Wednesday, September 30, 2015

First Nations leaders sign letter calling for Eagle Spirit energy corridor across their territories

The push forward by Eagle Spirit Energy to develop an oil pipeline to a proposed shipment terminal at Grassy Point received a bit of momentum this week.

As a number of elected and hereditary chiefs have signed on to a letter signalling their support for the proposed project, addressing their comments to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as well as Saskatchewan's Premier Brad Wall, Alberta's Premier Rachel Notley and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

The letter, dated September 29th,  highlights a number of points related to the proposed oil pipeline, including the aspect of consultation that they say Eagle Spirit Energy has engaged in with the communities across Alberta and British Columbia.

Among the items that those who signed the document noted as key to their support were the responsive model for development that was developed that would provide appropriate consultation, enhanced land and marine environmental protections, and fair compensation for the Province of British Columbia, First Nations, and northern communities.

The letter also outlined how the energy corridor would provide economic access to resources from all of Canada's Western provinces, while offering revenue generation, employment, education and training opportunities for their communities and members.

Towards that process, some of the First Nations represented by the group have already signed exclusivity and benefits agreements, as well as non-disclosure agreements covering the traditional territories the pipelines would cross.

You can review the full document below (click to enlarge)

Page one of a correspondence
from supporters of the Eagle
Spirit Energy pipeline proposal 
Page two of a correspondence
from supporters of the Eagle
Spirit Energy pipeline proposal 

The full listing of the signatories to the document can be found from pages 2 to 7 following the text.

The letter to the politicians was described as historic in a media release from Eagle Spirit Energy, with Wesley Sam, the Chiefs' Council Representative for the First Nations on the Eagle Spirit Pipeline observing that, "it is the first time that First Nations have come together with a resolution like this".

Alex Campbell, noted in the media release as the Hereditary Chief of Lax Kw'alaams signed on from the North Coast, observing how the proposed project fits into the province of British Columbia's guidelines for pipeline development "We fully support Premier Clark's five conditions for a pipeline which include safeguarding our environment and meeting the legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights"

However, while the Hereditary Chief may be on board with Eagle Spirit Energy, there is still little indication that the elected Council in Lax Kw'alaams has changed its stance related to the project.

The last comments made public from Lax Kw'allams related to Eagle Spirit Energy came back in June, when Mayor Gary Reece speaking to the CBC program Daybreak North, outlined the position of his Council on the proposed pipeline and Terminal project to Grassy Point, noting that the proponents "would require the approval of the entire community and not just a few representatives."

Those comments produced a response from supporters of the Eagle Spirit Energy proposal , which seems to have suggested that the Mayor and Council were out of touch with their membership on the issue.

Since the summer, other than a letter to the editor of the weekly paper on June 10th, there has been no further update provided through the Lax Kw'alaams information flow suggesting that any change of mind related to the Eagle Spirit plan has been made.

You can review some of the background to the Eagle Spirit Energy proposal from our archive page here.

See our Lax Kw'alaams archive page, for an overview of the current state of discussion in in the First Nations Community on a range of energy proposals in the region.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Mayor Brain's Manifesto?

Mayor Lee Brain and some members
of Council met with Premier Clark
last week at UBCM
Hot on the heels of a rather enthusiastic endorsement of the leadership of Mayor Lee Brain from Premier Christy Clark last week at UBCM, comes a follow up review as to how the Mayor sees his job in the community and beyond.

Towards that theme, an interesting entry has appeared on Mayor Lee Brain's Facebook page over the last 24 hours, with the Mayor providing a clarification for the community it appears, as to how he sees his duties as Mayor of Prince Rupert.

The key passage of the six paragraph manifesto seems to address the theme of relationship building both in the community and beyond the city limits.

"As Mayor, you will see me with many different people, including people you may not like from institutions you may not agree with. This is the reality of my position, as your diplomat. Just because I’m building relationships with everyone, does not mean that I am succumbing to their interests at the expense of our community."

Those notes seem to be in response to a barb directed at the Mayor from a previous entry on his Facebook page, after  the Mayor had re-posted an item from the weekly newspaper which featured the visual of he and Premier Christy Clark, the two in the usual grip and grin photo opportunity from the recently concluded UBCM gathering.

The photo of the Mayor and Premier Clark appears to have caught the eye of Ken Lippett, who took to the Mayor's comment section of his Facebook page to offer up some political advice on appearing too chummy with the leader of the British Columbia Liberal party.

The item from Tuesday would appear to be the Mayor's rebuttal to Mr. Lippett and others in the community that may have similar advice for his political future. And with the prism of the Facebook culture (with its likes and thumbs up emoticons), the statement has found for a fair amount of support from those that enthusiastically follow the Mayor's work.

(Click the item below to enlarge)

The response to what appears to be a snarky, but slight political snipe though would seem to be a little bit of an over reaction. One that the Mayor had originally handled rather properly with a short concise comment on the original note, but somehow a few days later suddenly required a major statement.

From a Facebook comment, the Mayor seems to have take the incident as an opportunity to expand in rather grand detail on his vision of municipal governance and how to build relationships. Noting that a Mayor is the city's spokesperson on many issues when it comes to municipal affairs:

"First, I’ve been elected by you to represent our community. As your representative, I strive to be our collective best selves by being the most open, engaging and forthright Mayor possible. It is an official duty to be our spokesperson, and to carry out domestic and international diplomatic relations on our behalf."

As well, later on in his information statement, the Mayor observed as how he plans to move forward on that vision:

"I am working with all external stakeholders to help them understand the needs and perspectives on the ground. From this point forward, you will notice me bringing people together and helping mediate communications with those who may not see eye to eye for the benefit of all."

All of which makes for quite the manifesto for the future, considering it all appears to have been spurred on from one politically motivated comment on a Facebook page.

You can review more of those thoughts from the Mayor's preferred communication portal here.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Funding opportunities now available for Festival organizers across Northern BC

The lively Northwest Arts scene could see more festivals in the future, that should local organizers find success with a new program offered by Northern Development Initiative Trust.

The program called "Fabulous Festivals and Events" provides non-profit organizations with up to $2,500 in grant funding to support unique events and festivals throughout Northern British Columbia.

The main focus of the initiative is to support registered non-profit organizations that host home grown festivals and events that promote or strengthen the unique nature of the community. Organizers of the festival or event must demonstrate an economic benefit for the community, community support, engagement and inclusiveness, with the funding received to used to increase capacity of the event.

Prince Rupert events could soon
benefit from additional funding
opportunities with NDIT
There are a few conditions to the funding opportunity, events that don't meet the parameters for receiving support are those that are in their first year of operation or are fundraisers, events that are political in nature, or events that are replicated through the province or country and events that are directly organized by a local government.

The $2,500 in funding is available for each calendar year and applicants can apply again in the following year should they be approved in their initial approach.

You can find out more about the program from the Northern Development Initiative Trust website, included in the material available for download are an application guide, application form and reporting form.

You an also contact Northern Development at 250-561-2525

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Prince Rupert fares better than most Northwest communities in CFIB tax gap study

The numbers for the CFIB number crunchers no doubt are still on the high side, when it comes to what they would like to see as far as a tax gap burden across British Columbia goes.

But overall for the Northwest region, Prince Rupert's tax differential, is a lesser grab than most communities when it comes to the tax gap between residential and commercial rate payers.

However, before they pop the champagne corks over at Prince Rupert City Hall, it should still be noted that while not hosting the largest gap in the region, Prince Rupert can still be found much closer to the bottom of the list than to the top, ranked at 133rd place of the 160 communities reviewed for 2014 from the CFIB study.

The report known as the BC Property Tax Gap Report was released just prior to last week's UBCM gathering in Vancouver and takes a ten-year look at the disparities between residential and commercial property tax rates across the province, also known as the “tax gap”, something they explain quite well with the information piece below:

The gap review this year using taxation information from 2014, provides the latest measure of property tax fairness for small business, with the CFIB report highlighting which communities are more business friendly across the province.

The numbers for Prince Rupert (page 28)  note the Municipal residential rate for 2014 of 8.43 (Average of $1,607), while the Municipal Business rate is marked at 27.85 (Average of $5,312), making for the 2014 Municipal Tax Gap at 3.31

The One year change in the tax gap for Prince Rupert has seen an increase of 6.3 percent, while the five year change from 2009-14 which featured a decrease of 4.7.

Over the last ten years that change in the tax gap from  2001-14 was listed at 15.4 percent.

Over the course of the 10 year rankings, Prince Rupert was allocated a placement of 110 of the 160 communities surveyed over the last decade.

Port Edward was ranked at 86th for the year, while Stewart received the best score from the CFIB at 5th overall for 2014 when it comes to a low gap between business and residential.

The full chart for Northern British Columbia can be found below, highlighting Stewart's success at keeping that gap as low as possible, while Terrace gets a scolding for continuing to have the highest gap in place of all Northwest communities.

Terrace's numbers (page 28) delivered it the 160th place spot for 2014, based on a Municipal tax gap of 4.73. That rather large gap is a result of a Residential Tax Rate of 5.86 (Average of $1,378 in 2014), as opposed to the Business burden of 27.69 (Average of $6,515 for the same period).

The One year change in the tax gap for Terrace has seen an increase of 1.9 percent, while the five year change is noted at 22.7 percent

Over the last ten years that change in the tax gap from  20014-14 has set at 51.3 percent.

Over the course of the 10 year rankings, Terrace was allocated a placement of 141 of the 160 communities surveyed over the last decade.

The CFIB has offered up six suggestions for municipal governments to consider as they seek to have communities across British Columbia put a Cap on the Tax Gap,

1. Cap the property tax gap between businesses and residents at a maximum of 2 to 1. 

 2. Provide earlier property tax notices for commercial taxpayers. 

 3. Allow commercial taxpayers to remit taxes in monthly or quarterly installments. 

 4. Extend the homeowners’ grant to business owners occupying live/work spaces. 

 5. Close the gap without raising the business tax rate. 

 6. Move away from utilizing a flat tax rate for residential properties, as it can create large distortions in the tax gap when there are spikes in real estate prices.

You can take note of more background on those six key recommendations here.

For a more expansive look at the issues related to the Tax Gap see the full report from the CFIB available here.

For items related to Prince Rupert City Hall discussions on taxation and other issues see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Metlakatla and Prince Rupert Gas Transmission sign LNG pipeline project agreement

An agreement signed today between the Metlakatla First Nation and Prince Rupert Gas Transmission will provide a role for Metlakatla in the monitoring of the construction and operation of the Pacific NorthWest LNG liquefaction facility pipeline proposed for Lelu Island.

The specific terms of the agreement will remain confidential, but aspects of the project arrangements include access to employment for Metlakatla First Nation members, training and capacity development and an initial payment and annual payments for the life of the proposed pipeline project.

"Achieving this agreement with the Metlakatla First Nation is a major milestone for us, particularly since it has a significant interest in the Skeena estuary and wants to ensure that the environment around the Pacific NorthWest liquefaction facility is protected. The agreement is a strong indicator of the importance we place on engaging with First Nations to ensure their input on environmental and cultural impacts is genuinely incorporated into our project, and that they benefit from the construction and operation of the PRGT pipeline project," -- Dean Patry, president of Prince Rupert Gas Transmission, outlining some background to today's agreement with the Metlakatla First Nation

It's the second term sheet agreement that the Metlakatla First Nation has signed related to the Lelu Island terminal project, in mid December of 2014 they completed an arrangement with Pacific NorthWest LNG providing for benefits and conditions similar in nature to those delivered from today's announcement with Prince Rupert Gas Transmission.

Following today's announcement, Chief Harold Leighton expressed support for the project and the measures that the Metlakatla First Nation believe Prince Rupert Gas Transmission will take when it comes to the pipeline to Lelu Island.

"The pipeline project and the Pacific NorthWest facility will benefit our members for many years to come. We are confident that TransCanada will work diligently to ensure our way of life and the environment, and in particular Lelu Island, will not be negatively affected by the project."

Today's agreement with Metlakatla
is the eight arrangement reached for
Prince Rupert Gas Transmission related
to its pipeline plans across BC
The announcement from today heralds the latest in project agreements signed by Prince Rupert Gas Transmission, which had previously reached agreements with seven other First Nations across Northern British Columbia, including the Nisga'a Lisims Government, Gitanyow First Nation, Lake Babine Nation and Kitselas First Nation in the Northwest.

You can review more of the background from today's announcement here.

For more items of interest related to the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal plans see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

String of Northwest debates to make up home stretch of 2015 Election campaign

These final couple of weeks of the Federal election campaign will find a number of the candidates in Skeena-Bulkley Valley making what amounts to a barnstorming tour of the Northwest and Haida Gwaii this week and next.

The dash to the electoral finish line finds most of the candidates pencilled in for a number of community debates set up for this week and into the early portion of October.

Tomorrow night four of the candidates will be at Smithers Della Herman Theatre for the All Candidates Forum in that community that event starts at 7 PM.

From the Bulkley Valley, most of the candidates will be heading west for a pair of events on Haida Gwaii on October 1st and 2nd with events scheduled for both the North and South Island, with the October 1st event taking place from 6 to 8 PM at the Haida Heritage Centre.

One night later the group will convene on the North Island, meeting October 2nd at the Howard Phillips Community Hall from 6 to 8 PM.

Conservative candidate Tyler Nesbitt won't be making the trip to Haida Gwaii, owing to a previous engagement.

Haida Gwaii to hold first ever all candidates debate

As we outlined on the blog last week, Prince Rupert hosts its debate night on October 7th, when the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce presents an opportunity to learn more about where the candidates in Skeena-Bulkley Valley stand on a number of local issues.

That event takes place at the Lester Centre starting at 6 PM.

The candidates, should be in top debating form by the time that they make their stop in Prince Rupert, with Terrace hosting their event one night earlier, on Tuesday, October 6th at the REM Lee Theatre.

Date set for Terrace federal election all candidates debate

The candidates have already worked out some of their talking points for the campaign, with the majority of them having toured the eastern half of the riding over the last week, with debates taking place in Burns Lake and Fort St. James in recent days.

You can review some of the talking points of the campaign to date from our Election 2015 archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Robinson inquest begins in Prince Rupert

The coroner's inquest into the April 2014 deaths of Angie and Robert Robinson has begun at the Prince Rupert Courthouse, as Coroner Michael Egilson and the coroner's jury selected to review the details of the case began hearing the first of what will be a week of testimony.

The Coroner's jury will review the events of April and hear testimony from relatives and those in the community who knew both members of the Robinson family. The tragic nature of their deaths has already led to increased calls for better services and attention to issues that families with autistic children and other special needs face across the province.

One interested spectator in Monday's proceedings was North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, who missed the first day of the fall session of the Legislature to be in attendance for the first day of the inquest.

The MLA has raised the Robinson's case in the Legislature a number of times in the past year in Victoria.

The coroner's jury will be tasked with examining the facts and background surrounding the Robinson's deaths.  The findings from their week in Prince Rupert will provide for recommendations for future consideration to help to prevent similar deaths stemming from social factors such as those in place in the case of the Robinson's.

The public inquest was announced in April of this year, some background related to the decision to hold it can be found here.

Through the week, we will recap some of the events from the inquest, using a range of media sources,  both local and provincial. Those observations from the inquest can be found below.


Day Three of Robinson inquest (video)


Day Two of Robinson inquest in Prince Rupert (video)
Robert and Angie Robinson inquest reveals domestic abuse
Inquest testimony details incident that led to Mother's breaking point
Inquest hears from RCMP


Inquest begins into murder-suicide of mother and son with autism
Inquest testimony details struggles of family affected by autism
Inquest hears autism services lacking in Northern BC (audio)
Prince Rupert Coroner's Inquest Day One (video)

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Monday, September 28, 2015

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

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

September 28 : The Munk debate


Legislature returns to work today as Fall Session is set to open

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice will be back in Victoria today, as the fall session of the British Columbia Legislature prepares to get to work on the fall agenda for the government of Premier Christy Clark.

Something we imagine will focus on some of the delivery points at the recent UBCM convention in Vancouver where the Premier outlined five areas where the province plans to lend assistance to communities across British Columbia.

A couple of which perhaps caught the attention of the Prince Rupert delegation, a group which had a front row seat to the Premier's speech. Mayor Brain and his council might have found much to be interested in when it came to her plans to lend assistance towards infrastructure issues, expansion of high speed Internet service and a promise of 75 million dollar dividend for smaller communities.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice
will be back in the Legislature
this week as the fall session starts
Prince Rupert Council members most likely had their own list of items for the province to consider during their meetings with cabinet officials over the last week, perhaps focusing on infrastructure and housing concerns to name a few.

Themes that they hopefully have also updated Ms. Rice on, providing her with the opportunity to reinforce the Prince Rupert focused concerns during her Question Period time of the Legislature proceedings.

Another item that the North Coast MLA may be following up on is her request for more information on the province's airshed study into the Prince Rupert area, a report that is apparently complete but has as of yet been delivered to the public.

The Legislature resumes its work at 10 AM

You can review some of Ms. Rice's past efforts through the year from our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015

School replacement plans on the mind of SD52 this year

The prospect of a pair of new schools for the District and a review of a recent Hold and Secure incident at Charles Hays Secondary School provided for a fair bit of the attention of the School District 52 Board at their most recent meeting of September 15th

The aging nature of two of the schools in the city was one item of interest presented at the first meeting of the new school year, a topic which will see School District 52 officials forwarding some school replacement cost estimates to the provincial government in the near future. 

The notes on potential school replacement were part of School District 52's listing of capital budget projections that were approved at their September 15th Board Meeting.

In total, four items made up the Capital budget notices for the Ministry of Education's reviews, among them:

A 24 million dollar estimate for the replacement of Prince Rupert Middle School.

An 11 million dollar estimate for the replacement of Conrad School.

Three million, eight hundred thousand dollars is the estimate for the School District's Board Office consolidation plan.

While the cost of replacing the School bus fleet for the city has been estimated at one hundred thousand dollars.

Prince Rupert Middle School
Conrad Street Elementary School

On other business, the School District also addressed the recent Hold and Secure situation at Charles Hays Secondary, noting some of their observations related to the September 11th incident.

Noting that the Hold and Secure protocol was implemented owing to a threat from outside of the school, with a student having approached a school counsellor about a person outside of the school environment. The Hold and Secure process was implemented while the RCMP located the person  of interest, with the School District noting that at no time were any students in the school considered in any danger.

The School and district staff will review their implementation of the protocol to allow for staff to identify any areas for improvement that could be put in place for future events.

School District officials also reviewed some of the new curriculum timeline for SD52 with Superintendent Sandra Jones providing some background on the process ahead for staff, students and parents.

As well, the School District Board approved 4 draft policies to be reviewed by partner groups for further comment, those policy reviews included:

Field Trip policy, Emergency Preparedness Policy, Volunteers Policy, Whistleblower Policy

The Board also approved 3 policies to replace existing guidelines for the District, among those changes are the Conflict of Interest policy, Trustee Remuneration and Expense Allowance Policy and Travel and Subsistence Allowance Policy.

The School District Board also removed one policy, the School Planning Councils Policy which is no longer a requirement of the School Act.

The Board also was provided a review of events at Camp Jupiter this summer, as the district's Occupational Therapist Sue Neilson outlined the nature of the program and the reception of it from students, parents and sponsors in the community.

The overview of the September 15th meeting can be found here.

For more items related to education on the North Coast see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mayor's vision and Prince Rupert's future noted in Premier Clark's UBCM address Friday

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark made special note of the
potential for economic development in Prince Rupert during her
closing address to the UBCM convention on Friday

(photo from BC Gov't website)

Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain got a one minute shout out during Premier Clark's keynote address to the UBCM convention on Friday morning, as the Premier noted the enthusiasm that Prince Rupert is feeling with the prospect of future growth on the horizon.

Calling on the history of Charles Hays and his vision for the port city of 100 years ago, Ms. Clark noted that like Hays, Mayor Brain is focused on the future for the community, with a vision that emphasized how the community can achieve success.

"Lee Brain in Prince Rupert, Lee has an incredible vision.  Charles Hays who died on the Titanic in 1912, had a vision too.  And he wasn't able to complete it, his vision was to make Prince Rupert a port for the world, to open up the Northwest. 

Well Lee has taken on that vision, with gusto, so that he can make sure that  he realizes that future for Prince Rupert, that so many, so long ago may have already given up on. 

Because he knows, that when he sees his Chamber of Commerce grow by 46 per cent, it means that small businesses are coming and that small businesses are growing.  

And that is his vision and a vision of many leaders in the Northwest, a part of our province that has sat out economic growth for far too long"

Prince Rupert's delegation 
to the UBCM convention,
(right hand side)
 snared front row seats
for Premier Clark's 

closing address Friday
(photo from BC Gov't website)
The Premier's comments for Prince Rupert reflected much of her talking points of the full address, one of  looking to continue to see economic growth for the province and the opportunity to bring back former residents who are now returning home to take advantage of the possibilities being considered for their former home towns.

Towards that theme, the Premier announced the creation of what is called the Rural Dividend, a 75 million dollar project to be delivered over the course of three years.

Other items of note from her address included a focus on crime, with a re-dedication towards getting tough on criminals, with a focus on gang related activity.

Those themes and other notes for the UBCM delegates can be reviewed below:

Wildfire prevention funding increased, new approaches to forest enhancement
$90 million available for infrastructure in October
Communities to benefit from expanded high-speed Internet service
Up to $75-million Rural Dividend will help smaller communities
B. C. invests $5 million to further tackle crime

The speech which lasted a bit over a half hour, delivered a stream of points for delegates to take home with them.  You can review the full presentation from the Province's You Tube video feed.

For those looking for the Premier's comments on the North Coast, her notes directed towards Mayor Brain and on the prospects for the  future for the North Coast arrive at the 17 minute mark.

For a review of some of the talking points from the UBCM convention this year see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

A new Marina needs a Manager; City on the search for Cow Bay Marina boss

They may still be putting the finishing touches on the new Cow Bay Marina and the project itself may be a little behind the original opening date, but with the finish line in sight, the City of Prince Rupert is now in the market for Manager for the facility.

The job opportunity for the Cow Bay Marina Manager was posted to the City's website on Thursday, a supervisory position which will provide for management services and operation of the Marina and its facilities.

Offering a competitive salary and benefit package, the successful candidate will report to the City Manager and will be expected to oversee a number of day to day operation matters from administration to sales and human resources to name a few. 

When it comes to qualifications for the job, the City is looking for candidates that will have a diploma with an emphasis on  Recreation and Leisure, Business Administration, Public Relations or a related field.

Also noted on the Job Notice is the advisory that candidates with direct Marine Experience will be given preference.

The deadline for Applications is Friday October 9th at 4:30 PM.

The full listing of requirements can be examined here.

The City has yet to announce how large a staff will be required for Marina operations, or when they anticipate offering those positions to the public.

For some background on the Cow Bay Marina project see our items below:
More notes on the Prince Rupert waterfront can be found here.

For more background on recent employment opportunities from the City of Prince Rupert see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

UBCM delegates hear concerns on how City Council's may be approaching Open government

A fascinating seminar took place at this weeks UBCM convention focusing on the mechanics of City Council's across the province, a conversation which may provide for a number of talking point for all delegates to bring back home with them when the municipal gathering ends today.

Wednesday's Vancouver Sun provided the background of a presentation by Vancouver lawyer Raymond Young, a founding member of the Vancouver law firm of Young Anderson which specializes in municipal law.

In his presentation, Mr. Young outlined for those in attendance that some of the current approaches of City Council members may be breaking the law, particularly those councils which work in a caucus format prior to their regular council duties.

Meetings outside of the normal Council routine appear to be the focus of his attention on the issue, though the main reproach was issued to those communities which seem to have evolved into a political party system for municipal matters.

Still, some of his thoughts might be transferable to other situations in smaller communities, where much of the council business seems to take place more and more in private sessions or informal settings.

In Prince Rupert, Council members in the past have frequently noted that they hold many internal workshops, committee meetings and such other discussion mechanisms as part of their normal range of municipal duties.

Vancouver Lawyer Raymond Young
offered up some interesting notes on
Civic matters to UBCM
delegates this week
It would be interesting to see what Mr. Young might make as to how some of those approaches fit into the concept of more open government, though we do get some glimpses as to his overview on municipal government from his presentation this week.

To the theme of discussions outside of normal council business, Young was noted in the Sun as expanding that sense of what might constitute a meeting outside of the normal routine of Council considerations.

Observations that could change the way many of British Columbia's elected officials think about their day to day engagement on issues.

"even when councillors email, text or call each other serially, or sequentially, they could be considered to be having a meeting. Even informal meetings such as a breakfast at a house can become an illegal meeting if the conversation turns from the weather to a city issue ... Maybe they’re talking about raising taxes a little bit so they can do this or that. It’s a nice breakfast and they go home and think, ‘Well, we accomplished something today, probably bring that up in council one day.’ That was a council meeting"

Mr. Young offered up the recommendation that the province needs to improve legislation when it comes to municipal governance, calling for some thought towards sanctions or enforcement options for those communities that violate Open Meeting laws.

That is a step that the province isn't quite ready to take yet, preferring to educate municipal leaders further on the theme, something that they believe the UBCM is working to address.

The full article is a fascinating look at the issue of Open government in the province and how at the municipal level, much of what takes place seemingly is going on outside of a regular open council session.

You can review the item from the Sun here.

For more items related to this week at UBCM see our Talking Points archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Aurora LNG outlines design plans for proposed Digby Island terminal

For many at Wednesday's Open House for the Aurora LNG project, the backdrop of Digby Island visible from the North Coast Convention Centre, provided the main talking point for the evening's review. With a number of the members community that call Digby Island home, noting their displeasure at the prospect of having to share their patch of the North Coast with a major development.

A look at the design of the proposed Aurora LNG
Terminal proposed for the south end of Digby Island

The proponents for an LNG Terminal on the southern approach to Digby Island provided a comprehensive overview of their project on Wednesday, offering background to their work so far, noting the engagement process that they have taken on to this point and how their efforts will continue on into the future.

Much of what those residents in attendance on Wednesday might have taken in has already been provided to the public by way of Aurora's most recent Community update.

That information guide was posted to the Aurora website last month, featuring some background on the current level of survey work taking place on Digby Island and the introduction and explanation
Aurora LNG has debuted the
new corporate log for their
North Coast LNG project
of their new logo for the project to identify its connection to the North Coast.

As for some of the details of the proposed development, Aurora LNG highlighted some of the economic benefits that the project would bring to the region, among them:

A construction workforce of 3,000 to 5,000 people, with plans to develop a work camp at the LNG Terminal site.

Upon completion, the operational workforce for the Terminal would be in the range of 200-300 workers. Aurora notes in its information package that they will have a hire and buy local first policy in place as their plans move forward.

Training opportunities will also be part of their presence in the region, with Aurora LNG planning to consult with the community as to how best approach those training requirements through educational and training institutions.

Local businesses and service providers that might wish to work with Aurora LNG can register with the company through the Work With us section of their website.

As for why they selected Digby Island, Aurora officials noted the large size of the proposed development area and the sheltered bay area which offers easy access to the proposed site, making material offloading less of a concern.

As well, with a site as large as what Digby Island has to offer, the company believes that they can confine all construction and operational activities to the immediate area.

Wednesday's Open House was part of Aurora's current efforts related to the initial public comment period, part of the early stages of the Environmental Assessment process, with a deadline for comments coming up on October 1st.

"The focus of this open house is to invite comments on the dAIR,“ ... “As we move forward with Aurora LNG, there will be multiple opportunities for the public and stakeholders to learn more about the project. In turn, we are committed to understanding the interests and concerns of Aboriginal groups, local communities and other stakeholders. It’s our experience that early engagement and collaboration ultimately results in a better project." -- Aurora LNG's Darcy Janko outlining the theme of Wednesday's Open House in Prince Rupert

Those interested in making their submission to the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office can learn more about that process here.

And on that theme of feedback, Wednesday provided for a fair amount of comment from those that live on Digby Island, particularly from the Dodge cove region, CFTK TV provided a sample of some of their thoughts as part of their Thursday evening newscast.

The Aurora group in attendance at Wednesday's event will be taking note of the feedback from the community that they received, putting some of those contributions to work for their next Open House which they have tentatively set for sometime in December.

Until that point, more information on the project can be found through their Project office, located in the Coastal Business Centre on 2nd Avenue West, across from the Ocean Centre.

You can learn more about the Aurora LNG project from our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Thursday, September 24, 2015

CBC's The National: At Issue Panel -- The French Language Debate

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

September 24 : The French language debate


Voice of BC -- Media Panel

A roundtable discussion on politics in British Columbia

Voice of BC host Vaughn Palmer explores some of the themes of BC Politics over the last month with Keith Baldrey and Justine Hunter

September 24

Voice of BC - Media Panel from Voice of BC on Vimeo.

Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams denied respondent status in Gitga'at petition for Judicial Review

The Gitga'at First Nation has found success in a recent court session to determine if the Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams First Nations would be allowed respondent status in a Judicial Review being sought by the Gitga'at.

The First Nation located in the Hartley Bay area had previously expressed its concerns over issues related to a lack of proper Environmental Assessment consultation on proposed LNG development in Prince Rupert Harbour.

The Gitga'at First Nation first outlined their plans to seek the judicial review back on July 6th, a notification that the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation responded to in late July.

On Tuesday, a judgement in favour of the Gitga'at was released from the hearing which took place from September 3 and 4, with the findings and accompanying background posted to the BC Supreme Court website  on Tuesday.

In the review from Mr. Justice B. D. MacKenzie, the history as to the request from the two applicants (Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams) was outlined, with Justice MacKenzie noting one of the themes of the Gitga'at petition, in which the First Nation asserts that it holds non-exclusive aboriginal rights in the Prince Rupert Harbour and Lower Skeena River areas.

From that petition, the Gitga'at  First Nation is seeking to be entitled to full consultation when it comes to LNG project proposals in the Prince Rupert Harbour area.

The Gitga'at First Nation
had a successful day in
court earlier this month
That petition for Judicial review is still to be heard.

With that process underway, the two First Nations in the immediate Prince Rupert region were seeking to become a participant in the Judicial Review, submitting their own request for applicant status.

Expressing for the court their concerns about the Gitga'at claim of aboriginal title, stating that the Gitga'at has no claim as alleged.

Those themes made for much of the nature of the discussion related to the court session of earlier this month, as the Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla First Nations provided their observations as to why they should be granted respondent status in the judicial review proceedings that the Gitga'at have initiated.

In effect, the Gitga'at suggested, and successfully as things have turned out, that any intervention in their petition from the Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla First Nation would in the end undermine the Gitga'at petition at this time, which is focused on the correctness, or reasonableness of the EAO decision.

After the two days of discussion, featuring a review of events and background information, Justice Mackenzie in the end ruled in favour of the Gitga'at First nation, dismissing the applications from the Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams.

Among some of the key notes from his judgement:

"Given the totality of the material presented and counsel's submissions, I accept the submission of the Gitga'at that, even if they are successful at the judicial review, this would not prejudice or undermine the strength of the applicants' ultimate claims, as any declarations made at the judicial review would not be a final determination on this issue."

"In the present case, in my view, the subject matter of the judicial review and the relief sought by the Gitga'at is not an issue between the Gitga'at and the Lax Kw'alaams and the Metlakatla with respect to the relative strength of their competing claims of aboriginal rights."

"There is little doubt, in my view, to allow the applications, would, as submitted by the Gitga'at, overwhelm and in fact undermine the original petition for judicial review" ... "it would not be just and convenient if this were to occur"

"For these reasons, and notwithstanding the very able submissions of counsel for the applicants, I am not satisfied the applicants have established they ought to have been joined as parties, or that their participation in the judicial review is necessary to ensure that all matters pertaining to the scope of the judicial review may be effectually adjudicated upon, or that the test in s. 6‑2(7)(c) has been met."

While the Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla First Nations may have been denied their application on this issue, it would seem that they have set the table and indicated that there will be more to come on the topic of whether the Gitga'at First  Nation has any claim to the Prince Rupert harbour region.

That topic it would appear will be up for further discussion, a process that could capture the attention of the North Coast for some time to come.

Last week, the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation announced it's plans to proceed with title action on the Lelu Island and Flora bank are of Prince Rupert harbour.

You can review the full judgement from the September 4 decision here.

The Gitga'at First Nation has not outlined as of yet where their petition stands with the Supreme Court or when it will be heard.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Photo days at the UBCM

With many of the province's municipal politicians gathered in one place this week, a large number of the delegates to the UBCM convention are taking the opportunity for discussions with BC Government ministers and of course the obligatory photo to commemorate the event.

While there are many events and seminars to attend to, when it comes to getting that memorable photo of the week's event Premier Clark is apparently the one must have selfie for the week.

At least if the flow of photos from the BC Government photo site this week are any indication, with many city council members from around the Northwest settling in for a snap shot with Christy Clark.

Terrace Council members meeting with Premier Clark
and other Provincial officials
Premier Clark and members of Kitimat Council at UBCM
Houston council gets a few moments with the Premier at UBCM
Port Edward gets its moment with Premier Clark
The Premier with a couple of Rupertites at UBCM

Still to be archived for the photo history book however are some photos of the Prince Rupert Council delegation, which to this point haven't it seems made it into hit rotation on the BC Government photo feed.

Making we guess for Prince Rupert to be the Waldo, in the UBCM version of Where's Waldo ...

Update 4 PM: Finding Waldo edition!!

The Prince Rupert delegation met with the Premier, as well as Ministers Fassbender, Stone and Coleman on Thursday.

The Prince Rupert City Council delegation meets
with the Premier and Ministers at UBCM

For more background on some of the discussion points to this point from the various sessions of the UBCM gathering see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Lester Centre to host North Coast Election Debate October 7th

What will most likely be one of the few opportunities to get some of the candidates in the same room at the same during the 2015 election campaign comes up early next month, as Prince Rupert's Lester Centre for the Arts hosts an election debate for residents of the North Coast.

Event organizers, the Prince Rupert Chamber of commerce has scheduled the event for October 7th and have extended invitations to all of the declared candidates in the October 19th Federal Election.

Members of the local media will be providing some questions for the Candidates, followed by an opportunity for the audience to offer questions to the candidates in a moderated forum setting.

There's been a bit of a lull in campaign issues over the last few weeks, with only candidates Nathan Cullen and to a lesser degree Conservative Tyler Nesbitt having made much in the way of commentary on issues from across the region.

Less vocal on the campaign trail to this point have been Liberal candidate Brad Layton and the Christian Heritage Party's Don Spratt.

The Green Party only entered the race in Skeena-Bulkley Valley last week, when they announced the candidacy of Prince Rupert resident Jeannie Parnell.

The October 7th event starts at 6 PM and is sponsored by CityWest, the BC Northern Real Estate Board and Prince Rupert Grain.

The evening provides an opportunity for residents to have some of the issues of concern to the North Coast addressed by the candidates seeking our votes on October 19th.

No list of confirmed candidates has been released by the event organizers as of yet.

You can review some of the past items of interest in the campaign so far from Skeena-Bulkley Valley election Archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gitxaala First Nation joins Metlkatla with response to Lax Kw'alaams

The proposed LNG Terminal at
Lelu Island is part of the backdrop to
a growing difference of opinion between
members of the Tsimshian First Nations
of the North Coast

The Gitxaala First Nation is the latest member of the Tsimshian community to take issue with some of the talking points from the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation when it comes to events related to Lelu Island.

As we noted on the blog last week, the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation outlined its plans to move forward on an aboriginal title action for the Lelu Island and Flora Bank region.

A process that has gained momentum with the start of recent survey work around the Lelu Island area by contract workers hired by Pacific NorthWest LNG.

As well as the update last week on those developments, the Lax Kw'alaams Band government  through an expanded information statement to community members, provided some background to their disappointment in the actions of other Tsimshian members on issues related to the Lelu Island issue.

With the following observation from that statement, appearing to have set off the current flurry of media releases on the topic:

"Sadly, it seems that other Tsimshian communities chose to accept agreements with PNW, both prior to a full scientific evaluation of the proposed facility and in conflict with Lax Kw'alaams rights and interests and those of up-river Nations. This is regrettable. A number of these same Tsimshian communities are making spurious claims in respect of Prince Rupert harbour."  -- From a community update for members of the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation.

Metlkatla was the first of those Tsimshian communities to offer up a rebuttal to those comments, providing for their own information release last Friday.

Today, it was the turn of the Gitxaala First Nation to address the controversial remarks from Lax Kw'alaams.

In their media release of this morning, the Gitxaala First Nation observes that they are bringing "Demonstrated Environmental Leadership" to the review process for the LNG Terminal project proposed by Petronas/ Pacific NorthWest LNG.

On the theme of the Lax Kw'alaams reproach to other Tsimshian communities, the Gitxaala Nation provided this reply:

 "Consistent with the Tsimshian tradition of Bak Laansk -- pulling together, Gitxaala continues to work cooperatively with other Tsimshian nations as part of the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority."

"It is disappointing and irresponsible for Lax Kw'alaams to take an adversarial position with other Tsimshian nations on the Petronas project." 

"The Tsimshian communities need to work together to ensure projects in our shared territory are properly reviewed and delivered to the highest standards, now and into the future."

You can review the full media release from the Gitxaala First Nation here.

The Lax Kw'alaams First Nations Government has advised its membership that they will be hosting a Community meeting on September 30th, when they will outline their plans and answer further questions on the question of their title action related to Lelu Island.

More background on the proposed development of an LNG Terminal on Lelu Island can be found from our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Latest developments for Aurora LNG project available at tonight's Open House

Aurora LNG is exploring
the prospect of placing
an LNG Terminal on
Digby Island
A proposed LNG terminal project for Digby Island will be the topic for tonight's Open House, as officials from Aurora LNG, the Chinese led group that hopes to develop the project host interested members of the community at the North Coast Convention Centre.

The Open House which runs from 4 until 8 PM today, will provide updates for local residents as to some of the preliminary work that has taken place on Digby Island over the last few weeks, as Aurora LNG begins the process of determining whether the location will be suitable for their Terminal development plans.

Geo technical crews are expected to continue their work at the proposed site through the final three months of the year, flagging archaeological and heritage resources in the area as part of their examination of the site.

You can learn more about that work from our blog item of August 18th

Prince Rupert's North Coast
Convention Centre is the venue
for tonight's Aurora LNG Open House
The Aurora project is currently in the submission of comments phase for its draft application, that opportunity for those in the community to provide their thoughts on the proposed development started on September 1st and continues until October 1st.

Tonight's presentation will be one that could be a politician free event, with the majority of the North Coast's local elected officials in Vancouver attending the annual UBCM convention.

We have more background related to tonight's Open House available here.

Aurora LNG has provide a Fall update on the proposed development available through their website here.

For more information on the proposed Terminal development for Digby Island see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review