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YVR to Iceland for $129
The Canadian Press - 1:52 pm - BC Biz

Photo: Contributed

Vancouverites looking for low-cost flights to Iceland will soon have a new option when discount airline Wow Air adds a route out of the West Coast.

The announcement, which stacks more competition onto a crowded market, means passengers can soon fly out of Vancouver International Airport to Reykjavik, the island nation’s capital, six days a week.

The airline says one-way fares start at $129 for flights beginning in June and are available for purchase as of today.

Wow Air will now be battling bigger rival Icelandair for B.C. passengers, and is part of a broader trend of upstart budget carriers in Canada, including WestJet’s Swoop—the ultra-low-cost airline launched four months ago—and Air Canada’s Rouge.

The airline, which already operates out of Toronto and Montreal, recently announced it will end service to three cities in the U.S. Midwest: Cincinnati, Cleveland and St. Louis.

Wow Air says Reykjavik will also serve as a stopover for Canadian passengers en route to and from New Delhi, Tel Aviv and various European cities.

Pot sales drop on Day 2
Nicholas Johansen - Oct 19 - BC Biz

Photo: Nicholas Johansen

British Columbians have been busy buying cannabis since it first became legalized Wednesday.

The Liquor Distribution Branch, the section of government tasked with distributing legal cannabis, has released its sales numbers from the first two days of legalization.

On Wednesday, the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops, the only legal retail cannabis store in the province, made 805 transactions, while 9,175 transactions were made online.

On Thursday, purchases dropped off significantly after the high of legalization day wore off. At the Kamloops store, 521 transactions were made, while just 2,563 transactions were made online.

The government was offering 85 strains of cannabis online and at the Kamloops store on Wednesday, down substantially from the 150 they had initially planned on offering. The LDB said the 40 licensed producers were unable to supply them with as many strains as hoped.

Several strains are now sold out online.

BC labour leader done
The Canadian Press - Oct 18 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger has announced she will not seek a third term as leader of British Columbia’s largest organization representing workers.

Lanzinger says in a news release she will not run for another two-year term when the federation holds its convention next month in Vancouver.

The 63-year-old, who also served two terms as the federation’s secretary-treasurer in 2010 and 2012, was elected to the top job in 2014.

Lanzinger is the first woman to hold the post, guiding an organization that represents over 500,000 members from affiliated unions across the province.

She is also credited with spearheading the successful fight for a $15 minimum wage in B.C.

Lanzinger says now is a good time to make a transition in leadership because B.C.’s New Democrat government is ready to help workers.

“The labour movement is strong, vibrant and united, with a focused agenda to campaign for balanced labour laws, safer workplaces, and improved employment standards and skills training,” she says in the release.

Lanzinger is also a former president of the BC Teachers Federation and led the 41,000-member union during a relatively calm period in its history, from 2010 to 2013.

Prop rep will cost more
Jon Manchester - Oct 18 - BC Biz

Image: Contributed

Proportional representation in B.C. would cost taxpayers more, a new study finds.

The study released Thursday by the Fraser Institute says proportional representation would likely lead to bigger, costlier provincial governments.

“Coalition governments—a staple of PR systems—regularly have to secure smaller, niche parties by funding their pet policy projects, which means more expensive government paid for by taxpayers,” says report co-author Lydia Miljan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor.

Using election data from 26 countries between 2004 and 2015, the study found the average government spending of countries with proportional electoral systems is 30.3 per cent of GDP, compared to 23.7 per cent in those with plurality or majoritarian elections, such as B.C.’s first past the pos system.

The data showed governments elected under PR are almost 30 per cent larger than those under first past the post.

British Columbians will receive mail-in ballots next week for this fall’s electoral reform referendum–the third in 15 years on proportional representation.

“There’s a heavy fiscal price to pay if British Columbia adopts proportional representation, and that’s a bigger, more expensive government in Victoria,” Miljan said.

“Before British Columbians decide how they want to elect members to the legislature, they should be aware of the consequences of any new voting system.”

Don’t be high at work
Wayne Moore - Oct 18 - BC Biz

Photo: Contributed

With the legalization of recreational cannabis here, WorkSafeBC has launched an awareness campaign aimed at educating employers and employees.

WorkSafe suggests employers develop policies and procedures to address impairment in the workplace.

guide for developing and maintaining a workplace impairment policy has been produced by the agency.

“Impairment in the workplace isn’t a new issue in B.C., but it’s become top of mind as cannabis becomes legal for recreational use,” said Tom Brocklehurst, director of prevention practices and quality for WorkSafeBC.

“We’re reaching out to employers and workers to remind them that they share responsibility for managing impairment in the workplace.”

Under current occupational health and safety regulations, employers must:

  • Not allow a worker who is impaired for any reason — alcohol, drugs (including cannabis), or any other substance — to perform work activities that could endanger the worker or anyone else.
  • Not allow a worker to remain at any work place while the worker’s ability to work safely is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or any other substance.

Employers also need to make workers aware of their responsibilities, including:

  • Making sure that their ability to work safely is not impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other causes. This means showing up fit to work and remaining so throughout the work day.
  • Not working if their impairment may endanger them, or anyone else.
  • Notifying their supervisor if their ability to work safely is impaired for any reason.

“The legalization of recreational cannabis provides a good opportunity for employers and workers to be reminded about workplace-safety policies and practices,” said Minister of Labour Harry Bains.

“Every worker has the right to go home, safe and sound, at the end of their shift.”

Shops play waiting game
The Canadian Press - Oct 17 - BC Biz

Photo: CTV

As tens of thousands of Ontarians purchased cannabis through a government website on Wednesday, some users in Toronto preferred getting their pot from unlicensed dispensaries that remained open despite the threat of criminal prosecution.

It was business as usual at 1Tonamara, an illegal pot shop located in the city’s downtown, hours after recreational cannabis became legal nationwide. The Spadina Avenue shop, along with the Cloud 6ix dispensary up the street, had customers entering every few minutes.

“Today business has been good, you know, I guess with a lot of other places shut down it helps,” said 1Tonamara employee Mike Vander Marel.

Many of the city’s dispensaries have, however, shut down in the leadup to legalization in response to a promise by the provincial government that illegal pot shop owners who obeyed the law, would be allowed to apply for retail licences.

Closing the storefront shops and leaving only online options, with delivery delays and possible shortages, doesn’t make much sense, said Vander Marel.

“I think it’s a dumb thing for them to legalize something and then have it so inaccessible … it would be like after prohibition if they made booze legal but there was no legal booze.”

Vancouver and Victoria have licensed some dispensaries, but others operate without a licence. Some dispensaries remained open, while others shut their doors.

Don Briere, owner and operator of Weeds Glass and Gifts, said the company has closed most of its retail outlets in accordance with the law.

“We’ve shut down 10 locations and we’ve had to lay off about 85 people and probably more, but we’re doing this in order to become legal,” Briere said.

At the same time, four of its Vancouver locations and one shop with a temporary licence in Sechelt remained open. The company is waiting for a court decision on the city of Vancouver’s application for an injunction to shut down dozens of retailers operating without a business licence, including the four Weeds locations, he said.

In the meantime, Briere said the company is paying federal, provincial and corporate taxes on its sales, and paying its staff a living wage with extended medical and dental coverage. It’s in the process of applying to the province for a retail licence, he said.

“We’re doing what our lawyers are calling ‘good business practices.'”

Briere also said he has been paying attention to B.C. government’s price points, which begin at $7 per gram. Weeds’ cheapest gram is $4.

Vancouver’s police chief said earlier this week that enforcement against the dispensaries would not be a priority on the first day of legalization.

Spec tax plowing ahead
The Canadian Press - Oct 16 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press
B.C. Premier John Horgan looks on as MLA Carole James answers a question Tuesday.

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s proposed speculation and vacancy tax is aimed at cooling an overheated real estate market and convincing owners of vacant homes in some urban areas to either sell or rent their properties, says Finance Minister Carole James.

The legislation introduced Tuesday would impose a tax of either 0.5 per cent, one per cent or two per cent on the assessed value of a vacant property in the 2019 taxation year and onwards. For the 2018 tax year, the government will levy 0.5 per cent for all properties subject to the tax.

The highest rate of two per cent would be applied to foreign owners and so-called satellite families, or those who don’t report the majority of their income on Canadian tax returns, James said.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents who don’t live in the province would pay one per cent on their homes assessed value.

B.C. residents who own a secondary home and don’t rent it out would pay a tax of 0.5 per cent.

The goal of the tax is to improve housing affordability for thousands of people in B.C., including seniors forced to live in their vehicles and young professionals who leave the province because they can’t find a place to live, James said as she introduced the legislation.

“We are supporting businesses who can’t find employees because they can’t afford housing,” James said. “We are addressing the crisis for families in B.C. That is our job as government, and we are going to get it done.”

The tax was introduced in February’s budget with few details as part of the government’s 30-point plan to create 114,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.

“With today’s legislation we’re acting to bring balance back to our housing market,” James told a news conference.

“Is it going to happen overnight? No,” she said. “Is it easy to do? No. But it’s the right thing to do. It reflects our belief as a government that homes purchased in B.C. should shelter people, not out-of-province money.”

Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said he expects the tax to stifle property development projects, kill construction jobs and chill investor confidence. Wilkinson said he sides with the communities of West Kelowna, Nanaimo and Langford, which are opposed to the tax and asked the government for exemptions.

“Our goal is to defeat this bill,” he said. “It is a phoney tax. It accomplishes nothing except to grab revenue for the NDP. We don’t believe in that.”

The private sector could build enough housing to suit B.C.’s needs if more land were made available for development and the approval process for housing projects were faster, Wilkinson said.

Green party Leader Andrew Weaver said he remains concerned Canadians are not being treated equally and he will review the legislation.

James said she consulted widely before introducing the legislation, including meeting with local governments opposed to the tax. She said she would not let municipalities pick and choose what provincial initiatives they support or reject.

Langford Mayor Stew Young said in a letter to James and Premier John Horgan he feared the tax could spark an economic downturn. He said parts of his suburban Victoria community, located in Horgan’s riding, should be exempt from the tax because of its resort-like status.

“As the mayor of Langford, I cannot support the implementation of a blunt policy instrument (the speculation tax) that is unnecessary, distortionary and ill-conceived, will dry up investment in British Columbia and is a recipe for financial disaster,” Young’s letter says.

James said more than 99 per cent of people in B.C. will not pay the tax, which includes exemptions for principle residences, rented properties and special circumstances that include renovations and hardship.

She said the tax would apply to vacant properties in Metro Vancouver, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo-Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission and the Capital Regional District around Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.

B.C.’s islands are not part of the taxable area unless accessible by bridge, and reserve lands, treaty lands and lands of a self-governing Indigenous nation are also not part of the taxable region, James said.

BC pot shops line up
The Canadian Press - Oct 15 - BC Biz

Photo: Contributed

VICTORIA — Only one government-approved marijuana store will open in B.C. on Wednesday when pot sales become legal across Canada, but the province’s public safety minister doesn’t expect a supply shortage.

Mike Farnworth said other outlets will follow the only approved store in Kamloops in the coming months. He said the government’s online marijuana service will be in full operation Wednesday.

“What we are doing is putting in place a legal cannabis regime,” Farnworth told a news conference Monday. “I’ve said it is not going to happen overnight and it is going to take some time.”

He expects some marijuana dispensaries to close by Wednesday in efforts to improve their chances for licences to operate while others may stay open and gamble on future approvals.

Enforcement will be a local issue, Farnworth said, as he sidestepped concerns customers could have about shopping at cannabis stores that aren’t officially approved after Wednesday.

“The 18th of October in many ways is going to look a lot like today,” he said. “As we’ve said, there will be enforcement in place but I’ve said a number of times now that enforcement is going to take place as more and more legal stores open. Then enforcement will ramp up.”

The government has received 173 applications for cannabis retail outlets, Farnworth said. So far, 62 have been reviewed and submitted to local governments for further review and 35 of those are in the latter stages of the approval process, he said.

Farnworth advised owners of cannabis retail outlets that stay open after Wednesday without approval to “start to abide by those rules.”

“The sooner they move to a legal system the better it is.”

He said Wednesday’s legalization of marijuana across Canada is a historic day that represents a major public policy shift.

Interfor cutting production
The Canadian Press - Oct 12 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — Interfor Corp. plans to cut production by about 20 per cent across its sawmills in the B.C. Interior as it faces declining lumber prices and higher log costs.

The Vancouver-based company said Friday that the scale-back is a temporary measure planned for the fourth quarter.

The cuts will be achieved through reduced operating days and extended weekends and holiday breaks spread across its three mills in the Interior, said chief financial officer Martin Juravsky.

“We’re trying to do it as smooth as possible under the circumstances from an employee perspective.”

The pullback comes as lumber prices for Western softwood have plunged from over US$650 per thousand board feet in June to under US$400 as concerns mount about the U.S. housing market.

The higher lumber prices had insulated mill operators like Interfor from rising log costs brought on by higher stumpage fees and other pressures, said Juravsky.

“We obviously saw some very strong lumber markets in the first part of this year, and the higher log costs didn’t have as much of an impact when there were higher lumber prices.”

The drop in lumber prices has sent industry stock prices lower for a variety of Canadian players since the June high. Canfor Corp. is down 38 per cent, West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. is down 34 per cent, and Interfor is down 39 per cent.

Interfor’s share price closed Friday down 54 cents or 3.16 per cent to $16.55 on the Toronto Stock Exchange for a 52-week low.

Kit and Ace switches gears
The Canadian Press - Oct 10 - BC Biz

Photo: The Canadian Press
Shannon Wilson (left) and husband Chip Wilson (middle) speak with Elder Lekeyten.

VANCOUVER — Kit and Ace is steering itself in a new direction without its co-founders, Shannon and J.J. Wilson.

The Vancouver-based, bike-friendly clothing brand says the wife and son of Lululemon Athletica Inc. founder Chip Wilson are no longer involved in the company that they created in 2014.

Kit and Ace says it will now be run by chief executive officer George Tsogas, who has led the company since April 2017.

Tsogas has been shifting towards a brand that is more focused on making high-tech gear for modern commuters.

Kit and Ace has a handful of stores in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta, and runs an e-commerce business.

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