Greg’s groundwork

Northeast not getting the message
"If you drink, don't drive." It's a familiar message, right?
Apparently not in this corner of the province. Or maybe it's just an easy one to tune out.

 A Global News investigation spurred the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to release statistics late last month which show Fort St. John and Dawson Creek are among the top five locations in B.C. with respect to alcohol-related driver's license prohibitions.
While Tumbler Ridge wasn't a part of the stats pack, I can safely say that alcohol-related driving offences are usually among the most popular offences in Tumbler Ridge Provincial Court, which is held here once a month.
Let's use the Dawson Creek numbers as an example. Between April 2010 and April 2011, Dawson Creek drivers were handed 204 prohibitions, which works out to 19.76 prohibitions per 1,000 drivers. The numbers for the areas around Dawson Creek were virtually identical.
It goes without saying that those numbers are too high. But at least we're not the Chilcotin area south of Prince George, which got the top spot on the chart with 29.66 prohibitions per 1,000 licensed drivers – a truly dismal distinction.
Drinking and driving is something that almost everyone has done once or twice; I once earned a 24-hour suspension. But just because it's widespread doesn't mean people should get complacent about it. A culture shift might be what's needed to throw the proper perspective on how dangerous it is to drink and drive, and not just for the driver, but for anyone in the vehicle or anyone caught in their path.
Come on; this is Tumbler Ridge. The furthest distance between any two homes in town is less than a half hour's walk. If anyone gets caught drinking and driving here, they deserve to be nailed for the sheer laziness.
I realize this is somewhat standard editorial fare: "don't drink and drive, it's bad." But as broken as this record is, it's one that's worth playing one more time.
EAO not sharp
Premier Christy Clark has been pushing for some time to harmonize the federal and provincial environmental assessment processes, arguing that they are simply duplications that waste time and money. It's a good idea in principle. But a report released by B.C.'s auditor general, John Doyle, on July 7 shows the province's Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is a toothless system.
Doyle found the EAO fails to monitor the environmental commitments that are laid out to industry when they receive their environmental assessment certificates, and uses weak language such as asking proponents to "try" to meet commitments, instead of actually requiring them to.
It's an issue that could have some local impacts, as several local mine and wind projects are going through the provincial process now. It would be best for all of us if the EAO can prove it's more than a rubber stamp government agency.


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Greg’s Groundwork

Astute readers might take notice of this week's story on the January 15 financial disclosures from mayor and council. This story could have been in the paper a few weeks ago – except that I've been on the fence about whether to actually go ahead with writing this piece or not.

Journalistically, it's a slam dunk. It's nothing but facts, and it's the kind of stuff people are usually interested in reading about their local politicians. I've done this story before in other towns, and people are usually pretty receptive to it. However, Tumbler Ridge is a much smaller place, and that makes a big difference.

“Go for the throat,” advised a journalist friend of mine. Well, I'm not looking to put anyone's nose out of joint; I'm more interested in doing stories that do something for the community. I think this is one of those pieces. But when I casually mentioned to one councillor that I was going to do a story on the disclosures, they were surprised, and questioned why I'd want to do a thing like that.

The idea of doing a story on financial disclosures is not based on any ill-will towards council. I'm not privy to all the decisions being made by council, as some of them take place behind closed doors. But from what I have seen, they are doing a pretty good job.

The point is to make some use of the Financial Declarations Act, which was put in place for good reason. I'd have to echo the Mayor's comments on that, and not just because he gave me a plug in the Mayor's Musings column. It’s one of the checks and balances built to keep local government functioning transparently. Frankly, not very many people are going to take the time out of their day to go to town hall and pore over these basic documents. I take that as being part of my job.

That said, I've left out many details that didn't make it into the final article. Being in politics requires thick skin, but shouldn't require anyone to face needless allegations. I report on what I see as being relevant, and the property addresses and proper names of those on council aren't really important. That said, anyone wanting more information about those disclosures is free to drop by the TR News and chat.

Here's an address worth writing down: – especially if you've got something to say about an issue happening here, or over in a place like, say, Egypt. I'd like to see many more views coming into the paper, on issues affecting us, our neighbours, your neighbour's dog, or whatever. And photos – especially adventure photos – are always welcome. When we get a moment here at the paper, maybe we'll dream up some kind of incentive to keep the action shots coming in. Until then, enjoy the new snow.

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