Tuesday November 24, 2020



Kitchener Council approves partnership with University of Waterloo to expand downtown Health Sciences Campus

As a part of the newly approved Make It Kitchener 2.0 economic development strategy, the City of Kitchener is partnering with the University of Waterloo to expand the UW Velocity program at the Health Sciences Campus in downtown Kitchener. For the project, a vacant 90,000 square foot on-campus building will be repurposed as an innovation arena that will be an entrepreneurial hub for innovative health technology. “In 2016, we invested in the UW Velocity program to expand their space and ability to support our growing health technology start-ups and scaleup ecosystem,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “The results have been amazing and have created new local businesses and jobs, expanding the local ecosystem, while also encouraging millions of dollars in private sector investments. The current pandemic has brought this sector to the forefront, and we’re excited to now be able to be a part of an even bigger expansion which will allow us to build back better as we recover in a post-Covid-19 world.” more ...

Economic Rating

Windsor falls from 10th highest median household income to 25th; London falls from 15th to 27th (out of 36 Canadian metropolitan centres)

Waterloo Region does much better

Between 2005 and 2015, large cities in Southwestern Ontario have gone from being amongst the most prosperous cities in Canada–as measured by median household income–to being amongst the least finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank. “The numbers tell a clear story. Southwestern Ontario, especially the cities further away from Toronto like London and Windsor, have suffered enormous economic pain,” said Ben Eisen, a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute and co-author of Economic Performance in Ontario CMAs: A National Comparative Perspective. Of the 36 metropolitan cities covered by Statistics Canada, Windsor experienced the largest drop in its ranking for median household income (in 2015 inflation adjusted dollars), falling from 10th to 25th between the 2005 and 2015 Censuses (the last year of available data). Indeed, median household income in Windsor over the period actually fell by 3.1 per cent compared to the national average that increased by 13.0 per cent. read more ...


Pandemic has caused decline in education quality according to new poll of university students and faculty

University students, faculty, and academic librarians are struggling with social isolation, stress, and a lack of institutional support according to the results of a new poll which finds that those working and studying at Ontario’s universities believe the shift to online education has negatively impacted quality. Without immediate action from universities and the Ontario government to address these concerns, it is likely that quality will degrade even further. “These results demonstrate that meaningful engagement between students and faculty is fundamental to the learning process,” said Rahul Sapra, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the scramble to move courses online, we have lost that human connection and educational quality has suffered.” The poll of 2,700 Ontario students, faculty, and academic librarians was commissioned by OCUFA and conducted by Navigator Inc. It reveals that 62 per cent of students and 76 per cent of faculty and academic librarians believe that the adjustments universities made to move teaching online have had a negative impact on education quality. Financial security, care demands, and work-life balance are significant stress points for both groups. A third of students and two thirds of faculty and academic librarians revealed that they have care-giving responsibilities that they are struggling to balance while working or studying. more ...

Legacy Costs

Ottawa’s New Budget Presentation Would Bury Employee Pension Costs

Proposed changes to the federal government’s budget presentation threaten to sweep the true costs of federal employee pensions under the rug, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.

In Under the Rug: The Pitfalls of an “Operating Balance” Approach for Reporting Federal Employee Pension Obligations authors Alexandre Laurin (right) and William B.P. Robson (below) examine a proposed revamp of the federal statement of operations that would highlight an “operating balance” in addition to the annual surplus or deficit and the resulting change in the government’s accumulated deficit. The authors argue that the proposed presentation would move costs of federal employee pensions that were underreported in the past and are now coming to light “below the line.” Presenting an operating balance that does not include these costs, they say, could bias federal budgets toward larger deficits. Laurin and Robson argue that changes in pension valuations resulting from changes in bond yields might merit separate reporting. more ...

Long-term Care

New partnership addresses health-care needs in Algoma District

A new partnership between Conestoga College and Algoma Manor, a long-term care home in Thessalon, Ontario, will help address the critical need for much needed health-care professionals to serve the local community. Beginning in January 2021, students in the Algoma District will have to opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge required to launch careers as Personal Support Workers (PSWs) through the completion of a 20-week PSW FAST-ONSITE program delivered online by Conestoga instructors, with clinical placements provided by local health-care organizations. Costs for participants will be covered through funding provided by the Canada-Ontario Job Grant and administered through Algoma Manor. “This is truly a unique opportunity to be able to receive a post-secondary education in a rural community and have it covered financially,” said Jennifer Fogal, Director of Resident and Nursing Services at Algoma Manor. “It is a wonderful example of how grant dollars can be used to the maximum in an integrated approach.” more ...


Does Your Corporate Culture Get All A’s?

The proactive process to shape the team culture you want - by Jason V. Barger

It’s an instant gratification world where people/employees/leaders want things to change immediately. They want progress to be a flip of a switch. They want the easy button. Every leader, team and organization wants to snap their fingers and magically arrive at their desired outcomes. However, developing people and culture doesn’t happen like that. There is no quick fix or hack to developing leaders and the team culture you desire. It's a process. It takes commitment, discipline and focus. The most compelling team and organizational cultures invest time, energy and resources into shaping the culture they want, not just the culture they've experienced in the past. They know that one of their greatest competitive advantages in today’s day is not just WHAT they do as a company, but the culture of HOW they do it. People want to be a part of a compelling culture and contribute their skills to something greater than themselves. read more ...


More child and youth well-being data released by the Children and Youth Planning Table

Youth Impact Survey – Data Briefs surrounding learning, participation and more are now available.

The Children and Youth Planning Table (CYPT) in partnership with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) at the University of Waterloo, UNICEF Canada, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) partnered to develop the prototype of a new child and youth well-being survey. Aligned with the Canadian Index of Well-being (developed by UNICEF Canada), the “Youth Impact Survey” measures and monitors the well-being of children and youth. In July of 2020, the survey was open and piloted for young people, aged 9-18 in Waterloo Region to respond to questions across nine focus areas of well-being and to provide feedback on the survey tool itself. About 300 youth in Waterloo Region took the survey and we are pleased to announce that we are sharing more preliminary data. This is the third and final release of the Data Briefs, which shares data across all 9 focus areas including: more ...

Mixed Messages

Skepticism over Covid-19 response growing

Science is messy, and its bewilderment as to how to respond to Covid-19 is beginning to wear on people - By Peter Menzies

News that not one but two COVID-19 vaccines have tested 95 per cent effective casts a welcome burst of light into Canada’s gloomy COVID-19 narrative, amid signs the pandemic is ripping into the nation’s social fabric. Moderna announced that its vaccine candidate proved 94.5 per cent effective in trials. Meanwhile, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech followed up their earlier announcement by confirming final results are five per cent higher than the 90 per cent originally announced. Further review and regulatory approvals still await, including here in Canada. But the companies say first doses could ship as early as the end of November. But hold the rooftop cheering. According to Angus Reid polling, only 39 per cent of Canadians say they would get an approved vaccine injection right away if one became available. And 23 per cent believe the threat of COVID-19 has been exaggerated, assumedly by distrusted media and public officials. more ...


Pesticide deadly to bees now easily detected in honey

A common insecticide that is a major hazard for honeybees is now effectively detected in honey, thanks to a simple new method. Researchers at the University of Waterloo developed an environmentally friendly, fully automated technique that extracts pyrethroids from the honey. Pyrethroids are one of two main groups of pesticides that contribute to colony collapse disorder in bees, a phenomenon where worker honeybees disappear, leaving the queen and other members of the hive to die. Agricultural producers worldwide rely on honeybees to pollinate hundreds of billions of dollars worth of crops. Extracting the pyrethroids with the solid phase microextraction (SPME) method makes it easier to measure whether their levels in the honey are above those considered safe for human consumption. It can also help identify locations where farmers use the pesticide and in what amounts. The substance has traditionally been difficult to extract because of its chemical properties. more ...

Covid-19 Testing

Survey Says Cost and Complexities of COVID-19 Tests Main Obstacles for Employers

“Too costly” and “too complicated to implement” were the top two reasons employers gave for not testing employees.

Geneva, Switzerland – A new global business survey found that few employers are testing their employees regularly when they come to work because they find the tests too costly (28%), too complicated to implement (22%), or they are concerned about the accuracy of the tests (18%). 1,125 employers across 1,141 facilities in 29 countries participated in COVID-19 Workplace Commons – Keeping Workers Well Survey. An interactive data dashboard and inaugural report provides details on some of the challenges faced by companies and benchmarks current practices. The report provides findings from employers across the globe about their approach to testing, contact tracing, facility safety, pandemic response, financial impact and pandemic preparedness. Conducted by Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions and the World Economic Forum with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the survey found that for companies with employees on-site at the workplace, many are taking some steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Nearly three-fourths (74%) of these companies report they require masks for their employees, and nearly 80% make masks and hand sanitizer available. more ...

Affordable Housing

City of Cambridge to lease city-owned land to Region of Waterloo for affordable housing

During last weeks Council meeting, Cambridge City Council approved a motion to declare two City-owned lots as surplus to potentially use as part of the Region of Waterloo’s plans to develop new affordable housing under the federal Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI). The City will lease these lands to the Region to create affordable housing units. “The availability of more affordable housing is vital for our residents,” said Mayor Kathryn McGarry. “Opening up these lands for participation in Canada’s Rapid Housing Initiative will bring more options, more quickly. As a Council, we’re committed to finding ways to work with the Region and to support our community. Every resident deserves a safe and affordable place to call home, and we have a collective responsibility to work together to make that happen.” The properties put forward to the Region include a 1.1-acre vacant lot at Grand Ridge Drive and Cedar Creek Road and a .53-acre open space at 2 Manhattan Cir. These two sites meet the Regional and City criteria for affordable housing sites including proximity to parks and public transportation, compatibility to surrounding areas, land size, zoning and density. more...


Region of Waterloo now moved to Red-Control level

The Province of Ontario announced that the Region of Waterloo is now in the Red-Control category of the Provincial framework. The move came at 12:01 a.m. on Monday November 23, 2020.

According to Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang (right), “The spread and circulation of COVID-19 has significantly increased in the community. In the last couple of weeks, we have seen a significant growth in the number of cases and outbreaks across Waterloo Region. “There are currently 333 active cases of COVID-19 in the community, surpassing our highest reported caseload from the spring. At this time, we have met the updated thresholds for each of the indicators outlined under the Red-Control category of the Provincial framework. “I continue to recommend that all residents stay home and only leave for essential purposes such as: more ...


LaunchPad Brantford doubles down on support for local entrepreneurs, launches pitch competition

LaunchPad Brantford, Wilfrid Laurier University’s business incubator program on the Brantford campus, has been reimagined and reinvented to meet the unique demands of the local community. The renewed program will offer free programming for entrepreneurs, provide access to mentorship opportunities, and continue the successful Community Changemakers program. Through consultations with stakeholders, LaunchPad Brantford transformed its vision and modified its program delivery to focus on the needs of aspiring entrepreneurs in the Brantford, Brant and Six Nations communities. “We want to make Launchpad Brantford suitable for and in-sync with the Brantford community, students and alumni,” says Julie Perkins, LaunchPad program coordinator. LaunchPad Brantford is offering a range of resources, including webinars, programs and mentorship, to help current and aspiring business owners bring their ideas to life by launching and scaling their start-ups. The programs are open to current students, alumni as well as to community members who have no formal affiliation with the university. more ...

Building Immunity

The problem with herd immunity and COVID-19

The “herd immunity strategy” has been discussed and largely rejected by scientists as a strategy to combat COVID-19.

Waterloo Science Professor Niayesh Afshordi has been applying tools from observational cosmology to infectious disease modelling, so we asked him to address our questions and tackle some of the persistent misinformation in public discourse about herd immunity. What are the risks associated with it? Why have scientists mostly dismissed the idea? What does “herd immunity” mean? When a virus spreads in a community, every infected person, on average, infects R other people, who in turn may infect more people after some incubation period. The actual value of R varies with the viral strain, season, community, social habits, and other local conditions. Outbreaks can happen when an infected person enters a community where R is bigger than 1. But what if an infected person enters a community in which a fraction of people has already developed immunity (either through vaccination or prior infections) to the virus? Then, some of the exposures to the virus will not lead to new infections, which effectively reduces the reproduction number, R. If a large enough fraction of the community has immunity such that normal daily social interactions lead to R less than 1, then it is said that the community has reached “herd immunity.”

MITAC Awards

Up-and-Coming Canadians Recognized for Breakthroughs in Medicine, Computing, Environment, COVID-19 Protection and More

Virtual Ceremony to Take Place today November 24

From a cancer treatment breakthrough and a face mask shown to kill both viruses and bacteria, to a first-of-its-kind battery to boost the performance of electric cars and pioneering software to advance quantum computers, seven up-and-coming researchers and a trailblazing company are being recognized for their game-changing achievements in Canadian research. Backed by strong industry support, the awards, presented by Mitacs — a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions — celebrate students, professors and business owners who have made significant achievements while participating in Mitacs-funded programs. They include six awards for outstanding innovation, one for exceptional leadership and one for commercialization of a novel idea. The 2020 Mitacs Awards event partners and sponsors include: Ciena, Platinum Partner; NRC IRAP, Event Supporter; The Hill Times, Media Partner; Sanofi Pasteur, Gold Sponsor; and Saab, Silver Sponsor. winners ...

Covid Control

Some experts in Canada are considering a ‘circuit breaker lockdown’ to help control the surging case counts of COVID-19.

Dr. Nitin Mohan, Assistant Professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, is a physician epidemiologist who teaches in the Master of Management and Applied Sciences and Master of Public Health programs. He discusses the pros and cons of circuit breaker lockdowns. What is a circuit breaker lockdown? A circuit breaker lockdown is a lockdown with a set start and end date. It is different than the lockdowns we saw during the first wave, where we were looking for case-counts to drop below a certain threshold before restrictions were lifted. What exactly is involved in that shutdown depends on the government. We’ve seen certain places around the world like Australia that have had a strict lockdown. Generally, when we talk about strict lockdowns we are referring to many parts of our economy and sectors that are shut down, reducing the chance of human to human transmission. Some examples include: school closures (less preferred), closures of bars, nightclubs, gyms and takeout-only options for restaurants and the implementation of curfews. We’ve also seen some places that have had a soft lockdown, where there isn’t a lockdown in all parts of the economy and every sector. So really, it comes down to how aggressive a government wants to be. more ...


Former Blackberry Executice Shifts from Cellular to Cannabis

The nearly 2,000 square-foot retail space provides its patrons with a unique shopping experience to cater to the local Kitchener community

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners and developers have been forced to reevaluate their professional position and plans for an unpredictable future. Many businesses have shifted their focus and professionals have found new opportunities to meet alternative consumer demands. Owen Allerton (right), former Blackberry executive, and his wife, Niki Allerton, felt it was time to leave the corporate world and do something grounded in their community of Kitchener, Ontario. In February 2021, the pair will open Highland Cannabis — a licensed cannabis retail store on Highland Road in Kitchener. After years of working in corporate environments, Owen observed the stigma around cannabis originating from the clash between the “stoner stereotype” and the high-pressure drive to succeed and perform. Ironically, many who embrace the high-pressure performance culture also glorify alcohol consumption. “A startup with beer in the fridge is seen as ‘cool’, and it is entirely normal for a sales leader to take a team out for a night on the town resulting in hangovers all around. Those who can “handle their alcohol” are the heros, and those who cannot are playfully mocked.” more ...

Future Farmers

Bigger, concentrated farms will drive half of Canadian farm families off the land: report

On the Canadian Prairies, small and medium-sized family farms are often portrayed as the primary food production units. Yet, the reality of farming in Western Canada is quite different. In fact, a small and declining number of farms are operating the lion’s share of Prairie farmland and capturing the lion’s share of farm revenue and net income. Concentration Matters: Farmland Inequality on the Prairies by Darrin Qualman, Annette Aurélie Desmarais, André Magnan and Mengistu Wendimu demonstrates that the ownership and control of Canada’s food-producing land is becoming more and more concentrated, with profound impacts for young farmers, food system security, climate change and democracy. The authors analyse the extent of farmland concentration in Canada’s three Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), where over 70 percent of the country’s agricultural land is situated. They find that 38 percent of Saskatchewan’s farmland is operated and controlled by just 8 percent of farms. In Alberta, 6 percent of farms operate 40 percent of that province’s farmland, while Manitoba sees 4 percent of farms operate and control 24 percent of the land. Co-author Annette Aurélie Desmarais – Canada Research Chair at the University of Manitoba – observes that such concentration makes it much harder for young and new farmers to enter agriculture. more ...


Remote Employees Working Weekends, Logging Long Days

Professionals in Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa Most Likely to Clock Weekend Hours

A new study by global staffing firm Robert Half shows employees are working around the clock while at home. More than half (55 per cent) of professionals who transitioned to a remote setup as a result of the pandemic said they work on the weekend. In addition, one-third (34 per cent) of remote employees reported regularly putting in more than eight hours a day. According to the research, work-from-home habits vary by area. Among the five Canadian cities in the survey, those with the highest percentages of remote employees who work weekends include: more ...


November 13 - December 20

Art$Pay & Farwell4Hire Together!

Get excited for incredible art from some of the region's most talented practitioners AND shop for a good cause! The Art$Pay artists are teaming up with Farwell4Hire and raising money for Cystic Fibrosis. This year Art$Pay is taking our Annual Member Show in a new direction - a unique two part event designed in response to the pandemic and with something for everyone. Part One will be totally virtual so you can enjoy the art from the comfort of your home. We’ll be turning the Art$Pay website homepage into a virtual shopping catalogue of our members’ original art, including an online silent auction and art picks from these well-known people in our community … more ...


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