The Port Edward Turnoff provides some visual testimony to the weather pattern of the day on the North Coast
Environment Canada appears to have missed the Sunday afternoon snowfall that began midway through the day and continues on now into the evening; revising their weather talking points focused on rain late in the afternoon.
Shifting to a mention of snow in the evening, something for which those who may have spent some time with shovel in hand might have wanted a heads up on.
The light dumping of snow bringing a few centimetres so far, with more accumulating, making for slick driving conditions.
The Drive BC website has a common refrain from the Fairview Ferry Terminal to the Terrace Roundabout that of Slushy sections along the entire route.
The Prince Rupert end of Highway 16 is slushy as the pacific front mixes with colder air to bring snow to the region
The approach to Terrace from the west is also listed as slushy with more snow to come before rain makes a return
A snapshot of the conditions from west to east can be found from the BC Highways Camera locations, though the weather appears to have knocked the Terrace cameras off the network for now.
Earlier this afternoon Highway 37 A was closed for avalanche control, something which continue to this hour.
According to Environment Canada the current precipitation will shift to rain overnight with up to 20 mm anticipated, though depending on the cold air aloft, you may yet have some more shovelling ahead of you on Monday morning.
It being a Council week, a number of themes coming out of the Monday Prince Rupert City Council session dominated much of the reading time for those exploring the blog.
Among the Council related topics of note, a look at the still suspended status for flights out of the Digby Island Airport, the presentation that makes for a Monday night Council session and plans for land use near Miller Bay all of which found a large audience over the last seven days.
The continued presence of high COVID numbers in the city also made for a much read story, that through our notes on the Wednesday data release from the BC CDC
Also gaining a large audience this week, our look at some provincial funding announced by the BC government for some projects in the Prince Rupert area.
Of our five stories of note on the week, the most read story that captured the most attention was our look at what is planned for some land on the outskirts of the city near Miller Bay.
You can find our weekly Blog watching feature posted every Sunday morning by 9AM, making for a handy way to catch up to the week that was, at a leisurely weekend pace.
You can also review the full listings of the week just past, from our Blog Archive index page found on the right hand side of the page.
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A daily review of the latest items on the blog can be delivered to your email in box, simply by entering your email address into the information bar, items posted to the blog will be delivered to your e-mail account each day.
You can find the link to that feature on the upper, right hand side of the blog. It can be found underneath the Follow the North Coast Review by Email indicator.
As well, those who use Twitter can get updates as we post new items from our twitter feed
Update:Early Friday evening the totals were revised from those released earlier in the day, with the number of case reports dropping from 589 to 521.
Revisions are reflected in the BC CDC data charts at bottom of this page
*********** Original story *********
After some good progress in lowering the volume of new cases, British Columbia took a step backwards today, with the Friday COVID report making note of 589 new cases, a jump of just under 200 cases from yesterday.
More than half of the new cases were reported in the Fraser Health Authority region, which remains the province's hottest zone for COVID cases.
The statement from Doctor Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix was noted as provisional, owing to delayed case information, the full report of the day's findings will be posted to the BC CDC dashboard once it has been verified.
“Today, we are reporting 589 new cases, for a total of 79,262 cases in British Columbia.
There are 4,665 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 8,040 people under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. A further 73,188 people who tested positive have recovered.
Of the active cases, 232 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 63 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.
There have been seven new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,355 deaths in British Columbia. We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost loved ones to COVID-19. “There have been no new health-care facility outbreaks."
Across the province, British Columbia's Health Authority regions outlined the following reports for the day:
157 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 317 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 31 in the Island Health region, 39 in the Interior Health region,
There were 33* new cases reported in the Northern Health region on Friday, that brings the total to date since January 2020 to 4,511 positive cases reported in the Northern Health region.
* -- Numbers were revised later Friday evening
British Columbia recorded no new cases of COVID in the province from people who reside outside of Canada.
The pace of vaccination continues to increase, to date, 252,373 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., 73,808 of which are second doses.
Today's review also included some welcome news on vaccines, with the British Columbia officials making note of two approvals from the Government of Canada towards expanded vaccine availability.
“Today, the Government of Canada announced the approval of two versions of a new COVID-19 vaccine – the viral vector vaccine produced by Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Verity-Serum Institute of India vaccine.
This is very encouraging news for everyone in British Columbia.
Unlike the vaccines that have been available to date, this new, two-dose viral vector vaccine has the benefit of being ‘fridge stable,’ making it much easier to transport and distribute around the province.
This new vaccine will be integrated into our provincial immunization program as delivery and supply is confirmed in the coming weeks. The additional supply will allow us to look at accelerating immunization of priority populations and essential workers.
This is another exciting and encouraging step forward for all of us. It means we have one more layer of protection available to us and are one step closer to getting through this pandemic."
Members of the Lax Kw'alaams community north of Prince Rupert have one more week of restrictive measures in place, that following the announcement of an extension to the current Lockdown in effect.
The announcement from Thursday notes that the Band Council and local Emergency Measures Committee have been monitoring the situation in Prince Rupert over the last two weeks and with an increase in reports of positive cases of COVID-19, as a result the measures previously announced will remain in place.
The extension to the Lockdown will now mean that it is in effect until March 3rd, at which time conditions will be reassessed.
Lax Kw'alaams has been under the Lockdown order since the first reports of COVID on the North Coast from mid January.
You can access more details to what is involved from the Lax Kw'alaams Facebook page.
Ongoing monitoring and testing of residents and staff has not identified any new cases for several days. While the outbreak status is considered stable, full outbreak measures remain in place, and public health will continue to monitor the situation closely.
The current outbreak lists 33 residents and 23 staff members has having tested positive for the coronavirus.
As we outlined on Wednesday evening, the situation at Acropolis Manor, along with ongoing COVID exposure notes from SD52 have contributed to the current high level of case counts in Prince Rupert over the last month.
Something that has seen this community listed as the one with the most reports across the Northwest for two consecutive weeks now.
The recently announced campaign by Ellis Ross to become the next leader of the BC Liberal party will apparently be a marathon run, as opposed to a short sprint.
That as the party sets February 5th, 2022 as the date when they will select the replacement for their most recent ship's captain Andrew Wilkinson, with the party looking to find the right candidate to put them on a footing to challenge the NDP when the next provincial election rolls around in four years time.
The City has laid out some options on locations for Coast Mountain College should they wish to provide for some student housing in Prince Rupert
Monday's Prince Rupert City Council session provided for one amendment to the city's zoning plans for downtown area, with inclusion of a note on availability of land for student housing, something which may catch the eye of officials at the Terrace home office of Coast Mountain College.
Included in the report from the city's contract planner Chris Buchan (available from Monday's Council Agenda) was some background on the challenges facing local and international students when it comes to find accommodation in the city:
Housing remains a challenging issue for the City of Prince Rupert. In response to the inquiry about student housing options in the City Core, it is proposed to provide a definition within the Zoning Bylaw for student housing and to included it as a permitted use in the C2 Zone. Student housing is proposed to be defined as follows:
“A residential unit that can house up to 10 related or unrelated people. Residents of these developments
must be registered as a post-secondary student. In the case of related people, only one of the family members needs to be registered as a post-secondary student.”
This new permitted use will increase the housing options available in the downtown area to both local and international students.
A new parking standard for student housing is proposed to be 0.2 vehicles per bedroom. This is a standard used for student housing in the City of Nanaimo for students registered to the local university. This standard is designed for residents who collectively have fewer vehicles.
It also contributes to the desired density increase in the Prince Rupert downtown core. It is worth noting that because this use would only apply to C2 zones, transit services are provided throughout the downtown area.
Zoning Map provided as part of the Rupert Talks survey project underway Student Housing is proposed as one use for areas designated as C2 (photo from City of PR survey material, click to enlarge)
With City Council seeking comment and feedback from the public related to the need and their proposed location for the housing.
You can review Mr. Buchan's Report to Council from the City's Video Archive starting at the 58 minute mark. Though somewhat surprisingly, none of the members of Council had any follow up questions or observations to share on the topic from Monday's session.
We've followed the need for student housing through the last few years, the last update from Coast Mountain College coming seventeen months ago, when Sarah Zimmerman, the Executive Director of Community Relations for the college observed that they were aware of the need for such types of housing for the students attending the Prince Rupert campus.
"We know there is a need for student housing in Prince Rupert and we are currently exploring options for the community there. Student housing in Prince Rupert is part of Northwest Community College's five-year capital plan and we continue to work to try to move it forward there." -- Coast Mountain College Executive Director of Community Relations, Sarah Zimmerman in September 2019
An artists rendering of what the new housing at the Terrace campus of Coast Mountain College will look like once completed
At times, it seems that any desire for similar housing in Prince Rupert has become lost in the shuffle, with few updates to explain why there continues to be a delay in providing for some, or to suggest that progress is at hand.
With the City looking towards a rebirth of the downtown core through a range of new initiatives and zoning designations, the time may be right for Coast Mountain College to provide such an update for Prince Rupert residents.
Taking advantage of this new push for downtown development to offer up some hints on what plans they may have in mind to fill a very real need for housing for their local and international student community on the North Coast.
The times of COVID have proven to be challenging ones for all of us and for Prince Rupert City Council, just moving on with the public face of governance has apparently delivered no shortage of issues to deal with.
From the still to be developed ability to host some form of Public Hearing to move forward on a range of civic priorities, to the opportunity for local residents to comment on upcoming housing issues or other concerns of note, the lack of a public engagement strategy is creating a growing divide between the local officials and the residents they serve.
The most prominent display as to how COVID precautions have interrupted the traditional work of City Council is through the twice a month (most months) City Council Session, the gathering of elected officials and senior staff to share some information on key policy issues and the day to day work of a community.
For those that take the time to follow along at home these days, the last time that most of the city's elected officials gathered together in person at City Hall was November 9th, 2020.
Since the November 23rd session, the City Council format that has been adopted is that of a radio Call in show for the most part, the Mayor serving as host, with some supporting help from the Corporate Administrator and on occasion the City's Financial Officer or City Manager.
Everyone else phones in from their remote locations and if they are paying attention on Council, that is making for a mess to be honest, of how the council is projecting their work on our behalf.
As it currently is set up (play the video at the top of the story), Council is making use of an archaic telephone system for the meetings, which has a few issues to solve it would seem.
While most of us are in the world of video conferencing these days, City council has taken us back to the days of Alexander Bell asking Watson if he can hear him ... with the frequent refrain that of 'whomever has the TV on please turn it down ... please turn it down ... please turn it down', making for one of the most important themes of recent sessions.
The current presentation is one that leaves many of the councillors comments lost or distorted, the ambient noises from wherever they are calling from making for too many distractions and at times drowns out the participants providing some important background information.
The current system also offers no actual verification as to who is in attendance, the only way to know, is by way of monitoring the questions and answers if you can decipher them, as to who is participating on any given night.
While it's understandable that with COVID, the ability to meet in public session is complicated, Council has yet to explain why after some three months of this call it in process, they can't hold Council sessions in a larger venue such as the Lester Centre, or Civic Centre, taking appropriate spacing and measures for personal protection.
Unless the council members have all sequestered themselves at home for the last few months, they surely by now have gone shopping for Groceries, or attended to their day jobs which as we know all require measures to ensure safety.
There surely must be some options available to hold to a live stream of a bubble meeting of the seven members of Council twice a month, while we all await the COVID vaccinations that offer a return to more normal times.
Other communities it seems continue to find ways to work around COVID, Terrace recently hosted a significant special meeting on land use that attracted some vibrant conversation that lasted almost two hours and offered a range of comments to the Council members, all of it steamed live to the public at home, providing for a full and transparent account of what was a very controversial topic.
Port Edward recently moved to an online stream that includes the opportunity for residents to comment at the end of the session if they wish, bringing back the opportunity for Council members to hear directly from the public.
Council group shot for those who may have forgotten what the council members look like, visuals perhaps subject to change post COVID sequestering (photo from home mailer from the City of PR)
At Monday's Price Rupert Council session, the collective hosted a return to one of the few public access options residents have to use, that of the Committee of the Whole session, which included the opportunity for the public to participate, sort of.
The Prince Rupert version of keeping in touch requires anyone with an item of note to contact the Corporate Administrator by voicemail or email to register their concerns, which Ms. Rosa Miller will then apparently read aloud to the Council Chamber on the council nights.
In effect adding the duties of Town Crier it seems to her growing portfolio of tasks.
On Monday, there were no such comments to share, no one apparently providing a contribution within the seven days required lead time; though to be fair to the folks at home, few probably knew of the opportunity to comment with the Notice only posted the Friday before the meeting, tucked away on the civic website.
It's not really all that surprising that no one participated, the list of rules to do so is somewhat daunting, the heads up towards participation somewhat lacking, none of it conducive to an easy flow for community engagement.
"This is a very important piece of our planning that is going to come in the future and I really think public engagement is something that we've got to really look at carefully. By using COVID-19 as you know, sort of something that is going to block a lot of communication and that. I think we need to definitely find a way around it. Whether its a survey we put out in the paper or online or something like that ... I really think the overall picture, we've got to take a careful look at it, because so many times I've heard people say well I didn't know anything about that. And I know we've advertised it and everything, but how we're going to get it out to the public this time to get it right, I think is very important"-- Councillor Barry Cunningham speaking to Council in June of 2020 about the need to communicate with the public
If the Council members can't meet together with proper safety measures, they should explain why and then find another way of delivering their information beyond scratchy telephone calls.
After all the city owns its own communication company, surely CityWest can offer up some advice.
At the moment the perception for a number of residents is that of a distant council that isn't hearing the community's concerns, their way of presentation of their work may have something to do with that.
Perhaps they could make some calls around the region to see how other communities are keeping their residents informed and part of the process, liberating some of their solutions towards use in Prince Rupert.
This year will be an active one once again for the staff at Ecotrust Canada, with plans hatching from their Ocean Centre offices that will see a number of initiatives return or debut.
The plans for the year come through an update from the organization which looks at all of their initiatives for British Columbia with Prince Rupert the focal point for a few of them, including on ongoing work in the local fishery and some urban agriculture themes.
When it comes to the fishery, Ecotrust Canada once again will be providing the electronic monitoring and bio sampling for the Area A Crab Association as well as work with Metlakatla as part of the Restorative Ocean Farming project, the later part of the work towards securing food security for the Members of the Metlakatla First Nation.
Learn more about the program below:
On land this year will see more steps towards development of an urban demonstration farm in downtown Prince Rupert, which will be focus on improving food insecurity within the community and demonstrating the feasibility of creating a diverse array of growing options in the city and region.
The organization will also expand on its work towards developing a Northwest Food Distribution network, looking for ways to increase the movement of local food products between the communities of the region and that way increasing food accessibility and expanding markets for growers and producers.
The organization also wants to hear from you, towards issues that are of importance to the community particularly as the region works to recover from the impact of COVID-19, you can access the five minute survey here.
The Big event for the year is just over a day away for the finalists in the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce with the Business Excellence Awards set to stream live Saturday night at 7PM.
This year, the annual gathering of the business community will be a mixture of small bubble like gatherings at a number of local dining locations and an audience at home watching and celebrating loal business excellence through the Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.
The one hour show ready to declare the winners of this year's Business Excellence Awards, with the nominees having provided snapshots last week through an online presentation that then gave the viewers at home the final say in with online voting.
As we mentioned above, the night is also an opportunity for some of the participants to still find a way to bring in the social atmosphere of Awards night, with the Chamber parenting with nine local food/drink providers in town as part of the BEA event.
With the case count dropping another significant amount today, some progress it seems is being made towards reversing the upward curve of the last few months, a topic that was just one of a number of themes from today's information session with Doctor Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
“Today, we are reporting 395 new cases, including 12 epi-linked cases, for a total of 78,673 cases in British Columbia.
There are 4,489 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 7,931 people under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. A further 72,781 people who tested positive have recovered.
Of the active cases, 228 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 62 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.
There have been 10 new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,348 deaths in British Columbia. We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost loved ones to COVID-19."
Across the province, the daily COVID count was as follows:
86 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 207 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 37 in the Island Health region, 24 in the Interior Health region,
There were 41 positive cases reported in the Northern Health region, which brings the Northern BC total to 4,478 cases since January of 2020.
There were no new cases of COVID reported by people in BC who reside outside of Canada.
When it comes to variants of COVID, there have been 16 new confirmed cases of concern in our province reported as of Thursday. That for a total of 116 cases. Of the total cases, nine cases are active and the remaining people have recovered."
To date, 239,883 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., 68,157 of which are second doses.
Dr. Henry also spoke to the need for calm and kindness, referencing yesterday's Pink Shirt Day and how it serves as an example towards the need for compassion in these challenging times.
“Yesterday was Pink Shirt day. We spoke about the need for kindness and compassion. We all need to keep this top of mind in the weeks ahead, because with fatigue can come frustration.
We are confident our collective efforts will slow the spread of COVID-19. However, it is our kindness and compassion that will see us through this pandemic and into brighter days ahead.”
However, in the follow up Q and A session of today's review, the Public Health Officer was asked about the threats she and her staff have faced in recent months. with Dr. Henry providing for some insight into the inexcusable conduct she, her family and coworkers have had to deal with and the precautions that they now have to take.
Something which Health Minister Adrian Dix noted was of concern, observing how there is room for disagreement in the province, but how the level of personal attacks were completely unacceptable and how he .
"You know, we live in a democratic society and it is absolutely legitimate to disagree even about issues such as the pandemic, but some of the disagreement is totally unacceptable. Doctor Bonnie Henry is an extraordinary leader and that doesn't mean she's right all the time, certainly doesn't mean I'm right all the time, it doesn't mean the the government is right all the time, everyones right all the time, the Federal government, World Health Organization, or anyone else.
But, the kind of personal attacks on some of them are completely unacceptable ... I just want to say because I have the opportunity to meet with Doctor Henry every day how she never loses sight of people in this pandemic, how regardless of the criticism she continues to show compassion for everybody, every single person and regardless of one's view of what we're doing from a day to day basis. That is really of respect for an extraordinary human being in our province and I think we need to have a slightly more respectful debate" . -- Health Minister Adrian Dix
A copy of the February 3rd letter to Property owners related to property management obligations in the city (From the City of PR)
Prince Rupert City Council members received a bit of a thumbnail sketch Monday night as to how the City plans to move forward with enforcement plans, when it comets towards building owners who have not been active with the concept of building and property maintenance.
The topic came up as part of a question from Councillor Barry Cunningham who noted that the City has now delivered its letters to property owners advising of the city's plans to enforce the rules.
"I know we sent out letters to the downtown merchants to start cleaning up their business exteriors and that and I would just like to know Mr., Mayor where we are with that"
Mayor Brain noted that it had only been three weeks since the letters went out, turning the discussion over to Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller to provide for the next steps in the process.
"The letters were sent out approximately three weeks ago, I believe on March the third will be the four week anniversary of the letters being sent. After March the third we will be doing a comprehensive review of all the businesses for which received letters and follow up with respect to various bylaws such as property maintenance or the nuisance bylaws." -- Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller
As a follow up the Mayor returned to a theme he spoke to in January observing that the plan is to take some action this year and target some of the really unsightly areas of the city, noting that the property owners can use this last month to read over the letter before the city moves forward to consistently move ahead with the process.
Councillor Cunningham had one other question of note on the topic, related to what happens if the property owners don't comply and what options the City has at that point.
Noting of the existing bylaw provisions Ms. Miller observed:
"If they don't comply then we can proceed with fines and we can clean it up ourselves and place it on their taxes"
Earlier this week, the province announced that the North Pacific Cannery Historical Site in Port Edward would receive funding as well, with $273,870 to be directed towards preservation interventions at the Historical site.
It's been a busy week for handing over funding, as we noted on Tuesday, the City of Prince Rupert received 1 million dollars towards their plans to relocated the Airport Ferry dock to the Kwinitsa station area, as well as other rejuvenation plans for the area.
The City of Prince Rupert is looking for some community engagement online towards planned Zoning changes, with City Staff making use of the Rupert Talks platform to outline some information and take some feedback on their plans from residents.
The project went online on Monday, though the official notification of the project did not make it the city's information stream until today, with notice posted to the City's Facebook page and the civic website.
The information relay includes some background on the zoning issues, as well as an Information video to help explain some of the themes for review.
(Click to enlarge)
The City includes a link to the Current Zoning Bylaws as well as the updated measures and other resources, all of it available here.
As for your comments or observations, the Survey takes participants through a number of elements of the zoning plans seeking comments or questions for each.
Included on the list are
Outdoor Vehicle and Equipment Storage
Short Term Rental Accommodations
What role if any that Shipping Containers may have
Plans for the Marina District
Expansion plans for the Industrial areas near Ridley Island and the Highway
Commercial uses of the City Centre
Miscellaneous Additions, such as Cannabis operations, Daycare increases in building heights
There are many options for adventure seekers ahead this spring and summer as BC Parks prepares for what should be a busy year (map from BC Parks)
It may not be much like camping weather at the moment, but in a few short months the call of the great outdoors will be loud and strong and for North Coast residents looking to get away to spend some times at some of British Columbia's provincial parks and campsites.
Towards those warmer days hopefully filled with sunshine, your first chance to save a spot at a BC Park will arrive on March 8th.
That's the day when the province's Discover Camping reservation service will open which provides the first opportunity to book space for up to two months in advance of your travel plans.
“Our provincial parks have never been as important as they are right now. They provide a special place to safely connect with nature and improve our health and well-being during these difficult times. We are all looking forward to another summer of camping and outdoor recreation in B.C., and while public health concerns and advice remain, we are asking people to pick a campground as close to home as possible to avoid long road trips and non-essential travel.” --George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
Camping season is just around the corner in BC (photo from BC Gov't)
With British Columbians having spent a fair bit of time in their personal bubbles these last few months, BC Parks officials are anticipating a strong demand for space this year, with British Columibans having sole access to space up until July 8th when the reservation service will be offered to the rest of the nation.
Since COVID-19 is still impacting the province and travel opportunities are limited, this year’s camping season is expected to be busy. BC Parks appreciates that a positive camping experience starts the moment a site is booked, so it is important to be prepared with back up options for preferred sites and dates.