Archive for the ‘Other News Articles’ Category

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

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
other

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

BCREA ECONOMICS NOW

BCREA

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
REP

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

NICHOLAS MARONESE
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
other

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.”

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

B.C. mayors wary as province eyes intersection camera revenue

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Sharing camera cash worries mayors

Randy Shore & Glenda Luymes
The Vancouver Sun

B.C. mayors are concerned their policing budgets could be strained if a new red-light camera revenue-sharing deal with the province leads to cuts.

“That money is really important to our police budget and we have an endless need for police resources,” said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “It’s really important to our community safety programs.”

The provincial government has told municipalities that it intends to change the way revenue from fines is distributed, after the system is updated to catch speeding drivers on green and amber lights. The system currently only nabs drivers who run red lights.

The program took in about $58 million last year, but the government has been advised the take could go up to $89 million.

If the take goes up, municipalities will want their fair share.

“If they are activating intersection speed cameras, we will need some balanced way to share that (extra) money,” said Brodie. “We are installing HD cameras at certain intersections for about $2 million and we could use some money to get that going.”

Richmond currently receives between $1.5 million and $2.2 million a year from the program.

Vancouver stands to be either the biggest winner — or the biggest loser — when a new deal is struck.

The city has received an average of $13.1 million each year over the past three years, money that helps offset the city’s policing costs. Almost half of the infractions caught by the system’s 140 intersection cameras are recorded in Vancouver.

The distribution of revenue is based on a formula that takes into account the investment that municipalities make in policing, not the number of tickets issued in that community.

City of Langley Mayor Ted Schaffer was wary of the revenue renegotiation.

“As a city, we’re concerned about anything the province may do in terms of clawing back,” he said. “We don’t want to see any more downloading of costs onto municipal government.”

The City of Langley received $472,000 in traffic-fine revenue last year, which helped to fund three RCMP members.

Schaffer said that while the city’s population remains stagnant, costs are on the rise. 

“Costs are constantly passed onto us, and many senior bureaucrats don’t see that,” he said. “We can’t throw in a new apartment complex and hope that covers it.”

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart was also concerned about the downloading of costs onto municipal governments, which have limited means of generating revenue compared to the provincial government.

“I suspect we’d all scream if this led to a reduction,” he said.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said she wasn’t worried about the provincial government’s decision to revisit the revenue-sharing agreement, as long as the money given to municipalities is “going upward and not downward.”

Surrey receives about $6 million annually from the province, all of which goes to the RCMP budget.

“We’d be very concerned if that amount was diminished,” she said, adding the money helps to fund officers as well as education.

Hepner said escalating ICBC premiums are a persuasive reason to upgrade the cameras to catch speeding drivers.

“I’m for anything that prevents crashes in our intersections,” she said.

The City of Victoria is watching for details of the provincial government’s plans for camera revenue. That $2-million annual grant represents about four per cent of the city’s $54-million policing budget.

“We hope that this is a decision that will not remove much-needed revenue from local governments whose only means of raising general revenue are property taxes,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.

Neighbouring Saanich receives about $1.5 million a year through the program, which it uses to offset policing costs.

Prince George received just over $1 million last year, compared to $1.1 million in 2016. The money was used to offset policing costs, said a spokesman.

A relatively small number of intersections account for the bulk of red-light camera tickets handed out in B.C., according to a 2015 Postmedia analysis of ICBC data.

Figures showed that 25 intersections account for more than half of the 93,000 tickets issued during a three-year period between 2012 and 2014.

According to the data, the most-ticketed intersection in the province was at Georgia and Denman, with 3,902 total red-light camera tickets over three years. Oak and 57th was a close second, at 3,852. Nordel Way and 84th Avenue in Delta was third at 3,172.

In 2011, the province increased the number of red-light cameras from 120 to 140 and moved existing cameras to higher-risk locations in Vancouver and Surrey.

That change increased the number of red-light tickets issued each year from around 20,000 to 30,000. It also increased the share of tickets given out in B.C.’s two largest cities. Of the 93,000 total red-light camera tickets issued from 2012 to 2014, nearly half, 45,000, were given out at intersections in the City of Vancouver. Surrey was a distant second at 12,000, followed by Burnaby at 7,600.

The B.C. government has set a deadline for consultations to conclude by the end of July. 

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

This UBC professor can take pride in having her book featured on Jeopardy!

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Martha Perkins
Vancouver Courier

For today’s daily double, Courier readers, this emotion describes Jessica Tracy’s reaction when she learned that her book was mentioned in a Jeopardy! question.

What is “blown away”?

On Wednesday night, the UBC psychology was riding in a taxi from the Los Angeles airport to her hotel room when she got a text from one of her graduate students, Eric Mercadante.

Mercadante’s mother is an avid Jeopardy! fan and tapes the nightly show. While Wednesday night’s question might not have excited the contestants – none of whom came up with the right question — she was thrilled to see a book by her son’s professor used as a question. She told her son and he immediately texted Dr. Tracy, who is in L.A. for a conference.

In 2016, Dr. Tracy had written a book called Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success. It explores pride’s dual personality. There’s the bad, narcissistic pride that’s based on a false sense of self but there’s also the positive, authentic, achievement-oriented pride.

“Why did Paul Gauguin abandon middle-class life to follow the path of a starving artist? What explains the massive success of Steve Jobs, a man with great ideas but weak programming skills and a questionable managerial style? How did Dean Karnazes — the famed ‘Ultramarathon Man’ — transform himself from a directionless desk jockey into an extreme athlete who once ran fifty marathons in fifty days? As the renowned emotion researcher Jessica Tracy reveals in Take Pride, each of these superachievers has been motivated by an often maligned emotion: pride,” says UBC’s Emotion Lab when describing the book. “By making us care about how others see us and how we see ourselves, pride makes us strive for excellence.”

LinkedIn influencer Adam Grant mentioned the book on his blog. Shopify chose it as one of its “2017 books to read by Women for Entrepreneurs.” More recently, in January it was named one of “12 Books for Ambitious Women Entrepreneurs by StartUp Mindset.”

Maybe one of the writers on Jeopardy! is an ambitious woman entrepreneur who liked the book because there it was under “Emotions” on Wednesday night’s show:

“In the book ‘Take’ this, Jessica Tracy says this sense of self-worth has led to many great accomplishments.”

Sixteen-hundred-dollars rode on the right answer.

“What is confidence,” the contestant asks.       

No, host Alex Trebek replies.

The other two contestants were equally stumped. The buzzer sounds.

“It’s pride, Take Pride,” Trebek says.

As for Dr. Tracy, “it was pretty cool” to watch her 15 seconds of fame, she told the Courier on Friday. “It’s a good little life highlight.”

And, along with her surprise and delight in having her book mentioned in a show watched by 10 million people a night, she too is entitled to feeling a sense of pride that her hard work and dedication have been acknowledged.

© 2018 Vancouver Courier

Yes, anti-pipeline Vancouver really is North America?s largest exporter of coal

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

A city dead set against expanding petroleum exports is decidedly less irked about another type of fossil fuel

Tristin Hopper
The Vancouver Sun

Lately, it’s one of the few things that oil boosters and environmental activists can agree upon: Calling Vancouver a hypocrite for opposing carbon emissions while also being the continent’s largest coal port.

And both camps are correct. According to the data, Canada’s mecca of anti-pipeline sentiment does indeed rank as the largest single exporter of coal in North America.

Vancouver’s various coal facilities exported 36.8 million tonnes of coal in 2017, according to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

This places the B.C. city well above Norfolk, Virginia, the busiest coal port in the United States. Despite a massive spike in U.S. coal exports for 2017, only 31.5 million tonnes of coal moved out of Norfolk last year.

Vancouver’s coal exports also dwarf the total coal production for the entire country of Mexico. According to data gathered by the U.S. Congressional Research Service, Mexican mines have produced no more than 16 million tonnes of coal per year since 2006.

Much of Vancouver’s coal is handled by a single facility that ranks as the largest of its kind on the continent.

Westshore Terminals loaded 29 million tonnes of coal in 2017, nearly triple the combined coal exports of the entire U.S. West Coast.

It’s also right next to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, making it a familiar sight to any passenger aboard a ferry arriving from Vancouver Island. Currently, Westshore Terminals is in the midst of a $275 million upgrade to “replace aging equipment and modernize our office and shop complex,” according to the company.

B.C. mines provide much of the coal flowing through Metro Vancouver. Even as coal production enters a prolonged decline around much of the world, it has been positively thriving west of the Rocky Mountains.

“Coal production is a mainstay of the province’s economy, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue and supporting thousands of well-paid jobs,” reads the website for B.C.’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

Coal is the province’s number one export commodity, with $3.32 billion of coal mined in 2016. Much of this is metallurgical coal, which is exported to Asia for the making of steel.

In recent years, however, Vancouver’s coal ports have also accommodated a massive increase in exports of thermal coal, which is used for the production of electricity.

In 2008, only 4.4 million tonnes of Vancouver’s coal exports could be called non-metallurgical. By 2017, this had more than doubled to 11.3 million tonnes.

Controversially, almost all of this thermal coal is coming from the United States. As lawmakers in Washington and Oregon have begun shutting down their own coal ports due to environmental concerns, thermal coal producers in Wyoming and Montana have simply diverted their product through Canada.

In August, then-premier Christy Clark called for a ban on Vancouver exports of U.S. thermal coal in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber. 

“They are no longer good trading partners with Canada. So that means we’re free to ban filthy thermal coal from B.C. ports, and I hope the federal government will support us in doing that,” she said at the time

In the main, however, Metro Vancouver has benefited handsomely from the presence of the coal industry, according to numbers compiled by the B.C.-based Coal Alliance. Between 2012 to 2017, coal-related companies spent $2.29 billion in Metro Vancouver, including $470 million in the City of Vancouver proper.

One the most visible contributions of the coal sector has been as a key sponsor of the Vancouver Aquarium. In 2012 Teck Resources donated $12.5 million to the attraction, the aquarium’s largest-ever single donation.

© 2018 National Post