Friday, February 27, 2015

"In the House" with Michael Smyth February 27 edition

Province columnist Michael Smyth is joined by guest Attorney General Suzanne Anton and NDP Justice critic Mike Farnworth.

In The House February 27  (audio)

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Recommended Community Grant disbursements outlined in City Budget Presentation

City of Prince Rupert CFO
Corinne Bomben at Council
Monday evening
Community organizations and groups that access money from the City of Prince Rupert were included in the review of information as part of Monday's Budget Presentation.

As the City's Financial Officer provided a listing of where the city's grant money will be allocated as part of the financial forecast, should City Council approve the final version of the financial blue print.

The Contributions to Community partners portion of the Report to Council was divided into two sections, with the smaller amounts of the Recommended Grants in aid totalling $102,500 of the Budget forecast.

As for the larger amounts, which are dedicated to the Major Grant recipients. The CFO's  report recommends disbursements to total $ 1,274,500, allocated to six community organizations.

The Recommendations and breakdown from the 2015 Budget are as follows:

Prince Rupert Golf Course
Equipment for Golf Course - $40,000
Wages and Benefits for Superintendent - $122,000

Prince Rupert Economic Development Commission  $50,000

Tourism Prince Rupert
Tourism Prince Rupert Hotel Tax Transfer -  $220,000
Visitors Information Centre  -- $31,500

Museum of Northern British Columbia
Kwinitsa Station Grant -- $15,000
Main Museum Grant -- $111,000

Prince Rupert Library 
Library Grant -- $566,000
Vest Benefit accrual - $9,000

Lester Centre -- $110,000

Portions of  funding from those total amounts have already been distributed by the City, with the remainder of the grant funding to be allocated once the Final Budget decisions have been made.

You can review the amounts that have already been forwarded from the chart below:

Ms. Bomben's full report to Council can be reviewed here.

On Wednesday, we provided some background on her Financial presentation to Council with this item on the blog.

Her update for  Council is also available for viewing from the City's Video Archive, it starts at the 58 minute mark.

Council will review the report from the CFO and make its final determinations on the Grant allotments for 2015 following the public information engagement sessions of March 9th and 23rd.

For more items related to the City's Budget considerations see our archive page here, for more background on City Council see our Council Archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Prince Rupert Vessel Services coverage area to expand in wake of Coast Guard closures

Seal Cove Coast Guard
Base in Prince Rupert,
From Gov't of Canada site
According to a number of press reports today, the Federal Government has advised its Coast Guard Communications staff of plans for three closures for British Columbia Coast guard vessel traffic operations.

With Government set to shut down the Tofino and Vancouver stations by mid May, while a third located in Comox is destined to close in early 2016.

The British Columbia closures are part of a larger reduction in services across Canada.

With the restructuring of the Coast Guards operations in the province, it would appear that the area of coverage and the workload for the Prince Rupert station will expand.  That as the Coast Guard moves communications normally handled by the Tofino station, to the Prince Rupert station at Seal Cove.

There was no mention if the staffing requirements of the Prince Rupert station would change with the increased area of coverage.

Unifor local 2182, the union branch that represents workers at the affected Coast Guard centres has launched a petition drive to oppose the Government plans, you can review it here.

Some background on the announcement can be found below

CBC -- 3 Canadian Coast Guard Communications centres closing in B. C.
News 1130 -- Three Coast Guard Marine Communications centres to close
Victoria Times Colonist-- Coast Guard closures to go ahead, raising fears for safety

Cross Posted from the North Coast Review

Councillor Thorkelson suggests Mayor Brain bring a message to Alaska meetings next month

It's not quite the Prince Rupert version of gunboat diplomacy, but it might send a message.

As City Councillor Joy Thorkelson  suggests that Mayor Lee Brain make the Prince Rupert Airport Ferry's Alaskan refit part of the city's discussion points when it comes to the stalled Alaska Marine Highway project.

Councillor Thorkelson made the suggestion during Monday's City Council Session after hearing of the Mayor's March travel plans to head to Alaska.

Mayor Brain will be travelling north to take part in a number of meetings related to the Southeast conference get together.

Calling attention to the work of the last council, Ms. Thorkelson reminded the Chamber that in November, City Council voted to send the Prince Rupert Airport Ferry to Ketchikan this year for its annual refit, something that she reminded Council she had voted against.

Councillor Niesh took advantage of the observation to remind the audience in Council Chambers and those viewing at home, that it was the previous council that made that decision.  Offering up the observation that in this instance, he was on the same side of the discussion as Councillor Thorkelson and would have been against the refit plan had he been on Council at the time.

With the Alaska Marine Highway Terminal project now in a state of limbo, the Councillor suggested that it may make for a useful discussion topic for the Mayor when he attends his meetings next month.

Suggesting that perhaps some reciprocal back scratching (by way of the Ferry terminal project we gather) might be in order from the Alaskans.

You can review Councillor Thorkelson's sailing orders for the Mayor from the City's Video Archive, it takes place near the end of the Council session, at the one hour, twenty eight minute mark.

For some background on the Alaska Marine Highway issue see our Transportation archive here, for more items of note from Prince Rupert City Council see our discussion page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Councillor Cunningham wants to see City council representation on Cruise Ship Task Force

As Prince Rupert begins to make its plans for the 2015 Cruise Ship season City Council offered up a few thoughts on Monday evening, looking to find a direction that the City may wish to travel when it comes to providing some input on developments.

The conversation started with an inquiry from Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa, who asked the Mayor if there were any developments underway to increase the number of cruise ship visits to the community.

Mayor Lee Brain offered some observations that at this time, the Prince Rupert Port Authority is in the early stages of reconvening its Cruise Ship Task Force Working group, looking to reassess how it is going to look like for this year.

Councillor Mirau outlined his participation in the work of the committee thus far, which is still in the early stages, advising Council that his engagement was related to his work with the Nisga'a Society.

From that advisory Councillor Cunningham outlined his desire to see some for of involvement by the City of Prince Rupert in the planning for that committee, offering up the name of Councillor Randhawa as s potential city candidate for participation in the work of the group.

The Mayor advised that he would investigate the status of the Working group further and advise Council accordingly.

The short discussion on any potential Civic involvement in the Cruise Ship Working group can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive, starting from the one hour twenty eight minute mark.

In past years, the Cruise Ship Task Force has endeavoured to provide a coordinated approach to working with all of the city's tourism groups to seek out a larger footprint in the community from the BC and Alaska Cruise industry.

Further items related to the Cruise Ship industry in the region can be found here.

More background on City Council developments can be reviewed here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

MLA Rice salutes nurse practitioners, highlights challenges in recruitment

The work of the province's nurse practitioners received a shout out in the British Columbia Legislature on Thursday, as North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice praised their work and highlighted some of the challenges that the province's health system is having in filling vacant positions.

First by offering up a bit of background on the nature of the work:

 Nurse practitioners are tightly regulated and must undertake additional training beyond their registered nursing degree. These men and women perform up to 80 percent of the activities of a family physician, including, but not limited to, diagnosis, treatment, ordering lab tests, prescribing medication and admitting patients to hospital, if necessary. Without their presence in the health care system, many more Canadians would be forced to accessing health care through our hospital emergency rooms or simply have to go without.

Ms. Rice then drew the attention of the Legislature to the situation in Prince Rupert, where the current nurse practitioner has been away on maternity leave, with the province not yet having provided for someone to fill in for the position.

Where I live in Prince Rupert, we have one nurse practitioner, who is currently away on maternity leave. We wish Toby all the best as she embarks on the journey of raising her second child. Unfortunately, and commonly in rural B.C., recruiters were unable to temporarily fill her position while she is away. It's common to have these positions unfilled, even though we give lip service to their importance and need for more positions. It's a challenge we face here in British Columbia. With the current direction to increase access to primary care and decrease health cost pressures, nurse practitioners are an invaluable component to the health and well-being of British Columbians.

Ms Rice made her comments as part of the Member's Statements portion of the Thursday morning proceedings of the Legislature.

Nurse practitioners help to take some of the strain off of small to medium communities which may be suffering from doctor's shortages, usually based out of a medical clinic they provide a number of services that reduce the impact on emergency rooms across the province.

You can learn more about the Nurse Practitioner program in British Columbia from the British Columbia Nurse Practitioner Association website.

You can review the full presentation from the Legislature record here, starting just before the 10:15 mark of the Hansard review.

For items related to Health issues on the North Coast see our archive page here.

For more background on MLA Rice's work in Victoria see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Not even a whisper about Watson Island in the City's Budget Overview

Watson Island, it's a topic that as we remember from the past, was once a dominant talking point in the community, but of late a theme that  doesn't seem to have provided for much of a public review.

Leaving a void in the flow of information when it comes to updates on the burden of cost that the City has to shoulder from the site, while the ongoing court case related to Watson Island moves forward.

The industrial site was particularly absent in the Budget Overview of Monday evening, as the City's Financial Officer, Corinne Bomben made no mention of such things as monthly burn rates, remediation work costs or other financial items related to the city's most controversial and longest running issue.

A quick scan of the accompanying documentation from her Budget Review would seem to indicate that Watson Island remains a bit of a financial item of note for the City to consider.

Year to Date figures for the end of 2014 still suggest that the financial bottom line for the industrial site is far from solved just yet.

With Revenues from Watson Island as of the end of 2014 noted to be $815,712, while Expenditures for the site to the end of 2014 were listed at $1,813,005.

Which would seem to suggest a shortfall of $997,000 remains for the year just past.

Looking forward, the spreadsheet delivers a notice that on the Revenue side for Watson Island it's anticipated that the site will seemingly provide for 120,000 dollars to the City for 2015, with no other forecast on the financials made for the following four years.

Those 2015 projections however seem considerably diminished from the expectations of the past.

Beyond the kind of work that keeps accountants and lawyers occupied, the issue of progress (if any) on the Watson Island File is something that the new City Council would appear to be keeping to themselves for the moment.

Since Mayor Brain and his council of six took office on December 3rd, Watson Island has not been mentioned once in public session. With no public updates to be found from City Staff as to the cost to the city when it comes to maintenance, or other related issues with the site.

Nor have there been any disclosures or comments from the elected officials, to advise Prince Rupert residents  if the long running saga is coming near an end.

Included in that ongoing silence, is a lack of any kind of indication as to the status of the once highly trumpeted plan of an LNG terminal for the location.

The proposal from the proponent of WILNG (Watson Island LNG) never really offered up much of a public presence even as it was being rolled out, or for that matter, in the period of months that followed the original announcement.

The City for its part, has not made mention of it in months either, the last real development there coming in July of 2014 when the City announced it's exclusivity agreement with the proponent.

Since then it's been all quiet on the WILNG front, that project perhaps now lost in the wake of the shiny new Exxon/Mobil proposal suggested for Tuck Inlet.

Considering the importance that the Watson Island issue has had over the years, the unresolved items of note surrounding the industrial land requires some kind of an update from the Mayor and City Council.

Particularly as we head into a Budget deliberation period, where any future surprises from the industrial site could change the dynamic of any Civic financial blue print.

While they weren't frequent, and for the most part not particularly full of many details, the previous Mayor and council of 2011-2014 did from time to time at least, make an attempt to provide some background on developments from Watson Island.

Whether it was by way of a report from the Financial Officer, or the route used most often, which featured some short personal observations from then Mayor Jack Mussallem, residents of the city at least received for the record, a few glimpses of the state of Watson Island.

Such was the dominant theme of Watson Island on the last Council, that as he was leaving office, Mayor Mussallem offered up one final comment on the industrial site, a review that framed much of his final term of office.

The Mayor's remembrance of the past and guidance for the new council memorable for his observation of Watson Island and "what a hell hole it can be".

Now, close to three months later, for the most part it seems that the "hell hole" of Watson Island, has seemingly become the "place of which we shall not name".

Still out there just off the Port Edward bypass road, ticking away, perhaps ready to spring another surprise on a community that most likely thinks it has seen it all when it comes to developments from the industrial site.

To refresh all our memories, some of the major developments from the Watson Island files of 2014 and before can be found on our archive page.

Our archive of 2015, which so far consists of but one item (and you're reading it at the moment), can be reviewed here.

For more items related to City Council developments see our archive here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Traffic congestion at Civic Centre from ANBT raised at Council

Councillor Niesh at Monday's council
session on ANBT traffic congestion
at Civic Centre complex
While the All Native Basketball Tournament is a welcome addition to the Prince Rupert calendar, the volume of people arriving in the city and congregating at the Civic Centre has provided for one spin off issue for local residents.

At Monday's Council session, Councillor Wade Niesh relayed a story of an elderly lady who discovered that part of her normal bus ride to the Pool would suddenly involve n unanticipated a walk, taking her from the Spero's Market bus stop to the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre.

A situation reportedly required as the city's transit buses  could not travel their usual route into the Civic Centre complex.

As Mr. Niesh outlined to Council, the nature of the traffic and gathering of spectators to the Civic Centre was resulting in a lengthy amount of time for the buses to transit the parking lot and entrance to the complex, An ongoing problem that in the end, seemingly led to the decision to not make the effort.

As the Councillor correctly pointed out, that area should be accessible at all times to buses and emergency vehicles.

As well, he observed that as the event takes place in February, weather conditions could have been very bad, and the idea of an eighty year old woman having to make the trek from the store to the pool isn't acceptable.

Councillor Niesh suggested Council should address by way of a letter to the ANBT committee, seeking a way to solve the issue for next year's tournament. He offered up the recommendation that tournament organizers provide for some form of traffic control during their event.

You can review his commentary from the City's Video archive, Councillor Niesh outlines the situation at the 1 hour twenty four minute mark.

For more items related to City Council discussion see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 26 -- CBC's The National: At Issue Panel -- Debate over Debates

An archive of the At Issue features from the CBC's Flagship News program The National.

February 26 edition: Discussion on debates and how they will evolve in this year's election period.


Voice of BC -- Leader of the Opposition

BC NDP Leader John Horgan sits in with host Vaughn Palmer to discuss a number of issues, including Translink, MPS premiums and attracting Green Voters to the NDP.


Voice of BC - Leader of the Opposition from Voice of BC on Vimeo.

MLA returns to Highway 16 transportation concerns during Wednesday Legislature session

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice continued to seek answers from Transportation Minister Todd Stone on Wednesday, following up her efforts of Tuesday, with two more questions related to Transportation issues on Highway 16.

In a pair of short exchanges during Wednesday's Question Period Ms. Rice returned to the theme of issues related to Highway 16 and the need for a shuttle bus along the Northern BC route.

Her first exchange with the Minister involved a review of the current status of Greyhound bus service along Highway 16, as well as observations on the list of unsolved cases of missing and murdered women in this one area of the province, with her first question originally directed to the Premier.

Clearly this minister doesn't know the details of this file. We've lost Greyhound bus service in the last 15 years. We've gone from 22 trips between Prince Rupert and Prince George down to 15. The train service is practically obsolete now that the Port of Prince Rupert has expanded. 

My question is for the Premier. Boy, she wouldn't believe what her ministers have been up to while she's been away. I want to remind the Premier that B.C. has the most unsolved cases of missing and murdered women in this country. More women have disappeared in British Columbia than any other province. It's wrong to suggest we should wait for more women to go missing before we take action. 

Again, to the Premier, will she commit today to bring in the bus service urged by the Missing Women Commission, yes or no?

The Transportation Minister took that question for the Premier, returning to the theme of government consultation with communities along the highway and pointed to some web based initiatives that the provincial government has taken to address the transportation issues.

That reply provided for a second opportunity for the North Coast MLA to weigh in on the topic. Her second question, was one that focused on the nature of  the website that his Ministry is trumpeting as a partial solution to the Transportation issues of Highway 16.

With Ms. Rice asking Minister Stone if Luxury Limousines, as highlighted on the website, are really a sensible recommendation for residents of the mostly rural area of the province.

The Missing Women Commission urged this government to bring in safe, affordable transportation for northern communities so that women wouldn't be forced to hitchhike to buy groceries or go to appointments. 

Instead, this government put together a website, or the web portal the minister just spoke of, that you'd never find unless you knew where to look. If you did find it, you know what's on there? A link to limousine companies. Does the minister really think that a website listing limousines is going to be of any use to the young women hitching on Highway 16?

In response to those observations, the Transportation Minister returned to some of his previous thoughts on the distance to be covered between Prince Rupert and Prince George and his impression that a shuttle bus is not a practical solution to the issue.

What's, I think, really important here is identifying practical solutions — solutions that, when implemented, will actually make a difference. That is why on the question of a shuttle bus type of service, I think it's important to acknowledge — and we certainly heard this in many of the discussions that were had when we were up there last summer — that the distance from Prince Rupert to Prince George is 718 kilometres. 

That's an eight-hour drive in good driving conditions. Putting a shuttle bus on that length of highway with that amount of hours of driving was not identified as a practical solution by the people who live up there. -- Transportation Minister Todd Stone on the issue of a Shuttle Bus along Highway 16.

A full review of the discussion in the Legislature can be found from the Hansard Record here.

The two key inquiries from MLA Rice appear between the 1420 and 1425  point of the record.

For more items related to developments in the Legislature see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Airport Ferry to sail with $925,000 subsidy in 2015

One of the more interesting reviews from Monday's Budget Presentation from the City's Financial Officer was the quick snapshot of the cost of operating the City's Airport  Ferry.

A financial challenge for the community that for 2015 will require a subsidy for operations of $925,000,  a burden of financing that is for the most part carried by the taxpayers of the city, a topic that the City's Financial Officer explored further as part of her review of Monday night.

"As described in a recent report produced on the capacity of the ferry service, our airport is described as one of the most challenging to access in the industrialized world. We are also likely one of the few municipalities in BC that have to fund their own transportation to an airport, most are accessible by road and light rail.

Although many of our neighbours and visitors benefit from the proximity of our airport, they only pay on a user basis, our municipality pays not only a user fee, but also subsidizes the operation through taxation. 2015 predicts a subsidization of 925,000 dollars. " -- City Financial Officer Corinne Bomben on the nature of the Airport Ferry Subsidization.

The topic of funding access to the airport is one that Council has discussed frequently in the past.

The last Council of 2011-2014 had been looking for ways to engage the region in sharing some of that cost, however that was a proposed shift in the burden that didn't seem to find much traction in those years.

You can review some of the recurring themes and past Council observations below:

March 26, 2014 -- On buses, boats and planes and the financial pain of airport access
March 11, 2013 -- Many kind words, but little funding for airport access initiatives
March 3, 2013 -- Don't Pay the Ferryman until he gets you to the other side

Ms. Bomben's observations on the Airport Ferry can be reviewed from the Video Archive of Monday's Budget Presentation, the topic appears at the very beginning of her presentation at the 58 minute mark of the council session.

The mention of the Airport Ferry and its cost to the City as part of the Budget preview of Monday, probably could be seen an indication that the topic is about to be reintroduced into the regional debate.

With Council perhaps preparing to taking the issue up in the future with the surrounding communities that make use of the Digby Island airport.

You can review more on items related to Air Transportation on the North Coast from our archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MLA Rice raises questions on Transportation Ministry consultations on Highway 16

There is a bubbling controversy in Victoria this week regarding consultation sessions that the Ministry of Transportation took part in this past summer, conversations related to Transportation issues along British Columbia's Highway 16.

Tuesday in the Legislature, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice following up on an original question to Minister Todd Stone from the NDP's Maurine Karagianis, raised the issue of some missing documentation with the Government.

With Ms. Rice looking to trace the travels of Ministry representatives this past summer along Highway 16 and seeking an account of their conversations with residents of communities along the way.

The MLA perhaps looking for an itinerary, rough draft notes, or maybe even just marks on a road map signifying stops in a number of communities.

Something that at least will offer up a some solid facts and a record for review, as to the nature of the consultations that took place during the summer visits.

As Ms. Rice relayed in the Legislature, the heart of the controversy involves impressions that Minister Stone has suggested which have local community members indicating that recommendations related to safe, affordable public transportation were not practical.

Those observations, which go against some feedback from the region that the North Coast MLA has received, has led Ms. Rice to seek out further confirmation, by way of a Freedom of Information request regarding those consultations.

During Tuesday's Question Period, the North Coast MLA brought her ongoing interest in that request to the Legislature, pressing the Minister for answers on why the Freedom of Information inquiry has not yet been addressed.

The Minister for his part deflected the nature of the Freedom of Information inquiries, advising that those requests are handled by professionals in the Civil Service, following that up with a list of some of the Provincial government's efforts on the file.

An answer that didn't particularly reassure Ms. Rice that the request is being handled properly.

You can review the full account of the exchange between the North Coast MLA and the Transportation Minister from the Legislature Hansard Record here, it takes place at just before the 1050 marker on the right hand column.

Ms. Rice also provided some further background to her thoughts following the Question Period on Tuesday, seeking a quick response from the Government on the issue.

“The people of Northern British Columbia deserve to know why the B.C. Liberal government is hiding the results of any consultations that were had,” ...“We don’t know how many of these meetings actually took place, and whether the minister is misrepresenting what people said. Northwest communities have heard enough excuses, it’s time for action to bring safe transportation options along the Highway of Tears.”

On Wednesday, the Transportation Minister took to twitter to provide a listing of Community Access  Transportation options across the region.

A helpful list no doubt, but something that isn't quite the same as the Transportation options that have been outlined from the Oppal Report and what MLA Rice wants to see in place across the region.

As of Wednesday evening, the office of the North Coast MLA had not advised as to whether her Freedom of Information inquiry has found any success.

A review of some of the discussion on the topic from last year can be found on our Transportation page. Items related to Highway 16 for 2015 can be found here.

For more items related to developments at the Legislature see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

CityWest provides dividend forecast for City Council

Monday's city Council session provided an overview of anticipated revenues coming to the city for 2015 and one item that no doubt caught the eye of Council members was the observation from the City's Financial Officer, that CityWest will deliver another 400,000 dollars in 2015.

The issue of CityWest dividends has been a lively topic at City Council sessions in recent years, as the City owned telecommunication company reduced its financial return to its only owner.

Last year's 400,000 dollars was an increase from the original proposal of a 250,000 dollar divined in the Spring of 2014, a notice that at the time put the communication company back in the spotlight for Council members.
Mayor Lee Brain accepting CityWest
dividend payment in December 2014

Late last year CityWest celebrated its delivery of the 400,000 dollars, heralding the financial return with a picture of Mayor Brain in possession of a huge novelty cheque for the event

In 2013 Council members reacted with a mixture of surprise and anger, at the prospect that no dividend would be provided that year by the communication company that year.

An alarm bell that seemed to signal to Council that more attention was required on its investment.

Last October, the City announced a number of significant changes to the CityWest Board of Directors, putting in place the majority of its upper level of City staff members into positions of oversight at CityWest.

Considering that Prince Rupert once counted its dividend returns in the millions and not the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It will be interesting to see if Council members suggest that the CityWest Board members perhaps should sharpen their pencils and offer up a larger amount of return on investment by the time the final budget deliberations are concluded.

For more items related to CityWest see our archive page here, for other discussion topics at City Council see our archive here.

 Cross posted from the North Coast Review

RCMP deliver final letter related to new detachment requirements

Current RCMP detachment in
Prince Rupert. The RCMP is now
in the position to have a new
building constructed
During her Budget Presentation to Council on Monday evening, the City's Financial Officer advised Council that the City had taken receipt of a letter from the RCMP.

A correspondence which provided for a final notice from the police force, advising that the local detachment is now overdue for a replacement building.

With the delivery of that notice, the RCMP is now in the position to move forward on their own, should they desire, in order to construct a new detachment of their own design and submit the bill to the City.

However, before that stage is reached, it would seem that further discussions with the City are on the horizon, as Ms. Bomben offered up the suggestion that engagement with the public on that issue is once again about to commence.

"We were aware that this letter would come day and in fact the City began the process of consultation with the community in 2012. The process stalled but now we are in the position where we either take the next step and have some control over what is built, or the RCMP will build it for us and send the City the bill .  Staff intend to engage the community with respect to this notification and begin necessary planning" -- City Financial Officer Corinne Bomben providing notice of receipt of a Final letter from the RCMP regarding a replacement building for the local detachment.

The replacement issue once was a long running discussion topic, if not a bit of a soap opera for past City Councils, though in recent years it has hardly been mentioned if even in passing.

The last council of 2011--2014 having kicked it down the road for the most part during its three year term, or as Ms. Bomben more politely put it, the process stalled.

Since mid 2013 the topic of the proposed replacement building seems to have been left in a state of limbo, owing mainly to the city's financial situation of the time.

A theme that continued on through last year, as a review of our archive from 2014 would seem to suggest that the topic never once came up for review in any open session of council last year.

With the RCMP taking measures to provide its thoughts to the City on their building concerns, the discussion now appears destined to come out of hibernation.

Some of that past history can be reviewed below.

March 15, 2013 -- City Council clicks its heels and hopes for the best
March 10, 2013  -- Emergency Services Building Review set for Monday night
December 17, 2012 -- City Council kicks the emergency services building debate down the road
March 16, 2012 -- The residents are rumbling
March 6, 2012 -- Discussion begins on emergency services replacement building

You can review Ms. Bomben's advisory to council from the City's Video Archive, it starts at the 1 hour eighteen minute mark.

For more items related to discussions at City Council see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

City Council receives first public review of Budget preparations for 2015

The City's Financial Officer provided the first glimpse for the public towards the financial blue print for 2015 for the City of Prince Rupert, as Ms. Corinne Bomben delivered a thirty minute Budget presentation to City Council. on Monday evening.

Offering background on the considerations required to form a budget and providing her department's recommendations to help address an anticipated 200,000 dollar budget shortfall, with a recommendation of a 1.9 percent increase in the mill rate for 2015 to cover off that issue.

She also highlighted some of the financial challenges that the Airport Ferry continues to provide to the City, with the residents of Prince Rupert carrying a larger share of the burden than those who don't live in the city. Those service challenges will require a subsidy of $925,000 for ferry operations in 2015.

Ms. Bomben then turned her attention to some of the revenue challenges that the City faces related to Caps on Port lands in the region, providing some observations on how that impacts on the City's financial picture, as well as a review of some of the provincial moves that affect the City's financial overview.

In addition to the concerns the City has when it comes to Port related lands and provincial issues, the City's CFO provided a review of the break down on taxation resources available to the city from all sectors of the community.  Reviewing for Council the different rates in place ranging from residential to commercial and industrial interests.

Included in that review was a look at the impact from taxation that is felt by rate payers in those three areas.

The presentation also provided opportunity for Ms. Bomben to highlight some of the potential sources of revenue that the City has access to. As well as to make frequent mentions of the City controlled Legacy Corporation and how it could deliver returns to the community, with Ms. Bomben delivering the popular refrain of late that the community is on the brink of a boom.

Her documentation to council offers a brief outline as to how the Legacy Corporation plans to allocate its financial resources over the next few years.

As for the other City controlled corporation, Ms. Bomben advised that CityWest will deliver a dividend of $400,000 this year, the same amount that they provided to the city in 2014.

Her presentation also offered up a look at some of the expenses that the City is required to address, including a breakdown on some of the largest requirements from the City's Financial accounts.

On that theme she identified a number of areas where the majority of the budget is allocated towards, with the following five areas making up 71 per cent of the budget allocations through taxation:

Police 25% 
Fire 16%
Recreation 13%
Roads 10%
Grants 7%

Among some of the expenses the City faces for 2015:

The Operations Budget will include $310,000 in Capital Purchases

The Airport Ferry will require a subsidy of $925,000 in 2015

Community Grants will mirror much of the same amounts at those of 2014

Upcoming Salary requirements and benefit rate increases as part of contract provisions will provide an additional cost of $400,000 in 2015.

Increased energy costs of $35,000 will also contribute to the City's expenses.

Staffing succession planning and increase in needs will provide for an increase of $100,000

The Anticipated Budget shortfall will be $220,000 in 2015

Towards that shortfall, the Finance Department is recommending a mill rate increase of 1.9 percent for 2015,  making for an average increase of 37 dollars per taxpayer for this year.

Ms. Bomben also suggested that Council give consideration to development of a Reserve Policy to replenish reserves and replace infrastructure concerns. That part of her presentation provided the benefits to the community that such a fund would provide.

The recommended rate to fund any establishment of a  Reserve Fund would be set at 2 percent mill rate to be put in place perpetually, listed as a separate line item on the tax bill.

That however is a proposal that will perhaps be addressed later this year, with Ms. Bomben at the moment, expressing no intention to begin the process of assembling that 2 per cent from taxes, if approved by Council, until sometime in the future.

As well as the Financial budget overview, Ms. Bomben also advised Council that the City had received a final letter of notice from the RCMP regarding the need for a replacement building for the local detachment.

Should the City not move forward on the long delayed proposal of replacement, the RCMP is now in the position to build their own building of their own design and bill the city for the construction.  Council will soon engage with the public on the need for the new building and the proposal to move ahead.

The presentation to Council is really just the first draft of her proposals, some of the suggestions may be revised depending on the instructions of Council.

Before that takes place however, the public will have the opportunity provide their review of her first draft.

There will be two public consultation periods regarding these proposals, the first scheduled for March 9th at the Lester Centre as part of that evening's Regular Council session, the second engagement session will take place at City Hall as part of the Regular Council session for March 23rd.

Council will delay any direction to staff regarding the Budget Proposals until after those public engagement sessions take place.

You can review the full Report to Council from the Agenda from Monday evening

Her presentation which is something well worth taking in, offers the viewer the full scope of budget considerations that she provided to Council.

A larger overview of the discussions on the Budget presentation can be found on our Council Timeline feature.

For more items related to the City's Budget preparations see our archive page here, for further background on City Council developments see our Archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

City Council divides up the work for two City Housing Committees

Councillor Thorkelson reads out the
Terms of Reference for the City's
Two Housing committees
Monday night's City Council session provided the first major step forward in addressing a frequent topic of discussion at City Hall of late, as Councillor Joy Thorkelson delivered her Report outlining the Terms of Reference for Two City of Prince Rupert Committees on Housing.

Councillor Thorkelson was tasked with providing a report to Council after the February 10th session, when Council chose to put aside a report on the formation of a Housing Committee from the City Manager.

Instead, Council turned to Councillor Thorkelson for more background, when she outlined her vision for how the City should address the city's housing issues

Monday Councillor Thorkelson was back with her report, offering up a quick review of the topic and how Council got to this point. Explaining further what her vision forward is for the two committees and how they may start to provide some momentum on the long running issue.

Council members discussed her Report and the expectations from it, with Councillor Cunningham in particular expressing a desire to move quickly on the theme in order to address some of the outstanding concerns of Council.

And while Housing may have been a key item of interest for Mayor Brain during the 2014 election campaign, the lead it seems at this time is being taken by Councillors Thorkelson and Cunningham.

Both have taken on the duties of leading the two Committees, dividing the work further among the remaining members of City Councillors.

Following those discussions, Council set in motion their nominations for the two Committees, one to deal with issues of Prioritization and the other to work in areas of of Identification.

And while the Mayor will sit on both, what his duties with the two committees will be wasn't the focus of Monday nights division of work.

Leading the Prioritization Committee with be Councillor Joy Thorkelson, joining her will be Councillor Nelson Kinney and Councillor Blair Mirau.

The Terms of Reference for the Prioritization Committee include:

Identify the extent of: Critical Housing needs, Urgent or Looming Housing needs, Necessary, but not, urgent Housing Needs and review Future Housing Desires.

As well, the Committee will be tasked to collect a list of suggestions from the community on how some of these needs may be met.

Councillor Cunningham will take charge of the Identification Committee, with Councillors Niesh and Randhawa working with him to review the issues related to identifying housing capacity and availability in the community.

The Terms of Reference for the Identification Committee include:

Engage with the City Planning department, Social Services, Salvation Army and the public to identify rental units, temporary units and multiple family housing units.

Engage with CMHC, B. C. Housing and M'akola housing to determine present, immediate future and medium term housing needs and supply.

Meet with local realtors, apartment owners and others to determine present rental availabilities and predicted growth in the private sector.

Both Committees will have the power to add on additional members to their groups as they see fit.

The two committees are expected to provide their first overview sometime in April.

You can review the full Report to Council from the Agenda from Monday evening (pages 11-13), with the discussion related to the committee structure found below from the City's Video Archive starting at the 38 minute mark.

For more items related to Housing see our archive page here, for further background on City Council developments see our Archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Election financing Math proves a little less complicated in Port Edward

As we outlined on the blog earlier, Elections BC has released the financial statements from those that sought office in the 2014 Municipal election campaign. A data base that offers up campaign contributions and expenses for all of the candidates province wide.

And while our Prince Rupert review featured a range of contributions and expenses for the 2014 municipal campaign, things it seems are just a little less complicated in Port Edward, where there is no lengthy list of contributors, nor great amounts of money spent put forward when it came to expenses.

If Prince Rupert's campaign offered glimpses of the North Coast version of machine like politics, it was a much more relaxed effort down the road.

As the 2 candidates for Mayor and eight seeking council office had no need to call in the accountants to keep track of the accounts payable and receivables. For the most part, the 2014 campaign in Port Edward was a self financing effort of pragmatic spending, no large sums of money collected, and equally small amount of money spent.

You can review the full listings below:

2015 Mayoralty Race

Dave MacDonald (elected Mayor)
Contributions 500.00   Expenses 477.48
(500.00 self contribution)

Alice Kruta (Challenger)
Contributions 229.90   Expenses 229.90
(229.90  from one corporate donation)

Port Edward Council Race

Dan Franzen (elected to office)
Contributions $500.00   Expenses $357.24
($500.00 self contribution)

Christine MacKenzie (elected to office)
Contributions $400.00   Expenses $319.45
($400.00 self contribution)

James Brown (elected to office)
Contributions $397.38   Expenses $397.38
($147.38 self contribution$250.00 from one non profit Organization)

Grant Moore (elected to office)
Contributions $300   Expenses $265
($300 self contribution)

Not elected in 2014

Knut Bjorndal
Contributions $202.50  Expenses $202.50
($202.50 self contribution)

Ed Day
Contributions $316.23   Expenses $316.23
($316.23 from one corporate donation)

Murray Kristoff
Contributions $657.56    Expenses $657.56
($657.56 self contribution)

Clayton Vanier
Contributions $1025   Expenses $716.63
($1025 self contribution)

You can review the full disclosures from the 2014 campaign here.

The files that have been made available include a listing of those individuals and corporations that contributed to the candidates campaigns. As well as a break down as to how they spent their money during the election period.

For more items related to developments in Port Edward see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Elections BC delivers Prince Rupert's Financial Review for Municipal election 2014

The financial review is in from last years Prince Rupert Municipal Election campaign, as Elections BC has released its financial overview from the candidates of the 2014 election period.

The number crunching provides us with not only an account of both the financial contributions to the candidates efforts and their expenses from it, but also a glimpse into how the candidates campaigns seemed to resonate with city residents through the election period.

Considering the scope of his eventual victory, it's probably not much of a surprise to learn that Mayor Lee Brain, led the list of those with the most contributions.

His efforts during the 2014 campaign delivered  $23,719.16 in campaign contributions.  With a similar amount spent on expenses during the course of his successful election campaign.

The next nearest competitor in both the donations and expenses categories was Mayoralty Challenger Sheila Gordon-Payne, who collected $14,600.23 in donations and spent the same amount during the election campaign period.

An indication as to the shift in direction for the city from the last campaign, is the number of familiar individuals and corporate names that lent their assistance to the campaigns of the three challengers for the Mayoralty.

All of whom featured a list of donors and supporters that provided both large and small donations directed to the financial resources of the candidates, as well as offering up their declarations of support through the campaign.

One takeaway from the financial review is that for then Mayor Jack Mussallem, the election trail of 2014 was very much a self financing project.

With only one donation to the then Mayor's list of support found on his disclosure sheet, that of a corporate donation from Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc.

On the Council side of the election period, it was the campaign of Blair Mirau which attracted the most donations last year. The newcomer to the municipal government scene collected $5,735.63 in donations, and spent the same in his successful quest for a council seat.

Nelson Kinney receives the best cost vs result award for his efforts last fall, the returning Councillor declared no campaign contributions and apparently spent no money during his re-election campaign.

Councillor Kinney had much company in the parade of the self supporting, as candidates Ashley, Garon, Niesh, Thorkelson and Pedersen all listed their efforts as self financed campaigns last fall.

A breakdown for each of the candidates financial listings can be found below:

2015 Mayoralty Race

Lee Brain (elected Mayor)
Contributions 23,719.16   Expenses 23,719. 16
($19,190.98 in individual donations over 100 dollars, $4,300 in corporate donations, $168.18 misc, $60 anonymous donations)
($3,142 of the donations were in amounts less than 100 dollars)

Sheila Gordon-Payne (Challenger)
Contributions 14,600.23   Expenses 14,600.23
($7,850.23  in individual donations over 100 dollars, $6,750 in corporate donations)

Tony Briglio (Challenger)
Contributions  7,717.03   Expenses  7,717.03
($1,617.03 in individual donations over 100 dollars, $6100 in corporate donations)
($117.03 of the donations were in amounts of less than 100 dollars)

Jack Mussallem (Then incumbent)
Contributions $1549.52   Expenses  $2,817.67
($1000 in self financed campaign, $500 dollar corporate donation,  $46 in individual donations $3.52 misc)
($46 of the donations were in amounts less than 100 dollars)

2015 Council Race (Candidates elected)

Barry Cunningham
Contributions $3750   Expenses $5,328.30
($3,000 in individual donations, $350 from commercial organizations, $400 from trade unions)

Nelson Kinney
Contributions $0   Expenses  $0

Blair Mirau
Contributions  $5,735.63   Expenses $5,735.63
($4,235 in individual donations over 100 dollars, $1,500.63 in corporate donations)
($640.63 of the donations were in amounts less than 100 dollars)

Wade Niesh
Contributions $84   Expenses  $84
(Self financed campaign)

Gurvinder, Randhawa
Contributions  $2,150.00   Expenses  $3,224.87
($150 dollars in individual donations over 100 dollars, $1,650 dollars in corporate donations, $300 in donations from commercial organizations)

Joy Thorkelson
Contributions $3,110.87   Expenses  $3,110.87
(Self financed campaign)

Candidates that were not elected

Anna Ashley (then incumbent)
Contributions $500   Expenses  $463.34
(Self financed campaign)

Gina Garon (then incumbent)
Contributions $0   Expenses  $0

Ray Pedersen (Challenger)
Contributions $4283.92   Expenses 4,283.92
(Self financed campaign)

You can review the full disclosures from the 2014 campaign here.

The files that have been made available include a listing of those individuals and corporations that contributed to the candidates campaigns. As well as a break down as to how they spent their money during the election period.

For more items related to developments at Prince Rupert City Council see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Monday, February 23, 2015

Petronas and B. C. Government make a date in March for discussions on LNG project

British Columbians may learn more about the progress of the proposed Lelu Island LNG terminal sometime next month, as BC Government officials and representatives of Petronas, the parent company of Pacific NorthWest LNG make plans to get together.

The Globe and Mail's Brent Jang, who has been following the Petronas story over the years outlined some background to the pending meeting in an article in his newspaper yesterday.

The Globe was the first to provide word of planned meetings between Premier Clark, LNG Minister Rich Coleman and the incoming President of Petronas, Wan Aulkiflee Wan Ariffin, with the
Petronas President preparing to come to Canada next month.

Those talks will make for the first major discussions related to the project this year, following the events of late 2014 which saw Petronas put the proposed development on hold.

At the time, issues related to cost concerns had Petronas sending potential contractors back to their pencil sharpeners. Looking for the contractors  to find ways to reduce projected costs for the development.

Petronas has also in the past expressed some interest in seeking reduced government measures, both financial and procedural related to the proposed development.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper outlined a number of incentives that the Federal Government is putting in place, offering capital cost allowances towards such major investment projects.

Those measures, as well as recent moves from the Provincial Government related to LNG, may provide for some of the discussion points at next month's meetings.

Petronas is also facing pressure at its home base in Malaysia, with the Government looking to its energy company to provide better returns to the Malaysia treasury. With those concerns in mind, Petronas recently announced a change to the leadership team at the energy giant.

The upcoming meetings of March, should provide a bit of a road map for North Coast residents hoping to learn more about the Petronas plans, particularly when it comes to a Final investment Decision for their proposed terminal development on Lelu Island

You can review our archive of items related to the Pacific NorthWest LNG plans here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Friday, February 20, 2015

"In the House" with Michael Smyth February 20 edition

Province columnist Michael Smyth is joined by guest Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, among the topics the Translink tax plebiscite.

In The House February 20 (audio)

Subscribe to the feed here

North Coast Mayors meet with Community Minister Oakes on infrastructure and other issues

Two North Coast Mayors took advantage of an opportunity to meet with Cabinet members of the Liberal Government this week.

As Mayor Lee Brain and Mayor Dave MacDonald took local infrastructure issues and other concerns to Victoria, part of the conversation during the Budget week discussions with provincial officials.

Community Development Minister Coralee Oakes made the first mention of the prospect of discussions  during her response to a question in the Legislature from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice earlier this week.

During the course of her reply to the MLA's questions on infrastructure during Tuesday's session, Minister Oakes highlighted a planned meeting that she was about to have with the Prince Rupert Mayor later in the day.

For his part, Mayor Brain took to his Facebook page on the 17th, providing an update on the nature of the conversation that he, Mayor MacDonald and the Minister  had during their get together.

A session which the the Mayor used to make mention of the City's desire to connect with the provincial government on the theme of Northwest Communities hosting LNG development.

According to his short review of the meeting, Mayor Brain observed that the three discussed topics related to exploring solutions to some of the challenges that LNG development may bring to the region.

Mayor Lee Brain with an update on
his meeting with Community Minister
Coralee Oakes on Tuesday 

(from Mayor Brain's Facebook page)

During her commentary in the Legislature on Tuesday, the Minister outlined some of the programs currently available for assistance on infrastructure issues.

As we reviewed last week, the City is currently exploring some of those options.

For more items related to City Council developments see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review