Living/Working August 18, 2017

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Chinese e-commerce giant targets Vancouver

JD.com reaches out to city businesses in a bid to expand its overseas market
Jerome Ma, JD.com’s corporate vice president (centre), at a gathering of 70 business officials at the Vancouver Economic Commission office on July 28.

After the emergence of smaller, homegrown B.C. players gaining access to China’s booming e-commerce market, the China-based giants of the sector have now started eyeing Canada and Vancouver in their quest to expand beyond Asia.

The biggest such player, Beijing-based JD.com, recently made a stop in Vancouver in its three-city Canadian promotional outreach tour, pitching its online retail store to local businesses as the easiest and safest way for B.C. small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to reach the lucrative Chinese market.

JD.com (Nasdaq:JD), a member of the Fortune Global 500, had revenue of $49 billion last year and employs 122,000 people. It might not be a household name in the West, but most people will recognize its biggest competitor and contemporary – Jack Ma’s ubiquitous Alibaba Group (NYSE:BABA), based in Hangzhou, China.

Jerome Ma, JD.com’s corporate vice-president, told a gathering of 70 business executives at the Vancouver Economic Commission office on July 28 that the company decided to look to Canada for companies seeking to sell their goods in China online, mainly because Canada presents a good business culture fit for the more low-key approach that JD takes.

“JD is trying to make sure that we are successful in an ethical way,” Ma said, noting the e-commerce platform’s one-strike policy against fraudulent vendors as proof of JD’s commitment.

“Sometimes, when you go to China, there are a lot of ways to be successful. But are you being ethical? That’s the corporate culture we have, and I think you also see it in Canada.

“Why do you think tourists from other countries pretend they are Canadians when travelling outside their own borders? Because people respect Canadians for their core values.”

Recently, local players like Sachiel Connect have risen up to try to link Canadian food growers and producers of other products to Chinese consumers. Alibaba itself announced this month it is hosting its Gateway Canada event in Toronto on September 25 to “educate Canadian companies, agribusinesses, entrepreneurs and the travel and hospitality industries about tapping the rapidly growing demand among Chinese consumers.”

“Canada’s high-quality products, fresh food and travel experiences are highly sought after by China’s large and growing middle-class population who are looking online for the best products and experiences around the world,” said Jack Ma in a written release about the Gateway event. “Modern China has the potential to be a big opportunity for Canadian businesses of all sizes.”

The Chinese online retail market has recently grown at a ferocious pace, as integration with social media apps and improved logistics networks and supply chains pushed sales to a record US$750 billion, according to a Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) report in March. That figure is more than twice the total in the United States, ranked second in e-commerce market size.

The same Goldman Sachs report projects Chinese e-commerce sales to reach US$1.7 trillion in 2020, although Jerome Ma cautioned Vancouver businesses that the market is far from being a magic bullet for B.C. SMEs looking for a sure way in. That’s why, Ma said, JD.com will carefully discuss future prospects with each interested company looking to enter China through JD to determine the best fit.

The Vancouver Economic Commission’s Asia Pacific Centre director, Joan Elangovan, said one of the biggest challenges facing B.C. firms looking to get into the game in China is the sheer immensity of the market, which can present an SME with major logistics issues if a product proves popular and generates demand among JD.com’s 265 million customers.

“You have to be able to scale up,” Elangovan said. “We want to see Canadian companies grow, prosper and provide jobs here, but you have to be ready to satisfy the demand if it comes.”

But Elangovan added that the interest is already high among the 70 businesses that attended JD.com’s Vancouver gathering, noting the attendance far exceeded the original plans to have 30 groups present. The Vancouver Economic Commission even had to turn some interested parties away due to limitations of the venue’s space, and one company travelled from as far away as Edmonton to take part.

“This obviously has the potential to be a game-changer,” Elangovan said, noting the dominance of SMEs as a major part of the Canadian economy. “The potential is tremendous, but it’s by no means an easy process….  I’ve seen good deals fall through despite being good deals.”

She added that working with JD.com – currently without a Vancouver office – may present some additional challenges for interested B.C. SMEs, but she said JD has not ruled out adding a local presence in the future.

“This is just the first step in the process, and JD is trying to see what market they have here in Vancouver. If they are successful, I have no doubt we’ll see more specific developments follow.”

She added that the commission has already been in contact with other e-commerce platforms making preliminary outreach to Vancouver’s business community.

cchiang@biv.com

@BIVnews

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Infographic: The Yukon - where mineral potential is coming of age

The Yukon has some of the world's best mineral sources, according to studies. Why has its potential never been reached? This infographic delves in.

Infographic by: StrikePoint Gold

Infographic source: Visual Capitalist

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Okanagan road trip

Eat and drink your way from the Ok Falls to Summerland
Evolve Cellars' picnic bar offers local fare to enjoy with their Rosé and Gewürtz | Photo: Chris Stenberg

With only a few weeks left in which to squeeze in some summer road tripping, look no further than the Okanagan for food, fun, wine and sun.

Less than 10 minutes north of Oliver lies Okanagan Falls, home to some fantastic wineries and even more fantastic barbecue at Wild Goose Vineyards (wildgoosewinery.com/). What could be better to pair with the excellent Riesling but some house-smoked St. Louis-style pork ribs with cherry BBQ sauce? At nearby Liquidity Wines (liquiditywines.com/), the bistro offers more elevated fare, such as quinoa and spinach cake, and Yakima Valley lamb with cumin seed cavatelli. Don’t forget to stop at Tickleberry’s (tickleberrys.com/) for some old-fashioned ice cream, handmade fudge (in both regular and sugar-free flavours), chocolate-covered local fruit (the cherries rock), and assorted handicrafts and sweets.

Next stop is Penticton, where beach days on Skaha Lake reign supreme, along with plenty of good eats. Craft Corner Kitchen (http://www.craftcornerkitchen.com/) is where chef James Holmes and his team put together some of the best fried chicken (among other delights) in the valley, not to mention the daily doughnuts. And, if they’re available, the devilled eggs are not to be missed. The restaurant is practically next door to both Bad Tattoo (http://www.badtattoobrewing.com/and Cannery (https://www.cannerybrewing.com/) breweries, both of which also offer food with their brews. Pick up some pizza at Bad Tattoo or the famous cheese-stuffed pretzel bombs at Cannery.

Heading up onto the Naramata Bench, you come to Upper Bench Winery and Creamery (upperbench.ca/),where the addictive Baby Grey is a perfect match to the estate Zweigelt, a nice light red with cherry and raspberry notes. This is also the only place in the region to try this varietal. Head on out to the patio and order something made in the wood-fired pizza oven, like the Honey Pie, with tomato sauce, Upper Bench King Cole cheese, mozzarella, prosciutto, chili and honey.

Next stop is Summerland, where Okanagan Crush Pad (okanagancrushpad.com) is home to Haywire and Narrative wines. Visit to marvel at the giant concrete eggs that act as fermentation tanks, and stay for a tasting and picnic or charcuterie platter on the patio. Evolve Cellars (evolvecellars.com/)is another must-visit, not only for its fantastic Rosé and Gewürtz, but also for its new picnic bar, where you can purchase local cheese, charcuterie, breads and more, and enjoy on the expansive patio that stretches to the water’s edge. Sit and enjoy the view over Okanagan Lake or pack away into a cooler for an afternoon of sipping and tasting.

Okanagan Crush Pad's charcuterie platter. - Okanagancrushpad.com photo

A few miles north lies Peachland and the lovely Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards (fitzwine.com). Located right off Highway 97 on the water’s edge, the new bistro and sparkling bar is the place to unwind after a day of hard tasting. The sparkling bar offers not only the house bubble, but also comparative flights from around the world, include Cava, Champagne and Prosecco. The Fitz Brut also appears in the house cocktails, including a refreshing Pimm’s Cup and an interesting take on a Negroni. The bistro, which is open for dinner Thursday through Saturday, lunch Monday to Friday, and weekend brunch, keeps things casual, local and delicious. Try the lobster agnolotti or tempura rockfish with one the cocktails.

The Fitzpatrick Family Vineyard, north of Peachland, offers tasting flights of its wine. - Contributed photo

In Kelowna, Summerhill Pyramid Winery(summerhill.bc.ca/) is renowned for its organic, biodynamic wines – and yeah, the big pyramid. And, while the pyramid and the story of how it was created is fascinating, you’ll also want to check out the outdoor dining at Sunset Bistro under executive chef Alex Lavroff. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu is full of the estate’s own biodynamic produce and herbs. Try the Campari watermelon salad with haloumi, Road 17 arctic char with warm potato salad, Cache Creek steak, nasi goreng and more. At Spierhead Winery (spierheadwinery.com), the patio features a menu of pizzas, charcuterie, cheeses, salads, tapa, desserts, and lots of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, like the recent coconut, blueberry, cashew and ginger pie.

Vancouver Westender

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Look in the mirror to see where road to better driving habits starts

Insights West had the opportunity to ask drivers in British Columbia about what they see and do on the road as part of a comprehensive research project commissioned by the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia (ICBC). Some of the results of the survey puzzled us, while others were not entirely surprising.

This was not my first experience trying to figure out the intricacies of driving in our province. In January 2016, Insights West asked Canadians about certain misdeeds that they might have witnessed while on the road. British Columbia was at or near the top of the list of offenders in most categories, with 61% saying they saw a driver who did not stop at an intersection when it was required (the Canadian average was 49%) and a massive 84% saying someone turned without signalling (the Canadian average was 78%).

The Canada-wide research project was related to perceptions. ICBC was interested in reality, and with the proper level of impartiality that online research can provide, we asked B.C.’s drivers not only about the things they hate to see on the road, but also about the ones they partake in themselves.

There were three findings that were particularly distressing. First, more than a third of B.C. drivers (37%) admitted to trying to make up time while driving if they are behind schedule or late for an appointment.

In addition, one-third of B.C. drivers (32%) said that sometimes it’s OK to bend the rules if there are no other drivers around. Finally, while 90% of the drivers we spoke to said they were “confident” in passing the driving test again if they had to, only 22% correctly answered every one of the mock test questions they were presented with.

As the survey results began to be rolled out, a question kept coming from reporters and interested parties: why not re-test B.C.’s drivers every year, or every time they need to renew their licence?

Aside from placing an extraordinary burden on ICBC, there is no guarantee that the idea will succeed in detecting the driving behaviour that is not supposed to be witnessed on our roads.

Think of a man who goes on a first date. Most of us showed up smelling great, properly coiffed and smiling profusely. We probably opened the door so our date could get into the vehicle. We made it a point not to chew while we talked during dinner or place any fingers or objects in our mouth. We used napkins. In short, we behaved like gentlemen.

Now, let’s imagine this first date flourished into a relationship. Two, six or nine months down the road, are we still behaving the same way? Are we looking our best and behaving our best, or are we more likely to go days without a shower, have no problem with our now significant other opening the door to the car without assistance, or speaking with a mouthful of food?

This is the problem with re-testing: it will be an opportunity to review drivers at their best, not at their worst. A driver can behave flawlessly with an examiner inside the vehicle. Signalling. Yielding. Observing the speed limit in all areas. Once the licence has been granted, the driver will revert to his or her normal self.

This is why the awareness campaign that has been recently launched is so crucial. It’s not a question of acting well when the examiner is next to us: it’s a matter of doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. If we all play a role, the number of crashes we endure in the province will drop. Safe driving starts with us. It is not the responsibility – as 43% of those who were recently involved in a “close call” said – of them

Mario Canseco is vice-president of public affairs at Insights West.

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Best ways for non-profits to navigate B.C.’s new Societies Act

B.C. non-profit societies should take care: there is a new court challenge available to their members.

Under the province’s new Societies Act, which came into effect late last year, one or more members can apply to court for relief on the grounds that the activities or internal affairs of the society, or the powers of the society’s directors, are being exercised in a manner that is perceived to be oppressive or unfairly prejudicial.

The potential relief under the oppression remedy enables the court to make very intrusive remedies, including orders removing or appointing new directors, ordering compensation, appointing an investigator or receiver manager and varying or setting aside resolutions or transactions.

The oppression remedy is a statutory remedy that was first introduced some time ago in the profit-making corporate world. It has slowly been making its way into the non-profit realm.

 In 2011, it was extended to societies incorporated federally under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act.Before the new Societies Actcame into force, the oppression remedy was available to societies incorporated in B.C. only if a winding-up order was sought. There are now no such limitations under the new act.

The oppression remedy is rooted in business law and is grounded on the principle that a shareholder’s individual rights and economic interests should be protected from the unfair acts or omissions of a corporation.

It remains to be seen how well the underlying rationale of the oppression remedy fits in the non-profit realm, particularly for non-profits that have a charitable or greater-good purpose. Unlike in the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, there is also no “faith-based defence” and, as such, faith-based non-profits facing this new court challenge will have to rely on good advocacy that caters to their unique situation.

Having acted in oppression proceedings under the Canada-Not-for-profit Corporations Act,our best tip for societies looking to avoid an oppression challenge is to ensure that their fundamental tenets – as expressed in their constitution and bylaws – are clear and current. This is because the starting point for the court’s analysis of an oppression claim is to place the impugned conduct in the context of these fundamental tenets.

The court will also focus on whether the member complaining has reasonable expectations.

In determining reasonable expectations, the court will look not only to the fundamental tenets of the society, but also to any relevant policy, general practice and the nature of the association.

It is important that societies ensure reasonable expectations are communicated in the appropriate manner.

For instance, depending on the issues, expectations should be plainly delineated in the bylaws or policies, such as a membership and discipline policy. The privileges and burdens of members must be clearly set out. Rules for procedural fairness, which can withstand court challenges, should be in place. The powers of senior managers, officers and committees should be clear.

Societies should be proactive in seeking advice and determining how best to spell out the reasonable expectations for their members.

This can be done as societies meet the November 28, 2018, deadline to file their transition application, which involves filing a constitution and bylaw which accords with the new act. 

Karen Zimmer is a partner at Alexander Holburn. Her practice is focused on complex litigation matters involving corporate and society clients.

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