Terrace has recently endured a period of disharmony interrupted only by Hockeyville. One of the lasting impressions of Terrace to an outsider has been an attitude of intolerance. Primarily this is directed at outsiders arriving attempting to set up a new enterprise. This attitude is not from the Terrace residents as much as it is from the business end of the City and this may be why Terrace remains stagnant. When industrialists arrive here they are surrounded by economic vultures who want to see how they can personally benefit, not by people who want to see the new venture be a success. As Bill McRae stated to me in early 2010, “The do-ers have all left. The takers are still here.” And this election, the vote for your new Mayor, may determine whether we kick out the old and bring in the new or we remain in the past.
This Mayors race has been building up to be nothing more than a re-visit of the most divisive episode of the past decade; the Terrace Tourism Society (TTS) fiasco. It was also my introduction to Terrace and the first issue I ever reported on. It all began for me in May of 2006. Read my very first reporting story from May 25, 2006, here
. This event saw numerous hotel and motel owners and managers leave town and sell out in disgust. Three of the other Mayoral candidates were key participants in this ridiculous embarrassment. Two candidates, Pernarowski and Lewis, ended up on opposite sides of a lawsuit. Lewis was the TTS executive director and Pernarowski was selected by the City, with direction from the Chamber of Commerce, to help dismantle the TTS. Martindale chaired the final meeting to dissolve the TTS and it just barely avoided degenerating into a shouting match as Rob Seaton stepped in to calm down the flaring tempers. Martindale signed a final pay cheque for Lewis without even being a director of the society and Pernarowski, as the manager of the bank where the account was held, processed it. When the dust finally settled, Pernarowski lost his bank job and was unanimously voted in as President of the Chamber of Commerce. Reliving this past is the last thing Terrace needs. It was over four years ago. It is almost a narcissistic nightmare to see only these three residents step up to lead Terrace out of the past. We need a Vision
for the future not a Mayor attempting to vindicate him or herself.
And this is what a leader needs to be, a visionary. Not a single minded “do it my way or hit the highway” type of person. Although the TTS fiasco was the epitome of this mindset it is not the only example. More recently we had the TEDA (Terrace Economic Development Authority) interfere with an economic vision that had the prime participants scatter. In 2009 Garry Ward arrived in Terrace from Vancouver and delivered a plan to build a multi tiered industrial facility with a manufactured lumber product as the central component. After presenting the vision and the three required components to make it work to the Regional District Kitimat Stikine, TEDA broke the partnership up by inviting one, David Parker, to a meeting excluding the other two visionaries. TEDA personnel apparently believed they could do the plan Ward had presented better; they didn’t need an outsider to help. This project immediately died. Three entrepreneurs and visionaries, Garry Ward, David Parker and Gordon Robinson likely won’t be back. Read about this episode here
Shames Mountain presented a similar scenario. Shames has been a topic of great interest recently and can be used for two examples of intolerance. In the fall of 2009 Jamie Schectmen arrived from Argentina with a vision to take Shames Mountain to the world stage. At a fundraiser in Thornhill Schectman was boasting about how he was going to bring the worlds media and ski community to Terrace. Luke Holden, the executive Director of the new tourism society, Kermode, chastised him stating he couldn’t just call the media and get them to pay attention. Schectman immediately fired back, “I’m going to be on the cover of Time Magazine with you guys!” Schectman had introduced the Co-op concept for Shames Mountain. The Terrace “In Crowd” once again thought they could do it better. After being unceremoniously dumped and insulted repeatedly by a group called the “Friends” of Shames, Schectman has gone on to be featured in at least a dozen international Ski Magazines with his Global Ski Co-op concept. Terrace lost not just a great promoter but lost a huge amount of dignity as the venom issued by the Shames “In Crowd” used internet ski forums in an attempt to discredit Schectman and vindicate themselves. One of the popular Shames supporters signs is “I love big dumps”. The only big dump they received for this was on the entire community.
Martindale expressed this intolerance again when in City Council he was asked to step aside from the second attempt to get the City to give the “Friends” and the new organization “My Mountain Co-op” an amount reduced from the original request of $200,000 to just under $100,000. He had been interviewed on CBC radio stating his business would benefit from the success of Shames. Even though he correctly explained how this was not a direct conflict, and even though he later got a legal opinion supporting his position, it is the “appearance” of a conflict that should have a councillor willingly step aside from a debate on an issue. His struggle to stay in the debate and his angry outburst as he rose from his chair to leave the room was reminiscent of the manner in which he chaired the final TTS meeting. If it wasn’t for others, a shouting match might have ensued.
One of the greater insults to the community and the past was the destruction of the lumber mill in the center of Terrace. The Terrace Lumber Company (TLC) was formed by a coalition of Terrace investors. The vision was great however the inclusion of the Tree Farm Licence holders wasn’t. To be a success a lumber mill needs two things, trees and a market. When the operators of TLC failed to get the trees and therefore were unable to secure a market for the product, rather than sell the Mill intact to facilitate potential future lumber activity, they auctioned off the entire facility, the newest lumber mill in the Northwest, for scrap. The only mill now left standing was built by one of the last true visionaries of the Northwest, Bill McRae. It was built 6 decades ago. Was the destruction of the new Mill, not 2 decades old, another act of vindictiveness, “If we can’t run it our way then nor will you”? Some of the local “Industrial Development Crowd” even engaged in a letter writing campaign attacking the Provincial and Federal governments for not coming to their aid which provoked a rather provocative outburst from yours truly. Read it here
In 2008 TEDA hosted an economic gathering called the Skeena Summit. The concept was to bring the influential people together with motivational and economic leaders in an attempt to invigorate a prosperous future. Helmut Pastrick, the Chief Economist for the Central Credit Union along with native author, lawyer, and business leader from the Tsimshian Nation, Calvin Helin and Roger Brooks, a tourism and economic development professional with 25 years experience addressed the gathering. This was a well attended and well funded symposium. The result however was no one apparently listened. Terrace is a Native Community. Both Brooks and Helin addressed the need for those who live here to take advantage of this reality. Brooks stated clearly we need to “Brand” ourselves. He addressed the most serious impediment to success too, the political/business leaders getting in the way. Read more here
. Even Mayor Pernarowski heard this from the former Premier when he asked Campbell if he was coming back to the Northwest soon. “You’re not still calling it that are you?”, asked Campbell.
And this is where the Vision
and the Merv Ritchie for Mayor of Terrace Campaign hits the road.
In September 2009, Pernarowski returned from the Union of BC Municipalities Conference and related this "branding" conversation with Campbell at the next sitting of Terrace City Council. I reported on it and jokingly offered up some suggestions. Read about the elevator conversation here
. Shortly after it became a very serious issue and it has become part of my Vision
for the entire region. Embraced, it will become internationally recognized and bring visitors and industry desiring to be part of something unique and special. I am referring to the Sacred Circle.
From the Yukon and Alaska Borders to the Hazeltons, Kitimat, Princess Royal Island, Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, the people are united by interdependence. We all need each other and count on each other to survive. Terrace is the center of this region; as Brooks called it, the hub. Terrace needs to become the leader, the Phoenix rising from the ashes to provide a foundation for the new economy, the future. Around this central hub are eight strong and proud Nations. Many of these Nations have begun developing attractions. Terrace is in the unique position to assist every Nation and every visitor. To do this we need to have something special, an extraordinary “Vision”
The geography, the geographical features of the land and the 3 major rivers has presented just this Vision
. After the Skeena Summit concluded I began looking at the eight Nations of the Region, those who Brooks identified as providing something he couldn’t get anywhere else but here. I believed the rivers held the key, that there was an image somewhere in these rivers. I had various maps and one in particular, of the Regional District Kitimat Stikine, on my office wall. I asked various people to look at it with me and even used a highlighter to accentuate the rivers in an attempt to see them better. The far eastern edges of the Skeena River were obscured as this area fell outside the RDKS boundaries. While using Google I typed in “BC Rivers Map” and then after looking through a couple of the images that first appeared I was overcome with shock and awe. (I borrowed this from GW Bush) See the map here
There, right in front of me, was an image one could only describe as astounding. The profile of a male face looking east formed by all the major rivers of the Northwest. This could only be seen from above. More striking is how the eye socket of this profile contains a small lake glimmering like the sparkle of an eye. The northern end of this lake flows north into the Stikine via the Klappan River and the Southern end flows south into the Nass River. The Skeena River starts from the same location, the Klappan (Groundhog) coal field, and forms the full facial features; the nose, lips, chin and adams apple. The Klappan defines the forehead and the Stikine could be seen as a headdress or mask while the channels and inlets form the back of the head and the flowing hair. The Nass defines the hairline.
Immediately, upon seeing this, I began promoting it. I hired a First Nations artist with blood from three Nations to draw a Native circle representing the families of all eight nations around this profile image formed by the rivers. I did this because I believed in the value of it. I believe the promotion of the entire region, the unification of all the people around such an extraordinary gift will bring more prosperity than many could ever imagine. And Terrace is uniquely positioned to lead.
There is no time to relive the wrongs of the past. We must however acknowledge them. Then we need to move on. Vindictiveness in life and politics is a fool’s game. The future requires a Vision
, a goal, excitement and motivation.
The First Nations Culture is alive and thriving. The feasts they host for their families in birth, death, marriage, settlements, negotiations, celebrations and naming ceremonies bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic activity. The astounding advancement and rebuilding of their culture is inspiring. Terrace must step up to the plate and assist wherever possible to encourage and facilitate this growth. What happens from this effort was explained by Roger Brooks.
Like the Napa Valley and other marketing wonders, tourists arrive from all across the globe to see the region. Along with these visitors will be many business representatives and associates along with the husbands or wives of executives. They will arrive to tour the Lava beds of the Nass Valley, the Stikine Region of the Tahltan, the ancient Totems at Kitwancool or the new ones at Kitselas Canyon. What they will also find available is; industrial land, port facilities, rail yards and an environment second to none.
More than anything else they need to find a political climate of hospitality, openness and one prepared to accept new ideas, to see the Vision
of someone else’s dream.
It is time for Terrace to take a step back, look left and right, and then cross the road to the future. God, how ever you see him/her/it, prepared a river system to show us the way. Like all traditions the face is looking east, to the rising sun as if to say, “Welcome all, welcome to our land, the land of Totems and Feast Halls, the Sacred Circle”.
I have a Vision
; it is inclusive, welcoming and spirited. Are you ready for the journey?
The full map of BC. The profile is obvious
The eight First Nations Territories of the Sacred Circle recognized by the BC government
Click on the attachment below to see this map in full size, to see the details of the rivers and lakes and their interconnectedness
All together now ...