Friday, December 16, 2022

Monday's Council Session deliberations suggest need for better information relay to city residents

Prince Rupert City Council hosted a short Monday afternoon
session to approve zoning and a contract award for the
new RCMP detachment 

The Special Council Session of Monday that delivered finally zoning and a contract approval towards the new RCMP detachment has in a way highlighted a need for City Council members to revisit how they are approaching their work on behalf of the residents of Prince Rupert.

As we outlined on Tuesday, the Special Session was called for 3 PM on Monday, the regulations seemingly not requiring that an Agenda be posted, or any reports to be considered to be provided prior to the meeting for residents to review.

The site of the new
RCMP detachment at
McBride and First Ave E
The apparent urgency for the meeting was something that caught the eye of one of the five council members and Mayor Pond who were in attendance (only Councillor Skelton-Morven was not on hand for the meeting), 

In the early stages of Monday's afternoon council session, Councillor Nick Adey questioned why the work of the afternoon had to be dealt with by way of a Special meeting and what time pressures created the call to the Monday Afternoon session. 

So perhaps he may have had some concerns over the optics of how the topic was being presented and moved forward outside of the normal Regular Council process.

Even with a look at the Report prior to the meeting, one councillor still wasn't quite sure about one element of the presentation, something that is called the Progressive Design Build model.

With Councillor Barry Cunningham noting of the process underway as follows:

"So, the progressive design build model, which I really don't understand, but you say it's a thing of the future and present and it gives you more stability in pricing.  

But you're also saying that  the design isn't totally complete. 

So could it possibly go higher than the total?

We're not sure if he had a better understanding of the progressive design build model concept by the time that Council voted to approve the contract award on the day as part of their six minute meeting.

But if a Councillor, with access to all of the staff personnel and resources available at City Hall still isn't sure of what the City has planned, Councillors should think of the folks at home that probably have no idea as to what it's all about towards the project which has a cost somewhere between 25 to 26.1 million dollars.

The comments to our Tuesday story, while not a complete overview of community thought, do serve as a bit of a focus group as to how some in the community may feel towards the level of communication between City Council, City staff and the residents paying the taxes towards the many projects underway.

Whether it's the contract provisions of the RCMP build, or the range of other projects past, present or in the future, Council needs to provide a better relay of information to the public to better understand how and why they are spending money.

The same is valid for how the City runs its growing list of enterprises. 

From the relationship between the City and its longest running attachment to CityWest, or other areas such as the Prince Rupert Airport, Watson Island,  Legacy Inc., recently proposed Land partnerships, or the recent rumination towards a Private-Public concept for the city's water supply. 

There appears to be a thirst for much more in the way of delivering the information that residents should know. 

The City of Prince Rupert has far more financial commitments and active involvement in the creation of enterprises than most other communities. Areas of civic investment that other communities don't seem to have the same level of interest towards.  

Explaining how much oversight Council has towards any of their endeavours and providing for more frequent updates on all of them is an area where City Council may want to make a resolution or two towards on New Years Eve.

Something that could carry this new collective forward through their first full year of service to community in 2023.

For the roughly thirty two percent of the population that voted on October 15th, the job description for the Council members should include serving as the advocates for the residents of the city.  

That doesn't always seem to be the focus at City Hall, with Council in the recent  past more or less serving as the promotion team for what has morphed into Prince Rupert Inc.

Taking the pulse of some of the concerns from the public of late, more of the discussion on how they are approaching their plans needs to be done in public session and through public forums. 

Inviting those in charge of the enterprises, such as CityWest, YPR, Legacy Inc, or any range of civic department heads and asking the questions that the public seem to have about their areas of expertise could serve to give residents a sense of participation in the city's discussions, rather than just as observers after the fact.

More notes on City Council themes is available from our Council Discussion archive page.


  1. It is fairly simple. Don't vote it to pass it until you understand what you are voting for. Councilors you do not work for the administration you were voted in by the taxpayers.

    If you don't think you have the required information refer it back for more information. How is the taxpayer supposed to trust you as councilors if you keep voting this way, the administration will keep doing this!

    1. This was a great way of wording this out

  2. "The City of Prince Rupert has far more financial commitments and active involvement in the creation of enterprises than most other communities."

    Actually, all other communities.

    As of 2021,
    Prince Rupert has $46,459,763 on the books identified as Government Business Enterprise Equity (Citywest, Legacy, etc).

    2021 Income reported from municipal Government Business Enterprise was $3,989,000.

    Taxpayer ROI is 8.6% in 2021. In the business world, that is a pretty mediocre use of assets.

    If the city was truly entrepreneurial, they would at least establish a minimum acceptable rates of return (MARR) for each of their enterprises to ensure they maximize taxpayer value.

    Source -

    1. Actually, if you go to the 2021 audited financial statement you'll see that the $46,459,763 and an increase in equity of $3,989,000 only refers to Citywest.

      The statements show a $1,400,000 dividend from Legacy Corporation, apparently derived from Watson Island, which is valued at $9,960,106. That would seem to be a 14% return, but the notes indicate that the market value of Watson is believed to be higher than the stated value of the property, so the return is really lower.

    2. Whether its 8.6% or 14% .... that's pretty darn amazing in today's economy!

    3. That does not factor in inflation

  3. Prince Rupert has an island, a phone company and a $600 million infrastructure deficit.
    Prince Rupert does not have any financial reserves or capital funds to fall back on.
    Council has to question everything and everyone. The next four years cannot be business as usual.

    1. Anyone who is pushing to sell Citywest now is being willfully ignorant (or is a port employee).

      Wait until its monopoly over the entire rural remote BC coast is secure courtesy of the BC government.

    2. Also anyone pushing to sell Watson Island is just plain foolish at this point.

      the only other option that the Jack Mussallem-led crew tried was selling it for less than the taxes owed. Good luck with making that a favourable option.

    3. This non port employee, isn't the willfully ignorant one. We've allowed city hall to chase after shiny objects instead of focusing on the basics.

      58% of our roads are +25 years old
      25% of our main water line is approaching 100 years old
      85km of Water Distribution & Supply Pipe Line must be replaced.

      City fire hydrants are 55 years old
      Our three wooden bridges are 70 years old
      RCMP building was budgeted at 12$ million in 2015

      Watson is 13% leased and won a brownie.
      Prince Rupert Fibre to Home project has no project end date, but the NCRD introduced a Regional Broadband Contribution Service tax.

      Who's foolish at this point?

  4. They don't need to provide an agenda, but under the city procedure bylaw and Community Charter they must "describe in general terms the purpose of the meeting". It is difficult to understand why the notice would not simply add something like 'consider zoning bylaw approval and RCMP facility design build contract'. Why they would not provide such innocuous but helpful information is mystifying.

  5. Barry’s question “ So it could possibly go higher than the total ?”
    is the same question the taxpayers would like an answer too.
    If the company does the design then gives a target price with no competition where is the check for city outlays?
    Does the contractor give a firm completion day? So many questions so few answers.

    1. My read of the report to the council is that the City's cost consultants review phased completion of the design and build, with sign-offs before there are payments to the contractor. That would be the usual way of doing things. Completion dates are inevitably targets, especially these days where there can be supply chain issues. Again, it's the City's cost consultants who would assess the reasonableness of any delays, and whether they have financial consequences for the contractor. As for costs "higher than the total" the 7.5% contingency allowance is intended to cover additional costs resulting from unanticipated events. A problem with contingency allowances is that there can be a tendency for executive decision-makers to think that it is some kind of miscellaneous fund from which relatively small 'nice to haves' can be paid for. The cost consultants should be ensuring that the contingency allowance is only used for its intended purpose. Under best case circumstances the entire contingency fund should be unused at the end of the project and returned as a surplus.

    2. The city has not been doing well over seeing these projects. There were big cost overruns on the dam project has the contractor demobilized from site, or are we still waiting on completion of old dam. The new land fill cell suffered from cost overruns and delays.
      It is fine and well to speak of the the way things are supposed to work. It doesn’t seem to be working all that well in Prince Rupert. When the information is dropped on council with very little time to review then vote on it I am not that reassured by the process. I tend to look back to help me forecast the future.

    3. wasn't the cost/time overrun on the dam because of a bunch of crazy weather events? or am I missing something more?

    4. If I remember correctly we added a component, The ability to generate power and make income in the future. The city borrowed 10 mil for this. It won’t happen in my lifetime. Not a good investment for the taxpayers.

  6. It’s every resident’s responsibility to make the government do a better job. We can’t stand around pointing fingers and blaming, we need to stand up and call on our leaders to do better.

    Specifically, big policy decisions need at least notice so we can chime in.

    The city needs to communicate its plans directly to residents. A regular news update sent in advance of meetings would be nice, this could be emailed to people once a month.

    And we need a month or two between big proposals and when the decision will be made.

    City staff seem to be holding all the cards. This makes it hard for reps to hear from citizens. We need to put reps in charge, not staff.