Friday, April 30, 2021

New case counts drop again, hospitalization and ICU stays still high in final COVID report for the week

With a case count for the day trending below 750, today's statement from Doctor Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian offers up some hope that we have begun to turn back the worrisome numbers of just a week ago. 

Though to serve as a reminder of the serious nature of current station, the level of hospitalization and ICU use in the province is still at stubbornly high amounts.

The Friday report also notes of the new travel measures, which will in effect keep British Columbians in regional bubbles until the May  Long weekend, todays notes were posted to the BC government website late Friday afternoon.

“Today, we are reporting 740 new cases, for a total of 129,482 cases in British Columbia. 

There are 7,886 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 11,727 people under public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. A further 119,785 people who tested positive have recovered. 

Of the active cases, 511 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 174 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation. 

There have been four new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,581 deaths in British Columbia. Our condolences are with the family, friends and caregivers of the people who have died as a result of COVID-19." 

Across the province the totals from the five regional Health Authority regions were as follows: 163 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 431 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 32 in the Island Health region, 92 in the Interior Health region, 

There were  22 new cases reported today in the Northern Health region, that brings the Northern BC total count since January 2020 to 7,163 cases of COVID-19.

No new cases of COVID were reported by people one British Columbia who reside outside of Canada. 

As for the vaccination program, the two top health officials noted that 1,786,722 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., 90,642 of which are second doses. 

That means that as of this week,  nearly 40% of eligible people in B.C. have received their first dose.

The final focus for the lead in to the weekend was on travel and a reminder of restrictions and the need to again remain close to our own communities.

“This weekend, remember to follow the non-essential travel restrictions as we all continue to do our part to keep our loved ones and communities safe.”

Earlier in the day, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth expanded on the background to the regulations that will be in effect until after the May long weekend period.

The full COVID statement for Friday can be reviewed here.

BC CDC data for British Columbia for April 30, 2021

BC CDC data for Northern Health Region for April 30, 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


Travellers along Telegraph Creek Road may see return to access next week

Work continues on the Telegraph Creek Road as crews look to 
reopen the washout section of the road by Monday

The province provided an update on the state of the Telegraph Creek Road which has been closed for over a week due to a washout between Genora Road and Riverview Drive, the Road has been closed  to traffic with no Detour available.

Ministry of Transportation officials hope for a return for light traffic as early as next week, with a tentative time and date of Monday, May 3rd at Noon for a potential reopening.

In their statement the province noted that recent rains set them back in their efforts to effect repairs.

"Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure geotechnical engineers, members of the Tahltan First Nation and ministry maintenance contractors are working day and night to repair the washout that occurred on April 15. Precipitation throughout the week created additional smaller slide sites that require repairs before the road can be opened. Teams are also working with Emergency Management BC (EMBC) to provide emergency support to the community of Telegraph Creek."

 More on the situation can be reviewed here.

You can access up to date listings on the Telegraph road situation and all Northwest roads from the Drive BC website

Further notes on highway issue across the Northwest can be found here.

Skeena Bulkley Valley MP calls on Feds to step back from Infrastructure bank initiative and to focus on actual infrastructure need across Canada

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach had questions
on the lack of infrastructure progress by the Liberal Government

A report just released by the Parliamentary Budget Office offers up some themes that the Federal government's use of the Federal Infrastructure Bank is showing little in the way of results to date. 

With few success stories for the Federal Liberal government to share with the public.

The report, which you can review here, notes:

Four years into its mandate, funding is being disbursed by CIB much slower than planned. As of April 22, 2021, CIB has publicly announced $5.1 billion in investments for seventeen projects. However, finalizing contracts and the actual disbursement of money has lagged the CIB’s own projections. By December 31, 2020, CIB disbursed $1.2 billion, which falls $2.0 to $4.1 billion short of prior plans (62 to 77 percent).

When looking to the future, the report isn't particularly enthusiastic either, observing the following:

Given the status of CIB’s investment activity four years into its mandate, and informed by the historical disbursement rates of comparable organizations, PBO projects that CIB is unlikely to realize its mandated objective to deliver $35 billion on a cash basis over 11 years, that is by the end of 2027-28.20

And the list of projects on the go at the moment, certainly doesn't give an indication that the massive infrastructure needs across the nation are being met, particularly in British Columbia which does not appear on the list.

From those findings, Taylor Bachrach the MP for Skeena Bulkley Valley took the Government to task for their lack on success in moving forward on important infrastructure issues.

The MP raised his concerns as part of Thursday's Question Period in the House of Commons, calling on the Liberal government to scrap what he called a privatization project that is failing Canadians; noting how it is not getting the job done of building projects that Canadians need. 

"The bank is actually a barrier to getting projects done, but this government keeps pouring more money into it, doubling down on helping private investors profit through the bank'-- Taylor Bachrach in the House of Commons Thursday

Catherine McKenna the Minister for Infrastructure and Communities didn't take the bait on that suggestion; instead reciting a list of some of the initiatives that she says the Infrastructure Bank is taking on.

For more notes on the work of the Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP at the House of Commons see our archive page here.

So far, so good when it comes to high water and flood forecasting for Northwest

For the moment all attention on high water and fast moving
streams is focused on the central inland  part of the province 
(map from River Forecast Centre website)

With the recent streak of warm weather and now a few days of heavy rain, the prospect of high stream advisories and flood watches for area waters, could be on the minds of many for the weekend. 

However in the Northwest at least, the situation at the moment seems pretty calm, with no advisories of note issued as of yet by the BC River Forecast Centre.

The current concerns are mostly for rivers in the Cariboo, Central Interior and parts of the Okanagan, where a range of advisories and notices are now inlace.

To track conditions in the Northwest use this Streamflow Condition tracker, clicking on the dots on the map to learn more about areas of interest that you may have.

More on the River Forecast Centre can be reviewed here.

Information can also be found from the EmergencyInfoBC site, they also relay any updated information on any emergency issues through their Twitter Feed

Should there be emergencies in the Northwest we would use our Emergency Responder archive as one resource to keep up to date.

Other archives would be dependent on the community and the nature of the emergency whether it be seismic, wild fire or weather related.

Lights, Cameras, Lax Kw'alaams

A BC documentary film maker is heading the way of 
Lax Kw'alaams to film a feature on traditional harvesting

An interesting project is about to get underway in Lax Kw'alaams and as a part of it, two residents of the community will get a first hand education into the art of documentary film making.

The details related to the project come through a social media post on the Lax Kw'alaams Facebook page which notes that Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Farhan Umedaly in partnership with the Lax Kw'alaams Band will be providing a free professional film training program to two community members as they work together to produce their community harvesting efforts.

Of note for aspiring film-makers in Lax Kw'alaams: 

The program will begin with on-location filming and take selected participants through the entire filmmaking process as the film is developed. The goal is to create self-sufficient filmmakers that will also receive ongoing mentorship at VoVo Productions to produce their own community focused films. No professional experience is required. 

To find out more about the project you can access the training program application form here.

Those with an interest in the program must apply by 4 PM on Monday, May 3rd.

More on the project is available here.

A look at some of the work of the production studio VoVo productions can be found from their Facebook page and website.

Among Director Umedaly's credits is the 2015 documentary
A Last Stand for Lelu

A listing of the work of Mr. Umedaly can be found from the IMDB data base, included among the listings his 2015 co-production with Tamo Campos, A Last Stand for Lelu Island.

That production is currently available through YouTube.

More items of interest from Lax Kw'alaams can be reviewed here.

With Operations underway, Pembina begins development of Pest Management Plan for Prince Rupert facilities

A vegetation removal plan is being prepared by Pembina for 
their Prince Rupert Terminal operations

(photo from Pembina website resources)

As the Pembina LPG Terminal at Watson Island moves into full production, the national energy company has announced plans towards a pest management plan for its Prince Rupert facilities, issuing a notification to the public as is required under British Columbia legislation.

In their notice, the company outlines that it is performing vegetation management on its Prince Rupert facilities and related infrastructure within the North Coast Regional District as a public and employee safety measure and maintenance procedure for the years 2021-2026, a 5 year program.

Associated communities in this area include Prince Rupert and area.

The advisory makes note as to how the vegetation removal program will work:

"Select treatments, including manual, preventive and herbicides will be used at a low rate of application to control the growth of unwanted vegetation. This will reduce any potential fire risk, maximize public safety and allow access to facilities and rights of way for maintenance and operational data collection. Pembina fenced facilities should only be accessed by authorized personnel."

The treatment applications will be applied by backpack sprayers with wands and ATV with spray tanks and power nozzles.

Among the herbicides to be used as part of the pest management plan:

VP800, Arsenal, Clearview, Milestone, Navius VM, Escort, Banvel  VM, Startup, Garlon XRTT, 2-4-D amine, MCPA amine, Esplanade SC, Lontrel 360,  Torpedo, Gateway, Hasten NT, LI700.

Copies of the Pest management plan and maps are available upon request from the Pembina head office in Calgary. 

Should you wish more information on their pest management plan, you are directed to contact:

Pembina Pipeline Corporation
Attention: Ksenia Privalova, Specialist, Environment
4000, 585-8th Avenue SW, Calgary AB, T2P1G1
Phone number: 403-231-6325

Pembina notes that anyone wishing to contribute information about a proposed treatment site, relevant to the development of the IPMP, may send copies of information to the above email address within thirty days of the April 29th publication date.

Further notes on the Prince Rupert operations of the Pembina terminal can be found from our archive page.

Prince Rupert Fire/Rescue bids farewell to a Captain after 22 years of service

Photo from PRFD Facebook page

The Fire Hall on First Avenue West has bid farewell to a long serving veteran of the Prince Rupert Fire/Rescue Service, with the members celebrating the retirement of Captain Jon Bonneschranz on Thursday, who takes his leave after 22 years of service to the community.

Through their social media page yesterday,  the Fire Department hailed his career and selfless sacrifice in service of Prince Rupert.

Just three days prior to his retirement, the Captain and two other members of the PRFD had been awarded the Lifesaving Award for 2020, that for their work on the downtown fire along Second Avenue in October of last year.

With Captain Bonneschranz, Acting Captain Dylan Sidoni and Firefighter Derek Kormendy all commended for their efforts in rescuing a resident of the apartments above the Second Avenue commercial structure.

Photo from PRFD Facebook page

More items of note on the work of the Prince Rupert Fire/Rescue service and all Northwest emergency responders can be found from our archive page.

Rembrances of the past frame MLA Rice's thoughts on the future for travel along Highway 16 corridor

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice hailed the recent announcement towards improving cellular service along  the highway 16 corridor between Prince Rupert and Prince George, providing the members of the Legislature with some personal remembrances of the dangers of the travel along the road also known as the Highway of Tears.

Ms. Rice was speaking to this announcement from earlier this month, which announced close to 12 million dollars in funding for improvements from the Smithers to Prince Rupert stretch of the highway.

The MLA's presentation to the Legislature came as part of the Thursday morning session.

 Driving to Terrace from Prince Rupert in the summer of 2014, I pulled over on the side of the road and took my dog out for a pee. I also accidently locked my keys in my truck. There I was, at this pullout on the Highway of Tears, locked out of my vehicle and alone in the woods along the river with nothing but trees, rocks and river. I was really frightened. My cell phone didn't work. 

It would have been less scary had there been continuous cell service from Print Rupert to Prince George, because I did have a cell phone with me. Had there been cell service, I could have called for help. 

Ms. Rice also made note of a horrifying story that involved the late Marlene Swift, who had long been an advocate for improved safety on the highway until her passing two years ago.

My friend Marlene Swift drove taxi in Prince Rupert. She was once held at knifepoint and kidnapped in her cab where she was brutally raped. She was left for dead in a ditch in the woods along the Highway of Tears. Naked and bleeding, she crawled through that ditch until she felt far enough away from danger to flag a passing vehicle. She lived to tell her story, but sadly, passed away in 2019. 

She was thrilled when this government was able to add intercommunity bus transportation along Highway 16, and she would have been thrilled to know that earlier this month we announced that cellular service will soon be available along the entire stretch of Highway 16. 

Towards the progress made just recently the MLA relayed how the efforts will address many of the long standing concerns for travel in the region. 

Through provincial and federal government investments, the entire 725-kilometre route from Prince Rupert to Prince George will soon be serviced by cellular. 

Solving the problem of cellular gaps between communities along Highway 16 was recommended in 2006 for enhancing safety for Indigenous women and girls at the Highway of Tears Symposium. 

This recommendation was echoed six years later in the report from the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Rural connectivity is important for everyone travelling northern highways, but this investment is key to ensuring women, especially Indigenous women, are safer. 

Thank you to all the partners and the Ministry of Citizens' Services for finally filling these important gaps. For us in the north, our lives depend on it.

The transcript of Ms. Rice's comments can be reviewed from the Legislature Hansard archive, while a video presentation of her presentation to the Legislature can be viewed from the Legislature Video archive here, both items are found at the10:15 AM mark of Thursday's session.

More items of note from the BC Legislature can be found from our archive page here.

Mayor, Council look to create a culture of pride of property appearance in Prince Rupert

The state of appearance of the downtown area and what the City is doing about it made for a good portion of the discussion at the end of the Monday Prince Rupert City Council session, with Councillor Barry Cunningham making note of the feedback he has received from members of the community who were out in the recent sunny weather and made comment on the city's appearance.

Towards a wider response to the issue, he asked for an update from Mayor Lee Brain on the progress of the city's efforts towards a downtown clean up, something which has been on the active engagement list for the city since the start of the year.

The Mayor took advantage of the invitation to take those tuning into the Zoom Session through the process of how the city sends notice and enforces its measures related to unsightly premises.

"Back in January we announced that we were going to be moving forward with a major enforcement campaign and ultimately what that looks like is a lot of staff time and energy to have to follow through on each property that is not abiding by the property maintenance bylaw, there's a whole process that needs to go and be involved" -- Mayor Lee Brain

The city's approach does seem to give owners of properties in question with ample opportunity to comply with the bylaws. 

With an initial correspondence serving seemingly as a gentle nudge to clean up the property, if after a certain amount of time if there is no compliance that can be followed by a more stern 30 day missive to take action.

If no action is taken after that period, the city sends out a third notice, providing a two week warning that if no clean up is taken on by the property owner, the city will take action and bill the owner accordingly.

"The clean up can range in a number of ways, it can be on health and safety issues with the property for example. If there is something deemed that's a safety hazard for the community, the city can remove something that needs to be removed, or clean up whatever needs to be cleaned up. 

So currently the corporate administrator has been working with businesses in the downtown and has been looking at some of the more high profile areas of the community. And those areas have been getting these letters and we're trying to you know encourage business owners to do the right thing and if they don't then we're going start moving forward in a big way to start cleaning up these properties.

Over time we will move through different properties in the downtown and then eventually we will move into the residential areas, until we start to clean up the whole community, or at least create a culture of people wanting to clean up the properties. -- Mayor Lee Brain

The Mayor also offered up some thoughts on how the current appearance of the community came to be, with the downturn of the economy of the post pulp mill years and a loss of pride in the community his main focus.

"Obviously after a period of economic decline, when a community falls you know apart basically after they lose a mill and lose the  population and lose their pride. You know when a community is left to sit for a while without that type of pride, people over time get complacent and then they don't take care of their properties" -- Mayor Lee Brain on the issues that led to the decline in appearance of the city

Making note as to how the community is now in a period of renewal, Mr. Brain outlined the recent initiative towards the downtown area to encourage property remediation through tax incentives, noting how the city is focusing on their approach to the issue.

"I think we've given a carrot and now we have a stick as well here and you know we're letting the community know that we're not letting this be complacent anymore. It's time for people to take pride, if you own a building in the downtown in particular, it's your responsibility to keep your property up to the property maintenance bylaw standards And now we will be ensuring that those properties will be maintained and that this community has a beautiful downtown core that we can all be proud of" -- Mayor Lee Brain

They Mayors snapshot of the situation generated a fair bit of discussion around towards the end of the Monday session.

The start of the commentary began with Councillor Wade Niesh, who observed that the city requires the help of the community to have action take place, calling for residents to send an e mail or make a call to bylaw to report something.  

The Mayor followed up by noting how complaints of Facebook aren't enough and doesn't help the city enforce anything, observing as to how the city's information gathering process is confidential and how the city encourages feedback from the residents of the city to help initiate any enforcement. 

He also noted that the city has already seen some results to 200 or so letters mailed out as part of the program with some property owners in the downtown area already taking action towards their properties. 

The City Manager Robert Long joined in the discussion at that point, noting how the city requires a written and signed complaint and how phone calls are not enough.

"We need a written complaint, not a telephone call ... we can't accept phone calls as complaints, they have to be written and signed by the individuals who are making the complaints and then we can act"

Councillor Mirau offered up a suggestion as to how residents could also make use of the Prince Rupert App, which offers an opportunity to share information.

"You download the app on your phone, you can take a photo of whatever the infraction in question is and you can send it directly to the city. It's got a simple little submission form it protects your anonymity for the complainant and then you can take a photo and send it in directly" -- Councillor Blair Mirau on the use of the Prince Rupert App for Bylaw issues

Councillor Nick Adey also spoke to the topic of the community clean up efforts as well as the actions the city can take.

"Yeah, building  owners have to be responsible, but somebody else is the one that's dropping the bag in the empty lot and I think there's a role for education here, in terms of just kind of poking away at that awareness piece. That you know there are ways to deal with garbage and there are ways not to.

And when it's misused, I know I was just out at Wantage Road and someway there, there is an area where a bunch of people, I'm not sure if its still there after this weekend,  they've just decided that the landfill is too far, or putting it in a garbage can is not good enough and so that's where it ends up and that's an education piece to me.

"Yes we need enforcement, Yes we need to revamp sanitation services, which we are doing with the recycling program. But there's that other element that I think we really need to be on top of in terms of community messaging around that." -- Councillor Nick Adey

The councillor's reference to changes in the sanitation program are a nod towards the new collection plans set for the summer. 

That through the introduction of a new approach to collection with curbside recycling and regular garbage pick up to take place with City Supplied garbage cans.

Some past notes on the ongoing themes of cleaning up the downtown can be found in our notes from a February 5th blog item.

You can review the full conversation on the state of the downtown from the video archive starting at the 31 minute mark.

For more notes on Monday's Prince Rupert City Council session see our Timeline feature here.

A wider overview of past Council discussion themes is available here.

Early morning Rushbrook Floats fire brings full Emergency Response

Emergency Responders were still on the scene at 7AM
after attending to a vessel fire call at Rushbrook Floats

See update at bottom of page

A  vessel fire at Rushbrook Floats brought out a full response of Prince Rupert Fire/Rescue, RCMP and BC Ambulance responders early Friday morning, with all racing to the floats east of the Canadian Fish Plant and warehouse site.

The three responding services were dispatched to the area after the  morning calm of the Prince Rupert waterfront was shattered by a loud explosion from that area just before 5AM, with fire fighters arriving to find a vessel fully involved.

As a result  of the quick work of the PRFD the situation was said to be contained to just the one vessel.

As of yet, no further details as to the nature of the incident, or if any injuries were suffered from it have been released. We will add more background to the incident as it becomes available.

The vessel Brianna Kay from this morning's fire is now
resting on the  shoreline along the Rushbrook Trail,
towed to that point by the Canadian Coast Guard

Update: Video posted to the West Coast Fisherman Facebook page provides a look at the scope of the blaze this morning.

The Prince Rupert Fire/Rescue Department has also posted details of this morning's incident to their Social Media feed along with some photos of the work on the fire.

Further items of interest on the work of Emergency Responders can be reviewed here.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Thursday COVID report notes case count remains below 900, while more vaccines are set to arrive in next few weeks


The surge of COVID  has been slowed, but the case count remains still high as the province of British Columbian recorded another 853 new cases of COVID for the day, a case count similar to those found for much of the week.

Today's update from Doctor Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix was streamed live, with follow up questions from the media to explore some of the themes of the current COVID approach and the vaccination program that has started to pick up some speed.

“Today, we are reporting 853 new cases, for a total of 128,742 cases in British Columbia. 

There are 7,996 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 11,628 people under public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. 

A further 118,937 people who tested positive have recovered. “Of the active cases, 503 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 178 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation. 

There has been one new COVID-19 related death, for a total of 1,577 deaths in British Columbia. Our condolences are with the family, friends and caregivers of the people who have died as a result of COVID-19." 

When it comes to the province wide breakdown on the day, the Five regional Health Authorities outlined the following results: 181 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 574 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 30 in the Island Health region, 43 in the Interior Health region, 

There were 25 new cases of COVID reported in the Northern Health region, the total number of cases of COVID now recorded in the Northern region since January 2020 is 7,141.

No new cases of COVID were reported today people for people in BC,  who reside outside of Canada. 

Today's vaccination count to date reached 1,749,375 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., 90,296 of which are second doses. 

In addition to the update on the vaccination numbers, Doctor Henry and Minister Dix used their information session today to outline some additional vaccination programs that have been introduced.

 “The focus of the COVID-19 vaccine program is to protect as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and to address hot spots and reduce transmission everywhere. 

In addition to our age-based program, worker program and pharmacy program, we are using vaccines in hot-spot communities and workplaces. 

This targeted outreach increases all of our protection by breaking the chains of transmission in these locations." 

The two top health officials also observed that much more vaccine is anticipated to be arriving in the province in the coming weeks, urging British Columbians to register for an appointment.

The full COVID statement for Thursday, can be reviewed here.

BC CDC data for British Columbia for April 29, 2021

BC CDC data for the Northern Health region for April 29, 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


In Wednesday Question Period, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross seeks clarity on Health region travel restrictions

The topic of the province's new emergency measures towards travel and its at times confusing roll out made for some commentary  in the Wednesday session of the BC Legislature, with Skeena MLA Ellis Ross posing a number of questions towards the program and how it has been introduced by the Premier and his Public Safety Minister.

We are a third of the way through the Premier's travel restrictions, and we still don't have answers on how it will be enforced. These include basic answers about what happens at the actual police checkpoints. 

People want to know if a police officer enforcing a checkpoint will turn someone around or if they'll just give them a fine and let them continue. Which is it? 

Will the Premier tell us if police can detain and turn people around at checkpoints or not? 

In response to the questions, the Public Safety Minister and Government House Leader Mike Farnworth, outlined how the government had engaged with the police towards how the enforcement program will work, advising Mr. Ross that the opposition members would be briefed on Thursday (today)

As I indicated last Friday, later this week the enforcement provisions will be made public in terms of the details of how the COVID checks will take place when they're implemented by the police in the province of British Columbia. 

I can tell you that we've been engaged with discussions with police in terms of how things will work, in terms of legal services branch, in terms of how the order will be constructed under the Emergency Program Act. 

I can tell you we've had discussions, not only with members of the BIPOC community but with local government. I can tell you that the opposition is going to be briefed tomorrow. 

What I can tell you is this — that most British Columbians understand what's in place, which is to stay local, stay within your health authority. That's what they're already doing.

The reply from the Public Safety Minister, was not one that seemed to  measure up to the Skeena MLA's expectations. 

 To be honest, that doesn't answer the question. People need to know right now what the police powers are at the checkpoints, and they should have known the day that the Premier made this announcement about checkpoints in the first place. 

Police and the citizens of B.C. need an answer. 

They deserve an answer, with all the confusion adding to the stress and anxiety of this COVID crisis. 

We don't know if the police will be detaining drivers or not and whether or not they can force drivers to turn around. 

Will the Premier be turning around drivers at the checkpoints, yes or no? 

In response to the questions,  the Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, reinforced the path taken towards consultation with the police services, as well as to reassure  the MLA that there are no plans to turn people around adding that the government is mainly focused on the health border between the Interior and Lower Mainland. 

"I can tell the Honourable member that the Premier most definitely will not be turning around people at checkpoints. 

Though what I can also tell the honourable member is that the police who will be working at the checkpoint, or checkpoints are professionals who are well trained, know their job and know how to treat people respectfully and courteously. 

And So it's not a question.  And they've been doing it for a very long time. 

What we have been working with is the police in terms of the order as it will be in place, how it will be implemented and where it will be implemented. 

And we've also made it clear over the last week that, for example, it is not going to be random around health authorities but will be at the borders between those health authorities — in particular, the one between the Lower Mainland and the Interior. 

That's because that's where the issue of stopping the spread of the virus is most effective. 

The Minister also made note of the success that the government has seen from the measures since they were announced  last Friday. 

"We are already seeing that the restrictions that have been put in place — when it comes to ferries, for example — are working extremely well. 

I can tell the member, for example, that already, on this past weekend, the Tsawwassen–Swartz Bay route: vehicle traffic, down 24 percent; passenger traffic, down 34 percent. 

I can tell you that, in terms of the Horseshoe Bay–Departure Bay route: vehicle traffic, down by 37 percent; passenger traffic, down by 42 percent. 

That's already on reduced capacity. 

Because you know what? 

The public understands the restrictions. The public understands the need to stay local.

It's a shame they don't."

The full discussion between the Minister and MLA Ross can be reviewed from the Legislature archive page, as well as from the House Video of the Wednesday Question Period, both can be reviewed at just before the 2:30 PM mark.

Last Friday, the Public Safety Minister relayed some of the background to the new travel restrictions, some further details were to be released this week.

For more items of note from the Legislature see our archive page here.

The passing of Justice Tom Berger mourned across Canada and especially by the Nisga'a Nation

Thomas Berger upon receipt
of the Order of BC in 2014
A significant passing in British Columbia was recorded today, with word that Thomas R. Berger had passed away on Wednesday after a lengthy battle with cancer. 

His career in law, politics and Indigenous Advocacy one which had an impact on many of the pivotal moments in recent Canadian and British Columbia history.

Justice Berger was known for many key moments of judicial service, but two of the most prominent items on his extensive resume had long lasting importance. 

First was his work with the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Industry Commission which set the template for many consultations with Indigenous Nations in the years that followed.

In the Northwest, Mr. Berger served as a Counsel for the Nisga'a elders as part of a pivotal court case on Aboriginal title, one which laid the foundation for the Nisga'a Treaty years late.

Those two themes and many others were shared by Premier John Horgan with a statement to commemorate Mr. Berger's passing and career, a segment of which included political life from the early to late 1960's, including leadership of the provincial NDP party and service as an MP.

"Mr. Berger was counsel for the Nisga’a elders who were plaintiffs in Calder v. Attorney-General for British Columbia (1973), a historic case in which the Supreme Court of Canada first acknowledged the existence of Aboriginal title to land. 

 His work as commissioner of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry resulted in a report highlighting unresolved land claims, as well as the threat to wildlife upon which the local Indigenous peoples relied on for survival. 

An unprecedented public consultation process helped highlight what was at stake for the Indigenous peoples of the North.

As a lawyer, judge and commissioner, he helped countless ordinary people in their struggles against powerful interests. He changed life in this province and in this country for the better."

His work at the side of the Nisga'a in 1973 was commemorated in the Nass Valley today.

In a statement issued today by Eva Clayton, the President of the Nisga'a Nation outlines the importance that the work of that Mr. Berger engaged on as he advocated for Aboriginal rights in British Columbia, Canada and beyond 

“Today we lost a champion, trusted partner, and friend. Thomas Berger worked tirelessly to help the Nisg̱ a’a make our case and the Nisg̱ a’a Nation is eternally grateful. He helped show the world that recognizing Aboriginal title and rights doesn’t create divisions but in fact strengthens Canada.”

Today's information release from the Nisga'a Nation also notes how much the work of Mr. Berger had impacted on their Nation and how they paid tribute to his efforts.

In recognition of his service to the Nisg̱ a’a Nation, Berger was adopted by the Nisga’a House of Wilps Hleeḵ and given the Nisg̱ a’a name Halaydim X̱ laawit, which means Shaman of X̱ laawit—one of the four Saviour Mountains that rescued the Nisg̱ a’a during the great flood.

Some further background on his celebrated career across the Nation can be found from selected items below:

Order of British Columbia 2014
History Project UBC Law
Maclean's feature 1977

A sample of his oratory on Indigenous rights and land claims issues can be found from this archived feature from a 2013 conference

Check our Victoria Viewpoints archive from our D'Arcy McGee blog later this evening when we update the day's highlights with special section that will feature today's reminiscences of the life of Themas Berger.

Prince Rupert District Teachers Union raises concerns over budget uncertainty and potential for layoffs

With School Districts across the province facing any number of challenges related to COVID and local funding issues towards education, the atmosphere in many communities including Prince Rupert is making for uncertainty as School Budgets are being prepared. 

Today the Prince Rupert District Teachers Union made note of their concerns over the pace of SD52 budget decision making and the potential for possible layoffs to instructional staff.

In a news release issued this morning the PRDTU's Gabriel Bureau observed that School District Managers have told teachers to prepare for as many as twenty laid off teaching positions for next school year, with the PRDTU stating that would make for as much as a 12 per cent decrease in teaching staff for Prince Rupert Schools.

Among the concerns that the PRDTU have are:

The delayed budget process is causing uncertainty for teachers, which may undermine retention and lead to instructional staff shortages next year. 

Warnings of massive layoffs from SD52 management are confusing staff, leading to further uncertainty and undermining confidence in the process. 

Given that there are no major changes in the provincial funding formula for schools and SD52 enrolment trends will likely remain unchanged from recent years, there doesn’t seem to be a need for major cuts.  

If the warnings, and possible cuts, are not required, then the school district should limit damage to its retention efforts by reassuring teachers that massive layoffs are unlikely

Mr. Bureau has outlined how many of the recent hires have started to take up residence in the community and how any layoffs may have an impact on future recruitment goals for the District.

“Many new teachers, hired in the last two to three years, have already started to put down roots into Prince Rupert. News of possible layoffs leaves these teachers uncertain of where they’ll be next year. 

This is especially challenging for families with young children, new residents who recently bought a home in town, and for members who had planned to stay and settle here ... 

In the past several years, the school district has made good progress on recruiting teachers who plan to stay long-term. Prince Rupert offered new hires with a unique and innovative solution. 

The solution meant that teachers were hired without a specific assignment and the would be slotted into needed positions as they opened up during the year. 

This has solved lots of problems for the district and allowed more teachers to settle down with more job security. 

These rumoured cuts undermine that security and may mean that many teachers will leave town, even if the cuts proveunnecessary in the end."

The PRDTU is concerned that if the warned layoffs are not actually needed, given that the funding formula and enrolment trends appear stable for next year, that the laid off teachers will leave for good. 

Noting how that will undermine progress made in recent years to recruit and retain certified teachers, provide support teachers for students with individual learning needs, and have teachers to fill long-term leaves throughout the year.

“New teachers, who are working as teachers on call or filling long-term leaves, are actually in short supply at this point in the school year because of the need to fill positions. If these teachers are laid off, only to be needed back in the fall, SD52 may end up with a shortage and not have enough certified teachers. 

In year’s past, this was a major problem. Student support teachers and teachers on call are essential to instructional continuity. Hopefully the school district won’t underestimate its need for certified teachers for next year. Otherwise, the district may find out that once again they are facing shortages – when it’s too late to attract new teachers back,” -- PRDTU President Gabriel Bureau

An information release from SD52 on April 13 on Budget issues

So far there has been no public indication from School District officials towards whether any staff cuts will be required, or put in place as they look to address their significant budget deficit of between 2.3 to 3.4 million dollars. 

However the District has noted that almost 88 percent of their expenditures is from labour costs.


Some of the information slides from the SD52 budget 
presentation from the end of March

The most recent notes on the Budget process from mid April indicated that staff would be providing an update list of potential budget cuts to the May 11th Board meeting.

You can learn more about the 2021 budget process and potential impact on education in the region from our archive page here.

Regional District seeks Planning/Economic Development Officer

North Coast Regional District is set to expand their pool of resources for the public, posting a Job Opportunity for employment as a Planning/Economic Development Officer based out of the Prince Rupert office.

Towards the duties for the successful candidate the NCRD highlights the following:

As the Planning/Economic Development Officer, reporting to the CAO, you will plan and coordinate various tasks related to land use planning and economic development for the electoral areas of the North Coast Regional District. 

The successful candidate will be responsible for processing and evaluating development applications and land use referrals, providing information and assistance to the public on planning and economic development issues, consulting with professionals and the general public, preparing plans and reports, and working with various stakeholders on community planning and development initiatives.

The position pays in the range of 60-75,000 per year and reports to the Chief Administrative Officer.

The full scope of the position and the qualifications related to it can be explored here.

The deadline to apply is May 21st, with applications to be directed to the Districts CAO Daniel Fish.

The position is the second to be posted this month, with the Regional government recently seeking the services of an Executive Assistant.

For more notes related to Regional District see our archive page here.