Image: Vancouver garbage strike
Andy Clark  /  Reuters
A refuse container in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia is stuffed to capacity after garbage collectors and several thousand other city workers went on strike on July 23. Officials worry the city's image as a tourist destination could start to suffer.
updated 7/25/2007 3:21:39 PM ET 2007-07-25T19:21:39

There's never a good time for a garbage strike, but Vancouver's famously stunning natural beauty is about to be soiled just as the city hits the crescendo of its tourist season.

Just in time for major summer events, visitors and residents are facing the prospect of steaming piles of trash and closed public washrooms, swimming pools, city golf courses, some day cares and libraries.

While construction cranes dominate the city's skyline, no permits are being issued and water and sewer lines aren't being hooked up.

"If we go on a month or two and there's bulging garbage containers and stuff on the streets and so on, one could expect to see that that would have a deleterious effect," said Dave Park of the Vancouver Board of Trade.

He said the city's image as a tourist destination could start to suffer at some point.

It's a little early to see economic effects just yet, but the booming construction sector could also be disrupted by a lack of permits and inspections.

Some commercial developments won't be hit right away because the city has a program allowing certified professionals — such as architects or engineers — to conduct inspections for projects under the national building code.

"So on some of the larger projects, the non-residential projects, it'll be some time before the impact will be felt," said Keith Sashaw, a staff member at the Vancouver Regional Construction Association.

"On the residential side of things it'll be a bit more immediate because it usually is the municipal building inspector that does those inspections."

Sashaw added the industry anticipated the city's labor troubles and fast-tracked some permits.

Everything from new-home construction to minor renovations could be delayed without inspectors or city crews to hook up water and sewer connections, he said.

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Vancouver and North Vancouver District workers began walking off the job last week and Vancouver library staff began rotating job action Tuesday.

Residents are being warned to prepare for a long hot summer of inconvenience, frustration and, eventually, stench.

At least one Vancouver suburb apparently dodged the disruption as the City of Richmond reached a tentative deal with 1,200 workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 394.

Details won't be made public until a ratification vote is completed Thursday, but if approved, Richmond and Port Moody will be the only cities across the Lower Mainland to have agreements with their civic employees.

In praising the deal, CUPE chief negotiator Robin Jones made a pointed reference to the stalemated situation across the Fraser River in Vancouver, where about 6,000 people were off the job.

One of the sticking points in Vancouver is the city's insistence on a contract that would extend past the 2010 Olympics.

But Jones noted Richmond is also a host Olympic city.

Paul Faoro, a CUPE leader in Vancouver, said it's "apples and oranges" to compare Vancouver's municipal strike with the deals in Richmond and Port Moody.

Vancouver has insisted on a 39-month contract.

Its unions want either a three-year or four-year deal, and union officials have said they don't want to be bargaining again in the wake of potential cost overruns and cuts after the Games.

Renee Smith-Valade, spokeswoman for Vancouver's Olympic Organizing Committee, said the strike will have no impact on preparation for the Games.

Faoro said the City of Vancouver refused to negotiate through last weekend, and that was a shock to the union.

City officials are warning drivers to keep plugging parking meters because the city intends to make that revenue source a priority. The city gets about 25 million Canadian dollars ($24 million) in revenue from parking meters.

If the last two municipal employee walkouts since 1997 are any indication, the strike could last up to two months.

Besides almost 600,000 residents in Vancouver, another 80,000 people living in the District of North Vancouver are being hit by job action from their municipal employees.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Vancouver, B.C., 2010

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  1. Vancouver, British Columbia, played host to the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Albert Normandin / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A couple strolls through Stanley Park on a spring afternoon near the city's main boat marina. One of the city's most visited parks, visitors can also enjoy the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center and zoo at the park. (Joe Mcnally / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Rowers glide past a line of yachts at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.It is said that in Vancouver, it is possible to ski in the morning, sail in the afternoon and take a sunset dip in the Pacific. (Mary Peachin / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Planning to soak up some art while in town? Consider staying at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, which is located right behind the Vancouver Art Gallery. The hotel is located on the VIA Rail route for those who plan to travel to the city by train. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Granville Island Public Market is perhaps the most well-known market in Vancouver. Dozens of vendors offer food-loving tourists and locals produce, seafood, meats, sweets and European speciatly foods. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The steam-powered Gastown clock blows out clouds of steam during its hourly sounding of Westminister Chimes. Gastown is located in the northeast corner of Vancouver, and is known as the birthplace of the city. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia is "acclaimed for its spectacular architecture and unique setting on the cliffs of Point Grey," its Web site proclaims. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Totem poles and other artifacts are on display at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The museum, founded in 1949, is world renowned for its collections. (Kevin Arnold / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. While in the city, check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. The bridge spans 450 feet across and is situated 230 feet above the Capilano River. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A totem pole decorates Stanley Park in Vancouver. The park covers about 1,000 acres, and offers residents and tourists a wealth of options, including walking, running or biking the 5.5-mile seawall path, a pitch-and-put golf course and more. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A young girl interacts with a sea otter at the Vancouver Aquarium. Tickets for adults cost $22, $17 for seniors (65+) and youths (13-18), $14 for children (4-12) and kids get in free. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pedestrians walk by Aritizia on Robson Street, the famous shopping street in Vancouver's west end. In the stretch of three blocks, tourists looking for retail therapy can find stores specializing in shoes, clothes, lingeri, candy, souvenirs and luggage, not to mention hair salons, currency exchanges and restaurants. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The Library Square building in Vancouver houses the city's public library. (Danniele Hayes / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Patrons eat in the dining room of Six Acres, a pub and restaurant located in Gastown. Six Acres is "tucked in the oldest brick building in Vancouver," its Web site claims. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A traditional pagoda sits on the shore of a pond in the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden in the downtown area of Vancouver. Though Canada's third largest city, Vancouver has historically been thought of as the "terminal city," the end of the line and the last remote town before the continent comes to an end at the Pacific Ocean. (Ross Barnett / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Granville Entertainment District is an area in Downtown Vancouver known for its vast assortment of bars, danceclubs and nightlife. The entertainment district is centered on a seven-block stretch of the Granville Mall and immediately surrounding streets. (Tourism Vancouver) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre was built in 1968, and was a gift from the lumber magnate to Vancouver's citizens. If you're visiting Vancouver on a Friday or Saturday night, you can catch laser shows to music from Green Day, Radiohead and Pink Floyd. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Olympic rings are illuminated in the harbor outside the Vancouver Convention Centre. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The Olympic and Paralympic Village Vancouver is set on the waterfront of Vancouver. (Stephanie Lamy / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Richmond Oval, located south of Vancouver, served as the long-track speed skating venue for the 2010 Winter Games. (Ben Hulse / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Skiers and snowboarders gather on top of Whistler Mountain. Whistler was the official alpine skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic Games. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Norway's Johan Remen Evensensoars through the air during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup skiing event in Whistler, British Columbia, in 2009. The venue was the site of ski jumping events during the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. (Darryl Dyck / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Cypress Mountain hosted the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events during the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth zooms around a corner during the sixth training run for the World Cup skeleton race in Whistler, B.C., in 2009. (Frank Gunn / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Vancouver skyline, Burrard Inlet and Lion's Gate bridge is pictured at sunset. The Lion's Gate Bridge connects North and West Vancouver with downtown. The suspension bridge is 5,890 feet in length. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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