Business & Economy
September 29, 2020

Are Vancouver’s Talented Tech Employees Cheap Labour ?

It has been Duke of Data Andy Yan who has been reminding us forever that there is a radical disconnect between household income and the price of housing. People working in Metro Vancouver can’t afford to buy a house here.

In 2017 Mr. Yan summed it up this way:

It’s surprising to me that we have only  the 15th highest incomes in Metro Vancouver, even coming behind Toronto. What we learned today is in Vancouver you are living in paradise, but your wages are in purgatory.” 

The median household income Mr. Yan was referring to is $72,662. At that time he saw the major issue was how to reconnect local incomes to local housing, noting that needed policy enactment would be  different in each city.

Photographer and former editor of Price Tags  Ken Ohrn sends along this article by Natalie Obiko Pearson who writes that Amazon. com is expecting to triple its workforce in Vancouver. Why? Because software engineers here are “cheap, smart and plentiful”, like an overabundant agricultural crop.

A conversation with an Amazon vice president revealed that  a “weak loonie, lower wages and a steady flow of graduates make Canada an attractive place to expand for tech companies whose largest expense is labour”. 

 The salaries in Vancouver are substantially less than for similar jobs south of the border, as are office rents.

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In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department, three railway workers at Grand Central Station in New York City converted an unused room below the station into a private room for themselves.

The remodelling of the subterranean room was only reported last year, and the workers have furnished it with all the modern conveniences~there was a wall-mounted TV with a streaming device, a sofa, beer fridge, air mattress and microwave.  There was even a pull out bed cleverly hidden in an adjoining work room.

As reported by MSN, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector Carolyn Pokorny understood the fascination with it all:

Many a New Yorker has fantasized about kicking back with a cold beer in a prime piece of Manhattan real estate– especially one this close to good transportation. But few would have the chutzpah to commandeer a secret room beneath Grand Central Terminal & make it their very own man-cave sustained with MTA resources, and maintained at our riders’ expense.”

The three men who allegedly created and used the room have been suspended without pay and denied their involvement, despite addressed packaging  and half filled beer cans with finger prints on the exterior.

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The Canadian Urban Institute presents a free webinar on 
COVID Signpost 200 Days: How Should Our Cities Prepare for Winter?
Joining our guest host Catherine Craig-St-Louis of CUI and Rues Principales for our second series of COVID Signpost, 200 Days.

Presenters: Olivier Legault, Project Managerat Rues principales and Co-founder, Winterlab

Isla Tanaka, Wintercity Planner at the City of Edmonton;

Sheena Jardine-Olade, CoFounder of Night Lab;

 Rami Bebawi, CoFounder and Partner at KANVA.

Date: Thursday September 30, 2020

Time: 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

You can register by clicking this link.

Images: DreamTime,CdnUrbanInstitute

 

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It was Eric Doherty that started it all in this article by Jennifer Saltman in the Province.  In the summer more than 250 government leaders who are affiliated with the Climate Caucus sent an open letter stating that Covid related economic recovery monies should not be used for expanding highways and airports but fr supporting transit service, walking and biking.

In Canada after oil and gas industries it is transportation that is the largest source of greenhouse gas emsisons. In British Columbia  transportation produces 37 percent of emissions. Mr. Doherty representing the Better Transit Alliance in Victoria sees Covid recovery as an opportunity to reinforce transit which is suffering with lower ridership in this phase of the pandemic.

There are a few changes already evident from the pandemic. The first is that there is a clear adaptation to working at home. Mario Canseco’s work shows that 73 percent of Canadians expect to continue some kind of work at home, while 63 percent think that business travel and meetings are gone,with internet applications like Zoom replacing those trips.

The second change is that there has been an increase in physical activity as one of Mr. Canseco’s latest polls with Research.co indicates.  Two-thirds of people in this province say they are walking more despite living at home, and 26 percent of all people are running or jogging more.

But if more people are working from home, and as in the case of London
England only 25 percent of workers have come back to work in the downtown because of Covid concerns, what shifts can be made?

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Metro Vancouver is unique in that the region uses water from the mountains contained in Seymour, Capilano and Coquitlam reservoirs. Think of that~we do not take advantage of rain water, ground water, or fresh water from rivers for any water sources.

While we are lucky in that our water supply is vast and with prudent conservation should last through a dry hot summer, according to Elizabeth Elkin at Bloomberg,  “Almost two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to face water shortages by 2025. “

According to the CME Financial Derivatives exchange Wall Street is going to commence trading in futures contracts estimating California’s water supply. The purpose of commodifying water is to allow “big water consumers” such as almond growers and municipalities to hedge against price increases.

But this also suggests water, will become scarcer with climate change and  more torrid temperatures.

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The Biennale has several events for people to take part in.

During a year that has been unlike any other, we’ve been inspired to see how artists, festivals, arts organizations, and cultural institutions are continually adapting. Here in Vancouver and around the world, we’ve found new ways to continue creating and connecting (safely) together. We are taking part in Culture Days 2020 this month, the nation-wide celebration of Canadian arts and culture indoors, outdoors, and online. Visit their website to find dozens of local experiences you can explore in person or online from September 25 – October 25th!

Ride Through Time
We’ve designed this self-guided bicycle ride (it’s walkable, too) to take you through the transformation of Vancouver’s waterfront as it developed from the 1860s to present day. Check out the three museums at Vanier Park and learn about the 12,000 years of history of Sen̓áḵw.

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Translation: Will the increase in people working at home mean we’ll drive less?

Answer: Apparently not.

Here’s a summary from the terrifically named Center for Advanced Hindsight:

While there may be less commuting, there will be more local trips for shopping and, no doubt, Zoom breaks.

There’s another big implication that’s not mentioned: possibly less congestion during the traditional drive times, but heavier traffic throughout the day.  More accidents too, I’d bet.  And more conflict in how we allocate or reapportion road space.  (In other words, bike lane wars.)

The real-time experiment as a consequence of the pandemic in how we manage our transportation network shouldn’t be wasted.  Minimally we should be measuring and reporting on the day-to-day changes that are occurring out there (as discussed here in “How do we start limiting congestion NOW?“)  and then trying out different options so we don’t lose the gains we’ve made even as we respond to the ‘climate emergency’.

(Of course, ‘climate emergency’ is not a concern of the Park Board apparently, which showed how easy it is to succumb to the desire to go back to ‘just the way it was.’   Even though we never can and never should.)

 

 

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Heads up, transit nerds (or anyone curious about the literal insides of our transit system): local Vancouver blogger Mike (born and raised!) DownieLivespent the day in Vancouver with Translink, checking out their bus simulator, an electric trolley bus, SeaBus, the West Coast Express and the SkyTrain.”

Love his enthusiasm when he’s driving a trolley. ( And totally not surprised to see trolley advocate and driver Derek Cheung in the background.)

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Which country do you think has the most elevators? Did you know that it is Spain, with 19.8 elevators per 1,000 population?  But with 65% of Spanish citizens living in apartment buildings it makes sense that there are so many elevators. Compare that with the United States that have 2.8 elevators per thousand population, or China with 2.2 per thousand.

As reported in the New York Times by Keith Bradsher China now wants to change all of that, and hopes to retrofit as many as three million older walkup buildings with elevators, projecting the cost at roughly $100,000 USD per installation.

Why?  As China’s older population is aging, they have also acquired wealth, and are now demanding being better served by their government.

During the Mao regime in the 1960’s families were urged to have many children who are now coming to be 60 years of age. A subsequent “one child” policy in the 1970’s  means that these seniors do not have children and grandchildren ot assist them as they age.

The city of Guangzhou has taken advantage of a federal government grant of $93,000 per elevator installation and has already retrofitted 6,000 older buildings. That city required two-thirds of strata  owners to agree to the project before installation.

This “elevator policy” is seen as a national employment incubator to provide jobs for millions of unemployed migrant workers. But there is a wrinkle~elevators come from a very small group of global manufacturers and are dominated by names familiar to North Americans. Otis Elevator, Schindler, and Kone are prominent. So while those firms will get the contract to install elevators, the job of the building retrofit for the elevator will be done by a small group of specialized Chinese contractors.

Back to British Columbia which also has a lot of three storey walk up apartments in towns and cities that do not have elevators. What happens when a resident has a mobility issue and requires an elevator or a stair assist?

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