Monday, August 31, 2015

Watson Island legal process seems destined to carry on until February of 2017

August 20th wasn't the City of Prince Rupert's best day at the British Columbia Supreme Court House in Vancouver.

That. following a ruling from the Honourable Justice Dev Dley that indicates that the city's legal requirements over the Watson Island files will carry on for at least eighteen more months.

The majority of the discussion in the Vancouver courtroom on July 30 and 31 revolved around the Certificate of Pending Litigation, known as a CPL, that order is currently is in place when it comes to the site and is the main impediment when it comes to the City's efforts to conduct a final sale of the industrial site.

Justice Dley observed  in his judgment of August 20th, that it appears that the CPL has provided the City of Prince Rupert with a fair bit of a burden owing to an inability to derive much in the way of revenue streams from the old pulp mill site.

Noting hat it appears that the CPL has already resulted in one potential buyer taking their leave of discussions for purchase of the industrial site. Yet, even with those observations noted in his judgment, Justice Dley doesn't at the moment see any need to remove that burden from the city.

The main focus from the recent court appearance by the City appears to be their quest to suggest to the court, that the Watco claim was one that was bound to fail, an approach that Justice Dley addressed as part of his lengthy review of the proceedings of late July.

If the evidence needs to be assessed then the City has not established that it is “plain and obvious” or “beyond a doubt” that the claim must fail. The result is that I have not been persuaded that Watco’s claim is bound to fail.
Since I have concluded that there is a triable issue regarding the claim of specific performance, I am, therefore, not convinced damages will provide adequate relief to Watco if it is successful at trial. The CPL shall not be cancelled.

A further review of the ruling outlines some of the particulars related to trial matters. Highlighting some of the differences of opinion on the nature of how much security related to the site, should posted by WATCO as the case moves forward.

On that theme,  Justice Dley rejected the City's suggestion of 5.7 million dollars in security as unnecessarily high, ruling that the appropriate amount of security should be set at $3,240,000

An amount that WATCO could recover, or lose outright, depending on the outcome of the trial to come.

To bring the August 20th proceedings to an end, Justice Dley then relayed the four key conclusions in the ongoing legal dispute between the City and WATCO

The City’s application for summary judgment is dismissed. The City’s application to remove the CPL from the Property is also dismissed. 

The CPL will remain on title to the Property. Watco shall enter into an undertaking that it will abide by any order the court makes regarding damages flowing from the registration of the CPL. Watco shall also post the sum of $3,240,000 either into a trust account agreeable to the City or into court. The undertaking and the posting of security shall be completed within 21 days of this judgment; failure to do so shall result in the CPL being cancelled. 

Watco has been generally successful in defending the application. It has succeeded in retaining significant aspects of its claim regarding specific performance and the continued registration of the CPL. 

Watco should therefore receive most of the costs associated with this application. Watco is awarded 2/3 of its costs on Scale B in any event of the cause.

As highlighted in the conclusion, should Watco not post their security sum by September 10th, the CPL would be cancelled, an outcome that one imagines the City would welcome.

However, it would seem unlikely, that WATCO having come this far with their legal efforts, would abandon their quest to become the eventual owners of the Watson Island site at this point.

Particularly after their rather successful day in the courts earlier this month.

With that as at the latest backdrop to the long running saga of Watson Island, the next important step in the legal process was noted by Justice Dley,  observing as part of his judgment, that it is expected that the trial related to the issues of the Watson Island case can be scheduled for February of 2017.

You can review some of the history of the dispute, as well as how the two day July trial went forward and where things stand at this point from the full release from the British Columbia Supreme Court.

With the prospect of more legal proceedings to come, it would seem that the prospect of more legal bills from the City of Prince Rupert lawyers will also continue to arrive in the mail.

The most recent tally of legal costs that the city made available to the public, was as part of its Budget Review of earlier this year, which noted that the law firm representing the City had received $699,891 for their services from 2014.

This years legal bills won't be finalized until the end of December and if the courts timetable holds true, it would appear that we will still be reading about the city's Watson Island legal fees obligations well into Budget preparations for 2016 and 2017.

Considering it was only a few weeks ago that the announcement of the Pulp Mill Clean up was described by the Mayor as a "big step forward and major win for the community", perhaps now is a timely moment for an update on the latest on the legal situation for the industrial site from the Mayor and Council.

The last public comment on the legal aspects of the Watson Island story came from Mayor Brain back in May, speaking to CBC Daybreak North's Carolina de Ryk, the Mayor at the time suggested that the end of the legal woes appeared on the horizon.

The latest ruling from the courts would seem to suggest differently.

Justice Dley's decision provides for an opportunity for the city's elected officials to speak publicly to the whole Watson Island situation, offering up some of their thoughts on the current status of the legal efforts related to the industrial site.

As well, a public update might provide the city's residents with some idea as to just how much more money the City will have to put aside, as they move forward with the required work to prepare for yet one more return to the court room.

Not to mention, if the prospect of a yet longer term engagement on the Watson Island case may impact on any of Council's other civic plans for the next eighteen months.

You can review some of the past history of the Watson Island files from our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Lelu Island is a focal point for many, for a number of reasons

The last seven days have seen Lelu Island take the to the forefront of discussion on a number of themes.

For Pacific NorthWest LNG, the week brought some early investigative work on the island, the required preamble for any future development of the site as an LNG terminal location.

While for some in the First Nation community of Lax Kw'alaams, that step in the Lelu  process was a call to action, as well as an indication that events on the island are playing a larger role in what appears to be ongoing differences with the current Band Council government.

On the development front, Pacific NorthWest LNG outlined what is currently taking place when it comes to any movements planned for the proposed LNG terminal site. Offering up a synopsis of some of their plans though a string of observations to a number of news outlets

In the publication Business in Vancouver, Michael Culbert of Pacific NorthWest LNG is reported to have suggested that another modification to the the suspension bridge proposal is one possible solution that the company is exploring, however through the course of the BIV article, Pacific NorthWest LNG seems to rule out any actual site relocation for the project.

As well, the Vancouver Sun has reported that the company is also investigating the possibility of transplanting eel grass from Flora Banks.

The article notes that Pacific NorthWest LNG has engaged two world leading restoration scientists on that proposal. With the company now offering the concept to area First nations and DFO officials as a new an option for addressing concerns related to the project location.

On a more local level, Pacific NorthWest LNG also explained some of its current exploratory plans though a post on their Facebook page last week.

With those developments as a bit of the backdrop to the current story, some members of Lax Kw'alaams , continue to set up their base of occupation on Lelu Island. Entrenching their claim to the island related to their aboriginal rights and title, while also expressing their concerns over the nature of any Pacific NorthWest LNG work on the proposed site.

The environmental group Skeena Wild posted a You Tube video last week that  provided a review of what the current occupation of Lelu Island is all about.

And while the environmental case for their efforts has been outlined fairly well, at times it appears that a good portion of that conversation related to Lelu Island also highlights some of the current and past differences found in the community between some members and the Band Council leadership.

Lelu Island Occupation (video)
Lelu Island Occupation Update

The Band Council outlined the latest developments related to the Pacific NorthWest LNG project through an item posted to its website on August 25, that advisory noted that a protocol has been established to do investigative drilling in aid of determining an alternative site away from the Flora Bank area.

The Lax Kw'alaams Band Council also notes in its information notice, that any further discussion by the Band Council in connection with a project at Lelu Island would require extensive community meetings.

As well the Band Council highlights that further steps include consultation and a referendum for all eligible Lax Kw'alaams members, with voting by secret ballot to approve or reject such a project.

Lax Kw'alaams First Nation comments on discussions with Pacific NorthWest LNG

More background on last weeks events can be found below

August 27 -- Lax Kw'alaams First nations monitoring proposedLNG site for environmental damage (audio)
August 27 -- First Nations confer over B. C.'s approval process for industrial development
August 26 -- Search on for alternate LNG site near Prince Rupert
August 26 -- Lax Kw'alaams Still engaged with PNW LNG; Against proposed facility near Lelu Island
August 26 -- Lax Kw'alaams First Nations Band Asserts Right to Lelu Island, Slated for LNG plant
August 25 -- Members of Lax Kw'alaams Setting up Camp at Lelu Island

For more on the proposed LNG development for Lelu Island see our Pacific NorthWest LNG archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rex Murphy looks at the success of the Toronto Blue Jays and if Blue Jay fever has hit your part of the country.

August 30th edition (audio)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

CBC's The National: At Issue Panel -- The Deficit Debate

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

August 27 : The Deficit Debate


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Legislature's Summer Vacation ends September 28th

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice has but one month left to get in some recreational activity on her summer break, as the Provincial Government has outlined its plans for the Fall session with a return to work for all MLA's to arrive on September 28th.

The Six week session is expected to introduces themes from the Liberal government related to modernizing government, eliminating red tape for citizens and expanding on a popular theme of the Liberals of trades training.

It's expected that Government House Leader Mike de Jong will expand on the Liberal's agenda and timeline as the September reopening gets closer. The early stages of the Fall session will take place at the same time of the Federal election campaign, which comes to an end on October 19th with the Federal vote.

The most recent scheduled session of the Spring came to an end in May, while a Special session dedicated towards the passage of the province's LNG arrangements with the Malaysian energy corporation Petronas came to an end in July.

Victoria Times Colonist -- Premier announces fall sitting of B. C. Legislature

You can review Ms. Rice's efforts in the Legislature from the last session, as well as some of her summer activities since the Legislature last sat in July as part of our archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Friday, August 21, 2015

When it comes to forward momentum for development, Port Edward seems to be on a quicker pace

Port Edward District Offices are making
for a popular destination for proposed
development in the region
While Prince Rupert City Council has spent much of the summer going over the same material and tried to find a focus on where they wish to see development move in the community, twenty minutes out of town, some actual decision making has been moving forward with little of the apparent frustrations found in Prince Rupert.

Port Edward Council most recently announced it had provided approval for a housing project in the community that would see the introduction of a number of new homes created for the community, the start of some long range planning that one day may also bring some significant Commercial developments to the District as well.

Work Continues on development
of an Industrial Park for Port Edward
Looking to keep pace with the interest in development on the North Coast, the District also has plans for a major Industrial park and has initiated discussions for the development of a worker camp for the area, which would serve as a base for some of the large scale projects planned for the region.

As we've outlined on the blog in the past, the District of Port Edward has a fairly ambitious blue print for development ahead of it, hopeful that this may finally be the time where major growth will be delivered to the community.

Compared to some of the recent developments over the summer in Prince Rupert, getting a project moving seems to be a main focus for the elected officials of the District these days.

No better examples of the rather confusing and lengthy process of navigating Prince Rupert Council when it comes to land development can be found from the Monday night session.

At Monday's Council session the majority of the two hour plus meeting provided for much discussion, but little progress, when it came to decision making related to housing issues in the community.

Councillors Thorkelson, Cunningham at odds with Mayor over Agenda addition and concerns on land use
Housing issues again dominate Council's attention, leading to some heated discussion
Re:Think, Re:Build, Re:Design ... new mantras for a new Prince Rupert?
More LNG Go Plan math with Professor Krekic

When you look at the various  directions that Prince Rupert's councillors seem to be taking when it comes to development of late, and the length of time involved in finding any forward momentum for proposed projects, it could soon be common  to find that any would be developer will be stopping in at the Port Edward District offices first.

They may soon be knocking at the door of Mayor Dave MacDonald and his council looking to see what the lay of the land is there and whether their investment dollars and plans are welcome in their community.

Considering the reception and approval process that seems to be in place so far in Port Edward, for some developers, it could mean that a similar trip to Prince Rupert City Hall just won't be required.

More items of interest related to housing can be found on our archive page here.

For background on more items from Port Edward see our background page here.

Further review of Prince Rupert city Council discussions can be found from our Council Archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

More LNG Go Plan math with Professor Krekic

Prince Rupert city Council received another update on the recently completed LNG Go Plan surveys as City Planner Zeno Krekic digged a little deeper into some of the findings from the data collected from the survey period of June this year.

At Monday's Council session Mr. Krekic reviewed some of the background from the city's Go Plan process, which had selected 1,284 households of of 5,586 for its baseline survey, of those 1,284 households selected the city received an 80 percent response rate for their study.

A secondary study as part of the Go Plan process was on a voluntary basis and conducted on line for the most part, that information gathering process received 400 responses, however those results have yet to be fully examined and the details of information from the review will be made available as part of a future analysis.

As for what was reviewed on Monday, Mr. Krekic made note of such things as shadow populations, those that may be moving in and out of the city for employment or other purposes, that number at the moment would appear to number in the range of 500 people. The City Planner noted that those numbers could grow significantly as the region moves closer to development should some of the major projects proposed for the region move forward.

He observed that the potential increase of that population could have an effect on both the availability and affordability of rent in the community.

On the theme of the Non Market Housing Survey which was another aspect of the LNG Go Plan process, Mr. Krekic observed that during the course of that engagement in June, the City had received 131 responses to their questionnaire, a good portion of that number delivered through a Block Party hosted by Councillors Thorkelson  and Cunningham at the Fishermen's Hall that month.

Those numbers highlighted the increasingly transient nature for some of Prince Rupert's rental community, with renovations and rental increases impacting on how the city's renters look at their living accommodations, with a number of respondents indicating that they plan to move to a new home within the next year owing to the changing rental picture in the community.

The City planner noted that the data collection will serve the community well heading into the future
providing for a baseline for future study and offering an ability to track such things as the shadow population, housing stock and changing attitudes towards rental accommodation in the community.

And while the data may be helpful to the City in the future, Councillor Barry Cunningham had concerns more directed towards the present times, noting that while he appreciates the work that has been done as part of the Go Plan Survey he's a bit frustrated that at this time the City still has no real picture as to what the actual immediate need for housing in the community is.

Councillor Cunningham would like to have some data that offers up an indication where the City should direct their housing right now when it comes to housing concerns in the community.

"All I'm concentrating on is the housing, we were told at the beginning of this Go Survey we would have answers to our housing problem and that's the one thing, you know I don't want to find out that we've identified all our parks and people are camping in them, cause they don't have a place to live  " -- Councillor Barry Cunningham on the theme of the LNG GO Plan data and guidelines for housing need in the community

Mr. Krekic noted that some of those conclusions could be delivered within four to five weeks, once the review of data could be examined further. Adding that a look at affordable housing could be delivered in the next two to four weeks, while a further review of sustainable housing prospects might take a little bit longer.

As for the larger picture of the full scope of the LNG Go Plan surveys, the City Planner outlined a timetable that would see the current work complete by January of 2016 with a public engagement session to follow.

As part of the discussion on Housing, Mayor Brain first thanked Mr. Krekic and staff for their work on the Go Plan Survey and noted that other communities were watching the city's process with interest.

He also urged patience for council noting that the volume of data that has been collected will serve the city well in the future, offering it some hard data to take such agencies as BC Housing and other government agencies on the theme of housing.

He also noted that Council will be holding housing workshops in the fall and that the City could host a public information session at the Lester Centre later this year.

At the end of his presentation to Council, Mr. Krekic advised that the latest data from the Go Plan Survey process will be made available today,  to be found on the City's Website, as part of the Planning for Major Projects section when it is provided.

You can review the full presentation from the City's Video Archive, Mr. Krekic's presentation starts at the 41 minute mark and continues through until the one hour five minute point.

For more items related to Housing in the community see our archive page here

Further background on Council Discussions can be found from our Discussion Archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Liberals turn to Telkwa for candidate in Federal election

For the Northwest, it's a case of lose one, gain one when it comes to candidates for the October 19th election, as we noted earlier today, the Christian Heritage Party candidate Rod Taylor has left his Bulkley Valley base, choosing instead to seek out his political future in an Ontario riding,

But while one candidate is gone from the listings of those seeking office, another has stepped up to contest the election in the Northwest.

The Liberal Party of Canada is going to mine the apparently bountiful stock of politicians in the Bulkley Valley, selecting Brad Layton, a member of the Telkwa Town Council as the candidate for the Justin Trudeau team in Skeena - Bulkley Valley.

Mr. Layton, who works in the forest sector when he isn't tending to council business in Telkwa, was named as the candidate following a nomination meeting in Smithers on Wednesday.

He was acclaimed as the candidate for the Liberals, after no other would be candidates stepped forward to seek the nomination for the October 19th vote.

So far the National party hasn't updated either their Skeena-Bulkley Valley website or national listing of candidates to announce the addition to team.

As for the candidate he has told the Smithers based newspaper The Interior News that he won't be launching a full time campaign until after September.

Mr. Layton joins, incumbent NPD MP Nathan Cullen and his Conservative challenger Tyler Nesbitt in the political battle towards election day in October.

The CHP Plan to nominate a replacement for Mr. Taylor by September, while the Green Party of Canada has yet to announce their plans for the election campaign.

For more items related to the Northwest campaign see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Aurora LNG sets September 23rd for Community Open House

With the Nexen led project of Aurora LNG set to head for its Environmental Assessment Process, the company planning the LNG Terminal development for Digby Island is set to host an Open House to explain the assessment process to the public.

Aurora LNG has booked the North Coast Convention Centre at the Chances Complex as their host venue for the event, which will take place on Wednesday, September 23rd from 4 until 8 PM.

As part of the assessment process, the Environmental Assessment Office will be accepting the submission of comments from the public in relation to  to the draft Application requirements, the comment period will take place starting September 1st and come to a conclusion on October 1st.

It's noted in the EAO advisory that all comments received during this comment period will be considered, those with an interest in submitting their comments can do it through the online form process at

By way of mail addressed to Sean Moore, Project Assessment Manager, Environmental Assessment Office, PO Box 9426, Stn Prov Gov't, Victoria BC, V8W 9V1

Or by Fax at 250-387-0230

The Draft Application Information process is just the start for the oversight related to the proposed development, another opportunity to comment will be provided during the Application Review stage.

Aurora LNG will hold a community Open House
on September 23rd at the North Coast Convention Centre

As we outlined on the blog earlier this week, Nexen has applied to the Ministry of Land Resources to commence with its geo-techincal studies of the proposed Digby Island terminal site.

For more background on the Aurora LNG proposal see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

City moves forward with re-zoning approval for creation of impound yard in Yellowhead Centre

One piece of business that did find some forward momentum at Monday's City Council session was a request for a re-zoning of an area in the Yellowhead Centre to allow for the introduction of a vehicle impound yard on Saskatoon Avenue.

The process of approval began with a Public hearing, with City Planner Zeno Krekic offering up the synopsis of the proposed re-zoning, highlighting for council how at the moment access to land for industrial development in the city is limited and to address some of the issues re-zoning of existing industrial land is a measure that the City should consider.

As for the amendment of the night for zoning of the Yellowhead centre area, Mr. Krekic noted that the city had received of three letters of concern related to the proposed development of an impoundment yard on Saskatoon Avenue, with noise, light pollution and visual issues of the main concern.
Council moved forward with re-zoning in the Saskatoon Avenue area
to allow for the creation of an impoundment yard for the Yellowhead Centre area

Following the short overview, the public was invited to offer comment on the proposed re-zoning amendment, however no one in the audience came forward to speak to the issue.

The process would then be picked up later in the evening's Regular Council session, with Council members giving the topic one more review and then discussing some of the concerns of note from the correspondences that city staff had received and noting that they would like to see those concerns noted as part of the amendment process.

Councillor's Mirau and Thorkelson had comments related to some of the concerns of those in the immediate area and asked as to the nature of the city's engagement with the proponent to this point of the process, with Councillor Thorkelson focusing on what steps the Council can take to put in place some rules on activity surrounding the site.

Councillor Cunningham also acknowledged the concerns of those of the area, however did observe that the proponent of the impoundment yard was a long established business in the community and he observed that he would be likely to take note of the concerns of those in the area and make attempts to be a good neighbour.

"We have a situation here where we have a proprietor of a business, who has been in business for a very long time in this city and I don't think he is going to go out of his way to antagonize a neighbourhood he's going to work with the neighbourhood I would think  " -- Councillor Cunningham offering his support to a zoning amendment for the Yellowhead industrial area of the city.

Following the discussion Council voted to give third reading to the amendment, with Councillor Thorkelson then adding a motion to the resolution to ask the proponent to follow the guidelines on noise and lights that council had concerns on.

Among the remediation items to be considered, screening around the impound yard to reduce the visual impact of the site, adjustments to lighting on the site and the reduction or elimination of noise such as back up horns and flashing lights during those hours outside of the normal business day.

The latter concerns are issues that City staff will have to investigate further to ensure that it complies with any safety regulations

The process will now move forward through the Development Permit Stage, the impoundment yard is to be operated by Jay's Custom Towing.

You can review the Public Hearing presentation from the start of the Council meeting through to the point, the Council discussion on the topic arrives at the 1 hour 15 minute mark and continues for ten minutes or so.

Further items related to commercial development on the North Coast can be reviewed from our commercial sector archive.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Tourism Prince Rupert looks to chart a stakeholder driven course for the future

Tourism Prince Rupert's Scott Farwell
provided an overview of proposed
changes to the Tourism organization
Tourism Prince Rupert outlined their plans to revise the organizations constitution moving forward, looking to shift from a membership driven focus to one that engages a number of stakeholders in the tourism sector in the region.

Tourism Prince Rupert's Chair Scott Farwell, provided the presentation to council offering up some background on the decision to make the shift and what impact it may have on tourism decisions into the future.

Mr. Farwell noted that one of the changes would be the reduction in number of the members of the Board of Directors, with the intention ahead to reduce the number by two members fixing the number at seven.

He also noted that they were changing the nature of the language around appointments from the City of Prince Rupert to the board, noting that it dates back to the days of budget funding from the City of 200,000 dollars or more, while this year the grant in aid for Tourism from the city was 31,500 dollars.

He posed an observation to Council, asking if sitting on the board was the best use of time for Council members considering the important issues that Council is dealing with at this time.

Councillor Barry Cunningham
had a number of questions for
Tourism Prince Rupert's Scott Farwell
at Monday night's council session
Councillor Barry Cunningham asked some questions related to what Tourism Prince Rupert is looking for when it comes to voting rights and stakeholder payments.

He also took note of the funding amount noted from Tourism Prince Rupert, reminding Mr. Farwell that the funding provided by the City this year, was what had been requested by the Tourism organization.

Councillor Cunningham also had some concerns over the prospect of reducing involvement of the City of Prince Rupert with the Tourism organization, noting that he did not have any problems with the time required in his case for participation with the organization.

Adding that he wold like to see more meetings held by Tourism Prince Rupert, seeking out more input from the community regarding some of their proposed changes.

"I consider Tourism a very large part of this city and I don't consider it a waste of my time going to your meetings at all, it's just that I think we should have more regular meetings, I would like to see TPR should have meeting three, four or five times a year. in this new constitution you have that in there but it's a board meeting, but I would like to see a General meeting called more often" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham seeking more not less input on Tourism matters in the community

He also sought out clarification on the nature of the proposed constitutional changes towards the stakeholder concepts and whether they had been given a legal review.

On that theme Mr. Farwell noted that the proposed shift in focus was presented by Northern BC tourism, which uses the same bylaws for its operations, adding that much what has been proposed now is in place with Smithers tourism.

Mayor Brain noted that there is a lot for the City to review the changes before they have any comments to pass along.

Councillor Randhawa asked for an update on the status of the current tourism season, Mr. Farwell noted that there appears to be a significant increase in those that are visiting the new visitor centre in the Atlin Terminal.

He believes that overall tourism is on par with last year which was the strongest year since 2006.

You can review the full presentation from the City's Video Archive, it starts at 28 minutes and continues through until the 41 minute mark .

You can learn more about the work of Tourism Prince Rupert from their website.

Further background on the topic of Tourism on the North Coast can be reviewed here.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Re:Think, Re:Build, Re:Design ... new mantras for a new Prince Rupert?

Mayor Brain offered a glimpse Monday
into a proposed new city initiative
to review what the city may look
like in the future
When Councillor Joy Thorkelson introduced her failed attempt to add an item on to Monday night's agenda topics, she appears it seems to have spurred on discussion regarding the delivery of yet one new initiative from Mayor Brain when it comes to community engagement and study of land use issues.

And we imagine that the Mayor might have wished for the details of the project to be sorted out before he had to break the news of his latest community engagement plan, through the discussion related to Councillor Thorkelson's moves of Monday it seems that Mayor was pushed towards an early introduction for the program

During the course of the rather animated and at times heated discussion on the Councillor's agenda request, Mayor Brain offered up the first glimpse of what he has planned in association with the University of Northern British Columbia's Community Development Institute.

The function, focus and mission of the CDI which is based in Prince George, is to support the research, information and development needs of Northern British Columbia's rural and small town communities as they adjust to change in the new economies of the region.

Mayor Brain is looking to bring in the
UNBC based CDI to assist
with community engagement on
a number of land use and housing issues
Mayor Brain provided council with a short synopsis of the engagement of the city to this point with the CDI, outlining what he believes the Institute has to offer Prince Rupert and advising that negotiations to start up an eighteen month engagement project with the institute are now underway.

He provided a review of a process that would see the UNBC institute examining and helping to create a vision for the future that would take on many of the topics such as land use and housing that have been of concern to council over the last six months or so.

As part of his presentation, the Mayor noted that the project would carry a mission statement, suggesting something along the lines of Re:Design Prince Rupert.

That suggestion would seem follow the same path of some of his previous concepts over the last nine months.

The first of which was through the Mayor's election campaign as he offered his vision for the future asking Rupertites to Re-Think Prince Rupert, most recently the city's new infrastructure program has been given the mission statement or slogan of Re:Build Prince Rupert.

The Mayor observed how the project with the Community Development Institute would be an all encompassing approach which makes use of a professional facilitator and staff to address some of the unprecedented challenges that change in Prince Rupert may bring. With the City just one stakeholder in the process, "making it a community wide initiative that has an independent, honest broker, not run by the City particularly, not run by proponents, not run by different organizations that actually builds a vision for this community."

Councillor Cunningham provided for most of the commentary from Council members when it came to questions about the new UNBC initiative, inquiring as to cost and how the city planned to pay for the project.

On those themes, Mayor Brain outlined that the budget of the project with UNBC was set to be around the 150,000 dollar mark, which the Mayor says has already been allocated through the City's funding for Major Projects.

Mr. Cunningham also questioned whether an eighteen month project  would not address the immediate concerns facing Council and also wondered whether it would not also require the use of staff time. He would later in the discussion add the observation that like Councillor Thorkelson, he believes that Council should be engaging the public in discussion on land issues and in his opinion not taking the process to outside interests such as UNBC.

Councillor Mirau also spoke to the proposed initiative with the UNBC institute, highlighting the key aspects of what the City could realize from the project.

"This Community Development Institute process that we are engaging in as stakeholders, like you were saying Mr. Mayor, will be the largest consultation process that the city of Prince Rupert has ever taken part in and I think that will go a long way in informing and updating our vision of what we want the community to look like after this construction boom ...  " -- Councillor Blair Mirau looking to what the City hopes to achieve with its consultation process with UNBC

Later in the evening towards the end of the council session, during a wide ranging and once again charged discussion on housing issue, both Mayor Brain and Councillor Mirau would also offer up further comments on the nature of the project with UNBC and what they hoped it would accomplish towards some of the current discussion on both land and housing issues.

More on the back and forth of commentary between the Mayor and Council members over the initiative can be reviewed from our Council Timeline feature.

The introduction of sorts to the new Re:Design Prince Rupert concept can also be found as part of the discussion at the very start of the Regular Council session, from the 12:30 minute mark to 27 minutes, more on the  proposed partnership with UNBC is examined during the housing conversation from the one hour twenty six minute mark.

For more background on City Council discussions see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Housing issues again dominate Council's attention, leading to some heated discussion

Councillor Niesh perhaps summed up some of the frustration of late when it comes to forward momentum on any of the proposed housing developments for the City of late, providing one of the lasting quotes of the evening on the apparent inability to move on housing issues in the community.

"I'm tired of being stuck in 1990, I'm ready for some things to happen around this town, developments need to happen, on one hand there's complaints about nowhere for these people to live. And here we have on our doorstep the potential of a couple of hundred apartment units on the Kanata school area. To me that's exactly what we need right now ... "

The councillor's observations were for the most part the main thrust of his commentary for the topic, as he addressed the call for the need for housing stock in the community and his desire to see the city to start approving some of the developments it has been reviewing of late.

Councillor Niesh's observations and comments provided a bit of a break for the marathon, near filibuster approach of the night dominated by Mayor Brain, Councillor Thorkelson and Councillor Cunningham.

As it was earlier in the night, the three main participants had a number of comments on the theme of how the City is approaching the issue of housing, commentary that at times bordered on the personal as far as tone.

Councillor Cunningham had thoughts on the Go Plan surveys and how while happy with the collection of data, he is still disappointed that after six months since the City formed its housing committee, Council still has no idea as to what the problems are in the community or has a strategy to address the issues.

Of particular concern for Councillor Cunningham is the status of Senor's Housing in the community.

The Mayor challenged the Councillor's observations related to the Go Plans statistics and suggestions that the City was spinning its wheels on the issue, observing how the City needs proper statistical and relevant data to take to BC Housing and other agencies.

He also offered up some observations on the limitations that Council has when it comes to dealing with property developers and how they wish to develop the land that they own.

Mayor Brain also addressed Councillor Cunningham's comments related to Seniors Housing reminding Council of the proposed Waterfront Seniors complex under consideration and how it could alleviate some of the concerns over accommodations.

"At this moment, a lot of the proposals that are on the table are re-zoning for residential uses, you're talking about Seniors housing, well there's a proposal for the waterfront, that a Senior could sell their home on Graham Avenue and buy a mid  size condo if we were to go ahead with a development like that ... Housing is a multi model situation there are different levels, different needs, what we are doing though as a Council is, we have got private developers, who have private property which they own, who are coming to us with proposals. As much as I would love to be able to tell them you should be building this, and this is how you should be investing your money, which I'm encouraging them as Mayor to say these are our needs  ...  at the end of the day it's their land it's their property, they are coming to us for rezoning" -- Mayor Lee Brain outlining his observations on how Council should approach land development  

Councillor Cunningham bounced that discussion back to the Mayor noting that he was concerned about affordable housing for Seniors, noting that many are moving out of town owing to the lack of options. He also noted  pointed to work being done in Terrace when it comes to addressing issues related to Seniors Housing.

"We have three senior housing developments in town here, each one of them has a waiting list of between fifteen and twenty people, that alone tells me that we have a need for Senior Housing. Not senior housing where someone on Graham Avenue can sell their house, but senior housing that is affordable for those low income seniors ... that's the kind of housing I'm talking about  Im not talking about the housing down on Bill Murray Way, Im talking about housing that people can afford" -- Councillor Cunningham speaking to the need for Seniors Housing in the community

And while Seniors Housing and affordable housing proved to be contentious through the late stages of the two hour council session, it was a follow up on some of the Mayor's comments and the perception as to how the City is approaching developers that provided for the high drama and near fireworks on Monday.

That theme was introduced by Councillor Thorkelson, who noted that she believes the Mayor is wrong when it comes to how much control the city can exert on developers that are looking to move on proposed developments.

"I think that you're wrong Mayor Brain regarding our control, we have two ways of control one is over land that we own and the second is over zoning, with zoning and development permits just like we discussed right now with the impoundment yard ... But you are correct that we are being driven by private developers who want private projects for private profit and the only control that we have with those people is with zoning and with development areas." ...  "Right in front of us we have two of the biggest proposals, and the only way that the public can have input into them is coming to a public meeting, a public hearing about the proposals ..." 

Her lengthy list of observations clearly rattled the Mayor a bit, who strongly took issue with Councillor Thorkelson's impressions of how the process is working and how he is approaching the concept of development.

"I want to just interject just for a moment, because first is nothing has been done yet, these are  proposals coming to us right now which we have time to assess, secondly you have put words in my mouth, where you said we don't have control, I know we have control over it, so don't say that I don't think that. The other thing is that you say I'm correct in saying we're being privately driven, I never said that either. So that's your interpretation of it so we'll just be clear there for a second"  -- Mayor Brain responding to some of Council Joy Thorkelson's observations on Monday evening

The Mayor followed up his defence of Councillor Thorkelson's perceptions by outlining the process related to the Community Charter and how the City will approach the many land issues that are approaching.

As well, Mayor Brain offered up a few thoughts as to how the city will work towards better community involvement and how the city needs to build a culture of leadership in this community, how it will be up to people, young people like himself to be more engaged in the process to re-engage the town.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up a few more comments for consideration, reviewing the controversial nature of a decision of the past in relation to the development of the Rupert Square mall on the CN Park site and how it still resonates today, she then turned her attention to the topic of encouraging community engagement.

"Now Mayor Brain, you may be an expert, and ... I don't have any letters behind my name to be an expert in communications and certainly not an expert in getting people together.  But I think I have some life skills in that direction, and I think that anytime you get people into a room to have a discussion its better off to have a discussion with twenty or thirty people, than have a discussion with your neighbour. And I think that when we are making large decisions we should at least attempt to have meetings where people can come talk about them"

As a way to bring the evening to an end, Councillor Mirau suggested that Council host a workshop with senior staff to discuss what process the council wishes to follow and what they may wish to add to it, something that Councillor Cunningham asked be put forward as a resolution, noting how he believes  a workshop would be more constructive that wasting half the night going around in circles.

Councillor Mirau's motion was voted and carried by Council members.

A comprehensive review of the thirty minute discussion can be found on our City Council Timeline and while they didn't seem to solve any of the issues on the evening, the final thirty minutes of Council could be considered what they call Must see TV...

As well the City's Video archive for the Council session can be found below, the discussion starts at the one hour twenty six minute mark and continues through until the end of the meeting.

For more items related to Housing issues on the North Coast see our archive here.

More background on City Council issues can be found on our Council Discussion page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Councillors Thorkelson, Cunningham at odds with Mayor over Agenda addition and concerns on land use

Discussion took on a heated tone on Monday
as Council discussed a late addition submitted
to the Council agenda for the evening
by Councillor Thorkelson
A fifteen minute discussion related to an attempt to add to the Agenda for Monday evening to address issues on the theme of land use got a tad heated in Council Chambers on Monday evening, as Mayor Lee Brain and two members of Council traded opinions on how best to approach the issue.

The at times heated conversation began with the introduction of a motion from Councillor Thorkelson to seek a late addition to the Agenda which would look for the approval of Council to hold three consultation workshops in the fall, with council to focus on three target areas of the downtown area, the large areas of undeveloped land as well as park and infill lands.

As well as part of the proposal she was looking to include the issues of Social housing, Market and Multi Family housing and Seniors housing to those sessions, so as to provide for more guidance for Council on land development issues.

For the Mayor that proposal was a bit of red flag, as he expressed his concerns over the work load it may provide for City Staff and what he called the short nature provided for consideration of the motion.

He also offered up his thoughts on the concept of community engagement, noting his past experience on that theme and how in order to have proper community engagement the City needs to address these issues properly, suggesting further that Councillor Thorkelson's Agenda addition and motion was pre-emptive and that it was not necessarily the right time for it to be considered.

"We need to do these conversations I absolutely agree, but this is coming at us at the last minute, we had a whole month to have this on Council's desk, you are presenting this to us, it's a loaded thing and is going to steer the organization in a direction, that personally being here full time now, I know that the organizations not prepared to take this on in their capacity and that's my personal opinion " -- Mayor Brain responding to an attempt by Councillor Thorkelson to add a late addition to Monday's Agenda

Those comments clearly caught the attention of Councillor Thorkelson who took issue with the Mayor's interpretation of the timeline  of events that led to the introduction of the motion for this council session.

Noting for the Mayor from the record of July, that she had served notice of her intention to introduce the topic at the July council session ( see our blog coverage of July here, perhaps Mayor Brain might wish to add the North Coast Review to his reading list each day... ) that led to another spirited exchange between the two as Mayor Brain took issue with the process that Councillor Thorkelson had used to move her motion forward.

Councillor Cunningham had a number
of concerns Monday when it comes
to how the city is approaching
Councillor Cunningham's contributions to the discussion focused more on the theme to engagement with the community, with his questions and commentary drawing out some news of a new initiative from the Mayor, who provided council with background on a proposed project with the University of Northern British Columbia to examine the city's focus for the future.

As the Mayor explained it to Council, the project with UNBC, which will cost 150,000 dollars would provide for much of the same kind of discussion and engagement that Council seemingly wants to have on the topic.

Mayor Brain further expanded on what he hoped to achieve with the UNBC endeavour, calling on his experience with public engagement he noted that the situation needs to be more than just a couple of conversations, otherwise the City could lose credibility in the community.

Adding that the process he envisions is one which uses a professional facilitator that has staff involved with it to take the pressure off the city's staff which has a number of projects ahead of it.

Councillor Cunningham would ask a number of other questions related to the Mayor's proposal and then also offer up his observations and concerns on how the City is approaching land development and engaging with developers in the community.

"I hear every day people want development, and then on the other side of the coin I don't want to see this City Council grabbing at every piece of development with the idea that were getting taxes out of it and ending up in another debacle like the pellet plant, a development in the wrong place at the wrong time ... We have a lot of people coming into this town, you can call them developers, carpet baggers, whatever you want, but their coming into town with an idea to make a buck, and while some of  the projects are very good, we sitting in this room are representing the people of Prince Rupert and we have to reach out to them ...  -- Councillor Cunningham expressing some of his concerns on how the City is looking at development in the community

The full overview related to the discussion on Councillor Thorkelson's hoped for agenda addition and how best to approach land issues can be found on our Council Timeline feature.

And while the conversation related to the topic proved to be a fairly vigorous discussion, it in reality served only as the opening bout for the evening.

The fifteen minute discussion made for an interesting preamble to what would turn out to be a much more heated debate later in the Council session, as Council members took differing views on Housing  issues that the city is facing, as well as offering another go round on the approach that city is taking when it comes to development issues in the community.

You can review the background related to Councillor Thorkelson's failed attempt to add to the agenda from the City's video archive, it starts at the thirteen minute mark and continues until the twenty eight minute point.

Background on past housing discussions and land use issues at Council can be found on our archive page here.

For more items related to the full overview of Council developments see our Council discussion page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Candidate count down to two for now in Skeena-Bulkley Valley

Voters of Skeena-BulkleyValley have one less name to look for on the ballot on October 19th, with word that Christian Heritage Party candidate Rod Taylor, has decided to make his quest for a seat in Parliament in Ontario.

On Friday, Taylor handed in his official nomination papers for his candidacy in the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean, deciding that that national capital was where the CHP needed to spread its message.

Taylor who is the National leader of the party is looking to increase the party's impact and membership in the vote rich Ontario region. So far the CHP has nominated 12 candidates in that province, with two nominated in BC and 8 spread across PEI, Alberta and Manitoba.

Christian Heritage Party candidate Rod Taylor, has
shifted his focus to Ontario, taking to Twitter on Friday to
announce his plans to contest the election in Ottawa West-Nepean

With his shift in focus to Ontario, the Northwest for the moment is down to a two man race, with incumbent Nathan Cullen for the NDP and the Conservatives Tyler Nesbitt the only declared candidates currently out heading across the Northwest to deliver their message.

Things might be getting lonely out on the campaign trail for the pair, so far neither the Liberal Party or the Green Party have announced their plans for the fall election campaign, with no candidates entering the race to this point for the two federal parties.

The Christian Heritage Party is looking to put a new candidate into the race in Skeena-Bulkley Valley sometime before September.

For more items related to the fall election see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Maersk Shipping Line introduces Port of Prince Rupert to its East-West Network

Maersk Line containers
may soonbe seen on the docks
at Fairview Terminal
Another notable addition to the vessel call listings is about to come to Prince Rupert's Fairview Container Terminal, as the Maersk Shipping Line adds Prince Rupert to its East-West Network line up.

The announcement from the highly regarded International shipping line based in Denmark, adds Prince Rupert to it's TP8 Eastbound and Westbound networks, with Fairview Terminals joining the Port of Long Beach as the North American destinations for shipments from four ports along the Asian shipping points.

Among the ports that will be shipping goods to North America through Fairview will be Shanghai and Qingdao, China, Busan, South Korea and Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia

Maersk Shipping Lines Expanded Westbound Service now includes Fairview Terminals

Shipments Eastbound feature four Asian shipment points to forward container 
shipments to Fairview Terminals as part of the expanded service

Maersk notes prominently the status of Prince Rupert as the new gateway for Inland USA and Canadian shipments.

You can read more background on the Maersk plans from this media note from the shipping company website.

The influential trade publication the Journal of Commerce notes that Fairview provided impressive service to shipping lines that had rerouted shipments through Prince Rupert during periods of heavy congestion at US West Coast ports this year, an audition of sorts that appears to have paid dividends for shipments moving forward.

The arrival of Maersk adds a third shipping line that will be calling at Fairview as the new addition joins already established COSCO Lines and Hanjin Shipping as using the North Coast port as their gateway into North America.

For more items related to Fairview Terminal see our archive page here, while further background on the Port of Prince Rupert can be found here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Attention All Crabbers: Be on the look out for ... The European Green Crab

The European Green Crab has set
its sights on the waters of
the West Coast of British Columbia
as a place to set up a new home
DFO is issuing a call for those that fish the waters of the North Coast to be on the look out for the arrival of the European Green Crab, a rather un-helpful species that arrived in North American waters at San Fransisco in 1989 and has been on the slow march north ever since.

Arriving in packing material in California, it's estimated that the first sighting of the species in British Columbia was between 1998 and 1999.

The crab can be found on protected shores, cobble beaches, sandflats and tidal marshes on the B. C. coast, with isolated populations found on the Central Coast, next on the invasion list perhaps are the waters of the North Coast.

The concerns of DFO when it comes to the Crab are the threats they pose to the marine ecosystem of the West Coast, with the newish arrivals voracious predators that feed on a variety of intertidal animals, including oysters, mussels clams and juvenile Clams.

Apparently when it comes to a good feed, the Green Crabs are out-competing species that are native to the West Coast.  As well DFO notes that the species is know to disrupt eelgrass beds, the productive habitat for many juvenile fish species.
A report prepared in 2008 highlighted the areas of BC's
coastline that could be suitable for the European Green Crab invasion

More background on the impact of the Green Crab and what dangers it poses for the marine environment of the Pacific coast can be found here.

Further research on the risks of the European Green Crab can be found from this research document prepared by DFO back in 2008.

For more items related to fishing concerns on the North Coast, see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Communication Workers Union raise alarms again over Coast Guard communications problems on North Coast

The union representing workers at Coast Guard facilities across Canada has once again raised its concerns over technical issues that it says continue to plague the communication system on the coast of British Columbia.

According to the union Unifor, the latest incident on the North Coast took place in the early hours of this morning, with the union stating that the communication system suffered a failure, resulting it says in a black out period on the North Coast, where mariners if in distress may not have had their calls heard.

A news release from Unifor issued earlier today states that the system for regulating shipping movements and detecting distress calls was inoperative from 12:50 to 3:45 AM

As we outlined on the blog in April, Unifor has been registering its concerns over communications issues since the plan to close a number of stations on Vancouver Island and Vancouver itself earlier this year.

Those closures and planned closures leave Prince Rupert's Coast Guard station responsible for a large portion of coverage along the Pacific Coast from A-B line south to beyond the Northern reaches of Vancouver Island.

According to the union
Unifor, the Prince Rupert
Coast Guard Station had more
communication problems in the
early morning hours  this morning 
An outage in April is reported to have left the Prince Rupert Communication Centre unable to transmit or receive calls for thirty minutes in the early morning hours of April 21st.

The latest concerns from the union come during the early weeks of the eleven week federal election campaign, and the union was quick to highlight the latest issues related to Coast Guard services and communications.

"The Harper government's cuts have reduced the effectiveness of our coast guard," ... "When our coast guard is compromised, the safety of Canadians is at risk." -- Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor's BC Area Director. 

The union has been determined to make the issue of safety on the coast an election issue before the federal vote of October 19th.

In their media release of Tuesday, Unifor notes that it would cost 5.5 million dollars per year to return coast guard funding to its previous level, suggesting that would be 0.25 per cent of the cost to the government of its income splitting program introduced this year.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which has oversight on Coast Guard operations on the West Coast has not offered up any comment, or update on any communication issues to this point.

For more background on issues of Emergency Response on the North Coast see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review