September 17, 2021

Lawsuit of the week: B.C. government’s reversal on PST for video game gift cards created ‘untenable situation,’ Best Buy claims

Retailer claims it had been relying on 2014 Ministry of Finance ruling that the cards were not subject to Provincial Sales Tax

Chung Chow photo

Best Buy Canada Ltd. is taking the provincial government to court, claiming it was wrongfully penalized for not collecting Provincial Sales Tax (PST) on video game gift card sales.

In a petition filed in the BC Supreme Court on August 27 naming Her Majesty the Queen in right of the Province of British Columbia as the respondent, the big-box consumer electronics retailer claims it was originally issued an assessment on gaming gift card sales in May 2020, which was later adjusted in June 2021. The company wants to “remove all tax-equivalent penalties and associated penalties and interest” from the tax bill, or failing that, seeks to have the Minister of Finance reassess the amount. Best Buy claims gaming gift cards are not “tangible personal property, software or taxable services for which Provincial Sales Tax … must be levied.”

According to the petition, the B.C. government issued a Notice of Assessment for game card sales between November 2015 and May 2019 totaling more than $585,000, an amount that includes a $69,445 penalty and interest of $125,229. Best Buy paid the amount “under protest,” and now disputes the charges on its sales of gaming gift cards made both online and in bricks and mortar physical stores.

“When a customer purchases a gaming gift card, it receives the right to redeem the cash values of the gaming gift card as credit, to be applied to the purchaser’s user account with the issuer,” the petition states. “The customer then uses this user account credit to purchase products from the issuer. In other words, the customer who is purchasing a gaming gift card is actually purchasing credit for use at the gaming gift card issuer’s store.”

Issuers of the cards, the company claims, include Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) for its Xbox gaming platform, along with others such as Roblox (NYSE:RBLX), whose cards offer buyers credits for in-game virtual purchases. In 2014, according to the petition, the Ministry of Finance issued an administrative ruling to Best Buy about gift card sales, ruling that the cards were not subject to PST because “they do not provide the purchaser with the right to use a software program or the right to download, view or access specified telecommunications.”

“Best Buy relied on the 2014 ruiling in structuring its gaming gift card sales operations,” the petition states. However, the provincial government changed its tune in 2017, putting the company in an “untenable situation.”

“It would be untenable because it would impose a positive obligation on each gaming gift card retailer to actively monitor, in real time, all inventory offered by each issuer in their online stores, as the PST status of gaming gift cards would change, potentially daily or more frequently, based on such stores’ offerings,” the petition states.

Best Buy seeks orders allowing the appeal of the PST assessment and an adjustment to remove all interest and pentalities on the disputed amount. The petition’s factual basis has not been tested in court and the provincial government had not responded to the claim by press time.



We gotta be green, who cares if we’re clean?: City of Vancouver

John Clerides arrived at his Marquis Wine Cellars outlet one morning earlier this month to find that a chef-style blowtorch had shattered the front window into shards and that his delivery e-bike was taken.

The video revealed it took all of 20 seconds. Oddly, whoever did it wasn’t after the valuable wine. The criminal has gotten away, and the bike hasn’t been located.

A typical morning’s Twitter feed these days carries evidence of the city’s overnight spread of heedless vandalism: the busted windows, the hacked locks, the ubiquitous graffiti. The pandemic has been good for the businesses that repair, terrible for the places that experience damage.

A typical day’s Twitter feed carries evidence of the community street damage beyond the inflicted defacement: syringes, feces, bottles, condoms, debris from stolen goods. Vancouver has long been an open-drug-use city, but the pandemic has hollowed out the downtown and given rise to new drug quadrants.

A couple of months ago a friend, someone readers would know, arranged for an acquaintance to show up at the downtown restaurant when we finished dinner – the sun still high in the sky – so that acquaintance could walk my friend home. The city was no longer deemed safe, I was told.

Clerides is far from alone with broken windows. The list is long among just those he knows: the Saatchi and Saatchi jeweller on Robson, Abaasa Optical across from Clerides on Davie, and the Vancouver Pen Shop on Hastings, to name a few.

Police respond more than a dozen times nightly on average to these acts – so, there are thousands of these episodes a year – but can rarely catch anyone before the damage is inflicted.

There is a political shrug that accompanies this now in the city, as in: it is what it is, there are many hurting people who need more urgent help with their problems, the damage isn’t injuring anyone, this is the cost of a growing urban centre, there is so much inequity that we should expect this, and oh yes, the coronavirus and the opioid crisis take priority.

But we are having a larger discussion on defunding the police than on funding the orderliness of our community. We apply more civic effort to down-the-road climate change than down-the-street landscape change. We aspire to be the Greenest City, but not the Cleanest City.

Anyone with eyes would agree that grime has taken hold year by year, block by block, whether it’s casual garbage or deliberate destruction. Around our office, near my home, there is ruinous encroachment that wasn’t there a year or two or three ago.

It is worth wondering, then acting upon: Is this a trend we can stop?

In his debut 2000 book that quickly made him famous, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference, Canadian Malcolm Gladwell introduced most people to the “broken window theory.” It advances the idea that crime is egged on by the presence of these visible signs and anti-social behaviour. In New York’s case, it involved among other things a simple and sustained cleanup of incessant graffiti on the sides of subway cars.

The authors of the theory, social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in 1982 that an unrepaired broken window often gives rise to other windows being broken – that “it is a sign that no one cares, and so breaking windows costs nothing.”

Kelling and Catherine Coles wrote in their 1996 book, Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities, that if repairs are done quickly, vandals are less likely to strike again. Left unfixed, further crime ensues.

At the heart of the theory is the notion that our landscape communicates to us. The message of a broken window is that a neighbourhood isn’t imposing social control on itself and is thus susceptible, even accepting of, criminal invasion and occupation.

Policing plays a role, naturally, but so does investment by a community – the businesses and residents, for sure, but primarily the government – in keeping streets clean and safe and signalling that it is futile to destroy. The sprawl of unsightly graffiti on walls, windows, poles, sidewalks and bridges left alone by authorities suggests this isn’t a priority.

Trouble is, people like Clerides feel they are disproportionately bearing the task that his taxes pay others to address, that in the pandemic and the opioid crisis the city has chosen to minister more to addicts and those with mental illness challenges on the streets than to merchants and residents in the dwellings they deface, and that Vancouver is a “destination” for Canadians who find the climate to their liking – not only the weather, but the access to drugs and the light hand of the law.

He wonders: “Where is the city?”

He discussed this last week with the mayor’s office – his Twitter feed doesn’t hold back on his feelings about the administration – and gets the impression something is in the works. He is taking a wait-and-see attitude. Meantime there will be more bike patrols, a common way police address the situation to plant the idea they may ride up to someone in the act.

But more than anything, leadership has to apprehend this issue as a central mission and not an occasional distraction. A few elections ago, this wouldn’t have felt like a central issue. Next year, I have to think candidates with a plan, with our own broken windows strategy, will get an attentive audience. If our mayor wants to keep his job, he has to get on this job.

After all, is there a more valuable role for a civic government than to make a city safer, cleaner and healthier? •

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.



Field of Dreams: You can watch baseball movies at Vancouver's Nat Bailey Stadium

There's no crying in baseball, but what's the rule for crying at baseball movies?

Nat Bailey Stadium | Chung Chow/BIV files

They built it, but without the Vancouver Canadians playing in it, people have not been coming to Nat Bailey Stadium to hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd this summer. Now a September series of baseball-themed outdoor movie screenings will give Vancouverites a different kind of way to take themselves out to the ball game.

Fresh Air Cinema, with the help of sponsor FortisBC, is hosting three nights of movies at Nat Bailey. Admission is by donation, with the money going to the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Foundation.

The expected attendance is 750 people, and the suggested donation is $10 per ticket. Each attendee must purchase their own ticket to attend.

The venue will honour all provincial health officer orders regarding vaccine passports for events, and social distancing must be maintained while on site. 

Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the movie begins at 7:30 p.m.

A League of Their Own Geena Davis, left, and Tom Hanks star in A League of Their Own. Photo: Columbia Pictures

Here's the schedule:

Sept. 23: A League of Their Own (Tickets)

Sept. 24: Field of Dreams: (Tickets)

Sept. 25: The Rookie (Tickets)

Now, we know there's no crying in baseball, but what's the rule for crying at baseball movies?


Check out some of B.C.'s best emerging artists in this Polygon Gallery showcase

Finalists for Lind Prize on display in North Vancouver

The continuous failures of optimism is a mixed-media installation from Kevin Holliday | Kevin Holliday

A new generation of British Columbian artists will be on display during a showcase at North Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery running Sept. 29 to Oct. 17.

The Lind Prize 2021 display will feature work from the 17 finalists for the Philip B. Lind Emerging Artist Prize, with work spanning the photography field from prints, photo sculpture, video installations and film.

The Lind Prize, established in 2016, is awarded annually to an emerging B.C.-based artist working in film, photography or video. Artists are nominated by staff and faculty from arts institutions and post-secondary programs such as the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria.

Charlotte Zhang every method
A video still from Charlotte Zhang's 2021 work Every Method of Being in the World Looks Wrong But Feels Spectacular | Charlotte Zhang


 "The Polygon was honoured to receive over 70 nominations from across the province this year,” stated gallery director Reid Shier in a release. “With an exhibition showcasing the work of 17 finalists, the Lind Prize continues to expand as a critical showcase of emerging artistic voices in B.C." 

The winner of the Lind Prize, selected by a jury of arts professionals, will receive $5,000 and a chance to produce a project with the Polygon Gallery. The winner will be announced at a distanced award ceremony on Sept. 28. 

Click through the gallery above to see some of the featured work.



Discover the scariest corn maze in Canada and 'pitch black' horror near Vancouver (VIDEO)

The attraction will also include the "scariest forest in Canada."

Maan Farms welcomes guests to journey into the scariest corn maze in Canada, the scariest forest in Canada, and pitch-black horror this September 2021. Photo via Maan Farms Market and Estate Winery / YouTube

Are you afraid of the dark? 

If the dark scares you, a terrifying autumn attraction in the Fraser Valley may frighten you to the depths of your soul. 

The popular Halloween offering, known as the "scariest corn maze in Canada," will open in September, long before All Hallows' Eve — and for good reason. Numerous people descend on the farm each year to scream their voices raw, as they are chased by a variety of terrifying creatures through a corn maze under the cloak of night. 

Each fall, Maan Farms welcomes people from across the Lower Mainland to venture into its haunted adventure. The corn maze's theme this year is a "twisted carnival" complete with freaky clowns that harken back to the 1800s, during the peak of circus culture. "From the cart of ancient wonders to a mysterious gypsy, what foul fortune might befall you within the tall corn?" 

Additionally, the haunted event will include its "pitch black" adventure again. The multi-sensory experience invites brave guests to journey into the darkness where there will be "no sight of a way out, just the hope that the claustrophobic nightmare may end. For the horror extremists, welcome home."

Maan Farms will offer visitors a new attraction this year: the "scariest forest in Canada." Guests will journey into the darkness by a traveller who guides them. "Cursed and slaughtered, the pagan inhabitants of a once-proud settlement have come back beneath the crimson moon to drag down any and all who walk upon their soil," reads the description.

"Venture with us if you will, deep within darkened wood."

Read a review of a previous year's haunted corn maze

Tickets for the haunted event go on sale on Sept. 17 at 5 p.m. for a variety of dates from Sept. 24 to Halloween. All tickets must be purchased online and in groups of four, five, or six. There are no ticket sales at the door. 


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A post shared by Maan Farms (@maanfarms)

Maan Farms is located at 790 McKenzie Road in Abbotsford.


What are we reading? September 16, 2021

Nico De Pasquale Photography/Getty Images

Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.

Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Why Hurricane Ida has caused such lasting damage to the U.S. crude oil supply – an interruption that is being felt in Canada and around the world. – Bloomberg

Helpful explainer on the Mu variant, which has been identified as the cause of dozens of new COVID-19 cases in B.C.MSN

Glen Korstrom, reporter:

Esquire temporarily removed the paywall for this long read about “the jumpers” at the World Trade Centre during the on September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

Much of the piece centred on one man who jumped, and was caught in an iconic photo, appearing to gracefully accept the inevitable by propelling head first with one leg casually bent. 

The story explored the horror of 9/11 and what people on upper floors of the towers must have been going through. It also explored various investigations into determining exactly who the so-called “falling man” was. The piece is worth reading as it explores journalistic issues, such as whether to show photos of people jumping to their deaths, and whether to try to track down potential family members and show them photos of jumpers. – Esquire

Another article related to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and journalism, was this piece on the September 10, 2001 edition of the New York Times. The story – A Time Capsule in Two Front Pages – delves into how different a world we left when the attacks happened. – New York Times

Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

A decade's worth of Big Tech nickel-and-dime acquisitions unreported in the mainstream media but still of interest for fans of digital minutiae and perhaps fertile ground for conspiracy theory nitwits. – Federal Trade Commission

Insights on carbon pricing and why the world needs to establish a standard carbon-pricing floor. –  International Monetary Fund

Nelson Bennett, reporter:

Despite its significant investment in wind power, the UK is suddenly finding itself having to burn more fossil fuels for power. The reason? The wind died down. As this Fortune piece points out, one of the pitfalls of wind and solar power is its unreliability. In the UK’s case, wind power provided about 25% of Britain’s power in 2020, but is currently only providing 7%, simply because there is not as much wind this year. – Fortune

One of two companies in the direct air carbon capture space -- B.C.’s Carbon Engineering and Switzerland’s Climeworks -- has commissioned its first commercial scale plant. Climeworks recently commissioned its Orca direct air carbon capture plant in Iceland. It will suck 4,000 tonnes of CO2 out of the air annually, and sequester it underground. – Energy Industry Review