Sunday, April 30, 2023

Blog Watching: Week ending April 30, 2023

Plans for a new ILWU hall in Prince Rupert dominated our weeks worth of items, with our notes on what's ahead making for our most read story of the week.

Some Civic themes also made for much review over the last seven days, starting with our review of the final stages of the 2023 Budget Discussion that delivered a 12.5% tax hike for residents for this year.

Other notes from City Hall to capture the attention of our readers included, the path forward for the city's waterline and wastewater replacement programs, as well as some discussion through the online submission process of the Budget Consult that asked questions of the current professional paid Fire Service in the community.

One other item of note from the week was the announcement of plans for a partnership between SD52 and Northern health on dedicated daycare placements for Northern Health staff members.

From the weeks review the most read of our items however was focused on what is planned for a new ILWU Hall in downtown Prince Rupert.
More details unveiled towards new ILWU Hall in downtown Prince Rupert  -- Speculation began almost as soon as the walls of the firmer ILWU Hall came down and this week, the Union and a number of other industry stakeholders gathered at the site at First West and Eighth Street. The topic of what comes next for the property the main attraction as plans for the new Hall were announced/   (posted April 24 , 2023

That article was followed by: 

Tax Hike prophecy of the fall, became Tax Hike Reality on Monday as Council approves 12.5% rate increase -- The City's Budget process came to a conclusion this week, with a final public commentary segment and two go rounds for Council members before adopting the Financial plan and 12.5% tax hike for residents.  You can review our full archive of Budget themes here.  (posted  April 26 , 2023

City staff to outline path forward for waterline plans in Prince Rupert, with work to be led by Coast Tsimshian Northern Contractors Alliance -- The start of the city's waterline replacement program is about to start, with our preview of Monday's report for council gaining a strong volume of readers.  Out look at the presentation from Operations Director Richard Pucci also received some strong interest. (posted  April 26 , 2023

SD52 and Northern Health partner up to create new child care spaces in Prince Rupert  -- A collaboration between the Prince Rupert School District and Northern Health will receive a number of newly created daycare spaces for health care professionals in the community.    (posted April 25, 2023

City Council heard feedback on Fire Service status as part of Budget's online focus  -- While it made for a fair bit of some of the Budget simulation feedback delivered to City Council members from the Rupert Talks online forum, the prospect of any change towards Fire Protection in Prince Rupert does not appear to have made for any consideration during the 2023 Budget Process. (posted April 27, 2023

You can find our weekly Blog watching feature posted every Sunday morning by 9AM, making for a handy way to catch up to the week that was, at a leisurely weekend pace. 
You can also review the full listings of the week just past, from our Blog Archive index page found on the right hand side of the page. 

For updates on new items posted daily to the blog, we direct you to our CharlesMHays Twitter feed, where we post notification of new stories as we post them. 

Our archive of weekly Blog Watching can be found here.

 To view the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

MLA's Week: April 24-27, 2023

It was a week of mixed participation for the Members of the Legislature from the Northwest, with themes of Community Safety, Tourism and Community Service among some of their topics for review over the course of the four days of Sessions.

From the Province came a few items of note for the Northwest as well.

The threat of avalanches in the Northwest caught the attention of the provincial government which joined Avalanche Canada to issue an alert until May 1st

The Province also delivered more funding for Arts and Culture this week for a number of organizations  on the North Coast, Central Coast and Haida Gwaii

The BC Environmental Assessment Office also announced the start of the comment period towards the KSI Lisims LNG project, with a pair of open houses ahead for the Northwest.

The Province also announced additional funding for Prince Rupert's Cloudberry Trail project

As for the Northwest MLA's the schedule was a mixed one, with North Coast MLA Rice gaining the most time in the Chamber for the week.

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


On the week, Ms Rice was mentioned three times for the week in the  Legislature from April 24-27.

Monday morning the North Coast MLA spoke on themes of tourism, highlighting a number of North Coast, Central Coast and Haida Gwaii destinations (see 11:18 of morning session)

The celebration of 60 years of Lions Club service to community was the theme of a Monday afternoon presentation to the chamber.

MLA Rice followed up on a BC Ferries announcement that reduces the burden on travel by ferry for those attention medical appointments, (speaking to the topic at 13:53 PM of Tuesday afternoon) in the Legislature.

Ms. Rice was active on her Social media stream, noting of some of the government initiatives of the week

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

The MLA Is also Deputy Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts 

Ms. Rice serves as the Government's Parliamentary Secretary for Rural health.

The North Coast MLA also addressed a range of themes and relayed  a number of government announcements through her Social Media Stream.


For our readers from the Terrace-Kitimat region, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross  was mentioned three times in the record for the week in the Legislature from April 24-27.

Some of MLA Ross's time in the Legislature was to make note of visitors to the Chamber on the week,  with introductions offered up on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

Towards the Skeena MLA's contribution to the debate of the Legislature this week included a Tuesday discussion on community saftety, crime and the handling of repeat offenders in the province.

Mr. Ross serves as the Liberal critic on LNG and Energy

The Skeena MLA has not been named to any of the Standing Committees for this session.

The Skeena MLA also addressed a range of themes  featured as part of the MLA's social media work.


For our readers from the Bulkley Valley area, Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen  was not mentioned  in the record for the week in the  Legislature from April 24-27.

Mr. Cullen did however participate in an extensive Wednesday afternoon Committee session towards his Ministry of Water, Lands and Resource Stewardship (see session here

Mr. Cullen serves as the Government's Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship.

The Stikine MLA also had comments on a range of themes through his Social Media stream this week


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

The MLA's return to the Chamber on Monday, May 1.

MLA's may also participate in a number of Committee sessions scheduled through the week.

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

Friday, April 28, 2023

Prince Rupert's Golf Season tees up on May 4th

Almost time to tee it up !

Prince Rupert and area golfers and those visitors doing the Northwest tour can pencil in May 4th as the launch for the 2023 Golf season on the North Coast.

The Golf Club announced the much anticipated launch date on Wednesday providing for the opening week schedule as well as some advice on booking your tee times.

click to enlarge

The official opening was delayed somewhat this year owing to some of the harsh weather of our winter and spring period.

The next few days of sunshine and warmer weather should serve to improve conditions even more than they are as the season approaches.

As we outlined last week, the first tournament for 2023 comes up on May 13th with the Prince Rupert Fire Fighters Charity Golf Scramble. 

You can keep up with notes from the Prince Rupert Golf Club from their Social media page.

More items of interest on Golf in the Northwest can be explored through are archive page.

City of Prince Rupert, Mayor Pond and Labour community marking National Day of Mourning today

Today is the National Day of Mourning for those killed or injured while on the job, with commemorations taking place across the province and the nation, including here in Prince Rupert.

The City of Prince Rupert made note of today's solemn occasion earlier today, sharing some background on the history of the now eight year annual commemoration.

Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond also had some commentary towards today's events, noting of the local National Day of Mourning Celebration to take place tonight at Pacific Mariners Memorial Park starting at 6PM

The Province has also observed of today's commemoration, with Premier David Eby and Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, releasing this statement of observance.

As we noted yesterday, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach made note of today's event and highlighted the ongoing work towards safety for workers, reminding the House of Commons of the Ingenika tragedy of two years ago.

More notes on Labour themes on the North Coast can be reviewed here.

Funding for Arts announced for Haida Gwaii and North Coast

Sports and Culture organizations in the Province are receiving some additional financial support from the BC Government with $34.5 million on the way to support resiliency and economic recovery for people working in the sector. 

The funding part of the province's ongoing efforts to support the areas of arts, sports and culture coming out of the pandemic.

 “The past three years have been incredibly challenging for people earning a living in the arts and culture sector. This funding is intended to help bolster resiliency of organizations in the industry and make a difference in addressing rising costs, so we can provide an arts and culture sector that benefits everyone, including our visitors.” -- Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.

As part of year-end funding from the Province, $30 million will be distributed to 337 arts organizations through the BC Arts Council. 

On the North Coast and Haida Gwaii the funding comes to $650,140 

The Prince Rupert funding goes towards two organizations 

Museum of Northern British Columbia - $22,735
Prince Rupert Community Arts Council -  $5,093

For Haida Gwaii the Distribution is as follows:

Old Massett Village Council - $250,000 
TLUU XAADA NAAY Society (TXN) - $250,000
Haida Gwaii Arts Council - $4,144
Haida Gwaii Museum at Kay Llnagaay - $113,673  

$4,495 was also awarded to the Bella Coola Valley Arts Council on the Central Coast.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice noted of the benefit the funding will bring towards more awareness of Arts and culture in the region.

“The North Coast is home to so many vibrant communities, and we all benefit from having galleries, museums, and outdoor spaces to show off our arts, culture, history and character. These grants will benefit people in living in Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii and the Bella Coola valley as well as help us show visitors what the North Coast is all about – and we have a lot to offer!”

More on today's provincial funding can be reviewed here

More notes on Arts on the North Coast can be reviewed from our archive page.

No Taj Mahal, nor a swamp: Council members push back on perceptions of two projects underway

Of the range of capital spending ahead, two items seemed to draw the most attention for some in the public when it came to conversation on the Budget this year, with the planned move to the McCarthy GM building and plans for a wastewater pilot project off of Omenica capturing the most attention.

Both projects have been making forward momentum for months and that progress was of note for one of the three residents who participated in the public comment opportunities at City Council this month.

Prince Rupert resident Terry Sawka put both projects in the spotlight when he spoke on April 11th and again on the 24th, the latter of the two appearances providing for some headline catching  opinion, if local headline makers had been paying attention to the budget conversations this month. 

With Sawka referencing the McCarthy Plans as a Taj Mahal and the wastewater initiative as a swamp.

He noted of the ongoing progress towards the city's interests in the McCarthy GM property and if it really was a necessary move.

"It's my understanding that the City is currently paying 25,000 dollars a month to lease that property ... there's a further two million dollar cost to the taxpayers of Prince Rupert to renovate a fairly new building ... Two million dollars is a lot of money to create another Taj Mahal in Prince Rupert and I just wonder whether at this time and date something like that is a necessity In Prince Rupert. 

He also had concerns over the city's pilot project for wastewater facility off of Omenica.

"The last item I have is the proposed creation of a swamp. 

A pilot project in the middle of our Island and I'm sure twenty five, thirty,  forty years down the road somebody is going to stand up and say why did we do that?

It's not a proven factor, it's going to channel all the water and whatever else down to that area there, there's been no environmental studies done, no approval by the  Government, Provincial or Federal but we're already included in the budget a fair amount of money to go ahead with the project"

The commentary seemed to ensure that City Council members would come to the defence for both, with the conversation form the council side that of strong support for both initiatives.

On the McCarthy project the comments included:

Councillor Nick Adey

"The subject of the McCarthy Public Works project is ... Terry you're not the only one that has asked the question I'll just put it that way. 

But I do remember with the previous council when the idea was brought to us and although the discussion was fulsome, I think the central point was the question job of whether this was the most cost effective and time effective way to do what ... there was a consensus needed to be done. 

And that was to get the workforce out of unacceptably decrepit facility that they are in now. 

And the answer at the time that came back was Yeah this is not only gonna get us to the goal fastest it's also going to be the most cost effective way to do it. 

So I guess I'm articulating the question again to see if the answer remains the same"

That observation on which was confirmed by Operations Director Richard Pucci.

Also speaking to the McCarthy Project was Councillor Wade Niesh

"The comments about McCarthy GM, you know the comment last week about, we can put up a steel building and make it work. 

Well McCarthy GM is a steel building it's a building that you know is not really any frills, it's got some nice offices in the front that they did some work on a few years back.  

You know the New Longshore Hall I believe is somewhere in the neighbourhood  of nine million dollars to build, so the cost of building these days is a lot more than it was ten, or five years ago.

So, you know there's been comments ... well why didn't you leave that for a dealership, well that place sat empty for how many years and a dealership didn't come. 

So it's not like we are taking it from the private industry that built a car dealership, there was nobody knocking on the door saying lets build a car dealership.

So in my eyes, and in the eyes of the Council that approved it was an opportunity to get  a building that suited our needs to fulfill what we needed and not to spend the money on a new building and like I said Longshore hall would be a good example at nine million dollars "

Councillor Barry Cunningham also had some observations on the McCarthy plans.

"McCarthy, we'll be moving in there soon we'll have a nice facility and I think if we were to replace that facility up at Wantage Road we're looking at ten, twelve million dollars if we're lucky. 

You know not the original cost that was done years ago.

I just think that in the end we're getting a pretty good deal there yeah it's a little slow but every type of construction is slow right now, no one can find people to work,  you know everyone's just tapped out and I think our staff is pretty diligent watching the pennies and all that"

On the theme of the Omenica wastewater pilot it too generated commentary in support.

Councillor Adey observed of the past studies  and background research that went into the proposal and the work put in by staff towards the planning for the pilot project.

Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven observed of his time as part of the original proposal.

"I wanted to take some time to speak to a few of the items, one of which  I can think of was the Swamp, that was referenced.  For being part of the original team that kind of went to seek that opportunity out with Director Pucci and at the time Dr. Long.

Seeing those pieces and the savings potential for that kind of speaks for itself. 

Optimistically we'd be looking at 200 million in savings but a hundred plus kind of given the terrain and how much of that really can take up.  Instead of investing 300 million dollars into a sewage treatment plant that is not a sexy investment and stinks up the next five blocks.

Looking at these alternative measures and for context sake when we say wetlands, these are not developable properties. For us to drop thirty million dollars in gravel to bring it up to grade  just to have it sink anyways, doesn't make a whole  lot of sense.

To utilize what its already naturally doing and to emphasize that process and adding the granulated  media and some of the geo substrate that we can add to it to make it more efficient I think there's plenty of opportunity there"

Council offered Operations Director Pucci some time to review his previous notes on both projects, those can be found from the video archive. 

The Omenica project at the  one hour, twenty six minute mark

The McCarthy portion starts at the one hour thirty three  minute mark

In the end, the still unknown nature of the Omenica test pilot project does suggest  Mr. Sawka's words of caution may yet make for a discussion topic.  

But that won't be known, until the initiative is  proven or disproven and the results come in from the project upon its completion. 

Something that Council seems inclined to roll the dice on with perhaps a future Council left to provide for the answers if required .

You can compare Council's notes of Monday with their past observations for both projects available for review from our Major Projects Archive page.

More Notes on Monday's council session can be explored here.

City to facilitate two sessions on housing themes at end of May, one for landlords, one for tenants

The City of Prince Rupert has made note of some opportunities to learn more about rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants, set to be hosts a pair of meetings in May to share information.

The First is to focus on Landlords, with City Hall the venue for the information sharing project,  set for May 30th at 7PM

The short synopsis of the plans note the following:

Are you a new or existing landlord in Prince Rupert and want to understand more about your rights and responsibilities under both the Residential Tenancy Act and the City’s Rental Maintenance Standards Bylaw? 

Come to this free information session to be held in Council Chambers, City Hall (424 3rd Avenue West) on Tuesday, May 30th at 7 pm. City staff along with the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre Legal Advocate will be on hand to present information and answer questions. 

Light refreshments will be provided. We look forward to seeing you there!

One night later, Tenants will be the focus, with that session to take place at the Prince Rupert Library on Sixth Avenue West, it too will start at 7PM. 

The city observes that the format for the tenant session is much the same as the Landlord project.

Are you a renter in Prince Rupert and want to understand more about your rights under both the Residential Tenancy Act and the City’s Rental Maintenance Standards Bylaw? 

Come to this free information session at the Prince Rupert Library, Wednesday, May 31st at 7 pm the Prince Rupert Library. City staff along with the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre Legal Advocate will be on hand to present information and answer questions. 

Light refreshments will be provided. We look forward to seeing you there!

The twin sessions come as the community continues to navigate a very concerning rental situation with few in the way of affordable units available, and not a lot of construction taking place thus far to try to alleviate the housing crunch.

Follow the City of Prince Rupert Social Media stream for. updates as the two sessions get closer.

More background on those themes can be reviewed from our Housing archive page.

More notes on Civic initiatives can be reviewed here.

Avalanche situation in Northwest gains Provincial attention

The province of British Columbia has joined up with Avalanche Canada to issue an advisory on the Avalanche risk across the province through until the 1st of May with the Northwest among the areas of note identified on Thursday.

In an information release the province issued guidance for those that may be considering some back country travels over this weekend, noting of warming conditions and an unstable snowpack that could make for a bad combination.

The province giving some prominent space to the advice of Mike Conlan, a Senior Avalance Forecaster with Avalanche Canada.

The sudden transition from cool, wintry conditions in the alpine to warm temperatures will create dangerous avalanche conditions. The effect of the warm temperatures on the existing snowpack structure means that these avalanches will likely be very large and may run to valley bottoms. 

Dangerous avalanche conditions exist for all mountainous regions in western Canada and the hazard increases with each day of warm air

Regions with persistent or deep persistent slab avalanche problems will be especially problematic, with avalanches potentially involving the full depth of the snowpack. 

Warming can also initiate large and destructive cornice falls. Cornices can be destructive by themselves but also act as a trigger for destructive deep persistent avalanches,”

Bowen Ma, British Columbia's Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness provided her own concerns for the public to take heed of for the immediate period ahead.

“We cannot stress the importance of this avalanche warning enough. I urge everyone considering heading into the backcountry to take seriously the advice of Avalanche Canada. Sadly, fourteen people have lost their lives to avalanches in B.C. this year—many of whom were extremely experienced. 

Everyone needs to exercise extreme caution and make good decisions during this Special Public Avalanche Warning to keep themselves and our incredible search and rescue volunteers safe.”

The full provincial statement can be reviewed here.

Towards specific guidance for the Northwest. Avalanche Canada has the following information posted to their website.

A new update will be issued at 4PM this afternoon you can access it here.

The Norhwest recently saw a tragic result from an avalanche near Stewart that claimed one life and left a number of others injured.

More notes on weather themes is available through our archive page.

Transparency, Travel among Budget Discussion Talking points from Monday session

The final few minutes of Budget Discussion for 2023 on Monday evening offered up some thoughts from the Council members on themes of Transparency and Travel, the topics coming up in the final push prior to adoption of the Financial Plan and 12.5% tax increase that comes with it.

Councillor Adey offered up the first of the commentary, his early focus on the relay of budget information that was delivered by city staff this year.

As the engagement process launched, staff provided for a range of material for review and to give them credit they did offer up a large volume of material to review as part of the process. 

From the presentations of the Council sessions from CFO Corinne Bomben, to the work of the Communications Manager Veronika Stewart through the Rupert Talks initiative,  the ability to access much in the way of info on the Budget has improved over the years.

But as was noted by Councillor Adey on Monday, there is some room for improvement.

That observation came by way of discussion of the civic debt and the threshold that the city is approaching towards its borrowing limit and asking if there was a way to give the public some further background towards that situation.

"I understand that given the current revenue pressures and despite continuing efforts to address them, we are approaching our borrowing limit under the regulations. And I note that the new request to borrow 20 million towards twinning the sewage and I understand the logic behind doing so.

We're told that this does get us towards our borrowing limit ... what I'm wondering is, is there a public facing way to provide information regarding specific debit items and costs on a sort of a total,or annual or month payment basis. 

Where we are in terms of when particular items are going to be paid off so that  space is created, the source of the funding for payment ... and then the hardest part, and I appreciate that nobody has a crystal ball, is there anything that is anticipated towards future items -- Councillor Nick Adey

Ms. Bomben's reply pointed to a number of reports and other streams of information that can be found by searching the archives of the city website.

Perhaps mindful that most resident's are not quite that savvy towards researching the labyrinth of the city website, the Councillor then asked for a more user friendly option towards more easily accessible information as something to consider.

"What you've done is you've referred to two or three different places, I guess what I'm asking about is whether there's a way to kind of pull that together into a simpler format that is more easily understood by people like myself who don't always know everything I need to know about accounting. I think there may be a benefit in terms of transparency with the public in finding a way to do that." --  Councillor Nick Adey

The Councillors observations made for a valid point that staff should take action on, expecting residents to do a deep dive into six or seven documents scattered around the city's website isn't the best way to promote transparency, with as the Councillor suggested a need for a much simpler and easily accessible option something that should become a regular feature for all civic engagement issues.

One area that may be worth a look is through another topic that made for much discussion on Monday that of the travel budget and how much travel is necessary for civic officials both elected and on staff.

That theme seemed to come from one of the comments provided to the Budget consultation report provided on the night  that noted of the cost of travel since 2018.

"City staff training,  travel and business expenses are +$200 K annually since 2018. If you want to keep cutting ribbons, cut costs!"-- From comment submissions to the consultation process for 2023

The theme of travel did make for some interesting observations and again it was Councillor Adey who took the lead on the discusison.

"I understand that there's a balance to be struck between maintaining an effective workforce and economizing as much as you can in the interest of doing so ... I'm wondering if you can offer some comment on any ongoing or new efforts to economize the incidental costs of work. 

So I'm thinking of things like travel costs, are we looking at identifying those trips that need to happen because there's a clear benefit to travelling and meeting with people in person, versus those that could be done remotely.

And still on the travel, are we prepared to look at perhaps changing the size of the delegations we send two people instead of three. Those kinds of things, materials, transport costs and so on.  

So I'm interested if there's kind of an ongoing attention paid to that"

From the city staff point of view, Ms. Bomben noted that staff is always working to reduce other costs in travel and other areas, noting of the use of distance communication in many instances.

"The short answer is yes, we are always looking for efficiencies in bulk ordering that sort of thing for materials, transportation if you can get everything all in one transport rather than multiple we are always looking for those opportunities.

And I think that's because our staff has been trained for many, many years back to the days when the current Mayor was the Mayor previously and we had a large downsizing in the community. 

So we've been trained well  in advance of many others that have had to start looking at these things.

But I will address the travel costs, ever since the pandemic I actually  ... have had a lot of Zoom meetings probably meet more now with people that are from outside the community than ever have and I know all of the other staff have been doing that as well.

We try to only travel when absolutely necessary, many of our staff now attend conferences virtually instead of going in person.

But then there is also other opportunities where the need to go ahead to meet in person is well worth the cost,  for instance the 65 million dollar grant we got from the province, that was not because we went and dd virtual meetings.

Doctor Buchan and Director Pucci worked very hard on that and the relationships built through personal interaction was huge, and so the ROI on those particular travel costs was worth it there. 

We definitely pay attention to that, cost of travelling goes up just like everything else so we have to pay particular attention and be selective"

Councillor Adey also observed that his comments on travel were valid for council members as well and that the same questions apply towards being more efficient.

Other comments on travel came from Councillor Barry Cunningham, how noted of how travel is important for city officials and has delivered some results for the community.

"I want to reiterate that sometimes travel looks a little expensive but you know Director Bomben sort of covered it. Like we had the Mayor and two staff go down and meet with the Premier several times and of that we got 65 million dollars. 

So  you know when you look at the travel versus the result I don't think there's any argument there at all and I know there's going to be more travel on that. Hopefully with the Federal Government and hopefully we get the same results.

You know I don't wan't people thinking people are travelling just for the sake of travelling we're definitely getting some results from this travel and we're also are looking at lots of other options to cut costs right now"

When it comes to travel, residents for the most part have little knowledge of when civic officials are out of town, other than a social media shout out from the Mayor, or a City Council session that features a volume of the participants participating remotely. 

Some communities handle the issue of travel by noting when officials are out of town on their website, a form of online version of the IN/OUT of the office board of old. Others go even further with a frequently updated listing  of the travel expenses taken on as part of those trips out of town.

If transparency is a goal, Travel might be a good starting point, keeping residents up to date through the civic website.

They can put that concept to a test drive next month, when the North Central Local Government Association meets in the Dawson Creek, offering the public with a list for review of who are attending on behalf of the city, and at some point when all the receipts come in, how much was spent on the journey.

A few other areas where more easily accessible and broader explanations could come in useful would be in explaining such instruments as the Legacy Inc funding and that of the financial returns from Watson Island, both of which were often cited by Council members these last few months  as instrumental towards their financial planning this year.

The working of the Legacy Funding made for some interesting observations on Monday, as Councillor Gurvinder Randhaawa, as he has in a number of years past, asked for a bit of the Legacy money to try to reduce the 12.5% tax bite demand of city residents.

An answer from City Manager Dr, Robert Buchan noted that was not possible.

"We did visit that question with the Legacy Board and the answer is No. There has been an extraordinary amount provided this year which has saved, I'm not sure a 15, 16 % of a tax increase with the contribution this year. But what's remaining in Legacy now needs to be there for its other purposes at this point"

As one reader of the blog noted earlier as part of conversation of our Budget Review story this week, the Legacy Board is made up of senior staff members of the City.

That observation is prominent on the City's Legacy Info page, a rather sparse outpost on the city website.

Considering that the Legacy trio were were all participating in Monday's session,  a more expansive explanation as to just why it wasn't possible would have been informative.

As it is, the Legacy project as well as how the City is managing its Watson site continues to make use of rules that few in the community are aware of, or have much information towards.

Updates are few and far between and for the most part it's probably safe to say that most residents don't have a clue as to how the City uses either.

The same it seems could be said for the City's relationship with its own communication company CityWest, an area which much more information for the public should be provided.

When you start to open up the Transparency Chest at City Hall, there are clearly a few areas where much more is required and where the bare minimums of information relay of today have shortcomings.

More on Monday's  Council Session can be reviewed from our Archive page here.

A wider overview of the full Budget process is available here.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Community Safety, Repeat Offenders among themes of Legislature debate this week for MLA Ellis Ross

The BC United Opposition has been making this week Crime week of sorts at the BC Legislature, with many of the MLA's rising to take on the NDP government's handling of Justice and Public Safety issues.

Among those taking the lead for the BC United Party has been Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, who used his time in the Tuesday morning Question period to raise some concerns from the Northwest, in particular the Terrace region towards the issue of repeat offenders.

"Violent repeat offenders keep causing havoc and getting released back on the street, and no amount of NDP protocol spin is going to change that. 

It was over a year ago that I asked the Premier about his catch-and-release justice system and the chaos and crime and Terrace. 

He dismissed the issue as mere anecdotes. 

Those were his words. 

Then we had this government claim the system isn't broken. Well, now British Columbians are saying that the system is broken. 

My question is to the Premier: if a prolific offender in Terrace commits a violent crime while out on bail, why doesn't the government prioritize public safety by, at least, making an effort to keep them detained instead of releasing them half the time?" 

The question while addressed to Premier Eby, was handled by Attorney General Niki Sharma, who observed that BC has the strictest bail policy in all of Canada, noting that Federal reforms are required to further address the issue. 

 Mr. Ross offered up a reply  that noted of a past solution offered up by the opposition that had been rejected. The Skeena MLA then returned to the theme  of some of the havoc being found in communities across the province. 

"Prolific offenders in communities like Vancouver, Nanaimo and Terrace continue to be put back into community to attack people and businesses. 

The George Little House in Terrace has experienced multiple break-ins, with the most recent just occurring last month. During three of these break-ins, thieves brazenly stole artwork from local artists and badly damaged this beautiful heritage building. 

And this was all captured on video. 

Debbie Letawski from George Little House says: "These incidents have caused considerable financial hardship and loss as well as taking an emotional and physical toll on my health and well-being." 

This is what British Columbians are feeling. 

Boarded-up storefronts, violence and sleepless nights are not what the residents of B.C. deserve. My question is for the Premier. 

What will it take for the Premier to abandon his catch-and-release justice system and finally deliver the public safety that he promised? "

The Attorney General observed of some progress by the province to the issues, noting of the recent plan to create 12 hubs across the provinvce, including one in Terrace to ensure that the tools are in place towards repeat offenders. 

You can review the full back and forth between the MLA and the Minister from the Legislautre Video page starting at the 10:45 AM minute mark

More notes from the Legislature can be reviewed here.

Further items of interest on provincial political themes can be reviewed through our D'Arcy McGee blog and our Victoria Viewpoints feature.

Popular Nisga'a Recreation area to remain closed with opening unknown

As the 2023 Tourism season prepares to get underway across the Northwest, one popular area of the region will be off limits for the foreseeable future, that as the Nisga'a Lisims Government advise of the closure of the Hlgu Isgwit Hot Springs.

The Nisga'a Nation advised the public of the decision to remain closed for maintenance work through their website and social media Feeds on Wednesday.

You can follow the Nisga'a Nation social media stream here for updates as the season moves forward.

More notes on the Tourism sector of the Northwest can be explored here.

Items of note from the Nisga'a Nation can be reviewed here.

MP Taylor Bachrach continues push for stronger tugboat safety measures

Tomorrow is the Day of National Mourning,  an event marked Nationally across the country and dedicated to those who have lost their lives while at work.

Today during Question Period in the House of Commons, NDP Transport Critic and Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach once again, called on the Liberal Government to improve safety regulations for tugboats.

The MP speaking to the delay in implementation of recommendations from a Transportation Safety Board report from earlier this year following the 2021 deaths of Troy Pearson and Charlie Cragg on the tugboat Ingenika. 

That report, released on March 8th made four recommendations to protect mariner safety. 

Expand its surveillance program to include regular inspections of tugs of 15 gross tonnage or less to verify that these vessels are complying with regulatory requirements.

Require authorized representatives of tugs of 15 GT or less to assess the risks present in their operations, including the suitability of their tugs for the specific towing operations they are undertaking. 

The TSB also had recommendations for the Pacific Pilotage Authority: 

Verify that eligibility requirements are met before issuing pilotage waivers to companies operating tugs in compulsory pilotage areas. 

Implement a process to verify ongoing compliance with waiver conditions by companies operating tugs in compulsory pilotage areas. 

The full report can be reviewed here.

In his time in the House today, the MP reminded the Commons of the tragedy on the Gardner Canal two years ago and the lack of movement towards implementing safety recommendations that came out the Transportation Safety Board Investigation. 

 “Tomorrow is the National Day of Mourning — a day when we remember those who have been killed or injured on the job. Workers like Troy Pearson and Charlie Cragg who were killed when the tugboat Ingenika sank near Kitimat. 

It’s been a month and a half since the Transportation Safety Board issued four recommendations to prevent similar deaths. Every day, workers are boarding vessels just like the Ingenika. Their lives hang in the balance. 

Will the minister stand today and finally commit to implementing all four recommendations?”

The short reply from Transport Minister Omar Alghabra didn't provide for a timeline as to when the recommendations would be delivered by way of action as recommended.

Mr. Bachrach's Question and the reply from Transport Minister Omar Alghabra cane be viewed from the question Period video replay starting at the thirty minute mark.

More background on the 2021 sinking can be explored through our archive page.

Items of interest from the House of Commons can be reviewed here.

Comment period now open for Two Liquor Licence referrals in Prince Rupert

A pair of commercial enterprises in Prince Rupert are seeking liquor licence applications with the BC Liquor Branch, with the City of Prince Rupert noting of the opportunity for comment that comes with them.

One is a Liquor Licence amendment for the recently opened Arabisk Restaurant at Seal Cove, that for a patio location associated with the restaurant.

click to enlarge

The Second is for an application by Port City Spirits that related to their plans for their lounge located at 801 Fraser Street.

click to enlarge

It's been a busy time for Liquor Licence referrals at City Hall, a similar call for comments related to an Application by the Wheelhouse Brewing Company recently came to a close.  That  for their plans for the City owned CN Heritage Building that is currently being renovated towards the Brewing company move.

More notes on Civic themes can be explored through our archive page.

City Council hears feedback on Fire Service status as part of Budget's online focus

The status of the current make up of the City of Prince Rupert Fire Service made somewhat of a surprise topic as part of the final Budget considerations by City Council. 

The topic one that had not been mentioned in the four week engagement process period previous,  but one which gained some time of note in the final portion of the Budget overview prior to the adoption of the Financial plan and 12.5% tax rate increase.

The Conversation from Council provided a bit of insight from the members of the public who made use of the City's online Budget simulator. With their contribution towards the theme of Public Safety making for the focus of the council members narratives on the night.

The data that the Councillors used came out a Report from CFO Corrine Bomben and part of the Agenda for her presentation on Monday. 

(See bottom portion of her report available here)

With 41 per cent of the respondents who participated in the Budget simulation indicating that they would decrease the Fire Service budget. Other data indicated savings should be sought from the Police Service. and Victim Service categories.  

The Council members noted that the Police Budget is for the most part out of their control owing to the nature of the contract policing agreement they have with the Province.

click to enlarge

The data review that sparked the Council discussion is focused on the online Simulation, as well, Ms. Bomben's report features some of the commentary towards Budget themes, with public safety among the areas of note.

click to enlarge 

While they made note of the public input on Public Safety, the councillors who spoke to the topic of the Fire Department clearly had no appetite towards any suggestion of changing things from a professional service to one of a hybrid, or volunteer based operation.

Among those speaking to the Fire Department elements included: 

Councillor Wade Niesh

"There was a couple of comments about Fire Department. You know we are a compact community with houses that are very close together, businesses downtown that are very close together you now most touching. 

So a Paid Fire Hall is something that I do believe in, because I feel that a quick response is something that will hopefully save some buildings, some maybe not"

Councillor Cunningham 

"Well you know, A lot of the comments are ... Cut the Fire Department from a Full time to a volunteer. 

Well you know, other towns of our size that did have volunteers are now going to complement of full time and volunteers and they're struggling to get volunteers.  And this town here struggles to get volunteers right now. 

Even if we did, it's not going to impact the budget this year or next year because Volunteer Fire Departments need to train up their volunteers.

Getting volunteers in this town that are available 24/7 is just about impossible because so many people work, as Councillor Niesh said earlier, they work shift work, so they can't be available 24/7 

And also, you know maybe we can share the cost with industry. You know, that's something that's gotta be looked at, but you know that was another suggestion made.

I think you know people look at the Fire Department as a big cash cow,  it isn't. 

It's a very essential service especially if you want to attract industry.  Industry is not going to come to a town where if they build something and something happens it's just going to disappear  

And so I think we definitely have an advantage having a full time fire department, especially with the size of the port we've got and things like that.

You know are they sharing the cost, hopefully one day they will,  but in the meantime we have to do it alone"
Teri Forster 

"One thing about the Fire Department that I haven't heard mentioned. If we were to move to a Volunteer one that would impact our personal property insurance ... So I'm not at all in favour of that because the money will cost us more elsewhere it's not just, that's a solution, there are implications"

Mayor Herb Pond followed up on that element of the discussion with a few additional observations.

"Just to be clear it can, the underwriters won't give you that clear a direction, at least the last time around that I played this game. 

They won't be that clear, that you cut your fire department to volunteer, we're down whatever.  But they have their checklist of things they look at and it would be a risk for sure. I think that's fair"

Mr. Pond added a few more thoughts to the topic in his closing comments.

"As you all know, I last sat in this chair in a time when we were cutting millions out of the budget  where we actually did reduce the Fire Department.  And we made really tough cuts that cost me friendships quite frankly. 

And If I thought that was the era we were in  and I thought that's what we needed I would recommend it again"

The mayor further noting that he doesn't believe that is a situation facing the current council.

The topic of a change towards Fire Protection did not make for any of the public commentary at the two City Council engagement opportunities offered up as part of the Budget Process for 2023. 

The Fire Service is one of the higher budget requirements, that mainly through the salary level of the members of the department. 

While the themes covered by the Councillors shared a determination to hold to the current model, since the topic was of some note for the online participants, Council may want to have a more comprehensive study taken on to explore the benefits that they noted towards the professional service that Prince Rupert uses. 

It would offer up an opportunity to compare the Prince Rupert model to those other communities of similar size and a number of those that are larger that currently use the hybrid version, or rely on a paid volunteer program.

A full review would provide residents with some factual and independent documentation towards the themes that were outlined, which could offer more back up to the Council members commentary and observations on the evening.

The ebb and flow of the Fire Department commentary can be found from the City's Video from Monday starting at the one hour thirty eight minute mark.

More notes from Monday's Council Session can be explored here.

Towards the work of the PRFD you can review some of their calls for service in the community from our  Archvie page