Archive for July, 2009

iPhones vulnerable to being taken over, hackers contend

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Teresa Smith
Sun

Canadian iPhone users may want to think about hanging up for a while if two hacker heavyweights prove they can infiltrate the system and put a worm inside the Apple.

Charlie Miller and Collin Mulliner say they’ve found a security weakness in Apple’s iPhone which would allow a hacker to gain control of the device by sending a single SMS — or text message — and they shared that information Thursday at the 2009 Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

At the conference, iPhone users were warned their devices were not entirely secure.

“It’s scary. I don’t want people taking over my iPhone,” Miller, a security analyst with consulting firm Independent Security Evaluators, told Reuters, adding the information they presented at Black Hat will give criminals enough information to develop software to break into iPhones within about two weeks.

Miller — one of the top computer hackers in the U.S. — and Mulliner, a PhD student at Technical University of Berlin, focusing on the security of mobile devices, say they discovered the vulnerability and alerted Apple to the problem, but the computer giant hasn’t come out with any official statement or a security update to combat the problem. Apple didn’t immediately return calls to Canwest News Service Thursday.

Canadian Tech guru Jesse Hirsh says if the hackers have cracked the code, there is little iPhone users can do, for now. Other tech experts suggest iPhone users turn off their device immediately if they see a square box in the body of a text message.

Many mobile phone owners use text messaging daily, so Canadian iPhone users are just as vulnerable as those in the rest of the world, said Hirsh.

Hirsh said the hackers would be able to use the iPhone just as its owner would — they could send e-mails, text messages, surf the Internet and make phone calls. He warned that criminals could access a user’s personal banking information if they have saved passwords into their iPhone.

Hirsh explained the technology could also be used on a wider scale, by accessing an entire network, finding out all the iPhone numbers and sending an automatic, viral SMS to every number. The phones would then respond, and the hacker would potentially have control of at least a few thousand phones, Hirsh said, adding that there’s not much iPhone users can do aside from putting their phone away until Apple comes up with a solution.

“It’s Apple’s job to fix this, not the individual user,” he said.

Hirsh says this incident demonstrates that all technology, at some point, is fundamentally insecure and today, it’s Apple’s turn to squirm.

He’s confident Apple will fix the problem, but said another hacker will come along soon to highlight yet another weakness in new technologies.

“It’s a perpetual cat-and-mouse game,” Hirsh said. “The big companies work hard to prevent this type of thing, but they can never be perfect.

“There’s always knowledge that they don’t have, that someone else has, that can be used against them.”

This comes six weeks after Apple launched its new iPhone 3GS, billed as “the fastest, most powerful iPhone yet.”

About 4,000 people are at the Las Vegas conference.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Taxman starts to crack down on eBay sellers

Friday, July 31st, 2009

$5 billion in undeclared online revenue, Ottawa says

Mike De Souza, with file from Fiona Anderson
Sun

The Canada Revenue Agency is planning to begin a wave of audits within weeks targeting Canadians who derive at least some of their income from regularly selling products on the online eBay marketplace website.

The agency warned on Thursday that it planned to launch the audits by the end of the summer after obtaining a list of high-volume eBay sellers (known as “PowerSellers“) along with their transaction records.

Federal Revenue Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn says a legal process which allowed the government to obtain the list has opened the door for the taxman to go after information from other marketplace websites and crack down on up to $5 billion in undeclared revenues from people who do business online.

“This is certainly only the beginning of the process,” Blackburn told Canwest News Service. “We believe that a whole new market is opening [for the revenue agency].”

The government obtained the list of 5,000 individual members or companies and their online transactions on Nov. 7, 2008, following a lengthy legal battle that reviewed privacy issues as well as an appeal from eBay. The website unsuccessfully argued against disclosing the information on the grounds that it was stored on an electronic database outside Canada.

Blackburn said the government could not immediately use the information in November since there were still unresolved legal issues and a possibility of an appeal to the Supreme Court. But he said the government has since reached an agreement with eBay — described in court documents as “the world’s largest global online marketplace” — that will allow the revenue agency to use the information from the list.

It includes members who sold more than $1,000 US worth of products per month (or its equivalent in Canadian dollars) for any period of three consecutive months in 2004 and 2005.

He said that anyone with previously undisclosed revenues should voluntarily come forward immediately to avoid audits, penalties and fines.

While interest charges may apply, he said the agency can reach agreements to help people with massive tax bills manage the cost through a payment plan.

“Within a month we will start the audit process, one by one, to determine whether these people [on the eBay list] declared their revenues on their tax returns in 2004 and 2005,” he said. “If they haven’t done so, it’s certain that we will send them a new notice of assessment with penalties.”

Blackburn also said the court decision would open the door for the revenue agency to obtain transaction records from subsequent years.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said it disagreed with the government’s approach. The lobby group believes the government appears to presume that people doing business online are guilty of tax evasion.

Gary Petersen, owner of the Tale of the Whale art and antique store in Sooke, buys on eBay but doesn’t sell. He supports the CRA’s move to tax those who do sell. The other day he came across a seller who had more than 80 pages, about 1,500 items, for sale.

“People who do this for a living should be paying tax because tax is what pays for roads and schools and police and fire departments and everything,” Petersen said.

Chilliwack-based Antiques by Design sells some items through eBay. But co-owner Dennis Dargatz said that eBay providing information about them to the CRA “doesn’t bother us a bit.”

“We declare everything we sell as income, so it doesn’t matter to us,” Dargatz said. “We’re a real business, we’re not doing this as a sideline or for extra cash. So for us it has no effect whatsoever.”

Dargatz doubts the CRA will spend time going after someone who has sold half a dozen things through eBay over the past few years.

“But the people that are actively selling, sure that’s income and they should be declaring it as income,” he said.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Homebuilders bamboozled by Liberal Party

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Industry offered no breaks after surprise switch

Michael Smyth
Province

After blindsiding B.C. with last week’s stunning HST consumer tax grab, Premier Gordon Campbell sat down with some business leaders to talk about the tax — which is more than he’s done for voters who believed the Liberals’ HST denials during the election.

I’m told the mood of the meeting was generally positive — understandable since big business will be the big winners with a 12-per-cent harmonized sales tax they can deduct as an expense, while consumers and many small businesses get slammed with $2 billion in unexpected new costs.

One business sector that will be brutalized by the HST is the home-building and renovation sector — which, like the B.C. restaurant industry, was double-crossed by the Libs. (Both were told directly in writing by the party that an HST wasn’t on.)

I obtained an e-mail sent out to Metro Vancouver homebuilders, describing the sit-down with Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen.

“It was a love-in, as most industry sectors present were high-fiving each other and congratulating the provincial government,” said the dispatch from the Greater Vancouver Homebuilders Association.

The association, fearful the consumer price of new homes and renos will spike because of the tax, asked Campbell what kind of assistance the industry can expect. Will the government make the tax revenue-neutral for them?

“The premier offered a quick response: ‘There is no promise of neutrality.’ However, the premier said they would work with specific sectors to try to find ways to mitigate the HST’s more onerous effects. The premier said, ‘I get that there are problems. We need to identify them and do what we can to mitigate them.’

“The premier said he would like to look at other costs our industry faces and perhaps influence those impacts. The imposition of municipal development charges was one area he could examine.”

So Campbell is going to lean on cash-strapped muncipalities to give homebuilders a break now? And all while the homebuyers get hosed? Amazing.

This follows the government’s earlier backroom assurance to the restaurant industry that they’ll get a handout, too.

But for all you chumps coughing up the HST on everything from haircuts to funerals, don’t expect a bailout. Only the most powerful and well-connected interests will get a special deal.

I was fascinated, meanwhile, to read Hansen’s response to the homebuilders’ complaint that the HST will drive much of the home-renovation business to the underground black market, as consumers seek to avoid the HST.

“Hansen agreed this is a troublesome area that warrants close attention,” the e-mail reveals. Which is funny, because Hansen told me on CKNW radio this week that he didn’t think black-market renovations would be a big problem.

“It [the HST] actually reduces the propensity for black market,” Hansen told me.

One thing said in private. Another in public. Par for the course on this brazen broken-promise tax grab.

© Copyright (c) The Province

HST gets ex-premier Vander Zalm hopping mad

Friday, July 31st, 2009

‘Short of a revolt, we certainly need to make a huge protest’

Katie Mercer
Province

Former premier Bill Vander Zalm says he’s coming out of political retirement because he doesn’t mind ‘tackling issues.’ Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, The Province

One of B.C.’s feistiest former premiers is calling for a revolt against the Liberal government’s new harmonized sales tax.

Bill Vander Zalm — the defiant Dutchman who resigned as Socred premier in 1991 — says something needs to be done about the “$2-billion tax grab.”

And he’s willing to lead the charge.

“That’s why Bill Vander Zalm thought, ‘Well, if nobody else is going to bring this out, I’m going to have to step to the fore and do it anyways,’” the 75-year-old told The Province Thursday.

“I don’t want to get involved in politics, but I’m concerned about what’s happening to the province and I don’t mind tackling issues.”

Beginning next July, the seven-per-cent provincial sales tax and the five-per-cent goods and services tax will be merged into a 12-per-cent HST.

Previously PST-exempt items — restaurant meals, taxi fares, hydro and cable bills and more — will be seven per cent more expensive.

Vander Zalm says he’s irked that the Liberals broke their election promise to not introduce a new tax during an economic downturn. What’s worse, he says, is how they announced it.

It was hot and muggy last Thursday — the same day as commissioner Thomas Braidwood was grabbing headlines with his much-anticipated report on police use of Tasers — when the announcement was released.

Vander Zalm said it was a smart political move to effectively bury the story. The year-long delay before the tax is implemented will also help citizens to forget the issue, he added.

“It’s not a bad political move to do it this way, but we best be aware that it is a political move and we best act now,” Vander Zalm said.

“Short of a revolt, we certainly need to make a huge protest,” he said, imploring B.C. citizens to phone, write, organize demonstrations and put pressure on their MLAs. He can be reached at www.billvanderzalm.com.

Vander Zalm said the saddest part of the HST is that the poorest, who pay the most as a percentage of their income, will be hardest hit.

The move toward HST is contradictory, he said, as the government asks people to cut back on spending while taking more money from taxpayers.

Then there’s the economic impact, which will likely cause unemployment in industries such as tourism, homebuilding and restaurants, he said.

Vander Zalm said that none of his own, or his family’s, interests would be affected, and that was not the reason he was objecting.

Meanwhile, the Mining Association of British Columbia came out in support yesterday of the HST.

Association president and CEO Pierre Gratton said the new approach could lower operating costs that can then be reinvested in the province.

“When the mining sector is doing well, companies have money to invest in growth and that means new job creation,” Gratton said in a news release.

“This new tax structure will help attract investment into B.C. and help speed the way to economic recovery.”

© Copyright (c) The Province

 

The former Pony Express in Pemberton, now The Pony, has been transformed

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Casual and affordable bistro-style meals

Mia Stainsby
Sun

Caesar salad and beet salad with goat cheese and pecans at The Pony.

THE PONY

Where: 1392 Portage Road, Pemberton

Phone: 604-894-5700

Hours: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and for late night snacks

Overall: ***1/2

Food: ***1/2

Ambience: ***1/2

Service: ***1/2

Price: $$

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone.

- – -

If you’re outdoorsy, I don’t need to tell you of the good hiking around Pemberton — even my last hike to Rohr Lake. Mosquito terrorists attacked and chomped on every exposed inch of me and my feet clomped like pile-drivers hopping boulders up an avalanche chute, but it was still good hiking.

And now, there’s good eating in Pemberton, too. For a very long time (15 years), The Pony Express was a dependable java stop but last April, Alexander Stoll and Neal Harrison took it over with more ambitious plans. They relaunched it as The Pony and offer early morning breakfast, lunch, a bistro style dinner and late night drinks and snacks. It opens at 6:30 a.m.and closes at 1 a.m.

Pemberton, a bedroom to Whistler, is like Canmore, the bedroom to Banff, each with laid-back flavours of their own. But the difference is, Pemberton is fast becoming a foodie town with a vibrant farming community; we were surprised to learn of the Pemberton Valley Vineyard (yes!) and soon, a vodka distillery called Pemberton Organic Vodka (double yes!).

At The Pony, Stoll hails from France and Harrison from England. Together they also run Fat Duck, a catering business and until they took over The Pony, ran a lunch service at Pemberton Valley Vineyard (now discontinued but you can book ahead for dinner at their bed and breakfast operation). Stoll has worked at Val d’Isere and Westin Resort in Whistler and Harrison has worked at the Westin as well as Langara Lodge up the B.C. coast.

When I clambered down the mountain from Rohr Lake, it was a toss-up between The Pony and Wildwood Bar and Grill for dinner. The latter feels like a Whistler transplant and, in fact, is, while The Pony is worn and funky. But the menu at The Pony looked far more intriguing to me.

I hadn’t been impressed with the impatient, irritated service at The Pony that morning when we asked staff about dinner so I had my doubts but the evening service proved to be much better. It’s a family-friendly restaurant with pizzas on the top of mind for kids and bistro-style dishes for adults. At a neighbouring table, parents were pointing out artichokes to their little son: “Will you choke on them?” he asked. I also noted something every parent should know about: a plastic placemat for baby with a built-in trough that hung off the table for the rubble to fall into.

Our server (with Quebecois accent) was informative and enthusiastic. Main ingredients are mostly locally sourced and a big deal is made of the famous Pemberton potatoes. The warm potato salad is one such offer. “Bacon! That’s my kind of potato salad,” said my hungry man. Like many dishes on the menu, it’s available in small or large size. A goat’s cheese and onion marmalade tartlette came with a side of local beet and arugula salad with walnut dressing. A baked Queen Charlotte halibut with a hazelnut herb crust ($26) was really fresh and napped in a mussel cream sauce. Risotto with peas and duck confit was a special for either $14 or $20. As the small size was more than filling, I would have been in a great deal of pain had I gone for the large.

I couldn’t resist a dessert called The Mess (ice cream, meringue, whipped cream, strawberry and rhubarb compote, layered in a glass) and found myself scouring the bottom for the last bits.

Dishes resonate with French bistro influences and that’s definitely the style of food here — casual and affordable and sticking to proven techniques. B.C. ingredients like Pemberton beef, Sloping Hills organic pork, Pemberton potatoes, Fraser Valley duck and local produce will be regularly featured on the menu. The day I called, the specials for the day included Pemberton top sirloin sandwich in pecan bread with demi glace dip (for lunch) and for dinner, Alberta bison with white navy beans, arugula and oven-dried tomatoes and an eight-ounce Pemberton beef rib-eye with cherry gastrique and Pemberton potatoes.

Foodies, you’ve missed the Outstanding in the Field farm dinner in Pemberton (July 18) but you can still make the Slow Food Cycle Sunday (www.slowfoodcyclesunday.com) on August 16 should you want to check out the edible side of Pemberton.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

New sales tax hits haircuts, movies, realtor fees and fitness clubs

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Service providers say the HST will add to customer costs at a time of falling sales

Brian Morton
Sun

Many in B.C.’s service industry fear the province’s proposed harmonized sales tax will not only increase costs for clients, but make a bleak economic climate even worse.

Expect pricier movie tickets, too.

“When it goes into effect, you’ll probably see all movie theatres raising their prices by $1 to make up the lost revenue because of the tax,” said Leonard Schein, owner of Festival Cinemas, which operates Fifth Avenue Cinemas, Ridge Theatre and Park Theatre.

Although Schein said he doesn’t think the tax will drive customers away, some may opt for less expensive tickets offered for Tuesdays or matinees. “Movie theatres are still the cheapest form of entertainment. I don’t feel attendance will drop that much.”

However, Sam Ponnayya, co-owner of Oakridge Laser & Skin Care Clinic, wasn’t so optimistic.

“Sales are going to be down, at least 20 to 30 per cent, minimum,” said Ponnayya. “Eighty per cent of our business is service, and customers say it’s an added expense for them.”

Ponnayya said the new tax was announced at a time when the slowing economy has already hurt his business. “We’re planning to hire people, but I might have to hire part-time [employees], instead of full-time. We should have gotten a bit of a warning.”

Under the harmonized tax regime, announced last week by the provincial government, the five-per-cent federal goods and services tax will be combined with the province’s seven-per-cent provincial sales tax to make a 12-per-cent harmonized tax, effective July 1, 2010.

The added costs to consumers will come from the fact the new tax will apply to the same goods and services that the GST applies to, and that includes many items that are currently exempt from PST.

Personal services affected by the new tax include hair care, dry cleaning, repair services for household appliances, household maintenance such as renovations and painting, real estate fees, membership fees for health clubs, movie and theatre tickets, funeral services, professional services such as accounting and home care, and airline fares within Canada.

Scott Russell, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, said that while he did not yet know the full implications of the new tax, it will result in higher costs for such real estate-related services as realtors’ fees and house inspections.

“It’s just going to be an added cost at the end of the day,” said Russell. “Typically, the seller pays the [realtor's] commission. So there’ll be another seven per cent on top of that. On a $10,000 commission, that’s another $700.”

Russell said appraisals usually cost about $300 and home inspections between $300 and $400 — both now subject to the HST. “And in rural areas, people have septic tank inspections.

“Real estate is an important economic driver. Some consultation would be helpful.”

Steven English, a certified general accountant in North Vancouver, said the new tax won’t be great for his profession overall because it’s an extra charge and could result in some people opting to do their own accounting.

Nevertheless, he said, the tax doesn’t bring a massive increase and in the long term, “I think it will be good because it [the harmonized tax] is easier to work with once it settles down.”

English said accountants will likely have to lower their fees a bit, with clients making up the rest. “I’m going to have to start eating some of it.”

Ron Zalko, owner of Ron Zalko Fitness Centre, Gym and Personal Training in Vancouver, said that while he doesn’t believe the extra cost will drive customers away, it sets a bad precedent.

“I think all fitness providers should be exempt from the tax,” he said. “If you encourage people to [stay fit], that will take a burden off the health-care system. If you’re fit, you’re healthy and productive. And most of this generation has just quit exercising.”

Zalko said the new tax could stop some people on limited budgets from joining fitness clubs.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

City of Vancouver will allow to convert garages to living quarters

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Rebecca Tebrake
Sun

Almost two dozen Vancouver homeowners lined up Wednesday to inquire about replacing their garages with small second homes, a day after city council approved laneway housing.

The plan, approved unanimously by council on Tuesday, makes nearly 70,000 single-family lots potentially eligible to add a rental home to help out with the mortgage or house grandparents, grown children or caregivers.

By Wednesday, 23 homeowners had inquired whether they were eligible, kicking off the application process, which includes am $899 permit fee.

The homes are being touted by council and staff as an answer to Vancouver‘s lack of available and affordable housing.

“Our vacancy rate in our rental stock, in terms of our overall rental at 0.3 per cent, is very, very low and unacceptable,” said Coun. Raymond Louie. “People that work in our city are having a very tough time living in our city. We are hoping that these spaces will become more affordable and available for these people.”

“This is a very artful way to add density to the single-family neighbourhoods,” said Brent Toderian, the city’s director of planning.

Not everyone loves the idea. Toderian said he heard concerns about privacy, parking and congestion at meetings on the issue. The city only requires one parking space for the entire lot, which could have a main house, laneway house and a basement apartment.

Critics doubt the plan will actually increase affordability. “How much will they be paying to rent these laneway cottages and will that be affordable? In my view, the only affordable housing is subsidized housing and we need lots of it and we are not getting it,” said Alicia Barsallo, a member of the Coalition for a Liveable Vancouver.

The city will monitor shadows, traffic patterns, privacy and noise levels once laneways houses are built, with an official staff report coming after the 100th house is up, Louie said.

Properties eligible for laneway housing must have a minimum width of 33 feet. Properties of that size can have a 500-square-foot home, while larger properties can have a maximum 750-square-foot laneway house.

Homeowners must retain one parking space on their lot, and a 16-foot buffer between the front of the laneway home and the back of the main house. Toderian estimates 65,000 homes would meet these requirements.

Vancouver resident Robbie Stewart has been itching to build a laneway house for months.

Stewart and his partner want to downsize after their 16-year-old daughter moves out. Laneway housing wasn’t an option at first.

“We initially thought it was living in a garage,” said Stewart, who hasn’t applied with the city yet. “We had considered moving to a condo, but the problem is we don’t like condos. We love the area we live in.”

When the couple saw a model laneway home built by Smallworks at the home show this spring, they knew it was the perfect solution. The couple is making plans to convert their dilapidated 1945 garage into a beautiful.

Twenty-four other homeowners are lined up to work with Smallworks, a design/build company specializing in laneway houses. Smallworks co-owner Aaron Rosensweet said homes generally cost from $125,000 to $175,000.

“You are talking about these small cottages in the backyard rather than a garage,” Rosensweet said. “To me it’s a real opportunity to beautify those lanes and make those lanes more like our public spaces.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Analyst sees ‘reason for optimism’ as house prices rise

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Province

OTTAWA – Canadian housing prices rose in May by 0.7 per cent — the first time since October that they didn’t decline month-over-month, according to a national index released Wednesday.

However, May’s increase was not enough to stop the downward trend in year-over-year prices.

The Teranet-National Bank home price index fell 6.9 per cent compared to May 2008, the sixth-straight 12-month decline, and a jump from the 6.7-per-cent year-over-year drop posted in April.

The index is now down 8.9 per cent from its peak in August 2008, said Marc Pinsonneault, senior economist with the National Bank Financial Group.

“This series is not seasonally adjusted [due to the short data span], but a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that prices may have risen by a more modest 0.2 per cent month-over-month if historical patterns were to be considered,” cautioned senior TD Securities economist Millan Mulraine in a note.

He added that he saw some reason for optimism.

“On the whole, this report does offer some hope that the correction in Canadian home prices may be nearing an end, further corroborating the other housing sector indicators that are conveying a similar message,” Mulraine said.

Prices fell for the 11th straight month in Vancouver and Calgary. Vancouver prices were down 11.8 per cent from May 2008 — a decline of 12 per cent from the city’s June 2008 peak — while Calgary‘s fell 12.2 per cent and are now down 15.2 per cent from their peak in August 2007.

The other four cities included in the index all registered monthly increases — 1.3 per cent in Halifax, 1.5 per cent in Montreal, 0.7 per cent in Ottawa and two per cent in Toronto — though prices in Ottawa and Toronto were down on a year-to-year basis.

It was the third monthly rise in succession for Halifax and Montreal.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Instant office comes with a receptionist, phones, boardroom — even artwork and bike storage

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

North Shore’s Griffin Business Centre lets smaller operators avoid having to set up their own space

Brian Morton
Sun

David Laniado, in a boardroom at his North Vancouver Griffin Business Centre. Below, he shows off an executive office at the centre. Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun

Unlike large companies, many small businesses don’t have enough capital for a stand-alone office with its own meeting room, technology, personal reception, or even a water cooler.

To fill the gap, North Vancouver’s Griffin Business Centre, which opened in the fall of 2008, is leasing office space to more than 15 local small businesses so that they share such things as administrative support, an executive boardroom, business machines and office services, bike storage, showers, even a soundproof meditation room.

“All they need is their own computer and they’re set up,” Griffin president and founder David Laniado said in an interview. “They can focus on their business and we deal with everything else.”

Griffin Centre opened its 15,000-square-foot facility last fall and provides a fully furnished packaged office centre, including an extensive artwork collection, a state-of-the-art business centre and technology, 24-hour access, weekly office cleaning, and two kitchens.

“We set out to create the ideal environment for the entrepreneur,” said Laniado, who has four full-time employees at the centre to answer telephones for clients and take care of other business. “They want a first-class, inexpensive work space, and they don’t want to waste time with the usual hassles of running an office, dealing with IT, HR etc.”

Laniado, who has a background in real estate development, said a typical office at Griffin Centre rents for about $800 a month.

The centre also offers a “virtual office” starting at about $70 a month that includes telephone answering, mail handling and administrative support, as well as access to other services.

Laniado claims that by utilizing his model, clients can save about $25,000 in start-up costs and at least $50,000 per year. Laniado got his centre off the ground with a $6-million investment, including $3.5 million for the building and $2 million in renovations.

He has room for 34 clients and expects to be full by the end of the year.

Laniado also notes that more than four out of five businesses in Canada are micro-businesses, or companies with four or fewer employees.

“We have small companies and some larger businesses that don’t require a lot of space,” he said. “We also have large companies with satellite offices. [They have] very, very modest overhead, no capital expenditures. The desk and phone is there. The meeting rooms and projectors are all there.

“We have [as clients] a basketball school, an inventor, a couple of people in the medical field, and an architect. It’s an entrepreneurial atmosphere.”

Some of his clients are North Shore businesspeople who transferred their operations from Vancouver.

Steven English, a certified general accountant who has an office at Griffin Centre, said he’s very pleased with the centre because it has given him everything he needs at a good price.

“It’s saved me a lot of money and inconvenience. I’ve got a central point of reference for clients, who can drop things off if I’m not there. And I’ve got a meeting room any time I need it. The reception is excellent.”

Laniado is also working on a plan to open another centre in Surrey.

His advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

“Keep your overhead under control. There’s a tendency to look bigger than you are.”

He said one way he’s building his centre in recessionary times is to go back to the basics.

“Don’t be so cocky, be more appreciative of every deal. And I focus on service, on providing clients with the ultimate office experience.”

Griffin Business Centre

Website: www.griffincentre.ca.

Date formed: November 2008.

Number of employees: Four.

Startup costs: $6 million (including purchase of building).

Number of clients in November 2008: Two.

Number of clients today: 15, plus another nine “virtual” clients.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 

B.C. care providers say harmonized tax will result in reduced services for seniors

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

‘The outcome is likely layoffs. Care providers won’t have any choice,’ says head of organization

Brian Morton
Sun

B.C.’s care providers are worried that the province’s proposed harmonized sales tax (HST) will significantly reduce quality of care for seniors.

“This could mean a lower quality of care, as care providers are already stretched,” said David Hurford of the BC Care Providers Association. “It’s a very uncertain time, and there’s a growing demand for seniors’ services. This makes a tighter budget even tighter.

“The outcome is likely layoffs. Care providers won’t have any choice,” said Hurford, whose organization represents more than 130 non-profit and private B.C. seniors’ care providers responsible for more than 10,000 residential care beds in the province.

Under the harmonized tax regime, announced last week by the provincial government and planned for July 1, 2010, the five-per-cent federal goods and services tax will be combined with the province’s seven-per-cent provincial sales tax into a 12-per-cent harmonized tax.

The added costs to consumers come from the fact the new tax will apply to the same goods and services covered under the GST, including many items that are currently exempt from the PST.

Hurford said looming health cuts and the fact that care providers are already doing more for less will exacerbate the repercussions of the tax. Services newly hit by the tax include employee development, housekeeping and laundry, resident outings and travel, building maintenance, dietary contract services, refuse removal and pest control, landscape and snow removal contracts, and vocational therapists.

Also affected are personal services such as hair care, dry cleaning, repair services for household appliances, household maintenance such as renovations and painting, real estate fees, membership fees for health clubs, movie and theatre tickets, funeral services, professional services such as accounting and home care, and airline fares within Canada.

Hurford said the BCCPA was not consulted about the tax, but is conducting a review of its cost implications and plans to propose mitigation measures to the finance ministry, including a possible rebate to association members for staffing costs.

As it now stands, he said, non-profit and private residential seniors’ care facilities get much smaller rebates than health-authority care homes. He hopes that will change so all operators in long-term care are treated the same.

Hurford cited the experience in Ontario, where estimates suggest the HST could cost care providers more than $12 million.

Marilyn Slade, CEO of the non-profit Carital Continuing Care Society in Vancouver, said she believes the new tax will result in $200,000 in extra expenditures per year — the equivalent of more than two full-time registered nurses — at her 80-bed facility.

“I’m surprised [the government] didn’t think this through and bring it through with an exception for seniors’ care.”

Slade said up to 90 per cent of her expenses are labour-related, and that she will have to lay off people if the tax isn’t changed. “That’s the only way I can balance my budget.”

Hendrik van Ryk, COO of the privately-operated H&H Total Care Services, which has 240 beds, primarily for seniors, estimated the new tax will cost his company $350,000 a year and impact such services as housekeeping, laundry and food delivery.

“At one site, we’ll probably reduce staffing levels. We’ll do more with less.”

Meanwhile, Scott Russell, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, said that while he doesn’t yet know the full implications of the new tax, it will result in higher costs for such real estate-related services as realtors’ fees and house inspections.

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