Friday, May 7, 2010

Demand Value

I had a haircut yesterday.

In a conversation about the price of haircuts, my barber, who charges me $14, told me that in the coming few years we will see no barbershops on the west side of town.

Can't afford the rent.

At 14 bucks, it's plain and simple.

The beauty shops/salons/stylists charge $40 or $50 for the same haircut, with a bit more fuss and bother. Maybe a shampoo and a bit of a head tickle, thank you very much.

Rents for small shops on West 10th Avenue are astronomical.

There is no help from City Hall.

All of which leads to the article below, focusing on the future of the Broadway corridor.

The only reasonable plan is above ground Light Rail Transit, already proven around the world.

But as we seem to be married and attached at the hip to Bombastier and its cement pylon loving partners, we can probably expect a Cambie Street repeat destroying one Mom 'n Pop Shop after another through the Greek neighbourhood and up the hill to the UBC gates.

Read the following and weep.

And then bombard your city councillors and Transclunk with demanding emails.

Demanding above ground LRT and protections for ongoing businesses.

Were City of Vancouver employees asleep during the construction of the Canada Line megaproject?

They say lessons learned from the Canada Line are important as they start working with TransLink on plans for the transit line along the Broadway corridor from Commercial Drive to the University of B.C.

But the principles put together by city staff for this process, recently approved by council, show that the main lesson to be learned has escaped them.

Construction of the Canada Line destroyed many established small businesses and gutted others. It was an unprecedented fiasco. Shockingly, only one of the city's 10 draft principles speaks to the issues that most concern small businesses.

It is vaguely and weakly worded as "minimize and mitigate construction and operation impacts." Wasn't this the same promise made to merchants along the Canada Line? We are not off to a good start.

If Vancouver wants to have the trust of its businesses, it is going to have to do much better than that.

The construction-related noise, dust, lane closures and traffic rerouting along the Canada Line were far more severe and lasted much longer than promised. Many customers avoided the area completely.

As a result, small-business owners along the construction corridor suffered sales losses averaging more than $100,000.

Efforts to stay in business went far beyond the ordinary and included taking out second mortgages, using retirement savings, laying off long-term staff and relocating.

The emotional stress defied quantification. As one longtime owner, who renewed her lease under the assurance that construction-related disruption would be minimal, put it: "This [my business] was supposed to be my legacy for my daughter. It was supposed to be my retirement. They are taking everything."

Did all of this hardship escape the notice of city staff? We know it didn't escape the notice of Vancouver's current mayor. He was an MLA at the time the Canada Line was being built and the most vocal politician championing the cause of affected businesses.

Where is he now?

The Broadway corridor project could affect hundreds of businesses as well as their families, staff and communities. Protecting the viability of businesses along Broadway corridor should be among the city's highest priorities and principles for the project.

The hardworking individuals who support families and communities in Vancouver deserve nothing less.

The way small businesses were treated around Canada Line construction remains a black mark on the reputations of all governments involved in the project, including Vancouver.

Broadway is an opportunity to do things differently. This starts by acknowledging that the costs to businesses along the Canada Line were unacceptably high.

TransLink is now starting its consultation around the Broadway Line. Any hope they will hear small business? If past experience is any indication, we better get ready to shout.

Laura Jones can be reached at


Laura Jones, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, makes her debut today as a regular columnist for The Province. Jones's column on issues affecting small businesses in B.C. will run in the Money section every second Thursday.

© Copyright (c) The Province

A Fair Comeuppance

"The Lancet" is considered the world's leading English language medical journal.

Here is it's pronouncement on Stephen Harper.

"The Canadian government does not deprive women living in Canada from access to safe abortions. It is therefore hypocritical and unjust that it tries to do so abroad."

The numbers:

70,000 women die from unsafe abortions worldwide every year.

350,000 women die during childbirth each year.

9,000,000 children under the age of 5 die each year.

Mr. Harper has put together a summit focusing on women's health.

He should stick to his agenda and keep his personal backwoodsie philosophies out of the picture.

Watchdogs with No Bite

It is supposed to be re-assuring that Environment Minister Jim Prentice says there is no need for a moratorium on future offshore drilling in Canadian waters while the world tries to figure out what went wrong in the Gulf of Mexico.

He says we will rely on Canada’s ‘strong regulatory environment’ to ensure disaster in the Gulf is not repeated here.


Well, what does he have to say about this?

It has been revealed in recent days that the U.S. government has its share of watchdogs allegedly being paid to oversee all safety concerns for their off-shore drilling operations.

The only problem with that program is called Corruption.

Investigations have revealed that many of these "overseers" have been bribed with money and sexual favours to turn a blind eye to procedures that are speedy, convenient and one step away from disaster.

Will the Canadian watchdogs have teeth?

Or just deep pockets?

Keep Your Skillet Good and Greasy

An enterprising woman in Toronto has hired several female mechanics to join her in her new business.

The shop is called "Ms. Lube."

Of course, the folks who own the better-known Mr. Lube are not amused and they are suing.

If only they had a sense of humour and a little grace and the good sense to know that this can only help their business in the long run.

If only they could keep their oil rags from getting in a knot.

No doubt it will only be a matter of days before some yutz will come along looking for employment and claim discrimination before a human rights tribunal because he is a man looking to get dirty amongst the women mechanics.

Lawyers and tribunals should all be given tickets to comedy shows. They could pass them out to many potential clients with the advice, "Go find your ability to laugh again, you goofball."