Crosscountry: Canada at a glance — September 2017

Montreal pharmacist Julien Perrault now makes a living as a gamer, and a retired BC couple has created pure 100% Canadian olive oil.

EDIBLES

Canada’s very own olive oil

Canada now plays host to an increasing number of unexpected delicacies. The latest: pure 100% Canadian olive oil.

According to the Calgary Herald, it all started in 1999, when a trip to Spain inspired retirees George and Sheri Braun to start growing olive trees on Saltspring Island, BC. In late 2016, they produced their first vintage: 162 200-millilitre bottles of organic, extra-virgin oil, which retail for $75 each.

The Brauns’ initial grove of 1,000 trees has now grown to more than 2,500. Health aficionados will be interested to know that the polyphenol count is “off the charts” and foodies will be thrilled with the Instagram comment from Rob Gentile, executive chef of Toronto restaurant Buca: “Probably the most unique olive oil I have ever tasted. Incredible depth with ocean-like seaweed notes and a strong peppery finish.”

PURSUITS

Occupation: gamer

Julien Perrault

He started out as a pharmacist, but Montrealer Julien Perrault now makes a living as a gamer in international competitions, reports Le Devoir. His playground: Hearthstone, a fantasy-like game in the Warcraft franchise. His alias: Cydonia.

Perrault’s rapid rise seems to surprise many, but he still doesn’t consider himself a professional player; he puts in five to six hours a day. His first big win was at the US section of the Hearthstone World Championship, where he took home US$25,000. In 2016, his total take was $80,000. Now, ranked among the 16 top players in the world, he’s attending the finale this October in California. If he wins, he’ll come back with US$1 million.

PERSONAL FINANCE

Hating that hike

More than a quarter of Canadian mortgage holders are “in over their heads” in debt and are looking with alarm at the interest rate hikes that are underway, according to an Ipsos poll cited in the Calgary Herald.

The rate increases initiated by the Bank of Canada are cranking up the financial stress of households whose total debt in relation to income is already at a record high. Just before the first increase in July, more than 70% rated their ability to manage a 1% rate increase as “less than optimal.”

“Many are borrowing against their homes and using [the money] to finance lifestyles they simply can’t afford.... Canadians should be bracing themselves for some major financial changes,” says Grant Bazian, president of bankruptcy service MNP, which commissioned the Ipsos poll.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Telefocusing in BC

Mobile devices take surprisingly good photos, but they have a major drawback: users can’t change the focus to pinpoint a distant subject. Two Vancouver-based companies, NexOptic and Spectrum Optix, are poised to change that with a new telephoto lens system that would allow mobile devices to shoot long-range, high-definition photos, reports Business in Vancouver.

Paul McKenzie, NexOptic CEO and cofounder, told BIV that “the discovery changes something that hasn’t been changed in basically four to five hundred years, which is the conventional lens stack.”

Essentially, the companies will shrink the lens stack, dramatically reducing the size of optical devices. For now, the main target is the $80-billion-a-year lens market.