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 housing 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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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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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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PANDEMONIUM: Pandemics and Long-range Planning
by SFU Urban Studies Program

How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the basic tenets of city planning and the direction of longer-term planning processes currently underway?

All our core principles about successful urban places –density, mixed-use, eyes on the street, reliance on public transit and non-motorized transport, and active public spaces – have been called into question by the pandemic. At the same time, new rules about cities, space, work, travel and social life have been imposed as emergency measures, without time to consider their long-term implications. In this session, we will learn about how urban and regional planning efforts underway before the pandemic will be influenced by it, what, if any, concepts need a radical rethink, and what new lessons will be incorporated.

Speakers:
Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver
Reconstructing Our City
Jennifer Keesmaat, founder, The Keesmaat Group and Sponsor of the 2020 Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities
The New Imperative for Resilience in Canadian Cities
Heather McNell, general manager, Regional Planning and Housing Services, Metro Vancouver
The Vancouver Region in 2050: Implications of COVID-19
Yunji Kim, assistant professor, Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University
The Pandemic and the Impatient Nation: How Korea Responded to COVID-19
Am Johal, director of SFU Vancity Office of Community Engagement
Whose City is it Anyway?
Moderator: Ken Cameron, adjunct professor, SFU Urban Studies
Time for questions and conversation will follow the panel.
This event has been made possible by the generous support of SFU Public Square and financially supported by the Initiative in Urban Sustainable Development.
Technology Requirements
This event has a participatory aspect. To engage fully you will need:
A computer or smartphone
A microphone
Speakers or headphones
Please note: a link to join the webinar will be sent to registrants on the morning of September 30.

Date: Wednesday September 30

Time: 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time

You can find out more information about the event here.

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There are two kinds of towns in the Okanagan (and most of BC).

It depends on the provincial roads that connect them.  Some, as in Osoyoos, have a highway that divides the centre-right through its heart.


Very often the highway, like Crowsnest, is literally Main Street – a ‘stroad’ that has looked essentially the same for more than half a century: broad, muscular, low-slung and unambiguous.  Mid-century motordom, which even today, despite attempts to make them more friendly for people not in cars (which is the way most of them got there), are still car dominant.

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The Park Board has justified the removal of the bike lane in Stanley Park because “The data tells us we can return the park to its conventional traffic patterns.”  Now the question is whether the Beach Avenue bikeway will be removed for the same reason: winter is coming, so we’ll go back to the conventional pattern.

What our leaders do will tell us what kind of city we aspire to be.  Imagine the slogan: “Vancouver, the Conventional City.”  

Ian Austen who writes the Canada Letter for New York Times sees another kind of opportunity:

 

By late spring, it was becoming nearly impossible to buy a bike anywhere in the world. That was a reflection both of the unexpected surge in demand and a supply chain that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Most bikes, aside from high-end, customized offerings, are churned out by a small number of companies based in Taiwan that have extensive operations in China. My colleague Raymond Zhong recently profiled the biggest of those companies, the aptly named Giant, and its chairwoman, Bonnie Tu. (Article here.)

In Ottawa, Canada’s bicycle boom has exhibited itself in an unusual way. The morning and afternoon bicycle rush hour didn’t return. But when I’m out doing errands by bike, it’s now often a struggle to find a parking space outside stores. And on weekends, when I’m on rides measured in hours, it’s increasingly common to see people on very inexpensive bicycles, who are not wearing fancy cycling clothes, cycling well outside the city.

Many cities have responded. Cars have been temporarily barred from some lanes or entire roads in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and elsewhere. In addition to closing streets, Halifax has moved to slow motor traffic on some streets and limit vehicles to residents.

The question now is, will this enthusiasm for cycling survive winter and the post-pandemic period?

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From Paul Caune~What about a moving theatre project that centres on a train? That’s exactly what this project from Jörn Hintzer and Jacob Hüfner,  who are both media artists and professors at the Bauhaus University in Weimar Germany provides.

With a direct allegory to the every present changing visual media screens online, these two artists reverse the stationary and moving images, providing vignettes of art performance to train passengers along a 30 kilometer route. The train public art is set  through the Saal Valley in Germany where fifty live art performances were repeated for 26 trains over two days.

The Bewegtes Land project incorporates live performances from four hundred residents who live along the route. A couple fishing in a lake tip over in a canoe when a shark “attacks”. There is a burning tree and running bushes.  There is a group of east German produced cars (which were completely unreliable) chasing a new Volkswagen. And there is a runner who paces along the train, rides a horse, and somehow ends up at the train station terminus ahead of the train.

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Items in the Inbox from Daily Scot:

Have you seen the Keefer Yard in Chinatown?   My favourite outdoor Covid bar in the city.

Price Tags: Now that pop-up patios have been approved year-round in cities like North Van and Vancouver, we can expect a lot of innovation to keep us protected, happy and safe through the winter, not to mention a host of decorative responses in the spring.  Here’s an example from Coal Harbour:

 

Scot: What if we use the pandemic to convert some of the enclosed parking garages on Granville Island to beer gardens with plenty of space to social distance?

The structures would have a unique industrial chicness, drawing people from all over (which Granville Island needs, particularly in the winter).  And there is an immediate anchor available with Granville Island Brewing next door.  Other Vancouver breweries could take turns catering the spaces; food trucks could be part of the scene; nibbles could be provided by the Islands many food vendors.

Check out how other cities have created urban beer gardens:

Frankford Hall, Philadelphia

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The Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF) presents a two day free online conference hosted by the Rural Policy Learning Commons.

“Join us for two full days of FREE content and interactive discussions – you don’t want to miss this jam-packed program of rural researchers and thought leaders as they share rural-specific lessons and insights about the challenges and opportunities posed by the pandemic.

CRRF is delighted to offer this high-value virtual event for free. If you are planning to attend and able to do so, please consider becoming a member of CRRF or making a donation to help us continue supporting rural research and researchers across Canada.

Both days of the conference run from 8:00 a.m to 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time and are being hosted on Zoom by the Rural Policy Learning Commons. The Virtual Conference is being offered ‘a la carte’ style, so you can choose the sessions that are most interesting to you and work with your schedule by registering for each session separately.

Date: October 1 and October 2

Time: 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time

Click here to find out further information and to register for the sessions you would like to attend.

Image: OxfordAmerican

 

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