Wednesday, May 16, 2018

City Council Timeline: Monday, May 14, 2018

Presentations to Prince Rupert Council, made for the bulk of the near ninety minute Council session on Monday night, as Council heard an update on a new addition for the Cow Bay Marina, as well as the results of a study from some members of business community, who presented their findings on the theme of employee hiring and retention in the city.

The Cow Bay Marina update made note of the new kayak float now in place for use by the community, while the Business study provided for a range of material for discussion related to the concerns of the small business sector when it comes to holding on to employees, as well as themes on housing issues and the lure of larger employers with higher salaries to offer.

Ms. Corinne Bomben, the City's Chief Financial Officer delivered the 2017 Financial Statements to council, providing a short synopsis of some of the items of note.

Council reviewed two requests for action, one of which explored the issue of Transportation in the region, with Council reviewing a request for support from Nathan Cullen in his quest to bring the Greyhound route abandonment issue to the Federal government for some form of action.

Some Board appointments made at a Closed Session of Council in April were also released, with the evening wrapping up with a number of questions from Councillor Cunningham on plans for a community garden on Overlook as well as what plans, if any, the City has for a Spring clean up around town.

Some background on the items of note on the evening and the various Agenda elements for the May 14th Council session can be reviewed here.

Council also met in a closed session earlier in the day, the notice closing that meeting to the public can be reviewed here

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 May14, 2018

Mayor Lee Brain -- Present 
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present 
Councillor Blair Mirau --  Present 
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa--  Present 
Councillor Joy Thorkelson --  Present (participated by phone)

Councillor Nelson Kinney passed away on March 24th

Video Archive for May 14, 2018

(0:00 -- 1:00)  City Council Minutes and Agenda review --  Mayor Brain reviewed the list of minutes and agenda items to be noted by Council members, with Council then approving the Agenda, while the past minutes of previous council meetings were adopted.

( 1:00 -- 12:00 ) Presentation  from Robin Beattie, Manager Cow Bay Marina -- The Cow Bay Marina Manager shared news of a new addition to the Waterfront facility, providing an update on the work that has taken place on a kayak dock located at the end of the Marina Finger Dock.

As part of the presentation, Mr. Beattie shared a drone video of the location, to provide Council members with a look at the dock and where it is placed.

As for the Kayak Dock, the facility manager observed how the opening of the latest public space and how it adds another element to the Waterfront access to the community, praising the leadership of Mayor and council to continue to work towards that goal of public access.

He also offered up an update on the progress of the Marina Development, now into its third phase through funding from Northern Development Initiative Trust, with access stairs and a ramp to be installed to make the float easier for residents to make use of.

Council members offered up a number of questions related to the new addition, with Councillor Randhawa inquiring as to who may use the float and what kind of insurance coverage is in place for the float.

Mr. Beattie noted that there is a two hour limit for those making use of the dock and that the insurance for the facility, including the new float was part of the Municipal bylaw process, He did add that like any public facility, it is on the user themselves.

Councillor Randhawa also asked about forecast for the upcoming boating season, on that theme the Manager observed that he did not have a lot of specifics to share, but did note that spaces for July were filling up fast and that the Marina is looking like it is going to do better than it did last year.

Councillor Cunningham, observed that he thinks the addition was a great thing for the dock, then called attention to the two large outrigger vessels that have been in place on the float for an extended period of time, asking for some background to that situation.

The Facility Manager noted that they belonged to a Community group called the Prince Rupert Outrigger Society which has made arrangements to leave the vessels there, as they provide a service of providing trips for the community through their Society.

In a follow up question, Mr. Cunningham asked if anyone else could store their kayaks or other vessels on that float location, he was advised that there is no storage space available, adding that when people tie up, they will be required to take them to shore, or take them to their vehicles.

Mayor Brain noted that the facility isn't officially open to the public yet, with Mr. Beattie outlining that it is being used, but that he tries to keep users off the dock or at least counsel them to use caution when using it as there is a gap that is required to cross over to the float.

Mr Cunningham inquired as to if there were charges for users, and if the Catamaran club was paying for its use of the float. In reply, Mr. Beattie observed that there is no charge for anyone to use the float, and that the Catamaran Society was not paying anything to him for their extended use of the floats as they were providing a public service similar to the Dragon Boat Society, doing a lot of stuff for the community.

That provided an opportunity for Councillor Cunningham to inquire if the Dragon Boat Society could store their vessels on the float, he was advised that the Dragon Boats did not use the float for their storage.

To bring the presentation to an end, the Mayor noted that the project was an awesome addition to the waterfront.

12:00 -- 53:30  Presentation from Kristi Farrell, Chris Armstrong and Karen Sawatzky  on Employment hiring and retention issues in Prince Rupert    -- The group  of local business representatives who recently completed their Masters of Business Administration Program at Simon Fraser University provided some background to their final report with Council.

The theme of their study was that Prince Rupert was currently in the midst of a labour shortage, with the Port, CN and Ridley Island to name a few of the local industrial employers having hired a large volume of workers, many of those that had worked in the service industry had moved up to the better paying positions, providing for a local labour shortage and the closure of local businesses owing to lack of employees or better opportunities for the owners themselves.

Ms. Farrell called upon her experience as a business owner and property developer over fifteen years to highlight the concerns that she has found from the labour shortage, while Ms. Sawatzky provided some background from her viewpoint at the local branch of TD Canada Trust, offering her observations on the challenges that the institution has had with recruitment and retention issues.

From their review of the regions economic profile they determined that Prince Rupert and Port Edward continued to find a decline in population and along with that decline a rather startling statistic when it comes the local labour pool,  with their findings making note that 32 per cent were not currently part of the labour force.

They also noted however,  that Hyper economic growth in the community is providing for a growing economy, as seen from the hiring plans of DP World and other industrial options.

From their report they have determined that the five areas in the most need for employees are the Retail Sector, Accommodation/Food, Transportation/Warehouse, Health/Social Assistance and Technical professions.

Other concerns for workers is the high cost of housing in Prince Rupert and that has had an impact on those with low to middle skill jobs. The result of that is that many are taking on second or third jobs, or moving on to the Industrial sector where pay is higher.

Employee retention and staff burnout is one of the key findings from their review of employers, as well as an ability for employees to take on different roles in their organization.

The group called for an Action Task Force to be formed on the topic, a collaborative approach from the community and business, as well as an acknowledgement by the City that the labour shortage is here and very specific to the service sector.

As for a focus the call on bringing more people to the community specific to the current needs, they also suggested that Council should also include the need for Service sector workers as part of their larger recruitment initiatives.

The also indicated a hope that their study would be included as part of the City's information streams in the community.

Council members offered up a number of observations and questions, Councillor Niesh started off the process by noting the tough situation that the business sector is in, as they try to find solutions to their employment issues.

Councillor Randhawa inquired about the prospect of bringing in foreign workers to the community as a potential solution to the issue. Ms. Farrell noted that it is an option, adding she is bringing in an immigration consultant to explore those avenues, but added that it is a controversial topic.

Mr. Randhawa also noted that making use of NWCC and Hecate Strait could also be options to helping to train for the positions that are in question.

Councillor Thorkelson noted that the Fish cannery had recently lost 600 workers and wondered how there could be a labour shortage with that pool of local workers available, observing that part of the problem is related to the minimum wages that are paid and the impact that may have on how those workers can find places to live.

Ms. Farrell noted that with many workers having two or three jobs, it is sometimes hard to make timetables work, noting that the real concern for local business is the lack of bodies in the community to fill the jobs.

Councillor Thorkelson then noted that Prince Rupert has one of the highest unemployment rates in the province, as well as a high number of residents on welfare and wondered if the issue wasn't something the small business sector needs to deal with, suggesting that they should work together to create an attractive package and to combine schedules to provide the balance required to hold multiple jobs.

She also questioned the wisdom of bringing in a number of out of town workers to work at minimum wage jobs considering the current housing problems in the community,

Another theme Councillor Thorkelson explored was if their research had explored similar issues in places like Dawson Creek and Fort St. John and how they approached the issue.

Ms. Farrell recounted some of their findings from Fort McMurray, Alberta where training opportunities and potential for advancement have helped towards keeping employees.

For Councillor Thorkelson the question remained on how best to have employers get together to try not to compete for employees but to better schedule the large pool for their use, observing that with such a high unemployment rate in the city there must be a way to attract them to the business sector.

The group noted that through their research they have considered an option to have a local Human Resources consultancy group locate in Prince Rupert to act as a consultant to small business to address concerns and career opportunities. As well as to have a business work as a recruitment office to help ease that burden.

Councillor Mirau offered up his perspective on where the City was at with the topic,  making note of the Small Business Advisory Council that the City hosts and how the issues that the three were bringing to the city were issues that they were aware of, offering up a timeline of some of the city's initiatives towards business and economic development planning.

He also made note of their desire to see more collaboration and how that is also a theme the Business Council had explored with local business operators both large and small and how the city has a key role to play to make sure that they are aware with what's happening on the ground.

He inquired as to the statistic of 32 percent not participating in the labour pool and if that high a result was along the same line of a provincial average, the group did not have that information handy for him but did offer to explore it further and get back to him.

Councillor Cunningham as well picked up on the 32 percent mark, and suggested that was the target group that the small business community should be looking towards, rather than to look to bring more workers out of town, suggesting that making the job less of a dead end job and something more attractive that would lead to retainment.

Councillor Niesh turned to the Housing issues and noted that it is continuing to provide for challenges, noting that developers were not knocking on the city's doors to build in the community, adding that if the City could develop cheaper housing some of the issues could be solved, offering up the potential of a camp like situation for workers to get started and established in the community.

Ms. Farell observed that she and her husband have invested in housing to ensure that their employees had a place to live, noting that in some instances there is a need to become more involved in all aspects of their employees lives.

Councillor Cunningham noted that a study as to how Whistler, Banff and Jasper have worked to resolve their housing and staffing issues for the service sector might be an approach for the City to follow. He also observed that the City has a role to play in promoting Prince Rupert as a place to live.

The Mayor's contribution to the discussion was to observe that their work could be integrated to the regional approach to employee attraction and made note of the new civic website related to economic development and employee attraction.  He suggested that they connect with Paul Venditelli at the Economic Development office to follow up on their work.

( 53:30 -- 1:01:00 )  Reports from the Chief Financial Officer -- Ms.  Corinne Bomben provided the results of the City's Financial Statements for 2017, reviewing a range of the city's spending plans on infrastructure and capital purchases projects, as well as debt levels on outstanding loans.

She also outlined some of the facets of the City's arrangement with Legacy Corp.

Councillors Cunningham and Mirau expressed their thanks for the Finance offices efforts in challenging times for the City, as well as to inquire about some elements of the Operations and range of funds that the city has in place.

The full review of the Financial Statements can be found from the City's Agenda package for May 14th, starting on page nine. We also took note of some of the items of interest from it with our blog item of Monday.

Ms Bombens second report was an overview of the March Variance Report, detailing some of the elements related to Operating and Utility revenues and expenses which were all on track for this time of the year, and that Capital projects are just beginning.

Council moved to accept the reports.

(  1:01:00 -- 1:10:00 ) Correspondences for Action

Letter from Child Find BC requesting that May be proclaimed Missing Children's Month -- Council passed the resolution with no discussion

Letter from MP Nathan Cullen Regarding Passenger Transportation across Northern British Columbia -- A request from the MP seeking Council's support for a call to bring the issue of passenger transportation to the Federal Government for further discussion.

The topic provided for a an expanded discussion on the topic, with Councillor Randhawa asking that they add on the issue of VIA Rail service and it's poor performance levels to the letter for consideration.

Councillor Mirau inquired as to whether the Friendship House bus option in operation received any federal funding for their twice a week connection with Terrace, the Mayor noted that it does receive some form of federal funding, though it is also being run as a social enterprise, looking to switch it to a user fee model later on.

Mayor Brain also observed over his engagement on the issue with the Province through frequent conference calls with other Mayors, advising that the province is looking at other solutions towards the Highway 16 transportation issues.

Councillor Thorkelson urged caution on the issue, noting that the City needs to pressure the province on the issue, noting that she doesn't believe it is good to just shuttle people across the region by shuttle buses, calling instead for a larger more continuous service such as what Greyhound had provided in the past.

The Mayor advised that he could not speak further to what the Provincial plans may be at this time, adding that it will be up to the province to make any announcement as to their plans.

Mayor Brain further observed that they all agreed that they have sorted out the short term links between each of the communities, the conversation now turns to a consistent continuous transportation for the north.

Councillor Cunningham returned to the theme of VIA Rail and noted that it is getting worse all the time and that makes things very difficult for passengers, adding that the City should make sure its views are known.

On the theme of the bus services in the region, he observed that when the City opted out of the highway 16 Transportation plan of shuttle buses, that the Friendship House was offering transportation options and one of their options is to use Greyhound that will no longer be available.

Mayor Brain noted that when the City chose not to participate in the provincial led service, it was because they did not want to duplicate local services in place, advising how the Friendship House service mimics what would have been the same kind of schedule as the provincial plan.

He further expanded on the services offered by Transition House, and acknowledged that the Greyhound ticket option is about to be removed for Transition House leaving just Ferry or Rail as the transportation options available, with the goal now to figure out as a team what the longer game is going to be as far as continuous service, adding that technically that its a provincial responsibility.

Councillor Niesh called attention to the inequity between how the province handles transportation needs in the north and rural areas as compared to the larger cities and noted that the city needs to remind the province that it's not all about the Lower mainland, but about us too. Calling for transit services that are not put on the back of the community.

To bring the discussion to a close, the Mayor noted that the main thrust of Mr. Cullen's letter was to bring the Federal government into the discussion owing to the Highway's infamy as the Highway of Tears.

The City letter will give Nathan Cullen the mandate to raise the issues of bus and rail transportation with the Federal government.

Councillor Cunningham had one final question on the Transition House service asking if their 24 hour phone line was still in operation.

The Mayor advised it was and that the good news is that someone is always available to pick someone up at any time to take them to a safe place until proper transportation is out of town, reducing the option of hitch hiking.

He also explored how the City is addressing the issue of transportation, noting how as a council they were in support of the Transition House options and those being offered by Friendship House. With the next step for Council to work together on the continuous line with the province set to expand on that plan in the next few weeks.

1:12:00 -- 1:14:00 )  Announcements from Closed Meetings related to Board appointments -- Rory Mandryk the City's Corporate Administrator outlined the result of a Council discussion from the closed meeting of April 23rd , announcing the following appointments:

The Advisory Board on aviation and the Prince Rupert Airport will see three appointments to a two year term in place, with Ms.Gloria Rendell, Mr. Kelly Sawchuk and Mr. Knut Bjorndal all returning to the Prince Rupert Airport Authority Board.

Ms. Rosa Miller was appointed to the Small Business Advisory Council for a two year term.

The Recreation Department board saw six appointments announced.

Appointed to the Board are Ms. Joy Sundin, Ms. Sheri Pringle, Mr. Bruce Watkinson, Mr. Ralph Weick, Ms. Joyce Charlton and Ms. Anna-Marie Prohaska. 

Council has also named Councillor Wade Niesh as the Chair of the Prince Rupert Recreation Commission Board.

( 1:14:00 to 1:20:00 Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Cunningham led off the reports period, asking about the city's policy on Community Gardens, noting how residents of Overlook are exploring one for their area.  The Mayor observed that their initiative is being discussed with the City's Operations manager. He added that the concept of community gardens is something that they could explore through the Sustainable Cities 2030 initiative that Council is working towards. For the moment that is on an as it comes along process. Councillor Cunningham noted his full support for the project and how it adds to the community and brings residents together.

His second question for Council was related to the Mayor's Hays 2.0 presentation and what the strategy for Cleaning up the City may be, noting that people have asked him what the Mayor's strategy actually is and when it will begin to take shape.

The Mayor noted that it's part of a five year plan for a community clean which will be part of a report that is being worked on at the moment, with the plan has not yet been fully solidified. He observed that it will explore how to approach clean up issues such as derelict autos and properties and the costs associated with a clean up. He did suggest that it will be more of a five year process rather than doing it all at one time.

Mayor Brain also advised that the City has been exploring the idea of using two lots, one on each side of the city to use for storage of trailer and boat storage opportunities for residents to help take some of those items off the roads.

He expects that the report will come out shortly hopefully before the year ends.

Councillor Cunningham inquired if that then means that in the meantime nothing is going to be done at the moment when it comes to a clean up around the city, with the Mayor advising that wasn't the case noting that volunteer groups are constantly doing clean ups around the city, Mr. Brain further observed that he would prefer to see a phased strategy to make sure that they address the top priorities, adding that he hoped to do something this year but isn't sure when they might be able to move forward on the clean up plans.

Councillor Cunningham's final question was related to a derelict house on India and asked if Staff had a chance to look into it, he was advised by staff that would have to follow up on that question as there were some people away at the moment.

Councillor Randhawa inquired as to the McKay Street Park project and when the park may be opened for use by the children of the neighbourhood. Mayor Brain explained that his understanding was that the foundation of the park requires a bit more work and that inspections still need to be conducted. Noting that as it was a volunteer effort the City needs to ensure that it is up to code. He advised that it's a process that he hopes to have the park opened up soon.

With that as the final note on the night, Council brought their first session for May to a close.

You can access the City Council Review for May 14th herewhere a number of items regarding the council session, including links to local media coverage, if any, 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.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from May 14, 2018 (not available yet)

In addition to the city's official minutes, the City's Video archive provides a helpful record of the events from each public council session.

Council members next meet on Monday, May 28.

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

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