Archive for June, 2005

Economic powerhouse drives BC business

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

The Greater Vancouver area is expected to produce more than half of the province’s total output of goods and services in 2005

Derrick Penner

CREDIT: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun Greater Vancouver’s ports are a major factor in the region’s — and the province’s — well-being. A sound economy attracts more people, who spur demand for housing and increase the market for other services.

CREDIT: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun Greater Vancouver’s ports are a major factor in the region’s — and the province’s — well-being. A sound economy attracts more people, who spur demand for housing and increase the market for other services.

For the sheer size of its population and weight of its industries, the Lower Mainland truly is the engine of British Columbia‘s economy, and it appears to just be getting revved up.

With a population touching 2.4 million, the Lower Mainland — stretching from Hope in the east to Bowen Island in the west — accounts for some 57 per cent of B.C.’s population.

And Greater Vancouver is expected to produce more than half of all B.C.’s output of goods and services in 2005, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Vancouver is obviously the dog that wags the tail, especially in terms of the sorts of industries looked at as leaders of growth into the future,” says Robert Helsley, economist and associate dean of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.

As the biggest population centre, Helsley said the Lower Mainland is B.C.’s biggest beneficiary of the inexorable shift towards service-based economies that are less dependent on resource extraction and manufacturing.


The Vancouver area is also the biggest magnet for the province’s population growth, which pushes demand for the housing and retail sales that have helped fuel B.C.’s economy over the past two years.

The Conference Board of Canada predicts that the area defined as the Vancouver census metropolitan area — roughly the Greater Vancouver Regional District — will churn out $72 billion in economic output during 2005 compared with a total provincial economy in 2004 of $138 billion as measured by B.C. Stats.

And while Vancouver is clearly the economic powerhouse in the Lower Mainland, Abbotsford is posting strong growth rates, with the Conference Board saying it had the fastest growing economy in Canada last year.

Mario Lefebvre, an economist with the Conference Board of Canada, defines Vancouver as “one of the four big engines of [Canada‘s] overall economic activity.” Toronto, Montreal and Alberta‘s Calgary-Edmonton corridor are the other key business generators.


“City regions are the driving force of this economy,” Lefebvre said. “They are our window on the world, and with the expression ‘globalization’ being so highly recognized, we know how city regions are playing a role in terms of putting Canada on the map internationally.”

And while it is sometimes a hard sell, Lefebvre argued that initiatives that increase economic activity in the big cities bring about benefits for the entire economy.

They are where innovations are developed that spill over into the general economy, and often benefit the regions surrounding big cities. In Vancouver, innovation itself is pretty big business: the University of British Columbia, with some 10,000 employees, and Simon Fraser University, with 2,500 workers, rank as two of the Lower Mainland’s biggest employers.


Helsley said that economists study these effects in a branch they call “agglomeration economics.”

More simply, he added, the effect of “agglomeration” can be thought of as the formation of business clusters. Companies involved in a particular activity are increasingly drawn together in “clusters” as the talent pool and support services for their businesses grows.

Vancouver‘s biotechnology sector, for example, is drawn to the Lower Mainland’s universities and the talent they can draw from institutions such as Genome B.C. and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

“It’s like a scale economy,” Helsley says, adding that biotechnology or other technology endeavours are still small in relation to the overall economy.

Helsley added that people “should not lose sight of the fact that traditional business service industries: financial services, business consulting in addition to software development and engineering, are places where one can have this kind of critical mass and clusters.”

Helsley said the Lower Mainland’s construction industry is not typically considered a cluster, because the market is local and so dependent on local conditions.

However, he added that there “definitely are agglomeration effects” in the city’s financial services sector. Employment in Greater Vancouver’s finance, insurance, real estate businesses, for instance, was 90,300 people in 2004, as measured by Statistics Canada’s labour force survey. That’s up 15 per cent since 1996.

Helsley said the region’s ports — Port of Vancouver and Fraser River Port — are also catalysts to form such clusters in the transportation sector.

Vancouver, he said benefits from: “its location on the Pacific Rim, growth of the Asian economies, the fact that we’re a transshipment point where we can move freight from water to rail, even air.”

“All these things create an advantage firms that locate in the Lower Mainland can take advantage of.”


Dave Park, chief economist for the Vancouver Board of Trade, said it is important not to overlook the importance of B.C.’s resource industries to the economic health of Vancouver.

He added that as late as the late 1990s, the forest industry made up one-quarter of the province’s total economy, and accounted for one-in-five jobs in the Lower Mainland.

Park didn’t have an up-to-date assessment, but estimated that the proportion of forest industry has probably shrunk, not necessarily because the number of jobs has declined, but because employment in other sectors has grown more.

“Yes, there has been shrinkage in direct manufacturing jobs, but there has been huge growth in employment,” Park said.

He added that it is surprising how strong the region’s economic growth has been, and it looks like it will stay strong through the 2010 Olympics and beyond.


“Construction is red hot,” he said. “Residential started sooner, but non-residential construction is going to be so strong right past 2010. Some of it is Olympics-related but there is a lot of other stuff coming as well.”

Lefebvre said Vancouver‘s status as “one of the large hosts” for immigrants drives a lot of Greater Vancouver’s growth.

“Give or take a few, in the area of 30,000 to 40,000 international migrants arrive in the city annually,” he added. “That is like a medium-sized city [every year].”

And like in a medium-sized city, the new arrivals require housing, which drives residential construction. New people also demand adequate services, driving the need for new bank branches, grocery stores and shopping malls, which boosts commercial construction and employment in retail trade and other service sectors.

“In terms of future growth, the prospects of [B.C.] are intimately tied to the prospects for the Lower Mainland,” Helsley said.

– – –


The top 10 industry sectors in Greater Vancouver, by employment.

1. Trade (retail and wholesale): 183,400

2. Health care and social assistance: 124,100

3. Manufacturing: 118,500

4. Professional, scientific and tech: 107,900

5. Accommodation and food services: 95,100

6. Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing: 94,700

7. Educational services: 85,900

8. Construction: 85,800

9. Transportation and warehousing: 71,400

10. Information, culture and recreation: 68,100

Total: 1,034,900 or 85% of total employment in the region


The Lower Mainland

– Generated $70 billion of B.C.’s 2004 economic output of $139 billion gross domestic product.

– Accounted for 1.22 million of the economy’s 2.059 million jobs.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Your summer patio dinning directory – doc.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

A rundown of our food critic’s favourites for patio dining, offering good eats, good drinks, a view and the occasional overhead bug zapper

Mark Laba


CREDIT: Jon Murray, The Province

Tom Hughes, a waiter at Bravo Bistro, brings martinis to customers enjoying the view of Coal Harbour and the seawall.

CREDIT: Jason Payne, The Province

Go Fish offers some of the best fish ‘n’ chips in town, plus a great oyster po’ boy.


It’s that time of year where we like to dine in our flipflops and underwear, but it’s best to wear a shirt and shorts or pants to these joints and avoid showing up on an episode of Vancouver‘s Top Cops. Quaff an ale, sip some wine, slurp some mussels or gnaw a steak and enjoy the great outdoors with overhead bug zappers for good measure. Here’s a bunch of my favourites — some old, some new, all with either a view or enough good food and libations to brighten any patio perspective.


A view over the Robson Street shopping coastline from a walled-in patio with Tuscan garden touches and some very tasty pasta dishes. The Penne Amatraciana with house-smoked pork cheeks in tomato sauce is excellent, and for heftier fare, try the veal chop with chestnut noodles or the osso bucco and hope a crow doesn’t swoop down and steal the meat.

133 Robson St., Vancouver, 604-642-6278


Comfortable Adirondack-style wood chairs, opera on the stereo and an amazing view of Coal Harbour and the bustling Spandexed seawall culture. They do some pleasing seafood dishes, like the braised escolar spiced with Moroccan chermoula or a potato-wrapped halibut with ratatouille roasted-corn salsa.

550 Denman St., Vancouver, 604-688-3714


A simple wooden patio fronts this fish shack by the docks, looking out at sailboats bobbing merrily in the marina and the chug of fishing vessels delivering fresh catches of marine life. And whatever fish they’re pitching off the boats is gonna end up on your plate minutes later. One of the best halibut or cod ‘n’ chips in town, plus a great oyster po’ boy sandwich and a daily fresh sheet of grilled fish species such as char-grilled Pacific sockeye or a medium-rare albacore tuna sandwich. Not licensed, but who cares when the food and atmosphere are intoxicating?

1504 West 1st at Fisherman’s Wharf on False Creek, 604-730-5040


They include the word view in the name of the place and they ain’t just whistling Dixie. An upper-deck patio with two fireplaces to warm the cockles on cooler evenings looks out over Coal Harbour and all its trappings, and this newly built edifice itself is a bit of a swanky facelift for the shoreline. There are 230 wines up for grabs and a kitchen creating some spiffy dishes along with a separate sushi chef experimenting and taming the raw flavours of Pacific sealife. Crowd here looks like a million bucks to match the millions poured into building this restaurant.

333 Menchion Mews, Vancouver, 604-689-5438


Dining at Sockeye is “pier pleasure” goes their motto and, with a patio nestled next to the Steveston docks, the atmosphere couldn’t be better. The whiff of sea air is a prelude to all your fresh finned friends being cooked up in the kitchen. Great fish or oysters and chips, fire-grilled wild salmon with prawns or blackened halibut, seafood tagliatelli brimming with the best of the Pacific Northwest, plus some toothsome steaks on the menu if fish ain’t your thing. Sample a pint of the Sockeye City lager or sip a Sandhill Pinot Blanc and digest to the gentle rhythm of boats rocking in the harbour.

108-3800 Bayview St., Steveston, 604-275-4347


A recently expanded patio plunks you down in the peaceful pastoral setting of Deer Lake. Greenery abounds and surrounds this heritage house and estate and you’ll feel to the manor born after chowing down on Executive Chef Carol Chow’s eclectic dishes. Try rockshrimp and shiitake mushroom springrolls to start, followed by ostrich in a red-wine demi-glace, a beef shortrib cabbage roll or seared halibut with a prawn-and-tomato salsa. It’s a touch of elegance tucked into casual pants.

6664 Deer Lake Ave., Burnaby, 604-298-4278


Not just one but two patios help this joint live up to its billing as an urban oasis in the heart of the urban jungle. A garden patio on the second floor and a rooftop space gaze out to the city, lush with palm trees and other shrubbery. Great ahi tuna springrolls or calamari for starters before hitting the entree listings that roam the seven continents. From chorizo penne to Kung Pao chicken, baby back-ribs brushed with chipotle sauce to a red-curry prawn bowl. The toothsome chuck-steak burger is a winner, as are the savoury thin-crust pizzas and the Flat Iron steak sandwich on gorgonzola-imbued bread.

755 Richards St., Vancouver, 604-681-7011


It’s a very good thing our national rodent can’t fly. Imagine 60 lbs. of divebombing flapjack tail smacking you upside the head and teeth that could open a can of beans grazing your hair transplant. The place is named for the famed Canadian floatplane — which you can watch take off and land while sitting on the deck of this great river spot. Incredible burgers to be had along with other pub grub done up a notch like chicken wings, nachos and a fuselage full of tongue-flapping appetizers, not to mention the many microbrews on tap.

4760 Inglis Drive, Richmond, 604-273-0278


A longtime favourite in Vancouver patio history with two deck levels to choose from offering a spectacular panorama of False Creek and environs. Gaze across the water to distant bridges spanning the horizon and admire health nuts in neon sports attire sweat the seawall below you. As usual, more seafood than a Jacques Cousteau special. Hit the oyster bar and cancel your Viagra prescription. From panko-crusted soft-shell crab to a plate brimming with bivalves, tiger prawn linguine to a grilled lamb trilogy, Monk’s, unlike me, just gets better with age.

601 Stamps Landing, Vancouver, 604-877-1351


This joint wears the crown for the largest patio in Coal Harbour, with views of all the usual scenic suspects plus the waterworks fountain nearby so the kids can play while the parents drink. Check the daily BBQ specials and see what meat or seafood they’re tossing on the coals, plus plenty of classic pub fare such as nachos, chicken wings, quesadillas, pizza and paninis along with larger plates of fish done up in a whackload of sauces. The new summer menu is kicking into gear so belly up to the patio table and let nature take its course.

1199 West Cordova St., Vancouver, 604-687-6455


Nuzzle up to this patio spot beneath the Granville Bridge support struts, check out the seismic updating and enjoy a sunset between the girders. If the big one hits, you and your martini should be safe. Appetizer listings are especially tasty, with offerings like scallop kabobs with chili lime aioli, Korean-style BBQ ribs or sweet and sour wok-flipped poultry. Larger dishes include pizzas, burgers, cedar-plank salmon, daily pasta specials plus an extensive sushi menu. If you’re crazy about the aquatic life try one of the many pincer- and claw-filled chilled seafood platters that’ll feed two or more people. Swanky crowd, so wear your best polyester.

1535 Johnston St., Granville Island, 604-669-9030


The venerable place with the five pointy things opens their Terrace Bar all day for a stunning view of ocean, mountains and seasick cruise-ship tourists disembarking from their vessels. A great setting for West Coast lazing over some excellent signature dishes like the Cobb salad with fresh crab meat, coconut jumbo shrimp lolling in citrus yogurt sauce or a Dungeness crab burger if you like crustacean on a bun.

300-999 Canada Place, Vancouver, 604-895-2480


Uber-urban gazing overlooking the concrete jungle thrumming with throngs of shoppers and the sound of skateboard punks biting pavement. Do the cafeteria shuffle with the art crowd and Shaughnessey social-tea set with delectable paninis like barbecued chicken, Californian with pesto, chicken and brie, the Caprese with roasted red peppers, bocconcini and roma tomatoes or the sunny veggie Mediterranean, plus nicely dressed sandwiches from roast beef to tuna and everything else trapped between land and sea. Also great salads, quiches and amazing desserts, including the luxurious bread pudding topped with caramel sauce.

750 Hornby St., on the second floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery, 604-688-2233


Twenty-five years old and still kicking, packing them in on the patio like a Tokyo subway. The view of city and mountains is always impressive and the grub is always tasty. Sink your molars into a cornmeal-crusted oyster burger, linguini studded with clams and pancetta, roast halibut swimming in a coconut, ginger and sweet chili sauce, a variety of pizzas with inventive toppings and some equally intriguing cocktail concoctions.

1696 Duranleau St., Granville Island, 604-687-4400


A garden oasis lush with shrubbery and patio furniture at this 20-year fixture in the Coquitlam beer-enthusiast community. Wine weenies aren’t neglected either, with a vast list of crushed grapes by the glass. The scarfing gets serious with grilled offerings from steaks to ribs to seafood along with the usual pubgrub of burgers, nachos and chicken wings. Every Saturday, weather permitting, there’s a barbecue on the patio with a cheeseburger, chicken or bratwurst special for $5.95 between 2 and 5pm. Nothing like the smell of sizzling wiener skin wafting on a summer breeze to start your summer rolling.

1000 Austin Ave., Coquitlam, 604-931-5115


Near Ambleside Beach with all the tranquil trappings implied in the name and a panoramic schlimazel for the senses of oceanside atmosphere and saltwater sniffing. Traditional Italian dining done with flair and fresh ingredients and you can’t go wrong with any dish you order. For starters some albacore tuna carpaccio or escargots, if you want to get revenge on all those gastropods making hay in your garden, and for mains merlot-braised lamb shanks, Spaghetti alla Norcina with black truffles or crispy duck breast quacking its last under a wild lingonberry glaze. And with dishes like this, you know the wine snozzling’s going to be good.

1362 Marine Drive, West Vancouver, 604-925-1945


Tucked away on a curve of seawall with a great view of the water and the Burrard Bridge in the near distance, close enough for atmosphere without hearing the rumble of Goodyears plus the thrill of the odd rollerblader bouncing off the seawall concrete barriers. Casual by day, fancypants at night, though the price is always right. The patio has been renovated and Fiddlehead Joe, who earned his nickname flogging the strange veggie as a boy in New Brunswick, is cooking up some summery delights. Pan-seared soft-shell crab, ahi tuna and tiger-prawn ceviche, maple-, hoisin- and ginger-glazed salmon or beef tenderloin wrapped in phyllo with portobello fungus and havarti cheese.

The lunch menu offers PEI mussels in a variety of enticing sauces from a chipotle pepper to a chorizo shindig, and the gourmet sandwiches would make even Dagwood Bumstead smack his lips in anticipation.

1A-1012 Beach Ave., Vancouver, 688-1969

5 great patios on which to smoke a stogie with the bigwigs

CREDIT: Gerry Kahrmann, The Province

If the dog’s smoking, odds are that you can, too.


1. Joe Fortes: Great rooftop patio with its own bar, where you can light up a Cuban with a twenty and maybe impress the oyster-fuelled stockbrokers on the make for a second wife or looking to sell investments in an imaginary gold mine.

777 Thurlow St., Vancouver, 604-669-1940

2. Diva at the Met: Award-winning place with all the swanky accolades and, after your stogie on the patio, you can always join the after-dinner businessmen’s rush at the Swedish Touch down the street.

645 Howe St., Vancouver, 604-602-7788

3. Smoking Dog: Dogs don’t smoke except in those canines-playing-poker paintings or in Paris, I think. On that note, this French bistro with a sidewalk patio probably wouldn’t mind if you fumigated the toy dogs in the neighbourhood.

1889 West 1st Ave., Vancouver, 604-732-8811

4. Gotham Steakhouse: Chew steaks and stogie ends like the bigwigs do, covering all your vitamin bases on this dazzling fireplace bedecked deck where the well-heeled show-off face peels and laser-whitened teeth.

615 Seymour St., Vancouver, 604-605-8282

5. La Terrazza: Puff a little smoke toward those dot-com millionaires munching Subway sandwiches on the sidewalk nearby, as you digest some spanky eats and swish some fine fermented grape juice.

1088 Cambie St., Vancouver, 604-899-4449

5 great People-watching patios

CREDIT: Jon Murray, The Province

Provence husband-and-wife owners Jean-Francis and Alessandra Quaglia.


1. Havana Restaurant: Enjoy pseudo-Cuban food while taking in the spectacle of pseudo-hippies and the heavily tattooed in this great passing parade of Old World meets counter-culture.

1212 Commercial Dr., Vancouver, 604-253-9119

2 .Cactus Club: Watch the bold, the beautiful and the surgically altered amble along the busy Robson Sreet thoroughfare as you sip a big-assed martini and throw down some chicken wings.

1136 Robson St., Vancouver, 604-687-3278

3. Chopstick Cafe Shiru-Bay: from the designer meshback trucker-hat-clad to the Porsche-driving crowd angling for parking space while you relax with some intriguing izakaya-style eats.

1193 Hamilton St., Vancouver, 604-408-9315

4. Provence Marinaside Seafood Bar & Grill: Fancypants folk in their trendsetting attire, part yachting crowd, part Yaletown condo canyon-dwellers and great Mediterranean cuisine, especially the antipasti listings.

1177 Marinaside Cr., Vancouver, 604-681-4144

5. Caribbean Breeze Tapas Bar & Grill: Shoot the breeze with drinks and jerk chicken and watch the semi-clad beachbum lads and lassies shuffling the strip in their flipflops and George Hamilton tans as collector autos cruise the street.

14945 Marine Dr., White Rock, 604-536-0877

5 great Sea-To-Sky patio views

CREDIT: Jon Murray, The Province

Chef Kevin Negoro on the patio of the Pacific Crab Co. Oyster Bar & Grill.


1. Galley Patio & Grill: Offers an unobstructed view usually only seagulls can enjoy, as you take in Locarno Beach and beyond and sip R&B ales and enjoy some great nachos or burgers.

1300 Discovery Ave., Vancouver, 604-222-1331

2. Cardero’s: Effusive nautical views of the Eastern Burrard Inlet bustling with the shipping news while you crunch into cornmeal-crusted pan-fried oysters

1583 Coal Harbour Quay, Vancouver, 604-669-7666

3. Saltaire: Sweeping views of Stanley Park and Howe Sound on this third-floor patio, a whiff of sea air complementing a menu that wanders the global tidal pool.

235-15th St., West Vancouver, 604-913-8439

4. Pacific Crab Co. Oyster Bar & Grill: Spectacular view of English Bay from the thin patio of this second floor eatery so that the heads of the maddening hordes don’t get in the way while you glug back oysters and wine.

1184 Denman St., Vancouver, 604-633-2722

5. The Boathouse: Besides a streetlevel patio, this joint also boasts a rooftop shindig to give you an unimpeded view of Semiahmoo Bay.

14935 Marine Drive, White Rock, 604-536-7320

5 great courtyard patios

CREDIT: Jason Payne, The Province

Saltaire’s patio offers sweeping views of Stanley Park.


1. Il Nido: A Tuscan setting tucked into the courtyard of the Manhattan Apartments for true global meshing and atmospheric and digestive tranquillity, exemplified by the new summer menu and pleasant wines.

780 Thurlow St., Vancouver, 604-685-6436

2. Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar: A veritable vino and food grotto with one of the most enticing inner-city patios, the sky outlined by surrounding brickwork walls and terrific West Coast tapas and entree offerings.

1138 Homer St, Vancouver, 604-915-9463

3. El Patio Spanish Restaurant: Secluded patio with creeping ivy that’ll make you feel like you’re on a Spanish backstreet, and some great seafood tapas with a particular panache when it comes to prawns and sardines.

891 Cambie St., Vancouver, 604-681-9149

4. Sapori Italian Restaurant: Secreted away in a spiffy cobblestoned mews with homey Italian food and live jazz every Friday and Saturday night.

#106-12 Water St., Vancouver, 604-682-8272

5. Cassis: A small patio is tucked into the ancient alleyway, decaying brick contrasting with fresh flower arrays and, of course, some savoury slow-cooked French country fare.

420 West Pender, Vancouver, 604-605-0420

5 great places to practise chip shots between drinks

CREDIT: Jason Payne, The Province

Hazards assistant manager Lauren Mickey serves up a Sunburst salad on the patio of the Coquitlam restaurant, located at the Westwood Plateau Golf Academy.


1. Westward Ho Public House & Grill Room: Pastoral setting with golfers swearing and searching the shrubbery while you watch from the patio chowing down on great food, or try the fine beer and hotdog stand on the 10th green.

University Golf Club, 5185 University Blvd., Vancouver, 604-224-7799

2. Hazards Restaurant: Expansive view of the Fraser Valley and Mount Baker, beautiful patio jutting out over the greenery and dishes spanning everything from eggs benedict to salmon to ribs to sandwiches.

Westwood Plateau Golf, 1630 Parkway Blvd., Coquitlam, 604-941-4219

3. Eagle’s Nest Bar & Grill: Nestled amongst mountain scenery, just think of savoury chicken wings, burger offerings or a wide array of wraps while you’re hacking divots on the back nine.

Golden Eagle Golf Club, 21770 Ladner Rd., Pitt Meadows, 604-460-1111

4. Creekside Grill: Play the course or hit the driving range to work up an appetite. Plenty of food and drink specials afterwards to soothe the soul and keep you from breaking your putter.

Eaglequest Coyote Creek Golf, 7778 152nd St. Surrey, 604-597-4653

5. Northlands Restaurant: Doesn’t get more scenic than this, surrounded by mountains and old-growth forest. Between the breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and pub menus, this restaurant doesn’t miss a shot.

Northlands Golf Course, 3400 Anne Macdonald Way, North Van, 604-924-2950

2611 West 4th Ave., Vancouver, 604-734-4444

5 great patios for margarita-sipping

CREDIT: Jason Payne, The Province

The Lift Bar Grill View is aptly named. In addition to this deck, it offers an upper patio with two fireplaces to keep you warm on those cooler nights.


1. Las Margaritas Restaurante and Cantina: What’s in a name? asked Shakespeare, and though he might not have been down Tijuana way, this place wouldn’t call a margarita a rose no matter how many you drink. Sidewalk patio for street-gazing and some tasty California-Mexican border-crossing eats.

1999 West 4th Ave., Vancouver, 604-734-7117

2. Little Mexico Cantina: This patio almost has a view of the Fraser, but you can certainly sniff the sea air and see the ships in the distance as you slurp a slushy tequila creation and sample some classic Mexican dishes. Homemade salsas are excellent.

#150-3131 Chatham St., Richmond, 604-272-5123

3. Bichos Mexican Taste: After a few of the margaritas here along with some authentic Mexican food you just might mistake the Semiahmoo Bay view for the Gulf of Mexico.

15077 Marine Drive, White Rock, 604-542-5191

4. Cincin: When I asked a regular of this place what makes the margaritas so good she replied, “The bartender, of course.” A beautiful patio to match the beautiful people who frequent this joint. The margarita doesn’t look too bad itself, and that’s without the botox.

1154 Robson St., Vancouver, 604-688-7338

5. Andales: Insanely vibrant place, much like the Kits street parade you can savour on the patio as you suck back one of the many margarita specials.

3211 West Broadway, Vancouver, 604-738-9782

5 great romantic patio enclaves

CREDIT: Les Bazso, The Province

The Fish House has it all: gardens, wine and tasty food.


1. Parkside: Old World meets modern cuisine and design, and the whole place seems rather secretive, just like the foliage-filled courtyard patio. The food could romance the pants off a snarling warthog, it’s that good.

1906 Haro St., Vancouver, 604-683-6912

2. Circolo: If music be the food of love, then pan-seared foie gras and a good bottle of wine can’t be far behind. A treat for all the senses in this garden patio setting as you nuzzle up to your loved one and some goose liver.

1116 Mainland St., Vancouver, 604-687-1116

3. Beach House at Dundarave Pier: Hunkered away in a setting so quaint it’ll make your eyes ache with the beauty of it all, from the ocean view to the snazzy summer menu to the wine list for massaging the limbic system.

150 25th St., West Vancouver, 604-922-1414

4. Fish House in Stanley Park: You can’t help but be romanced by the surrounding gardens and woods unless you’re a zombie, and if that doesn’t work, the wine list and inventive food should do the trick.

8901 Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, 604-681-7275

5. Quattro on Fourth: The Italians are renowned for whispering sweet nothings in your ear while offering something more substantial for the belly. This patio is lush with food, wine and atmosphere, sending the senses into overdrive and the tastebuds to heaven.

2611 West 4th Ave., Vancouver, 604-734-4444

© The Vancouver Province 2005

More than just a Convention Centre

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

City’s advisers give spectacular building plan unanimous approval

Ashley Ford

Artist’s rendering shows the waterfront public plaza that is part of the plan for the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre

The new Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre on the waterfront has cleared another hurdle with the city of Vancouver‘s approval of the development permit.

The $565-million, 68,000-square-metre project now only has to clear a number of technical design conditions from the city before a final development permitting actual construction of the building is issued.

Larry Beasley, Vancouver‘s director of planning, says he is enthusiastic about the building, despite some reservations from two members of an advisory group, who felt it could have been improved upon.

“It received unanimous approval. It will be an excellent building and will provide a wonderful public meeting and activity place for the people of Vancouver. It’s a pretty spectacular result,” he told The Province yesterday.

He said it will certainly be no black box on the waterfront and will be a very active public place with the seawall, public plaza and the green-living roof. It will be much, much more than just a convention centre.

The two-hectare living roof will be an amazing feature, he says. “In effect it will be creating a nature reserve in the heart of the city, which speaks to what Vancouver is all about.”

The remaining conditions are technical and Beasley expects full approval by the end of the year.

Russ Anthony, president of the Vancouver Convention Centre expansion project, said the approval is an “important milestone for us. We have worked on this for two years and it is good to have this step behind us.” He expects all the major components to be substantially completed by the end of the year.

While the current piling program is on schedule, Anthony said there have been a few “surprises” that have been overcome.

With over 100 years of previous industrial development in the area, it is no surprise the piling program has occasionally run into problems such as old concrete footings. The huge piling effort remains on track for completion by the end of the year. The next major step will be the awarding of the critical contracts for concrete and steel next month or in August. The tenders are already in.

Anthony admitted there is some concern with escalating prices for construction materials and “we are working very diligently to get every cent of value we can.” Financial provisions have been made for such escalation, he said, without saying how much has been set aside.

The new building is on course for its 2008 completion. Then the existing convention centre at Canada Place will undergo a $20-million renovation, with completion scheduled for September 2009.

© The Vancouver

New name for Telus Building – doc.

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005


The Telus building at 3777 Kingsway in Burnaby is being named in honour of Brian Canfield, the former president and CEO of the company who is now chairman of Telus’s board of directors.

The building will be known as the Brian Canfield Centre for Excellence in Telecommunications in honour of Canfield, who worked for Telus for 49 years.

“What we are achieving today has been made possible by leaders like Brian who have come before us,” said Telus president and CEO Darren Entwistle in a statement. “These people have built the legacy that they now bestow upon us.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Government may rescue house-rich, cash-poor seniors – doc.

Monday, June 27th, 2005

Reverse mortgages to be considered by CMHC as possible solution for low-income seniors

Norma Greenaway


OTTAWA — The federal government is exploring options for helping seniors who may be house-rich but cash-poor.

With an eye to easing the financial worries of low-income homeowners, Housing Minister Joe Fontana has asked the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to investigate models for government-backed reverse mortgages.

Reverse mortgages for seniors are not new in Canada. But at this point they’re strictly private-sector, the sole domain of the Canadian Home Income Plan.

The plan enables seniors who’ve paid off their homes to borrow against the value of those homes. The loan and accumulated interest are paid when the house is sold or the homeowners die.

Tony Ianno, federal minister responsible for seniors, says he suspects low-income seniors would feel more comfortable tapping into a reverse mortgage program if it was insured by the government.

“Often people are afraid to do a deal regarding their home, taking into account they want to leave it to their family,” Ianno said. “Their nervousness is high.”

Ianno says he wants to eliminate the prospect of people being forced to sell their homes because they can’t afford to fix the roof and pay other bills.

“What we are trying to do is reduce that stress level,” Ianno said.

The idea is part of a broader effort to help struggling seniors. The government has already moved to raise the Guaranteed Income Supplement for the poorest seniors, and to expand rental supplements and the supply of affordable housing units.

Ianno said a government-insured reverse mortgage plan would give homeowners an added sense of security. It also would be able to offer lower interest rates because there would be no requirement to make a profit, he said.

Steve Ranson, president and CEO of the Canadian Home Income Plan, questioned the need for the government to get involved in the reverse mortgage business.

“I don’t actually know what the government would bring to the product,” he said, stressing there is no income criteria in the CHIP program.

The Canadian Home Income Plan reverse mortgage has attracted about 6,000 customers so far, Ranson said. It allows homeowners 62 years or older to borrow up to 40 per cent of the value of their home. Homeowners must borrow at least $20,000, and take that sum in a lump sum off the top.

In return, the Canadian Home Income Plan gets a priority lien on the home when ownership changes hands. The debt is capped at the value of the home.

Ranson said demand for reverse mortgages has been rising steadily in recent years.

Making use of the mortgage
Reverse mortgage an opportunity to raise needed funds
Reverse mortgages for seniors are currently the sole domain of the private-sector Canadian Home Income Plan. The plan enables seniors who’ve paid off their homes to borrow against the value of those homes. The loan and the accumulated interest aren’t paid until the house is sold or the homeowners die. A government-insured reverse mortgage plan would be able to offer lower interest rates because there would be no requirement to make a profit.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

First nations plan luxury lodge – doc.

Monday, June 27th, 2005

They would be patterned after the successful King Pacific Lodge on Princess Royal Island

Bruce Constantineau

A coalition of eight coastal B.C. first nations plans to build at least three or four ultra-luxurious resort lodges that would be patterned after the successful King Pacific Lodge on Princess Royal Island on B.C.’s north coast.

Aboriginal tourism officials have already contacted King Pacific Lodge for help in managing the new facilities and several potential development sites have been identified — including one about 40 km north of Skidegate on the Queen Charlotte Islands.

King Pacific Lodge president Michael Uehara said the new lodges would cost from $8 million to $16 million each, with funds to be raised by attracting investors who would expect varying rates of return.

“The potential for these kinds of facilities is huge,” Uehara said in an interview. “They provide authentic adventure experiences in a five-star envelope and there aren’t a lot of those around the world.

“As baby boomers reach retirement, they’re looking less for access to fabulous buildings and more for those authentic natural experiences that are becoming rarer and rarer.”

He said the first new lodge to open would likely be the Queen Charlotte Islands property, possibly in 2007.

The exclusive King Pacific Lodge, which opened in 1999, features 14 guest rooms and three luxury suites, along with a spa, health club, lounge and dining room.

The floating wilderness lodge attracts high-end clients from all over the world and a seven-day stay at the resort — featuring guided hiking and kayaking, wildlife viewing, spa treatments, all meals and open bar — can cost up to $20,000 US per person, depending on the room. Uehara said it costs an average of $1,700 a day to stay at the lodge.

Coastal First Nations Initiative vice-president Colin Richardson, whose organization represents the eight first nations, said the coalition wants to build the new lodges so it can become a “real player” in tourism. The eight aboriginal groups would share ownership of each new lodge, with the host First Nation holding majority ownership.

“We’ve been looking at doing something like this for a couple of years now,” Richardson said in an interview.

“It’s a great way to build the economy and do it in a sustainable manner.”

He noted the Haida nation is already active in developing aboriginal tourism, with plans to open the first phase of a new $21-million, 50,000-square-foot heritage centre in Skidegate next year.

The value of aboriginal tourism across Canada is worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually but boosters expect those revenues to skyrocket when the fledgling industry reaches its full potential.

There are an estimated 100 aboriginal tourism companies operating throughout B.C. and at least another 100 working to become operational, involving a wide range of activities — including hiking businesses, kayaking firms, whale-watching operations, retail shops and interpretive centres.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Beware 1-900 Tel lines – video games … charge to parents account

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

Jered Stuffco

CREDIT: Jon Murray, The Province Jimmy Goh, with bills, thought the game his son played was harmless. Now, he thinks it’s a scam because its extras cost money.

An online game aimed at children can result in parents being billed for hundreds of dollars in phone charges — all for imaginary items purchased in cyberspace.

Vancouver dad Jimmy Goh was shocked when he looked at his Telus bill last month–all 16 pages of it.

The total tab: more than $300.

“I thought it was some kind of mistake at first. It almost [looked] like an adult phone line,” Goh told The Province.

Instead, Goh realized his son Brandon was responsible for the pricey phone bill.

The 12-year-old had been playing the Internet game Habbo Hotel and multiple-dialling the website’s 900 number– at $3 a pop — to buy credits for the game.

“He didn’t understand the concept of it adding up. It’s ridiculous. I think it’s a scam, because the kids don’t know,” Goh said.

Goh knew his son was playing the game, but he thought it looked harmless and legitimate.

The game’s website is promoted by and has a link to the government of Canada‘s Kid’s Help Line.

Goh has blocked 900 numbers on his home phone — and banned his son from using the phone and the Internet.

Now he wants to warn other parents in the Lower Mainland.

“I can’t be alone. There are other kids like my son, but I think the parents are keeping quiet,” he said.

On Friday afternoon, more than 2,000 users were playing the game in Canada. Another 5,400 were logged on in the U.S.

Representatives from Sulake, the Finnish-based company that owns and operates Habbo Hotel, did not respond to phone calls or e-mails from The Province.

Vancouver‘s Better Business Bureau wasn’t aware of any outstanding complaints against the company.

“We wouldn’t necessarily get any complaints, because the parents would take a strip out of their kids,” said the Better Business Bureau’s Sheila Charneski.

Telus was also unaware of any complaints.

Habbo Hotel promotes itself as an online gaming community where 13-to-20-year-olds can meet new friends and hang out online.

“It’s not hard to break into conversation for the first time, and you’ll soon find a friend who has something in common with you,” reads Habbo’s website.

Signing up is free, but players are encouraged to take advantage of Habbo extras, like eating, diving into the hotel’s virtual swimming pool and customizing hotel rooms with furniture purchases.

To do this, players have to buy credits — via credit cards, text messages, cheques or by calling the company’s 900 number.

Canadian law requires that 900 numbers have an 18-second preamble warning callers of the cost.

And callers under the age of 18 must get parental permission.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

BC Island Real Estate Specialist – Neil Wark & Mark Lester

Sunday, June 26th, 2005



Mark Lester is an island sales specialist for Colliers. WAYNE LEIDENFROST — THE PROVINCE

Neil Wark of ReMax Wark Realty is B.C.’s top ‘island’ real estate agent. LES BAZSO — THE PROVINCE

West Trail Island on the Sunshine Coast comes with a deluxe home, a cultivated park with pond, sandy beaches, arbutus trees, a warm tidal swimming pool and a micro-climate that promises 60 per cent less cloud cover than Vancouver has.

Norway Island comes complete with three homes, a pool, tennis court and fruit orchard. The main house features six bedrooms and firewood that’s delivered by an electric lift.

Brethour, one of the Gulf Islands, includes gardens and pasture land, several deep ponds and a three-bedroom home featuring a sauna and marble fireplace.

South Trail Island, just off Sechelt, includes a five-bedroom lodge and two rustic log dwellings, a yearround dock, a sauna building, workshop, fruit trees — and two helicopter landing pads.

On busy weekdays, West Vancouver tax consultant David Holt looks out his office window and dreams of his own private island.
   There are eagles’ nests in the trees, seals and cormorants in the harbour, wild roses in the meadow and a nice, sandy beach with clear water. To top it off, the sunsets from the house on the rocky outcrop are sublime.
   For most of us, that’s where the fantasy ends. But on Friday afternoons, David Holt leaves tax shelters and business plans behind and drives out of the city and up the Sunshine Coast to his boat. After 15 minutes on the water, he pulls up to the dock at West Trail Island.
   Some weekends, he takes friends along to enjoy the swimming and fishing, the arbutus trees and wildflowers and birds — including Bob, the island’s resident peacock. These days, however, Holt says he’s been spending his weekends alone. On a 16-acre island, complete with house, guest cottage and outbuildings, there’s always work to do. He usually makes a point of cranking up his stereo and not worrying about the neighbours.
   “I’m in love with the place,” is how he puts it. “When I’m there, the world changes.”
   Holt became king of his own domain 12 years ago when he paid less than $500,000 for West Trail, one of four islands that form the Trail Islands Group off the coast from Sechelt.
   Today, as island-hunters from around the world discover what one realtor calls B.C.’s “hidden gems,” West Trail is valued at $2.7 million.
   Holt has it listed for sale — though he admits he’s not entirely sure what he’ll do when the offers start to roll in. “I don’t really want to sell it,” he says.
   West Trail Island comes with a deluxe 216-square-metre home, a cultivated park with pond, panoramic views of Georgia Strait from just about every room, arbutus trees, sandy beaches, a warm tidal “swimming pool” and a micro-climate that promises 60 per cent less cloud cover than Vancouver’s.
   Holt says it’s really quite magical.
   “You can be sitting there on the deck and you’ll see swans flying by at eye-level,” he says. “It’s just stunning.”
   The man to call about West Trail and nine of the other 44 B.C. islands listed for sale (or recently sold) on is Neil Wark of ReMax.
   Wark is considered Vancouver’s leading island specialist and has promoted the lifestyle and investment opportunities of privately owned Gulf Islands to magazines and newspapers as far-flung as Japan and France.
   “I have people coming in from
Zurich and all over the place,” says Wark. “B.C.’s becoming better and better known all the time.”
   Like most agents, he’s reluctant to name high-profile clients, though he somehow lets it slip that in the past couple of years he’s been helping sax player Kenny G to look for a peaceful retreat off our coast — so far, without success.
   His most recent sale was to a couple from
Hong Kong who paid $2.45 million for Jenkins Island near Nanaimo — 186 acres with seven beaches, five fresh-water streams and three cabins.
   “They’re going to build a nice home on it, with docks and everything,” says Wark.
   He says buyers in
Europe, the U.S. and Asia view B.C.’s island market as undervalued in comparison to other hideaways such as the Cook Islands, the Caribbean, Fiji and the U.S. San Juans.
   “A five-acre island in the San Juans could be $2 million [US],” says Wark. “I’ve got an 11-acre island with city power, city water and the rest of the stuff for less than $1 million Canadian.”
   He’s talking about
Helford Island, which he describes as one of the best deals on the market (it can be viewed, along with West Trail Island, at
   “It has a nice little cabin, it’s never been logged and has easy access from the
Sunshine Coast,” says Wark. He calls Helford a steal at $895,000.
   His website also lists
Clamshell Island, 1.1 acres of pristine beauty just a little too close to the Saltspring Island ferry terminal. It’s not exactly the best location for a prestigious hideaway but, at $195,000, this chunk of exclusivity can be yours for the price of a Coquitlam condo.
   Owning Clamshell would put you in the same club as other private
Gulf Island owners such as Tim Boyle, president of Portland, Ore.-based Columbia Sportswear.
   In December, Boyle bought
Brethour Island, near Sidney, from a Swiss industrialist. At $6.5 million, he got himself a deal, considering that Brethour has been valued on some island-fantasy websites at as much as $9 million.
   Brethour is known for its harbour seals, its park-like setting and its spectacular variety of birdlife. A previous owner put in a six-hole golf course — now in need of a major overhaul. Nevertheless, it was no doubt a detail that caught the eye of Boyle, an avid golfer, when he visited last year to look for a companion to nearby
Domville Island, which he also owns.
   Mark Lester, the
Vancouver realtor who sold Brethour, says the Forbes 400-types and the occasional celebrity client he escorts around B.C. islands are looking for more than a sound investment. He says they see this part of the world as a secure hideaway.
   “Even if you’re a very well known individual, you can have total anonymity on your island here,” says Lester. “You can have total privacy. You really are the king of your own domain and, for some people, that’s tremendously appealing.”
   He points out that Americans who bought in on our island boom at the beginning have made huge profits on the Canadian dollar. “When we had a 67-cent dollar it was much easier
for Americans to purchase,” says Lester. “Our real estate was incredibly inexpensive. Now some of those same Americans who purchased then have made an incredibly good lift on exchange alone. They don’t need to be as aggressive with price.”
   Regardless of exchange rates, says Lester, most real-estate analysts estimate the appreciation of coastal islands in B.C. at between eight and 10 per cent per year.
Gulf Islands are a pretty amazing place,” he says. “So is the whole B.C. coast. In the context of the international marketplace, it’s a real hidden gem. If you look at values of the Canadian Gulf Islands and the San Juans, you can pay 15 per cent again at least to get the same property.”
   Retired Seattle-area dentist Norm Culver says he can hardly believe the bargain he got when he decided to buy an island in B.C. He has a permanent home on a shared island in the San Juans but says the proliferation of “Keep Off” and “No Trespassing” signs convinced him it was time to follow his boyhood dream of owning his own island.
   “The San Juans were prohibitively expensive, so I kept going farther and farther north, looking at the websites, until I got to the point where I could afford one,” says Culver.
   He stopped at
Dick Island, accessible at low tide by foot from Texada. He paid just $300,000 for a 16-acre island with cabin that would’ve been priced in the millions had it been on the U.S. side of the border.
   “It’s remote and that’s the very thing I wanted,” says Culver. “It has first-growth timber, two eagles’ nests and about a mile of waterfront — just beautiful.”
   Going north might well be how the rest of us can afford to join the club.
New Westminster realtor Brian Harris says Haida Gwaii is fast becoming the new frontier of recreational real estate. One of his listings on is Maple Island, a 2.5-acre retreat just 1.6 kilometres from the government wharf in Queen Charlotte City. With an asking price of $125,000, the listing notes that while there’s no cabin on the island, it does have an incredible variety of fossils — perfect for that marine biologist who’s at home with a table-saw and doesn’t mind constant drizzle.
   “The inquiries we’ve had to date have been from fishermen who want a getaway in the heart of B.C.’s best fishing area,” says Harris. “There’ve also been inquiries from people who want to do commercial kayaking and things like that.”
   If you can’t afford your own B.C. island, the next best thing is to get yourself hired as a caretaker.
   For 10 years, Robert Day and his wife Dorothy have looked after
Scott Island near Chemainus on behalf of Sir David Wynn-Williams — better known among locals as The Duke of Wales.
   Sir David flies in from the
U.K. just once or twice a year.
   Day says island-sitting is not as cushy as it sounds. “A lot of people think there’s nothing to do, but it’s a full-time job,” he says. “You have to maintain boats and lawns and gardens and whatever else is there.”
Scott Island, too, is on the market — listed at $5.3 million. Sir David, head of a dairy business, is said to be looking for an island a little closer to home.
Victoria realtor Peter Nash ( is the man to call if you’re interested in buying this 4.53-acre crown jewel located in a marine area known as “the banana belt.” Scott comes with a five-bedroom house, caretakers’ wing (plus caretakers), tennis courts, six outbuildings, one of the best harbours in the Gulf Islands, a hydraulic crane for unloading supplies, a $250,000 boat and all furniture, fixtures and fittings — right down to the curtains.
   Has anyone called Kenny G?
[email protected] Here are a few other islands in B.C. currently for sale
American Island: 8 acres, $84,900
This is your big chance to own an entire kilometre of spectacular waterfront — not on the coast, unfortunately, but in a corner of
Stuart Lake in northern B.C. The island comes with beaches and good moorage bays. “A sporstsman’s dream,” says the listing.
East Point Islet: 3 acres, $299,000
East Point, near Nelson Island on the Sunshine Coast, is described as having a great beach, safe moorage, well water, spectacular views and great fishing and scuba diving. “Priced to sell,” says the listing.
Ring Island: 14.4 acres, $560,000 Here’s your chance to rule an island for less than the average price of a home in North Van. Ring Island is located on the sunny southwest side of Cortes Island and is noted for its fine oysters. But “unspoiled and undeveloped” means you’ll be living in a tent until you get the cabin up.
Ballenas Island: 100 acres, $1,600,000
Located about 50 kilometres north of
Nanaimo, Ballenas is just a 20-minute airhop from Vancouver. The listing describes it as “one of B.C.’s world famous coastal islands unrivalled for its rugged beauty, privacy and the sea-life surrounding it.” We’ll take it.

Happiness at L’Hermitage

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

COVER: Hotel-condo dwelling an experiment in blending culturesand income-brackets

Jeani Read

L’Hermitage en Ville in downtown Vancouver has condos, a boutique hotel and street-level retail space.. JON MURRAY — THE PROVINCE

CREDIT: Jon Murray, The Province

Sleek and sexy: Cooking will never be the same in a L’Hermitage kitchen

CREDIT: Jon Murray, The Province

The building shows sleek, stylish designs from the outside and in (above left and right). L’Hermitage kicks up design a few notches with built-in space savers (at right). Bathroom sink (above right) in stunning stainless makes hand-washing an event.

To say L’Hermitage en Ville is simply 204 condos in downtown Vancouver, the way we just have in the above box, doesn’t quite get the measure of this ambitious project

Yes, it is 204 condos, and you could almost say it was creating a new city centre right at the centre of the city, with the Robson and Richards tower rising up smack across the street, the library right on the scene and the Centre for the Performing Arts squished in there as well. But it’s more than that. L’Hermitage is designed to have an exclusive boutique hotel within its structure. The hotel occupies two floors of the condo building, and hotel and condo share an entrance and many of the amenities, including a health club with exercise room and whirlpool spa, library and fireside seating area, and a strolling park and grounds on the fourth-floor roof.

The street level is planned for lots of retail — one prospective client is IGA ,which would really pep up the produce competition and increase the easy-living quotient. One look at the doll-house model makes you want to anticipate a brand new stand-alone Ralph Lauren boutique among the rest of the shops, although that could just be wishful thinking.

Finally, L’Hermitage includes a social experiment — a section of new subsidized housing incorporated into the whole as part of a contract with the city. The developers hope this is a model that will be followed by others, ensuring that the downtown core continues to represent a broad mix not only of cultures, but income-brackets.

If so, from soup to society, this package is so tight and multipurpose as an urban concept it squeaks, right down to the fact that the tone-setting Armani Casa decor items (although likely too big for most of the units) will be available through Inform Interiors, which is using the presentation centre as a showroom.

This upscale, haughty, minimalist stuff will grace the hotel/condo lobby and other common areas. The other features, building design and atmospherics in the presentation centre are also pretty impressive. It’s all about the details, as city life really demands a quiet, luxurious retreat far (up, in this case) from the madding crowd.

Here L’Hermitage really rocks, with some of the coolest detailing we’ve seen in a while. The polished manufactured-stone counter in the display kitchen was a clean relief from the busy look of granite, making the whole kitchen into a kind of stainless-steel-coloured zone that oddly doesn’t look sterile but like a perfectly plausible part of condo life.

The floor-to-ceiling pantry makes the most of minimal space and certainly stores enough for an urban dweller’s culinary repertoire — we’re thinking Friday night pizzas or fancy very late Sunday brunch. Even so, the kitchen sticks to the centre-of-the-world concept of today’s open floor plans. If the kitchen is the new living room, this one (Eggersmann, Bosch, SubZero) is spectacular,with a tight but sufficient work space for serious chefs. No room on the counters for canisters or the butcher block that stores your knives? No worries. Opt for the upgrade drawer with spice jars and canisters built in, or the one for the Henckels.

The bathrooms, too, are a treat — spa-like touches such as gorgeous faucetry, under-mounted oval sinks, deep soaker tubs and frameless glass shower stalls are all set in a calming sea of limestone counters and tiles. New looks? You bet. New concept? Yup. Just enjoy your continental breakfast from the hotel (another available perk) and feel smug.



WHAT: L’Hermitage en Ville is 204 condominiums in downtown Vancouver.

WHERE: Richards at Robson streets.

DEVELOPED BY: Millennium Robson Properties.

SIZES: One-bedroom to three-bedroom condominiums, 624 sq. ft. – 2,091 sq.ft.

PRICES: $362,000 – $1,660,000.

OPEN: Noon to 6 p.m. daily, except Fridays, 688 Richards St., 604-605-1118.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Stealing Home

Sunday, June 26th, 2005


Dr. Ramin Dehmoubed

Gideon Augier

Sergeant Phil Hibbelin

Jennifer Fiddian-Green

Mike Bell

Philip Tomlinson

Mortgage Fraud. It’s a crime-wave sweeping the country, and it’s a problem no one wants to talk about – not the banks, not the government, not even the victims.

More than 7.5 million Canadians own their own home. While owning a home may be the Canadian dream and a symbol of financial security, the value of our homes are proving to be an irresistible target for conmen.

The crime goes by many names, like “The Bump” and “The Oklahoma Flip” and it’s proving all too easy to pull off.

Like all of us, Dr. Ramin Dehmoubed, a Toronto dentist, believed that as long as he made payments on his mortgage, his house was his, and no one could take it away. But having your house stolen is possible, and it’s happening virtually every day in this country.

“I just can’t believe something like that can happen,” Dr. Dehmoubed says.

In Dehmoubed’s case, two years after buying the house, he discovered there was a lien on the property and his house was for sale. It was his first house, and it was seemingly chosen at random.

Here’s how it happened: First a conman made up a story about Dehmoubed owing him money. He then filed phony documents and took them to court to prove his claim.

“They had forged my signature to register a false lien on the house and because I wasn’t aware of it, they just enforced it,” Dehmoubed says.

The courts enforced the lien by handing the house over to the conman to cover the phony debt. The conman immediately put the house up for sale. Dehmoubed, meanwhile, had no idea this was happening until the sign went up on his front lawn.

The man responsible for trying to snatch his house out from under him was Gideon Augier. They didn’t know one another, but as soon as Dehmoubed found out what was happening, he called police.

The investigator was Sgt. Phil Hibbelin with the Toronto Police. At first, Augier threatened to sue the officer. When Hibbelin demanded proof that the deal was legitimate, Augier refused to cooperate.

Finally, Augier was charged, but for Dehmoubed the whole process would take four years and thousands of dollars in legal fees to try and sort out. In the end, the courts gave Dehmoubed his house back, but Augier only got a slap on the wrist – 30 days in jail, to be served on weekends. The judge also ordered restitution, but to this day,  Dehmoubed hasn’t seen a dime.

Det. Phil Shrewsbury of the York Regional Police has investigated a number of mortgage fraud cases, including one of Canada’s biggest, a scheme worth nearly $1.5 million. Shrewsbury says that the con could happen to anyone.  And he says you may not know until the banks, or the police, knock on your door.

In many cases, stealing a house is easy. Once a crook sees a house he wants, he simply files transfer of ownership papers at the provincial Land Titles Office. Much of the time, no one there will even verify the signature.

It’s a crime so easy to commit that Shrewsbury says they have a case backlog of about one year to 18 months before police can even start investigating a complaint.

How big is mortgage fraud in dollar terms? No one really knows. There is no central registry in this country, and it’s a crime the banks don’t like to talk about. However, one estimate by the Quebec Association of Real Estate Agents and Brokers says mortgage fraud could be worth $1.5 billion a year.

You might be wondering how the courts have ruled on these cases. A review of previous mortgage fraud cases is not encouraging. While the courts usually return the houses to the victims, they have also ruled that the victims are responsible for the mortgages that were taken out fraudulently.

And while innocent victims are seemingly punished, the con men are, for the most part, getting away with it.

Gideon Augier is a case in point. W-FIVE found Augier has a 20-year criminal record, with no fewer than eight convictions for fraud, mostly related to mortgages. Yet he has served mere days in jail, and to this day is a free man. Augier, who is from St. Lucia, has even been ordered deported from Canada. But he has filed an appeal, so his deportation could yet take years.

Meanwhile, Augier is once again before the courts, charged again with mortgage fraud.

While forged signatures and fake documents can be one way of stealing a home, stolen identity is another.

Jennifer Fiddian-Green knows all too well how that can happen. One day she got a call out of the blue from a mortgage company telling her she was behind in her payments. Fiddian-Green thought he had the wrong number, but the man insisted she had a mortgage.

It turned out that without her knowledge, a fourplex and a house in Brantford, Ont. had been bought in her name and Fiddean-Green owed nearly half a million dollars for the properties she had never seen, and for a mortgage she had never applied for.

“I’m exasperated,” she says. “I mean how can this happen with my name attached to it? They have copies, photocopies of faxes of identity documents that have my name on it, my date of birth on it, my SIN number, a different picture.”

Until she got that fateful call, Fiddian-Green had no idea what had happened. Her identity had been stolen and properties were bought in her name. Mortgages were taken out on the properties, and they walked away with the cash, leaving her on the hook for the mortgage payments.

Fiddian-Green, a forensic accountant, spent hundreds of hours trying to clear her name, and get to the bottom of what happened. One of the things she did was dig up copies of the titles to the two properties bought in her name, and the name of the person who sold them.

She called him, and as she says, “I said my name is Jennifer Fiddian-Green. And after I said that, the phone actually dropped…I don’t know if he was shocked and upset or he was nervous at this point. I don’t know. I do know the phone dropped and I actually got hung up on.”

When W-FIVE contacted the seller, we were given the name of the man who approached him with the deal – Mike Bell. We set out to find Mike Bell. He and a man by the name of Philip Tomlinson ran a company that arranged mortgages out of an office in Brantford. It was called Platinum Financing, but it had recently been closed down.

When W-FIVE tracked Bell down to his home in Brantford, he said he knew the Fiddian-Green deal was rotten from the start, but he denied being a part of it. He pointed the finger at Tomlinson. Bell also claims he acted on his suspicions, tipping off the lawyer and the mortgage broker involved in the deal.

When W-FIVE reached Tomlinson by phone, he denied any involvement.

Tomlinson was charged by police with the Fiddian-Green fraud, but the charges were eventually stayed. Why? Tomlinson told prosecutors he was being conned as well, by a person pretending to be Jennifer. However, when W-FIVE asked Tomlinson to back that up by putting us in touch with that person, he refused.

W-FIVE also discovered that Tomlinson is currently before the courts charged with an identical crime, stealing someone’s identity and using it to get mortgage money.

As for Bell’s story, when W-FIVE called the lawyer and the mortgage broker that he supposedly tipped off, they denied getting any heads-up. The police investigation continues.

While mortgage fraud is on the rise across Canada, Alberta has the dubious distinction of being the mortgage fraud capital of Canada – 2,700 cases of mortgage fraud in one year alone.

In Edmonton, one of the most common scams is “the Oklahoma flip.” In simple terms, it’s about buying a cheap, sometimes rundown house, and flipping it several times, selling it back and forth to yourself or your friends, or in most cases a numbered company you control. No money changes hands, but it allows the con men to inflate the value of the house and get mortgages for well over the value of the property, and then just disappear.

Hal Wright, a building inspector with the City of Edmonton, believes it’s a growing problem – houses on the verge of collapse, picked up for next to nothing, slapped with a few cosmetic repairs, and then over-inflated in value by a crooked appraiser. With the flaws disguised, the false appraisal is taken to the bank, and the con man walks away with the profits.

Wright gets involved because the houses are considered a danger, and if he isn’t condemning them, the whole cycle can happen again and again.

The Real Estate Council of Alberta regulates realtors, mortgage brokers and appraisers — insiders most often involved in mortgage fraud, according to police. Executive Director Bob Myroniuk says all RECA can do to stop mortgage fraud is revoke licences of members it suspects. RECA then passes the information along to police.

But when W-FIVE contacted police in Alberta, we found that whatever industry enforcement might be taking place, it’s hardly making a dent.

W-FIVE found plenty of people involved in questionable real estate deals. One man who has raised some eyebrows is Gohar Pervez, a convicted cocaine and methamphetamine dealer, now into real estate. On a number of his deals, ownership of the houses passes through the same associates and the same numbered companies time and time again. At any time, if Pervez chose to mortgage the houses, he’d be making serious money.

While police describe the pattern as a classic “Oklahoma flip”, Pervez claims he is just a good businessman. “…We are just transferring shares between ourselves,” he says. 

Pervez’s explanation for the repeated transactions: “It’s just giving shares to the person, giving security to the person. This has nothing to do with flipping.”

While Pervez claims to have an eye for a good deal, he is facing more than a dozen civil lawsuits, many from the Bank of Montreal which claims it was defrauded of more than $1 million. Pervez maintains he’s done nothing wrong.

While the banks are after people like Pervez with a vengeance in civil court, they appear reluctant to get the police involved. Det. Mike Shorter of the Edmonton Police is one of a handful of officers across the country working full-time on mortgage fraud. For the last year, he has been working exclusively on mortgage fraud. When asked how many charges he has laid, Shorter says “none.”

Shorter says “in a mortgage fraud, the ultimate victim is the lending institution, and that’s where a lot of times, I’m running into brick walls… My rule of thumb is if the complainant doesn’t want to cooperate, we’ve got enough crime to deal with. We’ll go on.”

The Edmonton Police is accusing the banks of not reporting large-scale fraud. And other police forces told W-FIVE the banks were actually hindering investigations by making it difficult for police to get key documents.

W-FIVE called each of the five major banks and asked for interviews. We wanted to ask them about police allegations that they weren’t being more cooperative in the fight against mortgage fraud. But our interview requests were all turned down, and in each and every case the banks claimed mortgage fraud wasn’t a big problem and that they fully cooperate with the police.

Police believe one of the reasons they are not getting more cooperation is that the banks are able to recover part of their losses. They are able to turn to various provincial funds set up to cover Land Title errors. Many low-equity mortgages are also insured by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a federal Crown Corporation. But, when W-FIVE asked CMHC how much they were paying out in claims due to fraud, they refused to tell us and blocked an official Access to Information request we made.

While the Canadians banks are choosing to downplay the problems with mortgage fraud and while Finance Minister Ralph Goodale’s office says it’s not his job to tell the banks how to run their day-to-day affairs, it’s a different story south of the border where the FBI are warning of dire consequences for the entire economy if mortgage fraud is left unchecked.

“We have seen a five-fold increase in our caseload since 2000,” says Chris Swecker, assistant director of criminal investigations for the FBI. “We went from 4,000 complaints a year, from 4,000 referrals a year to 17,000. And we think that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Swecker warns of a crisis unless police and bankers and especially the courts act more aggressively against mortgage fraud. “We want to make some very public examples of people by seeing some significant sentences. We want to see some people go to jail. We want the judges to understand these are significant losses and they go beyond just the monetary loss. I mean, these are people’s home and lives.”

In the U.S., the major banks are required by law to report suspected cases of mortgage fraud. But that’s not the case in Canada. Swecker believes mortgage fraud can’t be combated unless the banks are required to report to the police. “If you don’t know about the crime you can’t work it,” he says.