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Casino denies laundering
The Canadian Press - 12:08 pm - BC Biz

Image: Google Street View

The head of a company that runs a B.C. casino alleged to have taken in millions that could be proceeds of crime says procedures to ensure compliance with regulations are strictly followed.

Rod N. Baker says the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. has a culture of integrity and transparency and is committed to preventing illegal activities at all of its locations, including the River Rock Casino in Richmond.

Last month, the B.C. government announced an independent expert’s review of the province’s policies in the gambling industry after concerns about money laundering at River Rock.

Attorney General David Eby says he launched the probe after reading a report about the casino accepting $13.5 million in $20 bills in July 2015 that police said could be proceeds of crime involving Asian VIP clients.

Baker says Great Canadian initially detected suspicious activity at the casino in 2012 and that its ongoing monitoring and reporting to the B.C. Lottery Corp. was crucial to identifying the individuals allegedly involved.

He says the company provides records about unusual and large cash transactions directly to the lottery corporation, which assesses whether the transactions raise enough concern for further investigation.

Okanagan wineries in court
The Canadian Press - Oct 20 - BC Biz

Image: CNW Group
Five small B.C. wineries have been granted intervener status in the upcoming interprovincial wine shipping case before the Supreme Court of Canada

Complaints from B.C.’s wine industry over interprovincial trade barriers will be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada as part of an appeal of a cross-border beer dispute in New Brunswick.

Vancouver lawyer Shea Coulson said Thursday five Okanagan wineries will argue as interveners in the case stemming from a 2012 incident when police fined a man $292.50 after he entered New Brunswick from Quebec with 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor.

Gerald Comeau was originally fined under New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act for bringing in too much alcohol, but a provincial court judge tossed the case, saying it violated free-trade provisions in the constitution.

The New Brunswick government appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada, claiming the decision threatens to end Canadian federalism as it was originally conceived.

Coulson said the case to be heard in December is the first time any winery has had the opportunity to test the legal barriers over shipping wine made from Canadian grapes across provincial boundaries.

“My client’s perspective is obviously from the perspective of the wine industry and how these interprovincial barriers to them shipping their products into other provinces are an impediment to the growth of the entire sector,” he said.

Coulson said he will argue the provincial barriers threaten the existence of wineries who need to tap into a national distribution network to grow their businesses.

He said no matter what the court decides, the ruling could have a monumental impact on the Canadian liquor industry.

“These types of (interprovincial barrier) provisions exist across Canada,” Coulson said. “So, it’s a template for how all liquor monopolies operate in every province and because it’s a constitutional decision, any decision by the Supreme Court in this case is going to apply across Canada,” said Coulson.

Pipeline facing delays
The Canadian Press - Oct 19 - BC Biz

Image: Transmountain.com

Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. said Wednesday that it’s already facing potentially months of delay on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project because of the timing of permits and regulatory approvals.

“If you just took the delays experienced to date, and just flowed that through the schedule, we believe that results in a nine-month delay,” said CEO Steve Kean during a conference call following the company’s third-quarter earnings release.

He said, however, that there are ways to reduce that delay and potentially claw back the project to the scheduled December 2019 in-service date.

“There’s work to be done on mitigation, there’s work to be done on permitting, and there’s work to be done with our contractors,” he said.

Kean said that because of the delays, about $340 million of project spending scheduled for 2017 had already been pushed back.

The project has already received hundreds of permits from British Columbia, but will require well over a thousand from the province, said president Ian Anderson during the call.

Permits have continued to come in after the B.C. NDP were sworn into power in the province, he said. The new provincial government has vowed to use whatever legal means necessary to stop the $7.4-billion pipeline project.

Many in B.C. oppose the project and Kinder Morgan Canada is facing intense scrutiny, including chastisement last month for installing fish-spawning deterrents without proper approvals in place.

The company applied for an exemption to allow it to place more deterrents, saying not getting them in place could delay the project by up to a year. It then withdrew the application after finding fish had already started spawning in the areas.

Pot rules a work in progress
The Canadian Press - Oct 18 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

The looming deadline for legalized marijuana has local governments in B.C. crafting wish lists for provincial legislation, from where pot should be grown to how it should be sold.

Ottawa has said regulations must be in place by July 1 and the B.C. government announced last month that it wants public input on shaping the rules.

While some municipal politicians worry the timeline for regulations is too short, Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang thinks legalization can’t come soon enough.

Vancouver brought in a bylaw for medical marijuana dispensaries in April 2016, becoming the first municipality in Canada to regulate the outlets.

Data from the city shows 41 permits for medical marijuana-related businesses have been issued since the bylaw came into effect and Jang said he hasn’t heard a single complaint about those businesses.

But illegal shops continue to operate, too. The city is asking the court to shut down 53 businesses that are operating without permits and bylaw officers continue to hand out tickets to another 65 shops classified as “subject to enforcement.”

The province needs to create rules that will help strengthen and enforce the bylaw, but overall it’s been a success, Jang said.

“It means that good operators who sell pot in a responsible way can continue to work and do business in the city of Vancouver and those who don’t gotta go.”

He wants recreational pot to be sold at independent stores under provincial regulations and said Vancouver’s bylaw could be used as a model across the province.

But Jang said it’s also important for municipalities to tailor the rules to fit their specific needs because each jurisdiction will have its own concerns.

“No matter what we do, it’s going to be a work in progress,” he said. “It’s when the laws become static and don’t match what we need to do, conditions on the street, if you like, that this thing will not work very well.”

For Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, the concern is where marijuana will be grown.

Her suburban Vancouver community boasts some of the country’s best agricultural land. She said her staff have reported receiving between five and 10 calls per day from people who are interested in using that land to grow marijuana.

But the mayor doesn’t want to see the valuable soil all used to grow pot in the name of profit.

“I do not want Delta to be the pot-growing capital of Canada,” she said. “I mean, we’ve got 22,000 acres of pretty great land that grows things all year round. And if it’s going to be allowed on all those acres, well, I don’t know if that’s the direction we should be going.”

Ride-sharing a year away
The Canadian Press - Oct 17 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

Legislation allowing ride-sharing in British Columbia is a year away after the province hired an expert today to consult on the best way forward.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says Dan Hara, who has over two decades of experience, will consult and prepare the taxi industry for services like Uber and Lyft.

Trevena says Hara will finish his work early next year and his recommendations will help the province with legislative changes anticipated for next fall.

Hara has also been asked to make recommendations to modernize safety regulations, vehicle licensing and other industry regulations.

Trevena says people are impatient for change, but the government wants to move sensibly.

The opposition Liberals and Greens have campaigned in favour of ride sharing, with the Greens preparing to introduce a private member’s bill.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver says he is disappointed the NDP will not fulfill an election promise to bring in ride-hailing services by the end of this year.

B.C. Oysters recalled
The Canadian Press - Oct 17 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

Federal health officials say some farm-raised Pacific oysters are being recalled due to a marine biotoxin which causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the oysters were produced by two firms in Richmond, B.C. — Albion Farms and Fisheries Ltd. and Union Bay Seafood Ltd.

The Albion Farms oysters were sold from Oct. 9 to Oct. 16 and the Union Bay oysters were sold from Oct. 10 to Oct. 16.

The CFIA says the products were sold in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec but may have been distributed in other provinces and territories.

Paralytic shellfish toxins are a group of natural toxins that sometimes accumulate in shellfish. Symptoms includes tingling and numbness of the lips, tongue, hands and feet, and difficulty swallowing. In severe situations, this can lead to difficulty walking, muscle paralysis, respiratory paralysis and death.

The CFIA says there have been no reported illnesses linked to eating these oysters.

The recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the location where purchased.

The CFIA says it is verifying that industry is removing the recalled product from the marketplace. Additional details are available on the CFIA website.

Restaurants bleeding chefs
The Canadian Press - Oct 16 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press

The restaurant industry may be booming in British Columbia, but a combination of the high cost of living, tight profit margins and a shrinking workforce has made it difficult for kitchens to find enough staff.

Eric Pateman, president of Edible Canada, said the company’s restaurant at Vancouver’s popular tourist destination Granville Island has been short anywhere from two to five chefs at a time for more than two years. That’s meant scaling back the restaurant’s hours or turning down special events, which has been a financial blow, Pateman said.

While the cost of living in Vancouver is a contributing problem, Pateman said a range of issues including long hours, low wages, the gratuity system and rising business costs are factors as well.

“The millennial generation … even the older chefs I’m seeing and the older cooks I’m seeing, are just saying ‘We don’t want to do this anymore. That’s not the career we want. That’s not how hard we want to work.’ It’s certainly not an easy industry,” he said. “I think there needs to be some levelling in the playing field … to get that wage up to a living wage, which at the end of the day entices more people to be in the industry.”

Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president Western Canada with Restaurants Canada, said B.C. may be experiencing a “perfect storm” of challenges in finding chefs but communities across the country are having similar problems.

The number of young people getting into the restaurant business is shrinking while the demand is growing, he said.

A regional “mismatch” of skills and needs exist that leaves some rural communities without enough young people to hire and people aren’t willing to move to fill the vacancies, he said.

“People want to be employed near where they live and these jobs are not high executive paying jobs, it just doesn’t make economic sense to move somebody,” he said.

The cost of running a restaurant has also increased significantly — notably with rising food costs — but menu prices have remained stagnant, leaving little room to raise workers’ wages, he said.

Jamil Mawani of Jambo Grill in Vancouver said the family run business has turned to non-traditional labour markets and temporary foreign workers to fill the gaps in the kitchen.

While the restaurant business tends to attract younger staff, he said they’ve looked to older workers with experience cooking Indian and African inspired cuisine to work as chefs in their kitchen.

They do hire plenty of younger staff too, Mawani added, to create a balance of energy and skill.

In an industry with a high turnover, Mawani said they’ve managed to hang on to a few long-term employees by improving wages and offering flexible hours.

A perk of having the family involved in the business is the owners can “thrown on an apron” when there have been prolonged vacancies, he said.

Many are advocating for the federal government to step in and issue more visas for foreign workers to help fill the gaps.

Darren Clay, executive culinary chef instructor at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, said international students typically seek visas to stay and work after completing their program, but in the past year those visas don’t appear to be getting approved.

“(It’s) a little bit boggling for me because we have such a shortage of workers and these are all well-trained people who work and want to stay here to help out this industry and they are being sent home after their studies,” Clay said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a statement some international students can apply for the post-graduation work permit program and can even qualify for permanent residency through an express program. The programs do not address specific labour shortages and industry-based or occupational data is not collected, it said.

The department said businesses can apply to hire workers through the temporary foreign workers program if they can demonstrate they’ve been unable to hire Canadians or permanent residents.

But Pateman said the process of requesting a foreign worker for every vacant position is onerous and the government could make it easier for small businesses to meet their labour demands.

Leadership hopefuls spar
The Canadian Press - Oct 16 - BC Biz

Image: The Canadian Press
B.C. Liberal leadership candidates Mike de Jong, from left to right, Andrew Wilkinson, Dianne Watts, Sam Sullivan, Michael Lee and Todd Stone pose for a photograph before taking the stage for the first leadership debate in Surrey

Six of the candidates running to lead British Columbia’s Liberals laid out their ideas to rebuild the party Sunday in a debate that dwelled at times on what went wrong in last spring’s election.

The field of candidates includes three members of Christy Clark’s pre-election cabinet and two of them did some soul-searching on why the party lost seats and was eventually dumped from power in a confidence vote after 16 years in office.

Andrew Wilkinson said the party spent too much time talking about its wider economic success and didn’t listen to voters who were feeling the pinch.

“We were preaching at people from 30,000 feet. Telling them about credit ratings, telling them about our debt-to-GDP ratio,” said the one-time attorney general. “It meant nothing in their living rooms. The NDP were in their living rooms offering them a cheaper way of life.”

The province’s minority NDP government will struggle to keeps its election promises to make life more affordable but there is an opportunity for the Liberals to capitalize on issues like the high cost of housing, he added.

“People are living with two income families from pay cheque to pay cheque. We’ve got to understand that and provide a better solution right here in the Lower Mainland.”

Dianne Watts wasn’t in Clark’s cabinet, but she reiterated Wilkinson’s argument, telling the party it needs to change.

“We lost that election because we stopped listening,” said Watts, a former Surrey mayor who quit the House of Commons seat she held for the Conservative party to seek the leadership.

Former transportation minister Todd Stone said he launched his campaign in rapidly growing Surrey to acknowledge the quality of life issues of many voters in the Lower Mainland around Vancouver, and that means adding more child-care spaces, increasing spending on affordable housing and creating better transportation links that get people home quicker after work.

“In this last election we didn’t get it all right. We didn’t speak the language that resonated with enough folks in the Lower Mainland and their issues of affordability and housing, child care and transportation.”

Former finance minister Mike de Jong has bore the brunt of much of the criticism since the election, facing arguments that his tight-fisted control of the province’s purse strings meant programs aimed at easing financial pressures for people never made it off the drawing board, hurting the party in Metro Vancouver.

But de Jong was unapologetic.

“I have heard the criticism, that tightwad de Jong,” he said. “I may be the only finance minister in living history, now former finance minister, whose criticism is rooted in the proposition that I was too careful with the taxpayers’ dollars.”

The NDP was left with a $2.7 billion surplus by the Liberals.

The nearly two-hour debate also featured legislature members Sam Sullivan and Michael Lee. Terrace businesswoman Lucy Sager didn’t participate and former education minister Mike Bernier bowed out of the race on Saturday, throwing his support behind de Jong.

Protest in pink
Jon Manchester - Oct 13 - BC Biz

Image: CTV

A would-be developer broke out pink paint and plastic flamingoes to protest red tape from the Township of Langley.

A boarded-up home in the Fort Langley heritage area got an eye-popping makeover in the development dispute.

Eric Woodward bought the property 12 years ago with plans of building a three-storey mixed-use building including retail, homes and a boutique hotel.

But he says the municipality is refusing to let him demolish the old house and is charging exorbitant fees for permits and tree protection.

“We’re not trying to play games or be silly,” he told CTV. “We’re trying to highlight that at the moment, the bureaucracy of the Township of Langley is really a bit out of control.”

The mayor said all developments must meet certain requirements, and he expects the project will move forward when it comes before council.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Wineries to get day in court
Colin Dacre - Oct 12 - BC Biz

Image: CNW Group
Five small B.C. wineries have been granted intervener status in the upcoming interprovincial wine shipping case before the Supreme Court of Canada

Five small B.C. wineries will be getting their day in the Supreme Court of Canada, as they argue in favour of interprovincial shipping of liquor.

The nation’s top court will hear R v. Comeau in early December. The case will mark the first time a winery has had the chance to address the legal barriers around shipping Canadian wine within the country.

Curtis Krouzel (50th Parallel Estate), Ian MacDonald (Liquidity), Jim D’Andrea (Noble Ridge), Christine Coletta (Okanagan Crush Pad), and John Skinner (Painted Rock) are heading a coalition of more than 100 small B.C. wineries that say they need national distribution to build long-term businesses.

“The Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Comeau will determine the fate of the B.C. wine industry for decades to come,” said the wineries’ lawyer, Shea Coulson, in a news release.

The five winemakers are one of a couple dozen “interveners” at the hearing on Dec. 6 and 7. After the hearing, the court could take up to a year to make its decision.

“The Court has to balance many complex interests, but my clients will argue that it is possible to incrementally change the law to permit interprovincial shipments of Canadian wine, and why it is of fundamental importance to the future survival of the industry to remove these barriers,” Coulson added.

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