Newsmaker of 2013 BC Ferries future unclear

Money woes blamed for inability to stay afloat

Year in review captures people, sports, quotes and the main stories.

A year of commuters clawing to keep ferry service intact began with an announcement in January that BC Ferries would upgrade the Little River terminal in Comox and Westview terminal in Powell River.

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This was the first in a long line of issues that kept ferries at the top of the list for newsmaker of 2013.

Cost pressures, mounting from service, maintenance and building of the vessels, grew into a challenge to keep BC Ferries afloat. Ferry fare increases added to passenger frustration over the way the service is handled.

Mid-April, the Crown corporation announced it would move forward with ferry replacement, deciding to create a streamlined fleet. The Queen of Burnaby together with the Queen of Nanaimo (serving the lower Gulf Islands) would be replaced by 2016 and a smaller, open-deck vessel placed on each route. A primary replacement vessel would also be commissioned. Later in the year, a request for proposals was issued to build the new ferries. A Canadian shipyard is one of the five qualified to apply. The new vessels must be designed to operate on either liquefied natural gas or marine diesel oil.

In a report by former provincial minister responsible for BC Ferries, Gordon Wilson decreed that the company should be returned to its origins as a government-run service. He documented the Crown corporation’s operational and total debt, while pointing out it doesn’t include costs for vessel replacement.

The Crown corporation quickly became an election issue in the first week of the provincial campaign, late April. The New Democratic Party promised not to proceed with planned fare hikes and to give the company $40 million over the next two years to help cover costs.

The BC Liberals committed to putting one-third of future liquefied natural gas revenues toward eliminating BC Ferries’ debt, up to $1 billion, freeing the corporation from annual debt-servicing costs.

Making an announcement about the “new course for our coastal ferries’ future,” the province devastated coastal communities in November with a slate of cuts to service, which would take place starting April 2014.

Powell River was hit hard by the service reductions which will eliminate in total 1,293 round trips on all Powell River ferry routes. Powell River-Texada Island route will lose 834 round trips, including two daily, plus one on Saturday evenings and one on Sunday mornings.

The community voiced its opinion at two public meetings, one on Texada and the other in Powell River. Anger and frustration at proposed ferry service reductions reached a crescendo at the meeting at Town Centre Hotel. While organizers limited the number of people inside to 375, hundreds of others had to remain outside in the cold and rain or jammed into the hallway outside the room. According to Kirk and Co., the firm which facilitated the meeting, more than 800 people signed attendance sheets.

Speakers talked about how the cuts would damage Powell River’s economy and businesses and many decried the plan to reduce the seniors’ discount by 50 per cent.

Another major theme during the meetings was the impact the cuts on the Powell River-Comox route would have on youth sports teams, as well as other sports activities.

Plans are in place to carry frustration into 2014 with a massive protest up and down coastal BC on January 18 against BC Ferries’ cuts. As Powell River Chamber of Commerce ramped up its fiscal fairness campaign, it called upon all other BC chambers of commerce to join by asking the provincial government to bring immediate changes to the cost and structure of BC Ferries. Numerous communities responded, with 21 chambers of commerce agreeing to join Powell River’s campaign.


Powell River people

Andy Rice returned with his band No Island, and also as guest performer for the Powell River Chorus Christmas concert.

Recipients of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee medal included Gina Kendrick, Floyd George, Stewart Alsgard, Dave Formosa, Karen Crashley, Lieutenant-Colonel Tod Strickland, Corporal Darryl Hansen and Wendy Adams.

Jasper Mohan died July 10 at the age of 15 after battling cancer. His friends fundraised to support the family in February with We be Jammin’ for Jasper. He initiated and saw the Boxwars challenge one week before his death, and hundreds attended his celebration of life.

Eagle Walz and Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society received recognition for the Sunshine Coast Trail and created a passport to meld business with outdoor enthusiasts.  Walz also created a new edition of the Sunshine Trail guidebook with huts included.

Don McLeod retired from Powell River Search and Rescue after being a co-founder of the organization in 1991.

Gerry Gray retired after 45 years of voluntary service to Powell River Association for Community Living.

Peter Lavergren took home gold in carpentry at Skills Canada BC regional competition.

Harold Long, Powell River businessman and former MLA, died in a plane crash on May 21.

The Fire Chief’s Association of BC awarded Powell River Fire Rescue chief Dan Ouellette with the meritorious achievement award.

MLA Nicholas Simons convincingly won the riding in the provincial election, one of the first decisions announced in BC, while his New Democratic Party lost to the BC Liberal Party. Simons took on the agriculture critic role.


High points in sports

Calli-Ann Abbott participated in under 16 girls’ hockey in the BC Cup. She also joined major midget hockey team for Vancouver Island. She received recognition from BC Athletics Track and Field Association. She earned the gold medal at BC High School provincial track and field championships, winning the 200-metre race. She won silver in Canadian Nationals in 80-metre hurdles for the under-18 category.

Upper Island Riptide boys’ soccer team, including Niko Cristante, Ben Payne and Brandon Rairie clinched Vancouver Island Premier League under 16 league title 3-0 against Saanich Fusion.

Powell River Cobras under 15 girls soccer team received silver at provincial championships. Powell River Surge under 14 girls soccer team represented Vancouver Island at the 2013 provincial championships, placing sixth.

Powell River United over 35 soccer team participated in the BC provincial cup playoffs after winning the Upper Island Masters League title.

Trent Knorr debuted as referee in the National Hockey League game between Toronto Maple Leafs and Minnesota Wild on November 13.

Powell River CEP Local 76 Midget Kings rep team won the Vancouver Island midget Tier II championship. They represented Vancouver Island at the BC Hockey championships in March.

Powell River Atom Development Kings hockey team played on Canuck ice during intermission for Vancouver Canucks March 16 after becoming the 2013 Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association atom development divisional playoff champions.

Racing out of the Riv Team of Lucienne Ervington, Chris Bratseth, Erik Hanson and Graham Cocksedge won the Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race.

Powell River hosted the BC Secondary School Gymnastics Championships in March at Brooks Secondary School.

Myrtle Point Golf Club undertook new initiatives to pull itself out of financial issues.

Track and field athlete Cale Hernandez was accepted to Trinity Western University after a successful season in track and field including personal best long jump 6.51 metres at Canadian Youth Legion track and field championships.

Harry Thompson continued his winning ways, gathering more gold medals in track and field in his 90- to 95-year-old category. Powell River Breakers track and field club created Harry Thompson track meet in honour of the athlete.

Shane Landreville of Lund skied to gold at Canadian nationals telemark competition. He is captain and one of four elite level telemark skiers on the Canadian Telemark team.

Abby Lloyd wrestled to a national championship win. She won gold in judo at Canadian Nationals under 18, 48-kilogram category in Richmond.

Val Smith and Craig Dunbar won the Marathon Shuffle Sunshine Coast Trail race in May.

Powell River Aces under 14 girls’ volleyball team won gold at the Canadian Open Volleyball Championships in May.


Newsmakers have their say

"We have never been asleep and now more than ever we are awake and standing up." Laura Bernardo, Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation

"If people are going to have chickens, they’re going to have to be good to them." Wendy Devlin, Powell River Farmers’ Institute, Urban Livestock Committee Member

"We will encounter new challenges as we continue to navigate our way to the effective date of our treaty. Overcoming those challenges will define us as Tla’amin." Chief Clint Williams, Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation

"We have worked with our legal team and they advise us that the way we are proceeding is appropriate for a legal mechanism." Mac Fraser, City of Powell River Chief Administrative Officer

"The circumstances are not that unusual. Everyone is holding back money as leverage. You don’t pay your last bill until all obligations under the contract are fulfilled." Steve Hopkins, School District 47 secretary treasurer

"They’re destroying the fabric and economic health of our communities. They heard that in spades, not just from Powell River; they heard that everywhere." Bill Cripps, Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee chair

"All of those plants, whether they’re running on natural gas or coal, they’re all going to generate more greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt hour than our plant will." Sarah Barkowski, Catalyst Paper Corporation Powell River Division, environment manager

"We feel that we’re great ambassadors. We’re doing the city a service. We’re handing out tourist information." Cleve Hamilton, Planet Cleve street vendor

"After three hours, meetings start sliding into a downward spiral of ineffectiveness." Laura Walz, Powell River Peak editor, viewpoint “Council’s schedule needs revisiting”

"It’s just bizarre to think that we’d be buying stuff from anywhere in BC and people would feel comfortable calling it local." David Parkinson, Powell River Food Security Project coordinator

"Haywire Bay truly represents the realization of dreams of many people in the school district and the community." Jeanette Scott, School District 47 Board of Education chair

"What we’re finding is that when we have a chance to talk to customers directly, they often decide to accept a meter." Cindy Verschoor, BC Hydro manager of communications for smart meters

"The refusal to fund the three per cent wage increase over the term of the collective agreement just goes to prove that they truly don’t care about community social services." Robyn Auclair, CUPE Local 4601 president

"As far as other issues are concerned, Americans moving coal through Canada and burning it in China and India, I think those kind of protests should be down at the Chinese consulate and Indian consulate in Vancouver or Ottawa. This is beyond our level." Colin Palmer, Powell River Regional District board chair

"It is ironic that when any new or existing industry proposes adding needed jobs and stability, there is a group of hypocrites who suddenly develop this grand environmental conscience after a lifetime of consuming goods." Rich Valentine, Texada Island resident

"We think we’re shipping pollution away, but it’s just one planet here." Dr. Frank James, founding member Whatcom Docs

"This is our backyard and we should be allowed to play in it." George Ferreira, individual warrior speaking about  backcountry access


Month by month, what caught the news

January

Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation joins national Idle No More movement calling federal government’s policies toward first nations oppressive.

Powell River Board of Education trustees tell province they are unable to find cost savings in their budget to accommodate capital gains mandate.

February

OCP kicks off for City of Powell River with promise of transparency and a focus on sustainability.

City of Powell River mayor and council disagree with motion to take another look at library relocation plan.

March

Powell River and District branch SPCA opens its adoption centre doors, ready to help more than 600 pets find safe and secure homes every year.

Powell River Christian School and School District 47 announce purchase of Grief Point Elementary School property.

April

Out with HST, back in with PST as British Columbians tackle the tax change.

Provincial election campaign gains momentum, but fails to obtain voter enthusiasm and falls into obscurity.

May

Peak Publishing engages in augmented reality with the use of LAYAR, an app to bring newspapers to life.

Street vendors face jump in operating fees while receiving more locations throughout the city in which to park.

NDP MLA Nicholas Simons receives a third term in office while Liberals pull an upset win.

June

Lafarge Canada Inc.’s Texada Quarry applies to expand coal storage facility to encompass transshipment of US thermal coal to Asia.

City officials pitch medical marijuana production as viable industry for region.

July

School District 47’s Haywire Bay Outdoor Learning Centre is officially opened.

Seawalk extension is completed, linking the new addition to the south harbour with the Wharf at Westview.

August

Federal electoral region will move across the water to join expanded Vancouver Island North-Comox-Powell River riding .

Proposal to expand coal storage on Texada Island raises ire of people up and down the coast.

September

Dale Larson begins his campaign to reform marijuana laws by implementing the Sensible Policing Act.

Westview Elementary School opens its doors as School District 47’s most modern facility.

October

Region surrenders airport certification for Texada Island airport, citing funding and safety as main issues.

Yoga teacher Eve Stegenga faces federal charges for not completing the official census in 2011, having objected to her personal information being in the hands of a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, US weapons giant.

November

Devastation by Typhoon Haiyan spurs fundraising initiatives to assist the people of the Philippines.

Province announces cuts to BC Ferries service, including each route serving Powell River.

December

Fourteen residents seek to disqualify five elected officials through waterfront development loans debacle.

After 18 years of writing about the community, editor Laura Walz retires from Peak Publishing.

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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