“The number of resumes I see at work from people currently in Vancouver looking to leave, or that have already left is pretty surprising.”

westcoastfella [living in Toronto] at RE Talks 11 Jun 2011 8:08am
“The number of resumes I see at work from people currently in Vancouver looking to leave, or that have already left is pretty surprising. The simple fact is they make more in Toronto and pay less for everything around them, and when you’re raising a family and have no tangible ties to Vancouver, it can sometimes be an easy decision to make. My observations are anecdotal for sure, I’m one guy in one industry. But the people I hire are technical engineers earning 70-120K a year (so 60-90 in Vancouver) – not the sort that Vancouver wants to be losing in droves.”

“My brother works in the film industry in Vancouver, and after a few years of nonstop employment, no longer has steady work. He said that there is nearly nothing filming now (which is understandable given its the summer), but more alarming, there is little on the horizon for the fall. 4 regular TV shows film there in the winter, and a handful of movies – but not enough to employ the industry in any significant way, he estimated 40-50% of the usual workers are looking for work. He is leaving this summer to go to Toronto or Montreal, or possibly Europe. The high dollar is stopping some projects from coming here at all, and a lot of others are moving east.”

“I’m not too surprised that the local Vancouver media has not picked up on it, given the negativity of the implication – I’m sure they’ll finally start reporting on it when its too late.”

36 responses to ““The number of resumes I see at work from people currently in Vancouver looking to leave, or that have already left is pretty surprising.”

  1. Aldus Huxtable

    I have heard Regina’s film industry is booming. One can assume that with the squeeze of budgets no longer being virtually unlimited due to a lack of revenue from DVD sales et al, that productions are now looking to be as cheap as possible. Ever wonder why television is flooded with reality TV? It’s the cheapest television to make.

    A quick search around google reveals some of the cost comparisons between filming in Vancouver and Regina;

    Temporary Street Use Permits are issued at various rates: (Minimum of $20 per permit)
    Parking lane, sidewalk or boulevard: $0.10/m2/day
    Driving lane or alley: $0.15/m2/day
    Metered parking lane: $0.45/m2/day

    Each filming location / day will require at least one Film Activity Permit, at a cost of $150 per permit (plus HST).
    The amount of street space being used and the types of City services required will determine the number of permits required. (Also $150/ea)
    major parks and beaches $832.14/day
    neighbourhood parks $624.11/day

  2. I wasn’t sure if Regina is that busy, I checked the DGC-Saskatchewan site. They had nothing listed for current productions. The BCDGC site listed 3 features,1 mini series, 6 TV movies, and 7 TV series in production.

  3. Things have definitely slowed in the Vancouver film business. We have the ability to staff 40 shows and, according to NM’s list, there are only 17 shows prepping/shooting – 7 of which are short term. We face competition not only from other cities in Canada but places like Louisiana who offer tax credits and financial rebates that we can never begin to match. That said, it is a cyclical business in some ways and things could rebound quickly. For all my friends who work in the industry I certainly hope that’s true.

  4. With regard to the comment in the post about losing engineers to Toronto, how do you know Vancouver doesn’t want to lose them? Maybe that’s exactly what Vancouver wants! Ever noticed that Vancouver despite all its potentials and advantages never really wants to be anything more than a service/RE/tourism oriented economy? We want to be green and sustainable damnit! We want to be a beautiful city where one can bike along the seawall, enjoy the natural beauty, hang out at the local beach/park/Starbucks discussing the important events unfolding around the world. You can’t do anything of these stuff all we got are geeky engineering slaving away day and night in some dirty industry parks! 🙂

  5. Besides the movie industry moving east so is the gaming industry by the looks of it.

    Ubisoft is opening their new studio (500+) in Toronto, not in Vancouver, they do have a little satellite office out here which is a studio they bought, how long they’ll keep it, who knows.

    In the last three years EA has condensed their presence, they gave up their downtown office (admirably a bit swanky) and moved everybody to their Burnaby location where they had quite a bit of blood letting.

    The rest of the industry is in a similar phase, where they only give people apparently short term contracts based on projects, instead of hiring people full time in order to have them go from project to project.

    So in the big picture it doesn’t look very good:

    – Movie / TV industry? Moving or gone.
    – Game Industry? moving or gone.
    – [insert classic Vancouver / BC industry]

    Really all that is left is tourism, more or less, and even that is taking a hit as ships are bypassing Vancouver on their cruises and rather sail from Seattle (I think they still have to stop here briefly due to some archaic American law that doesn’t allow foreign flagged vessels to go straight from US port to US port) and in the long term I really don’t see this changing.

    Which also poses a question for me: Where do I want to be? If I look at my career and business I should be in Toronto, not in Vancouver and I constantly get emails asking about my availability for contract work, in Toronto.

    So, by years end I have to figure out where to go. I still try to define what Vancouver means to me and so far the only thing I have found is the outdoors and being away from Vancouver and the lower mainland, though if I do that, why not move somewhere outside of Vancouver, make the same money (I work remotely) and just enjoy that?

    Yep, options options options.

  6. “That said, it is a cyclical business in some ways and things could rebound quickly. For all my friends who work in the industry I certainly hope that’s true.”

    Regarding the film industry – the weak US dollar is most likely moving more filmings out of Canada.

  7. To me it begs the question, is it really high RE prices that’s the bane of Vancouver competing with the “big boys”? I think it’s more insidious than that. Vancouver has had but a handful of entrepreneurial “success stories” but most are lackluster at best: even the “success stories” seem to collapse on themselves after about 10 years or are offshored, with no lasting legacy, with strong development teams — even ones that attempted to pay American pay scales to attract the top talent — going supernova to other small-to-medium-sized companies.

    So what’s really going on?

    • Anything, at least in the computer field, that has proven successful has moved to other places, mainly the US, either on it’s own power or being sold to a US company.

      Having hung around the “startup” world here in Van for a bit I think what is happening is that this is the place where quite a few smart people come to play, mainly outdoors. On the side they develop an idea and because wages here are low (comparatively) they start their business here.

      They soon realize that the cost of doing business here is high, that the good employees want to have money they don’t have so they either move or sell the business (Flickr comes to mind) and the cycle repeats.

      There really isn’t that much high-tech success here, it’s mostly a lot of self celebrating of the “high technology” field. Vancouver was a small border town with a large rail yard and some industries that lived off of the interior (e.g. sawmills, tanneries in False Creek). Once those industries were “cleaned up” there wasn’t really a lot left.

      I have been here now five years, I still can’t figure out what all the people here do. The Tech people I know all seem to hope for the big break or work for a US company that once upon a time decided it was cheaper here than in the US, but that seems to be changing quickly too.

      Interesting times ahead for Vancouver, and BC as a whole, that’s for sure.

      • Michael -> Will headline your comment at some point; thanks.

      • My personal knowledge based on family and friends’ experience is that many Vancouverites rely on money made elsewhere – whether that be business or investment income. And I’m not talking about HAM which appears to be similar in nature to some extent (outside of the RE banking/laundering phenomenon). In most cases, the trend is that these folks eventually leave to lower cost jurisdictions especially if they have a large windfall from selling their Vancouver RE holdings. The financial crisis seems to be accelerating this trend.

      • Michael -> Will headline your comment at some point; thanks.

        In that case, can you replace “border” with “harbor”? 🙂 I didn’t notice it before I submitted 🙂

      • Hear hear. I’m a developer here and I work in a small remote outpost of a big US company. It’s the only way I could make a decent salary – the local software dev jobs don’t pay squat.

    • jesse -> Yeah, excellent question, why do these endeavours not seem to find lasting traction here?
      Is this related to pervasive frontier-town mentality? (make a quick buck and leave or retire)
      Or is it because BC has a reputation across Canada as a place that you move to in order to play/retire (rather than to set-up-shop, to work)? (Tourism, gambling, cruise ships, weed, the Island, the islands, ski-swim-one-day, coffee shops, etc.)
      Has Vancouver self-selected, over the years, for folks who don’t particularly want to work hard?

      Regardless, overpriced RE is worsening the picture… Vancouver must be even less attractive to entrepreneurs now than in the past.

      • I have given the situation in Vancouver some thought and I think it’s always going to be the case that other parts of the world will offer better career opportunities simply because they are bigger and more diverse. This makes sense, where different regions will specialize in different areas and produce efficiency through trade. These days the concept of geography-centric business is less an issue but still there.

        I do think labour mobility to handle economic swings is a big part. I am sure any Vancouver-based entrepreneur can share stories of the difficulties surrounding attracting people to Vancouver and then attempting to convince the government to give them a work visa. Not so simple and can take many months. In the US there are visas like TN/H1 available to handle peak loading for skilled labour shortages.

        So I see five problems right off the bat:
        1) Few seem to put Vancouver high enough on the world stage to warrant moving there — their professional network in larger areas is more difficult to maintain so will pass up moving to a “fringe” economy.
        2) Immigration and worker laws are not set up to handle skilled migrants like in the US.
        3) When a company reaches a certain size, nobody seems to know what to do. The concept of operating a large corporation in a province with a distinct absence of large corporations makes the moving of operations to a larger centre, or being bought out by a bigger fish, the best financial option. On this vein, the provincial government is “out of its element” when trying to attract these large businesses.
        4) Generally, the difference between top-notch business-focused enterprises in, say, Silicon Valley, and the business community in Vancouver is stark. Ops down there are laser-focused on the business case and work their butts off to make them successful. Anyone who has worked for successful startups in the US can attest to the step-change in quality and focus compared to most of Vancouver’s startups. So part of it is simply a training issue, where very few entrepreneurs have experienced success so find it hard to mimic it.There are exceptions, but they are few.
        5) Ironically, startup money is available and the governments step in to attempt to foster success. This may actually backfire because the terms are open-ended and can lead to aloof pursuits. I have been repeatedly surprised by what gets funded.

        Now none of these things need to change for Vancouver, but if people are wondering why others are leaving, there are some good reasons, completely unrelated to real estate.

      • When I moved to Vancouver, I was constantly reminded by my working peers that Vancouver is the place to live when you have money – not the best place if you need to earn money. I should also point out that I know many Vancouver families that earn a substantial share of their income from real estate rentals of assets purchased during the collapse in prices during the 90’s. I know several people that own half a dozen, and in some cases more, houses / condos with very little mortgage debt. I also know a few less fortunate families who have been able to make ends meet by regularly pulling equity out of their homes and living day to day in Vancouver for as long as the upswing in prices lasts. In many cases, the appreciation in Vancouver prices has allowed this latter group to have comparable incomes to working and living elsewhere. I don’t believe this situation will last much longer as now even a small percentage price decline will be relatively large in magnitude. These families will eventually be forced to sell. Some of the more liquid / less leveraged households will look to sell when prices drop by at least 10% since this amount in most cases is a substantial amount of retirement savings. Those families that purchased their Vancouver real estate investments nearly 20 years ago are unlikely to significantly sell even if prices drop 50% since they can’t afford the capital gains tax at this point in their lives.

      • “unlikely to significantly sell even if prices drop 50% since they can’t afford the capital gains tax”

        I wonder how many factored in CGT when buying 20 years ago. Best wait until the market crashes or they retire to cash out? LOL Do people really think like this?

      • We’re connected to the gaming & film industries here through IT. Both can amount to grinding, factory-like labour. IT is a good place to be in, but I wouldn’t want to be a developer! Burnout is pretty high, long hours around a project common, and $50-75K doesn’t look so hot if you’re working 70 hours a week. What attracts most of the employees is the fun & glamour of it, but that wears thin if you’re just adding after-effects or wiring up backgrounds or adding a widget.

        I graduated from UBC Comp Sci and a huge swath of my class had the urge to build games. Only most that started out making video games then left for pretty much anything else, because gaming isn’t something you can easily do and have a life or family too, and there are a million ideas out there.

        So from what I’ve seen it’s hard to season or grow a career in these industries – unless you have lots of hours for work or have one of a few stable and needed positions. HR, IT, services like that. I know a bunch who are entrepreneurs in the area – and gaming & FX houses are still being born here – but it’s actually a pretty small group, and there’s not tons and tons of room for a middling career that doesn’t eventually have entrepreneurial or management aspirations. You’re coming in, moving up, or exiting.

      • Absinthe, how many percent of your grad class still lives in Vancouver?

      • Absinthe: I graduated UBC CS too. The software industry is a hell of a lot bigger than just games. The folks that work in games are a very strange breed – overworked, underpaid, and myopically prideful. Other parts of the industry are much more comfortable. And frankly, a fair number of the people I graduated with were not that good of developers.

      • matt – Of those that I know (which is not everyone!) – the majority are out of province. Two are in province but not in Vancouver. Both Vancouverites are consulting and have contracts from places other than Vancouver.

        evilfred – I agree that there are more comfortable places than games, for sure! It’s a bizarre world for software engineers in gaming. As to the quality of developers, I imagine there’s a bell curve in pretty much any industry. *g*

  8. Not sure about the comparison between Vancouver and Toronto here. For the vast majority of people I know – this is anecdotal after all – Toronto just isn’t even on the radar. Some talk about making money in Calgary or going down South, but Toronto is just a whole other country to most British Columbians.

    The film and gaming industry have never been as big as the media makes it out to be. It has never been on the radar as a major money maker in the area – it is simply glamorous (sort of like our real estate market), but with relatively little substance compared to the value people give it (sort of like…).

    Things like the HST are going to hurt tech and service. It’s great for a strong manufacturing base, such as in Ontario, but almost useless in BC. The government has done a bang up job in hurting the BC economy in its knee jerk reaction to find more funds as they continued their short-sited brain drain as Campbell has stripped resources to education and health ever since gaining office. Problem is, those were the reasons people loved BC to begin with. It was considered healthy, clean, booming.

    Now we rely on the fleeting glitz and glamour of the Olympics and Stanley Cup push and the speculative Asian market to bring people in. It is temporary and won’t last forever. Problem is, we don’t have a viable political alternative. While the BC Greens have a solid platform, they are disorganized and still considered fringe. The NDP has swung way left with a new leader whose old-school unionist ideas don’t match the more moderate progressives in the province.

    Sorry for the tangent – I’m sure something in there was relevant.
    [Perhaps all of it. -ed.]

    • i’m going to go way out on a limb

      anyone who’s anti-union is an asshole

      • Then I am an asshole 🙂
        Unions are parasites.

      • so i suppose the companies were just going to improve wages and conditions all on their own? out of the goodness of their hearts?

        let’s face it – we owe our standard of living to a fair wage and 40 hour weeks, and that would not have been possible without the labor struggle.

        lovely narrative you’re following, i’ve never heard that one before.

      • All that what you are writing exists thanks entrepreneurs that take huge risks so that you can have a job.

      • oh, i didn’t know an entrepreneur invented carbon

        don’t go all Galt on me now, you egomaniacs.

    • Most of Europe converted to a value added tax decades ago. It’s time BC modernized it’s tax regime. Also, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZXu3LXNwEg&feature=player_embedded

      • Although the system does make business sense the way it was implemented was either incompetent or on purpose designed to pull more money out of our pockets.

        For that alone they deserve to fail at the referendum, the “oh, we’ll give you back 2% in a few years (maybe), does nothing to convince me otherwise.

        If they want my vote to keep the HST around (as a consumer, not as a business owner) then they would implement the 2% cut RIGHT NOW.

    • derp v bubbly bs slinging argument aside… The history of the world proves that socialist theories work. Having unions, strong worker protections, employment insurance, taxes, renter protection, etc. are GOOD for an economie’s health, growth and development. These things add to economic stability which is good for business. The histories of russia and china both prove my point. Both contries underwent drastic growth after instituting communism. Now i’m not saying full communism is the answer but a recent survey of people in russia said >50% of respondents thought things were better before the fall of communism and many would happily return. Frankly, there wasn’t much very liberal about cambell’s gov’t and i think that’s why the ndp look so socialist today. As for start-ups and small business, liberal ideals tend to favor them more than conservative ideals, which favor larger corporations with more resources. Go ahead, try to debunk me without name calling, or mindlessly spouting rhetoric and propaganda.

  9. To continue this discussion, another industry is getting badly hit right now in Vancouver, the major infrastructure projects. To get ready for the Olympics, the province had massively invested in roads, bridges, transit lines, etc, which created a lot of jobs, a good chunk of them really well paid.

    This is coming to an end. The Canada Line is built, Sea-to-Sky Highway completed, Port Mann Highway 1, including the bridge, is getting close to completion. After that, only one major projects remain to be built, the south Fraser perimeter road (SFPR) and then nothing. The Evergreen Line will probably never get built. We are here talking about hundreds of jobs that are currently disappearing in the lower mainland.

    I’m working for a consulting firm that works on most of these projects at the planning stage. SFPR is basically the last one for us. My company has already started to lay off a few engineers and relocate some other in Ontario. A next wave of relocation to Ontario is being planned for the end of this year. Our office went from more than 100 people in 2009 to less that 50 now and we will be even lesser by December. These are high paid jobs, $100K+/year, sometimes much more than that. I know we are not the only consulting firm in our sector drastically down-sizing like that.

    This can’t be good for the local economy…

    • when i visited the polygon condo lineup at 4am i asked them ‘doesn’t anyone work anymore?’ and no one answered. not that there was a lot of english there, but still.

      i’ll never forget the two years i spent overseas, away from vancouver – it felt like anything was possible! ba doom ching

      i have a buddy working on the SFPR as a surveyor – when the contract is over, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to find work in vancouver (or with the same company, even) so he may have to move, as well. we’ve already discussed his situation, earns a good wage and has no hope of ever affording a house here. i think it’s fair to say that if you make between $30 and $50 an hour a reasonable mortgage payment ought not to be out of reach, yet for some reason, it is.

      i’d just like to say thank you to the BoC, CMHC, and everyone’s favorite goat, our newest Canadians, the Communist Party Cadres! And last, but certainly not least, the local buyers, realtors, mortgage brokers, branch loan officers and all of the banks – thank you for your greed and shortsightedness, without you, my generation might have actually made a future in the city we’re born in.

      but i’m not angry. i’ve been ‘learning to do the meditate’ as rusty advised, it’s awesome, now i never think about ANYTHING.

  10. there are still good jobs around:
    1. Warehouse grower (weed / large warehouses)
    2. meth laboratory technician (meth and crack)
    3. Escort agency owner (fetish and BDSM)
    4. Real estate developer / builder (high end SFH or high density)
    5. real estate / currency / market speculator (flipper)
    6. Realtor (preferably fluent in Mandarin / Russian / Vietnamese)
    7. Civil government politician (good retirement and benefits), if you not in these categories your employment opportunities are just average mortgage qualifiers

  11. UBC CS here and a lot of my classmates either left to US (I graduated during 2000/2001, tailend of the boom), or went back to Asia. There are some who are still in Vancouver and still in the industry, mostly in the few big companies like Crystal Reports, EA. About half who are left in Vancouver though all changed careers though.

    Yes, you are right, not a lot of the graduates are good or even competent developers. The story I like to tell was when I was marker for CS 318(?? that intro course to computer language/interpreter course), there was like 180 people in the class and I would say at least 150 of them all copied assignments from like 4 or 5 people. It was so bad that there is almost no point in trying to figure out who copied who as that would just be way too time consuming. I did turn in a few who were so damn lazy that they didn’t even bother to reformat badly indented code.

    • Hah, space889 – we graduated the same year. I was a total doorknob and didn’t realize that there was so much copying going on until my last year, because I never used the labs, and many of my friends were in different departments. I wondered how everyone had all this TIME. The first copying I heard of was in the graphics course, when a group suggested we all take a portion of the overall work and get ‘er done.

  12. Pingback: “I have been here five years now; I still can’t figure out what all the people here do.” | Vancouver Real Estate Anecdote Archive

  13. I got a great job at the sperm donor clinic. The hours are great. So are the benefits.

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