Living/Working July 21, 2017

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B.C. ski resort deals highlight lofty market terrain

Recent sales of resorts near Vancouver not necessarily a sign others will be for sale
Grouse Mountain sold to an asset management company July 18 after realtor CBRE shopped it around with a $200 million price tag | Constantin Dimitriev/Shutterstock 

The flurry of recent sales for B.C. ski resorts is not necessarily a sign that there are more transactions to come, according to industry insiders.

Grouse Mountain Resort’s July 18 sale to CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd., after the property was marketed for $200 million, followed the sale of Cypress Mountain as part of a US$374.5 million package deal earlier this year and Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc.’s $1.4 billion sale to Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE:MTN), which closed last October.

“Each situation is actually quite different in the rationale, or reasoning, behind the transaction, and ultimately the ownership and purchasing decisions were different as well,” said Dave Brownlie, who left his job as CEO of Whistler Blackcomb on July 14.

He said the sales show that B.C. ski resorts are attractive to foreign investors, who are increasingly seeking to diversify assets around the world.

Retired ski industry entrepreneur and Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine agreed but said he does not expect any other B.C. resorts to put up “for sale” signs any time soon.

“A lot of what is happening relates to Vancouver and the robust economy and [real estate] activity levels in Vancouver,” Raine said. 

“When you get to Sun Peaks and the Okanagan resorts and even the Kootenays resorts, I think that they’re not under the same pressure [to sell].”

Raine said Whistler Blackcomb is among the world’s top six busiest year-round resorts, and that this, along with other advantages that Vail gained by buying that resort, made the deal feasible.

CNL Financial Group’s decision to sell all 14 of its ski resorts, including a lease from the B.C. government for most of the 240 hectares of skiable terrain at Cypress Mountain, to a branch of hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC for US$374.5 million came after CNL divested many other assets and was driven by CNL wanting to provide liquidity for shareholders.

The sublease that Boyne Resorts uses to operate Cypress Mountain simply changed hands and Boyne’s rent cheques now are sent to Och-Ziff instead of CNL, Bobby Swain told Business in Vancouver.

Swain was president and general manager at Cypress for 33 years before retiring in May in a move that he said was unrelated to the mountain’s ownership change.

Grouse Mountain differs from both Whistler Blackcomb and Cypress Mountain in that its assets include more than 1,200 acres of privately held land, which the McLaughlin family had owned since the late 1980s, when Stuart McLaughlin led an initiative to privatize a troubled publicly listed company that his father, Bruce McLaughlin, had invested in.

Neither McLaughlin nor anyone from CM (Canada) Asset Management was available to speak with BIV,but Raine suggested that the chance to own real estate so close to Vancouver was undoubtedly enticing to the buyers.

“I could see somebody saying, ‘Hey, Vancouver is having less and less room. You’ve got to go vertical up the mountain slopes [with future housing],” he said.

Brownlie added the additional caveat that the series of sales may be a sign of hyperactivity in the real estate market.

“It could be that we’re coming to a peak in valuations in housing prices, commercial assets and property,” he said. “Maybe this is another sign.” 



Infographic: Things to come

Designer antibiotics. Cheap solar power. Genetic computing. This infographic speculates on some possible future technologies.

Infographic: Futurism

Source: Visual Capitalist


Sen Pad Thai smartens up Granville Island food scene

Chef Angus An expands his empire with upscale noodle counter
Pad Mi Korat at Sen Pad Thai | Photo: Dan Toulgoet

Sen Pad Thai

1666 Johnston St. |

Open daily, 10am-7pm

You might think that the opening of a new food counter on Granville Island isn’t highly newsworthy. And, maybe, if it was another hot dog stand or casual lemonade and muffin stop, you might be right.

But, when the mind behind the food is celebrity chef Angus An of Maenam, Longtail Kitchen, Freebird and Fat Mao fame, the hype begins, the chatter spreads like whipped butter, and the anticipation has probably caused more than a few shoes to need a quick drool-removing polish.

Sen Pad Thai goes back to An’s Thai roots and focuses on, you guessed it, pad thai, a popular street food. Even better, An doesn’t focus on just one region, instead choosing to explore iterations of pad thai from all over Thailand.

Located inside the Net Loft building directly across from the public market, the counter-service stall is located at the centre of shopping area, where a skylight illuminates the goodly number of tables. It’s definitely got that upscale food-court feel, thanks to wooden chairs and tables and the high-end boutiques that ring the space.

Everything is served to-go, but compostable bowls are available for the asking. Besides, with portions this large, you’ll likely want the box to cart home your leftovers.

Located in the Net Loft building across from the public market, Sen Pad Thai is an upscale counter-service stall with surrounding wooden chairs and tables | Photo: Dan Toulgoet

At last visit, there were about nine rice noodle or sheet dishes, ranging from the excellent pad pu sen chan ($15) from southeastern Thailand, topped with fresh crab, flecked with a little chili paste and garnished with green onion. It’s light on the tamarind and fish sauce, which makes it a little blander that you might expect, but any stronger and it would overpower the delicate flavour of the crab. It ends up striking a perfect balance and is brightened with the requisite lime.

The northern-style pad mi korat ($13) is full of stronger, richer flavours. The noodles are cooked in pork fat with lots of garlic, making for a punchier experience.

Pad thai isn’t the only dish on the menu. Stir-fried rice with Chinese sausage ($10) or the excellent and delicate Thai omelette with crab and sausage are also winners. Add a fried egg to the former for $2 for extra hijinks.

Pad ga pao chicken with fried egg | Photo: Dan Toulgoet

Sides include finger-lickin’ good crispy ribs ($10) or chicken wings ($8) with Thai garlic. There are also sidestripe prawns ($12) while they’re in season, as well as oyster pancake, papaya salad, and An’s famous roti and curry.

The roti also comes as a dessert ($6) with sliced banana and condensed milk drizzled over top, à la Longtail, which I highly recommend.

Otherwise, the black sticky rice in pandan and coconut ($6) is a great sweet finish, along with one of the rotating fruit slushies. Yes, slushies. Seriously.

All ratings out of five stars.

Food: ★★★★

Service: ★★★

Ambience: n/a

Value: ★★★★

Overall: ★★★★

Star guide:

★: Okay, nothing memorable.

★★: Good, shows promise.

★★★: Very good, occasionally excellent.

★★★★: Excellent, consistently above average.

★★★★★: Awe-inspiring, practically perfect in every way.

Anya Levykh is a food, drink and travel writer who covers all things ingestible. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @foodgirlfriday.

Vancouver Westender


NDP ready to run with Liberals’ fumbled $2.8 billion football

Dear British Columbians:

Today I bring good news and bad news. Pick your perspective, one or the other.

The good news, if you love the new government, is that you have $2.8 billion of found money to play with – buckets of bills from heaven, a surplus you never suspected.

Nor, for that matter, did the Liberals know until it was too late, until it was their post-election Hail Mary pass into the end zone as time ran out on the clock and the fans had left the stands.

As a new government you can calmly tick the boxes on many short-term promises: get rid of the MSP, kill the bridge tolls, help the under-helped, sprinkle some fairy dust and dispel some of the economic fear, stoke the nice vibe.

The bad news, if you love the old government, is that you have handed to those you could not hate more a generous runway so they may avoid falling into the stereotype of a tax-and-spend socialist government.

Congrats. You have patented BC NDP 2.0, surrendered to your enemies a full year, at least, of insurance money in the bank to fritter as they see fit. Might as well have given the kids the keys to the Lamborghini.

Even if they can’t shoot straight, they can appear leaders when they are inheritors, rather like Trump taking credit for the employment numbers Obama built.

They owe you, but good luck on that.

How, you might ask, did you do this as a BC Liberal government that seemed so serenely at the helm for years of Canada’s best-performing economy?

How did the eye come off the ball? Did no one text you or DM or meet you in the hallway to say, hey, listen, the money was gushing into the treasury near campaign’s end and you could make a promise here and there and almost anywhere to save, say, JUST. . .ONE. . .SEAT?  ONE SEAT! ONE!

How? How did this happen? It cost you the 2017 election. It now may cost you one in 2018 or 2019. It is the best evidence possible that the crew you loved needs to be brought to the parking lot, hand over its keys and never be seen again.

But as I said, I bring good news and bad news – depending on your perspective.

The good news, if you are new-government supporters, is that, in a rather head-spinning way, the ideas that you as an opposition campaigned for, then prompted an outgoing government to agree to and enshrine in a throne speech, then as a lingering opposition voted against to oust a government that promised what you really wanted, you as a new government get to enact.

The bad news is that the benchmark you are given today – that sudden surplus, the prize of a political lifetime, the beautiful balance sheet – is unlikely to be as rosy in a year’s time. Sure, our national economy’s performance is outsized, and sure, B.C. is benefiting from revenue it never expected, but you will not be prettier than in the dress you are now wearing. Take the picture now!

The really bad news is that many of your most important commitments on housing and child care and public education, the real game-changers of your administration, are back-loaded and will hit the books only after something else has already hit them. You can promise they’re coming, but they will arrive only in your second term, if then, and certainly in tougher circumstance. The ephemeral stuff is up front, the serious stuff is down back. Bad news.

So, new government, this is not exactly about making hay when the sun shines. This is about making a statue out of something you thought you might have to bury, a shrine to show off come next election – which will be sooner than late 2018, one suspects.

And about that Green guy off to the side: no worries. He’ll support everything, everything, everything, in order to get a shot at proportional representation. Idea: a cabinet order to expropriate his house, just to see what he does. My hunch is he’ll start packing the furniture. He’s with you, at least for the PR part of the hitchhike.

But time is a-wasting, new admin. Spend and spend before the dollars you hold turn into the dollars you owe.

Sincerely yours,

An observer. 

Kirk LaPointe is Business in Vancouver’s vice-president of audience and business development.


U.S. TPP pullout hands opportunity to Western Canada

That Western Canada has not been well served by the country’s trade agenda under the previous and current governments is not just a criticism of Ottawa; it’s a damning critique of how little westerners seem to care or how ineffective they’ve been in shaping national trade priorities.

What we in the West have done to date has gotten us three times as many trade agreements in Central America as we have in Asia. If you’re happy with Honduras, stop reading. If not, it gets worse.

The largest and most important opportunity for western exporters, a resurrected Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement without the U.S., is at hand. But the so-called TPP 11 is not generating attention, much less pressure on Ottawa to act.

A recent report by the Canada West Foundation, The Art of the Trade Deal: Quantifying the Benefits of a TPP without the United States, shows that all remaining countries benefit from a TPP 11, but Canada and Mexico would gain the most. Canadian agricultural and commodity exporters generally do better in a TPP 11 than in a TPP with the United States.

In markets like Japan, a TPP 11 gives Canadian exporters advantages that American firms will not have and would finally put Canada on equal footing with competitors like Australia.

But the real gift is that the better terms that Canada has under a TPP 11 are thanks to the U.S. With the Americans at the table, countries made concessions in the original TPP that they never would give Canada in bilateral negotiations. The irony of the U.S. withdrawal is that after having done the hard work, the Americans are walking away and handing us their market share.

In trade, as in life, it doesn’t get any better than this.

And we in the West should know. This is the opposite of what happened to us in Korea when Canada dawdled in negotiating only to see the U.S. and Australia rush past to sign trade pacts. We essentially handed the Aussies and Americans our market share. Canadian exports to Korea, most notably pork, plummeted and have not recovered even after Canada rushed to conclude its own agreement.

Yet here we are again.

But this time the opportunity is larger. We can go from having one trade agreement in Asia to having the equivalent of seven. We can go from running behind the Americans in Asia to running ahead, and do so for the decade or longer that it will take the U.S. to negotiate bilateral agreements from scratch.

Success in the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations is critical, but it’s also about preserving what we have, not adding or growing. It also leaves us stuck worrying about President Donald Trump’s every tweet.

The European Union trade agreement is important because it further opens Europe, a rich, stable market. But it’s a market that produces most of what we produce and, thanks to Brexit, it’s shrinking rather than growing.

The West needs better access to booming, growing Asia. A TPP 11 delivers that almost instantly.

The agreement is done and other countries are forging ahead to ratify it as is without the U.S. Yet Canada is again dawdling. Rather than leading, the government – worried about unions and non-governmental organizations in Ontario and Quebec, and hearing nothing from the West – is hiding in silence behind consultations.

To save this opportunity, Western Canada must make a TPP 11 its most discussed topic. Every western MP at every summer barbecue must explain what he or she will do to ensure that Canada ratifies the agreement. Provincial legislative members and premiers must say what they will do to push Ottawa.

If Western Canada is ever going to have the trade access it needs, then westerners across the board must go beyond what they’ve done in the past to ensure we don’t lose this opportunity.

It’s time to stop trying and start winning. That begins with getting a TPP 11.

Carlo Dade is director of the Trade and Investment Centre at the Canada West Foundation.


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