Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mr. Cullen's petition disposition

The MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley took to his twitter feed on Thursday, quick to spread the word about the latest proposal from his party when it comes to fossil fuels, our reliance on them and the NDP's belief of a better way to spend some money.

The tweet directs his followers (and those that might stumble across his tweets) to the NDP's petition, designed to raise awareness and eventually we imagine, to stop the spending of more than 1.3 billion dollars a year by the Conservatives in subsidies to Canada's oil and gas companies.

From the petition website the NDP make a number of observations on their impression of the  Conservative's environmental record of late, everything from changes to environmental legislation, to the withdrawal from the Kyoto treaty.

The main scope of the petition preamble however, is to outline a number of points that the NDP are raising in their quest for a more sustainable future.

While they do suggest that  they have a better plan, they don't offer the position paper up as part of their petition process.

Though if you desire, there is an option to receive further NDP e-updates in the future. Which we imagine would provide for the information desired.

As for the petition, among their key petition points:

The Prime Minister has broken the clear commitment he made at the G20 meeting in 2009 to phase out the giveaways.

These subsidies create perverse incentives for high-emission energy sources, discouraging investment in greener, renewable alternatives.

This money could create thousands of green jobs and help fight climate change if it were invested in renewable energy, clean technology or energy efficiency.

The full petition can be viewed from the NDP's petition portal here.

The process, which seems to just be in its incubation phase at the moment, will most likely have no problem finding the requisite clicks of the converted.

Whether the NDP can expand their reach beyond that of the regular supporters, will be an interesting thing to follow as they engage in a little participatory online petitioning.

On the Cusp of Canpotex?

A notice of intent to dispose of waste and the rumblings of hotels preparing to set aside rooms for workers, has rekindled the hopes that we may finally be on the cusp of an announcement from Canpotex that the much discussed Potash Terminal is set to move forward.

Wednesday's Northern View featured the notice from Canpotex Terminals (pg 24 e edition)that they propose to commence with dredging operations on October 1st, with the prospect of a one year process for site preparation.

The co-ordinates from the Wednesday advertisement place the site on the east
side of Ridley Island, across from Port Edward.

In addition to the notice,  an article in the weekly paper outlining the rumblings among the hoteliers of the city, has local residents talking about the prospects ahead and firmly places the Canpotex file back on the front burner.

The project received an Environmental Assessement Decision back in November, setting in motion the process that perhaps  brings us to the verge of seeing site development commence.

Should Canpotex deliver that much anticipated announcement that construction is set to begin, will no doubt be a prospect that will bring much relief to the City Council.

Frequently in recent sessions they  seem to have been banking for the future, on some of the proposed projects for the community moving forward, a prospect that seems close with the omens seemingly positive for the Canpotex project.

To refresh everyone's memory while we wait for an official announcement from Canpotex itself. A bit of history on the Saskatchewan based company and it's presence in Prince Rupert.

Word first started to circulate in 2008, that the Saskatchewan company had its eye on Ridley Island and the Gateway to Asia that it provided

In September 2009 Canpotex arrived in town, hosting an open house and seemingly setting in motion the plans for development of a potash terminal on Ridley Island.

. .

As 2009, moved into 2010 and 2011, the project seemed to be put on the back burner, the mercurial nature of the potash market, and a potential takeover bid from a rival corporation at the time, perhaps giving Canpotex cause for reflection.

However, as we moved into latter half of 2012, the wheels of industrial development seemingly once again began to move, as the Canpotex plans edged forward.

The North Coast Review has featured a couple of items on rumblings of the prospect of development over the last six months or so.

November 8-- Canpotex Development takes another step forward
September 13-- Mention of Canpotex stirs ambitions anew

While our Archives have further items on the Canpotex file.

With the current work on the rail, utility and road corridor now in full swing, the infrastructure will be more than ready for Canpotex should they confirm their plans and begin the long awaited development.

Those eager to hear further word from Canpotex can check in frequently to their website to await word on the project and the timeline that may soon be ahead for it.

With a Winners Opening for Terrace, a road trip beckons for North Coast residents

A turn of nice weather anticipated for next week along with a flyer that arrived in the mail this week, will most likely having more than a few Rupertites ready to top up the family automobile for the leisurely cruise down the road to Terrace.

The long awaited arrival of Winners to Terrace is set for next Thursday, with the Grand Opening of the latest store in the Canadian chain ready to open its doors in the newly refurbished Skeena Mall.

The store is the latest of name destinations to find their way to Terrace,  joining the recently opened Sportchek which will no doubt be hoping to fill the void for Rupertites created by the recent closure of the Athlete's World store in the Rupert Square.

And while there is some light on the horizon for the local commercial scene, with the recently arrived Wal Mart and the soon to return Fields, the scope of the lure of Terrace continues to grow as the commercial class for the region seems to be building upon the footprint of the Terrace Wal Mart, Canadian Tire, Real Canadian Wholesale and Staples stores to name a few.

Prince Rupert seemingly is having troubles in building its image with the main Canadian chains of late, while Terrace it would appear, is on the national commercial sector radar, benefiting from it's location and the ready access to Prince Rupert, Kitimat and Smithers.

With the once upon a time plans for that Shopping Village on the highway now but a memory and the Rupert Square still counting almost as many stores closed, as there are open along its promenades, the Terrace merchants will be looking to cash in on the attraction of those chain stores that have decided that Terrace is where it's at.

It's always a popular topic in Prince Rupert about that wish list of commercial options that locals would like to see here, but if Council has been seeking to redress the shopping deficit between the two communities of late, they've been keeping their efforts pretty quiet.

From recent council sessions we are left with the thought that the City Council believes that the economic turn around is but a few years away, at which time maybe the city's diminished commercial sector may once again spring back to life.

Last year the Mayor was heralding the positives and the prospect of a more vigorous commercial class.

But so far,  it's been pretty slow going in the world of providing a variety of shopping options, particularly when compared to the neigbhours down the road.

For the moment and as it has been for more than a few years now, it seems that with the addition of yet more shopping options in Terrace, spring and summer will be shopping season for North Coast residents and most of that shopping will be taking place an hour and half to the east.

You can review some of the past the Northwest shopping developments and options from our archive on the topic.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

City Council Timeline, Monday, March 25, 2013

Another night of Full Attendance for the 25th of  March edition of City Council, with all Six Councillors, the Mayor and City Manager all gathered in Council Chambers for what would be another  lengthy review of events.

Communication towers and signs dominated the first hour of the council session, as the Mayor and Council held an extensive examination of a communications tower for the college and the highway pullout development near the Ferry Terminal.

Council also reviewed the Community Funding Agreement with the province and where they plan on spending the revenue from your traffic tickets from the last year, as well as to where they would allocate the small Community grant.

The Sunken Gardens was a topic of interest for discussion, as the City reviewed how they would partner with the Prince Rupert Garden Club to help them gain funding for their project.

The remainder of the council night was taken up with resolutions and discussion on a number of items from the agenda.

No doubt the most interesting topic of the bunch, come in at the 1 hour five minute mark, an extensive review of some of the aspects of the Financial Plan that Council has to consider. With Council discussing such items as potential service cuts, tax increases, potential staff additions and the looming prospect of a new collective agreement with the civic unions.

The timeline of all of the council 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 March 25, 2013

In Attendance March 25, 2013

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

Video Archive for March 25, 2013 
Audio Archive for March 25, 2013

The first task of business for Council on the 11th was the usual adoption of the Agenda sessions of  Council meetings March 25th. (0:00-1:00)

The Mayor then opened the session of the Committee of the Whole and asked for questions from the public gallery. (1:00-17:00)

Larry Golden asked a question on whether the City could fine tune it's budget figure presentations, to better explain the budget process. Looking for more detailed explanation of what is under consideration by Council. The Mayor then had Acting City Manager explain the reasoning behind the current budget process and how it has changed over the years.

The main focus of Mr. Golden's questioning seemed to be on the topic of open and transparent delivery information, in particular on the topic of CityWest.  A process which he expressed the opinion of was one that he didn't feel was particularly open or transparent.

Councillor Ashley took exception to his belief that it wasn't an open and transparent process. Councillor Thorkelson directed Mr. Golden's attention to the calendar of meetings to come that could provide him the opportunity to further question the process.

Next up was Devlin Fernandez of Eco-Trust Canada, who advised City Council of an upcoming trans-border Economic and Stewardship gathering in Prince Rupert on May 14-16 and asked that Council send one or two representatives to the event.

Councillor Ashley asked if people could attend part of the conference, as part of it falls on a workday.

The Mayor inquired as to how far reaching the conference was going to be from where the guests were anticipated to come from.

With No more questions from the public, the Mayor moved on to the Regular City Council business of the day.

Regular City Council Business

Adoption of agenda and additions to it and adoption of Minutes from meetings from previous Council Sessions (17:00-19:30)

Reports and Recommendations (19:30--40:00 )

Recommendation for a Variance Permit for 11th Avenue East be Approved -- Mr. Krekic outlined the background of the request in front of council. The motion was approved

Recommendation for a Variance Permit on 5th Street  (NWCC) to be approved-- Mr. Krekic provided another outline of the property in question and the nature of the communications tower that is in question. Councillor Thorkelson expressed a concern over the possibility of children climbing up that tower.

Peter Freeman of NWCC outlined the safety measures that the college had plans in place for to safeguard over the prospect of people climbing the tower. Councillor Rice outlined the nature of an email she received over possible emissions from the tower and an impact on health. It was explained that the nature of the tower wasn't going to be directing any transmissions.

Councillor Carlick-Pearson also expressed concern over any rays that might be directed from the tower but found the answer to Councillor Rice's question to be sufficient. The motion was then approved.

A number of councillors then weighed in to offer up a variety of amendments to the theme, the end result being that the final motion was that the tower would be approved, providing there were safeguards to ensure that youth could not climb it. As well, should the nature of the tower be changed from its original purpose of receiving data, to transmitting data, then the college must appear at Council again to request that change.

The motion on the tower then was passed.

(40:00 - 54:00Report from the Engineering coordinator on the Highway pullout on Highway 16 near the Ferries terminal. Mr Rodin outlined the details on the project  (already in place) which would provides for an information billboard and highway pullout . The City will provide the province with the required three metres of land for the project.

Councillor Carlick-Pearson had a couple of concerns on the topic,  the location of the pullout and safety concerns of that particular spot.

Councillor Ashley inquired as to the cost of the signage to the City considering its current budget concerns. The Mayor suggested that perhaps a way of providing for its cost through community involvement.

Councillor Garon expressed her shock at the fact that it was already developed, wondering why the City didn't have any more input into the process.

Councillor Ashley then asked that since it was a provincial project, why the province was not footing the bill for the sign. Mr. Rodin then provided some background on the situation and suggested that the City could bring forward its concerns over the development. The province will pay for its sign, the City doesn't have to construct its sign at this time.

Councillor Thorkelson then asked for a friendly amendment to have signage constructed to advise that the pull out is up ahead.

The motion then was approved.

Council  then discussed where to direct any potential tender for the community portion of the highway pullout sign, Councillor Garon suggested that Tourism Prince Rupert perhaps could be approached,  she also reinforced her disappointment in how the city had no say in the pull out construction.

Councillor Ashley echoed some of the frustration over the nature of the province's handling of the situation but did make a motion to direct city staff to seek out possible public supporters for the construction of the city's portion of the pull out sign. Suggesting the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Prince Rupert or Community Futures be consulted for possible options.

Councillor Thorkelson then expressed her thoughts on what the sign might look like, suggesting that some of the local industrial groups such as the Prince Rupert Port Authority or Ridley Terminals could be approached to be asked to contribute to a sign. Her preference is for one with a nice design with community information and one that avoided featuring a number of advertising blocks.

Councillor Rice then sought out some clarification on the nature of the sign and to make sure that the City wasn't planning to pay for it. Preferring to have a community sponsor come forward to provide it.

After the lengthy discussion on the topic, Mr. Rodin then advised that staff understood Council's concerns and would do some research on the topic.

The motion was passed, with Councillor Garon opposed.

(54:00-- 56:00) Report from Acting City Manager on the Strategic Community Investment Funding Agreement -- Mr. Rodin outlined the background on the Agreement with the province, which provides funding to the city through the small community grant and traffic. The City includes these revenues in the budget and outlines what they plan to use the money for.  The Small Community grant is destined to be directed towards a reduction of any possible tax increase, while the Traffic fine monies would be directed to the RCMP.

The motion was adopted

(56:00- 57:00) Report from Acting City Manager on a request regarding the Sunken Gardens-- Mr. Rodin explained how the City would partner with the local Garden Society to gain grant funding for their sunken Garden project. It's the same process that the City used in partnership with Hecate Strait Development in the past, with city issuing tax receipts on behalf of the Sunken Gardens group, as they sought further funding for their plans.

The motion was adopted.

(57:00- 1:04:00) Report from the Acting City Manager on the December 2012 Monthly Department Report --  Mr. Rodin reviewed his report, outlining a number of aspects of the report on the various City departments.  Advising that it was available for a leisurely review.

The motion to receive the report was adopted.

Councillor Ashley asked a question on the purchase of the new ice chiller and whether it was costed out for this years budget. The problems from the old chiller were costed to the 2013 budget.

Councillor Carlick Pearson also had a question regarding the chiller and the nature of the rinks shutdown and timeline for a return of ice.

Councillor Thorkelson raised a question regarding the Watson Island revenue and the nature of the money received. She also inquired as to the nature of the property taxes that the city owes itself on that property and how they are accounted for with the City.

(1:04:00-- 1:05:00) Report from  the Acting City Manager on the 2013 Financial Plan Process-- Mr. Rodin reviewed the schedule ahead for the consideration of the City's Financial Plan and what will be considered at each session.

(1:05:00-- 1:42:00) Report from the Acting City Manager on the 2013 Financial Plan options-- Mr. Rodin reviewed the different options that the City could consider regarding its Financial situation and what impact those options may have on their final Financial plan.

He reviewed some of the revenue streams and provided a few items that staff might wish to add to the budget, among them a night time clerk for the RCMP, an additional manager for the Civic Centre complex as well as the prospect of more money for the Recreation Centre.

Mr. Rodin then reviewed some of the options; reduce the paving budget somewhat, perhaps by as much as $150,000, increase property taxes by about 1 percent to fund existing costs, with the possibility of cutbacks and service reductions.

He also suggested that the City could pull some money out of the surplus to fund some of the deficit.

He said Council could consider increasing fees, some of which have not been increased in a number of years.

He advised that Council could direct staff to do any or all of the above or hold off for further public consultation on the topic.

Councillor Ashley inquired as to the topic of an infrastructure priority list and whether city was addressing any of them, Mr. Rodin outlined the streetlight replacement project, the Duncan Road sewer extension and the Moresby Creek sewer project.

She also inquired as to the nature of any work on Shawatlans Dam and whether anything is planned for this year, Mr. Rodin advised that they are looking for grants for that and the Mayor added they were waiting for further criteria on the Federal Governments infrastructure plans.

Councillor Ashley asked if the head of engineering could attend a council session to provide further information on the city engineering requirements.

Councillor Garon expressed the thought that she wanted to hear from the public as to what they think of the possible options.

Councillor Thorkelson inquired on the status of the CUPE agreement, and asked for an estimate that the impact of any potential wage increase would have on the budget. The current contract ended in 2012, the next set of negotiations is set to take place in the second or third quarter of this year, the contract if settled could be effective January of 2013. Councillor Thorkelson requested some kind of projections for council to consider with the various wage provisions in place.

Mr. Rodin estimated that the CUPE aspect of wages takes about 7 million out of the budget.

Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to the prospect of the part time clerk for the RCMP and if the RCMP had asked for any other increase in staff. She then outlined her thoughts on the request for the clerk for the RCMP, the additional rec centre manager and other recreation centre financial options.

The two new positions would be incremental costs, as would be the additional spending on the rec centre.

Councillor Ashley asked if there was any tax revenue included in the financial plan stemming from Pinnacle Pellet.

He reviewed some of the properties that would no longer be taxed, the fish plants that have closed recently and the shut down of the Houston Pellet plant at Ridley, which reduces the city's industrial taxation prospects.

She also inquired as to the status of the now paid off Museum mortgage. She, like other councillors wanted to see more information and ideas and what the possibilities are and the impact they might have on the budget and the community. Such as fee increases, service reductions.

Councillor Thorkelson expressed concerns over the prospect of a huge tax increase, while at the same time didn't want to see service reductions that may drive civic employees out of town. Her main concern is over the prospect of wage increases and the impact of them on the budget.

She counselled for patience as the City waits for better times to come to the community, before exploring the larger issues at hand.

Councillor Ashley returned to the theme of infrastructure concerns and that the city should maximize its funds.

Councillor Kinney joined in on the conversation, calling on the promise of the future and how the City should make things presentable so that those arriving in the community may wish to remain here.

The motion to receive the report for informational purposes was adopted.

(1:42:00--1:57:00 ) Report from the Corporate Administrator on the topic of a Nuisance property on 7th Avenue East-- Mr. Grodecki outlined the details of his report, recommending that the property and items upon it in question  and items upon it be demolished.

Councillor Ashley asked about property valuations and the procedure of recovering cost from the tax sale provisions.

Mr. Rodin then delivered a review of some of the accounting procedures of the city both in regard to these property demolitions and other facets of civic accounting.

The motion was adopted.

(1:57:00--1:58:00 Correspondence for Action -- Request for a letter of support for Northwest Community College regarding an application for a Community Enhancement grant from the Port to enhance their marine courses at the college.

The motion was adopted

(1:58:00--2:01:00) Proclamation Request from Community Social Service

The motion was adopted

Councillor Thorkelson also added to the motion that they write a letter to the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition expressing the city's support for Community Social Services.

That motion was adopted

Councillor Rice asked if they could include a copy to Regional District on the letter.

(2:01:00--2:01:30 ) Resolutions from the Closed Meeting

Announcement of appointments to the Board of Variance

(2:01:30-- 2:14:00 ) An internship proposal from Northern Development Initiative Trust -- Mr. Rodin outlined the concept of the proposal from NDIT, offering further education for those interested in civic governance issues. The City would be required to provide some of the money towards the project, the Mayor offering up a potential three way split with Port Edward and Regional District. The only concern that Mr. Rodin has is that the City may not have the proper amount of staff on hand at the moment to take advantage of the internship.

Councillor Ashley asked as to the timeline of the application process for the project.

Councillor Garon outlined her conversation with NDIT on the costing of the project to the city, which she believes to be around 8,000 dollars. She spoke in favour of moving forward with the proposal.

Councillor Ashley again returned to the theme of the timeline and the ability to contact other potential partners with Prince Rupert.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up the thought that they only received this tonight, so it's hard to know all of the details of it. She followed up on the theme of Mr. Rodin's about what we might be able to offer any potential intern and how the City needs to be fair to them at this time.

Councillor Garon returned to the theme of the project and again spoke strongly in favour of the program.

The motion was adopted, providing that the approval is received from Port Edward and SQCRD.

( 2:14:00- 2:14:30Report from the City Manager on Outstanding City Initiatives-- Mr. Rodin reviewed the current projects that the city is working on, including a number of Capital Works projects.

Reports, Questions and Inquiries for Council
(2:15:00-- 2:29:30 )

Councillor Garon advised Council as to the nature of the NDI website and the programs that they offer to communities.

Councillor Rice reviewed four items of interest to her, inquiring about a share shed at the landfill, Mr. Rodin said he would look further into the topic. Councillor Rice then followed that up with a request of clarification on the backyard hens proposal and if there has been any progress on it. Mr. Rodin advised that staff was advised that it was a low priority on the agenda for workload purposes. He wasn't sure if it would be addressed in 2013.  Councillor Rice then turned to the Information package of March 20th and the Port Authority planning for the Waterfront East, asking that the City take the next step towards its vision of the development in that area.

Councillor Ashley wondered where that fits into their top five priorities at the moment, the Mayor asked Mr. Rodin to consult with Mr. Krekic on the status of the plans priority. Councillor Thorkelson also weighed into the discussion, suggesting that the boundary expansion project probably knocks the Waterfront East planning down the list of priorities. Councillor Thorkelson also offered up that she would like to talk to the Port about the Kwinitsa west portion of the waterfront.

Councillor Rice had one final item of interest, regarding the Welcoming Committee for new immigrants to the community and wondered if anyone was going to participate in that April 10th meeting.

Councillor Thorkelson raised an item from the last Mayor's report, asking that the City send a letter to the Provincial parties to seeking their development of a BC commercial fisheries program and accompanying policies, to promote the growth and development of a commercial fisheries and processing sectors in coastal communities, including serious consideration of the State of Alaska style of regional salmon aquaculture.

Councillor Garon then asked about the nature of disappearing garbage cans in the downtown area.

Councillor Garon also wondered if the planters were being removed on Second and Third Avenues, they were removed at the request of Civic Pride owing to the deteriorating condition that they were in.

Mayor's Report


The Mayor received a note from Air Canada Express, advising that they will be operating a flight on Saturday afternoons as of May 4th, to compliment their morning flights of Saturday.

The Mayor also advised that the Prince Rupert Airport reported that passenger figures for January and February of 2013 show an increase in passengers of 4.14 per cent from last year at this time.

The Mayor participated in the City of Prince Rupert Awards of Appreciation ceremony. Councillors Carlick-Pearson and Garon were also in attendance at that ceremony.

The Mayor also took part in an interview with Bill Good discussing the development of port facilities in the community.

He advised that there is currently some upgrading of the Butze Rapids trail at this time.

The session then came to a close.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A motorized brigade for the North District Mounties?

The North District RCMP showed off their latest acquisition last week in Prince George, rolling out their newly arrived Tactical Armoured Vehicle.

Known as a TAV, the Prince George based vehicle arrived a few months back and has already been put into practical action on North District operations.

The new vehicle, built by Navistar Defence Canada  would appear to be along the lines of their Maxx Pro version and comes with a price tag of somewhere around 780,000.

The version that the RCMP have procured for Northern BC has a number of features that can handle the various terrain and obstacles of this region of the province, as well as provide for a number of options not available to the regular patrol car.

The scope of operations for the vehicle could be anything from hostage situations to search and rescue and any other situation which may put civilians and police officers at risk.

The Prince George website Opinion 250 has a story on the vehicle's arrival in Prince George, along with a link to a video presentation from a Kelowna news service, (see below)  reviewing the arrival of one of the armoured vehicles in that community last summer.

. .

Liberals announce Judy Fraser as candidate for North Coast

The wait for local Liberals is over as the British Columbia Liberal party announced this morning that Judy Fraser will carry the party's banner into the May 14th election campaign.

The local small business owner also sits on the Board of the Prince Rupert Airport Authority and is involved with the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, offering assistance to help recruit and settle new doctors into the region.

Word first spread of her arrival to the campaign through a tweet on twitter this morning.

In a news release issued by the BC Liberals, Fraser outlined the focus she has on the Northwest and what she believes the BC Liberals have to offer.

 "Today’s BC Liberal are focused on how we can grow B.C.’s economy," said Fraser. "Northwest B.C. is in the spotlight right now, so it is critical for this region that we elect a government that is committed to developing our resources responsibly, not a government that will just say 'no' to everything."

The entry of Ms. Fraser marks the second candidate to enter the electoral campaign, earlier this year City Councillor Jennifer Rice claimed the NDP nomination over Prince Rupert District Teachers Union President Joanna Larson.

The arrival of Ms. Fraser into the electoral campaign, beyond bringing to an end fears that Ms. Rice might end up winning the riding by acclimation, will provide for the opportunity for discussion and a review of the political options for the North Coast.

For those that have questions on the NDP policies for the region, the prospect of a candidate to ask those questions for them in public forums and on the campaign trail, will be a welcome addition to the political debate in the region.

Still to be heard, is whether the Draft Joanna Larson movement had any success in moving the former NDP nomination candidate to carry on her political campaign as an Independent.

You can follow our Election coverage on the blog from our Election Desk feature, we also track developments in the North Coast Riding here.

CFTK--March 26-- Liberal NC Candidate (video)
CFTK-- Marc 26--  Liberal Candidate steps up to Run for the North Coast in Elections
Northern View-- March 26-- BC Liberals announce candidate for North Coast riding

UNBC Vice-President seeks outlook of Rupert's future from UNBC alumni

Rob van Adrichem, The University of British Columbia's Vice-President for External Relations  made a quick trek up the highway to Prince Rupert last week making the usual pilgrimage to our industrial sites of note these days, important parts of the Northern BC infrastructure that are built on our resource potential.

Beyond the usual tour of the city's port facilities however, he also met with some UNBC alumni in the city, looking to try to better understand the issues in Prince Rupert and what role UNBC may play in the future of our development.

The informal information session took place at Cowpuccino's where the VP and the alumni held what appears to have been a lively discussion on the region's past, present and potential future.

The exchange of ideas offered up an opportunity to better understand the western end of Highway 16 and how the University of British Columbia can expand on its footprint in Northwestern British Columbia.

He returned to the Prince George campus seeking further information from UNBC graduates, both living in Prince Rupert and beyond. Looking to learn more about the grads, where they are whether in Prince Rupert or elsewhere and and how they see the community evolving in the future.

The review of van Adrichem's trip can be found on the UNBC website, part of UNBC's The Energy Tour page.

Current and former UNBC students (and even interested Rupertites in general) can offer up their thoughts by leaving a reply to his post at the bottom of his entry.

Season is done for Slubowski and his Broncos

"You create an unfavorable situation for yourself when you’re counting on results that you play no part in, so that’s my feelings," -- University of Western Michigan Head Coach Andy Murray reflecting on the position his Broncos found themselves in over the weekend.

Despite an impressive regular season in the CCHA Conference of the NCAA, Prince Rupert's Frank Slubowski and his University of Western Michigan Broncos have no more hockey to play this year.

The Bronco's who lost their conference semi final to rival Michigan a week ago, had one last faint hope for further NCAA hockey this year, but, as events played out at the conference finals over the weekend, the Bronco's in the end were left on the outside of the road to the Frozen Four.

The Broncos who finished the season with a 19-11-8 record, were swept out of the semi finals to Michigan and had no choice but to spend the weekend past scoreboard watching.

However, as events played out in Detroit, they didn't have long to watch before they learned their fate.

With Notre Dame defeating Ohio State over the weekend, the Broncos fate was sealed and their season came to an end at the tournament office, as opposed to on the ice.

Next year the Broncos move to a new Conference in US College hockey, joining the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, playing against such teams as Colorado College, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami, Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State.

It was a pretty good run for the Prince Rupert goaltender, in addition to the on ice success of the Broncos (semi final notwithstanding) Slubowski made it out of the first round of on line voting for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award.

However, when all the on line votes were weighed against those ballots from all US College head coaches, Slubowski came up short for the list of the final Top Ten Finalists and won't be moving on to phase two of the balloting..

Voting for the Top Ten begins now and the announcement of the top player in US College hockey will take place  on April 12th at the Frozen Four tournament

M Live-- WMU hockey coach Andy Murray believes defenseman Danny DeKeyser will step into an NHL line up right away
M Live-- WMU hockey defenseman Danny De Keyser is a lanky, disciplined player with a bright NHL future
M Live-- #DeKeyser Watch: As WMU hockey defenseman Danny DeKeyser pursues an NHL future, many take to social media to speculate
M Live-- WMU hockey ranked 16th in final Pairwise rankings, but Broncos bumped out of NCAA Tournament by Canisisus' automatic bid
M Live-- Western Michigan's hockey season officially ends with Notre Dame's win over Ohio State
M Live-- Western Michigan turns attention to college hockey scoreboards as NCAA Tournament picture becomes more clear tonight

Monday, March 25, 2013

Adverse Weather results in Northern Adventure Sailing Delays

Weather conditions along the North Coast are playing a little havoc with the BC Ferry Schedule for the day, Marine conditions resulted in last nights scheduled sailing to Skidegate to be delayed, a schedule change that has provided for a domino effect on the rest of the schedule for today and tomorrow.

The latest information has travellers on  the Northern Adventure checking in at Skidegate at 3:30 PM today, returning to Prince Rupert tonight after 10 PM.

That schedule as always is Weather dependent.

For those seeking the latest information from BC Ferries you can check in on their website which features Service Notice updates as warranted, or use their twitter feed which updates travellers through the day.

UNBC tuition set to rise for September

Students (and their parents who may shuffle some cash towards the cause) from the Northwest who attend Prince George's University of Northern British Columbia will be digging a little deeper this fall to attend classes.

Through the first three months of 2013, UNBC officials were reviewing a number of options in a bid to reduce their budget shortfall, while seeking to keep education an affordable thing for Northern residents.

With the review now complete and after a weekend of budget consultations, the Board of UNBC confirmed the numbers and announced that in September tuition will be increased by two per cent.

In addition to the tuition rate increase the Prince George University campus will see a number of positions eliminated as the University restructures some of its units and seeks to get a firm grip on the financials for the year ahead.

The University will also seek other savings in such areas as its allocations to capital equipment,  increasing the ways that they reduce their energy costs, while at the same time increasing the number of International Students accepted on campus for 2013-14.

The tuition increase and staff reductions are designed to try and address the anticipated budget shortfall of 2 million dollars.

For those putting aside some money for the fall semester, the tuition for a full time undergraduate student in September will be $4,816 per year, an increase of $94 from last year's tuition bill.

The UNBC increase comes on the heels of a similar increase for the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, which also announced a 2 per cent increase in tuition for the fall.

Some of the Prince George media's reviews of the tuition increase can be found below.

Prince George Citizen-- Tuition hikes, staff cuts coming to UNBC
Opinion 250-- Tuition to rise To Balance UNBC Budget

City Council Report, March 25, 2013

City Council Sessions for Monday, March 25, 2013

Home page and archive of sessions can be found here

Live Broadcast of session can be found here

North Coast Review Preview of Council Session for March 25, 2013

Agenda for Regular City Council Session of for March 25, 2013

Agenda for Committee of the Whole Session for March 25, 2013

Agenda for Special Council Meeting March 25, 2013
(resolution to exclude the public)

Info to Council

March 20, 2013

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

Minutes of Regular Meeting March 25 

Minutes of the Committee of the Whole Meeting March 25

Audio Recording of March 25, 2013  

Video Recording of March 25, 2013   

North Coast Review City Council Timeline March 25, 2013 

North Coast Review Items from the March 25th Council session

Does His Worship Have Everyone's Attention Now?
And another office opens up at City Hall
The Green Party picks up on Councillor Thorkelson's theme
Hey don't we have one of those already?

News items from the March 25th Council session

City Council Preview for March 25, 2013

City Council wraps up the month of March with both a Committee of the Whole session and a Regular Council meeting, the Committee of the Whole session offering the public chance to comment on any items of concern that they may have.

Once the Regular Council session gets underway, Council will have a number of items for review.

From the City Council Agenda  click on the respective page numbers from the City generated agenda to take you to the item of interest.

Among some of the topics for deliberation a number of Applications for Development Variances, one for a residential property on 11th Avenue East and the other involving the proposed erection of a communication tower near Northwest Community College, a review of both can be found on pages 13 to 31.

The Highway pullout discussion will review the plan of the Province to erect a "Welcome to British Columbia" sign and community information billboard near the Prince Rupert Ferry Terminals. You can review more of the proposal from  Page  32

Council will also receive a report regarding the receipt and distribution of the Small Community Grant and Traffic Fine Revenue Grant, you can review the report on pages 35 and 36

Council will the recommendation from the Acting City Manager to act as a partner with the Prince Rupert Garden Club to access funding for work on the Sunken Gardens from a variety of sources. Details of the report and the proposal can be found on pages 36 to 39

The Acting City Manager will provide details of the Monthly Department Report for December of 2012, a breakdown of the various departments and financial items of note surrounding them. You can access the report from Monday's Agenda pages 40 to 44

The Acting City Manager will also review the Budget process moving forward with a number of options for the Council to consider, everything from adding or subtracting from staff and or services, to increasing taxes and fees is reviewed. Details can be found on pages 45 to 49

Council will also hear the Corporate Administrator's recommendation to declare a residence on 7th Avenue East as a Nuisance, clearing the way for demolition and removal of assorted items associated with that property. Details can be examined on pages 50- 55

Council will also review a pair of letters, one from Northwest Community College seeking a letter of support from the City in a quest for funding for a study into invasive species in local waters. A full overview of the planned project and the letter seeking the support of Council by way of a letter can be found on pages 56 to 64 

While Council will also receive recommendation to Proclaim March as Community Social Services Awareness Month, page 65

The session will wrap up with the usual clearance of resolutions from previously closed meetings, a look at Bylaws, a Report from the Acting City Manager on Outstanding Council Initiatives. 

Councillors will then have opportunity to offer up inquiries and reports, or ask questions, with the Mayor bringing the night to an end with his Mayor's report.

In addition to the Agenda items above, you can also review the information package provided to Councillors for this meeting.

March 20, 2013

Among some of the items from to look over from the Information package, a correspondence from the Prince Rupert Port Authority on the topic of the Waterfront East Land Use plans.

More details on the Hecate Strait Business Development's Welcoming Communities Action Plan for Prince Rupert.

Some background from BC Hydro on the Temporary Hold put on the North Coast Transmission Project.

An update on the Police Records Information Management system known as PRIME.

Highlights of the recent Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District Board meeting.

Some background on the preparations from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities prior to the Federal  Budget Day of last week.

Council begins their work tonight with a session closed to the public at 5, the Committee of the Whole and Regular Council session takes place at 7 PM.

You can view it on line from the City's website.

The results of this weeks Council session can be found from our archives here, while a full review of Council Sessions from the year so far can be found here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Waiting, waiting, waiting... for the Liberals, for anyone!

The BC Liberal Party has revamped its website to reflect the upcoming provincial election, replacing the feature of Ministers portfolios and MLA's information, with a listing of candidates for the May 14th election day.

Yet, for North Coast residents, there is something missing in that listing of the names.

When you click on the Meet our Team section, the Liberals seem to be missing a name and smiling face between New Westminster's Hector Bremner and the North Island's Nick Facey.

While, neighbouring Skeena has been quick to the Liberal fold, with  Carol Leclerc having secured the nomination late last year and setting  in motion her challenge for Robin Austin's seat in Victoria.

On the North Coast, the Liberals apparently are still without a name to put forward publicly for the ballot for our trip to the polls.

A worrisome sign that this riding may just be ceded as NDP territory this time around, framed in the prospect of an election campaign that the pollsters suggest, may be a rough one for the governing Liberals.

There has been little mention of the North Coast on the usual Liberal platforms of late of their website or twitter feeds.

There is some talk around town, that perhaps the Liberals may make an announcement this week, providing North Coast residents with the political resume to review over the Easter weekend.

If so, it will be a welcome addition to the North Coast political debate. So far, only the NDP have a candidate on the ballot, with City Councillor Jennifer Rice set to have the easiest trek to the campaign trail on the North Coast in recent history.

As of Friday, the NDP candidate was a pretty lonely candidate for office, with no one to debate, no one  ready to step up and offer up a challenge.

There was that grass roots movement of a few weeks ago to draft Joanna Larson to the campaign trail. The Prince Rupert District Teacher's Union head finished second to Ms. Rice during the NDP nomination process, but her possible candidacy as an Independent it seems, would still be a welcome thing for more than a few North Coast residents.

Ms. Larson has been in Vancouver for most of the week attending the BCTF convention, so she's been out of the Prince Rupert political circuit of late.

In recent days there have been no public comments made over the speculation of her possible candidacy, nor has there been any further information coming from the originators of that draft Joanna Larson campaign.

As we move closer to the active campaigning phase of the election process, the pressure to have her jump into the race may continue to grow, especially considering the lack of interest among the other parties in the province.

It would be a rather interesting testimony to the nature of politics on the north coast at this time, if Ms. Rice's quest for office in Victoria ends up being an uncontested acclamation.

It's that prospect that have quite a few North Coast residents hoping somebody, anybody, steps up quickly to at least offer up a full review of the issues of the riding and provide the candidate who may  best represent it with an eye towards the future.

You can review our recent items of note on the North Coast political scene from our Election Desk North Coast archives.

We also have a wider overview of the upcoming election available here.

Rupertites prepare to power down for an hour, as Earth Hour approaches

At 8:30 tonight you may notice that things go rather dark and somewhat quiet, Prince Rupert residents like communities around the world will observe an hour of reduced energy consumption tonight, as we observe the hour of dimness, if not darkness from 8:30-9:30.

Prince Rupert has a chance to move itself higher up the rankings for Earth Hour tonight, hoping to build on last year when the city and its residents reduced their energy consumption by 4.1 percent, among the top ten communities in the province that took part in the Earth Hour challenge.

While the climb to the top could be steep, (Revelstoke was number 1 with a 12.1 per cent reduction) Rupertites usually find that powering down and enjoying the hour of darkness is a welcome gesture, all part of a global effort to the goal of conserving power and building better habits when it comes to energy consumption.

Last year British Columbians saved 121 megawatt hours of electricity and reduced the provincial load by 1.67 per cent during the one hour break from the grid. That would be the equivalent of turning off about 9 million 12.5 LED bulbs.

BC Hydro has been a long time supporter of the Earth Hour observation, joined this year by Fortis BC which has details for those that take the pledge and the possibility of gaining an energy efficient retrofit for your home. They also offer up details on the  Earth Hour Challenge for business.

However, the driving force behind the Earth Hour initiative is The World Wildlife Fund,  you can learn more from the Earth Hour page of their website, about their efforts to reduce our impact on climate change.

Participants around the world can log on and register as part of Team Earth Hour making sure that their  personal hour of power reduction is not only counted, but logged in world wide.

Vancouver was recently named the Global Earth Hour Capital recognized for its innovative actions on climate change and its dedication towards a sustainable, vibrant urban environment. They also claimed the People's Choice award winner scoring the highest number of online votes.

Earth Hour even has an anthem, though if you're truly going to observe the spirit of the hour of energy reduction, you won't be able to play the video below through the hour, so we suggest you memorize it through the day and sing it A Capella when 8:30 arrives tonight.

. .

This marks the sixth year that Earth Hour has been observed across the province and Prince Rupert it seems has always been a rather enthusiastic participant in the project. The City of Prince Rupert recently made a step towards better energy consumption, with the much discussed (and much noticed) change to LED street lighting.

And while we do our part, we may not be quite as enthusiastic as Hartley Bay. That community shuts down the oil generator that generates its power, making everyone a participant we imagine, though since they aren't part of the BC Hydro power grid, they get counted for participation in the contest, but do get a Gold Star for effort and dedication.

You can review our findings from Earth Hour 2012 here.

You can follow the progress of Earth Hour around the world from this  dedicated web page to today's efforts, you can also track the day's developments from the twitter feed that has been created to keep everyone up to date (with a one hour absence of course).


Some items of note from Saturday's Earth Hour efforts

BC Hydro update on Earth Hour Stats

Global BC-- Earth Hour results for 2013
CBC BC-- City landmarks worldwide go dark for Earth Hour
Vancouver Sun-- Earth Hour: Metro Vancouver, Canada turns off lights, joins millions around the world
News Talk 1150 Kelowna-- Earth Hour reduces Energy Across BC
Metro News Vancouver-- Vancouver dims the lights for Earth Hour
Opinion 250-- No Earth Hour Data for Northern BC

Friday, March 22, 2013

Avalanche Warning issued for North Coast/Northwest backcountry

Back country enthusiasts on the North Coast and Northwest will want to take notice to the Public Avalanche Warning issued today, an advisory for potential danger for recreational users in the Northwest Coastal and Inland regions.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre has issued the Warning for all areas of the coastal area of the Northwest, with a particular focus on Terrace, Smithers and north to Ningunsaw Pass, as well as inland areas as far as Hazelton and Smithers.

The warning is in effect immediately and extends through the weekend. You can read the Avalanche Statement here.

The unpredictable nature of our weather in the last week or so seems to have provided the snow pack with an uncharacteristically weak layer, sensitive to being triggered by the weight of a skier or snowmobiler.

The full scope of the warning can be found from the Canadian Avalanche Centre's website, which offers a wide rang of information on the topic and the warning in place, information specific to the Northwest can be found below.

Auditor General Calls for better monitoring of British Columbia's Air Ambulance service

“Air ambulance services have a direct impact on peoples’ lives.” said Doyle. “We expected to find that the BC Ambulance Service was defining, monitoring and improving standards for its air ambulance service, but that was not the case.” -- A portion of a news release from Auditor General John Doyle delivered with the release of his report into the province's Air Ambulance Service.

They are a familiar sight in the sky over Prince Rupert, the BC Air Ambulance Service and its aircraft providing for a lifeline for many in the province.

And while many don't think twice about importance of the service that they provide, at least one person is a little concerned over the oversight that they receive from head office.

In a report released on Thursday, the Air Ambulance Service  found itself under the microscope of the soon to be departing Auditor General John Doyle.

And his findings that the service could be doing its job better, might  very well make for another election issue in the campaign to come.

Prince Rupert in particular relies on the Air Ambulance service more than many other communities, mainly to transport patients from outlying areas to our Regional Hospital and for transport from Prince Rupert to major health centres in Vancouver.

So local residents may have more interest in his report than other communities that aren't as dependant on the Air Ambulance service.

In his report delivered on Thursday, Doyle found a number of items of concern regarding the administration of the service, including:

A lack of goals for the Air Ambulance Service

Dispatch decisions that are often inadequately reviewed to determine if paramedics are situated in the best locations to meet patient needs

A lack of consistent procedures for reporting and addressing safety issues

Issues regarding Staffing shortages 

It is unable to demonstrate whether it is providing timely, quality and safe patient care

Did not adequately Track or monitor clinical activity

Has not accurately measured transport timeliness

To that end the Auditor General's office provided three key recommendations for the Air Ambulance Service to make progress on.

1. Actively manage the performance of its air ambulance services to achieve desired service standards for the quality, timeliness and safety of patient care.

2. Periodically review whether the distribution of staff and aircraft across the province is optimal for responding to demand for air ambulance services

3. Regularly identify and review a sample of air ambulance dispatch decisions to ensure resources are allocated with due consideration for patient needs and available resources.

A seven minute video summary of the report can be found below as posted on the website for the Office of the Auditor General.

The Office of the Auditor General website also provides a link to the full report which is available for download

The Auditor General did observe, that the BC Air Ambulance service had accepted the recommendations.

The Air Ambulance service said Thursday, that it is taking steps to implement the recommendations, with an eye on the audit to further enhance its operations.

Some of the media reviews of the Thursday report can be found below.

CTV-- Air Ambulance Service lacks goals, monitoring: B. C. Auditor General
Globe and Mail--  Air Ambulance service needs better monitoring, says B. C. auditor general

Prince Rupert's Devin Oakes on the Memorial Cup journey

Northwest hockey fans have a team to follow in this years Major junior hockey playoffs, as the Kamloops Blazers, with Prince Rupert's Devin Oakes called up for the playoff run set for their 2013 WHL Playoff debut tonight.

As we outlined on the blog last week, Kamloops moved Oakes up from their developmental team the Storm last week and he will be on the Blazers reserve roster, as they face off against the Victoria Royals tonight in Kamloops.

The first series of the WHL playoffs is just the first stage for aspiring Memorial Cup champions, there's a fair amount of hockey ahead for any Junior team that hopes to make the trip to Saskatoon in May for the Championship tournament.

Kamloops and Oakes no doubt are hoping that tonight is just the first in a long, long spring of hockey.

The schedule for the Blazers and Royals is as follows:

Friday, March 22-- Victoria at Kamloops 7 PM
Saturday, March 23-- Victoria at Kamloops 7 PM
Tuesday, March 26-- Kamloops at Victoria 7:05 PM
Thursday, March 28-- Kamloops at Victoria 7:05 PM
Saturday, March 30--Victoria at Kamloops 7 PM
Monday, April 1-- Kamloops at Victoria 7:05 PM
Wednesday, April 3-- Victoria at Kamloops 7 PM

Kamloops Website
Victoria Website

Blazer games are broadcast live on CHNL (available online here), for those wishing to tune in to see how much ice time (if any, he's currently not on the game day roster) that the local grad from PRMHA may find in the series.

A preview of tonight's series opener can be found below.

Battle Royale
Blazer brain train
Smith sticking with what works
Hicketts always has plenty of support wherever he plays
Royals lose leading scorer
Royals look for fast start against Blazers in opening round of WHL playoffs