B.C.’s trading profile: coal to Japan, mystery food to the U.S.

A vintage terminal building at the Port of Vancouver, 2014

Over the past year, the United States has taken steps to restrict Canadian imports, and the President has threatened to ramp this up with tariffs on vehicles and auto parts.

Responding to public anxiety, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has created a Ministry of International Trade Diversification — though in fact, we’ve been trying to reduce our dependence on the U.S. for decades, with no clear pattern of progress. Canada sent 68 per cent of its exports to the U.S. in 2008; that figure was up to 76.3% in 2016. Continue reading

Apartment development in Surrey: crowdfunding as a doorway to home ownership

Tower construction seen from alongside the proposed new development on 104 Avenue, Surrey

I recently joined our friend David Plug on a real estate investors’ bus tour around Surrey Central. The tour’s purpose was to encourage passengers to commit at least $25,000 in financing for a proposed apartment housing complex.

With a large number of smallish investments, the development company hopes to raise at least $7.5 million, a big chunk of the estimated $13.5 million cost of purchasing land. The project prospectus lays out three scenarios. In the minimum scenario, under present City of Surrey zoning, the builders would construct 210 units in a 6-storey wood-frame complex; with revised zoning, they might achieve 359 units, and a higher rate of return to investors. Continue reading

Winnipeg, summer 2017

By six p.m., they’ll be lined up 15 deep.

“I don’t think Winnipeg is underrated,” says my brother Brian. “I don’t think it’s rated at all.”

He moved here about 10 years ago after an extended time in Canada’s far north. He and his wife Lorraine (she grew up in Winnipeg) decided that living the south would be better for the kids. They traded a three-bedroom house on the permafrost for a five-bedroom house on a quiet, shady crescent, and they made money in the process. Continue reading

From village to town

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Friesenheim

Vicki and I recently enjoyed the hospitality of friends in Friesenheim, a village of 7,000 people set in the wine hills of southwest Germany near the French border.

Rathaus historyOur hosts Alexander and Ingeborg live in the house that Ingeborg’s father built, where I first visited them in 1975. Friesenheim’s central area has hardly changed since those days, and the village council apparently sees this as a problem. The council has approved a controversial   development plan for the main street — to make it more like Kitsilano, let’s say, or Burnaby Heights — with a four-story mixed-use complex, apartments upstairs, commercial space at grade, across from the 400-year-old municipal hall. Continue reading

Time to plant onions

Garlic tops, Pitt Meadows, March 30, 2013

Garlic tops, Pitt Meadows, March 30, 2013

The West Coast has warmer winters than the rest of Canada, and a relatively long growing season. The Lower Mainland, as I’ve mentioned before, generates two-thirds of the agricultural value in British Columbia.

Metro Vancouver, the more urbanized half of Fraseropolis, has the biggest area of any B.C. county devoted to potatoes, beans, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, beets, carrots, spinach, rutabaga/turnips, pumpkins, shallots and green onions, blueberries and cranberries. Continue reading