Monday, November 20, 2017

Victoria Viewpoints: Monday, November 20, 2017

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

B.C.'s upcoming referendum on electoral reform will stand, Attorney-General says
Doctor's at B.C. hospital question why police eavesdrop on suspects in ER
Vancouver's housing and opioid crises are linked, says addictions expert
Grand Forks considers year round homeless shelter
Comox Valley boil water notice expected to last days
Warm, wet weather forecast brings heightened risk for B.C. avalanches
Winter 2018 will be colder than last year, but forecasters split on how bad it will get
Do NDP respond to half a billion in uncollected fraudsters penalties
Waffling Watts under fire in B.C. Liberal leadership fight
B.C. refers expensive drug to special committee for coverage
Brace  yourself for the 'classic' Canadian winter: meteorologist
Mike Smyth: Here's my Site C prediction
B.C. Liberal leadership debate focuses on Vancouver Island
Premier asks for re-do on Highway 14 study
Wet Weather expected for much of coastal B.C.
China a better partner than U.S.
ICBC overbilling for crash repairs not the problem, dealers say
What the B.C. government should do about the housing crisis
Vancouver School Board hires new superintendent

B.C. wildfire evacuee says scammers used his address to claim relief funds
B.C. couple accuses realtor of double-dealing, secretly representing both buyer and seller
City of Kelowna takes legal action against medical marijuana dispensaries
Vernon neighbourhood divided over supportive housing
B.C. government approves coverage of expensive drug Soliris on case-by-case basis
B.C. will get lots of snow this winter but Metro Vancouver won't be hit hard like last year

Five policies that would have helped me stay in Vancouver
A Vancouver parable: False prophets, Green illusions and Vanishing neighbourhoods

Ottawa Observations: Monday, November 20, 2017

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Federal scene for Monday, November 20, 2017

Route for Keystone XL approved, clearing way for Alberta oil
Senators pay tribute to citizens - and themselves - with medals for 150th birthday
Morneau didn't seek clearance from ethics commissioner before introducing pension bill
B.C.'s upcoming referendum on electoral reform will stand, Attorney General says
Campaign 2000 urges Liberal government to be more aggressive in tackling poverty
U.S. decision to end temporary permits for almost 60,000 Haitians has Canada on alert
Amendments to Montreal protocol aims to slow global warming
Seeking 'equal footing' in missing and murdered inquiry, victims' families ask for joint standing
Australian official lashes out at Trudeau amid spat over Pacific Trade Deal
15,000 on Canada's deportation list, but some 'unco-operative' countries won't take their citizens back
Canada on alert as U.S. announces end to temporary resident status for Haitians
Morneau says he's sold all shares in family's pension company, made donation to charity
U.S negotiators squeezed at home, abroad during NAFTA talks
Justin Trudeau may be a TV star, but he's not quite living up to the West Wing
Nebraska OKs 'alternative route' for Keystone XL pipeline
McKenna says amendment signed to Montreal protocol
NDP's Malcolmson seeks secret ballot vote of MPs to save bill on abandoned boats
U.S. negotiators getting squeezed at home, abroad during NAFTA talks
Apology to LGBTQ community first step toward healing
U.S. NAFTA auto proposal faces criticism from Canada, Mexico and American car players
Refuse to be part of the herd
Laurier University owes Canadians an explanation
Canada's wealthy may have started a tax revolt, an Ontario is the first to notice
You know, there's a reason no one's put in a guaranteed annual income yet
Canadian military investigating after reservist dies in training accident at CFB Shilo
Parents of alleged ISIL member 'Jihadi Jack' plead with Canadian MPs to help free him from Syria
New Zealand PM speaks to rumour that Trump mistook her for Sophie Gregoire Trudeau
The only thing hanging over Canada's economy is one five-letter word
Canadians think their government ministers are doing a good job - if they even know who they are
Huge gains, few risks: Report slams Canada's CEO pay model
Canada can't deport illegal foreigners as countries are refusing to take them
Killings at Canadian-owned gold mine in Mexico jolt NAFTA talks
Trudeau defends Morneau by calling questions over ethics investigation 'cheap shots'
Canada concerned about returning ISIS fighters Justin Trudeau says
National security bill to face closer scrutiny as soon as next week
What happens if Trudeau, ministers actually broke the law?
Bill Morneau gets a failing grade from Canadians, poll says
Jagmeet Singh and the shunning of Parliament
The national housing strategy promises big spending, but is it money well spent?
What, Me worry? Humans are blind to Imminent Environmental collapse
Pierre Trudeau said opposition MPs were nobodies but now his son's cabinet ministers are mostly unknown

Province continues investigation into CN Rail spraying program of fall

The Ministry of Environment has not as of yet outlined the results of its investigation into a weed spraying program conducted by Canadian National Railways this fall, however a local environmental group has provided for their input to the topic.

A number of media reports over the weekend noted that the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation has found the chemical Glyphosate on plants collected along the railway between Terrace and Prince Rupert.

The environmental Society raised its concerns with the province after member Luanne Roth had noticed the lengthy trail of dead vegetation along the rail tracks during recent travels from Terrace to Prince Rupert.

Glyphosate Residue found near CN Rail Tracks (audio)
Glyphosate residue found on dead leaves next to CN tracks

Photos above from the T Buck Suzuki Foundation, which the Environmental
Society says indicate a spraying program along CN right of ways across Northwest BC

The Prince Rupert Environmental Society is also continuing with its information collection process, by seeking the assistance of anyone who may have noticed the spraying taking place in early October.

The Ministry of Environment has not provided any further background to the investigation other than a notice that it has forwarded the file to the province's Conservation Officer Service for further investigation into issues of non-compliance.

CN Rail continues to work with Ministry officials as they conduct their investigation, but in a statement for the Northern View newspaper, said that the use of Glyphosate was through a product registered and a permitted under the federal Pest Control products Act.

There has been no indication from the Ministry of Environment when the Conservation Service may be finished with their investigation.

More items of interest related to CN Rail and its Northwest operations can be found on our archive page.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Victoria Viewpoints: Saturday/Sunday, November 18 & 19, 2017

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

Memorial Service for Constable John Davidson

First responders grieve Abbotsford police officer killed on duty
Mourning a fallen officer, thousands fill Abbotsford arena
Full regimental funeral for Constable John Davidson attracts thousands in Abbotsford
Thousands mourn Abbotsford constable John Davidson
'An officer and a gentleman': Constable John Davidson is laid to rest
Constable. John Davidson's children deliver tearful speech at Abbotsford memorial service
As Abbotsford first responders mourn, neighbouring crews fill the gap
Emotional memorial for fallen Abbotsford officer John Davidson
Constable John Davidson funeral in Abbotsford attracts police officers from far and wide

On Hydro, B.C. Premier John Horgan borrows a trick from the Liberal repertoire
Coquihalla Highway closed between Hope and Merrit
Vancouver stalled on demolition permit for historic home to avoid paying owners, judge says
Vancouver's homeless face cruel dilemma - do you risk lighting a fire to survive the cold?
Watchdog group says province should strengthen disclosure rules for local politicians
Crop theft a growing concern for some farmers
BC Liberal leadership debate focuses on Vancouver Island
Wish list at odds with balanced budget
B.C. Liberal leadership candidates debate different paths for party
Ride-share pioneer drives up quietly to B.C. battleground
Whistler employees being squeezed by real estate boom
Former police sergeant alleges TransLink doesn't want weekend bar crowd on SkyTrain late at night

Ottawa Observations: Saturday/Sunday, November 18 & 19

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Federal scene for Saturday/Sunday November 18 & 19, 2017

Ottawa sets date for LGBTQ apology, but compensation not yet settled
Ukraine issues call for Canadian defensive weapons
Top Afghan government official says Taliban should have a place at peace talks
Liberal failure to make key federal appointments is a disappointment
Has Trudeau sunk Canada's chances of joining East Asian Summit?
Disability rights advocates fight 'demeaning' immigration criteria
Afghanistan looks to Canada for more training support
Ottawa to apologize for persecuting LGBT public servants
In Maxime Bernier's not-quite-tell-all book, he promises to reveal how he can 'fix' Canada
Canada's top general pushes back against critics of peacekeeping plan
Former Mexican president warns Trudeau not to be 'Judas' in NAFTA talks
Slow start to fifth round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City
Charity with ties to Trudeau excluding Quebecers from contest
Head of NATO tells Canada to gear itself up for Russian cyber threats
'Canada does not engage in death squads,' while allies actively hunt down their own foreign fighters
Bob Rae on Rohingya crisis in Burma: "It's more than an emergency'
U. S. releases updates list of tough NAFTA negotiation objectives as talks resume
Singh does not need a seat in Commons
False promises in climate change goals
Trudeau's spending on path to fiscal calamity
Liberal green agenda needs a little humility
Canadian troops in Latvia warned their social media accounts and cell phones could be 'manipulated or misused'
The Liberals' housing plan unlikely to help first-time buyers
Justin Trudeau set to head to China in December to open free trade talks
Nebraska to announce Keystone XL pipeline decision Monday
U.S. being a bully on NAFTA: Unifor boss Jerry Dias

Friday, November 17, 2017

Victoria Viewpoints: Friday, November 17, 2017

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

Provinces to keep control of online cannabis sales
It takes a village to care for the homeless; just ask this high-school student
Mental health and addictions centre to open on Riverview site in Coquitlam
New mental health centre on Riverview lands to open in 2019
Vancouver arts education centre to move into vacated Emily Carr University building
Coroners jury calls for changes to ambulance design after B.C. man falls out of vehicle and dies
Public inquest ordered for shooting of distraught man holding two-by-four
Greens' Weaver convinced NDP will support Site C, an 'irritating decision
Lights Camera inaction, why B.C. must defend the status quo
Greens lay out alternatives for B.C. hydro
Schools shaken by quake safety inequities
Riverview youth mental health centre proceeds
The made in BC water cannon that wasn't used to fight its wildfires last summer
BC NDP government comes around to controversial 'Panda Bonds'
Feds to spend more that $325M to tackle gangs and gun crime
Teachers who won in court plead for help, say VSB playing 'shell games'
Translink's new double-decker buses will begin service in Metro Vancouver next week
How many fights and hospital visits could TransLink prevent by extending weekend SkyTrain hours?

Ottawa Observations: Friday, November 17, 2017

Our compilation of some of the stories of note from the day, reviewing the political developments from the Federal scene for Friday, November 17, 2017

Tory pit bull Poilievre looks for 'vulnerability' in attacks on Morneau
Mexico working on compromise on NAFTA rules of origin for vehicles, sources say
Longtime politician Paul Quassa chosen as fourth premier of Nunavut
Ottawa urged to intervene in Iraqi Kurds' dispute with Baghdad
Trudeau's 'deliverology' on the verge of becoming a punchline
'Canada does not engage in death squads' while allies actively hunt down their own foreign fighters
Public safety minister announces $327.6M to fight gangs and gun violence
National Holocaust Monument to stay open all winter
Canada sends bomb-clearing engineers to Iraq at ISIS retreat leaves country littered with IEDs
Alex Trebek, Tragically Hip receive Order of Canada
How the provinces are planning for pot legalization
Brian Pallister broke arm during solo hike in New Mexico, briefly reported missing
Say Donald Trump kills NAFTA. Here's what experts say will happen to Canada
Ottawa should finish the job on advocacy work by charities
When politicians get that faraway look in their eyes
Peacekeeping always seems like a good idea at the time
Canada can lead crusade to stop use of child soldiers: Dallaire, Whitman
Kill them before they come home? Too un-Canadian
Canada robs itself of energy prosperity
Why CiA plotted to sabotage Canada only one month before Cuban Missile Crisis
Economy is hot, but Liberals not? Maybe voters have realized the limits of PM"s powers
Russian fake-news campaign against Canadian troops in Latvia includes propaganda about litter, luxury apartments
The Liberals find a reasonable solution for face-saving on peacekeeping
Guess which 12 states are the biggest losers if NAFTA is killed (hint they all voted for Trump)
CN Rail hiring spree to continue into 2018 amid upsurge in shipments
Feds to spend more than $325M to tackle gangs and gun crime
The loonie is falling again

MLA Rice hails launch of Highway 16 shuttle service in Terrace

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice was in Terrace today, hailing the newest
link in Transportation in the Northwest between Terrace and the Hazleton's

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice was in Terrace today, as the latest link in the Highway 16 Inter-community transportation link was officially put into service for the Northwest.

With Marlene Swift from Prince Rupert, a Highway 16 survivor standing with her in Terrace, Ms. Rice hailed the introduction of the service as a historic event.

Speaking on behalf of Claire Trevena the Ministry of Transportation and infrastructure, Ms. Rice observed that it was on June 16th, 2006 that the first recommendation of a shuttle bus system was announced as part of the Highway of Tears Symposium findings.

After some initial delays in moving forward with those findings, the previous Liberal government did start to roll out a number of initiatives over the course of the last year, to year and a half, including the framework of what now has become the Highway 16 transportation links.

As Ms. Rice concluded her notes for the celebration of the introduction of the new service, the North Coast MLA observed how the Terrace leg of the service is  just the latest addition towards that original recommendation of 2006 to provide for safe and affordable transportation along the Highway through the Northwest.

Through the course of her presentation to the Terrace gathering, Ms. Rice traced the string of  four announcements to this point that have provided for the shuttle system along the Highway 16 corridor, many of which had been put in motion by the previous Liberal government, something which was not mentioned as part of her comments for the Terrace audience.

As Ms. Rice relayed the long desired news of the new destinations that will become part of the new service, one community stood out for its absence.

As we've noted in the past on the blog, the Highway 16 shuttle system, which the North Coast MLA has long been a champion of, still does not travel to Prince Rupert in the MLA's own riding of the North Coast.

For all the roll out announcements of the last year, the highway transportation initiative will still continue to stop at the western side of the Terrace City limits.

To refresh our memories on why that last leg still hasn't been added, we go back just over a year ago, which is when the City of Prince Rupert and other regional stakeholders decided to hold to the current transportation system in place on the North Coast.

In the City of Prince Rupert notice of December 7th, 2016 the reasoning behind the decision not to participate in the provincial government's highway transportation plan was explained in relation to the more isolated nature of the rural island communities of the North Coast.

“Unfortunately in Prince Rupert’s context as a more isolated community and a service center for many rural island communities, this 2 or 3 times a week bus will not directly address the main concerns for our location regarding the Highway of Tears. However, we do understand that the proposed bus would work well in the Terrace, Hazelton and Smithers areas, where there are clusters of rural communities in close proximity,” said Mayor Lee Brain. “For us, supporting NCTS is a localized solution that can act in complement with improved transportation between communities inland.”

The alternative transportation program that currently is provided by the North Coast Transition society, provides for emergency funds and travel assistance to women and children who need safety from violence.

The transportation options range from  taxi vouchers for in town travel; to bus and rail transportation between Terrace and Prince Rupert.

During today's announcement, Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc, noted how the improved links will strengthen ties between the communities of the Northwest.

“This improved public transit between Terrace and the Hazeltons will be another great step towards safe regional transit opportunities for our residents and those in surrounding communities,” .. “Improved transit options will strengthen ties between our communities and allow us and our neighbours to better access each other’s events and services.”

The Terrace Mayor also made note of the large amount of participation by Prince Rupert residents during the community engagement sessions of a year ago that were held to explore the need for the transit system. With Ms. Leclerc offering up a hope that one day the newly introduced service would also reach all the way to the North Coast.

The need for just such a service may soon be required as the fate of the Greyhound service in Northern BC is determined by the Passenger Transportation Board.

Since the announcement of last year from the City and its partners, the North Coast MLA has not had much to say about the absence of her home community from the Highway 16 initiative.

Perhaps from today's introduction of the new service out of Terrace, and in the current spirit of cooperation on housing, Ms. Rice will be able to persuade her new partners to help add Prince Rupert to the provincial system that now stretches from Terrace through to Prince George.

Considering the significant interest in that option from the community engagement sessions of last year and the number of Rupertites in attendance for today's Terrace event, the day that the North Coast MLA can announce a Prince Rupert to Terrace connection could very well make for a well attended and much applauded public event.

The new service from Terrace to the eastern reaches of Highway 16 launches Monday, and will be the fourth inter-community route as part of the Highway 16 Transportation plan.

The full text of the Transportation announcement by the Government of British Columbia can be reviewed here.

Some of our past notes related to the Highway 16 Transportation plan can be found below:


October 25 -- Highway 16 transit plan continues to roll out across parts of Northwest
April 7 -- Another Northwest community hops onboard the Province's Highway 16 Transit plan
January 31 -- Province of British Columbia still hopeful that North Coast hops onboard the Highway 16 shuttle bus


December 8 -- City and area stakeholders to hold to current Transition Society Transportation plan for Highway of Tears
June 16 -- MLA Rice awaits details on Province's transportation plans for Highway 16
June 15 -- Community to Community transportation listed among the items in funding for Highway 16 plan


December 15 -- Provincial Government delivers Highway 16 corridor update, still holds back on highway shuttle concept
November 27 -- Transportation Minister Stone to deliver Highway 16 options in near future
November 3 -- NDP and Liberals in lively exchange Tuesday over Highway 16 Transportation issues
October 15 -- Smithers to host Symposium focusing on transportation issues along Highway 16
February 26 -- MLA returns to Highway 16 transportation concerns during Wednesday Legislature session

You can dig a bit deeper into themes related to the Highway 16 transportation plans from our Archives on Transportation here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Prince Rupert Emergency Shelter site set for McLean and Rudderham building

The old McLean And Rudderham store
(seen above from 2012) will be the home for a temporary winter shelter
The quest for an Emergency Winter Shelter in the city has come to a successful conclusion, with Mayor Lee Brain announcing that the temporary winter facility will be set up at the old McLean and Rudderham Storefront on the 300 block of Third Avenue West.

In his update for residents posted to the Mayor's Facebook page, Mr. Brain notes the work that has gone into the process, which included the need to have a budget approved by BC Housing which was granted today.

The Mayor outlines how the housing team is in place to open the location and is currently in the process of preparing the building so that those living in the tent city can move in as soon as possible, with hopes to have them in place by this weekend.

The notice stresses that this is but a temporary location for this winter only, and that longer term options will be explored later for next winter.

As for the other housing initiative that was announced by MLA Jennifer Rice this week, the Mayor offered up some background notes, advising that the City is still in the process of securing a location to install the 44 units of modular housing that had been promised to arrive by March by the province on Tuesday.

You can review the full advisory from the Mayor below:

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice has yet to provide any notes of her own, related to the Friday announcement from the Mayor.

For a review of the week's worth of news related to the housing issues see our archive page here.

As well we have been tracking items related to the Tent City protest at City Hall here.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

Council to take pulse of Community on Pot zoning at Public Hearing December 11th

Zoning plan changes remain on hold for any potential retail
marijuana plans, as Council extended their prohibition until
at least July 1st to await further legislation from
the upper levels of government

Any zoning changes that may be required when it comes to future plans for marijuana distribution will be on hold for a little bit longer, that after Prince Rupert City Council voted on Tuesday to extend their prohibition on zoning for the establishment of marijuana operations in all zones of the City.

As part of their review of the topic, the Mayor and Council reviewed some of the findings from a report provided by Hans Seidemann, the City's Community Development and Civic Innovation Manager, which for the most part recounted much of the work of the original report of earlier this year

We provided a look at that report and some background on the topic on Tuesday as part of our preview of the Council work load for this week.

The need to push back the sunset clause of the original zoning amendment comes as the provincial and federal governments still work to delivery their own policies on the legalization of marijuana, the decision to extend the current prohibition making for a sensible move while the City awaits some kind of indication as to what they will be dealing with once the two senior levels of government introduce legislation.

The existing prohibition towards the zoning will remain in effect until at least July 1st

The topic made for a short discussion at Tuesday's council session, which also saw the City Council member announce that a Public Hearing on the topic will be held on December 11th at City Council Chambers.

Councillor Thorkelson made note of the recent provincial engagement on the topic of the marijuana regulations and suggested that local residents may wish to offer up some guidance to the municipal government during the course of the December 11th Public Hearing.

You can review the discussion on the theme from the City's Video Archive starting at the one hour, six minute mark.

For more items related to Tuesday's City Council session, see our Council Timeline here.

Further background on City Council Discussion topics can be explored on our Council Discussion page.

Council motion puts Transition Prince Rupert's McKay Street Park plans in motion

Residents of the McKay/Kootenay area may soon see some activity on
the site of the proposed park space for their neighbourhood

Prince Rupert City Council received a short update on where the McKay Street Park planning is currently at on Tuesday night, as well as to provide their approval of a motion that will allow the organization Transition Prince Rupert to begin the process rejuvenation for much anticipated park site.

Ken Shaw, the President of Transition Prince Rupert took the Council members through some of the history of the much discussed McKay Street Park Project, recounting the range of meetings both internally within Transition Prince Rupert and with the community over the last few years.

The Transition Prince Rupert Society, which Mayor Lee Brain once served as a participant with and founding member of prior to his running for office, has long advocated for an ambitious park redevelopment with many elements to take shape on what has become an abandoned ball field at the corner of Kootenay and McKay on the southwest side of the city.

As part of his presentation, Mr. Shaw outlined how the group had so far only raised enough money to be put towards the playground element, the majority of which would appear to be making use of the $100,000 in funding money that they were awarded by BCAA, as part of their success in a province wide competition over the spring.

With that 100K, the group plans to develop two of the many elements to the project, a kids play area and a dog walk area, with Transition Prince Rupert hoping to see some work on those plans to commence in the very near future, as time becomes available for the contractor and the weather permits.

The remainder of the blue print for the McKay/Kootenay area will have to be developed at some future date, those plans include such features as a cultural centre,  covered basketball pavilion, public square, picnic grounds, covered skateboard park, expansion of the community gardens and a nature play area.

Towards getting those shovels in the ground for the initial stage, Mr. Shaw noted that the City and its union had held discussions on November 8th that will now allow for volunteer contractors to do work on the McKay Street Park which remains as city land.

Mr. Shaw also outlined how the group continues to seek out in-kind donations from the local community to move the other elements of the project forward.

Transition Prince Rupert also thanked the range of community groups and organizations that have participated in the both the early stages of the project and those currently in motion.

Those groups include:

Playground Construction

BCAA Play Here
Marcan Construction
Storey Excavating

Full Park Design Phase

Prince Rupert Port Authority
DP World
Rupert Wood N Steel
Redesign Rupert

Other Groups to lend support and guidance

Kaien Anti Poverty Society
Prince Rupert Ministerial Association
Transition Prince Rupert
Northern Health
Bahai Youth Employment Group
Salmonberry Trading
Success by Six
The City of Prince Rupert
City Repair and their design team (Portland Oregon)
Northern Savings Credit Union
Northwest Community College

As they prepared to give their approval for the work ahead, the Mayor confirmed the negotiations of this month with the union, noting that an agreement had been reached in relation to the nature of the work ahead at the McKay Street location.

"Just so that Council is aware, that our union did vote in favour to allow volunteers to come and do the clearing of the site, so that's been approved by the union"

Before they voted to provide their support for the Transition Prince Rupert work, the Mayor sought the counsel of City Manager Robert Long as to the wording of the resolution, with the City settling on the declaration of  "to authorize Transition Prince Rupert to use city property for these purposes stated" as they passed their resolution of support.

Council members had a few comments related to the project, as well as to ask some questions of Mr. Shaw, the majority of them related to the cost, design elements and timeline for the project.

However, the Council members that did speak to the project did not explore any themes related to what involvement or responsibility, including the need to address any maintenance costs for the site that the city might still have with the property which it will retain as City Property.

Nor did the Council members offer up much in the way of discussion or input as to what in effect is turning over city property to a local group for development.

Councillor Niesh did take some time from the discussion phase to pay tribute to the work of both Transition Prince Rupert and that of Mayor Brain in helping in the push to raise money through the BCAA competition.

You can review the full presentation to council from the City's Video Archive, with Mr. Shaw providing the background to the project starting at the 45 minute mark.

You can follow the progress of the project through the Transition Prince Rupert Facebook page More background on the organization can be reviewed through the groups website.

A look back at some of the history of the McKay Street initiative can be reviewed from our article of last week which previewed Tuesday's Council presentation.

More notes related to Tuesday's City Council session can be found from our City Council Timeline.

For more items related to Council discussion themes see our Council Discussion page.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review

City Council Timeline: Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Housing issues dominated the Tuesday  night session of Prince Rupert City Council, with the topic consuming close to forty five minutes of their one hour, ten minute session on the night.

With many of those currently living in the tent city just outside of the City Hall doors, along with a supportive group of community members in attendance, Council members heard a report from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, who touched on many themes as part of her review of how the province views the housing situation both in BC and on the North Coast.

And while she offered up a range of information for those in attendance to digest, it was her announcements on two themes that gained the most notice and applause on the night. With the MLA receiving cheers when she advised that 44 modular housing units would be coming to Prince Rupert by March of 2018 and that work was now underway to try and find a location for a winter shelter in the community for this winter season.

Beyond the housing discussion, Council also heard a report on the progress for the McKay Street Park project, as well as the September Variance reports from the Finance Department.

Along the way, Council also reviewed a recommendation from the Civic Innovation manager that called for an extension on the prohibition for zoning for marijuana operations, that while the City awaits further information on federal and provincial plans when it comes to pot regulations.

For some background on the items of note on the evening, the Agenda the Regular Council can be reviewed here.

Further information from our overview and placement in the video archive can be found below, with the permanent record of the minutes added as they are posted to the city website.

In attendance November 14, 2017

Mayor Lee Brain-- Present  
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present 
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney --  Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa--  Present 
Councillor Joy Thorkelson --  Present 

Video Archive for November 14, 2017

  ( 0:00 -- 1:30 ) Regular council Session -- The Mayor reviewed the list of minutes and agenda items to be noted by Council members, with Council then approving the Agenda while the past minutes of previous council meetings were adopted.

( 2:26 -- 45:00  ) Presentation to Council from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice and members of the North Coast Transition Society -- North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, along with representatives of the North Coast Transition Society provided an update on the current housing situation in the community, though Ms. Rice held off on the most important piece of news until the end of her forty minute or so presentation.

As she made progress towards her announcement on some assistance coming to the Prince Rupert area, the MLA first opened her presentation with a review of the first 119 days of the new NDP government, recounting for Council a list of the governments initiatives when it comes to housing, poverty reduction and social assistance.

Her commentary covered a range of material with some startling statistics to catch the attention of the City Council members, among them that the North Coast Regional District has the highest poverty rate of all Regional Districts in the province.

As well, she observed that Prince Rupert has the highest percentage of individuals on income assistance in BC, while the Regional district has 6.4% of the population on income assistance compared to the provincial average of 1.9%, Prince Rupert itself has 7.3% on income assistance compared to that 1.9 percent rate in B.C.  Ms. Rice also pointed out that those figures were from 2012  prior to the recent closure of the Canadian Fish Cannery and other economic changes in the region.

To highlight the nature of the situation in Prince Rupert, she further observed that the community with the second highest income assistance rate in BC, is listed at 4% which shows just how challenged Prince Rupert is on economic issues and the impact on residents here.

She also relayed some numbers on child poverty in the region noting that 32.5% of children in the North Coast Regional district live in poverty, with Prince Rupert registering 29.7% of the children living in poverty, or as she reviewed, one third of the children in the city live in poverty.

Prior to moving on to her information on housing, she took time to introduce her staff at the Prince Rupert constituency office, who she noted were available to the community should they need information on government programs and other local matters.

When it came to the major announcement on the night, Ms. Rice offered up some hope for the near future for ways to alleviate the current housing troubles in the community, sharing with Council and the public gallery the plan of the Province of British Columbia to bring 44 modular housing units to Prince Rupert, sometime before March of 2018.

Those units will be placed upon a still un-identified parcel, or parcels of land in the community owned by the City of Prince Rupert, while the North Coast Transition Society will provide for the supports required to establish the housing stock which will be a temporary location for those in need, until they can access more permanent housing within the community.

The MLA's announcement was one which elicited a strong and positive reaction from those sitting behind the MLA in the public gallery.

On the theme of emergency housing, Ms. Rice provided a short overview of the state of emergency shelter in the community, which is provided by the Salvation Army through twelve rooms at Raffles Inn.

According to Ms. Rice however, the occupancy of those rooms is at a low rate, and because of that Prince Rupert did not meet the guidelines in place to receive provincial emergency shelter funding at this time.

It was something she observed that was not the city's fault, nor is it the province's fault, adding that she hoped that the finger pointing and harsh criticism seen in the city in recent months would cease a bit, as collectively all were working on a solution.

Towards a solution for the emergency shelter need, the MLA offered up that  the low occupancy of the Raffles shelter does not accurately reflect the true number of homeless in the community and as a way to address that situation she outlined how her office, the City and community partners were now looking to access a winter shelter option, advising that there would be more details on that work in the days to come.

The Mayor elaborated a bit on both of the announcements, first speaking to the 44 modular housing units, something he stated the City had been working with the MLA on since they first heard about the program in  September.

When it comes to immediate need for a winter shelter, he reaffirmed the work that the City, MLA and community partners had embarked on, with the group having scouted out potential locations earlier that day.

He then issued a plea to the larger community to reach out to the North Coast Transition Society if they have a property that could be used for the winter shelter project and noted that as the Transition Society would be taking on a larger role for social services in the community, that the community should get behind their efforts and provide assistance towards the organization.

For their part, Grainne Barthe and Christine White from North Coast Transition provided a short overview of their involvement with the expanded program, but  as things had happened really fast to bring the two initiatives together they couldn't really go too far into the details of the service delivery plans at this time, as they had not fully worked out how the program will be delivered to the community.

Council Members offered up a range of opinions related to the announcement of the night and the current protest that had been set up outside the doors of City Hall in the fountain square.

Councillor Kinney asked about her notes on child poverty reduction and inquired further about what steps the Province might have in place to help reduce the impact of the numbers in place in the Prince Rupert area.  He also looked for some more background on the units that will be coming to the city in the New Year, inquiring about furnishings for them and what their place in the scope of the housing process.

Ms. Rice observed that the purpose of the 44 units was more towards temporary shelter and are not to be lived in forever, but are to be in place to tackle the chronic homelessness in the community.

Councillor Thorkelson led off her discussion themes by thanking both the Mayor and the MLA, among her questions what kind of a timeline and application process would be in place when the 44 modular items arrive, she also urged that all the groups in the community that have been working on housing issues in the past should be brought into the process ahead to lend assistance to the program.

On the need for a winter shelter Ms. Thorkelson recounted an incident earlier in the day at the Fisherman's Hall where EMS personnel had been summoned to attend to three individuals suffering from hypothermia behind the hall, noting how it is indicative of the need for an emergency shelter.

She reviewed a letter she had presented to Council in March of last year once again delivering her frequent call for emergency shelter operating 24 hours a day in the community and how she was pleased to see the forward momentum towards that goal at this point.

She outlined how if there isn't enough funding to move it forward quickly then the community needs to know soon so they can hit up organizations in town to provide funding for the shelter in the daytime hours.

Ms. Thorkelson observed that such corporate groups as the Port, or Ridley could be an avenue for those looking to fund the shelter to provide for proper assistance to operate it.

Councillor Cunningham also reminded the chamber that there are still issues related to affordable housing for those that have accommodation now, but face challenges with rent increases and renovictions in the community, he noted that the people in the gallery reflect the people that council and those interested in solving the housing issues need to listen to.

He noted the many past meetings that had been held on the issue, and how he was pleased that the MLA had been able to move the issue further and that the Transition House Society were taking on the task of delivering the program.

Councillor Niesh offered his thanks for the good news and how he looked forward to working with the North Coast Transition Society to make it all come together.

Councillor Mirau as well echoed his thanks for the work done to this point and thanked Ms. Rice for the work they have taken on in poverty reduction, he also had kind words for the work of the Transition House Society in the community.

Mr. Mirau noted that as local government the City doesn't have the resources available to deal with such a massive issue and how this kind of partnership and collaboration is crucial.

He asked for a bit of clarification on the nature of the 44 units and what purpose they would be serving towards the city's housing needs.

The Mayor followed with two takeaways for the night, the first being the immediate need to find a building for the emergency shelter for this winter, seeking the assistance of the public and local businesses to offer up their empty buildings for the program.

Mr. Brain also urged the community to get behind the work of the Transition House Society as they expand their efforts to deliver the wrap around programs associated with the housing initiative.

He suggested that those organizing the tent city should be canvassing and raising funds and providing them to the Transition Society, along with members of the community who he urged to support the group in their efforts.

As the Mayor looked to bring the discussion on the housing presentation to an end, a bit of controversy popped up, as Mr. Brain announced that Council would not be accepting any comments from the public gallery on the  night.

That proved to be a decision which did anger some of those in the gallery who made their disappointment quite clear to the Council members, such was the nature of the situation that the City Manager came over to the Mayor's chair and suggested that he should call a short recess to the session, advice which Mr. Brain acted upon.

( 45:00There is a brief gap in the video presentation at the time that the Mayor called the short recess . As a result, the video replay stops shortly after all of the assorted thank you's and then restarts as the next presentation to Council began to take place. That missing gap would have included the exchange between the Mayor and those in the gallery related to the lack of an opportunity to speak at the Council session.

45:00 -- 1:02:30  ) Presentation to Council from Ken Shaw from Transition Prince Rupert, An Update on Plans for the McKay Street Park --

Mr. Shaw provided a fairly extensive review of the timeline of the genesis of the McKay Street proposal over the years. He made note of the past Transition Prince Rupert meetings, the placemaking event featuring urban planning representatives from Portland, Oregon,  as well the various community engagement opportunities and design sessions that the group have held on the theme over the last several years.

Towards some progress on the development of the Park project, the Transition Prince Rupert President recounted how the community had pulled together to help to win the BCAA funding program and how they are now ready to begin to put the 100,000 dollars in funding to work on the site.

That $100,000 will be put to use on development of one segment of the wide reaching plan that Transition Prince Rupert has presented as their vision for the urban space on the west side of the city.

Mr. Shaw observed as to how the City had recently reached an agreement with the civic union to allow for volunteer contractors to commence with some land clearing on the site, that approval apparently one of the elements that had held back any work taking place on the site to this point.

He also noted that the group had been seeking out some in kind donations from the community to move the project forward.

An additional element of the presentation was to seek by resolution the approval of support from the City Council for Transition Prince Rupert to begin its work on the site which remains City property.

Mr. Shaw wrapped up his commentary with a review of those groups which had provided their support through the process, calling particular attention to the way the community residents had rallied to the cause.

Council members offered up a few thoughts on the project, with Councillor Randhawa opening the discussion by asking what the total cost of the project would be and when we could expect the project to be completed.

The cost of the playground element was estimated to be at 100,000 dollars, with hopes that with Council's resolution the work could begin as soon as possible.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up some thoughts on the design of the proposed park and inquired as to the placement of area of play for the little kids and whether it was considered a safe location for them to play in.

Councillor Cunningham also provided a few suggestions towards the design, wondering if some of the other portions could be introduced in the first phase, he was advised that as they only had enough money at the moment for the playground area, the other elements would have to be added as more funds became available.

Councillor Niesh thanked the organization for their work, and also offered his congratulations to the Mayor for his work on bringing success to the community vote process.

The Mayor then, provided further background on the nature of the city union vote on the project and then after consulting with the City Manager, revised the motion of resolution that would be voted on by Council.

The new wording was changed to reflect that "the City authorized Transition Prince Rupert to use City property for the purposes as stated" from that Council members voted to approve the motion.

After some mutual expression of thanks between the Mayor and Mr. Shaw, Council then moved on to their next item on the agenda.

1:020:30 -- 1:03:30   ) Report from the Community Planner, related to a request for a variance permit for a property on on Hays Cove Circle -- Some background related to the request was delivered by the Community Planner, with no questions from Council members the motion was approved with the process now to move to public notification.

(1:03:30 -- 1:04:30  ) Report from the City's Financial Officer  --  Ms. Corinne Bomben provided the September 2017 Financial variance report, noting that the operating and utility revenues and expenses are on track for this time of year and are on budget, the capital projects are ongoing and estimates are that projects remain on target.

Council received the report for information purposes

1:04:30 -- 1:06:0 ) Correspondence For Action -- Council reviewed the details of the Mayor's letter to be forwarded to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson related to the city's housing issues. The Mayor explained the the letter in question had actually been started in draft form back in October when Councillor Cunningham and he had met with MLA Rice, to discuss the prospect of accessing the modular housing units from the province. 

In light of the announcement of the evening, the Mayor recommended that the letter now be turned into a thank you letter to the Minister to thank the Provincial government for the forty four units and to reinforce that they are looking forward to partnering with them. Adding as an aside, that the Province had gotten to the situation before the Council could even send their correspondence out, which he called great news.

Councillor Mirau suggested a friendly amendment to the letter to reflect the  need for an emergency shelter in the community.  The Mayor noted that as Ms. Rice already has a copy of the original version of the letter, that they should move forward with the thank you letter  as a formality and then to send a second letter to reflect the need for an emergency shelter.

Council moved to forward with those two correspondence.

(1:06:00 -- 1:08:30  ) Report from the City's Community Development and Civic Innovation Manager, Re: Interim Zoning Amendment to temporary establish commercial marijuana operations prohibition in all zones --

The Mayor noted that he wasn't sure that there a need for any further presentation and reviewed the themes of the written report, observing that it in effect extends the delay of the zoning requirements until 2018 when legalization framework is available from senior levels of government expected by July 1st.

Council voted to give two readings to the motion and to hold a Public Hearing on December 11th.

Councillor Thorkelson observed that the provincial government had been collecting feedback and in put when it comes to their policies related to legalization and suggested that if the timeline has not passed, that people let Council know what they think the provincial government should include in their legislation.

The Mayor noted that the deadline had passed for comments from the provincial process, however he did accept the idea of collecting more information for the City's position on the issue.

( 1:08:30 -- 1:09:00 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Randhawa offered up some thoughts on the housing situation and asked if there was a timeline in place for providing for the emergency shelter as some people had been asking him when they would be able to access the park at City Hall again.

The Mayor advised that they would like to work towards the shelter as soon as possible, adding that they had been looking at a building that day, but he couldn't provide for a timeline at this time as to when such a facility would be available for those that are homeless, including those in the Tent City at City Hall.

That was the only comment for the final portion of the evening, with Council then voting to adjourn the meeting.

You can access the City Council Review for November 14th herewhere a number of items regarding the council session, including links to local media coverage, if any, can be found.

As always, our Council Timeline is only a reflection of our observations from the Council session of the night. Be sure to consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to their website for further review.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from November 14th, 2017 (not available yet)

In addition to the city's official minutes, the City's Video archive provides a helpful record of the events from each public council session.

Council members will hold their next public session on November 27th.

Cross posted from the North Coast Review