New Victoria Clipper owner plans service to Vancouver

The Victoria Clipper is based in Seattle.

Plus, a sunny forecast for the B.C. economy in 2016 and tech talk from the B.C. government

A new captain
A German ferry and shipping company has bought a majority stake in the Seattle-based owner of the Victoria Clipper, the Union Jack-draped catamaran ferry service, and now plans to launch a passenger-only service between downtown Victoria and downtown Vancouver. Clipper currently runs between Seattle, Victoria and the San Juan Islands on a high-speed catamaran with fares starting at $120 in the low season and $150 during the summer. Clipper’s new owner, FRS (or Fast Reliable Seaways), did not reveal details such as fares or frequencies on new services. And FRS won’t be alone: an Australian shipping company recently announced plans to launch a ferry service as early as this summer.

Sunny days
The B.C. economy will weather global economic turmoil well and grow at a modest pace, according to an economic forecast from Central 1 Credit Union’s senior economist Bryan Yu. “B.C. will continue to benefit from low interest rates and a lower currency, despite challenges presented by a weak commodity sector,” said Yu in his analysis. “Lifted by household demand and housing investment, economic growth will ease slightly from 2015 but remain moderate at three per cent this year.” The low loonie, hovering around 70 cents to the U.S. dollar, will boost increased export activity and tourism, according to Yu.

What else to expect in 2016? Here are some of his highlights: At least one large LNG terminal will be built, the risk of a housing downturn will be low, and commodity prices will continue to hinder B.C.’s resource sector.

The future is friendly
While the provincial government’s annual B.C. Tech Summit offered a showcase of local technology companies, one industry player sat front and centre: the provincial government. The panels and the convention floor at the two-day conference, sponsored by the B.C. government, Microsoft and the B.C. Innovation Council, featured a plethora of civil servants and cabinet ministers (Health Minister Terry Lake chaired a panel on healthcare innovation, and two of four panellists on “Why B.C.” were cabinet members). The public sector is one of the, if not the largest, users of web and data services in B.C.

The government also made commitments at the conference to open more business opportunities to B.C. companies by automating and streamlining the procurement process of IT services and improving the B.C. Developers Exchange initiative—a platform that allows developers access to government data to build apps and products. “We’re bringing the public sector out to talk about its problems,” said David Hume, the B.C. government’s director of citizen engagement, speaking on a panel about big data. 

But providing consumer-friendly services isn’t always easy. On the same panel, Jessie Adcock, the City of Vancouver’s chief digital officer, laid out the challenges: “When people interact with Amazon, they are then frustrated by friction-laden interactions with government. Often the business case isn’t there for an Amazon-like experience.”