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The case for Comic Sans in Prince George

April 1 2015 |

Listen to an audio version of this story:

If you spend time in the right circles on the internet, you know that using Comic Sans as font choice is a no-go for the discerning designer.

So when the city of Prince George released a report written in Comic Sans, it attracted some attention.

There’s a document from the #CityofPG planning department written in Comic Sans. This is unacceptable.

— Charelle Evelyn (@CharelleEvelyn) March 26, 2015

@CharelleEvelyn what is comic sands — Brian Skakun (@BrianSkakunCity) March 26, 2015

@BrianSkakunCity @CharelleEvelyn http://t.co/g53l22pQgT — Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) March 26, 2015


@BrianSkakunCity That’s the gist of it. Font snobbery. — Charelle Evelyn (@CharelleEvelyn) March 26, 2015

@CharelleEvelyn Unacceptable? I think it is magnificent.

— Peter James (@pjames) March 26, 2015

You want to get buzz for a document in 2015? Comic Sans is the way 2 go. @akurjata @BrianSkakunCity @CharelleEvelyn — Jonathon Brown (@callmejbro) March 26, 2015

At first I was in the anti-Comic Sans camp, but I think that was just my learned, knee-jerk reaction. I mean sure, designers and the people who follow them know that Comic Sans is only acceptable for comic books and children’s messages, but when it’s one of the default choices on most operating systems, people in the wider world are only going to know it as a somewhat friendly looking font. That’s why you have the Vatican and the research team for the Higgs-Boson particle using it. Comic Sans may cause some people to recoil, but in the wider world most people don’t even know its name.

To test this, I printed two copies of the report- one in the original Comic Sans and one in the default Arial, and asked people which they preferred. The results were half and half. No one had any issues with Comic Sans. I had to explain what a “font” was to some.

I also found it interesting that the people who liked Comic Sans better (and some of the ones who preferred Arial) said that Comic Sans was “friendlier” or more eye-catching. I started thinking about how we’re always talking about ways to get people feel more involved with local government, and that one of the barriers is how intimidating it can be. There’s a lot of technical jargon and rules that the general public might not feel comfortable with.

Maybe in certain instances when you want to get people to feel involved and welcome, Comic Sans is the way to go. It’s also accessible – some research has shown that people who are dyslexic have an easier time reading it than other fonts.

Plus I think we’re hitting a turning point. Already there’s a backlash to the backlash in this debate. There have been pieces in the Guardian and Slate in defence of Comic Sans. By embracing it, the city of Prince George could really be riding that trend.

I mean, we’re a city with a giant wooden lumberjack for our mascot and a moose on our official coat of arms. We have to lean into that and embrace our kitschy, so uncool-it’s-cool identity.

People have called Vancouver the no-fun city- let’s make Prince George the PRO-fun city

And the perfect font for that?

Comic Sans.1

pro fun city



  1. This may or may not be entirely serious 

Filed under: design, Prince George


March 29 2015 |

I already posted a Storify on how CBC Radio 3 changed my life in order to mark its transition from live hosting to pre-recorded bits. But I am not alone.

I am currently reading through the thousands of comments on the blog from Friday’s final shows while re-listening to the episode (link).

It’s amazing just how passionate this community is. I hope it keeps going.


Black Belt

March 28 2015 |

My dad, who is retiring later this year, just earned his black belt in karate.

He started when he was 41 years old, picking it up when my younger sister and brother did it as kids. Both of them quit, as did I shortly after I started a few years later.

But he kept it up, eventually taking on running the club and training with senseis remotely.

It’s taken a lot of time and discipline, but it’s paid off.

It’s never too late to do something new. I’m glad I have a good role model.



Against beautiful journalism → 

March 21 2015 |

Felix Salmon, in Reuters:

“Today, when you read a story at the New Republic, or Medium, or any of a thousand other sites, it looks great; every story looks great. Even something as simple as a competition announcement comes with a full-page header and whiz-bang scrollkit graphics. The result is a cognitive disconnect: why is the website design telling me that this short blog post is incredibly important, when in reality it’s just a blockquote and a single line of snark? All too often, when I visit a site like Slate or Quartz, I feel let down when I read something short and snappy — something which I might well have enjoyed, if it just took up a small amount of space in an old-fashioned reverse-chronological blog. The design raises my expectations, even as the writers are still expected to throw out a large number of quick takes on various subjects.”

Smart take on what online reading lacks: any clear differentiation between types of stories. For the most part, everything on a given site looks the same, unlike print where there are any number of clues about how much weight the editors/designers feel the content deserves.

That’s one thing I’ve tried to address here- some posts, like this one, have a smaller headline whereas others that I feel deserve more weight get a bigger font. It’s a small thing, but as you scroll hopefully it provides some clue about how important I feel it is.


What are the greatest “Prince George” songs of all time?

March 19 2015 |

Prince George is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. I’m ruminating on a couple of projects to mark that, and here’s one of them: compiling a list of the greatest “Prince George songs” of all time.

In my own life I’ve seen a number of great artists come and go and come again in the various local music scenes. I know that extends back to before my time, as well, so I’m hoping to get help on this.  I’m going to collect top ten lists from various people who’ve been involved in the musical community over the years. I’m then going to take those compilations and create a master list.

Here’s my definition of a “Prince George” song:

1. It was recorded or written by an artist based in Prince George at or near the time of recording.

2. It is by an artist not from Prince George, but the song itself is about or inspired by Prince George.

That’s about it.

I’m hoping that if you’ve been involved in the local music scene as an artist, promoter, or fan, you’ll submit your list using the form below. If you have less than ten, that’s fine. You may rank them, if you want. Also, if you’d like to say anything about why you chose the songs, that’d be awesome.

Here it is (if the form doesn’t appear, here’s the link)

How CBC Radio 3 changed my life

March 14 2015 |

Republishing a tweetstorm from a little earlier.

Filed under: CBC, music

Inside the search for the new host of Q → 

March 14 2015 |

Simon Houpt:

“If the folks in Studio Q allowed themselves a few moments of uncharacteristic giddiness, you could understand their relief. Thursday marked 20 weeks since Ghomeshi had stepped out of the studio and into infamy, and everyone on staff was eager – some would say desperate – to begin a new chapter. While the focus has understandably been on the former host, who faces seven criminal charges, the gruelling, unprecedented process of finding a new personality to be Q’s flag bearer offers a fascinating glimpse into the stress fractures and underlying strength of the public broadcaster.”

Seriously, good on these guys for getting through this. I’ve gone through the process of having a new host, of being uncertain about the future- but never anything like this. I can’t imagine how stressful it would have been to have so much scrutiny on you, a major scandal in the backdrop, and real questions about whether the show you’re making should even continue to exist.

The broader structural issues that helped create this problem it still need to be examined and sorted, but the people involved in the day to day production of this show deserve to breathe a sigh of relief.

We could actually get rid of daylight saving time pretty easily – and start our own crazy time zone, too!

March 8 2015 |

Don’t forget to spring ahead! It’s time to lose an hour of sleep to daylight saving time!

Here’s some reasons daylight saving may not be worthwhile: it increases the risk of heart attack, it’s bad for kids, it increases car accidents, and it has numerous other costs with no real benefit.

There are, however, some parts of the country that don’t bother: Saskatchewan, parts of Ontario, Nunavut, and right here in British Columbia. The community of Fort Nelson in northeastern B.C. is changing its clocks for the last time, having decided in the last election to join the rest of the Peace region and observe Mountain Standard Time year-round.

After hearing this, I contacted the the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development- they oversee local governments, so I figured they would be responsible for this sort of thing. Turns out they weren’t. After some poking around, I found it’s the Ministry of Justice.

The reason for this is the observation of time zones falls under the Interpretation Act, an unwieldy document that basically lays out a bunch of rules on how we should refer to distances and people so that it is legally sound. Time falls under this. So I emailed the Ministry of Justice some questions, which I’ve pasted along with their answers below:

Q. Who actually decides what time zone a community is in?

A. The Interpretation Act regulates the use of daylight saving time (DST), which was adopted after a provincewide plebiscite in 1952. However, the provincial government does not require that all parts of the province observe Pacific Time or DST. Some areas in the province have historically observed Mountain Time or have chosen not to observedaylight saving time.

Q. Can they just say “we’re in a new time zone now” and that’s it? Or is there some oversight?

A. The decision can be made by the local community.

Q. And who has the authority to change it?

A. While communities may change the time zone they observe, when dealing in matters of provincial law, Pacific Time applies.

The short version of this is that although legal documents require us to use Pacific Time as decided by the province, for conventional purposes we can do whatever the heck we want. The decision to change time zones is entirely in the hands of the same people who are in charge of parking meters and dog licences: your local government. At the next city council meeting, someone could propose we observe Azerbaijan Time Mondays and Thursday and Easter Island Summer Time the rest of the week, and if the rest of council agrees, we could be on crazy kooky time before summer rolls around. In practice, they’d probably want to get buy-in from the community – most likely a plebiscite to abolish Daylights Savings at the next local election – but heck, that’s pretty easy, too.

One other thing: everyone should know that the reason we even have daylight saving is this guy wanted to collect more bugs.

“Even the churches of the Indians will be burned” → 

March 7 2015 |

Thanks to an article by Frank Peebles (one worth reading), I was able to find this front-page Fort George Herald story from September 6, 1913, about the burning of the Lheidli T’enneh village. What astounds me is how it is both incredibly frank about what is going down (“the torch of the white men will be thrust into the remaining houses and the village will disappear quietly in a cloud of smoke”) and at the same time, so celebratory (this is being done “for the purposes of the dominant race which has purchased their reserve for the future site of a great city”).

See Also: Burn Your Village to the Ground: 100 Years Since Lheidli Edition

Here are the opening paragraphs, you can read the original here:


“Demolition of Old Village Is Now Under Way—Indians Still Owners of Much Valuable Land Hereabouts

“The old Indian village, a few hundred yards up the Fraser river from this town, will soon be a mass of smoldering ruins. Already the houses at the north end of the village have been burned to the ground to give way to the utilization of the land upon which they have stood for years gone by, for the purposes of the dominant race which has purchased their reserve for the future site of a great city.

“Most of the Indians have already evacuated their houses and have gone to their new, bright, ready-made village erected for them on the Goose country reservation fifteen miles up the Fraser from this point. The remaining Indians will move an soon as the steamer Quesnel can be secured to take their chattels to the new locations. Home are going to reserve No. 3, at Duck Lake, about 12 miles up the Nechako river.

“With the departure of the last of the tribe from their old haunts here, the torch of the white men will be thrust into the remaining houses and the village will disappear quietly in a cloud of smoke and sparks. Even the churches of the Indians will be burned, the sacred ornaments and the bell dedicated to their missionary priests being removed to the beautiful church on reserve No. 2. “

By the way, this article makes frequent reference to the land having been purchased and this being a good deal around. I’ve had conversations with a number of local historians and the validity of the deal is iffy at best and out-and-out non-existent at worst.

Again, you should also read Frank Peebles’ article about this here, and here’s a production I made for CBC Radio:

listen to ‘The burning of the Lheidli T’enneh village’ on audioBoom

Burn Your Village To The Ground (100 Years Since Lheidli Edition)

March 5 2015 |


What this is:

March 6, 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the city of Prince George. I’m happy to celebrate, but I also think it’s important to reflect on how we got here. An important part of the story is what happened to the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation in order to make way for the city: the burning of their village and their removal to the reserve of Shelley, on the outskirts of town.

This track is an expansion of the A Tribe Called Red song “Burn Your Village to the Ground“. All the music, as well as the monologue in the middle (an excerpt from the movie Addams Family Values), is part of the original track.

I’ve added portions of interviews with land use planner Lisa Krebs and Lheidli T’enneh band member Rena Zatorski about the burning of the Lheidli village prior to that monologue, and the second half includes clips from stories on missing and murdered women and residential schools from northern British Columbia. The final words are from Lheidli elder Edi Frederick welcoming everyone to the traditional lands of the Lhedli T’enneh.

The goal is to shine a light on the complicated history surrounding the creation and ongoing existence of Prince George, and make us think about how best to move in to the future together.



See also:

Filed under: Aboriginal, misc, Prince George

What the Canada Games got right (and what we should do with that information)

March 2 2015 |


Alright, I just got back from the final performance in the Canada Games Plaza, after seventeen days of sports, music, and fireworks. I’m sure in the weeks ahead there will be plenty of discussion of the good, bad, and ugly of the past two-and-a-half weeks but here, in the aftermathy buzz of excitement, are some things that I think went right with the Games and what we, the people of Prince George, should do with that information:

1. Showcase local talent

The Games far exceeded my expectations on this one. I really expected the musical offerings to be lower-level top 40 CanCon. There’s nothing wrong with lower-level top 40 CanCon per se, but having night after night of critically acclaimed Canadian musicians was way better. And the cherry on top was the huge showcase given to local and regional musicians. Bright City Heights of Prince George, Rosewood’s Diary of Vanderhoof, Jerusha White of Fort St James, King Crow and the Ladies from Hell of Terrace, Doug Koyama of Quesnel… all names familiar to people keyed into the local festival circuits but unknowns for the vast majority of people in this city and virtually everyone visiting from out of town.

The Games (in conjunction with the Coldsnap Music Festival) took their massive platform and opened it up to these relative unknowns, exposing them to new audiences and, in turn, audiences to new listening experiences hidden right in their own backyard. It would have been really easy to just get Hedley to play the opening ceremonies, but the Games went with Black Spruce Bog and it made everything that much more special. Future event organizers, take note: you don’t need to import great talent.

2. Put the Lheidi T’enneh front and centre

We’ve already established that when a bunch of kids sang “Oh Canada” in Dakelh I got tears in my eyes. But man, has it been great seeing the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation be such a big part of this. Prior to 1913, the entirety of downtown Prince George was Lheidli reserve land, just before their village was burned and they were moved out to Shelley. For decades afterwards, there was almost no visible reminders of this. But thanks partially to the Games, that’s been changing. The Civic Canada Games Plaza now has columns welcoming people to Prince George in English, French and Dakelh, along with pictures depicting the four clans of the Lheidli T’enneh. In the centre is a sculpture depicting a traditional Lheidli drum, full of stones to be used in prayer rituals. Every night, entertainment moved over the to the Lheidli T’enneh pavilion. It was more than acknowledging that we are the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh, it was embracing it. Let’s keep that up.

3. Turning the Civic Plaza into an actual civic plaza

Honestly, I was kind of cynical about the Civic Plaza in front of the library being renamed the Canada Games Plaza, but two-and-a-half weeks later I think that name’s been earned. I mean, holy cow. Prior to this, I had never envisioned the plaza as much of civic gathering place largely because it is almost always empty. But the redesign, adding art and history and benches and lighting where there was once just basically empty concrete, coupled with the nightly mainstage shows has completely reimagined what this space can be.

Time and time again I heard people say how great it was having the main gathering place be here, and I completely agree. It makes sense: you have the library, art gallery, civic centre, and swimming pool right there, you’re near city hall, and you’re on the corner of downtown with it’s shops and restaurants. Why shouldn’t it be the gathering place? I mean, obviously that was sort of the plan since it was the “civic plaza” and all, but this seems like the first time the idea actually came to fruition. Let’s figure out how to make sure it isn’t the last.

4. We don’t need the Canada Winter Games to have a great party

This is not a slight on the Games, by any means. But I would like to dispel any ideas you may have that none of this would be possible without the Games. Last night, I was at a show at the ArtSpace. At one point the band asked how many people were athletes. No one cheered. Athlete parents? Silence. From another province? No one. How many from Prince George? Almost everyone clapped.

This was a full house, with a line to get in, and it was almost all locals- there was no need for a big tourist event to make it happen. Oh, and just before that I had been at a packed show at the main stage and again, the loudest yell went out for B.C. and Prince George. Having the people from out of town was nice, but the bulk of people taking in the entertainment were living right here. The audience exists- the Games demonstrated that very clearly, but now they’re done and we shouldn’t think it can’t happen again. Put on something good, and this city will support it.

Let’s do this.

Filed under: Prince George

This is why the Prime Minister didn’t attend the Canada Winter Games in Prince George

February 26 2015 |

As Prince George was gearing up to host the Canada Winter Games this year, there was widespread anticipation that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be attending. After all, he’s attended every other Canada Games since he became Prime Minister: winter in Whitehorse and Halifax, and summer in Summerside/Charlottetown and Sherbrooke.

But no, despite making a trip to southern British Columbia for Lunar New Year and an LNG announcement, Harper couldn’t make time for the one-hour flight north to drop in on the Games in Prince George. This is keeping with an old tradition of Prime Ministers not visiting the city.1

I decided to ask the Prime Minister’s Office why Harper wasn’t able to make the trip. After calling the media line, I was asked to email my request, which I have cut-and-paste below.


“There are a number of questions being asked about Mr. Harper and the Canada Winter Games in Prince George that I hope you can address:


  1. Why was Stephen Harper not a part of the opening ceremonies of the Canada Winter Games in Prince George?

  2. Why was Mr. Harper not at the Games despite attending the opening of all previous Canada Games during his tenure as Prime Minister?

  3. Why is Mr. Harper able to attend Lunar New Year events in the Lower Mainland but not make a visit to Prince George during the Games?

  4. Why has Mr. Harper not visited Prince George during his tenure as Prime Minister despite strong support for the Conservative Party in the region and its proximity to his home riding of Calgary (a one hour direct flight)?

  5. Are there plans in place for Mr. Harper to visit Prince George or any part of northern British Columbia in the coming months?

  6. Why has the Governor General not been a part of the Games, also breaking with tradition?2

  7. Will the Governor General be a part of the closing ceremonies of the Canada Winter Games?”

This was sent to Pierre-Luc Jean in the PMO. He added his colleague Carl Vallée to the chain, and Vallée sent me this response:

“Hey Andrew.

“Our government was represented at the Canada Winter Games by its Minister of Sport Bal Gosal.

“As for your question on the PM’s presence in your region, during this mandate, the PM has in fact been in Northern BC: both in Fort St John and Dawson Creek.


I responded:

“As you are no doubt aware, Dawson Creek and Fort St John are some distance away from Prince George.

“I would also appreciate an answer as to why Prince George is the first host city of the Canada Games the PM has not visited.

“Thank you.”

This was seven days ago. I have yet to receive further correspondence.3

  1. As best I can tell, Trudeau is the last one to do so while still in office. 

  2. The Governor General will, in fact, be a part of the closing ceremonies, but I never received an answer about that from the PMO. It came out later as part of a general release. 

  3. Several people have commented that while the title of this says “this is why” it doesn’t actually answer the question. I’m aware of that. It’s an ironic title, since I very clearly asked the PMO for an answer and was given a classic political non-answer. By the way, politicians give non-answers all the time. 

Beyond Hope and proud of it → 

February 26 2015 |

And on the subject of Neil Godbout, here’s his editorial on Prince George continuously seeking- and failing to get- validation from Vancouver media and citizens:

“Prince George residents in general and members of the area business community in particular are desperate – bordering on teenage girl obsessed with the captain of the football team – to be recognized by the denizens of Greater Vancouver.”

“In fact, Prince George doesn’t need a damn thing from Vancouver.

“The sooner this city realizes it and acts accordingly, the better off it’ll be.”

I whole-heartedly agree with this whole thing. If you live in Prince George, please read it.

Table stakes → 

February 26 2015 |

Neil Godbout did his own analysis of election spending in Prince George:

“On the surface, it looks like Lyn Hall blew away the notion that elected office is earned, not bought, with his mayoral win.

“Many people, including many would-be politicians, desperately want to believe that money can’t buy a seat at the table. Sadly, Hall’s victory goes against recent results.”

He goes on to point out that the majority of the time the winning mayor and councillours are those who spent the most money on their campaign.

Of course, this goes against my own analysis of election spending, titled “Does money buy votes? Not in northern B.C.” (indeed, Godbout’s editorial is titled “Cash counts at ballot box”. But I think our conclusions are not as different as the titles would suggest. When I said money doesn’t buy votes I meant that money alone doesn’t buy it- you can outspend and still lose. Godbout says the same, pointing to Hall, Skakun, and Frizzell as examples of hard work and the right candidate overcoming a bigger budget.

I think the better way to think about the need for election spending is table stakes. Zero-dollar campaigns do not do well1. So while a $40,000 dollar mayor’s campaign might beat an $80,000, you still need $40,000. On council, you might win with $6,000 but the bulk of evidence suggests you still need $6,000. Skill, messaging, and hard work may let you beat someone with more money. But if you want to win, you need to pay the table stakes.

  1. I’m talking about Prince George, smaller cities have the occasional successful cost-free campaign 

Does money buy votes? Not in northern B.C.

February 24 2015 |

Yesterday, Elections B.C. released the campaign financing disclosure forms from the 2014 municipal elections. The forms tells us how much politicians spent and received in their bid to get elected. I decided to explore some of the numbers.

listen to ‘Does money buy votes? Some numbers from the northern B.C. municipal elections’ on audioBoom

To get this out of the way, in northern B.C. cities1  spending more money didn’t necessarily result in more votes. In Prince George, Don Zurowski spent $72,249.29 on his campaign, while winner Lyn Hall spent just $39,911.332. In Quesnel, incumbent Mary Sjostrom spent more than twice as much as Bob Simpson in the mayor’s race:  $18,446.12 vs $7327.35. Still, Simpson more than doubled Sjostrom’s votes, winning 2128 to 884. More cash did not mean more support.

In Terrace, winner Carol Leclerc did outspend runner-up Bruce Bidgood, but the difference in spending was small: just over five hundred dollars. And in Prince Rupert, winner Lee Brain did have the most expensive campaign, but runner-up Jack Mussalum came second, despite spending the least of all four candidates for mayor.

Diving a bit more into the Prince George numbers, six of the eight people to be elected to council were in the top eight spenders – only Brian Skakun and Garth Frizzell didn’t have the biggest budgets. That didn’t stop them from doing well, though- Skakun finished first and Frizzell third.

The most expensive northern campaign was easily Don Zurowski’s failed bid for mayor of Prince George. In fact, he spent more than the combined totals of all six mayoral candidates in Terrace and Prince Rupert combined. It still wasn’t enough to match Shari Green’s $81,000 campaign in 2011, though.

The cheapest mayor’s race was Dawson Creek, where Dale Bumstead faced zero challengers and spent zero dollars. Fort St John mayor Lori Ackerman could also have a run a zero-dollar campaign, but she spent nearly seventeen-hundred dollars upgrading her website before finding out she would be standing unopposed.

Zero dollar campaigns worked out alright for Nelson Kinney of Prince Rupert and Terry McFayden of Dawson Creek, who managed to get ont o council without any expenditures, but in Prince George, everyone who spent zero dollars finished in the bottom half of the race.

So let’s say you want to run an election campaign in one of B.C.’s northern cities… what’s it going to cost?

Prince George, as the biggest and most expensive city, skews the numbers, especially with Zurowski’s outlying budget. The average budge tof a winning campaign in Dawson Creek, Fort St John, Terrace, Prince Rupert, and Quesnel is between two-and-three thousand dollars3. The price of winning a council seat in Prince George is more than eight times that: $17,701.21. And for mayor, the minimum winning bid across the last decade in Prince George is about $40,000. For comparison’s sake, the minimum down payment on the average house in Prince George is $13,000.

Start saving.

  1. Prince George, Quesnel, Fort St John, Dawson Creek, Terrace, and Prince Rupert are the six jurisdictions defined as a “city” in B.C.’s north 

  2. For the money spent, I am using “total expenditures” minus “surplus funds” 

  3. Since Dale Bumstead and Lori Ackerman had no challengers and therefore spent less than if there were a race, I exluded them from this calculation 

The Tyranny of the Talking Point → 

February 24 2015 |

Sean Holman:

“I know that your role, as a so-called communications professional, is to put the best spin on what the government is or isn’t doing.

“That means you often don’t respond the questions I ask, you help elected officials do the same thing and you won’t let me talk to those who actually have the answers.

“While this may work out very well for you, it doesn’t work out so well for my audience who, by the way, are taxpayers, voters and citizens.

“So your refusal to provide me with information is actually a refusal to provide the public with information.

“And if the public doesn’t know what their government is actually doing, it can continue doing things the public wouldn’t want it to do.”

It’s gotten to the point where I ask for answers from government not because I expect answers, but because it’s a force of habit. There has to be a fight back against this.

The value of the Games

February 21 2015 |


So is it worth it?

It’s a question I’m pondering as I see people wandering the Canada Games Plaza, cheering for ringette athletes and indie bands alike.

Remember, back in 2011 the city increased our taxes by about two percent to raise $1.3 million for the Games. Additional funding is coming from federal and provincial governments, regional district, and various bodies that get at least some of their money from taxes.

The payoff, of course, is supposed to be a projected $70-90 million of economic investment in the city as a result of the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

So the question on many people’s minds: is that $70-90 million actually on its way?

There’s definitely more money going into the Tim Hortons beside my office. Day and night, there is no question the lines are longer and more frequent.

So let’s talk about local businesses. A post-Halifax games survey found 37% of businesses reported increase business, 31% saw decrease, 31% stayed the same. The accommodation industry saw the most impact, restaurants saw the second-most, and shopping/retail third.

Another key find was that businesses that created special product or went “the extra mile” to attract new customers saw the biggest increase.

In Prince George that seems to be true. The White Goose Bistro is being held up as an example of a restaurant doing well. As the Citizen reports, in addition to the restaurant, the owner hired extra people to run a catering business for special events.

I was at Ohh Chocolat the other day. They have all sorts of signs welcoming visitors, are making special soups based on each of Canada’s provinces and territories, and have put out a guest book for visitors to sign. They are also doing well.

However, it’s also worth mentioning that Ohh Chocolat is well located, right on the walking path between the Ramada Hotel and Wood Innovation building (both of which are main games headquarters) and the athlete’s village/Games Plaza.

A good illustration of the importance of location is Tim Hortons. While the downtown location has taken on extra staff, the owner says that her other locations are basically holding steady.

So what happens for a place like Kelly O’Bryan’s, on the outskirts of the main downtown/Canada Games core?

My colleague Audrey McKinnon spoke to Darryl Colley, the general manager of Kelly O’Bryan’s over on 2nd Ave. He told her that he had high expectations for the games. He brought in extra food, and stopped taking reservations to make room for walk-in traffic.

And then… crickets.

So he took action. Staff members went out in kilts to advertise themselves to visitors who might not otherwise know about the restaurant, and things have picked up. He agrees with the Halifax findings, that businesses have to make an extra effort to cash in.

“The Games worked really hard to promote the city, to promote business… and I just think there’s some people that just really need to work harder to promote themselves, now.”

listen to ‘Canada Winter Games not having the impact some businesses hoped.’ on audioBoom

This story of super-high expectations not being met is a common one in the service industry. On the Canada Games website it says “currently all of the accommodations within Prince George are reserved during the dates of the event for the athletes, coaches, officials and media from over 800 communities across the nation who will be participating in the 2015 Canada Winter Games.”

The reality is we called multiple hotels – including the Ramada and the Coast downtown – and would have been able to get rooms this weekend. Only two or three were available, but they were available. Going out to the Treasure Cove and the Sandman Signature along the highway, and I was told over twenty and thirty rooms were available through until Wednesday. Some homestays are being rented, but others are not. It’s busy, but it’s not “no room at the inn” busy as advertised.

It’s also not hard to find Facebook posts from people in the service industry saying they were hired on for extra shifts pre-games, and then lost them once owners discovered things weren’t quite as busy as expected. Hotels with athletes, for example, may even need less support staff because they are putting competitors in sleeping bags and so rooms don’t need sheet changes, etc. Another interesting anecdote from the Copper Pig is that while coaches and parents are regular customers, athletes are being fed elsewhere and are not contributing to sales.

Overall, the picture painted is businesses prepared for a flood, and only got a storm. Sales are up, but maybe not as much as expected/hoped for. And the type of business and where you are is a factor.

Again, there will be no final answers until after this is done, with an official assessment contracted by the the Games and surveys from the Chamber of Commerce and possibly the DBIA.

There’s also more to economic impact than businesses – there could be other spinoff that we won’t see until further down the line, such as future tournaments or athletes returning to study at UNBC or CNC. On Twitter and Yik Yak there are posts from athletes saying, essentially “this was the best week of my life… thanks PG,” and “I didn’t want to come here, now I don’t want to leave.” Down the line that could amount to nothing, or it could amount to a long-term word-of-mouth advertising campaign that pays dividends in attracting visitors and tourists. We can also start talking about the fact that there’s more locals going downtown to check out the Games and discovering maybe downtown isn’t so bad and then maybe returning…

One secret about these things is that there’s a million different ways you can calculate their value. Was the tax increase on my property worth the cost of seeing a bunch of locals and visitors crammed into the Canada Games plaza on a February night to watch a local band play songs about life in the north? Was it worth having a bunch of young adults have the best week of their lives, and look back on Prince George as a pivotal moment in their athletic careers? Was it worth having people who live here see their city in a new light, and see what might be possible rather than what is? Or should we have just paved more roads and started investing in a performing arts centre?

Value, man. It’s tricky.

Filed under: Prince George

Here’s (some of) what you just saw at the Canada Winter Games Opening Ceremonies

February 13 2015 |

I just finished watching the opening ceremonies of the Canada Winter Games. I liked it! I mean, as a rule there will be speeches from politicians but honestly that’s just something you kind of expect between the entertainment.

As a proud Prince George-er I loved seeing local talent showcased on a national stage. Good on the organizing committee for making that choice. It would have been really easy (and expected) to import some bigger names from out of town, but instead they chose to use the opportunity to expose the country to some hidden talents.

Seriously GOOD ON YOU @2015CanadaGames for showcasing local talent at the opening ceremony. #cityofpg #2015CanGames

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) February 14, 2015

Here’s a quick recap of some of what you saw:

1. Pretty pictures of Prince George


The current rainy, slushy weather is doing its best to hide it, but Prince George is really a beautiful city. Spots from Move Up Prince George and Tourism PG helped prove it.

2. Local bands (and dancers)

The first PG band to take the stage was Bright City Heights. The song they played was “Aurora”. You can download it here.


The second local group to play was Black Spruce Bog. The song they played was “Tete Jaune Road.” You can download it here. They’ll be playing Sunday in the Canada Games Plaza, as well, opening for Alan Doyle.

The dancers in the Bright City Heights segment were all local, and the interpretive dancer Tristan Ghostkeeper, also of Prince George.  

3. Lheidli T’enneh Culture

This was my favourite thing. For the first time ever, the Canada Games has an official host First Nation in the form of the Lheidli T’enneh, and they were front and centre of this whole thing. At one point, a canoe was put on the stage, one of two dugouts carved by University of Northern British Columbia students under the guidance of elder Robert Frederick. It was the first time a canoe had been made in the traditional Lheidli style in decades. You can learn more about that story below:

The best part, though, was when all those kids got on stage and started singing “Oh Canada” in Dakelh, the Lheidli language, the first time this has ever happened. Last week I spoke to the elder who helped translate the song. She told me she always spoke Dakelh with her grandmother, but eventually people stopped speaking it. She paused. They took us to the schools, she said. Going from there to this moment is incredibly meaningful.

NOT GOING TO LIE “Oh Canada” sung by Lheidli kids in Dakelh is made me tear up at the national anthem for the first time ever #2015CanGames — Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) February 14, 2015

But the joy she had talking about the coming weeks and the prominence of the Lheidli T’enneh in the whole thing- it was incredible. I’ve spoken to another of Lheidli in the lead up to this and I cannot understate how meaningful this is for them. This is Prince George’s 100th Anniversary… but part of what led to the creation of the city was the burning of the Lheidli village near downtown Prince George and the removal of the people to a reserve.

As much as this is a showcase for Prince George to Canada, this is also a showcase of the Lheidli to Prince George. A few years ago, there was hardly any visible First Nations presence downtown. Now, thanks in part to the Games, we have welcome signs in Dakelh, the Lheidli T’enneh flag flying high and the acknowledgement that we are on traditional Lheidli T’enneh going out on national television. This is absolutely what this city and country should be doing: embracing the reality of where we are.

There was a lot more but I’ll just leave it at good job to all involved. Made me proud.

PS There is only one thing I feel like was missing:


— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) February 14, 2015

Ask Me About PG

February 12 2015 |


Whenever someone visits me in Prince George, and we walk anywhere, I find myself giving them all sorts of pointless trivia about the city. With thousands of people coming over the course of the next few weeks (Canada Winter Games) I’ve decided to extend that to anyone with a question. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

PG 100 → 

February 6 2015 |

Busy times. Next week, Prince George starts hosting the Canada Winter Games, one of the largest events in the country and the biggest to ever come to Prince George. At the same time, Prince Rupert is hosting the All-Native Basketball Tournament, an important event for the region. Our office is doing special coverage for both, and on top of it all we’re just one month away from Prince George’s 100th Anniversary, another event I’m hoping to give good coverage to. In fact, we’re planning on doing a series called “100 Years, 100 Stories“, and have been digging through various archives to find old sounds and stories that people may have forgotten about. My colleague Rafferty Baker put this preview together to help get us ready:



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You guys!  http://fw.to/QSpGxCbDrown in Life #cityofPG #pggraffitiThis raccoon on the Greyhound mural is my favourite. Like he is NOT ok with whatever's going on. #cityofPGNature would like to remind you that spring doesn't arrive just because a calendar says it does #cityofPGUnexpected development of the day.Oh, hulloz there #waldoArena seating for the Vinyl Cafe at the CN Centre #cityofPG