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Posts Tagged "advocates"

8Jul

Uber in B.C.? Ride-hailing companies, advocates worried regulations too restrictive

by admin

Imagine working for a cab company, ending your shift late and not and then not being able to get a taxi to stop and take you home.

Christiana Virtue said that’s exactly what happened to her.

“I was off at three o’clock in the morning waiting for a cab and the cab drove past me multiple times,” she told CTV News.

She blamed the early morning hours and the location. The Victoria-area resident estimated over the past year, she’s probably had a cab not pick her up for various reasons about 10 or 15 times.

Like others, Virtue likes the idea of having the option to ride-share. It’s a reality that’s a step closer, as the province unveiled regulations Monday that companies will need to abide by. Yet something that wasn’t addressed in those new rules is what advocates say may be the biggest roadblock ahead.

“We are very concerned around the Class 4 licensing that will reduce the amount of the supply on the road, which is ultimately the problem and the challenge that we’ve been experiencing for so many years here in B.C.,” said Lyft Canada’s Managing Director, Aaron Zifkin.

Lyft insists the requirement for the commercial Class 4 licence and not the standard Class 5 most people have won’t mean more vehicles on the road.

B.C. Ridesharing Coalition’s Ian Tostenson told CTV the Class 4 requirement makes it easier for those already driving taxis?to make the switch — which doesn’t increase supply. He’s also worried the requirement will be too cumbersome and costly for moms and students who, in other jurisdictions, have signed up to drive.

“It could cost someone upwards of $1,000 and several months to get it and we’re concerned it’s the only place in North America, practically, that people are required to get it,” Tostenson added.

In a teleconference speaking on behalf of Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, who is ill, North Vancouver MLA Bowinn Ma said the Class 4 requirement was “non-negotiable.” Ma chaired an all-party legislature committee that recommended the standard Class 5 license.

Ma also noted the Passenger Transportation Board will start accepting ride-hailing applications as of Sept. 3 in order to have the service in place this fall. She added she believed the government had struck the right balance in terms of the existing taxi industry, passenger safety and choice.

Other regulations include requiring drivers to have criminal and driver record checks. Those operating illegal services could be fined up to $100,000 a day. A 30-cent “per-trip” fee is also being added to trips in non-accessible vehicles to help fund programs to increase accessibility. All companies will be charged an annual fee of $5,000 a year – an amount government officials said was “conservative” when compared to other jurisdictions.

The regulations announced today will come into force on Sept. 16, which means ride-hailing is a go once the PTB approves applications.

PTB will need to consider appropriate operating areas, fleet sizes, and rates. Consultations with ride-sharing companies and the taxi industry are expected to start Tuesday.

In a statement, Uber says it will review the information and “evaluate how they may impact our ability to provide British Columbians with the same ride-sharing experience they already enjoy in cities across North America…”

ICBC will offer a blanket, per kilometer insurance product that will only apply when a driver is offering the service. The rates will be detailed in an application expected July 19 and the BC Utilities Commission has been given until Aug. 8 to approve the new rates. In a technical briefing, staff said taxi insurance rates would be used as a benchmark to determine rates.

The regulations released today come after a number of studies and consultations into the issue of ride-hailing.

Earlier this year, a legislature committee issued recommendations including there be no boundaries or limits on how many ride-hailing vehicles are allowed on the road. The committee also suggested the minimum cost for ride-hailing needs to be more than the cost of taking transit.

That resulted in blowback from ride-sharing companies and organizations like MADD who argue there’s no evidence to support the claim Class 4 licenses lead to increased safety. Several other Canadian provinces allow drivers to use class 5 licenses.

Parties have fielded the issue as a political hot potato for years. The Liberals, in power for 16 years failed to introduce regulations and the NDP broke a promise to bring in ride sharing by the end of 2017. Observers and critics accuse politicians to bowing to the taxi lobby and refusing to alienate voters in key battlegrounds like Surrey.

An overview of the regulations provided by the government follows. Viewing this on our mobile beta site? Tap here for a compatible version.


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7Jun

Town Talk: Former U.S. ambassador now advocates for all Canadians

by admin

FRIENDS IN DEED: In Bob Rennie’s Chinatown office-art museum recently, 2014-2017 U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and wife Vicki released a jointly written memoir of their time here. Titled The Art of Diplomacy, Strengthening the Canada-U.S. Relationship in Times of Uncertainty, the book reflects their personal friendship with and support of Democrat former president and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama. Diplomats represent their own country’s interests above all, of course. Still, alternately authored chapters in the Heymans’ “love letter to Canada, our neighbour and best friend” show them contributing to fellowship and culture far beyond Washington’s remit and Ottawa’s political and diplomatic precincts.

Their resolve “to build bridges, not walls” resulted in a bike lane replacing post-9/11 concrete barriers at the ambassadorial residence, Lornado. They also filled the house with art, presented many eminent artists, hosted scores of public events, sparkplugged a visit by Obama, and installed honey bees who, with their queen, departed soon after they did. Conversing with and learning from ordinary folk, the Heymans criss-crossed Canada. That included days spent in Arctic-shore Tuktoyaktuk, Labrador’s Mary’s Harbour and even more remote Battle Harbour. When it came time to leave Canada, though, the news came, deplorably, in a New York Times article rather than a single word from the Trump transition team. “Vicki and I now consider ourselves citizen ambassadors for the Canada-U.S. relationship,” Heyman wrote. “We are private citizens working to make a difference.” Supporting that intent, they and Rennie donated all proceeds from their book sales to The Vancouver Sun’s Raise-a- Reader campaign.


Accompanied by daughter Ali in a simulated 1955 Chevrolet, Jen Rainnie chaired a gala to raise $900,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

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Hweely Lim, Kirsten Maxwell and Lucia Kwong surrounded multi-charity $5-million benefactor Sylvia Chen at the Heart of Gold gala.

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MISS CANADIAN PIE: Jen Rainnie drove her Chevy to the levee, but it sure wasn’t dry. In fact, the levee — more specifically the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. and Yukon’s 14th-annual Heart of Gold gala — reportedly generated $900,000 and change. Meanwhile, the Chevy that second-time gala chair Rainnie seemingly drove was actually a full-scale Styrofoam sculpture of the front end of a 1955 model. That was an epic year as a new-for-Chevrolet V-8 engine promised high performance. Rainnie, foundation chair Irene Chanin, board chair Brian Curin and all involved doubtless hope the gala will spur a similar result. That would include supporting an automated external defibrillator program planned to double the survival rate of those experiencing cardiac arrest.


Paul Armstrong heads the Crazy8s Film Society Andrew Williamson founded in 1999 and that received an outstanding-achievement Leo award.

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PICTURE PERFECT: Directors Helen Haig-Brown and Gwaai Edenshaw’s Edge of the Knife (Sgaawaay K’unna) cut through other nominees at the recent Leo Awards gala for B.C.’s film and television productions and personnel. It was named best motion picture, and Haig-Brown and Edenshaw received best-direction Leos. Director Menhaj Huda’s Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance was named best TV movie.


Walter Daroshin and wife Tina walked the red carpet at the local movie industry’s Leo Awards gala he has headed since its second running in 1997.

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Staged by the Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation of B.C., the event is nostalgic for chair Walter Daroshin. That’s because a feature film he’d executive produced, The War Between Us, won the 1996 debut running’s top award. Daroshin signed on as Leos president in 1997. Two years later, Andrew Williamson founded the Crazy8s Film Society that won this year’s outstanding-achievement Leo. Long headed by Paul Armstrong, its juried contestants shoot, edit and deliver short but sometimes superb movies in eight days.


Twins Sam and Kailey Spear made the short horror film Alien: Ore at Britannia Mine to commemorate the Alien feature film’s 40th anniversary.

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QUADS: One Crazy8’s production was written and directed by Bowen Island-raised twins Kailey and Sam Spear, and filmed by two more twins, Graham and Nelson Talbot. Nominated for six Leos, it has a robot nanny violently attack a mother regarding the care of her daughter. Keeping up the jollity, the Spears and Talbots made the short horror flick Alien: Ore in the Britannia mine. It’s the only Canadian picture among 20th Century Fox’s commissions to commemorate the original Alien’s 40th anniversary.


Tim Roddick accompanied entrepreneur-wife Madeleine Shaw at a plate-smashing benefit for the United Girls of The World Society she founded.

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SMASH BASH: You could wait for a Greek wedding to break plates. Or you could pay $20 for a plate emblazoned with the word for something you dislike — homophobia, perfectionism, say — and sling it against a wall. Attendees did that when multi-entrepreneur Madeleine Shaw fronted a fundraiser for the United Girls of the World Society she founded. The organization aids parents and caregivers “that assist in supporting adolescent girls’ development of personal empowerment, healthy peer relationships, self-esteem and body positivity.” Shaw’s accompanying husband, Tim Roddick, was newly met in 1996 when this column reported her launching a women’s apparel firm. “He had a girlfriend, and I was having unwholesome thoughts about him,” Shaw recalled. “But one thing led to another.” They married in 2001 — without smashed crockery.


City-based movie producer Tex Antonucci’s name was a consequence of animator-father Danny’s reverence for famed film cartoon creator Tex Avery.

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IN A NAME: Tex Antonucci, who co-produced the Leo Awards’ best-movie-nominated Indian Horse, was named to commemorate legendary cartoon animator Tex Avery. Antonucci’s father Danny made the cult classic Lupo The Butcher (Google it). His Ed, Edd n Eddy was possibly the last TV series to employ Walt Disney and Avery’s hand-painted-cell technique rather than computer animation. At least Danny didn’t name his son for a beloved Avery character: Bugs, Daffy, Elmer, Porky, etc.


Danny Antonucci’s TV series Ed, Edd n Eddy may have been the last one produced by hand-painted cells before digital technology triumphed.

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DOWN PARRYSCOPE: Th-th-th-that’s all, folks.

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5Jun

Advocates call for change after $2.9 million surplus revealed for BC Hydro fund

by admin

BC Hydro is sitting on a surplus of about $2.9 million in its customer crisis fund, leading to calls for the utility to reduce its take from the average customer or provide more money to those in need.

B.C. Liberal Energy Critic Greg Kyllo said if the imbalance continues in the year-old pilot program, it’s time to cut the monthly 25 cent fee in half.

“If the grant requirement or the need in the province is going to remain where it is, they should look at rolling back the contribution level in the fund,” he told CTV News Vancouver from Salmon Arm.

But social agencies who were part of the consultation around the fund in the beginning said it’s more likely that people in need don’t know about the fund and more time is necessary to get the word out.

“If they collect the money, then the program’s got to change to make sure more people are able to be helped,” said Gudrun Langolf of the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC.

The customer crisis fund was started in spring 2018 to give people short-term relief when they can’t pay their electricity bills. Customers can apply to get a grant of up to $500 to keep the lights on, and up to $600 if electricity heats their homes.

The public utility took in about 25 cents per customer per month which added up to a revenue of $4.5 million in the year since the program started, BC Hydro confirmed to CTV News.

But the agency only gave out 2,250 grants totalling $850,000.

Administration costs added up around $750,000 – leaving the $2.9 million remaining.

The news will come as a welcome relief to those who suddenly struggle to pay their hydro bills.

Some people who come into Disability Alliance B.C. are often anxious and emotional when they’re suddenly unable to pay their bills, said Shar Saremi, an advocate there.

“I’ve had people crying. I’ve had people who have experienced a loss in the family,” she said. “A lot of the time people are stressed out, anxious, really upset. They are looking for assistance, and they aren’t sure what is available for them.”

She said people are only eligible if their bills are under $1,000, which could be cutting out the people who are most in need. And because the program is in its first year, it could be undersubscribed, she said.

“A lot of people don’t know about the program, don’t know how to apply, or what kind of assistance is out there,” Saremi said.

The fund was established thanks to an order from the B.C. Utilities Commission, the utilities regulator in the province.

The pilot program is going to be examined by the regulator at the end of its first year.

“Any remaining balance in the account at the end of the pilot would be returned to residential ratepayers,” says a BCUC fact sheet. The decision on exactly what to do with the money hasn’t yet been made.

In Manitoba, a similar program is by donation. That program raised about $200,000 from customers and $60,000 in other income. It spent $199,000 on grants to applicants, but lost about $20,000 a year.

In Ontario, private utilities are expected to raise 0.12 per cent of their revenue. Across the province, those utilities gave out about $7.3 million in grants. Any unused funds in one year are rolled over to the following year.


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27Mar

Is 12 too young to work? Youth advocates slam B.C.’s lax child-labour laws

by admin

A youth advocacy group is calling on the province to tighten regulations around child labour, arguing that B.C. has some of the most lax regulations around children working in North America — and the government is now putting the question to the public. 

Currently, the minimum age of formal employment in B.C. is 12.  There are no age-specific restrictions on the time of day a child can work outside of school hours, the tasks they can do, or the industry in which they work.

“We’re seeing kids working in construction, they’re working in manufacturing and they’re working in the trades,” said Helesia Luke, communications and development coordinator of First Call B.C.

“We know this because we know that they’re getting hurt there.”

The group sent an open letter to B.C.’s Ministry of Labour, calling for a number of changes to the province’s Employment Standards Act like raising the minimum age of formal employment to 16.

They also want to ban children under 18 from doing hazardous jobs — like working with heavy equipment or on construction sites. Other “light work” would have some exemptions to the restrictions.  

It’s been an ongoing battle since the province’s labour laws were changed in 2004 but Luke said she’s optimistic this time around.

“There isn’t a single minister of labour that we have not met with to discuss this,” she told CBC’s The Early Edition.

“With this new government, we have had some signals from the minister that he is willing to look at better standards.”

The Ministry of Labour has turned to the public for input on how to modernize the Employment Standards Act. Consultations run until March 31.

Exemptions can be made for some kinds of underage ‘light work,’ Helesia Luke of First Call B.C. says. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Workplace accidents for teens

There is a “data gap” in exactly how many underage workers there are in B.C., Luke said, because Statistics Canada doesn’t track the participation of under-15s in the workforce.

The best indication First Call B.C. has at the moment is through accident claim data.

“We were shocked it was even worse than what we thought it would be,” she said.

In the last decade, WorkSafeBC has paid out more than $5 million in disability claims to 12- to 14-year-olds.

During that time, an additional 2,000 children under 14 were approved for health-care claims related to being injured in the workplace.

“We’ve heard from a young man who, when he was 12, was stripping autos in a scrap yard and spilled battery acid all over himself,” Luke said.

“He has a lifelong scar from that experience. That’s too high a price to pay when you’re 12.”

A youth advocacy group is calling on the province to tighten regulations around child labour, arguing that B.C. has some of the most lax regulations around children working in North America. 7:47

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