Living/Working September 7, 2018


September 7, 2018

B.C. still the ‘laggard’ in online voting ahead of elections

Despite rising support in municipalities, B.C. has declined to permit online ballots

Usman Mukaty, left, Hypervote co-founder and product manager, and Sakib Hossain, full-stack developer, demonstrate online voting software developed by the startup tech company | Chung Chow

Instead of hitting the polls for next month’s municipal elections, Ontarians living in hundreds of communities will be clicking their mouse buttons as they cast their votes online.

“In terms of electoral modernization, British Columbian municipalities would be very much the laggard,” said Nicole Goodman, an assistant professor at Brock University and director of the Centre for e-Democracy at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

While B.C. has the technology and capacity for online voting, the province has yet to gather the political will to make it happen.

“Voting is flawed and could be more accessible and more transparent,” said HyperVote co-founder Usman Mukaty.

His Vancouver-based startup has been facilitating online voting for Canadian organizations and has been in talks with larger cities like Richmond and Burnaby about eventually introducing online voting down the road.

Mukaty said municipalities have been receptive to the idea, but it still remains off the table ahead of the October municipal elections.

Before cities can adopt such tools, the provincial government would need to pass legislation to allow online voting in municipalities.

Ontario and Nova Scotia were the first provinces to do so in Canada, and there have been attempts over the past decade to introduce online voting in B.C.

The City of Vancouver originally asked the province to permit online voting for the 2011 municipal elections.

Victoria blocked those efforts, but Elections BC, the independent agency overseeing voting in the province, created an independent panel the following year to review the prospect of online ballots.

The 2014 report from the Independent Panel on Internet Voting concluded that “internet voting has some significant inherent risks” and recommended the province not proceed with it for provincial or municipal elections. The panel expressed concerns that online voting security could be compromised through cyberattacks and that authenticating the identities of voters would prove challenging.

But Mukaty said HyperVote’s technology could address those concerns.

Its platform is built on a blockchain system – an electronic ledger that cannot be manipulated by a third party – that distributes online voting IDs to users via email. Its platform then requires users to submit those IDs if they wish to cast a vote.

The prospect of online voting becomes more secure and more transparent, because someone can instantly see if his or her vote has been registered.

“In this day and age we all bank online,” said Town of Osoyoos councillor CJ Rhodes. “If that level of security is achievable through the banking process, I’ve always felt that it could be developed and moved forward with the voting process in our province.”

Rhodes presented a resolution at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention the year after the Independent Panel on Internet Voting released its report.

The UBCM resolution was passed and forwarded to Peter Fassbender, then the provincial minister of community, sport and cultural development under the previous BC Liberal government.

Rhodes said Fassbender was receptive to online voting, but the resolution ultimately went nowhere.

The BC NDP government’s highest-profile foray into changing the way British Columbians vote has centred on a referendum on proportional representation set for the fall. The province referred  Business in Vancouver to the Independent Panel’s 2014 report when asked about its current position on online voting.

“Canadians and British Columbians … are typically dreadful at turning out at voting time,” Rhodes said. “My challenge back in the day, and still, is to try to improve that situation, and I felt very strongly that online voting would be very user friendly.”

Voter turnout for last year’s provincial elections climbed from 57% to 61% between the 2013 and 2017 municipal elections.

Meanwhile, voter turnout in the City of Vancouver grew from 35% in 2011 to 43.4%.

Goodman, whose own research has examined how technology affects the way people participate in democracy, said efforts to introduce widespread online voting are still stymied by a lack of rules standardization across Canada.



Crazy rich Asian dumplings

Hit movie inspires recipes for Chinese-style vegetarian potstickers, steamed pork and prawn siu mai

With the siu mai dumpling, top, the wrapper does not completely enclose the filling, unlike the potstickers, below | Photos: Eric Akis

I recently saw the charming, visually stimulating and humorous movie Crazy Rich Asians. It’s quite a romantic story, and I felt happy after seeing it. I also felt hungry.

That’s because the film has some palate-awakening food scenes, including one shot at a hawker centre in Singapore. At that outdoor food complex, which houses numerous food stalls, four of the movie’s actors enjoy a range of that city-state’s best- known dishes, such as satay and hokkien mee, a mix of egg and rice noodles with egg, pork and shrimp.

As tasty as that scene was, the part of the movie that really made me want to come home and cook was the one shot in the lead actor’s family home. In it, multiple generations of that fictional Chinese- heritage family are making dumplings. When they were shown deliciously cooked, I had the most incredible craving for them.

Chinese-style dumplings are definitely one of my favourite foods, and part of the reasons is because you can shape, fill and form them in a variety of ways. To sate my desire to have some, the day after seeing the movie, I shopped for ingredients to make two of my favourite types, potstickers and siu mai.

Potstickers are made by topping a thin, round dumpling wrapper with a filling, folding the wrapper into half moon shape, and then crimping the edges. The dumpling is then quickly seared and steamed in a pan. When cooked, they may cling a bit to the bottom of the pan, which is why they are called potstickers.

I filled my vegetarian version of them with a flavourful tofu, mushroom and vegetable mixture. I went the meat-free route to offer quite a different taste from my other dumpling, sui mai, which I filled with a ground pork and prawn mixture.


According to Martin Yan’s book, Chinatown Cooking, siu mai is one of the most popular Cantonese-styles of dumpling. And, unlike most steamed Chinese-style dumplings, the wrapper does not completely enclose the filling; it is left open at the top.

For both of my dumplings, rather than make my own wrapper, as they were shown doing in the movie, I decided to buy them ready-made. Doing that meant I could make and eat dumplings more quickly.

You can serve the dumplings as an appetizer, or make a meal of them by serving them with another dish, perhaps a colourful mix of stir-fried vegetables.

Vegetarian Potstickers

These yummy, addictive potstickers are filled with a crumbled tofu mixture, rich with mushrooms, vegetables and seasonings, such as chili sauce, ginger and soy sauce.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: about 25 minutes

Makes: 36 potstickers

3 Tbsp plus 2 tsp vegetable oil (divided)

5 fresh medium, shiitake mushrooms, tough stems removed, caps halved, and then thinly sliced

1 small baby bok choy, stem end trimmed, upper leaves, thinly sliced, widthwise

1/4 cup grated carrot

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 (12 oz/350 gram) block medium-firm tofu, drained well

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 green onion, minced

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp hot Asian-style chili sauce, such as sriracha

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp cornstarch

36 fresh Chinese-style round dumpling wrappers (see Note)

• cold water

• Dumpling Dipping Sauce (see recipe below)

Pour 2 tsp of the oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook two minutes. Add the bok choy and carrots and cook 90 seconds more. Mix in the garlic and cook 30 seconds, or until mushrooms are tender. Spoon and spread this mixture on a plate and cool to room temperature.

While mushrooms and vegetables cool, set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Crumble the tofu into very small pieces into the sieve. Allow tofu to rest for 10 minutes so any excess moisture can drip out.

Place the tofu into a bowl and add the cooked, cooled mushroom/vegetable mixture. Now add the cilantro, green onion, ginger, soy sauce, chili sauce, sesame oil and cornstarch. Mix until well combined.

Have ready a small bowl of cold water. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set a dumpling wrapper on a work surface. Dip a finger, or a small brush, in the cold water and lightly moisten the edges of the wrapper with it.

Place a scant tablespoon of the tofu mixture in the centre of the wrapper. Fold one side of the wrapper over the filling, push out any air, and then tightly press the edges of the wrapper together to form a sealed half-moon. Now fold over and crimp the edges of the potsticker for a more decorative look. Set the potsticker on the baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. Ensure the potstickers do not touch on the baking sheet or they will stick together.

Pour 1 Tbsp of the vegetable oil into a large (mine was 10 inches wide), heavy, non-stick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, set in 12 potstickers and cook until golden on the bottom, about 90 seconds. Do not turn the potstickers and, being careful about splatters, pour in 3 Tbsp of water. Cover and cook for three to four minutes, gently swirling the pan from time to time.

Remove the lid and continue cooking until the liquid has almost completely evaporated, and the potstickers are softened and heated through, about one minute. Transfer the cooked potstickers to a serving dish and enjoy now, or keep warm in a 200 F oven until all are cooked.

Cook the remaining potstickers in this fashion, adding 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil to the pan with each new batch. Serve the potstickers with the dumpling dipping sauce (see Eric’s options).

Note: The round dumpling wrappers I used in both of today’s recipes were 3 1/2-inches (about 9 cm) wide. They are sold in the produce section of some supermarkets, such as Fairway Market in Victoria. You’ll also find them at Chinese food stores. The dumpling wrappers you have left over can be frozen, to thaw and use at another time.

Eric’s options: Instead of dumpling dipping sauce, simply serve the potstickers with rice vinegar, soy sauce and chili sauce, such as sriracha, for drizzling on them. The potstickers, and also the siu mai (page C3), uncooked, freeze well. To do so, once filled, set them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, not touching, and then freeze until solid. Now transfer to a freezer bag and keep frozen until ready to cook. When you do, cook the dumplings from frozen, and cook them a bit longer. For the potstickers, also use medium heat, as the cooler temperature and longer cooking time will allow them to thaw and cook through without overly darkening.

Steamed Pork and Prawn Siu Mai

This style of open at the top, steamed dumpling is very popular at dim sum restaurants. My version is made by mixing ground pork and coarsely chopped prawns with a range of full flavoured ingredients, such as garlic, ginger, sesame oil and white pepper.

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Cooking time: About four to five minutes, per batch

Makes: 18 siu mai

300 grams ground pork

180 grams peeled, raw prawns (about 15 small- to medium-sized prawns), coarsely chopped

1 green onion, minced

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp sesame oil

• ground white pepper, to taste

• cold water

18 fresh Chinese-style round dumpling wrappers (see potsticker recipe Note)

• Dumpling Dipping Sauce (see recipe below)

Place the first nine ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.

Have ready a small bowl of cold water. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Set a dumpling wrapper on a work surface. Dip a finger, or a small brush, in the cold water and lightly moisten the edges of the wrapper with it. Set a generous 1 Tbsp of the pork/prawn mixture in the centre of the wrapper.

Lift up the sides of the wrapper and gently squeeze to encase the pork mixture inside. Push down any pork mixture that rose above the wrapper. Set the dumpling on the baking sheet. Fill and form the remaining wrappers as you did the first.

Line a bamboo or stainless steamer with a round of parchment paper you’ve perforated with a few small holes. You could also line the steamer with leaf lettuce leaves. Place some of the dumplings in the steamer, ensuring they do not touch. Cover and steam over simmering water four to five minutes, or until cooked through.

Transfer the cooked dumplings to a serving dish (see Eric’s options) and enjoy now, or keep warm in a 200 F oven until all are cooked.

Cook the remaining dumplings as you did the first batch. Serve the dumplings with the dumpling dipping sauce.

Eric’s options: If you have more than one bamboo steamer, which are sold in Victoria’s Chinatown, you could serve the dumplings directly from it. While enjoying the first batch of them, you could have the next batch steaming and cooking in a second steamer.

Dumpling Dipping Sauce

Dip your dumplings into this flavourfull mixture with salty, sour, spicy and sweet flavours. If you don’t think 2/3 cup of dip will be enough for you, simply double the recipe.

Preparation time: five minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: about 2/3 cup

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 Tbsp hoisin sauce

1/2 tsp finely grated freshly ginger

1 green onion, very thinly sliced

1 tsp Asian-style hot chili sauce, such as sriracha, or to taste

1 tsp roasted sesame seeds (see Note)

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate dip until needed.

Note: Roasted sesame seeds are sold in bags or bottles at some supermarkets. If you can’t find them, cook regular sesame seeds in a skillet set over medium heat until lightly toasted.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks, including seven in his Everyone Can Cook series. His columns appear in the Times Colonist’s Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

Times Colonist


What are we reading? September 6, 2018


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


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

A lot of companies are shifting into electric car production, but will any of them make money from that production? – Washington Times

Energy hogs are us: biggest per-capita energy consumers south of the border – U.S. Energy Information Administration

Big bucks in battling weather – BusinessGreen


Emma Crawford Hampel, online editor:

How happy are your neighbours? UBC study finds Vancouverites are some of the unhappiest Canadians. - The Ubyssey


Canada should ignore Trump’s temper tantrums and start focusing on other trading partners, according to Neil Macdonald, who argues Trump’s fibs make NAFTA negotiations impossible. - CBC


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

A bright spot last week amid general trade gloom, as the U.S. International Trade Commission shoots down Trump’s tariffs on Canadian newsprint – New York Times’s Duncan Cameron on the risks of being too eager to ink a new NAFTA deal:

“There is little popular support in Canada for making concessions to Donald Trump on trade. Indeed, the Liberals risk lasting losses in public esteem should Team Trudeau give in to the bully in the White House.” –


Glen Korstrom, reporter:

Finally getting around to reading the 2012 travelogue Route 66 Still Kicks, by former Tourism Vancouver CEO Rick Antonson. Some great writing with an interesting mix of history and anecdotes about people met while traveling the original Route 66 - “The Main Street of America.”


Nelson Bennett, reporter:

Is business investment and confidence really down in Canada? According to Steven Globerman at Western Washington University, foreign direct investment in Canada has, indeed, fallen, especially compared with the U.S., and divestment has been particularly pronounced in the mining, oil and gas and manufacturing sectors between 2015 and 2017. – National Post


No demand for Alberta diluted bitumen? Think again. A lot of misperceptions are cleared up in this primer on Canadian oil production. While refineries capable of refining heavy crudes from Canada are more complex and costly, they have higher margins. Mega-refineries in China, the U.S. Gulf Coast and Middle East have been built or expanded, and the demand for heavy oil is growing, not declining. –  Oil Sands Magazine


While many people might assume that renewable fuel standards requiring ethanol to be added to gasoline is all about reducing greenhouse gases, in the U.S. the standard put in place in 2007 largely because of the high cost of foreign oil imports, says the The R Street Institute.  In the U.S., it is a market distorting policy that needs to go, the institute says. – The Washington Times


Hayley Woodin, reporter

FleishmanHillard HighRoad and Mustel Group, along with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, have published survey results that show residents, businesses and politicians aren’t necessarily on the same page when it comes to certain issues. In some cases, they are. The result is a handbook (with lots of graphics) that should where we lie on the biggest issues in this municipal election. - Greater Vancouver Board of Trade


I have a wearable, and when I remember to charge it, obsess over how many steps I’ve taken each day. It reminds me to move. But that 10,000-steps-a-day goal? This article points out it’s largely arbitrary. It also offers new questions to ask, such as, “How many steps are too few?” and “Does speed matter?” - The Guardian



Tee time following breakfast for Vincent

Vincent was alone in the hotel restaurant when I arrived before 7 to see a friend for breakfast, and I hadn’t seen him in the flesh for ages.

He was reading the paper, trim for 70, quick and cheery to say hello, and I told him I was looking forward to seeing him again later that day.

I suspected we could strike up a conversation about many things, but I knew the easiest route was to start talking about golf, his second passion after his work. He excels at one as he does the other: a one-handicap that he told me came from playing six days a week and staying within his game.

He is an accomplished multi-millionaire businessman, and his attention to detail is instructive in making the difference in work and play. He spoke of golf the way a CFO talks about the balance sheet.

It was difficult to sort out what was business and what was pleasure in his life, so intertwined were they. They were twin tracks that could keep him talking endlessly. His career had intersected with so many that he didn’t even consider it name-dropping to say his coach is Johnny Miller, the former PGA star whose acerbic commentary makes NBC must-watch TV on many weekends. He spoke of the “muscle memory” from Miller’s tutelage to give him a swing that keeps him in fairway after fairway.

“He told me I’ll never win a long-drive contest,” he said. “I only practise chipping and putting now.”

He’d shot one-over the day before, a score I usually accumulate on the first hole and do nothing to ever make better.

As the clock struck 7, he ordered steak (“pink, not red”) and eggs and I left him to eat peacefully and alone, but as I sat across the room to wait for a friend to join me, I reflected on his business and how he had mastered its stability and reputation over more than a half-century.

He had survived, even flourished in a field with all too many casualties. Many I’ve spoken to were surprised he was still healthy – and indeed wealthy and wise. I’d read recently he’d amassed a fortune of $40 million.

His body of work had connected with a wide market, the big city and the suburbs, the old and young, men and women, and it had sustained respect – a grudging respect in some cases, but mostly a respect of awe – as a serious business that took itself only a bit seriously.

His days were organized nice and neat: early to rise, golf in the day, a bit of a midday break, some attention to the business, perhaps another break, then the real work in the evening. And on to the next chapter. There was plenty of travel in splitting his time between his two companies, plenty of productivity with both and lots of miles in the air, but a groundedness that belied what many first considered when they thought of him.

It turns out the excesses are for show.

He had a devout reputation and network, a business that had been profitable but was notoriously generous with its employees, so he was comfortable in his skin as I talked to him.

The last time I had seen him, ages ago now, he was carrying a beer early in the day. No longer. The booze was in the way of his longevity, so he gave it up, placed his faith in God, and replaced his one addiction with the other on the links. His autobiography declares him a “golf monster.”

And when he came over again to talk before he left, to see my friend’s newborn and shoot the breeze, I couldn’t help but envy his setup. He was heading out to Shaughnessy Golf Club (“I know the head pro”), curious about the proximity of the forest fires and looking forward to the day he had created of confident balance as a businessman in the public eye.

The year ahead is busily planned: a new presentation, a new line of products from his two companies.

“Everything is working
better at 70,” he told me. “Everything.”

He is an original, and he can look back on a business decision 50 years ago now – to change the name of his business when he discovered another business of the same name.

Vincent Furnier became the one and only Alice Cooper

Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver Media Group and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.