Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Latest BC CDC weekly count provides continued good news for Prince Rupert and Northwest


Prince Rupert continues to sit just one mark away from a return to Zero, with today's BC CDC weekly review noting of just one case of COVID for the city for the period of May 2-8. 

The results a continuation of the remarkable turnaround of the COVID situation since the mass vaccination program of mid March.

To provide a snapshot of the progress for Prince Rupert, two months ago, the Case Count for March 17th had the city atop the Regional case count with 117 positive cases reported to the BC CDC.

The shift for the entire region made for the current of news from the information update from Wednesday afternoon. Which saw the data release herald impressive news for most communities west of Prince George, with all boasting case counts in the single digits.

Across the remainder of the Northwest, the cases reported from May 2- May 8 were as follows.


Nechako -- 6
Kitimat --
 3 
Terrace -- 3
Smithers  -- 3
Upper Skeena -- 2
Burns Lake -- 1

The Central Coast, Bella Coola Valley, Snow Country-Stikine-Telegraph, Nass and Haida Gwaii regions all once again have reported no cases this week from the data review. 

Other charts and information from the BC CDC can be explored here.

You can review the latest information from the Public Health office Doctor Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix here.  


Uptick in Wednesday COVID case count for BC, though Northern Health region drops to single digits on the day

A bit of a stall in the recent steady decline of day to day COVID case counts, as the total number of new cases for the province rose slightly to 600 new cases on the day, the majority of them recorded in the Fraser Health Region.

Today's written statement update also put the focus on the vaccination program, which now has reached the fifty percent rate for first shots of vaccine. 

“Today, we are reporting 600 new cases, including three epi-linked cases, for a total of 137,223 cases in British Columbia. 


There are 5,887 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. A further 129,524 people who tested positive have recovered. 

Of the active cases, 423 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 141 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 1,625 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 daily reports from the Five Regional Health Authority's was as follows: 150 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 394 new cases in the Fraser Health region, eight in the Island Health region, 39 in the Interior Health region.

There were nine in the Northern Health region, the total number of cases of COVID in the north since January of 2020 is now listed at 7,378 cases of COVID-19.

There were no new cases of COVID-19 reported in British Columbia by people who reside outside of Canada. “

Today's vaccination update noted of 2,277,318 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that  have been administered in B.C., 115,295 of which are second doses. 

With the Public Health officials stressing the importance of registration for second doses in the months to come.

“The vaccines that are approved and in use here in B.C. require two doses. This is why even if you have already had your first dose, it is important to register on the Get Vaccinated site. This will ensure a second dose is reserved for you."

The full statement for Wednesday. can be viewed here.   

Earlier today, the BC Government observed a new benchmark in the vaccination program, highlighting how the province had reached the Fifty Percent vaccination rate for first doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

"We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks toward everyone getting their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down, but this milestone gives us hope of better days ahead. We have to keep going. We need all British Columbians to help make sure as many people as possible get their shots. Register today and talk to your friends, family and neighbours and make sure they’re registered, too.” -- British Columbia  Premier John Horgan



BC CDC data for British Columbia for May 12, 2021


BC CDC data for Northern Health Region for May 12, 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

 




City Council to share info, push for collaborative effort on themes for upcoming Rail Safety Hearings

The Prince Rupert Railyard along Water Street

Prince Rupert City Council is ready to help Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach in his efforts towards the upcoming Transport Committee hearings on Rail Safety in Canada, with the options of their approach to the theme up for discussion at Monday's Council Session.

The topic came up for discussion through a contribution from Councillor Nick Adey who spoke to the topic at the end of the Monday evening meeting, the Councillor making note of a Social Media post from the MP that had outlined the road ahead for the Committee's work. 

On Tuesday, we outlined some of the scope of the MP's work on the issue and the plans ahead for the committee.

As part of his commentary, Mr. Adey suggested that the City try to learn more about the hearings so the city could spread word of the initiative; as well he sought some feedback on how the City may wish to approach any involvement in the hearings process.

"I would anticipate that there are local voices that would like to be heard so I'm wondering; first of all if we can find out more about the hearings in relatively short order so that we can facilitate information to people who might be interested in giving some input into those hearings. 

And my second question is more for us as a group. Do we see a role for us to play in terms of voicing community perspectives at those hearings, assuming we're afforded the opportunity to do so. 

Or would it be more appropriate, since we're talking about an entire rail corridor, would it be more appropriate to try and develop a voice to contribute to those hearings that represents a broader swath of the communities that are affected by rail safety "-- Councillor Nick Adey

The Councillor also noted how its a rare opportunity for consultation that the community should take part in, especially considering the expansion of port facilities in the area and the increase in rail traffic that would bring.

Mayor Brain outlined that the city could definitely be part of any information sharing program and how he has been in discussion with the MP on the issue, noting how the MP has expressed a plan to host a Town Hall on rail safety. 

Mr. Brain did note that the city has little sway over CN Rail and how it was a federal matter, but recognized that the city has a role to play as an advocate for the community, he also spoke to how the issue is one of concern along the CN main line and how he agreed with Councillor Adey that a collaborative approach with those communities could be the approach to take.

"Many people come to us for issues around rail safety and as most people know we have zero jurisdiction or authority over the railway, in fact, even the Federal government has their own hard time with CN Rail and some  of the jurisdictional issues. So at this juncture that's a federal matter and I think we have a role to play in terms of advocating for any concerns that residents feel around that" 

The Mayor also relayed how the MP would be taking the lead towards a community response and how the city could be of some common assistance to his work.

"I've also spoken with other community leaders in the region well up the line and I think you're right Councillor Adey that probably a bigger broader coalition of communities working together on common issues" -- Mayor Lee Brain on how the City may approach any engagement on upcoming Rail Safety hearings

As for a local lead in the community approach, the Mayor took note of and for the most part nominated Councillor Adey as a good choice for the Prince Rupert point person for contributions.

You can review the conversation on how the City should approach the topic from the City's Video Archive starting at the 47 minute mark.



For more notes on the upcoming hearings and other rail issues see our CN Archive page.

How the Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP plans to proceed can be explored from our House of Commons Archive.

A full look at Monday's Council Session is available here, while further items of interest on City Council themes can be reviewed from our Council Discussion archive.

City Council to review request for Grant application towards development of Integrated Transportation Plan for Prince Rupert

Transportation elements made for some of the themes to
City of Prince Rupert's 2030 Vision planning
(image from City of PR website)


A request to pursue some funding for development of a Transportation plan for Prince Rupert will be on the Agenda for tonight's Special Council session, with the city's contract planners from iPlan providing a report that outlines the positives they see towards such an initiative.

In the report, Rob Buchan from iPlan, providing his report under the title of City Planner, notes as to how the need for such a Transportation Plan has been identified in previous community engagements and ties that theme into the recent discussion on parking issues in the downtown core.

The importance and need for a downtown parking strategy has also been raised as an important goal, and is a critical action for enabling the revitalization of the City Centre. The Province is providing funding for new transportation plans that include active transportation.

His notes on the topic also observe how the provincial grant program through UBCM of up to $20,000 could cover the active transportation element of a program, but for a larger Master Transportation plan the cost could be as high as 70,000 dollars.

The maximum grant that the City can qualify for is $20,000.00. 

This amount of funding may be sufficient to undertake the active transportation component but additional funding will be necessary to fund the entire master transportation plan. 

Total funding required has not yet been fully determined but it is estimated to be in the order of $50,000 to $70,000.00. The contribution of $20,000 towards this expenditure would be significant.


A Report on Transportation grant funding from
iPlan for City Council

(click to enlarge)

The deadline for applications to the funding program comes up on May 21st.

The need for a more dedicated approach to Transportation themes was a focus for the local Complete Streets group in the city, which outlined some of their thoughts towards improved transportation last September.

Elements of Transportation themes have made for part of the City's 2030 Vision planning in recent years.

Council members will consider the request to make application for the funding as part of this afternoons Special Session which will start at 4 PM

More notes on past Council discussions can be explored from our archive page here.



Special Council session tonight to review application for Crane's Crossing work for old Raffles Building

The Crane's Crossing supportive housing project will be
the subject of a Special Council session for this afternoon

(image from City of PR Agenda package)

Prince Rupert City Council will consider the first significant downtown proposal to come under the recently adopted Official Community Plan; with a Special Council session called for this evening to review the plans for Crane's Crossing, the supportive housing facility destined for the old Raffles Hotel.

At the afternoon session, set for a 4 PM start, Council will receive a report from the city's contract planners at iPlan, with Chris Buchan providing the background to the proposed housing to be operated by the North Coast Transition Society.

The NCTS took possession of the property in late May of 2020, for much of the year they have operated the city's homeless shelter out of the main floor of the facility.

The report notes as to how the proposal meets the city's guidelines and goals, as well as to provide some details on parking related themes, a topic that has become a flashpoint of sorts for Council in recent months.

"The exterior renovation is largely in compliance with both the General and Midtown Development Permit Guidelines. The proposed renovation maintains both the General and Midtown goal of defining a street edge. The proposed building materials are encouraged in the General Development Permit Guidelines and will result in an aesthetic improvement to the area.

A total of 15 parking stalls are required for this site. The applicant has proposed parking on-site and a designated parking lot located on an adjacent site. This parking will be secured through registration of an easement and covenant prior to Building Permit issuance. The applicant will provide a surplus of parking which adds to a total of 27 parking stalls."




As part of their work tonight, Council members will be asked to approved the Development Permit and Variance request related to the property.

The full package related to the Crane's Crossing application can be reviewed from the Agenda for this evening's special Council session.

Some past notes on the Crane's Crossing proposal and more items on housing in Prince Rupert can be reviewed from our archive page here.

Just a test ... nothing to see, move along, move along now



British Columbians who subscribe to the province's Emergency Alert System had cause to wonder what was up this afternoon, that as alarms blared and an emergency message appeared on mobile devices ... though fortunately, the day's alert of just after the Noon Hour was not the real thing.

As it turned out, the Emergency Warning System had been activated by Human Error, providing for a re-broadcast of last week's official test of the system which took place one week ago.

BC's Emergency Preaparedness Program explained the situation shortly after the alert posting their update to their Twitter account.

The reaction of some of those who have signed up for the program however was one of some concern that the alert system could be activated with something as simple as a bit of human error, with some suggesting that it doesn't install a lot of confidence for those who may be relying on the program.

The British Columbia Alert program is operated by Alert-Ready, you can learn more about the program and how it's supposed to work from their website.

Notes on last weeks "official" test of the system can be reviewed here.

Skeena MLA reflects on Salmon conservation past and present as part of Legislature debate

Ellis Ross spoke on themes of Wild Samon as part of the
Legislature debate of Monday 

As we noted yesterday, the early part of this week at the BC Legislature had been allocated towards discussion on a Private Members motion related to Wild Salmon Conservation from Fin Donnelly, the Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The North Coast received some strong representation on Monday, with MLA Jennifer Rice and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross both sharing notes on the theme, Ms. Rice's contribution can be reviewed here, for Mr. Ross the opening of his remarks focused on his time as a member of the Haisla Council.

Back in 2003, when I joined the chief and council, my council had already been fighting for it for the better part of 20 years. It was part of our treaty negotiations. It was part of our relationship with DFO and related agencies. 

In that fight, we understood how complicated this issue is. 

It's not a simple issue, and the answers are not simple, when you look at how many levels of jurisdictional issues have to be resolved even just to get a handle on what's happening locally, let alone worldwide. 

As part of his contribution to the debate, the Skeena MLA noted at how development across the province has had an impact on salmon bearing streams and the need to mitigate future impacts.

The advocacy we initiated and that we still initiate today are mainly around habitat restoration and protection, both historic and proposed — "historic" meaning the many streams and rivers that were either diked or backfilled, for either commercial or residential use, when our ancestors were building B.C. 

It would be really interesting to find out how many salmon-bearing streams were actually redirected or filled in for our ever-growing population. 

As a matter of fact, it's how we built B.C.

Mr. Ross also noted of the work of the Haida almost a decade ago as well as to some proposed solutions or the future.

In 2012, the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation was widely criticized for releasing 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into Canadian waters in the Pacific Ocean. The theory was this would stimulate the growth of plankton, which would be eaten by large ocean dwellers and begin a feeding frenzy by the juvenile fish heading into the ocean, and it might ultimately lead to higher survival rates and better fishing results when the fish came back to the island streams to spawn. 

Like I said, the Haida were heartily criticized for this, but it was an idea that I supported as chief councillor, mainly because it was a bold attempt to try something new based on what I thought was logical thinking. 

It still makes me wonder today what the results were. 

There are more proposed solutions — like selective fishing with no bycatch, inland fish farms for sockeye and trout — but one thing is clear: the demand for seafood will only grow. 

So the pressures on wild salmon will also grow ...  I think about it in a holistic manner, in terms of what this means to the commercial industry, the sport fishing industry as well as native food fishing and sustenance, but overall as what an incredible asset this is for the country of Canada.

The full transcript can be reviewed here.

The video presentation is available from the Legislature video page starting at 11:30 AM

For more notes on the work of the Skeena MLA see our archive page here.



Prince Rupert's Official Community Plan gains approval, but with two dissenting opinions


The City of Prince Rupert has put in place its Official Community Plan and the accompanying bylaws, though not without another round of extensive discussion on a few of the elements, a conversation that led two members of the Council to vote against adopting the extensive community vision plan at this time.

In a four to two vote, the city's elected officials put the new OCP into motion, setting a course for what they hope will be a new era of development for the community with guidelines to help create a new downtown and expand on housing opportunities city wide.

The redesign of the downtown core is now ready for implementation
following approval of the city's new Official Community Plan 

Councillors Cunningham and Randhawa were on the outside for the final vote, both expressing their hesitancy towards adopting the OCP at this time, pointing to a number of concerns that they have related to the zoning elements of the documents.

Councillor Cunningham reprised some of his previous concerns over parking requirements in the downtown area and how if the city is trying to attract people to live in the downtown area that could be a significant issue towards development.

Rob Buchan, one of the city's contract planners  from iPlan provided a few comments related to the issue, noting once again of the need for the City to develop a parking strategy that would help to deal with parking related concerns related to any upcoming development.

"It's going to be a case by case assessment, if there is technically a requirement for more parking there is the option for a Board of Variance, an option for a development variance permit and an option of paying cash in lieu ... what we've spoken about previously is the need to have a parking strategy in place so that we have some clarity around those specific areas ... We need to codify rules in a parking strategy,  an deal with the provision of parking that will be required in different ways. We've spoken about cash in lieu, we've spoken about the use of Local Improvement Area Funding in order to help fund on street parking improvements. We need to have that detailed downtown Parking Strategy so that we can deal with this uncertainty, because this uncertainty is something that is going  to be potentially problematic for us going forward, so the more clarity  we can ge around that the better " -- Rob Buchan from iPlan on the theme of parking in the community related to the new Official Community Plan 

A property development proposal that was introduced prior to the new
OCP served as the focus for much of the discussion
(image from City of Prince Rupert Agenda past)


Councillor Randhawa raised his concerns over the fate of a proposed development on Park Avenue and how the OCP provisions could impact on that investment in the community and add cost and time to their proposal, with the Councillor looking to have it exempt from the new plan.

Mr. Buchan noted that to make any kind of a change to the zoning would require the council to host another Public Hearing, the city's contract planner noting that he has been working with the applicant that Mr. Randhawa had spoken of, but to this point there was nothing new to review on the progress of their proposal. 

"To make a change to the zoning bylaw, land use or density, you would be back to doing a Public Hearing and as previously mentioned there is development that is waiting for this bylaw to be adopted. So the OCP sets the policy of framework for the zoning  bylaw change and then that zoning bylaw change enables the other development to occur  ... I'm certainly familiar with the property you have mentioned and we have worked very hard to facilitate an application, but at this time I'm waiting to hear whether or not there is an accepted application in terms of completeness ... If you want to make a change at this point to the zoning bylaw, we're going to have to go back to Public Hearing" -- Contract planner Rob Buchan on the process ahead if the city chooses to change the zoning bylaw for a Park Avenue proposal

As for those council members looking to move beyond the days of talk and into some actual development, Councillor Niesh spoke to the issue first.  

He thanked the team from iPlan and City staff towards the development of the OCP and adding that while he might agree with Councillor Randhawa on the unfortunate timing of the Park avenue plans, he believes that the city needs to move forward on its Official Community Plan. The Councillor stating that he did not support any idea of having to host another Public hearing on the topic.

"Unfortunately this process, you know where were at in this process doesn't allow us to change it and if we decide to change it's delaying the process and by delaying that process it's going to stop other development that is in the queue waiting to happen. This is just an unfortunate timing circumstance and I think that you know moving forward, we have to still work with the proponent to see if we can make something  happen but as far as where were at in this process, I mean I don't think we need to give another public hearing ...  For us to move forward in this community it's time now to finish this OCP and move on" -- Councillor Wade Niesh

He also observed that the Park Avenue proponents could apply for a rezoning application should they wish to move forward.

Councillor Cunningham also had concerns over the densification prospects of the new OCP noting of two potential areas where it could be controversial, the first that of an area along Graham Avenue and another in the Crestview/Parker Drive area where the city owns land for potential development.

While he praised the work on the OCP, he still wanted to make note of his areas of concern.

"I don't want to go to another public hearing and things like that .... This OCP I've got to say has been great, it's a fantastic job and everything else. I'm just concerned about two or three areas and I just find it hard to support the whole OCP when I see these particular situations" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

Councillors Mirau and Adey spoke in favour of moving forward with the Official Community Plan and accompanying bylaws, with Mr. Mirau noting that the city has conducted an extensive process towards the development of the initiatives, with a number of proposals awaiting some kind of finality to the process. 

Both noted that stopping it for just a few issues of concern was not something that they would want to entertain and how having come this far, they should move forward with it and allow for some of the other developments to come forward.

Councillor Randhawa had one more go towards his themes on the night, with the Mayor noting that if they were to make such significant change as desired then the entire OCP process would have to return to a Public Hearing and face further delays in implementation. 




The Mayor observed of the OCP work as a very complete document that sets the foundation for the future. 

Mr. Brain also made note of the efforts of council as a fantastic job and reflective of the community's views and values, recounting how he viewed the range of community engagement on the process hosted by the City. 

Towards an end to the conversation the mayor observed that Council has the mandate to move forward.

"However, process wise I agree with Councillor Mirau going and doing this with the OCP is not I think professional form on our part, if we had amendments that we wanted to make at any time on Council, we could have proposed and moved motions to make those amendments at any time ... Generally speaking I think we have a very complete document that's you know not 100 percent perfect but it is setting the foundation for the future and I think we've done a fantastic job making sure it's reflective of the communities views and values" -- Mayor Lee Brain on the OCP process 

As for some final thoughts, the Mayor thanked the participants in the OCP process and the community for its involvement in the development of the new plan.

"The amount of forward thinking, innovation that this OCP outlines for the next decade is really going to set a whole new development environment in motion. I mean as Mr. Buchan has said there is various developments that are waiting for this OCP to be completed. I think we're going to see a new streamlined development process in this community ... I think we've created much more of a certain environment and you know the past is the past and we've corrected a lot of the red tape issues that I think has plagued this community for a long time. And I think moving forward from this point forward you'll see developments happening in a much more streamlined way which is going to be great to see -- Mayor Lee Brain

The conversation exhausted after twenty-three  minutes, Council conducted its vote with a 4-2 scorecard on the OCP and zoning bylaws, moving the community towards this Councils vision of the future.

The full discussion and vote can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive starting at the 24 minute mark.




For more items of note on Monday's Council session see our Council Timeline Feature here.

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

A review of the OCP process can be explored further here.


Prince Rupert City Council to invite Northern Health reps to hear concerns over Health Care in region

With plans to create a Local health Committee still to be finalized, Prince Rupert City Council is adding on to its list of initiatives to draw attention to health care concerns in the region.

At Monday evening's Council Session, Mayor Lee Brain sought the support from Council to issue an invitation to Northern Health officials to attend a future Committee of the Whole session to hear the concerns of the community on health care in the area, the themes to be relayed through the Council membership.




Towards his wish to host a session with the officials, Mr. Brain asked for some suggestions from the council membership as to who should be invited, with Councillor Cunningham noting that the local administrator should be the first, then offering up a number of other health officials in the Northwest region who could be asked to attend.

Councillor Nick Adey spoke of the concern over the potential loss of specialists in the region and if any officials could be invited to discuss that issue of note in the region. Councillor Cunningham provided a thumbnail sketch of how the policies and decisions are made in the Northwest region and what topics they could address at any session.

"I'm simply going to reflect on the theories I hear in the public forum is the potential to lose specialists and specialized services that we do have here. So I'm just wondering whether  there is somebody that is particularly well versed and can be able to speak to what that is like" -- Councillor Nick Adey on plans to host officials from Northern Health

Councillor Niesh suggested that those attending be prepared to provide a ten year goal plan for the council to hear and how they plan to move forward on health care in the community as it grows.

"I just want whoever it may be that comes to this meeting, I want them to be prepared to answer the question of what is their ten year goal in to where they see this community going? Because, obviously from the perspective of the city and the Port Authority it's growth, growth, growth and that's going to put obviously more of a strain on our medical system .... What is their ten year plan of moving forward, you know is there a plan of increasing doctors, or replacing the hospital or whatever it is that they see for us ... The problem is that we don't hear what the future is about all we hear about is what they are taking away or what they are moving to Terrace or that and I want to see where they see this town going" -- Councillor Wade Niesh

Councillor Cunningham picked up on that theme, noting how the epicentre of growth in the northwest is going to be Prince Rupert and how it's important that the community have the medical support in place to address that growth.  

"I've always said that I believe that the epicentre of growth in the Northwest will be Prince Rupert through our Port Development and everything else ... and it's very important that we have the medical services to support that growth." -- Councillor Barry Cunningham 

He also noted how Prince Rupert currently is noted as third on the list for hospital replacement, which he estimates would be at least fifteen years into the future at the earliest.

Councillor Adey also asked when the proposed dialogue would take place, with the Mayor observing that it should in short order with council to reach out with the invitation.

In reply,  Mr. Brain made note of a presentation from Health officials at the recent virtual NCLGA session  and how many of the issues that were discussed at that gathering would be similar to what Prince Rupert is facing.

Councillor Cunningham also stressed the need to get the proposed Health Committee initiative underway and outlined how it would be of use for the community in speaking to the issues of concern here.

Somewhat surprisingly, none of the Council members offered up the name of MLA Jennifer Rice as a potential guest for their session on Health care in the community, which considering the need for advocacy on health care for the region seems like a curious omission to the potential guest list.

Towards the plans for the Committee of the Whole session, the Mayor observed that they would get busy with the invites this week.

You can review the discussion on Health Care from the City's Video Archive starting at the 13:30 minute mark, however be advised that Monday's session once again suffered from a number of technical issues at times.





For more notes on Monday's Council session see our Council Timeline Feature here.

A wider overview of Council Discussion themes can be reviewed here.

For more background on Northern Health in the Prince Rupert area see our archive page here.

Council Timeline: Monday, May 10, 2021

 



Audio/Visual gremlins wreaked a bit of havoc for much of Monday's Prince Rupert City Council Session, with audio drop outs and sporadic video interruptions making for a hard to follow near sixty minute review of civic business on the night.

For the first five or so minutes, those viewing Monday evening were eavesdropping on the work of Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller as she navigated the opening moments of the sessions. 

The archived You Tube version now however simply features the City of Prince Rupert logo, followed shortly by faint audio that arrived around five minutes into the night that provided the more muted than usual narrative of the city's business on the evening.

As for what was decipherable from the night, Council commented on a report from the City's Financial Officer related to the Audited Financial Statements for this year, as well they received a request for a letter of support for an entrance project for the Museum of Northern BC.

The prospect of an invitation for officials from Northern Health to speak at an upcoming Council Session provided for some extensive discussion, while the final approvals for the Official Community Plan and accompanying Tax Bylaws also generated some lengthy conversation. 

The Council Comments period brought the night to a close. 

As the council continues to met at a distance owing to the COVID pandemic, the Public hearing and Public Council session was streamed live through the use of a Zoom conference.

Some background on the work of Council for the night can be reviewed from the Regular Agenda Package for the May 10th session.  

Council also hosted a Closed meeting, marking the seventh such session which has been closed to the public for 2021. 

The details related to the reasons for the in camera session can be reviewed here.

Further information from our overview and placement in the video archive can be found below, with the permanent record of the council minutes added as they are posted to the city website. 

In attendance Monday, May 10, 2021

Mayor Lee Brain -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Nick Adey -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Barry Cunningham -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present by Zoom
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa -- Present by Zoom

Video Archive for Monday, May 10, 2021

 

*************************************************************************


Regular Council Session

( 0:00 - 1:30 ) Regular City Council Session for Monday, May 10, 2021 -- Mayor Lee Brain called the session to order, adopting past minutes and the Agenda for the session underway, with one change to the document, that the addition of a segment to discuss Northern Health issues, as well as a change in the order towards consideration of the Official Community Plan and accompanying Tax Bylaw.


( 1:30 -- 11:30  ) Budget Presentation Report from the Chief Financial Officer on Audited Financial Statements -- Ms. Corinne Bomben provided some of the highlight notes from the work of auditors Carlyle Shepherd and Company. 

Though her actual presentation to Council is lost to the Digital universe as part of Monday's ongoing technical difficulties.

Following the presentation, many of the Council members spoke to the work of City staff and thanked them for they efforts. Of those participants that could be heard, Councillor Mirau noted of the planning and execution that city staff had provided for in this years budget preparation. 

Councillor Niesh noted of the ability to keep taxes down and the receipt of provincial funding to work through the pandemic period, most which is being directed towards the airport.

Councillor Cunningham also paid his tributes, highlighting the planning towards asset management, he also noted of the turnaround of Watson Island and pointed towards the work of staff to achieve the city's success over the last six to seven years.

Councillor Randhawa also offered his thanks to civic staff.

For his comments, the Mayor echoed many of the same commentary as heard previous, rolling through a range of the work that the city is doing to address a number of civic concerns and initiatives. 

He also spoke to Council's desire to leave the community in a better situation than when they came to office and offered his personal thanks to Ms. Bomben for her work.


( 11:30 -- 13:30   ) Verbal Report from the Corporate Administrator -- Ms. Rosa Miller outlined the nature of a request for a letter of support from the Museum of Northern British Columbia which is looking to build a new entranceway to their First Avenue West location.  Councillor Mirau asked to some of the wording of the request related to a donation in kind, while Councillor Adey offered his support to the initiative and noted how it would add to the visual of the building in the downtown area.

( 13:30 -- 24:00 ) Discussion on plans to invite representatives from Northern Health to discuss local health concerns in Prince Rupert  -- Mayor Brain outlined his desire to have Council invite representatives to an upcoming Committee of the Whole session to discuss health care matters and concerns from the community, noting it would serve as a follow up to their plans of last council session to create a Health Committee in the community. The Mayor sought out some suggestions from the council membership as to who should be invited, with Councillor Cunningham noting that the local administrator should be the first, then offering up a number of other health officials in the Northwest region who could be asked to attend.

Councillor Adey spoke of the concern over the potential loss of specialists in the region and if any officials could be invited to discuss that issue of note in the region. Councillor Cunningham provided a thumbnail sketch of how the policies and decisions are made in the Northwest region and what topics they could address at any session.

Councillor Niesh suggested that those attending be prepared to provide a ten year goal plan for the council to hear and how they plan to move forward on health care in the community as it grows.

Councillor Cunningham picked up on that theme, noting how the epicentre of growth in the northwest is going to be Prince Rupert and how it's important that the community have the medical support in place to address that growth.  

He also noted how Prince Rupert currently is noted as third on the list for hospital replacement, which he estimates would be at least fifteen years into the future at the earliest.

Councillor Adey asked when the proposed dialogue would take place, with the Mayor observing that it should in short order with council to reach out with the invitation, with Mr. Brain making note of a presentation from Health officials at the recent virtual NCLGA session  and how many of the issues that were discussed at that gathering would be similar to what Prince Rupert is facing.

Councillor Cunningham also stressed the need to get the proposed Health Committee initiative underway and outlined how it would be of use for the community in speaking to the issues of concern here.

Towards the plans for the Committee of the Whole session, the Mayor observed that they would get busy on Tuesday with the invites.

( 24:00 -- 47:00 ) Official Community Plan and Bylaw discussion -- Prior to final adoption of the two documents, the Council members had one final review of their work on community planning, with Councillors Cunningham and Randhawa expressing hesitancy towards adopting the OCP at this time, pointing to a number of concerns that they have related to the zoning elements of the documents.

Councillor Cunningham reprised some of his previous concerns over parking requirements in the downtown area and how if the city is trying to attract people to live in the downtown area that could be a significant issue towards development.

Rob Buchan, one of the city's contract planners  from iPlan provided a few comments related to the issue, noting once again of the need for the City to develop a parking strategy that would help to deal with parking related concerns related to any upcoming development.

Councillor Randhawa raised his concerns over the fate of a proposed development on Park Avenue and how the OCP provisions could impact on that investment in the community, with the Councillor looking to have it exempt from the new plan.

Mr. Buchan noted that to make any kind of a change to the zoning would require the council to host another Public Hearing, the city's contract planner noting that he has been working with the applicant that Mr. Randhawa had spoken of, but to this point there was nothing new to review on the progress of their proposal. 

Councillor Niesh spoke to the issue, first thanking the team from iPlan and City staff towards the development of the OCP and adding that while he might agree with Councillor Randhawa on the unfortunate timing of the Park avenue plans, he believes that the city needs to move forward on its Official Community Plan. The Councillor stating that he did not support any idea of having to host another Public hearing on the topic.

He also observed that the Park Avenue proponents could apply for a rezoning application should they wish to move forward.

Councillor Cunningham also had concerns over the densification prospects of the new OCP noting of two potential areas where it could be controversial, the first that of an area along Graham Avenue and another in the Crestview/Parker Drive area where the city owns land for potential development.

While he praised the work on the OCP, he still wanted to make note of his areas of concern.

Councillors Mirau and Adey spoke in favour of moving forward with the Official Community Plan and accompanying bylaws, with Mr. Mirau noting that the city has conducted an extensive process towards the development of the initiatives, with a number of proposals awaiting some kind of finality to the process. 

Both noted that stopping it for just a few issues of concern was not something that they would want to entertain and how having come this far, they should move forward with it and allow for some of the other developments to come forward.

Councillor Randhawa had one more go towards his themes on the night, with the Mayor noting that if they were to make such significant change as desired then the entire OCP process would have to return to a Public Hearing and face further delays in implementation. 

The Mayor noted of the OCP work as a very complete document that while not 100 percent perfect sets the foundation for the future. Mr Brain made note of the efforts of council as a fantastic job and reflective of the community's views and values, recounting how he viewed the range of community engagement on the process hosted by the City. Towards an end to the conversation the mayor observed that Council has the mandate to move forward.

After the discussion had been exhausted and the Mayor had thanked all those who participated in the OCP process, Council voted 4-2 in favour of adoption of the OCP, with Councillors Cunningham and Randhawa voting in opposition to the motion.

The same vote count was recorded towards the Zoning bylaw motion as well.


( 47:00 --  58:00 ) Questions, Comments, Reports or Inquiries from Council 

Councillor Adey made note of an announcement from Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach that hearings would soon be taking place related to rail safety across Canada, with the Councillor observing that it should be a topic of interest to the City of Prince Rupert.

He suggested that the City try to learn more about the hearings so the city could spread word of the initiative; as well he sought some feedback on how the City may wish to approach any involvement in the hearings process.

Mr. Adey also noted how its a rare opportunity for consultation that the community should take part in, especially considering the expansion of port facilities in the area and the increase in rail traffic that would bring.

Mayor Brain outlined that the city could certainly be part of any information sharing program and how he has been in discussion with the MP on the issue, noting how the MP has expressed a plan to host a Town Hall on rail safety. 

Mr. Brain did note that the city has zero jurisdiction or authority over the railway and how it was a federal matter, but recognized that the city has a role to play as an advocate for the community, he also spoke to how the issue is one of concern along the CN main line and how he agreed with Councillor Adey that a collaborative approach with those communities could be the approach to take.

The Mayor also relayed how the MP would be taking the lead towards a community response and how the city could be of some common assistance to his work.

As for a local lead in the community approach, the Mayor observed and for the most part nominated Councillor Adey as a good choice for the Prince Rupert contribution.

Councillor Cunningham hailed the notice of this being National Nurses Week and how the health care workers of the region deserve the recognition of the community.

He also took note of a recent funding award for Prince Rupert Tourism and asked Councillor Mirau if he could shed some light on what the money will be used for. On his part the Councillor stated that he was not in a position to comment on it at the moment, but hinted that it would be a pretty exciting project once it is announced.

Councillor Cunningham also observed that some of the funding had been allocated for trail development and he asked if Tourism Prince Rupert had any plans to try to access any of that.  Mr. Mirau noted of the current staffing situation at the tourism office and how Tourism Prince Rupert has been active in seeking out funding for a range of projects and funding access.

Councillor Cunningham also outlined  some concerns over the condition of some of the paving work from last year and asked if there was a way to have the contractor from a year ago address those issues.

Mayor Brain noted that they would be following up with warranty work, recounting of the poor weather last year that may have impacted on the some of the areas of the project.

Mr. Brain also made note of the City's Road Paving plan for 2021, which was a topic of interest for Councillor Randhawa who inquired about where the work would take place this year; the Mayor observed of the recent bid package submitted to BC Bid which details the work that the city has planned for the summer paving season.

Councillor Skelton Morven offered his condolences to those who have suffered loss in the community, particularly during this time of COVID and noted of the supports that are in place in the community.

And with that the May 10th session came to one end.

You can access our archive of the City Council Session here, where a number of items regarding the Council session, including links to local media coverage can also be found.

As always, our Council Timeline is only a reflection of our observations from the Council Session of the night. Be sure to consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to their website for further review.

Official minutes of the Regular Council Session fromMay 10, 2021
(not available yet)

The next City Council session will take place on Monday, May 24, 2021



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A commitment to protect wild salmon the focus for North Coast MLA's statement Monday


North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice spoke of the importance of salmon to coastal communities, whether it be part of the commercial industry or of historical importance to Indigenous Nations.

Ms. Rice was participating in debate over a Private Members' Motion sponsored by MLA Fin Donnelly, the Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture 

With some of her notes culled from a study by the T Buck Suzuki Foundation and Ecotrust Canada, the MLA weaved a narrative that highlighted the many ways that the fishery has become part of the backbone for coastal communities.

Commercial fishermen have unique skills, experience, and valuable access to boats and gear which can be beneficial to their communities. Among their study interviews, a majority of respondents explained how their commercial fishing supports their community in terms of being able to gift and trade fish to friends, family and acquaintances

Ms. Rice also made note of the cultural significance of wild salmon to the Indigenous nations of the coast.

Gifting and trading of seafood occurs among commercial fishermen in various ways, from sharing fish there is no market for, to being paid by their First Nations band to catch food, social and ceremonial fish for their whole community. 

One fisherman stated: "Fishing connects families and communities. Your reputation as a fisherman lets other people know where you stand in the community."

The North Coast MLA also outlined the impact of recent troubles for the industry as well as some of the shared initiatives that the provincial government has taken on with the Federal government, industry stakeholders and First Nations.

The B.C. government knows that recent salmon closures have impacted Indigenous, commercial and recreational fishers and the communities that depend on them. 

And we share the disappointment of the successive years of low productivity and poor returns that have led us to this point. For the sake of all of those who depend on wild salmon, we must focus our efforts on restoring salmon habitat, increasing abundance and long-term sustainability of the fisheries.

We want to continue to build on positive news like the recommendations from the federal House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, where members provided 20 unanimously supported recommendations to DFO, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to change its current management of commercial fisheries in B.C. 

These recommendations will ensure that the benefits from B.C. fish support B.C. fishers, First Nations and coastal communities. We are continuing to work with the federal minister, DFO, First Nations and the B.C. seafood industry to support the further discussion of the recommendations. 

The province is committed to working with all partners to help restore wild salmon stocks while developing sustainable wild fisheries and supporting communities around B.C. and on our coast. We all want to support the health of wild fisheries, as well as the employment and economic activity the B.C. seafood sector contributes to our province.

Ms. Rice was participating in the Legislature through her home constituency in Prince Rupert. 

The transcript is available here just before the 11:25 mark, while her commentary on fisheries themes can be reviewed from the video below:


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

A wider overview of the BC Fishery can be explored here.


A slight bend of a curve offers hope that Third Wave may be waning, as vaccine program continues to ramp ups


Tuesday's statement on COVID from the BC Health Ministry and Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided for another decline in daily totals of the coronavirus, with just 515 cases of coronavirus reported today, 300 of them centred in the provinces current hot spot of Fraser Health.

The data review and notes on the province's vaccination program made for the bulk of the items of interest for the day.

“Today, we are reporting 515 new cases, including 10 epi-linked cases, for a total of 136,623 cases in British Columbia. 

There are 6,020 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. A further 128,149 people who tested positive have recovered. 

Of the active cases, 426 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 141 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people with COVID-19 are recovering at home in self-isolation. 

There have been two new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,624 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 Regional Health Authorities outlined the following totals for the day: 116 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 300 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 20 in the Island Health region and, 65 in the Interior Health region.

The numbers declined across Northern BC with just 12 cases of COVID reported today by Northern Health region, the total to date across the Northern Health region is 7,369 cases since January of 2020.

Towards the province's vaccination program, the results for Tuesday were as follows: “2,219,856 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., 110,516 of which are second doses.

The importance of the vaccination program also made for some of the closing notes for today's report.

“The number of people protected with a COVID-19 vaccine is going up every day, and the number of people requiring care in hospital is trending down. This is what we want to see and what we want to keep going. 

Like it has been since the start of the pandemic, small efforts make a big difference: taking two minutes to register, getting vaccinated when it is your turn, staying small and staying local. Together, we’ll get through this storm.”



The full statement for  Tuesday can be viewed here






BC CDC data for British Columbia for May 11, 2021


BC CDC data for Northern Health Region for May 11 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

 




New Constituencies, mergers for existing ones potential solutions for proposed commission to explore on representation concerns for BC Legislature

With one of the smaller populations of the 87 constituencies
the North Coast riding could make for some special study
for a new commission to be created to explore how
British Columbians are represented
(Map from Elections BC)


Depending on the findings from a soon to be established commission, North Coast Residents may have a totally different riding map, or even one day be voting in a much larger constituency.

All of  that depending on the path that the BC Government takes following its latest consultation plan directed to addressing the balance of representation at the BC Legislature. 

The blue print towards the road ahead for the Legislature members and those who vote for them was outlined on Monday, with plans for a commission to be created to explore the options.

Among some of the areas of note that the commission will explore:

The intent of these amendments is to ensure the location of political boundaries between seats is determined not by politicians, but by an independent commission. 

With the population of the province continuing to grow, the issue appears to be proper representation for those areas of British Columbia that are seeing the largest amount of growth.

The process will not be guided by political interests, but by a legislated mandate to establish effective representation for British Columbians. 

The commission will be asked to achieve through recommendations – to the extent possible – the fundamental democratic principle that everyone’s vote should be reasonably equal in weight in choosing elected officials. Other factors that will be considered by the commission under the legislation will be population, geography, means of communication and means of transportation to help ensure effective representation. 

Responding to B.C. population growth and restoring flexibility to the commission: The proposed amendments include changes to enhance the commission’s ability to respond to B.C.’s significant population growth. 

Towards that element, the introduction to the process notes: 

The current legislation caps the maximum number of electoral districts at 87, which is the current number of electoral districts. One of the amendments would give the commission the option to recommend adding up to as many as six new districts, ensuring the commission has the flexibility to develop an electoral map that supports effective representation throughout the province.

Of the 87 current ridings, the North Coast is among the ridings with least amount of population, with Elections BC data from 2017 showing that there were only 14,220 eligible voters in the constituency.

That's something that could make it a potential target for merger with a larger Skeena, the same could be said for the Stikine region which could be folded in either east or west to neighbouring constituencies.

Even more concerning  is the low level of voter participation that appears to be the trend for the North Coast, which saw less than 6300 votes cast in 2020, something that could sway the commission in its work.

You can review the current make up of all 87 ridings here, offering a chance for British Columbians to explore each constituency and see how they might want to redesign the make up for the commission.

As they move forward with their work, the committee will look to consider the following.

The amendments continue the principles that: the commission must seek to recommend electoral districts with populations within plus or minus 25% of the average electoral district population; and the commission may recommend electoral districts with populations outside that range. 

However, the proposed amendments further recognize the representation concerns in less populated regions by specifying that the commission may take into account special considerations respecting demographic and geographic factors. These factors include keeping a manageable geographic size for electoral districts in order to ensure effective representation.

Once created, the commission should be of particular interest for municipal governments across the province, particularly in the Northwest which would surely wish to submit a presentation on the impact of merging or the plans for  redistribution of existing ridings.

The government plans to announce the make up of the membership of the commission by October 24th,  it will provide for an initial report one year following its creation, with a six month consultation period with the public anticipated.

The NDP government hasn't outlined what it believes the consultation process may look like, but a good template probably will be to review the consultation process related to the last review of how we vote and the referendum on electoral system reform.

More notes on the government's ambitions towards Electoral representation reform can be reviewed here.

Further items of interest on the provincial government and Legislature can be reviewed from our archive page.