Some Vancouver merchants are more equal than others

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


BC's legislature was the scene of a few hot debates over the Canada Line construction

Back in 2007 the MLA for Vancouver-Fairview stood up in the BC Legislature and introduced a private members bill titled the Small Business Fairness and Protection Act. The legislation was designed to provide financial compensation for business owners (both large and small) who were impacted by government infrastructure projects.

The MLA in question was none other than Gregor Robertson. A lacklustre member of his NDP caucus, he successfully used the Canada Line construction project to his full advantage. Few would argue with the fact it was the key issue that helped catapult him into the Mayor's chair in Vancouver.

When he was an MLA, Robertson felt merchants impacted by a government's decision to improve transit infrastructure should be provided with cash to help soften the blow. Now fast forward to 2011. Mayor Gregor has just received a report from his own City staff demonstrating that the separated bike lanes have negatively impacted businesses by at least $2.4 million.

So what does the Mayor think now of compensation for small businesses impacted by infrastructure projects? Here is what he told Mike Howell over at the Vancouver Courier:

I don’t think this warrants compensation. It’s considered a moderate impact for some businesses and an impact that can be mitigated by improvements.

Wow. It's interesting to see how Robertson's tune has changed now that he's no longer an MLA. If the principle of financial compensation was sound for the merchants on Cambie Street, why would the same logic not apply on Hornby or Dunsmuir Street? It's a question few mainstream media have bothered to ask of His Worship.

So just what exactly was included in Robertson draft legislation? Here is the first section related to which businesses should be eligible:

Significant project grant

3 (1) In a given tax year, an eligible small business is entitled to a grant in the amount set out in section 5.

(2) A small business is eligible if it is adversely affected by a significant infrastructure project for six months.

(3) For the purpose of subsection (2) a small business is adversely affected if it can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Minister the following:

(a) its storefront has suffered or will suffer a traffic disruption due to the construction of a significant project for at least six months; and

(b) its taxable income in the given tax year in which there is a significant project is or will be less than its taxable income for the previous tax year.

Robertson's legislation also called for "emergency loans" for businesses impacted longer than three months.

It's rather curious that Mayor Gregor as been in power almost three years, but has failed to implement this form of legislation at Vancouver City Hall. Could it be that he doesn't think it's workable now that he's Mayor?

It's clear the intent of this Robertson's private members bill was to acknowledge many mom and pop shopkeepers can be negatively impacted by local decisions. You would think some of the merchants who've seen their sales drop by an estimated 30% would receive some sympathy from a Vision-dominated City Hall?

In the case of Canada Line construction mayhem, the business impact was very plain to see. However, when it comes to the financial impacts related to ramming in separated bike lanes without any prior consultation, things bet a bit fuzzier. And that's where Mayor Gregor draws the line.

Robertson argues that comparing Cambie to Hornby is apples and oranges. He's simply wrong. The only thing different is in the scale of impact...not the principle of providing compensation.

A tweet sent out by his communications aide Kevin (Vancouver Kid) Quinlan only muddies the water regarding this debate. He states:

Cambie: 2+ years, 60 biz bankrupt/moved, 2 billion project. Hornby not the same

When I received that message from the Mayor's office, I reviewed Robertson's private member's bill one more time. I looked for the sections that said only businesses impacted by billion dollar, multi-year projects resulting in bankruptcies were eligible for compensation. Needless to say, those qualifications are not referenced.

I agree with Mayor Gregor that the scale of the impact on Cambie Street was much larger than what we are seeing on Hornby or Dunsmuir. But for those merchants feeling the financial squeeze of two new separated bike lanes, they must see this as a real double standard.

It should also be noted that only a few months ago Mayor Gregor claimed there was no negative business impacts to local merchants resulting from the construction of the bike lanes. If you recall, it took a motion from NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton to force Vision Vancouver to undertake a business survey in the first place.

That's likely why you can hear a healthy dose of skepticism in the Mayor's voice when it comes to acknowledging any negative impacts to local businesses resulting from the bike lanes.

But can you really blame Robertson for being so dismissive? After all, it would be a tad embarrassing for a man that got elected fighting for compensation for small businesses, to admit he's harming them himself.

For a real picture of how the Mayor has flip-flopped on this principle of defending small businesses, check out this CTV news report on the Canada Line from 2009. As reporter Stephen Smart says, "that was then, this is now."

- Post by Daniel. You can follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus. Or you can "like" us on Facebook at



Bout sums it up.

The mayor should be fair to all businesses. Irregardless of where they are. I agree this is a very hypocritical situation for him. Voter will remember this in a few months.

Serious? It is absurd to compare the bike lanes along Hornby and Dunsmuir to 4 years of cut and cover construction. Did you ever see the mess along Cambie?

It was also construction impacts that were the problem on Cambie. The text of the bill you posted clearly shows that would apply to construction impacts only. In the case of Hornby and Dunsmuir, the city took out all the stops to finish the construction quickly and minimize the construction impacts on the businesses.

@ Richard, the parallel is that the business owners in both cases have had their ability to operate severely impeded by government actions. Yes seriously VV is anti-business and since when has any socialist government been pro-business? Should VV get another drink at the fountain, how many other business ventures will be caught up in the Green wave of deceit?

Vision are very pro business, ask any STIR developer or consider the stock portfolios which fund their lifestyles.

As for being socialist, well I just don't see it. Socialism, as a moral philosophy, would require them to protect and help the poor rather than exploit them to gain power and then ignore them once they have served their purpose. Read articles in The Mainlander, that will give you a socialist perspective on the Vision party.

You can also see the same thing with the claims, by these frequent flying, multi home owning, plastic bottle vending, maxed out car claimers to be green.

The Thought of The Day

"TV, Internet, Phone, Print Media... Never, in the timeline of human evolution was there a better window-frame of opportunity for con artists to make up words that sound good, that feel right, that make you feel empowered. In reality, they are just tricks...and you my friend are The Mark."

This is what the Hollyhocker culture is it all about. IMHO. Changing the messaging as many times as necessary, until it suits their plan. Period.
Backed by vast amounts of cash they can keep it going until it turns in their favor.
The New Envirolist Society.

David I agree with part.
"Vision are very pro business" yeah, but only if those businesses are part of their Investment Portfolio of Companies.

Non related businesses, and/or businesses infringing on their preferred territory, not so much ...

Think Oil vs. Solar/ Wind
Think 'Organic' vs, Traditional
Think Car vs. Bike

“Après moi, le déluge!” or in my interpretation “Discredit and Efff 'em hard boy!"

They are worse than communists and/or socialists. This Enviro. crap puts it together for both. They are the pretended reformed communists... after the fall of communism. They are in fact the rapacious capitalists that want to govern like in communism: Unopposed, unrestricted, and unchallenged, impose their own set of rules, take it all and keep the most. Centralized, totalitarian regime looting, with a cozy retirement hiding place on the Island of Cortes. And I'm talking about vast private property backed by a corporate mindset.

Let's call it:
Socialethical Corporkoratism!
Don't worry though, it's 'All Fair Trade'!

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Richard, if the losses for the Hornby are 2.5 million over 6 months for those businesses who responded, what would you say if they are 20 million over 4 - which is your Cambie reference.

Would that be enough?

I consider this a bait and switch rental scenario. A business chooses a location and builds a business plan based on specific criteria. They make a legal commitment to a space usually for 5 years with no escape clause. Someone walks in and changes the location environment and simply says - too bad - sorry if this will mess with your life?

What RIsaak, David Hadaway, Glissando Remmy and Julia said.

And the Vision business banging continues...

Oh Glissando,
you have a brilliant view of reality...

Earlier this week I made a comment about the downtown being turned into a mecca for "Green Tourists" What started out as a bit tongue in cheek, soon started to sound pretty good.

The West End,we could call that an island, Stanley Park,think tent rentals, Robson Street, Green Shopping... transit, cycling lanes...pedicabs,trike delivery, for those heavy bags delivered to your hotel/tent.

Lots of advantages..helipad, entertainment, Casino, sports arena...Canada Line, Convention Center

Ok maybe far fetched..

but just for purpose of debate..look at the rates, and especially the rents for tent rental space, on this link...then use some imagination...

It is really not a good idea to suggest that businesses should be compensated for changes in government policy. There are all sorts of decisions that negatively impact some business. Just think of all the decisions that have had a negative impact on some businesses:
- The HST
- The tougher drinking and driving regulations
- The Canada Line opening and the removal of the suburban buses from Granville had a negative impact on businesses along Granville south of Granville Bridge
- The approval of big box stores takes business away from smaller stores
- With the opening of the Canada Line fewer people are driving downtown and parking garages are getting less business
- The building of freeways sucked all the business away from many downtowns
- The Olympics
- Cutbacks in government spending

This is not a good path to go down. How do you really tell how much business loss is due to a measure? How come some businesses do just fine when measures are introduced and some don't?

The flip side is that many businesses benefit from government decisions. Should these businesses have to pay more to the government beyond what the incremental tax costs would be. If they expect to be compensated for losses, they should also be expected to pay for increases in revenue (or profits) as well. Don't see many businesses volunteering to pay more to the government.

Richard, does that mean you condemn Robertson's self serving exploitation of the Canada Line impacts on local Cambie businesses?

Against my most powerful inhibitions I clicked on that link for HollyCock... that you've posted.
Bad, baaad mistake on my part.
What a bunch of singing leeches.
Can you believe all those putzes (kurt, vdovin, gregor, aufochs - these are recent names that have infected different levels of bureaucracy in Vancouver...the solomons and who knows how many others have been 'trained' and 'gave lectures' to others in there?
Kibbutznicks and hillbillies nursery, kumbaya-ing around the camp fire and playing the harp...all while their elected representatives are driving this city into the ground.
I hope this city is not stupid enough to let this situation to perpetuate.

I know Glissy I know...curious isn't it, did you scroll down and notice the Vancouver events..

I've been watching this site for quite some time, and the people that have lectured there, once you start connecting dots to particular people and non profits it gets even more curious.

Now my idea about the downtown/ west end Hornby Howe, Robson. Green Tourist zone...with camping in Stanley Park...isn't such a stretch is it?

That is one way for the Parks Board to raise funds...hummmmm

Did you see what they charge per night to park a tent with/ or without a bathroom .... Geeze!!

@ David Hadaway, my bad the reference to socialism is a bit narrow for this lot of not so enterprising hacks.

STIR is an end run around DCC fees. VV allows higher density and forgives some development costs in the process. These STIR units contain people who emit effluent just as all humans do. However the property owners who use STIR don't have to chip in their share for the removal of said effluent. VV fails severely at ethics when it relates to business, as much as they lack any foresight on the real infrastructure needs of an emerging metropolis.
As a result it is easy to see that the VV policy on business is skewed towards the few who blindly follow the VV mantra. This is a minority of business owners, not the majority.

@ R. Isaak and david hadaway:

The Mainlander did an excellent discection on STIR:

Deconstructing STIR: Vancouver’s Tax-Cuts-for-Developers Housing Strategy

Thank you George, and Gliss for piquing my curiosity resulting in a good laugh. A friend of my dad's went on a similar retreat. At one point they all had to write a Haiku, he came up with;

Seated in the forest
In hope of inspiration
The tribe examines its own droppings

He was asked to leave, presumably for failing to observe strict 5-7-5 metre.

If City Caucus could arrange a non profit tax deductible corporate rate (including carbon offsets) I'd be willing to subscribe for Glissando to attend. After all, it's only $99 per night for a single tent (but bring your own tent!). I'm sure his report would be entertaining and, of course, like the top food critics he would be there anonymously so no special treatment.

In fact I'd go myself, except when they mention 'naturalist' events I'm a little afraid that is a euphemism for 'naturist'. You know, Gregor, Kurt, Hot Tub, Penny, Yoga. Too disturbing, but which reminds me of Mike Leigh's fabulous "Nuts in May" (1976), probably hard to get now that Videomatica has gone but well worth the effort.

Unfortunately the Kurt Heinrich course on storytelling and career advancement ($625 CDN, accommodation and meals extra) appears, like Basil Fawlty's duck, to be off. However, as Mr Remy is clearly an intellectual and in little need of mental stimulation, my suggestion would be;

partly because there is a particular assonance between Glissando Remy and 'firm gliding strokes' but mostly because, let's be honest, we all enjoy 'penetrating pressure' and 'warm stones' now and again. Also the building where this occurs is strangely yoni-ish which may help bring out his inner warrior/goddess. In fact the only negative vibe is that the experience is offered by a for profit corporation, Hollyhock Farm Ltd.

Of course he might prefer to avoid going altogether, while still getting capital gains relief. Just donate cash or securities online (US funds payable to Tides foundation) in exchange for a tax receipt that is exactly the same as you would get, for example, by sponsoring some kid whose single parent works for subsistence wages on a tropical fruit plantation.

Check out!

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