Premier Christy Clark ready to impose thermal coal levy

MERRITT— Today at NMV Lumber, Premier Christy Clark announced the measures she will take if necessary to stop the shipment of thermal coal through British Columbia.

“Ideally, the federal government will act on our request to ban thermal coal in our ports – but if they don’t, British Columbia will charge a carbon levy on it,” said Premier Clark. “By doing so, British Columbia will establish the world’s first greenhouse gas benchmark for thermal coal – and make it uncompetitive to ship through B.C. ports.”

Should the federal government not implement a thermal coal ban, a re-elected BC Liberal government will develop regulations under the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act to ensure all thermal coal shipped to B.C. terminals is subject to a carbon price – approximately $70 per tonne – that reflects the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the extraction, processing, transportation and combustion of thermal coal through a BC terminal.

“I am hopeful that our federal partners will act on my suggestion – and act quickly,” said Premier Clark. “But if they don’t, and if we are re-elected, I will instruct the civil service to immediately begin drafting the regulatory framework – and impose a levy on thermal coal that will make these shipments unprofitable.”

Thermal coal is among the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive methods to generate power and heat. Last year, 6.6 million tonnes of thermal coal was exported through BC ports, 94 per cent from the United States. The vast majority of coal mined in British Columbia is metallurgical coal, used in steelmaking.

“Banning thermal coal is the right thing to do for BC LNG and biomass producers who can help fill the need for cleaner energy in Asia,” said Premier Clark. “And now is the right time to do it, because while good trading partners cooperate, the United States has launched this unfair assault against key sectors of our economy and the workers they employ.”

John Horgan and the BC NDP’s position is whatever Leo Gerard says it is. Gerard is head of the Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steelworkers union paying the salaries of Horgan’s top three campaign staff – the same man who stood beside Donald Trump when he called Canadian workers a “disgrace,” and took the pen Trump used to sign the order as a souvenir.

Province launches MRI strategy, funds increased number of scans

Demand for medical imaging in B.C. has never been greater. Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Terry Lake today announced a new four-year strategy for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) services to help health authorities increase patient access to MRI scans.

“With an ageing population, health authorities face increasing demand for medical imaging services,” said Premier Clark. “This is what having a strong, growing economy allows us to do – invest in a new strategy to address waitlists throughout the province, and continue to deliver the services British Columbians depend on.”

“We recognize that access to MRIs has been a challenge and this strategy will make sure we better meet the health care needs of British Columbians now and into the future,” said Health Minister Lake. “By improving how we manage MRI diagnostics, we can provide families with peace of mind that comes with faster diagnosis and treatment.”

The MRI strategy takes a two-pronged approach. The first priority is to increase the number of scans—adding up to 65,000 more annually by the end of four years to help address increasing demand and existing wait lists. The ministry and health authorities will also review the governance, service delivery and funding models for MRIs, to ensure an accessible, sustainable medical imaging system.

“We see the difference access to MRIs make in the lives of patients each and every day,” said Dr. Stuart Silver, clinical section head and acting medical director, medical imaging services, Island Health. “On the ground, we look forward to the strategy enhancing patient care and improving speed of diagnosis to get people back to their lives.”

Health authorities are currently finalizing plans for increasing their MRI volumes, including how quickly increases can be put in place. Health authorities have committed to increase the number of MRI exams performed annually by 45% by year four of the strategy. Budget allocations for MRIs will increase correspondingly, providing up to an additional $20 million in annual funding for these services by year four. Health authorities will also be developing plans for improving timeliness, ensuring appropriate referrals for service and increasing geographic access to MRIs in the future.

MRI scan volumes will be increased by extending operating hours for MRI machines, so more patients can be served each day. This means that some patients will be scheduled to receive their scans during evening or night-time hours. Health authorities may also contract private facilities to perform additional procedures.

British Columbia’s strong economic growth and fiscal discipline have enabled government to return a dividend to British Columbians by investing to further improve patient access throughout B.C. Over the past decade, B.C. has acquired 16 new MRI scanners for hospitals, for a total of 25 – a 178% increase. This has helped B.C. significantly increase the number of MRIs done in the public system over the past 10 years from 67,030 in 2004-05 to over 143,000 in 2014-15.

Health authorities will also provide more evidence-based guidance to physicians to ensure they order the best type of scan to meet each patient’s specific medical needs. MRI scans are important diagnostic tools; however different types of medical imaging can be used to diagnose certain conditions. In some cases, an x-ray, ultrasound, Computed tomography (CT) or Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan may be more appropriate.

Ensuring the right advanced imaging service is provided to British Columbians in a timely fashion will help manage wait lists and provide for smarter, more effective service at the patient level. Today’s announcement supports government’s priority of timely and appropriate access to needed health services through a truly integrated health care system that works for patients.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a safe and painless test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the body’s organs and structures. MRIs are used to diagnose a number of medical conditions, including abnormalities of the brain, as well as tumours, cysts and soft-tissue injuries in other parts of the body.

TELUS announces world’s fastest internet is coming to Vancouver

BY GILLIAN SHAW, VANCOUVER SUN

VANCOUVER — Telus announced today it is rolling out $1 billion in fibre optic infrastructure right across Vancouver, putting the city among the top connected cities in the world with the most advanced high speed Internet connectivity.

In making the announcement, Telus CEO Darren Entwistle said the fibre optic networks will transform “the way we live, the way we work, the way we socialize and the way we raise our families in a digital world and society.”

“Ours is an investment that will be felt for generations to come,” Entwistle told an audience that included BC Premier Christy Clark, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, BC’s technology minister Amrik Virk and other politicians.

While fibre optic is available in small areas and among some businesses and multifamily buildings, the Telus fibre optic build-out across Vancouver will cover the entire city, extending gigabit-enabled technology to residences, businesses, educational institutions, hospitals and other centres.

Entwistle said the investment “will future proof Vancouver’s digital demands for decades to come.”

Currently less than 10 per cent of North Americans have access to a fibre optic network. Entwistle cited the handful of American cities that have gigabit-enabled infrastructure, infrastructure he said has results in a 110 basis points improvement in GDP “and growing.

Vancouver currently is number 20 among top North American cities for technology and Entwistle predicted the fibre optic infrastructure boost will improve the city’s standing.

“With our Telus fibre investment, I believe Vancouver will soon be in the top 10 and thereafter, in the top five, such is the potential and competitive advantage our investment exudes for our city,” he said.

When the rollout, which is expected to take five or six years to complete, is started, Vancouver businesses and residences will be able to access Internet speeds of up to 150 megabits per second. Currently the fastest premium-priced speed offered by Telus for the home has download speeds of 100 mbps and upload speeds of 20 mbps.

While the improved capacity and speed will make a difference in homes, it will be most significant for businesses, hospitals and other community organizations and for the expansion of the Internet of Things, a world in which everything from ovens to advanced medical equipment can be connected to a network.

“I don’t have fibre optic to my home, I’m looking forward to it coming,” BC Premier Christy Clark told the crowd. However, she added, “for me that’s a small thing compared to the impact this is going to have for businesses all across the city.

“There are many big businesses in the city that already have good connectivity but many small businesses don’t,” she said.

Clark said the network infrastructure will also attract talent to the city.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he is “thrilled to see this in real time happening in Vancouver, at such a pivotal time for our city.”

He said the fibre optic build-out “is going to be another big boost for Vancouver’s economy.”

“We’re on a roll and innovation is at the core of that success,” he said.

Surrey MLA Amrik Virk says he could have done ‘better job’ on Kwantlen board

CASSIDY OLIVER / THE PROVINCE ,

Surrey-Tynehead MLA Amrik Virk previously sat on Kwantlen’s board of directors.

SURREY — A series of emails between former members of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s board of governors and one of the school’s past presidents challenges the conclusions of a government report that ruled the board was unaware of specific details of an employee contract that deliberately broke executive compensation guidelines. Continue reading “Surrey MLA Amrik Virk says he could have done ‘better job’ on Kwantlen board”