Alex Spencer

Alex Spencer

Year in Review 2014: March to May

Between trophies, bridges and political strife, spring was a whirlwind in the Alberni Valley.


March marked the 50 year anniversary of the 1964 tsunami which struck Port Alberni in the middle of the night on March 27. Caused by the Anchorage earthquake, the tsunami destroyed cars and buildings but luckily no one was killed.

An end to invasive species in the Valley might have started in March, when two Victoria-based scientists spent a bit of time in Port Alberni in March. Chris Tutle and Layne Woodfin of Cotyledon Consulting took the genetic approach, hoping to find a “kill switch” within a plant’s genetic code.

From high tech to blood, sweat and tears, the Bulldogs’ playoff run was cut off by a 5-4 overtime loss to Victoria.

The Tseshaht First Nations scored $1.469 million from the federal government 3.3-kilometre sewage expansion project. Chief councillor Hugh Braker said that the project would facilitate job creation and population growth in the area.

School closure decisions were stop and go during March, with the school board seeking legal advice over its decision to close Gill Elementary, re-purpose Eighth Avenue to house VAST and leave all other schools the same.

Municipal government was equally messy, with council and mayor squaring off over improvements to Canal Beach, with councillors of the opinion that the $500,000 shouldn’t be spent on the beach until a firm plan was in place.

Tensions in the council chambers didn’t stop there council voting down Douglas’ $1000 request to go to Ottawa to attend a meeting with federal officials ahead of a Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting the same week.

Douglas said that the trip would have raised Port Alberni’s profile nationally while councillors stated that not only was such a trip pointless but they didn’t trust Douglas enough to let him go.

While Douglas later apologized for how heated the debate got, a letter sent to local media from then Coun. Rob Cole showed that divisions were still in place.

Perhaps remembering that this was an election year, council voted to increase residential taxes by 2.0 per cent ad not the 5.3 per cent discussed earlier. Multiple projects, from a waterfront road to a Harbour Quay clock tower upgrade, were pushed to next year to keep the mill rate increase low.

Good news returned to Port Alberni with the possibility of a satellite launch site being built here after Space Launch Canada signed a three-year agreement with the University of British Columbia to construct three satellites.

The steam donkey at McLean Mill also saw an upgrade to its steam tubes.

Construction also began on a new Roger Creek bridge just past the hospital. The existing culvert was prone to getting plugged by logs upstream and the new bridge would ensure no washout occurred.


April started off on a sour note, with Literacy Alberni’s government funding slashed—$110,000 was cut from the English as a Second Language funding and there was no mention of literacy funding in the provincial budget.

Comox physician Dr. Saren Azar, who spent time in war-torn Syria made a presentation to Port Albernians in late March. His upbringing amongst the devastation in Iran motivated him. Azar said his own history made him realize he had to do something to help aid Syrian refugees.

With 2014 marking 50 years since the 1964 tsunami, better tsunami warnings were a hot topic. Scientists came to Port Alberni, which is a high risk tsunami zone, to discuss a tsunami prediction model that would give better and faster warnings than the current system.

A monument at Harbour Quay in honour of the tsunami was also agreed upon this month.

The Women’s Business Network stepped up to the plate this month, with a promise that Canada Day 2014 would still feature a parade. The parade had been put on by the Folkfest Society since 1977 but the society had declined to put on the event in 2014.

The city buzzed over the possibility of a small scale craft brewery coming to Port Alberni courtesy of Aaron Colyn of Twin City Brewing.

A mysterious silver trophy was rescued from a garage sale in Keremeos and returned to its rightful home in Port Alberni, but not before some sleuthing by a pair of sports enthusiasts. The 1912 trophy was presented to the athlete who scored the largest number of points at a Labour Day field meet in Port Alberni. While the municipal election was still many months away, Denis Sauve and Seva Dhaliwal announced city council runs.

The Alberni Athletic Hall continued its positive streak with the installation of a wheelchair lift.

A generous Port Alberni resident gave her aunt the gift of life. Maryann Rumney donated part of her liver to her Hepatitis C stricken aunt. The gift had all the more meaning as Rumney was an adoptee and had only met her aunt nine months prior.

On the sports front, a skip from Port Alberni helped the Vancouver Island curling team take bronze at the 2014 ATB Financial Canadian Masters Curling Championship.

Alberni artist Shayne Lloyd put on an exhibit at the Rollin Art Centre, showcasing his woodburning prowess.

A new program for seniors this month. Called Better at Home, the service is meant to help seniors live independently for longer.

School District 70 was back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, with the public demanding more transparent budget information while Alberni teachers started their first bit of job action by skipping recess.

Retired Port Alberni resident Ed Marshall is trying to replace honey bees, who have mysteriously been dying of, with the smaller and likely to sting mason bees who can take over the job of pollinating crops.


Port Alberni’s uptown business owners stepped up to the plate and busted out ‘graffiti busting’ kits after the Coulson Group threatened to pull out of the area following repeated tagging of its buildings. The kits were made available to all business in the Alberni Valley.

More impressive performance were celebrated in late April, as the News’ own editorial team of editor Susan Quinn, and reporters Wawmeesh Hamilton and Christopher Sun took home three awards at the Yukon Community Newspaper Awards Gala.

The awards didn’t end there, with the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce naming Shaw TV journalist Nancy Wilmot the Citizen of the Year.

Our year in review will continue in Tuesday’s paper.