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Short-term rentals plummet
The Canadian Press - 2:45 pm - BC Biz

Photo: CTV News

The City of Vancouver says nearly 1,000 short-term rental units are no longer advertised after it introduced new rules to free up more housing for long-term tenants.

The regulations took full effect in September but were introduced earlier this year, and since April some 963 short-term rental units are no longer listed.

The city says its staff has opened more than 1,600 case files and pursued enforcement actions against unauthorized units, including 363 investigations and audits.

It says 126 tickets have been issued and three licences have been suspended.

The new rules mean operators can only advertise their primary residence and must have a business licence and post the licence number in their listing.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart says in a statement that more than half of Vancouver’s population rents their home, so increasing rental housing supply is paramount.

“We are committed to ensuring residents have access to the homes they need and can afford, and are pleased these short-term rental regulations are having a positive effect on the city’s long-term rental housing supply,” he says.

China mission goes ahead
The Canadian Press - Dec 10 - BC Biz

Photo: Contributed

VICTORIA — Forest company leaders from B.C. say they will continue a trade mission to China without provincial government officials.

Susan Yurkovich, president of the Council of Forest Industries, says long-standing business relations with China are separate from what’s unfolding in a Vancouver courtroom where Meng Wanzhou has applied for bail.

Yerkovich made the comments in a telephone conference call from Tokyo as she was preparing to leave for China.

B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson says he will not be going to China on this leg of the trade mission but hopes to travel there next year.

Donaldson says it was decided it wouldn’t be prudent for a government representative to travel with business leaders to China after consultations with provincial, federal and diplomatic officials.

The decision follows the arrest in Vancouver of Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer.

Fortis rates going up
The Canadian Press - Dec 10 - BC Biz

Photo: Contributed

Most B.C. residents will pay more for natural gas after an Enbridge pipeline exploded in October near Prince George.

FortisBC says it’s received regulatory approval from the B.C. Utilities Commission on interim rates for customers to take effect Jan. 1.

Diane Roy, vice-president of regulatory affairs, said in a release that Fortis strives to deliver natural gas at the lowest reasonable cost. But she says there has been an impact to costs associated with actions the utility had to take to stabilize supply after the rupture.

Residential customers in Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Interior will see an annual increase of about nine per cent, or $68, based on average annual usage.

Those in Fort Nelson will pay about seven per cent more or $51, while those in Revelstoke receiving piped propane will see a decrease of about 11 per cent or $108.

Fortis says these are interim changes and permanent rate decisions are expected in the first quarter of 2019, which may result in a bill adjustment for customers.

The utility adds that weather, supply and demand and economic conditions also affect the market price of natural gas and propane in North America.

The pipeline that ruptured two months ago has been fixed and the company has raised its maximum allowable operating pressure to 85 per cent.

BC politicians will avoid China
The Canadian Press - Dec 10 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press
B.C. Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson

VICTORIA — The detention of a top Huawei executive in Canada has derailed B.C.’s trade mission to China.

The delegation led by B.C. Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson will no longer be stopping in China, and will instead end its trip after a visit to Japan.

The decision follows the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, who was detained while changing flights last week in Vancouver.

“The Province of British Columbia has suspended the China leg of its Asian forestry trade mission due to the international judicial process underway relating to a senior official at Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.,” the province said in a statement, adding that British Columbia values its strong trade relationship with China.

“It is anticipated that Minister Donaldson will work to reschedule events planned for the Chinese portion of this mission at the earliest convenient moment.”

Stefano Maron, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, said in an email the decision was made at the provincial level and deferred comments to the B.C. government.

B.C. Trade Minister Bruce Ralston declined an interview request Sunday.

The United States is seeking to have Meng extradited on allegations that she tried to evade American trade sanctions on Iran. A bail hearing began in Vancouver on Friday, and Meng is spending the weekend in jail before it continues next week.

The Chinese government has warned Canada that if Meng is not released, the country will face “grave consequences.”

A report by the official Xinhua News Agency carried on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website said that Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng called in Canadian Ambassador John McCallum on Saturday over Meng’s detention.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns over its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.

Le told McCallum that Meng’s detention at the request of the United States was a “severe violation” of her “legitimate rights and interests.”

“Such a move ignores the law and is unreasonable, unconscionable, and vile in nature,” Le said in the statement.

“China strongly urges the Canadian side to immediately release the detained Huawei executive … or face grave consequences that the Canadian side should be held accountable for,” Le said.

On Sunday, Le summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad for a similar meeting, demanding Washington cancel the order for Meng’s arrest, Xinhua News Agency said.

Le called the United States to “immediately correct its wrong actions” and said it would take further steps based on Washington’s response.

Stephen Nagy, a distinguished fellow with the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said both Canada and China are walking a tightrope in relations with one another.

Canada could be concerned about retaliatory action that could range from the arrests of Canadians in China to the stonewalling of trade negotiations with British Columbia, he said.

Even if British Columbia had nothing to do with Meng’s arrest, the appearance of B.C. officials in China would be taken “very, very negatively,” he said.

“This is just standard practice in diplomacy where you don’t smack the face of your host before you go there,” he said in a phone interview from Japan.

It’s unlikely that any trade deals would have been signed under the circumstances since it could appear to Chinese citizens that the Chinese government was rewarding Canada for the arrest, he said.

While Canada is under pressure to co-operate with the United States, he said China has an interest in maintaining positive relations with Canada to balance its tense trade relationship with the U.S.

“On the Chinese side, they don’t want to alienate potential partners who could take some pressure off from the United States during this trade war. So it’s a very delicate balancing act for both sides,” he said.

Climate plan could be boon
The Canadian Press - Dec 06 - BC Biz

Photo: Contributed

The B.C. Business Council says the province’s plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions can position B.C. and its businesses as a supplier of choice for international markets seeking lower-carbon intensive energy and commodities.

It says there’s a need for greater understanding of the plan’s cost implications for both employers and individual B.C. residents.

It also says the council will work with the government to ensure policy solutions meet economic realities.

Council president and CEO Greg D’Avignon says B.C. can play an outsized role in reducing global climate impacts in high-emission jurisdictions while building a competitive and innovative economy at home.

Passing grade for BC Hydro
The Canadian Press - Dec 05 - BC Biz

Photo: Contributed

VICTORIA — A report by British Columbia’s auditor general says BC Hydro is doing a good job managing the province’s dams, generating stations and power lines.

Carol Bellringer says in the audit that BC Hydro’s assets are valued at more than $25 billion and even though some generating facilities are more than 85 years old, they continue to operate near full capacity.

The report says about 80 per cent of Hydro’s assets are dams, generators, power lines, poles, substations and transformers that are used to provide electrical service to B.C.

The audit says Hydro invested almost $2.5 billion to renew, repair or replace the assets it manages during the last fiscal year, ending March 31, 2018.

Bellringer’s audit does not examine the $10.7 billion Site C dam project, which is currently under construction in northeast B.C. and not slated for completion until 2024.

She says the audit examined whether BC Hydro has the information, practices, processes and systems needed to support good asset management.

B.C. has job openings
Okanagan Edge Staff - Dec 04 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

B.C. has the second highest percentage of private sector job openings among all Canadian provinces.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business found the nation has 429,700 openings for medium and small businesses, which is a record high. That mark is greater than even 2008 and 2014, when oil and gas booms in the West created a large number of positions.

B.C. had a 3.7 per cent job vacancy rate in the third quarter, which was second only to Quebec’s 4.1 per cent. B.C. had a total of 67,100 job openings that went unfilled over a four-month span.

B.C.’s rate was only two percent in 2008 but has risen steadily each year.

Vancouver market cools
The Canadian Press - Dec 04 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — Both sales and prices for Metro Vancouver homes have dropped in what the head of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says is a return to historical demand levels.

Board president Phil Moore says home buyers have been taking a wait-and-see approach for most of 2018 and the slower activity has prompted home prices to edge downward across all property types.

The board reports just over 1,600 residential home were sold in the region in November, a 42.5 per cent drop from the same month last year and a 34.7 per cent decrease in the 10-year average.

Moore says home prices have dipped four to seven per cent over the last six months depending on the property type and the board will watch conditions in the first quarter of 2019 to see if buyer demand picks up ahead of the usually active spring market.

The benchmark price for detached homes is just over $1.5 million, while the average price of an apartment is $667,800, a 2.3 per cent price decrease from November 2017.

The Greater Vancouver Real Estate board includes properties from Whistler and the Sunshine Coast in the north to Richmond, South Delta and Maple Ridge in the south.

Whale watchers help out
The Canadian Press - Dec 03 - BC Biz

Photo: Contributed

VICTORIA — A B.C. whale-watching organization is boosting its passenger surcharge to increase spending on science programs and salmon-recovery projects for killer whale conservation.

Prince of Whales Whale Watching says the conservation fee charged to passengers will rise from $2 to $5 and will be aimed at supporting the endangered southern resident killer whale population.

The company says in a news release the added fee is expected to generate more than $1 million over the next five years with the money going towards orca-based science programs and chinook salmon recovery projects, the preferred food of the resident whales.

Alan McGillivray, owner of the whale-watching company, says the southern resident population is struggling and one of the big reasons is reduced availability of prey.

There are just 74 remaining members of the southern residents that are often found in the waters off B.C. and Washington state.

Prince of Whales is one of the largest eco-adventure and marine wildlife tour companies in B.C. with operations in Victoria and Vancouver.

LNG benefits deal reached
The Canadian Press - Nov 30 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

The Squamish Nation has approved economic benefit agreements for Woodfibre LNG, a project worth up to $1.8 billion in B.C.’s Howe Sound.

The approval of the agreements by an 8-6 vote means the First Nation could receive cash and contract benefits worth almost $1.1 billion.

Woodfibre LNG is licensed to export about 2.1 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year for the next 40 years from a former pulp mill about seven kilometres south of Squamish.

The First Nation says in a news release the agreements include annual and milestone payments totalling about $226 million, a cultural fund and cash for employment opportunities.

It says the agreements also mean the Squamish Nation and member-owned businesses could be awarded up to about $872 million in contracts, but only if they are fully qualified to win the bids.

Squamish councillor Khelsilem says it was a difficult decision for many in the community.

“The next steps will be holding the proponents accountable for the life of the project and beyond; that includes the construction, operation and eventual decommissioning of Woodfibre LNG.”

The First Nation says it will help develop management plans for the project and will have its own monitors to report any non-compliance with environmental, cultural, employment and training requirements.

The deals also mean nine parcels of land would be transferred to the Squamish Nation for housing and economic development along with five cultural leases in Howe Sound.

In a statement issued Friday, the company says it has already received environmental approvals from the federal, provincial and Squamish Nation governments.

Byng Giraurd, vice-president of corporate affairs at Woodfibre LNG, says it is pleased to have fulfilled another key condition of the project.

“The Woodfibre LNG project is the first industrial project to undergo Squamish Nation’s groundbreaking environmental assessment process and is the first industrial project in Canada to be awarded an environmental assessment certificate by an Indigenous government.”

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