Tuesday, September 30, 2014

So far, only one candidate remains consistent on issues in Prince Rupert Election Campaign

With six weeks until the November vote for Prince Rupert Council, the flow of information from incumbent candidates would seem to be off to a very, very slow start.

A situation that leaves us with little in the way of discussion points for the campaign coming from those that have been in the thick of municipal affairs over the last three years.

That lack of communication from the incumbents is leaving the campaign agenda to the newcomers in the race to this point and with that, some questions about how Council has handled some past issues are slowly making their way into the discussion.

One interesting theme came as a  result of the past week of UBCM meetings in Whistler, and the lack of information from the Mayor and Council regarding their plan of attack for that late September trip.

Council Candidate Blair Mirau has been running an ask the candidate forum on his website since he started his quest for a Council seat and last week one participant on his Q and A forum called attention to the convention and the city's participation at the UBCM event.

You can review the full  Q and A section of Mr. Mirau's website here

The question on UBCM and information from Council that was asked of the candidate is one that probably hits home for many others in the community as well, considering the lack of updates at to what the city's goals and agenda items might have been as they made their way down to Whistler.

In the lead up to UBCM there were occasional mentions of the trip to come at Council, for the most part however they were observations made in passing during past Council sessions.

The most recent comment was on the theme of Council hosting a workshop prior to the meeting, suggestion which was offered up by Councillor Anna Ashley as part of the September 2nd Council session.

However, beyond that brief mention of the planning stage for the North Coast trek, little other information was provided by Council in the weeks leading up to their journey.

No update from Council was provided prior to departure, as to who was planning on attending on behalf of the City, or what they hoped to bring to the attention of their fellow councillors in convention.

Something which Mr. Mirau had thoughts on, particularly as it relates to the issue of how Council delivers information to the public. He then went a bit further on the topic of the city's UBCM contributions, highlighting the controversial topic of Port payments and the discussion that the current situation provided for during council sessions this year.

That was one topic that Council did take to UBCM this year and as we noted last week, it was a theme that LNG Minister Rich Coleman addressed in his opening address to the convention.

With the  Minister seeming to reject the belief that the current situation is flawed, in fact suggesting that the Rupert system may prove to be the provincial blue print for LNG industry development.

Mr. Mirau tackles the port payments issue on his website, offering a different viewpoint of the current council thinking on the topic.  His commentary on the issue, offers up a review that would certainly put him on the other side of the table, from what in the most part is a solid block of the current council that is in lock step with the Mayor when it comes to their discussions with the Port.

As we outlined last week, the would be candidate has also tackled the topic of more cooperation with other communities in the region, a theme he has expanded on through a YouTube video presentation, a form of message delivery which we believe might be the first use of that information portal in a municipal campaign in recent years.

. .

Mr. Mirau's thoughts on those themes and many others, might be a valuable asset for Council after the November vote, the prospect of taking a different look at current issues is one that might provide for a welcome change from the last number of years.

Should he find success on election day he might actually be able to help turn the Council chamber into an actual place for lengthy discussion of key issues in public, something that hasn't been very common in recent years.

If nothing else, his comments through his website offer up the topic for discussion right now before we vote, issues that should become part of the campaign through the next six weeks.

As we head into October, Mr. Mirau is pretty well the only candidate for office that is offering any kind of narrative of items of importance in the campaign.

Mayoralty candidate Lee Brain's contributions thus far are spotty at best, after an initial burst of information at the start of his campaign, he has been fairly silent of late. With few updates on issues for the campaign posted to any of his information portals.

Of those currently serving on Council, the flow of information from the Mayor has been limited to ad spots in the weekly newspaper, while the rest of those on Council have had little to say about their plans for November, let alone offering any kind of topic for discussion.

More than a few of those seeking our vote in November could take a page from Mr. Mirau's council quest notebook.  For the moment, he seems to be the only one looking for our vote that is offering up information on his candidacy and asking the voter what they think is important to them.

Both of which would seem to be the purpose of the election exercise.

You can follow our Municipal election coverage from our archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Monday, September 29, 2014

School District 52's financials could be reduced as the Province claws back strike savings

Like many of British Columbia's School Districts, SD52 probably thought that some of that money that was saved in the District during the course of the labour dispute of the last four months, could make for a small little nest egg to put aside for future use this year.

However, if local administrators and Board members had plans to allocate some of those savings into required work or services around the district, the provincial government is about to deliver some bad news.

Friday the Ministry of Education advised School Districts across British Columbia that they would be reclaiming those savings from the dispute, with what appears to be a plan to fund the 40 dollar a day payment plan for parents that was in place while the schools were closed.

That take it all approach by the provincial government, is one that is not being received well by  a number of school districts across the province.

Many spoke out over the weekend, reminding the Ministry that they have suffered financial losses due to the dispute and that taking all of that available money back is just wrong.

In particular some districts are pointing out that they are now being required to pay for a program (the 40 dollar payment plan) which they had no say in.

Many are fearing that School Districts may struggle to balance their financial picture as result of the requirement to turn over the cash to the province.

In its letter to the School Districts, the Ministry of Education is reported to have stated that any District with a particular financial difficulty linked to the strike will be addressed on a case by case basis.

The claw back of money is just one indication as to how the strike may be over, but the effects from it will be mostly now felt by those in administration across the province.

A situation that leaves the School Districts to deal with the many issues that are left behind as the result of the acrimonious dispute.

Some notes on Friday's announcement from the province can be found below:

Province reclaims money saved during teachers' strike
B. C. looks to claw back all savings from school districts
B. C. school districts ordered to return all strike savings
Two levels of government fighting over teacher strike savings

Cross Posted from the North Coast Review

Sunday, September 28, 2014

There's class.... and then there is the New York Post!

At some point, even the hard knuckle editors of the New York Post might want to consider that they've perhaps stepped over the bounds of good taste (well, providing such a book is in the book shelf at the New York tabloid).

At any rate, today's front page takes partisan politics to a rather new low, taking a cheap shot as they do at the birth of the first grandchild for Bill and Hillary Clinton.

If we need any better definition as to why politics is getting to be the toxic waste dump of life, then the Post using a baby as a prop for a cheap political shot should probably make its way into some textbooks in the years to come.

We kind of like babies, even more we kind of think it's neat to see a pair of Grand parents obviously gushing over the newest addition to the family.

The New York Times managed to find something positive to relay over the birth of Chelsea Clinton and husband Marc Mevinsky's first child, a much more enjoyable read.

So, hey Congrats to the Clinton and Mevinksy families, we suggest using the Post for diaper changing, seems like about the best use of this front page.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Premier Clark closes UBCM with a bit of history and a bit of forward thinking

The 2014 edition of the UBCM convention came to an end on Friday, as Premier Clark brought the curtain down on the annual gathering of provincial and municipal politicians and their staff members from across the province.

The Premiers' address, which traditionally closes the week long get together, this year featured a review of some of British Columbia's past history , with the theme of consultation and dialogue a key point for reflection, pointing to the past as a way of finding a better way to discuss the concerns of today.

It was a speech that touched on current issues such as education, First Nations discussions, resource development, including that of the LNG industry, as well as the process of government at both the provincial and municipal level.

The Premier also outlined her thoughts on leadership at both levels of government and how all had to work together do a better job if the province is to find success.

Before she was finished, the Premier had provided a list of communities that she sees ready to thrive with new opportunities, "good stories" as she called them.

Locations where the Premier sees positive things happening with the promise of even better days to come.

For the Northwest the Premier had a pair of observations on the change taking place in some of the communities of the region, the majority of that change related to resource related activities, a theme she would touch on throughout her address.

She gave a nod to Terrace and the boom in housing in that community which according the Premier  has seen 190 homes built in the last two years, compared to years before 2012 where she observed that the average was 1 residence built per year.

Also on that list of good news stories was Port Edward, where Ms. Clark continued to show her affection for Mayor Dave McDonald, highlighting the spurt of real estate interest in the community.

"Dancin’ Dave MacDonald says there’s a house on the market in Port Ed for $445,000. Probably the highest listing ever in the town."

The Premier's shout outs to Port Edward and Terrace offers up an interesting contrast to how the thoughts of her Natural Gas Minister of just a few days previous, might have been received by Prince Rupert's representatives at the convention.

As we outlined in this item from earlier this week, when Rich Coleman opened up the convention on Monday, he offered up some tough talk on the nature of municipal revenue issues and pointed to the current system on Port taxation in place in Prince Rupert, as a potential blue print for other communities.

There was no reference to a dancin' Jack Mussallem as part of that review and for good reason, for much of this current term of Prince Rupert council, the Mayor and Council have made much comment on their desire to change that very same financial system on port issues that was praised by the LNG  minister.

Judging by Mr. Coleman's words of Monday, any revision to that system, or increase of revenues from it seems rather unlikely in the near future.

Other themes from the Premier's address that might make for a conversation on the trip home for the Prince Rupert delegation, were her thoughts on municipal financials.

During her speech, Ms. Clark highlighted such items as compensation levels at the municipal level, property taxation and municipal expenditures. Pointing out to the delegates that in some cases, the municipalities are spending at a higher rate than what the province does.

Those financial concepts are items that Ms. Clark would like to see discussed as part of this year's Municipal election campaign. With the Premier reminding the municipalities that the provincial government has no intention of raising taxes and won't commit to items that they cannot afford, declaring to the delegates that the Province "won't kick the ball down for the next generation to figure out".

With the November vote fast approaching the Premier observed that municipalities have decisions to make, with a need to understand the reality of our times.

Throughout her address, the Premier returned to the conversation and dialogue theme. Looking to use recent engagement in such issues as the recent education dispute, First Nations issues or discussions related to resource development, as a bench mark for the future.

For many of the municipal delegates at UBCM however, that theme of a quest for better dialogue may not be quite apparent at the moment.

The five days at Whistler provided for a fair amount of frustration for many attending the convention, as the Province rejected their thoughts on issues related to BC Ferries and delivered a hard hitting rebuke when it comes to seeking a larger municipal return from any potential LNG windfall.

Both of those are topics of much importance to Prince Rupert and after this week, on those issues and probably a number more, it would seem that there is going to be a need for much more dialogue and understanding between the two levels of government.

You can review the full text of the Premier's speech here, a look at some of the reviews of her address to UBCM can be found below.

Fiscal standoff between province and municipalities dominates UBCM convention
Don't pay your staff so much, Premier Christy Clark tells B. C. municipalities
In UBCM speech, Clark says path of peace shapes B.C. future
Premier says path of peace of schools, resources shapes BC's future
Premier delivers message on fiscal restraint to UBCM
Christy Clark tells UBCM dialogue will shape province's future
Premier wants municipal pay to be election issue
Clark says path of peace on schools, aboriginals, resources, shapes B. C. future

For a full review of the week at Whistler, see our UBCM archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Friday, September 26, 2014

After a week of UBCM setbacks, City Council might have some new additions for the Provincial Budget Consultations

Considering how things have gone at Whistler this week for the City of Prince Rupert delegation, the deadline to make further submissions for the upcoming Provincial Budget Consultation sessions may be one date that the City won't want to miss.

During this week's UBCM gathering in Whistler, the City has seen a number of the key concerns they had prior to the convention more or less  swatted aside by the provincial government.

One involved the recent UBCM Ferries review and the call for a return to previous levels of funding and service for the ferry system, a recommendation from the municipal body that for the most part was dismissed by the BC Liberal government.

Transport Minister Todd Stone's rather vocal criticism of the UBCM review appeared to set the tone of the week, suggesting that the two levels of government in the province appear to be very far apart on a key transportation issue.

Then there was the Monday speech from LNG Development Minister Rich Coleman, where  he cautioned against expecting too much out of taxation on the LNG industry as it seeks to find its footing in the province.

A review which even had the Minister highlight aspects of the current port taxation system in place in Prince Rupert, observing to the larger UBCM audience, that it perhaps would make for a good blue print for the province to put in place when it comes to LNG development.

A declaration, which as the city's past comments on the port revenue situation indicate, would be a system that doesn't quite deliver the level of financial reward that northern cities might be hoping for.

Those cautionary notes from Mr. Coleman however, were but the preamble to the larger bombshell delivered on Thursday from far off Malaysia.

Comments from Petronas chair Shamsul Abbas, provided for some serious sabre rattling yesterday, points of concern from the energy giant that appear designed to deliver a message to the provincial government on financial expectations and the lack of progress on moving the LNG files ahead.

The threat of outright cancellation of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project for Lelu Island, which at the moment is the most advanced of all the proposed developments for the region, was a talking point that echoed across the North Coast for most of Thursday.

It has been a week of rather faced paced developments, many which suggest that the financial picture today for the region, could change with very little warning.

Offering up the  prospect of the City having to revise their own budgetary expectations for the years ahead, as well as to again address what they might wish to see the Provincial Government take action on when it comes to issues of concern for the region.

All of which leads us to the Provincial Government's budget consultation process, as the All-Party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services continues with their current public engagement efforts.

The Prince Rupert public hearing session appears to have slipped under the radar this time around, taking place earlier this month according to the schedule posted to the Committee website.

Leaving interested North Coast residents or groups to provide any further contribution by way of a written submission, or sending an audio or video file submission to the committee.

Participants can also make use of an online survey available on the finance committee website.

For the City, the race to the deadline on the consultations could provide one more opportunity to deliver more background to their concerns, as well as to deliver their thoughts regarding the impact that the Provincial budget planning could have on the community.

The key date for Prince Rupert Council and any other local groups interested in making a submission is Friday, October 17th, which is the deadline for submissions.

You can learn more about the process from the Standing Committee on Finance Website.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Local environmental group fears oil terminal development bound for Ridley Island

In a week of talking points out of Alberta suggesting the need to re-think the Northern Gateway strategy (see this item from Wednesday), the prospect of any shift toward Prince Rupert for development of an oil shipment terminal has local environmentalists raising their alert levels.

Thursday at the Civic Centre, the Prince Rupert Environmental Society hosted what seems to have been a timely meeting to go over that topic. With the group ready to share a collection of items that they believe suggests that the foundation for oil shipments out of the North Coast may be in motion.

Their discussion points which suggest that the Ridley Island industrial area may one day host a shipment terminal can found on the website SaveOurSkeenaSalmon.org.

From their on line presentation, a section called BC Oil Terminal Plans hosts a link to what the organization believes are indications that their worst case scenario is getting closer.

Among their main item of note, the recent development of the Ridley Island Rail-Road utility corridor, which is now nearing completion.

The Environmental group has made note of the similar nature of the North Coast corridor, to one created in Washington state. A transportation network which originally was created for a potash terminal development, but apparently is now destined to host an oil by rail yard and terminal.

A scenario that the Environmental Society seems to suggest sounds very familiar and highlights their fears of the prospect of a similar plan for the North Coast as well.

Along with the Rail and utility concerns, the Society also finds cause to worry over the fate of Ridley Terminals and potential re-purposing of land there for possible use as an oil terminal.

Beyond their website offerings, the group is also looking to promote viewings of a documentary feature on the BP Oil Spill, a film titled Pretty Slick, They hope to share the documentary widely in the community, looking to provide more background on their concerns over the impact of oil on seafood.

As we outlined on the blog yesterday, Mayor Jack Mussallem was quick to knock down any thoughts of an oil terminal development for Prince Rupert, a collection of talking points for the Globe and Mail that would seem to put him firmly in the corner of the efforts of Prince Rupert Environmental Society.

In particular, his focus on the fishery and comments as to his thoughts on the importance of the industry to the region, surely will have been noticed by the Environmental movement on the North Coast.

The Mayor certainly won't be alone on those issues, in recent months at least half of the members of Prince Rupert City Council have weighed in a number of times on issues related to Industrial development and the impact on the fishery and other aspects of North Coast life.

Making for a vocal group that at least to this point, don't seem interested in welcoming any form of oil related development in areas of their overview.

The Port has repeatedly stated in the past that at this time no oil terminal or shipment plans are in development, suggesting any such discussions were more of a concept than a project.

The latest declaration on the topic coming in the same article as the Mayors No Oil in Rupert review in the Globe and Mail, where the Port deflected talk of oil terminals, advising that at the moment the bulk of their available industrial lands were targeted for other industrial uses.

Should that situation change in the future, it would seem that the push back towards any form of development will have a fairly strong platform against the concept already in place.

Our archives host a number of items on Port of Prince Rupert related items, as well as information related to the concept of Oil shipment and terminal development,  you can review them at these links:

Oil Terminal Proposals for the North Coast
Northern Gateway Archive
Port of Prince Rupert

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Petronas threatens to pull out of Pacific NorthWest LNG project

In unusually blunt language, the head of the main financial backers for the planned LNG development on Lelu Island is threatening to shut down his consortium's plans to develop a terminal operation on the North Coast.

Comments that no doubt will deliver a bit of a shock to those that were looking to LNG to provide a key shift to the economic landscape of the region.

Seemingly pointing the finger at the slow development of a taxation and incentive plan for LNG, Petronas Energy CEO Shamsul Abbas is quoted in a number of news reports today as stating that the Malaysian Energy giant, "needs to be assured that the project is economically viable and satisfies its investment criteria before going ahead with the project"

Other comments from him that will send alarm bells ringing for those on watch for Premier Clark's ambitions LNG strategy, include observations on what he sees as Canada's dithering on the issue. Calling our apparent lethargy on the theme a lack of action that has left the Canadian landscape of LNG development as one now of uncertainty, delay and short vision.  

To emphasize further the frustration on the Malaysian side of the LNG debate,  he commented that Canada has to buck up real fast to be a credible global LNG player and if it wants to be taken seriously.

The comments from Mr. Abbas were first delivered through the Financial Times website, with this article from Jeremy Grant in Singapore.

The topic of LNG taxation was a theme at this weeks UBCM meeting, as we outlined on the blog yesterday, Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman outlined some thoughts on the planned release of the province's taxation plans for next month.

At the same time the Minister fired some warning shots to the municipalities on Monday regarding any covetous eyes that local communities may have on taxation from LNG.

While those comments caused a bit of a stir through the week at Whistler, we imagine that today's announcements from Malaysia will steal much more of the headlines from the UBCM convention.

Premier Clark is to provide the closing address to UBCM on Friday, comments we imagine which will now have to be reworked a bit to reflect the sudden shift in attitudes towards her LNG strategy.

Mr. Abbas is set to make a trip to Canada on Friday, where we imagine the topic of taxation, financial incentives and the future of his North Coast plans most likely will make up for most, if not all of the discussion.

While the energy giant awaits further news on the twin concerns of taxes and incentives, the prospect of a final investment decision, which would launch the giant economic shift for the region will seemingly remain in question.

As at the moment does the fate of the project itself.

More on the surprising twist in the North Coast LNG story can be found from the dispatches of Canadian media sites below:

Globe and Mail -- Petronas threatens to 'call off $10 billion B. C. LNG project: report
Globe and Mail-- Petronas plays hard ball with B. C. over Pacific NorthWest LNG
National Post-- Petronas chief warns it could pull out of Canadian LNG project
Vancouver Sun-- Petronas threatens to pull out of $10 billion LNG project near Prince Rupert
CTV-- Petronas threatens to pull out of B. C. gas project: report
CBC-- Petronas may pull out of B. C. LNG project, reports suggest
CKNW-- Big new problem for the Premier's LNG strategy
CKNW-- LNG discussion on Simi Sara Show ( audio vault 10-10:30 Sept 25 )
CKWX News 1130-- Petronas threatens to pull out of LNG Project
Global BC-- Petronas threatens to pull out of LNG project
Business in Vancouver-- Petronas warns it could pull out of $10B B. C. LNG project
BC Business-- Christy Clark unconcerned as Petronas teeters on $10-billion LNG investment
CBC Daybreak North-- What could Petronas considering pulling out of B. C. LNG mean for local investment? (audio)
Georgia Straight-- Straight writer foreshadowed trouble Petronas would have financing B. C. LNG project
Victoria News-- Coleman plays down Petronas LNG threat

For a review of all items from our Pacific NorthWest LNG file see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Discussion on BC Ferries issues highlights gap between Province and coastal communities

Wednesday delivered a bit of a Whistler stand off to the UBCM convention, as the Provincial Government and municipal representatives attending Wednesday's session seemed to be on very different sides of a contentious debate over Ferry service on coastal BC.

By the time that the mid week festivities came to an end, the distance between the Province's position and that of coastal communities would appear to be about as wide as the travel distance on the Northern Expedition between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert.

One of the main discussion points for the convention was the anticipated review of the UBCM commissioned report on BC Ferries, a policy paper which examined the socio economic impacts of the Ferry Fare increases and the impact of them on coastal communities.

It was a document that more or less set the stage for Wednesday's showdown at the convention between delegates and the provincial government, with few surprised at how the day evolved.

Even before the issue came to the convention floor in Whistler, the province appeared to be telegraphing their talking points on the topic, suggesting that the UBCM were working with a flawed document, rejecting the findings of the author.

The Transportation Minister outlined his thoughts on the report through a letter to the UBCM president on September 19th. Looking to set the table for the convention, in the letter, Mr. Stone expressed his disappointment that the UBCM had not taken a leadership role in facilitating discussion on the issue.

When convention week started up on Monday, the pushback on the UBCM study continued

BC Ferries won't get more government subsidies: Todd Stone
Transportation Minister, critics disagree on ferry ridership analysis
Analyst stands by report on ferry fares impact
UBCM call for ferry changes a long shot
Victoria, municipalities trade insults and dollar figures

As the day's events moved along on Wednesday afternoon, it became rather clear that despite the unanimous endorsement of the concerns of the municipalities from the delegates, the Provincial government was planning to stick to its course on the Ferry transportation issue.

The vast difference of opinion on the topic, is easily reviewed through the surge of media items related to the Ferries issue that were created once the day's discussions, such as they were, came to an end.

Transportation Minister rejects call for ferry-fare rollbacks, restoration of service to 2013 levels
Cities Reject Minister's Proposal they help pay for BC Ferries
Stone rejects fare rollback at BC Ferries
UBCM ferry report makes for awkward talks
Transportation Minister, critics disagree on ferry ridership analysis
Civic politicians want BC Ferry rates reduced
Transportation Minister promises to keep BC Ferries fare hike in line with inflation
No plans to roll back ferry fares or services, transportation minister says
UBCM upset as B. C. blows off talks on uncertain municipal finances

For more items of interest on developments with BC Ferries see our archive page

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Mayor Mussallem rejects role for Prince Rupert in re-routed Northern Gateway project

The theme of the Northern Gateway pipeline and any potential shipment of Alberta oil through Northern British Columbia, found a bit of space at the UBCM sessions on Wednesday, with a number of representatives from the Northwest making comment on the controversial issue.

Yesterday we outlined how Jim Prentice, the new Premier of Alberta had suggested that Northern Gateway officials might need to revise their map drawing skills, reviewing how the Province of Alberta believed that the pipeline to transport bitumen may have to find a new destination.

Through a number of interviews with media in Alberta Mr. Prentice offered up a few ideas as to where a shipment terminal might be directed, with Prince Rupert and Lax Kw'alaams among two of the options listed by the Premier.

The Prince Rupert option apparently doesn't sit well with Mayor Jack Mussallem who was reached for comment by the Globe and Mail on Wednesday at the Whistler conference, providing the national
publication with what appears to be a definitive no thank you.

Basing a good portion of his pronouncement on a review of what he described as the thriving local fishing industry that employs hundreds of people and is critically important to the local First Nations.

For good measure, the Mayor went further relaying how that it was his belief that that the community would not be willing to put the fishing industry at risk for any oil terminal proposal.

Adding some additional thoughts that overwhelmingly people in the community are much more comfortable with liquefied natural gas, with wood pellets, with coal, than any oil product.

The Mayor offered up no particular research on the topic for the Globe, other than we imagine what was his gut feeling as to how he believes the community might think. Or perhaps he called on some remembrances of past discussions around the Council chamber, where some councillors have expressed concerns over land development and

They Mayor's emphatic declaration for the Globe, calls to mind the commentary of Councillor Anna Ashley back in June of this year.

At that time during a Council session, she advised Council that she was making plans to introduce a motion to ban the development of any oil refinery or oil shipment terminal projects for land within the City borders, a motion that never quite made it past the thinking out loud stage it seems.

And while Council members are free to express their opinions on topics such as this kind of development for the region. Perhaps before the Mayor, or anyone from Council makes that final call, they may wish to consult the residents back home, just to be sure that the presumptive support for their positions that they suggest is indeed as overwhelming as they believe.

For it's part the Prince Rupert Port Authority also seemed to deflect any prospects of an oil terminal project locating on any port related lands,  with the port describing their current land situation as "fully subscribed".  Adding some background regarding two vacant lots currently which are in the port authority's jurisdiction, with both designated towards other energy companies related to LNG projects.

That's a convenient talking point for the moment, taking the pressure off the Port as it does in regard to a controversial issue on the North Coast.

However, the consensus by many observers of the LNG file, is that when all is said and done in this great LNG rush of 2014, that of the eight proposals currently under consideration for the Prince Rupert region, there may only be one, two, or possibly three of the LNG developments that actually move forward.

Which, when all the current speculation on LNG settles down,  may we imagine free up some of that land already spoken for to be directed to other options.

The Globe's review of the current land use situation on the North Coast goes on to note that earlier this year Enbridge purchased a parcel of land for 20 million dollars at Grassy Point, designated for future business opportunities.

That land acquisition from March, continues to stoke much in the way of discussion as to what Enbridge may have in mind for that land.

All of the moving pieces in the story provide for much in the way of a guessing game as to who has   what plan for the region and how development issues will be handled by both provincial and local governments.

You can review the full Globe article here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Alberta Premier points to the North Coast for Enbridge Alternatives

He's only been in place for a few weeks now, but Alberta Premier Jim Prentice would seem to have a rather full "to do" list ahead of him and one item of interest to Northwest British Columbia will be his thoughts on how to move the Enbridge pipeline project ahead.

Mr. Prentice offered up a few thoughts to reporters this week, suggesting that there are "other options" to Kitimat as a destination point for the Enbridge project.

In articles with national and Alberta based media, the Alberta Premier observed that it was in Alberta's best interest that "multiple" options were explored in order to deliver Alberta's oil to new markets.

A few destinations on Mr. Prentice's map might sound familiar to residents of the North Coast, with Prince Rupert one of particular interest to the Premier, a location which he called a "significant asset".

Alberta also has thoughts on at least three other potential shipment points in the province, including the possibility of shipment through a port facility at Lax Kw'alaams.

Mr. Prentice is rather familiar with the opportunities that could be provided through the Port of Prince Rupert from his time as a member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet and he also knows first hand the controversial issues of the Enbridge proposal, having been a consultant for Enbridge, speaking with aboriginal groups during the  Northern Gateway hearings process.

In his media blitz, Prentice touches on the nature of the current troubles that the Enbridge proposal is
having when it comes to acceptance, particularly the concerns of coastal First Nations, which the Alberta Premier says he hopes to address through relationships he has built over the years with communities along the coast.

He also offers up a few thoughts to the growing concept of refining Alberta oil at home for shipment, a proposal that seems to have provided for less in the way of outright hostility than the raw bitumen project that the Northern Gateway proposal offers.

Any move to redraw pipeline maps and destinations would have to be returned to the National Energy Board for further consideration and no doubt another round of hearings on the controversial topic.

A read through of the articles below, provides a fairly good thumbnail sketch as to where the new Alberta Premier may take the dialogue on re-engaging British Columbians in the debate over moving Alberta's oil to world markets.

Globe and Mail-- Prentice says other options besides Kitimat for Northern Gateway plan
Edmonton Journal-- Look at alternatives to Kitimat as end point to Northern Gateway, Prentice says

Whether he'll be around long enough to see any progress on the energy plans remains to be seen, Prentice has taken over a Progressive Conservative party in Alberta that is in quite a bit of disarray, having suffered badly in the popularity polls during the Alison Redford term.

At some point he will have to take his party into an election, where at the moment success is far from guaranteed.

Where Alberta's energy delivery program may go from that point is anyone's guess.

For past items of interest on the Enbridge Northern Gateway files see our archive

Background items on the Prince Rupert Port Authority can be found here, while our archive of items related to Oil terminal development can be reviewed here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Minister Coleman seeks to reduce expectations of LNG tax windfall for Northern Municipalities

For those communities across Northern British Columbia counting LNG dollar signs in their sleep, there was a bit of a reality check delivered on Monday by the Provincial government.

During the opening day of the UBCM sessions in Whistler, Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development, and the point man tasked with steering home the ambitious LNG plans of the Premier to a conclusion, offered up the thought that municipalities may wish to reduce their expectations (and their taxation plans) accordingly.

In recent months, as this Frances Bula item from the Globe and Mail highlights,  Northern Communities have grown frustrated over the growing silence from the government on such issues as local infrastructure, housing and the prospect of an increased demand on services with increased development.

The Minister cautioned delegates to the Monday UBCM session that they need to make sure that they don't raise industrial taxes so high that they scare off project proponents.

In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Mr. Coleman outlined the Liberal government's plan to introduce a fiscal framework which may not only address the LNG industry tax issue, but also develop a plan for municipal property taxation.

BNN--  B. C. to release LNG tax laws next month

As part of his commentary for the Sun, Coleman provides a glimpse into that municipal plan, explaining how it could be based on the province's existing port taxation policy in Prince Rupert.

A plan which Coleman described a "fair but limited".

If that is the blue print that the province has in mind for municipal compensation from LNG, it may prove to be a  disappointing proposal for Prince Rupert City Council, particularly the suggestion by the Minister of as to it being fair, but limited.

That would seem to be an observation and conversation point that Prince Rupert Council members won't share, at least judging by their discussion points on taxation themes at past Council sessions. (see here and here)

In fact, as we noted on the blog yesterday, high on the list of resolutions that the Rupert delegation has taken south with them, are items pertaining to port taxation and grants in lieu of taxes.

One gets the feeling that the City and the Provincial government may be on opposite ends of the fiscal page when it comes to the interpretations of those resolution items.

Two articles from yesterday's UBCM files, offer up a fair bit of background on Mr. Coleman's talking points from Monday, including the possibility of a cap on taxation if the Province believes it is required.

There is also some reaction in the media review from Mayor Jack Mussallem,  who outlines the City's point of view on the theme of revenue generation from LNG development.

The solution that the Province appears to be working on, would appear to not quite be what Prince Rupert has in mind, particularly when it comes to delivering a financial reward for hosting those LNG terminal development plans.

Vancouver Sun-- B. C. cabinet minister warns against hefty industrial taxes on LNG plants
Vancouver Province--  Municipal governments need to use restraint when taxing LNG operations, energy minister warns UBCM

There is more on this week's UBCM gathering available on our archive page.

More on the number of proposed LNG projects for the North Coast can be found here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Dodge Cove residents not happy about Digby Island LNG proposal

For those living at Dodge Cove, the current pace of LNG development for the North Coast should just pass Digby Island by, with residents of the community starting to push back on the plans of Cnooc/Nexen Energy to develop their terminal project on the southern end of the island.

As we outlined on the blog in July, the Chinese owned LNG proponent had sought out permission from the provincial government environment office and the CEAA, looking  to offer up a second possible location for their proposed Aurora LNG terminal development

As part of their correspondence with the government organizations, the company provided documentation that would add the Digby Island location as a potential substitute for their original site of Grassy Point near Lax Kw'alaams.

A choice that has left many on Dodge Cove less than impressed.

Des Nobels, a community resident and Director with the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District provided the voice for Dodge Cove, outlining his thoughts and the concerns of some of his neighbours for the CBC Radio program Radio West. (listen here)

In his interview, Mr. Nobels offered up a string of concerns from Dodge Cove residents, from the increased nature of helicopter flights over the island, to community concerns with the location of an LNG plant being developed on their doorstep.

He also relayed issues with watershed concerns and light and noise pollution, as well as making note of the Digby Island airport, now with the prospect of having an LNG terminal built at the end of a runway.

As Mr. Nobels outlines things, Dodge Cove residents have expressed some thoughts in the past on the Fairview Container Port development across the harbour. The prospect of even more industrial development moving closer to their side of the harbour seemingly is something that they are determined to try and halt.

The Nexen proposal for Aurora LNG is still making its way through the various phases of Environmental Assessment.

The Province's Environmental Assessment Office offers up this background information regarding the proposal for the Digby Island project

You can review more on the Aurora LNG project from our archive file here

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nathan Cullen takes his private members bill to the House of Commons

A proposed piece of Federal legislation, which if adopted by the House of Commons would call for a ban on crude oil supertankers along the coast of Northern British Columbia.
As we outlined on the blog back on September 9th,  in addition to the ban on crude oil tankers on the North Coast, Mr. Cullen's bill would seek to develop oil refinery capacity in the Northwest, turning Alberta bitumen into refined oil for transport.

The introduction of the bill in the House also seeks to deliver Canadians to Mr. Cullen's campaign to make the bill law, through the website takebackourcoast.

The main thrust of his campaign for the bill involves the introduction of Mr. Cullen's Social Licence concept, a talking point that he has been making part of the conversation on resource development for over a year now.

The task ahead of Mr. Cullen however is a large one, as it's a rare occasion, particularly with a majority government in place, that private members bills move much further than the discussion phase.

Mr. Cullen outlined more of his proposal through his Facebook page and twitter feed.

The NDP also did their part in trumpeting his initiative through this contribution to the NDP portal, where it was outlined that later this fall, Mr. Cullen will be taking his message across the province.

You can review more items of interest from Mr. Cullen's efforts at the House of Commons from our archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

North Coast delegates bring eleven resolutions to UBCM

As the week of UBCM progresses, elected officials from the North Coast will be hoping to steer their resolutions to the convention through to a successful adoption.

Both Prince Rupert City Council and Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional district have a list of items up for discussion and adoption this year.

Prince Rupert can be found at the top of the list of those communities offering up resolutions for consideration this year, with eight proposals on the agenda to be considered.

Most of which involve the theme of accessing money whether through financial change to legislation on various tax issues, or by way of improved access to grant mechanisms.

For its part, Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District adds three of their own to the to do notes for the week.

Prince Rupert Council starts off their listing of topics with concerns over Port related revenues and the ability to generate more revenue from port activities.

Resolution B10 -- Port Property Tax Caps
Resolution B 11 -- Payment in Lieu of Taxes

You can review the thumbnail sketch of the Prince Rupert proposals from pages 95 and 96 of the Resolutions Guidebook

More financial overview comes from Prince Rupert with a pair of resolutions on grants.

Resolution B 18 -- Unconditional Grants 
Resolution B 19 -- Flexible Matching Grants

The review of those two proposals can be found on page 101 of the Resolutions Guide.

Prince Rupert also offers up for consideration an item for the Selected issues category

Resolution B 41 -- Poverty Reduction

The background on that proposal is found on page 117 of the Resolutions guide.

On items of note on the Legislative File, Prince Rupert Council with an eye looking back on the recent troubles regarding the Watson Island industrial site, sponsors a resolution on Tax Sale Dispute issues

Resolution B 99 -- Local Government Tax Sale Dispute Process

The outline of that proposal can be found on page 162 of the Resolutions Guide

The Port once again will be the focus of a Taxation resolution sponsored by Prince Rupert

Resolution B 106 -- Port Improvements Tax Exemption

Details on that proposal can be found from page 167 of the Resolutions guide.

Prince Rupert also will seek to have the issue of Funding Assistance reviewed.

Resolution B118 -- Funding Assistance for Project Proposal Evaluation

The review of that proposal is available on page 175 of the Resolution guide.

As for Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District they offer up three proposals for the convention.

Resolution B30 -- Liquefied Natural Gas Projects

Details on that item can be found on page 109 of the Resolution guide.

Resolution B 111 -- BC Assessment Authority

Background on that proposal can be found on page 171 of the Resolution guide.

Coastal Ferries issues and a call for a restoration of service levels mark the final item up from the North Coast.

Resolution C1 -- Coastal Ferries: Restoration of Service Levels, Fiscal Fairness and Long Term Strategy

The outline of that proposal can be found on page 191 of the Resolution guide.

Each of the items identified above can be found on the pages noted above from this link to the UBCM 2014 Resolutions Guide.

For updates on developments at UBCM 2014 see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

UBCM Talking Points 2014

As the province's municipal leaders, along with a string of BC government and opposition members take part in the UBCM convention, we will offer up items of interest from the Whistler gathering below.

Original items of note for the North Coast will be highlighted in red and marked by our blue NCR icon, allowing you to find them with a quick scan.

Other items related to North Coast involvement from other media sources will also be found in Red typeface.

Readers of the blog can also find updates on information from UBCM through twitter and the #UBCM hashtag...


September 27-- Premier Clark closes UBCM with a bit of history and a bit of forward thinking  NCR


September 26-- Fiscal standoff between province and municipalities dominates UBCM convention
September 26-- Premier Clark on the Mike Eckford program CKNW ( audio )
September 26-- Premier Christy Clark addresses UBCM Delegates ( transcript of full address )
September 26-- Don't pay your staff so much, Premier Christy Clark tells B. C. municipalities
September 26-- Bylaw officers should be able to break vehicle windows to save dogs in distress: UBCM motion
September 26-- Premier delivers message on fiscal restraint to UBCM
September 26-- Christy Clark tells UBCM dialogue will shape province's future
September 26-- Fort St. John leads the way in resource driven conversations during UBCM conference
September 26-- Premier Clark's address to members of the UBCM
September 26-- Premier wants municipal pay to be election issue
September 26-- UBCM continues to lobby against province giving $1 Mill to town with no residents: Jumbo
September 26-- In UBCM speech, Clark says path of peace shapes B.C. future
September 26-- Premier says path of peace of schools, resources shapes BC's future
September 26-- Clark says path of peace on schools, aboriginals, resources, shapes B. C. future
September 26-- B. C.'s Christy Clark expects relations will blossom with Alberta's Jim Prentice
September 26-- Finish line out of sight and start line uncertain in race to develop LNG
September 26-- B. C. transportation minister tells coastal cities to pitch in if they don't want rising ferry fares
September 26-- Show leadership on ferry service
September 26-- After a week of UBCM setbacks, City Council might have some new additions for the Provincial Budget Consultations   NCR


September 25-- Horgan blasts 'shoddy' municipal pay study
September 25-- Coal export scrutiny urged by cities
September 25-- Smithers Wins Awards at UBCM
September 25-- Activists say public interest "completely missing" from LNG talks at UBCM
September 25-- Clark tap dances while Stone rants
September 25-- UBCM unlikely to alter Ferries' course
September 25-- Horgan Demands approved LNG projects meet four key Principles that Benefit British Columbia (media release)
September 25-- Prince George Councillors meet with Transportation Minister
September 25-- NDP leader says LNG must benefit B. C.
September 25-- Oil Pipeline opposition call fails at UBCM
September 25-- Discussion on BC Ferries issues highlights gap between Province and coastal communities NCR


September 24-- UBCM President blasts government for inaction on fiscal report
September 24-- How Downloaded Costs are Steamrolling Local Governments
September 24-- Mayors feeling snubbed by province over revenue sharing
September 24-- Funding announcements at UBCM
September 24-- UBCM gas sector sponsorship called into question
September 24-- Campbell River Mayor Jakeway faces heat after UBCM comments
September 24-- UBCM should propose cost-saving ideas
September 24-- UBCM resolutions defeated on ALR, confidentiality
September 24-- Stone rejects fare rollback at BC Ferries
September 24-- Transportation Minister rejects call for ferry-fare rollbacks, restoration of service to 2013 levels
September 24-- Cities Reject Minister's Proposal they help pay for BC Ferries
September 24-- UBCM ferry report makes for awkward talks
September 24-- Transportation Minister, critics disagree on ferry ridership analysis
September 24-- Civic politicians want BC Ferry rates reduced
September 24-- Transportation Minister promises to keep BC Ferries fare hike in line with inflation
September 24-- No plans to roll back ferry fares or services, transportation minister says
September 24-- UBCM upset as B. C. blows off talks on uncertain municipal finances
September 24-- B. C. Municipalities want medical pot growers identified
September 24-- Big-city safety concerns win the day in UBCM vote calling on feds to disclose medical marijuana grow locations
September 24-- UBCM delegates to vote on resolution to roll back ferry fares by 4%
September 24-- Minister Coleman seeks to reduce expectations of LNG tax windfall for Northern Municipalities  NCR


September 23-- Victoria, Municipalities trade insults and dollar figures
September 23-- UBCM call for ferry changes a long shot
September 23-- UBCM debates reducing number of resolutions raised for discussion
September 23-- Some B. C. Mayors balk at funding extra firefighter training
September 23-- B. C. Mayors push province on mental health
September 23-- Penticton takes large scale events issue to the province for UBCM convention
September 23-- UBCM delegates to vote on resolutions to roll back ferry fares
September 23-- B. C. communities keen on Victoria and Vancouver's mental health approach
September 23-- Kinder Morgan pipeline fight will be raised at UBCM Wednesday
September 23-- Increase mental health and addiction services: BC Mayor's caucus
September 23-- B. C. Mayors, Councillors out to pickpocket taxpayers yet again
September 23-- Aboriginal title 'a first step,' UBCM told
September 23-- UBCM hears that native band wants to support economic development
September 23-- Prince George talks crime at UBCM
September 23-- Author stands by B. C. Ferries report despite criticism
September 23-- Analyst stands by report on ferry fares impact
September 23-- Island candidates tee off over UBCM relevance
September 23-- Ferries on the mind at UBCM
September 23-- Civic Leaders discussing BC Ferries fare hikes at UBCM today
September 23-- B. C. to add rural ambulance resources
September 23-- Saanich pushes climate change at gathering of B. C. municipalities
September 23-- Big companies paying big bucks to sponsor events with BC Civic leaders
September 23-- Prince George Councillor Krause seeks post on UBCM executive
September 23-- West Kelowna Discusses Second Bridge Crossing at UBCM
September 23-- North Coast delegates bring eleven resolutions to UBCM  NCR
September 23-- UBCM convention underway at Whistler  NCR


September 22-- Northern B. C. towns worry LNG boom will turn into burden
September 22-- Transportation Minister, critics disagree on ferry ridership analysis
September 22-- Energy Minister warns UBCM that local govt's need to use restraint in taxing LNG operations
September 22-- B. C. cabinet minister warns against hefty industrial taxes on LNG plants
September 22-- Stetski lays out agenda for UBCM convention
September 22-- Ferry fares lead list of hot topics as leaders gather in Whistler for annual UBCM convention
September 22-- BC Ferries won't get more government subsidies: Todd Stone
September 22-- UBCM Convention starts Today
September 22-- BC cities call municipal pay review flawed, biased
September 22-- Ambulance response and BC Ferries on the agenda at UBCM
September 22-- UBCM President defends annual convention
September 22-- UBCM convention begins in Whistler today

Cross posted from the North Coast Review