Thursday, January 31, 2013

Watson Island becomes the backdrop for a Chinese legal thriller

Andy Hoffman, the Globe and Mail reporter who has been doggedly following the chain of events regarding developments of the Watson Island pulp mill saga must be starting to feel like he's ghost writing for one of John Grisham's legal thrillers.

The Watson Island file has been a seemingly never ending trail and for the most part it's been the work of Mr. Hoffman and the Globe that has given us the bulk of the information of each twist and turn of this long running story.

And the bizarre tales coming from the Chinese side of the Sun Wave story, became even a little bit more bizarre today, with the latest instalment from Hoffman's ongoing project.

Wrapped up in the long running legal proceedings in British Columbia over the fate of the mill site is the latest bombshell of reports over corruption in China. With the Globe reporting that Mr. Ni Ritao the Chinese businessman at the centre of the Watson Island case is now apparently in custody,  alleged to be involved in a Chinese bank fraud scheme related to the mill.

Since he's been rather indisposed of late, it's probably not a surprise that there hasn't been much in the way of movement from Mr. Ni on the Watson Island file on this side of the ocean.

Even if he was available for appearances in a BC court, it would seem he would possibly be spread a little thin, in addition to the Prince Rupert proceedings in court, Mr. Ni is apparently involved in several separate legal actions in the province.

However, as this whole tale is evolving, all of the British Columbia filings are starting to become but a sideline to the ever growing and clearly much more intriguing story.

As it would seem that Mr. Ni clearly has much larger worries to deal with at the moment.

Further revelations in the Globe story outline  how the investigation in China is leading to some of the higher reaches of the Chinese government, with the head of China's National Energy Administration and vice-director of a top planning agency reportedly also reportedly under investigation in relation to the investment troubles.

All of these details are now finding their way to the western press, something that isn't exactly the usual operating procedure for the Chinese.

With this sudden burst of disclosure from the normally circumspect Chinese, it would appear that the Chinese government has apparently decided that this may be the case to launch its campaign to root out corruption in Chinese government circles, with Watson Island served up as some form of smoking gun it seems.

The BC Liberal government must be getting to the point where they are wishing that Mr. Ni had perhaps chosen some other destination for his would be investment plans.

As the Globe reviews in this latest story, Mr. Ni has made contact with Liberal officials in the past and at times has provided financial donations to the party and some of its past candidates over the course of a three year period from 2005-2007.

Considering the percolating situation in China, that probably wasn't a welcome reminder for the government, which may soon be facing some more questions about how much involvement it has had with the Chinese businessman.

Once again, this latest instalment as all the others were, is well worth the read.

The Globe and Mail story can be found here, links to the other Hoffman stories on the theme are included in the main body of the story.

5th Annual Science Fair set for late February

Attention class, Attention, all scientific minds are invited to take part in this years Science Fair at Charles Hays Secondary School.

The next few weeks could see local students working hard in their school labs and perhaps even the home garage as they put together their submissions a much anticipated scientific event on the local calendar.

Budding scientists of the North Coast will be exhibiting their creations later in February, as the Northwest Science and Innovation Society hosts a Science Fair at Charles Hays Secondary School on February 23rd.

Student registration is free, however pre-registration is required from the online registration portal.

The timeline for the February 23rd event is as follows:

8:30 - 9:30 Students set up projects

9:30 - Noon Judging of projects

12:30 - 1:30 Lunch and Science Activities

1:30 - 2:30 Awards Ceremony

2:30  Take down of projects

The February 23rd event is but one of two events that local students could be involved in this year, the 2013 Pacific Northwest Regional Science Fair is scheduled for April 5 and 6 at Northwest Community College in Terrace.

More details on that Science Fair are to be provided on the Society's website as we get closer to April.

You can learn more about these and other events sponsored by N(Si)S from their website.

City Council set to issue a rebuke on the thought of a Ridley Terminals Sale

Councillor Thorkelson led the charge on Monday evening, providing a lengthy and rather expressive denouncement of the plans of the Federal Government to put Ridley Terminals up for sale.

Monday's discussion on the topic of Ridley Terminals came about from the last Council meeting, when the City Council requested that City staff provide a report on the current state of the proposed sale and compare it with council's thoughts on the topic when the issue last came up for discussion a few years back.

With the report read into the record by Rob Grodecki, Council was then invited to make comment on the findings of staff, which offered Councillor Thorkelson opportunity to make her case that a strongly worded letter of protest should be sent to the Federal Ministers responsible for Ridley Terminals. She also suggested that the letter should be forwarded to the provincial government and the local governments of the region.

She carried the bulk of the conversation on the topic, outlining her concerns over the potential disruption to the local economy that could come about with privatization.  With the public and the City having no public oversight on developments at the Terminal.

Calling the idea of privatization to be inane, she offered up the scenario of private ownership in times of market downturns making a decision to close the terminal, with little recourse for the City to affect any decision.

Councillor Ashley joined in on the conversation, suggesting that the letter also be forwarded to the Prime Minister as well as to Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District.

Councillor Thorkelson also (perhaps more for dramatic effect) offered up the thought that perhaps the City should put forward  a revenue sharing proposal for the Federal Government over operations at Ridley Terminals, a prospect that would seem rather unlikely with the Conservatives holding office at the moment.

You can review the report and the discussion that followed its delivery from the City Council video archive page, the Ridley Terminals question starts at the 1:34:00 mark and continues on until 1:44:00.

From the Media outlets

Northern View-- City opposing RTI sale (Feb 6-- e edition pages 1 and 3)

6.0 magnitude quake strikes Craig Alaska overnight

The earth shifted once again off the Southeast Alaskan coast, as a 6.0 magnitude temblor struck the region just before 2 AM on Thursday morning, the epicentre located just 101 km West of Craig, Alaska, 316 km West, Northwest of Prince Rupert. The depth of the quake was 9.6 kilometres.

It is the same region where the January 5th 7.5 magnitude earthquake took place and as we outlined on the blog yesterday, it has been a very active location with over 250 aftershocks recorded before this morning's early jolt.

There are no reports of damage or injury from the latest quake of the northwest and few if any in the Prince Rupert area have reported feeling anything from the early morning temblor.

The event of Thursday morning does not seem to have generated any need for emergency response, no details on tsunami alerts can be found on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre's website nor from the Emergency Info BC twitter feed.

There was a short notice posted to the NWS Tsunami alert twitter feed, advising that a Tsunami was not expected.

The Pacific coast has been a particularly active earthquake zone in the last few weeks, with sizable temblors stretching from South America to Alaska, you can review the temblors of note for the Northwest from our archive page, further information on all of the earthquake activity can be found from the USGS website.

Port of Prince Rupert adds to its Community Investment

As the first month of the new year winds down, a reminder that the Prince Rupert Port Authority is  seeking applications for community funding under its Community Investment Fund.

Eligible applicants in the Prince Rupert area are welcome to apply, however there are a few requirements that applicants must meet, in order to submit your organization or group for consideration.

Those requirements are outlined on the information page for the Community Investment Fund, which this year has a deadline for applications of February 15, 2013.

Since its inception in 2010, the Community Investment Fund has contributed over 1 million dollars to a number of local initiatives, at times partnering with other local corporations to provide for worthy projects.

Already this year, the Ports contributions to the local community have started to add up.

As the year moves forward, we will provide updates as to which Community groups have received support from the Port Authority in 2013.

December 13-- Port Authority Contribution Helps Salmon Education Centre Come Onstream
August 15-- Port Authority Contribution Brightens Limelight at Local Playhouse
August 11-- Port Authority Investment Supports New Round-the-Clock Recycling Depot Initiative
June 25-- Port Authority's Donation to Seafarers' Centre Marks International Day of the Seafarer
June 19-- Port Authority Contribution Empowers Trades Training Project
May 7-- Music Studio receives noteworthy contribution from Prince Rupert Port Authority
January 29-- Local Archers Take Aim at Club Upgrades with Help From Port Authority
January 18-- Port's Hockey Sponsorship Nets Big Win for Local Charity at Season Closer

You can review some of last years (2012) community donations here

Past items of note on the Community Investment Fund

2011 Contributions to the Community Investment Fund (video)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

City Council Timeline: January 28

An honour for the now departing City Manager, an open mike session, presentations to Council and regular city Business all were on the to do list for Prince Rupert City Council on Monday night.

The timeline of the proceedings can be found in red below, tied in with the City Council video feed archived below. Further information such as minutes, audio and video archives can be found as they are posted to the city Website.

Minutes from January, 28 2013

In Attendance January 28, 2013

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Present
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Present
Councillor Judy Carlick-Perason-- Present
Councillor Gina Garon-- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Absent
Councillor Jennifer Rice-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present

Video Archive for January 28, 2013 
Audio Archive for January 28, 2013

The first task of business for Council on the 28th was a presentation to Gord Howie, the departing City Manager was named a recipient of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal (an award we outline more about here).

Following the lengthy preamble of tribute by the Mayor, Mr. Howie received his medal and a plaque of recognition. His appearance at this council meeting would mark his final appearance at City Council functions, he is set to take up duties in Sooke at the start of February. (0:00-5:05)

From there the Mayor called Council to the Committee of the Whole meeting and we were off to races.

The opening item for the night, a Question Period for the Public.

Larry Golden took up the Mayor's offer to submit questions to Council, the topic of his concern were   a number of issues regarding the City of Prince Rupert's place in the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District. His question for Council one of inquiry if the City should only direct a smaller share of funding towards Regional District, or gain a more beneficial weighted vote in Regional District sessions. (08:00--15:30)

With no other questions coming from the gallery, the Mayor brought us to a return to the Regular Council meeting and Agenda Adoption (15:30--18:00)

Regular City Council Business

Presentations to Council

Prince Rupert Golf Course Presentation (18:00--40:00)-- Glen Hauptman representing the Prince Rupert Golf Course, provided council with an overview of the Golf Course's past, it's importance to the community and some of the developments at the Golf course over the last year.  There appeared to be some confusion as to the purpose of the presentation, the Mayor believing that the Golf Course was appearing to seek a Community Enhancement Grant. City Financial Officer Dan Rodin cleared up some of that misunderstanding, advising that the City was already in the process of funding the golf course with a 40,000 Capital Grant, as well as funds for the course superintendent. The Monday night  appearance was more of an information session, as requested by Council in 2012. Councillor Ashley had questions about the other revenue category of the Golf Course budget, she also inquired as to an increase in the numbers using the golf course as well as the increased costs of tournaments held at the Course. Councillor Garon inquired as to the timeline of the budget process at the Golf Course. Councillor Thorkelson asked for clarification on the anticipated deficit reported by the Golf Course. Councillor Ashley again asked for clarification on budget items presented to Council, expressing the same concerns as Councillor Thorkelson on deficit issues, requesting a budget from 2012 for comparison purposes. Council Garon asked if the Course had given any thought to creating a pitch and putt for family activities, as well as other ways to create more use of the Golf Course.

Mr. Derek Baker, Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development Office (40:15--1:03:30) -- Mr. Baker made a presentation  outlining what the Economic Development Office does and some of the initiatives undertaken in 2012, looking forward towards 2013 and the budget required to operate the office. He touched on some of the projects that have been examined by the office, such as the various LNG options, the Rupert Square Shopping Centre makeover and a local micro brewery in the community. He provided an overview at how information is being shared with the public through the PREDC website, which has links to some of the major employers in the city.  He examined the grant writing process that PREDC takes part in, highlighting the Prince Rupert Marina Project as a successful item from that process. He reviewed the partnership with Community Futures and the feedback from their recent Business Survey, which is available on their website. He provided a review of the Contractor Boot Camp, which offers advice and information to local contractors regarding current projects underway and those planned for the community in the future. And to wrap up his presentation he outlined the steps taken towards improving access to the Prince Rupert Airport as well as providing a look at the 2013 Outlook, which explored the progress of the Marina project, a revised Business Service Directory, Business Opportunities Study and Downtown Revitalization study. Councillor Garon congratulated him on his work thus far and asked if there could be a separate web space provided for those looking to move to Prince Rupert, without having to weigh through all the business development items. Gord Howie advised that Mr. Baker is working with the provincial government on a "welcome to webpage", with Prince Rupert the third community to be featured in the program. Councillor Thorkelson asked about if the Economic Development Office would explore a listing of long term jobs in the community and the training required for them. Councillor Carlick-Pearson agreed with Councillor Thorkelson regarding the access to information about future job opportunities.

Presentation from the Prince Rupert Public Library (1:03:00--1:30:00)-- An overview of the developments at the Public Library, outlining the challenges faced by the library in 2012 and looking forward into 2013, managing to the limits of their budget. The video presentation provided some background on funding of libraries in other communities, using financial numbers from 2011.  At the moment the city funds the library to 35 dollars per capita, the norm it seems is around 42 dollars per capita. One item of note for Council is that contract negotiations are coming up at the library. The presentation touched back to 1913 when the reading room opened in the city, using it's history to demonstrate the value of the library 100 years later. Showcasing how the library service has evolved over the years both in the building and through their outreach services. As well the Library stressed its importance as a central gathering place of information on topical issues of the community. Councillor Rice inquired as to what the big needs were for the Library, asking for their wish list. The desire of a new building,  as the current one has become out of date with a number of issues. Councillor Carlick-Pearson asked if traffic in the library has slowed down owing to the arrival of new personal technology. She also asked about public donations and what the process is for that at the library. Councillor Ashley offered up her thoughts on the future for the library and what it can provide for the city and if perhaps it's future should not be tied into the local schools. Councillor Thorkelson asked for some background on how the ebooks subscription process would work. Councillor Ashley asked about inter branch access on ebooks. Councillor Thorkelson asked for further explanation of the ebook process and availability of electronic readers for people to take home with them. Councillor Rice, asked for further information on the ebook procedures at the library.

Reports and Recommendations

(1:30:00--1:31:30A report from the Chief Financial Officer, seeking approval of the bank resolution for Northern Savings Credit Union, and approval of the signatories to it.  The Motion was adopted.

(1:31:30--1:34:00A grant application for the Civic Centre Ice Rink Chiller, seeking approval from Council. Mr. Baker explained the background on the report and request, including the grants they have applied for to put towards the replacement project. Councillor Ashley asked if the need to buy the chiller was reflected in the budget. The Motion was adopted.

(1:34:00--1:44:00)Report from Corporate Administrator, a report on the planned privatization of Ridley Terminals. Mr. Grodecki provided the background on the report regarding the history of Ridley Terminals and the attempts to privatize it previous and the current attempts to sell it to the private market Councillor Thorkelson led the discussion on the report, highlighting her concerns over the privatization plans. Setting in place her request for a motion that City take a stand to say that the Terminal should not be sold. Suggesting that the City write to the Federal Ministers involved advising that Council objects to the sale of Ridley Terminals and that the Federal Government should retain ownership of the Terminal.  Councillor Ashley spoke to Councillor Thorkelson's motion and added the Prime Minister to the list of those to have the letter directed to. Motion was adopted. Council then discussed the concept of offering up a partnership with the Federal Government on the Terminal and seeking a revenue sharing program with them on it. Motion was adopted.

Correspondences for Action

(1:44:00--1:46:00A request seeking a letter of support for the upcoming All-Native Basketball Tournament at the Civic Centre-- Motion was adopted. Councillor Thorkelson offered her support to the request and added that the Mayor should attend the session and speak on the issue of drinking and driving as requested by tournament organizers.

Items from Closed Council Meeting

(1:47:00- 1:48:00Mr. Howie spoke on the topic of continuity of administrative leadership, outlining that with his departure Mr. Rodin will take on the role of Acting City Manager, with Mr. Grodecki taking on the role in Mr. Rodin's absence.

City Manager's Report

(1:48:00--1:54:00Outstanding City Initiatives -- Mr. Howie did not have any items to update council on at this time, he advised that the city was moving at pace on current items. And that he would provide a list of  council initiatives before his departure.  Councillor Carlick Pearson thanked Mr. Howie for his assistance in her time on council. Councillor Thorkelson asked if he could clear up a few things, one being the Chamber of Commerce initiative on outstanding downtown's, he advised that it was tied in with Mr. Baker's presentation earlier. As well she inquired about the social services meeting proposal and the issues related to it, asking if there was any further response from it. He said staff would have a report prepared for the next council meeting, she then thanked Mr. Howie for his work with the City and wished him well.

Questions and Inquiries from City Council

(1:54:00--1:58:00) Councillor Ashely asked Council about the need to create some synergy between the recycling centre and the landfill. Asking that staff add those issues to the curbside recycling discussions to come. Councillor Garon inquired as to who locally was involved in the Mainland Solid Waste Commission, asking what their mandate was on the Commission. Councillor Thorkelson advised that you can now take clam shell plastic to the recycling centre. Councillor Garon also advised that the Recycling centre was going to be releasing new flyers advising as to what is now accepted at the centre.

Mayor's Report 
(1:58:00--2:06:00 )

Prince Rupert Airport authority has released their 2012 passenger traffic figures 58,604 passengers used the Prince Rupert Airport an increase of 2.14% from the year before.

The Mayor, along with Councillor Thorkelson met with representatives of the seafood industry.

Members of City Council met with an employment search agency to better understand the process required in the search for a new City Manager.

The Mayor observed the signing ceremony between Ridley Terminals, School District 52 and NWCC to implement a trades training program in Prince Rupert.

On behalf of city council the Mayor thanked those that participated in the Auxiliary Constable and Citizens on Patrol program.

He met with representatives of Trans Canada pipeline on the Lelu Island LNG pipeline project.

He attended the Conrad School penny drive function.

He attended the Annual Business Awards nomination event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

Attended Roosevelt School for a cultural event.

He attended the third annual Sugar Shack festival.

He closed with an expression of thanks to Mr. Gord Howie for his service to the community.

Mr. Howie provided some farewell thoughts to council, the Mayor adjourned the meeting, calling for a ten minute break before they returned for an in camera session.

More than 250 aftershocks from Southeast Alaska quake

Alaskan Seismologists have been keeping busy through the month, tracking the growing volume of aftershocks that have rattled along the Southeast Alaska coast since the January 5th earthquake.

In the last month, the 7.5 magnitude earthquake has provided for over 250 aftershocks, 20 of them registering above 4.0 magnitude, the more noticeable mark of the post quake temblors.

The January 5th earthquake, was felt by some in the Prince Rupert region, but was noticeable more for the tsunami warning that was generated by the shifting of the plates of the Queen Charlotte fault line.

The reminder of the nature of living on a fault line made for much discussion locally over the last few months, spurred on by the Haida Gwaii quake of October and the reminder from Alaska of earlier this month.

January 16-- In event of an earthquake, grab your phone book
January 14-- 5.5 aftershock along the Southeast Alaska coast
January 8-- More aftershocks off southeast Alaska Tuesday
January 7-- An earthquake that made news everywhere, but here it seems
January 5-- 7.5 magnitude Alaskan earthquake puts Prince Rupert under Tsunami Warning

Ketchikan's public radio station KRBD has this report on the nature of that quake, the subsequent aftershocks and some interesting history on the Queen Charlotte Fault line over the years.

Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists looking at Bill Belsey timeline

The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists of British Columbia, confirmed today that they are in the process of conducting an investigation into the timeline of Bill Belsey's work as a lobbyist in Victoria.

Mary Carlson, the deputy registrar of lobbyists confirmed for Canadian Press today, that her office was "actively investigating whether Mr. Belsey was lobbying and if he was lobbying whether he was registered as required."

Red flags apparently were raised late last year after emails regarding the Watson Island situation  were obtained by the Globe and Mail.

At the time, the Globe was looking further into the ongoing legal proceedings between the City of Prince Rupert and Sun Wave Resources surrounding Watson Island, Mr. Belsey has been representing the Sun Wave interests of businessman Ritao Ni, on the site over the last few years.

The emails became a minor sensation last month, when it was reported that information was shared between members of the Liberal Cabinet and the Sun Wave representative. Though the media interest in the story seemed to wane as the holidays arrived.

Vancouver Sun-- Pesky leaks reveal B. C. Liberals' sneaky way of doing business
CBC News-- B. C. Cabinet minister under fire for release of email
Victoria Times Colonist-- NDP questions Bell's email to insider, lobbyist
Globe and Mail-- B. C. Jobs Minister must be investigated after e-mail shared, NDP critic says
Monday Liberals show they still don't get it
Vancouver Sun-- Optics of Bell's email stink: NDP B. C. minister forwarded cabinet email to lobbyist: NDP

However, the one month gap in time certainly didn't slow down the work of the ORL which now looks into the timeline of the events that led to the current investigation.

The question of note it seems, is if Mr. Belsey was acting in the role of a lobbyist for Sun Wave prior to his registration as a lobbyist for the company, a registration which is reported to have been made on or around December 10th. (see item 5 from ORL website page)

The former Liberal MLA for the North Coast and current Vice President of the Liberal party did register as a lobbyist on November 20th, when according to ORL records he registered as a lobbyist for the Gitxaala Nation. (see item six from ORL website page)

One year prior to November of 2012, The Gtxaala Nation had previously requested an injunction against the proposed sale of Watson Island. Taking on the services of Mr. Belsey in 2012 would suggest that they still hold an active interest in developments regarding the Watson Island site.

Northern View-- Kitkatla drops request for injunction against Watson Island sale, but seeks new declaration
CFTK-- Kitkatla, Prince Rupert at odds over Watson Island's Future

As for the investigation itself, there was no timeline provided by the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists as to how long the investigation will take, or in what form it will take.

Upon completion of the investigation, the findings will be posted to the ORL website, listed in their compliance investigations section.

Globe and Mail-- BC LIberal VP probed for alleged violation of lobbying rules...
Vancouver Province-- B. C. Liberal VP investigated for failing to register as lobbyist

Northern View -- Sun Wave's Belsey now under investigation (Feb 13 e edition pages 1 and 2)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

With arrival of new rail signals, the Port of Prince Rupert announces updated whistle procedures at Fairview crossings

The Prince Rupert Port Authority delivered some welcome news to residents of the West side of the city today, announcing in a press release that the Port has installed new equipment in place at two waterfront crossing locations and with it implemented new procedures for train operations in the area.

The two locations in question are at the Highway 16 crossing at Fairview Harbour and at the BC Ferries terminal crossing, both locations feature bright red flashing lights which are now activated when a train is within one quarter mile of the crossing, in addition to the lights bell ringing audio will be heard when the train is at that one quarter mile point.

As well, new fencing has been installed along some 800 metres of track to prevent people from crossing along the restricted sections.

With those safety features now in place, CN Engineers have been advised to only sound their whistles should they observe an unauthorized person, animal or object on the tracks that may pose a risk to safety.

The updated safety measures were put in place in response to complaints from residents on the west side of the city overlooking the Fairview, who have made frequent comment about the amount of rail traffic in the area and with the increase in train whistles at the crossings with stemming from the operations of the Fairview Container Terminal.

The issue of train whistles has been a common topic of discussion at Prince Rupert City Council over the last few years.  With the moves now in place to reduce the amount of train whistle activity on the waterfront, that one item is perhaps ready to be taken off the city's to do list.

We looked at the issue back in August with this item of interest on the topic.

Past updates on the issue can be found below:

The Northern View-- Railway safety project underway in Prince Rupert
CBC-- Prince Rupert residents want train whistles silenced

Details from the latest developments can be found below:

CFTK-- New Rail Signals in Prince Rupert Enhance Safety
Northern View-- Train whistles cease on the west side (Feb 6-- e edition page 4)

Mr. Howie's Jubilee

Monday's City Council meeting provided Mayor Jack Mussallem with one final opportunity to honour outgoing City Manager Gord Howie, this time presenting him with honours from the Queen.

And while it's not quite a knighthood and we won't be required to bow or offer other salutations of Royal acknowledgment, Monday's presentation does cap off nicely his second term of service with the city, as he heads off for new opportunity on Vancouver Island.

Monday's council gathering saw Mr. Howie presented with the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal, awarded to the City Manager in recognition of his significant contributions to municipal government and community service during his career that has now spanned some forty years.

The medal was struck in celebration of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee and across Canada other recipients have been honoured for their contributions to the community with one.

By the time that the Government has completed the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, some 60,000 Canadians will have been honoured in a similar fashion.

Mr. Howie now departs the North Coast, destined for Sooke, where as we outlined on the blog in November, he has accepted a position as the new Chief Administration Officer for the Vancouver Island community.

In recognition of Monday's presentation, the City provided this press release outlining Mr. Howie's accomplishments and contributions.

The recognition of Mr. Howie is not the first time in the last year that someone at City Hall has received accolades, all be it, not of the Royal variety,  last November the city's Corporate Administrator Robert Grodecki was saluted by the British Columbia government for his efforts at City Hall.

The Northern View -- Howie Given Jubilee Medal (Feb 6-- e edition page 27)

Northern Health adds to its Nurse Practitioner roster

The province of British Columbia has expanded the use of Nurse Practitioners in the health care system and in Northern Health that means five new NP's will move into Northern communities to help assist in the quest for better health care in the region.

Two of the NP's are heading to far western reaches of Northern Health's service region, with one scheduled to serve Prince Rupert- Hartley Bay, Kitkatla and Lax Kw'alaams and the other destined for Old Masset on Haida Gwaii.

The NP based out of Prince Rupert will be providing First Nations primary care services and chronic disease management, while the NP based out of Old Masset will be focused on Elderly patients, chronic disease management, maternity patients and those with mental health and addictions conditions.

The majority of their duties include primary health care treating and diagnosing common illnesses and diseases, prescribe medications, order lab work and other diagnostic requirements. The full review of what the program is all about can be found on the Ministry of Health website.

The role of Nurse Practitioners was expanded in the province last year, the announcement this week making for more positions across the Ministry of Health's various service regions.

Overall 45 new positions were added to locations across across the province's Nurse Practitioner program, at the moment there are 252 nurse practitioners registered in the province.

CKPG TV- Nurse Practitioners (video)
CKPG TV-- Five New Nurse Practitioners Coming to Northern BC
Global BC-- B. C. getting a boost in nurse practitioner numbers
Opinion 250-- Northern Health Secures 5 Nurse Practitioners
The Northern View-- Prince Rupert to receive a new nurse practitioner (Feb 6 e edition page 5)

50 years of North - South travel commemorated

Early risers had the opportunity today to take part in a brief salute to Marine Transportation on the North coast, as the Alaska Marine Highway System celebrated 50 years of service to and from Prince Rupert.

The southern terminus of the Alaska Ferry System held a brief ceremony at 6:15 today, featuring one of the iconic vessels of the fleet the MV Taku which has at times served Prince Rupert since 1963.

The Prince Rupert celebrations were just one of many up and down the Alaska coast, all designed to commemorate the Marine Highway Systems contribution and importance to Alaska life.

The Marine Highway Service website features this historical look back at how the service started and grew through its early years.

Included on the websites tribute is a Historical Timeline, Highlights of the Marine Highway's development and some archived news reports on the Marine Highway.

The Ferry Service in addition to providing an obvious transportation link for the state with the rest of North America, has helped to foster better connections between Prince Rupert and the coastal cities and towns of South East Alaska.

KRBD-- Ferry system to celebrate 50 years in Prince Rupert
CFTK-- Alaska Ferry 50th (video)
CFTK-- Alaska Marine Highway Celebrates 50 Years in Prince Rupert
Northern View-- Alaska Ferry Service marks 50 years in Prince Rupert (Feb 6-- e edition page 10)

Monday, January 28, 2013

More discord between Union and School Board?

Prince Rupert may soon be in store for a replay of the battle of wills between the local teachers union membership and the School Board, something last seen in the great "Yertle the Turtle debate" of last year.

Rumblings along the world of twitter through the day today have it that a bit of a kerfuffle has evolved in the local schools over the wearing of  t-shirts, one which features a passage from the  Charter of Rights and Freedoms from the Canadian Constitution.

The section in question is section 2, which guarantees Rights and Freedoms for those studying their Canadian constitution handbook at home.

The main thrust of the discussion it seems is, that according to the PRDTU President Joanna Larson, the t shirts were deemed one of a political message of sorts and a request we gather was made that they be removed from the school(s) in question.

That at least are the details the Vancouver Sun has discovered after conversations with both sides.

From there, the discussion has moved onto the social networks with much in the way of examination of what is and is not considered a political statement and what is considered the expression of free speech.

For those that wish to follow along with the theme, the twitter feed #bctf perhaps offers the best starting point to try and make sense of all of today's developments.

So far, there have been no public press releases put forward to the media from either side, short of the item now published in the Sun, and the flurry of activity on the social network of the day and all of that was from the BCTF perspective.

So for now it appears to be an internal thing at the local level, though judging by the tone of some of the discussion of Monday, there is the possibility that it may spawn further such displays across the province and perhaps into another province.

Some of the twitter reaction of Monday came from Ontario, which is currently embroiled in their own labour troubles in education and were seeking out information on how to show their support.

More of the mystery of the latest dispute between School District 52 and the local membership of the PRDTU may be revealed tomorrow morning on CBC Radio's Daybreak North. Prince Rupert based producer/researcher George Baker seems to suggests as much with his own contribution to the twitter debate today. An indication that perhaps a report is planned for 7:15 on the morning news program.

This latest local brush fire comes as things appeared to have settled down over the last year or so in the wake of last years dispute between the BCTF and the Ministry of Education.

Prior to today's discussion point, the education dispute of the previous year had given all the appearances of being in a bit of a holding pattern, set to remain that way it seemed until the next provincial election in May is out of the way.

Though it does seem that Prince Rupert always has local issues that flare up on occasion, most recently the PRDTU expressed their concern over the ongoing use of consultants in the School District.

It has been an ongoing issue of their concern going back a few years now.

Today's dispute, could provide much of the same kind of coverage that last years Yertle the Turtle did, which again saw the topic of political statements and their place within the School District explored, gaining a fair amount of attention to the local dispute on the national level.

April 26, 2012-- Dr. Seuss classic Yertle the Turtle-- Too Political?
April 25, 2012-- Prince Rupert School District Vetoes Yertle the Turtle
April 25, 2012-- Dr. Seuss quote too political, Prince Rupert teacher told
April 25, 2012-- Dr. Seuss too political for B. C. students
April 24, 2012-- Dr. Seuss's Yertle the Turtle deemed to political for B. C. classroom
April 24, 2012-- Dr. Seuss quote too political for B. C. school

The t-shirt dispute it would seem may be in that same kind of category and most likely we will be hearing much more about it over the next little while.


CBC featured the controversy on the Tuesday morning edition of Daybreak North, audio of the report which featured both School District Superintendent Lynn Hauptman and PRDTU President Joanna Larson can be found here.

Georgia Straight-- Don't go wearing the charter on your back in Prince Rupert schools

City Council Report, Monday, January 28, 2013

City Council Sessions for Monday, January 28, 2013

Home page and archive of sessions can be found here

Live Broadcast of session can be found here

Notice of Special Council Meeting   January 28, 2013 
(resolution to exclude the public)

Regular Council Meeting Agenda, January 28, 2013

Committee of the Whole Meeting Agenda, January 28, 2013

Info to Council

January 23, 2013
January 16, 2013

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Present
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Present
Councillor Judy Carlick-Pearson-- Present
Councillor Gina Garon-- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Absent
Councillor Jennifer Rice--  Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present

Minutes of Regular Meeting January 28, 2013  

Minutes of the Committee of the Whole Meeting January 28, 2013

Audio Recording of January 28, 2013 

Video Recording of January 28, 2013 

North Coast Review City Council Timeline January 28, 2013

News items from the January 28th Council session

Northern Health puts the call out for Physicians to come to Prince Rupert

Northern Health is looking for a few good practitioners, currently recruiting physicians for the North Coast, with two positions recently posted to the Health providers website.

At the moment, they are seeking a Family Practitioner/General Practitioner-Locum for the Community and well as someone for Internal Medicine (General).

Details of the positions available and some of the background that  Northern Health provides on the community is available for the would be medical professionals from the Recruitment and Careers page on the  Northern Health website.

It's a fairly competitive business the recruitment of medical professionals for the various service delivery areas of Northern Health's vast territory, the isolation of some of the towns and the competition from other parts of the province and other provinces for that matter, makes for a challenging task for Northern Health's recruitment team.

In recent years, Northern Health has found a fair amount of success in bringing physicians and specialists from South Africa to fill the variety of openings across the region, however recent changes to  reciprocity protocols between the two countries have sent Northern Health off to search other options (and other parts of the world) for future General Practitioner positions.

The Prince George Citizen examined that side of the recruitment process in December, reviewing the changes to the agreement between Canada and South Africa that had come into effect earlier in the year.

Changes which for the most part meant that the credentials of General Practitioners would no longer be automatically recognized by local licensing boards, after the harmonization of provincial requirements.

With that particular line of applicants drying up, Northern Health is changing its focus for applicants. As the Citizen relays in their story, the new target recruitment area for would be Northern BC doctors will be the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States.

Northern Health has in the past had troubles at times filling positions across the region, owing mainly to the nature of the competition for medical professionals and the rural nature of the service delivery areas.

Challenges that at times have led to doctor shortages in many communities across the region.

It will be interesting to track how much success they have going into 2013, now that they have had to change focus on where they can attract professionals from.

Jennifer Rice claims North Coast NDP nomination

The NDP on the North Coast gathered at Prince Rupert's Fisherman's Hall on Saturday, set to select the person to carry their banner into the next provincial election this May.

When the counting was done, late Saturday afternoon it was Prince Rupert Councillor Jennifer Rice who carried the day, topping the polls over Prince Rupert District Teachers Union President Joanna Larson.

The news first delivered via Gary Coons twitter feed, which congratulated both candidates on their campaign and provided a number of photos of the days developments.

CFTK Television's website broke down the vote count as 180 in favour of Rice, with 116 votes case in favour of Larson.

The victory by the Prince Rupert City Councilor could be perceived as a bit of an upset, heading into the final week of the nomination battle, the leadership of the union movement in the city seemed to be firmly in the camp of Ms. Larson/

As we outlined earlier this month, endorsements offered to Ms. Larson's campaign. compared to those of Ms. Rice, were heavily weighted towards the labour leaders and more established members of the NDP of the north coast.

A trend that continued on into the last week of the nomination campaign, with one time Prince Rupert Mayoralty candidate Gloria Rendell throwing her support behind Ms. Larson.

Yet, at the end of the balloting it is clear now that it was the campaign of Ms. Rice that seemed to resonate the most with the local NDP membership, less controversial in nature and more inclined towards the environmental issues, her approach to the contest proved to be the more successful as the final push played out into Saturday.

Next up for the Councillor, a decision as to her status on Prince Rupert City Council and then the preparations for a provincial election campaign, with the poll results of late suggesting the very real possibility that the party she represents will form the next government.

Ms. Rice is the first declared candidate in that provincial campaign to come, the Liberals have yet to nominate a candidate for the North Coast, nor have the BC Conservatives or Green party.

Considering the environmental passions of the new NDP nominee, one would imagine that the Green party will be sitting things out on the North coast when May rolls around.

You can examine items of note moving forward in the campaign and those from the past at the Legislature from our archive page.

CFTK-- NDP Candidate (video)
QCI Observer-- Rice wins NDP nomination
Northern View-- Rice wins Nomination (e-edition page 1)
Northern View-- Rice considering options (Feb 6 e-edition page 3)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fairview Phase Two Expansion moves forward in approval process

The Prince Rupert Port Authority can look ahead to the next stage in the process of expanding the Fairview Container Port, with word that Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent had released the much anticipated Environmental Assessment Decision Statement.

The two key points from the statement that move the project further down the road to development are:

The Project, taking into account the mitigation measures described in the Comprehensive Study Report, is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects

The mitigation measures and follow-up program described in the Comprehensive Study Report are appropriate for the proposed project.

The Project has now been referred back to the responsible authorities, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada for appropriate action under section 37 of the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

After that action is completed, the first part of the Phase Two expansion of Fairview will see the existing wharf structure and onshore terminal expanded to the east.

As part of that project CN Rail has proposed the construction of two rail sidings, a maintenance road and wye.

The second part of the Phase Two expansion will see the Terminal expand to the south in the direction towards Ridley Island.

The connecting road between Ridley Island and Fairview  which is also part of the eventual expansion project, will provide a bit of infrastructure that will reduce the need of container trucks to travel through the city towards the inspection station on Ridley Island.

Some of our past reviews of the Phase II expansion can be found below

Convoys of containers could be a thing of the past as soon as 2014
Port of Prince Rupert targets 2015 for expansion operations

All of our items of note on the Port of Prince Rupert can be found here.

The media reviews of today's announcement by the Environment Minister can be found below.

CFTK-- Fairview Terminal Expansion Approved
The Northern View-- Prince Rupert's Fairview Terminal expansion given the green light

Verdict in Epicurean trial comes in

It's been almost three years since the building that once housed the Epicurean restaurant burned down, as it took place on one of the main downtown streets of the city, it was one of the more memorable of fires in recent Prince Rupert history.

It was in the early hours of Friday morning of April 30th, 2010 that the Prince Rupert Fire Rescue Department was called to the major blaze, a blaze which destroyed the long since empty bottom floor restaurant space, as well as the apartments that were above it.

The call first came in to the Prince Rupert Fire Department at 2 am, after two hours of battling the flames the Fire Department had it under control and extinguished shortly after four. However, there was severe damage to the structure and eventually it would be torn down.

While there were a few injuries,  there were fortunately no fatalities from the blaze that morning, though the residents would soon have to find other accommodations, forced from their homes by the events of that morning.

From that morning further investigation led to charges being laid and a court trial began in the fall of 2012.

That court case reached a resolution at the Prince Rupert court house this week.

A verdict was handed down in court on Thursday,  the next phase of the proceedings is a pre sentence report which is now being conducted, set to be reviewed in court on May 6th when sentencing will be delivered.

CFTK had full coverage of the court decision and some background on the fire and trial, with reports here and here (video)

Northern View-- Garth Lee acquitted of arson in 2010 Epicurean blaze (page 4)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Boston Pizza looks for Rupert investors

There was an interesting tweet out of the Prince Rupert/Port Edward Economic Development Corporation's twitter feed this week, a note that Boston Pizza had listed Prince Rupert as a possible city for development of a franchise of the Canadian restaurant chain.

The link from the twitter note offers up further information from Boston Pizza, helpful for those that may have the itch to get into the food service industry on an ownership level.

The Boston Pizza franchise system is one of the more successful of Canadian stories, with their restaurant and sports bar theme making for a popular destination in a number of cities across the country.

The modern growth of the chain gained momentum in 1983, when a former RCMP member  Jim Treliving and  his partner George Melville, who started their time with individual  BP franchises, purchased all 44 outlets of the chain.

From there the chain embarked on a growth plan that quickly made it a popular franchise opportunity, boasting over 300 locations now across North America.

On a local note, Treliving once spent time in Prince Rupert with the Mounties as it turns out and recently visited the community as part of his Television show the Big Decision, so he would be rather familiar with the community and it's potential for the brand.

Currently, the closest of the Boston Pizza locations is the one in Terrace, a location that has found its niche in that community's dining and entertainment scene.

Though taking on the challenge of the always quirky restaurant scene, is not something to take on without a bit of thought and a bit of cash.

The blueprint for a Boston Pizza restaurant calls for about 6,000 square feet of space on the inside and room for 50-75 seats on a patio section.

The Boston Pizza website outlines that the franchise fee for a Boston Pizza franchise is 60,000 dollars, with a total investment of 1.5 million to 2.4 million dollars. The minimum investment required is between 600,000 and 800,000 dollars.

You can review the entire Boston Pizza prospectus, including contact information from their website, the sit also features a section that answers many of the frequently asked questions.

Then it's up to you, upon approval, you could have your Boston Pizza operation up and running within six to seven months, just in time for Christmas party season!

A bit more attention to City council's workings for the New Year

It seems that the arrival of the New Year (and the arrival of an additional reporter) has provided for a sudden burst of coverage of Prince Rupert City Council in the local newspaper.

The most recent paper version of the local publication (the online portal doesn't have quite the same volume of articles) provided a fairly extensive review of the last council session of January 14, a rather busy affair as we noted on the blog last week.

Wednesday's home delivery provided for four items directly related to the City Council meeting and another  couple of items that have been the topic of frequent discussion around Council chambers in the past year.

The items of note from Wednesday's paper included:

A review of the wolf shootings by the RCMP over the last month (pages 1 and 2)

The denial of funding for a desired return visit of the Air Force aerobatics squadron the Snowbirds (page 4)

The review of the city's approach to earthquake and tsunami preparedness (page 14)

And a briefing of a number of items from Councils agenda last week (page 17)

As well, there was the review of the announcement last week of the reduction in service ahead for Greyhound service to the city (page 3) and the update on the Cruise season ahead (pages 1 and 3)

Some of those items were posted to the paper's website as they happened, the majority however, seem to be limited to the print edition, which came out yesterday.

And while, owing to the publication schedule of the paper, the items do have about a ten day delay now, hopefully, Rupertites had an opportunity to glance at their paper to catch up on the council review.

One of the key concerns of local residents since the demise of the Daily News has been a shortage of lengthy examinations of the deliberations of the local government. Something that the majority of the reporters that once worked for the Daily handled very well.

With the surge of articles of the last print edition, the weekly is offering up a bit more information on Council's work. A focus we hope continues on into 2013.

For those that may have already sent their paper version off to the recycling bin, the Northern View does have an archive of each weekly e-edition of the paper delivered to Prince Rupert homes, you can find the January 23rd edition here.

More Woes of Watson shared with Vancouver media

“I wouldn’t wish this set of circumstances on any community in British Columbia,” said Mussallem. “Right now, it’s just dragging the community down.” -- Mayor Jack Mussallem, outlining to the Vancouver Sun, the impact on the community that the Watson Island troubles have provided.

We might not be hearing much on the state of Watson Island around Prince Rupert these days, but there seems to be a major effort to share the latest updates with the major newspapers of the country of late.

Yesterday, we recounted the latest item of note on the Watson Island saga that appeared in the Globe and Mail, a fascinating look at the current developments in the quest of the City of Prince Rupert to finally be rid of the industrial site.

Today, the Vancouver Sun has provided a rather helpful guideline to the timeline of the Watson Island situation, including a nice little bit of totalling up the financial toll on the city's coffers thus far.

From the Sun article we learn some of the history as to how the City came to be guardian of the site, a situation that has resulted in costs of 1 million dollars a year in maintenance costs, providing for a bill of over 3.5 million dollars since the city took the site back in 2009.

A number that the city says has been reduced owing to revenues from the site, (including the exclusivity deal with the Watson Island Development Corporation consortium), providing a net cost of around 1 million dollars to the city. And in  a bit of welcome news from 2012, provided for revenues trumping costs by about 100,000 dollars.

As well, with the ongoing court sessions with Sun Wave ownership, the city has according to the Sun article, spent over 250,000 dollars in legal fees already, with the clock still ticking as they say.

All of those financial requirements have resulted in the City having to review it's civic to do list, with items such as the replacement of the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre's diving board to be deferred until better financial times.

The Sun highlights the deal between the City and Watco, a proposed purchase that could finally remove the industrial site as an ongoing topic of discussion around the City council table.

However, there appears that one more item will rise up once the sale is closed and the legal proceedings have been completed.

That being the environmental remediation that will be required on the site. Even if the financial burden of Watson Island were to end today, there is still the issue of environmental liability of the lands, which is estimated to be at 20 million to 100 million dollars.

The City and Watco want the province to share in any environmental clean up costs on the site, something which as the Sun discovered in their article, that the Ministry of Environment wasn't quite ready to comment on just yet.

Meaning, we probably will be hearing much more on the topic of  Watson Island, even after the City puts the industrial site back on the active tax rolls and ready to generate revenue.

That environmental clean up issue, may account for the sudden interest of the Globe and the Sun.

It appears that the battle over the clean up of the site may soon be underway, and the provincial government no doubt may want to be studying the newspapers this week to better understand what's coming up next.

Gordon Hoekstra's article in the Sun is a pretty good briefing for the Liberal government, you can catch up for yourself, with the Sun's briefing notes here.

You can review all of our archived items on the Watson Island file from our Industrial Development section.