alvin Leask, Sharon Morven, James L. Nelson and Robert Nelson.

Six candidates are seeking positions as In Territory Council members, they include Wayne Haldane, Karen Jeffry, Alrita Leask, Miranda Leighton, Darci R. Nelson and Cynthia Smith.

The Current members of the Metlakatla Governing Council.
There could be some new faces taking seats with the
Community Council after the August 28th vote

(photo from MFN website)

A look at the membership of the current governing Council can be explored here.

Election Day Wednesday will see two polling stations available for Metlakatla residents to make use of, the primary polling station at Metlakatla Village and a secondary polling station in Prince Rupert to be set up at the Coastal Training Centre on Dunsmuir Street.

Metlakatla First Nation  members can also vote by electronic voting, a process which began in late June and continues until the close of the polls on Wednesday.

Voters also had opportunity to vote by mail in ballot, with the deadline for that option also prior to the end of the polling period.

More background on the voting options can be found here.

Updates from the community as they head towards election day can be reviewed from the Metlakatla website and Facebook page.

More notes related to the Metlakatla First Nation can be explored on our archive page.

September brings new exhibit to Museum of Northern British Columbia

September will bring a new travelling exhibit to Prince Rupert's
Museum of Northern British Columbia

North Coast residents and visitors to town will have a chance to take in something a little different from the normal offerings of the Museum of Northern British Columbia new month.

That as a new travelling exhibit prepares to start a three month run, the tour to the Northwest coning thanks to close to 10,000 dollars in funding secured to bring Inspiring NATURE, inspired TECHO Biomimicry and Transport to Prince Rupert.

The exhibit will arrive on the North Coast in the second week of September, with the display scheduled to open to the public on September 14th and remain at the Museum of Northern British Columbia until January 6th of 2020.

The interactive displays and exhibits will provide access to thirty natural specimens and technological objects and offers a range of material to educate and captivate both young and old visitors to the museum.

A look at some of the hands on exhibits that will make up a new
temporary exhibition at the Museum of Northern British Columbia
the new exhibit will be in Prince Rupert from September 14, 2019 to January 6th 2020

The display which is normally based in Quebec, has been on a tour of British Columbia since May of this year. It currently is set up in Prince George, Following its stopover in Prince Rupert. the exhibit will travel to the Okanagan Heritage Museum in Kelowna in January.

The British Columbia travels for the exhibition has been supported by the Museums Assistance Program (MAP) of the Department of Canadian Heritage

You can learn about more about the travelling exhibit here.

Travelling exhibits have been well received in the past at the Museum, in January of 2018 a large number of North Coast residents explored the history of The Clovis People, when that exhibit arrived in Prince Rupert for a three month run.

Updates on events from the Museum can be explored through their website and Facebook page

For more items of interest on Community events see our archive page here.