Friday, November 28, 2008

Logging in the Crowsnest Pass (Kananaskis View from the road)

Lot of concern out there right now about the impact of proposed logging on the Atlas Road in the Crowsnest Pass. Some of this concern is being driven by the logging that took place last year along the Kananaskis Road. Above are some pictures of where the logging took place up the Kananaskis Road about one km north of Coleman.

On Tuesday December 2th both SRD and Spray Lakes Sawmills will be appearing in front of council to make presentations regarding the proposed logging.

7pm at the municipal office in Coleman this is open to the public.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where does my tax dollars go in the Crowsnest Pass

Did you know that in 2008 we are budgeted to spend $267,872 just to insure our Facilities, Vehicle's etc?

Did you know that between 2005 and 2008 the Municipality as spent $265,584 on local advertising?

In 2005 we spent $3,152,488 or 33% of our operating budget on wages and benefits.
In 2008 our budget for wages and benefits is $3,904,854 or 44% of our operational budget.

Where does my Tax dollars go in the Crowsnest Pass

For 2008 the following groups received the listed amounts from the taxpayers;

Allied Arts $25000
Anpass Exchange $5000
Bellcrest Community Association $5000
CCHS/Hakusu-Cho Exchange Program $2500
Citizens on Patrol $8338
Museum $20000
Municipal Library $81247
Crowsnow Riders Association $8000
Ecomuseum Trust $20000
CNP Marketing Consortium $15000
CNP Community Events Assoc $20000
Thunder in the Valley Fireworks $5000
Thunder in the Valley Policing $6000
Thunder in the Valley Traffic Control $6183
Thunder in the Valley Garbage + Toilets $4816
SPCA $ 35600
Economic Development $20000

Friday, November 14, 2008

Do people really care in the Crowsnest Pass?

Good question posed by one of my fellow bloggers, are we so full of apathy in the Pass?

I don't believe so, I believe that deep down most people do care but for the following reasons don't speak up.

A lot of people don't know what the issues are for one. Especially in a small town where you have limited media coverage. Who determines what the issues are? Council? Ninety nine percent of the population never goes to a council meeting so how does the public no what the issues are?

The local media tells them. Is the local media biased, do they only report the issues that matter to them?

Who sets the local agenda in this or any other small community? The politicians, the "in" crowd, Business Interests, The vocal minorities with access to the media and the politicians.

As the public given up on politicians. Look at voter turnouts in the last provincial, and federal elections.

Why is it that most people today can't tell the difference between politicians, there was a time where you knew exactly what the Liberal, Conservative, and NDP parties stood for. There are few people today that can tell you what the principles of those parties are. You have NDP people running for the Conservatives, or the Liberals. Does anybody remember which party Belinda Stronach ran for, does anybody remember what Bob Rae's principles are?

It takes a certain type of person to speak up, to stand up for what they believe in. Especially in a small town, do you know how many times in the last four years I have heard the following;
"If I wasn't in business here I would say..........."
"Do you think I want to get ripped apart by the media like ............ did"
"My kids go to that school with hers do you think I want to hear that crap for the next two years"
"What if I ever need council they won't forget"
"Between me and you I agree with you completely but don't tell my wife, mother in law, husband etc"

Do people feel that politicians only listen to them at election times?

Do people feel like politicians are only looking after their own interests? how many politicians leave political life and go straight to work for companies that benefited from there actions while they were a politician?

Why is it that only politicians know whats best for the community?

Why is it that politicians listen very closely to people, to groups, to information, facts that work for their political agenda, but those same people can present information on issues that don't match up with political agendas and they are brushed aside by those same politicians?

The above reasons are why a lot of people don't speak up here and elsewhere. But as I stated earlier I do believe people care sometimes it just takes the right issue to bring them out.

You do see an examples of that lnow and again, look at what's happening in Calgary right now a 25% tax increase was proposed over three years. The outrage as been very loud, some of the politicians are starting to hear the public.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Government Spending, the Crowsnest Pass can we (Should we) afford more taxes?

All around us we read day after day, bad news about the International, National, and local economies. Now is a time that governments at all levels need to be responsible, to throw taxpayers money at large companies, does that make sense?
If its to save a key business sector that drives the economy, that is a fundamentally sound business that just needs to hang on, to retool its operations, to develop new product lines, until we start to come out of the recession, maybe that makes sense. But to shore up companies that have made poor business decisions, that are not prepared to change, I don't believe that makes sense, you just delay the date of failure.

Before these companies get a single penny of taxpayers money they should be forced to show how they are going to whether this recession. And most importantly how they are going to pay the taxpayer back.

Talking about governments being responsible, look at the city of Calgary at a time of $56 a barrel oil they are increasing their municipal taxes 25% over the next three years. I have read the outrage in the Calgary papers, where else but government can you increase spending during difficult economic times.

Last year in the Crowsnest Pass we raised taxes 12% for one year.

I hope that when we start the budget process in the Crowsnest Pass we recognize that a quarter of our taxpayers are retired and another quarter are within 10-15 years of retirement. How can government at any level expect the taxpayers to pay more tax increases than the rate of inflation. For retirees the Canada Pension Plan tells you that you have to live with a 2-3% increase per year, for anybody that is living of investments in mutual funds how much additional income will they be receiving in the coming years. Why should government not live with a 2-3% increase of taxation? Once you have shown that you have done everything to be has lean as possible.

Its critical that governments at all levels act responsibly in these difficult times and not add to the taxpayers burden by increasing their spending/taxation to outrageous levels.

Coal Mining and the Crowsnest Pass

This appeared in todays Globe and Mail;

Teck Cominco's debt dilemma

A little more than three months ago, it looked like Don Lindsay was sitting pretty.
On July 29, his company, Teck Cominco Ltd., unveiled a blockbuster $14-billion (U.S.) takeover bid for Fording Canadian Coal Trust and Teck shares defied usual deal trading patterns by jumping 6 per cent to close at $42.85 (Canadian) on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
It was a false good omen.
Since then, everything has changed for Canada's largest base metals miner. A looming global recession has decimated metal prices at a time when Teck has loaded itself up with $9.8-billion (U.S.) in debt including a $5.8-billion short-term bridge facility to pay for the takeover.
Now shareholders are sweating over how the company will repay the bridge loan amid waning demand from steel makers for Teck's coking coal.
“If we'd known this was going to occur we might have done something differently, there is no question about that,” Mr. Lindsay, Teck's chief executive officer, said in an interview Tuesday.
Teck shares nosedived 20 per cent Tuesday on rumours that the company is planning a $3-billion stock offering – rumours that Mr. Lindsay said were bogus.
“I can tell you for certain that we are in no discussions with any dealer about doing an equity deal,” he said.
Still, the market meltdown has pushed Teck into a troubling financial position. Its coal will likely be fetching significantly less next year than the $275 a tonne customers agreed to pay in the 2008 coal year.
India's state-controlled steel maker is reportedly asking suppliers to reduce prices of current contracts to $100 a tonne.
While the coal from Teck's Elk Valley operations in British Columbia is not sold to India, world steel production has been slashed by more than 10 per cent and Chinese steel mills have cut output by between 30 and 50 per cent in response to the sudden economic downturn.
Mr. Lindsay said he is confident Teck's coal mines will continue to generate strong cash flow until the current coal year expires in April.
“That doesn't mean we haven't noticed the extraordinary reductions in steel production that have been announced around the world. We're watching things very closely but at this point all the contracts are being honoured,” he said.
Teck executives are working on a plan to reduce costs and raise capital to pay down the bridge loan. The proposals will be presented to the Vancouver-based company's board on Nov. 19.
Cutting Teck's dividend, which amounts to about $500-million a year, is one of several options.
“It's fair to assume that the board will review the dividend quite closely,” Mr. Lindsay said.
The company is also expected to curtail expenditures on expensive development projects such as the Fort Hills oil sands joint venture with Petro-Canada and UTS Energy Corp., as well as its Galore Creek copper project. Mr. Lindsay would not comment on specific assets but sources said the company is also likely to walk away from the Petaquilla copper project in Panama.
Teck is expected to sell its gold assets and could shut down money-losing mining operations such as its Lennard Shelf zinc mine in Western Australia, which was shuttered earlier this year.
At a forecast 2009 coal price of $180 a tonne, “we believe it will not be possible to fully repay the bridge loan of $5.8-billion, fund the capital requirements and make the required debt repayments for the term loan,” UBS Securities said in a recent note to clients.
BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst Tony Robson believes that Teck overpaid for Fording and has cut his rating on the company to a “sell.”
“BMO thinks the refinancing of the debt may prove difficult in the next 12 months and it all hinges on coal staying north of $150 per tonne,” Mr. Robson said in an interview.
For his part, Mr. Lindsay concedes that had Teck foreseen the market collapse it might not have pulled the trigger on a $14-billion takeover.
“The world is a different place. When we negotiated the deal in July, copper was at $4 a pound and coal was at $300 a tonne going to $400,” he said.
Teck Cominco (TCK.B)
Close: $8.75 (Cdn.), down $2.20

And later today;

Worried about the Teck Cominco Ltd.'s ability to repay $9.8-billion (U.S.) in debt, investors sent the company's shares lower for the sixth consecutive trading session.
Teck shares fell 20 per cent Wednesday afternoon to $7 each, mirroring Tuesday's losses. The selloff was sparked by rumours that Teck, Canada's largest base metals miner, would need to sell additional shares to service the debt, which was taken on to pay for its takeover of Fording Canadian Coal Trust.
The rumour was dashed by chief executive officer Don Lindsay, but his reassurances did little to calm investors, who have driven the shares down 79 per cent so far this year as the outlook for commodities such as coal has softened.
Scotia Capital analyst Lawrence Smith downgraded the company to “sector perform” from “sector outperform,” saying that despite Teck's “high quality assets” a decline in base metal prices could cause problems for the Vancouver-based miner.
Teck Cominco Ltd.

“We are uncomfortable with Teck's high debt level resulting from its acquisition of Fording, in an environment where commodity prices could remain at low levels for several years,” Mr. Smith wrote in a note to clients.
He left his 12-month price target unchanged at $26, slightly higher than the average 12-month price target of $25.51 set by the 17 analysts who follow the company, according to Bloomberg. Eleven of those analysts rate the shares as a “buy,” three as a “hold” and two as a “sell.”
Mr. Lindsay said Tuesday that executives are working on a plan to reduce costs and pay down the bridge loan, and the options will be presented to the company's board on Nov. 19. One option is to cut the company's dividend, a move that would free-up $500-million a year.
The company is expected to curtail expenditures on expensive development projects such as the Fort Hills oil sands joint venture with Petro-Canada and UTS Energy Corp., as well as its Galore Creek copper project. Teck is also expected to sell its gold assets.
In a presentation to investors in New York Wednesday, Teck executive vice-president Ron Vance said that in addition to its gold portfolio, Teck is considering selling a minority interest in various mines and development projects."
Meanwhile, BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. analyst Ian de Verteuil warned that the Teck loan is a “good example of how banks can find themselves at risk” from impaired loans. If commodity prices continue to fall – copper is 58 per cent off recent highs and coal is off 53 per cent – the deal could be one of the fastest “underwriting-to-default experiences in the history of banking.”
“If commodity prices continue to deteriorate, a problem could develop as early as March, 2009,” he said, adding Bank of Montreal and CIBC were the Canadian banks with the most exposure to the deal.
“To date, the [banking] industry has to some extent side-stepped the problems of structured credit. The question that still needs to be determined is whether the speed with which the current economic conditions are deteriorating will catch Canadian banks less prepared to deal with the old, traditional monster – loan losses.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Coal Industry and the Worlds Economic Woes

Everybody recognizes the importance of the Coal Industry to the Crowsnest Pass, it is our single largest employer, the industry as seen record prices in the last year, strong growth in earnings and a lot of jobs created. Some people have stated that the we have nothing to worry about that our community is going to continue to grow, our population will get younger, our schools will be full of kids soon.
(Will the mines continue to hire? some believe as many as 250 people per year).
Is the industry immune to what's going on around the world, I hope so because after losing Arctic Spa at the beginning of the month I fear for our community.

Read the following;

Cia. Vale do Rio Doce, the world's largest iron-ore producer, is allowing customers to alter supply contracts as a global economic slowdown prompts steelmakers to scale back output
Vale said in an Oct. 31 filing it would cut Brazilian iron- ore output by 30 million metric tons a year because of a 20 percent drop in global steel output.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., the third- largest iron-ore exporter in Australia, said shipments may drop to as low as 16 million metric tons this year, because of weak demand and a temporary shutdown of its port and mine processing plant.

Teck Cominco Ltd., which last month gained control of the world's second-largest exporter of coking coal, fell the most in 20 years in Toronto on speculation that prices for the steel making ingredient will decline.

There have been a lot of rumors just in the past 24 hours about steel companies trying to renegotiate, and just about every other commodity is off today,'' Salman Partners analyst Haytham Hodaly said in a telephone interview. ``It doesn't mean that buyers will renegotiate with Teck; it's just not good for coal prices in general.''

- OAO Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel, Russia's third-largest steel producer, slashed fourth-quarter spending as metals companies seek lower costs and government help to compensate for a collapse in demand.
Several producers agreed to lower washed coal prices 30 percent for Magnitogorsk, while iron-ore producers have not yet agreed to a discount, according to the corporate newspaper.

Steel Authority of India Ltd., the nation's second-biggest producer, may lower output as the global financial crisis cuts car and construction demand and commodity prices tumble.

Steel Authority may join competitors around the world in slashing output as consumers delay purchases of homes and cars, driving down steel demand and prices. ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, will slash production by more than 30 percent in Europe and U.S.

Very scary stuff!

Economic Crisis hits the Crowsnest Pass

Local tub manufacturer shuts down facility

Bad news for the Crowsnest Pass and proves again that none of us are immune to the Economic crisis that is spreading across the world.

Arctic Spa will no longer be manufacturing hot tubs in the Crowsnest Pass.

"Oct. 31 the facility ceased production and approximately 15 people were let go. A skeleton crew of approximately six people will remain for about another month until all remaining product is sent out. "

The company had already released most of its staff back in the early summer."On June 6, Arctic Spa laid off 40 employees and retained a small staff of 20 due to economic conditions."

Its a sad day any time a community loses jobs weather it be a few or lots.

Nov 4th meeting Highlights Crowsnest Pass Council


We had a delegation present their concerns about logging on the Atlas Road, this issue will be back on the November 18th agenda. Nobody is excited about the prospect of clear cut logging especially on the side of the Crowsnest Mountain.

CAO report notified that the Hillcrest Lagoon upgrades must be completed by the end of 2010, the only issue with this is the Municipality has not been provided any grant dollars by the province. (Cost minimum $4 million)

Community Services did receive some grant monies from the province;

$6600 for the Ski Hill
$11450 for the MDM acoustics
$17500 for the Flumerfeldt park bridge
$35267 for the Coleman Sportsplex Dry Sprinkler

Financial Update will be provided to us on Nov 18 outlining how administration will balance the budget for 2008.

Policy for Convention attendance was presented and passed by council, it basically puts a limit on the number of members of council that can attend conventions;

To a maximum of two for the FCM
To a maximum of three for the AAMDC
To a maximum of three for the AUMA

Will not turn around the municipality overnight financially but certainly sends the message that council is taking our financial situation seriously.

Motion was made that administration bring back the paper work to the next meeting to repeal bylaws #265 and #404 which will return the control of the Crowsnest Centre to the municipality.

Community Futures/Economic Development we received a letter from the board stating that "due to Western Diversification's mandate and focus for Community Futures, the position of Economic Development Coordinator can no longer operate from or be funded by the Community Futures Crowsnest Pass Office"

They also informed council that the $20,000 per year the taxpayers have provided towards maintaining this position will no long be accepted.
Council requested a meeting with the Community Futures board to see where we go from here.

Bylaws; The first reading of bylaw 770, to rezone the Crowsnest Centre land to commercial took place and surprisingly was passed by a vote of 4 to 3. (On the weekend I was called and asked why do those three guys always vote the same way on anything to do with the Crowsnest Centre? Good question I don't know)