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REPORTING · 15th July 2012
Walter McFarlane
On Tuesday July 3rd, Kitimat City Council faced a tough decision. This decision was made difficult because of its implications and even more difficult because Administration was not prepared with some answers. Alcan is opening a bar in their camp.

It’s not Alcan who is applying though; it is Compass Group Canada Ltd. A memo from administration explained the Liquor Control Board wants public input on this licence. If Council wants to comment, they can only comment on specific criteria.

The criteria are the location of the establishment, it’s proximity to other social or recreational facilities, person capacity and hours of operation, the market focus of the cliental, the noise impact on the community and the impact on the community.

Council has two options, opt in or opt out. If they opt in, they would have to pay for the process. If they opt out, the Liquor Control Board will conduct its own investigation. Administration advised Council to Opt Out. Councillor Phil Germuth made a motion to not opt out of this process.

“On many occasions, we’ve been told how great the camp and all these things are going to be for this community. Many business owners in town went out and spent tens… into the hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing up apartments, fixing up the motels, hotels, etc. Waiting for all these people to come into town. They came and then the living out allowance was taken away forcing them into the camps. One of the only avenues they have left is to try and get these people into [town for] dinner and few drinks,” said Germuth.

He stated one of the local drinking establishments in Kitimat spent $100,000 and bought a bus to transport the workers at Rio Tinto Alcan safely to and from the premises.

“This is another way I think we’re taking away from small businesses being able to benefit from this process and I think we should vote against them having a liquor licence down there,” said Germuth.

Councillor Rob Goffinet felt conflicted. He stated they have not intervened for liquor licenses in neighbourhoods, even when the neighbours complained. He stated Council could not stop this. The motion would put their concerns about the venue, but there was only one concern which would fly, that this establishment was too far from town and would not be open to the general public. However, Goffinet expressed doubt this would not be enough. He went through the list of reasons (see bold text above) and expressed why they would not work.

“I can see nothing the District of Kitimat could not object to because we can not say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Its just our complaints about noise, how close it is to public buildings, etc. and I would say we would spend a lot of time, and the liquor board would look at their objective criteria and I believe they would give a license to this facility if RTA or Bechtel or the management out at the camp wished it,” said Goffinet.

Administration stated if they went ahead, they could gather public information and submit it. If they opted out, this process would be done by the Liquor Control Board and they would pay for it.

Germuth stated it would impact the community as the business owners who have spent all the money to build up their establishments for the workers are a part of this community. The Council is supposed to be there to represent them. He also pointed out the Liquor Control Board would follow their recommendation.

Councillor Edwin Empinado had several questions. He wanted to know if Council had a say in the approval of the permit. He wanted to be able to help the business community. Administration replied if Council made their recommendation, it had to meet certain criteria. Empinado wanted to know how much it would cost the District.

Municipal Manager Ron Poole said he was unaware of the costs as they have always opted out. City Planner Gwen Sewell stated the District has only opted into one of these once, but found it did not give them the final say over the decision. The Liquor Control Board makes it. Council has the same influence by opting out as they would by opting in. If they opt in, it would cost them more.

Empinado stated he was concerned with the Provincial Government not giving them the power to approve this. “It’s useless to be asked when all the decision making is with them,” said Empinado.

Germuth questioned whether the statement in the document, which the Liquor Control Board would follow the recommendation made by Council was accurate. Poole stated it was most likely a mistake. Administration stated the Council would be expected to do the work based on the criteria laid out.

Councillor Corrine Scott stated the letters were confusing because they needed to have Section Ten which laid out the criteria. While Section Ten was not included with their documents, Goffinet pointed out the criteria was again.

“We would have to comment on where this lounge was located, we have complaints that it is located on the smelter site,” said Goffinet. “We would be hard pressed to complain about a lounge in a secure, security fenced area that closes down at ten-o-clock and enforces a mandatory quite time at 11, when we have not, in my years on Council, even though we were petitioned by neighbours, we opted out of pubs and establishment that were in neighbourhoods,” said Goffinet.

Poole suggested encouraging people to attend the public meetings. Germuth suggested a tabling motion to hear what the concerns of the community, the restauranteers and the bar owners were. Poole explained this is what it was.

Council was told they had only a few days of their 90 days to make their decision. Mayor Joanne Monaghan clarified all of this. Councillor Mary Murphy expressed the process was the same, all that mattered was who would foot the bill.

Germuth said the Council would have an impact with their voice and they should discuss it. Monaghan went for clarification on what the District would have to do. They would have to get the view of the residents, submit their recommendation and how they sought out the views of the residents.

After numerous clarification on what Council was voting on, to opt in to the process and of gathering information and providing it to the Liquor control board, the motion was called and it was negated 3-3.

A second motion hit the floor to hold a public hearing to get opinions from the local businesses on July 16th. This one was made by Councillor Corrine Scott.

”What I’m asking is that we conduct a public review. It shouldn’t be too expensive if we conduct the public review at a regular Council Meeting, to give everybody the opportunity to voice their opinion,” said Scott.

It was pointed out the motion was not consistent with requirements to alert the public to this public hearing. The motion was amended to hold the hearing on July 30th. Germuth wanted to know why this was coming before Council with the deadline for their decision almost up.

Goffinet pointed out the motion to do things according to the rules of the Liquor Control Board failed, and the new motion was for Council to do this there own way.

“If we do not follow their template, we may be ruled out of order because we did not give the proper consideration, warning and attention to people’s point of view. What we’re trying to do is do it on our own, after having a motion to do the regulatory bodies way was defeated,” said Goffinet.

He expressed the community as a whole should be consulted about having a liquor establishment at Alcan vs. drinking with construction workers.

Scott finally closed debate. “The second motion was for us to opt in, virtually. What opting in is conducting our own public review according to the liquor control boards criteria. So my motion was that we will conduct a public review own our own so we can make comment to the liquor control board following their criteria,” said Scott.

She stated by having this on July 30th, they would be able to get the publics opinion without costing any money other then the cost of advertising. The public can provide comment in writing or come in person.

The motion and it’s relation to Council procedures needed to be clarified further. Staff pointed out Council could opt out and provide information to the liquor Control Board in a Communication. This lead to further clarification from several councillors.

Eventually, the motion was tabled so Council could get further information. The tabling motion was carried without discussion. Councillor Mary Murphy commented on how the Councillors should be reading their Council package before coming to Council.

While Council had spent a large portion of the meeting discussing this and was told numerous times by administration, if they opted into this process, they would be expected to follow it to the letter, the item was still not completed. It came up again at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, July 9th.

Councillor Phil Germuth made a motion to request an extension to the 90 days prescribed time frame so they could properly deal with it.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan asked administration if not having an on sight bar would deter or hold back Rio Tinto’s Modernization plans. The response was the application was made by Compass, on behalf of Bechtel. The construction of the bar was expected to take a year from May.

Germuth expressed they were supposed to have 90 days to consider, but a month and a half went past before Council saw the documents. The current deadline is August 20th.

Administration explained if Council did take this process, the Liquor Control Board would look at it and make sure there was just cause for the denial. If the recommendation was for approval, then they would have to make sure the residents of the camp were notified and information was garnered from the District of Kitimat.

Monaghan confirmed that if this project was approved, there would be no stopping camp workers from leaving the camp to go to local establishments. She was told there was a curfew at the camp and the camp is wet so workers could buy liquor to the camp to be consumed.

She was also told there would not be capacity to serve all the camp workers in Kitimat at once. The staff estimated the size of the camp to be 3000, Monaghan stated it’s going to get bigger then that.

Councillor Corrine Scott pointed out the camp pub would not be able accommodate everyone in the camp either, and there would not be 5000 people heading to the bars every night.

“Our business community is looking forward to having this activity happening in Kitimat after a few very, very lean years trying to operate their businesses,” said Scott. “Allowing a pub in the camp may ease the requirement for our RCMP coverage in town. On the other hand, the business community are also looking for new business. I could argue that point either way and be happy with whatever decision comes out of it.”

She favoured having the small businesses have the extra revenue then to keep all the workers in camp. Monaghan stated they could take the taxi into town even if Alcan gets their liquor license. She wanted to know what the capacity of the pubs were in town. She was told it was ‘several hundred.’

Germuth stated Council should opt in because it was a unique situation for being a camp.

“[The residents of the camp] are not going to care about the businesses of the community, whether they are licensees or not. That’s what we’re going to have to look out for,” said Germuth.

Councillor Mary Murphy stated this was just the tip of the ice burg. The Alcan Camp would soon add a Tim Horton’s and convenience store. Monaghan corrected her, the camp was not getting a Tim Horton’s. Scott explained the convenience store had not come before the Advisory Planning Commission.

However, Murphy stated all of this had come out of a meeting with Alcan.

Administration then piped in: “The courts… the Liquor Control Licensing Branch has advised us that the courts have concluded that the concerns from existing licensees about potential negative impacts on their business are not relevant conditions as neither the act nor its regulations sets out a need to consider the economic impact for an application on existing licenses,” said Lyle McNish, Deputy Treasurer.

Monaghan wanted to close debate but several Councillors wanted to speak.

“The process is exactly the same. It doesn’t matter who’s doing it, whether it’s the District of Kitimat that’s doing it or whether it’s the liquor control board,” said Murphy. “The only difference is who would foot the bill.”

She was told the District of Kitimat would have a little more flexibility but if they did not do it properly, the District would be asked to redo it at an additional cost or the Liquor Control Board would do it themselves. Scott said they could do this more in depth in house.

Councillor Rob Goffinet repeated the criteria from Monday, the situation and why it would none of their reasons to not have this would not fly.

“The Liquor Control Board would not rule in our favour because the sole basis for these criteria or a recommendation that in the public interest, this liquor establishment would do harm to the community. It may do harm in the minds of some present license holders to their business but that’s called, free enterprise and [the camp] is five kilometres, it’s behind a large fence on private property for the sole express use of Camp Personnel. If we rule that they do not have the right to do in that camp, what they deem responsible, but in the best interest of their camp workforce, […] I would say that we would not be basing our decision on the prescribed criteria,” said Goffinet.

He added it would be the lowest impact on the community of Kitimat of any drinking establishment. It just impacts the present license holders. He expressed they would be wasting months and money to be ruled out of order for protecting local bars.

He stated the local bar owners could petition the Liquor Control Board could petition but it might not hold water. He did not want to opt into this.

Germuth stated there ‘Peace order and good governance’ but this is about standing up for taxpayers which is what Council is supposed to do as well. A camp worker in for a drink might go to Trigo’s or the mall and go shopping.

“This is not just about the bar owners, this is about trying to keep businesses in town flourishing a bit and give the people in the camp a reason to come into the community and shop at the stores,” said Germuth.

The only thing they had to go in was the impact on the community. It does not deal with camps, it deals with coming into the community.

The motion was called and carried despite not all the councillors raising their hands to vote (signifying being in favour). They are requesting an extension to October 2nd. However, this is not done yet. On Monday, July 16th, the report will return to Council with the same recommendation: Opt out.
Drunk , sick and sorry in Kitimat
Comment by Linda M on 18th July 2012
I had to really think about this one. As a person that doesnt drink at all, I couldnt see the need for a bar out at the camp. However a lot of people like to have a cold beer after a long hard day, and so they should be allowed to do so. Should it be at the camp? I say yes. It will cut down on the number of drunk drivers going back and forth to town.
The businesses in town will not, as they fear lose all kinds of money, as on the week ends the workers will still come in and waste their hard earned money on alcohol. Even if a shuttle is offered to cart drunks to and fro some will still insist on taking their car to the bar.
The idea that someone out for a night of drinking will also go spend money at Trigos or Super value is just not clear thinking. No one carts their groceries around to the bar as far as I know.
People usually have a trip for shopping and necessary items and a different night for fun and entertainment.
Everyone is worried about losing money, no one seems to be worried about losing a life.
Let them drink to their hearts content, behind a fence 50 yards from their bed.
Comment by Linda Halyk on 17th July 2012
Decisions, decisions, decisions????

What would help Kitimat?
HMMMMM things that make you think, or at least should make Council think.

Let's fight over a pole sign, a Beng Box or another alcohol serving site. The choice(s) are pretty clear.

A pole sign is a rediculous fight, another liquor establishment is ludicrous, a BENG Box to report all the major news that is going to happen in Kitimat between now and SPILL time is crucial. A pole sign is not modernizing a city, neither is a booze joint, but a BENG box for quick news access is.

Lets be realistic.
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 15th July 2012
Although I agree council should be involved in the process,we all know the corrupt liberal Govt. is going to do what RTA wants. I understand its Bechtel that is applying ,but RTA is pulling the strings. How is kitimat going to reach its potential when most of the prime commercial realestate has dilapidated buildings on it,ie .Nechako center or the old strip mall across from the Hotel. Council has to come up with a plan on how to make the owners of these businesses either fix up the properties or tear them down or sell. Then there is the old hospital site which is still in limbo because ,if I recall it can't be decided who has the rights to it . Its either the District or the Haisla ,so it just sits there empty. Even though a majority of the workers on the remodernisation are forced to stay in camp ,the ones who don't have too choose Terrace to live because we do not have enough schools for their kids to go to. If Kitimat is going to be something other than an industrial park for Terrace ,council has to do something to encourage a few big box retailers to set up shop in Kitimat so we can keep our tax dollars here. I realize your job is thankless for the most part but lets focus on the important stuff and not worry about a Tim Hortons sign.