BC Nurses’ Union says nurses mandated to work overtime during holidays as patient volume levels spike

 

 

EXTREMELY high volumes of patients over the busy holiday weekend had staff at Lions Gate Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital scrambling to fill nursing shifts.

BC Nurses’ Union President Gayle Duteil said on Thursday that by the late evening of December 30, Lions Gate Hospital staff had called in at least four nurses to work mandatory shifts and multiple wards were working a shift short.

“Nurses shouldn’t bear the brunt of poorly planned staffing efforts,” said Duteil. “Forcing nurses to work when they are exhausted isn’t good for safe patient care. Health authorities need to start being accountable for their staffing responsibilities.”

Staffing shortfalls also meant Surrey Memorial Hospital’s emergency room was in crisis mode over the holidays and BCNU has been notified that nurses at Fraser Canyon Hospital in Hope have worked 24 hour shifts throughout November and December.

“What we saw over the holidays was a perfect storm with Christmas and the New Year landing on weekends, cold and flu season, bad weather and on top of it all, a devastating opioid crisis. Health authorities around Metro Vancouver should have been more prepared. Baseline staffing levels need to be met and respected so that we can ensure patients receive the quality of care they deserve,” said Duteil.

She said that the demand for nurses continues to grow as Vancouver Coastal ER nurses work at the mobile medical unit in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside which has been set up to manage the ongoing opioid crisis.

“While nurses are being asked to assist with the opioid crisis, we’re seeing emergency rooms bursting at the seams. Patients deserve better and so do our nurses.”

 

 

 

Some unfinished business the B.C. government could attend to

 

BY DERMOD TRAVIS

Executive Director

IntergrityBC

 

(PHOTO)

 

HATE to be the bearer of bad tidings, but 2017 is an election year in British Columbia.
On the presumption they’re not the same thing, government and election ads should be over by the Stanley Cup semi-finals.
There’s a bit of unfinished business, the B.C. government could attend to in the meantime, though.
Just as there are debt clocks to track the growth in public debt, perhaps there should be a “not forthcoming clock” to track the amount of time it takes for the government to come clean on the 2012 health ministry firings.
It’s been more than 225 weeks since British Columbians first learned of the firings and the second general election where we still may not know who ordered them and why.
The latest in a long line of investigators – B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke – was to have released his final report two months ago, but that was before the government dumped another four million documents on his team this summer.
One of the factors in choosing Chalke – over a full-fledged public inquiry – was cost.
Chalke’s investigation is going to come in north of $2 million – with no guarantee that it will satisfy the public – and that’s on top of the $4.1 million tab to date for earlier investigations, severance payments and out-of-court settlements.
The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, headed-up by former B.C. attorney-general Wally Oppal, came in at $10 million and was wrapped up in half the time.
It would have been tougher to play document dump under B.C.’s Public Inquiry Act as well.
On the Site C file, disclaimers still abound in B.C. Hydro’s so-called independent reviews of the project.
In its report this past summer, Ernst & Young and BTY Group noted that they “relied upon information provided by their client (B.C. Hydro). EY and BTY have not audited, reviewed or otherwise attempted to verify the accuracy or completeness of such information.” Comforting.
B.C. Hydro’s forecast methodology expert and accounting firm KPMG had similar disclaimers in their 2014 reports.
Bet the B.C. Utilities Commission would have verified the numbers, if they’d been given the chance.
It’s unfortunate the government didn’t place a similar condition on B.C. Hydro that the federal government is placing on Kinder Morgan for its proposed pipeline expansion.
Kinder Morgan must have signed deals in place with companies for at least 60 per cent of the pipeline’s capacity, at least three months before construction.
Instead British Columbians are served up rhetoric, like being told to “keep our eye on the long game,” as B.C. Hydro president and CEO Jessica McDonald said recently.
Not sure the long game will cover the debt servicing charges.
When the government announced in November that B.C. families “in need of affordable rental housing will soon have access to close to 2,900 new units of housing,” they left a not insignificant matter out of their news release.
They overlooked mentioning that not all of the 68 projects are fully-funded.
Shortly after the announcement, The Terrace Standard reported that the Ksan House Society’s project still needs a further $5.5 million and that’s after the government’s $8 million contribution.
Beedie Development and EllisDon Corporation should be able to make do with their public subsidies, but for some of the other projects don’t call the movers any time soon.
For a better sense of this government’s commitment to affordable housing, consider this bullet point from a 2011 news release: “In the 10 years since 2001, the government has committed to creating nearly 21,400 new units of housing.”
And from its release in November, five years later: “Since 2001, the Province has completed close to 24,000 new units of affordable housing.”
A difference of all of 2,600 units.
The Insurance Corporation of B.C. is about to undergo its second government review in five years (expect the report sometime after the May election).
Premier Christy Clark has already taken off the table the one thing that leaves Canada’s three other public auto insurers in decent financial shape: no-fault insurance.
Makes one wonder who is so strongly opposed to the idea? Likely, a group that does well with the current regime. Lawyers spring to mind.
It’s tough to judge a government’s performance when it hides big chunks of it or is less than forthcoming on other files.
Perhaps Clark and company can clear some of it up before May 9.

 

 

 

Vancouver Park Board opens Trout Lake to ice skating for first time in 20 years

 

THE Vancouver Park Board announced Monday that the ice of Trout Lake is now a solid 12 centimetres, (5 inches) thick and therefore considered safe for the public.
The “thin ice” warning signs have been removed but there is no staff supervision of this skating opportunity.
There are no other public ponds considered safe for skating at this time. Lost Lagoon, Jericho, Queen Elizabeth, and Vanier remain closed to the public.
The ice patrol staff will continue regular monitoring of all public ponds during the cold snap and will advise if any other bodies of water achieve the requisite ice density to be considered safe for public skating.

 

 

More than 1,000 new teaching positions to be created as BCTF’s landmark court win is implemented

 

(PHOTO: Glen Hansman)

 

THE B.C. Teachers’ Federation announced on Thursday that it has reached agreement with the BC Public School Employers’ Association and government on an interim measure to immediately create more than 1,000 new teaching positions while discussions continue on full restoration of teachers’ unconstitutionally stripped collective agreement language.

“Since the BCTF won our court case back in November, we have been moving forward with two goals,” said BCTF President Glen Hansman. “The first goal was to get as many teachers as possible back into schools and classrooms as quickly as possible. This $50 million agreement is the first step. It means hundreds more teachers will be in schools working with students across the province in a matter of weeks. The second and most important goal— full implementation of the 2002 collective agreement language—will now be the focus of talks between the two parties.”

Hansman emphasized that this agreement is in no way a final resolution, nor does it impact a future agreement on full implementation of the restored language. While the new funding is badly needed, and will help many teachers and students, the government will have to provide significantly more funding to meet the requirements of the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling.

He said: “With this interim measure agreed to, the parties can now turn to the crucial task of fully implementing all the language that was restored by the court. The two sides will be meeting again next week to continue discussions. The BCTF’s goal is to ensure these talks are not long or drawn out and that all Boards of Education, schools, teachers, students, and parents have certainty about how and when the language will be restored.

“It’s important for parents and the public to understand how our contract language made a difference for kids. It guaranteed supports for students with special needs, and manageable class sizes for all. It ensured teacher-librarians, counsellors, English language and other specialist teachers were there to give students the individual attention they need.

“It has been almost 15 years to the day since then-Education Minister Christy Clark first brought in the unconstitutional legislation. The work to repair the damage to public education has only just begun.

“It’s going to take a significantly higher investment than $50 million to undo the damage this government has done to a generation of students. BC teachers will be looking closely at the February 21 provincial budget to make sure that funding is provided to implement the full scope of the restored language.”

Key points of the Memorandum of Agreement include:

* $50 million in new funding from the Ministry of Education to create 1,000–1,100 teacher full-time equivalents (FTE) for the balance of the 2016–17 school year.

* The new funding will be used to implement two priority measures: adding enrolling-teacher positions and non-enrolling positions in schools (for example: counsellors, teacher-librarians, special education teachers, and other specialists across all grades).

* Allocation of the net new funding at the school district level needs to be jointly developed and decided through a district committee established by the Superintendent and the local union President.  Decisions about what jobs will be posted and where needs to be decided by the local parties. There will also be a dispute resolution process if there is no agreement between local parties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metro Vancouver housing market had its third highest selling year on record in 2016, behind only 2015 and 2005

 

(GRAPH)

 

SALES of detached, attached and apartment properties in the region reached 39,943 in 2016, a 5.6 per cent decrease from the 42,326 sales recorded in 2015, and a 20.6 per cent increase over the 33,116 residential sales in 2014.

“It was an eventful year for real estate in Metro Vancouver. Escalating prices caused by low supply and strong home buyer demand brought more attention to the market than ever before,” Dan Morrison, Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) President said.

“As prices rose in the first half of the year, public debate waged about what was fuelling demand and what should be done to stop it. This led to multiple government interventions into the market. The long-term effects of these actions won’t be fully understood for some time.”

Residential properties listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in Metro Vancouver reached 57,596 in 2016. This is an increase of 0.6 per cent compared to the 57,249 properties listed in 2015 and a 2.6 per cent increase compared to the 56,066 properties listed in 2014.

“The supply of homes for sale couldn’t keep up with home buyer demand for much of 2016. This allowed home sellers to raise their asking price. It wasn’t until the last half of the year that prices began to show modest declines.”

The MLS Home Price Index (HPI) composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver ended the year at $897,600. This represents a 2.2 per cent decrease over the past six months and a 17.8 per cent increase compared to December 2015.

 

December summary
Residential property sales in the region totalled 1,714 in December 2016, a decrease of 39.4 per cent from the 2,827 sales recorded in December 2015 and a decrease of 22.6 per cent compared to November 2016 when 2,214 homes sold.

Last month’s sales were 8.1 per cent below the 10-year sales average for the month.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 1,312 in December 2016. This represents a decrease of 35.1 per cent compared to the 2,021 units listed in December 2015 and a 58.3 per cent decrease compared to November 2016 when 3,147 properties were listed.

The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS in Metro Vancouver is 6,345, a 5.3 per cent increase compared to December 2015 (6,024) and a 24.3 per cent decrease compared to November 2016 (8,385).

Sales of detached properties in December 2016 reached 541, a decrease of 52.4 per cent from the 1,136 detached sales recorded in December 2015. The benchmark price for detached properties is $1,483,500. This represents an 18.6 per cent increase compared to December 2015 and a 1.8 per cent decrease compared to November 2016.

Sales of apartment properties reached 915 in December 2016, a decrease of 25.3 per cent compared to the 1,225 sales in December 2015.The benchmark price of an apartment property is $510,300. This represents a 17.3 per cent increase compared to December 2015 and a 0.3 per cent decrease compared to November 2016.

Attached property sales in December 2016 totalled 258, a decrease of 44.6 per cent compared to the 466 sales in December 2015. The benchmark price of an attached unit is $661,800. This represents a 20.4 per cent increase compared to December 2015 and a 0.8 per cent decrease compared to November 2016.

 

Areas covered by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver include Whistler, Sunshine Coast, Squamish, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and South Delta.

 

 

 

 

Highest paid CEOs in Canada earn the average wage ($49,510) by 11:47 a.m. on January 3

 

 

CANADA’S 100 highest paid CEOs have set a new record: their total compensation in 2015 hit a new high at $9.5 million, on average, according to a new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) report.

The report shows Canada’s 100 highest paid CEOs on the TSX index now make 193 times more than someone earning an average wage.

“Although public outrage over exorbitantly high CEO pay continues unabated, especially since the Great Recession of 2008-09, CEO pay in Canada takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” says economist Hugh Mackenzie.

“In 2015, CEO pay set a new record, with only one factor threatening new heights: an unpredictable global economy.”

Among the report’s findings about the highest paid 100 CEOs in Canada:

* They earn the average wage ($49,510) by 11:47 a.m. on January 3;
* The average Joe will have to work full-time all year to earn that amount;
* The average earnings of Canada’s corporate top 100 increased by 178% between 1998 and 2015;
* The glass ceiling still exists in this elite club: only two women made it in the top 100 rankings in 2015.
“I’ve been tracking CEO pay in Canada for 10 years and nothing has changed,” says Mackenzie. “CEO pay keeps soaring, luxe stock option, pension and bonus packages remain the gold standard for CEOs, and despite public outrage, neither corporate boards nor shareholders are stepping in to put a lid on things.

“In the absence of corporate leadership, it falls to government to bring in laws to put a cap on the incentives fuelling soaring CEO compensation packages.”

Mackenzie says Canada should take a cue from Portland, Oregon, which is going to charge a surtax on companies with a CEO to worker pay gap that’s 100 times or more.

 

 

 

UBC discovery opens up new treatments for problem gamblers

 

(PHOTO)

 

AFTER looking at images of slot machines and roulette, problem gamblers experience increased activity in the same part of the brain that lights up when drug addicts have cravings, according to a new UBC psychology study.

The findings, published on Tuesday in Translational Psychiatry, suggest that this part of the brain, called the insula, is also involved in behavioural addictions, and that treatments targeting the insula could be helpful in treating people with gambling problems.

“This mysterious and poorly understood part of the brain has been identified as a key hub for craving in past research. For example, smokers who have sustained brain injuries affecting their insula have been found to be more likely to quit smoking,” said lead author Eve Limbrick-Oldfield, postdoctoral research fellow at the UBC department of psychology and Centre for Gambling Research. “Our study builds on those findings, showing that the insula is also involved in behavioural addictions like problem gambling.”

Researchers had 19 people with gambling disorder, a psychiatric term for serious gambling problems, undergo an MRI brain scan while looking at a series of gambling-related photos and neutral photos. A control group of 19 healthy volunteers were shown the same photos.

After participants rated their craving level, researchers compared the problem gamblers’ brain responses to the gambling photos with their brain responses to the neutral photos. They found the gamblers reported a higher level of craving after seeing the gambling photos.

For problem gamblers, the gambling cues also increased brain activity in parts of the frontal cortex and insula, areas linked to craving and self-control in drug addiction. The level of craving was closely linked to brain activity in the insula, suggesting neurobiological similarities between problem gambling and drug addiction.

Study co-author Luke Clark, psychology professor and director of the Centre for Gambling Research at UBC, said the findings reveal the powerful effect of cues in triggering cravings for problem gamblers.

“Everything from the lights and the sounds of the slot machines to the smell of the casino are cues that, even after years of abstinence from gambling, can trigger a craving,” said Clark. “Being able to control one’s response to these cues is a crucial part of avoiding relapse.”

Clark said the findings also highlight the potential for treating gambling disorder by targeting the insula, and for testing new treatments by looking at their ability to tone down these responses. The researchers are now looking at the effectiveness of naltrexone, a medication used to treat alcohol and heroin addiction, in changing these brain responses in problem gamblers.

The study, funded in part by the Medical Research Council and conducted at the National Problem Gambling Clinic in the United Kingdom, was carried out in part at Imperial College London. The Centre for Gambling Research is funded by the B.C. government and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation.

 

 

 

City of Vancouver launches thermal imaging pilot program to identify heat loss

 

(ONLY COLOUR PHOTOS)

 

THE City of Vancouver is launching a thermal imaging pilot program to help single family homeowners identify heat loss and connect them with information on energy saving incentives that are available.

Recent research from both UBC and the University of Calgary has shown that thermal imaging of homes at a neighbourhood scale can be a reasonably accurate tool for identifying homes that can benefit from improved insulation, windows, and air tightness.

Vancouver hopes to draw from the experience that other cities have had using thermal imaging to help detached houses find opportunities for improving their energy efficiency.

In addition to the research done by UBC and the University of Calgary, thermal imaging has been used by Detroit and several smaller cities in the state of Massachusetts. Europe, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool and London have all undertaken thermal imaging projects.

Thermal images can show homeowners where their homes are losing heat, and direct homeowners how to get an energy assessment and incentives to fix it. Often in a thermal image, when something is hot, the image is bright yellow; if something is cold, it shows up as dark blue. Any heat leaking from a home will show up as bright yellow in the image. The image shows the temperature over the surface of a house but does not show anything inside the home. This tool is a cost-effective and non-invasive way to help homeowners quickly identify areas of their homes need that need to be updated. Depending on weather conditions, the imaging could begin as early as January 15.

In June, 2014, City Council approved an Energy Retrofit Strategy for Existing Buildings. This strategy guides the City’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from energy use in existing buildings throughout Vancouver. The City has a goal of reducing GHGs from existing buildings by 20% from 2007 levels by 2020. Within the building sector, detached houses account for 31% of GHG emissions.

Detached houses are fairly uniform in terms of building design and equipment, meaning thermal imaging can provide quick, reliable information. There are approximately 77,000 detached houses in Vancouver, approximately 40,000 of which are pre-1960s homes – it is these homes that have the most to gain from the thermal imaging program.

Strathcona, Hastings Sunrise, Dunbar-Southlands, Riley Park and Victoria Fraserview neighbourhoods have been identified to pilot the program based on their location in the City, the majority of homes are owner occupied and they represent a diversity of home ages. The City will be providing free thermal images to approximately 3,000 homes that have the greatest opportunity for energy savings. These homeowners will also be provided information on incentives offered by companies like BC Hydro and Fortis, to encourage them to retrofit their home and potentially save hundreds of dollars annually in heating bills.

Home owners throughout the city are invited to learn more about how thermal imaging can help them identify cost-effective home improvements by visiting one of the information drop-in sessions next week:

* Monday, January 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Hill Crest Community Centre, 4575 Clancy Loranger Way, Room 328

* Tuesday, January 10, 6-8 p.m. at Dunbar Community Centre, 4747 Dunbar Street, Room 111 and 112

* Wednesday, January 11, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Kensington Community Centre, 5175 Dumfries Street, Seniors Lounge

* Thursday, January 12, 5-7 p.m. at Templeton Park Pool, 700 Templeton Drive, Templeton Room

 

 

 

 

 

Liberals open 2017 with a 15-point diminishing advantage over Conservatives in Nanos ballot tracking

 

(PHOTO: Justin Trudeau)

 

THE latest Nanos ballot tracking has the Liberals with 43 per cent support nationally, followed by the Conservatives at 27.9 per cent, the NDP at 16.7 per cent and the Greens at 5.9 percent.

Although the Liberals hold a 15-point advantage, it has been diminishing over the past number of weeks of Nanos tracking.

* Accessible Voters – The proportion of Canadians that would consider voting Liberal is still at least 16 points higher than the other federal parties but is trending downward.

* Preferred Prime Minister – Trudeau is preferred by 49 per cent of Canadians followed by Ambrose who is preferred by 17.7 per cent, Mulcair by 9.6 per cent and May by 4.7 per cent (18.2% of Canadians are unsure who they prefer).

* Qualities of a Good Political Leader – Asked a series of independent questions, Trudeau scores highest as having the qualities of a good political leader (66.1%) followed by Mulcair (51.6%), May (36.1%) and Ambrose (35.2%).

* Nanos Party Power Index – The Nanos Power Index is a composite score comprised of ballot preferences and impressions of the Leaders.  The Liberals score much higher on the Index compared to the other federal parties but have hit a 12-month low.

 

 

 

 

 

The True North, Friendly and Free: What makes us proud to be Canadian

 

BY BRUCE ANDERSON &

DAVID COLETTO

Abacus Data Inc.

 

(GRAPH)

 

IN our final survey of the year, and as the country prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday, we decided to explore what makes Canadians proud of their country.
To do this, we came up with a wide-ranging list of 78 different items, realizing that we could have had an almost infinite list of ideas to probe for.
So, with the caveat that this is by no means the definitive list of items that could stir passion for Canada, this initial release will focus on the top 20 and bottom 10 from our list of 78. We’ll release more of the results over the next couple of days, and the entire list at the end of that process.

Here’s what we found:

  • All but 3 of the 78 items made a majority of Canadians feel at least some pride. Those that did not meet this threshold were Conrad Black, Justin Bieber, and Lululemon.
    • At the very top of the list, and a source of a great deal of pride for 59% (17.1 million adults) is our “freedom to live our lives as we see fit”. Fully 98% said this aspect of Canada made them at least some pride.
    • Second was Terry Fox, an individual whose spirit and commitment captured the nation, and who passed away 35 years ago. Every year, thousands of Canadians participate in a run to honour his effort and to raise money for cancer research. Fox makes 50% or 14.7 million adults feel really proud.
    • Third was “open-mindedness towards others”, and fourth was “politeness”, two characteristics at the heart of what it means to be Canadian for a great many people.
    • In fifth, and first among several places tested in this survey, was the Rocky Mountains.
    • Sixth went to maple syrup, tops among several foods included in the survey.
    • Seventh was “enjoyment of the outdoors” a recognition of the passion Canadians feel for nature and for experiencing it first-hand.
    • Eighth was Canada’s “reputation around the world”. While Canadians embrace humility, it matters to us that the world sees us in a positive light.
    • Ninth is multiculturalism – reinforcing that diversity in Canada is not seen as a source of tension but rather of strength or advantage.
    • Rounding out the top ten is our “sense of caring for the world around us”, reinforcing that Canadians take seriously our responsibility to the world we live in and to the people who face challenges greater than ours.
    • Eleventh is our “steadiness and consistency”.
    • Twelfth is “how we provide health care”.
    • Canadian food makes it to 13th on the list.
    • Wayne Gretzky is 14th and the top of several hockey players tested.
    • Celine Dion is 15th and the top entertainer on our list.
    • David Suzuki is 16th.
    • Canadian wheat is 17th and the second highest food product after maple syrup.
    • Our cities made it to 18th on the list. No doubt many people feel proud of the fact that several Canadian cities regularly make global lists of great places to live.
    • 19th is Pittsburgh Penguin hockey star and Cole Harbour, NS native Sidney Crosby.
    • Leonard Cohen, who passed away earlier this year, rounds out the top 20.
    Those that just barely missed making the top 20 include Gordie Howe, Alberta beef, and Queen Elizabeth II.

 

THE bottom 10 in our list (which does not necessarily imply unpopularity but rather in some cases less familiarity or a meaningful, but smaller contribution to national pride, were: the Roots brand (18 million feel some pride) Ryan Reynolds, Drake (15 million feel some pride), Air Canada, Rachel McAdams, soccer player Christine Sinclair, the Toronto FC, Lululemon, Conrad Black and Justin Bieber.
For some of these, it’s especially important to note that there may be important regional or generational differences of opinion. In the case of Drake, for example, 14% of those aged 18 to 35 felt really proud of him compared with only 4% of those over 35.
Naturally, not everyone will agree about what contributes to their pride in the country or in being Canadian. Because of our desire to test a wide range of items, we had to split our sample and so our ability to examine subgroup differences is a bit limited.
Nevertheless, there are some important generational differences that bear noting in these results.

Compared to older Canadians, those under 45 were MORE likely to say they derive a great deal of pride from:

  • Multiculturalism (23 points higher)
    • Open-mindedness (23 points higher)
    • How we provide health care (16 points higher)
    • Our winters (14 points higher)
    • Our politeness (7 points higher)
    • Sidney Crosby (7 points higher)

Those under 45 were LESS likely to say they derive a great deal of pride from:

  • The Rocky Mountains (19 points lower)
    • Maple Syrup (18 points lower)
    • Leonard Cohen (14 points lower)
    • Wayne Gretzky (10 points lower)
    • Terry Fox (11 points lower)
    • Canadian wheat (12 points lower)

Differences by generation were small or non-existent on the following items:

  • Our freedom to live our lives as we see fit
    • Our sense of caring for the world around us
    • Steadiness and consistency
    • Our cities
    • David Suzuki
    • Celine Dion
    • Justin Bieber
    • Conrad Black

 

UPSHOT

According to Bruce Anderson:

 

This first pass at a what stirs our pride shows how important we consider our values to be. We define these as freedom to live our lives as we see fit, a polite, open-minded attitude towards other people, a commitment to helping others, including making sure everyone has health care, and our steadiness over time.
Our sense of space and nature is strongly linked to our pride. So too, is hockey, and in particular the two most famous players in the last three decades.
The place that Terry Fox holds is one of the most remarkable findings, in my view. His struggle with cancer is something so many can relate to, and his dogged effort to bring visibility and raise money for cancer research by launching a run along Canada’s national highway touch many different chords that illustrate what Canadians admire about the country and aspire to emulate.
The current debate about screening for Canadian values is topical for several reasons. These results confirm that a sense of shared values truly is important to a great many people. At the top of the list of values we share is the freedom to live our lives as we see fit.
However, some powerful generational differences then come into play. Young people are clearly more enthusiastic about cultural diversity and open-mindedness to people who are different. In contrast, the concept of individual freedom can include some qualifications among a higher proportion of older, compared to younger, Canadians.

 

The survey was conducted online with 1,848 Canadians aged 18 and over from December 12 to 14. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of over 500,000 Canadians. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 1,848 is +/- 2.3%, 19 times out of 20.

 

 

 

Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver regions 2017 property assessment notices

 

(Photo by Chandra Bodalia)

 

OWNERS of more than 476,000 properties throughout the Fraser Valley region have been receiving their 2017 assessment notices which reflect market value as of July 1, 2016.

“The majority of residential home owners within the region can expect an increase compared to last year’s assessment,” says Deputy Assessor Brian Smith. “The majority of residential properties throughout the region will see assessment increases in the range of +30% to + 50%.”

BC Assessment collects, monitors and analyzes property data throughout the year. The table below indicates the Fraser Valley region‘s estimated typical percentage changes to the 2017 assessment values by property type compared to the 2016 assessments (note that property assessments may vary by individual jurisdiction / municipality within the region).

 

Property Type

 

URBAN areas of the Fraser Valley region

2017 Assessment

Typical % Changes in Value

(as of July 1, 2016)

 

* Residential Single Detached Homes

+30% to +50%

* Residential Strata Units

(e.g. condominiums)

+15% to +30%

* Commercial

+10% to +35%

* Light Industrial

+10% to +30%

 

RURAL areas of the Fraser Valley region

2017 Assessment

Typical % Changes in Value

(as of July 1, 2016)

 

* Residential Single Detached Homes

+20% to +30%

* Residential Strata Units

(e.g. condominiums)

N/A

* Commercial

+5% to +15%

* Light Industrial

+10% to +20%

 

Overall, the Fraser Valley region’s total assessments increased from $321.1 billion in 2016 to $430.1 billion this year. A total of almost $7.98 billion of the region’s updated assessments is from new construction, subdivisions and rezoning of properties. The BC Assessment Fraser Valley region includes properties in Richmond, Delta, Surrey and throughout the rest of the Fraser Valley up past Hope and Boston Bar.

 

OWNERS of more than 513,000 properties throughout the Greater Vancouver region have been receiving their 2017 assessment notices which reflect market value as of July 1, 2016.

“The majority of residential home owners within the region can expect a significant increase compared to last year’s assessment,” says Assessor Jason Grant. “Increases of 30-50 per cent will be typical for single-family homes in Vancouver, North and West Vancouver, Burnaby, Tri-Cities, New Westminster and Squamish. Typical strata residential increases throughout these areas will be in the 15 to 30 per cent range.”

Overall, the Greater Vancouver region’s total assessments increased from $636.2 billion in 2016 to $825.2 billion this year. A total of almost $10.9 billion of the region’s updated assessments is from new construction, subdivisions and rezoning of properties.

“Commercial and industrial properties in close proximity to Vancouver will typically see increases in the 15-40 per cent range,” adds Grant. “Commercial properties being purchased for eventual redevelopment will often exceed these ranges.”

 

BC Assessment’s website at bcassessment.ca includes details about 2017 assessments, property information and trends such as lists of 2017’s top valued residential properties across the province. The website also provides self-service access to the free online e-valueBC service that allows anyone to search, check and compare 2017 property assessments anywhere in the province.

“Property owners can find a lot of information on our website including answers to many assessment-related questions, but those who feel that their property assessment does not reflect market value as of July 1, 2016 or see incorrect information on their notice, should contact BC Assessment as indicated on their notice as soon as possible in January,” says Smith.

“If a property owner is still concerned about their assessment after speaking to one of our appraisers, they may submit a Notice of Complaint (Appeal) by January 31, for an independent review by a Property Assessment Review Panel,” adds Smith.

The Property Assessment Review Panels, independent of BC Assessment, are appointed annually by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, and typically meet between February 1 and March 15 to hear formal complaints.

 

The Fraser Valley Region BC Assessment offices are located at:

 

* Surrey Office

100 – 5477 152 Street

Surrey BC

V32 5A5

 

* Abbotsford Office

240 – 31935 South Fraser Way

Abbotsford BC

V2T 5N7

 

The Greater Vancouver Region Assessment offices are located at:

 

* Vancouver Office

#200-2925 Virtual Way

Vancouver, BC

V5M 4X5

 

* Burnaby Office

#420-2700 Production Way

Burnaby, BC

V5A 4X1

 

During the month of January, office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Property owners can contact BC Assessment toll-free at 1-866-valueBC (1-866-825-8322) or online at bcassessment.ca

 

 

 

 

CBC Vancouver launches new #UPCYCLEWIN digital contest

 

CBC Vancouver on Thursday launched a new contest, #UPCYCLEWIN, where crafty and environmentally conscious Vancouverites can enter to win through social media until January 25. Contest details are found at cbc.ca/bc.

Upcycling is the practice of reusing discarded objects or material in such a way to create a product of higher quality or value than the original. Contest entrants should tweet or Instagram before and after photos or videos of their best upcycle projects, tagging @CBCVancouver and using the hashtag #UPCYCLEWIN.

The finished projects will be judged by well-known CBC personalities, including Steven Sabados, co-host of the popular lifestyle show The Goods; Gloria Macarenko, host of B.C. Almanac, The Story From Here, and local lifestyle show Our Vancouver; and Sheryl MacKay, host of North by Northwest and winner of the 2016 Citizen of Craft award by the Craft Council of B.C. Once the finalists are selected, voting will be open to the general public to choose the ultimate winner of #UPCYCLEWIN.

Projects will be judged on originality, functionality, intricacy and the overall look. Entries must use a minimum of 75% upcycled materials, and the contest is open to anyone 19 years or older. Only one entry per person is permitted. In addition to the winning project being featured by CBC Vancouver, winners will also receive CBC Vancouver merchandise and a fully inclusive, sustainable dining experience for four at Forage in Vancouver.

 

 

 

More first-time buyers receiving down payments from mom and dad in 2016

 

A December survey of BC Notaries across the province found that more first-time buyers are benefiting from financial support from their parents in amassing down payments on their first home purchase than in previous years, and those down payment percentages were often higher since new federal lending regulations were introduced in October.

“It’s great to see that many first-time buyers are finding ways to get their first home, despite rising prices,” said Tammy Morin Nakashima, a notary in Richmond and President of the Society of Notaries Public of BC.

“Regardless of the market or regulatory conditions, the most important consideration is that young buyers understand all of the short and long-term costs that may apply to buying and owning a home. These factors need to be considered when you’re deciding what you can afford and how to structure the purchase. Notaries work closely with realtors, mortgage brokers and others to help explain these considerations.”

Notaries provide conveyancing or other legal services on more than half of all residential real estate transactions in B.C. and are highly trained and experienced in both simple and complex real estate transactions. Many notary offices handle hundreds of transactions for buyers and sellers each year.

The 150-participant survey also found that first-time buyer activity remained strong over 2016. BC-wide, 55% of notaries noted that first-time buyer activity stayed the same in 2016, 29% noted an increase, while 16% cited a decrease.

Even in markets that experienced rapid house price increases, Notaries cited similar or increased activity in 2016 versus previous years.

Province-wide, notaries reported that more of their clients are getting help from parents to come up with enough money for their first down payment than in previous years.

In 2015, 57% of BC notaries reported that first-time buyer clients were typically getting help; 24% reported clients paid the down payment on their own.

In 2016, 72% said first-timers were typically getting help with their down payment and 15% were buying on their own.

Regionally, 71% said clients were typically getting help in Greater Vancouver; 84% in the Fraser Valley; 75% in the Kootenay region; 67% in Kamloops Okanagan, which was the only area which showed a decline; 100% in the Sea-to-Sky / Sunshine Coast; 70% on Vancouver Island; and only 37% in Northern BC.

Of particular note from a life-planning perspective, many parents are providing their first-time buyer children with some level of financial support as an outright gift, without going on title themselves.

Province-wide, 78% of notaries said their first-time buyer clients received funds from Mom and Dad as a ‘gift’ with no ownership in exchange for the funds provided.

Also importantly, in many cases, the financial gifts represent a significant percentage of the total down payment with 85% of notaries citing their clients get help with anywhere up to 50% of their down payment (49% get help with up to a quarter of their down payment and 36% receive 25% to 50% of the funds needed to secure their first home).

“Many parents who can afford to provide financial support to their children for buying a first home are doing so. They see it as an important step for their adult children, and this kind of parental support is increasing as house prices increase,” said Susan Tong, a notary in Vancouver.

“It’s important, though, that people consider the implications of an outright gift versus going on title, particularly in the event of a marriage breakdown, financial disruption, such as a potential job loss or severe health event, or even an earlier-than-anticipated sale of the home. Notaries can advise our clients on all of these factors and help them decide what’s best for their family and their long-term goals and interests.”

The survey asked notaries if their first-time buyer clients were increasing their down payments to meet the new CMHC 20% ‘stress test’ threshold introduced in October 2016, related to mortgage insurance. About two-thirds said ‘yes’.

 

 

New Canadian tourism statistics on the heels of the top New York Times ranking

 

 

(PHOTO: Bardish Chagger)

 

FEDERAL Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Bardish Chagger, said on Thursday: “2016 was a great year for tourism, and we have another big year ahead of us in 2017 for Canada’s 150th birthday!”

She added: “Just yesterday, Canada was named the top destination country for 2017 by the New York Times, and I couldn’t agree more.

“Tourism is an economic driver for every Canadian community. This is an industry that supports our small businesses and creates jobs in regions large and small, urban and rural from coast to coast to coast.

“This summer saw the greatest growth in tourist spending in our country in almost 20 years, further supporting Canadian businesses. In the first nine months of 2016, tourism spending in Canada reached $74.0 billion, an increase of 4.3% compared to the same time period in 2015. Domestic revenues increased by 2.7% to $57.7 billion, while spending by international visitors increased 10.5% to $16.3 billion.

“From January to October 2016, international overnight arrivals to Canada increased by 11% compared to the same period in 2015, with the majority of international tourists visiting from the United States. These impressive results can be credited in part to Destination Canada and its Connecting America marketing campaign that was launched in May 2016 to promote Canada as a premier tourism destination in the U.S. market.”

 

 

 

New, lower maximum charges for payday loans now in effect

 

NEW, lower charges for high-cost, short-term cash loans – payday loans – came into effect January 1, 2017.

The maximum allowable charge – including all fees – for a payday loan in British Columbia is $17 for every $100 borrowed, making it the second-lowest rate in Canada.

Lowering the total allowable charge to $17 from $23 builds on regulations the Province implemented in 2009. Before then, borrowers paid whatever the lender charged – as much as $30 per $100 borrowed, and had limited protections and recourse against harmful lending practices.

Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said on Wednesday: “In 2009, we were one of the first provinces in Canada to regulate payday lenders to protect consumers who use these services. Now we have built on those protections by lowering the maximum allowable charge for these short-term loans to make them more affordable for people – the second-lowest rate in Canada.”

Scott Hannah, President and CEO, Credit Counselling Society, said: “We applaud the Province for reducing the maximum amount that payday loan companies can charge British Columbians for a payday loan. Consumer debt levels are at record levels. By lowering the borrowing costs for payday loans, government is helping make it easier and more affordable for those British Columbians who take out a payday loan to repay their financial obligations.”

 

Quick Facts:

 

* A payday loan is a loan of $1,500 or less for a term of 62 days or less.

* Typically, borrowers have a bank account and a regular source of income. They provide a cheque or pre-authorized debit for the full amount of the loan, plus fees, to be repaid on their payday.

* Payday loan companies doing business with B.C. consumers, including those operating online or by phone, must be licensed by Consumer Protection BC.

* British Columbia’s laws provide a number of protections to payday loan borrowers including cancellation rights, disclosure requirements, prohibited practices and penalties for violations.

– Payday lenders must publicly display the cost of credit, and disclose all charges, terms and conditions in the loan agreement.

– They must not roll over one loan into another with new charges, nor issue more than one loan to a borrower at the same time.

– A payday lender cannot issue a loan for more than 50% of a borrower’s net pay for the period over which the loan is written.

– If a borrower is taking out his or her third loan in a two-month period, repayment must be phased over two or three pay periods

* Through Consumer Protection BC, people who have been overcharged for these loans have recourse against the companies. Since 2012, several payday loan companies have been ordered to refund a total of more than $1 million to consumers who were overcharged.

* Almost 159,000 British Columbians took out payday loans in 2015 according to information provided to Consumer Protection BC by the payday loan industry.

 

 

 

Clark government brags British Columbians are forced to take payday loans: NDP

 

PREMIER Christy Clark’s affordability crisis is forcing more and more people to turn to expensive payday loans, said New Democrat MLA Rob Fleming on Thursday.

“It’s alarming that Christy Clark’s minister responsible for payday loans bragged about how great these high-interest loans are in B.C.,” said Fleming. “The Clark government instead should be embarrassed and concerned about how British Columbians are forced to depend on them more than any other province.

“In Christy Clark’s economy, British Columbians have seen the second-worst wage growth in the country, and her government is making affordability even worse with repeated increases to MSP, hydro rates, ICBC insurance and more.”

Research  from VanCity credit union shows that British Columbians are turning to payday loans more than in any other province, with a 58 per-cent increase in the number of borrowers between 2012 and 2014, and with most borrowers saying that they need emergency cash just to pay for necessities.

Fleming first introduced payday loan legislation in 2007, which provided more protection to borrowers than the current watered-down rules under the Clark government.

Fleming also criticized Clark for giving borrowers only one day to cancel a loan, instead of two days as proposed in his legislation and now allowed in Alberta. Fleming said he also wants to see increased enforcement of illegal practices, especially online.

“John Horgan and the New Democrats side with British Columbians who are tired of being in debt,” said Fleming. “Yet Christy Clark is siding with the payday loan companies.”

 

 

 

 

Wireless complaints down by 35% since 2014, but bill shock still an issue for one-in-five Canadians: CRTC

 

 

CANADIANS are complaining less frequently about their wireless services, according to the 2016 fall survey on wireless issues, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced on Thursday.

The survey results will inform the current review of the Wireless Code, which includes a public hearing from February 6-9, 2017, in the National Capital Region.

In 2016, 17% of Canadians with wireless plans reported making a complaint, compared to 26% in 2014, resulting in an overall drop of 35% in the past two years.

The 2016 fall survey results indicate that customers primarily complained to their service providers about incorrect charges on their bill, data charges, poor service quality and misleading contract terms.

According to the survey, Canadians did not lodge complaints with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunication Services (CCTS), by and large, because 69% did not know about the CCTS , 13% did not feel it was worth the effort and 9% felt it would not resolve their issue.

However, bill shock remains an issue for one-in-five Canadians. In 2016, 21% of Canadians reported having experienced bill shock, down from 28% in 2014. Canadians identified data overage fees (48%) and international roaming charges (17%) as the main reasons for bill shock in 2016.

 

 

 

 

City set to exceed goal for new childcare spaces in Vancouver

(PHOTO: Gregor Robertson)

 

WITH two years left to meet its goal, the City has hit almost 75 per cent of its four-year target to create 1,000 new childcare spaces in Vancouver.
As of the end of 2016, 734 new childcare spaces have been approved as part of this record investment in expanding childcare in Vancouver. As part of the Council-directed target for 2015-2018: 251 new spaces have been built since 2015, and 483 spaces are committed and currently under development.
“Building more childcare spaces for Vancouver families is a big priority at City Hall and we are making good progress,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “There is huge demand for child care in Vancouver and our city is a leader in recognizing that quality affordable child care supports children, families and the economy.  In two years we’ve already created 75% of our goal of a thousand new childcare spaces by 2019, and we will continue to do everything we can to expand good child care options across our city.”
In 2016, the City partnered with the Vancouver Board of Education to co-locate new 69 space childcare centres for children up to four years old, as part of elementary school seismic replacement projects. Co-locating full-day childcare at elementary schools offers families a convenient ‘one-stop’ approach to early learning and care services, and is an efficient use of public space that improves access to quality childcare. This year, a new school-childcare project was also approved at Lord Tennyson (Kitsilano) elementary school, following the Sir Sandford Fleming (Victoria-Fraserview) and Lord Nelson (Grandview-Woodland) school projects, which were approved in 2015.
The City is also exploring innovative and cost effective opportunities to co-locate childcare centres with other existing City-owned facilities, including new and replacement Community Centres. One such opportunity is the proposed development of a 37-space childcare centre on top of the City-owned parkade facility in Gastown. The project is currently undergoing final feasibility studies, with design-development expected to be underway in 2017. The Government of B.C. contributed $500,000 through the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to help with the construction of the Gastown parkade childcare centre.
The City’s Healthy City Strategy’s Good Start Goal to decrease child vulnerability and improve school readiness, is reinforced through the creation of quality childcare spaces. Children that have a good start in their first six years of life tend to do better at school, secure better paid jobs, and enjoy better physical and mental health as adults. The Healthy City Strategy’s Good Start goals support children, parents and families to ensure that Vancouver’s children have the best chance of enjoying a healthy childhood.
Despite the City’s strides towards its childcare target, the need for childcare spaces in Vancouver remains acute. The current supply of childcare spaces across the city indicates that only approximately 32% of existing childcare needs (for all children up to 12 years) are being met. This leaves a current city-wide shortfall of over 18,000 spaces.
Childcare is a senior government responsibility, and in order to meet both existing shortfalls and future demand for childcare in Vancouver, the City looks to support from the provincial and federal governments. The City is also anticipating the arrival of the Federal National Early Learning and Child Care Framework, to help deliver accessible and affordable childcare for Canadian families.
For more details on how the City plays a role in planning, coordinating, and advocating for childcare and early learning programs, see:

http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/children-and-childcare.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SFU calls for input on Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy

 

SIMON Fraser University is seeking input from the university community on its draft sexual violence and misconduct policy. The new draft policy establishes a high-level framework to guide the university’s efforts to comprehensively address the issues of sexual violence and misconduct in the university community, and builds on existing policies, practices and experience.

In addition to providing guiding principles and values that will help in the implementation and interpretation of the policy, the draft policy also establishes responsibility for procedures and processes. It will apply to all members of the university community, including staff, students and faculty members.

“This policy is premised on the idea of building a healthy, safe environment in which there is a strong culture of equality, inclusion and respect at SFU,” says Jon Driver, Chair of the Policy Working Group and former SFU Provost. “Following extensive input from students, faculty and staff, and by working closely with our Advisory Group, we now have a draft policy for the consideration of the wider university community. We hope all SFU community members take some time to review what we’ve come up with and provide their perspective on this important policy.”

Under the draft policy, SFU will set up a Central Resource Office, which will work closely and collaboratively with other individuals and service units on campus to ensure that members of the university community impacted by sexual misconduct or violence are aware of and have timely access to support and services. The office will coordinate confidential support and accommodation for survivors. It will also lead a variety of programs to educate and train the community on how it can reduce incidents of sexual misconduct and support survivors. This new office will be supported by an advisory panel composed of experts from the university community.

“A key feature of the policy is to ensure that survivors who disclose sexual misconduct have immediate access to support services, regardless of where and when they experienced sexual violence or misconduct,” says Driver.

The university will undertake investigations of incidents where it has jurisdiction, and a survivor who requests such an investigation will be entitled to know the outcome.

The Working and Advisory Groups that developed the policy have drawn on the advice of policy experts and community members, a range of literature on the topic, best practices from other institutions and the experiences of staff who currently provide services to the university community. The groups have also undertaken extensive consultation and engagement with the university community both online and through in-person meetings.

“This policy is a fantastic prescription for the culture change. If we’re going to build a consent culture at SFU, we need the university to give us a policy that outlines how it is going to serve its community, along with applicable procedures to make those changes – and SFU has done just that,” says Charis Lippett, a member of the policy advisory group and graduate student representative. “I’m looking forward to seeing this policy put into action over the coming months, and I’m excited to watch the SFU community step up and take ownership of the consent culture that we’re nurturing across all three of our campuses.”

Driver says the draft policy that is now in front of the SFU community reflects the hard work and dedication of many people.

Following broad community consultation and revision based on that input, the policy will be brought to the SFU Board of Governors. If passed by the Board, it will then be reviewed on a regular basis and the university community will be consulted during these reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

Consortium formed to support sex worker to transition, exit or retire from sex industry

 

VANCOUVER has among North America’s largest sex worker populations, yet there are currently no services explicitly and exclusively designed to assist sex workers in transitioning from sex work involvement to other forms of employment.

A consortium of five agencies was formed and funded to respond to the existing gaps and effectively meet the needs of those who do sex work: Aboriginal Front Door, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), HUSTLE at HIM – Health Infinitive for Men, PACE Society, and WISH Drop-In Centre Society.

The primary objectives of a five year funded project called Transitions are to develop and implement a transitioning, retiring, exiting program that is responsive to the needs of sex workers in this community.

Transitions is currently hiring a Program Coordinator, and Service Coordinators who will be trained, supported by, and incorporated into their respective Consortium organization’s staff / team. They will be immersed in the culture of each organization to provide fluid service delivery consistent with each organization’s mandate, existing staff, population group, culture, and approach.

“For almost 40 years, Battered Women’s Support Services has worked towards ending violence against women and girls. Each year, BWSS works with over 220 women who identify as relying on the sex economies as part of their income and / or survival” says Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS “Their primary reason for accessing BWSS services is due to an abusive/violent partner, boyfriend, husband, and/or pimp. Transitions will strengthen current services provided and deliver wrap around support for women.”

“The HUSTLE Program at Health Initiative for Men (HIM) has been offering outreach and support for men in the sex industry in Vancouver for a decade and is excited to be launching their version of Transitions in 2017,” says Matthew Taylor, HUSTLE Program Manager. “HIM values a non-judgmental, sex positive and strengths based philosophy through capacity building, collaboration and a comprehensive approach to healthy living. Transitions will align well with HIM’s mission by providing men with the necessary supports, life skills and options to assist them in reducing their reliance on sex work and / or transition, retire, and / or exit the sex industry.”

“Operating under a peer-driven and harm reduction approach, PACE Society has more than twenty years of experience in working with sex workers to address their self-identified needs,” says Laura Dilley, PACE Society Executive Director. “Every year, we provide direct services to more than 500 sex workers annually and have a longstanding track record of helping sex workers who wish to transition into other forms of work. Transitions will allow us to scale-up these efforts to better address the needs of sex workers in our community.”

“For more than 30 years, WISH has provided a place of respite, safety and opportunity for women engaged in street-based sex work. WISH supports approximately 350 women, daily, through a non-judgemental approach that values acceptance, caring, dignity, and respect. We are excited to provide women who access WISH’s programs and services and who seek to exit or transition out of the sex trade with dedicated, on-going support and programming to do so,” says Mebrat Beyene, WISH Executive Director. “The Transitions project provides a much-anticipated opportunity to combine the Consortium’s collective expertise and best-practices in order to focus solely on transitioning and exiting activities and programming.”

 

 

 

Gym memberships: Read the fine print

 

A new year is here and that could mean a resolution to build a new you through your local gym. In fact, nearly 40% of resolutions are health and weight related. Gyms get their fair share of complaints with BBB, most over contract disputes. It’s not always because of bad business practices, but many times the would-be resolutioners fail to read the fine print before signing up.

“Some gyms use a lot of fairly high-pressure tactics to get people to sign up or keep a membership renewed,” says Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC. “But at the end of the day consumers need to do some due diligence before handing over a credit card.”

Five questions to ask the potential new gym:

* What are the terms of any introductory offers? Gyms often use special introductory offers to attract new members. Just make sure you understand the terms and what the price will be once the introductory period is over.

* Will my membership renew automatically? Many times people who joined a gym didn’t realize that their contract would renew automatically and that they would have to take specific steps to cancel their contract often linked to certain timing and put in writing.

* How can I get out of my contract? Getting out of a gym contract isn’t always as easy as getting into one, so make sure you understand what steps you would need to take to cancel your membership. Make sure to keep a copy of your cancellation letter and the return receipt or obtain a confirmation for your cancellation.

* What happens if I move? Gyms have any number of different policies when it comes to how moving will affect your membership. It might depend on how far away you’re moving and if they have other locations nearby.

* Before signing a contract, research the gym at bbb.org/mbc to see its BBB Business Profile. This will show any history of complaints, consumer reviews or additional information that can help in making a decision.

* What is your budget? Most facilities charge an up-front membership fee to join and a monthly fee thereafter. In addition, some fitness centers charge an additional fee for certain classes or amenities. It is important to decide beforehand what amount you can comfortably devote to physical fitness. Regardless of the length of a contract, ask if you can pay monthly.

* Check out the gym at the time you know you want to go. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, so head to the gym for a tour when you are most likely to go. Make sure the number of people there at that time will not limit your productivity. Also, check the cleanliness of the equipment and the locker room area. See if the gym equipment is in good condition and maintained properly. Make sure the facility has the equipment and classes that interest you.

* Do not give in to sales pressure. Walk away from clubs that pressure you to sign a contract on the spot. BBB recommends taking a sample contract home to review before making a decision to give you time to read all of the finer details of the contract. Make sure the contract lists all services and fees, and any promises made by the salesperson. Find out what is included in the monthly fee and what will cost extra.