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january 2019

Para nordic championships coming Ted CLARKE Gateway

N Gateway file photo

Tanya Quesnel from Ontario competes in para nordic skiing at Otway Nordic Centre in Prince George during the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

ext month, Northern B.C. sports history will be made when Prince George hosts the 2019 world para nordic skiing championships. For 10 days in February, 140 athletes from more than 20 countries will descend on Otway Nordic Centre in pursuit of cross-country and biathlon medals – the first-ever internationally sanctioned world championship sporting event for Prince George. Snowmaking equipment was installed in September to complete the first phase of the Caledonia club’s longterm plan to become less dependent on natural snowfall. “We’ve already got the well drilled which was the main piece and we just have to put the pipes and pumps in,” said organizing committee chair Kevin Pettersen. “Hopefully Mother Nature will still co-operate on the tempera-

tures, but if she not giving us the precipitation when we need when we need it we’ll be able to make snow.” Minus-20 C is the cutoff temperature for the races. If it’s any colder than that the races would be cancelled due to the potential for damaging the lungs of the athletes. As long as its below freezing, snow can be made and the club will have a stockpile on hand in case it’s needed for the races Feb. 15-24. The para nordic championships include three disciplines of racing for biathlon and cross-country – sitting, standing and visuallyimpaired. Within those categories athletes will be grouped depending on each one’s level of disability, to be determined at the start of the season. Pettersen said there is no limit on the number of athletes can send, as long as they meet qualifying criteria.


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Rising star

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Christine HINZMANN Gateway

Handout photo by the Space Telescope Science Institute

Jason Kalirai, who grew up in Quesnel, is an astrophysicist working at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

tar gazing in Quesnel is a big part of fond childhood memories for a Cariboo astrophysicist who now works at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. “As a young kid one of the beautiful things about living in Quesnel is that it’s very isolated and it’s very dark, it’s very quiet and so we lived in a normal house but we had a nice backyard,” Jason Kalirai said. “I remember as a young kid looking up at the night sky in the backyard and just kind of wondering what I was seeing out there. What more was out there? And just having these basic questions that I think a lot of kids do at a young age.” Kalirai said that as he would read books about astrophysics – the study of the physical nature of stars and other celestial bodies – he would always get pulled in deeper. — see ‘ASK QUESTIONS, page 3


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‘Ask questions and then go and find the answers’ — from page 2 “Because the universe is so complex that you realize that ‘oh, wow, the things that I’m seeing are just kind of like the houses on my street, compared to the city that I live in or the province that we’re in or the country that we’re in – there’s just so much more out there’ and that was with me all through elementary school and high school and then the real turning point for me happened in Grade 11 when I started taking physics.” At that point, he fell in love with the scientific discipline that seeks to explain the behaviour of the universe, both at the very small and the very large level. His nowretired teacher, Ray Blais, was actually an astronomer and he incorporated astronomy concepts about gravity and how stars work into his physics curriculum. “And that’s what got me hooked,” Kalirai said. “I remember I had a conversation with him where I realized that you could actually do this for a living and they’ll pay you for it. There’s an actual job of being an astrophysicist and from there I never looked back.” Kalirai, who graduated high school in Quesnel in 1999, earned three degrees at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, including his BSc, honours physics and astronomy, MSc, astrophysics, and PhD, astrophysics. Kalirai has a deeper connection to this area. Kalirai’s wife was born in Prince George. At a young age Mandeep (better known as Mandy) moved with her family to Vancouver. Kalirai met Mandy at UBC while they both studied science.

The primary research field I work on is the life cycles of stars, how stars change over time, and how they evolve, how they’re eventually going to die, how they impact the planets that are orbiting them and how they influence the galaxies in which they live – stuff like that. — Jason Kalirai After attending UBC, Kalirai went to the University of California at Santa Cruz as a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow. “Coming up through the system doing the degrees and doing research I was always most excited about advancing on the understanding of something,” Kalirai said. “The primary research field I work on is the life cycles of stars, how stars change over time, and how they evolve, how they’re eventually going to die, how they impact the planets that are orbiting them and how they influence the galaxies in which they live – stuff like that.” That was always his biggest passion, he added. “But about five or six years ago it changed,” Kalirai said. “And it changed when I began to understand how the system here in the United States, where I’m at now, supports science and all the different ways scientists can get involved in helping shape future priorities for astrophysics.” Kalirai said he spends a lot of time coming up with ideas for future space science projects. “And not just for astrophysics but also

planetary science and helio physics, which is the study of the sun, as well as Earth science programs,” he said. “So now I get a lot of satisfaction in being a part of the process through which strategic priorities are decided for NASA and the United States to go after and often in these projects they are actually international partnerships. Sometimes it’s very rewarding to see – sometimes the U.S. is leading a project that Canada is a partner on or sometimes Canada is leading a project and the U.S. is a partner.” Kalirai said the United States collaborates with many other countries on a variety of projects, including telescopes and probes that are being built. “And that’s when we’re really at our best,” he said. “When we’re leveraging the collective expertise and talent from many different nations.” Through much study of astrophysics in the last decade or so, Kalirai said there is one thing that has become apparent. “Planets are not special,” he said. “There’s nothing unique about planets. They’re just the debris laying around when a star forms.

There’s gas and dust laying around and it forms planets and if you look at the history of astronomy it teaches that nothing is special. Our galaxy is not special. There are billions of galaxies like it in the universe. “Our stars and the sun is not special. There are billions of stars like it in our galaxy and now we know planets are not special. If you just think about the future I think we’ll discover that life is not special. I think we’ll find evidence of life within our own solar system and I think we’ll find life on other planets that are orbiting other stars because there are billions times billions of stars in the universe. I hope understanding that will give people here on Earth a sense of togetherness, a sense of closeness.” Kalirai can’t stress enough the importance of youth pursuing their science interests. He said he knows making the study of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) easily accessible is key to the future population of scientists, whose curious minds may answer future questions about the universe. “I have found it to be very rewarding to be a scientist and to help solve some of the big problems, the big questions that face us about the universe but all science is like that,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be astrophysics but if you want to feel that way, if you’re passionate about it, it’s important to be curious. It’s important to try to figure out why things work the way they do and how things work. Ask questions and then go and find the answers and if it’s truly for you – it’s your passion, like what happened to me – you’ll never look back.”


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Pettersen’s innovative ideas left a ski legacy Ted CLARKE Gateway

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jorger Pettersen, a member of the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame for his work as Canada’s first full-time cross-country ski coach, died Dec. 29 at his home in Okotoks, Alta., after a nearly two-decade battle with sarcoidosis, a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the lungs. He was 76. Pettersen’s legacy includes leaving Prince George in the mid1960s for Inuvik, NWT, where he quickly transformed a group of Indigenous kids from the Mackenzie Delta region into Olympiccalibre athletes. Two of his skiers, twin sisters Sharon and Shirley Firth of the Gwich’in First Nation, were on the national women’s cross-country team for 17 years,

competing in four consecutive Winter Olympics. “You know what makes me smile?” Pettersen told reporter Peter Graves in a 2010 SkiTrax.com article. “Well, seven of nine skiers on the 1972 Canadian Olympic team were from the little town of Inuvik, a town of about 1,500 people. It made me very proud.” Pettersen’s roots in Prince George can be traced back to 1958 when he moved with his family from Kitimat at age 16. Skiing was a family passion they carried with them from Sarpsborg, Norway, when they immigrated to Camrose, Alta., five years earlier. The Pettersens became active members of the Sons of Norway Ski Club and cut their own cross-country trails closer to their home on Harper Street through stretches of pine forest in what is

Pettersen now the residential area west of Spruceland Mall. Recognizing the need to grow the sport and not be so exclusive, Pettersen and Harry Andersen suggested the club change its name to Hickory Wing Ski Club.

The club developed the trails at Tabor Mountain which became a beacon for ski racers in the region. Tabor was the site of the 1965 biathlon and cross-country national championships and the Centennial Races in 1967 that brought international racers to Prince George. “Hickory Wing became a real iconic development in Canadian cross-country skiing because we became the main centre in Canada to produce cross-country skiers,” said Pettersen, in an interview with The Citizen a few months before his death. “It all started in Prince George after we sort of laid the roots to the development we had here in Canada.” Ski racing was Pettersen’s life until an injury cut short his career just before he was about to represent Canada in the 1964 Olympics

in Innsbruck, Austria. He was named to the Canadian Olympic training squad in 1962 and returned to Norway to train but had to stop entirely when he nearly ruptured his Achilles tendon, an overuse injury he attributed to too much running on hard surfaces. Unable to ski, he returned to Prince George and became a coach, ordering as many training manuals as he could find through his contacts in Norway. He attended the annual fall convention of the Canadian Ski Association and was elected chairman and head coach of the CSA’s Western Division. When Pettersen took over as coach, just two of the 28 national team skiers were from the Western Division. By 1966, 22 of the 28 team members came from his program. — see ‘WE WERE, page 5


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‘We were trying to push the boundaries’ — from page 4 To help share the workload, Pettersen got his father John and younger brother Rolf involved and by 1965 Hickory Wing was the top club racing team in Canada. Rolf went on to become an 11-time Canadian champion who competed in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France. All three Pettersens are now in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame. Pettersen moved to Inuvik in 1965, hired as head coach and manager of the TEST (Territorial Experimental Ski Training) program. Working with local athletes, most of whom had never skied before, Pettersen’s impact was immediate. Skiing on a lit track during long winters on the flat Arctic tundra, often enduring cold that hit the minus-40s, within six months he molded the 14-year-old Firth twins into North American champions. Five years later, as part of the country’s first Olympic women’s ski team in 1972 in Sapporo, they joined TEST protégées Fred Kelly, Roger Allen and Roseanne Allen as the first Aboriginal athletes to represent Canada at the Olympics. Pettersen’s ability to attract world-calibre racers to the Top of the World ski championships in Inuvik and his success in developing so many quality skiers from the Arctic who regularly posted

their European tour Pettersen and the national team were guests of honour at a dinner at Rideau Gate hosted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Pettersen left Inuvik that year to become Canada’s first national cross-country ski coach, a job he held until 1975. During his tenure he started the national team training centre and established the Yellowhead Ski Club in McBride in 1972, using money he’d made from his ski equipment business, Viking Ski Imports, to build the lodge. He lived in McBride on his own cattle ranch until 1986, when he was hired by the Calgary Olympic Committee. As Canada’s Federation International Ski (FIS) representative, a position he held for 27 years, Pettersen was the primary architect of the Canmore Nordic Centre built for the 1988 Calgary Olympics and he was venue co-ordinator/manager for the cross-country events at the Games. His trail design included steep undulating pitches which reflected the new Photo from Pettersen’s book, A Crosscountry Ski Story free technique racing style. A teenaged Bjorger Pettersen has a hard time containing his “We were trying to push the excitement as he blasts through the snow on his skis on trails boundaries in the big world and he and his family cut through the forests of Prince George near trying to innovate,” he said. “You what is now Spruceland Mall. Pettersen, a member of the Prince know, what works in Scandinavia George Sports Hall of Fame, died at age 76 last week at his home in Okotoks, Alta. is one thing, but we needed something bigger to drive the sport in North America.” top-10 results against the best nent in international ski circles. Canmore is now the home of the Europeans made his name promiIn 1969, on the way back from

national biathlon and cross-country teams and is widely recognized as one of the top nordic ski facilities in North America. One of only a handful of lifetime members of the FIS Cross-Country Committee, Pettersen served as technical director at three Olympic competitions – Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980, Albertville, France, in 1992 and in his native Norway at Lillehammer in 1994. Pettersen’s first brush with the Olympics came in 1960 when he skipped school in Prince George to attend the Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif., to learn more about the sport. The cross-country events had a low profile at the Games, which gave Pettersen unfettered access to FIS officials and their contacts and that spurred his entrepreneurial spirit. Recognizing how hard it was for Canadians to buy quality ski equipment he tapped into the European suppliers and at age 18 began importing the gear himself, based in North Vancouver. Within seven years, with Pettersen’s brother-in-law Bob Gaasbeek from Prince George running the business in Montreal, Viking Ski Imports was boasting annual sales of $8 million and that allowed Pettersen to donate equipment to the national team. — see ‘WHEN I, page 6


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‘When I first kicked my skis on in this country, we were an unorganized, backwoods sport’ — from page 5 He sold the business in 1980 after three snowless winters in main markets of Eastern Canada. In November 2017, Pettersen released a 435-page self-published book, A CrossCountry Ski Story, which took two-and-ahalf years for him to write. Illustrated with photos throughout the pages, the book offers detailed descriptions of the races he attended and how he honed his career as an athlete, coach, official and entrepreneur. Included are chapters written by former national team coaches Dave Wood, Roger Allen, Jack Sasseville, Anton Scheier and current head coach Louis Bouchard. The book is available in Prince George at Books and Company. Pettersen moved to Okotoks to set up his ranch after the 1988 Olympics. Writing the book gave him a chance to

In November 2017, Pettersen released a 435page self-published book, A CrossCountry Ski Story, which took two-and-a-half years for him to write. reflect on his nearly seven decades as a contributor and innovator in nordic skiing in Canada. “When I first kicked my skis on in this country, we were an unorganized, backwoods sport,” he wrote. “Today, we are world beaters and medal winners! I love my family and cross-country skiing! Go Canada Go!” A celebration of Pettersen’s life was held earlier this month at the Okotoks Community Centre.

Handout photo

Marc Bernardin and Kevin Smith are the stars of the podcast Fatman on Batman. Bernardin will be returning to Northern FanCon this year.

Bernadin returning to Northern FanCon Gateway staff

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e said such nice things to the world about Prince George, it was almost mandatory for Marc Bernardin to be invited back to Northern FanCon. Bernardin – a writer of comic books, screen scripts and magazine articles for the biggest titles in those industries – was the co-host of Fatman Beyond, the global podcast he does with filmmaker Kevin Smith. It was broadcast live off the floor of CN Centre last year, giving the world an unprecedented view of Prince George and its pop-culture festival. “We are excited to see Marc return and look forward to him connecting with fans plus hosting another stellar workshop at Northern FanCon 2019,” said event organizer Norm Coyne who said Bernardin’s encore was “by popular demand.” With so many aspiring writers in all the genres in which he is proficient, there is a large student base for Bernardin’s workshops.

He is a craftsman of the language and a wizard of conjuring the imagination onto the page. He’s also a master of conversation. He brought a lot of fun and interaction to the participants at last year’s Northern FanCon. “Marc Bernardin is a man who wears many hats, and is no stranger to the world of pop culture and comic cons,” said Coyne. “He has moderated panels at San Diego Comic-Con International, appeared in pop culture video documentaries and made many personal appearances at comic cons and colleges alongside his pal filmmaker Kevin Smith as part of the Fatman Beyond podcast.” Bernardin also broadcasts another franchise-based podcast. He and Tricia Helfer co-host the Battlestar Galacticast internet show. She, too, was a popular guest at last year’s Prince George fan convention. Northern FanCon 2019 happens May 3-5 at CN Centre and the Kin Centres. Tickets are on sale now via the event’s website and Facebook page.


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Weight loss apps ineffective without guidance Food for Thought

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Kelsey Leckovic

ood tracking apps make up a major category of the food-related apps now available. MyFitness Pal, 21 Day Fix Tracker, My Macros and Lose it! are only a few of the most popular. These apps are promoted as helping the user monitor their food consumption, follow a specific diet or lose weight, but are they proven to be effective? Or are they just another diet fad? With the start of 2019, many people will look to food tracking apps to help them meet their diet goals. While there are apps to encourage more mindful eating or track a chronic disease-related diet, weight loss apps seem to be the most popular in the food tracking category. It’s likely because of this that these apps, and their effectiveness in promoting weight loss, are currently a popular area of study. Although this is a relatively new area of research, there is some evidence to support the use of food tracking apps in promoting adherence to certain diet-related goals, when used in conjunction with nutritional counselling from a healthcare professional, like a registered dietitian. While the reasoning for this link is unclear, better results may have been achieved because of the guidance and individualized approach that can be provided through counselling. Most people seem to use food tracking apps with a goal in mind, but not necessar-

MetroCreative file photo

Food-tracking apps are a popular weight-loss tool, but they aren’t a substitute for talking to a health care professional, columnist and nutritionist Kelsey Leckovic says. ily the specific steps and strategies that go into achieving that goal. Tracking apps are a tool used to document but they don’t provide individualized education. Apps that focus on weight loss will ask you how much weight you want to lose and how fast you want to lose it. You may also be asked what percentage of calories you want to eat from proteins, carbohydrates and fats, how you want your calories

to be divided throughout the day and how many calories you want to “burn” through exercise. Setting goals to address these questions does not lead to a greater understanding of a healthy diet and a healthier, balance lifestyle over the long term. When arbitrary values are set, an overly restrictive diet can be the result. Food tracking apps can also remove a level of mindfulness, since the goal is often to

hit a target number and not necessarily listen to your own body. If you’re consistently overriding feelings of hunger and fullness, it will be more difficult to maintain goals without consistently tracking. A hyperfocus on numbers, like calories or grams of carbohydrates and protein, can also impact the user’s intake of a well-rounded diet, full of whole foods. — see MEAL PLANNING, page 8


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Meal planning may be a more effective, realistic approach to losing weight — from page 7 When setting a goal for weight loss, some of these apps will tell you how long it will take to reach your desired goal. If you restrict your calories even more, you’ll achieve faster weight loss. Although I’ve only mentioned the negatives so far, food tracking apps may serve a positive benefit in helping bring to light eating behaviours that could have otherwise gone unnoticed. One 2018 study in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine found that participants who used a mindful eating app for 28 days experienced a reduction in craving-related eating and self-reported overeating behaviours. Tracking, or writing down, your snacks and meals can make you more aware of what you’re eating, help you understand what leads to your eating behaviours, show you what you’re doing well and show you what you can do even better, but without individualized guidance these things could be difficult to identify.

Ultimately, food tracking apps, and weight loss apps in particular, do not support healthy, balanced diets over the long term, nor do they support increased independence and knowledge regarding nutrition. Weight loss apps can lead to an overly restrictive diet and the treatment of food as the enemy. The annoyance or guilt evoked by the demands of these apps can also deter efforts to make positive diet changes in the future. Meal planning may be a more effective and realistic approach to start with when looking to make diet changes in the new year. There is a menu-planning tool at www.cookspiration.com with daily meal plans, recipes and shopping lists that can be tailored to your diet goals. If you’re looking to speak with a dietitian, you can also call Healthlink BC at 811 or go to www.healthlinkbc.ca/dietitian-services. Kelsey Leckovic is a registered dietitian with Northern Health working in chronic disease management.

Environmental, economic issues divide First Nations Gateway news service

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Vancouver-area First Nation’s decision to support the Woodfibre LNG project may have come as a surprise to some, considering the nation’s role in helping to derail the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion last year. The Squamish Nation community was one of a handful of First Nations that lined up to convince the Federal Court of Appeal in August to overturn National Energy Board approval of the controversial oil pipeline expansion from Edmonton to the West Coast, leaving its future in doubt. But the nation’s acceptance of the liquefied natural gas export project last month reinforces a simple truth, says historian Ken Coates: while Canada’s first people may approach tough questions differently than non-native Canadians, their decisions are motivated by many of the same factors. “These are complex issues and you’re always going to have people on both sides,” said the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s senior fellow in Aboriginal and northern Canadian issues and the author of several books and publications on Indigenous relations. “These are communities that need real sustainable, substantial economic benefit, where Indigenous people have been locked out of the market economy for 150 years, since Confederation. They’ve been wanting in for a long period of time.” Woodfibre LNG gained trust through five

years of consultations and by agreeing to abide by conditions under the nation’s environmental and cultural assessment process (which operates separately from federal and provincial regimes), said Khelsilem, a spokesman for the Squamish Nation council, and one of its councillors who voted against the proposal in a close 8-6 vote. In return for its support, the community is to receive annual and milestone payments totalling $226 million over the 40-year life of the project, and its companies will be in line to bid on up to $872 million in contracts. Hundreds of jobs are expected to result for the nation’s 4,000 members, nearly half of whom live off reserve in the Greater Vancouver area. Khelsilem, who uses one name, said the product involved in each project – Woodfibre LNG’s relatively benign natural gas versus the “extreme risk” of diluted bitumen from the oilsands in the Trans Mountain pipeline – was just one of several factors in the decision to back one and fight the other. “I think that if governments want to work with First Nations to create economic development, there’s ways to do it. And our nation like many other First Nations are saying, ‘We want to do it, we want to do responsible economic development and there are ways for the government to work with us on that,”’ he said. But, he added: “Our future isn’t in the resource extraction industries like a lot of other First Nations.” — see ‘INDIGENOUS, page 9


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‘Indigenous peoples seem to be becoming a convenient excuse for turning down... projects’ — from page 8 The court-enforced duty of the federal government to consult, and where appropriate, accommodate Indigenous wishes when it considers projects that might adversely impact potential or established Aboriginal or treaty rights, makes their support key to both industry and environmentalists. In November, the Montreal Economic Institute released a study called The First Entrepreneurs – Natural Resource Development and First Nations that disputes the “widely held belief” that First Nations systematically oppose projects. It shows that Indigenous people working in oil and gas extraction make average wages of almost $150,000 per year, while those working on gas pipelines made more than $200,000. According to a 2016 Statistics Canada census the average wage of Indigenous workers nationwide was less than $50,000. A few weeks later, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers released a report called Toward a Shared Future: Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and the

CP file photo

Workers walk towards a power plant at the Woodfibre LNG project site near Squamish in 2016. The Squamish Nation is in support of the project. Oil and Gas Industry, that shows six per cent of the workers in oil and gas identify themselves as Indigenous, a total of about 11,900 people making generally betterthan-average wages. It also points out that Indigenous governments received $55 million in payments

related to oil and gas activity outside of the oilsands in the second half of 2017 and that oilsands companies had spent $3.3 billion on procurement from Indigenous-owned companies in 2015 and 2016. The message of financial gain from co-operation with industry – dubbed

“economic reconciliation” – resonates with Clayton Blood, general manager of Kainai Resources Inc., a company established by the Blood Tribe of southern Alberta to pursue economic development including oil and gas exploration. “We’re finding that Indigenous peoples seem to be becoming a convenient excuse for turning down some of these controversial projects when a majority of First Nations along the (Trans Mountain) pipeline route were looking for opportunities,” he said. Environmentalists have used “scare tactics” to try to boost opposition to development on his reserve, too, Blood says, including blaming hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” of wells for methane in water wells, a problem he says existed long before fracking began. But Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and an ardent environmentalist, makes it clear he thinks fracking is a problem. “It’s not about money,” he insists. “It’s about the land, it’s about the environment, it’s about our culture, our traditions, our livelihood, our subsistence.”


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Lessons learned from the PR referendum

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he outcome of the electoral reform referendum in British Columbia was announced last week with little fanfare, accompanied by a few statements from politicians. This was a different postal vote than the others the province has held in this century. The level of participation was satisfactory, but British Columbians who did not cast a ballot readily admit to being confused. The Research Co. exit poll of British Columbians mirrored the results of the referendum, with 49 per cent of respondents reporting they voted for the first-past-thepost system, 31 per cent voting to move to a proportional representation system, and 20 per cent not casting a ballot. Once the non-voters are removed, the result of the exit poll is 61 per cent choosing to retain the existing system and 39 per cent opting to change it. The survey was designed to have a larger proportion of non-voters, in order to prop-

Guest Column Mario CANSECO

Research Co.

erly study why these citizens decided not to take part in the postal vote. The No. 1 issue for those who chose not to vote is “not feeling informed enough” (48 per cent). While some non-voters also claimed they never received a ballot (18 per cent) or simply forgot to mail it (17 per cent), nothing came close to the uneasy feeling of being in the dark. The notion of a process that would have done more to engage the more than half of British Columbians who chose not to exercise their right has been discussed prominently in the aftermath of the referendum. Some have openly questioned if the provincial government did all it could to inform residents, and whether a discussion devoid of politics would have made a difference in

the minds of voters. The exit poll suggests that the process was likely more to blame than the appetite of residents for a different system. When British Columbians are asked to imagine a different scenario, with a reform proposal that is guided by an independent citizens’ panel – not politicians – and would provide an option for proportional representation, 41 per cent of respondents would vote for change and 36 per cent would vote to keep first past the post. With this different question, 15 per cent of British Columbians who voted for first past the post in the referendum would switch to support proportional representation. A further 15 per cent of these voters who endorsed the status quo would be undecided. Simply put, a less political and more participatory process could move some voters who disliked the choices on their ballot. The survey shows that large majorities of British Columbians support concepts such as attempting to eliminate “strategic voting” (75 per cent), having a system that does not disadvantage independent candidates (70 per cent) and a party not governing with a majority of seats but with fewer than 40 per cent of all votes cast (63 per cent). Still, more than half (52 per cent) also believe we should take no further steps at this time aimed at changing our electoral system. The concept of a legislature that is more representative of vote totals is popular. The way in which the decision was put to voters was not. I will offer some words of caution about

what this all means for the future of our province. Reading the result of the referendum as a barometer of possible political allegiance in the next provincial election – whenever it may happen – is misguided. The analysis goes like this: if you have a majority of voters in ridings held by the BC New Democratic Party (NDP) or the BC Green Party supporting first past the post, this means that the seats are in danger of going to the BC Liberals in the next election. This is simply not supported by data. While BC Liberal voters from 2017 were decidedly more likely to support first past the post (82 per cent), only 53 per cent of those who voted for the NDP and the Greens favoured proportional representation. The numbers do not point to a disenchantment with all policies, simply a disagreement with one. Pick-your-poison elections – yes or no, in or out, remain or leave – are decidedly different from provincial ballots. If they were the same, the 2016 victory for the “Leave” side in Brexit would have led to the rebirth of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). In the first election following Brexit, UKIP finished with 1.8 per cent of all votes, down from its best showing of 12.6 per cent in 2015. Our province has had experiences with this conundrum before. In 2011, many assumed that the defeat of the postal vote on whether to keep the harmonized sales tax (HST) in ridings that had voted for the BC Liberals signalled the demise of the ruling party. — Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.


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Many should appeal their property assessment, expert says Andrew A. Duffy Gateway News Service

A CP file photo

A real estate sign sits in front of a house in Vancouver on June 12, 2018. Commercial real estate agent Peter Morris says many home owners should appeal their property assessments.

s many as 20 per cent of all residential property owners in the province should be appealing their property assessments, says the man who has literally written the book on the assessment appeals process. Peter Morris, a commercial real estate agent who has co-written a book entitled How to Successfully Appeal Your B.C. Assessment, said the sheer volume of properties the assessment authority has to evalu-

ate means there are bound to be mistakes made. “It’s my belief that there are a good 20 per cent of assessments that are incorrect,” Morris said in an interview. “It’s not because B.C. Assessment is doing things wrong necessarily, but there are a lot of factors in play when it comes to assessments being incorrect.” Morris, who co-wrote the 64page book with appraiser and former B.C. Assessment supervisor Tim Down, said the biggest factor is the number of properties on the provincial roll. — see ‘THE AVERAGE, page 12


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‘The average person does not know how to look at their assessment’ — from page 11 The new roll, released this month by B.C. Assessment, has 2.07 million properties worth a total of more than $1.99 trillion. “There are more than two million properties assessed and not enough assessors to go and visit all two million every year so they use a computer model,” said Morris, noting that can lead to data entry errors, broad generalizations between properties in a neighbourhood and not taking into account subtle changes such as tree growth destroying water views. The assessment is an estimate of a property’s market value as of July 1, and physical condition as of Oct. 31. According to B.C. Assessment, changes in property assessments reflect movement in the market

and can vary greatly from property to property. Assessors take into account current sales in the area as well as the size, age, quality, condition, view and location of a property. B.C. Assessment says only two per cent of property owners appeal each year. Morris believes that number would be much higher if people better understood the process. “They don’t understand and they have misinformation about what their assessment means,” Morris said. Morris said he was spurred to write the book after appealing his home’s assessment a few years ago and the person before him at the panel argued his assessment was too high because it didn’t take into account the lack of services he received from the municipality

There are more than two million properties assessed and not enough assessors to go and visit all two million every year so they use a computer model. — Peter Morris in which he lived. “When I heard that, it dawned on me that the average person does not know how to look at their assessment, understand what it means and how to appeal if they think it’s wrong,” he said. Morris said his book offers tools to help property owners better un-

derstand the system and develop a sound argument that will hold water with B.C. Assessment during an appeal. The book also goes through the various misconceptions people have about the assessment, including that an increase in assessed value automatically means property taxes will rise; that increases in assessed values are a good thing and reflect what the real estate market would pay for your home; and that it’s impossible to win an appeal. “The biggest mistake people make (when appealing) is making the wrong argument,” said Morris. “They may not do the research right – they may just (compare their assessment) with their neighbours’ instead of analyzing the data at a granular level.”

That way, he argues, they can better compare their properties based on price per square foot or land area. “If they don’t know how to research or put forth the right kind of argument, they will fail,” he said. Those who feel their property assessment does not reflect market value as of July 1, 2018, or see incorrect information on their notice, should contact B.C. Assessment as soon as possible. Property owners may submit a notice of complaint by Jan. 31 to ask for an independent review by a property assessment review panel. The panels, appointed by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, typically meet between Feb. 1 and March 15 to hear complaints.

Climate change doubled B.C. wildfires risk: study Gateway news service Research from Environment Canada says climate change at least doubled the risk for British Columbia’s record-setting 2017 wildfire season. The newly published study adds that global warming is likely to have increased the amount of land scorched in the fires by up to 11 times. Study author Megan Kirchmeier-Young

says scientists are increasingly able to demonstrate the role that climate change plays in specific events. She says more researchers - using new statistical methods, better data and more powerful computers – are linking overall warming to local events. In 2017, 12,000 square kilometres of forest burned in B.C. That was a record until last summer when 13,000 square kilometres were devastated.


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Nine-year-old artist designs Christmas greeting cards Gateway staff

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he’s an artistic entrepreneur and she’s nine years old. Maya McCutcheon from Fort St. James kept asking her parents for ‘this and that’ at six years old and when she was told if she wanted ‘this and that’ she’d have to earn her own money, she turned to her artistic talents as a means to an end. This year, Maya showcased her work to the Prince George & District Community Arts Council (CAC) in the spring and when program manager Lisa Redpath saw some of Maya’s work, she was interested in supporting the young artist. “It is very charming imagery and in the pile she showed us, there was some Christmas scenery,” Redpath said. The Community Arts Council sends out Christmas cards every year and chooses work from a regional artist to showcase their extraordinary talent, Redpath added. “Negotiating terms with this nine-yearold business girl was one of the highlights of my year,” she said.” Maya is really building her entrepreneurial skills. I’m smiling right now just thinking about how we struck our deal. Her parents are great guides for her but she did the negotiating all by herself. She is so inspirational and a real example for other young artists to follow. Really, she is a good example for any age.” It all started because Maya’s mom Mel

said she grew up in a household where everything was not handed to her on a silver platter and she wanted to raise her daughter the same way. Mel said as a young person she made some budgeting mistakes and had to work her way out of it and she wanted to give Maya the skills so that her daughter didn’t have to learn the hard way. “She was wanting to buy things and her father and I didn’t want to spoil her rotten and she couldn’t do physical labour or babysit so we tried to get creative in a way that she could earn some money, learn some skills and buy some things herself,” Mel said. “I started making art when I was six years old,” Maya said. “I started in school.” Maya said they decided to make greeting cards using images she created. Her preferred medium is watercolour with alcohol. “Because it’s fun to see how it turns out,” Maya said. Mel said they used a Canadian printing company and made greeting cards. They soon began selling the cards locally at the farmers’ market. “And the second year I joined the craft fair with more art,” Maya piped in. “The next year it just kept going up and up with more cards and then this year I got magnets, calendars and cards.” Every year, Maya has a big ticket item on her wish list. Most recently she wanted an above ground pool that cost $300. — see ‘IT WAS, page 15

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Coalition aims to put First Nations in the driver’s seat on major projects Ian BICKIS Gateway news service

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ired of waiting for major construction projects to come to them, a growing coalition of First Nations is instead taking the lead on ventures to better control their economic

futures. “We really are in a place looking to diversify our economies,” said Jasmine Thomas, a councillor of the Saik’uz First Nation in the Central Interior. “Really moving away from projects proposed and imposed on us, and changing

that whole direction to projects that we’re leading, and that make sense to us.” The Saik’uz are one of four bands working with an initiative called the First Nations Major Projects Coalition to jump-start a hydroelectric enterprise that has been stalled for decades. The roughly $300-million Kenney Dam Water Release Facility is the first project the coalition has taken on in its mission to create a First Nation-led service providing trusted advice and co-ordination on getting major projects off the ground.

To help First Nations get projects going, the coalition provides a forum for discussions and consultations as well as expertise... “We are a first-of-its-kind model,” said Niilo Edwards, executive director of the coalition. “What we do is we respond to the requests that come in and provide

the support necessary so that communities can make informed business decisions.” The coalition, funded from provincial and federal grants, is designed to move beyond impact benefit deals towards greater initiative and ownership of projects with budgets of over $100 million, said Edwards. “In this day and age, First Nations have the opportunity to become project proponents themselves. Gone are the days of treating First Nations as stakeholders. They are governments, they have interests in their territory, they have economic and

social interests that need to be satisfied.” To help First Nations get projects going, the coalition provides a forum for discussions and consultations as well as expertise, but it is not a project manager, nor does it negotiate on behalf of First Nations. The Kenney Dam project is the most advanced for the coalition, but Edwards said he has received requests to look into electricity transmission projects as well as the potential for a provincial loan guarantee fund. — see ‘IT CREATES, page 15


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‘It creates certainty for investors’

Handout photo

Maya McCutcheon, 9, is a young artist whose Snowman piece was showcased on Christmas cards sent out and available for sale to the public by the Prince George and District Community Arts Council.

‘It was a real learning curve for her’ — from page 13 Maya bought it and hit a milestone soon after. She’s got $1,000 in her savings account. “We recently celebrated that,” Mel said. “We don’t know many kids that are thinking that way so it’s neat.” During the Christmas holidays, Mel and Maya will be exploring a new medium – clay. Maya wants to make pottery bowls and she wants to use a wheel to make them. “Because those are the easiest things to make,” Maya said. As far as making other items to sell, Maya was thinking of making light switch covers and bags. Maya has a loan from her parents that she has to pay back. “We were trying to explain to Maya about paying back her costs,” Mel said. After some trial and error, Maya began paying her parents back as she sold her work, understanding a profit margin and how her profit increases as she prints more

products at one time. For the community arts council project, Maya was able to fund it herself, which means all the profit stays with her. “So that was really exciting for her,” Mel said. “It was a real learning curve for her and we are so proud to watch her go from super, super shy and nervous and struggling with the math to someone who has to do all the math and talk to her customers.” This year, Maya was at a two-day craft fair and handled most of it by herself. “I think she made over $300 profit in those two days and then she went shopping for toys for the toy and food drive and donated $200 to it, so that was pretty cool. We are pleased to see how confident she is now. We’re pretty grateful for all who support Maya.” The public won’t miss out on investing in the young artist’s endeavours. Maya’s cards are available for sale at the CAC gift shop along with many other regional artists’ work.

— from page 14 The group, which began taking shape in B.C. in 2015 and now counts 47 members as far east as Ontario, is also framed around projects that meet standards of cultural values and environmental stewardship and to demonstrate how projects can advance with free, prior and informed consent. The Kenney Dam project looks to have met the criteria of the Saik’uz, Nadleh Whut’en, Stellat’en, and Cheslatta Carrier First Nations involved in moving it forward. The project will direct overflow water from the dam southwest of Vanderhoof to a generation facility and restore water flow to a stretch of the Nechako River that was choked off when the dam was built in the 1950s to power the Rio Tinto Kitimat aluminum smelter. The project has been proposed in various forms for decades. The coalition, along with independent power producer BluEarth Renewables Inc., is now advancing it through a new feasibility study with

the hope of finally making it a reality, said Edwards. “This project was on the books for 20 or 30 years, and the First Nations who have an interest in it today, struggled to advance the project until the coalition came along and was able to act as a forum for capacity and technical support to make the project go, or at least as far as we’ve gotten it today...” The coalition’s design of First Nation-led projects will help create more certainty for future projects, said JP Gladu, CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. “It creates certainty for investors, it creates certainty for communities, and at the end of the day, this is an opportunity for First Nations to generate new revenue sources through infrastructure. So I think more of this has to happen.” For Thomas, who acts as a spokeswoman for the four First Nations involved in the Kenney project, the development and the coalition in general are part of a new era for First Nation independence.


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