Greater Vancouver, also known as Metro Vancouver has the third highest GDP among the metropolitan areas in Canada, with a total adding up to about $135.6 million (CAD) and $39,914 per capita in 2017. Between 2013 and 2017, Metro Vancouver experienced a GDP growth rate of 3.9%, which was the highest of all regions in Canada during the period. Figure 1 shows a pie chart displaying GDP by sector in 2017. The region’s major reason for economic success stems from close ties (trades, foreign investment, tourism, etcetera) with Asia and contribution from insurance/finance sectors. Other large contributors include warehousing and manufacturing industries. Continuous development in various sectors bring in more population, specifically about additional 153,357 people every five years for the last two decades. The influx of national/foreign migrants thereby improve the quality in the mentioned and other sectors, creating a cyclical economic phenomenon where the development and population growth become mutually proportional. In 2019, the population of Greater Vancouver reached 2,555,884 and it is expected to rise to almost 3,000,000 by 2035. The Gini index for Greater Vancouver is the highest along with the Central Coast of the British Columbia coastal census divisions at 0.39 – 0.423. Although the Gini index is a numerical representation of uneven income distribution, this simplified number should not be looked at with a black and white view. Depending on the situation, dissimilar income distributions can obtain the same Gini index. For example, a population with incomes inclined to the low end could have the same Gini index as a population with incomes inclined to the high end. Furthermore, numerous technical jobs, especially middle-skilled ones have been getting replaced by automation (e.g. manufacturing). Technology has not been able to replace as many jobs in the high- and low-skilled jobs as the middle-skilled ones, therefore the government supported job growth for the opposite ends. This is the justification for a high value of Gini index. Nevertheless, income inequality has increased more than double the average amount since 19824 and this may not be the most desirable occurrence from a socioeconomic perspective. Government policies such as providing a universal basic income as part of social assistance, convening a FairTax Commission to review the entire provincial tax system, and mitigating the inequality impact of technological progress3 aim to lower the income disparity, which would ultimately reduce the level of socioeconomic stigma.
On a global scale, this metropolitan region was ranked 7th on the social scorecard and 9th on the economic scorecard out of the top twenty metropolitan cities around the world. The scorecard is composed of four different grades: A, B, C, and D. Score in the top quartile would receive an A, score in the second quartile would receive a B, and the lower the score, the lower the grades will be, similar to the grades of an academic transcript. Regarding the economic performance level, Metro Vancouver was rewarded with an A for KPMG’s total tax index and low office rents per square foot. Total tax index refers to the measure of total taxes paid by similar corporations in a particular industry/area and compare with the total taxes paid by similar corporations in the United States. Regarding the social performance level, a few A’s were rewarded for air quality, diversity, and low homicide rate.
Today, 31% of Vancouver’s energy use comes from renewable sources and the other 69% is based on fossil fuels1. Vancouver’s renewable energy is most applicable to building electricity, in which 25% of it is produced from hydropower, 2% run-of-river hydro, 3% biomass, 1% natural gas, and <1% solar and wind. 45% of fossil fuel-based energy use comes from building natural gas with the remaining 24% from transportation. From the transportation sector, 19% is contributed by gasoline, 3% diesel, and 1% biofuels. The total energy use in 2014 was recorded to be 59.3 million GJ – 2.8 million tonnes of CO2 – and this is projected to reduce to 38.3 million GJ by 2050 as a part of the Renewable City Strategy. This strategy aims to completely abolish the use of fossil-fuel derived energy by 2050, making the 38.3 million figure solely from renewable energy sources. The main focus of this strategy highlights the improvement in transportation and building sectors as they are the most energy-consuming sectors.
One of the ways the city wishes to maximise energy resources is to utilise waste materials. For example, anaerobic digestors produce biomethane from food waste, clean wood combustion systems produce heat, and paper/plastic recycling allows new products to be manufactured1. Iona Island wastewater treatment plant is currently undergoing construction to replace the existing primary level treatment plant in Richmond. The purpose of the new plant is not only to improve the protection of water quality and the aquatic ecosystem, but also to recover sustainable energy from wastewater.
Some of the other smart projects that are being implemented in Metro Vancouver include Air Aware programme and Intelligent Water Systems.
Air Aware programme aims to explore the strengths and weaknesses of low-cost air quality sensors and how they can impact Metro Vancouver’s air monitoring network as well as how/why citizens interact with them. The difference between the traditional reference instruments and the Air Aware sensors is the latter involves cooperating with the public to interpret the air quality data they produce. Metro Vancouver then uses the data obtained from various locations as well as feedback from volunteers regarding user interface, operational challenges, and strengths. Figure 2 shows a picture of Air Aware sensors.
The University of British Columbia6 submitted a report regarding low-cost, low-powered air quality sensors as well, and compares their performance quality with reference monitors operated by Metro Vancouver. Similar to Air Aware, these sensors were employed to test the potential they contain: cheaper air quality monitoring and enhanced spatial coverage. Their results showed that three of their portable sensors, O3 Aeroqual, microAeth AE51, and PurpleAir, showed the most promising performance relative to the reference sensors. The data can be downloaded via a wireless network with low logistical burden. O3 Aeroqual was used for ozone level detection, microAeth was used for black carbon level detection, and PurpleAir was used for PM concentration detection.
Intelligent Water Systems are also being integrated by Metro Vancouver by partnering with the Water Research Foundation through a $200,000 Sustainability Innovation Fund contribution. With cheaper and newer sensors/data collection technology, large amounts of data from numerous regions will be obtained. The data consists of many types such as rainfall, water quality, drainage, and climate. The goal is to merge Artificial Intelligence for data analysis and control as well as establish procedures to predict patterns and malfunctions of the systems for adapting operational regulations.
Vancouver has established itself to be the staple city of economic growth in Canada and it further increases the standards of innovative culture. The city focuses heavily on the outcomes, which relies on the measurement of progress and origins of residents. Through forming new networks and relationships with residents, the process of technological implementation will become more efficient as the benefits (e.g. better security, healthier vehicles, faster service with higher quality) will be achieved by the both sides. Their challenge statements are mostly related to societal aspects rather than technological goals7. This creates trust among communities, which helps in getting comfortable and familiar with the integration of “unfathomable” technology.
6 Brauer, M. and Lee, M., 2018. Evaluation of portable air quality sensors at the Vancouver (Clark Drive) near-road air quality monitoring site.