Living/Working July 9, 2021

Living/Working

July 6, 2021

Lawsuit of the week: Shareholder takes aim at airline's expansion plan

Flair shareholder claims company’s plans rammed through without approval, potentially putting operating licence at risk

Submitted

A shareholder in Flair Airlines Ltd. is taking the low-cost carrier to court, claiming it’s wrongfully withholding key information about a significant expansion of the company’s fleet of aircraft announced in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prescott Strategic Investments LP by its general partner Prescott Strategic Investments Ltd. filed a petition in BC Supreme Court on June 18, naming Flair and Florida-based 777 Partners LLC, a “significant creditor” of the aviation firm, as respondents. Prescott, run by Canadian aviation industry veterans Jim Scott and Jerry Presley, claims in the court filing that the dispute was spurred by Flair’s management deciding to “aggressively expand its operations during a global pandemic” by signing leases on 13 new Boeing 737-8 airplanes with a subsidiary controlled by 777 Partners, also a Flair shareholder. 

According to the petition, Flair’s fleet of three Boeing 737s was mostly grounded from September 2020 to April 2021, with the airline using only one for its Vancouver-Edmonton-Toronto route and its Vancouver-Calgary-Toronto route during that time. Prescott owns just under 68% of the airline’s voting shares, and had taken over the company’s management in 2018.

“Shortly after taking over management of Flair, Prescott’s partners became aware that Flair required an immediate infusion of funds in order to pay down a line of credit,” the petition states, a situation which saw 777 Partners sign on as an investor after being approached by Flair. The airline currently owes 777 Partners $140 million, most of which is at an 18% interest rate.

Prescott claims that the COVID-19 outbreak saw Canadian air travel drop by around 90% of pre-pandemic passenger numbers, causing other airlines such as WestJet (TSX:WJA) and Air Canada (TSX:AC) to scale back or halt expansion plans including cancelling orders for their new Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737-8s.

But Flair went the opposite way, announcing in January 2021 that it was leasing more than a dozen new planes for new routes at five Canadian airports, an announcement that “caused serious concerns for Prescott.” Flair hadn’t sought shareholder approval as required for the leases and expansion plans, Prescott claims.

“Because Flair had already begun selling tickets connected to the expanded services, Flair’s position was entrenched and any after-the-fact vote by shareholders would be futile,” the petition states.

Moreover, the company didn’t get approval for the leases from the Canadian Transportation Agency, raising “significant concern” about whether the leases would put the company under control of 777 Partners, which could lead to a finding that it wasn’t “controlled in fact” by Canadians as required by the Canada Transportation Act. Such a finding could strip the aviation firm of its licence to operate in Canada, Prescott claims. Meanwhile, directors of 777 Partners have allegedly threatened to call in Flair’s debt and put it into receivership if it doesn’t proceed with the leases and expansion plans, which Prescott claims are not in Flair’s best interest.

The petition seeks declarations that Flair’s affairs are “being conducted in a manner that is oppressive” to Prescott, and an order for Flair and 777 Partners to buy Prescott’s shares for $0.85 per share.

The petition’s factual basis has not been tested in court, and Flair and 777 Partners had not filed responses by press time.

 
Leading

Why Horgan should rethink his opposition to hosting World Cup games

In recent days sports bars were saturated and living room couch cushions compressed as men’s teams sought the Euro 2020 and Copa América soccer titles.

This is not news: We know the Lower Mainland is soccer-mad, in a good way.

But we also know that in 2018 John Horgan made many soccer-mad, in a bad way.

Then a rookie B.C. premier, he rebuffed the opportunity for the provincially owned, event-craving BC Place to stage men’s World Cup games when Canada, Mexico and the United States play host to the planet’s biggest sport’s biggest spectacle in 2026.

Horgan said he didn’t want to sign a blank cheque eight years hence.

But much has happened in the interim to clarify costs, many blank pandemic-related cheques with many zeros at the end have since been signed, and an opportunity is emerging for Horgan to soften his stand and bring games to what is, after all, a year-round hub for the sport.

The conversation remains open. The idea is still on the table. The initial decision could be undone, particularly now that Montreal last week withdrew as a host city, leaving Toronto and Edmonton as lone stagers. But only if the B.C. government goes where the Quebec government wouldn’t: into the treasury on a mission to make this more of an investment than a divestment. Nothing has necessarily changed the province’s mind, but something could still.

The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) has been clear it prefers Vancouver’s participation. The city earned plaudits for its participation in the 2015 Women’s World Cup. A major connection is Vancouver businessman Victor Montagliani, president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), one of the sport’s regional governing bodies, and a FIFA Council member. No doubt he wants a hometown 2026 presence.

But time is running short – FIFA will determine host cities in January and wants to tour prospective sites this fall. In case you’re wondering what FIFA pays for the privilege of holding the event here, well, the privilege is ours alone. We give what we’ve got and then some.

The rumoured staging price is steep: $60 million to host three first-round games in the field that will be more dilute than ever. In case you’re wondering, there is no guarantee we’d see the Canadian squad, with its main asset, Vancouver Whitecaps graduate Alphonso Davies, arguably the best left-back in the world, now playing for Bayern Munich.

A relatively small issue is that BC Place would, like so many of the American sites in National Football League facilities, need a natural grass surface atop the synthetic one.

But a big-ticket item – one that might remain unclear pretty much until the event and might prove to be the deal-breaker – is the sizable security and border costs federally and provincially and the indemnification cost for Canadian hosts. The federal government is so far indicating it is only in for half of those expenses, and speculation is that it could approach a 10-figure tab nationally. This is where Horgan is correct about a blank cheque. His government isn’t likely to step forward until there is greater clarity – and charity – coming from a senior partner.

As for junior partners, our former mayor Gregor Robertson was a notoriously aggressive local recreational player. But this council is not sporty by any measure. It doesn’t see the throughline from the encouragement of sport to the definition of identity. While it continues to contemplate support for a 2030 Winter Olympics bid, the World Cup and its deep roots in our ethnic diversity is nowhere on the agenda. It has an uneven, unchampioned track record in courting events, leaving that to others.

A bid would be a grand gesture and political risk at once, and initially it seems hard to square that with Horgan’s prudence as a premier. Then again, there are many more possible benefits beyond the hefty tag for the three games: friendlies in advance and after, training and staging camps in Vancouver and elsewhere in the province and tourism dollars that might otherwise not materialize.

From a facilities standpoint, the province stands to be the beneficiary, because BC Place is operated by the BC Pavilion Corp., better known as PavCo. The Major League Soccer (MLS) Whitecaps and Canadian Football League’s BC Lions call it home. But apart from a handful of trade shows and superstar concerts each year, it is far more idled than addled.

If we aren’t going to tear it down, let’s certainly use it.

We are going to get a taste of what we could savour in 2026 more imminently when 2022 World Cup regional qualifying games are announced shortly for Vancouver. The 2022 World Cup has been delayed, not by the pandemic but by the climate. Host Qatar is screaming hot in mid-year, so the event has been put back to November and December, when its temperatures are more temperate.

Canada has to host seven games in this round in November and next January, and BC Place and perhaps Toronto’s Rogers Stadium are the only two covered stadiums to present predictable comfort, so expect some games here.

We are bound, too, to be tempted to buy back into 2026 because a November game would feature Mexico against Canada and a January one would feature the United States against Canada. When Canada last played Mexico, 15,000 people came here. A U.S. game would bring even more. But only if plenty of Canadian currency is in the mix with those pesos and Yankee dollars will the real event really come here.

On that, the betting line is still bearish. •

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

 

 
Spending

How Vancouver’s city-run gardens and nurseries are fighting food insecurity this summer

VanDusen’s 3,000-pound harvest can serve between 300 and 400 meals each day

Chef Matthew Phillip from Shaughnessy Restaurant will be creating dishes with fresh ingredients harvested from the VanDusen Botanical Garden | Shaughnessy Restaurant

Two Vancouver gardens are using their harvests to feed people in Vancouver who are experiencing food insecurity this summer.

The VanDusen Botanical Garden donates 75% of its approximately 3,000-pound annual harvest to the Gathering Place Community Centre. Using the provided produce, the centre serves between 300 and 400 lunches and dinners each day to community members who have food security needs.

“We’ve been serving fresh, organic salads with the produce we’ve received so far and people love it. We’re looking forward to receiving a variety of produce throughout summer,” said Diane Brown, food services coordinator for the Gathering Place Community Centre.

Camil Dumont, a Vancouver Park Board Chair, says seeing the program help people who otherwise may not be able to afford their own fresh produce is a meaningful experience.

“Food system sustainability is of great importance,” Dumont said. “It’s rewarding to see our system and our staff working to better the Vancouver food landscape in this way.”

The remaining produce grown at VanDusen goes to Shaughnessy Restaurant, which overlooks VanDusen Garden, for its Taste of the Garden series this summer. 

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A post shared by VanDusen Botanical Garden (@vandusengarden)

Each week, Chef Matthew Phillip will be creating dishes with fresh ingredients harvested from VanDusen’s veggie garden. From appetizers to dessert, produce, botanicals and herbs will be highlighted to inspire what local, urban, sustainable cuisine is all about. A rotating menu with featured seasonal dishes will be available all summer long. The restaurant is donating the money it would spend to buy the produce to Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks.

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation’s Sunset Nursery is also growing vegetables and sending produce to Carnegie Community Centre. Last year, Sunset grew 6,840 pounds of produce, which was sent to organizations that provide residents with access to fresh food.

Vancouver’s city-run golf courses also grow produce; in the summer you may find greens from our greens on the menu at your favourite beach or pool concession stand

 

 
Spending

Vancouver’s biggest celebration of all things meat and beer returns in 2021

After taking a hiatus during the pandemic, this epic food and drink fest is back in Vancouver this fall

Brewery & The Beast returns to Vancouver on September 26, 2021Brewery & The Beast | Facebook

The grills stayed cold in 2020 as Vancouver’s popular annual celebration of all things meat and beer, Brewery & The Beast, was sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But fear not, carnivores: Brewery & The Beast Vancouver is back for 2021.

Taking place near the tail-end of September, the festival that brings together brewers and local chefs and restaurants for a meat-tastic day of eating and drinking will once again fill Concord Pacific Plaza with grill smoke and revelry.

The fully outdoors and 19+ event takes place rain or shine, and your ticket is inclusive of all food and drink, which means no fumbling for cash while you’re balacing a cup of beer and a plate of ribs or chicken. Of course, it’s not all meat; in 2019, the last time the epic event went down, the festival made it a point to feature more locally-sourced seafood and produce. That year, Brewery & the Beast featured a whopping nearly 60 participating vendors and restaurants. 

Here are all the participants confirmed so far for 2021:

A * indicates a first-time appearance at the event.

More participating vendors are expected to be added as the event date approaches. Tickets for the Vancouver event go on sale starting July 14.

Brewery & The Beast is also organizing a Victoria event, to be held on Sunday, September 12 and featuring several Vancouver Island and capital region restaurants and chefs. Those tickets go on sale July 7.

Partial proceeds from the events will be donated to the Chefs Table Society of BC.

Brewery & The Beast Vancouver

When: Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021 from 1-4 p.m.

Where: Concord Pacific Plaza - 811 Carrall St, Vancouver

Cost: $165.95 per ticket. Tickets go on sale July 14; buy online  

This article was originally published on June 15, 2021, and has been updated with new information

 

 
Spending

Peek inside first Rec Room entertainment venue in Metro Vancouver

Play over 90 games, choose brews from 16 taps, and dig into Canadian-inspired eats, all in one jaw-dropping space

The Rec Room entertainment centre in B.C. at the Amazing Brentwood | Cineplex

B.C.’s first outpost of Cineplex’s Rec Room entertainment mega-space is finally ready to open its doors to welcome fun-seekers in its sprawling new digs at Burnaby’s Amazing Brentwood.

The new 43,000-square-foot complex offers amusement gaming experiences, sit-down dining, quick food while you play over 90 games and feature attractions.

Touted as an “ultimate meeting place” for eating, drinking, and playing anything from classic video games like Atari Pong to ping pong, the movie theatre giant’s entertainment multi-pronged “hot spot” already operates locations elsewhere in Canada, including in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg.

While the Burnaby Rec Room is the first in the chain to launch in British Columbia, Cineplex is already at work on a three-story, 45,000-square-foot outpost right in the heart of Vancouver’s “entertainment district” on Granville Street. That Rec Room will boast a rooftop patio multiple dining options, over 100 amusement games, a live performance space, bowling and virtual reality.

Fans of playing Mario Kart or shooting pool and tucking into Canadian-inspired pub grub and sipping on beer can get a taste of the action at the Amazing Brentwood Rec Room, even as the province is just moving into Step 3 of its “restart plan” with loosened restrictions on food and entertainment venues.

Cineplex assures guests the venue’s current COVID-combatting protocols include enhanced cleaning, safety signage, and a games-floor and dining-space configuration designed specifically to ensure proper physical distancing throughout the facility, according to a media release. 

Other Rec Room highlights in Burnaby include the use of RFID wristbands to track credits earned, which can be redeemed at The Trophy Case, for great prizes and nostalgia-inspired treats and toys. 

Plans include the Rec Room offering live entertainment like local music, comedy, DJs, trivia, and karaoke once additional provincial restrictions are lifted.

When it comes to food, the Rec Room Brentwood actually is home to multiple dining options, including a full-service restaurant called Three10. You can also “eat while you compete” from a menu of hand-held fare to be enjoyed while playing games. 

Between the main bar and The Shed, guests can choose from 16 draught beers on tap, including locally sourced brews, and watch sports on several big-screen TVs.

The Rec Room Brentwood is located directly below the new, soon-to-open Cineplex VIP Cinemas Brentwood, anchoring Phase One of The Amazing Brentwood redevelopment. Both The Rec Room and VIP Cinemas will face onto a one-acre events plaza. It’s located at 1920 Willingdon Avenue, Unit 21-06, in Burnaby, and is open daily from 4 p.m. to midnight.

With files from Chris Campbell/Burnaby Now

 
Exploring

What are we reading? July 8, 2021

Photo: I-Love-It-When-You-Smile/Getty Images

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

 

Kirk LaPointe, publisher and editor in chief:

The extraordinary tale of a music superstar in the control of her father has been the summer’s big celebrity diversion. This exceptional piece of reporting explores Britney Spears’ quest to shake off conservatorship by her father, with new information that prompted resignations this week by her manager and her lawyer. – The New Yorker

https://www.newyorker.com/news/american-chronicles/britney-spears-conservatorship-nightmare

 

The federal government has posted “guiding principles” for diversity in online content. No matter your perspective, certainly worth reading. – Government of Canada

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/diversity-content-digital-age/guiding-principles.html

 

Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Why women feel side effects from COVID-19 vaccines more keenly – and why clinical trials failed to predict the gender imbalance in the immune response. – The Walrus  

https://thewalrus.ca/same-vaccine-different-effects-why-women-are-feeling-worse-after-the-jab/

 

The number of electric vehicles on B.C. roads is fast outpacing the ability of fast-charging stations to keep up with demand, notes a new B.C. government report. Industry observers point to several ways to meet EV needs, including a heavy jolt of private investment. – electricautonomy.ca

https://electricautonomy.ca/2021/06/21/parkland-bc-ev-charging-network/

 

Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

Sobering job loss numbers caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic according to OECD estimates: 114 million and counting.

https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/5a700c4b-en/1/2/2/index.html?itemId=/content/publication/5a700c4b-en&_csp_=d31326a7706c58707d6aad05ad9dc5ab&itemIGO=oecd&itemContentType=book

 

Good news and bad news on the anti-aging front. – Neoscope

https://futurism.com/neoscope/delay-dna-aging-castrated