Business & Economy
September 17, 2020

Jimmy Pattison, The Environment & the E-bike Revolution

Sometimes change happens when you least expect it~as Natalie Obiko Pearson  and Divya Balji write in the Vancouver Sun Jimmy Pattison who built a multi-billion dollar  “empire from a single, loss-making Vancouver car dealership” acquired in 1961 has done the impossible.

Looking at how to invest and protect money in the post-Covid world, this billionaire is now focussing on the environment. As Mr. Pattison stated “We have got to focus on the environment, the environment, the environment. Anything that is negative, in my opinion, to do with the environment is going out of business sooner or later.”

To back that claim, Mr. Pattison took a hydrogen fuelled car around southwestern British Columbia on a weekend and declared that he was surprised at the experience.
“All I’ve driven is engines all my life and so when you get something that’s this smooth and fast and goes like a dart and quiet. Boy, I never drove anything nicer.”

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Mayor Robert Crowell (who is known by everyone there as Mayor Bob) passed away last week while serving his third term as Mayor of Carson City Nevada.  He was a lawyer who specialized in governmental relations, and a retired Navy captain. But he was also a Mayor that knew every member of Carson City’s staff by name, was very active in the community and single handedly steered his city to a remarkable change~he advocated and completely overhauled the town’s  main street, which was previously a commercial thoroughfare and a marked highway.


By stewarding a car centric downtown into a walkable, bikeable destination, Mayor Bob changed the culture and commerce of his community, and made the downtown a place residents flocked to and spend time in.

The state capital of Nevada is Carson City which has a population of 56,000 and is thirty miles south of Reno Nevada. Despite being a state capital, Carson City is a town that was  forgotten by development. There are  many Victorian era buildings in the downtown, a legacy of its 1858 settlement that serviced nearby ranchers.

Despite a downtown that contained a lot of important heritage buildings as well as the grounds for the state capitol, the  four lane highway barrelled through the main street, with  traffic proceeding at  speed requiring steel fencing to corral pedestrians along sidewalks. Even with the barriers, pedestrians were maimed and killed while trying to cross the street.

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I have just written a post about London England where businesses in the suburbs have returned to pre-Covid pandemic levels of expenditure but the central downtown part of London is still economically suffering. With only 25 percent of downtown workers returning to the central core, expenditures at stores have remained low, supported by the 330,000 people that live in the downtown. While driving and biking rates have returned to pre pandemic levels in the downtown, transit usage is down by 50 percen

Mario Toneguzzi with the The Retail Insider reports a similar situation with Canadian downtown retailers. More rurally located  retailers are reporting that 37 percent are returning to normal sales, while downtown urban areas are reporting that only  22 percent  of their businesses are.

Laura Jones, Executive Vice-President at CFIB, Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members across every industry and region. “Consumer spending is the key to survival for all businesses… The first thing is a lot of office buildings have been emptied out. Some have a handful of workers going in but many are still not going back to their offices. So if you’re a coffee shop downtown on the corner that relies on the traffic from those office buildings, a typical weekday morning you’d be quite busy but now you’re empty or almost virtually empty.”

The absence of downtown workers coupled with no foreign tourists has been catastrophic for many downtown businesses especially in  Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Calgary.  In these cities many businesses survive or are geared towards the tourist trade.

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The ambitious Business in Vancouver presentation of thirty ideas in thirty minutes was a pretty remarkable undertaking, with a discussion on  leadership, innovation, challenges and change.

The session was opened up by the  Honourable Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C.. There are some interesting ideas in the presentations, and some concepts implemented in businesses that would normally have taken years. One firm immediately adopted a four day week for employees; another is refocusing on getting to “know”,  and understand their customers, seeing that personal relationship as being just as important as the economic one.

There’s also the futurist from Britain that just had to use a moving galaxies and comets background, an absolute faux pas  for any  internet meetings.

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Because of the Covid Pandemic the Globe and Mail is changing their annual women in business conference to a virtual one and that gives women across the country a chance to attend free. This inaugural event gives insights on how female participation can increase at the corporate level and also examines potential impacts of the pandemic on diversity, inclusion, progress and priorities.

 “Report on Business magazine presents the inaugural Women Lead Here event to drive the conversation on female executive leadership. The discussions will build on the findings of the magazine’s industry-first assessment of Canada’s largest public companies on gender diversity in executive positions.

The Women Lead Here list identifies the companies who are surpassing their peers on the metric of female representation in the top tiers of executive leadership.

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Point Roberts Washington State  is one of the unique anomalies resulting from the Pacific Northwest-Canadian border dispute settled in 1846 with the  Oregon Treaty.  At that time, Britain and the United States made the 49th parallel of latitude the “border” between what would become Canada and the United States.

In Metro Vancouver just south of Tsawwassen it meant that a small peninsula of five square miles with 1,300 residents would be part of the United States.  Of course that has also meant that anyone from Point Roberts wishing to go by land to the rest of the continental United States had to drive through Canada and enter the United States at Blaine Washington.

The closure of the United States/Canada border for Covid reasons has been onerous to Point Roberts residents, who can no longer access Canada for shopping and services. Despite the fact that a dedicated school bus shuttles children from Point Roberts to Blaine Washington to school prior to the epidemic no similar service has been allowed for residents who are stranded.

As reported in the Bellingham Herald  by Dave Gallagher that will change this week when The Port of Bellingham and Whatcom Transportation Authority will provide a short-term,  passenger-only ferry which will take Point Roberts residents to the Blaine Harbor. From that harbour they can then take transit to the Cordata Station in Bellingham Washington for shopping and services.

This once a week ferry service is “free” but in actual fact the bill will be $30,000 to $50,000 USD a month, and there is already finger pointing at who will pony up for the bill.  The boats will be leased from San Juan Cruises and include , the 50-foot Salish Sea and 100-foot vessel Salish Express.

The actual trip will take 90 minutes, and it is intended for Point Roberts residents only as it is being provided as an emergency service.  The Port of Bellingham’s website contains details on the ferry dates and times.

You can read more about Point Roberts Washington on this link.


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Business in Vancouver is presenting a free webinar on “30 Ideas in 30 Minutes.
Join BIV and 30 of B.C.’s brightest thought leaders for a live virtual discussion about ideas that have emerged from the historic COVID-19 pandemic. Over 30 minutes, 30 speakers will present 30 ideas on leadership, innovation, challenges and change.

Speakers include the Honourable Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C.; Member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville Jody Wilson-Raybould. Kirk LaPointe, editor-in-chief and publisher of BIV and vice-president, editorial of Glacier Media, will open the event.

BIV reporters Hayley Woodin and Tyler Orton will moderate the discussion.

Date: August 25, 2020

Time: 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time

For further information and to register, please click this link.


Images: City of Vancouver

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The Smart Growth Network in concert with the Maryland Department of Planning presents the next webinar in their Planning With Purpose series on Community Revitalization.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted how we live, work, play, and move around our communities. It also has changed how planners think about and prepare for the future, while navigating the impacts of social inequity.

Petra Hurtado and Jo Peña of the American Planning Association explain how APA is using its “foresight-first approach” in times of COVID-19, what the biggest pain points and potential solutions are, and what current developments may mean for the future of the planning profession.

Date: Thursday, August 13

Time: 10:00 Pacific Time

You can sign up for this webinar by clicking this link.


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PT: Ann McAfee was Co-Director of Planning for Vancouver from 1994 to 2006 at the time the extraordinary growth described in the post below was occurring.  This paper describes the immediate and possible future impacts of COVID-19 on planning in the Greater Vancouver area.  (Edited from the original here, with my emphasis added in bold.) It one of the best summaries of all the different forces and developments that will (or should) affect local and regional planning in the near future.

Despite the dispassionate tone of the paper, no doubt from years of writing planning documents, her summary is, if not radical, a challenge that will be profound for planners, politicians and leaders in community:

Local governments are challenged to reframe plans to respond, recover, restart, and rebuild in the context of limited funds and raised expectations. Post COVID plans need governments to understand economic distress and calls for social justice. Post COVID plans also need public understanding of fiscal limitations.

“Limited funds” and “fiscal limitations” are realities that will be imposed on us by the pandemic, and it won’t be pleasant.  Perhaps that’s why they have so far been largely undiscussed as society and governments cope with more urgent demands.   Ann is calling for planners to step up to the challenge.


Ann McAfee:

Three Programs Caught in COVID

Prior to COVID, three agencies launched strategic plan updates. The plans are aspirational; all seek to manage growth to address sustainability, resiliency, and equity.

In 2019, Vancouver’s City Plan and Transport 2050 invited people to share ideas. The intent was to listen to those with lived experience of the city and regional transportation system. Initial responses were not fettered by cost considerations. Subsequent steps proposed public discussion of scenario choices and tradeoffs.

In April 2019, Metro and TransLink staff compiled Regional Growth and Transportation Scenarios. Potential ‘Big Disruptors’ were seen to be climate change, shifting global economy, and new technologies. A pandemic and recession were not listed. …


Blurring the Distinction between Home and Work

Early indicators of increased numbers of employees working from home are mixed with two additional factors: an increase in office vacancies as employees work from home, and some businesses seeking larger workspaces to improve physical distancing. These work-from-home patterns could continue as an estimated 46% of the metro labor force are in jobs which could be performed, at least part-time, from home.

As people shop from home, the trend toward e-commerce is accelerating. Concern about future supply chains may reverse industrial job losses by encouraging manufacturing and food production to locate closer to markets.

Pressure to rezone business lands for residential and commerce could intensify. Vancouver’s experience with rezoning for these purposes is that the resulting increase in land value prices out production and service uses.

The value of ‘home’ is reflected in metro residential sales patterns and prices. May 2020 sales were 54% below the 10-year monthly sales average. By June, the market was rebounding. The June 2020 benchmark price for a detached home ($1.46 million) showed a 3.6% increase from June 2019. This likely reflects a desire to shelter-in-place in a single-family home.


Intensifying Local Business Trends

Prior to COVID, communities were experiencing a loss of mom and pop shops. The impact of COVID has varied in this regard. Food shops, remaining open as essential services, have increased sales. For other businesses, COVID closures are accelerating financial challenges.

To help local businesses reopen with physical distancing, cities are permitting private uses in public spaces. Examples include sidewalk patios and temporary use of parking lanes for queueing. Vancouver has approved longer term COVID responsive public space initiatives.

The desire for a region-wide response to economic recovery has increased calls from the business sector for the 21 regional municipalities to merge.

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Imagine running a business with very long hours and in the current Covid crisis, not a lot of customers. Curator and author Catherine Clement sent on this article from the The New York Times  which outlines how  husband and wife team Chang Wan-ji, and Hsu Sho-er, business owners in a laundromat in Taichung, Taiwan have survived.

Where estimates in Canada show that 52 percent of people see their mental health as not the same during the pandemic, the grandson of Chang Wan-ji and Hsu Sho-er wanted to help his grandparents who spent 13 hour days keeping their dry cleaning business open. There was no business in the shop, and without the normal customer interaction the days were long for these two business owners who are both in their mid-eighties.

Inspired by the racks of clothing that had been laundered but never paid for or picked up, the grandson started curating the clothing and putting outfits together of the forgotten items for his grandparents to model. In each image the octogenarians wear their trademark blue sneakers, and incorporate an unbelievable hipster vibe.

You can take a look at their instagram account at @wantshowasyoung which at press time had over 433,000 followers. And here’s the thing~there are only twenty posts, but they are tremendous images of the two dressed up in the unretrieved clothes.

As Chris Horton in the New York Times describes “The clothes they model are eclectic, funky and fun. Both can be seen in matching laced sneakers, and jauntily perched caps and hats. He sometimes sports brightly colored shades. One photo shows her leaning coolly against a giant washing machine, arms crossed, as he casually holds the open door, grinning. They pose at a place they know well — their shop, which provides an industrious backdrop of customers’ laundry, stacked and rolled into plastic bundles or hanging from racks.”

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