Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Leon Creek Church

I was inspired to post these because of a piece in the Lillooet News.   The article speaks of a painting of a church that they were not clear where it was, I could see right away it was the church on the Leon Creek Reserve of the Ts'kw'aylacw First Nation.   Some are from a trip as part of the Treaty negotiations in 1998, the others are from a camping trip I took with my brother in August of 2000.
The church in 1998

August 2000

Fred Alec 1998

Interior of the church

The wall behind the altar
Bridge over the Little Leon Creek to get to the buildings on the reserve in 1998
Looking out the front door of the church in August 2000
Looking out of a church window
Houses on the Leon Creek Reserve August 2000
Looking at the church from a house on the Leon Creek reserve

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prince Rupert will start to collect property taxes from non-profits

This comes for the September 7th Northern View

By Alan S. Hale - The Northern View
Published: September 07, 2012 4:00 PM 
Updated: September 07, 2012 9:19 PM
Community organizations that are used to not having to pay property taxes are going start feeling the pinch next year. The city council has decided to begin rolling back property tax exemptions by 40 percent over two years starting in 2013.

Mayor Jack Mussallem suggested the idea saying it was another way to decrease city spending in order to address public complaints about the City’s tax rates.

“By the end of [2014] we’ll still have a property tax exemption but it will only apply to 60 percent [of what they would owe without an exemption]. So each year we are creating a 20 percent allowance to ease the overall taxation in the community,” says Mussallem.

The reason for rolling it back over two years is to ease the community organizations into making up the difference with donations from the community at large.

Only the exemptions given to churches, schools and the largely city-owned properties known as the “Big Six”  (civic centre, library, golf course/racquet centre, museum, Lester Centre, visitors centre, tourism board) will be spared from the rollback. While the City is prevented from taxing the church buildings because of the community charter, the rollback will affect the exemption they are given on their parking lots.

The tax exemptions that will be affected add up to being under $100,000, which means in 2013 the city well be getting $20,000 in new tax money and $40,000 the next year.

Since it was elected, this City council has been hard on Prince Rupert community organizations; it has also frozen all community enhancement grants at their current levels, and cut others. They’ve done all of this and saved very little money.

While getting $40,000 in new taxes is much more money than the $3,000 council saved by cutting some of the community enhancement grants, $40,000 still only represents a 0.2 percent increase in Prince Rupert’s property tax income.

Property tax exemptions have been a longstanding way for the City to help worthy organizations without actually spending any money.

Some of the organizations affected are important pillars of the community such as the Friendship House, which in 2014 will have to find a way to pay $7,530 that it normally doesn’t have to worry about.  The North Coast Transition Society, the salmon hatchery, the senior’s centre, Moose lodge, and aboriginal justice society will all have to come up with the money as well.

Meanwhile, the City is spending $4.18-million on the 45 members of city staff that make over $75,000 a year.

I  am very concerned about this because of the sort of precedence it sets.  As someone that served a term as the director responsible for a lot of properties for a non-profit, if they were all assessed taxes, even some of the taxes, it would become unsustainable and much higher fees would have to be charged for the youth to enroll in the program.

I get that Prince Rupert is between a rock and a hard place, but many of the directions they are looking at are not ones that in the long term make sense.   They have already expressed concern they can not raise the property taxes of the port.

Prince Rupert is also considering selling the municipal golf course to raise the funds needed to pay for the new emergency service building.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Red Chris mine gets mine permit

May 4th the province issued a mine permit for Imperial Metals Red Chris project.  The project first entered the EA process in 1995 but that go around was officially withdrawn from the process in 2003 but was effectively withdrawn in 1998.   The ore body has been known about since the 1950s and was extensively explored in the 1970s.

Red Chris finished the BC Environmental Assessment process in 2005 and finished the Canadian one in 2006.   The plan was for the mine to be operating by 2006, but this has not happened.   One thing that is improving the feasibility of the project is the Northwest Transmission Line, though it ends at Bob Quinn Lake, some 115 kilometres away.

The mine is the heart of the Tahltan country and only 25 kilometres from Iskut.  Dease Lake is a further 65 kilometres north of there.   The Tahltan have not endorsed the project, but they have also not spoken against it.   The project should mean an increase in business and population in both Dease Lake and Iskut which have a current population of about 800.

The mine has a projected life of 28 years, so if it opens in 2014 or 2015, it should operate through to about 2043.  

The mine will employ about 300 people directly, these salaries alone will be worth $30,000,000 a year.  It is hard to estimate how many more people will be indirectly employed because of the mine, but it will be a significant number.

The mine will produce about 85,000,000 pounds of copper per year and 95,000 ounces of gold per year.  That is a gross annual income of  $465,000,000 based on the prices of copper and gold today.  The estimated cost to build the mine is about $443,000,000.

The opening of this one mine alone will have a noticeable impact on provincial revenues.   The province should recoup the $561 million cost of the Northwest Transmission line before 2020 from increased tax revenues alone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Some Songs about Rural BC

Cariboo Road by Rob Rosborough James Keelaghan - Boon Gone to Bust

Monday, April 2, 2012

150 years the processing of tendering to build the road from Lytton to the Ashcroft area

It is interesting to read the Daily Colonist from 150 years ago.  The paper has a lot of coverage of what is happening in interior of BC during the gold rush.  On December 11th 1858 there is a long piece about the gold potential of the Fraser.

As you can see in the coverage from Lillooet, the first public road project went horribly over budget and took much longer than expected

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Burns Lake Tragedy Fund created

Burns lake has gone through a horrible time with the destruction of the core of the communities industry.   A Fund has been created to collect funds to help people effected by the destruction of the Babine Forest Products mill January 20th this year.   The Burns Lake Tragedy Fund has now been formed as a society.

According to an article in the Burns Lake District News, the fund has $303,000 in the fund now, but they think it will get to $375,000.  

Hampton, partial owner of the mill, has a website up with resources for people in the community.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 2011 Exploration and Mining in BC report is out - looks 2011 was a record year for exploration in BC

Each year January the BC government releases the review of mining and exploration for the previous year.   The 2011 edition is out now.

Exploration Expenditures - (2010 figures in brackets):

  • Omenica Region           $71.5 million ($33 million)
  • Skeena                  $220 million ($172 million)
  • Northeast                $41 million ($20 million)
  • Thompson-Okanagan-Cariboo 2011 data incomplete($50 million) 
  • Coast                    $16 million ($15 million)
  • Kootenay-Boundary        $38.5 million ($28 million)

In the five regions with complete data, exploration spending in 2011 was $387 million, an increase from $268 in 2010.  Given all the work in the Thompson-Okanagan-Cariboo in 2011, I can not see how exploration expenditures would not be higher than 2010.   If was assume the same increase as elsewhere, this would indicate $72 million for the Thompson-Okanagan-Cariboo and an annual provincewide expenditure of around $460 million.

It looks like 2011 was a record year for mineral exploration in BC, beating out the previous record of $416 million in 2007.  Adjusted for inflation, the 2007 value would be $450 million.

To give you an idea how good 2011 was we can look at 1990.   1990 was a a good year for exploration in BC with $227 million spend, that is equal to $340 million in 2011 dollars.  

Operating Mines in BC by year and exploration expenditures

  • Year    Metal    Coal  Exploration $
  • 2004      7       9       130
  • 2005      8       9       220
  • 2006      9      11       265
  • 2007     11      10       416
  • 2008     10       9       367
  • 2009      8       9       154
  • 2010      9      10       322
  • 2011     10      11       460 est

I would go back further, but the data is not as easy for me to access.   If I get it I will post.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The loss of another mill

The explosion at Babine Forest Products is horrific in the short term for the community.  The death of some of the mill workers will hit the community in a way that people in urban centres can not understand, in a town of 3500 people, everyone will have known the guys that died.  

People are already considering what will happen to Burns Lake now that the mill has been destroyed.

The Babine Forest Products mill had a capacity of 350 million board feet of lumber per year, this is the largest mill operated by Hampton Associates.  Hampton Associates still has a smaller sawmill in Burns Lake, Decker Lake Forest Products, but this mill only has a production level of 85 million board feet per year.

Rebuilding the mill has a several issues that need to be addressed:

  • The cost to build a new mill - in this case one should expect to pay over $100,000,000 to build a comparable mill.
  • The volume of timber needed to supply the mill.   The current mill needs somewhere around 900,000 cubic meters of timber per year to operate.    That is a lot of wood.   To justify building the mill you would need to have at least 15-20 years of secure timber supply.   I have no idea if there is the timber volume available for another mill of this size.

In theory there could be a smaller mill built in Burns Lake, but I do not see how this makes much sense for Hampton.   The money needed to build a mill of the size and scale of Decker Lake is still more than a community like Burns Lake can afford.  

I have no idea how the mill was insured, but there could be an insurance windfall for Hampton from the mill being destroyed.

The loss of the mill is a loss of 250 direct jobs in Burns Lake.   There are about 2000 to 2200 people in the work force in the Burns Lake area.   The loss of these jobs is about an 11% increase in unemployment all at once.   I suspect the unemployment rate in Burns Lake is now around 20%.  

To put this in terms of Victoria BC, this is as if 25,000 lost their jobs all on one day.

The impact of the loss of these jobs on the community is more than just the immediate jobs.   Anyone that serviced or supplied the mill will have lost most of their work.   In the next year the loss of mill worker wages in Burns Lake will amount to something around $7,000,000 - workers should get EI which means this loss will not be as big as it could have been.   This may not sound like a lot, but it represents a reduction in the local economy of about 6%.  

If we look at the wider economy, the unemployment rate is likely to rise to more than 30% within a few months.   The economy is likely to shrink by 15% or more within the year.  

Burns Lake is going to see a large out migration in the next year which means the value of houses will fall.  People will not be able to pay their mortgages and will end walking away from their homes.   Businesses that have bank loans are very likely to going to asked to repay them in full and from that be forced into bankruptcy.

For the Village of Burns Lake this means a loss of property taxes.   But their property tax loss does not end there, the mill property is also within the village boundaries.    Burns Lake's property tax rate is 6.3 times higher for industrial properties than residential properties.   The impact on the loss of the mill will not be felt in 2012, but in 2013 when the assessed value of the property falls dramatically.