Sunday, January 31, 2016

Victoria Viewpoints: Saturday and Sunday, January 30 & 31, 2016

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Provincial scene.

Former B.C. premier Bill Bennett's accomplishments celebrated at memorial
Michael Smyth’s bet: NDP will win B.C. byelections in two very different ridings
B.C. universities eye mandatory indigenous studies course
B. C. needs to take action if it hopes to regain status as climate leader
Fixed link is a dream that never dies
B.C. government behaving like a loan shark
Two seats up for grabs in B. C. by-elections


Ottawa Observations: Saturday and Sunday, January 30 and 31, 2016

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Federal scene from January 30-31, 2016.

Trudeau leverages sunny tone to rebuild burnt bridges
Ottawa pushes military deals with Kuwait despite UN concerns
Seven steps for reopening an embassy in Tehran
More than $200 million tagged for veterans not spent last year
Trudeau, the Holocaust and Jews
A love-in, bureaucracy bias, and a pink slip
Police forces need culture change: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Quebec cabinet shuffle reflects momentum from Trudeau's gender parity commitment
Put Canada's spies on a tighter leash
Canadians interview the prime minister about issues that matter to them
Liberal government’s new pipeline hurdles show Trudeau feels untouchable after election win
Does Veterans Affairs need more money? Department failed to spend $200 million in its budget last year


January 31 -- CBC Cross Country Check Up -- Should more resources be put into care for the dying?

Should more resources be put into care for the dying?

Diana Swain is the host.

January 31, 2016 (audio)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Victoria Viewpoints: Friday, January 29, 2016

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Provincial scene.

B.C. government gives environmental approval to proposed ski resort near Squamish
‘Uncle Stu’ came to the rescue more than once
B. C. ski resort gets environmental and First Nations approval
Support growing to make Victoria a sanctuary city
Education Ministry chastised for latest BC Data Breach

Ottawa Observations: Friday, January 29, 2016

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Federal scene from January 29, 2016.

Ottawa plans to broaden scope of revised mission against Islamic State
Trudeau advisor Mathieu Bouchard more than just PMO's 'Quebec guy'
Kerry confident about Canada's efforts to fight terrorism
Canada must take bold action to meet climate goal: environment ministers
Hard Hit Alberta might be eligible for federal relief, Morneau says
If Canada wants pipelines built, five hard truths are in order
Inquiry into missing women must be more than political theatre
Liberals cautions of 'ripples' across Mideast from Canada's actions in Iraq and Syria: defence minister
An environmental review process is an organized procrastination
Tories didn’t cherry-pick refugees by accepting ethnic minorities, ex-immigration minister says
Things that made Denis Coderre a loose cannon in Ottawa make him a player as Montreal’s mayor
Renovations on 24 Sussex could keep Trudeau family frozen out of the property for his entire term
Liberals' new rules may break deadlock on pipelines
Meet the Commons committees of the 42nd Parliament
Ottawa runs $400 M surplus in November, $1B in the bak so far for 2015-16
Liberals oppose Conservatives' pro-energy East motion
John Kerry 'confident' Canada will still contribute to ISIS
Canada's ISIS fight must factor in 'ripple effect,' Harjit Sajjan says
Justin Trudeau visits Saskatchewan village
To reform Parliament, MPs might start by holding their applause
Federal, provincial environment ministers 'take stock' of climate challenge
EI wait time may stay at 2 weeks until 2017, employment minister says
Liberals say no to idea of private groups housing government-assisted refugees



Those Big Box themes start to percolate at City Council

One day the signs of pending of
Big Box dreams may soon be back on
the Prince Rupert horizon
There were ghosts of Big Box Stores past and visions of Big Box stores of the future at City Council on Monday evening.

As a discussion related to a proposed Small Business Advisory Committee got sidetracked a bit, exploring some of Council's thoughts when it came to protecting the downtown core business area.

And while there is to this point no indication that any Big Box outlet is even considering Prince Rupert as a destination, Council gave the topic about ten minutes of their time on Monday.

The topic came up almost by accident it seemed, with Councillor Mirau outlining the terms of reference for his proposed Small Business Advisory Committee and noted as part of his talking points that the City Council would want to protect the downtown area, and they wouldn't want to see Big Box Stores develop south of the Industrial site, or outside of the downtown core.

That seemed to open the door for a wider exchange of ideas on the theme of Big Box stores and where they should go in Prince Rupert, should those commercial interests ever decide to come to the community.

The main theme appeared to be to be a preference that any Big Box retailer be directed to the downtown core area of Second and Third Avenues, with some hesitation expressed at locations that may be outside of the downtown area.

Councillor Mirau noted that one of the key elements of his proposed Small Business Advisory Committee would be that those that would be a part of the Committee would have to subscribe to the philosophy of council to protect the character of the  downtown and protect the small businesses that operate on Second and Third Avenue.

That was a direction of the conversation that Councillor Cunningham suggested some caution on, stating that the City needs to find a balance on the topic of Big Box stores.

Making note of his travels to Terrace and how he frequently sees residents from Prince Rupert in the Big Box outlets of Terrace and that they are there because of that attraction, noting that there doesn't seem to have been a large impact on that city's small business sector.

Councillor Cunningham added that, while he doesn't particularly want to see Big Box outlets locating out on the highway, that if the residents of  Prince Rupert residents want Big Box outlets the City would need to listen to its them.

He further observed that rather than blocking something, Council should listen to the people and if the people want something out on the highway, Council needs to listen to them.

For his contribution to the discussion, the Mayor noted that it doesn't mean that the City doesn't want Big Box stores, it just reinforces the position that the city wants proper development of the downtown core.

Council had a short discussion on the
theme of Big Box stores on
Monday evening.
Councillor Thorkelson however expressed her agreement with keeping a focus on the downtown area, recounting how she started her political career on Council by fighting against the Shopping Village concept that had been proposed for the BC Hydro site back in the days of Mayor Herb Pond.

She noted that back during the discussion of the shopping village concept, she was concerned about the potential impact to the downtown area, fearing that the downtown area would dry up with the prospect of everyone moving out to the strip malls.

She reinforced for Council that she remains committed to protecting the Downtown area and making it grow, adding  that she does not want the City to look like Terrace.

The large scale development that had been proposed for the BC Hydro site in 2005 was officially put on the shelf by the Royop Development Corporation back in 2008, with little mention of it since.

You can look towards a one day Big Box future from the City's Video Archive, the discussion on what direction council may go should the time ever come starts at the 2 hour thirty eight minute mark.

For more items related to the city's commercial sector see our archive page here.

More background on topics of discussion at Prince Rupert City Council can be reviewed from our Council Archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

School District 52 launches survey on proposed budget cuts

School District 52 is turning to the community for some guidance on what they say will be the need for a 4 per cent cut to their budget, or around 1,000,000 dollars.

To gain some idea as to where they might find those savings, the School District is hosting a survey on its website until February 19th.

Transportation appears to be one area where the School District is directing a fair bit of interest towards, with one third of the survey questions addressing the topic of how children get to school and what choices parents and guardians might be willing to make on that theme.

The remainder of the survey deals with some of the core areas of instruction in the School District, with respondents tasked with identifying the ones that they believe hold the most importance.

The survey consists of six questions which cover a number of different scenarios and pose a range of question.

Included in the SD52 Survey is:

A ranking of priorities in four functions of the School District, Instruction, District Administration, Operations and Maintenance and Transportation.

The second question focuses specifically on instruction and outlines eight areas where respondents are asked to rank the categories, listing their thoughts according to what they believe are the level of importance for each. The instruction areas include: Regular Instruction, Career Programs, Library Services, Counselling, Special Education, English Language Learning, Aboriginal Education and School Administration.

Question Three explores the area of Services and Supplies, with respondents once again asked to rank the importance of items from a list of eight, those areas include: Services, Student Transportation, Professional Development and Travel, Rentals and leases, Dues and Fees, Insurance, Supplies and Insurance.

Transportation items make up the focus of the fourth question, with participants asked to note how their children get to school, choosing from a list that includes: Walk or ride a bike, Ride in a Car, Public Transit, Yellow School Bus, or not applicable as the respondent does not have children in the school system.

Transportation is also the subject of the fifth question, with the School District asking that if they were to decide to reduce spending on Transportation, what option would participants choose as the best option.  The three choices are Discontinue the Yellow Bus Service, Charge all users of the service a fee, Charge a user fee with discounts available according to need.

The Survey comes to a conclusion with the opportunity for participants to provide four suggestions for further savings for the School District to consider.

You can submit your contribution to the survey  here.

The School District survey is open to all residents of Prince Rupert, whether they have children in the school system or not.

School District officials will be using the results as part of their consultation process on the Budget as they look to chart the financial path ahead for the public school system in the city.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Drake Crescent housing proposal to go to Public Hearing in late February

City Council moved forward with a
proposed housing development for
Drake Crescent, sending the topic
to a Public Hearing on February 22
Prince Rupert City Council made some tentative steps forward Monday  night on required zoning for a proposed housing development on Drake Crescent.

Moving the proposed zoning changes further along in the process and scheduling a Public Hearing on February 22nd to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the housing plans.

The City Planner provided a review of the process so far, providing some background on the nature of the project which would see no more than 80 units created for the site in question.  

He also outlined some of the findings from a public information session from December 9th that had been held in relation to the proposal.

The review of the zoning requests for the Drake Crescent proposal led to a larger discussion by Council members on the subject of how they will seek to approach future growth in housing requirements in the community, with a particular desire to provide for parks, public open spaces and other amenities as part of the engagement process with developers in the future.

Councillor Thorkelson led the majority of the discussion, referencing some of the past decisions that Council has had to make, calling attention to how they approached the development of Edwards Street cul-de-sac area a number of years ago.

Using that example as a way of noting that Council needs to find a way to ensure that it's desires regarding open spaces and park like elements are addressed when they look at new developments.

As well as to review land options in the city where such elements could be included, adding that the City needs to be aware to guard against putting up places that they wish to see people locate in  but then not having any no amenities available for children to make use of in those neighbourhoods.

The Mayor tied that concept into his thoughts on placemaking and the need for balance in the community and something that would be part of further review.

You can review the discussion from the City's Video Archive, it starts at the 1 hour 29 minute mark.

For more items related to housing issues in the region see our archive page here.

For more background on City Council discussions see our Council Archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Plans in motion to move forward with School District 52 byeletion

The City's Corporate Administrator
outlined the path ahead Monday
night towards a by-election for SD52
School District 52 officials will no doubt be relieved to finally see some progress on their desire to hold a by-election to find a replacement for departed trustee Judy Carlick-Pearson.

On Monday evening, City Council began the process of revising its Local Elections Bylaw (page 56 of the Monday Agenda), with Council changing the wording of the bylaw to reflect the new terms of four years, as opposed to the previous three year cycle.

Adoption of the new bylaw would be  the first step that is required to install a Chief Election Officer as well as an assistant Elections Officer, who will then be tasked to oversee the election process for the School District.

The City's Corporate Administrator Rory Mandryk introduced the path ahead for Council on Monday night, providing some background on why Council needs to change the Bylaw and offering up some detail on the new approach that the City will be taking to conduct the School District by-election.

As Mr. Mandryk explained it, the City is required to provide the services for the local school board's by-election requirement and as they moved forward on that requirement, the City had determined that they did not have sufficient staff on hand at City hall to conduct the by-election, putting the process out to tender in December and awarding that tender to Joe Zelwietro.

The explanation noting of a lack of staff in house to conduct the by-election, might raise a few eyes from those that have been following the flow of job opportunities found on the careers page on the City website over the last year. With a number of new staff positions created and filled through the last six months through City Hall, a topic of conversation that a few Council members have made note of in recent months..

Both Mr. Zelwietro and a Deputy Elections officer to be named shortly, will be appointed to their position at the February 9th Council session, where one imagines the School District will perhaps finally receive word as to when the actual by-election vote may take place.

The adoption of the new bylaw took place at a Special Council session held on Wednesday.

Mr. Mandryk also provided some background on the cost of the election process for Council, noting that when the City provides staff for elections, the cost of a by-election runs at 25,000 dollars.

Though it was not outlined on Monday evening what the cost for the by-election required this year might be estimated at using the new approach of putting the process to tender.

According to background information from the School District, they will be paying the City for their services in conducting the by-election as is required under the School Act.  However, the length of time that it has taken however to get to this point has been something that has made for frequent conversation at the School District level.

In their minutes from their December 9th meeting School District officials noted their frustration at the pace of the by-election request and how it would mean that they would not be able to fill the position in the time period expected. They also  expressed some concerns over the use of a service provider to conduct the by-election.

(click to enlarge)

The lengthy delay proved to be a theme that was raised again during the course of the School District's January 12th gathering.

On Monday, Councillor Mirau did make mention of the time sensitive nature of the process, with both he and Mayor Brain inquiring as to the process ahead for the City to get towards a By election date.

You can review Mr. Mandryk's presentation to Council from the City's Video Archive, it starts at the 1  hour 58 minute mark.

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

More background on developments with School District 52 can be found on our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Provincial population estimates for Prince Rupert at odds with those of the City

Part of last year's LNG GO plan/Major Projects Planning population study initiatives included the City of Prince Rupert's own version of the census, a project which was one part on line based and one part featuring a hands on approach to determining the population numbers for the city.

As part of the January 11th City Council Session, City Planner Zeno Krekic went over a number of reports and provided a stream of data as part of his overall review of all the work of the last year.

Recounting for Council how the population review of the Spring and Summer had given the city the data to determine that the population of the City was now just under 14,000 residents, listed at  the 13,766 mark.

City Planner Zeno Krekic at Prince Rupert City Concil
on January 11th where he outlined that the estimated
population of Prince Rupert was just under 14,000 residents

However, figures released this week by StatsBC suggest a different counting of the heads, with the BC government agency coming to the conclusion that the City of Prince Rupert's population was 11,386 in 2015,  down 443 people from the last time they tabulated their figures one year ago.

That decrease makes for the lowest number recorded for Prince Rupert by BC Stats in the last five years.

It also leaves a significant difference of opinion between the City and the Province as to how many residents are calling Prince Rupert home these days, making for a gap of  2,380 people between the two results.

In the course of his report to Council Mr. Krekic noted that the City of Prince Rupert findings  from 2015 included a shadow population that BC Stats does not take into account.

In an article in the Prince George Citizen, BC Stats outlined that their method of determining population numbers involves using the federal census and using a number of provincial indicators such as BC Hydro connections and BC health numbers to deliver their estimates.

According to Stats BC, the population of Port Edward also declined in the most recent survey period settling at 500 down 33 from the last time that the government took a look at the numbers.

Population numbers are important to both the District of Port Edward and the City of Prince Rupert as provincial and federal funding monies are often based on population.

The population declines found by BC Stats were common for the most part across much of Northern British Columbia, with Terrace dropping to 11,164 a decline of 33 people while further to the east the largest community in Northern BC, Prince George saw a population drop of 1,958 with the current estimated population to be 71,363.

For those that wish to compare the numbers and the studies, some of the information below offers up a good place to start.

Mr. Krekic's presentation to Council of January 11th can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive, and there is also a fair amount of data on the Population Study of last year available from the City's website.

You can also look over the BC Stats findings and download their findings from their website here.

Short of everyone in town gathering down on the waterfront for a head count on a sunny afternoon, we will all get another chance to be counted later this year, when the Federal Census takes place in May.

The federal head count will make for a comprehensive data collection project and perhaps the one that will provide the final grade on whether the City or the Province has their math right.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Federal Government announces new environmental assessment guidelines

Additional reviews on the nature of
Greenhouse gas emissions will
be added to the assessment process
for proposed LNG terminals 
The path towards development of energy resources and shipment terminals is going to require a little bit more science and consultation now, with guidelines released by the Ministers of Natural Resources and Environment and Climate on Wednesday.

The announcement from the two Ministers on interim principles when it comes to addressing greenhouse gas emissions will be conducted apart from and in addition to the current regimen of deliberations that the National Energy Board conducts on proposed projects.

The Background statement from the Federal Government can be reviewed here, while further information related to interim measures on pipeline reviews can be examined here.

With the Federal government now looking to include the impact of Green House Gas emissions as part of the review when it comes to major energy projects, five new principles were announced as part of the environmental assessment process moving forward.

Those principles include.

1. No project proponent will be asked to return to the starting line — project reviews will continue within the current legislative framework and in accordance with treaty provisions, under the auspices of relevant responsible authorities and Northern regulatory boards; 

2. Decisions will be based on science, traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and other relevant evidence; 

3. The views of the public and affected communities will be sought and considered; 

4. Indigenous peoples will be meaningfully consulted, and where appropriate, impacts on their rights and interests will be accommodated;

5. Direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions linked to the projects under review will be assessed.

The guidelines will be used for current projects under consideration and those that have still to start their environmental projects, for those Environmental Assessments that are underway there will be no need to start over, but whether the science on hand to this point will provide enough information or require further investigation will remain to be seen.

How the new guidelines might impact on the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG Terminal project is not known just yet, if they have enough scientific research already completed to meet the government's requirements there should be little delay to the anticipated CEAA draft report.

However, if they are required to submit more data on the theme of green house gas emissions, then the timeline of delivery of that report and any potential decision on approval could be delayed.

Some of the overview and comment on Wednesday's announcement out of Ottawa can be found below:

Clark needs Trudeau to approve Pacific NorthWest LNG project
Expect LNG to remain a B. C. political football
Pipeline projects to face new environmental regulations
Pipeline industry optimistic after new Liberal policy
Liberal pipeline policy presents 3 key problems
Eventually, Trudeau will have to disappoint someone on pipelines
Ottawa adds additional steps to pipeline reviews
Governments must commit to greenhouse gas policies, NEB warns
Pipeline reviews to look at 'upstream' greenhouse gas emissions, consultation with aboriginals

More Background on the LNG industry on the North Coast can be found on our LNG archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Victoria Viewpoints: Thursday, January 28, 2016

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Provincial scene.

B. C. will help shape battleground in pipeline debate back east
B. C. Ministry broke rules, leading to data breach: Privacy commissioner
New B.C. ferries might be funded by Ottawa, federal transport minister hints
Privacy breach a failure of ‘executive leadership,’ watchdog says
Privacy commissioner raps B.C. for massive privacy protection failure
Both west and east coasts have to face reality on future of pipeline
Forest industry waits for Pacific Trade Deal

Ottawa Observations: Thursday, January 28, 2016

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Federal scene from January 28, 2016.

Canada needs Trudeau to be a cheerleader for pipelines, not a referee
On Pipelines, Ottawa decides not to decide
In Syria and Iraq, Canada needs to go big or go home
On Liberal foreign policy, the word of the day is ‘incoherence’
Oilpatch seethes over new environmental rules for pipelines: ‘Deeply disappointing
Trudeau turns the pipeline game into all snakes, no ladders
Canada's spy agencies broke surveillance laws, watchdogs reveal
First Nations group slams Liberal reforms to pipeline reviews
Eventually, Trudeau will have to disappoint someone on pipelines
Liberals committed to Saudi arms deal even after concerning UN report, Dion says
MPs to act as watchdogs of public spending, Liberals promise
Liberals to repeal Tory-backed bills on union finances, certification
B. C. will help shape battleground in pipeline debate back east
Canada's opening to Iran is a plus for business but a maybe for human rights
Canada's refugee resettlement plan gets high marks from ex-UN refugee agency head
Liberals oppose Conservatives' pro-Energy East motion
Tories threaten to block Liberal efforts to repeal controversial union laws
St├ęphane Dion heads to Ukraine as critics condemn 'cozying up' to Russia
First Nations leaders meet Finance Minister Bill Moreau, talk budget issues
Canada can't agree to all allied requests in ISIS fight: St├ęphane Dion
Liberals gut Conservative union accountability rules
Not government's job to promote resource projects


At Isse Panel -- Pipeline Politics

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

January 28: Canada's East/West tensions, Trudeau at Davos and Tom Mulcair's position in the NDP

Councillor Mirau's Small Business Advisory Committee Terms sent back to the writer's workshop

Councillor Mirau will have to tweak
his proposed Terms of Reference for a
committee on Small Business and
Community Services
While City Council did approve the Terms of Reference for two committees on Monday evening, hopes of moving forward on the Advisory Committee for Small Business and Community Services had a bit of set back as Councillor Mirau's concept of consultation met with some opposition from Councillor Thorkelson.

As he opened his presentation, Councillor Mirau highlighted the focus of his Committee which is designed to develop a better spirit of collaboration and gain perspectives from the community that they don't normally hear at Council. Adding that one of the goals of the committee is to make it easier for business to operate and grow in the community.

When it comes to the  Committee structure, he noted that the Committee would be accepting resumes and the involvement of small business owners, developers, and different people like that who could provide their perspectives. 

However, a number of red flags appeared from the Terms for Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who in particular had much to say on the nature of the tasks to be taken on by the Committee and expressed a fair bit of concern over having outside interests such as the Chamber of Commerce involved in advising Council on just about everything, asking what the purpose of the committee was.

She outlined her hesitation at having the business community looking over Council's shoulder, advising council on every issue that they look at, noting that reviewing small business issues was a legitimate task for a committee, but that she didn't think she wanted the Chamber of Commerce reviewing major bylaws, local and regional land use, park planning and other land base issues.

By the time she had finished her review of the proposed Committee structure, she had effectively questioned the majority  of the points provided by Councillor Mirau.

Councillor Cunningham also outlined a few of his concerns over the wording of the Terms and the impact that they could have on the workload of city staff.

As well he offered up some thoughts when it comes to the engagement of the committee members and who they would report to or inquire information from.

In one last attempt to try and move his initiative forward, Councillor Mirau noted that the underlying philosophy for the committee would be to try and make it easier for business to succeed and grow in Prince Rupert, adding that the city needs to grow its tax revenues every year and that the committee would provide an avenue to receive feedback from the movers and shakers in the community that Council doesn't receive on a regular basis.

To bring the discussion to a close, Council voted to accept a suggestion from Councillor Niesh that would see Mr. Mirau withdraw the current terms of reference and fine tune the presentation for another run by Council in the future.

You can look over what Councillor Mirau had hoped to have below, might make for an interesting comparison to how the Committee eventually looks like whenever Council approves the new terms.

The Terms of Reference for the Small Business committee
are heading for a rewrite

(click to enlarge)

More on the discussion can be  found on our Council Timeline feature, and You can review the full back and forth on the topic from the City's Video Archive starting at the 2 hour thirty one minute mark.

For more items related to Monday's Council session see our Council Discussion Archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Council looks to bring many aspects of Major Projects and other planning together with new Committee

City Planner Zeno Krekic will be at the helm of a committee with a long running name that calls to mind something along the lines of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, with Council on Monday night accepting the terms of reference for the "Planning for Major Projects, OCP and Affordable Housing Policy Developments Special Committee"

Mayor Brain introduced the Committee plans, offering up the background to what it hopes to accomplish and who will be involved in bringing all the moving parts of the project together.

As the Mayor explains it, the Committee will be looking at policy relating to managing applications for amendments to zoning, planning and procedures, as well as such issues as affordable housing issues, secondary suites policies, planning for major projects as well as a range of other items.

The intention is to integrate all the aspects of the city's planning work to be coherent to each other, as well as to provide a framework for policies to manage what the Mayor described as a plethora of short and long term planning tasks and initiatives.

There are short, mid and long term goals in mind from the Committee work, with the short focus directed towards the planning for major projects affordable housing policies and the current applications that the city has amended into how they see those policies developing.

The process would then move into a mid and long term strategy of updating the Official Community plan, zoning bylaws and downtown permit guidelines

As the Mayor's Sustainable City Committee plan comes together it would be integrated into those policies, ultimately as the Mayor explained things, it all would be integrated into the city's Hays 2.0 Vision, creating one entity.

Mr. Krekic will facilitate the efforts of the working group and create a policy framework to integrate all of the components. They will work under a timeline of eight to ten weeks, with the plan to have it all available for council's adoption at the end of the ten week process.

Councillor Thorkelson took the lead when it came to questions related to the Mayor's Terms, raising a number of issues related to her concerns over the affordable housing desires of Council.

She also expressed some confusion over whether it had been designed as a committee of staff, or whether it's one which Council would take a more active role in developing policies forward. Calling attention to some items of concern that she had in what the Committee might be addressing.

The Mayor noted that in the time frame of the Committee work, that there should be room for specific conversations with Council as to what they want to do with specific concerns.

The City Manager offered up his overview as to how he interprets the committee structure and planning and what would be required of council members as part of the process.

Council accepted the terms for the Committee creation, with council members to advise Mr. Krekic this week as to the nature of their interest in the project.

The first meeting of the Committee will take place in February.

More background on the discussion can be found on our Council Timeline Feature, while a full review of the Committee concept can be examined through the City's Video Archive starting at the  2 hour, fourteen minute mark.

Further items related to City Council items can be found on our Council Discussion archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Mayor Brain's 2030 Sustainable City Select Committee gets approval, but not without spirited discussion on its purpose

Mayor Lee Brain outlined the terms
of reference for his 2030 Sustainable
City Committee on Monday night
The Mayor received Council's go ahead when it comes to the Terms of Reference for his latest Committee plans, with Council reviewing his proposals for how the City should move forward on issues of sustainability and other initiatives towards those goals.

As part of his overview for the process ahead, the Mayor focused on such issues as renewable energy production, food production and other sustainable related initiatives, as just some of the items that will be reviewed, with the intention of integrating those concepts into the city's core planning.

Adding that his concept will embrace three general areas, jobs and the economy, greener communities and social well being to help develop a culture of placemaking.

The makeup of the committee would consist of a combination of local experts and outside advisors where gaps exist in the local community, as well as select city to staff to ensure proper integration of policy into other areas of work that the city is moving forward on.

The direction of the Committee is to deliver a report back to the Council with policy recommendations and to outline goals and actions to be implemented over the next five years, with recommendations as too any funding and grant opportunities that are available.

Councillor Thorkelson called the proposal an excellent idea, but took note of a number of items from the synopsis of the Mayor's Terms of reference, noting the definition of it as a Mayor's Select Standing Committee and expressed her preference to see it  created as a Committee of Council.

The City Manager provided some background on the nature of Select Committees and how it would work in this particular instance, allowing the Mayor to appoint people from outside of Council. The Mayor  followed up on the City's Managers comments by advising that he would like to see all of Council to be involved in the initiative.

Councillor Thorkelson however reinforced her desire to invite the community to be a participant in the Committee and expressed her worries that the concept of the Select committee might mean that local residents could feel squeezed out of the process, believing that there is no room for their participation.

She also noted that the concept was almost that of a Super Committee and was something that could probably be divided up into up to ten different committees.

Councillor Cunningham inquired if there the Committee plan was going cost to the City any money, to which the Mayor stated that there would be no cost involved in his initiative as it would be volunteer based.

After a few more thoughts on the issue, Council then moved forward with the creation of the Committee.

The Terms of Reference as provided to Monday's agenda can be reviewed below (click to enlarge):

More background on the Mayor's presentation and Council's questions can be found on our Council Timeline feature.

You can also review the discussion on the Mayor's plans from the City Council Video Archive, it starts at the one hour, fifty nine minute mark.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Questions on funding issues point to need for easier access to Civic information

An interesting bit of discussion on how much information the city provides to the community, came up as part of the public comment session of Monday's Council session.

And from some of the observations found on the night, it might be suggested that there is a desire from the city's residents to have better access to information on such areas of interest as the City's Legacy Fund and other segments of public spending by our elected officials.

As part of the Committee of the Whole session Monday a number of residents took to the microphone to outline their concerns over the recent cuts to the Library funding, during the course of that one hour overview, one participant expanded his inquiries towards some concerns related to the City's Legacy Fund and some of the other spending initiatives that Council has taken on over the last year.

Mayor Brain spoke to a number of items
related to the Legacy Fund and other
spending issues on Monday night
The way that those topics were presented, resulted in a bit of push back from the Mayor, who expressed frustration with the tone and the method of approach to some of the questions.

Noting that in the case of the Legacy Corporation funding there is information available on the city's website as to how the city makes use of that money and to where it has been directed.

As well, on the theme of spending on civic initiatives, or travel, the Mayor and City Manager noted that the process of approval had changed over the years and that there is no longer any requirement to hold a public vote on some spending requests.

As a way to bring that segment of the discussion to a close, City Manager Robert Long suggested that the resident would be welcome to take as fine a tooth comb as he has to the city's information, seeming to suggest that digging deep into the past minutes and budget reports might deliver some of the answers that he was seeking.

And while that is one option, a better approach and one which might be welcomed by the residents of the city would be to make that information more easily accessible on the city's website.

When it comes to the Legacy Corporation, the Mayor is correct in noting that there is information on the city website regarding the formation of Legacy Corp.

However when it comes to a review of the full details and other items that might be of interest regarding that city instrument, the offering is rudimentary at best.

The current information portal provides mainly a listing of the Articles of Incorporation and not much more. Leaving anyone trying to find anything else out about the city's use of the fund, to have to drill deep into the agendas, minutes and other documents that the city posts on its website.

What isn't available at the moment for residents is a one stop reading kind of presentation. Providing a breakdown as to where the funds that have been received have been allocated and what projects they have been put towards, whether it be sidewalk repair, major infrastructure or other council projects.

Currently it seems that any information on Legacy Fund is lumped into the Council initiative known as planning for Major Projects, with little indication as to just what the city's residents are getting from their investment and what council has decided the money should be used for.

"The City is taking a hard look at the infrastructure deficit and coupling it with the impact from Major Projects. Planning is of the utmost priority for Council to ensure our City can be a model for how to successfully host large industrial growth. Maximizing the benefits of possible change while mitigating as much of the negative impacts will require additional resources. The City’s wholly owned subsidiary Legacy Inc. will contribute towards this additional cost with no impact to the taxpayers over the planned four year time frame that the Planning for Major Projects Budget has undertaken." -- From the Conclusion to the Spring 2015 Community Update

Considering the range of LNG Go Plans, Vision Statements and other civic initiatives of the last year such as the Re:Build Rupert updates it probably shouldn't be too hard to provide a similar style of visual display that shows clearly and effectively for the community, just how the City is spending the money received through the Legacy Fund.

And while they're on that theme of disclosure, offering up a montly spending report on Council activities, whether they be from out of town travel, reflecting in town workshops or other such kinds of activities, probably would be a welcome addition to the flow of information for the public as well.

Those are concepts that other communities have explored with some success, providing reports and information outlines to their civic websites.

With such information in hand, the city's residents might even be able to help City Council when it comes to the Budget Consultation process later this Spring.

Using the information to offer suggestions at to what priorities that the city's residents might have for the fund, something that could be helpful in Council's search for that sixty six thousand dollar takeaway from the Library.

The theme of making better use of the Legacy Fund was the topic of this letter in the weekly newspaper this week, with the author also listing some concerns over how the money from the fund is being used.

As was noted by Councillor Cunningham in early January, "The Legacy Fund is owned by the people of this town, it is the residents money, as well as the council's money" which was a sentiment reprised in the letter to the paper yesterday.

It would seem that through the comments from the Public comment session at Council, or by way of a letter to the opinion page of the paper, that all that folks in Prince Rupert seem to want to know, is how the fund is being used.

Allowing them to shape their opinions when it comes to whether the City is making the right decisions when it comes to that spending.

The city's residents really shouldn't have to take that fine tooth comb to explore a range of Council minutes and documents, City Council should be making sure that the information that the public wants and deserves to have access to, is as easy to find as possible.

The discussion on the topic of the Legacy Fund from Monday night can be reviewed on the City's Video Archive, it starts at the thrity nine minute mark and continues for about ten minutes.

We have more background on the Legacy Fund available here, while a wider overview of Council topics can be found on our Council Discussion Archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Library cuts the main focus for public comment portion of Monday's Council session.

Recent cuts to the Prince Rupert Library
budget made for a very hot topic during
public comments at Monday's
Prince Rupert Council Session
Mayor Lee Brain may have declared that Democracy has made a Decision when it comes the issue of reducing funding to the Library, but if the one hour Committee of the Whole Public comment session from Monday is an indication, not everyone in the community is all that impressed with Democracy at the moment.

Over the course of the majority of the sixty minutes that was used towards public comment on the night, a significant amount of the discussion involved members of the public that were very upset with the City's decision to take 66,000 dollars from the Library budget and re-allocate it to the Lester Centre and Museum of Northern British Columbia.

Five residents took the microphone to express that disappointment and pose a number of questions for council to consider related to their decision of January 11th.

Through the opening hour of the night, Council members heard a number of testimonials to the services provided by the Library and worries about what could happen to the institution with less money to work with.

Mayor Brain took some time out of the public comment period to explain the range of information that Council had reviewed in early January and what factors that they had considered to reach their decision.

One participant on the evening put a focus on the city's relationship with the Museum of Northern British Columbia and suggested that the City does not have enough oversight when it comes to the city's funding to that Society.

Adding that she believes that the current $126,000 funding level budgeted for the Museum should be halved  and that $63,000 dollars of that money be returned to the Library, recommending that the City hold back in trust on funding for the Museum until it amends its current policies on public disclosure and that the money be released when the City can have an appointment to the Board of Directors of the Museum.

Councillor Cunningham offered up a rebuttal to some of those points related to the work of the Museum in the community, making note of where he believes the presentation may have been incorrect.

Also of some interest from the one hour were observations related to the building that the Museum of Northern British Columbia is located in and whether the city still has ownership involvement with it, leaving for a bit of confusion among Council members  who asked for the Corporate Administrator to seek out clarification on the status.

To go along with the vignettes of just what the library means to the community, came concerns over how the Library funding reduction decision was made, as well as questions and suggestions on how the issue should have been approached.  

Councillor Thorkelson outlined her
disappointment and frustration at the
Council's decision to reduce funding
for the Prince Rupert Library
Included among those that expressed disappointment in Council's decision of two weeks ago was Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who took advantage of the moment to issue her first public comments related to that decision.

Observing that while the Mayor may feel that he speaks for Council, she believes that he speaks only for the majority of people who voted in favour of the funding reduction.

Calling the decision  made earlier this month an error and a self imposed cap, something which she notes has forced the city to take money from Peter, to pay Paul.

She also reminded Council members that the City has added lots of money to the City's budget in the past year, with many items added to the City's burden, noting that she was in disagreement with how that was handled.

Ms. Thorkelson observed that the funding cut was done in an exceedingly poor manner,  and by trying to take 66,000 dollars from the budget of the library in one fell swoop, it will put the library into the kind of financial pit that it was in just after the mill closed.

Reinforcing for good measure how the Mayor did not speak for her, she returned to her theme that the funding decision was poor one and that it was absolute idiocy to put in a cap that could not be lived in.

Her thoughts resulted in a sharp exchange with Councillor Niesh, who offered up a short comment noting Councillor Thorkelson's absence from that meeting and how she could have spoken to the issue at that time.

A response that brought a flash of anger from Ms. Thorkelson, who reminded Mr. Niesh of her commitments in the fishing industry, which required her to be out of town and unavailable for participation in that council session.

Another discussion point that proved a little contentious involved the presentation to Council from one resident that focused on how the City spends money, and issues related to the Legacy Fund and the city's process of information related to its spending.

A tone and line of questioning that had the Mayor fully engaged to defend the city's efforts over the last year and something which even drew the City Manager into the discussion to share some observations on how the City conducts its business.

For those around the city hoping for a sliver lining for the Library the Mayor brought the one  hour open comment period to an end by pointing out for the public that Council was only starting to enter it's budget process and should they discover an additional 66,000 dollars from the budget they would immediately allocate it towards the Library.

More detailed background related to the Public Comment period can be found on our Council Timeline Feature.

You can review the full public comment period from the City's Video Archive, the call for comment comes about one minute into the evening and continues on until just past the one hour mark.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Council pulls west side road closure bylaw from Agenda consideration

Plans to close a road on the west side of the city, part of a large scale development between Park Avenue and Graham Avenue have apparently hit a bit of a snag, as City Council removed the required Bylaw from consideration at this weeks Council Session.

Mayor Brain noted the decision to remove the Bylaw from the Agenda from Monday's meeting at the start of proceedings at the Council meeting.

Reading out a clarification statement related to the decision to withdraw the Road Closure Bylaw Motion for that evening's session.

Noting some background related to the proposed road closure bylaw and the sale of closed road lands adjacent to Graham Avenue, advising  that the City had removed the item from the Agenda. 

The Mayor then informed the public that it  had been discovered that the during the preparation of a secondary survey, that this process was unusable park land and not road right of way and as a result, the City is not currently able to proceed as indicated in the public notices related to this matter.

A public notice advising of the City's plans was posted to the City of Prince Rupert website on January 21st.

The proposed housing development that covers a fair amount of territory on the west side, was the subject of much discussion over the last year, with a number of issues and concerns raised at the time by some council members and residents of the area.

Housing issues again dominate Council's attention, leading to some heated discussion
Concerns over Graham Avenue road extension dominate Park Avenue Public Hearing
Park Avenue Housing Development to get Second Public Hearing
Park Avenue proposal receives petition push back

A Road Closure bylaw for the most recent
City Council meeting was pulled from the 

Agenda for Monday's meeting

The topic of the road closure has also caught the eye of one local resident and was the subject of an expansive letter to the editor this week in the weekly newspaper.

The letter outlines a number of concerns that the resident has when it comes to the prospect of the road closure, as well as calling into question some of the decisions that were made in relation to that proposed housing development.

There was no indication at Monday's council session when the bylaw would be returned to Council for further discussion or how the City would move forward on the issues related to it.

For more items about Housing issues in the region see our archive page here.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review