Vancouver City Gov Introduces Universal Access Card for Recreational Facilities

The seawall that encircles Stanley Park. Accessing Vancouver’s recreational facilities will get easier with the introduction of the OneCard in September 2013

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation announced last week that it will introduce a new universal access card for pools, rinks, fitness centres and community centres in the city.

The OneCard will replace over twenty separate cards used to access recreational facilities in Vancouver, making life more convenient for the city’s residents.

The universal access card will only enhance Vancouver’s stature as one of the best cities in the world for recreational activities.

Vancouver is one of the top destinations for new immigrants to Canada and is often rated at or the near top of international rankings for qualify of life, largely due to its many parks and recreational facilities and proximity to mountains, lush coastal forests and ocean.

The city is especially well known for its exceptional settings for outdoor activities. Stanley Park, a large park bordering downtown Vancouver, attracts approximately eight million visitors annually, and has been rated the sixth best park in North America.

The park has approximately 200 kilometres of trails and road, including a seawall encircling the entire peninsula which is used by an estimated 2.5 million pedestrians, cyclists, and inline skaters each year.

CanadianBusiness: Vancouver Could Be The Next Calgary

The LNG plant planned in Kitimat, pictured above, is expected to increase natural gas industry revenues in British Columbia, which would benefit the province’s commercial centre, Vancouver

An article appearing in the online edition of last Tuesday’s Canadian Business magazine suggests that Vancouver stands to follow in Calgary’s footsteps and become an energy company magnet:

The management of Canada’s oil and gas industry has become, over the past few decades, ever more concentrated in Calgary. To many, Imperial Oil’s 2005 move from Toronto sealed the deal.

But that pattern is now showing some notable exceptions. Giants of the energy industry are suddenly setting up offices in Vancouver instead, and it looks like they’re here to stay.

Alberta in general and Calgary specifically have for years stood apart in Canada for having the highest per capita GDP, the lowest unemployment rates and the most rapid population growth among all provinces and cities, respectively, in the country.

The source of Alberta’s and by extension Calgary’s wealth has been its large petroleum industry, which has experienced growth in recent years as production in Northern Alberta’s oil sands has increased.

Canadian Business magazine says that newly discovered natural gas fields in northern Alberta and British Columbia, and the planned construction of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) conversion and export plants in Kitimat and Prince Rupert in B.C.’s northern coast, have attracted Vancouver the same type of attention from energy companies that Calgary has enjoyed for years:

Not only the terminals but most of the source wells and pipeline infrastructure will be located in B.C., making the provincial government the principal regulator. So it makes sense for companies to run their operations close to Victoria, and even closer to the contractors, suppliers and a potentially hostile public. “You could see B.C. double its natural gas production, and all of that would go toward LNG,” says Greg Kist, vice-president of marketing at Progress Energy. “It indicates that there is going to be significant pace of investment in Vancouver.” Kist expects his company’s West Coast office will in time have 200 employees.

It addition to natural gas production and transport, B.C.’s position in between Alberta and the Pacific Coast makes it an important pathway for oil pipelines, a fact that has spurred Calgary-based Enbridge, which operates the largest pipeline system in the world, to recently decide to open an office in Vancouver.

Immigrants already account for 40 percent of the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s population. If the city experiences an energy boom on the scale of what Calgary has undergone, that would make it all the more alluring to immigrants and Canadians from other regions of the country.

Vancouver, Canada to Host International TED Conference

The TED conference will be held in the Vancouver Convention centre’s West Building, which was opened in 2009

The annual TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference, a gathering of some of the world’s brightest and most influential thinkers, will be moved to Vancouver in 2014 and 2015, it was announced on Monday.

It is believed that the move will provide a major boost to Vancouver’s reputation as a first class global city and have peripheral benefits in the way of attracting more businesses, innovators and international events to the city.

The annual TED conference started in 1990 and has emerged as one of the most highly regarded public forums for spreading ideas that benefit humanity. It often features renowned speakers, which have included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

The topics covered in the talks can relate to any thing ranging from science, to contemporary politics, to economics, to culture, like the harm schools have on creativity and video showcases of creatures in the ocean.

Each ticket to the TED conference costs $7,500, meaning the event’s 1,400 attendees will be a collection of the comparatively very rich and influential, whose visit to Vancouver will doubtlessly raise awareness of the city among global decision makers.

Vancouver’s rising profile

Vancouver has qualities that make it particularly attractive to immigrants and international visitors to Canada, including access to the Pacific Ocean, a mild by-Canadian-standards climate, and the natural beauty of the Coast Mountains.

Its domestic and international popularity and above-Canadian-average population growth rate have persisted for decades, which suggests the trend will continue into the foreseeable future and the city will become increasingly important on the global stage.

TED’s move to Vancouver could be the iconic event that marks its transformation into a World City.

B.C. Government Unveils New Website For International Students

Over a dozen English language schools in downtown Vancouver cater to international students. The government of B.C. is seeking to increase the number of foreign students who choose to study in the province (CICS News)

On Monday, the provincial government of British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, unveiled an updated LearnLiveBC website to promote B.C.’s post-secondary institutions to international students and provide foreign students with information on the educational programs available in the province.

As part of the province’s efforts to build upon its strength as a top destination for international students and promote B.C.’s colleges and universities overseas, the LearnLiveBC website will be made available in several languages, including Korean, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese, over the course of 2013.

The website includes links to resources like the educationplanner.ca site, which catalogues and allows users to digitally search thousands of programs available in B.C.’s post-secondary institutions.

The B.C. government says that there are currently 100,000 international students in the province, and that it will gain 1,800 jobs and increase its GDP by $100 million for every 10 per cent increase in the number of international students coming to the province.

The creation of the LearnLiveBC website is one part of British Columbia’s International Education Strategy which was unveiled in May 2012.

Toronto Tops CIBC’s Annual Metropolitan Economic Index for Canadian Cities

Toronto has ranked near the top of the Canadian Metropolitan Economic Activity Index for five of the last seven years (Paul Bica)

Toronto leads all Canadian cities with a score of 20.6 points in the most recent CWM Metropolitan Economic Activity Index, which rates the economic activity of Canadian cities according to nine economic variables selected by CIBC’s World Markets subsidiary.

The indicators used in formulating the Index score include a city’s unemployment rate, population growth, bankruptcy rate and housing starts growth rate.

While Toronto did not lead other major Canadian cities in any of the nine areas of economic activity, it consistently ranked near the top in most of the categories, providing it with the highest cumulative score.

Toronto’s manufacturing sector benefited from an increase in automobile purchases in the United States as that country experienced an economic recovery, and an expansion of its construction industry, as housing starts, led by condominium construction, unexpectedly grew in the city.

Trailing Toronto in the top six Canadian cities were the Prairie metropolises of Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Edmonton in descending rank.

Calgary, coming second with a score of 19.5 points, continued to benefit from having one of the lowest unemployment rates, highest home sales growth rates, and highest population growth rates of Canadian metropolises.

Vancouver 5th Place in Global Quality of Life Ranking

Vancouver once again ranked at the top among Canadian cities in a global quality of life index thanks to its temperate climate and the quality of its infrastructure

The Mercer 2012 Quality of Life Ranking has again placed Vancouver as the top spot to live in Canada and the Americas. Beating out the West Coast city globally were Vienna, Austria (1st), Zurich, Switzerland (2nd), Auckland, New Zealand (3rd), and Munich, Germany (4th).

Other Canadian cities lost points to Vancouver because of their colder climates which according to the index affects quality of life. Calgary (32nd), which has experienced an economic boom over the last two decades thanks to Alberta’s expanding oil production, also lost points to Vancouver, and other Canadian cities, due to a lack of an international airport.

The Mercer index also ranked cities by the quality of their infrastructure, an area where Vancouver also ranked well in, placing 9th worldwide and first in the Americas. The top spot for infrastructure went to the South East Asian free market bastion of Singapore, followed by the Northern European metropolises of Frankfurt (tied 2nd), Munich (tied 2nd), Copenhagen (4th), Düsseldorf (5th) and London (tied 6th).

Three other Canadian cities ranked in the top five in the Americas in the quality of life rankings: at second Ottawa (14th), at third Toronto (15th), and placing fourth Montreal (23rd). Honolulu, Hawaii (28th) rounded out the top 5 in the Americas.

Edmonton and Calgary to Have Fastest Economic Growth in Canada

Suncor Energy Centre in Calgary, Alberta. Edmonton and Calgary are expected to have the fastest economic growth in Canada according to the Conference Board of Canada’s Metropolitan Outlook-Autumn 2012 (Chuck Szmurlo)

The Albertan metropolises, Calgary and Edmonton, will have the fastest economic growth in Canada this year, followed closely by Regina, Saskatchewan, according to a forecast by the Conference Board of Canada’s Metropolitan Outlook-Autumn 2012, released today.

Alberta is expected to benefit from high levels of energy-industry-related investment for the next four years, which will help fund economic growth of 3.8 percent in Calgary and 4.6 percent in Edmonton in 2012.

Saskatchewan’s cities, also enjoying a resource-sector-led boom thanks to the province’s large oil and gas, potash, uranium, and lumber resources, will see strong growth over the next four years according to the report. The provincial capital, Regina, is expected to lead the province with economic growth of 3.6 percent in 2012.

Perhaps surprisingly given the city’s real estate slowdown, Vancouver is expected to have one of the best performing economies in Canada in the coming years, with economic growth of 3.1 percent in 2012, and average annual economic growth of 3.3 percent forecast for the next four years.

Three Canadian Cities in Top 10 in World Liveability Ranking

Vancouver placed third in the Economist's annual liveability ranking for the second year in a row, after spending most of the last decade in first place

The Economist’s annual liveability ranking was published on Tuesday and it placed three Canadian cities, Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary, in the top 10.

Vancouver placed third for the second year in a row, failing once again to regain the first place position that it had held in the rankings for nine consecutive years until 2010. Ahead of Vancouver is Melbourne, Australia, which came in first, and Vienna, Austria, which placed second.

Other Canadian cities also placed well, with Toronto coming fourth and Calgary tying Adelaide, Australia for fifth place. The ranking, created by the Economist Intelligence Unit, evaluates a city’s liveability according to five indicators:

  1. stability, which includes threats of crime and war,
  2. the quality and availability of private and public health care,
  3. culture and environment, which includes qualities like absence of social and religious restrictions, average temperature/humidity, number of cultural events, and the availability of goods and services,
  4. the quality of public and private education
  5. infrastructure

The index does not factor in cost of living, which worked in favour of Melbourne, as it placed 15th worldwide in Mercer’s annual cost of living survey this year, far ahead of Vancouver and Toronto which placed 63rd and 61st worldwide respectively.

Vancouver Sees 12 Percent Drop in Housing Prices in July from Same Time Last Year

Year on year home prices declined 12 percent in Vancouver in July

Vancouver, one of the most popular Canadian housing markets for the country’s immigrants, saw the average value of real estate purchases in July drop 12 percent from the same period last year, according to data collected by Bloomberg News.

The city’s real estate prices have boomed in recent years due in large part to foreign investment from China and home purchases by Chinese immigrants, who are the city’s largest foreign born ethnic group.

With a cooling Chinese economy and Vancouver home prices that have risen to become the highest in Canada though, many this year have been warning that Vancouver’s real estate market is in a bubble.

Toronto also saw a slow down in its real estate market, although it was much more moderate, with year on year home purchase volume decreasing by 1.5 percent in July.

Vancouver Trails Toronto as Canada’s Most Expensive City, but Canada still Cheap on International Stage

Tokyo overtook Luanda, Angola as the world's most expensive city this year

The latest annual Worldwide Cost of Living Survey by human resource firm Mercer places Toronto as Canada’s most expensive city, ahead of Vancouver, for the second year in a row. Both cities are relatively cheap by international standards though, placing 61st and 63rd most expensive in the world, respectively. Ottawa has the lowest cost of living of Canadian cities included in the survey, ranking 115th globally.

The world’s three most expensive cities, in descending order, are Tokyo Japan, Luanda Angola, and Osaka Japan. Brazilian cities saw a drop in their place in the rankings due to depreciation of the Brazilian currency, the real, while New Zealand’s Auckland and Wellington, and Australian cities like Sydney, climbed in the rankings as the New Zealand and Australian dollars appreciated.

Mercer says that Canada’s cost of living has been relatively stable over the past several years, with little change in the price of items like rent and food, which is an attractive national quality for multinational corporations looking to place employees abroad.