September 2011

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Vancouver, British Columbia, is hosting the 38th International Convention at a time of heightened interest in this prosperous and bustling city on the shores of the Pacific.

The third largest metropolitan area in Canada, rated as one of the most livable cities in the world, Vancouver recently hosted one of the world's biggest gatherings, the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Located on Canada's West Coast, two hours from Seattle, Vancouver's combination of natural beauty, diverse population and a bustling economy prompted the New York Times to describe the city as: "Manhattan with mountains. It's a liquid city, a tomorrow city, equal parts India, China, England, France and the Pacific Northwest."

It boasts numerous outdoor and entertainment venues, including a downtown sports stadium, Rogers Arena, which is home to the National Hockey League's 2011 Western Conference champions, the Canucks. Stanley Park is one of the city's most popular destinations. The 1,000-acre park—larger than New York City's Central Park—attracts more than 8 million visitors a year.

If you have watched a movie or TV program recently, there is a good chance that you caught a glimpse of Vancouver. It is the third-largest film center in the world—beat out only by New York City and Los Angeles—and is second in television production.

The city's strategic location on the edge of the Pacific Rim has made it one of North America's fastest growing economic centers. The Port of Vancouver does more than $75 billion in trade with more than 130 countries, which has encouraged a downtown building boom that has been going strong for more than two decades.

With a population of more than 640,000, Vancouver has come a long way from the tiny settlement that was formed to host the terminus of the Canada Pacific Railway in 1886. Vancouver's roots as a wide-open frontier town are still visible.

Lumber, mining, and fishing turned the little town of fewer than 1,000 into a thriving city of more than 20,000 by the turn of the 20th century. By 1911 the population had climbed to 100,000.

With one of the busiest seaports on the West Coast, Vancouver would become Canada's gateway to the Pacific region, servicing the far-flung ports of the British Empire.

In the early 1900s, the provincial government took possession of British Columbia's vast resources and partnered with major business figures—including mining magnate James Dunsmuir and timber industrialist H.R. MacMillan—to help develop them.

The Great Depression hit Vancouver hard, but Canada's entry into World War II laid the groundwork for a rapid recovery, as the shipyards of Vancouver and nearby Victoria began full-time operations to help supply the Allied war effort in the Pacific.

Massive unemployment soon turned into major labour shortages in fields such as forestry, mining and steel.

The end of the war brought prosperity to Vancouver. While maintaining an important place in the economy, traditional natural extraction jobs declined as the service, manufacturing and healthcare sectors grew.

Debate over control of the province's natural resources heated up in the 1950s and '60s as the government instituted a system to lease provincial lands to logging firms investing substantial capital in infrastructure—a setup that accelerated the trend toward consolidation in the industry.

And as the United States replaced the United Kingdom as Canada's biggest trading partner, public concern over increasing domination of B.C.'s land and resources by American corporations grew.

One of the biggest battles was the fight to bring the province's energy supply under public control. In 1961, the BC Hydro Act was passed, which amalgamated BC Electric—a private corporation—into a new publicly owned entity, the BC Hydro and Power Authority.

BC Hydro services 1.8 million customers and operates 30 hydroelectric facilities. British Columbia's rivers provide more than 80 percent of the province's power.


Read more: Local 213: Electrifying Vancouver

Read more: High Wire to Hydro, Local 258 Covers Vast Territory

Read more: Victoria Local a Key Link, Onshore and Off

Vancouver—one of the fastest-growing cities in North America—is hosting the IBEW's 38th International Convention this month.

Photo credit: Tourism Vancouver

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