The last major market in North America without Uber or Lyft welcomed the start of their services on Friday.
A bad hair cut, a parking spot deemed too small, and neighbours who vacuum too late at night – these were among the worst reasons to call 911 during 2019.
Others, according to B.C.’s E-Comm call centre, included not being allowed to use the washroom at a gas station, complaining that a coin laundry machine didn’t have enough water, and to enquire why traffic was so bad.
Every year, there’s no shortage of examples of calls E-Comm staff have handled that aren’t based on a genuine life-or-death situation in need of emergency care.
Operator Chelsea Brent says an alarming trend has emerged in 2019, where people call 911 to seek general information, knowing full well their situation is not an emergency.
“Sometimes, it feels like people may have forgotten that the reason to call 911 is to get help in a life-or-death situation. I take a lot of 911 calls where ‘I know this isn’t an emergency’ are the first words out of the caller’s mouth. But when I’m answering calls that aren’t an emergency, it means I’m not available for someone else who really does need critical help.”
E-Comm communications manager Jasmine Bradley says although such calls may be absurd, all call takers must treat every call as an emergency unless they can establish there isn’t one, and this takes time away from helping those in genuine need.
Here’s the full list of E-Comm’s top 10 reasons not to call 911 in 2019:
- To complain a hotel parking spot was too small
- To complain a hair salon didn’t style their hair properly
- To complain their neighbour was vacuuming late at night
- Because they were upset a coin laundry machine didn’t have enough water
- To enquire why traffic was so bad
- To request police bring a shovel to dig their car out of the snow in front of their house
- Because police are being ‘too loud’ responding to an emergency and requesting they should come back in the morning
- To get information about water restrictions
- To report a broken ATM machine
- Because a gas station wouldn’t let them use the washroom
E-Comm is responsible for 99 per cent of British Columbia’s 911 call volume and handled more than 1.6 million 911 calls in 2019.
TFSA Investor Top Dividend Stock to Own if the BOC Cuts Rates in 2020
The Bank of Canada (BOC) just decided to keeps its key interest rate unchanged at 1.75%, once again bucking the trend over the past year among major developed economies.
The decision was not unexpected. Inflation in November and December came in at 2.2%, which is above the 2% target rate set by the BOC. In an environment where the central bank thinks inflationary pressure would continue a rate hike would be expected, but Stephen Poloz, the BOC governor indicated in his comments that slack in the economy could deflate the inflationary pressures.
Some pundits have even argued that a slowing economy could justify a rate cut. The U.S. Federal Reserve cut rates three times in 2019 while the BOC held firm.
Poloz might be getting ready to finally make a move. He sent a small shock wave through the system when he said the door is open to a rate cut in the event the economic conditions worsen, and said that he would prefer not to reduce rates any further, as that would potentially push the housing market into overdrive, potentially leading to an additional debt binge by Canadian consumers.
Based on the reaction in the stock market, investors are betting on a rate cut in the coming months. The TSX Index jumped to a new high on the governor’s comments and bond yields dropped. The Canadian dollar also slipped against the greenback.
Which stocks should you buy?
The prospect of lower interest rates bodes well for dividend stocks as they become more attractive compared to GICs and other fixed-income alternatives, which tend to see yields drop when interest rates decline.
Let’s take a look at one top Canadian dividend stock that might be an interesting pick right now for your TFSA.
Telus has a long track record of dividend growth. The company raised the payout when it reported Q3 2019 results, representing the 18th increase to the distribution since 2011. Telus is targeting ongoing annual dividend increases of 7-10% through 2022.
Free cash flow is expected to increase in the next two years amid steady revenue growth and lower capital expenditures. Telus is past the peak of a multi-year network build-out and the reduced investment level should free up more cash for shareholders.
Lower interest rates are also good news. Telus uses debt to fund its capital programs, and falling borrowing costs mean more money is available to boost the dividend.
Telus continues to add new wireless and wireline customers. Wireless net additions rose 13% in Q3 2019 and the wireline group added 53,000 new internet, TV, and security clients.
The security segment offers strong growth potential for Telus and its peers as homeowners and businesses embrace new remote monitoring technology.
Telus also has a growing health division. Telus Health is Canada’s leading provider of digital solutions to hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies. Digital disruption in the healthcare industry is ramping up and Telus is leading the way in the domestic market.
Should you buy?
Telus has a long history of generating solid returns for investors and that trend should continue.
If you are searching for a dividend pick to take advantage of potential interest rate cuts by the Bank of Canada, this stock deserves to be on your radar.
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Fool contributor Andrew Walker has no position in any stock mentioned.
Taxis vs. ride-hailing, CBC Vancouver reporters put them to the test
Commuters in the Lower Mainland had a brand new option for getting around on Friday morning when, after years of promises and delays, two major ride-hailing services suddenly became available.
Passengers can now use their smartphones to summon an Uber or Lyft driver to take them almost anywhere. But how does ride-hailing compare to taxis when it comes to time and cost?
Two CBC reporters put them to the test.
Taxi vs. Uber
After a coin toss, it’s decided Tina Lovgreen will take an Uber and Benoit Ferradini will call a taxi. Both are heading from Science World at Quebec Street and Terminal Avenue to Queen Elizabeth Park.
Both request their rides at 12:39 p.m.
As Ferradini connects with a taxi company, Lovgreen’s Uber app shows a 17-minute wait to connect with a driver.
Minutes later, Ferradini’s taxi shows up and he’s on his way, leaving Lovgreen in the parking lot.
“It’s not raining and it’s not nighttime,” she said. “And to be fair, it is the first day of ride-hailing coming to Vancouver.”
At 12:47 p.m., Lovgreen is still not able to connect to an Uber, so she bends the rules and requests a Lyft instead.
The app shows a Lyft driver in a white Toyota Corolla is on their way in three minutes. As she waits for her ride, her request for an Uber expires.
Saving money, not time
When Lovgreen eventually arrives at Queen Elizabeth Park, Ferradini has already been waiting for 10 minutes.
The final cost?
Lovgreen’s trip came to $14.69, while Ferradini’s trip came to $17.88. Both reporters tipped 15 per cent.
Pricing for ride-hailing can change depending on demand, Lovgreen noted, and both Uber and Lyft have made it clear they’re looking for more drivers to join their fleet.
Lyft will limit operations to the core of Vancouver until it has more drivers, using Dunbar Street to the west, Victoria Drive to the east and 41st Avenue to the south as boundaries. It will also service the Pacific National Exhibition and Vancouver International Airport.
Uber’s operating area covers a much bigger swath of Metro Vancouver, including Coquitlam, Surrey, Delta, West and North Vancouver.
Both reporters acknowledge that factors like wait times and price could change as ride-hailing becomes more established in the city.
“Let’s try this again in a month,” Lovgreen said.
“On a rainy day, on a Saturday night.”
Ride-hailing Day 1: Some teething problems for Uber and Lyft in Vancouver – Vancouver Sun
Vancouver was the last major market in North America without Uber or Lyft, but on Friday, supporters cheered the debut of these ride hailing companies in this market, while riders sorted through limitations and snafus.
Lyft service officially began at 8 a.m., but some eager riders saw messages such as “not yet available at this location,” depending on their location and where they wanted to travel.
Lyft said it will be serving the Vancouver International Airport, Pacific National Exhibition and the City of Vancouver bordered on the west by Dunbar Street, on the east by Victoria Drive and as far south as 41st Avenue.
I was sent to test the apps at the start of business on Friday.
I started on Main Street near 25th Avenue and was able to get Lyft quotes and times for a ride to the airport, but it would take 40 minutes for the driver to arrive. I wasn’t able to do the same for a ride to the Uber press conference, which was being held at Parallel 49 Brewing Company, half a block east of Victoria Drive on Triumph Street in East Vancouver, putting it a stone’s throw out of the Lyft zone.
Uber’s first official ride was scheduled to happen after the company’s press conference at 11 a.m., but its app went live and drivers were picking up riders starting just before 8 a.m., too.
I was able to get quotes and times for an Uber a ride to the company’s press conference, but the app seized up instead of showing a car to be on the way. After some fiddling, I finally called a cab and made it on time, but half-way there, the Uber driver called to say he had arrived for a pick-up. He canceled the request, but charged a $5.25 penalty.
Asked about complaints there didn’t seem to be enough drivers, Michael van Hemmen, head of Western Canada for Uber, said that “at the beginning of the service, in any city, there’s always an adjustment period when the drivers have to be able to understand the services available, and then to go online to be able to meet that driver demand. At the same time, though, there are a lot of restrictions that make it more difficult to have enough drivers to meet those demands.”
Lyft said it launched with 388 standard vehicles and 23 zero-emission vehicles. Uber said it did not have a ballpark figure for the number of drivers it has approved, with van Hemmen only able to say the number was “not enough.”
He explained the requirement for ride hailing drivers to have a commercial driver’s licence “in British Columbia is a challenge. It creates barriers for people who are otherwise safe drivers, but now have to go through a many-months long process and spends hundreds of dollars to prove they can drive, effectively, a bus, even though they are not driving a bus.”
Uber said it will be servicing most of Metro Vancouver.
One Uber driver, who goes by the app name of Siang, said he had been on the road since 8 a.m. and by just before noon, he had made almost $85. The Langley-based former cab driver said he used to take home about $100 after driving for about 10 to 12 hours, so he was feeling good about his first day’s earnings. He said Uber was offering incentives to keep drivers on its app in these early days such as an extra $20 if he completed 10 trips in the next three days or an extra $60 if he completed 25 trips.
Lyft said it is charging a minimum fare of $5 and then 65 cents a kilometre and 33 cents a minute or $19.80 an hour. Uber said it is charging a booking fee of $2, plus a base fare of $2.50, and then 70 cents a kilometre and 33 cents per minute or $19.80 per hour. However, both companies will be able to charge surge pricing, which increases rates at busier times of travel.
Yellow Cab in Vancouver charges $3.25 as a base fare and then $1.88 a kilometre or $33.55 an hour. Other companies such as Black Top and Checker Cabs have similar rates.
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