Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tourism Prince Rupert/Chamber of Commerce speak out on Ferry Terminal dispute

The growing  concern over a planned renovation of the Alaska Marine Terminal in Prince Rupert has both Tourism Prince Rupert and the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce speaking out regarding the important link that the Ferry Service provides to the region and the impact that the ongoing dispute could have with relationships between British Columbia and Alaska.

In a media release from Tuesday afternoon, the two local organizations highlighted the concerns that both groups have regarding the potential cancellation of the 15 million dollar upgrade.

Focusing on the consequences that the situation could have to not only the local economy and those of communities along the Highway 16 corridor, but to the passenger loads delivered to BC Ferries routes on the North Coast.

“The Alaskan marine highway terminal in Prince Rupert has had a tenuous history originating with the ferry blockade of 1997. The tourism industry of Prince Rupert and British Columbia understand the significance of this critical link from British Columbia to Alaska, we have a history of working closely with our neighbours to the North and are hopeful the leadership in Ottawa and Washington can work closely to ensure this investment can proceed to the benefit of both Alaskan and Canadians.” -- Scott Farwell, Board Chair of Tourism Prince Rupert

John Farrell, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, also highlighted the important economic factors that the AMHS provides to the community and the desire to see a solution to the controversy arrive shortly.

“The traffic to Prince Rupert resulting from the Alaskan Marine Ferry is a significant economic generator to our community. The Chamber remains confident the governments of our two nations will be able to mediate their differences to ensure the long term viability of the proposed new terminal.”

Both groups Tuesday observed that outside of the iron and steel issue, there is nothing in place that would stand in the way of Canadian companies supplying the labour and or supplies for the project, beyond the Buy America provisions of the steel requirements.

The full information statement can be viewed below:

As we noted on the blog back in November, the Ferry Terminal issue while part of an ongoing concern for Canadian manufacturers, could provide for larger issues for Prince Rupert's Tourism sector, should the project be cancelled, or the AMHS begin to seek out other options for their Ferry Service.

Tuesday's information release, marks some of the first local commentary on the controversy that has popped up in regard to the Terminal project, offering the first real local perspective to an issue that has become a national story and made for conversation in both countries.

You can review our past items on the AMHS Terminal issue and the more recent international perspective on the whole situation from our Archive page here.

Items of note when it comes to Transportation through both BC Ferries and the Alaska Marine Highway Service can be found on the archive page as well.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Alaska Ferry renovations shift from trade issue to political irritant

The prospect of renovations for the Alaska Marine Highway System Terminal at Fairview,  probably at one time seemed like a positive thing.

A long overdue project to modernize the transportation link between Alaska and BC and proposal that finally had gained some traction with an allocation of funding from the Alaska Government.

However in the short months between the announcement of the go ahead and the actual lead up to possible work, politics has not only taken over the story, but could in the end, scuttle the entire project.

Things picked up steam when in a letter, Canada's Ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, outlined to Alaska Governor Bill Walker, that the Buy America restrictions to a project on Canadian soil is unacceptable.

Buy American restrictions on Prince Rupert Ferry Terminal Unacceptable

That correspondence and the high level of Canadian engagement on the topic would seem to have put the issue on the front burner heading towards the end of the year, gaining attention through the month as commentary and observations crossed back and forth over the borders.

Last week, there was a flurry of action related to the Buy America provisions of the US Government when it comes to materials to be used on the AMHS Terminal in Prince Rupert, a topic which first became a key aspect of the project in November.

Among some of the warning signs of the last seven days can be found in the articles below

Canadian Manufacturing -- Tension between U. S., Canadian officials could bury ferry terminal
Daily Commercial News-- Canadian Steel demands Federal Support
CFTK-- More Canadian Anger Over Buy America Policy at Alaska's Prince Rupert Ferry Dock
Alaska Dispatch News -- Canada and U. S. battle over steel for Alaska Ferry Terminal
ABC News-- Alaska Ferry Project Caught in Flap Over US Steel

Heading towards December 31st, the issue has seemingly gone past the point of a trade item and could end up the thing of a major political irritant between two nations to mark the end of the year reviews.

Such is the nature of the story now, that the issue made it to the editorial pages of the Globe and Mail, where the prospect of American protectionism on Canadian Soil was not appreciated.

U. S. protectionism inside Canada?  Sorry. That's not on.

The National Post's Kelly McParland, who normally keeps his eye on the larger national issues,  made that point on December 17th, with an article reviewing the President's less than cordial shout out to Canadian issues in recent days.

Canada has helped the U. S. in Cuba, Iraq and Ukraine, but gets little respect back from Obama

The key aside when it comes to Alaska Ferry Prince Rupert Terminal project is, the note that the the actual cost of the material that is making for the controversy was described as a pittance, with the triviality of that issue one that needlessly may impact on the cross border relationship between the two countries.

The bid process for the proposed renovation project has now been pushed back to January 6th, with the hope that there will be some form of a possible resolution to the growing controversy and that the issue doesn't in the end damage relations between British Columbia and Alaska, or Canada and the United States.

You can review the start of the entire tempest for our items of late November and Early December

November 28-- Alaska Marine Highway Terminal renovations find a bit of International Controversy
November 25-- AMHS Terminal project on the radar for Canadian Business Group

For more items related to transportation on the North Coast see our Archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Kitselas First Nation and Pacific NorthWest LNG Announce Agreement on LNG

Pacific NorthWest LNG picked up this week, where they left off on the last one, signing another agreement, this one with the Kitselas First Nation, highlighting an Agreement on Impact Benefits related to the LNG industry.

The most recent agreement will provide for a range of benefits for the Kistselas First Nation, which will provide for cooperation regarding the permitting, monitoring, construction and operation for the proposed Lelu Island project.

 “Our agreement with Pacific NorthWest LNG addresses the environmental and social safeguards we require in negotiations, as well as the delivery of economic, employment and educational benefits for our community,” ... “These core components mean substantial benefits for our community – now and in years to come.” --  Kitselas Chief Joe Bevan.

The Monday announcement, which can be reviewed here, marks the third significant announcement in recent weeks regarding consultation and potential benefits for regional residents.

Last week Pacific NorthWest LNG signed agreements with the Metlakatla Governing Council and the District of Port Edward.

The agreements will come into effect should Petronas, the parent company of Pacific NorthWest LNG make a positive announcement regarding its Final Investment Decision, anticipated sometime in early 2015.

For more items related to the Pacific NorthWest LNG project see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Monday, December 22, 2014

CityWest delivers cheque of $400,000 as distribution payment to City of Prince Rupert

Mayor Lee Brain receives replica
cheque from CityWest's
CEODon Holkestad
Monday morning, the City owned communication company CityWest announced delivery of their year end payment of 400,000 dollars to the City of Prince Rupert.

Providing for their distribution payment for 2014 to their only shareholder.

In a media release from Monday, CityWest detailed some of the key events of the year, Including the closure of the cellular network that CityWest once operated, as well as investments that have expanded the CityWest brand to communities across the Northwest.

Calling 2014 a "good year" though one seemingly with a few challenges, CityWest CEO Don Holkestad commented on the nature of the Increased revenues from the current portfolio of services, which allowed for the distribution of the 400,000 dollars to the City.

The amount delivered on Friday, is an increase from what CityWest had originally forecast for the year, though that is not a new development.

Earlier this year, during the Budget discussions of April, CityWest had revised its anticipated distribution to the $400,000 level,  a distribution which originally had been listed as a 250,000 dollar allocation.

In recent years, dwindling distribution payments have made for some concern at City Hall, as less than expected financial contributions provided for Budget challenges for the City's Financial department and its Budget considerations.

Along that theme of  declining revenue streams, while today's announcement is no doubt welcome at City Hall, it should be noted, that the 400,000 dollar cheque delivered on Friday, is still significantly less than what CityWest once delivered to its only shareholder on an annual basis.

The City recently announced significant changes to the CityWest corporate structure, installing three Senior Members of City Staff to the Board of Directors of the city owned corporation.

You can review more on CityWest from our archive page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Council approves Rec Centre Fee increases; Non-Resident Landfill charges for 2015

In less than two minutes on Wednesday evening, Prince Rupert City Council gave final approval to two bylaws, setting in motion fee increases for both the City's recreation facilities and the City's Landfill site on the Ridley Island Access Road.

As we outlined on the blog last week, the two Bylaws received first, second and third reading on Monday, December 15th, with Final adoption provided on Wednesday, which puts the increases in place for January 1st.

The passage of the increases can be viewed from the City's Video Archive, starting at the two hour thirty four minute mark, it makes for the last items of the night from Wednesday's session.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Council approves Capital Works Purchases and Projects, but not without some discussion on the Legacy Corporation

Prince Rupert City Council put in motion the process for City staff to move forward a number of Capital works projects and purchases  on Wednesday evening, approval required to allow for proper planning for a number of items for the 2015 schedule.

To provide some background on that process, Council received a Review of the request (not included as part of the Agenda for the night) from the City's Financial Officer Corinne Bomben, who outlined the nature of the process for Capital Works Projects and purchases and highlighted two key projects for the year ahead.

One, the need to expand the city's landfill area, a topic that has been under discussion at Council for a number of weeks in the last year.

The second major item of note was work to be conducted on an access road for the Woodworth Dam, the first phase of a project to address the city's water reservoir issue in the years to come.

During the outline for the Woodworth Dam project it was noted that the work there will benefit from some funding coming from grants that the city is applying for, as well as from dividends directed by the Prince Rupert Legacy Corporation.

That second source of funding for the project is through the instrument that City Council has chosen to utilize to make use of money received from the proposed LNG Terminal currently being investigated by Exxon/Mobil for the Tuck Inlet area, across from Seal Cove.

The Legacy Corporation recently made for a conversation topic at the recent Public Hearing into the Lot 444 question. At that hearing, questions were raised regarding the lack of perceived Council oversight when it comes to the Corporation and its operations.

As well, some concerns were expressed over the nature of the set up of the Legacy Corporation, which at the moment is currently led by a trio of Senior City staff members.

You can review that forum and the commentary from December 3rd here.

As part of the discussion of Wednesday evening by Council regarding the Capital Works and Projects request, the topic of a recent workshop held by the City for staff and Councillors was reviewed, a session where it appears some discussion on the Legacy Corporation and its revenue stream was explored.

From those discussions came some concerns from Councillor Blair Mirau regarding the need to allocate a dividend from the Legacy Corporation revenues, towards future renewal of infrastructure concerns, such as the Woodsworth Dam project as it reaches the end of its lifespan.

While that made for a spirited discussion from a number of Council members on the theme, in order to move  the Capital Works Projects and Purchases motion ahead, Council voted in favour of the request as it was outlined by staff, with no reserve policy put in place regarding Mr. Mirau's proposal.

Following that vote, Councillor Mirau then put forward a second motion, one that directs staff to develop a reserve policy regarding Funds from the Prince Rupert Legacy Incorporated, a motion that also was carried as part of the night's discussion.

That process it would seem, will make for future discussion as the Council Budget process moves forward into 2015.

For many residents the mechanisms and purpose of the Legacy Corporation still might seem a bit of  mystery, particularly as it seldom is given much of an overview in public session of Council.

From Wednesday, we have received a glimpse when it comes to the direction that the Legacy Corporation may be heading, particularly that of funding major infrastructure projects.

However, there still seems to be a lack of information for the public on the process as to how those decisions are being made, or a listing of where any money received to this point, may have been allocated.

As Council discusses some of the potential benefits of the Legacy Corporation through workshops and by seeking out further initiatives from staff regarding a reserve policy, it might suggest for some in the community, that the Legacy Corporation initiative is still a bit of a work in progress.

Considering that much of that ongoing conversation  at Council on the Legacy Corporation remains the thing of in house discussion and not as part of a more detailed public overview during Council sessions, the mystery for many residents regarding the purpose and process of the Corporation will seemingly remain in place for now.

Those impressions are a topic that Council might wish to address sometime in 2015.

You can review more on the entire discussion on the Major Projects and Works theme from our City Council Timeline here, it runs from the two hour twenty four minute mark, until the two hour thirty four minute mark

As well, the entire conversation can be reviewed from the City Council Video Archive.

Fore more items related to City Council see our Discussion points archive here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Council changes Community Enhancement Grant Formula for 2015, with further review on the process to come in May.

Wednesday night was presentation night for Prince Rupert City Council, with the five largest Community Enhancement Grant Applicants providing an overview of their organizations and the work they do and outlining the blue print of their year ahead.

For the first hour and a bit of Wednesday's meeting, council heard from the Prince Rupert/Port Edward Economic Development Corporation, Prince Rupert Library, Prince Rupert Tourism, Lester Centre of the Arts and Museum of Northern British Columbia.

Each offering up a glimpse of some of the service that their organizations provide to the community, as well as an overview as to some of their particular ongoing concerns.

Following those presentations, Council received a report from the City's Financial Office Corinne Bomben who outlined the options ahead for Council when it comes to Funding for 2015. (see Page Three  of Agenda for Report  overview )

Towards the discussion on the night, Ms. Bomben provided an overview of a proposed change to the process that the Finance Department was recommending, which would see the City approve grants based on a funding formula that provides for a 65/35 split.

With the five main grant recipients receiving 65 per cent of their funding in January, while the remaining 35 percent would be provided after Council reviews its Budget situation in the Spring

Ms. Bomben presented the case for that split, outlining how Council's Budget process works and making note that by holding back on the 35 percent until May, Council could have options to consider other than program or service cuts as the Budget numbers become more firm during the process.

Three different scenarios were offered up to Council for consideration.

Approve the grants at the 100 percent amount requested.

Approve the Grants at percentages recommended by the Finance Department.

Advise some or all of the Grant recipients that Grant Funding for 2015 will be reduced by a percentage deemed by Council.

With those three suggestions at hand, Council engaged in discussion on the topic, with Councillor Mirau outlining his concerns that without the 100 per cent funding of January, the five large Grant recipients which as he put it, were more or less delegated by the City to provide some core municipal functions, would need to have some certainty to their funding.

Council members went back and forth over that concept, as well as to try to re-work the formula to better provide for some funding security, as well as to address issues related to more stable funding for the core group of Grant recipients.

The City Manager offered an option for Council to consider, once they had moved on the motion of the Grant Funding of 2015, suggesting that a report from City staff could provide direction for future years, which might provide for more certainty for the groups as well as accountability for the taxpayer.

From that shift in the conversation, the Mayor called for the vote on the motion to accept the 65/25 split and to move on the City Manager's recommendation for the report before the Budget process is considered in May.

Councillor Cunningham added an amendment to the motion, outlining how if any groups require any further funding before May, that they could approach Council to address the issue.

Council then voted on the motion, putting in place the 65/35 split, with Councillor Cunningham's amendment to go with it.

Staff will now put together a report on the issue of future funding, with City Manager Robert Long to seek out more information from the Grant recipients as to what would work best for them as far as a longer term of funding, providing that as part of the overall review for Council to consider towards the spring.

The overall goal of the proposal it would seem is to provide for a foundation for future years, to provide more certainty for the groups and reduce the impact on the City's budget process.

You can review more on the entire discussion from our City Council Timeline here, it runs from the one minute mark to the 2 hour fifty minute point.

As well, the entire conversation can be reviewed from the City Council Video Archive.

The Enhancement Grants get their review starting with the Presentations from the one minute to on hour fifty minute mark. The listing of presentations is as follows:

( 1:00 -- 6:30 ) Paul Vendittelli -- Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development Corporation

6:30 -- 29:00 ) Ms. Crystal Lorette and a delegation from the Lester Centre of the Arts (the Mayor excused himself from this presentation citing a conflict of interest, owing to the fact that at this time he is technically still a member of the Board. Mayor returned to his seat as Mayor following the presentation)

29:00-- 46:00) Joe Zelwietro and a group from the Prince Rupert Library

46:00 -- 1:28:00 ) Scott Farwell and a delegation representing Tourism Prince Rupert

1:28:00 -- 1:50:00 ) Susan Marsden and a representatives from the Museum of Northern British Columbia

Council discusses the Report and reviews its options, starting from the 1 hour fifty minute mark and continuing on towards the two hour seventeen minute point.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

MLA Rice heralds agreement between Province and British Columbia's midwives

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rick has offered her congratulations on a recent agreement between the Province and British Columbia and the 260 registered midwives in the province.

Highlighting the work that the province's midwives perform and promising to continue to advocate of investments in health services that benefit women and their families

“This deal is good news for B.C. midwives and a host of British Columbians living in rural and northern communities. New Democrats have long been advocating for the expanded use of midwifery services across the province as we believe that midwives play an integral role in the health care system and can be of particular benefit to women, families and First Nations communities by bringing specialized maternity care to otherwise isolated areas.-- North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice on recent deal between the Province and BC Midwives Association

The full overview from Ms. Rice regarding the announcement can be found from this media release from the BC NDP.

The agreement was announced on December 16th and is back dated to April of 2014, extending to March of 2019.

The five year agreement is valued at 5.5 percent over the term of the deal, featuring modest compensation increases as well as 1.6 million dollars in investments into the profession designed to sustain and grow the service across the province.

A further 200,000 dollar allocation has been established to expand the services that midwives deliver to residents arose British Columbia, those expansion plans will be discussed in collaboration with rural communities, the midwives association of British Columbia and other partners in the health care system.

The province provided a brief snapshot of the service provided by the Association which has 260 registered midwives in the province, with 200 currently practising.  in 2013-14, midwives played a role in nearly 8,600 births or roughly 18 per cent of the goal number of births in the province.

Midwives are registered and regulated by the College of Midwives, currently UBC offers a four year undergraduate degree program in the practice, the number of seats for that program was expand in 2012 to host twenty participants.

More on their work in British Columbia can be found here.

You can learn more about the agreement from the British Columbia Government website.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chamber of Commerce Airport Ferry study provides more material for City Council to Review in 2015

City Council may have put the prospect of a fifty cent increase to fares for the airport ferry on the back burner for now.

But in the New Year, that slight potential increase for transportation may be but a minor consideration, compared to some of the larger issues that the local airport may be facing.

Last month, the Chamber of Commerce delivered a report to the City, providing background from a project that the Chamber had commissioned the Vancouver based Operations Economics Incorporated to conduct.

That research group was tasked to explore some of the transportation concerns related to the nature of our system of moving passengers from the downtown area to the Prince Rupert airport.

In particular, the review provided a glimpse into the bottleneck that could soon be the transit between airport and downtown, should industrial projects proposed for the area get the go ahead.

Published under the title of Digby Island Ferry Capacity Analysis, it provides an overview of the current Prince Rupert Digby Island Ferry and bus transportation system and flags some areas for potential concern in the future.

Outlining the challenges that the transportation system features from the dock infrastructure, to the age of the buses in service on the airport run and the limitations that the capacity of the system may provide should airline service increase to the community.

The Thirty eight page report, made use of interviews with seventeen contributors (see page 38), including members of the Chamber of Commerce, the local LNG industry contacts, City of Prince Rupert representatives and Port of Prince Rupert and Airport officials.

Broken down into eight sections, the report starts with an Overview of the current situation and whether the Airport has the capacity required for what could be a surge in passenger travel in the years to come.

Use of the Ferries, population and Air Traffic trends mark much of segment two.

Infrastructure is the focus of Section three, providing a review of the Digby Island ferry vessel, dock infrastructure and the current status of no plans in place at the moment regarding Renewal or Replacement of the Digby Island Ferry. That section reviewed some of the past proposals for renewal of the service, making note of a report from 2010 that examined some of the options that the City could pursue, a collection of recommendations which we haven't heard much about of late.

Operations and Administration of the system also gets a review, examining the revenue stream and deficit involved with the operation of the Airport Ferry transportation system. The Analysis makes note of the financial breakdown, a collection of data which shows that over fifty percent of the expenses on the Ferry service come from wages and benefits, followed by the actual Bus Contract, Fuel Expenses and provisions for Refit also claiming large portions of the expense file.

Capacity is the category that would seem to make for the most potential for future discussion, with the Chamber report making note of the constraints the current system has and the problems that may provide for, should there be a significant increase in air movements in and out of the Prince Rupert Airport.

Section 6.6 focuses on the capacity question in detail, suggesting what might be considered a bit of a nightmare scenario of sorts. Providing the overview of how it would look at YPR, should a number of aircraft arrive in short order at the airport.

A situation where if the current transportation link remains as it is, could result in wait times of up to three hours for travellers to transit to and from the airport to the downtown core.

Should such a scenario of passengers cooling their heels at the airport for three hours ever came to pass, it would seem likely that such a situation would give residents of the North Coast cause to reconsider their travel options.

With the Terrace airport the most likely to benefit from such any such Prince Rupert bottleneck.

The concept of such large scale delays outlined in the analysis, is based on the prospect of increased industrial development, with LNG or other large projects flying in workers by way of charter jets.

And while the potential arrival of hundreds of workers at the same time as the regularly scheduled services into Prince Rupert might make for a fairly busy airport terminal; considering the investment that LNG companies would be making in those projects, it would seem safe to suggest that they might have an alternate plan for transportation in mind.

The prospect of tight work time lines and the logistics of such a large scale project, probably would find those companies inclined to secure their own transportation options, beyond the stressed out City Ferry service to move those workers and materials to Prince Rupert and their respective construction sites.

The major LNG companies and their contractors may seek out transportation suppliers from a local service that might fill that need, an opportunity that might offer up a chance for the City to explore other transportation options beyond the current Airport Ferry system.

Beyond that, creative air scheduling around the scheduled airlines, might help relieve the congestion that would come during the construction phase of the LNG or other industries.

Findings and Implications make note of the perception of low level of service that passengers already have of the current service and how LNG companies may find the current benchmarks for passenger transfer as something of concern.

As for Options, the final segment of the report, the analysis provides the suggestion of purchasing a larger ferry, or a second ferry to service the route to and from Prince Rupert. 

The first recommendation of a larger ferry would seem to be something which at the moment would appear to be the thing of wish lists, particularly considering the City's current financial limitations and concerns of the moment. 

The second option of  second vessel, would require an entire second complement of staffing, which considering how the report highlights staffing as the largest expense, would seem to be a prospect that might be hard to sell to an already stretched tax payer base.

As well as the vessel situation, the report also reviews the current dock infrastructure improvements that will be required and suggests the prospect of relocation for better transit times between the city and airport.

While the analysis observes that revenues could increase with the potential increased level of activity at the airport, once the major construction projects are complete, one imagines that levels of use would return to more familiar levels.

Whether enough revenue would be generated in that short construction window, to cover the expense of the enhanced service proposals, is one of those great questions that Council would have to consider.

Those interviewed for the survey, suggested a historic opportunity for change is here and may not be repeated. Which may be true, but City Council has to deal with the limitations it has financially at the moment when it comes to that service.

Still, the report, like those before it, once again puts the issues of the Airport Ferry front and centre for the new Council and Mayor Lee Brain.

The age of the current system, its imitations and the perceptions of the service, should provide for a fair amount of material for City Council to consider, as they seek a solution to what has been one of those ongoing issues for past Councils.

There is no doubt that the current transportation arrangement from downtown Prince Rupert to the Airport, isn't working well for the City of Prince Rupert. With the City for the most part having to carry the burden of providing the service for the benefit of the larger area.

Taking the approach of the need for some discussion and assistance from the communities of the region, as former Mayor Mussallem suggested earlier this year, might be one way to address the issues.

As would seeking out more cooperation from the Province of British Columbia, highlighting how transportation is key to the provinces LNG strategy. That is a topic that the North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice might be able to advocate for the City in the Legislature.

In addition to the community to community approach, perhaps a conversation with the large scale industrial proponents regarding the transportation issue might provide some relief for the City.

One of the LNG proponents, Pacific NorthWest LNG has just announced a number of funding arrangements in the region.

One with the District of Port Edward, the other with the Metlaktatla Governing Council.

And while those arrangements won't take place unless the project is given a Final Go Ahead, both communities seem to have benefited from respectful and collaborative discussions.

Mayor Brain and Council may find that taking their transportation issues to the industry that will require access to the airport as a key part of the creation of their projects, may make for a good opportunity to try and join in on that spirit of cooperation for the entire region.

You can examine the full report from the Chamber of Commerce from this link to the City's Information Package to Council for December 9th, the Airport findings can be found from Page ten and beyond.

For more background on items related to the Prince Rupert airport see our archive page here.

For other discussion points from Prince Rupert City Council see our archive here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

BC Business places Prince Rupert last in recent survey of Best Cities for Work

When it comes to optimism for the short term in British Columbia, BC Business magazine doesn't seem to have a lot of it when it comes to the fortunes of Prince Rupert at the moment.

In their debut listing of economic indicators that make a community the best place to work, the North Coast has finished dead last among the thirty six cities that make up the 2014 review.

With Prince Rupert assessed low scores in a number of categories that determined the rankings of communities across the province with a population over 10,000 residents.

The review which is titled Best Cities for Work in B. C. considered seven economic indicators to rank the communities that were examined, among those indicators were:

5 year income growth

Average Household Income

5 year population growth

Unemployment rate

Labour Participation

Residents with Degrees

People who use transit

From the data examined from those categories, Prince Rupert found itself as the location where the most effort appears to be required on all fronts, in order to improve the rankings in years to come.

Income growth rated Prince Rupert only a 9.92 percent, with Average Household Income listed at $75,617.

The population growth of the community trended into the negative range at -1.06%, while unemployment was ranked as among the highest of the communities in the review at 14.58%

Labour participation was listed at 67.24%, while those working in the community with degrees accounted for only 14.81%.  Transit use also factored as a low percentage as part of the overall picture.

For a final Score of Number 36 of the 36 communities, Prince Rupert was marked at 32.42, compared to Fort St. John, the number one community considered the best city for work.

That location featured income growth of 18.20%, Household Income of $109,748 and featured a population growth of 6.34%. Unemployment in Fort St. John is a minuscule 5.89%, with a labour participation percentage of 81.18.

However, those with degrees are harder to find there, with only 9.84% listed as having a degree, likewise Fort St. John would appear to be a car city, with few making use of public transit.

For an overall score, Fort St. John was marked at 60.67 to earn their first place finish, just edging out North Vancouver for the honours.

Of the 35 other communities surveyed for the review, Terrace is found as the only other North West contribution to the review, claiming the Number 34 position featuring a Total Score of 35.44.

Better results from a lower unemployment rate and higher average household income provided Terrace with the cushion over its neighbour on the North Coast.

BC Business did make note of the current industrial activity in the region and the potential that the LNG industry may change the dynamics for the region in years to come.

Highlighting Terrace as a hub city for the region, BC Business reviewed the current economic base and what may be in the future should development proceed as anticipated by both government and some local governments.

You can review those observations here.

It's not the first time that the Northwest has made news for low rankings in economic studies, in recent years, the annual Moneysense rankings which come out as Spring arrives, frequently place Prince Rupert and Terrace among the communities on the lower end of the scale after statistical review.

And while not welcome news as far as civic ego may go, these forms of review do tend to highlight areas of concern that local municipalities should be looking to address, in order to make the Northwest a more desirable place for Canadians to consider relocating to.

The BC Business individual rankings of each of the 36 communities can be found here

While you can review the full report from BC Business here.

Cross Posted from the North Coast Review

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Metlakatla and Pacific NorthWest LNG sign Benefit agreement on impact of LNG

Employment opportunities, training development and financial benefits are some of the key points in an agreement announced today between the Metlakatla Governing Council and Pacific NorthWest LNG.

The terms of the agreement sheet outline a number of the benefits that will be delivered to Metlakatla over a period of forty years, should the proposed Lelu Island project move forward to development.

By signing the term sheet and providing a letter of support towards the Lelu Island project, Metlakatla will be receiving an initial payment as part of the overall agreement in place.

And while the bulk of the terms of agreement remain in confidence, Pacific Northwest LNG identified five main aspects of the agreement that will provide opportunities and support for the Metlakatla community.

Access to employment
Training and capacity development
Financing for Cultural Support
Lump sum annual payments based on the number of LNG trains in operation
Metlakatla participation in ongoing environmental monitoring

Chief Harold Leighton of Metlakatla offered up some thoughts regarding what the Metlakatla Governing Council took into consideration during the negotiations, before reaching the agreement.

“We have weighed the potential benefits, with the impacts of the terminal proposed for Lelu Island and have worked to negotiate the best agreement for Metlakatla,” ... “Metlakatla has arrived at an agreement with Pacific NorthWest LNG that will benefit our members for the lifetime of the project.”

The agreement was put together after extensive negotiations between Pacific NorthWest LNG, the Province of British Columbia and Melakatla's Development Corporation and Stewardship office, with a good portion of the focus of the negotiation directed to resolving outstanding environmental and economic concerns.

Towards the environmental concerns the Metlakatla Stewardship Program identified the nature of their interest in the agreement.

 “Metlakatla has worked on the environmental assessment of this project from the beginning, and we will continue to hold Pacific NorthWest LNG to a high standard of environmental care,”...“We have ensured they are committed to working with us on our outstanding issues.” -- Ross Wilson, Director of the Metlakatla Stewardship Program

Pacific NorthWest LNG President Michael Culbert heralded today's announcement as an example of the kind of dialogue that the company is working towards as it moves forward with its project.

“Pacific NorthWest LNG would like to commend and thank Metlakatla leadership and staff for the time and effort that led to today’s announcement,” ...“This agreement exemplifies the constructive dialogue we have engaged in to-date and what can happen when we work together to achieve common goals.”

You can review the full account of today's announcement from this item from the Pacific NorthWest LNG website. The view from Metlakatla can be found from this media release.

It's the second major agreement that Pacific NorthWest has concluded in recent days, on Monday we highlighted the details of the arrangement between the company and the District of Port Edward.

The announcements are yet another benchmark in one of the most anticipated projects on the North Coast off late.

However, the timeline for development has yet to be set, as the company continues to examine the key elements of moving the project forward towards development.

Earlier this month, Petronas the parent company of Pacific NorthWest LNG deferred their Final Investment Decision into the new year, it is expected to announce that decision sometime in early 2015.

For more items related to the Pacific NorthWest LNG proposal see our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

School District on different page than City when it comes to Wantage Road Work Camp

School District 52 is continuing to raise its concerns over a proposed work camp off of Wantage Road, which in the eyes of the School District Board will be a little too close to the city's Middle and Secondary schools.

As we outlined on the blog back in November, School District 52 offered up its initial thoughts regarding the project through a presentation from Treasurer Cam McIntyre, who provided a number of concerns about the proposed Wantage Road project at the Public Hearing that the City hosted on the topic on November 25th.

Area of proposed Wantage Road
work camp development
Possible design for Horizon North
Camp set up at Wantage Road site

Mr. McIntyre was one of a number of participants in that Public Hearing process on the night, the vast majority of those that participated provided a range of concerns when it came to the City's plan for the Wantage Road site.

On behalf of the School District, Mr. McIntyre outlined some items of note he had found regarding the impact of work camps on communities, making use of studies from Northern Health that highlighted a number of the concerns that the School District had with the planned location of the work camp.

You can review how that hearing moved forward from our item from November 27th here, of particular note Mr. McIntyre's presentation, highlighting the School District concerns can be found from the City's Video Archive of the hearing, they arrive at the one hour eleven minute mark.

However, when the time came to move forward on the rezoning issue, despite the strong opposition provided during the Public Hearing, Council voted unanimously in favour of rezoning the land, sending the process on to the developmental permit stage and the next stage for potential development.

The School District returned to the issue at their December 9th meeting, once again reinforcing the concerns that the School District has with a large scale work camp being located close to the city's schools, particularly its proximity to the Prince Rupert Middle School on Ninth Avenue West.

The Northern View provided this short overview of the School District discussions on the Wantage Road proposal.

School District Chair Tina Last continued to keep the topic on the radar of the community this week, with a Tuesday morning appearance on the CBC Daybreak North program.

Where she again highlighted the School District's concerns when it comes to the work camp proposal.

A portion of her interview is available from the DayBreak North website here.

At their December 9th session the School District voted to have staff members from SD52 request a meeting with the City to provide more background on their concerns on the proposed development.

For more background on the Wantage Road proposal see our items below.

Nov 27-- Council pushes ahead with Work Camp plans for Wantage Road, despite rough reception at Public Hearing
Nov 27-- Work Camp proponents may provide partial answer to City's ongoing Housing concerns
Nov 20-- Public Hearing on Wantage Road Zoning Proposal set for Monday evening
Nov 7-- Wantage Road area targeted by Council as a Major Project staging area

For more items from School District 52 see our archive page here.

Pacific NorthWest LNG project back on the Environmental Assessment Clock

After a holding pattern at day 167 which started on May 9th , the Lelu Island project for Pacific NorthWest LNG is back on the clock when it comes to its Environmental Assessment process.

The announcement from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency was made yesterday, notifying the company and the public, that the process now moves forward after Pacific NorthWest LNG had requested a stop to address some environmental concerns that had been raised thus far.

With Pacific Northwest having introduced new material for review (see here and here) last Friday, the review process once again is in motion, making Wednesday day number 172 of a process that may not deliver an Environmental Approval decision until the midway point of 2015.

Key to the new material is a review of the design changes and associated work in the Lelu Island for the project that Pacific NorthWest LNG has outlined for the CEAA in its submission of December 12th, the synopsis of those changes can be found from the conclusions page found here.

While the Environmental Assessment process works towards a decision, Petronas, the parent company of Pacific NorthWest is examining its prospects for the project, as we outlined on the blog on December 3rd, Petronas recently deferred its Final Investment Decision until sometime in early 2015.

The Globe and Mail provided this review of the re-start on the assessment process, as well as a short recap of some of the latest developments regarding the project.

You can review more on the Pacific NorthWest LNG project from our archive page here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MP Cullen and MLA Rice to host Open House on Friday

North Coast residents can find their two senior levels of representation in one place this Friday, as MLA Jennifer Rice and MP Nathan Cullen co-host a Holiday Open House.

It makes for an opportunity for North Coast residents to raise items of interest or concern with the Federal and Provincial members, tackling both national and regional issues with both available for a quick conversation.

North Coast Constituency Office
Location of NDP MLA/MP Constituency Office

The two NDP politicians will be opening the doors to the constituency office on Third Avenue from 3 to 6 PM on Friday, with light refreshments to be provided for those in attendance.

Those looking for more information on the Open House can call 250-624-7737 or 250-622-2413.

The location of the Constituency office for both the MLA and MP can be found at 818 - 3rd Avenue at the west end of 3rd near Overwaitea

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Final Approval on fee increases and review of Community Enhancement Grants on Council Agenda tonight

Prince Rupert City Council heads back into its second special session of the week tonight, as the City government looks to wrap up a bit of work before the Holiday season gets into full swing.

A review of the full agenda for tonight's meeting can be found here.

As part of their work tonight Council will look to give final approval to a pair of Fee Increases proposed to Council on Monday evening, as we outlined on the blog earlier this morning, Council moved forward the plan to increase Recreation Fees for Recreation programs and facility use for 2015.

As well, Council will have the opportunity to put in place new Landfill fees for Non residents for the year ahead.

A third motion from Monday, which would have seen Council approve an increase to the Airport Ferry crossing fees was tabled for further study.

Beyond the Fee Increase motions to be voted on, Council will also hear a number of updates from a range of organizations which make use of Community Enhancement Grants.

Scheduled to speak this evening include:

Mr. Paul Venditelli from the Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development Corporation
Ms. Crystal Lorette, the General Manager of the Lester Centre for the Arts
Mr. Joe Zelwietro the Chief Librarian of the Prince Rupert Library
Mr. Scott Farwell, the Chairman of Tourism Prince Rupert
Ms. Susan Marsden, the Curator of the Museum of Northern B. C.

Following those presentations, Council will then review a report from Staff on the topic of the 2015 Community Enhancement Grant process.

You can review the listings of the Grant requests that Council will consider from the agenda from pages 3-5.

Council will also consider a report from the City's Chief Financial Officer on the theme of Service Provider Agreements for both the Special Events Society and the Lester Centre of the Arts.

A property on 7th Avenue West that has been damaged by fire will be under review as well tonight, with a recommendation from the Building Inspector that the house be declared a nuisance and ordered destroyed.

Those interested in following the developments of the night can watch Council sessions through the City's Video stream starting at 5 PM tonight.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Council to consider possibility of creating Communications Director position for 2015

Getting the City's message out it seems will be a priority for new Mayor Lee Brain and his Council.

And towards that theme, the Mayor has asked that City Staff prepare a report to explore the cost to the City of hiring a Communications Director and creating a Communications Department, all to better to share the word with the public when it comes to the city's work.

Mayor Lee Brain introduced the topic at the end of Monday's City Council session, outlining his thoughts on the theme, highlighting how those on Council learned from the election campaign that the City needs to do a better job of communicating its information to the public.

The Mayor reviewed for Council how he believes that it's important for the City to have someone around who can help the Council communicate those issues to the community.

Once staff has prepared its report, the Mayor would like Council to look at the issue further in the New Year.

Councillor Thorkelson while suggesting that such an initiative is a good thing to review, observed that it might be better worked into the overall Budget process, highlighting how Council needs to consider how they fund all of its functions. Making note that Council needs to have everything that it wants on such kinds of a wish list included in those discussions.

Councillor Cunningham echoed that cautionary note, suggesting that the City should not be counting its chickens before they have hatched, as the City can't project what kind of revenues it will be getting and while he liked the idea of a wish list, he was hesitant to count on user fees before they have them in hand.

The Mayor noted that he was also in favour of putting everything on the table, and that the proposal for a Communication Officer like that of the Environmental Officer Position that the City was considering, should be reviewed further as to what the cost may be.

Councillor Mirau echoed his support for the Mayor's suggestion of a Communication Officer, but agreed with the rest of Council that it required a proper review as to cost.

With the topic of the Environmental Officer introduced, Councillor Cunningham took advantage of that opportunity to ask the Mayor as to the status of the report on that position, he was advised that Staff was preparing the report for Council's review.

From that Council voted in favour of the motion to have Staff provide a report on the proposed Communication Officer position.

Considering the many issues reviewed by the City through 2014, items such as infrastructure concerns, the transportation issues related to the Airport, the ongoing costs both legal and in maintenance of the Watson Island site and a range of other expensive issues to deal with, one might  wonder if Council will be able to address the prospect of a new position at this time.

As both Councillor's Cunningham and Thorkelson observed in their comments, wish list items may  be best examined only when the City has the financial means to see them move forward, which in the case of any Communications position may mean a deferral, at least until better economic times for the City allow for the luxury adding to the municipal staffing levels.

The full discussion can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive starting at the 1 hour thirteen minute mark and carrying through to the end of the Council session.

A full review of Monday's City Council session can be found on our Timeline feature.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Council examines Strategic Planning and Budget process for 2015

Meetings, meetings, meetings, will be the New Year's resolution for Prince Rupert City Council for 2015, as Council and City staff work out the schedule ahead to develop a Strategic Plan for the year.

On Monday evening, Council discussed the path they might wish to to take, with the first week of February seemingly the target date to bring all of their thoughts together with the help of a facilitator to be contracted for the task.

Towards that prospect, Council has plans to meet through the next month to line up which items need to be addressed as part of the Strategic Planning.

Along with discussions as to how they wish to approach that work, Council also reviewed how they might wish to keep the Budget process moving through the early portion of 2015.

The City's CFO outline some of the benchmarks as far as information required to set the budget figures into place, followed by a review of the timeline when it comes to the consultation required as part of the Budget process.

Council members then engaged in a fairly lengthy review of how they wish to approach that public consultation, with both Councillor Thorkelson and Councillor Mirau reviewing one of the public info sessions held at the Civic Centre in 2013 (reviews here and here perhaps).

Sessions, which in their opinion provided for more of an opportunity for the public to express its anger at Council, rather than to offer up suggestions as far as budget preparations might go.

The Mayor observed that those kind of details on engagement with the public could be worked out as Council moves along, calling on his experience as a Facilitator as useful in moving those conversations forward.

Councillor Mirau also outlined how the City needs to find a way to better communicate the complexities of the Budget process to the public, using the example of Squamish as a community that makes use of such things as E Town Halls, workshops and to provide for an information delivery process to explain their work on the Budget better.

With a number of issues still to be determined through the overall process, in the end Council came to the decision that they couldn't at this time set a firm schedule as to the sessions required.

City Manager Robert Long then provided some thoughts on how to move the process forward, outlining the Standardize Budget process used in the past, but making note of Council's desire to find innovative ways to consult and advise the public on issues related to the Budget.

He went on to advise Council that City Staff would try to find ways put those desires into motion  as the process moves forward.

To review the conversation regarding their Strategic Planning ambitions  and Budget  discussion see the City Video Archive from the 52 minute mark, carrying through until the 1 hour thirteen minute mark.

A full review of Monday's City Council session can be found on our Timeline feature.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Residency has its privileges when it comes to Landfill usage

City Landfill Site
Photo from City of PR 2013
Annual Report
City Council addressed the issue of the need to create more space at the City's landfill site, with a first step to set up a new fee structure for those that use the Ridley Island Access Road site.

The topic was one of the items on the to do list for Monday's Council session, with Council first putting in place the process of repealing the existing Bylaw fees and then introducing a new fee structure, that would charge a higher rate to non residents of Prince Rupert to deliver their items to the landfill site.

Council once again called on the City's Financial Officer Corinne Bomben to review the situation at the landfill site, which included the overview as to how the city came to the point where they need to expand the usable area of the landfill site earlier than previously anticipated.

You can examine all of that from the Agenda Package for Monday from pages 26 to 57, the fee schedules can be reviewed from 52 to 57

As for the new fee structure, Non Prince Rupert residents will be looking at an increase of forty percent to use the land fill, while those with City of Prince Rupert residency will continue to pay the regular rate, with a slight increase as approved earlier this year by City Council.

The discussion on the topic focused on the anticipation of large scale industrial development in the future and how projects and renovations outside of the city may have an impact on the City's landfill site, requiring further expansion into the future.

Councillor Cunningham opened up the review with some questions on the nature of the self-funding aspects of the landfill site and how the City found itself in its current situation.

He also had concerns related to enforcement issues at the landfill site and the ability to determine who is and isn't a resident were also some of the items that were raised by Council members.

Councillor Thorkelson also wanted clarification on the difference between resident and non resident when it came to assessing the fees, with  Ms. Bomben providing a breakdown as to how would have access to the resident rates and who would have to pay the higher non resident rate.

Ms. Bomben reassured Council that the new residency aspects of the proposed bylaw change had been passed by the City's legal service, which advised that this was the proper way of addressing the issue.

Concerns were also raised over residents not using the landfill site properly, with observations as to how some were not separating their recyclable items from their household items.

That made the concept of recycling becoming more of a topic that Council believes should be addressing through Regional District and how a larger discussion regarding recycling issues in the community is a conversation that Council needs to have.

The ability to determine where the material that is arriving at the Landfill site has come from, is one issue that the City will have to develop a plan to work on, in order to ensure that they are assessing the proper rate of fee from where the material has originated.

Following the discussion, council voted on the motion, giving it first, second and third readings, moving it towards final approval on Wednesday.

If passed the the fees would go into effect on January 1st.

You can review the conversation on the Landfill fees from the City's Video Archive, starting at the thirty six minute mark to the fifty six minute mark.

A full review of Monday's City Council session can be found on our Timeline feature.

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

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Council puts aside proposed Airport Ferry increase for now

Prince Rupert City Council is holding the line on the bus fare to cross over to the Digby Island airport for the moment, putting aside on Monday evening a motion to increase the cost by fifty cents per crossing, pending further study on the matter.

The topic was one of the first items on the Agenda for Monday's Special Session of Council, as Mayor Lee Brain and Council members received a report from the City's Financial Officer Corinne Bomben, with the CFO recommending the increased fee as a way to provide for new buses for the transportation system in place between downtown Prince Rupert and its island based airport.

Explaining the aging nature of the current buses in use and some of the unique demands of the transportation infrastructure, the CFO outlined how the fifty cent increase per year to passenger fees, coupled with an increase of 3 per cent for other users of the Airport Ferry, would provide for funding for the new buses.

As part of the review in the Agenda package ( Starting from Page Three here), the report included a correspondence from the Chamber of Commerce regarding a survey that it had conducted on the issue of the buses used on the ferry (page 7 of the Agenda), which noted that over 82 percent of those who responded were in favour of the slight increase in the fees, if put towards new vehicles.

We outlined more background on the nature of that survey in this item from September.

Still, the idea of the City paying for buses for a private contractor proved to be a troublesome concept for Councillors Cunningham and Thorkelson, who had questions regarding the city subsidizing a private service which would then be free to use those buses for other uses, when not required on the Ferry.

The fear of sending residents to the Terrace Airport was also raised, with both Councillor Randhawa and Cunningham outlining their concerns that the proposed increases on a yearly basis over five years, might soon send families down the road to make their travel plans.

By the time the fifteen minutes or so of discussion was over, Council was putting the issue on the table, sending it back to City Staff for further examination  and more details regarding the proposal.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up a suggestion that staff seek out further comment from both the Airport Society and those airlines currently using the Prince Rupert Airport as to their thoughts when it came to the impact that the proposed fee increases may have on their services.

You can review the full range of discussion on the topic from the City's Video Archive, the Fee increase recommendation starts at the one minute mark


A full review of Monday's City Council session can be found on our Timeline feature.

For more items from Prince Rupert City Council see our Archive page here.

For background on  Air Transportation issues in the region see our Transportation Archive here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review