Kitimat lifts “precautionary boil water advisory”

kitimatlogoThe District of Kitimat Friday afternoon lifted the boil water advisory declared during a heavy rain storm late last Saturday. The District says system flushing may result in some discoloured water, but it is safe to drink and the water should run clear quickly.

On its website the District said:

The precautionary boil water advisory issued on Sunday, October 11 has been lifted.

This advisory was issued by the District of Kitimat, with advice from Northern Health, after the extremely high flood levels in the Kitimat River caused an increase in turbidity in the municipal water supply. It has now been lifted after two consecutive sets of samples confirmed there was no total coliform or E.coli contamination in the potable water.

Chlorination was increased and maintained over the boil water advisory period and municipal crews flushed the water system to speed up removal of the turbid (cloudy) water. The flushing itself could result in some discoloration of the water but it is safe to drink without boiling. If your water is discoloured, let your cold water run until it clears.

The District of Kitimat apologizes for any concern or inconvenience this precautionary measure may have caused.

 

 

 

Kitimat boil water advisory could last until the end of the week, District says it depends on river levels, rain

kitimatlogoThe District of Kitimat in an update on the boil water advisory says it could last until the end of the week. There is no immediate problem because the water is still being treated.

Kitimat Chief Administrative Officer Warren Waycheshen says the turbidity from the high water means that it is not possible to do a full sample on the safety of the water.   There are no delays due to the holiday weekend, the labs are open and ready, Waycheshen told Northwest Coast Energy News.

There  are no immediate dangers to Kitimat from the high water,  he said.

The District says:

October 11, 2015
The boil water advisory issued by the District of Kitimat will remain in place at this time. Until further notice, continue to boil water for 2 solid minutes before using it for cooking or drinking.

The District of Kitimat, with advice from Northern Health, will not consider terminating the advisory until two samples conclude there is not a health risk. Sampling is not expected to be complete until at least the end of the week of October 12, 2015 and could be longer if the rain continues.

The District is treating the water as usual. There is nothing to suggest contamination is occurring; however, as a precautionary measure please continue to boil water prior to use.

Turbidity in this case means high levels of particulate matter in the river, including sand and possibly salts.  Waycheshen said the Kitimat River rose four metres on Saturday, then dropped by about two metres overnight but with the later Sunday afternoon rain the river is rising once again.

The Environment Canada forecast issued at 4 pm Sunday, calls for rain for the next week.

Wind Warning continues

The Environment Canada wind warning for the north coast was continued this morning but there are currently no alerts in effect for Kitimat.

Wind warning in effect for:

North Coast – coastal sections
The third and final disturbance in this series of storms is moving onto the northern BC Coast. The front will cross the central coast tonight. Southeast winds up to 110 km/h will develop over Haida Gwaii near noon then spread to the North Coast – Coastal Sections and Central Coast – Coastal Sections this afternoon. Winds will shift to southwest with the passage of the front then diminish this evening.

Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur. High winds may toss loose objects or cause tree branches to break.

Wind warnings are issued when there is a significant risk of damaging winds.

Radley Park

Waycheshen says there probably has been some flood damage to Radley Park, but at this point  District staff are unable to get into the area to assess the damage.

Analysis: The earthquake in Kitimat’s labour relations. It’s time for cooler and expert heads.

 

Tuesday night’s District of Kitimat Council meeting, crowded with striking members of Unifor 2300 deteriorated to what became a shouting match between the bargaining committee and Mayor Phil Germuth.

If the hostility and anger continue, it is quite likely the strike will last for months. The fallout will last much longer. It is often said that the bitterness following a strike is directly proportional to its length and the repercussions can last for a decade or more.

That is not good for the future of Kitimat.

There’s talk of mediation, and that’s a good idea, but mediation only works when both sides are willing to sit down and actually listen and talk through the issues. So mediation doesn’t appear to be practical, at least for a few weeks, until both sides are feeling a lot more pain, which is unfortunate.

The Unifor 2300 bargaining team makes it case before District of Kitimat Council, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
The Unifor 2300 bargaining team makes it case before District of Kitimat Council, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Even if mediation isn’t possible at the moment, it’s time for both sides to stop and bring in some outside experts, experts with cool heads and no personal axes to grind,  to guide each side in the negotiations.

Do they know what they’re doing? Unifor 2300, apparently not as stunt, but to get their point across, attempted a clause by clause negotiation of certain points at public meeting of council, in front of a partisan crowd. Negotiating in public seldom works, especially if the other side isn’t really listening.

Do they know what they’re doing?  It appears that mayor and council didn’t bother to actually take a copy of the union offer and read it, at least so they would  know what the District bargaining committee was doing. “Did anybody on council actually look at the whole document? No. We didn’t ask for it, we asked, give us an update,” Mayor Phil Germuth said.  (Having been through the 2005 CBC lockout, I know that most union members do look carefully at the proposed changes in a contract, especially if there is trouble on the horizon. Management usually does the same. In this case, council is the responsible body and should have taken the time to actually read the proposals.)

There is  too much confusion and contradictory statements from mayor, staff and council over the timeline of when they saw the offer from Unifor, even it was just a summary.

Mayor Phil Germuth listens to Unifor members at the council meeting (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
Mayor Phil Germuth listens to Unifor members at the council meeting (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

The trouble with a small town like Kitimat is that this has already become too personal, and both sides are losing perspective. That’s why cooler, outside heads are needed.

 


UPDATE:  Deescalation not Escalation  

A few moments after this analysis was initially posted, Mayor Phil Germuth issued a open letter, threatening to withdraw the District’s offer:

If the Final Offer is not accepted by the Union by Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 4 p.m. the offer will be withdrawn. The District will then retain the services of an external negotiator who will have the mandate to conclude a Collective Agreement. That negotiator can make decisions on the best way to achieve this goal, including mediation or arbitration.

When this piece was written, our idea of bringing in outside experts was to deescalate the volatile situation, not escalating and making it worse. If the District of Kitimat brings in a hard ball “outside negotiator” that will be a long term disaster for the region, even if a settlement is reached (or forced), because as we say above the long term bitterness could last for a decade or more.   When we said an outside negotiator respected by both management and labour, we meant just that, an expert in industrial relations that can deescalate the anger. One has to wonder just who is advising mayor and council on this issue?

In this analysis calling for Unifor 2300 to also bring in outside experts,  we were hoping for  deescalation, in a small town where the dispute has become very personal.  If the District brings in that outside negotiator, Unifor 2300 will have to call headquarters and bring in the “big guns” and call for national support (which has happened in other labour disputes).

Unless there is immediate deescalation, the situation can only get worse.


Get on the phone

That means Unifor 2300 business agent Martin McIlwrath, Unifor Local 2301 President Rick Belmont who does have some experience, and the rest of the bargaining team should get on the phone to Unifor headquarters today and ask that an experienced negotiations facilitator and an experienced researcher get on a plane for Kitimat immediately and stay here for the duration. (McIlwrath has told reporters he has consulted with other labour leaders by phone. That’s not good enough. This situation needs experts here, on the ground).

For Unifor 2300 members, part of your dues goes to union headquarters, so that’s what you’re paying for. A “One Big Union,” which is what Unifor is, has bench strength for situations like this.

For Mayor Phil Germuth and CAO Ron Poole, that means immediately hiring an experienced industrial relations consultant, one who is respected by both management and labour, who can also tell the obviously dysfunctional negotiating team what works and what doesn’t.

A union researcher and the staff of the labour relations consultant could soon find out what (from their perspective) what is economically feasible given the uncertainty of Kitimat’s future.

The Immediate Problem: No picket line protocol

 

CBC managers and non-union staff spend their time waiting in line to enter the Toronto Broadcast Centre, August 28. 2005. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
CBC managers and non-union staff spend their time waiting in line to enter the Toronto Broadcast Centre, during the lockout,  August 28. 2005. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

It was very clear at the council meeting on March 2, when there was a loud picket line at the meeting and now with the secondary picketing of the museum and the public library, that Unifor 2300 has failed to establish a proper picket line protocol.

Old time union activists may not like it, but the idea of “never crossing a picket line” is becoming obsolete in the 21st century, especially in situations where there is no longer one single plant gate. These days what usually happens where striking or locked out workers may be picketing office buildings where there are other businesses or where members of other bargaining units may still be working is to establish a picket line protocol.

The accepted procedure these days is to establish a waiting time before entering a location. Often this is even agreed between management and the union (where they are still on speaking terms) before a strike or lockout begins.

In 1999, the CBC management locked out the then technicians’ union, NABET/CEP. The Canadian Media Guild had settled and was bound by the no strike/lockout clause in the collective agreement. That meant everyone else; CMG, non-union staff and management crossed the NABET/CEP picket lines. The protocol was that everyone waited ten minutes before entering the buildings. At shift change the lines could be quite long and sometimes the wait was as long as a half hour (in Toronto, in January, in the snow).

By the time of the 2005 lockout, NABET at CBC had merged with the Canadian Media Guild and everyone was out. Protocols were put in place, management and non-union staff lined up for ten minutes before entering the building.

Similar protocols are put in place elsewhere. There have even been cases where truckers entering a multi-company facility wait for ten or fifteen minutes before being waved through.  In some of the recent university disputes, students and non-striking staff have had to wait in line before entering campuses.

The other problem is the secondary picketing of the museum and library. Neither are parties to the core dispute, although they do receive funding from the District. Museum staff are non-union and library staff are members of CUPE. So the employees at both locations are not part of the dispute.

The other problem is that with the library there is collateral damage for the users, especially for students who may want to complete assignments as the school year comes to an end. Students have already been hurt by the teachers’ disputes and this is another burden on their education. Did the Unifor 2300 leadership think about that?

In addition, secondary pickets are usually information or leafleting pickets. If Unifor wants to continue to picket the library and museum, it should be clear that line is for information only. If Unifor continues to insist on picketing the two institutions, (which is unfair to those involved) there should be a wait time protocol. Unifor should call CUPE and agree on one. The museum non-union staff should follow whatever CUPE and Unifor agree to.

If, in the future, Unifor wants to picket council meetings, which is a democratic and elected body, even if it is party to the dispute, and should be free and open to the public, then a proper waiting time protocol should be either negotiated or, if the union moves unilaterally, they must make it clear what the protocol is.

Members of Unifor 2300 march to the District of Kitimat Council Chambers on April 7, 2015. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
Members of Unifor 2300 march to the District of Kitimat Council Chambers on April 7, 2015. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Issues

The labour relations earthquake

As we found out this week, with the study of the Haida Gwaii earthquake, a tremor happens when locked in strain is suddenly released. So the Kitimat labour relations earthquake was caused when grievances going back 30 years landed on the table this year.

Why were the grievances, the strain, allowed to build up for three decades? There is obviously blame on both sides. At Tuesday night’s meeting, there were shouts of bring back Joanne Monaghan. Really? Monaghan was a member of council or mayor for most of those 30 years when the problem was building.

Why put all the blame on the current council, which only took office in December? Two members of Council, Larry Walker and Claire Rattée are brand new. Phil Germuth was on council for one term and only became mayor a few months ago. Other council members have been there a lot longer.

Both CAO Ron Poole and Deputy Warren Waycheshen are fairly new as well, but they should have been aware of the problems. As far back as early fall, the District’s senior staff told me they were expecting fairly smooth negotiations. My Unifor sources now tell me, at the same time, the union was conducting extensive research on other collective agreements to look for language to improve the poor work environment at the District of Kitimat.

The responsibility here lies with the line managers of the District. What did they know and when did they know it? Did they tell Poole, Waycheshen, mayor and council that there were problems escalating?  If the line managers knew and didn’t tell, they should be fired. If they didn’t know, then their management of their departments is incompetent, or if they were ignoring the problems, as my union sources allege, then they are part of the problem. If everyone knew and did nothing about it, then that raises questions about management incompetence across the board.  Again heads should roll. (And staff managers shouldn’t make snide comments in a public meeting about speakers before council, especially if those managers sit beside the media table. It shows they’re unprofessional and bolsters the union’s case).

Unifor 2300 business agent Martin McIirath makes his case to District of Kitimat Council, April 7,2015. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
Unifor 2300 business agent Martin McIlwrath makes his case to District of Kitimat Council, April 7,2015. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

There is also blame on the union. Labour relations were not an issue during the municipal election. If the problems have been building for 30 years, why wasn’t it an issue?

Members of Unifor 2300 can’t shout “Why did I vote for you?”  If what the union calls  “a poisoned work environment” has existed for years, why did it never come up during the election or the debates? In any situation where a labour dispute is building, the rumblings inside the shop and outside are obvious months in advance. If the line managers and senior managers were either ignoring the problems or were part of the problem, then it was the responsibility of Unifor 2300 to make it an issue in the election.

Salaries and management

Given the current situation in Kitimat, the current high salaries for senior staff are somewhat justified. Kitimat is not just a small town, it is a small town working with at least four major industrial projects, the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization Project, Shell-led LNG Canada, Chevron-led Kitimat LNG and the Altagas floating LNG project. This involves negotiations and meetings with both government and corporate officials with even much higher pay grades. There is also the ongoing issue of trying to mend the long history of poor relations with the Haisla Nation.

The workload for senior staff has been increased exponentially in the past four or five years. I am told by sources that burnout is becoming a factor and that staff, both management and union, involved in industrial development, infrastructure and related issues are taking lots of time in lieu, since most don’t get overtime. Some members of the professional staff are members of the Unifor 2300 bargaining unit.  That means workload and burnout for those professional members should also be an issue, one that hasn’t, so far, been raised in union media releases.

District Chief Administrative Officer  Ron Poole at Monday's council meeting (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
District Chief Administrative Officer Ron Poole at Monday’s council meeting (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Here again we see a lack of leadership, both with current management and with the current and previous councils. Any competent manager would have understood that the high salaries for senior staff, however justifiable those salaries may be, would bring questions from the union rank and file and would be a factor in current contract negotiations. (If none of the LNG projects actually proceed, then the salaries for managers and professionals will have to be reassessed).

At Monday’s meeting, Phil Germuth said the District had decided to hire a health and safety manager? Why now? Why not years ago? This is a town that lives and breathes on health and safety briefings. Every time, as a member of the media, I visit the RTA Smelter, the Bish Cove site or any other construction or industrial site, I get a health and safety briefing. If you go fishing, whether it’s on a charter or with a friend, there is safety briefing before leaving the dock. This seems to prove the union’s contention that health and safety was a low priority with the District.

If the District is going to hire a health and safety manager, why not also hire a Human Resources Manager? The current HR staff at the District are “overworked payroll clerks” (to quote a union source). A qualified HR manager would take that burden off the administrative officers, be aware of proper industrial relations procedures and negotiations practices and be the manager who would implement and enforce anti-harassment procedures.

Summer students

The one group caught in the middle of all this are the summer students. Summer students are hired by many organizations to fill in for vacationing staff and to work on special projects. Summer students should not, as the union is claiming, be used to ensure that casual staff do not get enough hours to qualify for seniority. Reducing the number of summer students, however, is going to have a long term negative effect on the community. Jobs for young people are far too scarce, student loans are becoming such a burden that Millennials who have graduated and those who actually have jobs, can’t afford to buy houses. A lack of summer jobs in Kitimat would be an incentive for young people to leave town or if they are away at college or university, to stay away. Unifor is also not doing the future of the union movement any good by alienating a new generation of potential union members. The summer student program should be restored as much as possible.

Senior and youth health

In a larger community, youth counselling and medically necessary therapeutic pool or gym exercise for seniors and those with disabilities could move to other venues. In Kitimat that is not an option since there are no other locations, so an interim agreement to resume those activities should be high on the agenda—if both sides actually resume talking.

The future of Kitimat’s economy

Today Royal Dutch Shell, the main company behind the LNG Canada project, took over BG Group which had proposed an LNG project at Prince Rupert. The price of oil is bobbing around the $50 a barrel mark. That means David Black’s refinery project, which depended on high oil prices is “vital signs absent.” The long term prospects for the LNG market are good given the increased demand in Asia. The short term prospects are poor, given that the energy sector’s income from oil has dropped and that means those companies have less money to spend on new projects.

The council is being prudent in refusing to lock itself in to long term expenditures based on projects that may never materialize. At the same time, the cost of living in Kitimat, up until recently a mini-Fort McMurray, has skyrocketed. That means the union request for a salary increase should not have been unexpected. It also means that a large number of Kitimat residents, who are paying more for goods and services, many of whom do not have the higher paying project jobs, cannot really afford an increase in property taxes. A compromise on this is essential.

That’s why outside experts, with cool heads, research staff and no personal stake in 30 odd years of hostility, should be brought in to bring both sides to an agreement as soon as possible.

On the CBC picket line at the Toronto Broadcast Centre, August 28, 2005,  As the union photographer I was on  the line but with my camera not a sign. I did wear union buttons.
On the CBC picket line at the Toronto Broadcast Centre, August 28, 2005, As the union photographer I was on the line but with my camera not a sign. I did wear union buttons.

Disclosure: I am the current chair of the Board of Directors of the Kitimat Museum and Archives. My term expires at the end of May. I am a retiree member of the Canadian Media Guild/Communications Workers of America from my time at CBC. When I freelance, depending on whether or not the specific job is covered in a collective agreement (some are, some are not) I work under CMG jurisdiction for CBC and the wire services and under Unifor jurisdiction for Global TV and certain newspapers.  In 2005, CBC management locked out employees from  August 15  to October 10. During the period of the lockout, my assigned “picket” duty was as one of the CMG’s official photographers.

 

CORRECTION: This post has been corrected.  The events took place on Tuesday, not Monday.

 

Phil Germuth takes over as Kitimat mayor, new council sworn in

Kitimat’s new mayor, Phil Germuth (left) sworn in by Chief Administrative Officer Ron Poole (far right) as RCMP Sgt. Graham Morgan and Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison watch. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
Kitimat’s new mayor, Phil Germuth (left) sworn in by Chief Administrative Officer Ron Poole (far right) as RCMP Sgt. Graham Morgan and Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison watch. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

The District of Kitimat’s new council was sworn in a special ceremony at the Council Chambers at Northwest  Community College, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

View the complete photo gallery.

 

Kitimat: Do you know the way to Santa Fe? Time for some vision in development

St. Miquel Santa Fe
The San Miquel Mission in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was built between 1610 and 1619. Santa Fe  mandates that building in the city continues to reflect its historic heritage. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Updated with additional links

“Is there  a longterm vision for Kitimat?” Spencer Edwards,  one of the public delegates, asked District of Kitimat Council Monday night, August 18, as there was yet another public hearing on the highly controversial development on Kingfisher Avenue.

If there is a vision for the future of development in Kitimat, it appears, to say the least, that both Council and the overworked Community Planning and Development division are struggling to find something. It is more likely that with the sudden increase in development, that both Council and staff just don’t have time to “do the vision thing.”

Clarence Stein Kitimat
Clarence Stein’s Kitimat Townsite report

The growing objections to the Kingfisher development of either 40 or 53 townhouses and a second development Riverbrook Estates, that would be beside the Dyke Road  off Kuldo near to the Riverlodge Tennis Courts, a mix of single family homes, townhouses and apartments, shows the vision gap.

Public delegations are demanding just that— a vision.

Download Clarence Stein’s Kitimat Townsite Report from the DoK website (large PDF  file)

At council meetings over the past weeks, a number of delegates have referred to Clarence Stein’s original vision for Kitimat from the 1950s. A note to Council from the residents of Marquette Street presented in opposition to the Kingfisher development says:

This is not what the famous American Architect, Urban Planner and Founder of the Garden Cities movement, Clarence Stein had envisioned a modern town with a population of 50,000 resident when he designed Kitimat over 60 years ago. He would be turning inside his grave.

Stein asked the same question. In his plan for Kitimat (page 45) he said future councils, staff and developers must ask: “What do the people themselves want?”

It’s fairly obvious by now that what the people of Kitimat want is more housing—there is, after all, a housing shortage at the moment. It also crystal clear that the residents of Kitimat do not want cookie cutter town houses and apartments built, as the Marquette note says “as is happening in Surrey, Port Coquitlam and so many other places in the Lower Mainland.”

Spencer Edwards
Spencer Edwards asked District of Kitimat Council on Monday, “Is there a strategic long term plan, long term vision for the development of Kitimat. Does it simply involve industry or a diverse range that’s in place, and if that plan is in place, is it possible to view it at some point.”
(Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

“Kitimat is full of hicks”

While developers (just like energy companies) come before Council and make presentations of their vision, with assurances of respect for this community, there is a dark side.

When the developer delegations left the Council Chambers Monday after their presentations, some of them were overheard by witnesses in the parking lot disparaging what had just gone on inside from both council members and citizen delegations, saying that “Kitimat is unsophisticated”….”doesn’t understand how things were done in the big city” and… “Can’t make up their minds.”

As one of my sources who overhead the conversation remarked, “They must think Kitimat is full of hicks.”

While it is uncertain which of the developer and real estate delegations made the remarks in the dark, it is clear if that is the real attitude toward development in Kitimat, then vision, not “let’s get on with it” must be the priority.

There must be strong development regulations to ensure that anyone building in the District must be held strictly to account to keep those assurances (and not be allowed to say market conditions have changed to get out of any commitments). More than that what Kitimat needs and needs now is an updated version of Stein’s vision, not the “motherhood” statements found in the current Official Community Plan.

So Kitimat, do you know the way to Santa Fe? (We’ll get there in bit).

Community Plan

Council and staff keep referring to the Official Community Plan (OCP) which some delegates complained was hard to find on the District website. (You can download it from the District website at http://www.kitimat.ca/assets/Business/PDFs/official-community-plan-2008.pdf )

Unfortunately the OCP is more of a motherhood document than a plan for the future of Kitimat. It’s also obsolete: a 2007-2008 rewrite of the original 1987 plan, updated with a few paragraphs in 2013 (as required by law, it is reconsidered every five years) There’s an already obsolete table predicting continuing decline of Kitimat’s population over the next quarter century (although a nearby graph does include possible population increases as well as declines).

On the future of Kitimat, the opening paragraphs read circa 2008

Kitimat’s population, after peaking in the mid-80s, has been in a general decline to fewer people than in 1956, primarily because of external factors beyond the control of the local municipality. Kitimat, like many other rural communities across Canada, is being affected by world markets and resultant demographic shifts as economic power and population is concentrated in major metropolitan centres. It is hoped that population will grow again and there are potential projects that would support this. New industry may locate here or existing businesses may expand based on the deep sea port, relatively low-priced land, and the proximity to natural resources. Kitimat’s future remains uncertain.

Even with the few updates in 2013, it seems no one expected the current building boom. That means the OCP can’t handle the boom, whether or not it continues or fades away.

The problem facing those who want development in Kitimat is that much of provincial law is pretty clear, a developer looks at the OCP, which has little specifics, then the zoning and then, if everything is in order, apply for a development permit, gets it and the goes ahead.

At Monday’s meeting,  Edwards asked, “Is there any indication of what quality of development is being put in place?”

Deputy Administrative Officer, Warren Waycheshen, replied that the zoning plan for the Kingfisher development “allows what the setbacks are going to be, height, distances, it doesn’t set the building quality. That will come through the development permit stage.”

There have been the same arguments over and over in Kitimat in the past year, where a new developer or a developer doing renovations, often from out of town, were able to go ahead and do what they wanted, with little regard for the residents of Kitimat, its history and the vision of Clarence Stein.

This brings me to Santa Fe, how Kitimat can maintain Stein’s vision and how Kitimat can use the development permit process to ensure that happens. That means an urgent program of updating and strengthening the development permit system to reflect Stein’s vision across the district.

Santa Fe

Stanta Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico, was a crossroads of the Old West, home of the Pueblo First Nation which for centuries before the coming of Europeans built pueblos out of adobe. Adobe  (not the software) is an old Arabic word meaning “mud brick” adopted into Spanish during the time of the Moors, brought to the New World and used by the Spanish in New Mexico, and taken up by the Americans who came via the Santa Fe Trail and then the railhead for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

In 1912, New Mexico became the 47th US State; Santa Fe became the capital.

At the same time, the Santa Fe local government adopted the 1912 equivalent of a BC Official Community Plan,

Here from Wikipedia is a short explanation: 

In 1912, when the town had only 5,000 people, the city’s civic leaders designed and enacted a sophisticated city plan that incorporated elements of the City Beautiful movement, the city planning movement, and the German historic preservation movement. It anticipated limited future growth, considered the scarcity of water, and recognized the future prospects of suburban development on the outskirts. The planners foresaw conflicts between preservationists and scientific planners. They set forth the principle that historic streets and structures be preserved and that new development must be harmonious with the city’s character.

As CBS News Sunday Morning reported earlier this year: 

The end of the fabled trail of pioneer days, Santa Fe is today the oldest state capital city in our nation. And if its earth-tone structures hark back to the Pueblo originals, well, that’s by design….. Almost a century ago, city fathers mandated use of the style all over town, predicting — accurately, as it turned out — that it would be good for the tourist trade. Today, even fast food outlets and big box stores are clad in Santa Fe style.

That CBS report was right on. I visited Santa Fe a few years ago, and noted how much of the town, especially the famous art galleries reflected that adobe style. The big box stores and the fast food joints are the same—and who cares about corporate building branding; the familiar signs were all that was needed.

What struck me was a mall I saw on the outskirts of town while driving to the airport. It was a mall, in many ways no different from the boring cookie cutter malls you see in Surrey, Coquitlam or Nanaimo—with one exception. It was built in the Santa Fe Adobe Style and looked a whole lot better than the uniform malls you see from almost every highway in North America.

Editor’s Note: CBS News Sunday Morning is scheduled to repeat its special report on Santa Fe By Design, this Sunday,  August 24.   Due to sports programming Sunday Morning is usually pre-empted in the Pacific Time Zone. If you have cable or satellite and access to a CBS east coast station, watch or set your PVR from 0900 to 1030 ET (0600 to 0730  PT)

That is what “new development must be harmonious with the city’s character” means and that’s what Kitimat should do. Make sure all future development is truly harmonious with Kitimat’s character.

santafeadobe2Not that there aren’t the usual tensions and disputes over what harmonious means. As the Wall Street Journal reported last year, there is now some resistance to the old style among residents, including those outside the municipality’s jurisdiction or away from the historic districts where the rules are the strictest.

As the Journal reports:

a new wave of contemporary homes is springing up around the city’s less regulated outer edges, transforming the once uniform landscape and pushing southwestern design in new directions. Glints of glass and steel are now dotting the city’s earth-toned desert surroundings

Some home owners want to be completely contemporary and get away from the adobe style. On the other hand, as the Journal reported, some architects are working on innovative designs that blend the adobe style with the ultra modern:

Some local architects aim to meld traditional and contemporary architecture in their designs. While traditional materials of adobe homes—stucco and plaster walls, for example—are still used in many contemporary homes, the lines on modern designs are crisp and clean instead of rounded. Many of the contemporary homes around Santa Fe are characterized by large expanses of glass, clerestory windows and skylights—sometimes in unexpected places, such as in laundry rooms and showers—and muted stucco exteriors accented with steel that blend into the landscape.

A vision for development permits

Note that these new buildings “blend into the landscape,” something that Clarence Stein emphasized for Kitimat.

Although Kitimat Community Planning and Development says on their website that Stein’s Townsite Report is a “must read,” it is doubtful that any of the developers have actually read it.

Note also that the Garden City concept that was the foundation of Kitimat was itself, in part, based on the now century-old City Beautiful movement that gave Santa Fe its character.

So there is a connection between the design of that desert city and this small town in the rainforest of the Northwest.

After Monday’s Council meeting, I asked Warren Waycheshen if there were any “heritage” or “look and feel” policies in British Columbia. Waycheshen told me that while it is difficult to mandate “harmonious character” and “blending into the landscape” at the zoning level, it can and has been done at the development permit stage in a few BC communities.

The closest example is Smithers which mandates downtown businesses be consistent with the town’s European alpine style. As well, both Whistler and Gibson’s have stringent development permit guidelines that do maintain the nature of both towns.

(And for those developers who think that wanting harmonious development is “unsophisticated,” well they can look at Santa Fe and Whistler)

Up until now in Kitimat, some in politics, some in the real estate and development communities have had an Oliver Twist approach, saying to every developer “Please, sir can we have some more?”

So far none of the designs presented before Council for any development have shown any innovation or imagination. None of them have any harmony with Kitimat’s character

. Even with the need for housing, there is time to slow things down and reconsider whether taking “off the shelf” projects originally designed for the land crowded Lower Mainland are right for Kitimat.

That’s because none of the Liquified Natural Gas projects are anywhere close to the Final Investment Decision Stage.

Many of the delegations to Council have warned about overbuilding and the possibility that slap dash, cookie cutter development could quickly deteriorate into slums if the boom doesn’t happen. There is some limited time to consider all the issues. Most residents who live around the Kingfisher development would prefer buildings with a higher quality that could be sold on the basis of its proximity to the golf course. There are fears that many developments, based on the Lower Mainland “build higher” philosophy would be inappropriate for seniors.

There is one consideration—that is the size of buildings. Both District Staff and developers cite changing demographics (average household size dropping from 3.2 to 2.4 persons) and the fact the large single family homes, such as the “berry” development by Oviatt Construction are too costly for young families who would prefer and could afford townhouses.

Dreary weather in Kitimat
Do Kitimat planners consider the sometimes gloomy weather as Clarence Stein proposed. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Harmonious townhouses

We have to ask what kind of townhouses? The original Stein report, in a chapter written by planning subcontractors Mayer and Whittlesey noted on page 220,

Larger-than-normal houses, for people will stay much indoors; covered terraces and breezeways where children can play. A large number of houses should have a cellar or attic space for workbench and game table. Provision of wood burning fireplaces should have special consideration, as a focus of interest and cheer in a rainy climate.

So smaller houses for affordability or larger houses so people can get through the fall and winter without getting cabin fever? Just how much Seasonal Affective Disorder happens in Kitimat? And beside the weather, people are staying indoors a lot of these days watching satellite TV, playing video games and on the Internet. All factors the developers aren’t considering.

Have Kitimat’s planners and builders ever considered how home design might help alleviate SAD?

Let’s throw out the boxes and have the architects go back to the drawing board or AutoCAD and design a townhouse that is right for Kitimat.

There are a lot of worries about snow clearing and parking in the narrow streets of the proposed developments. While district staff say the Kingfisher development meets “municipal parking standards” perhaps all those concerns by experienced long-time residents mean that those standards should be reconsidered rather than used as a rubber stamp.

It’s amazing that in the late 1940s and 1950s a bunch of men in New York (yes men, Stein, the man of his age, calls for planning by men) who at first had never been here, could imagine and create the Kitimat that became “the town of the future,” while today developers from Vancouver, Calgary or wherever do nothing more than pull an AutoCAD file off a hard drive, make a few tweaks and cosmetic changes and then try to convince residents, staff and council that this will be great for Kitimat.

Yes many of the original houses in Kitimat were “off the shelf” at the time but they were also often new and innovative for the 1950s. This is a chance to create a new vision but practical vision for the 21st century. The provincial government has mandated all community planning must consider climate change. There is no indication at all that the current development designs take climate into consideration.

What must be done

Isantafeabobe4t’s time for Kitimat to rewrite the development permit standards, so that the original Stein vision is incorporated into every future development, whether residential, commercial, industrial or institutional. Some of the ideas will have to be updated from the 1950s to reflect changes in demographics, economics and technology. If Santa Fe, a modern hub of artistic and high tech innovation can do it, Kitimat can do it on a smaller scale.

 

 

Immediately

Since time is somewhat tight, ask the current developers, on a voluntary basis, to submit new ideas that show their projects won’t be just another subdivision in Surrey, new designs compatible with Kitimat.  If developers want to build here, now and in the future, they are going to have to use their imagination and skill to bring Stein’s vision into the 21st century. Tell the developers that now they have to prove to Kitimatians that they don’t really believe this is a hick town.

Short term

Update development rules and guidelines

District staff, Council members, the Housing Committee and other interested groups should take a crash look at development guidelines and development permit rules and as soon as possible update those that can act as a guideline for future changes that reflect the Stein vision.

Hire a District Solicitor

We recommended this during the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review hearings and when the LNG companies began environmental review. All the problems with potential development again show the need for a full time District Solicitor who will be in the District offices working with staff and members of council and attending council meetings to understand the needs of the residents of Kitimat on all issues. Having a lawyer on retainer who is not involved with community is no longer an option.

Medium term

Overhaul development rules and guidelines

Continue the work recommended for the short term and have staff, locally based developers and locally based engineering companies familiar with Kitimat form a task force to overhaul the development rules and guidelines so that developments fit into both an updated Clarence Stein vision and the uncertain economics of this region

Longer term

A new Official Community Plan Kitimat OCP

The current “maybe this, may be that” Official Community Plan is completely inadequate for the needs of Kitimat. It is little more than a collection of database copy and paste, motherhood bureaucrat speak with no significant reference to Stein’s original vision.

The community needs an OCP that has a strong, well-defined two track approach, one that assumes the LNG boom will go ahead, that Kitimat will grow, and a second that assumes that the new industry might pass us by and Kitimat may have to revert to planning diversification with an emphasis on tourism.

That also means looking for and hiring the Clarence Stein of the 21st Century, whether that person is in New York, Vancouver, London or Singapore.

The current OCP was largely written by Stantec, which seems to be the go-to consulting firm for everyone. While the involvement of Stantec may not have been an issue in 2008, Stantec is the same company that is now working for Enbridge and most of the LNG projects. That is a clear conflict of interest.

Kitimat needs a visionary who can build on what Stein and his colleagues did 60 years ago. While Stein was working for Alcan, what is needed in 2014 and beyond is truly independent consultant, not one serving a dozen different masters.

That includes maintaining harmony with the forested nature of the region. Without going completely the same way as Santa Fe, perhaps future construction in Kitimat should conform, within market conditions, to a style that reflects the demands of building in the northwest, like heavy snow loads and long days of dreary rain while at the same time is more reflective of the northwest natural environment. That means including the brilliant idea of sidewalks and green spaces at the back of houses, not just boxes on standard suburban streets. That doesn’t have to mean duplicates of First Nations’ longhouses or settlers’ log cabins.

A Kitimat “look and feel” should challenge architects to create a style that says Kitimat and the northwest while at the same time drawing plans that are economic for both the developer and the buyer, just as architects in Santa Fe are bringing a century-old vision into the 21st century.

If the current crop of developers think that Kitimat is unsophisticated, doesn’t understand what goes on big cities, and takes too long to make its mind, well we live here and you don’t and you won’t. If Kitimat does have a rosy economic future, it is highly likely that the community and district can find developers who aren’t in-and-out carpet-baggers but who will build something that will make a profit, be affordable for the buyer and be harmonious with the community and Stein’s vision updated for the 21st century.

As Stein asked, “What do the people themselves want?”

Editor’s note: My late father, Frederic Rowland, was Alcan’s assistant property manager in Kitimat, involved in town planning from Vancouver in the mid-50s and in Kitimat from 1957 to 1965 and thus one of the Alcan staff charged with implementing Stein’s vision.

 

Additional links

Kitimat Daily
Kingfisher Housing Development to be continued in September

Massive Density Increase Gets Mixed Reviews

Santa Fe

Santa Fe Architecture

Santa Fe’s Historic Adobe Architecture

Los Angeles Times

Santa Fe proudly boasts its Pueblo-style architecture

 

Monaghan slams Douglas Channel Watch for “disrespectful” demonstration as striking teachers picket Christy Clark

 

Updates with reason teachers moved picket site

Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan has slammed Douglas Channel Watch for a “disrespectful” demonstration held during the ceremony that saw the transfer of land from the province of BC to the Haisla Nation. BC Premier Christy Clark came to Kitimat for the event.

There were two groups of protesters across Haisla Boulevard from the transfer ceremony. While some were from Douglas Channel Watch, the vast majority were striking teachers.

Teachers picket line
Striking Kitimat teachers line Haisla Boulevard in a protest picket against the visit of BC Premier Christy Clark. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

In an e-mail from Monaghan to District staff and  to Margaret Ouwehand, who handles e-mail traffic for the environmental group, obtained by Northwest Coast Energy News, Monaghan wrote about the protest:

This was not respectful to the Haisla. This was one of the greatest moments in the government between the Hasila and DOK and all we could hear were blaring horns.  How disrepectful and a shame on our community. It would have been so much more cultured if that could have waited for an hour until the ceremony was concluded.

In the original notice of the protest  sent to Northwest Coast Energy News and Douglas Channel Watch subscribers on Monday, Ouwehand wrote:

It is important to remain respectful of the Haisla event and to indicate our support their position regarding Enbridge

At the beginning of her remarks at the ceremony, Monaghan also said, “First I would just like to apologize for some of the noise in the background and the disrepectfulness of what’s happening at this great, great celebration, we’re having with the Haisla people today.”

It was clear for reporters who went across Haisla Boulevard to cover the demonstration  that teachers, who began a full-scale strike on Tuesday, far outnumbered the handful of Douglas Channel Watch demonstraters in front of the “Downtown Kitimat” sign. It was mostly the teachers who lined Haisla Boulevard and waved signs, encouraging passing traffic to honk in support. Most teachers continued to protest while some members of Douglas Channel Watch left the protest to attend the ceremony that marked the return of the old hospital lands to the Haisla Nation.

Joanne Monaghan
Mayor Joanne Monaghan speaks at the land transfer ceremony. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

UPDATE: District sprinklers disrupted teacher demonstration

As Northwest Coast Energy News reported Monday, as did the Douglas Channel Watch call for a demonstration, striking teachers had originally planned to rally at Centennial Park.

Reports on social media say the teachers changed their plans and moved the picket to Haisla Boulevard after the District turned on the sprinklers in the park.

The active sprinklers in the park  were clearly visible from the hospital site as the teachers lined the street and many passing vehicles honked.

.

As Gateway decision nears, RCMP, District of Kitimat in long term planning for potential protests

At least three rallies are planned for Kitimat on Tuesday, June 17, as BC Premier Christy Clark is scheduled to arrive to announce a new agreement with the Haisla Nation and, a few hours later, the Harper government will announce its decision on approving the Northern Gateway project.

The Harper government is expected to approve the highly controversial pipeline, terminal and tanker project and once that happens, it is  likely that Kitimat will be the focus of protests against (and perhaps for) Northern Gateway.

District Council was told Monday,  June 16, that the RCMP and District staff have had meetings to come up with contingency plans if large numbers of protesters come to Kitimat in the future.

S/Sgt. Phil Harrison
RCMP Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison briefs District of Kitimat Council on plans for future protests in Kitimat, June 16, 2014. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Answering a question from Councillor Phil Germuth,  Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison, Kitimat detachment commander told Council that RCMP had met with Kitimat deputy chief administrative officer Warren Waycheshen  to discuss  the groups they were aware  of that might be protesting in Kitimat.

“It’s actually hard to plan for some of them, we don’t know how large they’re going to be,  “Harrison told Councl,  “There are all sorts of different factors that go into coming up with an operational plan for any kind of a demonstration

“We’ve talked about where we may be able to hold demonstrations, how we are going to do accommodate the people, what are we going to do for sanitation,
what we are going to do for garbage collection. all that kind of stuff,” the staff sergeant said.

“Until we get more information regarding what kind of demonstration it’s going to be, it’s hard to plan for. We do encourage any leaders of any organization that’s going to be demonstrating to come and chat with us.

:Demonstrations are fully legal in Canada. We have no problems with those.  Our concern is when it comes to the safety of the public and so, therefore, if there isanything we can do to help to mitigate any kind of problems that might arise if the safety of the public, we’d like to know that before hand.”

Waycheshen said it was up to Council to set policy but noted that the staff has been working on long term plans, saying. ‘We do a lot of pre-planning and then just wait to see if it comes or not.”

Waycheshen  said that while the RCMP and District staff have  studied the more obvious locations,   “as the RCMP point out, there are certain times when people won’t congregate where you want them to, so we have to work around their locations.’

“We’ve looked at the need for water, porta-potties, meals and stuff,” Waycheshen said. “It’s always tough until you know the numbers When they come in, are they going to be self sufficient or not?

“We’ve talked to our suppliers to make them aware that this could be happening at short notice, so they’re aware of it,

“We’ve done as much as we can And almost like the emergency plan, we’ve talked to the emergency planning group for the District. There might be a point where we  activate the EOC [Emergency Operations Centre] plan, not to treat it as an emergency but to give you a lot more flexibility to react in a quick way.”

“Some of the suppliers say we should be able to get you this and that,  but we will have to know at the time.

“It’s really contingent on when they’re coming in. Our purchasing department has been really good about contacting people, this is the potential of what we could
have.”

It all starts on Tuesday when Premier Clark is scheduled to arrive at the old hospital site to announce the agreement with the Haisla.

Douglas Channel Watch says it plans to rally at the “Downtown Kitimat” sign across the street from the hospital site at 10:45.   Kitimat’s teachers who will officially be on strike on Tuesday, plan their own rally at Centennial Park at the same time.

The Harper government will announce its decision on the Northern Gateway shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern Time,  after the market close in the east, 1 p.m, Pacific  Time.

Shortly after the government announcement, Douglas Channel Watch will then hold a second rally in Centennial Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danny Nunes first to declare in Kitimat mayoral race

Kitimat comedian Danny Nunes has become the first to declare his candidacy for mayor of Kitimat in the fall municipal election, in what is expected to be lively race with several other candidates also expected to challenge incumbent mayor Joanne Monaghan.

Nunes issued a news release April 1, 2014:

Today, April the 1st, 2014, I am announcing that I will once again be running as a candidate for Mayor of Kitimat British Columbia in the upcoming municipal election to be held in November.

In the last election held in 2011, I campaigned under the slogan ” Don’t Vote For Danny”.

Sadly I was unsuccessful in my campaign because nearly 100 people did in fact vote for me.

Although I am glad I was able to help discover nearly one hundred cases of illiteracy, I came away with a very deep regret. I chose not to participate in the All Candidates Forum held during the election and instead chose to stand in the back of the audience.

While standing in the back, I became thirsty and had nothing to quench my thirst. On the stage where I would have been seated was a free bottle of water and by not taking part in the debate I deprived myself of a chance to drink from that bottle and quench my thirst.

Nearly 3 years later, the thought of that bottle and the what ifs of not drinking from it have haunted me each night and kept me awake.

I plan to make up for my mistake and rectify the situation this year by once again running for Mayor of Kitimat B.C. I promise you the electorate that I will go on that stage and I will claim my free bottle of water so that never again will I have to live with the regret of not having a cold bottle of free water to satisfy my thirst for democracy.

In 2011 I asked you not to vote for me… In 2014 I am asking you to vote for me as I embark on my journey to the free bottle of water. In life there is always time for second chances and this my good people is mine.

If anyone has questions or wishes to discuss my candidacy and my journey for the water bottle feel free to contact me using the information provided below. Together we can all be a water bottle from which we quench the thirst from within.

 

Nunes told Northwest Coast Energy News he will issue his platform on energy issues sometime in the near future.

Kitimat Votes: Northern Gateway plebiscite campaigns ramping up with three weeks to go

 

Enbridge web page
Landing page for the Enbridge Northern Gateway “yes for Kitimat” web campaign.

With about three and half weeks to go, the campaigning on the for and against sides for the April 12 Kitimat plebiscite on the Joint Review Panel report on the Northern Gateway has been relatively low key up until now.

That changes with the news that Northern Gateway will hold two campaign Open Houses. Sources have told Northwest Coast Energy News that the first Open House, hosted by Northern Gateway President John Carruthers, will take place at the Rod and Gun on Tuesday, April 1. The second Open House will be hosted by Janet Holder, Enbridge’s Executive Vice President of Western Access, on Tuesday, April 8, also at the Rod and Gun.

Campaign brochure
Campaign brochure from the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research based in Smithers,

Until now, Enbridge Northern Gateway has been using its deep pockets with a newspaper ad campaign emphasizing Kitimat residents and the promise of jobs, as well as a new website Yes To/For Kitimat.  Northern Gateway has also started a telephone campaign, asking residents if they plan to vote “yes” in the plebiscite.

The main opposition, Douglas Channel Watch, is concentrating on what political analysts call the “ground game,” by knocking on doors. Douglas Channel Watch, although they claim to be amateurs facing a giant corporation, are following a classic political strategy. DCW is certainly confident of the “no” vote and their campaign so far, is aimed at fence sitters and those who are in favour of the pipeline but are uncertain about the 209 conditions.

 

The third player, so far, is Smithers based Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research, which distributed a glossy brochure, comparing the BC provincial government’s final arguments on the project with the Joint Review Panel’s conclusions.

The opposition campaign is concentrating on the perceived lack of balance in the Joint Review Panel, while, again, so far, Enbridge Northern Gateway is avoiding the JRP, perhaps because the company itself is not all that certain about what all 209 conditions actually mean.

That means the District of Kitimat Council, with some members tilting toward favouring the Northern Gateway (although the council members generally deny public opposition), could have blundered with the ambiguous question centered around the JRP

Do you support the final report recommendations of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and National Energy Board, that the Enbridge Northern Gateway project be approved, subject to 209 conditions set out in Volume 2 of the JRP’s final report?”

Overall, whether one opposes or supports the Northern Gateway project, in the end, the Joint Review hearings did not go over well in northwestern British Columbia. By and large the JRP accepted most of the Northern Gateway evidence at face value while largely playing down the concerns of many northwestern BC residents—even supporters. Most important was the JRP’s conclusion that effects of any oil spill, either from a pipeline breach or a tanker accident would be

In the unlikely event of a large oil spill, we found that there would be significant adverse effects on lands, waters, or resources used by residents, communities, and Aboriginal groups. We found that the adverse effects would not be permanent and widespread.

 

Murray Minchin
Murray Minchin, of Douglas Channel Watch, outline the environmental groups campaign at District of Kitimat Council, March 17, 2014. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Douglas Channel Watch is trying to capitalize on these doubts. At District Council on Monday March 17, Murray Minchin said:

“What we found out that there are five key reasons why even supporters of Northern Gateway were going to vote no on the plebiscite and people who were sitting on the fence were considering voting no on the plebiscite.

“The plebiscite is on the Joint Review final report and conditions which allow temporary foreign workers to work on the pipeline in Canada, describes Northern Gateway as a raw diluted bitumen export pipeline; does not mandate upgrading or any other value adding job program and will allow 1,100 foot long super tankers to operate on BC’s pristine north coast…The final reason was that the Joint Review panel found that the Exxon Valdez and Kalmazoo spills were localized events with temporary affects which would be justified in the circumstances if they happened in BC.”

“So by voting no we will be sending a message to Ottawa telling them we don’t want temporary foreign workers taking jobs from Canadians. We don’t want thousands of jobs being exported overseas. We don’t want up to 364 dilbit super tankers a year, and the 364 supertankers is based on the actual amount of product that will be put through the pipeline since they’re only applying for 525,000 barrels a day but its actually designed for 850,000 barrels a day, so that’s how we come up with the figure of one super tanker a day, coming to Kitimat and one leaving.

“If you don’t think major diluted bitumen spills in Kitimat’s salmon rivers or on BC’s pristine coast can be justified in any circumstances. So if you vote no on the plebiscite, while you may support the idea, this is an opportunity to send a message back to Ottawa that they really need to rethink their priories.”

Donny van Dyk
Donny van Dyk outlines Northern Gateway’s contributions to the Kitimat community to District Council, March 10, 2014 (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Enbridge’s only public appearance early in the campaign was when Donny van Dyke, Northern Gateway’s Manager of Coastal Aboriginal and Community Relations, outlined to council on March 10, the contributions that Northern Gateway has given to the community and to local training programs.

Van Dyk said the Northern Gateway supported training programs that will also be used by other new industrial and commercial projects. He said training with the company’s partners create life skills, noting that one focus of the training is to help people who may have barriers to education, life skills and gainful employment.

Van Dyke says the company plans Northern Gateway Youth Achievement Awards for outstanding students going beyond academics. As part of the awards, 50 winners received iPads.

Van Dyk said that Northern Gateway has contributed $20,000 to community groups within Kitimat, including $7,500 this year . They contributions include: $100,000 for marine skills training, $145,000  for Environmental Field Assessment training, $110,000 went to the Pipe Trades Foundation for training and financial support and $5000 for trades training for local high school students. The company has contributed $225,000 to Project Shop Class, a construction trades program, with $100,000 earmarked for the high schools in Kitimat.

Northern Gateway’s ads both in local newspapers and on a new website yesto kitimat.ca are emphasizing long term jobs.

Northern Gateway adThe latest ad says:

“The pipeline will bring jobs. But the pipeline is just the start. We’ll start to see growth in the economy and the population. We’ll see more opportunities for our kid, job training, extracurricular activities, music programs, all kinds of good stuff.”

Another of the ads, featuring Trish Parsons, Chamber of Commerce manager says:
“For me, the best thing about living in Kitimat is that you can go hiking or fishing on your way home form work. It’s a special place to live. But without jobs and stability. I worry about my kids and grandkids won’t be able to live here with me, And that’s why I want more than anything.”

The Northern Gateway ads have created vigorous debates on social media, with many of the comments opposed to the project, including resentment at the money Enbridge is spending on the ads and the idea that Northern Gateway has “infiltrated” a community event.

At the council meeting, Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch pointed out that the according to the BC elections act third party advertising is capped at $3167.93 per electoral district, which given the fact that Black Press charges $8,250 for a full page colour ad in its newspapers, that if the plebiscite was a provincial election, Northern Gateway would have already far exceeded those limits.

In a free society, Enbridge Northern Gateway, as the proponent of the project, has the right to campaign on behalf of the project. It is not the same as a third party intervention in a general election.

The overall problem is the short-sighted, half-hearted approach that the District of Kitimat Council has taken with the plebiscite, which now goes beyond the confusing plebiscite question. The rules as released by District only mention signage. There was apparently no anticipation that campaign spending could be an issue, even though one side was a well-financed large corporation and therefore no research if campaign spending limits are permitted in a municipal non-binding plebiscite.

District of Kitimat plebiscite rules   (pdf)

The confusing plebiscite question and now the issue of campaign spending can only raise doubts about whether or not the community accepts the results of the vote, especially if the outcome is close.

(With more controversial energy projects coming up, and the possibility of more referenda or plebiscites, the province should set clear and transparent rules for future votes.)

 

Plebiscite Reality Check

Northern Gateway

Enbridge adThe Northern Gateway ads promise jobs, stability and say “we need to know everything’s going to be good for a long time, not just a year or two.”

Apart from the fact that Northern Gateway confidently believes it can foretell the future, that the pipeline will bring sustained growth in the Kitimat economy, here is what that Joint Review Panel said in its official report on the number of permanent jobs.

 

Northern Gateway said that the number of permanent jobs during operations would total 268.
This includes permanent workforce requirements in Edmonton, Fox Creek, Whitecourt, Grande Prairie, Tumbler Ridge, Prince George, Burns Lake, and Kitimat. It said that this also includes people expected to be employed in Kitimat to supply services associated with operations of the Kitimat Terminal, including tug operators, pilots, emergency response staff, and various other service providers.
The company said that annual spending on project operations is expected to total about $192 million. The company said that this includes $94.8 million in British Columbia, $77.6 million in Alberta, and $19.5 million in federal corporate income taxes. The company said that jobs related to operations are expected to provide opportunities for residents and offer long-term sustainable employment
benefit to the provinces.

This means that Northern Gateway will provide less than 300 permanent jobs spread across the entire pipeline route, and many of them will probably be at Enbridge headquarters in Edmonton. The number of permanent jobs at Kitimat have been estimated from as low as 25 to as high as 60. That is hardly a big boost to the Kitimat economy.

Douglas Channel Watch

Douglas Channel Watch has kept its message clear and simple.

Douglas Channel Watch Plebiscite Press Release (pdf)

Both in its press release and in Murray Minchin’s statement to council, he is calling on Kitimat to “send a message to Ottawa.” Given the record of the Harper government on issues such as the BC wide objections to the closing of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, it is likely that even if there is an overwhelming “no” vote in Kitimat, Harper, his cabinet and officials will ignore the plebiscite result. It would take more pressure than from the residents of Kitimat  for Harper to pay attention. Of course, the Northern Gateway may yet garner worldwide attention like the Keystone XL has. But the big problem, as the Ottawa pundits have pointed out, if you get Harper’s attention, the result is often vindictive rather than seeing someone else’s point of view. Up to now, except for an occasional obligatory visit to the Haisla Nation, for the Conservatives, Kitimat is out of sight and out of mind.

The other small mistake by Douglas Channel Watch came a couple of weeks ago when Murray Minchin, when calling for a public forum prior to the vote, said that Kitimat didn’t need a speaker like former Dawson Creek mayor Mike Bernier (now a Liberal MLA) who Minchin said took the focus off the issue of the pipeline. However, it was Bernier, who, two years ago, warned Kitimat about the problems of work camps and a potential housing crisis. It appears that Bernier’s warning fell on deaf ears, given the current housing crisis in Kitimat.

 

Correction:

Earlier this story said “Douglas Channel Watch is also hosting an event with author Arno Kopecky at Riverlodge on Saturday March 29th at 7 pm for a talk on his book Oil Man and the Sea, Navigating the Northern Gateway.” Douglas Channel Watch says it is not hosting the event, but members of the group were spreading the word about Kopecky’s appearance.

To plebiscite or not to plebiscite, that is still the question

Murray Minchin
Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch gives District of Kitimat Council a preview of the group’s campaign presentation on the Northern Gateway project plebiscite at the council chambers. Feb. 24, 2014. DCW will host “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Enbridge Plebiscite, but Were Afraid to Ask” at Riverlodge, Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

District of Kitimat Council will take another look at the Northern Gateway project plebiscite next Monday, March 3, when it considers a motion from Councillor Phil Germuth to cancel the vote altogether.

This Monday, February 24, Council voted to cancel the “undecided” option on the ballot, leaving voters with a simple yes or no question. That decision costs the district taxpayers $500, since council was told by the deputy administrative officer, Warren Waycheshen that the ballots had already been printed.

The question of whether “undecided” was still on the ballot came up as council was discussing the advertising campaign for the coming plebiscite—if it survives next Monday’ s vote. Apparently after the confusing Council session on January 20, some members of council believed that the “undecided” option had already been eliminated.

“Can I get clarification on it. I thought it was going to be strictly: yes or no?” Germuth asked.

There was apparently some confusion among District staff after the meeting as well. Waycheshen said he and other staff members had reviewed the minutes of that meeting and concluded there was no motions that dropped “undecided.”

Asked about the ballots, Waycheshen replied the ballots had already been ordered, but the $500 cost was minimal. He told Council that amount should not stand in their way if they wanted to amend the response to the question.

Both Germuth and Mayor Joanne Monaghan said that by now everyone should now how they feel. Germuth said that leaving the undecided option might lead to misinterpreted results.

District staff will wait until next Monday and the vote on Germuth’s motion to cancel the plebiscite altogether before ordering new ballots.

Earlier in the evening, it was not clear whether or not everyone in the Kitimat community “should know how they feel.” Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch gave a preview of the environmental group’s campaign for a no vote:

Minchin began by rereading the plebiscite question.

Do you support the final report recommendations of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and National Energy Board, that the Enbridge Northern Gateway project be approved, subject to 209 conditions set out in Volume 2 of the JRP’s final report?”

Minchin then gave Council some samples of what will be a longer presentation at Riverlodge on Wednesday night.

He pointed to Condition #1 “Northern Gateway must comply with all the certificate conditions, unless the NEB otherwise directs.”

Minchin told council, “This means the plebiscite will be held on something that might not exist. It’s written in smoke and deposited on mirrors. Why are we voting on the Joint Review Panel conditions when they can be altered or removed at any time?”

He also said Condition 169, which calls on Enbridge to file a plan for a research program on spilled oil was rather late, “far into the game,” he said, and thus an example of how the conditions had no teeth.

Minchin said even those who support the project should be concerned about other conditions, including one that calls on Northern Gateway to notify the National Energy Board if they plan to hire foreign temporary workers.

“What about all of these jobs for Canadians which we have been hearing about since day one. It is supposed to be a job generating project for Canadians,” he asked Council.

He said the Joint Review Panel should have had conditions that there be no foreign temporary workers or that a certain percentage of jobs should go to Canadians and to people from the region.

Douglas Channel Watch will be hosting what they call “a community information forum” called ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Enbridge Plebiscite, but Were Afraid to Ask.’  –in effect a campaign for the no side,. at Riverlodge on Wednesday, February 26th at 7:00 pm. Minchin said DCW members who developed expertise in their role as a JRP intervenor will be speaking on various topics.