News and views from British Columbia

Despite a ragged couple of years, B.C. is still the place to be
Jody Paterson Times Colonist
Columnist Jody Paterson looks back on a journey through what the provincial government calls the Heartland, where she saw how communities are fighting back from forest fires, trade disputes and other setbacks.

I’d heard for a while that B.C.’s heartlands were hurting, and I can now say for certain that they are. I’ve seen a whole lot of grim faces and struggling businesses in my three-week road trip around the province, and there will be no easy fixes for any of these communities. B.C. has had a terrible couple of years. This summer was surely rock-bottom, with downturns in every major sector of the provincial economy. Tourism, lumber markets, mining activity, government jobs — all down, and many towns hit on every economic front.

It could have all been depressing if it weren’t for the people I met along my 4,500-kilometre trip, each of them rolling up their sleeves for the fight to save their communities. Or if it wasn’t British Columbia I was travelling through, a land so magnificently beautiful from one end to the other that just to see a new part of it every day is to have your spirits lifted. …

Fire concert takes shape
Stuart Hunter The Province

Toronto may have had SARStock but the B.C. Interior is getting FIREstock. And even though Mick and Keith won’t be at FIREstock, Matthew and Michelle will be. Some of the biggest names in the Canadian music industry will be heading to Kamloops next Saturday to perform at Fire on the Mountain — a.k.a. FIREstock — a fundraising concert to aid victims of this summer’s devastating fires in the B.C. Interior. …

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has estimated the fires could be the second most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history after the $1.3 billion ice storm that paralyzed Quebec and eastern Ontario.

B.C. Rail deal getting closer

Transportation Minister Judith Reid says the provincial government will make a decision soon on which company will take over B.C. Rail operations. The three companies left in the bidding include two Canadian railways – CN and CP – as well as U.S. based OmniTRAX. A fourth company that had been in the running – RailAmerica – has dropped out. …

Ferries: Chute system just isn’t safe, say critics
Christina Montgomery The Province

B.C.’s ferry system is in a crisis that could bar virtually all infants and elderly or disabled people from its major vessels — because of an inadequate evacuation system the company knowingly installed. The heart of the issue?

B.C. Ferry Services Inc., formerly the B.C. Ferry Corp., has for the past decade — and in one case, as late as this spring — installed emergency passenger-evacuation chutes, knowing that at least one manufacturer said they should not be used by those unable to control their limbs during an emergency drop into a waiting life-raft. At the same time, the company removed the swing-arm life- rafts that served as the only adequate alternate escape route for those barred from the chutes.

The company’s records show that the failure to provide lifeboats could leave as many as 500 people on a busy summer sailing, and an absolute minimum 60 to 70 people per vessel, without any adequate escape route.

Chute safety became an international issue last October when a British ferry worker was killed during a routine drill on a chute identical to one in use in B.C. A subsequent safety bulletin issued by the U.K.’s Marine Accident Investigation Board — the British equivalent of Canada’s Transportation Safety Board — made recommendations about the chute’s use in a circular commonly read by the world’s maritime community, which includes B.C. Ferry Services. The company was sharply criticised at a federally sponsored maritime industry meeting this week for its failure to comply. …

Sleek-n-sexy new logos for health agencies carry heart-stopping pricetags
Michael Smyth The Province

The Gordon Campbell government created six health authorities. All are reining in spending on health care — and all have cool new logos.

I’ve been telling you all week how the province’s new health-care authorities are blowing your money on sleek-n-sexy logos — what power-tripping bureaucrats call “corporate branding” or “visual identities.” Call it what you want, it’s costing taxpayers a fortune — and all at a time when the government is closing hospital beds and shutting emergency rooms.

The Fraser Health Authority is the worst offender. Surf to its web site — — and you’ll see its “old” logo, which looks fine to me. But the bureaucrats say it’s not groovy enough, so they’re creating a new one at a cost of $80,000. Yes, you read that right: 80 grand. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority spent $19,000 on its new logo. Believe it or not, bureaucrats worked for months on this thing, including testing its subliminal effects on focus groups. “The wave as a ‘swoosh’ suggests a progressive element,” the Corporate Identity Implementation Team concluded. …

Campbell coalition rejects watchdog for Olympic Games
Russ Francis Monday Magazine

Two capital-area Liberal MLAs were among those rejecting a proposal to assign B.C. auditor general Wayne Strelioff the role of keeping track of costs for B.C.’s 2010 Winter Olympic Games project. At the September 10 meeting of the legislature’s public accounts committee, five Liberals voted against a motion from NDP leader Joy MacPhail that Strelioff be appointed the “auditor of record” for the Games. …

In a report earlier this year, Strelioff estimated the Games would cost a minimum $2.9 billion, of which at least $1.2 billion will come from the province. Cost overruns will also be picked up by provincial taxpayers. MacPhail told the meeting that the committee should learn something from “previous megaprojects.” “It is the first megaproject that will have a substantial portion of its costs exempt from the freedom of information and protection of privacy law,” MacPhail said about the Olympic Games. …

Posted at: September 21, 2003 - 6:15 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post