Tag Archives: British columbia

Life During COVID-19: One Month Later

Physical Distancing

Until the number of new cases drops considerably, physical distancing is the new norm.

COVID-19 still affects our daily lives. However some may not have the same effects they had like say just a month ago. Some things are starting to open up more, but some still remain closed. Even those that have opened up have set restrictions and limits. I will highlight in this blog how much has changed since my first COVID-19 blog.

Reopenings, But With Restrictions

I don’t know how soon we’ll ever get back to normal; the ‘normal’ we had before this pandemic hit. One thing I know is it won’t be anytime soon. Keep in mind that reopening of indoor things and places will be done in phases. I’m sure phases will be based on the maximum capacity allowable with the given square-footage. Statistics of new COVID infections and active infections will also play a factor geographically.

Restaurants are starting to open up more. Even during the worst of the pandemic, restaurants that could offer delivery service still functioned. There were even two walk-in places — a local fast-food place and a Domino’s Pizza outlet — that were open for people to walk in and order. Both times I placed my order, I was told to stand outside to wait for my food to be ready. I didn’t mind because this is a pandemic. However lately restaurants have started to allow people to dine at, if not dine in. When I mean ‘dine at,’ I mean the patio areas of restaurants are set up and open for customers to dine. Outdoors has a way-lower rate of contagion. The restaurants that could allow dining inside had to have a big capacity and I’m sure they had to limit the number of dine-in patrons.

Most stores that were open from mid-March to the end of May did so with the number of people in at one time. However there were some popular stores in Canada that were closed completely during Phase One of the pandemic like Best Buy, Winners and Ikea. Winners reopened, but there was a maximum number of people allowed for a long time. I remember on the day of reopening, I had to stand in a lengthy line and it took fifteen minutes. The maximum allowable was 75 at once.

Ikea Lineup

I had to wait 30 minutes in line to get into an Ikea.

When Ikea reopened at the beginning of June, it came at the right time as I was planning to put up new curtains. I went on a Sunday 14 days after it reopened to purchase a curtain rod. When I arrived at 4pm, there were gates to mark the line-up where people could stand in line and where to be separate. It wasn’t just on one side. They had that line-up but the opposite side too. That was annoying since the line I was in was lengthy enough. Funny thing is there’s a third line-up area if the line-up gets even longer! Anyways theirs was a situation where there was a maximum and they could only let in ten at a time just after ten were seen exiting. That left me waiting in line for around thirty minutes! Also don’t ask about the returns line-up. I had to wait an hour to return something small!

Medical offices started to reopen at the beginning of June. The only medical office I could enter during the big closings was the blood clinic for donation. Even then, they had to limit the number of donors at once and it was strictly by appointment. Booking appointments were hard as availability could be anywhere from one day three weeks from now to the other option which would be two weeks later. Once I was able to donate, they still had to take my temperature from a distance and have me wear a face mask.

At least they allowed me in. When I had a really painful ordeal with gout in May, I didn’t walk to the drop-in clinic 300m away. I limped there! Only to learn the doors are locked and can only take over the phone. Even when I called, they still had to book an appointment with the drop-in doctor for me and they had to call me at that time. That’s the way it was with a lot of doctors’ offices during Phase One of the pandemic. It had to be either strictly phone appointments or they had to use their smartphone to send images or videotapes of the problem. Mine was strictly a phone call with the doctor. She did forward the prescription to the pharmacy. You can imagine my relief once I got the pills!

They may be a day late and strictly phone only, but it was way timelier than my dental ordeal. My tooth broke in the middle of May. I called up the emergency line and left a message. The dentist then called back and said they can’t work on it until the dental offices open up again. They didn’t open until June 1st. The problem was annoying because the tooth would scrape against my tongue. It was that annoying. You can imagine how relieved I was for my appointment. But even then, I was warned that there was the chance of catching COVID. I had four questions to answer before I could be done. All had to be the No answer. I also had to get my temperature checked from a distance. Then I could get my tooth done.

Reopening With Regulations

Church questionairre

To be among the maximum 50 to attend service at my church, you need to let the priest know and answer a questionnaire before you can enter.

Some places have reopened with set limits. Firstly churches are limited in terms of capacity. My own church has two services on Sunday. Anyone who wants to attend has to let the priest know by the day before because there is a maximum of 50 people allowed in the church building and parking lot at one time. Even after you let them know and he says it’s good to come in, there’s still four yes/no questions to answer about your health. Only if you answer no to all four are you fine to enter the church for mass. For those that can’t attend mass, they can view it on the Facebook page or the YouTube channel just like we all did at the start of the pandemic. In addition, the summer used to be a case where there would be a single mass in both languages. Possibly because of the pandemic and to keep as many people from being left out, the two separate masses in English and Ukrainian will continue.

COVID hair

My COVID hair: four months in the making!

Secondly, it’s not just churches that are reopening with regulations. Barbershops and hair salons reopened at the start of June too. Yeah, we’ve all heard the term ‘COVID hair’ or ‘Corona hair.’ That’s what happens when the hair salons all close. You either have one of your family members cut your hair (One you can trust, I hope!) or you wait. I waited and boy was my hair long and hard to control. After the long wait, I finally got my hair cut in the second Friday of June.

The barbershop I often go to reopened. A lot changed. The barber wears a face mask, clients have to wear a face mask too, and he has to clean and sanitize the seats after every person he works on. On top of it, the price is raised an extra $5 to deal with the new methods of sanitizing.

Barber

To get my hair cut, my barber demands you wear a face mask, like most hair salons demand now.

I have no problem with paying the extra money. I was sensing there would be something like this. The news weeks earlier talked about reopening but charging a ‘COVID tax.’

Libraries closed during the pandemic. I remember well because I was to attend an info session on cryptocurrency in the middle of March. The session was cancelled because the library had to close. Any books to be taken out or viewed had to be online books. Libraries reopened during the last week of May, but it was limited to book pick-up at the entrance. I went to pay an overdue fine but they are not taking it right now. I’m sure even if the library building does open to the public again, there will be a limit on the number of people who can enter and it will be months before the internet computers for public use will be allowed to be used again.

Open But Still Closed Enough

White Rock beach

On my last visit to White Rock beach, not as many people on the beach in many areas.

Over time, playgrounds would slowly start to open up for children to play. Swings, spinning wheels and slides are now back and active again. Many natural tourist attractions and natural parks have been reopened. However there are still some closures. I noticed when I went to White Rock a month ago. White Rock is known for having a long beach and many walk-in food huts mostly for ice cream and fish and ships. It also has a lot of dine-in restaurants. At that time, most dine-in places weren’t open. I don’t think many could allow for dining in with that little of space. The small huts for ice cream and fish and chips were good, but there had to be distances in the line-ups. I was able to get an ice cream. For parking, half of the lots were closed off. For beach access, most of the walk-on access was gated and there were limited ways to enter for most of the beach. Also the White Rock Pier was completely closed off due to the pandemic. It’s a narrow pier of eight feet of distance so you can understand.

White Rock Pier

The White Rock Pier is closed off because of the pandemic.

You remember how in my original COVID blog I talked about cancellations of events? That’s the same thing with July 1st which is Canada Day. Usually there would be parties and picnics and fireworks blown off. This was not the case this year. Instead there were ‘virtual’ Canada Day events for people to do online. There were fireworks shows but they all had to be livestreamed. If there were any fireworks shows for us to visit, they would have to be private. Also any Canada Day picnics would have to be private get-togethers. What can I say? When a pandemic happens, that’s all you can do.

My Own Daily Life

As many of you know, I was put on a leave of absence from my job back in April. It will end this Monday. That makes it a good three months in which I’ve been away from my job. During the time, I’ve kept in contact with my supervisor from my job. She likes to keep in touch. We had two socially-distant get-togethers. I had occasional get-togethers with my cousin. We had to be distant each time. I also had coffee with another cousin. Each time we all had to sit eight feet away. Getting together is possible as long as you’re distant.

A lot of places I like to go to, like libraries and dine-in restaurants, have mostly been closed or delivery only. I only dined out at one place: on Canada Day. Even with dining allowed in the patio, there were chair placements and table separations due to COVID restrictions including the maximum of two at a table. There were also restrictions in the indoor dining room. Whenever I go shopping or for any other errand, I still wear my gloves. Wearing a mask depends on the situation. If it’s a crowded place or there’s a noticeably big amount of people, of course I’ll put it on.

Buses started resuming regular service on June 1st and back to fare paid. I remember going on a bus trip from Surrey to White Rock. It wasn’t packed to standing room only, but all the seats filled up. This was one of those cases I’d put on my face mask. Especially since there was a shady-looking man who sat near me and made a phone call about drugs. I was hoping he’d get off the bus soon. I did get off five minutes after he did. Nevertheless, it becomes nervous when a person with a shady personality is close to you. I’ve seen some shady types who appear like they don’t care if there’s a pandemic or not.

Looking Ahead

Re-openings and lifting of restrictions happen in phases, and the phases are reliant on statistics. I’m sure no matter where you are in the world you are, the COVID-related restrictions that have happened relate to the deceleration of the frequency of new COVID cases and decline of active cases and will continue to do so as numbers change. There are some places where because of the numbers not being reduced, COVID restrictions remain unchanged. There are even some places like Brazil that have just recently experienced their own COVID ordeal.

Canada is lucky that the numbers of new COVID cases are declining. We did have some increases over the past week, but they are not as big as the new-case statistics of April and May. There were provinces that were hit hard and still have an impact. In BC and Manitoba where my parents live, the COVID cases were not the hugest of impact and experienced excellent rates of decline. That allowed for better phased openings.

I know I talked about being away from my job. During that time, I made some good use out of it. Actually I was lazy the first week. I felt I owed it to myself for working a lot of hours in my life. Just to wake up without an alarm and do whatever I want for a full week. I didn’t sleep in as much as I hoped. It’s hard to sleep in a place with no air conditioning. Nevertheless during the time, I used it as chances to visit as many outdoor places I’ve never seen before or outdoor places I enjoy going to. It worked out great. I added some new photos on Google Maps.

When people are laid off from their jobs during the pandemic, people do a lot of various things with their time. Some did baking, some spent more time with their family, some even resorted to indoor workouts. I did a wide variety of things. Online, I did some teleconferencing with people from a home business I recently took an interested in. I will be taking an online course on mutual funds in two weeks. I was ‘late to the ball’ for other teleconferencing. I received emails from ARMA (Association of Records Management and Administration) about info sessions on Zoom. I only started seeing them in June. Basically the biggest thing I did was apartment repairs. Over the years I left a lot undone. With all this free time, I finally had the chance to do it. I accomplished a lot. Of course there’s more I’d like to do, but I’ll see if I still have the drive, and the money to buy the stuff.

As for entertainment, you could tell with so many cancellations, television and YouTube replayed a lot of classic events. The NFL channel did a lot of virtual games, NBA replayed a lot of great moments and did stats, UEFA did a lot of ‘virtual’ Euro games, and FIFA has #WorldCupAtHome where they replay a lot of great past World Cup games. Right now is World Cup 1990. Even entertainment channels are replaying a lot of past shows. The Eurovision channel has #EurovisionAgain where they replay a Grand Final of the past, get people to vote for their favorites, and have a charity at the end to donate to. All of which remind you if you’re confined inside, you don’t have to compromise fun. Also during this time I’ve become a big fan of the show Ridiculousness. It’s become my new ‘guilty pleasure’ show!

The good news is my leave of absence will end as of Monday. Work at my full-time place has slowly but surely become busier and busier over time. I look forward to starting again. My work computer has been sitting in a box for three months! They say laziness is addictive. I hope that doesn’t happen to me. I hope I can readjust fine. I’m sure it will start as mostly working at home with the possible odd day or two working from the office. I’m sure any place that does have office work will have to have a lot of restrictions and precautions to protect people or they will be fined. Inaddition, I was told that I will be having some new duties to take care of. I’m willing to change or learn new duties, as long as I learn at a pace I can handle. Also you remember I told you about the CERB payments in my last blog? I received two such payments. I’m glad I don’t have to apply for more. Actually if you apply for CERB and you are actively involved, you can be charged criminally. I was reminded right when I applied for my first of the conditions required to eligible and that making a false claim can be subject to criminal penalty. I also heard from one person that with CERB, you will have to pay 20% of it back come next tax time. I have the money in savings set aside in case.

Winners shelves

One clothing mega-store is half-full of merchandise. Shortages will be common for months due to the lack of shipped goods.

At least I’m working again. If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s that there’s no guarantee of work back. The pandemic has left a lot of uncertainty behind. A lot of small businesses and a lot of big businesses have had to either file bankruptcy or also completely close. Many have reopened, but it’s a question about how hard did the pandemic hit their business? Will they be able to continue? We’ve seen ads encouraging people to support small businesses. I have mostly shopped at small businesses that I’m familiar with. I hope they stay strong. Even big businesses will have problems as they may get less shipments of items customers demand. I recently went to a major clothing store near where I lived. The aisles and racks are normally loaded, but they weren’t that time. I talked with one of the cashiers and she said that incoming merchandise is less frequent. It used to be daily but not anymore. Something like furniture to sell comes in every week or two. I’m sure that business isn’t the only big business experiencing this. This economic recovery won’t be easy. I think every nation got hit hard.

Cancellation of events still continue, even locally. The fireworks festival of Celebration Of Light that’s held in late-July is cancelled. The Concours d’Elegance classic car show I like to see just before Labor Day is cancelled for the year. My retreat to Palm Springs in August is cancelled. Makes sense because of big-time travel restrictions. The Vancouver Film Festival, or VIFF, will continue but it will be completely virtual with the films they will be showing. I’m going to miss volunteering this year, but I will support the online VIFF.

Since I’m talking about VIFF, there’s a lot of talk about the arts suffering because of the pandemic. It’s easy to see with a lot of planned shows being cancelled and a lot of schools or training centres having to rehearse or work online. That’s become the new norm. Even the choir I sing for had to cancel out its show for June. We did rehearsals via Zoom every Wednesday evening starting in March in hopes of doing a show. When it became obvious a show wouldn’t be possible, our rehearsals became sing-alongs with our favorite songs over the years. My situation with the choir may be minor compared to the more organized arts companies, but this pandemic has the arts communities calling out for help in keeping things alive and active for the future. I don’t think the arts will completely die. I’m sure the arts have taken worse hits in history and have still triumphed. Nevertheless, it will be a fight for the future.

Also there’s talk from health professionals and medical board leaders that there is a big possibility of a Second Wave of COVID that could come in the fall and it could be worse. I hope not with all the prevention we’ve been doing. That will really cause a lot of financial damage that would definitely be irreparable. There’s already a lot of crazy things happening right now. Like just this week as the US saw a steady drop in new COVID cases for the past weeks, there’s now a sudden jump in cases that have reached record highs! Times like these make me glad my Palm Springs retreat was cancelled. Also airlines in Canada and the US have resumed more of their regular business and are accepting up to capacity. I just hope they have regulations like all wearing a mask and the right air filtering on board.

That’s all I have to say for my COVID update for now. There’s a mix of things that either look optimistic or look pessimistic or fearful. Only time will tell what happens as far as how the pandemic goes and its impact on the economy and people’s own lives. Me, I just want them to find a cure and a vaccine fast. Enough is enough!

VIFF 2019 Shorts Segment: To Live In Infamy

Cinema

Those who know my film watching during the VIFF know that I try to watch at least one segment of short films. I saw a segment of seven films by Canadian directors entitled To Live In Infamy. In each of the films, there is some element of crime or taboo. Even some things that don’t qualify as a penal code may be seen as a crime of some sort, or even a simple wrongdoing. All of them are interesting in their own way.

Delphine (dir. Chloe Robichaud): A woman named Nicole looks back to a girl she only encountered for two brief times in her childhood. Her name was Delphine and she was a Lebanese immigrant to Quebec. The first flashback is in a private grade school where Delphine could only say one word in French: ‘oui.’ The other classmates make fun of her. Nicole, who is Lebanese-Canadian, doesn’t participate with her peers, silently shares in Delphine’s ostracism. The vice-principal of the school however does scold Nicole and the girls for lewdness. The second meeting between Nicole and Delphine is at sixteen in a public school. Delphine has a bully named Aminata who appears to try to dominate over every female. She attempts to dominate over Nicole too, but Nicole is physically resistant.

The story leaves us with the necessary questions. Some may ask were Nicole and Delphine lesbians? However the story is reflective of childhood. It reflects on fun memories like of some mischief and of family warmth. But also of upsetting memories like of being made to feel different and facing nemeses either violent or non-violent. We all have those moments in our childhood where we’re reminded how the world is a cruel place. It’s a story many can connect with, even if they didn’t live it exactly.

I’ll End Up In Jail (dir. Alexandre Dostie): A woman named Maureen is frustrated with her life. She tries to cover it up from her son and his boyfriend, but she can’t take it no more. One day, she drives off on an icy hilly road hoping for an escape but crashes into a parked car. It appears the car is parked so that a teen boy and his girlfriend can get stoned in the trunk of a car together. The girlfriend is dead. The boy learns she’s the mother of his classmates. They work to hide the body of the girl, but while Maureen is stuck underneath a tree, she learns a truth. She acts out in a way where she really has to be on the run from the law.

This film is a dark comedy that makes a lot of humorous situations in crime and personal problems. Even the uncovering of a dark truth appears humorously surprising, if not disturbing. The ending however feels a bit incomplete or doesn’t appear clear enough. I know it’s about Maureen’s escape and how it doesn’t go as planned, but it still looks like it’s missing something.

Shadow Trap (dirs. Damien Gillis and Michael Bourquin): In 1909, a white bounty hunter is out searching for Gitxsan business man Simon Gunanoot who is wanted for murder. The bounty hunter stocks up with a lot of supplies ready to find Simon, a reputed trapper and fur-trader, for a big reward. However the frontiers of Okanagan B.C. prove too much for him and he is in danger of freezing to death, until he’s rescued and sheltered by an Indigenous man. Is it Simon in hiding? He returns to the town with hides to trade.

This is a fictionalization of a true incident in Canadian history that says a lot. The message I seemed to get from the story may be about the common perception of Indigenous peoples by whites at the time as ‘savages,’ and how wrong they are. Even now as we’re trying to make reconciliation happen, I feel this story has a lot of value.

The Beach Raiders (dir. Tyson Breuer): A teen couple– the boyfriend having photography ambitions– is savoring the last days of summer at an Ontario beach. They have one last summer goal: steal some beer. They try to get it from the kitchen of a restaurant. However their attempt is not only in danger of being stopped by the owner, but their own relationship as both have differing goals. However their pursuit ends with a bang!

This film is a bit of an ode to the ‘young and stupid’ days. What starts with stealing one beer leads to a chance for something bigger. The film does however focus on a reality, though it is resolved in light fashion at the end.

Main Squeeze (dir. Brendan Prost): It’s Christmas. Benjy and Kiersey, a couple in an open relationship, are having fun in their apartment. However the fun is threatened when a young drunk woman smashes their window. It’s not just any woman, but Jacqui: Kiersey’s ‘other woman.’ He is not comfortable about having Jacqui in, but Kiersey insists. Benjy had every reason to be nervous because Jacqui says things making it clear she’s his rival. This not only threatens the relationship but the Christmas spirit too.

It’s a story that makes good use of a single location. It consists of a lot of moments where you don’t know what will happen next. It surprisingly ends with all conflict over.

Ghoulish Galactic Grievances (dir. Josh Owen): Wanna have some weird fun? A ghoul lives in a swamp, but she has a desire to pursue her friends in outer space. Her swamp friends want her to stay.

This is a fun and entertaining story of ghouls and aliens and creatures. It is definitely a fun comedic story to watch, but it succeeds in delivering a smart message within the theme.

Finding Uranus (dir. Ivan Li): This is the one short of this segment that is animated. A man is lost in a sea of internet porn and desires to find real sexual satisfaction. He pursues it through a very unorthodox trip.

This was entertaining, but bizarre at the same time. However I admire how the animator is not afraid to go crazy and let his creativity tread in territories many would not touch!

All seven shorts were entertaining in their own way. Some had a story to tell, while some were more about the show. Many were dramatic while some aimed more for comedy. All were good at telling their story, even if told in a bizarre style.

At the end, I can understand why this shorts segment is called To Live In Infamy. All of them had an infamy of some kind, whether big or small. Nevertheless all of them told their story well.

Royal City No Longer Royal Slum

Been to New Westminster lately? If you haven’t been there, what images first comes to mind? Are they positive or negative? If they’re negative, you’d be in for a surprise with the changes that have happened in the city. Big changes.

New Westminster was once the pride of British Columbia. It was proclaimed by Lieutenant Governor Richard Moody in 1859 to be the official capital of the Colony of British Columbia. It was official recognized as a city in 1861, exactly 25 years before Vancouver was established as a city. A lot of history is in that town which currently has a population of over 65,000.

It was seen as a great pathway with being located by the Fraser River. Excellent for transportation of goods through the waters and great links by rail service. It’s area rich in trees was especially beneficial for the logging industry and for the pulp and paper industry. Many pulp and paper mills were build around New Westminster and the Fraser River. Its railway system would also be built around the various mills.

As many of you have noticed in your own cities, the older buildings would face a neglect for some time. Much during the 60’s and 70’s. New Westminster faced a neglect during the 80’s and 90’s. A lot of the times the areas would be some of the sleazier areas of town often the scene of drug deals or crime. Even the older buildings would start to look shabby over time. The area around New Westminster Skytrain station used to be a popular hangout for young thugs. Some former residents of New West may remember that.

One thing many people will notice is the many improvements made in New Westminster over the last ten years.  Columbia Street has definitely made big improvements in the last ten years. Before 1964, Columbia St. used to have many department stores and was the downtown attraction of New Westminster. The area consisting of the major stores around Columbia St. which also linked with South Burnaby and North Surrey was known as the Golden Mile. That changed after 1964 when the Highway #1 freeway was completed and allowed people to travel to Vancouver faster. Many of the department stores along Columbia St. closed up and moved themselves to the Uptown area. The nearby landmarks like Douglas College, the Courts and the City Hall were the places still keeping it active mostly.

Things really improved since Wayne Wright became mayor of New Westminster in 1999. Columbia St. has recently gone under a ‘facelift’ in the last ten years. One of the things Columbia St. is noted for is their array of wedding and bridal shops. It has become a major area for wedding planning and fashion. Housing along Columbia St. has also sprouted out with new developments happening. Even older buildings were renovated or given new life for attracting new and current businesses. There’s even an annual automobile festival in July, the ‘Key West Show & Shine’, that attracts people to the street.

The Plaza 88 Shopping Mall (shown here) and condo development has helped to give new life to the New Westminster Skytrain Station and Columbia St.

The Plaza 88 Shopping Mall (shown here) and condo development has helped to give new life to the New Westminster Skytrain Station and Columbia St.

The biggest boost on Columbia St. was the Plaza 88 along the New Westminster Skytrain station. A multi-storied condo was built there five years ago with the anticipation of an adjacent outdoor shopping mall along the Skytrain levels. Back in winter 2011, the New Westminster Skytrain station opened Plaza 88 and has since become a common shopping place with a Safeway and a Shoppers Drug Mart. A movie theatre opened there last year as well as various other stores and medical businesses and new businesses continue to come in. Ten to even five years ago, the area was very run down full of old crumbly buildings and was a common hangout for people into drugs or causing trouble. Now the place makes for a for comfortable setting for people and even includes a play area for children.

Another bustling area is the New Westminster Quay market alongside the Fraser River. The Quay market had a slow period roughly six years ago as businesses left many vacancies behind. A major renovation of the market area from July 2007 until its reopening in September 2010 has succeeded in attracting new businesses in especially with having an ‘anchor store’ with Donald’s Market.

The addition of new buildings and new stores like Thrifty Foods has helped give new life to the Brewery District since the brewery closed in 2004.

The addition of new buildings and new stores like Thrifty Foods has helped give new life to the Brewery District since the brewery closed in 2004.

Another redeveloped in New Westminster as of recent is the Brewery District. The Brewery District used to be the pride of the town of Sapperton after the Sapperton Brewery was opened in 1879. The brewery was owned by many brewing companies with Labatt’s Brewing Company being its last one in 1958. The brewery was closed in 2004 after Labatt’s decided to withdraw its business. The area that used to be part of the brewery has been redeveloped in the last few years. The area was recently revived with the opening of a Thrifty Foods and a Toronto Dominion bank. A Brown’s Social House restaurant and a Shopper’s Drug Mart were also opened months ago. Nearby is the office for the Greater Vancouver Transit Police and Translink with office room for more businesses. There’s already a condo area in existence to the surrounding area and more homes are planned in the years to come. Even with the surprising news in the past two months of Thrifty Foods being sold by its umbrella company Sobey’s, the area still shows potential for consumer business to increase over time.

It isn’t just new buildings and businesses that New Westminster is proud to show off. Recently it has also developed a sense of pride for its past. Back in 2009, the Royal City celebrated 150 years. The Irving House on Royal St., now a museum, is its most classic building and open to the public and even has a Victorian style Christmas. The New Westminster Heritage Centre runs guidelines for running and developing its classic homes and buildings. This allows for buildings like the BC Penitentiary to be converted into an office or even the CPR station on Columbia St. to be converted into a Keg Restaurant for some time. There are also tours of heritage homes which still keep their own facades and designs despite renovations and modernizations for current occupancy. The New Westminster Mayday festival started in 1870 and still continues today as a tradition with participating children still wearing the traditional uniform and dancing around the maypole.

The Anvil Centre, slated to open later this year, is slated to be the city's new civic centre.

The Anvil Centre situated across Plaza 88, slated to open later this year, is to be the city’s new civic centre.

It’s not only what has been completed in the last five years or past buildings and traditions revamped that has caught a lot of buzz for New Westminster but also what’s planned for the future. Being constructed nearby Plaza 88 will be the brand new New Westminster Civic Centre or the Anvil Centre as it’s commonly called now. That area too was once part of an area that had a lot of old buildings that were also looking run down and also a common spot for homeless people and drug addicts to loiter around. The centre is designed in the shape of an anvil commemorating the Anvil fired off annually during the Battery Salute of the annual Hyack Festival. The centre which is expected to open next year promises a 350-seat theatre, art studios, multi-purpose rooms for arts and performing arts development, a conference space with banquet seating for up to 500, a new location for Tourist New Westminster on ground level, and a new home for both the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum of New Westminster.

There was one negative note. Back in October there was a fire that burned down the E.L. Lewis Building, one of Columbia St.’s older buildings still put to good use. The fire devastated the building and surrounding area leaving 30 businesses displaced. It was an unfortunate happening. This could however lead to promise of a new development in terms of businesses or housing.

New Westminster has developed a new sense over the years. It’s a city with a proud and celebrated past with a highly ambitious future. Despite the negative impact in the past 20 to 30 years, the city has made big improvements and promises more in the future. The Royal City is becoming Royal again.

For more information about New Westminster, click the link to the official website.

HST Referendum Update: HST Voted Out

Some of you may remember a while back I did my own personal rundown and observation of the HST referendum in British Columbia. It was done just a few days after the last mail-in day. However the wait to find out the final result seemed to take forever.  Nevertheless the result was made public since Thursday. The citizens of British Columbia voted ‘Yes!’ to extinguishing the HST. The decision was 55%. However there are many economists that believe that reverting from the HST back to the GST/PST system will have both positive and negative impacts.

On the positive side, many businesses will like the reversion back to the GSTR/PST system. I myself have heard of many business owners talk of how unhappy they are with the HST system and how it cost their business. In fact a recent article in the Vancouver Sun written by Don Cayo said that restaurants and the builders of high-end homes should the most notable businesses to win big with the reversion. The total tax customers pay retailers will definitely boost sales businesses. Customers themselves will now have to pay less like they did in the days of the PST/GST.

Even though it was noted a while back that businesses should will big on the customer end of things, they will face higher costs as the PST they pay on the items they buy to run their business will either be swallowed or more likely passed to customers. Even back in the original days of the PST, there were some mind-boggling complexities like in the case of tax exempt items like children’s clothes or for women’s dress fabric. Also one economist pointed out it will cost $30 million to reinstate an infrastructure that was split. Also under the HST, businesses could report and remit taxes twice a year instead of multiple times with the split tax system. There’s even the case liars may take advantage of the old system again. Even in the case of manufacturers, costs they used on materials are rebated with the HST but weren’t in the PST days.

As a BC citizen, I too know about experiencing the HST. As annoying as it is to pay 12% on things that used to be only 7% or 5%, I am open to insights on both sides of things. I’m glad Cayo repeated those points that were commonly spoken by economists and business people. Whatever happens in the future, it will be a gradual process. BC Premier Christy Clark promised that the HST will be extinguished by March 31, 2013. What it paves for the future of British Columbia, only time will tell.

WORK CITED:

Cayo, Don. “Return to PST may be costly – and complicated.” Vancouver Sun 27 August 2011 <http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Return+costly+complicated/5317119/story.html >

Dine Out For Life, And A Good Cause

I would like to take a break from my usual writing to promote a good cause that’s hosting an event this week. Here in most of BC, specifically Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler, Thursday will have Dining Out For Life happening at many restaurants. Dining Out For Life is not strictly a BC event but it will be held in most of BC during this coming Thursday, the 24th.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dining Out For Life, it is an annual fundraiser where for one night, restaurants will donate a portion of their proceeds to their local AIDS foundation. The causes can be for awareness groups, volunteer groups and food services for patients. Most cities that take part in Dining Out For Life will hold their dinners during the last weekend in April or on International AIDS Day, December 1st. Here in Vancouver, we’re lucky to get it early. Also hundreds of restaurants have agreed to participate. The number keeps growing every year.

So if you’re looking for someplace to dine out on Thursday, you’ve got plenty to choose from and you’ll be supporting a good cause. So dine out for life this Thursday. You’ll be glad you did.

For more information on Dining Out For Life, just go to The Main Website or Vancouver residents interested in picking a restaurant, just click here.

British Columbia’s Minimum Wage Increase Could Be A Double-Edged Sword

Many expect this to be a benefit for the province but there are just as many drawbacks that could happen too.

Just days after Christy Clark was sworn into office as the new Premier of British Columbia, she starts her reign by announcing that British Columbia will have an increase in the minimum wage. For around ten years, the minimum wage has stood still at $8/hour: the lowest rate in Canada. This especially doesn’t fare well in the Canadian province with the highest cost of living. Clark announced that the wage will be increased in 75-cent increments starting May 2011 to an eventual $10.25 come 2012.

The raise has had a lot of mixed reactions. For many, it’s looked upon as a positive thing. As I mentioned earlier, BC has the highest cost of living of any province in Canada. The $8/hour was the highest in Canada at the time it was set (May 2000) and has now dropped to the lowest. Many have called the low minimum wage an embarrassment for the province. The plan from Christy is to start the raise in May 2011 to $8.75/hour, increase to $9.50 in November and finally $10.25 come May 2012. That would place it equal with Ontario as having the highest minimum wage amongst Canadian provinces. The highest minimum wage including territories is Nunavut with $11/hour.

Since her declaration, there have been many opinions from people from all sides. Some say this is finally a good move for BC. Some claimed that this was an NDP idea she stole. Some say this is happening too much too late. Some are also questioning if this is a difficult move, epsecially during an economic recession.

For every action, there are both positive and negative reactions. First the positive. For one thing, it will make life more livable for many BC workers who already deal with the minimum wage. BC, especially in Vancouver, has the highest cost of living based on provincial averages. Greater Vancouver alone has the highest housing prices in Canada. Gas prices are already at $1.30/litre. Vancouver has one of the worst child poverty rates in Canada. Already there’s talk of food prices going up worldwide. An increase to the minimum wage will help make life a bit easier for those trying to make ends meet in their own standard of living. It’s definitely not a solve-all but it does help. Also some argue that it could boost small businesses rather than hurt. With an increase in the minimum wage, it can mean businesses can have more customers. One economist even said that people with money generally spend in small businesses.

One downside is that this could mean an increase in the prices of goods and services. I know that from when I worked in a restaurant in Manitoba, they had to raise the food prices because of the minimum wage increase. Also with the raise in the minimum wage comes the risk of some smaller businesses cutting some jobs to pay the wages. Already a lot of businesses, especially restaurants, have already been hit hard by the HST and with the tough new anti-drinking and driving laws. Even though I mentioned one economist saying that those with money tend to spend in small businesses, that’s not a complete guarantee they’ll prosper significantly. There’s even a possibility that the already-difficult cost of living in British Columbia could increase along with it. Another of Clark’s claims is that the cost of living would not increase dramatically. With the increase in the minimum wage, it’s a 50/50 risk that it may or may not.

As stated, the first raise of the minimum wage begins in May 2011. The changes, whether positive or negative, will forecast whether BC is moving in a positive or negative economic direction. The minimum wage changes will also show if businesses are meeting supply and demand to keep their employees with the wage increases. This is a smart move for Christy Clark–her first move as premier of BC—but only time will tell if this is a smartly timed move for her.

In The Wake Of The Japanese Tsunami, Are You Prepared?

Ever since the late evening of Thursday March 10th leading into Friday the 11th, the story of the Japanese tsunami and aftermath has dominated our headlines. We constantly see images, both professional and amateur, as well as the latest news updates. It’s both alarming and upsetting. It’s also a sobering reminder that something like this can strike close to home, especially if you live on either the east coast or west coast.

The news first broke this past Thursday night or very early Friday morning. A powerful earthquake in the Pacific Ocean just 100 miles east of Japan’s northern coast caused a tsunami that hit the coast of Japan, especially the city of Sendai, really hard. The quake measured 9.0 on the Richter scale and is the seventh-highest ever recorded. Replays of the wave’s crashing caught on amateur video has left many shocked. Some who were up during the early morning hours were able to see live footage of the wave as it was travelling towards the west coasts of the Americas.  The destruction to the Japanese coast and surrounding areas has been in the news daily. The statistics of destruction and human loss are growing. Many anticipate the final death toll to reach around 20,000.

Another shocking thing about this disaster is that it comes more than six years after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean which claimed a total of almost a quarter-million lives in many countries. That ranks as the deadliest tsunami in history. I’m sure many of us still have images of the disaster fresh in our minds.

Those living near the west coasts of the Americas had the least damage to deal with. Hawaii was hardest hit but there was no loss of life and damage was minimal. Even the west coasts of the Americas had their own damage to deal with but the most damage individual areas faced was one or two million dollars. We were pretty lucky. Nevertheless one thing citizens living  on or near coastal land need to remember is that a tsunami can strike at anytime. Where there’s a coast by an ocean, sea or lake, there’s a tsunami danger. The big question is do we know how to take action?

For one thing, warning systems are an excellent start for prevention. First part involves network sensors to detect threatening waves. Second part involves  a communications infrastructure to issue timely alarms to permit evacuation of coastal areas. This can beneficial since the tsunami from days ago was distant enough from the Americas to allow ample time for warning. Although beneficial, they are imperfect as in the case for Japan in this instance. Tsunamis can come as fast as 600 miles/hour and the earthquake epicenter for this tsunami was 100 miles east of the coast. This wouldn’t allow for ample time to save enough property or enough lives. Nevertheless new advances in warning are still yet to come. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, an Internation Early Warning Programme was proposed immediately after and it resulted in the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System. I’m sure after the Japanese tsunami, there will me more pressure to follow through on the Internation Early Warning Programme and propose for more technological advancements.

Technological devices are also helpful. One such is the DART buoy: DART standing for Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis. These buoys are held in place off coast to detect possible tsunami threats along with a Bottom Pressure Recording package to detect pressure changes of the tsunamis. The United States has 39 DART buoys in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and The Caribbean Sea. Since 2009, other countries have started to use DART buoys for tsunami detection. Another such is a tsunami warning system like the Pacific Tsunami Warning System based in Honolulu which records seismic activity in the Pacific Ocean. Although not every Ocean earthquake causes a tsunami, the computers assist in analyzing the tsunami risk of every earthquake that occurs in the Pacific Ocean and the adjoining land masses.

Then there’s also local preventative measures. Some are natural, like mangroves, coastal vegetation and coral reefs which helped to cause the least damage during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Others are constructed like seawalls and floodgates. Japan has constructed some seawalls that are as tall as 15 feet to protect populated areas. Seawalls may have to be expanded in the wake of the most recent tsunami. All Pacific Rim countries have organized evacuation routes and practice evacuation procedures.  In Japan, such preparation is mandatory for government, local authorities, emergency services and the population. Vancouver even has some disaster relief routes. There’s even preparation information and a program from BC’s Ministry of Safety and Solicitor General. It’s up to the governments to inform the public at risk to be informed how to take action.

The tsunami in northern Japan is a chilling and sobering wake up call to those who live on or near coastal areas. This will undoubtedly leave many questioning if such a disaster can happen to them and how would they respond. This will also leave government agencies time to question whether they have the right technological means to detect warnings necessary for alerts and possible evacuations. Hopefully none of us will have to experience what those in northern Japan are dealing with right now.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Tsunami.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsunami>

WIKIPEDIA: Tsunami Warning System.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsunami_warning_system>

WIKIPEDIA: International Early Warning Programme.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Early_Warning_Programme>

WIKIPEDIA: Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART).Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep-ocean_Assessment_and_Reporting_of_Tsunamis>

Christy Clark’s Pre-Election Baggage

Hi. This is my first non-movie article. Hope you like it.

The BC Liberal Party announced a new leader on Saturday, February 26th. Her name is Christy Clark. She is to replace Gordon Campbell who has served as Premier since 2001 but recently resigned due to low ratings. Being Premier of BC is a big job for the 45 year-old, especially after Campbell’s recent resignation. The big question is how will she and the BC Liberal Party hold in the next provincial election?

Currently Premier-Designate Christy Clark is no stranger to politics. If you saw her resume, you’d see she has quite a list of accomplishments. Her first political victory came at the age of 30 when she was elected MLA for the Port-Moody-Westwood riding in 1996. At the start, while the Liberals were the official opposition party in BC, she served as the Official Opposition critic for the environment, children and families and for the public service. As the Liberal Party headed by Gordon Campbell prepared for the provincial election of 2001, she served as the campaign co-chair in which the Party won 77 of the 79 seats. Once Gordon Campbell was sworn in as Premier, she was appointed Deputy Premier and the Minister of Education.  She would be appointed Minister of Children and Family Development in January 2004. In September of that same year, she quit provincial politics and did not seek re-election of her MLA position in 2005. She would later seek leadership of the Non-Partisan Association for the Vancouver mayor election that same year, but lost to eventual mayor Sam Sullivan.

She’s also a popular media figure too. She was a weekly columnist for the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province during the 2005 provincial election and was a television election analyst during the 2006 federal election. She also hosted a Vancouver radio show: The Christy Clark Show from 2007 until she decided to enter the premier leadership back in December.

Even though no provincial election has been called yet, she faces a bumpy road for the BC Liberal Party firstly based on past election results. On the provincial side of things, leading  provincial parties face a huge electoral loss after their leader resigns as premier. Past history in the last 30 years have proven so. In Manitoba, NDP Howard Pawley, who was elected premier in 1981, resigned. The leadership then went to Gary Doer. The NDP finished the election with the third-most ridings. Doer would have to wait until three more provincial elections before being elected premier of Manitoba. BC premier Glenn Clark, who headed the NDP Party, resigned in 1999 and would be replaced by Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh the following year. The BC NDP, headed by Dosanjh would face a humiliating loss of winning 2 of 79 seats, paving the way for Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals. Carole James, the NDP leader since, has headed the party in two provincial elections, regaining many seats for the NDP but losing to Campbell both times.

Nationally, political parties have had its own dark days when their leader resigns as Prime Minister. In 1984, Pierre Trudeau resigned as Prime Minister and John Turner would be voted head the Liberal Party. In the national election, his Liberal party would lose to the PC Party headed by Brian Mulroney. Turner remains the Prime Minister with the second-shortest leadership. He would head the federal Liberal party in the following federal election in 1988 and would lose to the Mulroney PC’s again. The PC Party would soon face its own party troubles after Mulroney resigned in 1993. Kim Campbell succeeded him. However Campbell and the PC’s would face a crushing defeat in the federal election that same year by winning only two seats. The Liberal’s headed by Jean Chretien would win the federal election. Chretien would be re-elected twice more while Canadian Conservatives would struggle with political parties for many years. The PC Party ran again in 1997, would reconstruct themselves at the Canadian Alliance Party for the 2000 federal election, and would them become the Conservative Party in time for the 2004 election.

If past elections aren’t enough for Christy to cause concern, it would be the Campbell leadership, especially in the last year. Campbell’s leadership has always been through a rocky road ever since he was elected but he would be hit hardest in 2010 upon introducing the HST. The introduction of the tax, and the rapid implementation if it, proved to be very unpopular amongst British Columbians. Soon after, the polls had him at an approval rating of just 9%, the lowest of any provincial premier. This was cause for him to resign in November of 2010.

Now despite party problems, Christy Clark has had some political problems of her own once she’s sworn in on March 14th. As Minister of Education, she introduced changes like stronger parental power, increased accountability and provided greater parental choice in the flexibility in the school system. This proved unpopular with teachers, school board members and union officials as they believed it resulted in funding gaps. She also sought to increase the independence of the BC College of Teachers against strong opposition from the BC Teachers Federation. She also has allegations against her regarding a BC Rail scandal when she was deputy premier, although nothing has been proven against her. Those could hurt her come election time.

Currently no provincial election date has been set, and there may not even be one for a full year. Dawn Black is currently interim leader of the BC NDP Party, succeeding Carole James. Jane Sterk leads the Green Party. The BC Conservative Party is not associated with the national Conservative Party and may have a slim chance in the election. Nevertheless all opposition parties have a good chance at rivaling Clark and the Liberals in the eventual provincial election. In this period of time, Sterk and Black have to prove themselves worthy of the office of provincial Premier. Black already has a lengthy resume of her own political accomplishments while Sterk has yet to prove herself. In the meantime, Clark can use the time to her advantage to improve her political image and the image of the Liberal Party in this post-Campbell era as an effort to win the next election. She would also have to use the time to prove she is worthy of being Premier of British Columbia.

With the next provincial election happening anytime, Christy Clark arrives at the Premier’s desk with a lot of baggage of the Campbell Administration and of her own doing. Despite it all, only time will tell whether she has what it takes to be Premier of British Columbia and whether she and the BC Liberals deserve to win the election.

WORK CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Christy Clark.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christy_Clark>