Monday, April 29, 2013

Southeast Alaska shimmies with a 3.8 magnitude quake

The earth rumbled across Southeast Alaska on Monday, with a 3.8 magnitude earthquake reported at 1:19 PM Prince Rupert time, 59 km East of Wrangell, Alaska.

Wrangell is 241 km Northwest of Prince Rupert, no damage has been reported and no tsunami warning generated by Monday's event.

The estimated depth of Monday's quake was 10 km (6.2 miles)

You can review more from the USGS website

You can find more background on recent earthquakes in the Northwest, from our archives

Mr. Black shares his Kitimat Clean manifesto

David Black, the British Columbia newspaper owner and would be oil refinery developer has advanced his quest to keep the discussion on the Kitimat Clean Oil Refinery plan moving forward,  outlining his points of interest on the project through the National Post newspaper and website.

As part of his submitted review, he recounts his recent discussions with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to finance the estimated 15 billion dollar facility near Kitimat.

With the financials explained, Mr. Black then looks to the operational phase of his project and what kind of output it may provide for and the impact that he believes the facility will have not only on Kitimat but on the province and the nation.

He wraps up his talking points on the proposal with a call for Canadians to embrace the idea of his project, in particular he looks to British Columbians to give some thought to his plan and how it could make Canada an energy leader.

Included in that call to action are the candidates in this provincial election, who he asks to put aside any partisan concerns and look at what he calls the virtues of the project.

You can review the entire presentation from the National Post here.

More information and background on the Kitimat Clean proposal and some of the reaction towards it, can be found on our Archive page.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

City Council Session for April 29, 2013

City Council Sessions for Monday, April 29, 2013

Home page and archive of sessions can be found here

Live Broadcast of session can be found here

North Coast Review Preview of Council Session for April 29, 2013

Agenda for Special Session of City Council (Budget Items) for April 29, 2013

Notice of additional Special Council Meeting for April 29, 2013
(resolution to exclude the public)

Info to Council

April 24, 2013

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Present (attended by telephone) 
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Present
Councillor Judy Carlick-Pearson-- Present
Councillor Gina Garon-- Present 
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present 
Councillor Jennifer Rice--  Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present

Minutes of Regular Meeting April 29, 2013  

Audio Recording of April 29, 2013  

Video Recording of April 29, 2013  

North Coast Review City Council Timeline April 29, 2013

North Coast Items on April 29th Session of Council

News items from the April 29th Council session

The Northern View-- Council needs to take responsibility (N View e edition May 1 pg 4)
The Northern View-- CityWest will pay out: Mayor (N View e edition May 1 pgs 1 and 2)
CFTK-- Budget Public Forum (video)
CFTK-- Prince Rupert Council Chops Ops Budget
The Northern View-- Prince Rupert City council cuts $462,000 from operations budget

City Council Preview for April 29, 2013

City residents with some final thoughts and/or concerns over the City's Budget deliberations have one more chance on Monday, with yet another opportunity in public forum to ask questions of Council or offer up their own options for consideration.

The City sits in Council Session Monday night with the Budget front and centre on the night's agenda.

The main focus will be the reading of the City Financial Officer's draft of the 2013 Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw and the Property Tax Bylaw, the draft for consideration provided by Dan Rodin, the City's Financial Officer and current Acting City Manager.

Mr. Rodin explained the process moving forward at last week's Council meeting,  (see Video Archive from  25 minutes to one hour and nine minutes) with Council giving consideration to the proposal of 2 per cent tax increase, taking money from the paving budget, as well as a one time draw down on the Operating surplus, all designed to meet this years budgetary requirements in the wake of recent setbacks on the revenue flow to the City.

The Public comment phase of the night's proceedings comes up just prior to the discussion of the Bylaws, giving Council members the opportunity to weigh any concerns or suggestions from the public before starting down the road to Budget approval for this year.

Council then can, if they choose, make changes to Mr. Rodin's recommendations and keep the process moving towards fulfilling the commitments required under the Community Charter.

You can review the Agenda for the evening from the City's website, Pages 2 - 20 and 21 - 24 of the Agenda provide comprehensive accounts, tables, financial reviews and background information on what Council has to consider for Monday.

The Budget Session for Council starts at 7 PM on Monday, those not planning a trek down to take in the proceedings at Council Chambers can view the session on the City's website through a video feed.

Prior to the Budget Session, Council will also meet in another of their Special Sessions, a gathering which will exclude the public.

The results of this weeks Session and any media follow up that comes from it can be found on our Council Session page for April 29th, which you can find here.

Our City Council Archive Page features full coverage of past Council sessions, with archived material of agendas, minutes, a timeline of events and any media coverage of the issues raised at each session, you can access that feature here.

Northwest air travellers gain access to Calgary

The Terrace-Kitimat Airport Society scored a bit of a Northwest coup on Friday, with word that Hawk Air with Central Mountain Air would begin daily service from Terrace to Calgary, by way of Prince George starting on June 3rd.

The Announcement of increased air connections was made at the end of the Minerals North Conference, when Hawkair General Manager Rod Hayward outlined the details on the much desired
addition to the Terrace airport arrivals and departure board.

The Monday to Friday service will be booked through Central Mountain Air and make use of a 37 seat Dash 8 -100 series aircraft.

The flight plan has the scheduled flight Departing Calgary in the morning, making a stop in Prince George before carrying on to Terrace, total flight time between the two cities is to be under three hours.

The return flight to Calgary starts its journey in the afternoon out of Terrace, stopping in Prince George before arriving in Calgary in the early evening.

Central Mountain Air/Hawk Air decided to add the flight to the regional schedule owing to the success of the current Terrace to Prince George offering, which uses a Beechcraft 1900D to connect the two communities Monday through Friday.

The decision to access Calgary also comes as a result of frequent requests, particularly of those in the growing mining sector, to offer up an alternative to the Vancouver hub option that is the current template of air travel in Northwest British Columbia.

The addition of the new scheduling option, in addition to recent increases to the Terrace Airport schedule should help provide for more growth in the number of passengers making that airport their departure point in the region.

Terrace Standard-- Flight service from Terrace to Calgary
CFTK-- Minerals North Final Day (video)
CFTK-- Minerals North Wraps Up with Announcements

Council looks to Port to provide financial assistance amid current fiscal troubles

We can see those tourism  advertisements now...

When in Prince Rupert be sure to visit the Don Krusel Sauna, take a dive off of our Fairview Terminals Diving Board and make sure that you stop in and ask for a tour of the Pinnacle Pellet Hot Tub...

Well, OK maybe not, but should the City of Prince Rupert prove successful in their quest to have the Port take over some of the funding issues for civic amenities, they may wish to offer up some kind of public acknowledgement of any potential Port, or Port partner provided financial rescue monies.

We're not sure exactly how much cash that Councillor Joy Thorkelson and some members of Council may wish to squeeze out of the Port of Prince Rupert with their latest talking points from Council session.  They did not declare any particular dollar amount on Monday, as to what they might have in mind from their new approach to financial planning.

But clearly some council members have done a little napkin math and already figured out that the Port is rather proactive when it comes to "community" donations in the region, as a quick scan of the Port 's community contributions will outline.


With the City facing no shortage of funding requirements of their own, it would appear that Council would like to see some of the city's requirements put on the direct donation list and get some share of the Port's charitable cash-flow.

With the City receiving financial bad news on a weekly basis of late, (here and here) one thing seems certain, Council would desperately like to have a sit down with the Port to try and gain a little relief from the City's budget woes.

For the second council meeting in a row, Councillor Thorkelson  brought up the topic of the Port of Prince Rupert and the financial revenue that it provides to the City through the current payments in lieu of taxes process. An arrangement which in the minds of some members of Council isn't apparently providing as much of a financial benefit for the city, as they think it should.

This weeks request for a meeting with the Port was a little bit more genteel than that issued last week, when Councillor Thorkelson was clearly in a more cranky mood about the Port and its place as a member of the community.

The Councillor offered up the more amiable nudge on Monday night, suggesting that the Port wouldn't wish to see community closures of the pool or library for instance. Offering up the thought that maybe, the Port may be inclined to lend a financial hand with some of the items at the pool.

A rather proper choice for a talking point we guess, considering that at the moment, this Council finds itself in the deep end of the financial pool, treading water as fast as they possibly can.

You can examine that portion of Council's Budget discussions from the City video archive (the Port related discussion runs from the 48 to 59 minute mark)

Regular readers of the blog will find our reviews of Council and its interactions with the Port rather instructive as to the nature of the working atmosphere between Council and the region's industrial base.

Over the last few years, the Mayor and some Council members have been quite vocal both in Council chambers and with the media,  about expressing their displeasure over any number of items with the Port and some of the industrial partners it has attracted to the region.

At times Council it seems, tends to weigh in on matters that appear to be far removed from what many taxpayers might think of as their mandate. Spending much in the way of time discussing their complaints or concerns with the Port, CN, Ridley Terminals, Pinnacle Pellet or would be LNG Terminal developers to name a few of the issues of late.

On occasion they have even in high dudgeon, summoned Port Officials or other industrial executives to council chambers to answer Council's questions, at times leaving the guests to sit back and feel the wrath of Council as it vents on its frustrations.

A few of those interjections to the Port's developments around the region can be found below.

January 31-- City Council set to issue a rebuke on the thought of a Ridley Terminals Sale
December 18-- Councillors Thorkelson and Rice with the LNG cross examination
November 16-- Mayor vents council's frustrations with Port Authority and partners
October 24-- City Council members ask many questions of Port representatives over Pinnacle Pellet Plant
October 1-- Invitations offered, but have they been delivered or accepted?
September 14-- Council calls on Port Authority to explain Pinnacle Pellet Approval

You can review more of Council's discussion points of the last year form our archives here.

When it comes to the various topics around the council table these days, rather than expanding the scope of their scheduled gatherings, perhaps streamlining Council sessions to just those items of direct civic purview, might provide for a more attentive grasp of what are important issues for civic governance.

Leaving those many other discussion points outside of the normal scope of the civic concern, to remain the domain of each Councillor's particular day job.

It's a particularly interesting dynamic at work when you compare those past discussions in Council chambers with the Port, as opposed to the sessions with the City owned communications company, an organization which rarely finds its workings subject to a similar amount of interest.

All told, an interesting allocation of civic efforts, though perhaps if Council had spent as much diligence on the issues surrounding CityWest, or in addressing in a more timely fashion, the downward spiral of property assessment values in the community, they might have had a better handle on their current troubles.

Towards that theme, this week Council couldn't work up much more than a good bit of theatrical anger over Monday's CityWest bombshell announcement of no dividends this year (a financial setback that they appeared surprised from).

With the City of Prince Rupert the sole shareholder in CityWest, one would think that the City should presumably have some kind of active interest and oversight over it.

However, for the most part, it appears that when it comes to their Communications company, the City holds a rather dis-interested nature for most of the year. A peculiar approach,  especially when you consider how much the City relies on CityWest as an instrument for budget calculations.

When you frame all these recent developments in a prism of the City not having  taken care of it's own house. You have to wonder what kind of success the City will have, as it tries to convince the Port and its partners in the region into opening up their wallets to help this particular Council out of its financial travails.

Maybe the Port will just forward them the name of a good financial planner, one that could offer up  Council some helpful guidance moving forward.

Northwest Community College to benefit from Minerals North announcement

Northwest Community College was one of the major winners from last weeks Minerals North conference in Terrace, as a mining company working in the region provided a financial lift towards training for the future.

At the end of the Conference of Friday, Seabridge Gold President Jay Layman announced that the College would receive a donation of 100,000 dollars from the mining company, Seabridge currently is working on plans for a mining operation in the Stewart region. (see video here)

The donation to NWCC will provide money destined towards development of a mobile trades vehicle, providing for the opportunity to bring training to a large number of communities throughout the region.

Northwest Community College has become a main training location for the Minerals industry for the province in the last few years, with the Smithers campus of NWCC home to the School of Exploration and Mining.

You can learn more about the program from the NWCC website

CFTK- Minerals North Final Day (video)
CFTK- Minerals North Wraps Up with Announcements

Friday, April 26, 2013

Provincial Party Leaders in debate through CKNW Friday

The Provincial election so far has been a rather low key affair, the leaders measuring their words, the issues not yet finding a ranking among the voters as they give some thought towards election day of May 14th.

For those looking for a little more depth in the face of the sudden avalanche of political advertising of late, Friday offered up a helpful primer for the Provincial election campaign to this point.

Vancouver radio station CKNW played host to a leaders debate on Friday morning, providing this follow up question and answer period to their website shortly after the debates conclusion.

As for the actual debate, Bill Good was the host and moderator for the first of two gatherings of the four main political parties of the province, (the Television debate featuring all four comes on Monday) providing the forum on CKNW from 8:30 to 10:00 AM for a review of the issues thus far in the campaign.

You can review the entire discussion between the leaders from the CKNW Audio Vault (8:30-10:00 AM Friday, April 26) or Podcast pages.

In addition to the debate of Friday morning, those interested in politics and this current campaign  may wish to also tune into the 10 to 11 hour of Friday.  Mr. Good held is annual Friday review of provincial politics with guests Keith Baldrey of Global TV and Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun.

The trio  reviewed the debate and how the leaders handled themselves in the spotlight. In addition to that they also examined a number of the current top issues of the campaign.

Of possible particular interest to residents of the North Coast was the focus on the topic of LNG development, as Mr. Good and his guests examined the Premiers forecasts for revenues and the NDP's internal struggles with the concept of fracking.

Previously this week, the CKNW host had one on one sessions with Both Premier Clark and NDP Leader Adrian Dix, providing for a more concentrated examination of their parties and the respective platforms that each is offering.

You can review the Premier's one on one conversation from Monday (April 22 8:30-9:30 AM) here (Audio Vault) (Podcast)

Mr. Dix's appearance was on the Thursday morning (April 25 8:30--9:30AM) program can be listened to here (Audio Vault) (Podcast)

Minerals North focuses on renewed activity in Northwest Mining sector

They're holding quite the celebration in Terrace this week, with the Mining Sector the centrepiece of the Minerals North exhibition, a three day conference that features displays, speakers and a trade show all focused on the mining industry and providing Terrace the opportunity to  place itself firmly as the service centre of development of the sector in the Northwest.

It's the 25 annual gathering of Minerals North, the annual conference returning to the city which hosted the very first one back in 1989, this years event will attract over 750 delegates, with more than 500 of them travelling from other locations to take part.

Included among those 500 out of town visitors, former Vancouver Canuck Trevor Linden who was to give an address to the gathering on Friday morning.

The three day conference comes to an end today.

CFNR has been streaming items of interest from the conference through their website, top left corner.

Mining has been making a rather impressive comeback around the Northwest of late, you can review some of the projects underway or in development from our Mining sector archive here.

Some of the discussion sessions of the last few days have involved the need for the Mining sector to observe respect and partnership with First Nations in the region.

More information about the 25th edition of the conference can be found on the Minerals North website

Below you can find some of the reviews of developments from the conference.

CFNR-- Demonstrators Gather Outside Mining Convention
CFNR-- Iskut First Nation calls on Fortune Minerals to Cease Mine Operations
Terrace Standard-- Miners converge on city
CFTK-- Minerals North Conference a platform for First Nation Issues
CFTK-- Minerals North Conference (video)
CFTK-- Minerals North Preview (video)

Proposed LNG developments continue to attract attention and discussion

Imperial Oil, the nation's Number 2 oil producer and refinery operator is the latest of corporations to express an interest in the Grassy Point sector of the North Coast.

"With LNG projects it's hard to put an absolute timeline to it," he said. "They're complex and there are a lot of components. But we're working hard right now on each of those components to see what we can assemble." -- Richard Kruger, Chief Executive Officer Imperial Oil

Imperial Oil made mention of its plans for the North Coast as part of a review of their Alberta gas field developments, though they cautioned that they are far from ready to decide if they will build a facility.

The interest in LNG terminal development and the potential revenue that it could bring to the region has been the topic of much discussion of late on the north coast, the prospect of LNG activity and the City's reaction to it would appear to be a key part of future municipal planning, with the City's interest adding a new dynamic to the discussion.

The topic of development resonates elsewhere in the region as well, recently both Metlakatla Chief Harold Leighton and Lax Kw'alaams Mayor Gary Reece outlined some of their thoughts on the issue of development to the Northern View, with those two  communities looking towards the goals of moving forward the infrastructure requirements of the region.

Chief Leighton offered up the thought that the prospect of development in the Grassy Bay area north of Prince Rupert could as a benefit provide for the long wished for fixed link between his community, Prince Rupert and the Digby Island airport.

The gold rush like quest to stake out some of that coastal turf on the North Coast for potential LNG development has been the focus of a recent review in the online publication the Tyee, which recently took a look at some of the interest recently announced for the  region.

Some of the findings in the Tyee would seem to echo the recent thoughts of North Coast NDP candidate Jennifer Rice, who recently appeared in an election forum at Northwest Community College with Green Party candidate Hondo Arendt.

In that session she outlined her thoughts on the LNG development issue,  addressing the perceptions that some in the community have on her position when it comes to development of LNG plans.

At the election forum she suggested that the NDP would approach the issue responsibly and respectfully, with particular attention to the topic of upstream fracking and the impacts from it,  one of her main points being that in the end there most likely won't be quite as many terminals developed as the sudden rush of interest has indicated.


The Tyee articles reflect that theme, with a further examination of the push back from the environmental movement on the issue of a rush to development and the formidable opponent in the large multi nationals that they face. (see article here)

As part of that review of the debate thus far, the Tyee also provides their own overview on the pace of development of the proposed projects to this point. (see article here)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Now the School District really does need a succession plan!

Apparently Prince Rupert can deal with multiple dramas at the same time, as School District 52 seeks to go item for item up against its City Council compatriots in the headline generating business.

In a very busy week that has seen Prince Rupert City Council struggle with its budget concerns (complete with a mini drama over the City owned communications company), the School District grabs a bit of the spotlight on its own.  Offering up a new item up for discussion, (upper management succession) all while still trying to come to terms with their own Budget planning for the year ahead.

The latest shocker from the School District was the word received Tuesday, that Superintendent Lynn Hauptman had announced that she will be taking up duties with the Southeast Kootenay District, District 5, effective August of this year. No details were released through either the SD 52 or SD 5 websites as to what position Ms. Hauptman is to take up when she arrives in the Southeast Kootenay's in four months time.

(Update: Janet Steffenhagen of the Vancouver Sun outlines in an in item in the sun that Ms. Hauptman is to be taking the top position at SD5 see full Sun story here)

Ms. Hauptman, who had previously worked in the School District from 1981-95, as a teacher, counsellor, Vice-Principal and Principal, returned to Prince Rupert in 2009 taking up the responsibilities of Superintendent of Education after serving a number of years in the Okanagan Skaha School District.

She arrived back on the North Coast amidst much interest in the nature of upper management, a fair amount of it coming from the departure of the former Superintendent Eric Mercer.

Along the way from 2009, ongoing developments within the School District continued to catch the eye of local residents, most recently with the revelation of the continued reliance on consultants, in particular, the cost of the use of those consultants which made for a bit of controversy late last year.

Last winter however was not the first we had heard of the the consultants situation, the topic received a fairly extensive review by the Vancouver Sun's Janet Steffenhagen back in 2010, an article that filled in some of the gaps in the story to that point.

Updates from all no doubt soon to be in the works, owing to the newest developments.

With the announcement of Ms. Hauptman's pending departure, School Board Chair Tina Last praised the Superintendent's leadership skills during her stay on the North Coast and offered up her observation to the Northern View, that the District had seen improved results for students, based on Ms. Hauptman's "focus on improved instructional methods by our teaching staff".

Of course, in that same period of time, there seems to have been a bit of a backlash from the local Teacher's union over management decisions in recent years. The famed Yertle the Turtle incident and recent Charter of Rights T shirts controversy, just the public face of some of the underlying tensions within the School District.

It is of interest to note that the topic of political messaging has also been a rather hot button issue in School District 5 Ms. Hauptman's soon to be new home. Considering her experiences on the theme from her time in Prince Rupert, she'll no doubt have much to share on the topic with the Southeast Kootenay District.

Her departure however could put Prince Rupert back to where it was five years ago in the need for stability at the top and will once again provide for much discussion on the way forward for School District 52.

At the moment, the School District is currently embroiled in disagreement over the controversial administration succession plan, particularly a recommendation on staffing put forward to the School District at the most recent budget meeting.  The key stumbling point seemingly the requested increase in the number of vice-principals in the District, with an eye towards upcoming retirements.

A plan that was seemingly vetoed at the District Board level by four dissenting votes, leaving the School District's Budget process still unfulfilled,  it will be the topic of discussion at the next School District meeting of April 30th at 5:30 PM.

Perhaps at that time, the School District may also find some time to outline what steps are ahead in replacing Ms. Hauptman, and where the vision for the School District may turn next.

You can review our past items of note on SD52 the good, bad and confusing from our archives.

Media items on the latest developments can be found below:

CFTK-- Hauptman Leaves SD52 (video)
CFTK-- School District 52 Superintendent says Goodbye
Northern View-- Superintendent of Prince Rupert's school district announces plan to move

And the rain will come down...

For those that took the time to enjoy the Sun of Monday and Tuesday, capture those images in your mind, as you won't be seeing them again for the foreseeable future.

A rather intense weather system is about to hunker down over the north coast, providing for two days of heavy rain totalling 100 mm on Thursday and Friday. Followed by more rain, though not quite as heavy for Saturday and Sunday, a two day period where rainfall totals will come to close to 65 mm.

All of which will make for a four day (Thursday-Sunday) total of over 165 mm of precipitation for the North Coast.

Winds on Thursday and into Friday will range from 50 to 70 kmh.  With Marine warnings in effect for coastal regions of the North Coast and Haida Gwaii.

We will receive a brief respite on Monday, when the Sun will make a guest appearance, only to apparently be chased away again with Rain on Tuesday and Wednesday with a two day total of almost 85mm.

Marine Weather forecasts are calling for Gale Warnings for the Dixon Entrance EastDixon Entrance WestHecate Strait, West Coast Haida Gwaii Southern and Northern regions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A CityWest surprise?

Another council meeting and another financial bombshell for Prince Rupert City Council.

Last week Chief Financial Officer Dan Rodin relayed word that BC Assessment changes would mean less revenue for the City of Prince Rupert, this week Monday night featured a rather large group of Senior Managers from CityWest bearing most unfortunate news for Mr. Rodin's financial planning.

(You can view the CityWest Presentation from the City website the CityWest portion of Monday's council meeting runs from 11 minutes to 25 minutes)

The bulk of the Monday presentation offered a review of some CityWest history, in addition to a bit of a look to the future, highlighting how the capital spending of the recent past was setting the company up for future growth.

One of the key discussion points on the night, was a bid to clear up some "misinformation" that CityWest believes exists in the community.  The main themes being on the topic of the purchase of Monarch Cablevision  and the current financial aspects of the company.

With CityWest officials advising Council that there is "no amount of funding that comes from the City of Prince Rupert to fund  CityWest". CityWest officials explaining to council that the company "is a totally self funded organization".

All of which is a situation which may be correct at this moment in time, but for those with a long memory in the community, the past financial assistance provided by the City to the company perhaps should not be so quickly forgotten.

Especially when one considers how the City was at one time the main financial backer of the communication company, the past forgiveness of debt (page 38 City Council agenda May 11, 2009) just one of the many benefits of the city's historic travels with CityTel/CityWest over the years.

A bit of financial shifting, that surely provided for a helpful financial situation for the company to have been handed and able to work with at the time.

The presentation ended with a few questions from Council members, some of which even managed to focus on finances, which is where the dividend bombshell finally was delivered. Though even then, it did take a few gentle nudges to the delegation to get the full picture, all be it rather hesitantly.

After a couple of attempts on the theme (one, two three), Council members finally heard word that there would be no dividend provided for this year, and with no particular timeline provided as to when Council might anticipate a return to dividends from CityWest.

It was an announcement that seemingly caught the Six attending council members by surprise (Mayor Mussallem was not in attendance at Monday's meeting), at least if you consider their comments upon delivery of news of the unfortunate financial setback.

A development that puts the City of Prince Rupert further into a disconcerting financial situation, left to ponder how best to address the sudden shortfall of revenue once again.

Those City Council members that spoke to the issue in chambers, registered opinions from shock, to outright anger at the announcement.

From the reactions to Monday night's developments this apparently was the first that Council had heard that the dividend would not be forthcoming, a situation which leaves one to wonder just how much inter-action, let alone oversight that the City has on their investment in CityWest.

One would think (let alone hope) that perhaps they had better lines of communication in place with the communication company offices just one city block to the east.

However, it seems that is not the case, as it would appear that while the City was putting together it's budget plan for finances this year, no one thought to check in at CityWest to inquire about that dividend they had seemingly been using as part of their financial planning.

Looking back even just a few months though, one wonders just how surprised City Council should have been at developments. Particularly when the city has seen declines in the financial return over the last few years from those dividends of the past.

Perhaps if they had embraced a more hands on approach as to how the city owned communications business was reviewed by Council, Monday's announcement would not have been the bombshell it became.

Last fall, the CityWest group made a presentation in late October, a wonderful display of the future, offering up the topics of expansion to the East in Terrace, Kitimat and beyond, updates on added cable channels, tempered with concern over the cellular market in the city.

Yet, at that time, Prince Rupert City Council received that report without one question on finances coming from anyone on Council. Members content to nod along at the good news of expansion plans and such, with little actual concern over what return the City was going to receive from its investment in the company.

Likewise, when CityWest announced that Bill Craig, the then CEO of the company was no longer a part of the CityWest team, no one on council mentioned the change at any public Council sessions, let alone inquire as to the nature of his departure, or if there had been any financial impact to the company with his departure.

It seems to be a theme that whenever CityWest appears at Council, the session becomes more of a briefing on their operational plans, rather than a hard review of the communication company and its importance to the financial planning of the city.

With CityWest dividends apparently of some importance to that financial plan of the city, surely someone might have inquired about the dividend situation at that last gathering, providing a bit of lead time for this Council to work with as budget decisions began to loom.

Beyond those past Open council opportunities for discussion about the company,  perhaps one or two of those special "closed" sessions that this Council has held this year ( 11 so far in 2013) , might have been helpful to better gauge the nature of that all important CityWest dividend and to address that situation then and not at this very late stage of the Budget preparation process.

The City's relationship with CityWest has long been a topic of discussion in Prince Rupert, particularly since it went to its current corporate configuration, with what appears to be very much of a hands off (or at least an out of sight, out of mind) situation when it comes to accountability to the City and City council.

For those wondering just where the City factors into the scheme of things with CityWest, the City's own website outlines the relationship as this:

 "The City of Prince Rupert is the sole shareholder of this corporation, but CityWest operates independently offering landline telephone, cellular and internet services."

Considering the nature of the CityWest presentation from Monday, you have to wonder if the communications company completely understands the importance to the City of that first line of the mission statement, though it seems that they certainly appear to understand the second half, especially that "operates independently" portion.

Never more so it seems, than when the topic of dividends comes around.

For the historically minded, a trip to the Prince Rupert Library will find many an article of interest on the CityWest file, we in particular suggest that those so inclined for historical notes,  ask for some back issues of the city's one time Daily newspaper Prince Rupert Daily News.

A review of much of the work of the former Daily News reporter Leanne Ritchie, will provide for a helpful history lesson. Ms. Ritchie, was by far the best investigator of the CityWest file of the time and her reporting from 2006-08 clearly stands the test of time, prescient at times in the way of future concern.

Her work provided for much in the way of background on the topic through those years, right up to her surprising departure from the Prince Rupert news beat in the summer of 2008.

Perhaps her most instructive item on the theme of CityWest was "Lack of information Rings Alarm Bells" (October 17, 2007)

Alarm Bells that perhaps may now be ringing at City Hall some six years later.

Also from our glance at those now dusty files of old, a report from Christian Webber a Daily News staffer of the time, who noted that  at the time of CityWest morphing into its current corporate set up, Councillor Thorkelson was in particular concerned about losing control of CityWest.

“I think that the articles of incorporation give far too much power to the directors and take way power from the city,” said Coun. Joy Thorkelson. (August 17, 2007)

Judging by developments this week, where CityWest fails to deliver even a minor dividend (gone it seems for now are the days of financial returns in the millions) it would seem that the Councillor may have been on to something.

Surely by the anger and shock expressed by Council on Monday, it would seem that the CityWest situation deserves a rather extensive review from this City Council. With perhaps a reinforcement to CityWest of that opening line of the mission statement above, where the City is the sole shareholder of the company.

We're not too sure how many shareholders in the real world would accept the concept of no dividends today and no timeline for any future delivery of them.

For the moment and for the immediate short term, the obvious task at hand for the City is the need to fix their budget woes. A bit of financial turmoil that is now exacerbated by this weeks development and a mission that should be their only priority.  One that leaves council looking for a variety of options (open up your cheque books clearly will be one) to try and resolve their financial travails.

(A review of Council's deliberations on the topic can be found on our City Council Timeline)

But once the cuts or reductions have been considered or the inevitable tax increase is put in place. Maybe after the paving budget gets cannibalized and the operating surplus is reduced with that one time draw down, perhaps then Council could turn their attention once again to the nature of one of their larger investments.

Council may wish to look towards a full review of the CityWest blue print and how it impacts on the City of Prince Rupert and its "shareholders", better known as the taxpayers, a group that of late appear to be nothing more than a handy bank account for the City's financial short falls these days.

Unlike the never ending Sun Wave file, Council members won't have to chase a mysterious investor half way around the world for answers on operational and financial concerns.

Instead, they just have to invite the Board to make the walk one block west and ask some tough questions... for a change.

Should they need directions, a helpful map is provided below.

You can review the latest financial developments from CityWest (and reactions to them) through the local media offerings of the week, with both the Northern View and CFTK providing some background on Monday's announcement from at the Council meeting.

Northern View-- CityWest tells City of Prince Rupert expected $500,000 dividend won't be coming this year
CFTK-- Prince Rupert Facing Budget Crisis After CityWest Fails to Deliver Dividend

City Council Timeline, April 22, 2013

Another full day for Prince Rupert City Council, with close to two hours of review and discussion on a wide number of items, many of which involved the City's Budget planning for this year.

Key to the night's discussion a surprise announcement for Council, as CityWest advised Council that there would be no dividend provided to the council for this year, a development that left council to ponder how to account for that shortfall in its ongoing budget deliberations.

Proclamations and Reports made up for the remainder of the Council efforts on the night.

The timeline of all of the council the proceedings can be found in red below, tied in with the City Council video and audio feeds archived below.

Further information such as minutes and permanent placement in the  audio and video archives can be found as they are posted to the city Website.

Minutes from April 22, 2013 (when posted)

In Attendance April 22, 2013

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Present (sitting as Chair)
Councillor Judy Carlick-Pearson-- Present
Councillor Gina Garon-- Present 
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present 
Councillor Jennifer Rice-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present

Video Archive for April 22, 2013 
Audio Archive for April 22, 2013 

The first task of business for Council on the 22nd was the usual adoption of the agenda for Monday night (0:00-2:00)

Presentations to Council

(2:00-11:00) Salmonberry Trading Company-- A presentation outlining the developments with the Farmer's market group in the City and seeking to change the day of the market to Sundays.

(11:00-23:30) Presentation from CityWest-- The City West Board and Managers provided a review of the year and developments with CityWest, outlining a number of items. They provided a recent history lesson, advising as to what they provide at the moment and the challenges that they face.  As part of the presentation they stressed the number of employees, currently at 78 employed by the company, 47 of them in Prince Rupert.

They also  sought to clear up some misunderstandings that they believe are out there regarding the company, including the item that there is no funding directed to CityWest from the City of Prince Rupert. The presentation also outlined how CityWest has provided dividends of 5.5 million dollars to the City since 2007.

During the nature of the presentation the topic of a dividend for this year did not come up from CityWest officials, however in the question period that followed, Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to how CityWest was doing financially.

At that time CityWest explained that it was a challenging year for the Communication company and advised Council that at this time, it did not appear to have the ability to provide a dividend to the City this year.

From that advisory, Councillor Ashley asked for a look at some of the positive things that CityWest could share with the public.

Councillor Kinney asked about cel service between Prince Rupert and Terrace, he was advised that Telus was looking into that topic.

Councillor Thorkelson returned to the topic of finances and asked as to the nature of future dividends to the City. The capital expenditures in recent years are now in place, so the prospect of a improved profitability is there with opportunities to come, so it looks positive towards the future.

Councillor Carlick-Pearson asked for a timeline on potential dividends for the City of Prince Rupert, it was explained that it was hard to predict the future in the telecommunications industry, outlining some of the challenges that might impact on any dividends. Though no actual timeline for future dividend delivery was provided.

The presentation complete, Council moved on to public comments on the upcoming Financial plan.

Public Comment on the City Financial Plan

(23:30--25:00) One citizen followed up on the CityWest presentation, asking if the City was now not going to receive the previously anticipated 500,000 dollars from CityWest and how it may impact on the City's Financial plan.  It will be a topic that council will address later on in this session.

Reports and Recommendations

(25:00--45:00) Acting City Manager and Chief Financial Officer Report of Financial Options-- Dan Rodin provided an overview on what options the City may have for this years budget planning. Part of a request from a past council session to come up with some topics for discussion on the Financial Plan.

He provided some background on the planning process and highlighted the nature of the declines in the community and how that has impacted on the City's financial base. He outlined the prospect of a 2 % tax increase, draw down on the operating surplus and clawing money from the paving budget as a possible path for this year.

He then explained the nature of the costs to the city, department needs and staffing items that impact on the financials for the city. He also outlined the nature of the contracts the City has with the RCMP, BC Transit and the Airport Ferry bus contracts and the Tax Sharing agreement with Port Edward that can't be changed unilaterally.

Among the breakdown of his numbers was a note as to how many potential layoffs may be required dependant on the nature of any tax increase that council approved. He also cautioned as to the problems that deferring any maintenance and other required items on infrastructure may require.

He offered up some potential savings to the City from a review of various departments, including a saving from the RCMP with one less FTE at the detachment.

Among the other items for consideration

Reductions in Grants to community organizations including Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development, reductions from the City's Engineering department as well as at the Recreation Centre.

He then addressed the CityWest announcement of no dividend/loan payment and how that will require some financial reconfiguration of the Financial plan for this year.

With that financial change, the recommended options were for a 2 percent tax increase, reduce the paving budget by 175,000 dollars and that the City make a one time draw down on the accumulated operating surplus for the remaining shortfall so as to balance the budget this year.

He expressed confidence in the prospects for the City in the future, but that over the short term it was going to take some time for the City to feel the benefits of those improving prospects.

He did however, caution that the property tax situation in the city would remain much the same for quite some time to come. Offering up the recommendation that Council would need to review all of their options this fall to determine their full operations, deciding what they may wish to save, which ones need can be let go or cut back on.

(45:00-- 1:09:00) Follow up to Mr. Rodin's Report-- Council Ashley expressed her surprise at the CityWest announcement of no dividend, before opening up the floor for discussion.

Councillor Thorkelson asked if the City had attempted to meet with the Port to seek a meeting between Council and the Prince Rupert Port Authority, seeking to make the Port part of the solution to the current situation. The City had not had time yet to arrange for any meeting with the Port. She again expressed her desire to see the City have a meeting with Port Officials on their taxation situation and how it works.

She expressed her belief that the Port would not want to see the City having to close the Recreation Centre, the Pool, close the Library or shut down Economic Development, stating that it wouldn't be in their interest.  Council Thorkelson also suggested that Council consider Councillor Garon's hit list for potential cuts, Mr. Rodin advised that many of those were not addressed in the report currently under consideration, but would remove those items from the assorted budgets if requested.

Councillor Thorkelson then inquired as to how that would impact on the operating surplus. She then inquired further as to the options available to the City and the nature of where the money was coming from for those options. She also asked further as to Mr. Rodin's gloomy financial forecasts for the short term.

Councillor Thorkelson then expressed her anger towards CityWest and how she was furious over the timeline of their financial announcement of no dividend while the City was dealing with its financial situation at this time.

Moving on from her anger, she inquired as to where the City can go from this point. Mr. Rodin advised passing the recommendation, leading to the By Law process and a property tax bylaw, with another meeting to take place April 29th, where Council can go through the entire budget and remove any items  that they may wish.

The Final approval of the process set to come in May.

Councillor Thorkelson then returned to her theme of seeking financial assistance from the Port and offered up her thoughts as to whether the Port would like to donate towards some of the items at the Recreation Centre as a for instance, such as the sauna or diving board at the pool.

Councillor Garon also expressed her concerns over the shortfall from CityWest and wasn't inclined to go forward on the process at this time and suggested that Council meet in a workshop to go over the options ahead.

Councillor Ashley reminded Council that they had a limited time ahead to pass the budget and sought for Council to offer up some suggestions to staff to try and put together items for consideration.

Councillor Thorkelson wondered if they should pass the first reading today, or what Council should do. Mr. Rodin suggested that council provide a resolution to staff as he outlined previous. Staff would then put together the paper work, prepare the By Law for review on April 29th and then accept changes at that time.

Councillor Garon advised that the Mayor did not at the moment know about the shift in the financial situation stemming from the CityWest news and that he should be updated on it before council went further on the topic.

Councillor Ashley wondered when the Mayor might be returning in time for those discussions and if he would be available for the upcoming meeting on the 29th of April. Mr. Rodin believed he was going to be here, but arrangements could be made to have him take part in the session should he not be back in town.

Councillor Thorkelson then sought clarification on the resolution, Councillor Rice asked if Council might wish to delay the special meeting of the 29th to the 30th. Councillor Ashley advised that was not possible as some members of Council would be away, attending meetings at the (NCLGA).

Councillor Ashley then called the motion to have a meeting on April 29th to discuss budget, which was passed.

They then moved to the more difficult issue of the two that of direction to staff

Councillor Thorkelson then introduced a motion for Council to consider, which included Mr. Rodin's review previous of the 2 percent tax increase, reduction of the paving budget and draw down of the operating surplus. Including the prospect of staff to consider further reductions. Proposing the motion as a tentative budget for the purpose of reflection, with consideration to take place on April 29th

The motion was adopted, with Councillor Garon opposed.

Councillor Ashley then introduced the topic of reductions to community grants and said at this point those grant reductions were not being looked at this point.

(1:09:00--1:12:00) Report from Acting City Manager on the Recruitment of Rural Physicians-- Mr.  Rodin outlined the nature of the report which came from a request by Council. The main thrust of the report an update on the Health Ministry plan to attract physicians to rural regions. The Report was received for consideration.

(1:12:00--1:23:00) Report from Acting City Administrator and the City Planner on the Topic of Municipal Boundary expansion-- Mr. Krekic outlined his report, which updated Council on the progress of their proposal. He advised that an Open House would take place on May 29th at the Highliner Hotel, with a follow up drop in Open House at Council chambers on May 31st.

Council adopted the recommendation.

Councillor Ashley observed that at Regional District there were a number of questions put forward regarding the proposal, letters of concern were passed on to staff following that meeting. Concerns over mapping and a lack of consultation on the process were also provided at that time. Some Directors of Regional Council inquired as to how the City be better able to do some of things proposed as opposed to what Regional District could do. All points that the Councillor has passed on to staff for their consultation process.

Mr. Rodin outlined the nature of the consultation process and how it will proceed moving forward.

Councillor Kinney made a recommendation that staff keep Regional District aware of what is happening. Councillor Thorkelson recommended a friendly amendment, that Staff meet with Regional District and any community that asks for information.

(1:23:00--1:34:00) Report from Engineering Coordinator regarding McBride Street Mural -- Recommendation of approval for Paint Prince Rupert's plans to paint over the mural on McBride Street.
Council moved the motion contingent on approval of the Arts Council and City Council as to the nature of the proposed mural. A lengthy discussion on the topic of the need for approval took place on the issue.

The motion was passed.

Councillor Garon then recommended that Council provide guidance to staff on how to handle future requests on this theme.

(1:34:00--1:37:00 ) Report from the Approving Officer to Stratify the building at the Inn of the Harbour -- Report from the Acting City Manager outlining the plans of the building owner to stratify his building with part a residential building the other a business. Council was recommended to approve it subject to what they hear from the public.

Councillor Ashley inquired as to the nature of taxation that stratification would provide for. Councillor Rice expressed some confusion over the nature of the report and what constituted a residence. After an explanation as to the nature of the request, the motion was carried.

Correspondence for Action

(1:37:00--1:41:00) Request for a Proclamation for a Day of Mourning Proclamation in Prince Rupert -- Councillor Thorkelson spoke in favour of the Proclamation. Council then approved the motion. Councillor Kinney inquired if banners could be provided for public display on the Proclamation

(1:41:00 -- 1:44:00) Request for a Proclamation for a Cemetery Day of May 1st in Prince Rupert- The recommendation was approved. Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to whether it was a province wide event, observing that the recommended day was May 1st May Day and recommending that the day be moved to May 2nd next year. Council asked staff to investigate the nature of the timing of the day.

(1:44:00 -- 1:48:30  ) Letter from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency-- Mr. Rodin outlined the nature of their correspondence which provided details on an upcoming workshop in the community for May 6th, with a deadline for attendance confirmation of April 26th. Mr. Rodin observed  that if any Councillors intend to attend, that they provide their names to staff so they can contact and confirm with the Agency.

Councillors Carlick-Pearson, Thorkelson, Rice and Garon advised that they would be interested in attending, Councillor Rice suggesting that a senior member of staff should attend as well. Mr. Rodin advised that Mr. Grodecki's schedule would be rather busy at that time.

Councillor Thorkelson recounted some of her thoughts on the nature of Environmental legislation and such and suggested that council find out how the process works.

 City Manager Report on Outstanding Initiatives

(1:48:30--1:50:00) Mr. Rodin outlined the details on the upcoming Open House on Antenna policies.

(1:50:30--1:52:30) Mr. Rodin provided an updated City Managers Report, advising that all items of the Strategic Priorities that Council had set for the year had been completed, with the exception of curb side recycling, boundary rationalization, the Tsimshian Access Project and the Marina Funding was still to be completed. He also provided a list of items that staff was still working on

Follow up comments on his Report:

(1:52:30--1:54:30) Councillor Garon inquired as to what the designing and creating specifications for a new Fire-Rescue truck was all about. The nature of that is to begin the process for replacement of an aging vehicle with the Fire Department. It is for the most part preparation work and no commitment is required at this time.

(1:54:30--1:55:30 ) Councillor Garon inquired as to the protocol for the Civic Centre sign, which groups can have their information placed on the sign or if it is purely for Civic purposes. Councillor Ashley suggested that Community Groups be allowed access to the sign and cautioned as to setting a price on that access.

(1:56:00-1:58:00 ) Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to whether the Social Services stakeholders was part of the Priorities plan, it wasn't clear if it was considered part of the Priorities plan and a desire that Mr. Grodecki organize another session with the stakeholders.

(1:58:00 --2:01:00 ) Councillor Ashley offered up her observations on the Waterfront Plan and its place in the Strategic Priorities Plan, she wondered if Council should offer up what the next steps on the Waterfront Plan should be. Councillor Garon advised that any discussion should wait until a new CAO is hired on by the city.

Reports, Questions and Inquiries for Council

Councillor Ashley outlined the results of her and Councillor Kinney's recent visit to Oona River.

Councillor Rice outlined the results of a recent request to the Conservation Department for a Prince Rupert based Conservation Officer, advising council that the city's request was refused.

That brought an end to the Regular Council meeting, with Council adjourning to closed session following a five minute break.

You can access the City Council Review page for April 22nd here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

North Coast featured in NDP election campaign ad

The North Coast doesn't always factor into much of the strategy of the political parties, a little hunk of the province way up there and towards the left on the big map at the Legislature.

Cynics may suggest that we really only appear on the radar when the ballot boxes come out, but we'll leave that debate for others to sort out.

One thing does seem certain however, when there's a political campaign underway, well everybody it seems wants to show us off.

Last week the Premier made a quick jaunt through the riding to spread the BC Liberal gospel on the LNG file, this week it's the launch of an NDP advertising campaign, with one of the ads featuring the pristine wilderness of the North Coast and the message that pipelines, tankers and all of that just don't mix.

 The NDP ad starts with a pair of backpackers walking a trail, while a bit later on leader Adrian Dix is found standing on the shoreline, delivering the NDP message, which in this instance suggests that Douglas Channel near Kitimat isn't the place for any ocean going tankers.


The North Coast ad is the first of five that have been posted to the NDP YouTube channel thus far.

The rest of the political pack hasn't been left behind in the brave world of You Tube, the BC Liberals have their own YouTube Channel which like the NDP is a tad more elaborate in delivery than the other political offerings of this campaign.

For the moment if looking for the Green Party or the Conservatives, you will have to do a little work to find their You Tube selections.

Making use of the You Tube search engine, you will find that many of those entries feature more of the handheld camera variety of  information delivery, many which seem to be the variety of your average family member taking a video of a family gathering or some such event.

A rather quaint departure (for the moment) from the clearly more polished variety of information delivery that the Big Two parties have undertaken for this campaign.

Monday, April 22, 2013

No success for School District's "succession plan"

When they aren't discussing such things as the works of Dr. Seuss and the fashion statements of the Charter of Rights, School District 52 actually does tackle some of the educational aspects of life on the North Coast.

The recent School District meeting of April 9th, provided for a bit of a disagreement between School District trustees and the Administration of School District 52, mainly over the prospect of spending some 10,000 dollars on succession planning, which mainly involved promoting two teachers to Vice-Principal positions.

Four of the trustees, Janet Beil, Louisa Sanchez, Barb Gruber and Marty Bowles, apparently were not swayed by Secretary-Treasurer Cam McIntyre's thoughts that the move would not cost the District anything, voting to defeat the 2013-14 budget in the process.

Board Chair Tina Last was in favour of the funding for succession, with retirements coming up in the future, suggesting that this was the time to make some plans for the future.

Trustee Marty Bowles however, was more concerned over the prospect of classroom composition in the district, suggesting that was where the focus before anything else.

Prince Rupert District Teachers Union President Joanna Larson was in attendance at that School District meeting and observed many of the points of Mr. Bowles, both the on the succession plan and the topic of classroom composition.

The discussion on the 2013-14 School District Budget went on for over ninety minutes and came to an end with Board Chair Tina Last advising that a meeting to discuss the matter further would be called in the future

The Northern View's Martina Perry had a full review of the School District discussion on the topic, though curiously it is not yet available on the Northern View website.

The School District meeting review first appeared on the front page of the Friday print edition of the Northern Connector, which is where you will have to seek it out for the moment.

As of today, the item still was not available on the Northern Connector e edition website either.

Former North Coast MLA Graham Lea passes away

Graham Lea, a name well known across the North Coast and in British Columbia politics has passed away at the age of 79. His passing having taken place on April 3rd in Victoria, with a celebration of his life held in Colwood on Sunday.

Mr. Lea had a rather diverse working life, first as a worker at a smelter in Trail, then as a former Royal Canadian Air Force mechanic. He was once a Broadcaster with the CBC and in his post political year  a champion of the trucking industry. 

But he no doubt was known on the North Coast for his time on the political stage. Part of the bare knuckle era of party politics in the province. 

Elected to the Legislature in Victoria from 1972 through to 1986, which placed him firmly in the mix of one of the most colourful of periods in recent British Columbia political history. 

As a member of Dave Barrett's cabinet he served as the Minister of Highways in the NDP government of the day.

His time with the NDP also included a shot at party leadership following the Barret years, as Lea ran for the leadership of the party in 1984, a leadership convention that eventually selected Bob Skelly. 

An interesting review of that NDP leadership race can be found here.

Following that unsuccessful bid, Mr. Lea later sat as an Independent/United/Conservative MLA in Victoria for a short period of time, something that proved to be a rather controversial thing both in Victoria and on the North Coast.

A small retrospective of his time in Victoria can be found in this 1997 piece from Hubert Beyer.

Mr. Lea for the most part settled in the Victoria region until the time of his passing.

An obituary piece appeared in the Victoria Times Colonist, an obituary item also appeared on the website. That site also features a number of remembrances that call to his time in Prince Rupert.

Locally the  Northern Connector had this larger overview in the Obituary notices from the weekend. (e edition page 19)

(photo above from Times Colonist item)