- Rig Activity
- British Columbia
- Web Exclusives
From the monthly archives: October 2011
Northern Opportunities: A Pretty Good Deal
Ryan Gilmore was frustrated with high school and considered dropping out. Then he learned of the dual credit programs offered by the Northern Opportunities… [read more]
Open to Everyone
Nicole Schartner says she is glad to be in the Power Engineering program at GPRC (Grande Prairie Regional College) Fairview Campus not only because she… [read more]
Fort St. John: Energized & Ready to Roll
Priding itself on being a family friendly community, Fort St. John still manages to find plenty of room for industry and business. “There’s tons… [read more]
Education Expands its Role
With an increased labour shortage looming, governments and educators in the West are scrambling to find measures to offset what could be, and in some cases… [read more]
Quick response or QR codes are making fast work for businesses and consumers alike. Whether used as a tracking mechanism to keep a sharp eye on response rates to marketing, or simply as an express and convenient avenue to your favorite web page, QR codes are becoming more and more prevalent in our fast-paced, everything-at-a-glance world.
So what are QR codes you might be asking yourself? Finding their origins in Asian auto manufacturing and initially employed as a means to quickly scan the contents of a sealed auto parts container, QR codes are a two dimensional series of lines and shapes often resembling a maze found on a coffee shop place mat. But far more complicated than that, these bar codes often contain vast amounts of information that can give businesses and consumers a means to convey and interpret information faster and more conveniently than ever before. In short, QR codes are giving individuals a quick and easy way to read, interpret and transfer information.
Some QR codes are a series of simple shapes and patterns while others are far more complex, some even incorporating a business’ logo into the visual design. It all depends on the goals of the QR creator and the purpose of the code itself. Codes contain vast amounts of information, the larger the code design the more information it contains and each part of it is designed to contain a specific functional element.
For example, part of the design contains data dictating the resolution parameters by which certain devices, such as smart phones are able to scan the code. Information such as this assures that devices are able to effectively read and decipher the information contained in the QR code. This is a particularly important piece of data in lieu of the fact that many QR codes are created with the intention of marketing products or providing web links to smart phone users. Inaccurate information contained in the code pertaining to a given device’s abilities and reader software will ultimately render the code useless.
Another area of the QR code ensures proper positioning and alignment of the information being processed which can help avoid errors in the reading and interpretation of data. While another important element known as the quiet area, a blank region surrounding the graphic itself, which makes it easier for devices to scan and read the information contained therein.
Quick response codes can contain as much as 2953 bytes of information including the content as well as error and correction information. This vast informational capacity can be attributed to the fact that a QR code stores information on horizontal as well as vertical axes unlike typical bar codes. Consequently, Quick response codes can be deigned to convey a wide array of information and serve numerous purposes.
Although QR codes were initially used as a quick and easy means to track merchandise, their compact nature and potential wealth of data has broadened the potential for their use in various applications.
In business, QR codes can be used in any of a number of ways. On business cards, for example, QR codes can be scanned by smart phones to add personal information which would then be saved automatically into the phone’s contacts. Or perhaps you want to provide detailed directions to a remote location out in the field, QR codes can provide all of that and work in sync with a gadget’s GPS capability. Or imagine providing a QR code with your product that links to a video showing detailed assembly instructions.
In the world of entertainment, codes can be printed on posters which give vital information about concert events or restaurant locations. All a user would have to do is to scan their hand-held device over the quick response code to get dates, dinner specials and locations of desirable events. Or perhaps you’re a musician who wants to give potential fans a quick snippet of your new album, QR codes can be used to connect them to a U-tube video.
In Japan, QR codes are already being used to inform concerned consumers of where and when produce was grown. But how about codes used on store fronts or even on grocery carts themselves revealing daily specials and sale items? Truly, the applications for quick response codes are almost endless but what’s the downside?
First and foremost is the obvious dilemma if you can’t afford or don’t have access to a smart phone. Although many hand held devices are quickly becoming inexpensive, the data plans are not. One can easily spend over a 1000 dollars a year on a data plan and many simply cannot afford such an extravagance. As a result there will always be those who are not privy to the wealth of information that is available via QR codes. This reality will need to be addressed by businesses if they want to avoid losing those ever-so-important consumer dollars.
Secondly, there are those who simply prefer the good ole’ fashion methods of print and word of mouth to the more technologically advanced forms of communication. Many of these folks will not be privy to the myriad messages being displayed in code and will simply be unable to see advertising that is intended to sell them goods and services.
So what if you’re an organization with the goal of using QR codes to attract new clients? How do you go about creating your own QR codes? Well, there are services and devices available to help you with this task, some free for the asking while others are quite affordable. Because there is such a broad number of choices in terms of the quantity and quality of content, prices to generate QR codes will vary as well. Ultimately, organizations will need to establish who their target audience is and what they have to gain from creating Quick Response codes before committing to any given device or service.
When it comes to security, what could be better than real time images of what’s going on and who might be lurking where they shouldn’t be?
Several years ago when pipelines were being bombed, one enterprising small business set about to provide stealthy security that would capture images in real time.
“There’s a lot of challenges with that,” said Eagle Vision partner Cole Busche. “There’s a lot of locations over a lot of country so how do you remotely get an image of somebody doing something wrong?”
The development wasn’t always easy but good research, persistence and dedication have paid off and innovation gave birth to T.R.U. Security and the Talon Reconnaissance Unit.
Since that time they have been successful in developing a product that does just what that want and have recently taken that a step further to create a ‘lite’ version that can be used by homeowners, businesses, property owners – well the list goes on.
One of the motivations, said Busche, is that he was angry that someone making the point that they are unhappy with what an oil company is doing but endangering the public through the means they chose. The problem was personal and so was the solution.
“My partner Ben Haab, he was really keen on it and he did a lot of research and we knew we could do it, we just had to get the right components together and build something,” said Busche.
It had to be low power consumption so it could work anywhere and didn’t need to be on a plant site where there is power. It had to be stealthy and blend in to the environment. It had to be able to see at night. It had to be motion sensitive. It had to remotely provide real-time high-resolution images.
The solar panel that powers the full version was designed so that it would run on the shortest day of the year in overcast skies with enough power to do the job and in fact, Busche is confident that it would run for a month without any sun.
“With some advice from a pipeline security company we built it and we nailed it in my opinion,” said Busche. In part, that was possible because of the skills of main technician Ben Knutson.
Testing in real world applications was very successful, said Busche. “We spent the first month tweaking and then the rest of the time it just ran.”
The original product won the Northern Business and Technology Awards – Technology of the Year Award in January.
“That really got us a huge amount of exposure,” said Busche.
The system senses motion, takes a still picture which is sent directly to a cell phone and a website making images accessible as events happen. Each customer has their own secure access to the website. Customers know immediately if someone is on their location and can respond appropriately but have the option to set the system to send images only during hours of choice.
Initially they were gathering the components and building the systems themselves – a very expensive venture.
They are now able to have the systems factory built and have just completed testing the lite version, which is working well.
“This lite version is really far less cost and it will be targeted at businesses or homeowners…or people who have a remote cabin,” said Busche.
The caveat is that the lite version only works on the Rogers network and so needs to be located in an area where the reception is strong. Those wanting the more robust version can still get that.
“What makes the other version more expensive is that we have a large solar panel, a good large battery pack and a stand and it’s disguised as a key piece of oilfield equipment,” said Busche.
Development of the Talon Reconnaissance Unit, like many other new products was expensive and challenging but it also afforded Busche and his partners a chance to work with new technology in a way that had never been used before, something Busche found interesting and stimulating.
“We’re at a real exciting time and could have these things out in a really short time,” said Busche. He believes it is the ultimate in remote security with a broad base of potential applications. And it is one of the great examples of what a small business can do when they have the determination and skills to take on a challenge.
Well, it’s that time of year again, when summer is well behind us and fall is quickly turning into winter. As an avid hunter there is nothing I like better than cool, crisp weather and a little fresh snow, but the changing season can cause havoc on the road.
You don’t want to procrastinate winterizing your vehicles in this part of the country – nasty weather can hit hard and fast. Anyone with experience in this neck of the woods knows the basics when it comes to rigging up for the winter, but there is always an influx of the inexperienced when gearing up for the busy oil patch season.
While changing over to winter tires is pretty much common sense anywhere in Canada, there are other less well known musts when travelling in the cold and isolation of the North.
Take the use of cruise control, for instance – ever try that on slippery roads and black ice? Trust me, it’s been done! Not a pretty outcome…
The statistics for surviving without food and water are pretty common knowledge – a month without food, give or take, and a week without water. It can make a person feel pretty confident of surviving until help arrives if you’re stranded somewhere… until you find out that hypothermia (which is the number one outdoor killer in Canada, by the way) can kill you in one hour or less if you are wet. A single wax candle in a vehicle can keep you warm for hours – do you have one in your vehicle kit?
How about frosted windows early in the morning in a cold diesel truck? We all know the scenario, and perhaps have been guilty of it a time or two ourselves; a truck slowly crawling down the highway, windows completely frosted over except for a tiny clear patch just above the hood on the driver’s side. And even this patch clouds over with every breath, as their noses are practically pressed to the glass trying to see!
Giving new employees a heads up about starting their vehicles early to give them time to warm up and defrost (even when they are plugged in) is important, and I always let them know I would rather they called in and arrived a little late than drive blind.
Another thing to keep in mind is that cold weather can drain batteries so it’s important to make sure they are fully charged. Carrying some extra gas line anti-freeze is smart as well, even when you are using light oil.
If travelling any distance, you also want to make sure you keep your fuel topped up. There have been many times I’ve had an unexpected delay on the road, or hit the next gas station only to find it closed.
Running out of fuel can be a death sentence on a lonely road, and people from populated centers can have a hard time grasping the significance of the complete isolation one can experience for great lengths of time while driving the roads in this part of the country.
I’ve had many employees over the years wandering aimlessly lost for hours at a time trying to find a remote location. It’s our responsibility as employers to make sure our drivers are knowledgeable about the conditions they will be facing and that their vehicles are equipped with everything needed to survive.
The best way to keep our employees safe on the road is to always know where they are. No matter how well you prepare, something is bound to go sideways eventually. When this happens, having a good journey management system in place can be a lifesaver. Not long ago there was a much-publicized story of a couple that became lost on a remote mountain road after turning off their scheduled route.
Many weeks later hunters found the wife near death still at the vehicle, but the husband, who had tried to hike out for help, still hasn’t been found to this day. A simple phone call before they started, and periodic scheduled calls throughout their journey, and this tragedy would have been nothing more than a much laughed over family memory.
I can’t think of one instance where either a cell phone or a satellite radio (providing they are working, which should be checked before departure) didn’t provide immediate contact with any of my employees on the road. Even with the no cell phone while driving policy (if you do not have hands free or Bluetooth), employees can eventually find a place to pull over and call back to check in.
We have a departure, arrival and a two hour call in policy that has strict disciplinary consequences if not followed, and tracking these is the number one responsibility of the dispatcher on duty.
You wouldn’t send your teenage son or daughter on a journey without accountability to check in and let you know where they are and you need to have the same attitude with your employees.
This winter is shaping up to be a busy season and it can be difficult to stay safety minded in the midst of all the stress and exhaustion. Plan now for a safe season later!
Prep your vehicles, train your people, and take your journey management system seriously.
No matter what the bottom line looks like in the spring, success involves bringing everyone safely home at the end of it all.
David Phibbs is the president of Alpha Safety Ltd. and Alpha Training Solutions.
For more information on this article or their services, contact 1-888-413-3477, 250-787-9315 or www.alphasafety.net.
• For the last decade, Alberta has led Canada in the number of new small businesses created.
• Small businesses make up 98 per cent of all businesses in the province.
• They provide about 50 per cent of all private sector jobs in Alberta and contribute an estimated 29 per cent to Alberta’s gross domestic product.
• Alberta is tied for the lowest corporate tax rate (10 per cent) among the provinces, and has one of the lowest small business tax rates at three per cent. There is no payroll tax or general provincial sales tax in Alberta.
• To ensure Alberta remains competitive, government and industry have created the Alberta Competitiveness Council, and have implemented key actions to help business grow and stay globally competitive.
• From 2000 to 2010, Alberta enjoyed an increase of19,324 or 15.5 per cent in the number of small business establishments (business establishments with less than50 employees).
• Since it launched in 2009, the Alberta Innovation Voucher program has awarded approximately $11.2 million in services to more than 350 start-up companies in 44 communities across the province. The program helps small technology and knowledge-driven businesses in Alberta get their ideas and products to market faster.
• There were approximately 395,900 small businesses operating in British Columbia in 2009, accounting for 98 per cent of all businesses in the province. About 82 per cent of these small businesses were micro-businesses with fewer than five employees.
• In 2009, British Columbia ranked second only to Saskatchewan in terms of small businesses per capita, with 88.9 small businesses per 1,000 people. Saskatchewan had slightly more small businesses per 1,000 people, at 89.5, while third-ranked Alberta was well behind at 79.4. The national average was 72.0.
• Small businesses in British Columbia employed 1,045,400 people in 2009. These jobs accounted for 57 per cent of private sector employment in the province, the highest rate in the country.
• The small business sector in British Columbia felt the effects of the global economic downturn as small business employment in the province fell 1.2 per cent between 2008 and 2009. However, small businesses fared better than larger businesses, which shed 4.6 per cent of their employees.
• Approximately 32 per cent of British Columbia’s gross domestic product was generated by small business in 2009, higher than the Canadian average of 28 per cent.
The Internet rules the world of small business – but many don’t realize how easily their world can be violated, experts say.
As more and more firms strive to keep pace with the constantly evolving technologies meant to facilitate the use of computers and the Internet, many business owners don’t realize that they’re leaving themselves and their business open to hacking and other nefarious ways to ‘steal’ their proprietary information, including financial records and personal data.
“Internet security is vitally important these days more than ever,” said Akos Zsufa, owner and general manager of IT North in Fort St. John, BC, which does considerable work in Internet security.
“It’s in the top five of things any business should be worried about. Think about it: Would you leave your business without locking the door? Without proper security you’re doing just that and your data, client lists, financials, accounts receivable, payables and more are there for the taking.”
Rufus Beaulieu, senior technician with Grande Prairie’s Micro Computers Plus, agrees.
“It’s very important,” he said. “Customer data is vital to a business and if that is compromised then it’s a real problem. There’s a lot of activity around security these days. There are lots of issues.”
Opinions vary about the effectiveness of security measures now in place in small businesses. Beaulieu said about 85 per cent of businesses have a medium level of protection while another 10 per cent are heavily protected. Total lack of protection is rare, he said, accounting for perhaps five per cent.
Zsufa, on the other hand, said about 40 per cent of businesses he sees are classed as ‘heavily secure’, and while he said that number has grown significantly in recent years, even those with strong security remain at risk to at least some degree. And, he added, perhaps surprisingly given the stronger emphasis on security in today’s plugged-in business world, at least 10 per cent of today’s businesses are totally unprotected. Thus, hackers will use your computer as a ‘zombie’ to attack other, larger, computer systems and websites.
“People think antivirus programs protect them, but nothing is secure once you are online,” Zsufa said. “It’s like the difference between ‘water resistant’ and ‘waterproof’. Antivirus programs resist viruses and worms but just like a locked door, the lock can be picked or the door can be kicked in.”
So with the massive amounts of viruses and worms out there every day, what can a business do to protect itself? Zsufa said it’s “very, very difficult” to stay abreast of the new technologies being launched, it seems, almost weekly. Computers and the Internet are on the forefront of ongoing development – seemingly at the speed of light. While strategies that successfully could hack into your computer network a year ago have no chance today thanks to new developments in security technology, hackers are also advancing and developing new viruses every day. Consider that giant Google, which spends billions on Internet security, was recently hacked by someone who garnered personal data from more than two billion credit cards on file.
“It’s almost impossible to say you’re 100 per cent secure,” said Zsufa, though he notes that ‘Intranets’, closed loop systems totally contained within the business where they operate are secure when compared to the Internet, which is not. The popular turbo sticks are very secure, he noted, while the rising popularity of wireless systems concerns the experts because they’re very insecure.
But it isn’t time to throw in the towel just yet. Savvy people, and certainly IT security specialists, follow developments in Internet security online. Logically, business owners should obtain professional advice. Just as they use mechanics to work on their vehicles instead of doing it themselves, professional help ensures that the right tools are being used for the right job, and the business will be made more efficient in the process.
And it doesn’t have to be expensive. While larger firms may establish their own IT departments, Beaulieu said smaller firms can obtain reasonable protection through systems like Semantic Antivirus for as little as $500. That combats viruses, the number-one problem facing small business, he said. And anti-virus programs feature network-wide solutions that are easily updated from just one central computer. He said firewalls are also important, especially those considered “more robust” that can block specific websites and portals.
“Small business doesn’t need to worry too much about hackers,” said Beaulieu, “who tend to focus on larger entities. But you have to educate your employees about viruses and how they can enter a system. It’s hard to change their personal habits but if you educate them you stand a better chance.”
A way around this is to set up a secondary wireless network, for employees’ personal use, that isn’t connected to important corporate data. While the security of any wireless system depends on the strength of its encryption, a simple security method is to ensure that passwords are changed monthly.
Even the most secure firm can become at the mercy of hackers from a most unlikely source – its own staff, said Zsufa. “Social engineering” capitalizes on the weaknesses of staff to give others access to the business’s computers. For example, an employee may take a USB key (stick) home with work on it, at some point downloading onto the stick a movie from an unsecured home computer. When the employee takes the stick back to work the next day, a virus attached to the movie can enter the system as soon as the device is plugged into a computer there.
“It’s like having unprotected sex,” said Zsufa.
He also related how (and he has done this himself) someone can go to a business, obtain the business cards of their IT technician and, perhaps, their Chief Financial Officer, and then pretend to be the IT technician and call the CFO and ask for his or her computer user name and password. Thus they obtain instant access to the firm’s computer system. Surprisingly, this tactic is successful 95 per cent of the time.
“Then, firewalls and encryption, all the security that might be in place, means squat.”
In the end, it all comes down to people. “The biggest problem is getting people to be secure,” Zsufa said. Employees should be aware that nothing is for free and they should never respond to emails purporting to offer vast sums or wonderful prizes if you just click on a link. Zsufa encourages people not to take what they see on the Internet at face value. Through the Internet, businesses have built their business stream right beside the so-called free stuff. That’s a dangerous liaison.
“There are people out there trying to exploit unsuspecting people. You have to ask why something is being offered, just as you would if someone came to your door offering the same thing. Why after all would someone offer you a free Cadillac? Ask why, don’t assume, and you will be as secure as you can be.
“Think about what you’re doing. It’s up to people where they surf and what they do there. There’s training available but it’s the end user that affects the business world. It’s really up to the people.”
One area where the IT world is divided is in discussion about a new service being offered to business – Cloud Computing. This involves a company like Google or Microsoft hosting your data – for a price – on the Internet, using hundreds of thousands of multi-redundant servers instead of the one server you might have in your business.
Many consider it more reliable since it doesn’t rely on one server, which can be a single point of failure. But “the boat is still out” on the security of this system, said Zsufa. Instead of small firms, hackers would rather attack Google or Microsoft despite the billions those firms spend on security. “When it happens, it happens in a big way,” he said.
Zsufa recommends a hybrid system, using an in-house system for a small portion of the business and then buying into the Cloud service, which is available for $7-$30 per month per user. Beaulieu added that, since Cloud Computing is “still in its infancy” with security issues continuing to surface and be resolved, it’s important for anyone using this system to have a “physical backup” of important data and files.
Still, “The juice is worth the squeeze,” Zsufa said. “Cloud gives cutting edge services at small business prices.”
The 7th annual Northeast British Columbia Community Coal & Energy Forum will be taking place in Tumbler Ridge Oct. 5 and 6.
This year’s theme is Inspiring Leadership and organizers said it is a tip of the hat to the fact the Northeast BC is leading the province in many ways.
“We’re looking at doing some pretty unique things, especially in this part of the country. One of the new mines is actually looking at doing an underground project so that’s leading the way especially in this part of the country,” said Tumbler Ridge community development officer Kelly Bryan.
“On the 5, in partnership with Northern Lights College, we’re going to have an education and career fair over at the Convention Centre and that will be good for any industry looking to recruit folks,” said Bryan. The fair will take place between 10 am and 4 pm. Tours of wind and mine sights will also be happening on that day.
A 7:30 pm reception sponsored by Walter Energy will be happening that evening. “We’re waiting to hear back from various ministers and that sort of thing but I’m going to be bringing in a professional keynote speaker for that evening but who it’s going to be is up in the air at this point.”
Oct. 6 will be the primary session and will include a variety of presenters including updates from the various mine and explorer companies in the area.
Mining is the backbone of Tumbler Ridges Economy. Town was created to support the industry and still serves in that function although in more recent years, Tumbler Ridge has developed a broader economic base to ensure that downswings in the coal industry don’t decimate the community as they did in the early 2000s.
“We’re seeing renewed life in the community and we’re hoping to carry that forward and not let the same mistake happen twice,” said Bryan.
A 20,000 hectare Community Forest is in the works. Spectacular adventure tourism opportunities add to the mix.
“We’re also looking to increase small business in the community,” said Bryan.
Wind power is also taking on a more important role in Tumbler Ridge.
“It used to be just the Northeast Community Coal Forum,” said Bryan, “but now with the emergence of all this wind energy and alternative energy in the region we figured it would be good to incorporate that into the forum as well.”
Located in the transition zone, Chetwynd stands at the crossroads of mountains, foothills and prairie but also of pipelines, rail lines, power lines and highways. It is unique in the Peace and with an ever-expanding industrial base, has much to offer visitors and residents alike.
With a population of 3,020 in the town and another 3,800 in the surrounding rural area, Chetwynd hosts the best of small town living with the social and cultural amenities to support them..
“With a smaller place there is something unique that you can offer that you can’t find in a city…the fact is that I love it so much and I think our quality of life is so high and the business climate here is friendly,” said economic development coordinator Ellen Calliou.
“We’re so fortunate that we have all our amenities here and right outside my door is green space. That’s my favourite thing.”
In addition to a spectacular vistas and outdoor activities, Chetwynd is home to every industry found in the region.
There is no one single driver for our local economy, we have every industry – oil and gas, forestry, wind, agriculture and coal. That is our community’s strength; that we have every industry in the Peace River Regional District,” said Calliou.
“Oil and gas is one of those ones that’s been here for a while and it just continually seems that there is expansion but I think our newest, strongest industry right now is coal.”
Like all the resource communities, Chetwynd is subject to the vagaries of a resource-based economy but that is mitigated by the diversification and Mayor Evan Saugstad said the community is seeing stable growth.
Despite that, it is a growth period for industries and the influx of people have posed some challenges.
“People are coming here but we also want their wives and their families to come because that’s were you get that second service…we just don’t have enough people to fill in the service sector so right now,” said Calliou.
Whether it’s residents or transients, Chetwynd wants people to feel at home. Providing those secondary services is critical to the community’s ability to make that happen. It’s tough when graduating students are easily lured with the top dollars paid by industry and make no mistake said Calliou, industry demand for people is very strong.
“The number of people that are coming and we’re turning away from not being able to stay here is alarming so the one thing we’re really trying to get out there is that we need housing. We have developers building, but we just need to be able to get that apartment built or those mobile home parks built, or something in that fashion because the housing just can’t be built fast enough.”
And it’s one of the reasons more families are not moving to Chetwynd. Another is the geography.
“People don’t necessarily want to live in the North or at least families don’t want to be in the North or in the small communities but to make the dollars, people are willing to sacrifice part of their lives and send somebody away to exile for two or three weeks out of the month. I think there’s going to be a lot of people that way.”
And that leaves the community and industry relying on camps to accommodate workers.
In fact, the municipality has approved a temporary work camp with 98 extra units and expects that an extension will be requested. It’s a reasonable solution although not one Calliou wants to be the only one.
“I’m glad we have the camp in the situation where we’re at but at the end of the day retention and recruitment of existing businesses are our focus and we need to be able to stage that,” said Calliou.
“We don‘t want to become a fulltime camp community so I’m really trying to work hard to be able to work with the companies to be able to open some opportunities where we can really get those apartments and those other things built in time so that they can live here permanently.”
A recent housing study showed that within the next 18 months, the composite influx of all the industries in the area should be about 1,000 people – all of whom will need housing and not all of whom will want to purchase a single family home.
The study, said Calliou, was intended to educated lending facilities to the very real needs of the area so that developers could more easily get the financing they need to be able to build the types of accommodations the community is most in need of.
One of the things Calliou stressed is that Chetwynd does have land and space to build.
“In my office right now, on a regular basis, we receive three to four phone calls where we’re actually turning people away that are relocating somewhere else because they cannot find housing here,” said Calliou. “At the end of the day that’s harmful for my community, it’s harmful for the industries that are trying to relocate them so why aren’t people building here? And it’s not just a short-fall it’s a long-fall.”
Developing partnerships both with industry and nearby communities to find creative solutions is moving Chetwynd closer to getting the housing they need.
“I think we’ve come up with a way that we can actually come to the table. We have some land ourselves in the municipality and we’re hoping to partner with a developer and also maybe, possibly some business sector where they will be able to say hey look at we know we need housing for the next three years and we will be able to guarantee 20 units of those will be filled with our people,” said Calliou.
They are also hoping that the proximity of Tumbler Ridge taps into an economy of scale for developers and while it may not be worth the added expenses of building in the North to come into one community with one property, the opportunities to build in both might tip the scale in favour of building.
“I’m hoping because the demand is in Tumbler and the demand is in Chetwynd and we’re so close to each other that a developer will come in and say, ‘Look I can build one here, build one there, operate the two and make some money’ because realistically what happens in Dawson, in Tumbler, in Hudson’s Hope benefits all of us in the whole region and that’s our jobs,” she added.
The whole picture of Chetwynd’s growth is complicated by the fact that the community has a slightly older population than other communities in the region. The end of the baby-boomers means that kids are leaving even as workers are coming in.
“Unlike Fort St. John where it seems to be quite a young town and there’s lots of babies, we don’t see that in Chetwynd yet,” said Saugstad.
With the challenge of housing set aside, the next issue is providing infrastructure said Saugstad.
“Right now Chetwynd is debt free. Some say you could borrow a whole bunch on money to keep up if you had to but the whole, if you look around the world, the whole problem is with excessive debt. And the (question is) how do we put in the infrastructure to accommodate the need for people when we don’t have federal or provincial government willing to kick anything in for that, and we don’t have the ability through property tax just to keep putting the taxes up?” said Saugstad.
While the town struggles to find answers to its housing and infrastructure needs, it is able to provide good schools, ample recreation and a rich cultural experience. And the challenges? Chetwynd is taking them in stride.
“I think our community is very close and most people have lived here a long time and the new comers…I think we’re responding all right,” concluded Calliou. Saugstad too is optimistic.
“Overall right now I think it’s good times.”
BC Premier Clark announced an online registry, which heralds a new level of transparency in fracing. It’s a move welcomed by industry and the public alike.Beginning January 2012, a searchable online registry will be accessible to everyone. It will help locate areas where fracing is taking place as well as provide detailed information about the practices and additives used during those activities.
The announcement, made at the Oil and Gas Conference has the support of the natural gas industry. In response to concerns expressed about hydraulic fracturing practices, and the demand for greater transparency, industry will voluntarily disclose details about hydraulic fracturing additives in advance of the registry’s official launch said the Premier’s office.
Not all the details have been finalized but there is early optimism on the part of industry about the announcement.
“We’re very pleased and we welcome that announcement,” said Sanjel vice president technology Neil Warrender.
“(It) reinforces our public mandate to operate and we’re a very diligent company. We strive in every aspect of worker safety and health and environmental issues and yet there’s this broad perception that the oil and gas industry is somehow a dirty industry that disregards all of those issues and really nothing could be further from the truth.”
He suggested that in the little under a year that it has been in use in the US it’s become “very popular” with operators and service providers posting information as well as with members of the public accessing the information.
“The US experience has been that now that there is a forum for disclosure and improved transparency that the public concern, which is justifiable, is to a large extent been reduced by the availability of this service and so we would see a big advantage in helping the public understand that there’s nothing up our sleeves if you like,” said Warrender.
“British Columbia is committed to the development of a more open and transparent natural gas sector and the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing practices and additives supports this goal,” said Clark at the announcement.
“Now, all British Columbians will have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about the industry’s operations.”
While the public is more educated about the safety of fracing, there are still fears and this kind of database has helped to allay those fears and to counter an assumption of secrecy on the part of industry.
In British Columbia, industry is currently required to maintain a record of components used for hydraulic fracturing activities, and upon request, provide these details to the BC Oil and Gas Commission.
BC’s regulations, updated last year, have strengthened the Commission’s ability to oversee operations. The development of British Columbia’s huge shale gas deposits is being done safely and responsibly within the province’s regulatory framework.
The registry takes that one step further and if the registry is run in the same way that the US database is, it takes that step without impinging on proprietary information – something which is big business for companies.
“We still await some details of whether or not BC is going to implement this database called Frac Focus in exactly the same way it’s been implemented in the US,” said Warrender.
One of the over-riding concerns about fracing is how it impacts water both in terms of potential implications for groundwater and in terms of the use of water in the process.
“Canadian natural gas producers have created new guiding principles for hydraulic fracturing to guide water management and improve water and fluids reporting practices. CAPP principles articulate industry’s water management objectives and water protection practices, as well as our focus on improving water performance over time,” said CAPP president Dave Collyer.
“Industry supports the government of BC in its move to improve disclosure. CAPP’s principles apply nationally providing the same type of transparency to shale gas developments regardless of jurisdiction.”
While the database can help to reduce people’s uncertainty, Warrender noted that it will not impact the “practical realities of what’s happening on the ground”.
“The consumption of water is an issue that the industry is addressing,” he said.
Warrender also said that Canada has a good track record when it comes to groundwater contamination from drilling and completion practices.
“The legislation here has always required that initial drilling is done with water based and non-toxic materials and then there’s a surface casing that’s put in which isolates to a depth consistent with aquifers or groundwater or surface water so that’s always been the regulatory environment in which the Canadian industry has operated,” he added.
British Columbia’s online registry is a part of a broader piece of work to ensure water is protected and conserved as shale gas development occurs. It is important to note there has never been an incident of harm to groundwater from hydraulic fracturing operations within British Columbia.
There are always those that go after the big boxes when it’s time for presents. Not me. Some of my favourite things have come in the small packages. Cookies my kids made or jewelry from my best friend always brought a huge smile to my face.
Perhaps that’s why I look for the gems in our business base – the small businesses that are surviving, thriving, creating, innovating and contributing.
Don’t get me wrong; the big companies are necessary anchors of our economy but the smaller local companies capture my attention with their passion and dedication in ways that bring the same kind of smile to my face that the small intimate presents of my life have.
From the challenges they overcome to the loyalty they have to this region and the people they work with, there is a never-ending source for good stories and reasons to celebrate.
NWB strives to highlight the contributions of the small businesses in our area throughout the year and we understand that without them we would not be here.
Small Business Week is a great time to take a step back and remember the good things that come in small packages. Our small businesses add to the local economy, give purpose to workers, support families, enhance technology and add passion and commitment to our communities.
This month’s issue of NWB takes a looks at Eagle Vision, a Fort St. John small business with an exciting technology they created to increase the safety of the region.
Our feature story will take a look at one of the issues facing small businesses, namely how to ensure that they are making the most of their technology in a way that ensures security for them and their clients.
And while it’s a small sampling of the business stories that surround us, you can be sure that there will be more in future issues because our small business’s passion is your business.
We would be poorer in so many ways without small businesses and NWB extends our congratulations on your many accomplishments throughout the Peace and we are honoured to bring your stories to others.
- Clear 0°C
Fort St. John
- Mostly Cloudy 5°C
- Clear 12°C
In this issue:
• Safety: Bill of Goods or Best Practices?
• Forestry Rebound
Oil sands image linked to cooperation
CALGARY – Oil sands company leaders hope collaborative endeavours will improve their image.
The latest alliance, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), was announced at a Calgary press conference early March.
Talisman announces sale agreement
CALGARY - Talisman Energy announced an agreement with Xstrata Coal to sell certain non-producing, non-core coal properties located in northeastern British Columbia for US$500 million in cash.