Part I: Smart City vs Green City

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

36 comments

ubc.jpg
UBC and SFU must play a key role in developing Vancouver's smart city jobs plan

In the coming days CityCaucus.com will explore the idea of Vancouver becoming a "smart city". This three-part series will look at the characteristics of smart cities and how Vancouver is well positioned to become one. Here is our first installment:

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Over the last three years Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision caucus have been pushing forward with a so-called “green” agenda. Their efforts helped to spawn a series of new policies related to everything from backyard chickens to taxpayer subsidies for new solar panel installations.

As for whether all this green talk will turn into real economic growth remains to be seen, but you can place me squarely in the skeptical category. My skepticism is based on the fact that Robertson had pledged during the 2008 election campaign he would create 20,000 new green jobs by 2020. That commitment has subsequently been significantly watered down.

Pursuing a “green” jobs agenda these days does appear to be a tad flavor of the month. Each day it seems yet another city is pronouncing they too want to become the greenest in the world. Despite all the spin, the reality is a number of cities were pursuing an eco-friendly agenda well before Vancouver re-branded itself as a “green” city.

In my opinion, if the Mayor and council were genuinely interested in creating high paying family-supporting jobs, they’d be much better off focusing on transforming Vancouver into a “smart” city.

By focusing more on brain power and innovation the city could reap huge economic rewards. This strategy would also allow it to better take advantage of two world class facilities - UBC and SFU - that are literally at Vancouver's doorstep.

So what does a smart city look like and what are some of the common characteristics? And why would becoming a smart city play to our strengths and provide us with an edge over our competitors? Let me explain.

A smart city is one that not only develops the world’s best and brightest minds, but it also becomes a magnet for new talent as well. These are the kind of people that have the potential to develop the next Google or find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

A smart city capitalizes on the partnership opportunities that exist between itself and the people who work and study at its post-secondary institutions.

In the case of Vancouver, it must work harder to link its economic strategy with the cutting edge research taking place at UBC, SFU, BCIT and the various colleges. In other words, it has to do a better job of identifying and transitioning the research taking place in our labs into the local economy.

Instead of planning costly trade missions overseas, perhaps the Vancouver Economic Development Commission (VEDC) might want to first spend a few days with some of the future entrepreneurs located on campus. These are the people who are already living here and stand a good chance of becoming the next mid-size and large employers of tomorrow.

To date the VEDC has proven to be less than stellar when it comes to finding ways of better integrating with our post secondary institutions. That's why they should focus less time chasing elusive green jobs and spend more time working with world-class institutions like UBC and SFU to see what it would take to get more start-ups in the city.

For example, if the VEDC were truly focused on transforming Vancouver into a smart city, they would be chomping at the bit regarding Premier Christy Clark's latest initiative. She announced the BC government is planning to increase the number of foreign students at our post-secondary institutions by 50% over the next 5 years.

A smart city knows that developing strategies that attract international students helps to boost their local economy. It also has the added benefit of exposing your region to a segment of the world's population that might eventually want to call your city home.

The numbers tell the story: international education is a big and growing business, with 2.8 million international students worldwide in 2007 and an expected 7 million by 2025. This growth is being driven by the fast growing economies of China, India, and other South and East Asian countries, all key Canadian trade partners.

In Canada, international education exports injected an estimated $6.5 billion into the economy in 2008, more than exports of either coniferous lumber or coal. Over $300 million annually in government revenue and 83,000 Canadian jobs are directly attributable to international education, which is now Canada’s number one export to China (12% of all exports valued at roughly $1.3 billion annually); number two export to South Korea; and number four to India. And, for every ten international students in Canada, roughly five family members and friends visit as tourists, injecting an additional $285 million into the economy and sustaining over 5,000 tourism jobs.

When it comes to capitalizing on the knowledge economy, few have done it better than Australia. With a population roughly 2/3 of Canada’s, it already derives $15.5 billion in revenue from education exports each year, employing more than 125,000 people and making education the number one service export, ahead of even tourism.

International students already account for roughly 20% of Australian university campuses, roughly twice the Canadian percentage. By deploying a national strategy, Australia has built an enviable brand presence as a destination for international education.

The Globe and Mail recently did a series of stories on smart cities and here is an excerpt that helps to highlight why focusing on international students is a winning strategy:

International immigration has played a crucial and often overlooked role in the United States’ economic success, says Joe Cortright, president and chief economist of Impresa, a Portland, Ore.-based consulting firm that specializes in metropolitan economies and knowledge-based industries.

No doubt. Between 1995 and 2005, according to a Duke University study, 25.3 per cent of U.S. engineering and technology startups had at least one foreign-born founder.

Meanwhile, U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest levels of educational attainment – a key driver of prosperity – are home to the most immigrants, Mr. Cortright says. “Places like New York, San Francisco and Miami all have very large immigrant populations, and a very high fraction of their well-educated population [was] born abroad.”

If we play our cards right, we clearly have the opportunity of doing even better than the Australians. And the prime beneficiary of this strategy would obviously be Vancouver.

In part II of our Smart City vs. Green City series, we’ll look at some of the other policies Vancouver might want to adopt if it wants to use brain power and innovation as a catalyst for future economic growth.

- Post by Daniel. You can follow us on on Twitter @CityCaucus or you can "like" us on Facebook at facebook.com/citycaucus

36 Comments

I will take a smart city over a green city anytime, this green agenda has caused more problems and decention than invisioned, and catch is, these green projects have never worked properly, Im voting against all Vision Vancouver candidates and Mayor!

Mayor Moonbeam will hate this idea . . . all those foreign students have to fly here on Eeeeevil airplanes, spewing Eeeeeeeeeeeevil Carbon Dioxide that is fueling hysterical global warming and killing Gaia.

AHHHHHHHHH CLIMATE CRISIS !!!
AHHHHHHHHH CLIMATE CRISIS !!!
AHHHHHHHHH CLIMATE CRISIS !!!
AHHHHHHHHH CLIMATE CRISIS !!!
AHHHHHHHHH CLIMATE CRISIS !!!


Nah . . . . Mayor Moonbeam and the his Hollyhock Hippy pals that bought Vision Vancouver and infest Tides Canada will hate this idea.

Word.

The Thought of The day

"Three years ago I was a contender. About to develop the next 'Google' but then something happened,I forgot what exactly. I've got Alzheimer instead. Then I read about the new era of biking and heard about the new green strategies initiated by one fella named Robertson and Solomon was his daddy-o, and so I moved to ... what's its name, ugh, ugh, gimme a second, Vanision... Vanhock, no it can't be right, definitely starts with the letter V. Viagrouver? Anyway. May I help you?"

Daniel, I have to say, an excellent article. Same ideas that simmered in my mind for a veeery long time, just too lazy to put them on paper.

Smart versus Green.
First, I would stay away from labeling or branding, or re-branding. That's the first trick in the salesman's serviette or in the cards cheater's cufflinks.
Just... City. To differentiate it from a village, a hut, or a metropolis.

As for the Green activists like the Solomons, the Bermans, the Newells, if they want to get us a Communist British Columbia on Capitalist dough, while some of them are getting filthy rich in the process, I say, bring it on Comrades. I’m in! What better irony than this, eh? I get Joel who said:

"if you can't do it in places like [Vancouver] we have a real problem."

and:

"I concluded that I should use the power and privilege that I had as a white North American male, from an affluent family, to use those tools – the power of business, and finance and politics towards the common good."

and:

"So I chose to move my career to Canada because of a great opportunity to work with a visionary inheritor of a substantial amount of resources named Carol Newell."

and:

"we put together a strategy … which was to take a long term look at how to deploy financial resources towards systemic social change focused in one region."

In other words:
"Better now than later, better us than others!"

Good plan. Those British Columbians will never see what hit them, suckers!

Global warming? Niet., Champagne chilling!
Carbon credits? Niet. Waterfront condos!
Organic foods? Niet. Orgasmic thoughts!
Green strategies? Niet. Dollars in the mattress!
Sustainable society? Niet. Kidneys for everyone!

And Daniel, you wrote:

"In my opinion, if the Mayor and council were genuinely interested in creating high paying family-supporting jobs..."

But they did just that! Only it was for the Hollyhock family... CM Penny, DCM Aufochs(City Hall), Storyteller Kurt (VSB),Gen.Mgr (VPB) and on and on and on...

I too had a dream, that one day every British Columbian will pay me a fee to stay in my cool shadow for a second or two. Is that genius, or what? Joel, Gregor and Me. What a Trio! Da, da, da!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSwJ2rjUSdc

Thank you, Vision Comrades for opening my eyes. Send my regards to Vladimir, Leon and Josef. And keep those innocent For Profit and Change ventures going. Long live the Green Revolution!

Da, da, da..Ich liebe dich nicht, du liebst mich nicht.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy, aha!

Just reading in The Vancouver Sun about a company that wants 15 million to install recharging stations across canada so you can actually get your silly electric car to go somewhere. And that remended me. Whatever happened to "The Hydrogen Highway" to California that THE TOWN DRUNK spent millions on. Sure never hear about that anymore do you?????

Glissy you forgot one..

Sarah Blyth Parks Board, started working at Portland Housing Society after the election....

You've really defined what a truly "sustainable" city is: the balance of economic, social and environmental interests.

In the last few years, in Vancouver anyway, sustainable has come to mean green, and only green -- no accounting to explain the short- or long-term social and economic costs / implications of this trajectory.

Only with truly sustainable (Smart City) planning does Vancouver have a chance to claim the coveted Greenest City prize. I hope we do it.

Barb Justason
JustasonMI.com

While I love the idea of bringing in more foreign students, there is trouble brewing in that market.

As president of my strata corporation, we've noticed many of the problem tenants in the building are International students. Problem tenants means they have late night parties, throw cigarette butts from their window, throw trash from their balcony, hang clothes from fire sprinkler heads, leave garbage out where it doesn't belong.

I'm not saying all international students are prone to this, it's just been from my personal observation.

Should we truly try to get more international students to come to the city, I think we first need to setup regulations for companies that would rent homes to them. It appears now that companies are basically just throwing them the keys and that's it.

International students require a little more hand holding. Some of them may not be versed in the intricacies of Canadian society.

This lack of information can make their time here unpleasant. This would be counter-productive to the objective of attracting more students to come here.

I'm not sure what the best way is to handle it. Options are to regulate the rental companies to force them to check-in on their tenants and provide proper training. However, that could easily be circumvented by not reporting that students have rented the apartment.

Perhaps schools need a rental liaison who guides students through the whole process and checks in on them.

Just my two cents on that issue.

Paul, you have identified a problem that is even larger than the unsophisticated international tenant - the simple supply of rental stock and what sort of problems will this create for long time residents competing for the same apartments.

Without more rental housing being built, where are these students going to live?

Paul T
Please note my sarcasm here... perhaps the students will qualify for this program...;)

Sorry Paul T
I forgot the link I've sent it through, but my comments are being held by blog owner for approval..???

The Thought of The Day

'A Green Job is the new euphemism for A New Racket Job. Think 'Renewal Fund' instead of 'Vulture Fund'. Sounds innocent, most definitely it will cost you more to upkeep, but it will make you feel much better when the time for that flight to New York would fall into your taxpayer funded travel and entertainment budget. I wonder...what would Andrea Reimer do?'

'“La vérité, l’âpre vérité” - “The truth, the harsh truth” - Danton (I wish I said that!)'

I never fancied the empty words (like 'green' or 'organic' or 'sustainable' or 'affordable'...), idling talk, publicity filled airtime...you get the point. When I mentioned earlier the term 'Vulture Fund' that was not just for the sake of my narrative, or because it sounded intriguing.

No, I meant it.

It was the summer of 1970 when Milton Friedman wrote in the New York Times « The Social Responsability of Business is to increase its Profits ». His position was clear: ’the principal objective of a company is to optimize its profits and therefore to return to the shareholders their investment, while respecting the laws of the country in which it operates’. In our days few CEO's will have the cohones to make this statement. On the contrary they would rather portray themselves as social investors and philanthropists.

Enter the 'chosen ones' Around The Law in 80 Charities and Investment Funds. All Green! Greenest city, greenest food, greenest attitude, 'greenest' air and water...

Again, let me rephrase that.

In our days, the Whole Green Days, Solomon, Newell,etc., can always pretend some responsibility for the social well-being of their stakeholders, all that’s left though...is fair game.

Here’s one story on the Ms. ‘I’m not $worthy$’ Carol Newell and her new found board game of Vanopoly played around the table by her Hollyhock friends (go look up at ‘shared-vision’ dot com – the secret millionaire) for the fun of it, the story of a Princess turned Cinderella turned Greedzzela.

Together with Joe L. and other good Solomaritans they pulled their veil of sanctity and preached out to the peons ‘It’s not about the money. We don’t talk or care about the money around the kitchen table in here. It’s all about you and the environment and the food and the air and the juice...’

Complete and total Pish.

Considering for a start, the generous remuneration they are paying each other, for basically no work, through intricate accounting moves, donations, loans, investments, dividends, or through highly paid tax payer funded jobs obtained through pure intimidation, jobs with hidden clauses and massive separation agreements, inside the first corporations they could lay their bony hands on.
City Hall of Vancouver is one of their casualties, the citizens of Vancouver – collateral damage..

And now to end on a high note, a memento, from one of my old 16mm Arriflex shot, home movies, a favourite scene of mine, the one where we all sit around the table (Carol, Joel, Linda, Gregor, Andrea, Geoff, Aufochs, Penny...and myself, in character) not discussing about money, or politics , or the 500 year plan. Not discussing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIgltzjwNd0

NOTE TO READERS:
I am the well spoken, down to earth, good looking one!

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Thanks Daniel. An important conversation for us to be having. A few thoughts.

(i) Smart City and Green City are not competing visions. They are strong complements. Being a Smart City is one of the best paths to becoming a much greener city.

(ii) Becoming a Smart City means some serious infrastructure investment in becoming a Sensable City. This will likely requires some partnerships but the focus should be on growing local talent and businesses.

(iii) Becoming a Smart City means that more people will have to invest locally and that we will have to grow local companies to a much larger scale. I don't think there is a lot the city itself can or should do here. But there is a lot that each of us can do as individuals. Invest in, mentor, help grow and buy from local businesses.

(iv) Although I strongly favour increasing our openness to foreign students the focus needs to be on graduate and post graduate students, not more cheap knock off shcools. In any case, the long-term demographics will work against these schools and not in their favour. I would not invest a dime in them. I would like it to be much easier for anyone who has graduated from a Canadian university to become a permanent resident.

Glissando - What are your thoughts on Roger Martin's position that companies that try to optimize shareholder value most usually fail to do so?

There is zero evidence that maximizing the private sphere at the expense of all other parts of society leads to more livable socities.

Contraty to your claim, the world 'sustainable' is well defined. Try doing some real work instead of trying so hard to sound cool.

We live in Vancouver and deal with a lot of gibberish.

Daniel - I would include 'design' as part of any Smart City thinking. You should add ECUAD to your list of learning institutions that are key to the city's future. At the Design Thinking unConference, our goal is to bring together the design community with business innovators and social innovators to spark conversations and better leverage design. We are also working to increase awareness of Vancouver in the global design community. We had 170+ people from six countries at the first event in August. (And we had this at ECUAD who were great hosts.)

The Thought Of The Day

"Let's change the Corporation Law FIRST, to reflect ALL those 'green' goodies and then we'll talk about the 'new speak', OK?"

Green is green. Also green is the color of money, and greed and profit. Reflected oh so well, in the Corporation Act. You want to add to 'making money for your shareholders... while saving the environment, putting the customer first, resuscitating the Malaysian Tiger and sponsoring the Greenpeace?" well, go ahead, but you'll find out that your clients are going to abandon you, sooner or later... for irreconcilable differences, then businesses like Solomon's Renewal Investment Fund will stop making money, eh?! And he'll stop talking to you too! See where I'm going with this?

If you were referring to this academic think-tank:

https://archive.harvardbusiness.org/cla/web/pl/product.seam?c=4117&i=4119&cs=ea11826e6fba38ea36dd17e091ab79d4

than I have news for you,Steven... but you know it already! All the new green euphemism are just that, words, are good for rhetoric, for inciting the masses, hey who doesn't want to save the Pandas, or recycle the Moon and feel good about it, right?

So in conclusion for the future, please... don't patronize me with things like 'the word 'sustainable' is well defined'; I know that, it's the new way of saying 'if we don't kill each other in the next 100 years we might get along and then the planet will be fine' no wonder it's becoming harder for you to attract new talent to Vancouver. Your prospects may be cutting through your 'power words' lecturing and the new lingo(see your previous post).
FYI, I too, could speak like that in my sleep, but why would I do it?
I try to stay away from that, as a matter of fact.

You see... I speak enough languages, including 'Gibberish'!

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Steve, on your item iii:

The city can do a LOT by changing how they treat the commercial rate payer. If the city got real on the property tax issue, businesses would find it easier to expand and hire people. They would also be more interested in doing business in Vancouver. Right now commercial property taxes are unpredictable, unfair and repressive. If you don't believe me, go ask one of the little shops on Cambie what their property tax bill is this year and how much it will be next year. You will be shocked.

You have heard me harp on this topic before. Roll in some technology at the hall the streamline the permit and licensing department and we may turn into a business friendly jurisdiction.

Hey, you actually read something I posted and followed up. I take back all my nasty thoughts, well, most anyway.

But you should dig into Roger's numbers. They are actually quite comeplling. Companies that short-term work to optimize shareholder value fail to do so.

Also, a number of companies (Eastman and 3M come to mind) have found that sustainable value drivers help their customers make more money. Reduce energy use, lower raw materials costs, design in reuse - these all have big positive financial impacts even in the current regulatory environment in the US. This is how business is being done, because it makes business sense.

So this is not radom 'feel good' stuff. It is good business. And if you think that the eocnomy is somehow outside of or independent of the ecology that sustatains us think again.

I have a simple definition of sustainability: "business and social practices that capture the full cost of their activities and that are managed to have a net neutral impact on the ecology they require in order to opertate." In most cases though, I think this too low a hurdle rate. There is no reason that manufacturing, distribution, and even operating a city cannnot be net positive. I will regard Vanacouver as a truly sustainable city when it has net positive primary productivity. (Now you can take me out back and shoot me as a nut case.)

Friedman and co. failed to understand that markets are a human technology and like any human technology they are part of the designed world.

Thanks Julia

You know a lot more about this than I do and I appreciate your comments. I am sure that there is a huge amount of simplification that could be done here. In general, I think governments should manadate outcomes and not processess. Let people find creative ways to solve problems. And let the market decide which ways are most efficient. I would also like to see a real rethink on zoning laws. I think Mike Klassen may have some good ideas here that I would like to hear, but he has been silent on them scince the campaign started.

Steven Steven Steven...
Glissy doesn't need to try to sound cool...he just is cool...perhaps if you sounded less condescending your message might be given some attention...

Seriously I can't get past the holier than thou speeches...it sounds like this...blah blah blah..your message gets lost and I'm sure you have many good ideas..just work on your delivery..

@ Steven Forth
"In general, I think governments should manadate outcomes and not processess. Let people find creative ways to solve problems. And let the market decide which ways are most efficient. I would also like to see a real rethink on zoning laws."

I take it then you are not in favour of actions such as Vision Vancouver giving the VACC $15k to start up a bike cargo service?

Steve, "business and social practices that capture the full cost of their activities and that are managed to have a net neutral impact on the ecology they require in order to opertate."

now, apply this to the economic model as well as the environmental model. Hell... through in some subsidies for the sake of the community, and 90% of our problems would vapourize. We would only do what we are willing to pay for, we would not demand things that we expect others to pay for and employers would flourish and provide both taxes and jobs to keep everyone happy.

As I read through some of these comments, this tweet came to mind...

charlesadler Charles Adler:

McGuinty touts Green like a pol whose staffer says" Stay on the Green talking points. If you even think of saying anything else just STFU!"

The Thought Of The Evening

"Some people IMHO, are too smart for their own good, I think."

Steven,

This:
(Now you can take me out back and shoot me as a nut case.)

is in bad taste,,, on so many levels.

Probably you don't read what I write either. 'Cause if you did, you wouldn't have ended your comment with this:

"Friedman and co. failed to understand that markets are a human technology and like any human technology they are part of the designed world."

I wrote the following on this blog on the 21 May 2011 on a post by Vivian Krause:

...
The Thought of The Night

“The best thing Milton Friedman ever did for Humanity was...to die. Dead at 94. Survived by his Corporate Cancers: the Global Economy and the Free Market...”

Then... I wrote the following:

It was the summer of 1970 when Milton Friedman wrote in the New York Times « The Social Responsability of Business is to increase its Profits ». His position was clear: ’the principal objective of a company is to optimize its profits and therefore to return to the shareholders their investment, while respecting the laws of the country in which it operates’.

In our days few CEO's will have the cohones to make this statement. On the contrary they would rather portray themselves as social investors and philanthropists."

Friedman was a shmuck, but what he said is still valid today, unless someone legally challenges and changes the definition for 'profit' in the Corporation Act. Period.
Until then, in your words, all is gibberish. Even if it's green wishes, still gibberish.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

George,
Thanks pal! It was nice of you for saying that. You know I don't write to get approval from the elders, to get elected, or for... the money.
That would be Robertson's mouthpieces...!
GR-eetings!

Glissy,

:-)

if only you would run for M...sigh

You guys are so cute tag teaming him and bullying him out of the conversation.

Excuse me?
Boo who is bullying Hoo? I think it's the other way around! Read again...

Steven,
"(iv) Although I strongly favour increasing our openness to foreign students the focus needs to be on graduate and post graduate students, not more cheap knock off shcools. In any case, the long-term demographics will work against these schools and not in their favour. I would not invest a dime in them."
Huh?
You could have a group hug with Christy Clark. Great business plan. Milk foreign students for three, four times the amount a domestic student aka Canadian student would pay. Jeez, hard to choose! Remember that the BC Universities number of students is limited so let's see... one pays 2500 the other one 10000 WOW! Hard to say.
What a joker you are. Glissando's clip from the Aviator perfectly represents your group of privileged middle age farts
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIgltzjwNd0
Say it ain't so.
And speaking of criticizing the current school system, here's your best at spelling "knock off shcools"
'Nuff said!

Sorry? I wasn't talking about you--perhaps you missed the point?

Middle aged farts--lol.

I may have missed that post or may just have a poor memory.

You are right about the corporation act, though I am not sure that I know how I would like to see it changed. Let law catch up with actual business practice rather than try to change business practice through law.

But many of our users do have quantifiable 'green' value drivers and are using these in price negotiations. The stress on resoruces and ecologies does have real business results.

I have little trust of any kind of fund manager and I prefer to invest in businesses where I have a lot of visibilty and some control, so I don't have any particular opinion on social funds. I do think Joel Solomon is a credible investor who makes good investment decisions.

Did not mean to cause offense with my "take me out back statement ..." it is one of the pet sayings of a litigator I work with and I picked it up without thinking too much about it.

One day I would be happy to buy you a beer, we have so much to disagree about.

That is correct. I don't like governments picking winners period: don't like the way mega developers are selected; don't like subsidies to energy producers; or subsidies to agriculture; or subsidies in the form of externalities. I am even on record as opposing SR&ED, which does not make me popular in my peer group, that's for sure.

On the other hand, I would almost certainly choose bicycle delivery when available and plan to buy my own cargo bike.

Steven,
No offense on that, I rather thought, it didn't sound right... in the context.
Disagreement is progress!
Without disagreement we wouldn't be where we are today! As humans, I mean, say, starting with the 'Sun revolves around the Earth' kind of a thing. Religion vs. Science, eh?
We would probably be extinct by now if we all agreed to stay inside the caves, never experienced the fire, hanging on to our furs instead...
I am more like the guy with the stick, outside, trying to see if the lion lying there is asleep or not...
As for that beer... maybe, one day, only we'll pay "Jorg & Oliff"...you know... the Dutch Bikes!
GR

The ever so gallant, glissando remmy! :-)

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