Friday, March 23, 2018

DFO's Chopped Cherry Blossom trees catch attention in Prince Rupert

Ye shall blossom no more! The stand of cherry blossom trees along
the west side of the DFO building are down to their tree trunks.
That after quick quick work by contractors today

Your neighbours go and do a little renovation work around the yard and don't tell you that there might be a bit of noise and a bit of a mess (and with it perhaps a percolating controversy), that seems to be the fate for City Hall today.

What appears to be the planned removal of a row of cherry blossom trees along the west side of the DFO property between 2nd and 3rd Avenues has made for a bit of a controversy today, with the City of Prince Rupert making it clear that the work is not their doing.

Early Friday morning, work crews began the extreme pruning work along the sidewalk area, making quick work of the trees that have been a focal point for many in the downtown area for years.

Such has been the reaction from the public that Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain issued a mid morning update to stress that the work was not being done by the City, but rather was the decision of the Federal Government, adding that the City is seeking further information on the tree removal project.

Something that one would have thought that DFO might have shared with their neighbours, what with City Hall located directly behind the Federal building on Second Ave West.

Despite a shared alleyway and close proximity to each other,
the City of Prince Rupert appears to have been caught by surprise
from today's extreme pruning session by the Federal Government

Judging by some of the commentary that is found below the Mayor's Facebook page, the decision by the Federal Government to remove the trees is not going to be a welcome one in the community.

More items of note from City Hall can be found from our archive page here.

Northern Savings to host Financial Wellness Seminars in April

An opportunity to transform the way you think about money and debt will be the focus for two financial wellness seminars planned by Northern Savings for April.

The Prince Rupert based financial institution is bringing financial journalist Sean Cooper to the Northwest, with the author of Burn Your Mortgage, set to deliver a fun but informative approach to financial planning.

The two events, which are free to the public take place as follows:

Monday April 16
7 to 9 PM 
Northwest Community College Longhouse

Prince Rupert
Tuesday, April 17
7 to 9 PM
Northwest Community College Multipurpose room

Those that take in the sessions will receive a copy of Mr. Cooper's book as part of their participation in the Northwest tour.

You can learn more about his work here.

You can find our more about the two events from the Northern Savings Website, or by contacting either of the two branches in Terrace and Prince Rupert.

More items of note related to the city's Commercial sector can be reviewed here.

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

NDP LNG modifications stoke ambitions for Kitimat LNG projects

Premier John Horgan changed the landscape for LNG development on
Thursday, rolling out a number new initiatives from the NDP government
(Photo from BC Gov't)

With  a collection of Northern Mayors from British Columbia in Ottawa this week, the provincial government led by John Horgan has provided the travelling party with a pretty strong hand in their talks with the Federal government.

Thursday, the NDP government revealed the details to what they are calling a "new approach to natural gas development" in the province, introducing a new framework for the industry that will focus on economic and climate targets.

Premier John Horgan outlined the focus of the new approach, while taking a bit of a swipe at how the previous Liberal government handled the LNG files.

“Our new approach welcomes investment that puts our province’s people and future first, and rejects the old ways of resource development at any cost,”  ... Our obligation is to the people who call British Columbia home, and our job is to get the best deal for them and the generations that follow.”

Four conditions for development were included as part of the new framework

Guarantee a fair return for B.C.’s natural resources.

Guarantee jobs and training opportunities for British Columbians.

Respect and make partners of First Nations.

Protect B.C.’s air, land and water, including living up to the Province’s climate commitments.

With a number of past projects now part of a historical narrative on LNG (the majority of them from the Prince Rupert area) the first of the still existing proposals in development that could benefit from the new vision for LNG by the NDP is the Kitimat LNG project proposal for the Northwest.

The new framework released yesterday offers up these new conditions for further LNG development including the Kitimat project.

Relief from provincial sales tax (PST), in line with the policy for manufacturing sectors, subject to repayment in the form of an equivalent operational payment.

New GHG emission standards under the Clean Growth Incentive Program, announced in Budget 2018.

General industrial electricity rates consistent with other industrial users in B.C.

Elimination of the LNG income tax that had required LNG-specific tax rates.

The technical briefing related to the Thursday announcement (available here) offers up a more expansive review of what the Province is bringing to the table towards LNG development.

The Kitimat LNG project appears to be the one Northwest proposal
that may yet make it to the LNG finish line

Premier Horgan did his best to put out the welcome mat for the Kitimat LNG project, which recently made news with rumblings of some possible forward momentum.

The Premier provided some new talking points on Thursday as to the benefits that the large scale investment could bring to the Kitimat area as well as to the province in general.

“The LNG Canada proposal has the potential to earn tens of billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs for British Columbians over the life of the project,”  “It’s a private-sector investment that could benefit our province for decades to come, but not at any price – we need to make sure the values British Columbians believe in come first.”

That left Green party leader Andrew Weaver in a bit of a foul mood, noting the disappointment of his party with the NDP government's new framework.

Though while they have worked up a good bluster, the Green's don't intend to try and force the issue as any confidence measure, not that anyone actually thought that they would.

Weaver loses confidence in NDP government over LNG, but won't take them down

For the Northern BC Mayors however, the NDP announcement has helped them to deliver their message to the Federal Government of the need to help spur on development of the LNG industry, while there is still some interest in it from large industrial players.

The collective of municipal leaders have noted through the week that their message to Federal officials has so far been well received:

Northern mayors, Haisla happy with LNG framework
Germuth says northern mayors receiving a warm reception in Ottawa
Northern B.C. Mayors to press LNG development in Ottawa
Cullen on Mayor's trip to Ottawa 
Peace Region Mayors travelling to Ottawa to talk LNG with Feds

All of the new focus for LNG may be a bit late for Prince Rupert at the moment however, of the five major proposals from the last few years, four of them seem to be placed pretty high on a dusty shelf now.

Most recently Australia's Woodside indicated that they no longer had an interest in developing the Grassy Point site near Lax Kw'alaams for LNG development.

The BG Gas/Shell project was abandoned shortly after the BG/Shell merger, with Shell taking the Prince Rupert option off the inventory list for good in 2017.

The Pacific NorthWest LNG proposal for Lelu Island was cancelled last year, as was the Aurora LNG project, the latter two the focus of much push back from some residents of the region.

Among those who made submissions to the environmental review process was the City of Prince Rupert, which included a range of themes as part of their contribution to the LNG overview of the time.

 March 2017 -- City of Prince Rupert submission among many included in comment process for Aurora LNG
April 2016 -- City of Prince Rupert CEAA submission on Pacific NorthWest LNG now available on agency website

The last remaining LNG project on the short term radar, is the Exxon led Tuck inlet proposal, though even that one is on a much slower pace when it comes to any momentum, with Exxon closing their Prince Rupert office last year, seemingly putting their interest on a back burner for now.

You can review the background to the two Kitimat projects and all of those once proposed projects for Prince Rupert from our LNG archive page here.

Further notes on the latest shift in policy from the NDP government can be reviewed from our political blog D'Arcy McGee.

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

Prince Rupert City Council quietly adds public sessions to Council calendar for September and October

It would appear that after some second thought on the topic, the city's Six Council members and Mayor have decided that the optics of the Council Chamber remaining vacant for two months prior to the fall election, may not have provided for the best optics in the goal of civic governance and transparency.

Though when it comes to the latter, City Council has not exactly been proclaiming their council scheduling plans loudly from the top of City Hall.

Sharp eyed readers of the weekly newspaper will have noted that the City of Prince Rupert has purchased an advertisement notice, that modifies the previous City Council schedule adopted in December.

With the notice, Council members have now added three regular public Council sessions to the calendar for September 4, 17 and October 9th, all dates that had been scrapped during council's roll out of the year ahead calendar back in December.

The notice of December included the advisory of "City Council meetings have been cancelled for September - October due to the scheduled municipal election"

The civic bureaucracy at the time, never explaining how the fall election would somehow have had an impact on the ability to hold public council sessions for close to six weeks.

As we noted back in December, the decision to eliminate the three sessions, including one which should offer up a public comment session through the Committee of the Whole, was a schedule pruning that was done without any discussion in public by the council members.

There's a bit of deja vu to this week's advisory of the change, done as it was by way of slipping a notice into the back pages of the paper.

As it was with the first cancellation noted during the Christmas holidays, this time the notice comes during the spring break, a period of time where perhaps there aren't as many people around to review the latest of notes from City Hall.

The revision to the calendar has still to be made official on the city website, with the old schedule, complete with the empty space for September and October still in place as we put this item to posting.

Since they made the original change in December, not one member of Council has raised the schedule issue in a public session, offering no explanation as to why they had then decided to eliminate the three sessions in the first place.

With a Council session scheduled for this coming Monday, perhaps one of the seven members of Council may wish to update the community on the new schedule and offer up an explanation as to why they have decided that the old schedule is no longer part of their delivery of service plan for the year.

You can review some of our past notes on Council Discussions from our archive page here.

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

EcoTrust Canada gains $100,000 award for innovation lab plans in Prince Rupert

The North Coast Innovation Lab
part of the EcoTrust presence
in Prince Rupert is the
recipient of $100,000 in
rural dividend funding
The North Coast Innovation Lab is getting a good head start towards its plans of spurring on economic development in the region, with the EcoTrust Canada led project set to receive 100,000 dollars in funding from the British Columbia government.

The money comes from the BC Rural Dividend Program and for EcoTrust it will be used as part of their Innovation lab project, a place-based program that is designed to generate and implement innovative community designed and driven ideas for a vibrant and inclusive local economy.

In an information release from Doug Donaldson, the Minister for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and relayed by North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, it was noted that the Prince Rupert Innovation lab will build on the work of Re:Design Rupert, which had been the recipient of rural dividend funding in previous years.

The concept of the North Coast Innovation Lab recently was reviewed as part of a public presentation by EcoTrust Canada, which hosted an information night earlier this month at Northwest Community College

One of the more prominent projects that may now move forward through the work of the EcoTrust office is a plan for a Cow Bay Marina Fish Market, a long sought after addition to the Prince Rupert waterfront that Councillor Barry Cunnnigham has championed for over the last few years.

With additional funding in place for EcoTrust Canada, 
Prince Rupert residents may see some progress on the 
concept of a fish market for the Cow Bay Dock

Some further background on the work of EcoTrust Canada in the community can be reviewed here.

Two other North Coast communities received funding for projects yesterday as well:

The District of Kitimat has been awarded 90,000 dollars to work with the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce on development of a community brand..

The Kitsumkalum Indian Band is being awarded 78,600 dollars to complete a feasibility study and business plan for a commercial food processing facility.

You can review the full North Coast announcement from the province here.

The province has been busy this week rolling out Rural Dividend Announcements across the province, with some 42 projects sharing in close to six million dollars in funding.

The Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development page from the BC Government website offers up a review of many of those 42 projects. 

More items of interest related to economic development and sustainable city initiatives in Prince Rupert and around the North Coast can be found on our archive page here.

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

Lax Kw'alaams Band files suit in Supreme Court of British Columbia against Federal Government's tanker moratorium

The Lax Kw'alaams Band was at the Prince Rupert Court building on Thursday
filing a civil court claim against the Attorney General of Canada.
The claim is related to the Federal Government's oil tanker ban on the North Coast.

The Federal Government's plans to move forward with a tanker ban on the North Coast have run into a legal challenge from the Northwest, with the Lax Kw'alaams Band filing a civil claim at the Prince Rupert Law Courts on Thursday.

Court File Number 10683 lists the Lax Kw'alaams Indian Band vs Attorney General of Canada, with the filing under Supreme-Civil General, opened on March 22, 2018.

Some of the details of the court filing can be explored in an article in the Financial Post from yesterday, with journalist Claudia Catteneo providing the background to the latest legal moves.

According to this story from the national financial paper, the court challenge is seeking to have the proposed tanker ban declared an unjustified infringement on the plaintiffs' aboriginal rights and title'.

The Federal Government's Oil Moratorium plans
are the subject of a court claim filed
at Prince Rupert Court on Thursday
Ms. Catteneo also notes that the Lax Kw'alaams Band has some issues with the Federal and provincial  governments when it comes to the introduction of the Great Bear Rainforest, which the band reportedly disputes as having been implemented in its traditional lands without its consent.

According to the Financial Post, the eleven page document submitted to the court outlines the claim from Lax Kw'alaams Mayor John Helin that the collective aboriginal rights of the Coast Tsimshian Nation have never been lawfully extinguished, noting that the aboriginal title encompasses the right to choose what uses the land can be put, including use as a marine installation subject only to justifiable environmental assessment and approval legislation.

The document further notes how the tanker ban "discriminates against the plaintiffs by prohibiting the development of land in an area that has one of the best deep-water ports and safest waterways in Canada, while permitting such development elsewhere in British Columbia and Canada where waterways are congested and obstructed by a maze  of islands, bridges, ships and other hazards to marine traffic'

That reference to the North Coast offers the prospect of many potential development options, with one area near Grassy Point a location that has long been suggested as a potential site for a marine terminal.

Most recently, Grassy Point had been studied as the site for  proposed LNG facility by the Australian energy giant Woodside, that company recently abandoned any further interest in the site.

The Grassy Point site has also in the past been occasionally suggested as a potential location or for an oil terminal shipment point.

The court case by the Lax Kw'alaams Band,  could be of some importance towards the evolving plans for development by the Eagle Spirit Energy group, which is led by Calvin Helin, the brother of the Lax Kw'alaams Mayor.

Mr. Helin's project, has been in the news recently, with supporters of the Eagle Spirit proposal having launched a Go Fund Me page to put forward their own court challenge to the federal legislation.

The Eagle Spirit plan would see the transfer of  synthetic crude from upgrader facilities in Alberta or Northeast BC, the upgraded crude would travel by pipeline from Alberta to a shipment terminal to be constructed somewhere on the North Coast.

The terminal proponent recently highlighted a Plan B should they not be able to move forward with their North Coast project,  offering the prospect of a shipment terminal at a location near Hyder, Alaska.

The Financial Post story also suggests that the Lax Kw'alaams Band action is just the first of what could be a string of similar legal challenges, with the prospect of other First Nations along the proposed pipeline route between the North Coast and Alberta also potentially considering taking the Federal government tanker ban to court.

The question of whether residents of Lax Kw'alaams have plans to support, or are against an oil tanker ban and any oil terminal plans for the region, seems caught up in a myriad of conflicting opinions in the First Nations community.

With the current elected leadership of Mr. Helin seemingly on a different path than the previous one led by Garry Reece three years ago.

Added into the mix of it all is the range of commentary that comes from the Hereditary leaders as well.

As for any official notice from the First Nation government north of Prince Rupert, neither of the two public information portals hosted by the Lax Kw'alaams Band offer any background related to yesterday's court information.

Lax Kw'alaams website
Lax Kw'alaams Facebook

For more notes related to items of interest from Lax Kw'alaams see our archive page here.

For a review of what the Eagle Spirit energy project is about, see our archive page for that proposed development here.

Some background on the Federal government's Oil Tanker Moratorium Act can be found from our blog item of last May, which provided a snap shot of the bill known as C-48.

That bill has passed second reading in the House of Commons

So far neither Skeena-Bulkley Valley, NDP MP Nathan Cullen, or North Coast NDP MLA Jennifer Rice have provided for any comment on the Lax Kw'alaam court filing.

Both politicians have been long time advocates of both the oil tanker ban and the creation of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Further notes on the political side of the topic can be reviewed from our MLA Archive page and our archive of notes from the House of Commons.

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

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Winter Weather alerts in place for length of Higway 16 corridor from Terrace to Alberta border

The last few days of Spring Break are going to look a little wintry for those travelling east of Prince Rupert over the next few days.

Environment Canada has issued a Snowfall warning for the Smithers to Terrace area for today, with snow accumulation expected to amount towards 10 to 20 centimetres before the Pacific frontal system moves further inland. Though it would seem that the bulk of that snow will fall in the Bulkley Valley region.

With the strong low pressure set to transit the North, the Weather alert page at Environment Canada is awash in Red Warnings from Terrace to Alberta.

You can review the North Coast Inland alert here.

If you are travelling beyond Smithers you can access conditions along the Highway through the Environment Canada websites search engine.

As well, you can keep up with any road conditions update from Drive BC, with any updates  to be provided through the website and twitter feed.

You can also access the string of highway cameras through our archive page here.

For more notes about past weather events in the Northwest see our archive here.

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