Archive for the ‘Other News Articles’ Category

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

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

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.

Whistler community more than Whistler Village, skiing and mountain biking

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Resort community offers so much more than carousing, skiing and mountain biking

Andrew McCredie
The Province

If your idea of culture in Whistler is hooking up with German tourists at last call at Garfinkel’s for some late-night poutine and falafals, you clearly haven’t been to the four-season resort lately.

True, the classic pub crawl still winds its way through the pedestrian pathways of the village, but if its more high-minded matters you seek, there’s a vibrant cultural crawl that will quench your thirst for local knowledge, history and tradition.

Surprisingly, as I discovered on a recent couple of culture-filled days up here in the mountains, little of that history has to do with skiing or single-track biking. And it dates back much longer than 1966, the year the first Garibaldi Lift Company chair started operation on the newly minted ‘Whistler Mountain.’

I learned this and much more about the town’s first century during a fascinating one-hour guided walking tour of the village by Whistler Museum program coordinator Jeanette Bruce. (I’ve been coming up here every year for almost three decades, and the fact that Whistler has a museum was another revelation!).

Whistler Museum Walking Tour

Granted, being led around by a guide holding up old black & white 8×10 glossies won’t exactly earn you big style points in the fashion-conscious Whistler Village, but how else are you going to learn about John Millar, a Texan on the run from the law who in 1910 was the first white settler in the area? Or about Myrtle and Alex Philip, a young Vancouver couple who in 1914 purchased 10 acres of land on Alta Lake to build a fishing lodge? Alex was a Gastown bartender and was enthralled by occasional patron Millar’s accounts of the untouched beauty of the area.

You’ll learn how Philip’s Rainbow Lodge set the blueprint for the ‘resort’ in Resort Municipality more than a century ago, and how for decades Vancouverites traveled on the Pacific Great Eastern Line to fish and get away from it all.

Then came a logging boom, with four mills located around Green Lake.

The walking tour meanders through the modern village, so it’s not until about the halfway point of the tour that you are standing in front of a historical touchstone. In this case, a garbage dump. Well, at least it was back in the early Seventies, and our guide Jeanette tells us it was one of the few sources of entertainment back in the day. ‘You’d come here in the evening to watch all the bears and eagles.’ Today, it’s the base of Blackcomb Mountain, teeming with mountain bikers and tourists.

The most enlightening aspect of the tour, for me at least, was surrounding Eldon Beck, the landscape architect responsible for Whistler’s pedestrian-oriented village. After having just been in Banff, I realized how different — and ordinary — Whistler could have ended up if it was designed on a traditional car-oriented, street grid pattern, as was the original town plan until Beck was brought in.

The tour ends at Olympic Plaza, and with Jeanette holding up one of her handy glossy photos — this one of original settler Millar — beside the Olympic rings, there’s a century of Whistler history in the making.

Of course, the history of the region did not begin with Millar or the Philips, as First Nations people occupied areas up and down the valley floor and into the mountains for centuries prior.

The next stop brought that history into focus.

Squamish Lil-Wat Cultural Centre

As remarkable as the art collection and the building that houses it are, this museum’s true accomplishment is the collaboration between two nations that have co-existed—mostly peacefully—in the Whistler area for millennia.

What you come to quickly understand as you make your way through the museum—on a tour or self-guided—is that despite that close proximity to one another, the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations were, and are, very culturally diverse from one another. They dress differently, have different customs and traditions, and have their own unique ancestor stories.

The presentation of the artifacts and artwork of the two nations is done in a manner that distinguishes each on their own accord, yet ties them together in a way that underscores how the two nations’ histories have been linked for centuries.

The centre opened in 2008 and is well worth a visit, and come hungry. The Thunderbird Café’s modern First Nations cuisine includes homemade venison chili, bannock tacos and bison pot pie.

Audain Art Museum

The newcomer to Whistler’s cultural scene is also the area’s unabashed heavyweight. Both in terms of the collection and the remarkable building it is housed in.

Opened in the winter of 2016, the 56,00 square-foot museum is a loving tribute to British Columbia built and donated by Michael Audain and his wife Yohiko Karasawa.

The only gallery in Canada devoted to the works of one province, the Audain’s collection is breathtaking. The First Nations mask collection is one of the world’s finest; there are 24 Emily Carr works on permanent display; and the list of contemporary B.C. artists whose creations are here include Jeff Wall, Robert Davidson and Xwalacktun Harry. Then there’s the E.J. Hughes Gallery, which celebrates contemporary life on the B.C. coast.

The collection is set up chronologically, beginning with a stunning room of carved masks punctuated by a Dance Screen by James Hart that fills one entire wall of the room. Fittingly, the collection concludes with contemporary First Nations artwork.

Spend an hour getting lost in this amazing collection, and you’ll all but forget that you are in Whistler, a place many equate to outdoor activity.

My how that has changed.

Pan Pacific package a one-stop cultural stop

The simplest way to book a Whistler cultural experience is with The Cultural Explorer Package.

Offered by Pan Pacific Whistler in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, the three-night package includes admission to the Audain Art Museum (including a copy of the museum’s ‘Masterworks’ coffee table book) and the Squamish Lil-Wat Cultural Centre, a ride on the Peak2Peak Gondola, and a spot on the Whistler Museum Walking Tour.

The package starts at $747 (plus tax and based on double occupancy) and is available until Oct. 9 of this year. Visit panpacific.com for details.

If you’re more inclined to DIY exploring, the Cultural Connector is a Whistler Municipality initiative linking six points of interest together.

Pick up a brochure in your hotel lobby or at the museum, which features a map of the route along with information about the six venues, which in addition to the two listed above include the Maury Young Arts Centre, the Lost Lake PassivHaus, the Whistler Public Library and the Whistler Museum.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

 

Buying fake jobs to immigrate to Canada

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

Douglas Todd
The Vancouver Sun

Canadian employers are creating fake jobs so would-be immigrants can quickly get citizenship.

Immigration “consultants” often arrange the illicit deals, which frequently result in Canadian business owners being paid to fabricate non-existent jobs.

Other times, the migrants perform actual work, while themselves handing cash to the employer under the table to top up their own salary.

The employers, for their part, devise fraudulent pay stubs so the foreign nationals can “prove” to immigration officials they have needed skills to go to the front of the queue to become a permanent resident of Canada.

“It’s very widespread. I have met a lot of clients who tell me how this is being done underground,” says George Lee, a veteran Burnaby-based lawyer who specializes in immigration law.

Immigration department officials, lawyers, employers, prosecutors and migrants are increasingly providing accounts of how immigration consultants and companies fabricate bogus records so foreign nationals can obtain permanent resident status.

Migrants are handing company owners anywhere from $15,000 to more than $150,000 to create the counterfeit jobs, with immigration consultants pocketing large fees in the bargain.

One immigrant department report said fraud is “commonly associated” with such jobs, called “arranged employment offers.”

“There are lots of cases like this and they’ve been going on for a long time,” said Lee. “In most cases, jobs are needed to become a permanent resident, yet in many cases they are just jobs on paper.”

Both Lee and Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland have been informed by clients, who range from young international students to professionals with degrees, about different deals would-be immigrants strike with employers.

In one standard example, Lee said, a foreign student who received paycheques worth $30,000 a year for part-time work was paid $15,000 by the employer, but also secretly handed over another $15,000 in cash to his boss to prop up his declared salary.

It’s a violation of the law, say Lee and Kurland, to offer cash in exchange for a job.

CBC TV in Saskatchewan last month secretly recorded Bill Sui, of the Vancouver-based immigrant consulting company Vstar International, offering cash to a Prairie retail employer to create jobs for his clients from Mainland China.

Since the news story came out about how Vstar International promised the owner of a Fabricland outlet $15,000 to produce a false job, plus enough to pay the migrant’s salary, people in three other Saskatchewan communities have come forward with similar accounts.

Kurland provided documents in which people complain to the Immigration department about such practices.

In one redacted letter obtained under an access to information request, a Canadian provided details about how her colleague was “getting her cheques and returning cash money to her employer just to show fake employment.”

Kurland, who publishes the newsletter Lexbase, said: “My research uncovers allegations of fake jobs, examples of fake jobs, and complaints by visa officers about fake jobs. It shows that some people who can’t qualify under our rules will pay big money to get their visa illicitly.”

An Iranian-Canadian businessman in Metro Vancouver told Postmedia that each month offshore professionals offer to pay him large sums to cook up artificial jobs in Canada.

“I get this on a regular basis. I’m offered fees from $10,000 to $50,000, plus they will pay their own salaries. So I could bring employees here and have them work for free,” said the businessman, who asked to not be identified.

In a related case, he cited how three years ago an Iranian couple ago went public about paying a B.C. film company $15,000 to come to Canada for jobs that turned out to be non-existent.

The businessman, who said he does not engage in such practices, said any Canadian company with more than six employees can offer a job to a foreign national.

Many job descriptions, which are either bogus or exaggerated to make them seem more “skilled,” are facilitated through immigration consultants, some of whom are not registered, even though registration is supposed to be a requirement in Canada.

Richmond immigration consultant Xun (Sunny) Wang hauled in $10 million over eight years by producing phoney paycheques and other documents for up to 1,200 clients in arguably the largest immigration fraud case in Canadian history.

Wang’s employees counterfeited thousands of employment documents for clients, most of whom had no real jobs in Canada.

In 2015 Wang, who was not registered as a consultant, was sentenced to seven years in jail.

The website of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council says it has more than 3,500 members, more than six per cent of whom have been subject to complaints.

The federal government considers foreign nationals who have jobs in Canada, including international students, among the most eligible to become permanent residents under its skilled worker program.

However, Lee said the supposedly merit-based policy is open to abuse for many reasons, including that the federal government insists on listing an unusually large number of job categories it claims need to be filled under its “express entry” program.

The Canada National Occupation Classification List shows Ottawa is keen to offer a wide range of work permits to migrants, including health managers, photographers, computer technicians, journalists, comedians and fishermen/women.

Immigration officials have long been suspicious about the authenticity of many jobs that some Canadian employers appear to provide.

One immigration department report said Canadian visa officers had “expressed serious concerns over the level of fraud involved” in many alleged work positions, “and the due diligence required to assess the validity of job offers.”

The 2010 evaluation of Canada’s skilled worker program concluded: “Fraud is commonly associated with job offers from non-existent employers, fictitious positions incompatible with the type of business operations, offers of convenience from friends or family members, and genuine offers with inflated job descriptions.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Do you have consent? Anti-spam rules in effect July 1

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

REBGV
other

Changes to Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) come into effect on July 1. These changes state that you can only send a commercial electronic message (CEM), which includes emails, texts or social media messages, to people who’ve given implied consent.

Implied consent based on an ‘existing business relationship’ is achieved if you’ve:

  • done business with the recipient of your CEM in the past two years (i.e., had an agreement with them); or
  • received an inquiry about your products or services from the recipient in the past six months.

Consent to send CEMs can also be implied if a REALTOR® or Broker:

  • is following up on a referral; 
  • has an existing non-business relationship; 
  • is sending a CEM because of a conspicuous publication of an email address; and
  • is acting on a disclosure of an email address by the recipient.

Please review your mailing lists to ensure you’re complying with the legislation. If you don’t have an existing business relationship, now is the time to send an email requesting consent to receive future communications, CEMs, from you. Failure to comply with this legislation could result in fines up to $1 million for an individual and up to $10 million for a business. 

Advocacy success

The federal government originally planned to allow people to bring legal action against CEM senders who contravened CASL on or after July 1. The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), and other stakeholders, were successful in urging the government to postpone implementation of this private right of action provision.

CASL resources

  • Learn more about your responsibilities under CASL here.
  • Read this article from Allison McLure, Legal Counsel for CREA

Learning lessons from the front lines of entrepreneurship

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Four strategies that led to success prove growth is more an attitude than a process

RICK SPENCE
The Vancouver Sun

Where does business growth come from? Does it spring spontaneously from the marketplace, the changing expectations of customers, or the minds of visionary entrepreneurs?

At a recent conference called Accelerating Growth, hosted by EY Canada, a foursome of successful entrepreneurs explored different routes to business success. If they didn’t achieve consensus, that’s OK: their different approaches prove that growth is more an attitude than a process.

The Toronto conference began with gripping war stories from Geoff Smith, CEO of EllisDon, a London, Ont., construction firm founded in 1951. While EllisDon grew consistently under the autocratic rule of Don Smith, Geoff’s father, the company routinely flirted with insolvency. Geoff, who became CEO in 1996, was named Canada’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013 for leading the firm to success and profitability as a $3-billion-ayear construction giant.

Sometimes, Smith observed, growth comes from following trends. He says EllisDon expanded by growing with baby boomers: building public schools, then high schools, then universities, then government buildings, then hospitals. The key was to pursue ever-bigger opportunities with confidence and bluster. For instance, EllisDon won the contract to build Toronto’s SkyDome in the 1980s only after the elder Smith barged into the offices of the private consortium planning to build the stadium, and demanded they open the project to public bidding.

But bluster is never enough. When EllisDon took on the $125-million SkyDome project, Smith recalls, EllisDon was worth less than $30 million. (Lastminute changes would raise the dome’s cost to half a billion dollars). “My dad had rolled the dice again,” says Smith. With EllisDon on the hook for costs if the facility didn’t open on time, Smith says, “If we’d been two weeks late, we’d have been out of business.”

Even after Geoff Smith took the helm in 1996, EllisDon had to lay off a third of its staff — just before Christmas. As he struggled to build a firmer footing, Smith wondered why his senior staff weren’t leaving for more stable jobs. Finally, he asked that question of one executive, who said: “We decided we liked working together, and decided to stay and save the company.” Imagine that, Smith told 100 conference attendees: “The top 15 people in the company got together and decided to save the company, and didn’t tell me.”

That epiphany helped Smith establish a new culture for EllisDon as an employee-owned company. Today, non-Smithfamily employees own 50 per cent of the firm.

Smith was followed by a panel of three local business leaders touting diverse, but equally aggressive, growth strategies. First came Robert Masson, CFO of mattress retailer Sleep Country Canada, who said his company grows by aggressively driving sales. “We focus on topline growth, and hope we make money out of it,” he says. Does that focus work? When Masson joined the company in 2013, Sleep Country upped promotional spending 29 per cent. Since then, he says, “we’ve had 15 consecutive quarters of samestore growth.”

You also have to look for adjacent-market opportunities. After making its name in mattress sales, Sleep Country added accessories such as sheets and pillows. “It’s worked very well for us,” says Masson. “Since 2012, sales in that category have grown at a compounded rate of 16 per cent.”

Michele Romanow, a serial entrepreneur best known as a fire-breathing investor on Dragons’ Den, noted that growth comes with a price tag: You have to do what other people won’t. With one of her first businesses, a sturgeon-caviar business in New Brunswick, Romanow had to buy a boat and even learn to process fish. “Most people wouldn’t do that,” she notes. The payoff: you learn all aspects of your business, your clients’ true needs, how to trim your supply chain so you can be the lowest-cost acquirer of new customers.

The final panellist was Som Seif of Purpose Investments, a mutual-fund innovator who has built a $3-billion business in four years on purpose-driven funds and low fees. Like Smith, he believes growth comes from empowered, entrepreneurial employees. “It’s all about passion and ideas,” he says. “Hire only A-type people, not Bs or Cs.”

“Create the type of environment where people are taught to fail fast, to be willing to be challenged and challenge others. Those things drive people to think about the opportunities you have.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Pollster Keeps Tabs On Nation?s Mood

Monday, June 26th, 2017

JOHN MACKIE
The Vancouver Sun

Angus Reid started off his professional life as a sociology professor at the University of Manitoba.

But he didn’t last long. Academia was too slow for Reid, whose entrepreneurial knack and a passion for politics led him to take a leave of absence from the university to start a polling firm in 1979.

CanWest Survey Research Group’s first headquarters were above a 7-Eleven in Winnipeg. Reid would research topics on spec, then try to sell the results to corporate clients.

He also offered the Winnipeg Tribune a free quarterly poll, which brought him instant status on the newspaper’s front page. And he worked closely with Manitoba Liberal Lloyd Axworthy, who shared his political views.

Reid didn’t always get along with everybody — he fought with Liberal pollster Martin Goldfarb, who had predicted Axworthy would lose when he decided to jump from federal to provincial politics.

After switching his company name to Angus Reid Associates, Reid was hired by the federal Liberals during the ill-fated 1984 election. But Goldfarb was still working with the party, and Reid said there was a lot of “elbow jostling” between the two.

Reid felt ignored and wound up parting with the Liberals after the election. So he focused on the media, building up his name doing national surveys for the Southam newspaper chain.

Pollsters had been doing polls through a mix of telephone and in-person interviews, which took several weeks to compile. Reid decided to do everything by phone, which meant he could turn polls around in a week.

His methodology had its detractors.

“Rival pollsters claimed that Reid’s emphasis on speed produced shallow results,” wrote The Vancouver Sun’s Tom Barrett in 2001.

“They pointed out that Reid’s political polls were often dramatically different from other published polls. Despite a good record predicting elections, Reid polls could swing wildly in nonelection years.”

Still, his company flourished, particularly after Reid moved it to Vancouver from Winnipeg. In 2000, he sold it to the Ipsos company in France for $100 million.

Reid retired from the company at the end of 2001. But he wound up joining his son’s market research company Vision Critical as CEO in 2004, holding the position until 2011, when he became executive chair.

Vision Critical has become a big success in the tech world, but not without some boardroom battles — Reid left the company in 2014, and his son left in 2016. The 69-yearold Reid now runs The Angus Reid Institute, a non-partisan, not-forprofit research organization based in downtown Vancouver.

© 2017 Financial Post