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Central Green partnership

Two prominent development companies are teaming up to work on several sites on the Central Green property.

Al Stober Construction and Mission Group Homes have struck a partnership to develop three residential buildings on the property.

Mission Group Homes will lead the master planning for the site.

"We take pride in our properties and our dedicated staff, and Mission Group shares our commitment to build iconic spaces while providing exceptional customer service, said Al Stober.

"Kelowna residents have long been waiting for the Central Green community to take shape and we now have two long-standing companies combining our dedication and creativity to transform this key location into the new hub of Kelowna."

Back in October of last year, the City of Kelowna agreed to sell five parcels of the Central Green site to Stober Construction for $6 million.

The three parcels the two companies will work together on is adjacent to what will be the site's five acre community park.

Construction of the new park will begin in 2017.

"We're excited to be part of Central Green and the inspired green living it embodies," said Mission Group CEO, Jonathan Friesen.

"Al Stober Construction is one of Kelowna's most respected builders and together we've taken great effort to hold true to the vision for this interconnected community designed to promote a pedestrian and cyclist friendly lifestyle."

Central Green will be Kelowna's first development certified in Leadership Energy and Environmental Design.

It will combine green building practices with smart growth principles such as development density, proximity to transit, land use and multi-modal transportation.

Al Stober Construction will lead development of the mid-rise buildings along Harvey Avenue that will offer both rental housing and commercial spaces. Mission Group Homes is set to begin construction on park-side residential homes at Central Green next spring.

The updated master plan for Central Green is planned to go before City Council at the end of September.

Central Green, the former Kelowna Secondary School site, was split into seven land parcels.

The first building, a supportive housing project run by the Karis Support Society, opened last week.

The seventh parcel was leased to the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society earlier this year.

The society will operate an 86-unit complex.



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Laura to close just 15 shops

Laura's Shoppe Inc. is planning to close five fewer stores than originally planned as landlords at several malls have agreed to cut rents and suppliers have offered significant discounts on clothes for the fall season.

The Montreal-based company will close 15 stores on Sept. 13, according to a court filing in Quebec Superior Court. None of the locations were disclosed.

Seven more store leases are set to expire at year-end.

Laura's Shoppe, which like many Canadian fashion retailers has struggled amid an influx of large international competitors, filed for creditor protection last month.

Besides the Laura, Laura Petites and Laura Plus brands, the company operates under the Melanie Lyne banner.

The company originally planned to close 20 stores and seek rent reductions on 26 others. It ultimately secured rent reductions for more than 36 locations that will save $5.2 million a year.

Laura's said the stores being closed contributed less than five per cent of overall revenues and all either generated losses or were marginally profitable.

Meanwhile, Laura's said it expects to earn some $5 million in extra gross profit from discounts provided by suppliers on about $34.5 million of fall merchandise that went on sale a couple of weeks ago.

An additional $1.2 million in annualized savings are expected from the decision to close or reduce the size of office space at two buildings in Laval, Que., and vacate unused offices in Mississauga, Ont. The move has resulted in the temporary layoff of 93 employees, some of which will become permanent.

Laura's said it will employ about 2,000 workers in stores across Canada, the distribution centre and remaining office as a results of the changes, down from 2,330 when its network spanned 162 stores.

Laura's operates in all provinces except Prince Edward Island and also has two e-commerce sites. About half the stores and store-level employees are in Ontario. Quebec has the second-most stores at 37.

The Canadian Press


Sony defends 'Concussion'

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Nearly a year after the devastating hacking attack that leaked thousands of emails, Sony Pictures Entertainment again finds itself trying to justify its own inner dealings, this time over the upcoming Will Smith film about head trauma and the NFL, "Concussion."

The question surrounds just how hard-hitting is "Concussion," a film due out in December that dramatizes the forensic pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who uncovered the fatal effects that repeated head trauma has had on many NFL players. After a New York Times report on Tuesday based on leaked emails that Sony blunted parts of the film to avoid upsetting the NFL, Sony hit back on Wednesday.

In a statement, Sony Pictures called the Times story "misleading" and noted it was written without the benefit of seeing the film.

"As will become immediately clear to anyone actually seeing the movie, nothing with regard to this important story has been 'softened' to placate anyone," said Sony.

Claims that "Concussion" was altered to appease the NFL proved inconclusive following an Associated Press review of the leaked Sony emails regarding the production and positioning of the film.

Instead, the exchanges between Sony Pictures Entertainment executives, lawyers, external consultants and filmmaker Peter Landesman paint a less definitive picture of the behind-the-scenes motivations of script changes and strategy.

"We always intended to make an entertaining, hard-hitting film about Dr. Omalu's David-and-Goliath story, which played out like a Hollywood thriller," said Landesman in a statement to the AP. "Anyone who sees the movie will know that it never once compromises the integrity and the power of the real story."

While the emails reflect near-constant hand-wringing about NFL backlash, which prompted Sony to hire an independent consultant to manage the communications strategy within the massive organization, the emails also show a rigorous obsession with depicting real people and events with accuracy and fairness. That's not an uncommon practice for any fact-based movie — especially one with awards aspirations.

In early July 2014, Sony executive Hannah Minghella sent page notes to a group of executives from a pre-greenlight meeting. "Rather than portray the NFL as one corrupt organization can we identify the individuals within the NFL who were guilty of denying/covering up the truth."

Landesman has acknowledged a scene featuring NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was cut from the film. Emails suggest that at one point, he tried to reach out to an NFL executive with the hope of getting more insight into a closed door conversation he hoped to dramatize in the film.

Later in July, Sony chairman Michael Lynton emailed then-co-chair Amy Pascal. "Aimee Wolfson took out most of the bite for legal reasons with the NFL and that it was not a balance issue," Lynton wrote of Sony's top lawyer.

Concerns were motivated not just by the threat of recourse from the NFL, but in antagonizing the enormous potential audience of movie-going football fans. Emails show planning to promote Smith as "pro-football."

In October, Doug Belgrad, president of Sony's motion picture unit, wrote to a group of executives reiterating their need to fact-check: "If we fudge or embellish the NFL's actions on this issue, it could compromise the success of our pic," he said.

Ultimately, despite the unprecedented glimpse into these internal dealings, more questions are raised than answered as to whether the development and marketing of "Concussion" is at all different from any other production about a hot-button issue. The leaked emails ran up until December, so they don't cover the last nine months.

The film's trailer, which debuted Monday, portrays the NFL as a foreboding opposition to Omalu's heroic whistle-blowing. In it, he's warned: "You're going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week."

A handful of football reporters and broadcasters who have seen "Concussion," which opens in December, have backed up Sony's defence of the film.

NBC's Bob Costas, in a statement supplied by Sony, said: "It doesn't appear to me many punches were pulled." Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who has also seen the film, called it "a huge black eye for the NFL."

The NFL has declined to comment on the film, which will hit theatres in the heart of its upcoming season. It's not believed to have any business relationship with Sony.

Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice-president of health and safety policy, has said the league is "encouraged by the ongoing focus" on player safety.

The Canadian Press


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Mermaids make a splash

Tiny bubbles float to the surface of a tank as Stephanie Brown blows an underwater kiss, her red hair rippling in the water like seaweed as she flips her metallic yellow and orange tail and swims away.

Brown is the co-founder of Halifax Mermaids, a company that provides educational and entertainment experiences with mermaid performers across the Maritimes.

Brown, also known as Raina the Mermaid, has a background in child and youth development and a bachelor of education. She said her company is cashing in on the mermaid trend while teaching children about the environment.

"We work on the assumption that children learn the best through play, so we create these play envrionments where they get to utilize their imagination and also learn something about the environment and the ocean," said Brown during a recent in-costume interview at the Aquatron Laboratory tank, a research facility at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

"We try to combine the entertainment aspect of seeing a mermaid, seeing them swim in the beautiful costumes, but also learning about the ocean and empowering people towards change."

Brown said the roughly five mermaids she employs teach children about everything from microplastic pollution and tidal pool creatures to the ocean food chain and the importance of recycling.

The mermaids wear realistic tails and shell hairpieces at a range of events, from birthday parties to sandcastle festivals and workshops at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

Halifax Mermaids, which is a division of Canadian Mermaids Inc., recently won a $10,000 small business grant in a contest that was run by ADP Canada Co. to expand their fast-growing, year-old business, and it couldn't have come at a better time, said company co-owner Sean Norman.

Norman said they are having a difficult time keeping up with demand, and the extra funding will allow them to hire more mermaids and book more events.

"We plan on getting a mobile tank to travel across Canada," said Norman. "It's been an unbelievable year. ... We couldn't have anticipated how much it was going to take off."

Brown said she started working as an independently as a mermaid in 2007 as a way to combine her education in child and youth development and her love for the imaginary sea nymphs.

Brown, who struggles from chronic illness and pain, said her new career helps motivate her to keep in shape and manage her pain.

She said she had a difficult childhood and benefited from programs like Make-A-Wish, so she's paying it forward by visiting sick children in hospitals.

"It's really wonderful to see how much they light up," said Brown, adding that she uses a wheelchair during hospital visits since walking around in a mermaid tail is impossible.

The Canadian Press


No all-day for Canada

McDonald's Canada has bad news for those looking to get their Egg McMuffin fix past 11 a.m.

Spokeswoman Lisa Hutniak said the company has no plans to launch all-day breakfast, despite the brand's announcement that its American restaurants will introduce the option on Oct. 6.

Hutniak said they are keeping a close eye on the nationwide experiment by the Americans and are always looking to meet the needs and wants of their customers.

McDonald's ran a pilot program of all-day breakfast in select American markets earlier this year.

New CEO Steve Easterbrook is looking to make his mark at the fast-food giant, where sales have faltered as consumers seek out fast food beyond the burger.

The Canadian Press


Bublcam raises $4.6 million

Bubl Technology Inc., the Canadian developer of Bublcam 360-degree cameras, is making changes to its executive structure after securing $4.6 million from a team of investors that includes technology giant Samsung.

The Toronto-based company announced Wednesday that its founder, Sean Ramsay, will leave his post as chief executive officer and assume the role chief innovation officer as he turns his attention solely to building the product and the technology.

Dan Mills, who also helped launch the startup, will become CEO on an interim basis, after serving as vice president of hardware for the past several years.

Bublcam takes both pictures and video in a spherical range which creates a new experience for photographers who feel constrained by panoramic shots. The baseball-sized camera has four lenses, which grab images from all directions, and laces the information together to create a realistic 360-degree version of a natural environment.

Once it's loaded onto a computer, viewers can scroll across the moving image, quite like exploring the virtual world on Google Maps.

"We've got a proven, viable product now — both hardware and software — and we're ready for prime time," said Mills in an interview.

"It really is just getting it out there ... and building on some of the relationships that Sean has already put together."

The move comes as Bubl closes financing from a group of private investors, which includes Samsung Ventures, a division of the electronics company which invests in small developers for an equity stake in the company.

The other key investor is J-Tech Capital, a consortium of Chinese investors who are looking to help Canadian startups enter Asian markets.

Bublcam is just one of many 360-degree cameras vying for a share of a niche part of the photography sales market.

Earlier this month, the company delivered its first round of shipments to customers who helped fund the company during its initial Kickstarter campaign.

"We really want to stay ahead any emerging competitors," Mills said.

In the coming months, Bubl aims to ramp up manufacturing to make online inventory of its cameras more consistent.

In the meantime, the board of directors is conducting a search for a permanent CEO, the company said.

Bubl Technology was founded in 2011 and has about 30 employees.

The Canadian Press


Sears turns corner in Q2

Sears Canada's second-quarter revenue was down 9.1 per cent from the comparable period last year, but the company says its core retail network showed positive sales momentum and the sale of some properties helped produce a profit.

For the second quarter ended Aug. 1, Sear Canada's revenue was $768.8 million and net income was $13.5 million or 13 cents per share. Included in the profit was a $67.2-million gain, before taxes, from the sale and leaseback of three properties.

In the comparable period last year, Sears Canada had a loss of $21.3 million or 21 cents per share with $844.4 million for the quarter ended Aug. 2, 2014.

The struggling retailer says it had a "turning point" in the month of June when its core retail network grew sales compared with last year, but added that the company's overall cost structure is too high.

"Although we have had significant cost reductions in the past two years, we still have an inefficient cost structure."

Sears Canada Inc. says it plans to bring down annual operating expenses by $100 million to $125 million compared with 2014 levels, and to implement cost reduction initiatives in the current quarter that began Aug. 2.

The company's press release didn't provide details on where it expects to make cost savings.

It announced it has reached agreements to "monetize" an additional $28 million of non-mall real estate but said that "at the current time, we do not have any plans to sell or exit any of our full-line stores."

The core retail store network consists of Sears Canada's 95 full-line stores and 45 Sears Canada Home stores, and excludes Outlet and Hometown stores.

Sears Canada says it has 177 Hometown stores, over 1,200 catalogue and online merchandise pick-up locations, 84 Sears Travel offices and a nationwide repair and service network in addition to its corporate stores.

Sears Canada said it may be able to operate more profitably within smaller individual store sizes. It also said it will open a wave of branded shops within its stores by November under agreements with 12 vendors, including Haggar and Dockers.

Overall same-store sales, including non-core locations, fell 3.9 per cent for the quarter. But same-store sales at its core retail network were down just one per cent for the quarter and positive in the months of June and August.

The company said it's continuing to search for a new chief executive to replace Ronald Boire, who announced in July that he was leaving to become president and CEO of the Barnes & Noble chain of bookstores in the United States, effective Sept. 8.

Boire became CEO of Sears Canada ilast fall. He followed Douglas Campbell, who left in September 2014, and Calvin McDonald, who quit suddenly in September 2013 in the midst of a multiyear turnaround plan.

The Canadian Press


Adult kids pinching parents

A new poll suggests adult children are draining their parents' retirement nest eggs.

The CIBC survey has found that two-thirds of Canadian parents polled say they're feeling the financial impact of supporting their adult children.

Almost half of them said supporting their adult kids is hampering their ability to save for themselves, while 20 per cent say it has actually delayed their retirement.

One in four parents said they spend more than $500 a month to cover their adult kids' rent, groceries and other bills.

The top two expenses are groceries and other household expenses and cellphone bills.

The survey of 1,054 randomly selected Canadian parents was conducted two weeks ago. It's considered accurate within plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Canadian Press


All-day breakfast coming

If you're one of those people who hates missing the end of breakfast hours at McDonald's, hang on just a little longer: the chain says its breakfast menu will be available all day starting Oct. 6.

Items like Egg McMuffins, hotcakes, sausage burritos, fruit 'n yogurt parfaits, hash browns and biscuits will be available anytime, although the exact menu will vary in different markets. The company said core items like the Big Mac, McNuggets and fries will still be available at all of its locations.

The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company has been testing an all-day breakfast menu in San Diego for months. It has been looking for a boost, as sales at established U.S. stores have fallen for seven straight quarters and the company hasn't replaced its Dollar Menu with anything equally compelling.

McDonald's is also working to improve its food by toasting buns longer and searing burgers to improve taste, and it's looking for a way to shake up its image.

Taco Bell, a unit of Yum Brands, launched a breakfast menu in 2014 and has said the "biscuit taco" and other items have lifted its sales. Earlier this year Taco Bell ran an advertising campaign that depicts McDonald's and its Egg McMuffins as boring. Meanwhile the company has lost some ground to restaurants like Chipotle, which tout better food and ingredients, and to newer burger chains like Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

McDonald's plans to close about 700 stores this year and will shut down more stores than it opens in the U.S., something it hasn't done since at least 1970 and possibly in its entire corporate history. The company is reorganizing so it can respond more quickly to trends, cutting costs, and has eliminated a few hundred corporate jobs.

Mike Andres, president of McDonald's U.S. acknowledged the company has struggled with an overcomplicated menu, and that restaurants would remove some items to make room for the breakfast offerings throughout the day. Core menu items such as Big Macs will remain national. But in Nashville, for instance, restaurants remove all McWraps and the Clubhouse burger. The items that are removed will vary by region.

In test markets, Andres said customer visits increased.

"We're very excited — we think this could be the next big thing," Andres said.

LeAnn Richards, a franchisee who led the task force on all-day breakfast, said restaurants need to get some new equipment, including a separate egg cooker and toaster, to offer all-day breakfast.

Shares of McDonald's Corp. fell $1.55 to $93.47 Tuesday while the broader markets tumbled.

The Canadian Press


Increase in light truck sales

An increase in light truck sales more than offset a drop in the number of new cars bought by Canadians, pushing sales of new vehicles in August higher than in the same month a year ago.

According to industry sales numbers compiled by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, new vehicle sales totalled 175,512 for the month, up 2.2 per cent from 171,703 a year ago.

Light truck sales totalled 110,890 for August, up 10 per cent from 100,764 in August 2014, while car sales slipped to 64,622, down 8.0 per cent form 70,939 a year ago.

Based on the DesRosiers results, FCA edged out Ford for the top spot as its sales amounted to 26,928 vehicles for the month, up slightly from 26,825 a year ago.

Ford Motor Company of Canada said it saw its sales for the month slip 5.0 per cent from a year ago to 26,581 compared with 27,988 in August 2014.

General Motors of Canada reported a 12 per cent increase to 24,653 vehicles, up from 22,111 a year ago.

Toyota Canada sold 18,292 vehicles in August, including its Scion and Lexus brands, down 1.1 per cent from a year ago.

The Canadian Press


CanJet suspends flying

The Halifax-based charter airline CanJet suspended its flight operations Tuesday, saying it is redoubling its efforts to find a profitable business plan.

Company president Stephen Rowe said the company isn't shutting down, but he confirmed that its remaining 15 pilots and about 40 flight attendants were laid off.

"We just haven't found that business model that we're comfortable with," Rowe said in an interview. "We're going to keep looking. We're not closing. ... We haven't given up yet."

The airline was operating only one passenger jet under contract for tour operator Air Transat when the decision to suspend operations was made. However, the company is maintaining a total of four Boeing 737 passenger jets through leases that expire in May 2016.

The airline, a division of IMP Group Ltd. of Halifax, has been focused on charter flights since ending its scheduled airline service in 2006.

Starting late last year, CanJet had offered its own vacation packages to the Caribbean through CanJet Vacations, and it was offering charter services in Europe last year, but Rowe said those businesses weren't successful.

The airline could return to offering scheduled flights, but Rowe said competing with Air Canada and WestJet would be a risky venture.

"We've been there and done that a couple times," he said. "It's a tough business."

When the airline stopped its scheduled service in 2006 it blamed tough competition from Air Canada and WestJet.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees issued a statement saying the sudden shutdown was devastating news.

"(We) found out only this morning that CanJet has ceased flying operations immediately," said union spokeswoman Lesley Swann. "Our focus is on assisting our members any way we can during this difficult time."

Swann said the union was seeking information about severance pay while examining "legal avenues."

Dan Adamus, president of the Canadian wing of the Air Line Pilots Association, said CanJet had as many as 130 pilots in recent years.

"It's sad because it's a great operation," Adamus said in an interview. "The majority (of workers) are from the East Coast and are very loyal to the airline."

Adamus said the airline has had to shut down operations before as it struggled to attain profitability.

"They've been able to pull rabbits out of hats in the past," he said.

In April 2014, Air Transat cut costs by not to renewing a contract it had with CanJet since 2009. Under that five-year deal, Air Transat used CanJet aircraft to serve more than 20 Canadian cities and about 20 vacation spots.

Earlier this year, CanJet laid off almost half of its 100 pilots and dozens of permanent and seasonal flight attendants.

The Canadian Press


Google's new look

Google is refining its famous logo as it prepares to become a part of a new holding company called Alphabet.

The revised design unveiled Tuesday features the same mix of blue, red, yellow and green that Google has been using throughout its nearly 17-year history, though the hues are slightly different shades.

Google also invented a new typeface called "Product Sans" that is meant to resemble the simple printing in a grade-school book. It will replace a serif typeface that Google has been using in its logo for more than 16 years. The "e'' in the company's name will remain slightly tilted to reflect Google's sometimes off-kilter thinking.

Although this will be the sixth time that Google has changed its logo since Larry Page and Sergey Brin formed the company, this marks the most noticeable redesign since it dropped an exclamation point that appeared after its name until May 1999

Google is donning the different look as it embarks on a new era.

The Mountain View, California, company is pouring so much money into so many far-flung projects that have little or no connection to its main business of online search and advertising that it's getting ready to place everything under the Alphabet umbrella.

Under this setup, Google will retain search, YouTube and most of the biggest divisions while smaller operations such as Nest home appliances, life sciences, drone deliveries and venture capital investments will operate as individual companies. All will be overseen by Alphabet, whose CEO will be the Google co-founder Page.

Alphabet hasn't revealed what its logo will be yet, but the holding company isn't expected to be officially operating for a few more months.

Google believes its new logo will provide a more versatile identity suited "for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices," the company said in a Tuesday blog post.

The overhaul also will change the appearance of the letter "g'' that Google uses as its shorthand logo on the smaller screens of smartphones and other mobile devices.

The "g'' will now be capitalized and displayed in colour instead of being kept lowercase and white.

A swirl of dots in Google's colours will also appear when a spoken command for information is being processed or one of the company's other services is performing a task.

The Canadian Press


Stock markets plunge

The Toronto Stock Exchange fell about 2.5 per cent early Tuesday, joining a decline that began overseas and continued after North American markets opened.

Toronto's S&P/TSX composite index was down 351.97 points at 13,507.16 after 90 minutes of trading, but had been lower earlier in the morning.

The Dow Jones average of 30 stocks was down 349.02 points or 2.1 per cent at 16,179.01 while the broader S&P 500 index was down 40.0 points or 2.1 per cent at 1,931.58 and the Nasdaq was down 70.92 points or 1.7 per cent at 4,203.66.

In Europe, major markets in London and Paris were also down about three per cent near the end of their trading day. Earlier, China's Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets and Japan's Nikkei also closed lower.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.17 of a cent at 76.18 cents US.

On the commodity markets, the December gold contract rose $7 to US$1,139.50 an ounce, the October crude contract was down $2.88 at US$46.32 a barrel and the October contract for natural gas was flat at US$2.69.

The Canadian Press


Google dons new-look

Google is refining its famous logo as it prepares to become a part of a new holding company called Alphabet.

The revised design unveiled Tuesday features the same mix of blue, red, yellow and green that Google has been using throughout its nearly 17-year history, though the hues are slightly different.

Google also invented a new typeface called "Product Sans" that is meant to resemble the simple printing in a grade-school book.

The overhaul also will change the appearance of the letter "g'' that Google uses as its shorthand logo on the smaller screens of smartphones and other mobile devices.

The "g'' will now be capitalized and displayed in colour instead of being kept lowercase and white.

Google last tweaked its logo in 2013.

The Canadian Press


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