Vancouver, the livable city

High gas prices a factor in transit use | Photo by Bob Cotter

My first months as a newbie in Vancouver were spent trying to establish myself, find a job and a suitable longer-term home. And just like any excited tourist, I was imbibing all that the land had to
offer. The backdrop of the North Shore Mountains beyond the Burrard Inlet is always panoramic. And if you drive the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler, then you are in for a magnificent treat. Unless someone tailgates you too close, which seems to be dangerously a common habit in BC.

Looking for work for most immigrants in their profession has been well-documented as a wall much higher and more vertical than the Squamish Chief with steeper, narrower trails. A foreign degree is not given the same respect as a local degree. I wonder why: when achievements and successes are born throughout the world, many in non-English speaking countries. You only have to read an issue of Canadian Immigrant magazine to hear the disappointment from newcomers all over, and I mean all over the world. The doorman or security guard could be a medical doctor. The bar is higher for foreign-degree medical school and engineering graduates. You only have to read the local papers to see that technical and medical errors are committed by Canadian degree holders. What if the rest of the world had the same attitude? How would Canadians be able to work elsewhere?

I was surprised to learn that there is a certificate program for people wanting to be a janitor, to be an assistant to a legal assistant and so forth. To increase your chances of cleaning a classroom or an office, you can study for eight weeks and receive what one college calls a “Building Service Worker” certificate. Shouldn’t training be done in-house specific to the building’s equipment and detergents? This would save on enrolment fees.

I was surprised at how many mothers take their baby strollers on public transit. I rarely see this in the US. In fact, I don’t recall seeing one, which leads to a major reason why – cars are more expensive to purchase compared to the US as reported by Canadian TV. What compounds this is the lack of car parking, even in strip malls in Vancouver. In addition, car insurance, monopolized by ICBC, means premiums are double or triple the amount of other countries. This policy severely chokes movement, and consequently, the economy.

Or perhaps it’s the gas prices? Blame it on provincial tax, the number of oil refineries working or world supply. Why is it that despite a global oil glut, gas is still drastically cheaper in Blaine, WA? Why are the pump prices in Quesnel, Lillooet or even Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Hope significantly lower than Vancouver, Surrey or Burnaby?

Under a supply management system, a euphemism for fair returns for farmers through price control (milk, eggs, meat), higher grocery bills are heavily shouldered by minimum-wage workers and families. Even if one factors in exchange rates, mileage and duty fees, cross-border shopping is often money-saving. That is if you have a car. When market forces are tightly controlled, the first casualties are the poor who cannot wait for a GST refund.

Canada claims to be a polite society, yet we hear the f-word and the s-word as frequent as a phone “ting” notification, if speech is considered one manner of showing good manners. A recent study found that Canadians are no more polite than Americans. So the US can claim to be a polite society too by Canuck standards. Vancouver is often rated as one of the most livable cities by The Economist. I wonder who The Economist talks to. Not a good representation of working-class folks, for sure.