Archive for the ‘British Columbia’ Category

Vancouver unaffordability is thanks largely to government

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010


I was aware of this story before, and just dismissed it as completely unsurprising. It turns out that living in Vancouver is expensive:

Vancouver had the world’s least affordable housing market last year, according to a report that puts the blame on urban land-use policies designed to prevent sprawl.

The Demographia International report released Monday looked at 272 metropolitan markets in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

They had the simplest method to calculate the values–find the median (or the 50th percentile) of homes in Vancouver and divide it by the median household income.


Vancouver city of kings but short on thrones

Thursday, November 12th, 2009


The coercive spirit of the 2010 Winter Olympics strikes again! Support us, or you hate Canada. This time, it’s all about a new definition of going for the gold:

Concerned that Olympic visitors will be frustrated by a lack of public washrooms, a downtown business association is asking its members to throw open their washroom doors.

Businesses should take down signs indicating washrooms are for customers only, said Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, which represents businesses in a 90-block area downtown.

Ah yes, the typical “when you work hard, we all win” attitude of the Olympics has permeated to the DVBIA, or I should say “trickled down.”

“We’re not saying them to that you’re going to benefit financially, but it’s just being a good host,” Gauthier said. “Open your washrooms up and make them available to the general public.”

But the move could help downtown businesses in the long run, as happy visitors may return and pass along word of their good trip to others, he said. Each year, eight million tourists visit the downtown area.

“Hey, Sally! Remember when we went to the Vancouver downtown and they let us use the bathroom for nothing? Let’s go back there based on that one minor detail!”

This is Vancouver we are talking about, where the major public washroom is known as “the sidewalk.” The citizens of Van are fortunate that it rains approximately 350 days a year here, otherwise we would be knee-deep in it. Plus if you lay a picture of Jesus Christ on the sidewalk before doing your business, you actually qualify for a BC arts grant.

Why is the burden being shifted to the private sector? Why else? Piss-poor planning:

Vanoc will provide 1,600 portable toilets, mostly outside venues and 146 at “live sites” downtown, Vanoc said earlier.

Salt Lake City provided 2,600 portable toilets for the 2006 Olympics.

I guess it stands to reason that if you are planning a huge event like the Olympics, it’s best to severely underestimate the number of facilities needed to accommodate the visitors. Apparently the businesspeople aren’t getting squeezed enough when it comes to taxes, so now they get to enjoy homeless people barricading themselves in the bathrooms and sleeping for thirteen hours.

The BIA was already helpful in getting public toilets installed in Vancouver, teaming up with local police and even something called the Vancouver Network of Drug Users. That’s some pretty interesting company they keep, and is probably the large reason why they are so motivated to keep the streets waste-free. This Charles Gauthier bugs me, too. He’s the executive director of the DVBIA, who thinks we need butlers in the bathrooms:

“[We're] also looking at the possibility of having a greeter at the front door to help get people into the right lineup, be it a washroom lineup or a lineup to get a beverage or a food item,” said Charles Gauthier, the association’s executive director.

Yes, on top of having to mop the floor, some kid at a fast food joint now has to direct people who can’t tell the obvious difference between the wait counter and a toilet. (Actual quote from Charles Gauthier: “And really, people are going to shoot drugs wherever they want.” It sure does sound like it, Charles.)

Maybe instead of imposing the matters of waste on the people of Vancouver, the Olympic planning committees should have to plan on their own a little better. Maybe also the DVBIA can take the side of its members for once and stop acting as an advocate for more accommodations to the homeless, the number one nuisance to businesses in Vancouver.

Subsidizing companies now so they might pay taxes later

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009


Well, they finally come out of the woodwork–the businesses that support the harmonized sales tax (HST) being introduced to British Columbia. Apparently Dracula John Allan, president and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries, decided to step up and throw his cape into the ring:

Switching to a harmonized value-added tax is one of the best things the government could have done to help the ailing forest industry, John Allan, president and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries, told The Vancouver Sun editorial board last Friday.

With lumber prices lower than the cost of producing it, the forest industry is “burning cash,” Allan said. But with the softwood lumber agreement in place, the government’s hands are tied on how it can help.

So harmonizing the tax, which is allowed under the softwood lumber agreement because it applies to everyone, “is a huge huge deal for forestry,” Allan said.

Speaking of huge huge deals, it might be worth noting that the forestry industry has received over $1 billion this year in direct aid from the federal government, $420 to $440 million going to the British Columbian producers alone. The president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada is also asking for guarantees–not subsidies!–for the forestry industry.

People like John Allan can’t just come out and admit a quid pro quo, but all of the signs are there. An industry interested in improving “efficiency” is doing everything but that. Rather than simply stopping production, if they really are “burning money” as they are claiming, they want to continue running the Potemkin mill and approaching the government pleading poverty. The article points out that the BC government claims that the construction industry, which uses a lot of lumber, will be saving an incredible amount of money. However, with the HST burden shifted to the consumer, people will be far more reluctant to buy any of BC houses already over 50% higher than the Canadian average. So with the heavily subsidized lumber producers, we should be building a lot of houses that no one would want. I’m hoping there is some sort of surplus system designed to drive down housing prices, but isn’t that a little too close to price control?

Premier Gordon Campbell’s ideas of lateral-shift taxation are not helping anyone. If he was interested in really helping out BC’s forestry industry, he would simply drop corporate taxes. Good luck getting a sweetheart deal on debt relief and direct subsidies for that new first house for the average taxpayer in BC. (And I’m still waiting on my $100 cheque.)

It wasn’t too long ago that the forestry industry, among other industries, were protesting the carbon tax, which will rise to $30 a tonne by 2012. Now that the industries are going to enjoy a tax break, they suddenly like Campbell’s tax ideas. Amazing timing, isn’t it? Meanwhile, average folks will pay more tax from the HST and already pay more tax from the carbon tax. Bear in mind that the HST was such a brilliant idea that the Campbell government specifically swore it was not on their radar right until last May, right after the election.

Try to imagine that this as close as it gets to a conservative mindset in British Columbia. Businesses that are likely going to be dependent on government handouts will have no incentive to modernize or become more efficient and competitive, but they make the perfect puppet for when the government is actually raising taxes to make it seem like we’re paying them anyway.

Filled with ink, or filled with pride

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009


The Vancouver Police Department can’t keep the graffiti off of downtown buildings, to the point where they have to cave and give the vandals their own walls, but they can wipe out your intricate gang tattoo for free! Or in taxpayer parlance, for “free.”

The inky-dinky-do will happen only if the police are able to get some serious information out of you. It’s like Guns For Toys, really. Maybe more of a Rat For Tat:

Only gang markings would be eligible for removal.

“It could be anything, really, that indicates you are part and parcel or a member of a criminal organization or a gang,” [Sgt. Shinder Kirk] said. “It may be words coupled with a pictogram of some sort. It may just be a pictogram or initials.”

So only gang markings that could be anything. That clears it up for me. The cost might be as much as $10,000 each for the larger back and neck tattoos.

Kirk is the Media Relations Officer of the Integrated Gang Task Force, a wing of the RCMP dedicated to fighting gang activity in BC. He was definitely right about the proliferation of such programs in the United States, such as in Dallas and Phoenix and Modesto, California, among other places.

Meanwhile, consider the burden placed on bartenders to report drunk drivers:

The city’s Main Street bar has always been strict about calling cabs for clientele who need a safe ride home, she said. But after a regular customer was killed in a car crash two months ago after having a few drinks, bartenders have put a “death grip” on customers they suspect are impaired.

Why don’t tattoo artists have the same responsibility to report obvious United Nations or Red Scorpions tattoos? Wouldn’t that be a quick way of finding out who the gang members are? I have no sympathy for the tattoo artist, now that the public has to pick up the tab for their handiwork.

If the police are serious about curbing gang violence, it might be better off by pre-empting the need that young, fatherless males have for that sense of unity and the pack mentality. Assemble a youth group similar to the Boy Scouts, but call it something less inflammatory. (All that talk of God the Supreme Being might upset the tender BC flakes here.) Call it the “Youth Police Community Strategy” or something sufficiently confounding and hire the young boys for the summer to do police work. They can pick up trash in the neighbourhood, straighten up police offices, and paint over graffiti. (What better way to get them to hate it?) If they get a small amount of money out of it, get an idea of how the justice system works, asume a certain amount of responsibility, and get more in touch with their community, it might make the lure of joining a gang lessen.

It might be perverted into a boondoggle like Obama’s “volunteer” program, but it might also keep the kids off the street and out of gangs. Giving a young man enough pride in himself not to want to get a tattoo in the first place is a better step than remedial carrots for informants risking gang retribution to the gang member and those around them.

The message: buy, buy, buy! Before it’s too late!

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009


The news has been out there for a while now that British Columbia was considering a harmonized sales tax. If there is a bad idea BC hasn’t tried yet, it just means we haven’t heard of it before! I think Ontario is considering the same but that’s of little concern to anyone here.

There are a lot of arguments in favour of the HST, most of which fall around “simplifying” things for the retailers. Here’s how difficult it is: some things get charged provincial sales tax and some don’t. THIS IS WAY TOO COMPLICATED! Instead, all of those exempted goods and services are now no longer exempt, because instead of falling under the jurisdiction of either the federal or provincial taxation, they are subject to both. This is how you get away with calling it a “harmonization” instead of a “hike.”

The largest costs to people will be those trying to buy a new home:

Builders and consumer groups say B.C.’s new harmonized sales tax is a “disaster” that will add $36,000 to the cost of a new $800,000 home.

Opposition is building to the province’s plans to add a seven-per-cent levy on goods and services that had been exempt from provincial tax.

“My own company just survived one of the worst recessions in a long time. I would think twice about paying an extra $36,000 house tax,” Bob Dominick, vice-president of WestStone Properties, said Sunday.

There is something to consider–the redistributive nature of governement, who are actually offereing a tax rebate, as long as you remember to claim it:

Taking the rebate into consideration, the actual increase in tax on new homes will be two per cent on the first $400,000 and seven per cent thereafter.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has the averge price of a home at $489,007 for last year. That makes almost $15,000 on a new home if it’s the average price. But not to worry, as the price of the home will be dropping before you know it when the tax savings for construction companies will be passed onto customers. So in essence the government has instantaneously set the taxes higher but the price reduction has to be “phased in” by private industry when they eventually get costs down.

How’s the tax savings going for you construction guys so far? After all, now you have a new carbon tax to contend with:

That is why the B.C. Government is taking action. On July 1, 2009 the revenue neutral tax on carbon emissions increased by $5 per tonne, which will result in an increase of 1.17 cents per litre on gasoline. By law, government must show how all of the carbon tax revenue flows back to individuals and businesses as tax reductions.

Now, do you think that construction companies and manufacturers have to use trucks? Do lumber producers have to cut down a tree now and then? The government is already taking a nice juicy chunk out of them but offering them eventual tax realizations. However, if too many people just aren’t going to venture out and buy a new home, how will this translate into any savings? Making the sale is the first point of contact for new homes, not the last. The BC government has the tax incentive problem completely backwards.

If you want to make the tax system less complicated, eliminate certain taxes and make an overall reduction. Eventually you might find the tax rate that will cause revenue to drop faster than economic growth can supply. Don’t count on the Liberals to cut corporate taxes when faced with a “budget crisis”, either. Here are some of the unrealistic goals for this new tax structure:

It’s estimated the HST will remove over $2 billion in costs for B.C. businesses. That includes an estimated $1.9 billion of sales tax removed from business inputs, which enhances competitiveness, increases investment and productivity and, ultimately, increases prosperity.

Right, but the total revenue for all sales tax is roughly $5 billion, so if they are really able to trim another $2 billion in waste from that system, the tax code must be absolutely broken. You can even see from the budget here that the government actually counts exemptions from the sales tax as costs!

Premier Campbell promised no HST before the election, which in retrospect was brilliant because no one would have elected him on a shift-and-hike tax scheme.