Archive for the ‘Other News Articles’ Category

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.”

© 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


Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Phone Safety Tips


Dear valued magicJack customer,

Now more than ever, criminals utilize phone calls in their ever-evolving strategies to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals. It’s important to arm yourself with the information needed to identify and protect yourself from phone scams.

To help keep you safe, magicJack will never request sensitive personal information like passwords, credit card numbers, or bank account information. We will not call or email you with requests to access your computer, and do not offer virus protection plans or 10-year calling plans. Visit our website at to review our current product and service offerings, as well as pricing. Suspicious activities by third parties representing themselves as magicJack can be reported to [email protected].

Continue reading for tips on how to avoid common phone scams, such as caller ID falsification, family or friend emergency scams, computer-related scams, and IRS impersonators.

Caller ID Falsification

Caller ID, while a helpful tool, should not be solely relied upon to identify incoming calls. Scammers can modify their caller ID to appear as any number they wish (real or non-existent), including phone numbers from individuals, companies, and even the government.

Family or Friend Emergency Scams

Scammers may call you pretending to be a family member or friend who is in a bad situation. They may present an urgent, distressing story involving things like an accident, travel issues, or even jail. They may request that you send money right away via a fast, untraceable method (like gift cards or wire transfer) – their goal is to get your money before you realize you have been scammed.

In these situations, it’s important to think calmly and with a level head. Ask the caller questions that only the person they report to be would know, and attempt to call them back on a known-good phone number. If you aren’t able to verify their identity, do not hesitate to reach out to others to validate their story.

Computer-Related Scams

You may receive phone calls claiming to be tech support from reputable companies (such as Microsoft or Apple) stating that you have a virus, or other computer-related issues. These callers often request information about or remote access to your computer under the guise of diagnosing or repairing the reported issue. Legitimate companies will typically never call you to report issues with your computer. Regardless of how convincing the caller sounds, if you receive this type of call, do not provide any information or access to your computer, and hang up.

Likewise, be wary of any emails or pop-up alerts with similar claims. Do not click on any links displayed, and before placing an outbound call to a phone number found in one of these notifications, perform a search on Google to verify its authenticity. Do not dial the number if the results are suspicious.

Never navigate to or enter information on websites these individuals direct you to visit. Doing so could result in loss of control of your computer, the installation of a virus, or your information being stolen.

IRS Impersonators

Callers identifying themselves as representatives from the IRS may claim that you need to make an urgent payment. Oftentimes these demands include threats of arrest and jailtime, or other severe penalties if you do not comply. These calls may appear to come from legitimate phone numbers, and the caller may appear to know some basic personal information about you (like your name and address).

It is important to be aware that even if you do owe money, the IRS will typically send you a bill prior to calling you. They won’t demand payment via any specific method (like gift cards or wire transfer), and they won’t ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. They will always give you the opportunity to appeal the amount of money you owe, and they won’t threaten to involve law enforcement. You can contact the IRS regarding taxes owed by calling 800-829-1040.

No ‘blank cheque’ for World Cup bid

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Premier balks at cost of hosting 2026 FIFA World Cup games in Vancouver

Rob Shaw
The Province

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he’s not willing to write a “blank cheque” to have Vancouver host soccer matches for the FIFA World Cup in 2026, which may threaten the city’s involvement in a bid package that’s due this week.

“We have been grappling with the proponents who want us to sign a blank cheque, a conditional agreement that can be changed by FIFA but not by us,” Horgan said Tuesday. “I’d love to see soccer games in B.C. Place. I’ve said quite clearly to the proponents, ‘Bring it on. Let’s bring soccer to Vancouver in 2026.’ But let’s also ensure the costs to taxpayers are not out of control.”

A unified bid featuring Canada, the United States and Mexico is seeking to host the 2026 tournament. Vancouver, as one of the potential host cities, could see a maximum of five games. The economic benefit of those games could range from $90 million to $480 million, according to a recent report to the City of Vancouver council, which voted to endorse and support the bid proposal.

The province would be expected to play a role in helping with the provincially owned B.C. Place Stadium, including any modifications required to the playing surface, parking, security and the cost of using the facility. This would be similar to the other Canadian cities involved in the bid, since all the stadiums are publicly owned.

The bid deadline is Friday. Horgan said the province submitted an offer last week, but it wasn’t accepted by the bid committee. Meanwhile, the federal government threw its support, and $5 million in funding, behind the proposal on Tuesday.

“The federal government announced today they support the bid in principle, but they didn’t say anything about the cost of security, they didn’t say anything about the indemnities that the province has to put in place, unlike other cities in Canada because we own the stadium,” said Horgan.

“I have a higher obligation than

just being a soccer fan. I have a higher obligation than just wanting to see world-class soccer in Vancouver. I have to make sure taxpayers aren’t on the hook for unknown costs at the whim of FIFA.

“I’m just not prepared to sign off on that, nor is the minister of finance. We’re going to continue to work with the proponent throughout the week, but I think they have to be responsible as well and understand that as much as we’d love to see soccer coming to Vancouver, world-class, not at any cost.”

The provincial Liberals accused the government of bailing on the bid after years of work.

“In 2015, the economic benefit, to B.C. alone, of hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup was estimated to be about $118 million, all from an initial investment of $2 million,” said Liberal critic Jas Johal during the legislature’s question period Tuesday. “However, the reports are that the provincial government has

pulled out of the bid for the men’s 2026 FIFA World Cup. In fact, we have learned that the bid deadline was last night. Again, I ask the minister: Can she confirm if the province supports the bid, yes or no?”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the tourism ministry said: “The government supports in principle the Men’s World Cup FIFA event in Vancouver.”

The city, provincial government, federal government and airport authority are part of a multi-party working group, with similar groups set up in Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto.

If the bid is successful, Vancouver would be notified of its host city status in 2021. Then, the federal and provincial governments would be expected to help collaborate on costs.

It is unclear if B.C.’s hesitation, or outright abandonment, of the deal will throw the Canadian bid into jeopardy.

Victor Montagliani, the Vancouver-based president of CONCACAF, the regional governing body for soccer, and who is helping to prepare Canada’s bid for the World Cup, declined to comment: “It’s inappropriate for me to comment as I’m a vice-president of FIFA.”

A spokesperson with the federal Ministry of Sport and Persons with Disabilities redirected questions about the impact on the bid back to the B.C. government.

In a statement, City of Vancouver spokesperson Ellie Lambert called the bid “a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to be part of the largest sporting event in the world, and research has shown that if Vancouver was an official host city, we could experience up to $490 million in cost benefits.”

“We continue to work with our bid partners, including the province, and look forward to the United Bid Committee’s announcement later this week regarding the host cities that they will be including in the bid.”

Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, who played on Canada’s only World Cup team in 1986, said Vancouver hosting games was a no-brainer.

“We hosted the Olympics in 2010, which was a huge success. We hosted the 2015 Women’s World Cup,” he said. “There’s no question we have the ability to be a part of the Canadian cities. We just want to get right behind the bid and do anything we can do to insure British Columbia is one of the host cities.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it’s probably beyond that. Who knows if there’s ever another opportunity to host a men’s World Cup.”

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Solution to parking shortage is easy

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Cutting clearance from five to 2.5 metres would create more spots and not affect fire safety

Susan Lazaruk
The Province

Metro Vancouver’s engineers and fire chiefs are offering a partial solution to the parking shortage that’s particularly affecting Surrey and Coquitlam, where increased densification in some neighbourhoods means not enough room for all the extra cars.

They say the answer to creating several hundred additional, on-street parking spots is hiding in plain sight : By cutting the no-parking clearance around hydrants in half, there would be room for more cars on streets.

The city engineers, through the Regional Engineers Advisory Committee, are proposing the province change the Motor Vehicle Act to reduce clearance around hydrants to a minimum of 2.5 metres on either side from the five metres required now.

The change would increase the number of parking spots in some neighbourhoods by 20 per cent, said Fraser Smith, the general manager of engineering for Surrey.

He said Surrey estimated it could create 18-20 additional, on-street parking spots by reducing no-parking zones around the 100 hydrants in the Clayton Heights neighbourhood alone.

That neighbourhood has an increasing number of secondary suites, in addition to coach houses, besides primary residences, meaning three households can live on one lot.

Ideally, residential areas would have improved transit and provide residents with more work-live

communities, but, in the meantime, more room for cars is welcome, said Smith.

“It’s a small impact, but overall it could free up a lot of parking spaces,” he said.

There are between 8,500 and 9,000 hydrants in Surrey. Halving the setback from one, mid-block hydrant would free up five metres. One on-street parking spot requires six metres of space.

The move is supported by B.C.’s fire chiefs, who last year passed a resolution supporting the change, said Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis.

“The resolution (at a fire-chiefs association convention) was passed unanimously,” said Garis. “I couldn’t find a reason for (setting the clearance at) five metres,” he said. “We did our own testing and we discovered we don’t need the five metres.”

The proposed change was born out of a simple question that Smith put to Garis: Why is the no-parking zone around hydrants set at five metres for a mid-block hydrant?

Garis found the limit recommended by the National Fire Protection Association — an international body that develops fire standards

— was 1.5 m on each side of a hydrant with water outlets measuring 6.5 centimetres or more.

He also discovered that across North America clearances range from three to five metres, and that B.C. was at the top end of the scale across Canada.

The Surrey fire department conducted its own tests to determine the minimum distance needed by fire trucks and crews to use hydrants during a fire without damaging parked cars.

The tests determined that a minimum of two metres would provide

firefighters with the room they needed to access the hydrant and the results were published in the Reduction of Parking Restrictions around Fire Hydrants: An Examination of Parking Distances and Setback Regulations.

The report, written by Garis, Surrey Assistant Fire Chief John Lehmann and Alex Tyakoff, the strategic planning analyst for the Surrey fire department, was published by the school of criminology and criminal justice at the University of the Fraser Valley, where Garis is an adjunct professor.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Automation vs. jobs and human interaction

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

E-commerce revolution has both social and employment implications

Derrick Penner
The Province

In the future of retail, it is likely that bricks-and-mortar stores and online commerce will merge into a seamless entity, says Vancouver tech entrepreneur Igor Faletski.

As CEO of the Vancouver-based online-commerce platform Mobify, Faletski has had a front-row view of the trend toward using technology to create a “frictionless transaction” that maximizes convenience for consumers while minimizing the amount of time they spend waiting in line.

“The days of a retail store as a place where you have inventory, you sell it and take money are short, because that’s not enough value to attract (consumers) to come there,” said Faletski. “Therefore, there is more of a focus definitely on frictionless shopping.”

Whether it is simple click-and-collect online grocery shopping, managing investments on your smart phone or using an app to pay for something in store to avoid a checkout line, commerce has become all about “reducing friction.”

Most people are familiar with the concept through online shopping with services such as Amazon Prime.

Shoppers go to a store’s website, click the “place order” button to purchase items that are billed to a credit card linked to their account, and a package arrives on their doorstep, maybe even on the same day.

The trend is to extend that simplicity across all retail.

“Everyone is focused on automating the payment process,” said Faletski, whose business builds ecommerce platforms for retailers to use. But this means eliminating points of contact between people, which has the power not only to alter the experience of consumers but to shape the nature of work itself. Replacing those contacts with automation and artificial intelligence shifts where the jobs are in commerce, potentially eliminating whole classes of employment before it is entirely clear if workers will have comparable jobs to move to, experts worry.

It also threatens to increase the so-called digital divide between those who are adept with technology — and can afford the smart phones, computers and data plans that go along with it — and those who aren’t, especially seniors who also face increasing issues with social isolation.

Social implications of automation

“I think we’re still grappling with what the implications are of taking the human element out of some of these transactions,” said Kendra Strauss, director of the labour studies program at SFU’s Morgan Centre for Labour Research.

“And what we’re probably not thinking about is what does it mean for people who rely on those interactions for any human contact in their day.”

That is a prime concern for another SFU academic, gerontologist Andrew Wister, who is studying the prevalence and consequences of social isolation that seniors already face.

“It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it?” Wister said of the technology that enables automation in commerce.

On one side, Wister said, technology that lets people shop from their homes is a benefit to seniors with limited mobility who can’t get outside as much as they used to.

On the other side, technology that removes human contact from the equation can magnify the sense of isolation people are already experiencing.

Wister characterizes those everyday contacts as “extremely important” in helping people maintain a sense of connectedness with the community around them.

Social isolation is becoming a big enough problem that the United Kingdom has appointed a minister for loneliness. In Canada, data shows that between one in four and one in five middle-aged and older citizens experience some form of loneliness, Wister said.

When it comes to counteracting social isolation, face-to-face interactions matter more than conversations via text or social media, he added.

As for technology in commerce, Wister said there has perhaps been too much focus on efficiency and not enough thought about the unintended consequences when it comes to decreased social interactions.

At the front end, removing friction is all about increasing convenience.

“When you remove friction from the consumption of a particular service, people love it,” said Andrew Harries, a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.

He points to examples such as the ride-hailing service Uber, which makes arranging transportation as simple as opening up an app, or mega tech-and-retail firm Amazon, which does the same for online shopping and has upped the ante for all of retail with its Amazon Go store in Seattle.

On its website, Amazon boasts that creating Amazon Go was a four-year journey to weave a network of cameras, sensors and “deep learning algorithms” together for an experience that allows shoppers to scan its app upon entry, pick up items and walk out without going through a checkout.

The cameras and sensors keep track of what shoppers pick up, or put back, then the app bills their credit cards for what they keep after leaving in what Amazon bills as “walkout technology.”

Traditional jobs versus artificial intelligence

“And people will enjoy this too,” Harries said. “But there are two schools of thought on the bigger question about what AI is going to do with the future of work.”

Optimists hold that innovations will create new jobs and new types of work, Harries said.

However, although Harries is inclined toward using technology to streamline services — he was a co-founder of Sierra Wireless and other startups — he is also “deeply concerned about the future of work with the advent of AI.”

Retail and wholesale trade has a big footprint in the Canadian economy, accounting for 389,000 jobs in B.C., 20 per cent of all service sector employment, according to Statistics Canada’s labour force survey.

Within that, Stats Can data classifies 77,000 0f those positions as “sales support” occupations — cashiers, gas-station attendants and employees who stock shelves.

Nationally, those numbers are 2.84 million wholesale and retail employees — just under 20 per cent of the service sector with 624,000 in sales-support occupations.

Previous cycles of the Industrial Revolution saw automation replace dirty and dangerous jobs and workers move on to more skilled occupations, but with AI and robots taking over repetitive tasks, “it’s not entirely clear that there will be better work for people in the future,” Harries said.

Faletski, however, is in the optimistic camp, arguing that even if cashiers are displaced, retailers will need to turn them into more skilled in-store experts to improve customer experience, which will carry more of a premium for retailers in the future.

There is a big drive toward more automated payment systems, Faletski said. The options might not be as sophisticated as Amazon Go, but will involve retailers using mobile-based payment systems, such as the system Apple gives to its in-store staff.

“There’s definitely a trend of putting people into solving more difficult problems (for customers) than just taking your credit card,” Faletski said.

While retailers are trying to reduce friction in transactions, it is still a relationship business, argues SaveOn-Foods spokeswoman Julie Dickson, which requires “the human contact piece of it” to work well, particularly in the grocery sector.

Save-On-Foods has embraced online shopping, offering either home delivery or click-and-collect orders in 77 communities via the grocer’s website, but Dickson maintains that the move hasn’t cost the grocer jobs but has created hundreds of jobs to provide new services to customers.

“We have quite a large new group of customer service experts on the phones working on the technical supports needed when customers are new to it,” Dickson said.

When customers aren’t coming into stores, that creates the need for a new group of “personal shoppers” who pick and put customer orders together, right down to selecting the correct ripeness of bananas customers have requested.

“It’s a personal business, it’s a people business,” Dickson said. “It’s about finding ways to use technology and the tools available to us that further enhance that relationship.”

Tech jobs being created

There won’t be any going back, either, according to Tea Nicola, CEO of the AI-enhanced investment adviser WealthBar, which has seen its own smart phone app become central to its services.

“I think that this technology is changing the way that consumers think and behave,” Nicola said, and Amazon, with its Prime delivery service and Amazon Go store has set high expectations for everyone else.

In financial services, it can still take days for transactions that WealthBar executes for clients to clear the layers of bureaucracy within the industry. However, Nicola said, an increasing number of its clients use and depend on the firm’s app.

“There has been pressure on us from customers to improve its functionality, add features and improve speed,” she added, so the company has invested in creating a next generation of its technology.

WealthBar, as a so-called robo-adviser that uses artificial intelligence to help make decisions within investment portfolios, is a disruption within the industry itself to start with.

However, Nicola doesn’t worry about any of the technology displacing people because she sees new jobs and entire new career fields being created to enable it.

Inside WealthBar, for instance, Nicola said they’ve re-organized their workforce to leave their human advisers free to work with clients and write investment plans while the firm’s marketing team concentrates on recruiting and signing up customers.

And both teams rely on new layers of technology that require their own personnel.

“The advisers of the past didn’t have a software development team and didn’t have a user-experience designer (to support their work),” Nicola said.

“User experience designer didn’t exist as a degree in school when I went to university, now it does.”

Nicola said automation will reduce some roles, so society as a whole will have to embrace the concept of continuing education and training of its workforce as it adapts to new technology.

“I don’t think that’s impossible,” she said. “It’s not, ‘Now we have technology and x amount of people are going to lose their jobs, too bad so sad’.”

Technological change, though, does invite questions about who will be the winners and losers when it comes to what kinds of jobs will be displaced and who will get the new jobs that are created, according to SFU associate professor and labour expert Strauss.

“To my mind, the question, in part, is not just what jobs are going to be created and what kind of jobs lost, but what kind of (new) jobs will they be,” she said.

At one end, Strauss said, the concern is that automation will replace stable, full-time jobs with what labour groups refer to as precarious employment — part-time jobs or contract positions — in the so-called “gig economy.”

Strauss said studies are showing that those in precarious employment tend to be minorities, new immigrants and the young.

Many of the new jobs being created through services such as Uber, Lyft or Airbnb are billed as “side hustle,” Strauss said, or opportunities for people to earn extra income.

“One of the things we’re hearing from younger people is that they’re increasingly cobbling together fulltime income from a variety of more precarious, gig-type work,” Strauss said.

Those kinds of contract jobs are hard to capture in Canada’s traditional workforce measurements, such as Statistics Canada’s labourforce survey, Strauss said, so “we’re already a little bit behind the curve in terms of figuring out the shifts we’re in the middle of.”

The kicker, however, is that the big, growing companies that successfully embrace change, such as Amazon, will always have room for more staff in stable jobs, according to Harries.

Those will be the creators, the companies that come up with new ideas for ways of doing things and the technologists capable of coding them into existence.

“I don’t see Amazon laying off all its workers and hiring them back on contract,” Harries said.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.