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Accreditation denied
The Canadian Press - Jun 15 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

The Supreme Court of Canada says societies governing the legal profession have the right to deny accreditation to a proposed law school at a Christian university in British Columbia.

In a pair of keenly anticipated decisions today, the high court says law societies in Ontario and British Columbia were entitled to ensure equal access to the bar and prevent harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.

The cases pitted two significant societal values — freedom of religion and promotion of equality — against one another.

Trinity Western University, a private post-secondary institution in Langley, B.C., was founded on evangelical Christian principles and requires students to adhere to a covenant allowing sexual intimacy only between a married man and woman.

Law societies governing the legal profession in Ontario and British Columbia say they would not license graduates from Trinity Western because the covenant amounts to discrimination against LGBTQ people.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario had upheld the rejection, while B.C.’s top court sided with the university.

NDP coalition at risk
The Canadian Press - Jun 14 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

A New Democrat member of the British Columbia legislature is running for the mayor’s job in Nanaimo, potentially upsetting the delicate balance of power for the provincial government.

If Leonard Krog is elected in October, the NDP and Green alliance reduces to 43 seats, while the B.C. Liberals have 42. Speaker Darryl Plecas sits as an Independent, after being booted from the Liberal caucus last year.

The departure of an NDP member of the legislature could have significant implications for the New Democrats which, with help from three members of the Green party, hold a razor-thin majority in the legislature.

The Nanaimo riding has traditionally been a New Democrat stronghold, going to the NDP in 12 of the last 14 elections. But if the Liberals were to win a byelection there, it would give them 43 seats, the same number as the New Democrats and Greens together.

Krog, who made his mayoral run official Wednesday night, says a chorus of voices calling on him to help “fix” his hometown was simply too loud to ignore.

In a rousing speech to more than 200 people at a hotel in Nanaimo, Krog said in his more than 30 years living in the city he has never seen it suffer through what it has under the term of this current council.

“If the city was in great shape I wouldn’t even have thought about doing it,” he said.

“But when you have all those people asking you and your city is in terrible shape and people want you to come and lead the charge to fix it, you’ve got a choice to make…. I’m taking up the challenge.”

As for his seat in the legislature, Krog said he will continue to serve as MLA throughout the summer and during the municipal campaign. However, he made clear he will stop taking a government paycheque once the campaign officially begins in September, and he would resign his seat “quite quickly” if his mayoral bid is successful.

He said he has no concerns for his party in a byelection with the potential to topple the tenuous minority government.

“I don’t it’s going to happen. I won this seat by 3,800 votes last time and that is a big margin,” he said.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said Krog believes he is the best man for the job of Nanaimo mayor.

Speaking before Krog’s announcement on Wednesday, Horgan said he knows that Krog has thought “long and hard” about running for the job after being overwhelmed by community members who are urging him to bring stability to a council that has been beset with infighting.

“There’s been a long-standing challenge in the city and Leonard believes — and many, many, many people believe — that he is the best person to address that,” Horgan said during a news conference in Grand Forks, B.C.

“I wish him all the best and I know that he’ll be continuing his duties as MLA to continue to represent the citizens of Nanaimo until the election period begins in the fall.”

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson thanked Krog for his service to B.C. and wished him the best in his run for mayor.

“Mr. Krog and Premier Horgan know what’s at stake. With an unstable minority government propped up by three Green MLAs in the legislature, the implications of this byelection are significant for the entire province,” Wilkinson said in a statement.

“We look forward to offering the voters of Nanaimo a compelling choice in the byelection, whenever it comes.”

The nomination period for B.C.’s general local elections is from Sept. 4 to Sept. 14, and the campaign runs from Sept. 22 until the general voting day on Oct. 20.

BC Ferries axes fuel rebates
The Canadian Press - Jun 13 - BC Biz

Image: Contributed

The cost of using a ferry in B.C. is going up as the price of fuel on the world market increases.

BC Ferries says in a news release that it will remove fuel tariffs starting June 27.

The rebate and surcharge mechanism is used to manage the volatility of fuel prices, and BC Ferries says it doesn’t benefit financially from the plan.

Ferries president Mark Collins says over the last 14 years the company has had surcharges, rebates, and periods with neither as the market price of diesel fuel fluctuated.

The added costs vary depending on ferry trips, but on major routes an extra 50 cents will be charged for passengers and $1.70 more for a vehicle.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said in May she was disappointed that BC Ferries had planned on removing the rebate and the government was willing to work with the company to avoid an increase.

Collins says the company acknowledges that affordability of travel is important for customers and that it uses fuel deferral accounts and hedging as tools to help reduce the impact on fluctuating fuel prices.

B.C. tech firm denies lying
The Canadian Press - Jun 12 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press
Guests are welcomed by people in Facebook shirts as they arrive at the Facebook Canadian Summit in Toronto

A senior executive of a B.C.-based technology firm is denying accusations from MPs that the company misled a probe of Canadian connections to an international Facebook data controversy.

Jeff Sylvester of AggregateIQ says the Victoria company did nothing wrong when it helped groups pushing for the U.K. to leave the European Union with online advertising campaigns during the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The company has been accused of lying to MPs on two separate occasions — first from whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, and later from a security researcher.

Sylvester is calling Wylie’s accusations that the company was involved in illegal activity astonishing, and says AggregateIQ has been fully transparent with the Commons ethics and privacy committee.

Sylvester testified alone before the committee during a three-hour hearing peppered with pointed questions from MPs of all political stripes.

AggregateIQ CEO Zack Massingham, who had been scheduled to testify, didn’t appear due to unspecified health reasons — leaving committee members contemplating whether to hold him in contempt of Parliament.

BC Hydro review
The Canadian Press - Jun 11 - BC Biz

Image: Contributed

The British Columbia government has launched a two-phase review of BC Hydro in an effort to find cost savings and direction for the Crown utility.

The first part of the review is expected to examine ways to save money within Hydro, create new revenue streams in an effort to keep rates low and give the corporation the resources it needs to provide electricity.

An advisory group that includes staff from government ministries and BC Hydro will conduct the first review.

The government says in a news release that it expects recommendations from the first phase of the review to be complete by this fall.

It says the second phase of the review will build on new strategies from the first phase and include ways to ensure Hydro can maximize opportunities around the shift in global energy sectors.

The expert panel conducting the second phase would aim to deliver its recommendation to the government by the summer or fall of next year.

Nash wins appeal
Wayne Moore - Jun 08 - BC Biz

Image: Steve Nash

Steve Nash will be able to go to court to have his name and image removed from a chain of fitness clubs bearing his name.

The BC Court of Appeal made the ruling Wednesday.

Nash had gone to court to seek an injunction preventing Steve Nash Fitness World from using his name and reputation to promote the facilities.

SNFW Fitness BC Ltd. operates 23 fitness clubs in the province, including one in Kelowna.

The original court judge ruled in favour of the defendants, who had asked the claim be dismissed.

“She found there was no genuine issue for trial as the defendants had properly acquired the endorsement, and B & L’s (Nash’s company) allegations of illegality were unsupported by any evidence,” Justice Goepel summarized in his ruling.

“The judge misapplied the test for summary judgment by placing the onus on B & L. Although the defendants showed the endorsement was properly obtained, they failed to provide a complete answer to the allegation that continued use of the endorsement contravened California law. ”

The original licencing agreement with Nash was written in 2006 in accordance with California law.

Under the original agreement, Nash was a shareholder and director of the fitness company bearing his name. That is no longer the case, leading to the original court filing asking for his name to be removed.

“The underlying issue in this litigation is whether, under California law a business can continue to use the endorsement of a celebrity when the celebrity is no longer using the business’ product,” said Mr. Justice Goepel.

Chief to lead Vision banner
The Canadian Press - Jun 07 - BC Biz

Image: CTV

The number of candidates running for mayor of Vancouver is growing ahead of civic elections on Oct. 20 in communities across British Columbia.

Vision Vancouver, the party that currently holds the mayor’s chair as well as a majority on council, has selected Ian Campbell as its candidate to replace retiring Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Vision co-chair Michael Haack says Campbell, a hereditary chief of the Squamish Nation, has been acclaimed as the Vision candidate.

Campbell will run against Ken Sim, who beat two other challengers on Sunday to become the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral candidate in the upcoming race.

Other declared candidates seeking Vancouver’s top job include New Democrat member of Parliament Kennedy Stewart and former Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue executive director Shauna Sylvester, who are both running as Independents.

Former Vancouver South Conservative MP Wai Young is running under the newly created Coalition Vancouver banner, while Green Party Vancouver councillor Adriane Carr has said she is considering a mayoral bid, but has not yet made a decision.

Haack says by acclaiming Campbell as Vision’s candidate, the party has the opportunity to make history and elect its first Indigenous mayor.

“With his leadership, experience, and passion, Vision will continue to advance a progressive and bold agenda for our city on the issues that matter most,” Haack says in a news release.

“For nearly 20 years, (Campbell) has represented Squamish Nation as its lead negotiator, successfully securing complex land settlements, housing, and community economic development opportunities with senior governments,” the release says.

50 new pharmacists for BC
The Canadian Press - Jun 06 - BC Biz

Image: Contributed

The B.C. government will spend $23 million over three years to train 50 new clinical pharmacists to strengthen the province’s primary care teams.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the pharmacists will be embedded in the health teams announced last month as part of a renewal program to offer more care options to patients.

The plan includes hiring 200 new doctors and more nurse practitioners in an effort to link health services to patients and better connect primary care to more than 780,000 people in B.C. who don’t have a family doctor.

Dix says adding clinical pharmacists to the teams will help patients manage their prescription requirements and will reduce the risk of adverse drug reactions.

He says as people age, their need to take more than one prescription medicine often increases and some over the age of 70 are taking at least five different medications daily.

Dix made the announcement at the University of B.C.’s pharmaceutical sciences faculty, where the new clinical pharmacists program will be delivered.

“These pharmacists will be able to work in team-based settings where they will be able to share patient information with people’s health practitioners and truly get to know patients,” he said.

More protests over surtax
Wayne Moore - Jun 05 - BC Biz

Image: CTV

For the second time in a week, constituents in the Vancouver-Point Grey riding made their feeling known over a controversial school surtax.

The protests came as attorney general David Eby, elected by the voters of Vancouver-Point Grey, held a second town hall meeting on the tax.

According to CTV Vancouver, the tax would hit residents whose homes are valued at over $3 million.

Homes valued at more than $3 million would pay 0.2 per cent each year. That would double for homes valued at more than $4 million.

A first try at a town hall meeting May 1 was cancelled. Eby told CTV the sold-out event was out of control.

“There were emails going around saying people should march on into the event, even if they didn’t have tickets,” said Eby of the May 1 event.

“And, we had seniors and high school students working the doors. They’re not security guards.”

Some of those against the tax claim they only became millionaires on paper when the housing market took off.

“I have no intention of moving out of my house unless I’m forced out by these taxes,” said area resident Jonathan Rubenstein.

“I feel like people who live in their houses – cared for them, lived in the neighbourhoods, loved their communities – feel like they are being taxed out of their houses by this tax.”

    —files from CTV Vancouver

Real estate tipping point?
The Canadian Press - Jun 04 - BC Biz

Image: CTV

Home sales across Metro Vancouver tumbled last month, when compared with May 2017 and the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says that raises the potential of lower prices for some types of homes.

The board says 2,833 properties sold in its region in May, a 35.1 per cent plunge from sales recorded in the same time last year, although May’s sales were up nearly 10 per cent over transactions in April.

A news release from the real estate board says sales in May were 19.3 per cent below the 10-year average for the month.

Board president Phil Moore says low sales and a nearly 10 per cent jump in the number of newly listed properties between April and May has pushed selection to its highest level in two years.

Moore says supply is still below the 10-year average but when the total number of single detached home sales is divided by total listings for that type of property, the ratio is 14.7, nearing the indicator where downward pressure on prices can occur.

The sales-to-active-listings ratios for townhomes and condominiums are higher, at 30.8 per cent for townhomes and 41.7 per cent for condominiums, well above the 20 per cent mark that the board says can trigger upward pressure on prices.

“For home sellers to be successful in today’s market, it’s important to price your property competitively given the shifting dynamics we’re experiencing,” Moore says in the release.

The composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is $1,094,000, an 11.5 per cent increase over May 2017.

Sales of detached properties across Metro Vancouver fell 40.2 per cent in May, compared with May 2017, while the benchmark price was set at $1,608,000, a 2.4 per cent increase year-over-year.

Sales of condominiums and townhomes also dropped last month when compared with the year before, down 29.3 per cent for condos and 39.8 per cent for townhomes.

The benchmark price for condos was up 20 per cent to $701,700 and townhomes jumped 16 per cent to $859,500 over the same period, but the board says price increases for both types of properties have remained under one per cent since April.

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