Friday, January 14, 2022

Victoria Viewpoints: Thursday-Friday, January 13 & 14

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Provincial scene for   Thursday-Friday, January 13-14 2022

Coronavirus response in BC

Globe and Mail


Vancouver Sun 

Victoria Times-Colonist 

Victoria  News


Georgia Straight

The Tyee


Ottawa Observations: Thursday-Friday, January 13 & 14, 2022

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Federal scene for Thursday-Friday,  January 13-14, 2022

Canada / China tensions                 

The Global Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Globe and Mail


Toronto/Vancouver Star

Toronto Sun

National Post




New Service ahead will let Prince Rupert Transit users track their ride

Sometime in the summer of this year,  BC Transit users in Prince Rupert  and Port Edward will be able to keep track of their bus by way of an online app, with BC Transit announcing plans to introduce "NextRide".

The program to be rolled out across the province, will see the the Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technology installed in communities and regional transit systems across the province on approximately 315 buses operating on all conventional, fixed routes in British Columbia. 

BC Transit outlined yesterday just how the system will work as the program is introduced.

NextRide will continue to use AVL technology to allow even more customers to see real-time bus locations along routes and identify what predicted arrival times are at any selected stop. Onboard, automated stop announcements call out stops to customers riding the bus, which increases comfort and convenience, while also improves the overall accessibility for many using transit. 

Through BC Transit, it will provide bus location data to mobility providers like Google Maps and our partner Transit App, so our customers across the province can track and monitor bus routes using their application of choice.

The program falls under BC Transit's Smart Bus program and is funded through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. This project is being cost shared with the Government of Canada contributing 50 per cent, the Province of British Columbia contributing 40 per cent and local government partners contributing the remaining 10 per cent. 

The project cost for NextRide being installed in these additional transit systems is nearly $6 million.

Transit users in Kitimat, Skeena Regional and Terrace Regional service areas will see the program in place this summer as well.

More notes on transit across the Northwest can be reviewed from our Highway 16 corridor Archive.

As plans evolve in Prince Rupert, Commercial Assessments in City Core/Cow Bay on the rise

The 2030 vision plan for Prince Rupert, how it evolves in the future
could make for significant change in the valuations from BC Assessments
in the years to come
(Map from City of PR presentation in 2019)

Like Prince Rupert home owners, those who own Commercial properties in the city were exploring the BC Assessment website these last few days, looking to see what impact the latest valuation from the agency might bring to their properties.

When it comes to the downtown core, Bigger properties bring bigger assessments, with a few of the larger structures in the city core making for some big numbers.

Leading off the list in the downtown core is the land which hosts Coast Community College, with the BC Assessment level noting the vast expanse at just over 14 million dollars, making for just a slight increase from 2021

The Rupert Square Mall gets a BC Assessment valuation of 8.1 million dollars for 2022, while the Ocean Centre has been assessed at 7.3 Million dollars.

The Prince Rupert Court House was assessed at 1.95 Million dollars, an increase of 100 thousand dollars, though both the Court House and Coast Mountain College are not taxable properties in the city, with the province using grants in lieu of taxes for their property holdings.

City Hall makes for a million dollar property, with a total value of 1,031,000 up 70 thousand dollars from the 2021 level of 966,000

With Prince Rupert City Council reshaping how we view the downtown core and Cow Bay areas in 2021, a look at how BC Assessments for those areas offers a glimpse into how the evolution of the city's hopes for development may change things over the next five to ten years.

As we noted back in December of 2019,  the new vision of the city includes three distinct areas of the downtown core along with the Marina/Cow Bay Area.

The areas of note now re-named the Midtown District, the Downtown District and the Marina District.

From West to East, the Midtown area is a mix of high to low, for the Far western edges of the downtown the Stretch from Crane's Crossing (Raffles) to Save On Foods runs the range of 50,000 dollars up to 2.5  million dollars.

As noted previous the area surrounding City Hall in the Downtown District has some high value properties, from the college to the Ocean Centre, many of the other commercial properties along that strip feature valuations ranging from the lows of just above 100,000 dollars to some closing in on the million dollar mark.

One area attracting some attention in 2021 was the area around McBride and Second Avenue West, which has been proposed as the Gateway Project to the Downtown, the vision one to create a catalyst for the city centre and establish a gateway into it.

BC Assessment has pegged the old Dairy Queen building as valued at 731,000, the Credit Union building at 1.7 million, the parcel of lots across the street ranging assessment from 45,000 to 68,0000.

Cowy Bay has also featured strongly in the City's vision planning for the future, the area just north of the shore reimagined as the new Marina District.

And of late  some recent interest has started to percolate around property adjacent to the Prince Rupert Yacht Club, with current tenants in the area seeking to relocate amid rumours of a potential development soon to be announced.

The BC Assessment for the land around that area now marked at 2.2 million.

Further down George Hills Way, the Canadian Fish Plant location, including the warehouse area currently being used by the City of Prince Rupert is assessed at 3.9 million dollars an increase from the 3.7 Million dollar assessment of a year ago.

The High profile plans to renovate the old CN building should make for some upward momentum in years to come, the area of note at the moment listed at just $161,400 as an assessed value

Should some of the city's proposals for the downtown core move forward in 2022, the impact on surrounding properties could see varying levels of assessment changes around the city, dependent on which plans are making progress and others stall, or drop of completely from the to do list.

Something which will make for an interesting review of the commercial sector assessments over the next few years.

You can conduct your own search of the BC Assessment Monopoly board here, travelling up and down the main streets of the downtown area and Cow Bay to get a feel for how the changes may ebb and flow as we watch for new developments to come.

Many of the changes ahead were outlined as part of the presentation in 2019 that outlined the Prince Rupert 2030 Vision Plan, you can revisit that blue print here.

Some notes on the success to date for some of those Vision plans is available here.

Further items of interest on the city's development themes can be reviewed from our archive page here, as well as through our Council Discussion archive.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review.

Air Travel had its challenges during recent Prince Rupert weather event

The month of snow and ice had an impact on more than just pedestrians and motorists in Prince Rupert, the Prince Rupert Airport also seems to have suffered from the cycle of snow, extreme cold and freezing rain that we experienced through December and early January.

As we outlined yesterday, Councillor Barry Cunningham spoke to weather issues with the CBC's Carolina de Ryk in a recent Daybreak North segment and while his main focus was on the highway between Terrace and Prince Rupert, the Council member did offer a short glimpse into how the weather has had an impact on the operations at the Digby Island Airport.

"The last day or two they just started medical evacuation flights out of Rupert ... because the de icing machine at the airport was broke down, so we were in a situation with the highway closed, the airport not being able to receive flights and that's just not acceptable"

While Mr. Cunningham spoke of the concerning situation facing medical flights out of the city, the scheduled Air Canada service to and from the city had some challenges as well in recent weeks.

Data from the FlightRadar24 service notes of at least three cancellations of flights to the city from December 16 to January 2.

As Mr. Cunningham notes the airport was closed to flight operations, seemingly owing to the difficulties on the ground in Prince Rupert, which might suggest that the City should perhaps provide an update on the operations at the airport, to at least offer some pubic background on the challenges the City of Prince Rupert operated facility faced.

It has been a fairly long period of time since City Council has invited airport officials in for a review of how things are going; the last we heard anything from the airport, was when the former Airport Manager Rick Leach was making his farewells in mid October, that through an interview with the local paper.

The City for its part has yet to even provide an announcement as to who is now in charge at the facility.

As they head into a new year of Council sessions, having an update on Operations at the airpot might help to keep residents better informed as to their investment in air travel in the region.

Beyond a chance for airport officials to review the past challenges of these last few weeks, a public info session at Council could deliver an update on what plans are ahead for the airport, as well as the progress for the city's plan to move the Digby Island Ferry departure and arrival dock to the Rotary Waterfront Park location.  

Perhaps of most interest to travellers would be for officials to share what efforts are being made to bring additional air services to YPR, beyond the one flight a day Air Canada offers, when conditions allow for a safe arrival and departure.

More notes on air travel across the Northwest can be explored from our achieve page here.

Themes from civic note and council discussions can be explored here

Cross posted from the North Coast Review.

Overdose response numbers on the rise in Prince Rupert, and other Northwest communities

When it comes to responding with medical assistance, more and more often Paramedics in the Northwest are making their way to an Overdose call.  

With the latest data released by the BC Emergency Health Services providing a glimpse into the growing concern over drug overdoses across the province.

Provincially the data shows that through 2021 BCEHS personnel responded to 35,525 calls, making for 97 ambulance runs per day. The data indicating that calls for assistance across BC have tripled in just the last six years.

For the Northwest the six year review of overdose responses provides a testimony to the growing concerns  from Northern Health over the pace of drug overdoses in the Health Region.

For Prince Rupert EHS personnel it has been a stead climb upwards in the number of responses.

In 2016, Ambulances arrived for 44 overdose calls, by 2018 that had risen to 53, climbing further to 78 calls by 2020.

Last year 2021, brought a slight decline in calls for assistance, with 71 Overdose calls recorded for the Prince Rupert station.

The situation is significantly more challenging in the Terrace region, which saw 38 calls received in 2016, that number skyrocketing to 259 calls in 2021, the highest level yet of the six year review.

Neighbouring Thornhill had 23 calls for assistance, down two from 2020.
Smithers had 42 calls to attend Overdoses, Kitimat had 33 Overdose calls in 2021, Houston 21 and Burns Lake 18

While COVID has dominate the Health review for much of the last three years now, the ongoing concerns over the rising number of Overdoses is making for another of the major challenges for health care across British Columbia.

Just last week, Northern Health issued a warning over a substance known as down, with an advisory noting as to how the substance currently circulating around the Northwest may be further contaminated with benzodiazepine (known as benzos)  a situation which results in heavy and prolonged sedation. 

The concerns over that substance and other poisoned drug supplies in the province is how emergency responders now have to deliver more naloxone than is normally the case to reverse the situation. 

In some cases, paramedics have noted how it can take up to four or five doses of Narcan to reverse overdoses now.

The background on the current alert from Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority can be reviewed here.

More notes on Health care across the Northwest can be reviewed from our archive page.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Prince Rupert councillor Barry Cunningham calls on MLA Jennifer Rice to be more pro active on calls for Highway maintenance

Prince Rupert Councillor Barry Cunningham speaking at
Monday's Council session on themes of winter road 
conditions, Mr. Cunningham expanded on his themes
this week for the CBC's Daybreak North program

The state of Highway 16 between Terrace and Prince Rupert has been the focus for much discussion this week, that as extremely dangerous conditions saw the road closed for periods of time. 

That a decision made on the basis of safety, after a number of accidents, ranging from those involving transport trucks, buses and individual cars and trucks left a trail of damaged vehicles and stranded travellers.

Yesterday, the topic made for some conversation on the CBC Radio program Daybreak North, with host Carolina de Ryk hosting Prince Rupert City councillor Barry Cunningham, asking for his thoughts on the state of the vital transportation link in and out of Prince Rupert.

Mr. Cunningham who has often spoken of the conditions of the highway during City Council sessions, recounted many of his themes from this week's Council meeting

Putting some focus on the dangerous conditions that the Ministry of Transportation created inside the city of Prince Rupert limits when it ploughed snow from McBride Street and Second Avenue up onto the city sidewalks.

But it was the condition of the Highway past the Port Edward turnoff and on to Terrace that made for the majority of his commentary, as he expressed many of the frustrations that many travellers across the region have shared through the last month.

Among his themes, Mr. Cunningham noted of how it impacts on many elements of the lives of residents of the region including those with medical needs or out of town appointments. 

The Prince Rupert Councillor also made note of his research on Highway maintenance contract awards and suggested that there may be a profit motive behind the current state of the road work.

"If these maintenance companies are doing this for a profit then we've got a problem, I really think the Department of highways or our provincial government should be looking at these contracts and either putting more money into the highway maintenance, or looking at a different way of doing it. I don't know exactly how it works, as if there's different conditions, there's more money thrown into it or what" 

Comments that perhaps make for a bit of frustrated bombast during a challenging period. 

More likely it would seem is that the contracts for the inland ares of the Northwest come with higher values owing to the scope of the territory covered; along with the extreme weather those communities face far more often than the last three or four weeks have delivered to the usually rather pleasant winter environment of the North Coast.

As part of his overview, the Councillor also called on North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice to become a louder advocate for better highway maintenance along the route.

"I think Jennifer Rice has to be a little more pro-active on this, it's just gotta change; if this is gonna be what we're going to be seeing in the future, this type of winter, then we definitely need changes in our highway maintenance and care and that.   

You know we have no control over avalanches and things like that, but the actual maintenance of the road  ... Again, You know I saw the way the city did it and our side roads and that weren't the best but at least they were passable, and they were getting out and sanding the minute it started snowing and ploughing and that to the best of their ability"

You can review Mr. Cunningham's near eight minute overview of the last few weeks of extreme weather and highway maintenance through the Daybreak North audio archive page here.

Since the North Coast MLA was the focus for some of the Councillors comments, we contacted Ms. Rice for some thoughts on the current highway situation and what efforts she may have taken to address the concerns her office has received.

Towards her reply, the MLA forwarded the following:

My office is in frequent contact with our local area manager for roads during these severe weather events. We’ve been relaying constituent concerns about conditions and seeking clarification as to what actions are being taken. 

Ministry of Transportation staff did close the Highway between Exstew and Port Edward on Jan 10th due to freezing rain. The delays were a result of an accident response and ensuring a sand pass to make sure everyone made it home safe. Our local roads manager assures me that the sand trucks were out along with a full suite of equipment as he himself was out on the highway all night. There was a subsequent closure due to an accident 42 kms East of Terrace the following day. 

We do recognize that the closures and delays significantly impact many people’s lives. However, the Ministry puts safety of the public as its highest priority and works diligently to make the Highway safe to travel. 

 I hear people’s frustration with not being able to travel the highway as we normally would in milder weather but when traveling during winter months, we urge people to plan ahead, check DriveBC and slow down when they encounter difficult conditions. 

Also, winter tire regulations are in place on most B.C. highways from the fall to the spring. Weather conditions can change very quickly in much of B.C.’s terrain – such as going from rain to snow. It’s critical that drivers do their part and adjust their speed to the conditions.

Ms. Rice also made note of the challenging environment that the contractors are facing this winter.

The recent weather system hit both Terrace and Prince Rupert quite hard over the last few weeks. Approximately 70km outside of Prince Rupert there is a service area boundary that divides the two contract areas. 

The Terrace side of the boundary is maintained by Emil Anderson and the Prince Rupert side is maintained Obrien’s Road and Bridge. From a winter maintenance perspective all maintenance contractors fall under the same quality assurance specifications across the province.

 Each service area has their own unique challenges with different microclimates, infrastructure, and volumes of traffic. The stretch between Terrace and Prince Rupert experiences multiple microclimates and resources are typically deployed based on a priority assessment.

When it comes to communication with her office, we asked the MLA if she had heard from Councillor Cunningham, or any other  City of Prince Rupert officials during this most recent period of extreme weather conditions and the impact on the highways.

In reply, she noted that the only local official that had reached out to her to discuss the issue, was the Mayor of Port Edward, Knut Bjorndal.

You can review some of the challenges on the highways of the last month from our archive page here

Cross posted from the North Coast Review.