Saturday, April 17, 2021

MLA's Week: April 12-15, 2021



The members of the British Columbia Legislature returned to their duties this week, that following their extended Easter break period, with the first duty of the week the delivery of the NDP Government's Speech from the Throne, the blue print for the government towards how they plan to govern for the period ahead.




As for the speechmaking at the Legislature, two of the Northwest region's three MLA's had a place in the daily business roster to comment towards the Speech from the Throne, with MLA's Ellis Ross and Nathan Cullen both taking part in the debate.

Next week, the government will introduce is somewhat delayed financial plan for governance, with Finance Minister Selina Robinson to deliver the provincial budget on Tuesday.

As for more on the recent week of work from the House, the four days unfolded as follows:

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On the week, Ms Rice was not mentioned in the record for the week in the Legislature from April 12-15

The North Coast MLA did however share word with constituents of some funding to be delivered to an organization in Prince Rupert.


The North Coast MLA is also a member of the Following committees:


Ms. Rice serves as the Government's Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness

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For our readers from the Terrace-Kitimat region, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross  was mentioned once in the record for the week in the Legislature from April 12-15

Mr. Ross provided one of the BC Liberal party responses to the Speech From the Throne, delivering his remarks to the Legislature late Thursday afternoon.



Mr. Ross is currently the BC Liberal's Opposition Critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

The Skeena MLA is also contesting for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party

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For our readers from the Bulkley Valley area, Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen  was mentioned once  in the record for the week in the Legislature from April 12-15



Mr. Cullen serves as the Government's Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations 

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There is more background on all three Regional MLA's available from our MLA's Week Archive, as well as our constituency archives below:


The Legislature resumes on Monday, with the Provincial budget to be presented on Tuesday.

A larger overview of provincial issues can be found on our political portal D'Arcy McGee 




Friday, April 16, 2021

COVID Count slows, but vaccine delays make for more challenges in British Columbia

The pace of COVID reports slowed today with the province recording just slightly more than 1,000 cases for the final report of the week. 

Though as the pace slowed so to has the distribution of the Moderna vaccine to Canada and British Columbia, making for a challenge for British Columbia health professionals to deliver the provincial vaccination program in the short term.

The statements for the day both came by way of the provincial website. 

“Today, we are reporting 1,005 new cases, for a total of 117,080 cases in British Columbia. 

There are 10,081 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 15,877 people under public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. 

A further 105,291 people who tested positive have recovered. “Of the active cases, 425 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 127 of whom are in intensive care.

The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation. 

There have been six new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,530 deaths in British Columbia."

Across the province, the Regional Health Authority's provided the following numbers of reported cases for the day:  259 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 536 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 49 in the Island Health region, 110 in the Interior Health region,

There were 51 cases recorded in the Northern Health region bringing the total number of cases in the North to 6,738 since January 2020. 

There were no new cases of COVID recorded by people in British Columbia who reside outside of Canada. 

The review of the variants reported in the province noted that there are currently 5,739 cases of COVID-19 that are confirmed variants of concern in our province. Of the total cases, 212 are active and the remaining people have recovered. This includes 3,858 cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant, 71 cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant and 1,810 cases of the P.1 (Brazil) variant. 

Today's vaccinations brought the provincial totals to 1,282,091 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-SII COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, 87,970 of which are second doses.

In a separate statement, Health Minister Dix addressed the news today of a delay in shipments of the Moderna vaccine which will have an impact on the provincial vaccination program.

“The delay in Moderna's shipments is disappointing. The sooner we get vaccines in people's arms, the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem. This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame. “That said, the federal government has said it will send additional doses of Pfizer in May and June. Doses in April would be more helpful, but we appreciate the ongoing effort and commitment of the federal government."

Minster Dix's notes can be explored further here.

Doctor Henry also put some focus on how British Columbians can stay safe and manage their risk in these times of Higher case counts and concerns over variants.

“Spending time outside is important for our physical and mental well-being. But we have to remember that while being outside with others is much lower risk than being inside, it is not without risk. 

Even if we are outside, we need to stay small and continue to use our layers of protection. This means keeping a safe distance and wearing masks, especially if someone is higher risk for serious illness. 

Be purposeful about who you are seeing and where you are going, and stick with the same close contacts. 

If you choose to see a close friend for brunch on a patio, then make sure it is the same friend every time. If you decide to have a barbecue in your backyard, then keep to your roommates or family only. Or, if you visit your neighbourhood park with another family, then make it with only one other family and do activities that allow everyone to keep a safe distance from each other. 

It is easy to look for loopholes, but rather let’s look for how we can keep each other safe."

The full COVID statement for Friday  can be reviewed here


BC CDC data for British Columbia for April 16 2021


BC CDC data for the Northern Health Region for April 16 2021


The BC Centre for Disease control has some valuable Coronavirus notes related to COVID-19 you can explore that information here.

You can learn more about the outbreak from both the Province and the Federal government from the links below:

Federal Government site

British Columbia Government site

The World Health Organization website also offers up the latest advisories on the global situation.

More from  Northern Health can be reviewed here 

You can review our archive of past statements and local information here.   

Local governments and organizations have also provided for increased awareness of COVID-19 issues, those past advisories  can be reviewed here.

For notes from across Canada and British Columbia we have been archiving the latest items through our political portal Darcy McGee


Ottawa Observations


Victoria Viewpoints

 



School District to make final decisions on Budget no later than June 8th


There may yet be a fair bit of budget trimming ahead as School District 52 trustees continue with their work on the 2021-2022 budget, with the District noting that they could wait until early June before making any final decisions.

The path ahead towards their work comes following the announcement of a significant projected budget deficit at the Annual Budget Consultation meeting of March 29th.

In an update following their April 13th Board of Education meeting, the School District noted that staff continue to look for additional savings for the Board of Education to consider when the 2021-2022 Annual Budget is approved.

Staff will bring an updated list of potential budget cuts to the May 11, 2021 Board meeting. The Board will then hold a Special Open Board meeting no later than Tuesday, June 8th, 2021 to approve the Budget.

SD52 is not alone when facing a crunch at the budget making, many schools across the province are in a similar situation, some having announced plans to reduce popular programs such as music and other elements popular with their education program.

The Prince Rupert School District did not indicate where it may be looking further for savings as part of their information release of this week.

One other item of note was relayed from their April 13th gathering, that an update from Principal Debra Fabbi and Vice-Principal Mackenzie Guadagni of Pineridge Elementary School who explained the details to a new program to teach positive behaviour, the project is know as SUPER.  

Which is short for Safe, Understanding, Persistent, Engaged, Respectful

Board Chair James Horne noted the reception that the Board gave the Pineridge presentation.

“The Board enjoyed seeing the pictures of students involved in Persistence Challenge Day and other school activities. The school’s use of common language to enhance social-emotional learning supports a key element of the district’s strategic plan.”

You can explore more on education across the Northwest from our archive page here.



 

Liberal Leadership candidate and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross takes aim at Throne Speech

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross delivered one of the BC Liberal Party's
responses to the Throne Speech, delivering his presentation 
on Thursday afternoon from Kitimat



As we noted yesterday, this has been Throne Speech Week at the BC Legislature, with the NDP's Nathan Cullen delivering a spirited defence of the government's blue print earlier in the week, that while members of the Opposition Liberals and Green Party offered up counter narratives to the path for BC that is ahead.

Yesterday afternoon, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross had his opportunity to review the government's view of what is planned for the future, with many watching far removed from the Legislature, gauging the Liberal members words and themes as part of a larger leadership campaign.

Mr. Ross was the first Liberal to hop into the race a few months ago, joined by a few others from the party in the weeks since, though with a platform such as his placement in the Legislature, his comments will be of some importance for Liberals in the province to take note of.

Much of the Skeena MLA's take on the speech was framed towards how the NDP government has rolled in its reconciliation plans through UNDRIP, a topic he's spoken of often in the last number of years.

His comments portraying the NDP government as mostly virtual signalling, rather than crafting any successful policy 

The MLA frequently outlining why he believes that approach has not the best one for any resident of the province and how the Premier and his ministers have reneged on many of the promises that they made to bring it into place.

I'd like to say it's with great pleasure I rise to speak to the throne speech, but it's actually quite not. It's not a pleasure, because there's really not much in it. But in terms of the introduction to the throne speech, I can't believe this NDP government is still trying to convince the people of B.C. that there is a new relationship between the B.C. government and First Nations people. 

And they're basing that on Bill 41, better known as UNDRIP, or the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. They're not based on that. They're based on land acknowledgments, a virtue signalling term full of rhetoric but no substance. 

Yet since the passing of Bill 41, UNDRIP, the NDP have reneged on some of the biggest promises they made to First Nations in that bill in the first place — and then some. The NDP promised to consult First Nations rights and title holders in all new legislation. Well, right away, with the first piece of legislation that came into this Legislature, they broke that promise. They did not consult with rights and title holders. 

They also said that they were going to align all the laws in B.C. with rights and title, and they was going to do that under consultation with rights and title holders. 

They didn't do that. There's no proof that any of this was done. In fact, if anything, the answers that we got was that they actually consulted with political organizations like the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs or the Assembly of First Nations or the leadership council. 

And I've said it before. These organizations are not rights and title holders. Rights and title holders are actually held on behalf of a community. That's who the true rights and title holders are. 

So It only stands to reason that whoever represents that community actually has the right to speak on these rights and title issues.

Mr. Ross also spoke to some of the shortcomings of the UNDRIP legislation when it comes to the opportunities for First Nations to develop resources in their communities.

You've taken us 20 years back. In fact, if we even go back further than that, you've taken us back before 1982, when rights and title were first recognized in the Constitution of Canada, in section 35. 

And I made mention of this when we were debating the bill — that there is no real mention of the case law that was established in the courts of Canada and B.C. that breathes life into section 35 and that matters. 

It was a definition that actually laid out the rules for all three parties seated at a table that wanted to do something that infringed on rights and title. It laid out rules for the honour of the Crown. 

It laid out rules for Aboriginals. It laid out rules for third parties that wanted to do some type of project in a particular territory. 

And you know what, it was fair. It wasn't weighted in anybody's favour. Once everybody got an understanding of these principles, we began to see peace in the forest in terms of logging. 

Because the government saw the rights and title and created what we know, back to 12 years ago, as the forest and range agreement. Not only did it provide revenue-sharing to First Nations, it also provided volumes of timber for First Nations to log. So they could create their own jobs. So they could create their own revenues. So they could, then, turn around and build their own programs and address their own issues on their own terms. 

This is some of the great work that you are undoing. And it's not only in terms of resource projects. It's not only in terms of on-the-ground consultations. Some of the things that I'm reading now, in terms of what this NDP government thinks of First Nations issues, is offensive. 

We were one of the most progressive provinces in supplementing what First Nations were doing, in terms of their goals to reach independence. 

We were on a good track. Why did you want to stop that? I don't understand it.

His review explored themes of how revenue sharing has changed life for many First Nations communities  as well as the work that they have put into those opportunities, challenging how the NDP interprets what the path should be towards engagement with those communities.

I understand the attitudes of some NDP members, when you're talking about how evil a chief and council are, even though they're democratically elected. I understand that. 

I understand the opinions of people when they see Aboriginal people vying to be an MLA. I understand that. I understand what it means to not understand what it means to have an Aboriginal nickname in a community. I understand that. 

But what we're talking about here is much, much bigger. It's much bigger. It's not right that Aboriginals are misled by this idea of UNDRIP with broad, general, vague language. It's not even going to be followed in terms of consultative legislation, anyway. I was asked, in this House, by one of the ministers if I could come in and actually give him some advice or help them along with this UNDRIP bill. 

It's not my bill. It's your bill. And if you had every intention of not following your bill…. You've got to look inwardly. You've got to look at yourselves, especially when you're talking about one of the most disadvantaged people in Canada. 

I mean, great with your land acknowledgments. Good for you. 

Man, I really applaud you. But not once have I ever heard anybody talk, on that side of the House, about the high levels of incarceration of Indigenous people, the high levels of suicide, the high levels of substance abuse, the high levels of Aboriginal kids still going into government care. Not once. 

In fact, elected chief and councils are not evil. Elected chief and councils are trying to raise their revenues so they could put a stop to this, so they could slow it down. 

For those people in the House that claim Aboriginal ancestry or claim to have a close working relationship with Aboriginal leaders and people, you should know this. 

So why are you not even following your own legislation? Why are you not telling the Aboriginals the truth about UNDRIP? 

Because I don't see anything coming out of this that is actually going to improve the standard of life, which, in turn, mind you, will raise the standard of living for every British Columbian. That's been proven here in B.C. 

Because that's been proven here in Kitimat with LNG. It has lifted everybody's boat.  

While clearly just warming up, the Skeena MLA took note of the clock on a late Thursday afternoon and with the session for the week set to expire, reserved his right to continue at some other point of the Legislature schedule in the week to come.

Mr. Ross may have a new focus for next week however, the NDP government and Finance Minister Selina Robinson are set to introduce their somewhat delayed but much anticipated budget on Tuesday, that will surely be offering the MLA from Skeena some new material to work with.

You can review his full presentation to the Legislature from the hansard minutes here, his response the the Throne speech starts just after the 5:25 PM mark of the Thursday session.

A video presentation of the commentary can be viewed from the Legislature video archive again at the 5:25 PM mark.

For more notes related to the BC Legislature see our archive page here.



 

District of Port Edward invites residents to review Budget information and share comments before April 22

With Budget time fast approaching the District of Port Edward
is seeking comments from its residents

(photo from District of Port Edward)

The Council for the District of Port Edward has opened the public comment period towards their budget process. 

With the District offering up some background material for the public to review over the next week, as well as some thoughts towards the progress and investments into the community that the District  has moved forward one.

The First bit of information sharing is that of the District's Strategic Planning towards 2022.



 

“Port Edward has maintained a strong financial position amidst some significant revenue changes to our tax sharing agreement and expected grants in lieu of taxes....It is exciting to see new businesses and industry coming to Port Edward and this is a very important part of growing our community and achieving Council’s vision of a vibrant, self-sufficient and complete community.” - Mayor Knut Bjorndal 

Mayor Bjorndal also has provided some further themes for community residents to review as part of the Budget process, posting his correspondence to the District of Port Edward website.

Key points from his review, No increase for taxes, continued progress on their Strategic Plan.

Mr. Bjorndal also highlights their continued work on the District's infrastructure, along with the council's efforts towards seeking funding for additional infrastructure measures.





For those in the District that wish to express their concerns or opinions on the budget, they are advised to contact the Mayor or Council members by 2PM on April 22nd or to direct their observations through the District's Director of Finance at lpage@portedward.ca

You can review more notes from Port Edward from our archive page here.

More funding towards anti racism efforts for North Coast

The Provincial government had some good news for the day for 36 organizations in 57 communities across the province, announcing some additional funding towards anti racism programs including one in Prince Rupert.

Of the $372,500 that the province has released today, The North Coast Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society will receive $7,500. 

They have plans to use the funding  towards hosting a dialogues and training program on responding to racism, and to work with local schools to increase understanding of racism among school-aged children.

The money will be channeled through the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network, Rachna Singh, the Parliamentary Secretary for Anti Racism initiatives noting of the urgency the government has given to the issue.

"Racism is real and it’s pervasive in our communities. We must take action to combat racism in our local communities,. Our government is increasing funding for the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network to empower British Columbians to identify and help stamp out discrimination.” --  Rachna Singh, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives.


North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice hailed the government funding today through her Social Media platform.



Today's funding for the NCIMSS follows a similar announcement one week ago, which saw the organization and the Change Makers Education Society receive funds for programs in the community.

Other communities in the Northwest to receive funding today include Smithers, Houston, Kitimat and Terrace, you can explore the funding for the programs in place there from this list.

More notes related to the BC Legislature can be explored from our archive page here.



Praise for Pembina milestone echoed through City Council chamber Monday

The opening of Pembina's LPG Terminal at Watson Island
served as a popular theme at Monday's City  Council session
(photo from PREDC FB page)


The announcement of the start of operations at the Pembina LPG Shipment terminal at Watson Island this week, made for a topic of celebration at Prince Rupert City Council on Monday evening.

Whether it was from those participating as contributors at the Public Hearing on the Official Community plan earlier in the evening, or the members of Council looking back at the path they took to development of Watson Island, the commentary was that of a mission accomplished at Monday's regular council session.

During the Public hearing process, Ken Shaw made note of the arrival of the first vessel at Pembina's Watson Island dock and congratulated the Council members for their work over the last seven years towards the return to business for Watson Island.\



The City Council membership also made a few mentions of the progress found at Watson Island, recounting their efforts for the public a number of times during the review of the Public hearing process.

"I think everybody should be proud, I mean Prince Rupert's moving forward. You know, just this morning we all attended the virtual ceremony for Watson Island opening. You know, we did that as a Council; you know we moved that whole Island forward.  You know we've done some incredible things for this community and here we are now doing more of the work, putting all the groundwork in, legwork to really spear this community forward and I think we should be proud of that"  -- Mayor Lee Brain

The largest focus for the topic however came at the end of the evening, when a number of the Council members spoke to the grand opening of earlier in the day and what they feel it signifies for the community.

"Big day today and again I would like to congratulate Pembina and their team for their grand opening and feel very proud to be part ofplaying a role in this incredible project and looking forward to many years of  safe operational safety" -- Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa

Councillor Niesh recounted part of how he spent part of his day on Friday watching from Port Edward as the first vessel arrived at the Watson Island dock, noting how it charts the future for the Island

"It's a monumental day and hopefully it's just the beginning for us for what's going to happen for us on Watson Island, they're just a portion of the Island and I look forward to more things happening out there and building that tax base even more for us.  More revenue for our community can make us get at some of these infrastructure problems even faster" -- Councillor Wade Niesh

"I just wanted to add onto the congratulations to Pembina, I didn't actually realize until this very moment that it is kind of cool, to use Council Adey's term, kind of a cool watershed moment that the same day that they do their virtual ribbon cutting is the same day that we're adopting an official community plan. 

But we've all heard that saying that money talks and BS walks, so all I wanted to add on the Watson Island file was how incredibly ...  heartening it is to think about how far that particular site has come. Looking back just a few years it's costing taxpayers 90,000 dollars a month; fast forward to today and it's set to make us millions of dollars every year in tax and lease revenues for decades to come. 

So I just cannot congratulate the hard work of staff enough for getting us to this point. There was a lot of doubters at the time that thought it was just one more proposal, one more shovel that wasn't going to hit the ground, one more project that was going to stay on the shelf.

And I think the attitude in town is starting to change, I think people are realizing that something, something really exciting is happening in town. It's no longer just false promises, you know broken hopes and old patterns of the past. There's something, really, a really exciting new chapter turning in Prince Rupert and there's not really a more exciting time to live here in my opinion  -- Councillor Blair Mirau

The full review of their commentary can be found from the Video Archive starting at the two hour thirteen minute mark.



Last Friday the Mayor made note of the moment through his Social media stream setting the tone for the celebrations to come this week.



With the Terminal now open and Council celebrating the first vessel arrival, it may be a timely moment for Council to deliver a public presentation on the past path towards the redevelopment of Watson Island, as well as a look at the future for the industrial site and the progress towards attracting other tenants. 

As part of any information session,  Council might want to show off some form of a financial review for the public to examine; one that provides some detail towards the money that was spent towards the rebirth and the prospects for the future.

That would offer a glimpse for the public as to how the City used their Legacy Corporation winfall to chart the course of that remediation, and how much of that fund was put towards the project to date.

To this point,  Pembina remains as the only tenant that City Council has announced for the facility, while the majority of the Mayor's talking points have been delivered through his Social media portal.

You can review some of the history to the Council's engagement towards repurposing the old pulp mill site from our archive page here.

More from Monday's City Council session can be explored through our Council Timeline Feature.

A wider overview of past council themes is available from our Council Discussion archive.

Chamber of Commerce introduces 2021 Board candidates in lead up to April 21 AGM


The Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce is preparing for thieir annual changing of the guard, using their social media stream this week to introduce the public to the candidates for Board positions for 2021-2023. 

Among those how are profiled by the Chamber are: 

Janet Leduc, Founder of Kinexus Consulting Inc. -

Justin Kohlman, President of Coast Mountain College -

Glen Arthur, Northern BC & Yukon Business Development Manager of Peter Kiewit & Sons ULC -

David Geronazzo, Director of Education, Training, and Employment of Gitxaala Nation


Election for the new Board will take place at the Chamber's next Annual General Meeting 

You can register  to join in on that event as well as to learn about housing developments in Prince Rupert from the Chamber's next  luncheon speaker, Kevin Stunder from Pacific Aurora Group

The Virtual Chamber event takes place through a Zoom Session on Wednesday April 21st from 11:45 to 1PM.

The registration information and more details on the Agenda can be explored here.

Further notes on the Business sector in the Northwest can be reviewed here




Food Security, Urban Farming and Backyard Chickens themes gained much attention from Public Hearing on future community plans

The prospect of backyard chickens made for some of the
discussion at Monday's Public hearing
(photo credit BC Humane Society)

"People want Chickens, you know they're around town ... no wants roosters, but that's a sustainable food source" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham following Monday's Public Hearing presentations on Food Security themes

If you're looking for a takeaway line from Monday's City Council session discussion on the prospect of urban chicken raising, look above to the observations from Prince Rupert Councillor Barry Cunningham, who pretty well summed up the theme of some input from a passionate delegation of would be chicken raisers in the community.

The prospect of backyard chickens made for part the Public Hearing towards the OCP review process for the night, with participants from Prince Rupert and from out of town engaged in the dialogue; among those sharing their thoughts on the issue of Food Systems and urban agriculture were Christiane Chouinard and John Stevenson.

Each providing for their views on the value of such an introduction of the small level livestock  option into the community

Their participation in the forum came following a presentation from Ken Shaw, who gave Council a wide ranging tutorial on the future for Food Sustainability options for the community.

Mr. Shaw a professor at the Prince Rupert campus of Coast Community College was offered the opening spot, providing a presentation that tied in the original themes of Hays 2.0, while hailing the leadership of the City Council through their 2030 Sustainability plan and noting how in his opinion the current OCP work was a project that was far superior to the one of ten years ago. 

Much of his commentary focused on food security aspects and how they could become elements of the Community Plan, all in aid towards community sustainability. 

Mr. Shaw, observing how close he believes we came as a community to dodging a bullet and how we recently avoided a crisis when it comes to food resources in the community owing to the pandemic.



The remainder of his presentation touched on such themes as urban agriculture, home business opportunities and other elements of developing a food strategy into the future. 


Many of the topics and recommendations would seem to be culled from the work  that he and Mayor Brain have explored in the past through their work with Transition Prince Rupert.

The presentation from Mr. Shaw, can be reviewed below starting at the 18 minute mark:


Among the range of potential topics of the Public Hearing on the OCP from the night, the Council members would pick up the discussion on Food Security later in the evening and dedicate a significant amount of their attention towards that theme, making for some extensive review.

Councillor Nick Adey spoke first to the topic of Food Security and Urban Agriculture noting that while there was a need to explore that element of future planning there was not a particular need to include it in the current OCP document, with more study and engagement required to develop a policy.

"I think I remember when the Temporary Use Permit on Second avenue came to us last month, one of the thoughts that raised was that we didn't have a lot of comprehensive language how to manage urban agriculture with respect to what can be grown, where it could be, anything around small animals and so on. And I do think that you know it's been reinforced through the public hearing tonight and through correspondence that we need to flesh that out. Having said that, I'm not sure that the practical solution to that is to have all of that happen before we do the final reading a month from now. So I'm wondering if it would be more appropriate to make a commitment that that be something that we move to include or to add given a reasonable amount of time to look at other communities and come up with something that we can put some language to?" -- Councillor Nick Adey

The contract planners provided their view of the potential civic approach noting how the councillor had captured the approach that has been articulated in the draft of the Official CommunityPlan

"We understand that in the past there has been some community discussion about how to manage Urban Agriculture to make sure that it's managed in a way that works for the community and we haven't gone through that discussion fully with the community. The OCP basically recommends that Prince Rupert develop an urban food strategy working with the community so that everyone is coming along together and that we get to address those hard questions ... I completely sympathize with the comments that were made earlier but it's a question of process, is the community ready. I think it's the right thing to do to bring in those rigid regulations in the bylaw to allow it, but the question is have we done enough work with the community so we that we're bringing in the right regulations for Prince Rupert? -- Prince Rupert contract Planner Rob Buchan from iPlan

Mayor Brain then added to the views to the themes explored by the contract planners, suggesting a process of council designing specific bylaws towards Urban agriculture, with a thorough process to determine the right strategy for Prince Rupert.

"So I think some of the concern, I mean you know personally I've been working on local food stuff since 2010 when I moved back to town after University. And you know this kind of elusive, you know it's always  around the corner food policy that never seems to quite get adopted. So I think some of the concerns like tonight from the OCP hearing that is that we're not necessarily taking like the full actions. So personally I would like to see us move forward with that next process if that's the case and that's the recommended way to go about it and to start to actually implement some laws around these things" -- Mayor Lee Brain

The Mayor also reviewed some of the recent community feedback from the past, the issue of the goats at the Moby Dick of last year and previous calls for backyard chickens from the community, asking the contract planners if the Council could reasonably get a policy in place before the end of the Council term of office in 2021.

Mr. Buchan offered up a positive response to that inquiry and charted how that may look for Council.

"Yes, absolutely if Council want to proceed with this and we have the resources to undertake the project, absolutely, twelve months is a reasonable time to do the process and have the bylaws in place."

Mr. Brain, while noting that he would like to discuss the theme further with the administration team around the process, continued to express his enthusiasm for the initiative.

"You know, one thing I know that people are always concerned about with an OCP and these types of things,  is a fluff document that sits on the shelf and doesn't really be adhered to. And this is something I want to make sure that we go the distance on. And I think Food Security, hearing from the public, hearing the comments I would say  it's one of the number one themes that has come out of this OCP is this topic and given that I would like to see us continue that energy ... I would love to see folks like Professor Ken Shaw involved with that you know to give us some good recommendations on how this could work for Prince Rupert in a way that's balanced .. I do see it as a high priority as well"

With a call for further input to the topic from the Mayor, Councillors  Cunningham, Niesh and Mirau shared some thoughts.

Councilllor Cunningham noted of his views on the chicken debate and hoped that the issue did not get put on the back burner. Councillor Niesh observed that there was a want for bylaws to reflect the food security concerns and a need to move forward.

Councillor Mirau added to the discussion, calling on his experience on the topic of Food Security, noting that they are quite there yet suggesting that the process needs to be consistent and cohesive and that Council should try to capture as much as they can before making any wholesale changes to the bylaws.

Councillor Randhawa and Skelton Morven also participated in the review of the topic.

The final contribution on the Food Security topic goes to the Mayor who charted his view of the future for the process, seemingly making it a pillar of acton for council prior to the 2022 municipal election.

"I think we're getting to the point where I think we want to move forward with a strategy, that will have specific legal bylaws around how we're going to move forward with that process. Like some of the recommendations like Ken made tonight, you know personally I think those are some of the things that we definitely need to move towards making sure we hit the mark on those recommendations and make them law. So that seems to be our next step for that. I think I'm committed to ensuring we move forward with that process ... 

(We'll) put a budget together on what the cost will be for something like that and then most likely  bring a resolution to enable that process at the next, or next couple of meetings  here. Just so that we know how much this will cost cause it will take planning resources and things like that, similar to what we've been doing with all these other processes. But you know I'm committed to  making sure that it doesn't get put off to the wayside, I meanyou know 2022 October is the next election and I would like to ensure we have an Urban Food policy in place before the election because I think it's important that we move forward."

The full council review of Food Security and Urban Farming themes can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive starting at the 35 minute mark.



More notes from Monday's Council Session can be explored from our Council Timeline Feature.

A wider overview of past council themes is available here.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

1,205 new cases of COVID recorded for Thursday, with reminders from Health Officials towards how to bring the curve down



The third wave of COVID continues to wash over the province today, with another day of case counts over the 1200 mark making for a total of 10,052 active cases of the coronavirus, the focus on the data and a call to reduce the curve made for the main themes of the daily report.

The livestream of today's review also included a range of modelling data that Health officials are using to direct their approach to the COVID response.

“Today, we are reporting 1,205 new cases, for a total of 116,075 cases in British Columbia. 

There are 10,052 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 16,217 people under public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. A further 104,331 people who tested positive have recovered. 

Of the active cases, 409 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 125 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people with COVID-19 are recovering at home in self-isolation. 

There have been three new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,524 deaths in British Columbia."

Across the province there were 301 new cases of COVID-19 reported today in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 730 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 38 in the Island Health region, 69 in the Interior Health region, 

66 cases of the coronavirus were recorded in the Northern Health region today, that brings the Northern BC Total to 6,687 cases of COVID since January 2020.

There was one new case of a person in British Columbia who resides outside of Canada having recorded a case of COVID. 

Towards the vaccine efforts, the report for Thursday noted that “1,235,863 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-SII COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., 87,899 of which are second doses. 

Bringing down the daily case counts was the focus for part of today's statement, with a few thoughts on how to push back on the current wave crashing over the province.

“Despite higher case counts, our province can bend our curve back down. We have done it before and know how to protect ourselves, our families, our workplaces and our communities. Making the effort to have less contact with people outside our household will put us back on the path where we want and need to be. It is a small effort that has a big result."

The full statement for Thursday can be reviewed here.  

BC CDC data for British Columbia for April 15 2021

BC CDC data for Northern Health Region for April 15, 2021




The BC Centre for Disease control has some valuable Coronavirus notes related to COVID-19 you can explore that information here.

You can learn more about the outbreak from both the Province and the Federal government from the links below:

Federal Government site

British Columbia Government site

The World Health Organization website also offers up the latest advisories on the global situation.

More from  Northern Health can be reviewed here 

You can review our archive of past statements and local information here.   

Local governments and organizations have also provided for increased awareness of COVID-19 issues, those past advisories  can be reviewed here.

For notes from across Canada and British Columbia we have been archiving the latest items through our political portal Darcy McGee


Ottawa Observations


Victoria Viewpoints

 


Throne Speech response from Stikine's Nathan Cullen, highlights NDP approach to COVID and a range of regional themes in Northwest BC

Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen had one of the early speaking 
times towards comments on Monday's Speech from the Throne


This has been Response to the Throne Speech week at the BC Legislature, with government members and those from the Opposition either praising the blue print from Premier John Horgan, or tearing it apart and suggesting that they could do better.

Among the first to speak in defence of Horgan agenda ahead, was Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen, with the Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations  delivering  his tutorial on governance and highlight package of the government's plans from Smithers on Tuesday afternoon.

Now, today we are talking about the very recent Speech from the Throne, and I've heard a number of members from the opposition criticizing it for its lack of detail. For those unfamiliar with how parliament works and for how government sets out its agenda, the Speech from the Throne is the vision, the document that guides government over this period of time, the next while. The specifics — the plan, the funding, the programs, the initiatives — all come with the budget, which is also coming quite soon. 

And the story that our government is telling, the story we are grappling with, has been in the face of what has been an unprecedented pandemic, not just for British Columbia but of course for the entire world. The challenges that lie within the struggle that we've had over the last year or more have been far too numerous in a short speech to outline. 

Yet I think our experience here in Stikine has been instructive. We're a rural, remote part of the world, yet some of the challenges that we have faced over this past time, the economic, the social, environmental stresses that have come along with it, I think are emblematic of challenges faced by people all across British Columbia, whether they be living in downtown Vancouver or living more rurally and remotely, like we do. 

Now theres  a couple of broad areas that we can talk about today. The pandemic and our government's response to that — our efforts through the CDC and Dr. Henry's good work and the Health Minister's support. Also the economy and what the impacts have been in this unprecedented time of the health and safety measures that government has taken. 

And how we've accommodated, adapted and tried in our very best ways to be nimble, which was exemplified just last week in taking health measures to protect society, because we can't have a healthy economy without healthy people. As this pandemic has changed, it has forced us also, as a government and as a people, to change.

The Stikine MLA also used his time in the afternoon session to explore a few themes closer to the residents of his constituency, noting of some of the changes that have come to their part of the Northwest


I want to talk about the investments we've made in Stikine because oftentimes the expression "no hope beyond Hope" has been too often true in the past. Yet when I asked my team recently to pull together all of the investments, all of the efforts that we have made in our particular corner of the world, it's too long a list for me to go through in just half an hour, which is a good problem to have. 

I also want to talk about the social impacts, what has been happening for us at the community level and how the throne speech and the coming budget try to deal with some of those strains. 

Now we have a number of significant programs. What COVID has exposed…. As pressure is put upon a system, it exposes where the cracks are, exposes where the weaknesses are. I suppose, as a people, as a community, as a province and as a government, we can — under that pressure — either come together more as a people or divide further apart  

We've been seeing, generally speaking, a weakening of that together effort. I understand, and I mean this sincerely, the opposition in all legislatures has an incredibly important role to play holding government to account, asking the tough questions. Of course, they have their own partisan interests for themselves to one day form government.

There is a line there that can be crossed, and pandemics and this crisis have shown us when the opposition can play a constructive role and when, over time, that seems to have worn on some of my colleagues across the aisle. They're now slipping into the more unhelpful, traditional role of sniping for its own sake, of creating anxiety and fears in their criticisms that are sometimes unwarranted. 

I think, for the communities that I represent, the mental and social impacts of what this pandemic has exposed call upon all of us to be of our best natures, to be supporting people in giving as truthful information as we can, being critical when necessary and providing solutions when we are also able to do so.

The NDP Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations also touched on the current vaccine response to COVID. 

"We've just recently passed one million doses of vaccine that have been administered to British Columbians. This is an incredible effort. Of course, although the delivery has been shaky at times, we have to thank our federal partners for being able to deliver those vaccines from a number of different suppliers. 

We also have to take, again, the moment to thank the front-line service workers, those that are administering those vaccines, running those clinics, oftentimes in rural and remote places, not in their home communities, travelling great distances, staying away from home and trying to make sure that people are as safe as possible when receiving their vaccines. 

As the vaccine numbers have been increasing, of course so too have the variants. This is such an incredibly challenging thing for our public health officials, for us as a government and, I would argue, for us as a province. If it had just been the original COVID-19 disease in its original form, many of the experts have told us, much of that has come under control. 

The variants that have shown up in British Columbia have certainly challenged and stressed a system that was already challenged and stressed, and people are adapting. This falls into a context — the previous speaker from the opposition did mention this in passing — that we are in fact dealing with two pandemics. It cannot be overstated that we as a province have had an opioid crisis of people succumbing, through their addictions, to a poisoned drug supply that has killed hundreds and hundreds of British Columbians — more, in fact, than COVID itself has."

Economic themes also made for some of the narrative to his presentation on the afternoon both the positives and the negatives being felt across the province and the Northwest.

"For too long, British Columbia has seen governments that were so focused on one industry or a couple of hand-picked industries and only doing it the way it was always done — not innovating, not investing, not taking those risks alongside the private sector to make sure that our industries had multiple legs to stand on, not simply one. Coming from rural British Columbia, I have seen the boom-and-bust economy, and both ends of it are actually quite terrible. 

Of course, you prefer the booms over the busts, but even in the booms, housing prices go quickly out of control, as we've seen in too many communities. You can't get people to work for you, because there are just too many jobs and not enough workers. Then the cycle inevitably ends. The anxiety, even in the boom times, can be felt by those in the business and the larger community. Then the bust comes. People leave their houses. Houses go underwater, as they're called, of less value than the person paid for it originally. 

We need to stabilize that economy to have the diversity, to have the range of different experiences and opportunities for people coming through, so that we are not reliant on a price that is set on the New York Stock Exchange or the mercantile exchanges but is something where we have various opportunities.  If one sector takes a downturn, we have other things to rely upon."

Mr. Cullen also took note of a recent achievement announced by North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, that of the additional funding towards improved communication access along Highway 16 the Highway of Tears.

"Just recently, my colleague from the North Coast, MLA Rice, was able to join with various ministers and announce, successfully, cell phone service all along the highway that will be put in with our partners in Shaw. This is going from Prince George all the way to Prince Rupert. Folks that don't know will have to get out their maps. But I know that colleagues know just how long that stretch of highway is. 

We know, beyond the benefits of having cell phone service in 2021 for business and just for our daily way of life, the essential service that has become with being connected. As a safety measure alone, we know how critically important this is to provide assurance and insurance for those who are getting into a car with someone they hope is a friend. It turns out they're no longer feeling safe. They are able to stay in contact with the outside world. 

Hopefully, and I know all colleagues share this sentiment, we will no longer refer to Highway 16 as the Highway of Tears because young women and girls, particularly young Indigenous women and girls, are kept safe by all of us in all of our efforts to make sure that these unbelievably heart-wrenching stories are no longer just taken as the way it is, as they were for so many years."

Another key element that the MLA approached was the need for the government to pivot in response to events of the last year. 

"No government has ever claimed to be perfect, and nor do we. Yet I have seen the vast majority of British Columbians of all political persuasions and partisan orientations more often come together than pull apart. This might not have even been a conscious decision. But as we sit in this critical moment, more than one million vaccines coming now into our province, our government is laying out our vision through this throne speech and, next week, through the specifics in the budget implementation and how we're going to go through this, that we can further the efforts we've made to build B.C. back stronger.

We've had to pivot and change and adapt things that we didn't think were adaptable. I didn't actually think a legislature could be held virtually. I didn't think it would work, and I do prefer meeting in person, as I know many of my colleagues do. 

But finding ways to adapt everything in our society, the way we educate our children, the way we think about our health care, the importance of long-term care and building that program up to take care of our elders in a better way"


While a video presentation of Mr. Cullen's salute to the Throne speech can be viewed from the Legislature Video archive starting at the 4:15PM mark of the Tuesday afternoon session.

For more notes on the work of the Stikine MLA in the Legislature see our archive page here.