Passengers should check for ferry cancellations due to staffing issues: BC Ferries


BC Ferries cancellations

A BC Ferries spokesman is encouraging passengers to check online for possible service disruptions before heading to a terminal.

Dan McIntosh says several factors could lead to sailing cancellations on some routes, including employees being sick with COVID-19, seasonal cold and flu or severe winter storms.

Four sailings were cancelled yesterday on the Queen of Cowichan between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo due to staffing issues.

McIntosh says some sailings can still go ahead even when there’s a shortage of employees but that depends on whether that’s the captain, engineers or a cook.

He says fewer kitchen staff may mean less cafeteria service, but a ferry can’t sail without key staff.

McIntosh says BC Ferries has contingency plans in place as requested by the provincial health officer to deal with a rise in absenteeism as the Omicron variant sweeps through the province, and that includes cross-training staff to do other duties or deploying them to different locations.

“All it takes is for a few people to be sick, depending on the role they play on the ferries, and then all of a sudden that augments your schedules in a way that we’ve seen. And we can say, anecdotally, that because of the COVID situation, we know that that is impacting our staff.”

He says service notices are posted online as soon as possible when sailings won’t be going ahead as scheduled because so many customers are dependent on the service to get to work, school and medical appointments.

Passengers can check the BC Ferries website for any cancellations before heading to a terminal or register to get notices sent to their mobile device.

B.C. property assessments continue to rise; rural communities show highest increases


Data posted on the BC Assessment website this week shows market value as of July 1, 2021, increased more than 40 per cent in the communities of Hope, Port Alberni, Lake Cowichan and other rural areas, while Vancouver was up 16 per cent.

Condos and townhomes in Vancouver showed even lower assessed values at seven per cent, rising from an average assessed value of $711,000 in July 2020 to $759,000 last July.

“Most of the province is up, but when you get outside of the Lower Mainland, it’s the smaller towns where it’s up most it seems,” Bryan Murao, BC Assessment’s deputy assessor, said in an interview on Tuesday.

The 16 per cent increase in a single-family home in Vancouver raised the average value to almost $2 million, but assessed property values soared in suburban communities further east, he said.

Assessed single-family home values were up 39 per cent in Langley, 38 per cent in Abbotsford and 40 per cent in Chilliwack, Murao said.

“Throughout the rest of the province, what we saw is a lot of the single-family homes in smaller communities actually were up quite a bit as well,” he said.


Property value estimates in Hope, located about 150 kilometres east of Vancouver, rose 45 per cent, from $428,000 to $620,000 for the average price of a single-family home.

In Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island, property assessments were up 47 per cent and increased 48 per cent in Keremeos in the Interior.

BC Assessment officials appraise property values and are not economists, but Murao said during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic they are anecdotally seeing people leaving the cities to work remotely or retire in communities where homes are more affordable.

“There’s a little more of an opportunity for people to work from wherever now,” he said. “You don’t need to be in a specific place to work in a lot of jobs. I think that’s opened up opportunities for a lot of people to move throughout the province,” he said.

The movement of people to smaller communities appears to be a nationwide trend, said Murao.

The change has resulted in higher property values in B.C.’s smaller towns and rural areas as more people look for homes outside of the Vancouver area, he said.

The assessments indicate B.C.’s real estate market remains resilient and homeowners provincewide can expect higher assessment values for 2022.

The large increases in values don’t always mean corresponding property tax increases, Murao said.

“You can’t perfectly predict what the impact on property taxation is going to be, but for the most part really what’s important is how your property changed relative to other residential properties within that same taxing jurisdiction,” he said.

The total value of real estate in B.C. is about $2.44 trillion, an increase of nearly 22 per cent from 2021, he said.


Canadian Housing Market Showing Signs Of ‘Excess Exuberance,’ Bank Of Canada Warns

Tiff Macklem says he’s surprised by the strength of real estate.

OTTAWA ― Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem says the central bank is seeing early signs that people may be purchasing homes solely because they believe prices may go up.

Macklem says rising prices in particular for single-family homes are still a long way from the heated market the country observed about five years ago.

Fuelling the increase has been a combination of demand for more space as millions of workers do their jobs remotely, constrained supply and rock-bottom interest rates driven low by central bank actions.

The bank’s key policy rate has been at 0.25 per cent for about 11 months, and its quantitative easing program is trying to reduce the rates paid on things like mortgages to drive spending.

Macklem says the central bank is surprised by the rebound in the housing market.

He adds there are early signs of what he called “excess exuberance,” with people maybe expecting the recent increases in prices to go on indefinitely.

“What we get worried about is when we start to see extrapolated expectations, when we start to see people expecting the kind of unsustainable price increases we’ve seen recently go on indefinitely,” Macklem said during a question-and-answer session with chambers of commerce in Edmonton and Calgary.

“We are starting to see some early signs of excess exuberance, but we’re a long way from where we were in 2016-2017 when things were really hot.”

Macklem says there is still a need for considerable monetary policy support to generate a complete recovery.

In the meantime, the bank will keep an eye on debt levels, as mortgage debt rises as households pay down other debt like credit cards and personal loans, Macklem says.

“We are acutely aware that in a world of very low interest rates, there is a risk that housing prices could get stretched, households could get stretched, and certainly that’s a risk we want to guard against,” Macklem told reporters following the speech

Surrey approves bylaw to ban single-use shopping bags, foam cups, other plastics

Surrey bans plastic bags

Plastic shopping bags, foam cups and takeout containers should soon be banned in Surrey.

Councillors have adopted a bylaw that would seek provincial permission to ban single-use plastic items.

The B.C. government confirmed in September that it would approve all such municipal bylaws and has already signed off on bag bans for Victoria, Saanich, Richmond, Ucluelet and Tofino.

Vancouver operates under different legislation and did not need provincial certification to ban bags effective Jan. 1, 2022, while its prohibition on foam containers and other single-use items has been in effect for almost a year.

Surrey’s bylaw mirrors those already approved in other municipalities requiring merchants to charge fees for paper or reusable bags, in order to encourage consumers to use their own.

Surrey council has also more than doubled penalties for illegal cutting of trees, raising fines to as much as $5,000, depending on the type of tree, while also hiking the penalty to $20,000 for damaging or cutting any of the city’s “significant trees.”

The Surrey Board of Trade says in a statement that it approves of council’s move to ban single-use plastics and although the bylaw “does not align completely” with the board’s request for a phase-out of the items, “it is a step in the right direction.”

Board CEO Anita Huberman has called on the city to consult with business owners to prepare for the ban, and says her organization is ready to ensure a “smooth and cost-effective transition.”

“There are innovative industry opportunities that are available now, or that can be developed, that will lead to new employment opportunities,” Huberman says.

Quebec To Allow Public Gatherings Of Up To 250 People Starting Aug. 3

The new guidelines apply to public gatherings both indoors and outdoors.

 MONTREAL — Quebec says it will permit indoor and outdoor public gatherings of up to 250 people across the province beginning Aug. 3.

The directive announced Thursday doesn’t include private gatherings in places such as homes and chalets, where the 10-person limit remains in force.

By increasing the limit to 250 people from 50, the government is hoping to give a revenue boost to venues hosting sports and cultural events, which have been hit hard by the pandemic-induced shutdowns.

The new directive applies to all entertainment venues across Quebec, including concert halls, theatres and movie houses.

It also applies to places of worship, rented halls and amateur sport training and competitions.

Quebecers will still be required to keep a two-metre distance from one another and, when that’s not possible, to wear a mask.

“With this announcement, we are allowing the Quebec population to appreciate in greater numbers the many cultural spaces that delight the young and old,” Culture Minister Nathalie Roy said in a news release.

Anyone participating in an indoor event will need to wear a mask when they are moving around. They will be allowed to remove their mask when sitting down to watch a show or sporting event.

“Our analysis of the situation makes it possible to increase the number of people who can be accommodated in these places,” Masse said.

Quebec reported 142 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, but no additional deaths.

The total number of deaths in the province is 5,662, and total cases rose to 58,080. Health authorities said hospitalizations dropped by 14 to 221. Of those, 14 patients were in intensive care, a reduction of two.

Health officials completed 14,725 tests July 21, the last day for which data is available. At least 50,505 people have recovered from the disease.

Canadian Home Sales, Construction Headed For Period Of ‘Severe Declines,’ CMHC Says

Cultural shifts and economic upheaval are among the reasons why there is “extreme uncertainty” in the outlook for housing.

Condo towers line the Bow River in Calgary. CMHC says the city will take longer than others for its housing market to recover from the economic downturn.

OTTAWA ― Canada’s housing market is headed into a period of “severe declines″ in sales and construction, but the full effect of COVID-19 on real estate is far from certain at this point, according to a new report by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

CMHC deputy chief economist Aled ab Iorwerth described an uneven recovery that will “vary considerably″ across different parts the country, and urged that forecasts be taken in the context of an “extreme uncertainty″ that lies ahead.

Average home prices in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa are expected to rebound sooner, starting in late 2020 and rolling into early 2021. Prices in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary may not bounce back until later in the forecast period, the report said.


Calgary and Edmonton will see average home prices decline due to uncertainty around oil prices and economic recovery in the region.

Volatile factors, such as a potential second wave of the virus, higher unemployment and the pace of an economic recovery, could influence the direction of the housing market in the coming months, ab Iorwerth explained.

“We are still at the early stage of understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the economy in general, and on the housing market in particular,″ he said on Tuesday in a conference call.

“Limited data availability means we will remain in the zone of considerable uncertainty.″

He said the CMHC is relying on its own housing market outlook from late May as its central forecast for the coming months. It expects the housing market likely won’t see a return to pre-pandemic levels before the end of 2022.

Cultural shifts

Greater cultural shifts may also affect the speed of recovery, he said, and many of those developments are so recent that they’re hard to fully comprehend or quantify.

Cities which lend themselves to industries that allow for working from home, could prove to make those regions “more resilient,″ which could have ripple effects on housing, ab Iorwerth said.

“We do not yet have a grasp on the answers to questions, such as the impact of greater work from home, differing impacts across industries, the effect of less mobility across provincial boundaries and the decline in immigration following cutbacks and international aviation,″ he added.

There are also substantial questions about how rental markets will be affected.

He noted that a decline in immigration and interprovincial activity will lower demand for rental units, which combined with a “significant new supply in rental properties close to being completed,″ could mean that vacancy rates are likely to jump.

“Such increases in vacancy rates, however, will be from historically low levels in Toronto and Vancouver, in particular,″ he noted.

Earlier this month, CMHC reported the annual pace of housing starts, excluding Quebec, fell 20.4 per cent in May compared with April.

The Canadian Real Estate Association reported in May that home sales had their worst April in 36 years, with home sales falling 57.6 per cent from a year earlier to 20,630 sales for the month.