Archive for the ‘Other News Articles’ Category

Vancouver-Seattle floatplane flights on the horizon

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Direct Vancouver-Seattle floatplane flights expected next year

Dan Fumano
The Vancouver Sun

Direct floatplane flights connecting downtown Vancouver and Seattle are expected to be running regularly by next spring, but Vancouver’s mayor says the service can’t come soon enough.

And with hundreds of North American cities and regions currently vying to host a new second headquarters for tech giant Amazon, the folks behind Vancouver’s bid hope increased connectivity — including floatplanes as well as more futuristic modes of transport — along the so-called “Cascadia corridor” could boost Vancouver’s chances.

Last Thursday marked the deadline for proposals from North American cities trying to become the home of a second headquarters for Amazon, the Seattle-based online retailer. Metro Vancouver’s proposal, led by the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC), was hand-delivered to Amazon last week, concluding a six-week collaboration between regional stakeholders at “a level unprecedented since the 2010 Winter Olympics,” according to a statement from the commission.

Vancouver is far from alone. A reported 238 cities and regions submitted proposals, Amazon said Monday. The company expects to invest more than $5 billion US in construction for the new facilities and create as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.

The VEC proposal highlighted the location of the two Pacific Northwest cities, according to a statement from the commission, citing “millions of hours in reduced travel times and a minimized carbon footprint,” and stating the “region’s geographical proximity means unmatched accessibility.”

In an emailed statement Monday, VEC manager of research and analysis James Raymond said: “In our proposal to Amazon, we’ve really leaned into our proximity to Seattle, simply because there are so many options to take advantage of how short the distance is and how much of a logistical asset that is.”

The Vancouver-Seattle floatplane route — or “nerd bird,” as Raymond calls it — is just one of four inter-regional transport options the VEC has discussed over the past year, he said, along with high-speed rail, a hyperloop (a network of tubes zipping passengers around in pods at super-fast speeds), and a dedicated lane for autonomous or self-driving vehicles between Vancouver and Seattle.

This week, the VEC is bringing together local stakeholders for discussions with representatives from Washington and Oregon on a “high-speed Cascadia train line,” Raymond said.

Meanwhile, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told Postmedia on Monday the floatplane route between the two downtown cores “is long overdue,” and “can’t happen soon enough.”

That lack of a downtown-to-downtown floatplane connection is “a limiting factor for all the companies doing business back and forth with Seattle, from Amazon and Microsoft to our local companies doing work in Seattle,” Robertson said. “It’s absurd that we don’t have regular-scheduled floatplanes between downtown Vancouver and Seattle. … We have a lousy connection by road and airport — it’s not efficient.”

Harbour Air has been working out details on the plan with the Canada Border Services Agency, as Postmedia reported last month. An inquiry sent Monday to CBSA was not returned by deadline.

Robertson said he believed the Vancouver-Seattle service would be approved and operational “imminently,” adding “it’s bizarre” that it isn’t running already.

“It doesn’t help our case when CBSA hasn’t followed through with a long-overdue service. That’s the bottom line,” he said.

Harbour Air president Randy Wright said Monday the partnership with Washington-based Kenmore Air is still “on track” to begin operation by next spring, pending CBSA approval.

Some warn that Amazon’s jobs and economic activity could come with a cost. Last week, Seattle-based New York Times columnist Timothy Egan wrote of the “mixed blessing of Amazon,” describing concerns about rising housing costs and increased traffic in his hometown, and warning: “To the next Amazon lottery winner I would say, ‘Enjoy the boom — but be careful what you wish for.’”

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Powered by solar energy the ARKUPP livable yacht is environmentally friendly

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Ride out climate change and rising waters in your ARKUP floating home

Lloyd Alter
other

TreeHugger is all about sustainable design, so what’s not to love about the new ARKUP livable yacht? The designers claim that it is “environmentally friendly, powered by solar energy, no fuel, zero emission, equipped with waste management, rainwater harvesting and purification systems, [and that] our livable yachts are totally off-the-grid.” Unlike their state governor and their president, this Miami company believes that something is happening out there.

Urban growth, rising seas and energy independence are key challenges for our generation. Our solution is a unique avant-garde concept of life on the water. A combination of research in renewable energies, technological innovation and cutting edge spatial design and style situates your new home between the sea and the metropolis.

They have worked with Koen Olthius, a Dutch “water architect” to develop these 4,350-square-foot floating houses. Notwithstanding the size, they “think sustainably from conception to construction” to create “future proof blue dwellings.”

You can Live Ecologically “while being self-sufficient with water and electricity. Enjoy living off-the-grid and feel the satisfaction of minimizing your carbon footprint.”

You don’t need to worry about getting seasick either; unlike a boat it has four “spuds”, 40-foot-long hydraulic legs that that can stabilize or even lift the home right out of the water. But if the neighbours get noisy there are two 136 horsepower electric thrusters that can move you somewhere else at 7 knots.

It has so much green goodness — 30 kw of solar panels, 1,000 kWh of lithium-ion batteries and high grade insulation. There is rainwater collection and a “marine sewage device.”

They say that it is hurricane proof but that seems to be a lot of glass. No word on what the hull and superstructure are made of, but I suspect it’s not wood and straw bale.

No matter the weather conditions, hurricanes, high winds, surge and floods are no longer an issue thanks to this self-elevating system. Arkup represents a new way of living on the water, making you feel 100% safe and protected.

t’s a nice generous plan with four bedrooms that they say can sleep eight people. But come the flood and the revolution, no doubt it can be subdivided into smaller apartments for multiple families and be floated inland to where the water will be shallow enough for the pontoons to reach ground.

And it is so reassuring to know that not all the billionaires are going to New Zealand, but that some are planning to tough it out at home in America.

COPYRIGHT © 2017 NARRATIVE CONTENT GROUP

Goh’s career required leap of faith

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Ballet guru went from penniless to lifetime achievement award

GORDON MCINTYRE
The Vancouver Sun

Her parents Choo Chiat and Lin Yee started teaching ballet in 1978 at a W. 12th Avenue basement studio with a ceiling so low, dancers were unable to jump.

Today, Choo Chiat is a decorated dance mentor who put Vancouver on the global ballet map, most recently receiving a lifetime achievement award in the arts from Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Choo Chiat could not have dreamed of this when he arrived in Vancouver in 1977, penniless, friendless and with rudimentary English.

“No, I never thought it,” Choo Chiat said inside the Goh Ballet Academy, a refurbished bank that still has a huge vault in the basement (costumes are stored there) and that has been the academy’s home since 1985.

“It touches my heart. Forty years here, can you imagine that time passing by? To think the mayor, the city, the world recognizes my work, it touches me deeply.

“When you do something and people recognize your work, I don’t know how to express the sweetness in the heart I feel.” Choo Chiat was born 78 years ago in Singapore, one of 10 siblings. He fell in love with ballet at 13 after seeing the 1948 film The Red Shoes, amazed by the beauty and the art form. At 14, he went to England to study at the Royal Ballet, followed by training with renowned Soviet dancer and choreographer Pyotr Gusev in China.

That’s where he met and fell in love with Lin Yee and where, to his family’s chagrin, he remained, becoming a principal dancer in the National Ballet of China.

It was fun at first: Swan Lake, Le Corsaire, Giselle. Then the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution happened and suddenly the ballet was performing works such as the Red Detachment of Women.

“Ballets have kings, queens, princes in them, then the Cultural Revolution made everything the opposite,” Goh said. “Peasants and workers were the heroes.

“It was still dancing, but it was not ballet. They wanted strong movement, not grace, not romance.”

So Choo Chiat came to Canada, ostensibly to visit his sick mother. When it became clear by 1978 he was not coming back, the Chinese government permitted Lin Yee and their eight-year-old daughter Chan to join him.

“The Cultural Revolution left no career for me at all, so I thought why not take the opportunity to go to the West and look around, see what I can do with my life,” Choo Chiat said.

He applied for a job gutting fish in Richmond, but fate intervened and someone who had heard he’d been a dancer hired him to teach her children.

Soon after, the Gohs opened their first academy.

“It was very much a partnership from the start,” said Chan, now director of Goh Ballet Academy after a career as the principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada (interestingly, her parents did not want her to dance; it was an aunt who encouraged her to follow in mom’s and dad’s fouette).

“I’ve always looked up to my father because of the image of him on stage when I was a little girl,” Chan said. “He was so brilliant, his performances were so contagious.

“But also, he is such a great parent. He instilled such confidence in me, confidence I struggled to find. Confidence and he made me aware nothing comes without hard work.”

Choo Chiat is young at heart, is as passionate about dancing as ever. “No, no, no, you don’t have the beautiful eyes,” he tells a young student. “Do it again. Yes, that’s it!”

“When you see the dancer,” Choo Chiat said later, “you don’t just see the body. You see the beauty from their love of dancing.

“Physical technique is important, but just being technically very good does not make you a dancer.”

Next season, the academy will perform Prokofiev’s Cinderella to mark its 40th anniversary.

But at the moment, everyone’s readying for the Goh Ballet’s Nutcracker, a performance that has become a Christmas ritual for many since its inception in 2009.

The dancers are from the academy, but also from top companies worldwide — this year, dancers from Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet and the National Ballet of China will be in the cast.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Workers protest over unpaid bonuses at Chinese iPhone supplier

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Apple announces investigation, vows to redress payment discrepancies

ERIKA KINETZ
The Vancouver Sun

Hundreds of workers streamed through dark streets, blocking an entrance to an Apple iPhone supplier’s factory in eastern China to protest unpaid bonuses and factory reassignments, two witnesses and China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit group, said Thursday.

The protest Wednesday night at Jabil Inc.’s Green Point factory in Wuxi city prompted Apple to launch an investigation and vow to redress the payment discrepancies. “We are requiring Jabil to send a comprehensive employee survey to ascertain where gaps exist in payment and they must create an action plan that ensures all employees are paid for the promised bonus immediately,” Apple said Thursday in an email to China Labor Watch.

The incident highlights the complexity of overseeing global supply chains that can involve hundreds of manufacturers and subcontractors, as well as third-party labour brokers — and their subcontractors — that are tasked with recruiting workers for those factories.

Companies differ in the amount of responsibility they are willing to take on. Apple stepped up oversight and disclosure following a spate of negative reports about worker suicides and injuries at suppliers.

After Tim Cook took over as chief executive, in 2011, Apple began publicly identifying top suppliers. It also publishes annual audits detailing labour and human rights performance throughout its global web of suppliers. Apple said it did comprehensive audits of 705 sites last year and documented significant improvements in compliance with its supplier code of conduct.

“About 600 workers went protesting for failing to get their bonus,” a worker who asked that only his family name, Zhang, be published for fear of retribution, said Thursday. He said that like many of his colleagues, he was promised a bonus of up to 7,000 yuan (US$1,056) if he stayed for 45 days when he signed up for the job through a labour broker.

“It has already been over three months but I still haven’t got the money,” he said.

Tu Changli, a security guard at Jabil’s Green Point factory, said a labour broker promised him 2,000 yuan (US$302) if he stayed for two months. “I didn’t get it at all,” he said. He also said he saw hundreds of workers protesting. The company he said he works for, Wu Tai Security Co., declined comment.

A spokeswoman for U.S.-based Jabil, Lydia Huang, disputed those accounts, saying only 20 to 40 employees were actually protesting and the rest were night-shift workers trying to enter the factory. “As long as they can present evidence of promises by brokers we will help them to get paid,” she said.

Jabil, in a statement late Thursday, said it was “committed to ensuring every employee is paid fairly and on time.”

Tensions had been running high at Jabil’s Green Point factory. Tu, the security guard, said he saw a worker talked down from the edge of a rooftop in late September. And Zhang said that on Sept. 30, he saw a security guard hit a worker with a wooden stick so hard the stick broke.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc

There’s just no containing their backyard success

Monday, October 16th, 2017

B.C. couple who turn shipping pods into swimming pools are doing brisk business

The Vancouver Sun

Well, he recently did a promotion with Walt Disney for its new cable TV series Siren. A mermaid swam in one of its pools at Comic-Con in New York.

Plus, Modpools did a shoe launch with Nike — also in New York.

“Next week, I’m going to a guy in Fresno who has a rescue centre for wild cats — the big kind that eat you,” Rathnam said.

“He wants one for his jaguars to swim in.”

Business, in other words, is doing really, really well.

In its first year of operation, Modpools expects sales of about $6 million. Not bad for a company that hasn’t spent a cent on marketing.

“We’re pounding out pools as fast as we can,” he said. “I keep waiting for our business to drop off. It hasn’t slowed down.”

Paul and Denise Rathnam of Abbotsford launched Modpools at the B. C. Home + Garden Show earlier this year. The standard-size pool is eight feet wide by 20 feet long and just over five feet deep. Each one comes with a clear, acrylic window on its side and can be divided and turned into a hot tub.

While the cost for a traditional pool can run from $80,000 to $150,000, the standard Modpool costs $35,000.

Postmedia reported on Modpools in late June. Within 24 hours, the video had 489,000 views on The Vancouver Sun Facebook page; the story stayed at Number 1 on the website for five days. Since then, the video has had 11.3 million views on Facebook through Postmedia. A social video is considered successful, for example, if it has 50,000 views.

Rathnam initially said he didn’t know why the video went viral. He suggested that in part it may have had something to do with the fact that The Vancouver Sun took a lighthearted approach to the story.

Then he singled out the clear window on the side. He said the window is unique because it allows people to see what’s going on under water.

“Everybody keeps coming back to the window,” he said.

“The window captivates people. As human beings, we’re so visual. I think we’re opening up a new experience for people.”

To make swimming pools out of shipping containers, Rathnam used his 12 years of experience modifying shipping containers for industrial uses. To develop a special watertight liner, for example, he worked with a chemist to find a material that was resistant to chemicals and ultra-violet light.

Rathnam said the company has also developed a newer, cheaper version called a Modspa. The 10foot pool uses the leftover top of a shipping container. It sells for $12,500.

Rathnam said the problem now facing Modpools is how he and its 30 employees deal with success.

He said Modpools manufactures, sells, and takes cares of customers rather than concentrating on one part of the chain such as manufacturing or sales.

He said the challenges of doing everything under one roof are maintaining quality control and customer satisfaction.

“Some days are super stressful,” he said. “Some days we’re high-fiving each other. You high five — and then you have to get down to building those pools.”

Rathnam isn’t complaining. He knows the kinds of problems he’s dealing with are the kinds of problems any new business would hope for.

“We really guard our climate and culture,” he said.

“We really want people to enjoy their time here. You get so much out of an employee who enjoys their job (rather) than someone who is just punching the clock.”

A Modpool can be set up above ground on a concrete pad or placed fully in the ground.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Fines associated with using cell phones while driving

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

other

Effective Sep 12, 2017, BC police will take serious actions against Distracted Driving violations.

Drivers will be fined $368 & deduct 6 points, if they were found doing the following when driving:

Smoking, reading, looking at maps, hand held GPS, applying make-up, watching movies, cleaning faces, adjudting volume, searching for radio channels, maneuvering devices, using audio ear phone, listening to loud music, eating snacks etc. Drivers may only drink water when stopping for a red traffic light.

It is suggedted to place cell phone inside pockets of clothes.  Avoid physical contact with cell phone while driving.  If the cell phone is found not secured in a fixed position, driver will be fined $368 + $175 & deduct 4 points for initial offense.  The fine for repeated offense within 12 months will be $888 & $3,760 for the 5th offense.

A driver will also be fined if the cell phone is found placed at a too low position or it would block the front view of the driver. 

Before issuing a violation ticket, police will consider (1) if the cell phone has been secured in a fixed & safe position, (2) whether the driver has physical contact with or looked at the cell phone, (3) whether the screen of the cell phone would cause distraction to the driver.

✳ Cup holder next to the driver is not considered a safe position for placing cell phone. 

✳ Checking the time on the cell phone is considered illegal, and will be fined.

Toastmasters International speakers walk the talk

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Organization offers tips and skills on conquering your fears of public speaking

HARRISON MOONEY
The Province

Jim Kokocki says the most important thing for public speakers to be mindful of is their purpose.

“No. 1, focus on what’s the message you want to leave with your audience,” he said. “What’s your purpose in speaking to the group. For a lot of speakers when they start out, they worry about getting a lot of content. But purpose drives content.”

Kokocki is the former president of Toastmasters International, a 93-year-old, not-for-profit educational organization that helps people develop their communication and leadership skills in small clubs around the world. The 86th annual Toastmasters International Convention took place in Vancouver last weekend, where the Toastmasters held their annual business meeting, elected a new president and hosted the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking. This year’s title went to 43-year-old Manoj Vasudevan of Singapore, who beat out over 30,000 contestants from 142 countries, wowing the thousands gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre with an original speech Friday night. “It feels surreal, but it’s also a dream come true,” Vasudevan said of his first-place finish.

Public speaking is one of the biggest fears for most Canadians, ranking ahead of everything but snakes and heights, according to a 2015 survey funded by the Canadian Cancer Society. Toastmasters aims to change that by providing a supportive environment in which speakers can sharpen their ability and conquer their fears.

“These are skills, and skills require practise,” said Kokocki.

But if you need to improve immediately, Simon Bucknall, the U.K. and Ireland champion of public speaking and the first runner-up at this weekend’s competition, offered five quick tips for anybody hoping to improve their public-speaking ability.

“One of the most important tips for public speaking is to remember that it’s all about the audience, rather than about the speaker,” he said.

Bucknall’s second tip is to use a story to bring your point to life. His third is to focus on the change you want to achieve through your speech, and his fourth is to make that change, “the single most important thing,” he said, clear to the audience.

And finally, Bucknall said you should always be mindful of your neutral stance.

“In other words, how would you stand in front of an audience when you’re not moving.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc

Districts race to beat the bell with schools short-staffed across B.C.

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

High cost of living makes hiring hard: BCTF

CHERYL CHAN
The Vancouver Sun

Help wanted: With two weeks left before the school year starts, hundreds of teaching positions are still vacant in more than 30 school districts across B.C.

About 171 full-time jobs still need to be filled by September in Vancouver, Surrey, Abbotsford, Osoyoos, Fort St. John, Prince George and other districts, according to Make a Future, the recruitment arm of the B.C. Public School Employers Association. The vacancies are highest in the north, where 48 positions are yet to be filled, followed by Metro Vancouver with 36.

Glen Hansman, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said the hiring crunch is a result of the B.C. Supreme Court decision last fall that required districts to hire an additional 3,000 teachers to fulfil class-size and composition requirements.

“Because of all the new jobs created by the Supreme Court decision, the supply of teachers is less than what is needed by the job postings out there,” Hansman said.

Across the province, there are more than 400 job openings for teachers, including part-time and on-call positions. Districts are looking for teachers who can teach a gamut of classes, ranging from math and science to fine arts, computers, French immersion and special education.

On Tuesday, the Vancouver school board posted 280 part-time and full-time positions, which include a mix of classroom teachers, counsellors and resource positions. That’s roughly three times the normal amount of postings for this time of year, a VSB spokesman said.

Surrey, home to B.C.’s largest school district, had just concluded its last posting for 90 jobs, which closed Monday.

“We don’t anticipate problems in having those positions filled,” spokesman Doug Strachan said.

The district needed to hire 138 teachers because of the court decision, and another 30 to account for growth, he added. “We’ve hired a great deal off our (teachers-oncall) list. … We had to dip into it more than we had in previous years.”

The district, which is expecting around 800 to 1,000 students in the fall, also had to find 168 classrooms to house the new teachers. It had brought in 50 portables for the school year, and converted other spaces such as computer labs into classrooms.

Burnaby’s district hired teachers in the spring in response to the ruling, but will hire more with new postings expected to go up Thursday. That positions are unfilled this time of year is par for the course, said Richard Per, assistant superintendent of human resources.

“This is a process for us, but we’re in very good shape,” he said. “There’s always some surprises that happen in the summer with people leaving or additional retirement, which require postings to go up in August.”

Burnaby also dipped into its teachers-on-call list. Its current hiring will focus partly on replenishing that list, which needs to be at about 280 for schools not to face staffing shortages during the school year, Per said.

Hansman said it’s crucial for schools to have a healthy list of oncall teachers. When Surrey had as many as 120 unfilled vacancies on its on-call list last year, “that was massively disruptive for specialeducation programs because the resource teacher or special-ed teacher would get reassigned that day,” he said. “It’s not just bad for students, but demoralizing for staff. (For principals), it’s a nightmare for them to have to rejig the school staffing on a day-to-day basis.”

Hansman said the postelection uncertainty and the government’s “heel dragging” in May and June, which resulted in political limbo, didn’t help the pace of recruitment. The district and the BCTF conducted recruitment drives outside of B.C., but it’s unclear whether their efforts have resulted in an increased number of applications or hires.

“It’s a tough slog because the affordability issues in B.C. are known across the country,” he said, citing the high costs of rental accommodations and real estate across Metro.

“Also the fact that starting salaries are more or less the worst in the country — when you’re paying off student loans, considering moving expenses to start a new life in the province, it’s a hard sale.”

The BCTF said it wants to renew discussion of recruitment and retention initiatives with the Ministry of Education. Initiatives include bumping up starting wages for teachers, assisting with moving expenses, more opportunities to upgrade qualifications and a student-loan forgiveness program for teachers who commit to staying in a district for a number of years.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

High cost of living makes hiring hard: BCTF

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Districts race to beat the bell with schools short-staffed across B.C.

Cheryl Chan
The Vancouver Sun

Help wanted: With two weeks left before the school year starts, hundreds of teaching positions are still vacant in more than 30 school districts across B.C.

About 171 full-time jobs still need to be filled by September in Vancouver, Surrey, Abbotsford, Osoyoos, Fort St. John, Prince George and other districts, according to Make a Future, the recruitment arm of the B.C. Public School Employers Association. The vacancies are highest in the north, where 48 positions are yet to be filled, followed by Metro Vancouver with 36.

Glen Hansman, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said the hiring crunch is a result of the B.C. Supreme Court decision last fall that required districts to hire an additional 3,000 teachers to fulfil class-size and composition requirements.

“Because of all the new jobs created by the Supreme Court decision, the supply of teachers is less than what is needed by the job postings out there,” Hansman said.

Across the province, there are more than 400 job openings for teachers, including part-time and on-call positions. Districts are looking for teachers who can teach a gamut of classes, ranging from math and science to fine arts, computers, French immersion and special education.

On Tuesday, the Vancouver school board posted 280 part-time and full-time positions, which include a mix of classroom teachers, counsellors and resource positions. That’s roughly three times the normal amount of postings for this time of year, a VSB spokesman said.

Surrey, home to B.C.’s largest school district, had just concluded its last posting for 90 jobs, which closed Monday.

“We don’t anticipate problems in having those positions filled,” spokesman Doug Strachan said.

The district needed to hire 138 teachers because of the court decision, and another 30 to account for growth, he added. “We’ve hired a great deal off our (teachers-oncall) list. … We had to dip into it more than we had in previous years.”

The district, which is expecting around 800 to 1,000 students in the fall, also had to find 168 classrooms to house the new teachers. It had brought in 50 portables for the school year, and converted other spaces such as computer labs into classrooms.

Burnaby’s district hired teachers in the spring in response to the ruling, but will hire more with new postings expected to go up Thursday. That positions are unfilled this time of year is par for the course, said Richard Per, assistant superintendent of human resources.

“This is a process for us, but we’re in very good shape,” he said. “There’s always some surprises that happen in the summer with people leaving or additional retirement, which require postings to go up in August.”

Burnaby also dipped into its teachers-on-call list. Its current hiring will focus partly on replenishing that list, which needs to be at about 280 for schools not to face staffing shortages during the school year, Per said.

Hansman said it’s crucial for schools to have a healthy list of oncall teachers. When Surrey had as many as 120 unfilled vacancies on its on-call list last year, “that was massively disruptive for specialeducation programs because the resource teacher or special-ed teacher would get reassigned that day,” he said. “It’s not just bad for students, but demoralizing for staff. (For principals), it’s a nightmare for them to have to rejig the school staffing on a day-to-day basis.”

Hansman said the postelection uncertainty and the government’s “heel dragging” in May and June, which resulted in political limbo, didn’t help the pace of recruitment. The district and the BCTF conducted recruitment drives outside of B.C., but it’s unclear whether their efforts have resulted in an increased number of applications or hires.

“It’s a tough slog because the affordability issues in B.C. are known across the country,” he said, citing the high costs of rental accommodations and real estate across Metro.

“Also the fact that starting salaries are more or less the worst in the country — when you’re paying off student loans, considering moving expenses to start a new life in the province, it’s a hard sale.”

The BCTF said it wants to renew discussion of recruitment and retention initiatives with the Ministry of Education. Initiatives include bumping up starting wages for teachers, assisting with moving expenses, more opportunities to upgrade qualifications and a student-loan forgiveness program for teachers who commit to staying in a district for a number of years.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc

Uber begins ?significant investment? of collecting data on Metro Vancouver

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Uber begins mapping B.C. in anticipation of eventual West Coast launch

Stephanie Ip
The Vancouver Sun

It could be a while before Uber ventures into B.C., but the company is banking on a future here by doing its research and upgrading its maps.

Beginning Thursday, the ride-hailing tech company will send 25 vehicles out on the road to collect mapping imagery for its app in anticipation of the service’s eventual launch on Canada’s West Coast. The cars will not be doing pickups and drop-offs, and are for collecting mapping information.

Data collected here will be used to enhance maps and offer more precise pickup and drop-off locations, and is part of a Canada-wide mapping project that began last year.

Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Western Canada, called the operation “a significant investment.”

The company has been improving its Canadian maps for the past year and given that all three B.C. political parties said they were in favour of allowing Uber to operate in the province before the end of 2017, it only made sense to include Metro Vancouver and elsewhere in the project, he said.

“We’re hopeful they follow through on that,” he said. “The big thing here is we’re trying to make our product better and put our best foot forward.”

When Uber first rolled out in the United States seven years ago, they were reliant on third-party data. Since they’ve started running their own tracking vehicles — the Canadian project started with Edmonton last year — “The quality of the data has been so much better,” Kar said.

They do have partnerships with companies like Google in their mapping, but “it’s not exactly optimized for our purposes,” said Kar.

Uber will determine which are the best routes between commonly visited spots, where the best pickup spots are, where the actual entrances to buildings are, things like that. It’s about eliminating what Kar called “artifacts of data.”

“It’s really to help both on the driver and on the rider side,” he added. “It gets rid of a whole layer of frustration.”

While mobile maps and GPS information can match drivers with riders and determine driving directions, more information about traffic patterns, building entrances, and pickup and drop-off points is needed before the service launches in B.C.

“The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we’re doubling down on our investment in mapping,” Manik Gupta, head of maps at Uber said in a statement.

“Over the past decade mapping innovation has changed our daily life. That progress will only accelerate in the coming years especially with technologies like self-driving cars.”

Having Uber’s cars on the road is good advertising, too, Kar admitted.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for British Columbians to see Uber on the road,” he said. “They’ll think, ‘oh that’s Uber, that’s pretty cool.’”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.