Tuesday, February 28, 2023

BC Budget 2023: From Surplus to Deficit in just under 34 minutes

British Columbians received the financial blue print for the years ahead as Finance Minstar Katrine Conroy delivered her first Provincial Budget and the first for the fellow who promoted her last fall Premier David Eby.

Minister Conroy rose in the Chamber to make her first comments, delivering her path towards the future, the presentation taking just 34 minutes to chart for those in the Chamber and watching at home.

The Finance Minister introduced her financial plan as follows:

"Today I'm honoured to present Budget 2023. 

A budget that builds today for a stronger tomorrow. 

That eases the pressures that we feel in our daily lives and that reflects the priorities of British Columbians.

This years budget will improve health care, build more homes, help with rising costs and make our communities safer.

Budget 2023 will continue our work to build a stronger, cleaner economy for everyone, right across our province.

Mr. Speaker, these uncertain times require  careful thoughtful action. 

Action that addresses the uncertainty ahead, while moving us forward on long standing priorities. 

Like reconciliation, climate change and tackling global inflation.

Action is what British Columbians want from their government and its what Budget 2023 delivers with real results focused on the priorities of British Columbians" -- Finance Minister Katrine Conroy's introduction to Budget 2023

Towards those goals, the BC government will continue to spend money, moving the province from surplus to deficit, all while the global financial picture becomes stormy with challenges anticipated in the year ahead.

The shift form surplus to deficit will see the province hosting a 4.3 million dollar deficit for 20230-24, 3 billion for 2024-25

Among some of the highlights for that spending for 2023 and beyond include:

Expansive funding for Health care, which received the larges volume of monetary note from the budget speech.

Almost $6.4 billion in new investments over three years will strengthen public health care and help people find and stay connected to the care they need. This includes funding to significantly improve cancer care, build up B.C.’s health-care workforce with new training seats, and create better supports for health-care workers and family doctors. This also includes $1 billion in new funding to expand mental-health and addictions services.

Housing and homelessness also is set to see additional funding from the Budget:

Budget 2023 takes more action to get people into homes they can afford, providing an additional $4.2 billion in operating and capital funding over three years – the largest three-year housing investment in B.C. history – for more homes for people who rent, Indigenous people and middle-income families, along with new actions to tackle homelessness.

The much discussed Renter's Rebate is also now ready to be introduced

Moderate- and low-income renters in B.C. will be eligible for as much as $400 a year through a new income-tested renter’s tax credit starting in 2024. The credit will help more than 80% of renter households.

The province has put aside 1.3 billion in new funding for a range of initiatives over the next three years:

This includes giving free prescription contraception for B.C. residents, expanding existing K-12 school food programs, and providing more financial supports for post-secondary students, people receiving income and disability assistance, and foster families and other caregivers.

Public safety is another area to seem some attention from the Province, with near 500 million to be used in a range of programs and policy initiatives.

B.C. is also helping to ensure safe communities by boosting funding by $462 million over the fiscal plan for policing, enforcement, intervention services and access to justice throughout the province.

Ms. Conroy noted of the global economic challenges with just 0.4 per cent growth in the economy this year and 1.5 percent for 2024.

Towards the impact of inflation the BC Government has some significant money to spend on supports for those who need it most.

As global inflation and higher prices stretch people’s budgets, Budget 2023 helps reduce people’s costs and offers extra support to those who need it most. Following almost $2.4 billion worth of temporary cost-of-living supports since summer 2022, the Province will invest another $4.5 billion over the next three years in new spending measures and tax credits to help people with the effects of rising costs and establish stable, sustainable support. 

Approximately 75% of families with children are eligible for the BC Family Benefit. Starting in July 2023, these families will see a 10% increase in their monthly payments. Single parents will receive as much as an additional $500 per year on top of the 10% increase, also to be delivered in July.

There were also initiatives announced towards care of the provinces natural resources, transportation, Post secondary education and skills training, assistance for small and medium businesses towards market challenges.

She also noted of the province's assistance for communities particularly in the area of infrastructure, reviewing the previously announced Growing Communities Funding that will see 1 billion dollars available for the provinces municipal and regional district governments to share in.

Capital spending will also a significant jump, from 12.17 billion dollars from 2022-2023, to 15.8 billion for 2023/2024.

There will be some tax increases coming our way, among them the Carbon Tax in BC will rise by 65 dollars per tonne on April 1st and could rise to 170 per tonne by 2030.

The full information sheet from the Finance Office can be reviewed here.

You can also dig a bit deeper into the financial plan from this feature page from the Ministry of Finance website.

The Finance Minister's presentation can be reviewed below:

Check back later this evening as we compile the findings of the province's journalists, columnists and opinion makers as they review and explain the government's financial planning for the years ahead.

Those notes will be presented below:

BC Budget: Renters' rebate, welfare boost, expanded tax credits among affordability measures
BC Budget: $462 million earmaked for public safety, including 250 new RCMP officers
BC Budget: Province becomes first in Canada to offer free prescription contraception  
BC Budget: $4.2B deficit forecast amid new program spending, economic headwinds 
BC Budget: Student loan maximums doubled, repayment terms eased 
BC's budget rings up $4.2 billion deficit, carbon tax to fund new housing and health care spending
BC's budget forecasts revenue from forestry sector to tumble amid industry slump
BC budget forecasts years of deficits, but spends bi on health, housing, families
$4.2 billion deficit forecast as BC budget keeps spending to tackle affordability crisis
BC Budget 2023 bets focus on tax credits and rebates will work amid continued housing uncertainty 
Maximum BC climate tax benefit set to more than double: budget 
BC budget to pay for free contraception 
BC NDP mostly delivers on renters' rebate promised in 2017 - as a tax credit
BC budget predicts years of deficits as spending on health and housing hiked
BC Budget 2023: What the $4.2 billion deficit funds - and what it doesn't  
BC Budget: Some financial relief for families, but not all will benefit
NDP leaves plenty of wiggle room in budget 2023-24
Budget includes $4.6B in new funding for health care and training in BC
BC budget promises help for renters, free contraception and increased health spending 
BC Budget focuses on increasing treatment options in Toxic Drug Crisis 
Budget includes spending on housing, health and to cushion rising cost of living
Spending much more than we have 
Health budget includes free contraception, $1 billion boost for mental health and addictions
'Beacon of Hope;" BC advocates cheer free contraception promise in 2023 budget
Deficits and government spending highlight the 2023 British Columbia budget 
Provincial budget earmarks $868 million for mental health and addictions services 
BC needed an ambitious budget with big ideas. Instead, we got an update

More notes from the Legislature can be reviewed here.

North Coast Fishery items themes for MLA Rice Legislature presentation and focus for UFAWU petition to House of Commons

The North Coast Fishing is gaining some additional attention this month, from a presentation from MLA Jennifer Rice in the British Columbia Legislature to a call for signatures to a petition from the UFAWU-Unifor.

The importance of the fishery to the North Coast was the theme for MLA Rice on Monday morning, with her focus that of the challenges facing the commercial fishing industry and the impact on local communities and First Nations. 

Commercial fishing is one of the founding industries of this province, and its significance can be found painted on the ceilings of the B.C. Legislature along with representations of the mining, forestry and agricultural industries. 

The fishing sector is a cornerstone in the economic and social fabric of B.C.'s coast, and fishing and fish processing is deeply rooted in our history and our culture. 

But fishing communities are struggling, and fishermen nowadays are unfairly portrayed as the perpetrators of all negative impacts to fish. 

In fact, many influences, including fisheries mismanagement, poor policies, warming oceans and habitat destruction all impact global fisheries. 

First Nations make up the vast majority of commercial fishermen on the north and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii, and they rely on good stewardship for food, social and ceremonial purposes as well as income.

Every year fewer rural fisherman can go commercial fishing. 

Older fishermen who want to retire from fishing find that they can't sell their licences at a reasonable price. Younger fishermen can't afford to buy in to the more lucrative fisheries, primarily owned by multinational corporations. 

The cost to buy a license or quota is in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars

Ms. Rice's presentation also noted of the need for more local control over fishery resources for the communities that harvest them.

Northern and rural shore workers are also seeing processing move to the Lower Mainland or to Asia. However, globally, fishing is increasingly providing more value to communities, even though we may be catching less fish. 

Independent fish harvesters need protections to rebuild the backbone of the rural middle class along our coast. 

We can promote policies that support local fishermen to benefit from B.C. resources and shore working employment in coastal communities with adjacency policies like those found in the forestry sector. 

Rural community benefits can be achieved through offering fishermen, or communities control over access to fish. 

While there may be limited awareness of commercial fishing among the general public, it remains a mainstay of rural coastal economies, many of which are First Nations communities who have lived and fished the coast for millennia.

For UFAWU-Unifor, which represents many of the workers in the industry on the North Coast, the concerns over the selling off of the industry to global interests is the theme of a petition they have recently launched.

The petition features seven areas where the petitioners believe the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard is not addressing the areas of concern from those in the industry.

Among some of the themes explores in the petition: 

An absence of restrictions on foreign ownership of fishing licences and quotas, how that foreign investment is in direct competition with DFO and First Nations pursuit of acquisitions of fishing licences and how Foreign ownership compromises domestic food security.

click to enlarge

More notes on the Fishing industry on the North Coast can be explored from our archive page.

A look at the work of the MLA's of the Northwest at the BC Legislature can be reviewed here.

From Cinderella to Thunderstruck and the days of early Rock N Roll ... the Lester Centre has something for everyone this March and Early April

The entertainment listings for the Lester Centre of the Arts continue to provide something for everyone and perhaps the best example is this months Playbill.   

A collection of shows which features a look at the presentation of Ballet Jargon's Cinderella on Wednesday to start the month, with the hard rocking AC/DC tribute band Rock or Bust arriving towards the end.

Or as the entertainment season might suggest ... In Like a Lamb out Like a Lion!

The Ballet Jorgen presentation takes place tomorrow night with a curtain time of 7:30 PM, he Lester Centre's information page for the event noting the focus for the presentation.

This ballet by Bengt Jorgen is an innovative take on the classic fairy tale. Jorgen's choreography balances the fairy tale elements of the story with a contemporary treatment of Cinderella and her family relationships. 

Returning to the original Russian tradition of having women perform the roles of the stepsisters, Jorgen builds a more realistic and human look at Cinderella and her circumstances, and then uses these scens to both counterpoint and highlight the magical aspects of the story.

The end of the month brings as the  Monty Python set might put it... comes something completely different.

The Friday, March 24th showcase of 'Rock or Bust'  a return engagement for Prince Rupert with a set list of the many anthems that made the Australians a global musical force, faithfully recreated to every note by a very loyal tribute band.

There's more in store for April, with the rescheduled Relive the Music a rock and roll revue set for an April 1st show date. 

The event one which will take the North Coast  audience on a musical journey back to the 50s and Sixties.

Follow the Lester Centre of the Arts social media stream for updates on events through the month ahead.

More notes on the Music and Arts scene in the region can be explored through our archive page.

Prince Rupert Port Authority and Prince Rupert Gateway stakeholders fly the flag at California Conference

It's convention season in North America and for the global shipping industry all transits led to Long Beach this week with a major conference on all things shipping underway.

The TPM 23 conference began on Sunday and will continue through until tomorrow, the event one that features an impressive array of guest speakers and those making keynote addresses through the four days.

The much anticipated event organized with the Journal of Commerce puts the focus on Trans Pacific trade.

The conference was founded in 2001 and ever since has been one of the go to events for those in the global shipping industry.

Over 2400 conference goers are in attendance at the Long Beach event, including representatives from just about every port in North America and beyond. 

The theme for this years event is that of "Picking Up the Pieces" that a nod to the many challenges that the global shipping community faced over the last three years with the international supply chain only now starting to find a pre pandemic normalcy.

The topics un for discussion range from logistics, to supply chains, labour issues, global events and the impact on shipping and much much more.

The full agenda can be reviewed here.

The Rupert Port Reception at the event seemingly was a popular destination with a view of the Long Beach Ports providing for the vista from their location.

The focus for the Prince Rupert delegation and its partners at CN Rail and DP World is to highlight the advantages offered through the Prince Rupert Gateway and its reach deep into the heart of the United States.

You can learn more about the conference here.

To keep up with the daily events through a pair of Twitter streams 



More notes on Port related themes is available here.

Air Traveller challenges today as snow once again reduces operations in Vancouver

For many air travellers today, the challenge for this Tuesday is going to be waiting to see if your flight makes its way to a Northwest airport. 

Or if the day's schedule is one of cancellation after cancellation.

So far the delays and cancellations are wining out, with Vancouver International Airport once again digging out from a winter storm and as a result the departure board from YVR is making for disappointment for many travellers.

As of 10:30 AM  today the listings have noted the following.

8:20 AM -- Air Canada 8437 to Terrace  -- Cancelled
8:20 AM -- WestJet WS3105 to Terrace --  -- Delayed to 10:30 AM
1:05 PM -- Air Canada 8459 to Smithers  -- Cancelled 
1:10 PM  -- Air Canada 8441 to Terrace -- Cancelled

So far for travellers out of Prince Rupert's Digby Island airport the news is positive, with the 1PM departure from Vancouver still noted as on time.

That's good news for air travellers who were travelling on the weekend and found flights cancelled and diverted during that period, a few of whom were making note of the situation through the YPR social media feed.

No explanations have been noted on the YPR stream as of yet, towards how the travel situation of the weekend evolved for Prince Rupert travellers.

As for the rest of the travel day in the Northwest today.

Terrace has two more flights scheduled for today a WestJet flight from Vancouver at 4:40 PM and an Air Canada flight scheduled for departure at 4:55PM from Vancouver.

Both are listed as on Time.

The YVR Departures and Arrivals listings can be accessed through main home page of the YVR website.

More notes on Air Travel through Terrace can be reviewed here.

Aviation themes for Prince Rupert's YPR can be reviewed through their social media stream and airport website.

More notes on aviation in the Northwest can be reviewed here

Community investment gains momentum for Trigon with Community report highlighting successful 2022 in funding programs

Trigon Terminal has outlined the scope of its increased
funding to community groups in a report this month
(image from Trgon 

A report released this month by the Shipping Terminal Trigon on Ridley Island highlights their growing commitment to community with 2022 having seen the company return 125,000 dollars to North Coast community groups and organizations through their Community Investment Fund.

That amount is nearly double the amount of 2021 which was a year of transition for the former Ridley Terminal's which was renamed Trigon in April of 2022, the name and new identity created to make note of the involvement of both the Metlakatla First Nation and Lax Kw'alaams Band as partners in the shipping facility.

In addition to the increased focus on local community of this year, the surge in financial assistance of the last year also comes following the more scaled back times of COVID.

The list of those organizations that benefited from funding from the Trigon Community Fund is a cross section of activities and services in the region.

More on their report to the community can be reviewed here.

If your group or organization is looking to tap into the Trigon funding they have a full overview of their program here. 

Included is this helpful list of Frequently Asked Questions that cover a range of topics. 

More notes of interest related to Trigon and its footprint in the Prince Rupert area can be reviewed here.

Midwives the themes for Monday morning presentation in Legislature for MLA Jennifer Rice

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice had all the audio Gods on her side on Monday, her first opportunity since Thursday to return to her remote feed to the BC Legislature and thankfully for the MLA, the audio gremlins that plagued her Thursday efforts were cleared up by yesterday.

The topic for her morning address to the Chamber was that of Midwives, a theme she has been putting forward for much of the month, that following an announcement on February 17th of new seats at a UBC program .

Monday the North Coast MLA who is also Parliamentary Secretary for Rural health expanded on the practice of Midwifery and the new opportunities that the UBC program will provide.

Here in B.C. and around the world, midwives help to facilitate positive birth experiences for parents. They do this by focusing on patient-centred and evidence-based care. Not only can midwives provide families with the opportunity to access primary maternity care from the comfort of their own homes, but they specialize in healthy and low-risk pregnancies, effectively reducing pressure put on hospital resources. These incredible caregivers work meticulously to ensure the health and well-being of newborns and mothers before, during and after delivery. 

This fundamental type of care has provided my family and many other parents across B.C. with access to this skilled maternal support care when it is needed most. In British Columbia, we are fortunate enough to have over 500 highly trained midwives accredited through the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives who provide trauma-informed, culturally safe, inclusive and effective services to families across the province. 

Midwives assist in just over 12,000 births a year, which is approximately 27 percent of births in the province. This is the highest proportion in Canada. 

You don't need a referral to see a midwife, and midwifery services are covered by the B.C. services plan. Midwives have been regulated and legally recognized as autonomous health care practitioners in B.C. since 1998. We need more midwives in B.C., especially for rural, remote and First Nations communities. 

That's why British Columbians will soon have improved access to primary maternity care, as our B.C. government adds 20 seats to the University of British Columbia's midwifery program. This brings the total annual intake to 48 seats, an increase of more than 70 percent. We're adding 12 seats to the bachelor of midwifery program, bringing the total annual intake to 32. Four of the seats were added in last September, and the additional eight seats are being added this coming September. We've also added eight seats to the internationally educated midwives bridging program, bringing the total annual intake to 16 seats. 

Ms. Rice also put some focus on the approach that the program is taking towards Indigenous communities and towards a rural support program.

 In recent years, the midwifery program has updated its curriculum to reflect the core cultural competencies identified by the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives. It has also appointed an Indigenous midwifery coordinator to support students and cultural learning experiences. 

The midwifery program has also committed to implementing actions contained in Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's 2020 report, In Plain Sight, addressing Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination in B.C. health care. 

The government is also committed to supporting Indigenous midwifery through various initiatives. The Midwives Association of B.C., in partnership with the Ministry of Health, is working on the rural support program and the rural midwives locum program and provides additional information about midwifery for Indigenous families and aspiring Indigenous midwives. 

Our government is working with partners, including the First Nations Health Authority, to explore ways to support Indigenous midwifery in such areas as reclamation of Indigenous birthing practices and Indigenous remote birthing. 

Our government provides funding to the Midwives Association of B.C. for an Indigenous midwifery stipend for the association's Indigenous midwives advisory council. The Indigenous midwifery stipend is intended to offset the increased time commitment of participating in additional cultural activities when providing maternity services to Indigenous clients. 

In January of 2022, UBC launched an advanced placement program for registered nurses interested in becoming midwives. This advanced placement study enables most RN applicants to reduce the 143-credit bachelor program by 27 credit hours, thereby reducing the cost required to complete this degree. Creating career development pathways for midwives is a key aspect of B.C.'s health human resources strategy, which was announced in September. 

This strategy puts patients first by ensuring that they get the health services they need and are cared for by a healthy workforce. It focuses on 70 key actions to recruit, train and retain health care workers while redesigning the health care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation. 

The new seats also support the province's primary care strategy by increasing access to primary maternity care and supporting family practices to care for low-risk births in community and closer to home.

BC Liberal MLA Coralee Oakes was the follow up speaker to the topic and she spoke to the theme of the midwifery program and hopes that it will deliver on the outcomes anticipated. 

The Opposition MLA  also noted of the past stresses on families and  highlighted some gaps in the provincial program in some communities in the province.

Despite some hints by government suggesting that maternity services could be added to the new hospital later on if needed, a freedom of information search by the opposition revealed the following from Fraser Health: "As pediatric and maternity services are out of scope for the new Surrey hospital and B.C. cancer centre project, there are no clinical services planning documents available that pertain specifically to this site." 

These challenges in accessing maternity care are not just isolated to the Lower Mainland. In Kamloops, the Thompson regional family obstetrics clinic, which delivers 60 percent of the babies born each month in the city, has announced a permanent closure after raising concerns for nearly a year. 

These impacts will be felt deeply by families in Kamloops, and those in rural communities as well, as demand for the clinic has increased as smaller regional operators have also lost doctors. Communities like 100 Mile, Lillooet, Barriere and Merritt relied on services of this clinic, so there is much uncertainty for them right now. 

I'll note that the news of the facility's closure comes less than a month after another clinic, Sage Hills community midwives in Kamloops, announced its closure.

That was area of opposition concern that was highlighted earlier this month by the Liberals.

You can review both MLA's presentations to the Legislature through the Video archive of the Monday morning session, the North Coast MLA begins her commentary at the 10:54 AM  mark.

The transcript of the comments can be found from Legislature Minutes at the same time mark as the video archive.

A look at the UBC program is available here.

More notes on the work of Northwest MLA's a the Legislature can be reviewed from our archive page.

More Avalanche Control ahead mid day today on Highway 16

Travellers along Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Terrace will be seeing some delays just east of Exchamsiks today, that as the Ministry of Transportation and Highways renews its work on Avalanche control.

The work takes place from east of Exchamsiks to the Level Crossing with a start time of 10 AM the work is anticipated to continue through to 2:30 PM. 

During that period travellers can expect delays of up to 40 minutes in duration. 

There will be traffic control personnel in place at the site of the work and motorists are asked to follow their direction through the control work site.

The next update from the Ministry is expected at 2:30 PM

You can follow the Drive BC website and twitter feed for further details on the work.

More notes on travel along the Highway 16 corridor can be found from our archive page.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Price Caps could be on the way for BC Ferries fares as BC Government puts more money into transportation service

The Northern Adventure at dock in Prince Rupert

500 million dollars in new funding for BC Ferries will pay off for passengers next year,  with the government looking to the ferry transportation provider to cap their fares in the years ahead. 

That as the government noted of a recent submission to the BC Ferries Commissioner that highlighted the prospect of significant fare increases over the next four years.

The Government plan of action came as part of a Sunday information session hosted by Premier David Eby.

“Every day, people use BC Ferries to get to work, and visit family and friends, as well as plan vacations. We know the cost of everything continues to go up due to global inflation, but by acting now, we can prevent double-digit fare increases from hitting people who depend on our ferries.”

The province noted yesterday in their information release that  through a recent submission to the BC Ferries commissioner and the impacts of global inflation over the past 18 months, it was clear BC Ferries users could face fare increases of 10.4% a year for the four-year period of 2024 to 2028. 

With this $500-million investment, the B.C. government’s goal is to keep annual average fare increases below 3% a year. Final fare increases will be determined by the BC Ferries commissioner. 

The increase in core costs like fuel, along with higher inflation are factors in driving up overall costs for BC Ferries. The $500 million will also support greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction through electrification of vessels and other initiatives to green the fleet and operations. Businesses will benefit from affordable ferry rates as many small businesses rely on BC Ferries for the movement of goods through freight transport.

As they noted the BC Ferry Commissioner is in the process of determining the preliminary annul fare increases for the next four years. That final amount will be announced in September of this year and take effect as of April 1, 2024.

Transportation  and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming noted the importance of BC Ferries when it comes to moving travellers and goods around the province.

“Our government recognizes the importance of reliable and affordable ferry service for travel and goods movement. It is vital that people living in B.C.’s coastal communities that depend on ferries — and all British Columbians — are well served and supported by this service.”

You learn more about Sunday's announcement here.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice shared some of the same themes as the Premier and Minister Fleming through her social media page on Sunday, noting of the ferry rate plans for her constituents.

More notes on marine related transportation on the North Coast, Haida Gwaii and Central Coast can be reviewed here.

City expands on guidance for residents during current snow experiences

Second Avenue West looking east over the noon hour today

As this Monday has moved forward, Rupertites have been getting a wide overview of what Mother Nature can offer when it comes to winter weather.

From snow overnight, to freezing rain during the on the way to work period, to more snow again over the Noon hour, shovelling and slogging have been the two main activities for residents over the last 96 hours.

As we noted earlier this morning, the City's Operations Department has made use of a range of options to take on the daily volume of snow since Friday and even as the latest burst of flakes arrived on the noon hour, city crews and contractors were busy on city streets, as were Ministry of Transportation ploughs on the main Highway through the city.

Snapshots of the city from the afternoon 

Towards some additional guidance from the City of Prince Rupert, the City through its social media page provided some notes for the public as we work our way through the late February reminder that we are part of Canada and from time to time we get the weather to prove it.

Among the advice a reminder not to toss your snow into the roadway, ensure that your property in the way of boats, RV's and such are stored on your property and not on city streets. As well as to keep some proper distance between yourself and those snow removal vehicles on the road.

Past  notes related to road conditions both in Prince Rupert and along Highway 16 can be reviewed from our archive.

Belmont Debris field making for energetic discussion on social media

The topic of the ongoing state of rubble of the once Belmont Hotel is making for an energized discussion on Social media these last few days.

With the topic finding a range of opinions, some in sympathy to the City of Prince Rupert, others questioning why the debris has been a downtown eyesore for close to a year now.

The once legendary Prince Rupert nightspot, Beer and Wine Store and Rose's were all fully involved when firefighters arrive on the scene on May 1st of 2022.

The night one that saw a large volume of residents make their way downtown to watch at the Prince Rupert Fire Department worked another of the major fires that they have faces in recent years in the downtown core.

The Belmont Fire so significant from 2022 that it made for a key element of a recent Prince Rupert Fire Department report on Fire Damage in the community.

The tone of the current conversation on social media offers up themes of the need for extensive fines, to concerns that wonder why the debris has not yet be moved to the landfill site. 

Others note of the Belmont rubble as a larger symbol of what they see as a growing issue of decay in the downtown area of the city and lack of civic pride at City Hall.

The discussion on social media can be explored further here.

The issue of debris from past fires has often been a theme for City Councillors to take on in public. 

Previously the councillors were anxious to see each situation rectified as soon as possible. 

However the Belmont location has not gained near as much comment, or input from the current council since the current collective took office in the fall of 2022,  the Belmont seemingly somewhat off the radar compared to those incidents of the past.

The issue is also not one of much discussion on the individual social media pages hosts by those Council members who take part in those options.

You can find those social media pages from the bottom section of our Council  Archive.

When it comes to taking the issue to City Council as is suggested in the current social media commentary, residents do have a few options available.  

If the topic should appear on a City Council Agenda in the next few months, they can appear at that specific Council Session and ask to speak to the topic as part of Council's newly introduced public participation option.

They could also bring the topic up for review as part of the Committee of the Whole meetings that  were once normally scheduled to take place at the end of each month.

Though as that process turns out, the decision to host such a session is at the discretion of the Mayor of Senior staff depending on if they have heard any interest from the public prior to the session. 

Which explains why Committee of the Whole option for public comment in February did not take place this month.

Last week we asked Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller towards why the February session was skipped, her reply provided background towards the rules Council follows related to the Committee of the Whole Process.

"With the amendment to the Council Procedure Bylaw the COTW is a part of the Regular agenda, after the approval of the agenda. 

However, if there is no business for the COTW and if no delegation has requested to present, under section 27 (13) myself, as Corporate Administrator, or the Mayor, may waive the meeting. 

Towards the February Committee of the Whole Session, the reason for its elimination for this month was as follows

"As there is not delegation that has requested to present, we will not be adjourning to COTW and will simply proceed through the rest of the agenda."

So that would suggest in the future, that if residents do have concerns related to items not specific to a Council Agenda for the night, then they are required to request an opportunity to speak at the Committee of the Whole Session, otherwise one won't take place.

The advice moving forward for residents we imagine is that they book their topic of concern well enough ahead to ensure that your comments will be heard in a public forum.

Of course residents could also forward their thoughts on issues of concern by email to the Mayor and City Council.

You can find their email addresses here should you wish to take up any notes of interest with them for action, hopefully in a public forum session.

More notes related to City Council Discussion themes can be reviewed here.

Prince Rupert's Skaters fundraising to put coach in the spotlight at March 11th Gala

Closing in on goal 
Number One!!!
The skaters at the Prince Rupert Skating Club have been taking to their fundraising with a zest these last few weeks, that  as they hope to raise enough money to find success with their challenge to coach Tamara Hummel Ward.

You probably have seen them at their table at Canada Safeway in recent weeks, taking donations towards the Clubs plans to purchase new equipment for the CanSkate program, with an Easter Basket the prize up for grabs from those who donate.

Part of their fundraising also has a challenge for the coach that if they raise 3,000 dollars she will perform a solo at the March 11th Ice Gala at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.

The last update from mid month had them closing in on their goal with over 2,3000 dollars raised as of February 19th.

If you would like to donate to see Ms. Hummel Ward do a solo in this year’s Ice Show, find a skater with a pledge form or e-transfer prsctreasurer@hotmail.com 

 Also follow their Social Media feed for the next location for their fundraising efforts.

Should they shoot past the 3,000 dollar mark, the skaters may double down on their fundraising ... as they get to choose the music for Ms. Wards solo should they reach the 5,000 dollar mark.

Though they may have to skip their parents and go all the way to their grandparents for advice on the Best music of the 60s to skate to for a solo

The Ice Gala takes place March 11th and the theme is Welcome to Sixties. Advance tickets are available at the Civic Centre Rink  on Monday's and Wednesday's from 3:30 PM to 5:15 PM

You can also purchase tickets at the door on the night of the Gala.

More notes on Skating in the Northwest can be reviewed from our archive page.

Prince Rupert Fire Department welcomes one more member to the Fire Service

Another of the Prince Rupert Fire/Rescue department's recruits has made his way through the probationary  training program, with the PRFD making for the official welcome aboard to Sikandar Ahmad last week through their Social Media stream

Firefighter Ahmad is one of a number of new faces around the Fire Hal in recent months, that as the PRFD continues to fill in the staffing openings that have come as older members take their retirement.

As we noted last week, in a report for City Council at the February 22nd Council session, the new arrivals have been receiving training as they move through the application to probationary period.

The list of Welcome aboard notices is set to continue, the PRFD just concluded its most recent call for applicants earlier this month.

More notes on the work of Emergency responders across the Northwest can be explored here.