BCB Weekly Roundup: Beer, Trump and Blockchain

Coming at you with the faux bluster of United States tariffs, here's what had us occupied this week.

Credit: Screenshot of Maclean’s video

The latest in what’s happening in the B.C. business community and beyond

Each week, BCBusiness gives you an update on some of the stories turning heads across the province (and, in today’s edition, the country).

Coming at you with the faux bluster of United States tariffs, here’s what had us occupied this week.

The BC NDP draws up electoral reform; the Liberals sketch out

The BC NDP unveiled one of its core election promises this week and, predictably, it’s already drawn some fire from the opposition benches.

The government called for an electoral reform referendum that outlined for two votes, to take place by mail-in ballot between October 22 and November 30. One will ask whether citizens want to change the current first-past-the-post system, while the next will question which of three systems the voter prefers.

The systems being proposed by the government are: dual member proportional, where most ridings in B.C. are doubled in size, and people are asked to vote for a pair of candidates from each party; mixed member proportional, which combines the current method of electoral districts with MLAs chosen by parties based on the proportion of the vote in different regions; and rural-urban proportional representation, where MLAs in urban and semi-urban areas of the province are chosen using the single transferable vote (a ranked ballot system), and MLAs in rural areas of the province are chosen by a mixed member proportional system.

“They are proposing an alphabet soup of where they are proposing a bunch of systems that no one has ever heard of,” said Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson. “It’s an attempt to confuse and manipulate British Columbians away from the democracy we so value.”

The announcement’s timing (it occurred the day before the provincial legislature spring session was scheduled for a four-month break) also irked Wilkinson: “It’s a sleazy and manipulative step they have taken to avoid public debate on this issue.”

While the current system of first-past-the-post doesn’t accurately correlate with the majority of the votes cast, the NDP and Green Party coalition didn’t do themselves a ton of favours with the systems they selected.

The No campaigns waged against past electoral reform efforts (heavily supported by the Liberal Party) in 2005 and 2009 relied on marking the proposed new systems as confusing. Those crusades worked, and they were up against a relatively easy to understand system in single transferable vote.

The Liberals are already employing a similar tactic, and one has to think a similar result is likely.

Credit: Courtesy of Central City Brewers

Central City gets big

In less perplexing news, Central City Brewers and Distillers is making the choice easy for customers. The brewer is offering its flagship brand, Red Racer beer, in 500 mL cans at 355 mL prices.

It’s a bold move by the Surrey-based company that’s clearly trying to distance itself from a crowded beer marketplace in Metro Vancouver.

“We’ve been making great beer since 2003, nobody can argue that,” said president Darryll Frost. “But with the technology today, it’s not hard for lots of people to make good beer. You have many small competitors continuing to open up at the bottom of the market. From the top end, the scale brewers like Molson-Coors are working their way into the craft market.”

Frost notes that for a large craft brewer like Central City, the only place to go is to try and fight above its weight class:

“The only way we can do that is to offer value to the consumer. We have a state of the art facility that allows us to brew beer far more efficiently than just about anyone else in this country, and we paired that with the ability to offer 41-percent more beer at the same price. That should separate us from the bottom and help drive us into the top.”

Trudeau lays down the law

While this has more to do with provinces like Ontario and Quebec, who rely more on the aluminum and steel industries, the tariffs announced by the United States government against Canada, Mexico and the European Union undoubtedly affect a large portion of the world.

President Donald Trump announced that those countries would be hit with 25-percent steel tariffs and 10-percent aluminum tariffs, attributed to supposed national security threats.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland then announced their own round of rate hikes aimed squarely at the U.S., imposing a $16.6-billion levy (equivalent to the 2017 value of Canadian steel and aluminum exports hit by the American tariffs) on steel, aluminum and other products, including beer kegs (though not actual beer).

“The numbers are clear,” said Trudeau. The U.S. has a US$2 billion surplus in steel trade with Canada. Canada buys more American steel than any country in the world, accounting for half of U.S. steel exports. That Canada could be considered a national threat to the U.S. is inconceivable.”

It remains to be seen how this will play out, but Trudeau insisted that he and his government are “ready for anything” when asked if he plans to start a trade war with the U.S.

Developers don’t know everything, apparently

Lighthouse Labs announced Canada’s first “Blockchain for Developers” course, which kicked off in Toronto last week.

According to online search engine Neuvoo, the average salary for blockchain-related jobs more than triples the median wage in Canada, and the country is lacking qualified blockchain developers to fill those positions.

Lighthouse, which has a campus in Vancouver, will roll out the program across the rest of the country soon.

Credit: Govtech.Pioneers

Vancouver-based company wins blockchain award

Finally, in more blockchain news, local company iComply was named the top blockchain solution at GovTech.Pioneers, a European event for leaders in government and technology.

The event, held in Vienna, Austria, gives awards to different startups around the world.

iComply’s first product, iComplyICO, is a regulatory software that uses technology to apply real-time compliance and governance to the secondary trading of tokens on open public ledgers such as bitcoin and ethereum.

“The cryptocurrency, security token and ICO [initial coin offering] markets have become notorious for scams and misinformation. Our solutions are built to help regulators and investors separate the good from the rest,” said Matthew Unger, CEO of iComply.

More than anything, it illustrates the tremendous foresight BCBusiness showed in making iComply co-founder Qayyum Rajan one of our 30 under 30 winners.