Wednesday, November 11, 2015

City Council Timeline, Monday, November 9, 2015

Twenty four minutes from start to finish, for those putting wagers on the length of Monday's council session, picking the under at 25 made you a City Council lotto winner this week.

With no city business to deal with for the first session of November, the majority of the twenty four minutes was allocated to housing and social issues in the community, with the Mayor and Councillor Thorkelson carrying the bulk of the conversation on those themes.

The Mayor opened the discussion by providing an update on the latest work of the housing committee, while Councillor Thorkelson added some thoughts to that topic and then delivered an address on the current nature of the unemployment situation in the city and the impact that it could have on the city as the winter months arrive.

A few housekeeping issues, the return of a Mayor's notebook of sorts and a see ya later folks at minute 24 and Council was done until the 23rd of November.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Regular Council Agenda for November 9 here.

Council also had taken part in the latest of their Special Closed Session which was held earlier in the day at 5:00 PM.

Further information from our overview and placement in the video archive can be found below, with the permanent record of the minutes added as they are posted to the city website.

In attendance November 9, 2015

Mayor Lee Brain-- Present
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Absent
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa--  Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson -- Present

Video Archive for November 9, 2015

( 0:00-1:30 )  Regular Council Session  -- Adoption of Past Minutes and Agenda for the evening. -- Council reviewed a number of past minutes and accepted the Agenda for the evening's Regular Council session.

With no Regular City business on the Agenda for Monday evening, Mayor Brain took the opportunity to provide a short update on the Housing Committee work over the last few weeks. 

( 2:00 -8:30 ) An update on the Housing Committee -- The Mayor noted that owing to a number of reasons, there had not been much progress on housing in recent months, but that he held out hope that things would be back on track through the fall and into 2016. 

Noting the two streams of approach that the City has engaged in over the last few months,  the first in the nature of data collection, to provide for some baseline information related to lots available for affordable housing in the community, with the second course of engagement that of working with stakeholders in the community.

He pointed to a current Housing Committee initiative involving the City, Hecate Strait Business and North Coast Transition Society, who are all are working with the Prince Rupert Aboriginal Services, towards developing a housing strategy, with 50,000 dollars provided by the province towards their study.

A project which will put together some guidelines on how to address affordable housing issues before the community reaches out to the various levels of government, including the Federal government to move their plans forward.

He also noted some of the challenges facing the committee and suggested that there could be some movement on the housing issue as we head into 2016.

Councillor Thorkelson added a few comments to the topic, calling attention to some of the restrictions in place when it comes to developing affordable housing options, as well as some of the subsidy arrangements in place for those that require affordable housing.

She offered up some examples of how the provincial government commitments to the community have already been used up for the month and how there is little money by way of subsidy available to bridge the situation to December.

( 8:30--24:00   ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Thorkelson also took advantage of opportunity of the slow council evening to provide a review of her concerns over the nature of the Employment Insurance system on the North Coast and how the current structure is penalizing the region.

Making note of the dire situation facing a large number of local shore workers this year from the city's fish plant, which saw layoffs arriving much earlier than years of the past and the repercussions that the EI situation will cause for the city's residents.

She outlined some of the situations that are facing those that have seen their EI options reduced, with the prospect of missed rent payments and evictions and other social issues among some of the concerns she has for the fall and winter season ahead.

She explained in detail the structure of the EI system that the city's residents have to deal with, which places Prince Rupert placed in the same economic area as the province's more robust economy of the Northeast and communities like Fort St. John, a situation which she observes is weighted towards the Northeast employment picture, which currently is punishing the local residents of the North Coast who don't have access to the same form of employment options.

When it comes to the Unemployment and Welfare rates of the province, Ms. Thorkelson observed for the Council that the North Coast is listed among the highest in BC when it comes to unemployment, noting that the rate here could be as high as 15 percent, with a high number of residents also relying on the welfare system.

She noted that it was her belief that our EI catchment area should be much smaller and more reflective of the regions issues, something that she hopes will be addressed by the new Federal government in Ottawa.

She outlined for Council an approach that will soon be taken on through the local labour movement, which will put together a presentation to bring to Council to discuss and seek action through the Federal government.

Their efforts will be designed to provide an opportunity for those on the EI bubble to have better access to EI opportunities as opposed to having make use of the welfare system.

She wrapped up here review of the employment concerns with a short review of the recent commercial fishery which did not deliver the anticipated returns and has delivered the economic conditions for some of the troubles currently faced by local workers in the community.

Councillor Cunningham outlined some of his concerns over the lack of progress related to a rezoning application for a property on Borden. Mayor Brain provided some background related to the topic, with the City Manager noting that the issue is moving forward and is awaiting some clarification as to its status.

Mayor Brain then took a page from the previous Mayor, turning to Jack Mussallem's  short observations of the past, providing what in effect was his version of Mr. Mussallem's old Mayor's report.

For his short review, Mr. Brain reminded everyone of the Wednesday Remembrance Day event starting at 11 AM at the Court House.

As well, he provided a reminder of the launch of the Love Prince Rupert campaign set for this Saturday at the Civic Centre from 11 AM to 3 PM, featuring a number of local businesses setting up booths to market themselves to the community, with a number of activities planned as part of the event.

He also provided called attention to the Seniors Tea taking place that same day.

The Mayor also noted that Councillor Mirau and the City Planner would be attending the Communities Fit for Children's Conference in Vernon appearing on behalf of the Mayor, who noted that he had duties to attend to on behalf of the City in Prince Rupert.

He then offered up a few notes on the recent Nation to Nation conference that he attended on behalf of the city and how he believes it provided some good dialogue on the theme of engagement among local First Nations of Northern British Columbia and the various communities of the North Coast.

To close the meeting, the Mayor reviewed some of the new communications efforts that the city is engaged in to inform the public, many of them through Facebook,  though he  did add that he realizes that not everyone uses Facebook, so he will be making more use of the Council sessions to also deliver some of those messages to the community.

He also noted the new arrival of a Communications Director for the city who will also be reviewing how the City communicates its message to residents and introducing new measures to inform the public.

Councillor Cunningham had one final question for the night, inquiring as to the status of the terms of reference for a Business Committee, wondering where city staff was at when it comes to that process.

The councillor was advised that the information had been provided to the Mayor and Councillor Mirau for further study and feedback, adding that nothing had been defined from that process.

Councillor Mirau offered up the view that he had asked for the background on the proposal, while the Mayor stated that they would have more information on that topic for the whole council shortly.

With that the Monday session came to a conclusion.

You can access the City Council Review for November 9th here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to media coverage of it can be found.

As always, our Council Timeline is only a reflection of our observations from the Council session of the night. Be sure to consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to their website for further review.

Minutes of the Regular Council Session from November 9, 2015 (not available yet)

Council next meets in Regular session on November 23rd in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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