Anvil Centre, New Westminster   

Forging ahead

Cushman & Wakefield Ltd. is putting the push on New Westminster’s Anvil Centre, capitalizing on demand for strata office space with plans to sell portions of the 137,000-square-foot building.

The office portion of the complex has been slow to lease but discussions with prospective tenants pointed to fresh potential for sales. A couple of lease agreements are in progress that leave the door open to the purchase of space in the future, for example. Several recent inquiries have underscored the interest.

“We’re just saying, if there’s that much demand, let’s see if it’s there,” said Suki Sekhon, president of owner CRS Group of Companies. “We’ll probably still keep a good portion, even if we sold half of it.”

Cushman & Wakefield vice-president Roger Leggatt, who is handling sales with Max Zessel, said strata sales have been possible at Anvil Centre since CRS acquired the city-built project. However, the time seems to be ripe for a more aggressive push in this direction.

“It’s always been something that’s been there. We’re just pursuing strata on a more aggressive basis now,” Leggatt said. “We’ve seen so much demand from owner-users over the last little while.”

An owner-user has gone firm on 40,000 square feet at the Modello tower in Burnaby’s Metrotown area, for example, and last year the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union bought 30,000 square feet in the Sovereign tower a block away.

Professionals have also underpinned demand for strata office space at Wesgroup’s Brewery District in New Westminster. A report from Colliers International and discussion at commercial real estate association NAIOP this spring suggested the potential for strata-titled highrise offices, but strata space typically enjoys a greater following among retail and industrial occupants.

However, interest has been significant for space in mid-rise office towers – a question to which Anvil Centre will hammer out the answer.

Affordability moves

The rising tide of government intervention in housing markets makes it increasingly tough to gauge the combined impact the measures will have.

On the one hand, taxes and greater scrutiny of tax filings and mortgages are coming into play to cool the market; on the other, Vancouver has pledged four sites worth $50 million for affordable housing, the province has pledged a further $500 million for projects around B.C., and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) is accepting applications for up to 4,000 units worth $200 million across the country.

But will the measures have the desired effect of making housing more affordable?

Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver statistics last week noted that September sales dropped 32.6% from a year earlier, in line with August’s double-digit decline.

However, the benchmark house price declined just $1,200, to $931,900. That’s 29% above a year ago.

With new policies broadening the requirement for a stress test on mortgage applicants that assesses their ability to carry a mortgage at the Bank of Canada’s posted interest rate (approximately two percentage points higher than the best available mortgage rate currently on offer), it’s not getting any easier to get a mortgage.

The changes also mean lenders have fewer options for borrowers, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver.

“The Canadian consumer is ultimately going to be left with less choices,” said Paul Taylor, president and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada in Toronto, noting that “a sizeable minority” of borrowers could be knocked out of the market entirely.

Renters, meanwhile, face a long wait for the ambitious new government-funded units.

Vancouver has yet to rezone and approve developments on the four sites it’s chosen, while CMHC said where the 4,000 units it promises rise will depend on who applies.

“[We’re] seeking those ‘wow’ projects that might otherwise not happen,” said Lance Jakubec, a consultant assigned to CMHC’s new Innovation Fund.

Vancouver logged 2,086 purpose-built rental starts in the first eight months of this year, putting the city on track for the biggest boom in rental housing since the 1980s. Metro Vancouver logged 3,940 starts over the same period.


B.C. Ferries president and CEO Mike Corrigan | Photo: Lyle Stafford, Times Colonist

Mike Corrigan, chief executive of BC Ferries, announced October 19 he is staying in the game by moving over to head Interferry after he steps down when his contract ends in March.

“I am excited to be leading Interferry, advocate on behalf of our industry, focus efforts on passenger and operational safety and build the reputation of ferry operators around the world,” Corrigan said in a statement from Manila, Philippines, where he is attending Interferry’s annual conference.

Interferry represents more than 200 companies in the global ferry industry. Corrigan will be taking over from Darrell Bryan, formerly president and CEO of Victoria Clipper, who has been serving as interim CEO of Interferry since April.

Already familiar with Interferry, Corrigan has served as one of its directors for six years, with a recent stint as treasurer.

He said he is looking forward to making sure the ferry industry’s voice is represented to international regulators. He plans to see that members maximize opportunities to network and to share best policies.

Corrigan announced in August that after 13 years in senior positions at B.C. Ferries, including four years as president and CEO, he would leave the organization at the end of March.

Spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said B.C. Ferries is in a recruitment process and will be announcing Corrigan’s successor “in the coming months.”

Interferry chairman Mike Grainger said Corrigan understands the challenges and opportunities that face the sector. “His experience leading B.C. Ferries, one of the world’s largest ferry operators, means he comes to the position knowing first-hand what many of our members experience, and how regulations being set for deep-sea shipping are not always appropriate for ferry operations.”

Interferry has consultative status with the International Maritime Organization, which is a United Nations agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

Canadian Ferry Association CEO Serge Buy said Corrigan has played an important role in the growth of that organization and has served on its board.

Times Colonist



Provincial government workers sometimes waited months to report a lost or stolen smart phone or tablet, according to a report by the Acting Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Drew McArthur’s October 18 report on mobile device management in the B.C. government examined five ministries — Children and Family Development, Finance, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Justice and Health — and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

“Investigators found instances of employees reporting a device lost or stolen several months after the device was first noticed missing,” McArthur said in the report. “On average it took employees two to six days to make a report. At one ministry, employees were advised not to report lost devices for up to three days in case the device was found.”

Investigators also found that records of lost and stolen devices were not properly maintained or analyzed, so management missed an opportunity to provide additional training.

McArthur said investigators found policies were often overlapping, inconsistent and confusing. The ministries also did not keep track of personal information stored on mobile devices or categorize sensitivity of such personal information.

“Government is not meeting its statutory obligation to protect personal information stored on mobile devices,” said the report.

Privacy training was not specific to mobile devices nor was it conducted frequently. Risk assessments were poor and breach and incident protocols were not consistently followed when privacy breaches happened.

“Rules need to be established and government employees must be trained on how to use portable tools while protecting information that might be accessed or stored on their mobile devices,” McArthur wrote. “Furthermore, where technical controls cannot be implemented, then education must be provided to ensure employees do not inadvertently compromise personal information.”

McArthur is a retired Telus chief privacy officer who took over from Elizabeth Denham last summer after she was hired as the United Kingdom’s information and privacy commissioner.

Also on October 18, Auditor General Carol Bellringer released a report looking at the security aspects of government mobile device management.

She noted the size and portability of devices makes them easy to lose or steal and they often become obsolete, meaning fewer security updates as they age. Unlike desktop or laptop computers, mobile devices often remain connected around the clock, putting them in jeopardy of unauthorized access, she wrote.

Bellringer found there were policy gaps, the full life cycle of mobile devices is not well managed, appropriate security controls are not always in place and there is no central monitoring and logging by government of mobile device activity.

“Any loss, theft or exposure of sensitive government information – to which these devices have access – could have serious implications for both government and the people of British Columbia,” Bellringer said in the report. “If such a breach were to occur it could also spark a lack of confidence in government’s ability to protect the information under its control.”

Both reports said that the government began to make improvements to its policies and procedures while the investigations were underway.


Mount Polley tailings pond breach | BIV files
Imperial Metals escaped charges from its 2014 Mount Polley tailings breach near the city of Williams Lake, but the company may soon have new legal actions coming its way. 

Ottawa-based NGO MiningWatch announced plans October 18 to file a private prosecution under Canada’s Fisheries Act against Mount Polley Mining Corporation and the British Columbia government

The group is being backed by more than a dozen other non-profit organizations including Amnesty International, Clayoquot Action, and Wilderness Committee.

MiningWatch expressed concerns over the fact that more than two years have passed since the accident that poured 21 million cubic metres of wastewater and mine tailings into Quesnel Lake and caused changes to the ecosystem, and still no state authority has brought forward any sanctions or penalties.

Imperial Metals' (TSE:III) Mount Polley Mine is an open pit copper and gold operation in south central British Columbia. In June 2016, it received authorization to return to its normal activities  making use of its repaired and buttressed Tailings Storage Facility.


Canada’s central bank is keeping the overnight rate at 0.5%, where it has been since July 2015, but has downgraded the country’s economic outlook through the end of 2017.

The Bank of Canada said it expects GDP to grow 1.1% in 2016 overall, down from its call of 1.3% in the July rate decision. Growth forecasts for the last half of 2016 alone were cut from 2.8% to 1.5%. In 2017, growth has been downgraded to 2.0% from the 2.2% previously forecast. Growth in 2018 is still forecast at 2.1%.

The downgrades were a result of slower near-term housing resale activity and lower export expectations.

“The federal government’s new measures to promote stability in Canada’s housing market are likely to restrain residential investment while dampening household vulnerabilities,” the Bank said in a news release.

“Recent export data are improving but are not strong enough to make up for ground lost during the first half of 2016, despite the effects of the Canadian dollar’s past depreciation.”

Declining global demand and “a composition of U.S. growth that appears less favourable to Canadian exports” are pushing export expectations downward.

Energy sector investments are bottoming out as the Canadian economy is adjusting to the slump in the price of oil, but non-resource sectors are seeing steady growth, with the services sector leading the way.

Household spending is increasing as employment and income in regions not dependent on the energy sector are solid.

Core inflation remains near the 2% rate target, with excess capacity offsetting exchange rate effects. CPI inflation is lower than previously forecast due to low gas, food and telecom prices.

BMO Financial Group chief economist Douglas Porter said the Bank has delivered a release that is a “whiter shade of dove.”

“The Bank has cut its GDP forecast heavily, slashed its core inflation outlook, sounds much more concerned about the medium-term prospects for exports, frets about domestic competitiveness, looks for a 0.3% slice in GDP from the housing measures and doesn’t see the output gap closing for almost two years,” Porter said in a note to investors.

“This is a Bank that has precisely zero appetite for rate hikes, and seems to be keeping a flame alive for the possibility of rate cuts should the need arise.”

Porter said the central bank is likely to maintain the rate through 2017, with the earliest change not taking place until 2018.



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