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COMMENTARY · 22nd July 2010
Walter McFarlane
You wanna hear a good flipping joke…

There are several events over the last year which requires sober second thought and with the recent passing of a deadline; it’s time to take one last look over the last few months because there is something which does not add up.

Let’s start on January 31st. January 31st was the day which was announced for the mill to be closed. The very next day, was the big once in a lifetime celebration as the Olympic torch roared through down town Kitimat.

One of the special guest speakers at this kick-off was Forest Minister Pat Bell. His speech consisted of the question: “Who likes hockey?” which got the crowd cheering for him. It was followed by promise that the Olympic Games would be a ‘Kick Off’ point for BC and Kitimat not only had a Bright Future but were going to be champions.

But this is just public speaking. Bell is a politician and you gotta love politicians. They are the only people I know that can earn the title of honourable for winning a lie contest.

Fortunately, Bell was not just in Kitimat to celebrate the severing of one of the community’s limbs, he was also there to meet with community leaders such as the Kitimat City Council, The Chamber of Commerce, the Unions, KTIDS, etc… to discuss the often discussed look at economic development. The topic on everyone’s mind? Eurocan!

Who are they discussing it with? Most likely the wrong person, after all, Bell was voted to represent Prince George in our Provincial Government. It is Prince George and Quesnel which are benefiting from the closure of Eurocan. All the chips which would formerly come here are now going there to support their industries.

Before we move any further, we need a definition: Wikipedia defines a Conflict of Interests as: “Conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other.”

Now, someone could argue that Bell is supposed to represent the interests of all British Columbians. A statement that looks good on paper. However, in reality, the people of Prince George voted for him because they thought he would be the best person to represent their interests. Not the interests of Victoria, not the interests of Vancouver and most certainly not the interests of Kitimat, especially when they conflict with the interests of his riding.

In other words, he should have been the last among members of the Liberal government to address this issue. However, when the mill announced their closure, he was looking for investors in China. He would also admit in December of 2009, he did not realize Eurocan was not a big linerboard producer and this would lower his expectations of being able to sell the mill.

So Kitimat had Bell in town the day after the mill closed to celebrate the Olympic Torch and meet with industrial developers at KVI at a meeting where the public was not welcome. While I cannot fault the man for the latter, being here for the torch party has all the tact of showing up at a funeral to ask the deceased for one final dance. Besides, it’s not like our government would do something like that again, right?

Oh wait…

July 15th was the deadline for the viability study’s investment into the mill. The 16th was a Friday. Friday is also the day the District of Kitimat releases their Council Packages for the following Monday. Inside the Council Package for Monday the 18th was an invitation for Council to attend the meeting of the Union of BC Municipalities 2010 which was received on July 13th.

Those dates are important… timing is key.

“What a great theme for the 2010 UBCM Convention: Forging Gold Medal Standards” wrote Campbell.

“Our Province is moving ahead with our goals and objectives as a strong and thriving place to live. Employment is up, construction starts are up, and the world is noticing us more and more - thanks to the incredible performance of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Many economists expect BC to lead Canada in economic growth this year. If we follow the lessons of the Olympics, we will be leading Canada for years to come.”

“In spite of that, there are areas in British Columbia that continue to feel the impact of the global economic downturn. Difficult times are ripe with opportunities as well as problems. Your convention will help us all grasp those opportunities for the years ahead. By working together with communities and building partnerships, we will both set and exceed gold medal standards.”

SOMEONE PLEASE TELL CAMPBELL THE OLYMPICS ARE OVER AND WHILE HE WAS PARTYING IN VANCOVER, HE LOST THE OPPORTUNITY TO EARN THOSE GOLD MEDAL STANDARDS

Those gold medals are awarded to top athletes. Many of them make sacrifices to achieve those top performances. Yes, our government is creating jobs… in CHINA! They are shipping the province out of the country one piece at a time. These are not gold medal standards. You get the gold by winning your event, not throwing the game so the other teams can win.

But the timing of this letter is the slap in the face of the town of Kitimat. The week the deadline is up we are told about the big meeting where communities can seize economic opportunities in the downturn. That opportunity is on its last legs. Rather than come out and support it, the BC Government threw $40,000 at the viability study, and then turned its back on us in the worst possible way.

The Olympics have been a huge part of this commentary so far. Back in January, Council motioned to contact Campbell and meet with him to garner support for the Eurocan Viability study. However, as Mayor Joanne Monaghan said, the Premier would not be available to meet with them until after the Olympics. “You can’t just pick up the phone and call the Premier,” stated Monaghan when a Councillor suggested she do just that. If a City Mayor of a troubled community can not do this, who can? During the games, Kitimat Council built their budget and the Olympic games came to a close.

Where was Campbell? In June, we asked both the Office of the Premier and Kitimat Council if Campbell was still going to meet with them. Both replied there would be an opportunity for Campbell to come to Kitimat in Late August Early September although they could meet at the UBCM meeting. The deadline for Eurocan was July 15th. The invite to the UBCM meeting arrived July 13th.

Yet another opportunity was provided for Campbell to redeem himself in this instance. July 6th, Ministers were invited to a meeting in Kitimat regarding the ‘Eurocan Viability Study’ to draw investors. The Premier and Minister Bell were among those invited. They sent a representative as, for the umpteenth time, they were too busy to bother with Kitimat. What were they doing? A Caucus meeting. Campbell, you have more important things to do then play with your Caucus.

It is now time to change signs around Kitimat so they reflect the status of the town properly. They should say: “Welcome to Kitimat, the town that was sacrificed for the good of the Olympics.”