Vancouver’s green power plan hits a snag

Plus, cabs for Christmas and help for debtors

Steam heat
Vancouver developer Ian Gillespie’s power company Creative Energy, has received permission from the B.C. Utilities Commission to build a new power facility in Northeast False Creekbut not to extend into Chinatown or rely on funds from a city carbon tax, nor a mandatory connection to the Downtown Eastside.  Gillespie, founder of Westbank Projects, purchased Creative Energy in 2014. The utility sells energy in the form of steam to more than 210 customers in the downtown core of the City of Vancouver. 

A 30-year agreement between Creative Energy and the City of Vancouver was enacted in May 2014, subject to approval from the provincial commission. It would give Creative Energy a monopoly in Chinatown and along the north side of False Creek. The Urban Development Institute, one of a dozen intervenors, argued that Creative Energy’s shareholder is also a developer, and thus there might be a potential conflict of interest. Gillespie, they said, may influence discrimination against other developers for competitive advantage given the connection agreement is a prerequisite for applying to the city for a building permit. (via the Province)

Holiday rides
The Vancouver Taxi Association has been granted 58 temporary licences over the holidays. It had applied for 198 (34 for Vancouver Taxi, 32 for MacLure’s, 60 for Black Top and 72 for Yellow Cab) over 91 days from December 2015 to March 2016, but the Passenger Transportation Board approved a much smaller number.

Debt relief
At a time of year when personal spending can get out of hand, the B.C. government has announced changes to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act which will affect how consumers can settle their debt. As of April 1, debt settlement companies will have only two options restricting how much they can charge for fees. If the debt will be repaid within 90 days, debt agents may only charge a fee of up to 10 per cent of the total amount of debt being repaid. If you need 90 days or longer to repay your debt, debt settlement companies may charge a fee of up to 15 per dent of the total amount repaid, plus a one-time service fee. The service fee can be no more than the cost of one average monthly payment.

Companies will now also have to be transparent about the risks associated with debt settlement. All contracts will be required to contain a disclosure statement indicating that, while the debt may go away, the debt settlement process will not improve their credit rating. Under the old system, some companies would counsel customers to avoid calls from creditors. This can make the situation much worse and debt settling agents will be prohibited from providing this advice.

“The new rules mean families and individuals facing financial strain are able to make informed choices about their money and debt repayment,” said Scott Hannah, president and CEO of the Credit Counselling Society of BC, in a B.C. government release. “We at the Credit Counselling Society look forward to employing these regulations while we work to help B.C. residents become debt-free.”