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No to Kamloops mine
Okanagan Edge Staff - 4:25 pm - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

The provincial government has said no to a copper and gold mine KGHM International had hoped to build near Kamloops.

The Ajax Project would have been a 1,700-hectare, open-pit copper and gold mine, located approximately 10 kilometres southwest of Kamloops and on the asserted traditional territories of several First Nations.

Today, the government agencies that had been considering the project’s environmental impact announced they won’t be granting KGHM International an environmental assessment permit for the mine.

Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman; and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall said that, taken as a whole, “the potential, and in many cases significant, adverse effects of the Ajax project outweighed the potential benefits.”

Key findings from the environmental assessment noted by the ministers include:

-Fifty-three residual and cumulative adverse effects across the five pillars assessed by the EAO (environmental, economic, social, heritage and health) in areas such as air quality and human well-being, Jacko Lake and surrounding area, social and economic valued components, as well as grasslands and ecosystems;

-The conclusion by the EAO that 21 of these adverse effects were of moderate-to-high magnitude;

-In addressing the 21 high-to-moderate-magnitude adverse effects, the EAO had low-to-moderate confidence in its assessment of nine of the effects;

-The compounding potential of the adverse effects;

-Significant adverse effects to Indigenous heritage and to the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes.

The ministers acknowledged the” high importance of the area to the culture of SSN,” and agreed the Ajax project “would result in significant adverse effects to Indigenous heritage and to the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes.”

Notwithstanding the mitigation measures and EA certificate conditions proposed by the EAO, the project would also “have adverse impacts on SSN’s asserted Aboriginal rights and title, which in many cases, could not be avoided or minimized. The ministers concluded these effects were unacceptable in the circumstances.”

Given these conclusions, and the close proximity of Ajax to the City of Kamloops, particularly the neighbourhood of Aberdeen, including an elementary school, the ministers concluded the adverse effects would not likely be mitigated to an acceptable level and would therefore present an unacceptable risk.

Fix the local startup community
Trevor Nichols - 2:25 pm - Biz Releases

Image: Accelerate Okanagan

Despite being “robust” and “passionate,” the Okanagan startup community needs more and better mentors, better training, more investment, and opportunities for startups outside the confines of Accelerate Okanagan.

This frank assessment comes courtesy of Chris Heivly, who shared his findings from the Techstars Community Pilot Project with the region’s startup community this week.

Heivly is an executive in residence at Techstars, which is one of the top accelerators in the United States. Earlier this year the organization’s pilot project saw him spend a week in the Okanagan, where he took an in-depth look at the region’s tech ecosystem.

During his research, Heivly conducted 48 interviews with more than 80 community members. Those chats culminated in a “scorecard” for the Okanagan, which ranks the region’s tech ecosystem in five different categories.

According to the model, the Okanagan is a “Level 3” startup ecosystem, on a scale that reaches up to Level 7.

Image: Chris Heivly

Heivly said the Okanagan has a “relatively high” number of startups forming, but that community leaders need to do a lot more to create a healthy startup culture.

He said new startup growth in the region is being hindered by the fact that there are only a “minimum number” of natural mentors in the region, and that there is a reluctance in the community to share connections.

Heivly said he sees “silos” developing among niche groups within the startup community, with “old guard” and newer blood not doing a lot of commingling.

He pointed specifically to two big organizations in the community—Accelerate Okanagan and Okanagan Co+Lab—calling them out for what he sees as too superficial a relationship.

He also said he sees some of the best connected people in the community reluctant to expose their network to others, making it tougher for new blood to connect to the people they need to.

While Heivly had lots of praise for Accelerate Okanagan, he singled out the organization more than once.

He gently ribbed it for holding 140 events throughout the year, instead of holding fewer, more effective ones. He also said the organization should be “smarter” with its engagement strategy, pointing out that the startup community needs to have opportunities outside of those offered by AO.

Image: Chris Heivly

Accelerate Okanagan, he said, is “just one door into the entrepreneurial room,” and that for the community grow more, there needs to be more options.

“It shouldn’t be one organization’s responsibility to create all the doors and windows into the room,” he said.

Heivly also said he is concerned with the “relatively flat” number of new founders coming up in the community over the past few years.

Most startup founders are young-ish white males, and he said communities need to make deliberate space for other cohorts.

“We can be intentional about making sure we open up other doors and windows for people who don’t fit that,” he said, something he doesn’t really see happening in the Okanagan.

Heivly also said the computer science and engineering programs at the Okanagan’s colleges and universities are still only at an “early stage,” and that the community “needs to scale that significantly.”

He pointed out that the number of yearly graduates in those two fields are far below those in other “startup” regions, even ones that have smaller populations than the Okanagan.

“It’s time, I think, for a major investment,” he said.

Heivly had much more to say about the startup community in the Okanagan, including a fair amount of praise, and concrete suggestions for the way forward. His entire presentation is below, courtesy of Accelerate Okanagan.

United Way short of goal
Darren Handschuh - 12:45 pm - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

With just two weeks until the end of its Christmas fundraising campaign, the United Way North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap has yet to reach the halfway mark of its $240,000 goal.

“We have 30 programs that count on United Way funding to provide services for people in our area,” said Linda Yule of United Way. “Last year, we were asked for 100 per cent more than we had available to distribute. We know that several of our funded agencies are being asked for more services and looking to United Way to fill that need in the community.”

Yule said it would be a shame if agencies had to fundraise on their own when they should be focussing on programs that help the community.

“Donations are down significantly and we are at 41 per cent of our very conservative $240,000 goal. I am very worried for programs that are making positive outcomes for local people,” said Yule.

Donations can be made online by mail, by stopping by the office at 3304 30th Ave., or calling 250-549-1346 to give by credit card.

The Salvation Army is also struggling to meet its goal, sitting at approximately $219,000 of its $500,000 target.

There are nine days left in the Sally Ann campaign.

Trying to ‘derail’ strike?
Trevor Nichols - 11:26 am - Biz Releases

Image: Trevor Nichols

Update (12:15 p.m.):

The BC Labour Relations Board has ruled CUPE’s original strike notice dose not comply with legal requirements, and will have to be reissued.

That means the union will have to issue a new 72-hour strike notice, which union representatives say they plan to do.

In an email statement, Commissionaires spokesperson Julie Powers says a strike will mean Kelowna’s jail will be staffed at approximately 50 per cent for the first four days, increasing to about 75 per cent until the strike ends.

“Commissionaires BC continues to firmly believe that strike action is not in the best interest of any party involved: our employees, the union, our client, and Commissionaires BC,” Powers writes.

Original story:

The union representing Kelowna’s jail guards says the guards’ employer is attempting to “derail” strike action through a BC Labour Relations Board challenge.

CUPE Local 338, which represents the 17 Kelowna jail guards, issued an official strike notice Monday afternoon, giving its guards the legal right to strike as of 4 p.m. today.

The guards work for Commissionaires BC, which has a contract with the City of Kelowna to provide guards at the Kelowna RCMP station.

Kelowna guards make significantly less than their counterparts in nearby cities, and have been negotiating for months for better wages.

According to the union, Commissionaires is trying to get the notice thrown out by the BC Labour Relations Board because it was sent through an email instead of a fax.

Harry Nott, CUPE’s national representative, says the challenge is “unusual,” because sending notice through email is fairly common. He also said it won’t have much of an effect on the union, other than to “throw a little fuel on the fire.”

“What they’ve done is just anger their employees more,” he said. “This will not prevent us from going on strike, it just delays us.”

“We’re going to go, we’ve made that decision already,” Nott added.

He said he expects the BC Labour Relations Board to come back with a decision as early as this afternoon, asking the union to send its notice by fax.

Nott pointed out that the union had actually given Commissionaires more than the required 72 hours strike notice, and had planned to hit the picket lines early Friday morning.

He said the union had put time and money into the kickoff of the strike, with other groups lined up to come out and show their support, and that the Labour Relations Board Challenge will disrupt those plans.

Commissionaires representative Julie Powers said  she would not comment until she has a confirmation of the ruling.

Top skiers compete at Apex
Okanagan Edge Staff - 9:33 am - Biz Releases

Image: Apex Mountain Resort

Apex Mountain Resort is welcoming some of the world’s elite freestyle skiers to the hill for four days, beginning today.

The Toyo Tires Canadian Selection mogul event runs from Thursday to Sunday, with training taking place for the first two days training and competition for the final two.

The top 70 mogul skiers in Canada will take part in the event, as well as 15 skiers from Japan.

“The best freestyle skiers that are not on the World Cup tour are going to be competing for spots, basically. And a chance to prove themselves for the season,” Apex general manager James Shalman said in advance of the event.

The athletes will be judged on their speed, air and turns during aerial maneuvers.

The competition will be held on Kristi’s Run—a run where World Cup mogul events have previously been held, in 2006 and 2007.

“We have had numerous coaches comment to us since then that this course is the best course they have seen on the World Cup circuit,” Shalman said.

“There was a lot of work that went in to building the course, blasting rock and re-contouring the terrain to make it perfect.”

He said this week’s four-day event will be free to the public to watch.

“It’s an easy 5 minute walk from the village… It is not often you will get to see such talent up close.”

First Bitcoin ATM
Josh Winquist - 8:32 am - Biz Releases

Image: File Photo

A local coffee house is creating a buzz in the Okanagan, but not in the way you might think.

Bean to Cup Coffee House is home to Vernon’s first and only cryptocurrency ATM, in other words, it deals in Bitcoin.

Bean to Cup owner Kunal Chander was approached in May by Crypto Embassy, a national company with cryptocurrency ATM’s in Toronto, Vancouver, and Kelowna that wanted to put a machine in Bean To Cup.

“Just by fluke they came through the cafe… and (they thought) this guy, it would probably be good to have an ATM at this location,” said Chander. “And, there was nothing in Vernon at the time, and one thing led to another.”

It wasn’t long before Chander started seeing more and more people using the machine.

“I started seeing people from Salmon Arm, Kamloops, and all these areas. I’ve been surprised at the demographic, from the oldest to really young people, basically, they were all in here putting cash in, buying Bitcoin.”

The value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin has skyrocketed in recent months, and investors are clamouring to secure their share.

In May, one Bitcoin was worth roughly $2,000. Since then, its value has since increased to more than $16,000.

“It’s kind of cool to be able to say that we’ve helped a lot of people make some good money over the last little while.”

While you can’t buy a cup of coffee at Bean to Cup with your Bitcoins at this time, Chander thinks it won’t be long before you can.

Digital cats worth thousands
Colton Davies - 7:25 am - Biz Releases

Image: Twitter

An online game called CryptoKitties that launched barely two weeks ago has taken the internet by storm—and a software engineer from Penticton was one of the original two developers.

Jordan Schalm, 22, is a fourth-year computer engineering student at UBC who works part-time at Axiom Zen, the Vancouver-based company that created CryptoKitties.

“It’s basically a simulator, collectibles game, where you can breed your cats and you can unlock different genes and produce interesting-looking cats,” Schalm said.

Those cats can be traded as well by users once bred, and users buy and sell with cryptocurrency. The game is built on blockchain technology, ensuring the uniqueness, ownership and persistence of the digital cats.

Since the game went live in the last week of November, sales have topped more than $12M, The Verge reported.

Other outlets, including the BBC, have reported that some CryptoKitties have sold for more than $100,000, something Schalm confirmed.

He humbly said that the popularity seen so far for CryptoKitties is above what was expected.

“It was definitely a big surprise, and really exciting too. It’s really cool to see a lot of people using something you’ve made and enjoying it.”

Schalm said he and one other engineer began developing the game in August, and said several other engineers were added to the project as it picked up steam.

He said computer engineering has always been of interest to him, and as a high school student in Penticton he did some self-teaching of software development, since classes weren’t available.

“I didn’t really get into it too much until university though, where I got the chance to take a course.”

Budget, item by item
Wayne Moore - 6:00 am - Biz Releases

Image: Wayne Moore

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m.

The City of Kelowna has settled in on a 2018 budget which includes an increase of 3.60 per cent. The provisional budget was laid out during day-long deliberations.

The increase is up marginally from the 3.59 per cent proposed by staff.

The new budget includes three items not previously in the budget totalling nearly $115,000. To offset that increase, council took $100,000 from the building reserve fund to replace taxation on two other projects.


UPDATE: 2:15 p.m.

As requested, city council has approved the addition of four new RCMP members, four data processing positions and a secretary.

Two of the new officers, when hired, would go to the bike patrol, one to the Police and Crisis Team, and one plainclothes investigator.


UPDATE: 2 p.m.

As a way to offset the loss of more than $300,000 in traffic fine revenue shared by the province, Coun. Gail Given brought up the motorists four-letter word, ‘photo radar.’

“It might help to improve the safety of our roads if we could get back to that, and there might be some revenue share available for us,” said Given.

“If we were putting more effort to traffic speed regulation, we may see more of those revenues come back to us.”

A resolution put forward by the City of West Kelowna to lobby the province for a return of photo radar was adopted earlier this year by the Union of BC Municipalities.


UPDATE: 1 p.m.

Decisions made during the morning portion of budget deliberations have had no affect on the current spending estimates provided in the budget.

The proposed tax increase remains at 3.59 per cent.

However, three items, which were marked as priority two items and not in the budget, will be looked at later in the day.

These include an $800,000 restoration of the Water Street fire hall, $35,000 for traffic calming in Rutland and $49,000 for a tech position at the Kelowna Community Theatre.

There are those on council who believe something would have to be removed from the current budget to make room for any of these items.


UPDATE: 12:20 p.m.

City council has taken a break from budget deliberations for lunch.

Deliberations expect to resume at about 1 p.m.


UPDATE: 11:15 a.m.

Decisions made during Thursday’s 2018 budget deliberations will guarantee a fully paved link between downtown Kelowna and UBC Okanagan along the former CN Rail corridor.

While jurisdictions throughout the central and north Okanagan have agreed to cover the nearly 50 kilometre path with crushed gravel, the city has gone one step further to pave the path out to UBCO.

“That’s been a dream in the city for many, many years. I can’t tell you how many years we’ve had people saying can you create a safe way to UBCO,” said Coun. Luke Stack.

“Now, with John Hindle going through and this rail trail…we are going to have a paved pathway from downtown to UBCO that people can ride on, and be cleared through the whole year as a transportation corridor.

“This is a major accomplishment.”

Coun. Gail Given added the work around active transportation corridors in the city through this budget should be a celebration for those residents looking for other ways to get around, other than a single-occupant vehicle.

“In totality, we end up with a much better network at the end of the day,” said Given.

“While it may not have been a year for the parks department, our linear corridors and active transportation corridors are being heavily invested in this year.”


UPDATE: 10:20 a.m.

City council has agreed to take another look at Phase 3 and 4 upgrades to Rutland Centennial Park. Construction was part of the 2017 budget, but was pulled when a Canada 150 sesquicentennial grant fell through.

The item was not included in this year’s budget.

Mayor Colin Basran asked that the $350,000 cost of the two phases be looked at again and brought back to council before final budget approval in May.

Coun. Brad Sieben added it’s important to take another look at the project, saying there is an expectation within the community to complete development of the park.

Council also agreed, as planned, to allocate $1.35 million to Phase 2 of Rowcliffe Park. The park is part of the Central Green redevelopment.

Phase 2 includes urbanized road edges, landscape boulevards, a sportfield, pedestrian sidewalks, a new (though smaller) dog park, a community garden and park landscaping.

Phase 1 is underway now, and is expected to be complete in the spring of 2018.


UPDATE: 9:40 a.m.

Council approved two upgrades at Kelowna International Airport designed to keep up with technology. Council agreed with a request to spend $300,000 to install four electric vehicle charging stations over the next two years.

Another $100,000 will be spent on infrastructure to track ride-sharing pick-up and drop-off at the airport. The system is needed as the province indicates legislation will be enacted by the end of next year to allow ride sharing services such as Uber to operate across the province.

All money spent on the airport comes from user fees and does not impact taxes.

Council, as expected, also approved the addition of 12 new firefighters at a cost in 2018 of $860,000. That will increase to $1.035 million in 2020.


UPDATE: 9:10 a.m.

As city council gets ready to review, and approve Kelowna’s 2018 budget, Mayor Colin Basran kicked the morning off by calling the budget review an exciting, but stressful day.

“We love this city,” he reminded local residents. “We know there are a lot of issues, and challenges we are dealing with as a growing community. I ask you keep in mind who we are building this community for.”

City manager Ron Mattiussi, who is presiding over his final budget, says taxation is the price we pay for civilization.

“It’s a reality,” he said.

“Today is a day that, hopefully, we got it right.”


Original story:

Kelowna city council will decide how best to spend your hard earned tax dollars during day-long budget deliberations today.

The annual “line-by-line” budget exercise will determine exactly how much the city will spend in 2018, on what that money will be spent on, and where those funds will come from.

The city’s preliminary estimate calls for a 3.59 per cent tax increase over 2017.

The preliminary figures includes a $134.5 million operating budget, an increase of $7.4 million over 2017.

The proposed tax increase includes an additional 1.59 per cent for fire services and two per cent for other operations.

The proposed budget includes several additions for protective services. It’s expected 12 firefighters and one truck will be added to the fire department while four officers, four data processors and a secretary are expected to be added to the RCMP detachment.

Deliberations begin at 9 a.m.

Check back for complete running coverage of deliberations, and how decisions will affect you in 2018.

From scurvy to dress shirts
Trevor Nichols - Dec 13 - Biz Profiles

Image: Contributed

When the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama and his crew first discovered how to fend off scurvy in 1497, it took hundreds of years for the citrus cure to become common knowledge.

So if a revolutionary and life-saving idea takes centuries to catch on, how does one man with a sweat-wicking dress shirt make an impact?

Jeremy West has asked himself that question many times—and has spent the last two years working towards an answer.

Before he founded the new Kelowna startup 6AM WorkShirts, West says he spent a lot of time reading about the “science” of diffusion—how ideas spread, and what helps an innovation take off—in his feverish pursuit of lessons on how to become a successful entrepreneur.

West, who moved from Edmonton in 2015 to work at the newly opened Cactus Club in downtown Kelowna, says he was learning a lot about the business world from his job, and trying to soak up as many lessons as he could.

“I was kind of following that path, but I always kind of wanted to do my own thing, you know, I wanted to be the owner of Cactus Club, not just an employee of Cactus Club,” he said.

The summer of 2015 was a hot one, and West biked to work almost every day. He worked long hours in a baking-hot restaurant, which was even tougher when he was sweating through his dress shirt after a ride to work.

Image: Trevor Nichols

He kept looking for a better shirt, but was never able to find anything. Then, one day, it just clicked.

“I went for a bike ride up Knox Mountain, and I noticed that all of my cycling jerseys had a secondary material on the sides—and I kind of just made the connection,” he said. “I realized these jerseys are built for performance, so why couldn’t I just put that into a dress shirt?”

He went to Winners and bought a cheap Reebok athletic shirt, then took it and one of his own dress shirts to a tailor.

That trip eventually yielded the first 6AM WorkShirt prototype: a professional-looking dress shirt with special sweat-wicking material sewn into the sides, designed for people who bike to work.

He started wearing it to his own job and realized it worked, so he began refining it. West says he spent a year or more combing through wholesaler fabric catalogues looking for the perfect materials, continually refining his design.

Eventually he landed on what he wanted, and took it to a pattern maker in Vancouver, whom he continues to source the 6AM WorkShirts from today.

The shirts look much like a simple, traditional dress shirt, except for the pair of seams down the front, where the dress-shirt fabric turns to sweat-wicking fabric.

West said his shirts look just like a traditional dress shirts under a jacket, but are also professional enough to wear on their own. In fact, he says he designed the shirts specifically not to look exactly like an everyday button down.

“You kind of notice that there’s something going on there, which is cool. I wanted there to be an observable difference,” he said.

Harkening back to Vasco de Gama and his scurvy cure, West said it was important to him the shirt’s innovation be visible. It’s just one part of his strategy to ensure the idea has the best chance to diffuse.

West only officially launched the 6AM WorkShirts website a few weeks ago, there’s lots of diffusion left to happen, but the shirts are available for purchase now.

As he heads into the new year, West says he plans to do everything he can to push the product beyond his network, including a Kickstarter campaign sometime in the spring.

For more information, check out 6AM WorkShirts online.

Why budgets don’t match inflation
Tom WIlson - Dec 13 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

Leading up to council’s review of the provisional budget on Dec. 14, the question is bound to come up: why don’t taxes simply reflect the rate of inflation?

The Consumer Price Index is the most widely used measure of inflation. The CPI measures cost increases for these consumer expenses: food, shelter, household operations, furniture, clothing, transportation, health, personal care, recreation, education, alcoholic beverages and tobacco.

From that list, costs associated with shelter/household operations, transportation and education can also apply to municipalities. The rest have little or no relevance for municipalities. The city’s “shopping basket” of supplies includes other, costlier items–steel, concrete, fuel, water treatment, asphalt, labour, heavy equipment and citizens’ safety.

Making a direct comparison between CPI and municipal taxes isn’t that simple.

A number of other factors influence the annual tax rate beyond inflation. For example, every annual budget contains ongoing impact costs to maintain service levels approved in previous budgets. Examples include paying for the new Kelowna Police Services building for ongoing operations and maintenance, union and contractor wage increases from negotiated multi-year contracts and Phase 2 of the customer care improvement project that will see upgrades to the utility billing system.

These multi-year costs alone can typically amount to a two per cent rate increase–before anything else is even considered for the new budget year.

Then consider the costs of keeping up with growth. We’re one of the fastest growing regions in Canada, adding thousands of new residents every year who are drawn by our reputation for having a high quality of life, but who also need more roads, underground infrastructure, buses, parks, recreation and cultural opportunities.

On top of that, there can be unexpected costs–like the $10 million in flood damages to city property that needs to be replaced or repaired, $3 million of which the city will pay for, with the remainder covered by the provincial government.

The Citizen Survey and ongoing engagement and interaction with residents virtually every day of the year helps identify budget priorities.

Expanding and diversifying the type and price-points for housing is a priority reflected in City programs such as the Infill Challenge, Rental Housing Grant Program, the Journey Home Strategy and the Housing Needs Strategy, along with partnerships with other levels of government to address housing needs.

Maintaining or improving a feeling of safety and security in a city of nearly 130,000 requires a certain amount of financial and human resources–that remains a priority.

Over the years, the city administration has developed other revenue sources to reduce the demand on taxpayers. Today, taxes account for just over one third of the overall budget, with the remaining majority coming from user fees and charges, grants and reserves. Strong financial management includes choosing the best timing to make investments that have the greatest benefit to the community.

The budget’s link to council community priorities has helped the City of Kelowna achieve a high level of satisfaction with residents when asked about the value they receive for the taxes they pay.

For the past decade, a large majority of residents have said they receive high value for their taxes in Kelowna, and most residents are willing to pay the same or more to maintain or increase services.

Join us on Thursday, Dec. 14 for the 2018 Budget deliberation.

Tom Wilson is the communications manager with the City of Kelowna. For more on the city’s 2018 budget, check out Castanet’s ongoing coverage, which begins here.

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