Recent News

Skilled worker shortage felt across B.C.

By Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun | A shortage of mechanics has resulted in cancelled runs on West Vancouver’s Blue Bus, which is struggling to keep aging buses road-worthy. The scarcity of qualified workers is being felt across the province, according to Cordell Draayers, secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. “Absolutely, we have companies that have postings unfilled because there are no people to fill them,” he said. “Prince George and the centres need qualified people, Sparwood needs people in mines, Cranbrook needs heavy-duty and truck mechanics as well as the Lower Mainland.” West Vancouver would not provide a spokesperson for Postmedia News, but the district’s director of engineering and transportation Ray Fung told the North Shore News recently that mechanical issues exacerbated by a shortage of mechanics have led to cancelled runs. “It doesn’t happen on a daily basis,” he said. “Some days can be worse than others.” There are currently eight Blue Buses that date back to 1999, and one that is 20 years old. The high cost of living on the North Shore makes it difficult to attract qualified mechanics, he said. That means when buses break down, sometimes they have to be taken out of service and the run must be cancelled. “Most of these type of employees do not live on the North Shore and they prefer not to commute,” Fung said. A mechanic’s position currently advertised by West Vancouver Blue Bus pays $36 per hour, or 70 per cent of that for an apprentice. The position has been unfilled since July. “If a heavy mechanic gets paid $40 an hour...

B.C. labour income remains strong in 2017

By Bryan Yu, Business in Vancouver | Despite easing in July, B.C.’s labour income remained solid to start 2017’s second half. Average weekly earnings sat at $941 in July, down 0.1% from June but up 3.3% year-over-year. Similarly, month-to-month non-farm payroll counts edged down but rose 3.1% from a year ago. In both cases, B.C. led all provinces in year-over-year growth, which was led by forestry and logging, utilities and mining/oil and gas in the goods sector, and transportation and warehousing, real estate and leasing, and accommodations/food services in services. While various factors contribute to headline weekly earnings, including sector composition and hours worked, the fixed-weight hourly index points suggest that most of the increase is underlying wage inflation. A tight labour market observed in low unemployment is lifting B.C. wages. Non-farm payrolls climbed across sectors. On the goods front, mining/oil and gas employment rose 12.5%, while construction and utilities are up significantly. Meanwhile, service-sector leaders include tech jobs, tourism-oriented arts/recreation and accommodations/food services. Increased wage earnings and job growth point to a stellar year for labour income gains, contributing to personal income growth of 7% this year and a 5% increase in 2018. B.C. population growth is healthy, climbing 0.35%. Seasonally adjusted July-over-July annual population rose 1.3% (59,500 persons) to 4.82 million persons. That aligned with 2016 and near the upper end of the range observed since 2000. While the overarching trend is solid, migration patterns have shifted. The net interprovincial migration trend has declined with a modest drop in inflows and higher outflow. Cumulative net July-to-July interprovincial migration came in at 16,100 persons compared with 26,570 a...

RCMP officers screened Quebec border crossers on religion and values, questionnaire shows

By Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star | RCMP officers have been screening Muslim refugee claimants entering from the U.S. at Quebec’s Roxham Rd. crossing, asking how they feel about women who do not wear the hijab, how many times they pray, and their opinion about the Taliban and the Islamic State, a questionnaire obtained by the Star shows. The 41 questions appear to specifically target Muslims, as no other religious practices are mentioned, nor terrorist groups with non-Muslim members. Refugee lawyers representing the more than 12,000 men, women and children who have crossed from New York this year at the informal crossing on Roxham Rd., near the Quebec town of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, have heard stories of profiling, but it wasn’t until a client of Toronto lawyer Clifford McCarten was given his own questionnaire last month — seemingly by mistake — that there was proof of the practice. RCMP spokesperson Annie Delisle told the Star Wednesday that these questions were part of an “interview guide” that was used by officers in Quebec. “Due to the high volume of irregular migrants in Quebec, an interview guide was developed as an operation tool to streamline processing and provide consistency in the RCMP’s preliminary risk assessments,” Delisle wrote in an email to the Star. Read...

Vancouver’s ethnic Chinese irked by inequality, tax avoidance

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun | When urban planner Andy Yan spent an hour last week on a Fairchild radio talk show, every Cantonese- and Mandarin-speaking person who called was irate about growing housing inequality and tax avoidance. “It really surprised me. The biggest lesson out of it was that Chinese-speaking people are as concerned as everyone about fairness and transparency and accountability,” Yan said. The housing researcher said Chinese-Canadians appear as worked up as others about the growing gap between the house-rich and the rent-poor in this metropolis of 2.4 million people, in which one in five people have Chinese origins. Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, found in a study of the 2016 census that Metro Vancouver led the 10 most-populous cities in Canada in having the highest percentage (16.5 per cent) of residents living in low-income households. Yan’s study, in addition to confirming there are genuinely low-income city neighbourhoods, also added evidence to rising worries about Lower Mainland households that appear to under-report income. “It’s a total mind-spin,” Yan said. “In Richmond, it seems to be a special concern,” he said, explaining how residents of the municipality, who are 50 per cent ethnic Chinese, are concerned many households may be under-reporting incomes to avoid taxes. In a large swath of northwest Richmond, centred around Westminster Highway and Gilpin Road, which is replete with new high-end condos, 33 to 50 per cent of residents report living in low-income households. The Canadian average is 14 per cent. Yan said his study revealed parts of West Vancouver and the west side of Vancouver are also sharp anomalies,...

NYC to get huge immigration-themed exhibit by famed artist

By Metro News | NEW YORK — An enormous exhibition by the activist artist Ai Weiwei, designed to draw attention to the world’s refugee crisis, is going on view at some 300 sites around New York City. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” presented by the Public Art Fund, will be open to the public from Thursday until Feb. 11. A global trend of “trying to separate us by colour , race, religion, nationality” is a blow “against freedom, against humanity,” Ai said at a Manhattan press conference Tuesday. “That’s why I made a work related to this issue.” Ai, now based in Berlin, is considered one of the world’s most successful artists. He spent his childhood in a remote Chinese community after his father, a poet, was exiled by Communist authorities. He came to New York City as an art student in the 1980s, then returned to his homeland in 1993, using his art and public platform to address political issues. He was alternately encouraged, tolerated and harassed, spending time in detention and being barred for years from leaving the country. Since his passport was reinstated in 2015, Ai and his team have travelled to 23 countries and territories and more than 40 refugee camps while making a documentary, “Human Flow.” The New York exhibition will include three large-scale works and ancillary works throughout the city. Ai expressed a special affinity for Manhattan’s Lower East Side, his former home. Art will be incorporated onto flagpoles, bus shelters, lampposts, newsstands and rooftops. Banners will bear portraits of immigrants from different periods, including historic pictures from Ellis Island. There also will...