Vancouver falls to No. 3 as Canadian tech hub

Vancouver’s position as the country’s No. 2 destination for tech companies looking to establish operations in Canada fell victim to the backspace button in 2016.

The West Coast city dropped to third place after Ottawa made gains in CBRE’s Scoring Canadian Tech Talent report, released November 23.

Toronto ranked first.

CBRE examined the country’s 10 biggest cities and ranked them as tech hubs based on 14 factors focused on tech talent employment, education, high-tech clustering and cost competitiveness.

Despite the city’s high cost of living, the report noted Vancouver is still a competitive city for companies looking for highly skilled talent and relatively low labour costs.

And Vancouver may make gains in next year’s rankings.

This week Facebook announced it would add 16,000 square feet to its footprint to downtown Vancouver when it moves to new offices at Cadillac Fairview’s Waterfront Centre.

This comes a few weeks after Amazon announced it was opening a second downtown office in Vancouver and adding about 1,000 new workers.

A few days earlier, Microsoft announced it was adding 50 jobs focused on virtual reality and augmented reality to its Vancouver office.

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Uber and other ride-sharing services look set to get the green light in B.C. this year

Five years after its initial attempt to launch in Vancouver, Uber and other ride-sharing services look set to get the green light for B.C. roads this year.

The province announced Tuesday it will be ready to roll out ride-sharing services by the holiday season of 2017, meaning the introduction of Uber or Lyft would have to come after May’s provincial election.

“There’s a lot of pressure on the government, particularly from millennials, to get something that is beyond what the taxis are offering,” said lawyer Bill McLachlan, who represents the BC Taxi Association.

He added the timing of the rollout is not surprising.uber

“If the Liberals get elected, they want to dangle these incentives. And if they don’t [get elected], who knows where these things will go?”

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Peter Fassbender, who handles the ride-sharing portfolio in cabinet, and Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the government would help the taxi industry to stay competitive.

Among the initiatives announced was an investment of up to $1 million to develop a new app for the taxi industry with shared dispatch, as well as hailing and payment options similar to what other ride-sharing services offer.

The province also said it would work with municipalities to allow ride-sharing drivers and taxi drivers to pick up and drop off in different cities.

Currently, a Vancouver taxi driver can pick up in Vancouver and drop off in Coquitlam. But the Vancouver driver would not be able to pick up a passenger in Coquitlam while driving back to his home base.

“It’s very progressive thinking,” said Nitesh Mistry, director of business operations at Vancouver-based Ripe Rides.

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Telus investment promises to expand horizons for businesses in rural B.C.

Increased investment in wireless phone and high-speed Internet infrastructure in northern British Columbia is a welcomed change for local businesses.

“I wouldn’t say it affects my business so much as it enables my business,” said Steve Tory, founder and CEO of Dino High Tech Solutions, an IT and marketing company based out of Tumbler Ridge.

Telus has committed to investing $4.5 billion through 2019 across the province. Some of the investment will be used to extend fibre optic infrastructure directly to homes and businesses. The new infrastructure will help increase Internet access and connectivity in the more rural areas of British Columbia’s north.

As part of a strategic partnership with the province, Telus has also invested $1 million to develop wireless access along Highway 29 between Hudson’s Hope and the Highway 97 junction. The investment brought wireless service to the Moberly Lake community located near Chetwynd, which is 100 kilometres north of Tumbler Ridge.1426-telecomsnorth-226031854.jpg__0x500_q95_autocrop_crop-smart_subsampling-2_upscale

Naomi Larsen, executive director of the Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce, said the area’s First Nations communities and businesses have greatly benefited from the wireless connection along Highway 29, which has given them access to wireless services for the first time. That access can create opportunities that small and local business never had before, as it did for Tory.

Tumbler Ridge is a small town of just over 2,500 people located near the northern Alberta border. It was recently the beneficiary of a similar infrastructure investment that helped connect the region to the 21st century. Before the upgrade, Tumbler Ridge citizens and businesses relied on outdated technology to connect them to the rest of the world. For Tory, access to a high-speed Internet connection meant that he could leave his job in the oil and gas sector and explore entrepreneurial opportunities. He said that without high-speed Internet he wouldn’t have dreamed of opening a tech business in northern B.C.

Broader Internet access not only helps Tory find customers locally but also allows him to compete internationally. While he would like to see more money invested in tech infrastructure in the north, Tory said the region is ahead of the curve, particularly when compared with rural areas in the U.S.

“It really did make a dramatic difference to the community,” said Donna Merry, former secretary for the Tumbler Ridge Chamber of Commerce. “Small businesses now have access to the technology that they need to do their business. This was not always the case.”

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Compass 2.0 project aims to expand services for transit users

TransLink wants to raise all-time-high transit ridership even higher in Metro Vancouver with new projects and modifications to its Compass card fare system.

Long-sought major projects, such as the Millennium Line extension underneath Broadway to Arbutus Street and light-rail transit in Surrey, are high on the agenda for Metro Vancouver’s transit authority.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond, however, told Business in Vancouver January 26 that other initiatives are afoot to try to get more Compass cards into the hands of Vancouverites and to make the transit system more accessible for tourists. He calls this project Compass 2.0.

“It’s possible, maybe by the end of this year or the following year, that we will have open payment on Compass, where you’re able to just tap a credit card and go though [fare gates],” Desmond said.

Other aspects of Compass 2.0 include possibly linking a Mobi by Shaw Go bike-share membership to the Compass cards or linking pre-paid BC Ferries fares onto the cards, Desmond said.

Desmond hailed the Compass card system as a success in part because TransLink counted 384.83 million separate boardings on SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express and Coast Mountain Bus Co., combined, in 2016.
He said that figure was 4.5% higher than in 2015 – though different counting methods were in place before Compass cards were introduced to the public in December 2015, and TransLink closed SkyTrain station gates starting in April.

Now, more than 95% of all TransLink transactions take place using the blue plastic cards.

More than one million Compass cards are in use, which means that more than 40% of people in the region have one, Desmond added.

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Security sector booms but hiring remains an issue

The security industry is growing so rapidly that the sector faces huge hurdles in hiring and retaining enough employees, industry insiders say.

Dan Popowich, CEO of security firm Commissionaires BC, said multiple industries including airports, local governments, pipelines, universities, construction and non-core policing are all hiring more security – and have been for the past few years.

Popowich said finding good employees remains a challenge for outfits such as Commissionaires BC, which is run as a not-for-profit with 2,100 employees in B.C. and annual revenue of $50 million.

“It’s always a burden because the pay is not that great,” he said.

Popowich said the biggest hurdle is finding employees who have training in technology. He said a large part of the job now involves managing security camera footage, engaging in electronic reporting and using devices like iPads. Popowich said there are still basic security jobs, such as watching over construction sites, that do not require as much training, but those jobs are dwindling.1422-security-list-story-dan-popowich-web.jpg__0x500_q95_autocrop_crop-smart_subsampling-2_upscale

Popowich said a lot of companies are not willing to pay more when it comes to security contracts, which pushes the industry into a catch-22.

“If we can obviously pay more, then it would attract a different type of person,” he said. “The other thing is if we could charge more, then we could provide more training to our officers.”

Paul Stanley, who runs the security consultancy TSC Consulting and holds a master’s degree in risk management, was part of BC Hydro’s corporate security team for nine years. He said wages for security guards are on par with the fast-food industry, which doesn’t reflect the amount of responsibility taken on by security personnel, especially with increasing regulation and rising training standards.

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126 year-old Vancouver law firm takes the global stage

Bull Housser, one of B.C.’s most well respected law firms, has joined forces with a global law firm in a combination that will give the Vancouver-based firm and its clients worldwide reach.

In September, Bull Housser and Norton Rose Fulbright announced that the two firms would combine in an initiative that will propel the British Columbia firm into the global legal market.

Bull Housser, with its 126 years of history, has 92 lawyers at its Vancouver office. Norton Rose Fulbright is a fast-growing global firm that has established out its Canadian presence in recent years with offices in Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.

The result is a partnership that will allow Bull Housser to expand its service offerings for its B.C. clients and provide Norton Rose Fulbright and its global clientele with a trusted advisor in the province.

“Our respective clients want simplified access to our firm across Canada, the U.S. western seaboard and the Pacific Rim. This combination addresses their need for that and provides a Vancouver presence,” says Charles Hurdon, Managing Partner of Norton Rose Fulbright in law

The two firms have complementary strengths, offering market leading capability in energy, mining, infrastructure, financial services, real estate, shipping, ports, life sciences, healthcare and technology.

Moreover, the combination will provide three key advantages for clients: innovative service offerings, improved efficiencies through advanced technology as well as access to leading legal advisors around the globe.

The combination follows a trend of consolidation in the industry in Canada, whereby global firms have formed partnerships with established Canadian firms.

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CIBC launches ski-thru ATM at Whistler Mountain

CIBC has launched what it calls Canada’s first ski-thru automatic teller machine (ATM) atop Whistler Mountain and outside the Roundhouse Lodge.

The stand-alone red box that houses the ATM is 8.5 feet high, weighs 4,676 pounds and is located 6,069 feet above sea level. It is able to withstand severe cold and rain. Innovations at the ATM, to make it more appealing to skiers, include holders for ski poles and gloves. There are also heating lamps.

CIBC’s initiative is part of a five-year partnership with Whistler Blackcomb, which is now a division of Colorado’s Vail Resorts thanks to a US$1.05 billion friendly takeover that finalized on October 17.

“CIBC is always looking to improve our clients’ experience, whether in a banking centre or on the slopes, and our new ski-thru ATM at Whistler Blackcomb is just one of the many ways we’re reaching clients at new heights,” said CIBC’s chief commercial officer, Stephen Forbes in a release.

Whistler Blackcomb has never before had a full-service banking sponsor but the initiative is arguably a win-win situation given that the ATM comes emblazoned with CIBC branding and is as much a marketing stunt for CIBC as it is a way to add value for its current clients and Whistler Blackcomb customers.


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Vancouver company PayByPhone acquired by Volkswagen


Vancouver-based company PayByPhone, a mobile payments service that allows drivers to forgo coins at meters by using a smartphone app to pay for parking, has been acquired by German auto giant Volkswagen.paybyphone.jpg__0x500_q95_autocrop_crop-smart_subsampling-2_upscale

“The mobile payment movement has exploded recently, and we look forward to accelerating our consumer parking and payments agenda made possible by this deal,” PayByPhone CEO Kush Parikh said in a statement.

PayByPhone was founded in 2001 before the City of Vancouver began using the service in 2006.

It services 13,000 parking spaces in Vancouver, 12,000 spaces in Seattle and 155,000 spaces in Paris, and has 12.5 million customers worldwide.

PayByPhone said it has processed more than $250 million payments in 2016 and is adding about 7,000 users daily.

Christian Dahlheim, a board member responsible for sales and marketing at Volkswagen Financial Services AG, said in a statement his organization would be using PayByPhone’s know-how to develop a “separate business field around the theme of parking.”

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Shaw’s partnership with Mobi bike-share is a win-win deal


Shaw Communications Inc.’s decision to partner with Vancouver’s Mobi by Shaw Go bike-share program for at least five years is a win-win deal, according to marketing professors.

Although the Calgary-based telecommunications giant is not revealing how much it is spending to wrap Mobi’s nearly 1,500 bikes with Shaw branding and provide the system’s 94 current stations with Wi-Fi, observers say the move is strategically smart.

Not only does Shaw get to associate its brand with an initiative that many view in a positive light, it also gets to put its brand on a swarm of moving billboards and connects the brand with a demographic that is likely to buy Shaw products such as mobile phone plans and Wi-Fi.

“They’re really painting themselves the right colour here and showing that they care about social equity,” said Simon Fraser University Beedie School of Business marketing professor Lindsay Meredith.

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Canada’s economy grows 3.5 per cent in third quarter, beating expectations

The Canadian economy grew 3.5 per cent during the third quarter, bouncing back from the second quarter slump brought on by last May’s Alberta wildfires.

The economy grew 0.9 per cent during the quarter, equivalent to an annualized rate of 3.5 per cent. That rebounds from the 1.3 per cent decrease in the second quarter, and it beats economists’ average expectations of a 3.38 per cent gain.

“Exports of energy products, rebounding from a second quarter decline, boosted growth,” StatsCan said. Exports of goods and services rose by 2.2 per cent during the third quarter, reversing a 3.9 per cent decline in the second quarter.

“Growth was driven by a 6.1 per cent increase in the energy sector, following a 5.1 per cent decline in the second quarter as a result of the Fort McMurray wildfires,” StatsCan said.

Exports of goods were up 2.3 per cent, while service exports advanced 1.4 per cent. Stephen Poloz, governor of the Bank of Canada, earlier this week touted service exports as key to returning Canada’s economy to full capacity.

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