Youth pay the price for British Columbia’s real estate crisis

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Raymond Wong is a member of HALT – Housing Action for Local Taxpayers.

Resorts need young people. They are needed to tend bar and wait tables. They are needed to landscape and to provide strength for labour work. They are needed to fix computers, check in hotel guests and to guide visitors throughout the property. At times, they are allowed to sell real estate, but most often are not able to buy real estate themselves.

Sound familiar?

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British Columbia is at a crossroads. Are we a resort province? The path we’ve taken over the past 10 years would suggest that’s the goal. From Parksville to Prince George to Penticton to Port Moody to Powell River, young people are faced with an uncertain housing situation primarily a result of the heavy influence of outside money in the Lower Mainland real estate market. Notice I didn’t say foreign or overseas, I said outside. If you analyze the census data, it becomes incredibly clear that a large portion of the money being used to purchase real estate in Vancouver has not been earned in Vancouver.

We are told that outside buyers are a small but significant portion of the purchases in the market. But these statistics don’t include properties where the beneficial ownership is transferred via a bare trust after being purchased by a numbered company. They don’t include homes purchased by money laundered through casinos or banking channels and then transferred to local citizens. Quite simply, these statistics are inaccurate and incredibly misleading.

But now we have a new NDP minority government, supported by the BC Greens. Both ran on platforms that stated the goal was to make life more affordable for the average citizen, with a particular focus on fixing our out of control housing market. What we have received since the NDP took control in Victoria on July 18, 2017, has been inaction, and smoke and mirrors.

While the housing crisis gets worse every day, we hear Premier John Horgan speaking in front of real estate developers and taking a cue straight from his predecessor, Christy Clark, talking about protecting “earned equity.” We hear the Housing Minister Selina Robinson answer a question about foreign-buyer numbers: “You know, I haven’t thought about that.” And we hear Finance Minister Carole James stand up in the legislature and talk about a “comprehensive housing strategy” coming in February.

Why the wait?

Every day, someone in British Columbia is faced with a rental increase that has the potential to force them into homelessness. Every day, a hard-working person with an above-average income is faced with a decision on how far they will have to commute to work every day if they want to purchase a property. And every day, a couple is forced to put their goal of having a family on hold, waiting for some kind of government action that will increase the affordability of the primary expense in everyone’s life, their home.

When we hear Mr. Horgan talk like Ms. Clark about earned equity, we should all be asking how someone has “earned” a 75-per-cent appreciation in property value over three years. Most real estate economists would tell you that someone earns an average appreciation of 2 per cent to 3 per cent a year by paying their mortgage. The other 66 per cent to 69 per cent is purely a lottery win.

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Another question I like to ask naysayers is to provide me an example of a real estate market that has appreciated 75 per cent in three years with stagnant local wages and a reduction in population growth. Because if you look at the census, that has occurred in the Lower Mainland.

The trickle-down argument usually revolves around this equity being used to start businesses. We are supposed to believe that someone in their 50s or 60s sitting on enormous wealth is now going to use that money to start a business. But what about the young person who has a great business idea, youthful initiative and an appetite to succeed, but doesn’t have housing stability or any disposable income? And are there any data at all to suggest that the aging population that primarily benefits from higher real estate prices is using that money to start businesses? No, there aren’t.

If you want to encourage entrepreneurship, you put more money into the pockets of young people, plain and simple. Those approaching retirement are focused on that next stage of their lives.

The housing affordability crisis in B.C. is a massive drain on our economy, with no end in sight. Every day, it becomes more expensive to buy or rent, which means a millennial has less money to pursue entrepreneurship. The trickle-down argument has been made by Ms. Clark and the Liberal Party for years. Will Mr. Horgan fall prey to the same thing?

Raymond Wong is a member of HALT – Housing Action for Local Taxpayers. Resorts need young people. They are needed to tend bar and wait tables. They are needed to landscape and to provide strength for labour work. They are needed to fix computers, check in hotel guests and to guide visitors throughout the property. […]

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Comment: Apprentice programs pay for themselves

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Re: “Crunch coming for skilled tradespeople,” column, Feb. 4.

Geoff Johnson’s excellent column highlighted what is perhaps the worst-kept secret in construction: Skilled trades workers are well-trained, well-paid and, if they belong to a union, well-positioned right into retirement with generous pension plans.

So why is there still a trades shortage?

The past 16 years of B.C. Liberal rule are one big reason. The Liberals systematically dismantled the apprenticeship system by eliminating compulsory trades and deregulating certification requirements. In 2002, the Liberals slashed training support, increased tuition for apprentices, cut staffing at the provincial training authority and closed regional training offices across the province.

This had a many-fold impact. In addition to declining Red Seal completion rates, the elimination of compulsory trades removed the incentive for employers to move apprentices through the trades training system. Why? Because work that could previously be performed only by a journeyperson or apprentice was open to anyone off the street.

While these changes were welcomed by some organizations, such as the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the lower wages that came with the matching decline in skill have contributed to the worker shortage we see today.

The underground economy also contributes to today’s trades shortage, and it hits you, dear reader, directly in the pocketbook. A 2001 joint-compliance team of representatives from the B.C. Ministry of Labour, Human Resources Development Canada and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency estimated the B.C. government was losing $44.5 million annually in unpaid taxes, and WorkSafe B.C. was losing $40.2 million annually in unpaid premiums in the residential-construction industry alone. What would that be worth in 2018 dollars?

The underground economy has other costs, too. Legitimate businesses have a difficult time competing with unscrupulous contractors whose prices don’t include the requisite payroll deductions and other required taxes. In addition, legitimate apprentices are denied employment opportunities, which doubly undermines the role of the Industry Training Authority to grow the ranks of certified tradespeople. Why hire skilled tradespeople when you can choose cheap day labour or attract all the “man with truck” posters on Craigslist?

In the interest of brevity, I won’t even bother going into the lack of apprenticeship opportunities on provincial and federal infrastructure jobs. In our view, public infrastructure projects that you pay for should benefit your community, which is as easy as instituting hiring provisions for qualified local residents, apprentices, Indigenous Peoples and women in trades. Some rotten food for thought: Only 11 of the 1,681 workers on Site C in November were apprentices.

To close, I echo Johnson’s lament on the high cost of post-secondary education. While a bachelor’s degree might cost $22,000 or more, not including books and fees, trades students earn while they learn and qualify for employment insurance, up to $4,000 in federal government grants, $2,000 in provincial tax credits and, if they belong to a union, bursaries.

So if you know someone considering a career path, stick this commentary under a magnet on the refrigerator for them. By the way, refrigeration mechanics make $43 an hour, not including benefits, at the end of their apprenticeship, and end up $1,195 ahead with their schooling, thanks to government grants.

Dave Holmes is president of the B.C. Building Trades Council.

Re: “Crunch coming for skilled tradespeople,” column, Feb. 4. Geoff Johnson’s excellent column highlighted what is perhaps the worst-kept secret in construction: Skilled trades workers are well-trained, well-paid and, if they belong to a union, well-positioned right into retirement with generous pension plans. So why is there still a trades shortage? The past 16 years […]

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Career session for students set for next week

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WorkBC’s Find Your Fit tour will be in Nelson next week to give students hands-on experience with career-planning tools.

The event, open to the public, will be at LV Rogers Secondary school on Wednesday, Feb. 21, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“The Find Your Fit tour helps British Columbians get-hands on career experience,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “From carpentry to software engineering, this event gives people in Nelson a chance to explore some of the many high-demand jobs available in B.C. within the next decade.”

Students can visit up to 16 career-activity stations where they can take part in hands-on, career-related activities like creating digital graphics, completing an electrical circuit and taking someone’s blood pressure. These activities will help students uncover their strengths and interests, giving them the knowledge they need to get started with their career planning. They can then move on to a labour market information station, where they can dig deeper into a career of their choice.

Industries such as tourism, tech and health care will need a broad range of skilled British Columbians. The Find Your Fit tour stop in Nelson is a unique opportunity to get insight into in-demand careers from a diverse range of industries that are important to building a strong, sustainable and innovative 21st-century economy that works for everyone.

“Whether you know what you want to do or you’re still figuring it out, the Find Your Fit tour has all the info you need to help you on your career path,” said Michelle Mungall, MLA for Nelson–Creston. “With an expected 917,000 job openings in B.C. over the coming years, this tour is a great way for everyone in the community to get a head start on getting the training they need to take advantage of the high demand.”

WorkBC’s Find Your Fit tour will be in Nelson next week to give students hands-on experience with career-planning tools. The event, open to the public, will be at LV Rogers Secondary school on Wednesday, Feb. 21, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. “The Find Your Fit tour helps British Columbians get-hands on career experience,” said […]

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Campus shutdown at Capilano University averted after workers reach tentative deal

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SEIU Local 2 cleaners at Capilano University were set to walk off the job Monday in protest of poverty wages   

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 16, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Capilano University cleaners reached a tentative deal late Thursday with their Employer, Best Service Pros, as they began mobilizing for strike actions scheduled for Monday.

“We feel very proud and this truly is a victory for us that we all fought hard for,” said Delia Tanza, who is a cleaner and member of the Bargaining Committee. “Today was the first time after months of bargaining that Best started taking us seriously and were able to offer us something more than poverty wages.”

Last Tuesday, the cleaners unanimously voted yes to take strike action and returned to the bargaining table in a legal position to do so.

“The most rewarding part is the power we felt as workers knowing that we have the campus community behind us and that they were ready to stand next to us if we had to walk off the job,” said Analou Espina, another member of the Bargaining Committee.   

Early Thursday, faculty and staff unions at Capilano University, including the Capilano Faculty Association, MoveUP and CUPE 1004, committed to standing in solidarity with the cleaners and honouring their picket line during a coordinating meeting set up by the BC Federation of Labour.

“The Capilano Faculty Association stands in solidarity with SEIU Local 2 and calls on university management to implement a policy that supports Living Wages and Benefits for all direct and contracted workers on campus, as a broader ‘Justice for all Campus Workers’ initiative,” said Brent Calvert, President of the Capilano Faculty Association.

The cleaners’ union drive with SEIU Local 2 and commencement of bargaining had also given rise to a larger campus-wide campaign calling for a Living Wage and Benefits for all direct and contracted workers on campus.

The cleaners at Capilano University have been in first contract negotiations with their Employer, Best Service Pros, since September.

“There were definitely times when we felt tired and frustrated, but this all goes to show when workers come together and refuse to give up, we can make real gains for ourselves and our families,” Tanza added.

Last February, despite an anti-union boss fight and fear campaign, the cleaners at Capilano University voted to unionize with SEIU Local 2. Best Service Pros put up numerous legal objections at the Labour Board to prevent workers from joining SEIU, but their ballots were ordered unsealed in June after a positive decision from the BC Labour Board.

SEIU Local 2 is engaged with organizing Best Service Pros workers across the province. 

SEIU’s Justice for Janitors is a movement of workers that has successfully organized to improve wages, benefits, and job security for over 7,000 janitors across Canada. SEIU’s goal is to organize all janitors in BC, so together, workers can raise industry standards and reverse the race to the bottom.

For more information, please visit www.justiceforjanitors.ca

The Service Employees International Union is the largest and fastest growing union in North America, with 100,000 workers in Canada and two million workers across Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico.

Contact Information

Christine Bro – 778-996-4008, cbro@seiulocal2.ca

SEIU Local 2 cleaners at Capilano University were set to walk off the job Monday in protest of poverty wages    VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 16, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Capilano University cleaners reached a tentative deal late Thursday with their Employer, Best Service Pros, as they began mobilizing for strike actions scheduled for Monday. […]

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This BC family is still fighting the 2017 wildfire – Agassiz

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When a family is used to facing adversity on its own, accepting help can produce overwhelming feelings.

So it is with the Laskas, who are rebuilding their business and property that were destroyed in the summer’s wildfire.

“It’s so hard,” said Irena Laska, through tears. “You feel so humbled. You feel so thankful, but you feel so bad.”

The family has operated Laska’s Flooring in the Princeton area since 1997, and nine years ago moved the business from town to their acreage on Summer’s Creek Road. No stranger to disasters, they lost their first downtown storefront when a truck drove through the front window, and had to give up a second location after someone died in an adjacent rental with consequences that left the building uninhabitable.

“We got fed up and moved the business up here,” said George Laska.

The business, including a showroom and workshop, burned to the ground July 7, 2017 when fire consumed their property, destroying numerous other outbuildings and coming just feet from the house.

The fire, when it came, “sounded just like a train and then it swallowed us up.”

Reluctantly, Irena evacuated but George refused to leave his land, home and animals.

“Not unless my eyebrows were on fire,” he said.

“I couldn’t run away and leave everything again.” That sentiment has deep meaning for this family.

Related: Climate adaptation needed, B.C. auditor general says

Related: Police continue to investigate Elephant Hill wildfire

The Laskas fled Czechoslovakia almost 30 years ago. Under Communist government watch for refusing to vote in a predetermined election, they feared for their safety and for the future of their three children.

In order to get out of the country they had to pretend they were taking part in a government sanctioned holiday to Yugoslavia. As part of the subterfuge they could carry little money, and none of their possessions.

“We came to Canada with three children and $200.”

Every member of the family contributed to the building of the Laska home, in which they take great pride. George cut the trees from their own land, and pulled them with horses. The couple now looks fondly at pictures of Irena and the kids – there were eventually five – stripping bark off the logs and operating equipment.

“It’s easy building a house if you have money, but building it without money – that shows who you are,” said George.

When they moved the business to the same piece of land, they were unable to reasonably purchase insurance because of the previous claims and the property’s distance from fire protection.

“I made a decision and decided to live with the consequences,” said George.

The consequences turned out to be between $130,000 and $150,000 of uninsured losses last summer.

George and his son were able to save some of the business’s stock, but they lost tools and the showroom, equipment and several vehicles.

In the fall George sold timber from a portion of their property to help pay for the rebuilding, and that was when Tri-Valley Construction Limited stepped in. The company was logging in the area and cleared and shipped the Laskas’ trees. They even left some equipment behind so George and his son could raise the walls of the new workshop.

Parkes Construction, the company that built the original showroom then turned up, rescheduling other jobs to help George, and offering to defer payment until the family is able to afford it.

“They just said ‘don’t worry about it for now.’ I couldn’t believe it…They do very high quality work. They are booked ahead for two years.”

The Laskas also said they could not have managed without the help of neighbour Paul Beregovoy, who assisted the family with food, money and physical labour in the days and even months following the fire.

“I would like to thank him for this,” said George.

Laska Flooring continues to operate and the couple hopes that this year they can complete their new showroom.

“And we just want to say thank you. We don’t know how. But we want this to be about thanking these people.”

Related: Fires used to be much more common according to UBC research

To report a typo, email:
publisher@similkameenspotlight.com.


andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

When a family is used to facing adversity on its own, accepting help can produce overwhelming feelings. So it is with the Laskas, who are rebuilding their business and property that were destroyed in the summer’s wildfire. “It’s so hard,” said Irena Laska, through tears. “You feel so humbled. You feel so thankful, but you […]

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This BC family is still fighting the 2017 wildfire

Cupe News 0 No Comments

When a family is used to facing adversity on its own, accepting help can produce overwhelming feelings.

So it is with the Laskas, who are rebuilding their business and property that were destroyed in the summer’s wildfire.

“It’s so hard,” said Irena Laska, through tears. “You feel so humbled. You feel so thankful, but you feel so bad.”

The family has operated Laska’s Flooring in the Princeton area since 1997, and nine years ago moved the business from town to their acreage on Summer’s Creek Road. No stranger to disasters, they lost their first downtown storefront when a truck drove through the front window, and had to give up a second location after someone died in an adjacent rental with consequences that left the building uninhabitable.

“We got fed up and moved the business up here,” said George Laska.

The business, including a showroom and workshop, burned to the ground July 7, 2017 when fire consumed their property, destroying numerous other outbuildings and coming just feet from the house.

The fire, when it came, “sounded just like a train and then it swallowed us up.”

Reluctantly, Irena evacuated but George refused to leave his land, home and animals.

“Not unless my eyebrows were on fire,” he said.

“I couldn’t run away and leave everything again.” That sentiment has deep meaning for this family.

Related: Climate adaptation needed, B.C. auditor general says

Related: Police continue to investigate Elephant Hill wildfire

The Laskas fled Czechoslovakia almost 30 years ago. Under Communist government watch for refusing to vote in a predetermined election, they feared for their safety and for the future of their three children.

In order to get out of the country they had to pretend they were taking part in a government sanctioned holiday to Yugoslavia. As part of the subterfuge they could carry little money, and none of their possessions.

“We came to Canada with three children and $200.”

Every member of the family contributed to the building of the Laska home, in which they take great pride. George cut the trees from their own land, and pulled them with horses. The couple now looks fondly at pictures of Irena and the kids – there were eventually five – stripping bark off the logs and operating equipment.

“It’s easy building a house if you have money, but building it without money – that shows who you are,” said George.

When they moved the business to the same piece of land, they were unable to reasonably purchase insurance because of the previous claims and the property’s distance from fire protection.

“I made a decision and decided to live with the consequences,” said George.

The consequences turned out to be between $130,000 and $150,000 of uninsured losses last summer.

George and his son were able to save some of the business’s stock, but they lost tools and the showroom, equipment and several vehicles.

In the fall George sold timber from a portion of their property to help pay for the rebuilding, and that was when Tri-Valley Construction Limited stepped in. The company was logging in the area and cleared and shipped the Laskas’ trees. They even left some equipment behind so George and his son could raise the walls of the new workshop.

Parkes Construction, the company that built the original showroom then turned up, rescheduling other jobs to help George, and offering to defer payment until the family is able to afford it.

“They just said ‘don’t worry about it for now.’ I couldn’t believe it…They do very high quality work. They are booked ahead for two years.”

The Laskas also said they could not have managed without the help of neighbour Paul Beregovoy, who assisted the family with food, money and physical labour in the days and even months following the fire.

“I would like to thank him for this,” said George.

Laska Flooring continues to operate and the couple hopes that this year they can complete their new showroom.

“And we just want to say thank you. We don’t know how. But we want this to be about thanking these people.”

Related: Fires used to be much more common according to UBC research

To report a typo, email:
publisher@similkameenspotlight.com.


andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

When a family is used to facing adversity on its own, accepting help can produce overwhelming feelings. So it is with the Laskas, who are rebuilding their business and property that were destroyed in the summer’s wildfire. “It’s so hard,” said Irena Laska, through tears. “You feel so humbled. You feel so thankful, but you […]

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BC’s construction industry continues to boom despite skilled labour shortage

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More than half of B.C.’s contractors are expecting more work than last year, according to an industry survey — if they can find workers with the appropriate skills.

A new survey from the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. also expects construction workers’ wages to increase almost 10 per cent over the next two years.

“The message is clear: if you want to work in construction, there’s a job out there for you,” said ICBA CEO Chris Gardner in a statement.

Trades in high demand

ICBA surveyed contractors across the province, asking about their business expectations for the next year.

Survey respondents almost universally said they’re having trouble finding skilled workers, especially tradespeople.

“The need is intense,” said Gardner in a news release. “Every single glass company we surveyed this year said they needed more glaziers.”

As for other trades, 93 per cent of employers said they’re having trouble finding pipefitters, 91 per cent said they’re lacking sheet metal workers, and 89 per cent need more electricians and plumbers.

The reported shortages have increased significantly over last year, up more than 60 per cent for pipefitters and concrete finishers.

Overall, 75 per cent of companies reported a shortage in trades workers this year, compared to 59 per cent last year.

More work for more money

Fifty-three per cent of contractors surveyed say they expect more work than last year in 2018. Forty-three per cent expect work volumes to stay the same, and only four per cent expect it to decrease.

Among contractors that build high-rise residential buildings, 67 per cent are expecting their work volume to increase.

Companies are also expecting to pay their employees more. Survey respondents are expecting to increase wages by 4.5 per cent across all trades in 2018, and 5.1 per cent in 2019.

In contrast, inflation for those years is expected to be 1.79 and 2.06 per cent, respectively.

According to ICBA, about 225,000 British Columbians work in construction, and the industry generates about 10 per cent of the province’s GDP.

More than half of B.C.’s contractors are expecting more work than last year, according to an industry survey — if they can find workers with the appropriate skills. A new survey from the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. also expects construction workers’ wages to increase almost 10 per cent over the next two […]

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BC throne speech ‘turns the corner on 16 years of neglect’ – BCGEU

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 “If the government delivers on their commitments, we will have turned the corner on 16 years of neglect for the public services that British Columbians rely on.” — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President

Vancouver (15 Feb. 2018) — The NDP government in B.C. delivered a Speech from the Throne that isn’t perfect, but it starts to repair the damage done to public services by the previous government, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).

NDP government in B.C. introduces progressive policies on public services

“I’ve witnessed many throne speeches, but this is the first time I’ve seen a real commitment to progressive policies that will make people’s lives better,” said Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President. “If the government delivers on their commitments, we will have turned the corner on 16 years of neglect for the public services that British Columbians rely on.”

“The central themes of affordability, housing and child care resonate with our members, who both provide and rely on these services. British Columbia has an extremely high cost of living, and government initiatives to help families access quality, affordable services is welcome news,” said Smith.

“The commitment to fix public services that people count on is extremely important for our members and the public. Under the previous government, public services were dramatically reduced and left to erode for the last 16 years. Our environment, natural resources and social service sectors urgently need significant new investment to reverse the decades-long decline in service levels.” 

BCGEU/NUPGE urges government to make life better for more than 1%

Smith continued saying, “It’s a long list, but areas that we believe need immediate attention include: child protection and community health services; corrections, sheriffs and legal aid; natural resource management; environmental protection; post-secondary funding and employment standards.”

“We know that the damage done by the former B.C. Liberal government can’t be reversed overnight. It will take time to restore proper service levels to British Columbians. We will be here to support government as they do the right thing and urge them to do more to make a more affordable, equitable and healthy society for everyone, not just the one per cent.”

 “If the government delivers on their commitments, we will have turned the corner on 16 years of neglect for the public services that British Columbians rely on.” — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President Vancouver (15 Feb. 2018) — The NDP government in B.C. delivered a Speech from the Throne that isn’t perfect, but it starts to repair the damage done […]

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Oak Bay athletes BC Games bound

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When the BC Winter Games descend on Kamloops next week, it’ll feature a little Oak Bay flavour.

A handful of local athletes will make the trip in a variety of both indoor and outdoor sports.

The BC Winter Games are in Kamloops from Feb. 22 to 25 and feature Special Olympics BC athletes and 20 coaches for the chance to showcase their skills in front of their peers from generic sports.

“Kamloops hosted the very first BC Winter Games, so it is fitting to return to Canada’s Tournament Capital as part of our 40th anniversary celebrations,” said Kelly Mann, president and CEO of the BC Games Society. “The athletes, coaches, and officials will benefit from the extensive event hosting experience in Kamloops. These BC Winter Games and the coinciding Olympic Winter Games will inspire many of these young athletes towards future national and international level competitions.”

Among the 1,768 participants are Oak Bay competitors Riley Torstensen in badminton, Paige McKinlay in wheelchair basketball and Maya Kjurickovic and Ian Taylor in alpine skiing. Oak Bay resident Tess van Straaten serves as head coach for the Island’s Special Olympics figure skating team on which Oak Bay Figure Skating Club members Emily Walzak and Desiree Grubell will compete.

The 1,229 athletes are from every corner of the province and compete in 19 different sports. The athletes are an average of 14 years old and for most, this will be their first experience at a multi-sport Games. Special Olympians will compete in basketball and figure skating and athletes with a disability will compete in cross country skiing and wheelchair basketball.

The athletes are supported by 342 coaches and 197 officials who have earned their certification in order to provide the best knowledge and expertise to the athletes and the competition.

Volunteers in Kamloops have been preparing for the past 18 months to host the Games. More than 1,600 volunteers are ready to ensure participants have exceptional competition and a first-rate experience with ceremonies, special events, and hospitality.

“We are ready! I am immensely proud of the volunteer team that has invested hundreds of hours to ensure that every athlete, coach, official, and parent has an unforgettable experience in Kamloops,” said Niki Remesz, President 2018 Kamloops BC Winter Games. “The pinnacle of these Games’ can be credited to 40 years of BC Games success provincially and a labour of love, locally, from our team’s passion and expertise in leading. I’m excited that Kamloops will be the beginning of that story for so many young athletes joining us next month.”


 

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When the BC Winter Games descend on Kamloops next week, it’ll feature a little Oak Bay flavour. A handful of local athletes will make the trip in a variety of both indoor and outdoor sports. The BC Winter Games are in Kamloops from Feb. 22 to 25 and feature Special Olympics BC athletes and 20 […]

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Concerns and kudos over bumping up BC’s minimum wage

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“Eeyikes.”

That’s the Trail and district chamber’s reaction to the news that B.C. will hike minimum wage to $15.20-an-hour – or higher – by June 2021.

Four increases between June 2018 and 2021 represent a 34 per cent increase over four years.

“Our local response is the same as most rural communities,” says Audry Durham, executive director for the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce.

“The worst piece is the ‘no collaboration’ that seems to be rampant in municipal, provincial and federal governments,” she added. “When an announcement like this hits, the prices have to go up and the customer will make up the difference because supplies and overhead won’t go down.”

Hardest hit will be the service, retail, and tourism industries that provide entry level jobs and training for newcomers and students, said Durham.

Minimum-wage workers had their first 50 cent an hour pay increase in September 2017, and now earn to $11.35 per hour. That upped B.C. from seventh position to the third-highest minimum wage among Canada’s provinces.

The next increase of $1.30 per hour is recommended for June 1.

“The B.C. chamber has been working with the province, so we knew when that first one came up,” said Durham. “It would have been nice for the province to have more input from the business world because 75 per cent of B.C. businesses are small business, and this is really going to affect profit margins.”

She expressed another concern with minimum wage increments, that being jobs at the Trail chamber will no longer be competitive when the mandated hourly rate hits $12.65, likely in June. The gap will keep narrowing when the recommended minimum jumps another $1.20 an hour to $13.85 in 2019, then to $14.60 the following year, and $15.20 in June 2021.

In other words, raising the minimum wage closes the margin for summer student jobs as well as entry level positions at the chamber, which have historically paid a few more dollars per hour than minimum.

“That’s the other thing I think of,” said Durham. “We’ve had summer students forever, they are going to university and need the money, so we top up what the federal government gives us, which is $10.85 an hour,” she added.

“So when the minimum wage goes up we are going to have to look at that, and ask ‘Are we going to be able to be competitive at that point?” Durham questioned.

“And people who have been here for awhile, they are going to be way closer to minimum wage than ever before.”

From a social perspective, raising the minimum to $15 is incredibly important, but doesn’t go far enough, says Morag Carter, The Skill Centre’s executive director.

“The plan is laudable,” said Carter. “But I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I were to say that it’s enough, it really isn’t.”

Carter was referring to the discrepancy between minimum wage and the Lower Columbia’s living wage, which is $18.21 an hour.

(A living wage is the hourly amount a family needs to earn to cover basic expenses)

“So I think it’s really important to recognize that, when we are paying someone minimum wage, we are still not paying them enough to live on.”

She mentioned the mythology around who is actually working at the bottom of the pay scale.

“It’s not kids living at home, that’s not what is borne out by all the research,” Carter said. “It’s mostly women working minimum wage, it’s women supporting families earning the minimum wage.”

Given that it will take three years to fully implement as the cost of living rises, Carter says low-wage earners will continue their struggle.

“If you’re not earning enough money working 40 hours a week to cover your expenses, which is the gap between living wage and minimum wage, ” she explained. “You’re either ending up deeper in the hole, scrimping on things, working extended hours or having to work multiple jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table.”

Premier John Horgan announced the changes, recommended by the Fair Wages Commission, on Feb. 8.

“Regular, predictable increases to our minimum wage are one important way we can make life more affordable for people,” Horgan said in a news release.

“For too long, the lowest-paid workers in our province have been left to fall behind, with their wages frozen for a decade at a time. That’s not fair and it’s not right. Like all British Columbians, our lowest-paid workers deserve a fair shake and a fair wage.”

The government appointed the Fair Wages Commission last October to deal with the business sector and establish the timing of the minimum wage increases.

The three experts who led the Fair Wages Commission recommended predictable and regular hikes and said the hourly wage rate could be raised to $15.40 an hour by 2021, depending on economic conditions.

“We believe that we have strong economic growth in British Columbia and the commission’s rationale for front-end loading the increases was because we have a robust economy in British Columbia and the expectation is that’s going to continue for the next two years,” Horgan said.

BC Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger said she was disappointed it will take over three years to raise the minimum wage to $15.20 an hour, noting Alberta’s increase is expected later this year and Ontario’s in 2019.

“Poverty and inequality are rampant in our province while B.C. is Canada’s most expensive place to live,” Lanzinger said in a statement.

“In light of the slow timeline to achieve $15, we expect that the government will move more decisively in the next phase of its fair wage process around exemptions from the minimum wage, like the punitively lower wages for restaurant servers and farm workers, and the concept of a living wage.”

Notably, it’s not just 50 cents an hour employers are mandated to pay out. Business owners typically pay another 21 to 25 per cent per employee on top of respective wages, such as five per cent toward CPP, two per cent to EI, a minimum four per cent to WCB, and four per cent for both vacation and statutory holiday pay.

As a whole, the BC Chamber of Commerce has called on the province “to maintain certainty and predictability as minimum wage set to rise to by 2021.”

“While front-loading the minimum wage increase will cause challenges for some businesses, the four-year timeline – with projected increases – will help businesses plan and incorporate those costs into their budgets,” said Val Litwin, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber’s province-wide membership previously called for minimum wage increases to be linked to the Consumer Price Index, so as to bring stability and predictability to these increases and thus protect B.C. businesses from the fallout of sudden, unexpected hikes.

“We support wage increases so employees can keep up with the cost of living,” said Litwin. “We also support increases being announced in advance to ensure businesses are able to adjust. Tying wage increases to CPI going forward provides businesses with the ability to plan and budget, and ensures they will not face large increases in labour costs”

With files from Canadian Press

“Eeyikes.” That’s the Trail and district chamber’s reaction to the news that B.C. will hike minimum wage to $15.20-an-hour – or higher – by June 2021. Four increases between June 2018 and 2021 represent a 34 per cent increase over four years. “Our local response is the same as most rural communities,” says Audry Durham, […]

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