Archive for the ‘Other News Articles’ Category

Questions you can’t ask when hiring

Monday, March 11th, 2019


A recent interview a salesperson conducted with a candidate for a job as his assistant left us speechless. Without naming and shaming, I think a review of what was asked and why it is considered inappropriate is an essential lesson for all of us.

Here are just some of the inappropriate questions asked by different real estate agents to different candidates that we interviewed in the past year:

  • How old are you?
  • What does your husband do for a living?
  • You’re newly married… When are you planning on having children?
  • It’s 5 p.m. and we need to prepare an offer for tonight, but you have to pick up your child from daycare. How do you handle the conflicting priorities?

Relevance is a factor in whether a question is illegal or not. You might think it is essential that your real estate assistant can be at your beck and call days, nights and weekends – so someone with several children might not be your preference. But you cannot ask them about their family status. Ultimately, it’s not up to you to decide that a mother with three kids isn’t suitable for a job that involves weekends. Some requirements to have your assistant available or on call outside of regular work hours might conflict with the Employment Standards Act or their personal life. But we can leave that discussion for another article.

Every province in Canada has its own human rights codes and commissions, but in the area of employment and interviews, they are all fairly consistent. We’ve compiled a list of the questions that you cannot ask, and included ways that those questions can be rephrased, where applicable.

8 questions you should never ask:

1. Don’t ask a candidate about their nationality or citizenship.

Where you were born, unless the job requires security clearance, isn’t relevant to someone’s ability to the do the job.

Do not ask:

  • Are you a Canadian citizen?
  • What’s your native language?
  • Where were you born?

You can ask:

  • Are you legally authorized to work in Canada?
  • What language(s) do you read/speak/write? Note: you can only ask this if it is directly relevant to the job. For example, the ability speak in French might be a requirement of the job because of the client base you’re dealing with. That would make it relevant.
2. Don’t ask a candidate how old they are.

Ageism is real and often it’s more of an unconscious bias that comes into play. As a result, many candidates will go to some length to dissimulate their actual age, for example, by removing dates from the education portion of their CV.

Do not ask:

  • When did you graduate from college or university?
  • What’s your date of birth?

You can ask:

  • Are you over the age of 18?
3. Don’t ask a candidate about their family status.

As mentioned above, asking a candidate whether or not they are married, whether they have children or plan to get married and/or have children is not relevant. It also can’t be a backhanded way to find out if they are a member of the LGBTQ community.

Do not ask:

  • What kind of child-care arrangements do you have set up?
  • How many kids do you have? And if none, do you plan to have some in the near future?
  • Are you married?
  • Whom do you live with?

You can ask:

  • Can you work overtime, evenings and weekends? You have to ask this of every candidate who applies for the position you are interviewing for.
  • There will be travel required for this position, about 10 per cent of the time. Are you willing to do this? Again, you must ask this of every candidate.
  • There’s a possibility that we might relocate the office to the next town. Would this still work for you?
4. Don’t ask a candidate any personal physical questions.

There are some jobs where a person’s height or weight are factors in whether or not they can perform their duties, but not many. For a real estate office, there is no legal basis for asking personal questions like that.

You can ask:

  • “Can you lift 40 lbs. and carry it 100 metres and load it into a truck?” This is the kind of personal question you can ask, if it’s relevant to the job duties AND you ask it of all the candidates.
5. Don’t ask a candidate about their race.

There is no “you CAN ask” for this one because there is no plausible reason to ask anyone, at any time, what race they are. Ever. Not even to satiate your curiosity… not during an interview.

6. Don’t ask a candidate about disabilities.

Unless it’s directly relevant to the tasks, you cannot ask about any disabilities that a candidate might have. From ADHD to being confined to a wheelchair, visible or not, these disabilities are not relevant for most roles.

Do not ask:

  • Have you had any operations in the last X number of years?
  • How often do you get a physical with a primary care physician?
  • Are there congenital illnesses that run in your family?
  • How did you end up in a wheelchair?

You can ask:

  • Here are the job tasks you will be required to do. Can you do them? While a person may need accommodations in order to do the job, the fact of whether or not it’s possible for them is all you need to know. You can deal with the question of what, if any, accommodations they will need AFTER you offer them the job.
7. Don’t ask a candidate about their religion or affiliations, political or social.

There are two things you shouldn’t talk about at dinner parties: politics and religion. Keep to that rule in interviews too! While you might not like someone’s political views or not agree with their religion’s strictures, it has nothing to do with their ability to do the job you are interviewing for.

Do not ask:

  • Are you a member of a political party?
  • Does your religion have holidays that will conflict with our standard office “close dates” schedule?

You can ask:

  • You will need to work on certain Sundays throughout the year. Are you available to do that? As with other questions like this, you must ask it of all candidates.
8. Don’t ask a candidate about their criminal record.

This is one that many people don’t understand, but a person’s arrest/criminal record isn’t necessarily relevant to their job. Asking them generally about whether or not they have ever been arrested and/or convicted of a crime is too broad. Jobs that require dealing with certain groups (like children) typically require a police check, so that will help you deal with this issue in those cases.

You can ask:

  • Have you ever been convicted of XYZ crime? The question must be specific and must be relevant to the job. For example, if you’re hiring a back-office person, you cannot ask them if they’ve ever been convicted of drunk driving. It’s not relevant to the job at hand. You could ask if they’ve ever been convicted of embezzling, but that’s a stretch with most applicants!

Having long experience in what sorts of questions are acceptable, or legal, and what aren’t is a great reason to leverage the services of a recruiter. Worried about what to ask and not ask? No sweat! Ask us for our free interview questions at [email protected].

© 2019 REM Real Estate Magazine

By not claiming CPP until 70, you could get 150 per cent of the income you would receive at 65

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald
The Globe and Mail

By now, Canadians may have heard that there’s a big financial advantage to delaying Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits. The standard figure cited for delaying CPP to the age of 70 is that it increases benefits to 142 per cent of what they would be at 65.

In fact, my own research shows it would bring your benefits to closer to 150 per cent – and nearly 250 per cent of what they would be at the age of 60. Delaying the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) also offers the same advantages.

The math behind the strategy

At 70, the calculation of how much CPP a person gets is based on 142 per cent of a complicated calculation of average Canadian earnings, known as the Maximum Pensionable Earnings Average, which increases with the compounding of inflation and wage growth over those five years – from 65 to 70. Assuming that wages increase by 1.1 per cent ahead of inflation, following what the Chief Actuary of Canada thinks, then that 142 per cent would grow by 1.1 per cent over inflation each year, for five years, to reach about 150 per cent.

What’s more, any “zero” earning years from the age of 65 onward won’t affect the benefit calculation.

Retirement financial risk re-explained

Unlike personal savings, CPP benefits provide a predictable pension. Even if financial markets perform poorly, inflation is high or you live longer than you expect, you can’t outlive your CPP.

One way to appreciate the value of this financial security is to calculate what the retail market price would be. In delaying CPP by five years (from 65 to 70), you are “purchasing” an additional 50 per cent of the CPP benefits at the “cost” of five years of forfeited CPP payments. It would currently cost a 70-year-old man 64 per cent more in the private market to purchase an annuity equal to that provided by CPP. For a woman, the cost is 84-per-cent higher.

If this cost/benefit calculation didn’t capture your attention, consider the financial risk by visualizing your future self. You might want the money now – but you also don’t like the idea of being old and vulnerable.

Imagine you’re among the two-thirds of Canadians who live past the age of 85, possibly with deteriorated health, as more than two-thirds of Canadians are at that age. With a CPP maximum of $13,600 a year, choosing to delay CPP benefits could mean getting up to $6,800 more in secure income each year, which increases with inflation. This reliable extra income can be essential to cover supplemental care, above and beyond the limited government benefits available.

Keep in mind that, at 85, average life expectancy is another eight years. If invested appropriately, could those original five years of forfeited CPP payments have delivered the same level of additional income over such a period? Yes, but you’d need an annual investment return of 9 per cent, after investment fees.

© Copyright 2019 The Globe and Mail Inc.

Building a brewery: Massive Molson Coors plant takes shape in Chilliwack

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Size and visibility of new Chilliwack facility have already made it a local landmark

Glenda Luymes
The Province

You might expect hyperbole in a story about the Molson Coors Canada brewery under construction in Chilliwack.

After all, beer has been known to inspire poetry, while odes to ale remain a popular topic in country music.

But a 400,000-square-foot building requires no embellishment to be extraordinary.

The $200-million Molson Coors brewery, on a 14.5-hectare parcel beside the Trans-Canada Highway, will be the company’s largest brewery in Western Canada. Its size and visibility have already made it a local landmark, as other buildings, including a Best Buy warehouse directly across the highway, look small in comparison.

About seven months ahead of its anticipated opening early next summer, the building was recently closed in with steel panels. The cool, grey interior hums with generators. Bursts of welding sparks catch the eye.

About 100 brew tanks of varying sizes are in place across the space, including the massive fermentation tanks with steel legs buried deep in a concrete slab more than a metre thick. A crack-free concrete floor gleams like a sheet of ice. It’s impossible to track a single pipe through the labyrinth on the ceiling above.

The technical work of connecting the piping and electricity is underway.

“It is an amazing operation,” said Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove. The newly-elected mayor recently toured the brewery. “There’s no down side to this for our city.”

Construction has generated about 1,000 jobs. The brewery will eventually be staffed by about 100 employees. The company says it is still determining how many of those people will come from the soon-to-close Vancouver brewery and how many more positions will need to be filled. Job postings have already started to appear online.

The construction stats are impressive, too. About 1,900 tonnes of steel and 13,000 cubic metres of concrete will be used in the brewery, according to Molson Coors. (In comparison, 13,000 tonnes of structural steel and 157,000 cubic metres of concrete were used in the Port Mann Bridge.)

In May, 50 stainless steel brew tanks arrived at the New Westminster port from China. For the better part of a month, the largest tanks, some of them 5.5 metres in diameter and 18 metres tall, were loaded onto barges and moved up river before being transported by truck across Chilliwack in the middle of the night.

“There was significant complexity to the tank process,” said Matt Hook, chief supply chain officer.

Building a brewery isn’t an everyday occurrence, even for a large company like Molson Coors Canada. Its last big build was in Moncton in 2007, and the next one will likely be Montreal in 2021.

The company’s latest project began in earnest in November 2015 when Molson Coors sold its landmark Vancouver brewery to developer Concord Pacific for a reported $185 million.

The company wanted a new facility west of the Rockies, close to its Port Coquitlam distribution centre and the port of Metro Vancouver, said Hook. But finding a large enough site inside Metro was never going to be easy.

After looking at 30 to 35 different property options, only a handful had the right water, soil and utility infrastructure, said Hook. In August 2016, the company announced Chilliwack as the brewery’s new B.C. home.

It was fitting, in a way. In the 1940s, Chilliwack was the largest hop-growing region in the British Commonwealth until lower U.S. production costs drove operations south. Hop farming is experiencing a resurgence in B.C., driven largely by the craft beer industry. Earlier this month, Molson Coors announced it would be buying local hops for some of its brews, naming two Chilliwack farms and an Abbotsford farm.

To start, the new brewery will produce about the same volume of beer as the Vancouver site — exactly how much is a trade secret, said Hook. It will primarily serve the western Canadian market, brewing, packing and distributing Molson Canadian, Coors Light, Rickards and Granville Island Brewing products and cider in cans, bottles and kegs. Production can be scaled up or down depending on market demand.

Unlike the Vancouver brewery, which rises several stories high, the Chilliwack brewery is on one level, increasing its efficiency. Water and grains enter the building on one side before being pumped through a series of tanks. The mash steeps in a large kettle before hops and yeast are added farther along the line before reaching the giant fermentation tanks. After filtration, the final “bright beer” is bottled, pasteurized and packaged before leaving the building on a pallet.

Making beer requires large quantities water, said Hook. It often takes five or six litres of water to produce one litre of beer. Molson Coors is aiming for a 3:1 water-to-beer ratio.

Despite its impressive scale, the brewery will still be small by international standards. The world’s largest single-site brewery, the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado, makes 12 to 14 times more beer than the new Chilliwack brewery.

But in Canada, the new brewery can hold its own. It’s a medium-sized facility compared to Montreal and Toronto, but it will supply the western Canadian market, with B.C.’s notable affinity for cans over bottles.

“For all of us, this is a special occasion,” said Hook. “Many people don’t get a chance to be part of something like this in their career. Next year is going to be a very, very important year for us.”

When the first can of beer slides smoothly off the assembly line in early summer, it could be worth a poem — or at least a country song.

Brewery by the numbers

1786 — The year English immigrant John Molson established Canada’s oldest beer brewery on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Montreal

$200 million — Cost of the new Molson Coors brewery in Chilliwack.

400,000 square feet — Size of the brewery

14.5 hectares — Size of the site

1,000 — People employed during construction

100 — People to be employed at the brewery

100 — Tanks to be used in brewing process

18 metres — Height of the large fermentation tanks barged up the Fraser River

675,000 cans of beer — Capacity of each fermentation tank

Three — Litres of water used to make one litre of beer

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc

Going crazy over cannabis

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Mark Weisleder

I have now given more than 30 seminars about the new Cannabis Act to real estate brokerages, real estate boards and landlord groups. I have interviewed medical cannabis users and growers and spoken to condominium lawyers and insurers. It seems to me that most are fearing the worst, instead of just working towards common sense solutions that will benefit everyone.

Here are six things you need to know:

1. Why do people have to grow cannabis when they can buy it now legally?

The fact is that if you grow the cannabis plant safely and economically, it can cost a fraction of the retail price of a gram of cannabis. For those who have a medical prescription that requires several grams of cannabis per day, growing can actually save thousands of dollars per year.

2. Can condominium boards ban the use or growing of cannabis in a condominium building?

Lawyers will be paid a lot of money to ultimately decide this as a result of human rights and constitutional law issues. This has not stopped countless condominium boards from already implementing rules banning all smoking, grandfathering only those who smoked cigarettes before the rule, and banning any growing of any cannabis plant. Other condominium boards are doing nothing right now and will just step in if one unit owner starts smoking cannabis and bothers their neighbours or damages the unit as a result of growing. This is similar to stepping in if you have wild parties in your unit and it bothers your neighbours.

3. How are condominium boards handling unit owners who have a medical prescription for cannabis?

Here it gets interesting. The boards will permit someone who has a medical prescription to smoke or grow cannabis provided they ensure that all the smoke, odours and moisture generated is kept inside their unit, so as not to bother anyone in the hallways or in neighbouring units or damage the walls with mould.

4. Can you stop a tenant from smoking cannabis or growing cannabis plants?

Even though it is legal to smoke or grow cannabis, you can include a clause in a lease to stop any tenant from smoking or growing cannabis on the premises. This should be inserted into every lease. I have created these clauses that are available in my own Ontario Guide for Landlords. If the tenant then smokes, it will be easier to evict them. But you will still have to prove that the tenant is either bothering other tenants or damaging the property.

5. What is going on with the insurance industry?

Some insurers are threatening to cancel coverage if cannabis plants are grown on the property. This is complete over reacting, since it ignores the fact that we are not talking about a grow house operation and cannabis can be grown safely.

6. It is possible to smoke or grow cannabis safely in an apartment or home without bothering a neighbour or damaging the property?

This is the key point. The answer is yes. If you smoke cannabis using a vaping pen, you can virtually eliminate the smoke and odour. If you use a bong, which operates like a pipe when smoking tobacco, you reduce the odour when you inhale and if you use a device called a “smoke buddy” when you exhale, you again reduce the smoke and the odour. Supplementing this with air fresheners will also assist with eliminating the nuisance altogether.

You can also now buy a special “grow tent” for about $500, that is two feet by two feet and about five-feet high. It just plugs into the wall, absorbs the moisture from the plants and emits warm air into the apartment. No odours and no moisture if set up properly. You grow the plants three-feet high, harvest them and then grow again.

As you can see, this is what the solution must be. Tenants should be able to smoke under the new law, but they must make sure they are doing it in a way that does not bother anyone else, and if they must have an actual marijuana cigarette, just go outside. And if you are going to grow any plant, be upfront and show the landlord how you are doing it safely. This should satisfy not only the landlord, but also any condominium board or insurer who has concerns.

Maybe if you are over-stressed about all of this, just take a puff and relax. It will all work out.

© 2017 REM Real Estate Magazine

In Sweden, cash is almost extinct and people implant microchips in their hands to pay for things

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

Cash in Sweden is being squeezed out quickly

Liz Alderman

Few countries have been moving toward a cashless society as fast as Sweden. But cash is being squeezed out so quickly — with half the nation’s retailers predicting they will stop accepting bills before 2025 — that the government is recalculating the societal costs of a cash-free future.

The financial authorities, who once embraced the trend, are asking banks to keep peddling notes and coins until the government can figure out what going cash-free means for young and old consumers. The central bank, which predicts cash may fade from Sweden, is testing a digital currency — an e-krona — to keep firm control of the money supply. Lawmakers are exploring the fate of online payments and bank accounts if an electrical grid fails or servers are thwarted by power failures, hackers or even war.

“When you are where we are, it would be wrong to sit back with our arms crossed, doing nothing, and then just take note of the fact that cash has disappeared,” said Stefan Ingves, governor of Sweden’s central bank, known as the Riksbank. “You can’t turn back time, but you do have to find a way to deal with change.”

Ask most people in Sweden how often they pay with cash and the answer is “almost never.” A fifth of Swedes, in a country of 10 million people, do not use automated teller machines anymore. More than 4,000 Swedes have implanted microchips in their hands, allowing them to pay for rail travel and food, or enter keyless offices, with a wave. Restaurants, buses, parking lots and even pay toilets depend on clicks rather than cash.

Consumer groups say the shift leaves many retirees — a third of all Swedes are 55 or older — as well as some immigrants and people with disabilities at a disadvantage. They cannot easily gain access to electronic means for some goods and transactions, and rely on banks and their customer service. And the progress toward a cashless society could upend the state’s centuries-old role as sovereign guarantor. If cash disappears, commercial banks would wield greater control.

“We need to pause and think about whether this is good or bad, and not just sit back and let it happen,” said Mats Dillén, the head of a Swedish Parliament committee studying the matter. “If cash disappears, that would be a big change, with major implications for society and the economy.”

Urban consumers worldwide are increasingly paying with apps and plastic. In China and in other Asian countries rife with young smartphone users, mobile payments are routine. In Europe, about one in five people say they rarely carry money. In Belgium, Denmark and Norway, debit and credit card use has hit record highs.

But Sweden — and particularly its young people — is at the vanguard. Bills and coins represent just 1 per cent of the economy, compared with 10 per cent in Europe and 8 per cent in the United States. About one in 10 consumers paid for something in cash this year, down from 40 per cent in 2010. Most merchants in Sweden still accept notes and coins, but their ranks are thinning.

Among 18-to-24-year-olds, the numbers are startling: Up to 95 per cent of their purchases are with a debit card or a smartphone app called Swish, a payment system set up by Sweden’s biggest banks.

Ikea, whose flat-box furniture is a staple of young households, has been experimenting to gauge the allure and effect of cashless commerce. In Gävle, about 100 miles north of Stockholm, managers decided to go cashless temporarily last month after they realized that fewer than 1 per cent of shoppers used cash — and Ikea employees were spending about 15 per cent of their time handling, counting and storing money.

Patric Burstein, a senior manager, said the cashless test had freed employees to work on the sales floor. So far, around 1.2 of every 1,000 customers have been unable to pay with anything but cash — and mainly in the cafeteria where people tend to spend change. Rather than bother with bills, Ikea has been offering those customers freebies.

“We said, ‘If you want a 50 cent hot dog, be my guest, take it. But next time maybe you can bring a card,’” said Burstein, 38. The test so far suggests that cash is not essential and, instead, may be costly, he said. “We’re spending a lot of resources on a very small percentage that actually need the service,” he said.

The nearby branch of the Swedish National Pensioners Organization has led protests against the experiment, in part, because many retirees like to go to the Gävle Ikea for a bite to eat.

“We have around 1 million people who aren’t comfortable using the computer, iPads or iPhones for banking,” said Christina Tallberg, 75, the group’s national president. “We aren’t against the digital movement, but we think it’s going a bit too fast.”

The organization has been raising money to teach retirees how to pay electronically, but, paradoxically, that good effort has been tripped up by an abundance of cash. When collections for training are taken in rural areas — and the seniors donate in cash — the pensioner in charge must drive miles to find a bank that will actually take the money, Tallberg said. About half of Sweden’s 1,400 bank branches no longer accept cash deposits.

“It’s more or less impossible, because the banks refuse to take cash,” she said.

Banks have propelled the cashless revolution by encouraging consumers and retailers to use debit and credit cards, which yields banks and credit card companies lucrative fees. That includes the bank-developed Swish smartphone app.

Sweden’s banks have cut back on cash in part for safety reasons after a rash of violent robberies in the mid-2000s. The national psyche is marked by an infamous helicopter heist in Västberga in 2009, when thieves landed on the roof of a G4S cash service depot and stole millions — a drama now being turned into a Netflix film. Last year, only two banks were robbed compared with 210 in 2008.

In recent years, banks have dismantled cash machines by the hundreds. So little cash is used now that it has become expensive to track and maintain, said Leif Trogen, an official at the Swedish Bankers’ Association.

There are two proposals by Swedish authorities to keep cash at hand. Parliament wants just the biggest banks to handle cash. The central bank is holding out for all banks to keep money flowing. Swedbank, SEB and other big Swedish financial institutions are fighting the lawmakers’ demands, saying it would place an undue burden on them to provide greater access.

“The demand for cash is decreasing at an ever faster pace,” Trogen said. “Therefore, it is fundamentally wrong to legislate to influence the demand for cash.”

The central bank has plans to roll out a pilot version next year of a new type of Riksbank money — the digital krona, or e-krona — that could replace physical cash or at least help calm the current cash conundrum. An e-krona would mean that the functions of a currency backed by the state would remain, even in an all-digital world that is fast approaching.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, noted last week that several central banks were “seriously considering” digital currencies.

“While the case for digital currency is not universal, we should investigate it further — seriously, carefully and creatively,” she said.

Ingves, the central bank governor, said, “This is not a war on cash, but no one has argued that this evolutionary motion is going to stop.”

The New York Times

Canadian Retail Sales and Inflation

Friday, October 19th, 2018



Canadian retail sales declined 0.1 per cent on a monthly basis in August, but were 3.6 per cent higher on a year-over-year basis. Retail sales were lower in 7 of 11 sub-sectors representing 52 per cent of total retail trade. After a spending binge in 2017 which saw retail sales grow nearly ten per cent,  BC consumers have closed their wallets this year. BC retail sales declined 0.1 per cent on a monthly basis in August and were just 1.3 per cent higher year-over-year.  

Canadian inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), registered 2.2 per cent in the 12 months to September, down from the nearly 3 per cent rate recorded in July and August. The Bank of Canada’s three measures of trend inflation softened slightly in September, but still remain at or near the Bank’s two per cent target.  In BC, provincial consumer price inflation was 2.5 per cent in the 12 months to September.  Although inflation numbers have softened slightly, it is still widely expected that the Bank of Canada will raise its overnight rate at its next meeting on October 24.

Copyright ©2018 BCREA

Debt regret an increasingly common syndrome among Canadians

Friday, September 7th, 2018

41% of Canadians regretted the volume of debt in their lives

Ephraim Vecina

In the latest study conducted by Ipsos for insolvency practice MNP Debt, two-thirds of Canadians polled said that they had significant regrets over their debts.

The survey found that 41% of Canadians regretted the volume of debt they have taken on in their lives. A further 37% are troubled by their current debt levels, and an alarming 44% are fearful that they will not be able to service all living and family expenses in the next 12 months without incurring further debt.

“There are even more who are technically insolvent but they just haven’t sought debt help yet. Those who were dangerously close to being unable to pay their bills are struggling even more now with interest rate increases,” MNP licensed insolvency trustee Donna Carson said.

The most notable sources of regret cited by respondents were random purchases on their credit cards (33% of Canadians) and uncontrolled daily purchases of items like coffee (18%).

Other factors that Canadians blamed for their debt were cars (12%), home add-ons like furniture (12%), clothing (11%), electronics (10%), alcohol (9%), choice of spouse/partner (9%), vacation/travel expenses (8%), bad investments (8%), student debt (8%), and gambling (6%).

“An unexpected expense – even as simple as an increase in interest expenses – can be a catalyst for bankruptcy. The biggest issue is that so many do not have a budget or an emergency savings plan. This can lead to crippling debt regret,” Carson added.

Copyright © 2018 Key Media Pty Ltd

Aston Martin to debut electric luxury brand

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

The Province

Aston Martin’s new electric luxury Lagonda brand will bow in 2021 with an SUV, the British automaker recently confirmed.

Though it teased crowds this year with its Lagonda Vision concept sedan, the brand — designed to take on Rolls-Royce and Bentley in the ultraluxury field — will try to get its footing with what Aston calls the first “luxury battery electric SUV” to hit the market.

Aston plans to become an industry pioneer in solid-state battery technology via Lagonda, and further down the road wants to offer Level 4 autonomous capabilities in the luxury vehicles.

Aston Martin’s own upcoming SUV, previewed by the once-upona-time DBX concept, is set to launch next year, but will remain distinct from the Lagonda. That utility will use gasoline-driven powertrains only.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

6 Public Speaking Tips for the First 2 Minutes of Any Presentation

Friday, May 25th, 2018

The first one or two minutes of a speech makes the presentation

Steve Goldstein

Some skills intersect with almost all professions. Writing, for instance. Concise, clear, useful writing can take a person far in almost any working environment. Another skill that can lead to either advancement or stasis in a multitude of professions: public speaking.

Whatever you do for a living, there’s a professional conference tailored just for you. Speaking—and speaking well—at a conference can create more value for your employer and more value for you in the job market. And let’s put internal group meetings, media interviews, client and investor pitches and meetings with boards of directors in the same public speaking bucket with professional conferences. If you’re speaking in a room of any size that seems short on chairs, you’re speaking in public.

Some of us—make that most of us—who’ve spoken at conferences and in boardrooms consider ourselves to be passable speakers at best. We might feel that being a strong, effective presence in front of an audience isn’t in our genetic makeup or that we’re essentially behind-the-scenes people. We are who we are, and we have to work with that.

Andy Gilman, president and CEO of CommCore Consulting Group and one of the canniest media trainers you could hope to meet, won’t argue that point. You can’t change your basic character and erase years of habits and phobias overnight, but you can create a mental toolkit that can slowly transform you from a tic-plagued live speaker into a true performer who’s always in sync with an audience.

A fully stocked public speaking toolkit can take years to compile. You have to start somewhere, though, so let’s start with the most important part of any public speech—the opening. If you can get the first one or two minutes of a speech or presentation right, you’re practically home free, unless you fall off a stage (and even then, things are salvageable).

Assume the audience is already on your side—they want to see you succeed. Nobody wants to squirm and cringe empathetically for a flailing public speaker. Your job in the first couple of minutes is to keep the audience on your side and give it little choice but to listen to you.

Here are some of Gilman’s tips, tools and recommendations you can add to your public speaking toolkit, to be used specifically for the first few minutes of any live presentation. These recommendations naturally play into each other—adopting one of them makes adopting the rest easier.

Smile! It seems so obvious, but often you’ll see public speakers grimly delivering their content, despite their intellectual and emotional closeness to it. “People are more likely to receive information from someone who’s happy to deliver it,” says Gilman. Think of something—anything—that makes you smile, even if it has nothing to do with the reason why you’ve found yourself in front of an audience. Draw a smiley face on your notes if you have to, just to remind yourself. When you smile your whole body relaxes. Your shoulders go down, your defensiveness fades, your breath slows and deepens. The audience will see this and feel it, and be grateful for it.

Pause. A rush of words drives audience members back to their work emails and social media feeds. If you build in pauses, you build in anticipation.

Use hand gestures when speaking. Resting both of your hands on a lectern or keeping them stiffly at your side communicates unease, and the audience may lose faith in your ability to tell them something that matters to them. Using hand gestures connects you to your own material. If you’re connected to your material, others will want to plug into that connection.

Instead of reading from notes, express your expertise with an anecdote, specific insight or ask for a show of hands, and make it relate to the audience, not to you. Notes have their important place, and in many cases you have to work from a script. It’s best to start your speech without reading from notes. Obviously you need to know your stuff if you’re going to speak without looking at notes. Let’s assume that you do know your stuff. Showcase it by sharing a provocative anecdote that relates directly to the topic at hand. Don’t waste that first minute telling people your name or regurgitating the name of the session at hand. Grab them with a nugget of knowledge, or lead into that nugget of knowledge by doing a quick poll of the audience. Steal an insight from a fellow speaker if you have to—you can apologize later. Two things to keep in mind: Practice this seemingly off-the-cuff opener in front of a mirror, and don’t become over-reliant on any one technique over a span of months and years.

Divide a room mentally into several sectors and make eye contact with one person in each sector. Figure on making eye contact with at least four people in the room. Those four people will feel special, as long as you don’t hold your gaze for too long. That’s just a side benefit, though. What you’ll gain is a true connection with the audience and with the moment.

Leave the jokes to the professional comedians. Gilman is unequivocal in this recommendation. Based on my own experience as a public speaker, I have to agree with him. If I could I would take back every joke I’ve ever uttered on a podium. Chances are your jokes will fall flat, and even the ones that land well are guaranteed to offend somebody in the room. Audiences expect both lame and offensive jokes when they’re paying to attend a comedy club. They’re happy to do without them in professional settings. If you want jokes in your panel discussion or boardroom meeting, bring a comedian with you.

© 2018, Access Intelligence, LLC.

The controversy over the PSA test is failing men with aggressive prostate cancers

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Controversy surrounds PSA test

Larry Pynn
The Province

One typically thinks of men 50 and older getting a PSA blood test to help smoke out prostate cancer.

But B.C. politician Rick Glumac took the test at age 46, a life-changing decision that he encourages others to pursue.

“I noticed some subtle changes that were easy to ignore — and I did for over a year,” says the NDP MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam. “It started to worry me more and more.”

Turns out he had an elevated PSA score of 4.9. A followup biopsy confirmed in December that he had prostate cancer, and Dr. Larry Goldenberg performed robotic-assisted surgery soon thereafter.

Married with two children, Glumac lost just two weeks of work at the B.C. legislature. His prognosis is good.

“It’s been challenging, for sure,” he allows. “I’d never been in the hospital overnight for anything in my entire life. I’ve always been healthy. It was quite a shock.”

Glumac fully supports early detection through the PSA test — it’s not definitive, but an important clue that can help men uncover a potentially deadly cancer early on. He’s a fit man, and had no known family history of prostate cancer. “It’s something I’ll do ongoing to make sure there is no recurrence of this cancer.”

The PSA test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen, a type of protein, in a man’s blood. When a man has an elevated PSA, it may be caused by prostate cancer, but it could also be caused by other conditions such as an enlarged or inflamed prostate.

The trick before undergoing invasive treatment is to determine which cancers are likely to be aggressive and spread, and which are not — instead growing so slowly they are unlikely to pose a threat during a man’s lifetime.

And that’s a big part of the controversy that has raged over PSA testing the past several years.

“The test itself is fairly harmless, a blood test,” explained Ryan Woods, scientific director of the B.C. Cancer Registry. “The concern is if it identifies a whole bunch of cancers that wouldn’t have been diagnosed in someone’s life without that test.

“Those men will get follow-ups for biopsies, some of them aggressive procedures to deal with the tumours. The harm involves additional procedures that might not have been necessary.”

But without the PSA test, men with aggressive cancers might not be diagnosed — at least, not until it’s late in the game.

“For that person, it’s really important,” Woods continued. “To me, in public health, it’s one of the hardest things, trying to come up with that balance of harm and good.”

A troubling chart on Woods’s computer screen reflects the controversy.

It shows a spike in the rate of prostate cancer diagnosis among B.C. men in the late 1980s through early 90s. That coincided with the PSA test becoming common, and more men learning that they silently carried the disease.

The troubling part is the sharp decline in detections in recent years, which could be caused by the uncertainty and controversy over the PSA causing fewer family physicians to order the blood test for patients.

And that could mean more men with undetected aggressive cancers.

“We saw a dramatic rise in prostate cancer rates, pretty much consistent in all the developed world, due to a lot more cases being discovered,” Woods said.

The rate of prostate cancer detections was 226 for every 100,000 men in 1993. By 2015, it fell to 103 cases per 100,000, or about the same rate as in 1978.

“Are we now missing some of the ones that really are going to become clinically apparent?” Woods said. “Are we going to catch those ones later on? That’s where we need to monitor data to assess that.”

(A procedure before the PSA test known as TURP — transurethral resection of the prostate, the removal of tissue from an enlarged prostate, followed by testing for cancer — also contributed to the rise in detection in the 1980s.)

Challenging the PSA test

In 2014, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care issued a report recommending against PSA screening for men, although the strength of its recommendations varied by age group: strongest for men under 55 years of age and those 70 years and older; and less so for the 55-69 age group, saying “there is inconsistent evidence of a small potential benefit of screening, and evidence of harms.”

There is a remote risk of death due to a biopsy test, and the potential for infections. Removal of the prostate carries the risk of incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

The task force, which will report back in five years, said its recommendations reflect “concerns with false positive results, unnecessary biopsies, over-diagnosis of prostate cancer, and harms associated with unnecessary treatment.”

Dr. Neil Bell is a professor of family medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He chaired the team that made the recommendation. The task force mainly involved experts in preventive screening and epidemiology rather prostate cancer specialists, and concluded that the PSA test had little effect on survivability.

Bell argued in an interview that the “vast majority” of men diagnosed with cancer through the PSA test will not benefit from therapy.  “Controversy in prostate cancer screening is going to go on forever, until they get a better test than the PSA test,” he said. “If you go through all the steps, including surgery, and you’re fine … your belief system is that it cured you and everyone should have the test.”

The bottom line is that doctors must carefully discuss the implications of treatment with patients before any decision is made.

“There is a concept of shared decision making, which urologists talk about, but I don’t think they actually do it in the manner … it should be done,” Bell said. “Often, it’s ‘I’ll share my decision with you or figure it out on your own.’”

In the book, Over-Diagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health, Dr. H. Gilbert Welch writes that screening for prostate cancer is a double-edged sword. “It can produce benefit: Providing the opportunity to intervene early can reduce the number of deaths from cancer. It can produce harm: over-diagnosis and over-treatment. And it can do both at the same time. So, while a strong case can be made for cancer screening, there are good reasons to approach it cautiously.”

In the U.S., the medical community has also addressed the issue, but recently made some subtle but important changes. In 2017, draft recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force softened its 2012 opposition to PSA screening, by suggesting only men 70 and older should not receive such tests.

Within the 55 to 69 age group, it noted the risk of over-treatment has been reduced in recent years by the use of active surveillance in men with low-risk prostate cancer, a way of monitoring prostate cancer that hasn’t spread outside the prostate. Men whose cancers progress during surveillance are offered surgery or radiation treatment. The U.S. task force urges “individualized decision making about screening for prostate cancer after discussion with a clinician.”

U.S. comedic actor Ben Stiller used his fame to raise awareness in 2016, saying he learned he had prostate cancer in 2014, and had the prostate removed. He was only 46.

“Taking the PSA test saved my life. Literally,” he wrote. “This is a complicated issue, and an evolving one. But in this imperfect world, I believe the best way to determine a course of action for the most treatable, yet deadly cancer, is to detect it early.”

A question of treatment, not diagnosis

Urology surgeons associated with the Vancouver Prostate Centre fully support the PSA test.

“It’s a continuous variable — the higher your PSA, the poorer your outcome,” says the executive-director, Dr. Martin Gleave. “What’s the best way to diagnose prostate cancer? It’s by far PSA. By far. Is there a controversy? Yes, but a lot of that controversy is through misunderstanding.

“The argument was that PSA was catching too many small fish. But across Canada we’ve led the world over the past 20 years in establishing active surveillance as the way to reduce your risk of PSA-detected morbidity.”

Magnetic resonance imaging, MRIs, is also used to assess the presence of cancer and the best treatment. Too expensive for general use, the MRI can provide more detailed followup information, including on whether a cancer has advanced to tissue beyond the prostate. Because of backlogs in the public system, patients may spend $1,000-plus for an MRI in the private system.

At what PSA level should family doctors refer their patients to a urologist?

As a guideline, Gleave says men in their 40s should have a PSA score under 2.5; in their 50s under 3.5; in their 60s under 4.5; and in their 70s under 6.5 — rates that should be followed over time to ensure they don’t increase too quickly. Modest rises over time are considered acceptable.

Dr. Kim Chi, a medical oncologist with B.C. Cancer, also emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis. “We know we can diagnose men earlier in the disease, at a point when a cure is achievable” he said.

“We identify low risk cancers by the way the biopsy looks under the microscope, the PSA level, and how much cancer is in the prostate. A lot of research is being performed to try to better refine the risk categorization of prostate cancer.”

Dr. Mira Keyes, B.C. Cancer’s head of brachytherapy in Vancouver, said that as a result of the PSA controversy she’s “seeing more patients with more higher-risk prostate cancer, more aggressive disease, requiring multi-disciplinary treatments.”

While the goal is not for every man to receive a PSA test annually, she said that a baseline test before age 50 could be valuable in tracking the disease over time. “It puts the patients into low or high risks of developing prostate cancer.”

An estimated 620 men died of prostate cancer in B.C. last year.

“All die from metastatic disease,” Chi continued. “Most were diagnosed with metastases at the outset or had locally advanced disease which subsequently metastasized. This emphasizes the need for early detection.”

Glumac’s surgeon, Goldenberg, estimates that about 50 per cent of men who take the surveillance option will require treatment after three to five years — surgery or radiation — but during that time have avoided the complications of treatment.

“It’s a wrong decision not to want to know,” said Goldenberg, who encourages men to pursue the PSA test and rectal exam. “You might be the guy with the aggressive cancer that will kill you — and 40,000 to 50,000 men in North America are dying every year from prostate cancer.

“A lot more men are living with it, but you don’t know which category you’re in until you look for it. So be brave and make that decision to be checked.”

Goldenberg fears that the Canadian task force recommendations are robbing men of the chance for early detection and treatment.

“There’s a good expression — every case of metastatic cancer was once localized curable cancer.

“Most men are happy to live with the knowledge they have a low-level cancer and that it likely won’t harm them but that it will be monitored in case of changes.”

There is already evidence that the Canadian task force recommendations are swaying family doctors.

Goldenberg’s son, Mitchell, a urology surgeon in Toronto, headed a 2016 survey, published in the Canadian Urological Association Journal, of 1,254 primary care providers.

The survey found that 54.7 per cent of physicians who were aware of the recommendations reported conducting fewer PSA tests as a result. Overall, 55.6 per cent of physicians feel that the risks of PSA screening outweigh the benefits.

Said Bell: “Family physicians are not a unified group that believe all the same thing. … Some are advocates and some are skeptics. Some family doctors also may simply not want to spend the time necessary with a patient to discuss all the options, he said.

Visit here for more details of the survey.

The survey also found that physicians in practice for more than 20 years were significantly more likely to support men 55 to 69 years old getting the PSA test. Said Larry Goldenberg: “Maybe he’s had prostate cancer or has seen so many cases in his career that he knows it’s a serious disease.”

In B.C., men have to pay about $35 for the PSA test unless the doctor has grounds to request it. The province funded PSA tests for 192,002 men in the 2016-17 fiscal year — including LifeLabs and Health Authority outpatient labs, but not in-patient lab tests performed in hospitals — which compares with 206,630 men in 2013/14.

Decades ago, Goldenberg would see patients “on crutches with metastasis in their spine or their hips, bone disease, needed their testicles removed — castration — and they would die miserable deaths.

“That’s an uncommon presentation today. Why? Because of PSA screening. The debate should not be on over-diagnoses, it should be on over-treatment. And we’re fixing that.”

The PSA debate is a critical one, but is largely lost on men.

A survey by Prostate Cancer UK showed that 60 per cent of men over 50 had never heard of the PSA test — even though some 11,000 die annually from prostate cancer.

Wally Oppal, B.C.’s former attorney general, concedes he “didn’t really know that much” about the PSA test when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had his prostate removed in 2007, and now receives an annual PSA test and his readings have been negligible since the operation.

Oppal supports men getting tested. “It’s better to find out what you have than go blindly forward.”

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