Thursday, December 12, 2019
For City Council it's a selective approach when it comes to National Attention
Monday evening provided a pair of examples as to how when it comes to some attention on the national stage, most of the members of Prince Rupert Council, will gladly accept some praise and celebrate some attention.
While in other cases, our elected officials tend to dismiss any findings that may happen to offer a different interpretation, as to how they view things in the community.
The celebration of course came in the afterglow of the remarkable Hometown Hockey weekend, those forty eight hours of community spirit that culminated on Sunday night with a post card perfect evening, highlighted by the kind of travelogue presentation to the nation that put Prince Rupert in its best possible light.
Monday night, Council members, led by Councillor Niesh paid tribute, as we all should, to the hard work of the volunteers who helped pull the event together, sharing the spotlight with the team from Rogers Sportsnet which created the visuals and wrote the narrative to the weekend.
And after watching the opening montage from that Sunday night broadcast, the Council members had every right to gush and celebrate Prince Rupert's step out on the national stage.
Yet thirty minutes previous, when it came to some other attention from the national media, that of the recent article in Maclean's on the level of crime in Canada and Prince Rupert's placement on their list, the Council members were for the most part dismissive and very clearly pulling up the draw bridge when it comes to outside perceptions.
As became quickly apparent, Councillors would be taking no heed of the Maclean's findings, making comparisons to the Foundation Skills Assessments from the Fraser Institute; or notes of it being a flawed study, one to not apparently take much counsel from.
"I don't take a lot out of articles like Maclean's, I think that anybody that lives in this town or visits our town would never feel that it's a dangerous place to be, that being said we obviously have problems and we need to work on our social problems"-- Councillor Wade Niesh speaking to the recent Maclean's magazine review of crime statistics
For the most part, the Councillors took some comfort in the presentation from the local detachment which also found the data as relayed by Maclean's to be somewhat flawed; noting that when it comes to violence, the majority of those files are among residents who are as the police would say, known to each other.
Though if one was the victim from one of those case files, or those apparently rare encounters of stranger on stranger violence; we're not sure that those victims would be making the same determination as the councillors, as to the level of concern that should be put towards issues of crime and violence in the community.
The reaction to the Maclean's study was not the first time in recent weeks that the City Council had chosen to dismiss, or disregard the findings of the national media.
Prince Rupert gaining a fair bit of attention through a number of articles, many featuring local residents who had very real concerns.
As an answer, the city released a statement through the communications officer, while a request from those compiling the stories for an interview with the mayor apparently had found no success.
Mr. Brain did speak to the topic at the November 4th council session, to provide for some talking points on the national attention.
From his short overview the Mayor reinforced how the city does not deliver lead to homes in the community, while calling some of the themes of the first of what would soon become many articles as an absolute misrepresentation of the issues.
Mr. Brain in particular took specific umbrage to a comparisons to conditions in Flint, Michigan and called into question the collection of data by the national journalists.
"On top of that, another issue that came out, was they compared some numbers around some of the data that came out around of the lead levels and unfortunately the media took the first flush data, which is when you first turn on the tap after the water has been sitting for a lengthy period of time. Which unfortunately doesn't actually represent what home owners are actually exposed to, because after you turn on the tap and it runs cold, the lead levels run well below the Health Canada guidelines, which the media's own data actually proves as well"-- Mayor Lee Brain in November on a Global News story, part of a national collection of notes on Prince Rupert water
As the stories continue to roll out through the month, the Council members chose to stay out of the discussion as to the points that were being raised, offering little in the way of advocacy for those that had been interviewed for the stories, or those in the community that may have some concerns about the issues that were raised.
For the most part the approach from Council was to leave those lengthy national stories and features in a pile by the mailbox, like unsolicited junk mail that they didn't appreciate.
What seems to be a theme of we know best, goes back for a number of years, with the city even continuing to quarrel to this day with the province and Stats Canada over how many people live in the community, a discussion that dates back in 2015.
During the days of planning for major projects as part of the then anticipated boom for LNG development in the community, the City Council approved a community survey as part of their Go Plan collection of data.
That survey process used many variations from paid enumerators, to the hosting of a Bloc Party at Fishermen's Hall to provide for their statistical review.
It was designed as a project that was to serve towards the city's approach towards the issue of homelessness and prepare for industrial growth; as well as to help determine the city's view that there was a significant level of local population going unaccounted for by BC Stats and Statistics Canada.
Such is the city's determination to hold to their own population count, that they now include their findings as part of the annual report, marked by an asterisk beside the Stats Canada numbers.
Often it seems, when the information comes from outside their own controlled environment and doesn't focus on a positive, Council puts up a defensive stance and seemingly looks to deflect some of the more uncomfortable topics.
Statistics and data aren't the final word, they are merely pieces of information. Snapshots of the moment and guideposts that can highlight community concerns and perceptions, or put the spotlight on areas where change is required, or where issues need to be addressed.
Dismissing them because they don't fit a pre-conceived narrative and talking point, does not seem to be an effective way to address the very real concerns that residents may have when it comes to the range of topics that are being putting up for discussion.
For a look back at some of the past themes from City Council see our archive page here.