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Updated: 1 hour 48 min ago

International: 20 bestselling books of the week for Feb. 10

2 hours 21 min ago

HARDCOVER FICTION

1. Dark in DeathJ.D. Robb

1. Still MeJojo Moyes

3. The Woman in the WindowA.J. Finn

4. Fall From Grace — Danielle Steel

5. Little Fires Everywhere — Celest Ng 

6. OriginDan Brown

7. The Rooster Bar — John Grisham

8. Before We Were Yours — Lisa Wingate 

9. The Immortalists — Chloe Benjamin 

10. The Wife Between Us — Hendricks/Pekkanen

 

HARDCOVER NONFICTION

1. Fire and Fury — Michael Wolff 

2. Crushing It! — Gary Vaynerchuk

3. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos — Jordan B. Peterson

4. All-American Murder — James Patterson and Alex Abramovich 

5. Dirty Genes — Ben Lynch 

6. The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook — Melissa Hartwig

7. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry Neil deGrasse Tyson 

8. If You Only Knew Jamie Ivey 

9. When Daniel H. Pink 

10. Leonardo da Vinci — Walter Isaacson

— compiled by Publishers Weekly, powered by NPD BookScan. 

Categories: Vancouver

Vancouver weather: Snow, below freezing temperatures to start week

2 hours 28 min ago
Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The weather looks worse than it actually is. The Metro Vancouver region was hit by another dump of snow Saturday overnight, along with minus zero temperatures, making for some icy conditions on Sunday.

Environment Canada also ended their snowfall warning early Sunday morning, after the region was blanketed with up to 5 centimetres of snow, before issuing a wind warning mid-morning for the Fraser Valley. Strong winds of about 60 kilometres with gusts up to 90 are expected.

“Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur. High winds may toss loose objects or cause tree branches to break,” read the warning.

Temperatures were expected to drop even lower on Monday, before warming up during the week – just in time for next weekend’s dump of snow.

Weather: Vancouver, B.C.

Today: Cloudy with a 40 per cent chance of flurries on Sunday morning, mix of sun and cloud during the day. High of plus 2.

Tonight: Clear but temperatures dip to minus 5.

Tomorrow: Sunny and clear but with a high of minus 1 and a low of minus 4.

Traffic: Lower Mainland

Here’s a live traffic map of what’s happening across the region’s roads. Use command + scroll to zoom in and out.

Another video view of highway maintenance work on the #Coquihalla yesterday pic.twitter.com/IjTlY4bs7Y

— BC Transportation (@TranBC) February 18, 2018

#wvpdpatrol here are some photos of Horseshoe Bay Drive that prompted the road closure. Crews currently dealing with downed trees and rocks. Note the car on the left was not occupied at the time and nobody has been injured. Crews remain onscene – updates to follow pic.twitter.com/a5uKcNkOsG

— West Vancouver PD (@WestVanPolice) February 18, 2018

#BCHwy1 – winter maintenance in effect on the #PortMannBridge. The WB HOV lane will be blocked. More details here: https://t.co/BCuZOWhxYd

— Drive BC (@DriveBC) February 18, 2018

 

Categories: Vancouver

Elderly man killed in overnight house fire in East Vancouver

2 hours 48 min ago

Investigators are on the scene of a fatal house fire in East Vancouver. 

A man in his 70s who was living in the basement suite of the two-storey home was found collapsed by firefighters responding to the fire at about 4 a.m. Sunday.

Kevin Wilson, assistant chief of operations for Vancouver Fire Rescue said: “It’s a terrible tragedy. It’s something that never leaves anyone involved.”

The home at 2625 East 47th Avenue had been converted into numerous suites. When firefighters arrived there was heavy smoke coming from the basement, Wilson said.

Three people who lived in the upstairs of the home were already outside and alerted firefighters that there was a tenant in the basement. Wilson said firefighters were directed to one area of the basement.

“We were told to enter there. We searched that area methodically but he was found collapsed in the opposite corner of the basement,” Wilson said.

B.C. Ambulance paramedics and firefighters pulled the man into the backyard and worked on reviving him for an hour but he died on the scene.

Wilson said: “The fire investigator is determining the cause and the origin of the fire. He is investigating it right now and is there until he completes his investigation.”

 

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Categories: Vancouver

Meet the Chef: Derek Grey is focused on tradition

4 hours 21 min ago

Derek Grey has been methodically building his culinary skill set since opting for easy credit from a high school cafeteria class. Since then he graduated from the Northwest Culinary Academy and worked as a pasta cook at Cibo Trattoria and spent a year as a butcher. Today, he brings it all together as head chef at Osteria Savio Volpe, renowned for its traditional flavours:

Q: What motivates and inspires you as a chef?

A: My biggest motivation is my family first and foremost. I strive to give my son and wife an experience that I didn’t get growing up. I am driven by the understanding and hard work that is put in to every meal, and the fact that it’s OK to get your hands dirty and have some fun when cooking. 

Q: How would you describe the type of food you like to cook?

A: At Savio Volpe we look at an ingredient and try our best to honour it. If you have a beautiful first-of-the-season sockeye, put it on the wood fire and let it shine. Treat it with respect and it will come out better then you every expected. 

Q: What might diners not know about you?

A: I’m a three-on-three NBA Hoop It Up champion, along with four other (much more talented) basketball players. I still have the trophy to prove it. Still remember winning and being booed by 300-plus people, these things happen when you’re not favoured to win.

Q: Describe a couple of your most recent creations.

A: It’s a team effort day in and day out. We think of this place as if it was a region in Italy. What would you do if you had locally grown heirloom fife berries? Well, let’s mill them and make our bread program that much better. It’s the middle of summer and we have some beautiful local English peas, why not add them to a Pope’s fettuccine?

Q: What’s your favourite local product and how do you use it?

A: I have to pick one? It is almost impossible to pick just one. One ingredient I do like to eat every day when they’re in season has to be tomatoes. Simply slice and season with sea salt, black pepper and drown in extra virgin olive oil — they’re even better with a side of cottage cheese.

Q: Do you have one piece of advice you might have for home cooks?

A: Have fun when cooking. Involve your family, friends and loved ones. Make a mess, learn a little and when that meal is ready to eat, sit down, put away the phones and enjoy these moments. Instagram can wait.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Hand-Crushed Pomodoro

Ricotta Gnocchi with Hand-Crushed Pomodoro.

The Gnocchi

2 cups (500 g) fresh ricotta (strained the night before)

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour

1 egg yolk

Salt, to taste

Place ricotta, 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) of all-purpose flour, egg yolk and salt in a bowl. With a spatula or plastic bench scraper, mix all ingredients until they come together. Dust work surface with 3/4 cup (180 mL) flour and put dough on the counter, knead the dough till it comes together and doesn’t fall apart. About 4 to 8 minutes. If the dough starts to feel sticky dust the work surface and the dough with flour. Roll dough out into a fist-sized log and let rest for at least 15 minutes.

The Pomodoro

1 28-oz. (796 mL) can of San Marzano tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Chili flakes, to taste

3 tbsp. (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil

Place tomatoes in a bowl, hand crush and add a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil on medium heat in a deep sauce pan. Hand crush garlic, add to oil and slowly brown. Once brown, add a pinch of chilies, followed by tomatoes. Increase heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, boil 4 quarts (4 L) of water and 2 tbsp. (30 mL) of salt. Make sure it tastes like the ocean. Tip: Put a handful of flour into your water to make it starchy and help the gnocchi cook evenly.

Divide gnocchi dough into 5 pieces and roll out into thick worms no bigger than your thumb. Using the bench scraper cut off 2-inch pieces of dough and roll off the back of a fork to create gnocchi pieces. Set aside. Once all gnocchi are formed, gently place them into the pot of boiling water and cook until gnocchi rise to the top of the water, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove gnocchi with strainer, making sure to drain any excess water. Toss in saucepan with The Pomodoro.

Makes 5 servings.

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Categories: Vancouver

Developer of stalled condo project offers pre-sale buyers unusual options

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 18:42

The developer of a New Westminster project is giving pre-sale condo buyers a few weeks to make a choice among unusual options that speak to the curveballs facing both builder and buyer in a market environment of rapidly rising prices for condominiums.

Vancouver-based Jago Development Inc. told holders of the pre-sale contracts for the 55 one-, two- and three-bedroom units at Westbourne Residences — which sold out in mid-2016, but where construction has been delayed — that if they want to keep their contracts going, they must agree to a new price that is 15 per cent more.

If not, they can “choose” to terminate their sales contracts and get their down payment returned, plus an additional 50 per cent.

Or, in the most novel part of the offer, they can also opt to get their down payment back, and then wait for the developer to eventually sell the unit to a new buyer and then receive 40 per cent of the difference between that new sale and what they originally paid for the condo on pre-sale, minus taxes, fees and commissions.

Late last year, Vivagrand Developments cancelled its Langara West condo project in the Cambie Street corridor and said it would instead return down payments and sell the land, which had surged in raw value, along with condo prices in the area. It cited rising construction costs and loss of financing. The move prompted pre-sale buyers there to take legal action.

Jago says initial prices at Westbourne were approximately $475 a square foot. Pre-sale condo prices for a similar kind of wood-frame, low rise building have since gone up between 25 to 45 per cent to between $600 and $700 a square foot, according to some estimates.

In the past, there have been some partly completed developments that are taken over by another developer that finishes the project with no change in situation for the buyers. However, Anthony Ho, president of Jago Development Inc. and a director of the company developing Westbourne, explained in a text that “based on committed sales contracts, no developer would take over the project.”

The partially finished Westbourne condo development at 1306 5th Ave. in New Westminster on Feb. 16, 2018. The developer is offering a variety of ways to recoup the investments of pre-sale buyers, but many are angry about the options.

An official for the company later clarified that “having another developer take over is not a viable option, as there would be no profit, only losses, for a new developer. Another developer would have no connection to these homebuyers and might just cancel the contracts.”

In a statement dated Feb. 8, the developer explained: “Construction began in February 2016 with an original expected completion date of spring/early 2017. Due to numerous factors beyond the developer’s control, including unforeseen soil conditions, labour shortages and extreme weather, among others, there have been significant delays and, as a result, the project has been delayed and the developer will lose a substantial amount of money,” citing “cost overruns in the millions of dollars” in a budget that was originally set at $18.1 million.

In a separate note, the company said: “Serious snowy and ice conditions in the winter of 2016-2017 caused delays in construction.” Also, despite “several land surveys and assays that did not reveal any difficulties … an underground stream was (later) located. This resulted in the need for serious remediation.”

It also said they have had “serious difficulties getting full-time workers. Many companies were over-committed on projects and could not find enough workers to fulfil jobs. The construction company initially hired by Jago Developments (Westbourne) Inc., being a mid-sized company, struggled to compete with larger companies for workers.”

Jago says it “understands that many buyers have made significant sacrifices to raise the money necessary to be able to own property in the Lower Mainland. It wants to ensure that even if buyers choose to terminate their agreement, they may still realize a return on their investment.”

One group of about 20 buyers is irate. They have been taping handwritten signs on telephone poles near the condo site, in hopes of reaching other buyers who also think the developer’s offer is “ridiculous.”

Anne McMullin, CEO of Urban Development Institute, which represents developers, said in an email that “while we are not privy to the specifics of this project, to the best of our knowledge, this type of unfortunate situation is extremely rare in pre-sale financing.”

“While it appears the developer is attempting to ameliorate the situation with a variety of transparent options for pre-sale buyers, we empathize with those who might not be able to acquire additional funds due to new mortgage qualifying requirements and must sell their unit.”

jlee-young@postmedia.com

Categories: Vancouver

Richmond farmers campaign against further house-size restrictions

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 18:13

A group of Richmond farmers has launched a campaign to dissuade government from further reducing the maximum allowable size of houses on agricultural land in the city.

The Richmond Farmland Owners Association, which includes 50 member families with more than 2,500 acres of farmland, is concerned that after the city updated policy on house sizes last spring, “special interest groups” are now pressuring the city to make them even smaller, spokesman Gunraj Gill said.

Last May, the City of Richmond made bylaw amendments reducing the allowable maximum sizes of houses on farmland to 5,382 sq. ft. on lots up to 0.5 acres and 10,763 sq. ft. on larger properties, after dozens of houses 15,000 sq. ft. and larger had been constructed.

Gill, a consultant working with the farmers, said that in the six months following this “made in Richmond solution,” the city received only 11 building permits for residential construction on farmland, down from 45 in the three months before the amendments. Before the changes, the average size for house construction was 12,000 sq. ft.; afterward, the average building permit application dropped to 8,192 sq. ft.

“What the farming community wants is: Let these homes be built, let people see the difference and then if we need to revisit this debate, then we most certainly can,” he said. “They feel that they worked extensively and they came up with an evidence-based decision, which was to reduce the sizes.”

In a news release, the owners association dismissed claims that larger homes are degrading farmland, and said many farms are owned and operated by an extended family living under one roof because bylaws prevent them from building several dwellings on  any one farm.

Gill said much of the opposition to the larger houses comes from a group called Richmond FarmWatch, which is concerned that so-called “monster homes” and speculation on ALR land are driving up property values and making them too expensive for farmers.

FarmWatch is petitioning the provincial government to make it law that municipalities enforce a Ministry of Agriculture guideline limiting all farmhouses to a maximum 5,382 sq. ft.

In recent months, Richmond MLAs Linda Reid and Jas Johal have questioned why the city is allowing larger homes, according to a Richmond News report. The city is preparing for a second round of consultation on the issue while the Ministry of Agriculture has struck a committee to review ALR policies, including house size, the News reported.

neagland@postmedia.com

twitter.com/nickeagland

Categories: Vancouver

Three arrested after fleeing police

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 15:47

Three people were arrested in Abbotsford early Saturday morning after a police chase that involved using the RCMP-operated regional police helicopter.

Abbotsford Police received a call about a stolen vehicle entering Abbotsford at about 12:30 a.m., said Abbotsford Police Sgt. Judy Bird.

A spike belt used near Fraser Highway and Mt. Lehman Road failed to the stop the car, which continued driving east.

“We were getting updates from the helicopter about the car’s location,” said Bird.

Police used another spike belt near Whatcom and Vye Roads. Three people — two men and a woman — ran from the car and were arrested a short time later. Police are recommending charges of possession of stolen property and evading police.

“We’re really thankful no one was hurt in this situation,” said Bird.

Categories: Vancouver

Government responds to sasquatch lawsuit

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 15:44

The B.C. government has responded to a lawsuit filed by a sasquatch tracker who claims the province has “breached its stewardship responsibility” by failing to recognize and protect the legendary creature.

In a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in October, Todd Standing accused the provincial government of damaging his livelihood and credibility by “non-recognition of sasquatch.” He asked the court to require a government biologist to accompany him into “known sasquatch habitat” for three months to prove his claims.

The government’s response, filed Jan. 25 at the New Westminster registry, denies Standing’s version of the alleged facts and “denies that the plaintiff suffered or continues to suffer any loss, damage or expense as alleged in the notice of civil claim.”

On Friday, a Ministry of Forests spokesman said the response filed with the court “clearly articulates the ministry’s position.”

Reached on his cellphone, Standing said he’s in the process of lining up witnesses and scientists, including a professor at Idaho State University, to provide evidence, including footprint and genetic analysis of materials found in the B.C. wilderness. A judge will assess the case and determine if it can proceed to trial.

“I can’t imagine a judge saying it’s frivolous,” he said. “Imagine multiple professors and scientists talking definitively about what they know. The truth is going to come out.”

In January, Standing helped a fellow Bigfoot believer file a similar lawsuit in a California court. A preliminary hearing has been set for March 19.

Standing, who once took Les Stroud, TV’s Survivorman, into the backcountry to search for sasquatch, studied wildlife in university. He said he set out to prove that sasquatch couldn’t exist because there was no space in the ecosystem for them, but soon became convinced of the opposite.

But the sasquatch tracker has also attracted his fair share of controversy, with some in the Bigfoot community saying he faked video footage of a sasquatch. He makes money running weeklong sasquatch-seeking expeditions, charging US$4,800 for a “breathtaking adventure” in the Canadian wilderness.

Standing stands behind his video and is asking anyone else who has encountered a sasquatch to contact him through his website, sylvanic.com.

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

Categories: Vancouver

REAL SCOOP: IHIT on the scene of Coquitlam murder

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 14:43

Homicide investigators are on the scene of another murder – this time in Coquitlam. 

Coquitlam RCMP received several calls of shots fired in the area of Sylvan Place and Riverview Crescent about 10 p.m. Friday. A vehicle was seen speeding away.  

“When officers arrived, they found a man with gunshot wounds inside a vehicle.  The male victim was transported to hospital but succumbed to his injuries,” Cpl. Frank Jang, of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said in a news release Saturyda.

He said shortly after the shooting, police learned of a burning dark-colored sedan a short distance away in the area of Mariner Way and Dartmoor Drive. 

 

One person is dead after a shooting in Coquitlam Friday night. Fire crews also responded to a car on fire. The vehicle is believed to be linked to the incident. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)

“It is still early in the investigation but this appears to be a targeted incident,” Jang said.  “We need those who have information about this incident to please come forward.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact IHIT at 1-877-551- 4448 or ihitinfo@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

The murder came a day after Surrey realtor Kam Rai was shot to death in Vancouver’s Kerrisdale neighbourhood.

Rai has a number of friends on his Facebook page that are linked to both the Red Scorpions and the Hells Angels. 

 

Categories: Vancouver

Province to appeal NEB ruling on Burnaby's Trans Mountain bylaws

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 14:13

The provincial government is appealing a decision that allows Kinder Morgan Canada to ignore Burnaby bylaws in constructing its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The National Energy Board ruled in December that the company is not required to comply with two sections dealing with land and tree clearing.

Kinder Morgan had argued the bylaws were unconstitutional because they hindered its ability to go ahead with the federally approved project.

The provincial government said in a statement Saturday that it has filed leave to appeal the board’s ruling with the Federal Court of Appeal.

“The province’s position is that the NEB erred by too broadly defining federal jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines,” the statement said.

Trans Mountain did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the appeal.

Kinder Morgan said in a statement in December that it was pleased with the board’s decision “as it reinforces our view this federally approved project is in the national interest.”

The City of Burnaby had announced Friday that it, too, was seeking leave from the court to appeal the decision, saying the company should be required to comply with all municipal bylaws.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, pictured in December 2014. (Photo: Arlen Redekop, PNG files)

The city also wants to appeal an energy board ruling that found Burnaby’s timeline for issuing permits represented an “unreasonable delay.”

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has previously expressed staunch opposition to the project and called the board’s ruling on the bylaw issue flawed.

He said the Trans Mountain expansion was going through the same application process as others, and that the energy board had chosen to exempt the project from the important requirement despite potential environmental, social and financial consequences.

B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman has also previously expressed dismay over the decision, saying he was “angry on behalf of British Columbians.”

The province is also locked in a dispute with Alberta and the federal government over Trans Mountain’s future after B.C. Premier John Horgan’s government announced it is looking at limiting shipments of diluted bitumen from the west coast, pending a review of spill safety measures.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has said such restrictions would be “unconstitutional” and would effectively kill the $7.4-billion project, which the province deems critical to getting a better price for its oil.

Notley has banned wine imports from B.C., ended talks of buying energy from the province and struck a committee to look at further retaliatory measures.

Related

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Categories: Vancouver

One person dead in Coquitlam shooting Friday night

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 09:46

Homicide detectives have been called in to investigate after one person was shot dead in Coquitlam Friday night.

One person is dead after a shooting in Coquitlam Friday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)

Coquitlam RCMP confirmed the fatality early Saturday morning, but said any more information would be provided by the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

One person is dead after a shooting in Coquitlam Friday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)

The shooting happened at around 9 p.m. near Sylvan Place. Fire crews also responded to a car on fire near Mariner Way. It’s believed the vehicle is linked to the shooting.

One person is dead after a shooting in Coquitlam Friday night. Fire crews also responded to a car on fire. The vehicle is believed to be linked to the incident. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)

IHIT has yet to provide any details about the shooting.

One person is dead after a shooting in Coquitlam Friday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)

One person is dead after a shooting in Coquitlam Friday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)

ticrawford@postmedia.com

Categories: Vancouver

Enter Shikari wants The Spark to start fires

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 09:00

Enter Shikari

When: Feb. 16, 8 p.m.

Where: The Imperial

Tickets and info: At the door

For the past 15 years Hertfordshire quartet Enter Shikari has built a solid and passionate fan base in the U.K. Enough of one that, early on, the band was able to sell-out the London Astoria without a record deal.

Of course, the post-hardcore work ethos of this DIY crew meant that it had formed its own label, the cheekily titled Ambush Reality.

Jump ahead to September 2017 and the band has released its seventh album, titled The Spark, and found itself once again in the U.K. charts and generating a buzz. Not only for its music, mind you. 

Always active with the “socials,” the group’s singer, Rou Reynolds, got in a bit of bother when he suggested that it was a bit ingenuous for Taylor Swift to be launching the controversial “verified-fan” initiative with Ticketmaster for her coming U.K. tour. This is where you could move ahead in line for ticket purchases by watching Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” video and buying her new album, Reputation, multiple times; up to 13 of them.

With all of that behind them, Enter Shikari are preparing to bring songs such as the screaming anti-Brexit rager Take My Country Back, and new single Live Outside to a growing North American fan base. Perhaps this will be the album to make the group get the attention it deserves on both sides of the water?

Reynolds took an early morning call to chat in December.

Postmedia News: The Spark is more electronic and textured than its predecessor, the Mindsweep (2015), or anything you’ve done before. Is the odd-looking piece of space instrument on the cover an actual thing?

Reynolds: “Well, it wasn’t, but it will be as we’re having it 3D printed and constructed in time for the tour, so we can be playing it. We’re making an outside shell for this MIDI software controller, as well as some vintage gear.”

Q: The band seems poised for some kind of North America push with this release. But maybe it’s just that the anger and intelligence of the songs seem very appropriate at this time.

A: “I have really given up on trying to figure that out, as one of our most successful tracks ever on radio was a two minute-long punk-rager where the ones you think would be a fit don’t. It’s one of the reasons that we have been so engaged with fans on social media for so long because that is where the dialogue happens.”

Q: Why is it that the band has such wildly eclectic tastes, where you go from full-on rock to weird noise, experimental dance music or even twee folk all on the same album. Sometimes you even do it in the same song?

A: “The main reason is the intersection of a lot of different social groups and interests. Guitarist Liam (Rory) Clewlow grew up with a brother who was a drum and bass DJ … Then we had close friends who were into grime and I took music at uni and loved listening to classical and learning about technology and production. We’re all like that.”

Q: Has this been key to your longevity, where so many of your contemporaries have had to go back to day jobs?

A: “We’ve really managed to hit a sweet spot, where we can just make music and make enough to keep ourselves going, although we often loose most of it when we tour North America. Here’s hoping that changes this time out. Either way, you can’t not have fun when you are making music.”

Q: There is a lot of reporting about both your own mental state and the state of the world being deeply depressed at the time you wrote The Spark?

A: “As a rule, we’re generally always coming from some place positive, but we weren’t finding it trying to start writing this record. It ended up that we have an album that is quite upbeat but addresses some super-sombre topics. That’s a defining feature of a lot of the best pop music in the past like the Manchester scene.”

sderdeyn@postmedia.com

twitter.com/stuartderdeyn

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Categories: Vancouver

Book review: Chinese memoir illuminates a time of political madness

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 09:00

The Unceasing Storm: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Katherine Luo | Douglas & McIntyre

240 pages, $22.95

Do you remember the boy who stopped the tanks? His compelling image was seen around the world in 1989. It showed a slender figure in a white shirt standing in quiet defiance before one of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) tanks sent into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4 that year to break up popular demonstrations. (While his identity and fate remain disputed, some sources name him as Wang Weilin, a nineteen-year-old student, and suggest he escaped the square alive and fled to Taiwan. Many of his fellow demonstrators were less fortunate, as troops shot and tanks crushed hundreds — perhaps thousands — of protesting students and workers.)

Katherine Luo left China nearly a decade after those bloody events. In her 2018 memoir, The Unceasing Storm, she reflects on the impacts of China’s tumultuous history in the second half of the 20th century on her and her family, on the notorious excesses of the Cultural Revolution, on Mao’s flawed leadership, on music and culture and, finally, on late-life love.

The Unceasing Storm: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Katherine Luo.

Luo settled in Vancouver and taught Mandarin (at Simon Fraser University) and music before her retirement. The Unceasing Storm is a collection of essays written from her relatively happy exile in Canada. Composed in Chinese and translated into English by a small crew of the author’s friends, the essays range from tender portraits of her beloved father (and a more nuanced and complex account of her mother) to searing images from the Cultural Revolution, when young people in China were encouraged to beat their teachers and denounce their parents as “dogs.” A charming coda is provided by the author’s final account of her “twilight love” for Martin, a retired engineer born in Malaysia and, when they met, Luo’s upstairs neighbour. (Martin’s daughter is prize-winning Canadian novelist Madeleine Thien, who provides a warm introduction to this book.)

Some readers will balk at this book’s traces of sentimentality. Others may view Luo’s negative assessment of the Chinese Revolution as one-sided. But she knows what the boy who stopped the tanks knew. A government that turns guns and tanks on its own people loses legitimacy and deserves robust criticism. This book is worthwhile for its preservation of historic memory, so often autocracy’s first victim, and for its simple and often moving accounts of one woman’s life caught up in the flood tides of revolutionary change.

Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He remembers the days when the city was full of Maoist political formations and freelance fans of Chairman Mao. He misses the energetic ferment of those years, if not their most egregious illusions. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos65@telus.net

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Categories: Vancouver

This Week in History: 1960 — A cigar smokin' 102-year-old puffs for a portrait

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 09:00

On Feb. 15, 1960, The Vancouver Sun ran a front-page photo of an old lady puffing on a cigar.

“Definitely unimpressed by Swedish campaign against smoking is 102-year-old Mrs. Matilda Boynton, 4195 Fraser,” read the cutline. “She still smokes four cigars every day, (and) does her own housework.

” ‘Cancer?” she says. ‘If I got it I don’t know about it.’ ”

The photo was taken by Deni Eagland, whose specialty was portraits. His former colleague, Ralph Bower, calls him The Sun’s version of Karsh, the legendary Ottawa photographer.

Eagland’s stark, black-and-white portrait is amazing. Matilda’s face is wonderfully wrinkled, like the lines on an old-growth tree. Her eyes are clear and blissful as she puffs on the cigar, which produces a swirl of smoke around her fingers.

But there’s an even better shot that didn’t run, which wound up in the Vancouver Archives. In the second photo, Matilda is looking directly at the camera, as cool as can be. The smoke has twirled back in on the cigar, exposing more of her fingers, which have gnarled with age.

Feb. 15, 1960, portrait of Matilda Boynton by Deni Eagland. Original cutline: “Definitely unimpressed by Swedish campaign against smoking is 102-year-old Mrs. Matilda Boynton, 4195 Fraser. She still smokes four cigars every day, (and) does her own housework. “Cancer?” she says. “If I got it I don’t know about it.” Her ambition is to better the family age record of 110. “She will,” says her 84-year-old husband, “as long as she gets the odd tot of rum.”

Christine Hagemoen discovered the second photo a couple of years ago, when she was working for the Vancouver Archives.

“It really struck me,” said Hagemoen, who is now an independent researcher after a decade at the Archives and the CBC. “(I thought) ‘Whoa! What’s this?’ Because you don’t expect (to find) something like this in the archives. It was a beautiful portrait, first of all, and then it turned into an interesting story.”

It took Hagemoen two years to put that story together, but last week, she wrote it up on her blog, vanalogue, which “celebrates the analogue in this digital world.”

Matilda turned out to be something of a local celebrity. The Sun and The Province did several stories on her after she was “discovered” in 1960, partly because she was over 100, but also because Eagland’s photo was so striking that it intrigued people, just like Hagemoen.

The newspapers’ archives have several more photos of the centenarian, including one with her husband, Edward.

She was born Matilda Picket in Marion County, Tenn., on Feb. 13, 1858. She was black, which meant she was born a slave — the U.S. Civil War didn’t start until April 12, 1861, when she was three. Her father was killed in the war, and her mother also died when she was young, so she was raised by her grandparents.

Hagemoen found a 1965 Canadian Press story in The Brandon (Man.) Sun that said one of her earliest memories was of being bit by a rattlesnake.

Fev. 11, 1965: Matilda Boynton, two days before her 107th birthday.

She told a reporter that her relatives took a chicken, beheaded it, gave Matilda “intoxicating liquor” and then stuck her arm inside the dead bird. She said she was “out” for eight days, but it worked.

In 1963 she told The Sun’s John Olding that she started working in the fields when she was young.

“I did the work of a man — plowing, hoeing and sowing,” she said in a southern drawl that was still “as thick as raw cotton.”

After her grandmother died at 110, she married a coal-miner in Tennessee, and had a son. But her husband died and she moved to Seattle. About 1904 she nursed a “seriously ill” Edward Boynton back to health, married him and moved to Vancouver. Their marriage was quite unconventional for the time — Matilda was 15 years older than Edward. He was also white, and she was black, which meant they were a mixed-race couple, in an era where city directories had separate lists for people by race.

Matilda and Edward lived in a small cottage at Fraser and 26th for several decades; he was a “pick-and-shovel” labourer, she was a housewife.

They both liked their tobacco — Edward chewed it, she smoked cigars. But on April 27, 1964, reporter Al Sheehan startled Sun readers with the news that Matilda had given up smoking, at age 106.

“I miss my cigars,” she said, “but I think anyone who has willpower can quit smoking.”

She had been smoking for 93 years when she quit. Edward died on Jan. 31, 1965, at age 92. Matilda died eight months later, on Oct. 26, 1965. She was 107.

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A Sept. 14, 1961, photo of centenarian Matilda Boynton and her husband, Edward. A story is affixed to the back by Province photographer Chuck Jones. “For a dry day, could be a good feature pic is taken right. About four years ago The Sun had a lulu of Mrs. Ed Boynton 4195 Fraser (house in rear). Mrs. Boynton is coloured, husband is white. Sun pic showed her dreamily smoking a cigar — a masterpiece. Mrs. Boynton is 104 years old — she has the birth certificate to prove it. Many years ago Mrs. Boynton nursed Ed through a serious illness and subsequently they were married. Ed is a character himself, used to have tobacco juice running out his mouth all the time — he is now 84, I believe. A few more specific details can be supplied if wanted — I have known them for all my life — particularly Ed, who was the pick-and-shovel man for my dad. Chuck Jones.”

The back of a Sept. 14, 1961, photo of centenarian Matilda Boynton and her husband, Edward.

Jan. 29, 1962: Bill Cunningham portrait of Matilda Boynton, who was about to turn 104.

Matilda Boynton at her 107th birthday party in 1965.

Vancouver Sun front page on Feb. 15, 1960, featuring 102-year-old Matilda Boynton smoking a cigar. Note that the newspaper printed the photo in reverse, so she would be looking into the page, rather than away from it.

Categories: Vancouver

White Rock prize home showcases the contemporary and the traditional

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 07:56

The latest BC Children’s Hospital Choices Lottery home took a deliberate move away from the all-things-beige colour palette typical of show homes. The results? A West Coast vibe nothing short of stunning.

Numerous shades of grey, including a soft Benjamin Moore Chelsea Grey hue on the walls, were used to create an atmosphere that works beautifully in the new 3,700-square-foot lottery home on Bishop Road in White Rock. In the living room, a grey stone fireplace is complemented by the taupe engineered hardwood that’s used throughout the home. “It’s a wider plank I am a big fan of,” says Sharon Poonian of DHS Homes. “Normally I don’t go for this colour, but it was such a good match with the grey tonTes and texture throughout.”

Sandra Hurtley from Positive Space agrees. When sourcing all the furniture from Valley Direct Furniture, she carefully selected a textured velvet sofa in a deep grey as the showpiece here. “Everything in the home reflects the architecture. There is nothing formal about this sofa, and it helps to balance the room,” Hurtley says.

The great room space on the main floor flows from the living room into the dining area and then into the kitchen. A tropical acacia wood table has a live edge, paired with some low-back contemporary chairs and a bench. From there, the doors open wide to a sundeck with built-in grill with white countertops and stainless steel doors to match the kitchen.

BC Children’s Hospital Choices Lottery home in White Rock for 2018 [PNG Merlin Archive]

Upstairs, inside the master bedroom, Hurtley says, “I choose serene palettes that are luxurious. I want it to feel like being at the Four Seasons hotels. I started with the draperies. These are like birch trees tying in with grey wall colours, and the tone of the wood in the furniture is the same as the floors.” Hints of shimmery silver appear in the mercury glass, bling in the bedding and wall art, and a chandelier that creates texture in its ceiling shadow.

In the other two bedrooms, one geared to a girl and the other a boy, large windows provide lots of light. Every bedroom has its own bathroom.

The lower level family room features an adjustable-height poker table in soft, tactile wood. “Nothing is more organic than wood — it adds comfort,” says Hurtley. Nearby is a bar with wine fridge and snacks, a comfy sofa and flat-screen TV with virtual reality goggles.

Hurtley explains why, as builders, she and her husband got involved with the lottery home. “My daughter was a preemie born in BC Children’s Hospital, so it’s interesting that now we are doing this, full circle, 20 years later,” she says. “That was a big part of our decision to do this project. When you have a chance to do something for such a good cause, well — I know how these parents feel.”

The White Rock lottery home is at 1502 Bishop Rd. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Get BC Children’s Hospital Choices Lottery tickets at bcchildren.com.

 

Get the Trends:

Warm greys

When it comes to neutrals, much has been said about going back to beige, but grey continues to be a serene and sophisticated choice — and a surprisingly warm one. This White Rock home features multiple shades of grey throughout, from the walls to the furniture to the flooring to the silvery accents. Walls are painted Benjamin Moore Chelsea Grey, while furniture is upholstered in charcoal and the master bedroom shimmers with silvery bling. Says Poonian, “Even though this is contemporary, I still like a cosy feel. Grey is softer than white on walls.”

Contemporary + traditional

Mixing contemporary and traditional features is both modern and timeless. The kitchen of this home features Shaker-style custom cupboards by Surrey’s G&B Woodcraft. “I like modern and contemporary, but also traditional. When you put in a bit of traditional, it just softens everything,” Poonian says. Hurtley adds, “Shaker cupboards are so timeless.”

Colour pops: Trendy teal

Teal and similar oceanic hues of greeny blue are among the trendiest colours for 2018. Cool yet warm, natural yet urban, teal pairs well with neutrals, brights, pastels and metallics, and makes a great accent against grey tones. “I chose teal accents as the pop of colour, being in White Rock by the ocean, to bring the outdoors in,” says Hurtley.  

SECONDARY SUITE

Like many new homes, this one includes a legal in-law suite. “We went traditional down here,” Hurtley says, “using oatmeals and navy, with turned legs on the furniture in a smaller scale.” Also, Poonian adds, “We did not put in a kitchen because a lot of people do not want one. They want this space for either adult kids or their parents.”

 

 

 

 

Categories: Vancouver

The Home Front: Tiny home design at the BC Home + Garden Show

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 07:53

Innovative design is often the result of someone addressing a need and that’s certainly the case with Vancouver’s Mint Tiny House Company, which is exhibiting at the 47th annual BC Home + Garden Show, Feb. 21 to  25 at BC Place Stadium.

Brian Persse moved to Vancouver from Ireland in 2013, and his Canadian brother-in-law asked him to build him a tiny home. Persse’s background was in construction and his wife Shannon was in real estate; together, they discovered there was real market for tiny homes and launched the Mint Tiny House Company.

“Our initial focus was people who couldn’t afford to purchase a home themselves,” he says. “But the market has grown wider since. We’ve got clients who are buying them as first homes. We’ve got people who are retiring and moving into them. We’ve got people who are buying them for recreational use, who are living in them and renting them out as well. We’ve basically found, I think, over the last couple of years that there’s multiple uses for these tiny homes. Obviously, the housing crisis in Vancouver is one part of it.”

Mint tiny homes start at around $50,000 for a 20-foot-base model, Persse says, and people can customize them any way they choose, spending, on average around $80,000.

Vancouver’s Mint Tiny House Company builds tiny homes that are fully customizable to peoples’ needs and tastes. Photo: Mint Tiny House Company for The Home Front: Tiny home design at BC Home + Garden Show by Rebecca Keillor [PNG Merlin Archive]

“For $50,000, you get basically a nice little tiny home,” he says. “A sleeping loft that can sleep two people comfortably in it, and you can customize and add in different appliances, and things you like from there.”

The feedback they get from their customers is that these homes allow them more freedom, both financially and time-wise.

“The cost of running these homes is very, very low,” he says. “They’re very well insulated, there’s minimal maintenance and minimal bills every month. They realize they don’t need as much stuff, and they get more free time. Because, let’s face it, on a Saturday morning, an average person starts to clean their home, and maybe spends half the day cleaning their home; with a tiny home, half an hour and you’ve got it spic and span and you’re ready to do what you want.”

Most of their tiny homes go to places like the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island and outside the city of Vancouver, along with the U.S., Persse says. They’ve sent a lot of homes to California.

“Construction on the Gulf Islands can be quite expensive,” Persse says. “Because there’s a limited amount of builders on those islands who kind of have the monopoly, if you like, of the construction over there, and getting materials and everything to and from there, everything gets expensive. Whereas, with what we’re doing, it’s all built in our factory here in Delta, and it’s a single ferry ride over and a simple installation that’s very cost effective. Obviously, it doesn’t upset the neighbours because they’re not listening to any construction noise going on for weeks and months at a time. A few hours, or day at the most, we’ll do the install and that’s it.”

Vancouver’s Mint Tiny House Company builds fully customizable tiny homes. Photo: Mint Tiny House Company for The Home Front: Tiny home design at BC Home + Garden Show by Rebecca Keillor [PNG Merlin Archive]

For those happy to commute, says Persse, or have the option of working remotely, these homes are also very appealing.

“A lot of our clients  are able to work from home in their tiny home, and location isn’t so much of an issue these days,” he says. “For people with tech jobs, or whatnot, it’s actually  very very suitable, providing they’re OK with being outside the city, and then even if it means working from home two or three days a week, and commuting two days that’s fine.”

Every home they build is customized to meet their clients’ needs, Persse says.

“If we know they’re going to be on a site that has full electric hookups we’ll build an all-electric unit,” he says. “Whereas, if someone is going more off grid, we do have options for solar, we’ve got solar packages, so the home can be completely self sustaining.”

At the BC Home + Garden Show, Mint is exhibiting as part of the tiny homes village, alongside Modpools (swimming pools made from shipping containers). 

“We’ll have three different builds there, all of different sizes, and slightly different designs, so something for everyone to see there,” Persse says.

For more information on the show, visit bchomeandgardenshow.com

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Categories: Vancouver

Sold (Bought): Burnaby condo has far-reaching views

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 07:17

A snapshot of recent residential real estate activity in Metro Vancouver

508 — 2133 Douglas Road, Burnaby

Type: Two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment

Size: 941 sq. ft.

B.C. Assessment: $597,000

Listed for: $699,000

Sold for: $730,000

Sold on: Oct. 16

Days on market: Six

Listing agent: Keith Roy at ReMax Select Realty

Buyers agent: Tony Jiang at Homeland Realty

The big sell: Listing agent Keith Roy reports that this two-bedroom Burnaby condo in Ledingham McAllister’s Perspectives building sold in 2015 for $475,000. Fast forward two years and it has achieved $730,000. The southwest corner suite has a bright, open layout with floor-to-ceiling windows and a well-equipped kitchen with stone countertops, stainless-steel Whirlpool appliances, black subway backsplash tiles and Shaker-style cabinets with brushed nickel hardware. The bedrooms are on opposite sides of the condo, ensuring privacy with the master having double-aspect windows and a four-piece bathroom. The complex was built on a slope, so the home feels higher than its fifth floor location and has park and far-reaching city views from inside and out. Amenities include a lounge for informal gatherings, a fitness centre, a billiards/library room and an expansive terrace. The monthly maintenance fee is $268.00 and the unit comes with a parking stall and a storage locker. Pets and rentals are permitted.

1969 Creelman Ave., Vancouver

Type: Six-bedroom, three-bathroom detached

Size: 2,703 sq. ft.

B.C. Assessment: $3,489,000

Listed for: $3,498,000

Sold for: $3,380,000

Sold on: Sept. 28

Days on market: 15

Listing agent: Colette Gerber at Sutton Group — West Coast Realty

Buyers agent: Rob Zwick at ReMax Crest Realty —Westside

This home at 1969 Creelman Avenue in Vancouver sold for $3,380,000. For Sold (Bought) in Westcoast Homes. [PNG Merlin Archive]

The big sell: There are three suites within this Kitsilano house with each unit comprising two bedrooms and occupying a separate floor. The main and lower levels have layouts of almost equal size at approximately 970 square feet and the top floor is slightly smaller at 767 square feet. The home was built in 1927 and contains a number of architectural design features in keeping with its age, such as inlaid hardwood floors, lead-paned windows, french doors, curved ceiling edges and a ceiling rose and fireplace in the main-floor suite. It was renovated in 1997 and according to listing agent Colette Gerber, has revenue potential of $6,000 a month or more. There is shared laundry and electric and forced air heating while the north-facing rear yard is fenced and contains a carport. The 33-by-120-foot lot is duplex zoned and in Kits Point on a tree-lined street with parks, beaches and ocean on the three sides and convenient access to Granville Island and downtown. 

1705 — 1009 Expo Boulevard, Vancouver 

Type: Two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment

Size: 1,005 sq. ft.

B.C. Assessment: $1,041,000

Listed for: $1,098,800

Sold for: $1,098,000

Sold on: Dec. 11

Days on market: Six

Listing agent: Chris Tioseco at Oakwyn Realty

Buyers agent: Naz Allahyari at ReMax Masters Realty

This home at 1705 — 1009 Expo Blvd. in Vancouver sold for $1,098,000. For Sold (Bought) in Westcoast Homes. [PNG Merlin Archive]

The big sell: Yaletown’s Landmark 33 tower was built by Concord Pacific in 1998 in the city’s Marina Pointe neighbourhood. This 17th-floor apartment has wall-to-wall southeast-facing water views of False Creek and the marina. It has an open-concept layout with laminate floors, water views from the principal rooms, in-suite storage and laundry and a flex room. The kitchen has stainless-steel appliances including a new fridge/freezer, updated tiles and stone countertops. The master bedroom has a large walk-in closet and a private bathroom, while custom sliding frosted glass doors provide privacy for the second bedroom. Landmark 33 has three elevators, 24-hour concierge, underground parking and membership to Club H20, which has a squash court, air-conditioned gym, indoor salt water swimming pool, sauna, hot tub, and a rooftop party lounge with a barbecue area. This monthly maintenance fee is $524.30 and the strata permits pets and rentals. 

These transactions were compiled by Nicola Way of BestHomesBC.com.

Realtors — send your recent sales to nicola@besthomesbc.com.

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Categories: Vancouver

The Last Continent: Microfibres invade even these pristine waters

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 07:00

Postmedia columnist Daphne Bramham crosses the notoriously rough Drake Passage from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia — known as the Serengeti of the Southern Ocean — to Antarctica. Her daily reports from the 18-day expedition cover issues from climate change and micro plastics in the ocean to Japan’s continuing whale hunt, the antics of penguins and the world’s wild race to tour, and exploit, this last frontier.

In the ocean’s rich subsurface layer where many marine creatures feed, invisible plastic fibres spin and churn along with the currents.

Neutrally buoyant, these microfibres neither rise nor fall. Even if they do drop to the bottom — perhaps because they get coated with bacteria or have things growing on them — once freed of those living attachments, they return to their point of neutral buoyancy to resume what scientists believe could be a perpetual journey.

“Microfibres are the most biologically troubling of the plastics in the ocean because they’re available to the food chain,” says Peter Ross, a marine pollution scientist doing groundbreaking work on microplastics at a lab in West Vancouver.

Lots of attention has been paid and is still being paid to microbeads from cosmetic products, nurdles (plastic pellets that are the raw material used in manufacturing), discarded bags and bottles, huge chunks of Styrofoam and kilometres of abandoned fishing net.

But when it comes to the invisible particles, scientists are still trying to answer some very basic questions. What are they? Where do they come from? How do they get into the oceans? Can they be kept out of the oceans? And, once microfibres are in the ocean, how can they be removed?

Microplastics and microfibres in Peter Ross’s lab that came from subsurface water samples taken in the Arctic Ocean.

“This is a voyage of discovery to a remote part of the world where nobody is doing what we’re doing,” Ross says of our 18-day trip to Antarctica that goes from the southern Atlantic to the Southern Ocean and back.

On this trip, the first extensive, subsurface seawater sampling for microplastics is being done under a strict protocol that will allow the results from subsequent high-end lab analysis to be compared with samples from both the Arctic and Pacific oceans.

“We have every expectation of finding microplastics in every sample we look at from anywhere in the world right now,” he said even before a single sample was collected. “Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have said that with such confidence. Over the last 10 years, we’ve discovered so much about the distribution of microplastics around the world, I can almost say the scientific community is a little bit numb … because we didn’t see this coming. We were looking at macro debris until the early 2000s and then we started looking under microscopes.”

The scarcity of data from the Southern Ocean was highlighted in a study of microplastics in the Antarctic marine system published in November in the peer-reviewed Science of the Total Environment.

It noted the urgent need for standardized monitoring for microplastics in Antarctic waters, adding that “major questions concerning plastic in the Southern Ocean remain unanswered … Our understanding of the sources and fate of plastics in these waters is limited at best.”

Ross echoes the call for better scientific methods and research.

Peter Ross, vice-president of research at the Ocean Wise Conservation Association.

“We are beyond simple discovery at this point,” he said. “We really have to sharpen our skills in terms of sampling and in terms of the analytical phase in the lab because we want to compare data across studies.”

Among the earliest peer-reviewed studies of microplastics is a study done by Australian Mark Browne. In 2011, he concluded that they made up more than 85 per cent of the plastic pollution on the world’s shores and are twice as prevalent as macroplastics — those visible bits that include fishing gear, shopping bags, straws and brightly coloured pieces from who knows where.

Ross, who is now vice-president of research for the Ocean Wise Conservation Association, shifted his focus from chemical pollutants in the marine environment to microplastics and microfibres.

In 2015, Ross and two of his researchers published the first indisputable evidence that zooplankton at the bottom of the food chain in the northeast Pacific Ocean were mistaking these plastic fibres for food.

The study estimated that juvenile salmon along the B.C. coast are ingesting between two and seven microplastic particles each day, while returning adult salmon are taking in as many as 90 per day.

In 2016, with the help of Squamish-based One Ocean Expeditions, Ross’s team expanded its sampling to the Arctic. Although the full analysis won’t be ready for another couple of months, Ross did say that microfibres comprised virtually all of the microplastic found in the samples.

The end game is to not only identify the fibres themselves in terms of their chemical makeup, but also to eventually track them back to their source.

There are no simple answers.

Only a decade into the research with little more than a dozen studies, among the culprits identified so far are synthetic materials used in clothing. Bits of these synthetic fabrics break or slough off in both washers and dryers.

The fleece jackets made from shredded plastic that are staples in most Canadians’ wardrobes shed a lot. Research done in Ross’s lab found that as many as a million microfibres come off every time one is washed.

But it’s not just fleece. Fibres from all synthetic fabrics break and shred — and not only in the wash. Even walking down the street in polyester pants and a jacket with your arms swinging creates a dust that gets into the air and may find its way to the ocean, either borne on wind currents or by dropping down into storm sewers and drains.

GALLERY: The Last Continent: Daphne Bramham travels to Antarctica
  • HOPE BAY, Antarctica – A leopard seal comes back to eat the Adelie penguin that it just killed at Hope Bay in Antarctica. The seals grab them by the necks in the water and then slam them against the surface to flay the skin off them before eating them.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • A leopard seal grabs an Adelie penguin in the water at Hope Bay in Antarctica. The seals aren't fast enough to catch them onshore or on ice flows where it's not uncommon to see the penguins and the leopard seals sharing space.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • HOPE BAY, Antarctica – A leopard seal comes up for air after having killed an Adelie penguin chick at Hope Bay, Antarctica. The chicks have only recently fledged and are easy prey for these seals.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • HOPE BAY, Antarctica – A clutch of Adelie penguin chicks have grown up enough that they now have to fend for themselves and can no longer rely on their parents to feed them. Their "Mohawk" haircuts are the remnants of the down that they must shed before they get their waterproofed feathers. The tufts on their head are usually the last thing to go because they can't reach it to slough it off. Daphne is at Hope Bay in Antarctica.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Chinstrap penguins jump in the air as they swim through the Scotia Sea near to Elephant Island, where 22 of Ernest Shackleton's crew spent four months waiting to be rescued.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • The peaks of Elephant Island pokes through the fog.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • On the now eroded isthmus that joined Point Wild to Elephant Island, Ernest Shackleton's 22 crew spent a winter waiting for rescue.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Iceberg B15Z, which measures 24 kilometres long and 11 kilometres wide and 78 metres high, has been floating around Antarctica for more than 17 years since a huge chunk broke off the Ross Ice Sheet.  Dapne Bramham/PNG

  • Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham photograghs king penguins at Cooper Harbour, South Georgia, in the Antarctica on Feb. 7, 2018.  Courtesy Chris Guzzo/PNG

  • A group of curious fur seals stop playing in the surf just long enough to take a good look at Cooper Harbour, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • A moulting, female elephant seal rouses herself enough to take a look at what's happening on the beach at Cooper Harbour, South Georgia. After giving birth, the females start to moult. Until their new skin and fur grows in, they can't go in the water because they're no longer waterproof. So, they fast even though they are feeding pups that must grow quickly if they are to survive when winter comes.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Unlike other penguins, the elegant kings live in large, permanent rookeries or colonies throughout the year. Some can be as large as half a million birds. So, they're easy enough to find because you can hear their calls from many kilometres away and, depending on the direction of the wind, you can often smell them a great distance as well. Daphne is at Cooper Harbour, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • A whale's skull, a remnant of the 20th century whale hunt lies in the grass at Grytzviken, South Georgia. This plant and its settlement where the heart of the whaling industry and the largest of six processing plants on the island. The plant closed in 1962.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • STROMNESS, South Georgia (Feb. 8, 2018) – This abandoned whaling station in Stromness, South Georgia is where Ernest Shackleton, Thomas Crean and Frank Worsley arrived after 18 months of attempting to find help for the crew of the Endurance. Their tenacious search for help took them across a dangerous passage in an open sailboat and over one of South Georgia's highest mountains. But before they saw the whaling station, they heard its whistle blowing.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • GRYTZVIKEN, South Georgia (Feb. 8, 2018) – The Petrel is one of the abandoned whaling ships that line the shore of Grytzviken, South Georgia. This was once the largest and busiest processing plant on the island. The harpoon gun is still on the bow of the ship.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • The rusted beams of a former whale processing plant are silhouetted against a glacier at Grytzviken, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • SALISBURY PLAIN, South Georgia – A mating pair of king penguins do their ritual dance. Unlike most other species, kings aren't monogamous. Because of the short breeding season, they don't always wait for their mates to return before breeding. Daphne is visiting Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Tens of thousands of king penguins occupy the rockery at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia throughout the year. So, there are nesting pairs, fledglings and mating penguins all along the shore and up into the plain itself. An estimated half a million penguins are on this island including kings, macaronis, gentoos and chinstraps. Kings are 60 to 94 centimetres tall. Only emperor penguins, which nest further inland, are bigger.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • This is what tens of thousands of king penguins look like from above on a ridge over the rookery at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • King penguin chicks have shaggy brown coats that they shed in clumps before they get into the water for the first time. If they happen to fall into the water before that, they'll likely drown because their fluffy feathers aren't waterproofed. So, they hang around the rookery, waiting for the parents to come back and feed them. Daphne is visiting Salisbury Plain, South Georgia. (  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • ELSEHUL BAY, South Georgia – These moulting sea lions will stay here on this island in the Antarctic region for several weeks as they get a whole new outer skin. They seem unperturbed by the storm of life around them from a southern fur seal pup to king penguins that walk around them to the large seabirds that swoop in to take unsuspecting and vulnerable penguin chicks. Daphne Bramham is visiting Elsehul Bay, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • There are close to a million macaroni penguins in Elsehul Bay on South Georgia, but their numbers have fallen by about a half in the last 30 years. They lay their eggs on steep slopes and are easily recognizable with their lush yellow hair tufts. They were named macaroni in the 18th century after the dandies i n London who wore extreme fashions. The song, Yankee Doodle, makes reference to them – "he stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni."  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • ELSEHUL BAY, South Georgia – King penguins are second only to emperors when it comes to their height and weight. It takes 14 months for a pair to raise a chick. The chicks at Elsehul Bay, South Georgia have already fledged and are no longer dependent on their parents for food.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • A blizzard of birds – mostly cape petrels -- swoops and swirls just off the island in the Antarctic region where they come along with elephant seals, fur seals, king penguins and macaroni penguins to feed on plankton and krill. Elsehul Bay, South Georgia is such a rich feeding ground that it was the base for whaling in the last century.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Getting ready to disembark on South Georgia Island, requires following strict protocols for ensuring that no seeds, pathogens or penguin guano from another island are left on clothing, bags or shoes. The reason for the care that's being taken is so that elephant seals like this one won't be infected or affected by anything from somewhere else. South Georgia [PNG Merlin Archive]  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Getting ready to disembark on South Georgia Island, requires following strict protocols for ensuring that no seeds, pathogens or penguin guano from another island are left on clothing, bags or shoes. A particular culprit for carrying tiny bits is Velcro. So, it needs to be gone over with a wire brush or vacuumed. Daphne is visiting Scotia Sea, the Southern Sea.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Getting ready to disembark on South Georgia Island, requires following strict protocols for ensuring that no seeds, pathogens or penguin guano from another island are left on clothing, bags or shoes. Any shoes or boots that are going ashore must be scrubbed and dipped in biocide and left to dry. Anyone going ashore must also sign a document saying that they are not bringing anything with them. Daphne is visiting Scotia Sea, South Atlantic Ocean. (Daphne Bramham) [PNG Merlin Archive]  /PNG

  • Three Magellenic penguins look out to the Scotia Sea. These penguins live only in temperate climates and not in Antarctica. But sometimes penguins range rather far afield. In one of half a dozen or more colonies on this privately owned island (which has been farmed by the same two families for years), there was a lone King penguin. Daphne is visiting Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands.  /PNG

  • In late afternoon when the parents return with food from the sea, it's a squawking, raucous place to be as the starving chicks try to get food from any returning adult. The adults, on the other hand, only feed their own chicks. While penguins may all look and sound alike to us, each has a unique voice. Daphne is on Bleaker Island, Falkland Islands.  /PNG

  • The rock-hopping penguin with its disco look does just that. It hops up the rocks from the sea using its clawed feet to feed the chicks that are now almost fully fledged. Daphne is visiting Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands.  /PNG

  • This island in the Magellan Strait is the breeding ground for an estimated 69,000 pairs of Magellan penguins. This year's brood has already hatched, although not all the juveniles have lost their baby fuzz. These are one of several species of penguins that live in temperate regions and never venture into the ice and snow of Antarctica. A close cousin to Magellan penguins are the South African or black-footed penguins that are at the Vancouver Aquarium. The major difference is that the Magellans have mottled pink and black feet.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • This island in the Magellan Strait is the breeding ground for an estimated 69,000 pairs of Magellan penguins. This year's brood has already hatched, although not all the juveniles have lost their baby fuzz. These are one of several species of penguins that live in temperate regions and never venture into the ice and snow of Antarctica. A close cousin to Magellan penguins are the South African or black-footed penguins that are at the Vancouver Aquarium. The major difference is that the Magellans have mottled pink and black feet.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • This island in the Magellan Strait is the breeding ground for an estimated 69,000 pairs of Magellan penguins. This year’s brood has already hatched, although not all the juveniles have lost their baby fuzz. These are one of several species of penguins that live in temperate regions and never venture into the ice and snow of Antarctica. A close cousin to Magellan penguins are the South African or black-footed penguins that are at the Vancouver Aquarium. The major difference is that the Magellans have mottled pink and black feet.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Marta Island, Chile – This island in the Magellan Strait is where South American sea lions as well as some fur seals come to breed in the summer. The beach masters – alpha males – guard their stretch of the shoreline and protect their harems from other male intruders. The females, meantime, are forced to protect their pups from errant males that kill any young that they haven't sired.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Marta Island, Chile – This island in the Magellan Strait is where South American sea lions as well as some fur seals come to breed in the summer. The beach masters – alpha males – guard their stretch of the shoreline and protect their harems from other male intruders. The females, meantime, are forced to protect their pups from errant males that kill any young that they haven't sired.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Marta Island, Chile – This island in the Magellan Strait is where South American sea lions as well as some fur seals come to breed in the summer. The beach masters – alpha males – guard their stretch of the shoreline and protect their harems from other male intruders. The females, meantime, are forced to protect their pups from errant males that kill any young that they haven't sired.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

Some of those fibres then slip through wastewater treatment plants and find their way to the oceans and are dispersed on the well-documented routes of wind and ocean currents. At least that’s what the researchers think from the data that they’ve managed to collect so far.

But before you rush out and buy new eco-friendly clothes, the scientists are also warning that not all research deserves equal weight.

Last year, Browne told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that he’s concerned about companies that make claims that their clothing is eco-friendly with no research to back their claims.

But there are retailers working with researchers. Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-op, North Vancouver-based Arc’teryx and the American companies Patagonia and REI are all supporting Ross’s research.

Patagonia also helps fund Patricia Holden’s research at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Among her published findings are that seven times more fibres are released when a fleece jacket is washed in a top-load versus a front-loading machine. 

From the laundry and storm sewers, the fibres slip through wastewater treatment plants, which is why Metro Vancouver is supporting Ross’s research to determine what measures might be necessary to stop the flow into the ocean.

Of course, clothing isn’t the only source of microplastics. Larger products — from microbeads in cosmetics, bottles, shopping bags and straws to plastic-coated coffee cups and commercial fishing nets — break down into their various chemical components or break up into smaller and smaller pieces.

GALLERY: The Last Continent: Daphne Bramham travels to Antarctica
  • HOPE BAY, Antarctica – A leopard seal comes back to eat the Adelie penguin that it just killed at Hope Bay in Antarctica. The seals grab them by the necks in the water and then slam them against the surface to flay the skin off them before eating them.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • A leopard seal grabs an Adelie penguin in the water at Hope Bay in Antarctica. The seals aren't fast enough to catch them onshore or on ice flows where it's not uncommon to see the penguins and the leopard seals sharing space.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • HOPE BAY, Antarctica – A leopard seal comes up for air after having killed an Adelie penguin chick at Hope Bay, Antarctica. The chicks have only recently fledged and are easy prey for these seals.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • HOPE BAY, Antarctica – A clutch of Adelie penguin chicks have grown up enough that they now have to fend for themselves and can no longer rely on their parents to feed them. Their "Mohawk" haircuts are the remnants of the down that they must shed before they get their waterproofed feathers. The tufts on their head are usually the last thing to go because they can't reach it to slough it off. Daphne is at Hope Bay in Antarctica.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Chinstrap penguins jump in the air as they swim through the Scotia Sea near to Elephant Island, where 22 of Ernest Shackleton's crew spent four months waiting to be rescued.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • The peaks of Elephant Island pokes through the fog.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • On the now eroded isthmus that joined Point Wild to Elephant Island, Ernest Shackleton's 22 crew spent a winter waiting for rescue.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Iceberg B15Z, which measures 24 kilometres long and 11 kilometres wide and 78 metres high, has been floating around Antarctica for more than 17 years since a huge chunk broke off the Ross Ice Sheet.  Dapne Bramham/PNG

  • Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham photograghs king penguins at Cooper Harbour, South Georgia, in the Antarctica on Feb. 7, 2018.  Courtesy Chris Guzzo/PNG

  • A group of curious fur seals stop playing in the surf just long enough to take a good look at Cooper Harbour, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • A moulting, female elephant seal rouses herself enough to take a look at what's happening on the beach at Cooper Harbour, South Georgia. After giving birth, the females start to moult. Until their new skin and fur grows in, they can't go in the water because they're no longer waterproof. So, they fast even though they are feeding pups that must grow quickly if they are to survive when winter comes.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Unlike other penguins, the elegant kings live in large, permanent rookeries or colonies throughout the year. Some can be as large as half a million birds. So, they're easy enough to find because you can hear their calls from many kilometres away and, depending on the direction of the wind, you can often smell them a great distance as well. Daphne is at Cooper Harbour, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • A whale's skull, a remnant of the 20th century whale hunt lies in the grass at Grytzviken, South Georgia. This plant and its settlement where the heart of the whaling industry and the largest of six processing plants on the island. The plant closed in 1962.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • STROMNESS, South Georgia (Feb. 8, 2018) – This abandoned whaling station in Stromness, South Georgia is where Ernest Shackleton, Thomas Crean and Frank Worsley arrived after 18 months of attempting to find help for the crew of the Endurance. Their tenacious search for help took them across a dangerous passage in an open sailboat and over one of South Georgia's highest mountains. But before they saw the whaling station, they heard its whistle blowing.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • GRYTZVIKEN, South Georgia (Feb. 8, 2018) – The Petrel is one of the abandoned whaling ships that line the shore of Grytzviken, South Georgia. This was once the largest and busiest processing plant on the island. The harpoon gun is still on the bow of the ship.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • The rusted beams of a former whale processing plant are silhouetted against a glacier at Grytzviken, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • SALISBURY PLAIN, South Georgia – A mating pair of king penguins do their ritual dance. Unlike most other species, kings aren't monogamous. Because of the short breeding season, they don't always wait for their mates to return before breeding. Daphne is visiting Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Tens of thousands of king penguins occupy the rockery at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia throughout the year. So, there are nesting pairs, fledglings and mating penguins all along the shore and up into the plain itself. An estimated half a million penguins are on this island including kings, macaronis, gentoos and chinstraps. Kings are 60 to 94 centimetres tall. Only emperor penguins, which nest further inland, are bigger.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • This is what tens of thousands of king penguins look like from above on a ridge over the rookery at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • King penguin chicks have shaggy brown coats that they shed in clumps before they get into the water for the first time. If they happen to fall into the water before that, they'll likely drown because their fluffy feathers aren't waterproofed. So, they hang around the rookery, waiting for the parents to come back and feed them. Daphne is visiting Salisbury Plain, South Georgia. (  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • ELSEHUL BAY, South Georgia – These moulting sea lions will stay here on this island in the Antarctic region for several weeks as they get a whole new outer skin. They seem unperturbed by the storm of life around them from a southern fur seal pup to king penguins that walk around them to the large seabirds that swoop in to take unsuspecting and vulnerable penguin chicks. Daphne Bramham is visiting Elsehul Bay, South Georgia.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • There are close to a million macaroni penguins in Elsehul Bay on South Georgia, but their numbers have fallen by about a half in the last 30 years. They lay their eggs on steep slopes and are easily recognizable with their lush yellow hair tufts. They were named macaroni in the 18th century after the dandies i n London who wore extreme fashions. The song, Yankee Doodle, makes reference to them – "he stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni."  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • ELSEHUL BAY, South Georgia – King penguins are second only to emperors when it comes to their height and weight. It takes 14 months for a pair to raise a chick. The chicks at Elsehul Bay, South Georgia have already fledged and are no longer dependent on their parents for food.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • A blizzard of birds – mostly cape petrels -- swoops and swirls just off the island in the Antarctic region where they come along with elephant seals, fur seals, king penguins and macaroni penguins to feed on plankton and krill. Elsehul Bay, South Georgia is such a rich feeding ground that it was the base for whaling in the last century.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Getting ready to disembark on South Georgia Island, requires following strict protocols for ensuring that no seeds, pathogens or penguin guano from another island are left on clothing, bags or shoes. The reason for the care that's being taken is so that elephant seals like this one won't be infected or affected by anything from somewhere else. South Georgia [PNG Merlin Archive]  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Getting ready to disembark on South Georgia Island, requires following strict protocols for ensuring that no seeds, pathogens or penguin guano from another island are left on clothing, bags or shoes. A particular culprit for carrying tiny bits is Velcro. So, it needs to be gone over with a wire brush or vacuumed. Daphne is visiting Scotia Sea, the Southern Sea.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Getting ready to disembark on South Georgia Island, requires following strict protocols for ensuring that no seeds, pathogens or penguin guano from another island are left on clothing, bags or shoes. Any shoes or boots that are going ashore must be scrubbed and dipped in biocide and left to dry. Anyone going ashore must also sign a document saying that they are not bringing anything with them. Daphne is visiting Scotia Sea, South Atlantic Ocean. (Daphne Bramham) [PNG Merlin Archive]  /PNG

  • Three Magellenic penguins look out to the Scotia Sea. These penguins live only in temperate climates and not in Antarctica. But sometimes penguins range rather far afield. In one of half a dozen or more colonies on this privately owned island (which has been farmed by the same two families for years), there was a lone King penguin. Daphne is visiting Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands.  /PNG

  • In late afternoon when the parents return with food from the sea, it's a squawking, raucous place to be as the starving chicks try to get food from any returning adult. The adults, on the other hand, only feed their own chicks. While penguins may all look and sound alike to us, each has a unique voice. Daphne is on Bleaker Island, Falkland Islands.  /PNG

  • The rock-hopping penguin with its disco look does just that. It hops up the rocks from the sea using its clawed feet to feed the chicks that are now almost fully fledged. Daphne is visiting Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands.  /PNG

  • This island in the Magellan Strait is the breeding ground for an estimated 69,000 pairs of Magellan penguins. This year's brood has already hatched, although not all the juveniles have lost their baby fuzz. These are one of several species of penguins that live in temperate regions and never venture into the ice and snow of Antarctica. A close cousin to Magellan penguins are the South African or black-footed penguins that are at the Vancouver Aquarium. The major difference is that the Magellans have mottled pink and black feet.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • This island in the Magellan Strait is the breeding ground for an estimated 69,000 pairs of Magellan penguins. This year's brood has already hatched, although not all the juveniles have lost their baby fuzz. These are one of several species of penguins that live in temperate regions and never venture into the ice and snow of Antarctica. A close cousin to Magellan penguins are the South African or black-footed penguins that are at the Vancouver Aquarium. The major difference is that the Magellans have mottled pink and black feet.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • This island in the Magellan Strait is the breeding ground for an estimated 69,000 pairs of Magellan penguins. This year’s brood has already hatched, although not all the juveniles have lost their baby fuzz. These are one of several species of penguins that live in temperate regions and never venture into the ice and snow of Antarctica. A close cousin to Magellan penguins are the South African or black-footed penguins that are at the Vancouver Aquarium. The major difference is that the Magellans have mottled pink and black feet.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Marta Island, Chile – This island in the Magellan Strait is where South American sea lions as well as some fur seals come to breed in the summer. The beach masters – alpha males – guard their stretch of the shoreline and protect their harems from other male intruders. The females, meantime, are forced to protect their pups from errant males that kill any young that they haven't sired.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Marta Island, Chile – This island in the Magellan Strait is where South American sea lions as well as some fur seals come to breed in the summer. The beach masters – alpha males – guard their stretch of the shoreline and protect their harems from other male intruders. The females, meantime, are forced to protect their pups from errant males that kill any young that they haven't sired.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

  • Marta Island, Chile – This island in the Magellan Strait is where South American sea lions as well as some fur seals come to breed in the summer. The beach masters – alpha males – guard their stretch of the shoreline and protect their harems from other male intruders. The females, meantime, are forced to protect their pups from errant males that kill any young that they haven't sired.  Daphne Bramham/PNG

But figuring out what and how requires tedious, painstaking and expensive work.

Ross’s research begins with collecting subsurface seawater that is unaffected by tides and wind. Pails and pails full of the stuff is collected several times a day and sieved to filter out anything larger than 63 microns. (A micron is one, one-thousandth of a millimetre.)

Later in the lab, the individual particles are first counted, then separated and mounted on slides that are put into a spectrometer. Pieces as small as five microns — about half the size of a red-blood cell and about a 20th of the width of a human hair — are scanned and compared with a database of 250,000 materials.

For the Arctic and Antarctic sampling, One Ocean Expeditions has agreed to outfit all three of its ships with a plastic lab and have its staff trained to do the sampling on all of its polar trips.

As John Nightingale, CEO of Ocean Wise, points out, this saves an enormous amount of scarce research money because it would cost tens of thousands of dollars a day to use a pure research ship that isn’t subsidized by tourists’ fares.

But how do these microfibres spread to remote locations and the seemingly pristine Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica?

A mesmerizing real-time wind map helps explain how airborne fibres and other pollutants from the middle of a continent might make it to the sea. Studies done on airborne chemical pollutants emitted in southern Europe and North America have found that they can get anywhere on the planet in eight to 10 days.

Similarly, ocean currents dodge continents and act as conveyer belts for everything from icebergs to microfibres.

Some of the ocean currents mapped by NASA’s Scientific Visualization Center bear an uncanny resemblance to the swirling sky in Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Others wrap the equator like a belt around Tweedledum’s girth.

A tangible example is the route taken by icebergs calved off the east coast of Greenland. They first go south before making a sharp right turn to head north up Baffin Bay to Lancaster Sound, where they make a sharp left turn to begin their stately procession south past Newfoundland.

Like wind currents, ocean currents are extremely effective, although slower, in moving pollutants. Within one to two years they can carry pollutants to the most remote parts of the world.

There is one caveat, says Ross.

“What we would find in Antarctica would typically reflect what’s going on in the Southern Hemisphere. The equatorial boundary is almost like a big curtain or barrier for ocean and atmospheric currents.”

Among the questions Ross hopes to answer with the sampling being done on this trip is whether microfibres are carried across the convergence — the line where Atlantic currents meet with the current that circles Antarctica.

dbramham@postmedia.com

twitter:@daphnebramham

Daphne Bramham is travelling as a guest of One Ocean Expeditions, which has neither approved nor reviewed her stories.

So, what can you do to help reduce microplastics and microfibres?

Don’t get hysterical. Until more data is in, leading researcher Peter Ross says some of these suggestions are just precautionary measures.

Fleece, however, has been fingered as a culprit. Every time a fleece jacket is washed, it potentially sends a million fibres into the wastewater system. But are nubbly fleece jackets worse than other synthetics? Nobody knows.

Don’t just dump your fleece jacket and other synthetic clothes in the garbage. In landfills, they’re also likely to shred, splinter and end up in oceans and air.

For now, recycling fleece isn’t really an option. So, consider the way you handle the stuff you’ve got. If you decide to keep wearing it, wash it less often. There are lint filters available for washing machines, but the jury is out on how effective they are.

Make better choices when you shop because all synthetics and all fleece aren’t created equal, nor are all washing machines. One study from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that top-ending loading washers result in seven times more microfibres sluffing off a fleece jacket than front-loading washers.

Some fleece fabrics are woven flat with long threads and are less likely to shred than loosely woven acrylic sweaters. And remember, even polyester pants and rayon blouses give off a dust of microfibres when rubbed together.

There are eco-friendly options. But be careful. Marke Browne, a leading microplastics researcher, warns that many of the claims made aren’t supported by science.

It’s probably best to choose natural fabrics over synthetics, when you can. But be aware that even natural fabrics have their problems. Cotton is the most pesticide-ridden crop in the world and that’s not good for the environment either.

Wool? Well, Google ‘wool-industry pollution’ and millions of articles come up about everything ranging from air and water pollution caused by sheep’s fecal material to water pollution from the dying process to the hazards of mothproofing wool. Same for leather.

Avoid single-use plastics, such as shopping bags, bottles, straws, plastic cutlery and plastic-coated paper coffee cups. Almost everybody agrees on this. Even if all of them don’t break up into microfibres, some will. But even if they don’t, fewer single-use plastics mean cleaner beaches and it reduces the amount of garbage whirling in the gyres where the ocean currents meet.

Choose glass and metal drink containers over plastic or plastic-coated. Some places, including Vancouver airport, now have bottle-filling stations.

Still, don’t be dogmatic about it. There are places in the world where you’re better off drinking water from factory-sealed plastic bottles than risking getting potentially life-threatening waterborne diseases using a refilled metal bottle.

Finally, clean up beaches and waterways. But don’t forget to pick up the glass shards and metal bits along with the plastic.

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Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.</p

Categories: Vancouver

Living large at Hillcrest at Sullivan Ridge

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 06:48

There’s something about a newly built home. Everything is shiny and untarnished, the stylings are modern, the appliances are efficient and – if you’ve picked a good homebuilder – the construction is solid.

For Dean Scott, who with his wife has bought a home at Hillcrest at Sullivan Ridge, it’s that new-home feel he’s most looking forward to when they take possession in March.

Hillcrest is the third and final development by Marathon Homes in the Sullivan area of Surrey, collectively known as Sullivan Ridge. With a total of 29 homes ranging in size from 3,119 to 4,100 square feet, Hillcrest features architecture by Tyan Design and interiors by Creative Design Works.

“We’re selling a home in Richmond and the biggest thing for us is the fact that we’ll be moving into a new house from an older one where we raised our kids,” Scott said. “The finishing work in the home is tremendous. My father-in-law has been in the design business his whole life and he spent two hours in the show home and said we’d be hard pressed to find better construction and finishes anywhere else. It’s going to be great to have air conditioning in the summer too.”

“I’m also really looking forward to our new kitchen,” Scott added. “The layout of it is perfect, the quartz countertops are beautiful and there’s a gas stove. I do the cooking in our household and I love it. It’s a hobby for me.”

Hillcrest at Sullivan Ridge is a project from Marathon Homes in Surrey. [PNG Merlin Archive]

Jas Gill, Marathon Homes’ managing director, said that the company has tweaked the floor plans and updated the design for this latest collection of five- and six-bedroom single-family homes, most of which will have views of the North Shore mountains.

“One thing to note about Hillcrest is that the style is more contemporary and we’ve also updated all the finishes along the way,” Gill said. “The nice thing about this last phase is that I feel like the homes have a much better indoor-outdoor flow. You have a covered deck area, which wasn’t necessarily available in previous renditions and the garages are also larger in these homes. We’ve always offered functional plans, but I think now they’re not only functional, they’re really efficient as well.”

The homes come with completed basements with all the rough-ins included and there’s an option to turn them into suites, an option Scott intends to go for. All homes feature “family-sized” laundry rooms with side-by-side Whirlpool washers and dryers, natural gas fireplaces with stone surrounds, nine-foot-high ceilings in main living areas, designer lighting fixtures and custom chandeliers in the cathedral staircases.

Kitchens feature walk-in pantries, ceiling-height Shaker cabinetry with glass displays, chrome hardware on soft‑close doors and drawers, plus under-cabinet task lighting. There are polished quartz countertops as well as ceramic tile backsplashes. The stainless-steel appliance packages are by Whirlpool and kitchens also include built-in waste disposal units, single‑lever Delta faucets and pullout vegetable sprays with flex lines.

Hillcrest at Sullivan Ridge is a project from Marathon Homes in Surrey. [PNG Merlin Archive]

As for the bathrooms, they include large-format ceramic tile flooring, contemporary faucets and vanity mirrors. The master ensuites come with oversized walk-in glass showers, his-and-hers vessel sinks and quartz countertops. Main bathrooms have soaker tubs with ceramic tile surrounds and glass accents.

In addition to enjoying the fineries of his new luxury home, Scott says he’s looking forward to getting to know the area better.

“My wife knows Surrey better than I do, but once I did drive around the neighbourhood a bit I began to appreciate how many things were nearby,” Scott said. “There are a lot of restaurants and banks and grocery stores and pretty much everything you need. There’s also plenty of parks around there and we’ll be a little closer to the border and to White Rock, which is an area we like very much.”

A map of the area around Hillcrest at Sullivan Ridge is jam-packed with amenities. It includes no fewer than six parks and two golf courses, as well as a listing of 33 dining and shopping outlets, 12 educational institutions and nine leisure facilities.

Gill said that Marathon Homes has had a wide variety of buyers visiting the Hillcrest at Sullivan Ridge show home and several homes have already been sold. Homes are priced from $1,249,900 including GST and the show home at 6119 146 Street is open from noon until 5 p.m. every day but Friday.

“Our buyer pool has been younger families for the most part,” Gill added. “We’ve had a nice mix of families from either the Surrey area or Richmond that are moving up from townhouses or coming out of older homes in search of something more modern.”

For Dean Scott, the best bit about moving in will be that new-home feel.

“The overall esthetics of the place are incredible,” he said. “I find it quite beautiful.”

Hillcrest at Sullivan Ridge

Project location: 6119 146 Street, Surrey

Project size: 29 single-family homes with five or six bedrooms, ranging in size from 3,119 to 4,100 square feet, with prices starting at $1,249,900 including GST

Developer: Marathon Homes

Architect: Tyan Design

Interior designer: Creative Design Works

Sales centre: 6119 146 Street, Surrey

Telephone: 778 -565-7768

Website: hillcrestbymarathon.ca

 

Categories: Vancouver

B.C. budget: The NDP's first fiscal plan will likely not live up to voters' many expectations

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 04:30

Finance Minister Carole James leaves the legislative assembly after delivering a budget update in Victoria on Sept. 11, 2017. She will deliver her party’s first full budget on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Carole James will deliver Tuesday’s budget with the weight of 16 years of NDP expectations on her shoulders, and not enough money in the public purse to make good on them all.

It’s a problem James has freely acknowledged since Premier John Horgan assumed power last July — that the pressure to immediately change years of Liberal policies would clash with the practical and financial restrictions on the fledgling government.

But with the NDP’s first full budget looming, the pressure is more acute than ever.

“It’s one of our biggest challenges, that after 16 years there’s a lot to fix,” said James. “There are a lot of pressures. I completely understand the impatience of people to want things fixed overnight. But it is going to take time.”

Voter patience, however, may be thin. The NDP campaigned on many reforms in the May 2017 election, including some sort of solution to Metro Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis and a $10-a-day child care plan. Almost nine months later, this week’s throne speech continued to ensure action on key issues  — but it’s unlikely next week’s budget can deliver on all the promises when finances are already stretched so thin.

THE FINANCIAL REALITY

At first, it didn’t look like money would be a problem for the new NDP government. It inherited a surprise $2.8-billion surplus in 2016/17 from the previous Liberal government. But that money automatically went toward provincial debt repayment.

The NDP’s September 2017 mini budget update rolled out almost $2 billion in new spending for commitments like welfare and disability rate increases, a 50 per cent cut to medical services plan premiums, K-12 education improvements and the fentanyl overdose crisis. To help cover the costs, the NDP implemented two major tax increases it had promised during the election — a one per cent hike to the corporate income tax rate, and an income tax increase for those who earn more than $150,000.

The tax increases allowed the NDP to table an estimated $246-million surplus in its September budget update. But it also meant the new government had used up the tax hikes without even beginning to fund its most expensive campaign pledges — $10-a-day child care, housing affordability or the $400-per-person annual renter’s rebate.

Jock Finlayson is executive vice-president of the B.C. Business Council.

The lack of money for these popular initiatives has led to speculation the NDP could introduce new taxes, fees or levies to generate extra funds to power the budget.

“If they decide they don’t want to run operating deficits, it’s unclear where the revenue will come from,” said Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the B.C. Business Council. “We are not expecting major tax increases in the budget. We may be wrong.”

James, who can’t discuss tax measures in advance of the budget, said it’s a matter of “balancing the importance of fiscal responsibility with the programs and services people need.” She still intends to deliver a balanced budget.

Meanwhile, costs have continued to mount. The devastating summer wildfire season meant $658 million in unexpected firefighting costs. Ottawa returned lower-than-expected income tax revenue. And the Insurance Corp. of B.C. is facing a surprise $1.3-billion shortfall this year. The projected $246-million surplus shrunk to an estimated $190 million in November.

That has forced the NDP to drop some initiatives it wanted to include in next week’s budget, and to extend timelines on other items until there’s more money.

“Has the ICBC problem meant that we’ve had to go back and take a look at our promises and commitments, make sure we’re setting priorities and take a look at the timelines of implementing? Yes, it has,” said James.

“You can’t take on a $1.3-billion loss without having to go back and review your priorities, programs and services and ensure we’re able to do it within the economic framework we’ve got. ”

It is not all doom and gloom, however. The province’s economy is growing at one of the strongest rates in Canada, its retail sales are stable, and the continued hot housing market means higher-than-expected revenues from the property transfer tax. The carbon tax is set to rise by $5 per tonne, adding an estimated $212 million into general revenue. And the previous Liberal government’s $500-million Prosperity Fund remains available.

“From 10,000 feet the position B.C. is in looks relatively favourable, certainly compared to many other places,” said Finlayson. “But they are operating in a very tight fiscal framework. The bottom line is on the major spending promises, they are going to have to move incrementally. There just isn’t going to be room for dramatic initiatives.”

Jodi Harris is a Fraser Valley-based professional who feels she has been priced out of the Metro Vancouver housing market.

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY: A COMPLICATED REPAIR JOB

Fraser Health nurse practitioner Jodi Harris has been trying for eight straight months to buy a condo, but either can’t afford the price or has been out-bid by other desperate buyers.

“It is defeating,” said Harris, who was a registered nurse for five years before getting her masters in 2017. “I expected with a better paying job that more doors would open, but I’m repeatedly having doors close on me.”

Her passion is to work with vulnerable residents in the Downtown Eastside, but she never applied for a job with Vancouver Coastal Health because she knew condos in that region were out of her reach.

“You have all these individuals who want to work and reside in an urban setting, around populations for which they want to serve, and they no longer are able. In the future who are you going to have in these centres to care for people who are getting older and sicker?” said Harris.

She is hopeful Tuesday’s budget might bring some relief. She wonders, for example, if the provincial government could require a portion of new developments to be sold only to service providers — such as nurses, teachers, firefighters — so they can live in the communities where they work.

“I think (housing affordability) is pushing a lot of very talented and driven individuals out of the province,” Harris added.

Most of the NDP’s housing affordability ideas are not speedy solutions but longer-term goals, including the creation of 140,000 new housing units over 10 years, to be funded out of borrowed capital dollars and not annual operating money from the budget. It has also promised to review the 15 per cent foreign buyer tax in Metro Vancouver to determine whether it has been effective in improving affordability; eliminate a loophole that allows people to transfer ownership through a bare trust to avoid taxes; and provide more transparency over the “beneficial ownership” of properties through trusts, numbered companies and family connections.

The NDP campaigned on a “yearly two per cent absentee speculators’ tax” that will generate an estimated $200 million annually for a housing affordability fund.

Yet, if the budget includes this speculation tax, it is unlikely to do much for voters who hoped the NDP was going to help them afford a home by bringing about an immediate drop in housing prices.

In Tuesday’s throne speech, the NDP also promised “legislation to crack down on tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in B.C.’s real estate market,” but provided no specifics.

It’s not clear if this plan is the same as one proposed in 2016 by academics from the University of B.C. and Simon Fraser University, which the NDP endorsed at the time as a private member’s bill. The academics called for an annual 1.5 per cent property surcharge on all residential real estate, with revenue distributed back to residents who file income tax, thereby targeting the owners of vacant properties or wealthy foreign investors who don’t pay local taxes. The plan also included exemptions for veterans, the disabled and seniors, and for owners of rental properties.

UBC professor Tom Davidoff, who helped draft the plan, said he’s hopeful the NDP will follow through. But he added a reasonable government has to worry about sparking a correction in the market that would lead to a downturn and wipe out equity in people’s homes.

One low-cost idea the province could include in the budget, Davidoff said, is to encourage municipalities to do a better job of changing zoning bylaws to allow higher-density developments, which would help boost the housing supply, in exchange for amenities such as parks.

To assist renters, the NDP promised in the election a $400 annual rebate that would cost government $265 million a year. Even more problematic than the cost, though, is opposition from the NDP’s power-sharing partner, the B.C. Greens, who have called the renter rebate bad policy. That’s forced government to rethink the concept, potentially giving it an excuse to abandon an idea it can’t afford.

Liam McClure of the Vancouver Renters Union says he is not a fan of a $400 rebate that isn’t indexed to renters’ incomes.

Liam McClure, a member of the Vancouver Renters Union, hopes renters will find some relief in the budget, but was never a fan of the $400 rebate because it is not based on income — so a wealthy person renting a glitzy condo in Yaletown would receive the same rebate as a single mom in a basement suite.

“Because it would be spent on everyone, it is very high-cost and low-effect so it’s not really addressing the people who need assistance with the rent,” he said. “A renter’s benefit is not a bad idea, it just needs to be income scaled.”

Instead, McClure would like the budget to include provisions such as a rent freeze, noting similar concepts have been adopted in other pricey North American cities. He also called on the NDP to follow through with tenant-rights language, dealing with issues such as reno-victions, which it had proposed in previous bills while in opposition.

The NDP should, as well, allow for the creation of more social housing, which provides “an important floor” in the rental market, McClure added.  “I’m cautiously optimistic going into the budget,” he said.

NO QUICK FIX TO THE CHILD CARE CRISIS

When she became pregnant more than three years ago, Tamara Herman put her name on a dozen daycare wait-lists.

“We haven’t gotten a single call,” said Herman, who lives in East Vancouver with her partner and two-and-a-half-year-old son Emil Porter. “We would like to be in a licensed daycare but it is absolutely impossible.”

Emil is under the care of an excellent nanny Herman shares with neighbours, but the situation is both logistically and financially challenging. When the NDP campaigned last year on making child care more accessible and affordable, she volunteered for the first time to help the party get elected.

“I went out and canvassed because they had promised to implement the $10-a-day plan,” said Herman, who works in the non-profit sector.

This week’s throne speech pledged “the largest investment in child care in B.C. history,” though it provided few details. Herman is feeling encouraged, but noted, “It’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of political will.”

It is also going to take a lot of time — which is sure to frustrate parents who can’t find adequate child care today.

Herman knows her volunteer work on behalf of the $10-a-day campaign may never help her toddler son, who will likely be in school by the time real change comes.

“There’s no way (Emil) is going to benefit from this plan, but my hope is that kids in the future will,” said Herman, whose son was once in the same east Vancouver daycare where toddler Macallan Saini died last year. “This is something that has very real and tragic implications for people.”

She would like the government to adopt the $10 plan created by the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., noting it has been well-researched and costed.

Tamara Herman and her 2-1/2-year-old son Emil Porter at their home in Vancouver. The budget is expected to include funding for affordable child care.

Tuesday’s throne speech dropped the $10-a-day slogan, although, when pressed later, Horgan said the price point remains his eventual goal.

Since forming government the NDP has begun the delicate process of reconciling the popularity of the $10-a-day plan with the expensive reality of implementing it. It is now preparing a 10-year universal child care program that will start with a focus on building spaces, training early childhood educators and providing financial support for children aged zero to three years old, before expanding in future years as money allows.

During the election campaign, the NDP promised $10-a-day full-time child care, $7-a-day part-time, and free child care for low-income families, to be phased in over 10 years with an annual cost of $1.5 billion when fully operational. The party had pledged $855-million over the first three years, and that financial commitment was supposed to start last year but was delayed.

Sharon Gregson is a founding member of a group lobbing for $10-a-day child care, but she realizes that goal is likely a long-term one.

In addition to cost, another reason for the delay was resistance from the B.C. Greens. Though both parties support the idea of universal daycare, the Greens don’t think it should be tied specifically to the $10-a-day slogan. Advocates, though, have said the two parties could find a middle ground in shared goals, such as free care for low-income earners.

Sharon Gregson, a founding member of the child care coalition, won’t be upset if the NDP doesn’t adopt the exact $10 plan, as long as top issues, such as lowering parent fees and creating more licensed spaces, are addressed.

She cautions, though, that the coalition’s plan allows for up to 10 years to fix the system, so parents need to be patient. “The crisis that exists, what we call the child care chaos, is too big and too deep to be fixed by one budget,” Gregson said.

The question remains how much of it can be fixed in this one budget. The NDP will receive some help from the federal government, which this week pledged $153 million over the next three years for child care — but can this cash-strapped government find the remaining $750 million it promised over the next three years?

SOME CAMPAIGN COMMITMENTS ARE STILL UNFUNDED

Many of the NDP’s campaign pledges have already been enacted, and won’t be new costs in Tuesday’s budget. These include raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021, removing fees on adult basic education and ESL courses, making post-secondary loans interest-free, reducing the cost of prescription drugs and deductibles, boosting domestic violence funding, restoring disability bus passes and waiving post-secondary tuition for youth in care. 

However, some outstanding election promises will require millions in new money and could be squeezed for space in Tuesday’s budget, such as reducing waiting times for surgeries and hospital emergency rooms. Other unfunded big-ticket commitments include boosting staffing levels in seniors’ care homes; climate action rebate cheques to compensate for carbon tax increases; and reforms to the annual school funding formula as well as a fund for classroom supplies.

Some promises will impact the capital (borrowing) side of the budget, but not the annual operating surplus or deficit. That includes any cost overruns on the now-NDP-approved $10-billion Site C dam, removal of bridge tolls on Metro Vancouver bridges (which forced $3.6-billion in Port Mann Bridge debt onto government’s books), as well as vows to accelerate seismic upgrades for schools and to replace aging hospitals. 

And on Friday, the government announced it would take over the TransLink-owned Pattullo Bridge, paying for the entire $1.4-billion replacement cost out of its $14.6-billion three-year capital plan.

Debt rating agencies have warned government not to let the capital debt grow much more, for fear it could imperil B.C.’s AAA credit rating. 

As she struggles to balance voter expectations and a near-empty treasury, it won’t become clear until Tuesday how the finance minister will try to lift some of that weight from her shoulders. “We know the problems are there,” James said, “and we are working to fix them.”

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Categories: Vancouver