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B.C. seniors squeezed
The Canadian Press - 12:38 pm - BC Biz

Image: Contributed

The advocate for seniors in British Columbia says costs for both renters and homeowners are going up while home and community supports are failing to meet demands.

Isobel Mackenzie’s office has released an annual report saying increased costs and lack of services could drive up the number of seniors moving into residential care.

Mackenzie says 15 per cent of seniors already in care could be living independently with proper supports.

She says seniors who rent are at greatest risk because they have the lowest median income of any group over age 25.

The report says rent for a one-bedroom apartment has gone up by an average of 6.7 per cent in B.C., but there has been no increase to an elderly renters’ subsidy cap while the poverty rate for seniors has risen significantly.

Mackenzie said in a statement that while there are many services available to seniors, ensuring they keep pace with demand and are easily accessible is equally important.

Wild for B.C. wine
Kate Bouey - Dec 13 - BC Biz

Image: Contributed

Would you like a glass of red or white?

British Columbians enthusiasm for B.C. wine is growing, according to an online survey conducted by Insights West in partnership with Will Creative.

Half of wine drinkers in the province say their preferred wine is produced in B.C., and two-in-five say they are drinking more local varietals than they were five years ago, according to the results.

Depending on age, preferences are different.

“Red is definitely the preferred choice for B.C.’s wine drinkers aged 35-to-54 and 55 and over,” said Mario Canseco of Insights West. “Rosé and sparkling wines are more popular among those aged 19-to-34.”

The survey shows 50 per cent of wine drinkers preferred B.C. brands and 58 per cent of glasses poured in the province came from local varietals.

The highest proportion of local wine consumption was observed among men (59 per cent) and those aged 35-to-54 (62 per cent).

“Millennials are definitely starting to discover B.C. wine,” said Ute Preusse of Will Creative Inc. “More than half of wine drinkers aged 19-to-34 say they are consuming more wine from the province than they did five years ago.”

The survey was based on interviews with 613 adult drinkers in B.C. during October.

Pot laws similar to cigarettes?
The Canadian Press - Dec 13 - BC Biz

Image: Twitter
Premier John Horgan

Marijuana smokers in British Columbia may have to abide by the same public smoking rules as tobacco users when cannabis becomes legal, Premier John Horgan said Tuesday.

Horgan said his government is still formulating its marijuana policy, but may follow the same provincial smoking laws and community clean air bylaws that prohibit smoking near buildings or public spaces.

“Cigarette smokers can no longer smoke in public places,” Horgan said in an interview. “I think that may well be how we have to proceed with cannabis. We’ll make a decision in the new year.”

Recreational use of marijuana in Canada becomes legal on July 1, and the provinces and territories are developing their policies for the sale, distribution and use of cannabis.

Horgan said people have raised health concerns about second-hand smoke from marijuana while others have told the government they look forward to smoking pot in community areas.

“Those are the issues people have raised with me,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve heard from people that they’d very much like to go for a walk and smoke a marijuana joint in their local community.”

He said the public use of marijuana comes down to a balancing act that manages people who want to use a legal product and those who want nothing to do with cannabis.

“I think of the great smoke-ins in Vancouver on the 20th of April every year, where you’ve got tens of thousands of people all lighting joints at the same time,” Horgan said. “That’s a significant health issue there for other people.”

In Ontario, marijuana users will be prohibited from consuming pot outside of private residences.

British Columbia’s current Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Act sets a six-metre smoke-free buffer zone around doorways, air intakes and open windows to public and work places.

Stores, offices, and entrances to apartment buildings are considered public spaces or work places under the act, which also includes work vehicles, public transit, taxis, cafes, casinos and pubs and bars.

Vancouver also has a bylaw that bans smoking in parks and on beaches.

The Victoria-area Capital Regional District clean air bylaw makes all parks, playgrounds, playing fields, public squares and bus stops smoke-free. It also extends smoke-free buffer zones outside of business doorways, windows and air intakes to seven metres.

B.C. announced last week it will allow marijuana sales at private and public stores to buyers who are at least 19 years old.

The wholesale distributor of non-medical marijuana will be done through the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

More details on provincial marijuana policy are expected early next year.

Home prices up 15.5%
The Canadian Press - Dec 12 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

The British Columbia Real Estate Association says a strong economy has pushed up demand and prices for housing in the province compared with last year.

The association’s latest report says 7,731 sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service in November, a 20.4 per cent increase from November 2016.

The average price was $723,112, up 15.5 per cent from the same period last year.

Association chief economist Cameron Muir says demand for houses is being supported by a large number of millennials entering the market and some buyers completing purchases in advance of tighter mortgage rules in the new year.

Year to date, residential sales in value was down 6.8 per cent to $69.4 billion, compared with the same period last year.

The report also says employment in the province increased by 3.8 per cent over the last 12 months and average hourly wages were up by 5.7 per cent.

“Elevated consumer demand is being supported by strong employment growth, rising wages and favourable demographics,” Muir said in a news release.

BC doctor drought
Rob Gibson - Dec 12 - BC Biz

Image: Contributed

A new UBC study suggests B.C.’s serious doctors shortage is only likely to get worse.

The diagnosis is not positive for those British Columbians searching for a family physician.

The study indicates B.C. doctors are retiring earlier than doctors in other provinces and 40 per cent of practicing physicians are at or near retirement age of 65.

Another factor contributing to the shortage is that doctors aren’t working the extreme hours previous generations did, especially as they approach retirement.

“Traditionally, physicians who would’ve graduated 30, 40, 50 years ago were 100 per cent dedicated to their work life,” said Victoria physician Dr. Jane Papp. “Perhaps not to their health, their own personal health or to their family life.”

Doctors for BC says part of the solution lies in what it calls team-based care, a collaborative approach that would take some of the workload off doctors.

The province is also pursuing the team-based approach, with the Ministry of Health saying in a statement that it has “great potential” to help more people access care and is one of the ministry’s top priorities.

The peer-reviewed study, which was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, examined a total of 4,572 physicians in B.C.

Site C decision reactions
The Canadian Press - Dec 11 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

Here is some of the reaction to the NDP government’s decision to go ahead with the Site C hydroelectric dam in British Columbia:

“Today is a dark day. The government has passed up its chance to stop this misbegotten project. Instead, it has betrayed First Nations and all those who voted in hope of stopping Site C.” — Peace Valley campaigner Galen Armstrong of the Sierra Club in B.C.

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“In the long-run, Site C’s affordable energy is a huge competitive advantage for business in the province. B.C.’s hydroelectric system gives businesses and residents certainty that reliable and clean power will be available when it is needed.” — Val Litwin, president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

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“Affirming the construction of Site C is the right decision for the future of our province. Assuring a domestic source of clean, reliable hydroelectric power helps secure our energy system for the growth of businesses and sectors of the Lower Mainland and provincial economy for decades into the future.” — Iain Black, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

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“Since the 1970s when it was first proposed, the Site C dam has caused nothing but worry and heartbreak for the farm families and First Nations living in the Peace River Valley. With the election of the NDP government, there came reason to hope. But now the looming threat of a dam flooding them out is back – what a lost opportunity.” — National campaign director Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee.

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“With so much at stake for our province, better late than never for John Horgan and the NDP government to support Site C. This entire process and all of the uncertainty it caused was completely unnecessary. In the past four months, we have seen a rushed review and needless NDP-Green politicking create uncertainty and confusion that put this clean energy project, and the thousands of jobs it supports, at risk for no reason.” — Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.

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“It was John Horgan’s NDP that demanded a Site C inquiry by the B.C. Utilities Commission, and the results they received from it were clear: no need for the power, better alternatives once we do, and no advantage to ratepayers to proceed. With those findings, the only responsible choice was to immediately stop destroying the Peace River Valley. — Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations.

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“We recognize this has been a difficult decision for the newly elected NDP government. We respect and appreciate the many contributions from all sides of this issue because this was certainly not an easy choice. That said, completing the Site C dam remains the best choice for British Columbian families.” — Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades.

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“I am confident that First Nations will continue their efforts to stop Site C and the next step will be legal challenges. We have rights in our traditional territories and, just as important, we have responsibilities to those traditional territories — to protect them, maintain them and sustain them. If this project proceeds it will devastate traditional territories and sacred sites.” — National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations.

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“Taking a four billion-dollar bath with nothing to show for it would have been fiscally irresponsible.” — Kris Sims, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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“The Province has already broken its treaty promises to us, and that’s why we are going to trial in March.”

“Premier Horgan could have done the right thing here and taken a step toward reconciliation, but he chose not to. Site C will be the single largest infringement of our rights under Treaty 8, and there is no justification for it.” — Blueberry River Chief Marvin Yahey.

Begrudgingly finishing Site C
Trevor Nichols - Dec 11 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

John Horgan and the BC NDP will move ahead with the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam.

In a news conference this morning, Horgan said his government felt it had to move forward with the massive project, because it has now gone past the point of no return.

“Although Site C is not the project we would have favoured, and it’s not the project we would have started, it must be completed to meet the objectives our government has set,” he said.

Horgan said cancelling the project would mean an “immediate” and “unavoidable” $4 billion hit to the province’s books, which would translate into a 12 per cent hydro rate increase, and forgoing a number of capital projects.

Horgan said he is aware many will be very disappointed, but that the government felt it had no choice but to make the “difficult” decision.

“I was not prepared to foreclose on the future generations by making a decision today that would make me feel good,” he said.

The Site C project, which will eventually see a third hydroelectric dam constructed on the Peace River, has been controversial since the BC Liberal party first embarked on it about two years ago.

First Nations and advocacy groups like the Wilderness Committee have been calling for a complete stop to the project, saying it is unnecessary and that the provincial government is ignoring potentially severe environmental impacts to give more business to the mineral and gas industry.

“Site C is not about meeting the electricity demands of British Columbians; it is about subsidizing BC’s oil and gas and mining industries. It’s an $8 billion taxpayer subsidy to a dirty fossil fuel industry that needs cheap energy to expand,” the Wilderness Committee has said in the past.

Prior to, and during the provincial election, Horgan was also extremely critical of the project.

Initially pegged at a cost of $8.3 billion, the government now estimated the project will cost $10.7 billion to finish. Once it’s finished, the dam will flood approximately 5,500 hectares along the Peace River.

Responding to questions about how the decision will affect his relationship with the province’s Indigenous communities, Horgan was blunt, but attempted a positive spin.

“I’m not the first person to stand before you and disappoint Indigenous people,” he said, “But I am the first to stand before you and say I’m going to do my level best to make amends for a whole host of issues… that have put indigenous people in an untenable situation.”

In a news release sent out today, the B.C. Green Party condemned what it called the NDP’s “reckless” decision to move forward with the project.

“Our caucus is extremely disheartened by this decision. It is fiscally reckless to continue with Site C and my colleagues and I did everything we could to make this clear to the government,” party leader Andrew Weaver said.

Weaver added that Horgan’s argument about taking on Site C’s debt is “incredibly cynical.”

“They (the NDP) had no problem adding billions onto the public debt to cancel the tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, transferring those costs to people outside of the Lower Mainland to pick up votes in a couple of swing ridings,” he said.

The NDP was allowed to form government after the last provincial election thanks to support from the three Green Party MLAs. Horgan said today he doesn’t believe his Site C decision will break up the coalition.

During his announcement, Horgan said the government will embark on several initiative aimed at lessening the negative impact of the project. They include a food security fund, reopening the standing offer program, better training opportunities and a new oversight committee.

NDP green lights Site C
The Canadian Press - Dec 11 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

The Site C hydroelectric dam will be completed with the backing of British Columbia’s NDP government, but it is warning the price tag will be higher than estimated.

Site C was projected to cost $8.3 billion to complete, but the government now estimates the project will total $10.7 billion.

An estimated $4 billion has been spent so far on the dam and the NDP government was debating whether to continue construction or cancel the work midway through the job.

The government says the province risked a credit downgrade and debt-servicing costs of up to $150 million annually if the project was cancelled and the treasury absorbed the $4 billion loss.

Premier John Horgan announced today that his government has decided to complete the megaproject at a news conference at the legislature.

The B.C. Utilities Commission, the province’s independent energy regulator, concluded in its assessment released last month that the dam is over budget and behind schedule.

Dozens exposed at Delta farm
The Canadian Press - Dec 11 - BC Biz

Image: Windset Farms Facebook

Dozens of people were taken to hospital on Saturday after they were exposed to carbon monoxide at a farm in Delta, B.C.

BC Emergency Health Services tweeted that 13 ambulances responded to “a major incident,” and that 42 patients were admitted to hospital — 10 in serious to critical condition and 32 others in stable condition.

A spokeswoman for WorkSafeBC, which has taken over the investigation, said it wasn’t clear how many remained in hospital on Sunday morning.

The incident reportedly occurred in a greenhouse nursery at Windset Farms, which grows produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

The company website says it’s been in business for more than two decades and ships its produce internationally.

Officials speculated the carbon monoxide may have come from the gas powered engine of a pressure washer that was being used to clean the nursery.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that’s produced whenever fuel is burned.

It can cause health problems — and eventually death — because breathing it reduces the body’s ability to carry oxygen in the blood.

Representatives from Windset Farms did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wineries’ court case wraps
Colin Dacre - Dec 08 - BC Biz

Image: Shea Coulson

Five small Okanagan wineries had their day in court today during a rare two-day hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada.

The wineries are intervening in a case on behalf 100 B.C. wineries trying to break down legal barriers to inter-provincial shipping of Canadian wine, arguing it has negatively impacted consumer choice, as well as threatening the local wine industry itself.

“The Court was engaged in a deep debate about whether to expand the constitutional guarantee for a national common market in Canada, and if so, to what extent,” said Shea Coulson, the wineries lawyer.

“The Court was particularly concerned with judges entering too far into the policy jurisdiction of the democratically-elected provincial governments. At the same time, they recognized that the current situation regarding national distribution of liquor is not ideal.”

The case, R. v. Comeau, is a constitutional challenge stemming from when Gerard Comeau was stopped and fined in 2012 for carrying alcohol from Quebec across the New Brunswick border.

The challenge is trying to convince the court to uphold the “letter and spirit” of the 1867 Constitution, which provides some level of constitutional guarantee of free trade.

The Okanagan wineries are just one of many interveners in the case. Most on the non-government groups — and 89 per cent of Canadians — side with Comeau.

The ruling would make it easier for  individuals as well as industry to access a national market, potentially contributing an additional $50 to $130 billion to the gross domestic product, said Coulson.

The outcome of the case will be decided in 2018.

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