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Tilray closing Nanaimo properties
The Canadian Press - Sep 20, 2021 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

LEAMINGTON, Ont. — Cannabis company Tilray Inc., which merged with Aphria Inc. earlier this year, says it will close a Nanaimo, B.C., office and facility.

The company says in an email that it is closing the facilities to optimize operational efficiencies and save costs following the merger.

The company did not share how many workers will be impacted by the closures, but says it will work with those interested in opportunities at its Broken Coast facility on Vancouver Island.

Tilray says the closure will roll out in phases and is expected to be completed by next spring.

Tilray’s website shows that the Nanaimo facility was home to a grow room, vault, trimming room, extracts lab and packaging operations.

The company says B.C. cultivation will now take place at the Broken Coast site and Tilray will continue to make use of facilities in Leamington and London, Ont., and in Portugal and Germany.

Cruise ship bills could hurt BC
The Canadian Press - Sep 17, 2021 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — Two U.S. bills proposed by a congressman and senator aimed at allowing Alaska-bound cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports would have a “devastating” effect on B.C.’s economy, the head of Victoria’s harbour authority says.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski proposed a bill Wednesday that would allow cruise ships carrying more than 1,000 passengers and bound for Alaska a permanent exemption from the Passenger Vessel Services Act.

Under the act, foreign-built ships are not allowed to carry passengers between two U.S. ports without a stopover in a foreign country.

“(The act) had the unintended consequence of putting Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government,” she said during an address to the Southeast Conference Annual Meeting.

“It nearly wiped out southeast Alaskan economies as we saw business after business ready to welcome visitors, but unable to because Canadians would not respond to our requests to allow foreign stops at their ports to meet the requirement of PVSA. We cannot let that happen again.”

Under the proposed legislation, foreign cruise ships carrying more than 1,000 passengers can bypass Canadian ports if they wish.

Ian Robertson, the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said the bill would hurt Victoria and B.C.’s economy.

“I’m both surprised and disappointed,” Robertson said. “It would be devastating.”

Cruises bring in roughly $143 million a year to Victoria’s economy and create hundreds of jobs, he added.

But Robertson added he believes the province is taking the threat of an economic impact more seriously than it did in the spring when a bill was quickly introduced and passed in the U.S. House of Representatives aimed at adjusting the same law.

Premier John Horgan initially said at the time the legislation was a “blip” that wasn’t likely to pass quickly, before it did and he set up meetings with U.S. officials.

Cruise ships were banned during the initial part of the COVID-19 pandemic over concerns about spreading the virus, but the ban is set to be lifted Nov. 1.

Robertson said the next federal government needs to take the issue seriously after Monday’s election.

“It’s a file that requires all hands on deck,” he said. “There needs to be advocacy at the highest level.”

B.C. Tourism Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement that he is working with industry leaders and his federal counterparts to raise awareness of the issue.

“The cruise ship industry is vital to B.C. tourism, and to thousands of people whose livelihoods rely on the regular arrival of ships,” he said.

Fleming said Horgan has raised the issue with the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Business issues top of mind
Glacier Media - Sep 14, 2021 - BC Biz

Photo: Glacier Media
Bridgitte Anderson

Business owners and ordinary citizens don’t always agree on what top concerns and priorities for political parties should be during an election, but a Mustel survey released today finds businesses and ordinary citizens lining up on a few key priorities.

Inflation, debt and affordability, including affordability of housing, are among the top concerns shared by both business and ordinary voters in the Metro Vancouver region.

Climate change also ranks higher as an election issue in Metro Vancouver than in the rest of Canada, both for ordinary citizens and business.

In preparation for a candidates’ debate to take place later today, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade commissioned the Mustel Group to poll Metro Vancouver residents on their top concerns and election priorities.

“We see growing concern about affordability in a region already acknowledged as one the most expensive cities in the world relative to our income levels,” said Evi Mustel, president of the Mustel Group.

“With the pandemic affecting supply chains and the cost of doing business, residents and businesses are increasingly concerned, not just about housing affordability, but also increased cost of goods and escalating taxes.”

“There is a heightened level of anxiety in the business community over the continued impacts of the pandemic, the rising cost of goods, and the long-term implications of spending, debt, and the potential for increased taxes and a worsening business environment,” GVBOT president Bridgitte Anderson said of the survey’s findings.

“Looking to the future, finding solutions to core regional issues, including fighting climate change, building more housing, and additional infrastructure investment, especially public transit is critical. Businesses are also calling for a plan to find workers, focused on developing skills in our local market and offsetting what we don’t have by welcoming skilled immigrants.”

Among the general electorate in Vancouver, the environment and climate change was a top priority, with 49% saying it was the top election issue, followed by affordability and the cost of living.

Even among business respondents, the environment and climate change came in third on the list of election priorities, which is higher than elsewhere in Canada. According to the most recent Angus Reid polling, only 18% of Canadians rank climate change a top election issue.

The survey found the number one concern of business respondents was the economy and economic recovery (44%), followed by the regulatory environment at 34%—i.e. taxes and regulations.

The actual physical environment, including climate change, came in at third among businesses, with 30% ranking it a top priority. Fiscal responsibility came in fourth (29%), government ethics, honesty and leadership fifth (26%) and taxes in general sixth (22%).

Inflation and debt is one concern shared by businesses and ordinary citizens alike. The Mustel survey found 90% of citizens and 94% of businesses have “significant concern” about the rising cost of goods.

“Nearly half of businesses (46%) and 38% of the public are concerned about the additional debt they took on in response to the pandemic,” the survey finds.

The survey also found widespread support for vaccine passport mandates, with 86% of businesses and 82% of the general public in support. The survey found the general public to be a bit more optimistic than business about economic recovery.

BC business not very trusting
Glacier Media - Sep 08, 2021 - BC Biz

Photo: Contributed

Research showing B.C. business leaders’ “deteriorating trust” in the province’s economic direction is an urgent wake-up call for policy-makers, the report’s author says.

The report, which collected the opinions of 49 top-level B.C. business executives at major firms, showed that three-fifths of the respondents were either “somewhat unconfident” or “very unconfident” about the state of provincial policies.

David Williams, vice-president of policy at the Business Council of British Columbia and a former Bank of Canada senior economist, authored the B.C. Business Confidence Survey released last week. He said he was not surprised at the survey’s overall results, adding that many people in B.C.’s business community echo the concerns outlined in the report, including a labour shortage, high taxes and capacity constraints due to business space limitations.

“I think the more fundamental concern beyond the near term is that what they want to hear from federal and provincial decision-makers is a plan to raise per-capita economic growth in the country and the province,” Williams said. “When we look at recent government policy announcements and budgets, we really don’t see a plan there to raise the labour productivity growth in the country—all the things that, we know, raise income over time.

“There’s a deeper concern there that we are not putting the policies in place to help us create the conditions for higher wages, higher standards of living and the ability to support our social safety net,” he added. “And all of this is happening with the backdrop that Canada went into the pandemic as one of the most indebted countries in the world. And in 2020, we borrowed more than any country in the world relative to the size of the economy. The only way out of that is to improve our economic growth.”

The survey showed optimism about B.C.’s post-COVID economic recovery; the responses showed a number of positives, including that 75% of respondents believe the economy will improve over the next 12 months (albeit only slightly); 78% are expecting an increase in investment activity; 40% expect faster sales volume growth during that period; and 41% expect to boost their number of full-time employees.

But Williams cautioned those results, when combined with deteriorating trust levels, demonstrate the belief in the business community that the economic recovery will happen despite—not because of—the government policy direction.

“We are going to recover from the pandemic sooner or later,” he said. “But in terms of being able to maintain the high quality of living and the social safety net we have in Canada, we have to take the policy steps to support per-capita economic growth. We are seeing high levels of inflation and low levels of wage growth; if we want to stay ahead of the cost of living, we are going to have to create the conditions to address those issues.”

A particularly troubling policy challenge, Williams said, is that regulatory bottlenecks and tax and labour issues raised by the survey raise the cost of doing business in B.C. If the problem isn’t resolved by policy changes or clarifications, none of these key issues facing B.C. businesses would be addressed, he said.

Province ponies up for events
The Canadian Press - Aug 27, 2021 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — The B.C. government is spending $12.9 million to make grants available to festivals, fairs and community events affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melanie Mark, the minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, says events will be eligible to claim up to $250,000 with applications open until Oct. 1.

The money can go toward operational costs, health and safety measures, venue rental, marketing, wages and promotion.

The provincial government previously announced grants of up to $1 million to help major attractions and tour bus companies cover expenses like payroll, rent and utility costs to restart operations for their gradual reopening as provincial health orders eased.

Mark says the government is committed to helping events and attractions, and no money will be “left on the table.”

Shelley Frost, president and CEO of the Pacific National Exhibition, says the funding provides “tangible” assistance and will help many organizations across the province.

“This funding is a road to recovery, and in some cases it’s a return to sustainability from the financial effects of the pandemic,” she said.

Mark added that the government has given out more than $36 million in grants to what the province describes as “anchor” attractions like the exhibition and other major tourism operations so far.

Visual effects company comes north
Glacier Media - Aug 23, 2021 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

The Oscar-winning visual effects company behind blockbuster fare such as Inception and Interstellar is set to expand its footprint in Hollywood North.

Double Negative Ltd. (DNEG) will be hiring up to 100 workers for a new feature animation studio in Vancouver as the VFX house aims to grow significantly across Canada’s major tech hubs.

Prior to Monday’s announcement, the Vancouver office was focused specifically on VFX work, having brought home an Oscar for the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man. Coincidentally, Canadian actor Ryan Gosling starred in the lead role in both First Man and Blade Runner 2049—the latter of which also earned an Oscar for the DNEG team back in 2018.

DNEG’s parent company, Prime Focus Ltd., secured a US$250-million equity investment from Novator Capital Advisers just last week. With the new cash in hand, the VFX company is also launching a new studio in Toronto as well as expanding its Montreal office.

The Toronto studio will employ up to 200 workers, while up to 300 additional workers are set for either Vancouver or Montreal.

The Vancouver hiring plans include both the new animation studio, where as many as 100 workers would be based, and its existing VFX studio.

The team at the new animation studio is already set to move into production on five new animation projects, according to DNEG chairman and CEO Namit Malhotra.

“Growth in our Canadian talent and capabilities will help us strategically align with the demands of the entertainment industry and seize upon our new growth initiatives and content creation opportunities,” he said in a statement.

DNEG’s interest in Vancouver’s animation prowess comes only a few weeks after Disney revealed it was launching an animation studio in the city this coming January.

Disney’s new Vancouver studio has already been tapped for long-form series work, such as the Moanaadaptation for the small screen, as well as other projects for the Disney+ streaming service.

Vancouverite Amir Nasrabadi, formerly of WildBrain Ltd.’s B.C. office, will lead Disney’s new team.

Meanwhile, DNEG Global chief technology officer Paul Salvini, a Canadian, said his company won’t be aiming to hire solely those with previous film and media industry experience.

Instead, “we’re looking for passionate and curious technologists who are excited at the prospect of a new challenge,” he said.

Amazon coming to Victoria
Contributed - Aug 18, 2021 - BC Biz

Amazon will be the tenant of the now-approved distribution centre on Victoria Airport Authority lands.

York Realty will build a 115,000-square-foot centre, expected to be built by fall 2022. It will function as a “last-mile” delivery system.

The centre will be the base for drivers who collect packages for delivery to customers. They will arrive on trailer trucks from Amazon fulfillment centres.

“It is our hope that, with Amazon as a sub-tenant, the new delivery station will serve as a significant economic generator for the region,” Matt Woolsey, president of York Realty, said in a Wednesday statement.

“More importantly, we plan on creating a building that is a first-of-its-kind in Canada, while providing landscaping improvements and amenities for the neighbourhood. Our goal, together with Amazon, is to continue listening to neighbours, the W?SÁNE? Leadership Council and the Town of Sidney as we build out this project and Amazon begins operations.”

Tushar Kumar, regional director of last-mile logistics operations for Amazon Canada, said the company is “excited” to continue its growth with the new delivery station.

“The new delivery station will allow us to provide fast and efficient delivery for customers and provide great job opportunities for the talented local workforce.”

Area residents had expressed concerns about the scale of the building, its lighting, and implications of increased traffic.

Growing B.C.’s forestry sector
Contributed - Aug 17, 2021 - BC Biz


Given the carbon emissions intensity of steel and concrete, and the imperatives of addressing climate change, the market for engineered wood products in construction is expected to grow in the coming years.

And as it grows and evolves, there may be added benefits for engineered wood manufactures to not only use locally grown timber, but to incorporate bamboo imported from places like Asia, Africa and South America as well.

That was one of the suggestions heard Monday at the first day of a three-day virtual conference on forestry being held by the University of BC’s faculty of forestry.

The Commonwealth Forestry Conference features speakers and experts from around the world to discuss the state of forestry around the world – from Brazil to New Zealand.

Forestry can play a key role in climate change strategies, both as carbon sinks, as well as producing renewable fuels and in the displacement of high emissions building materials.

Mass timber construction is expected to be a significant new market that will help regions like B.C. diversify its forest economy with higher valued-added products, as decarbonisation policies for construction become more stringent around the world.

Cement and steel production are among the most carbon intensive industries. Depending on how much cement and concrete is displaced, mass timber can reduce a building’s carbon emissions footprint by about 50%.

“Wood-based products have to be considered as an integral part of our strategy to decarbonize economies and mitigate climate change,” said Ian De La Roche, a consultant and adjunct professor at UBC’s faculty of forestry.

B.C. is already home to a number of engineered wood products manufacturers, including mass timber producers like Structurlam and Kalesnikoff Lumber. Mass timber is a type of engineered wood product typically made from compressed multiple layers of sawn lumber.

While some high-rise buildings have been built using mass timber, the biggest market is likely to be mid-rise construction of buildings averaging five storeys, De La Roche said Monday at a session on new markets.

“I think most of us agree that the sweet spot for urban construction going forward is going to be the mid-rise,” he said, adding about 700 mid-rise buildings have been built in the last five years using mass timber.

While in North America engineered wood products have used traditional woods like fir, spruce and pine, in Asia, bamboo is being used for a wide variety of engineered composites, like scrimber – a type of lumber made from a composite of crushed bamboo fiber bundles.

Bamboo residuals can also be used in making biodegradable packaging to replace plastics, and bamboo composites can even be used to make water and utility pipes, instead of steel or plastic.

One study in Taiwan showed bamboo is two to three times more efficient in sequestering carbon, compared to fir, said Chunping Dai, a professor at UBC’s department of wood science.

One of the reasons for this is that 40% of the biomass of bamboo is underground in the root system, which continues to live after the bamboo is cut.

“So that becomes a continual carbon storage,” Dai said.

As a building material, bamboo is dense, hard, strong and flexible. One shortcoming is its high sugar and protein content, which can promote the growth of mold, which means it requires drying and treatment before being made into composite materials.

From a decarbonisation perspective, one advantage of bamboo composites is that bamboo is fast-growing. A crop of bamboo can be grown in just four years, which means that there is a more rapid cycling in the uptake of CO2.

Bamboo grows in Asia, Africa and South America. Dai said bamboo as an alternative building material is still “vastly under-utilized.”

“Bamboo has a lot of potential… as a replacement or supplement for wood as a building material,” Dai said.

Dai said that both bamboo and conventional wood have their own advantages and shortcomings, so combining them in engineered wood products may capitalize on both of their strengths.

“We believe there’s a potential for the two materials to come together,” Dai said.

Formal office attire a thing of the past?
The Canadian Press - Aug 17, 2021 - BC Biz

Formal threads might just be dead at some B.C. offices, according to a new poll from co-working space provider IWG plc.

With pandemic restrictions potentially loosening next month to allow for fully reopened offices and workplaces, it appears West Coast colleagues may be sporting new looks upon their return.

The poll reveals most employed British Columbians (60%) believe it acceptable to dress more casually when they go back to the office.

And yes, B.C. workers feel a little bit looser about their sartorial choices than the rest of the country: 59% of Canadian workers plan to dress more casually.

This comes as 73% of B.C. respondents acknowledged donning sweats, T-shirts, tracksuits and other more comfortable clothing such as athletic wear during their typical workday at home during the pandemic.

The poll also revealed 40% of B.C. workers have been going “Zoom casual” during the course of the pandemic by dressing more formally on their top half and wearing more casually attire below the waist when they do video chats.

Meanwhile, 71% of Canadian respondents reported dressing in more comfortable clothing during the day and 39% acknowledged going “Zoom casual.”

Overall, 53% of Canadian workers plan to adopt a more “business casual” look when they head back to the office, which includes chinos and smart shirts.

Business awards finalists revealed
Chelsea Powrie - Aug 12, 2021 - BC Biz

The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce has revealed the three finalists in each of ten Business Excellence Awards categories.

  1. Adaptation & Resilience Excellence, sponsored by Downtown Penticton Association: Brodo Kitchen, Hoodoo Adventures, The Hamlets at Penticton
  2. Service Excellence – sponsored by Greyback Construction: Fountain Tire, Penticton Meals on Wheels, Tin Whistle Brewing Company
  3. Workplace Culture Excellence – sponsored by SOICS: Cowork Penticton, Ginza Sushi and Poke, Nautical Dog Cafe
  4. Community Support Excellence – sponsored by Penticton Western News: Barry Beecroft Fuel Distributors, Graphically Hip, Total Restoration Services
  5. Not for Profit Excellence – sponsored by Omland Heal Chartered Professional Accountants: OSNS Child and Youth Development, One Sky Community Resources, South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society
  6. New Business Award – sponsored by Valley First: Loki’s Garage, Long-Haggerty Chartered Professional Accountant, Meeples and Milkshakes Board Game Cafe
  7. Hospitality Excellence – sponsored by Travel Penticton: Skaha Rock Adventures Ltd, Slackwater Brewing, The Nest
  8. Young Professional of the Year – sponsored by JCI Penticton & Graphically Hip: Cameron Betts, Nicolette Rodriguez, Hollie Tayal
  9. Business Leader of the Year – sponsored by TD Canada Trust: Lee Agur/Bad Tattoo Brewing, Cherry Fernandez/SOICS, Lee and Kevin Smith/Kettle Valley Memorial
  10. Business of the Year – sponsored by Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen: Guerard’s Fine Furniture, Slimline Manufacturing, Total Restoration Services 

All the finalists will be contacted in the coming days to set up an appointment to visit the Castanet office next week for a short highlight finalist video which will be played at the awards ceremony on October 2.


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