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City of Kitchener, Waterloo Region Small Business Centre launch Small Business Recovery Outreach Program
The City of Kitchener, in partnership with the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre and area municipalities, is launching a Small Business Recovery Outreach Program to support small businesses and entrepreneurs as they plan for the reopening of Ontario’s economy and begin their own recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. The new program is part of the economic relief package approved by Kitchener City Council earlier this week. “We understand that recovery is new to everyone, business owners included,” said Cory Bluhm, Executive Director of Economic Development. “Entrepreneurs are the heart of our community and they’ve been incredibly adaptable during this time. We’re hoping to make their lives a little bit easier as they move towards reopening.”
Apps that promote nutritious eating and grocery shopping via games can curb impulse purchases and contribute to a healthier lifestyle, a new study finds. Nutrition apps that focus on calorie counts for weight loss have limited success and can lead to negative body image, but apps that take the form of a game can be much more effective in changing people’s purchasing habits for the better. University of Waterloo researchers at the Games Institute developed their own game app called Pirate Bri’s Grocery Adventure (PBGA) to test if research participants’ healthy behaviour and motivation improved while using it over a three-week period. “PBGA uses game elements and allows people to play while they’re grocery shopping: people create a profile indicating their nutrition needs, then they shop in real life while tracking challenge progress in the app by scanning what they intend to buy,” said Professor Jim Wallace of the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute. “Focusing specifically on food literacy, the app was designed with the goal of empowering people to make healthy, informed food choices,” said Wallace. Pirate Bri, the app’s character, guides people through purchases by showing them simple stoplight-coloured indicators about the item’s nutritional value and recommending alternatives when necessary.
A new, multi-national study will examine whether social connectedness and compassion can help people cope better with the emotional stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study is being conducted by researchers in 18 countries around the world and involves participants being asked to fill out a 30-minute online survey immediately, three months from now, and again six months from now. “The pandemic is taking a large toll on the mental health and well-being of people across the world,” said Allison Kelly (photo), professor at the University of Waterloo and lead Canadian researcher on the international team. “The study is looking at the emotional impact of the pandemic, and at whether compassion from and for others, and compassion for oneself, can reduce the psychological toll of the pandemic.” The research is in its early stage, with the initial recruitment of participants and the first round of surveys to be completed by late May before physical distancing restrictions loosen.
Personal support workers serve on the front lines of health care. They support clients, residents and patients in a variety of settings, assisting those in need with the activities of daily living, providing care and companionship while advocating for those who often cannot advocate for themselves. PSWs make a tremendous difference every day, whether working in home and community care, long-term or residential settings or in hospitals. The urgent need for additional PSWs across Ontario and throughout Canada was recognized as a looming health care crisis even before the COVID-19 pandemic placed additional demands on a supply of workers already stretched to capacity. When clinical field placements were cancelled for Conestoga’s PSW students in March in alignment with Ontario’s pandemic response, it appeared that the 80 students who were about to complete their final placement requirements would be delayed in starting their careers at a time that their skills were desperately needed.
The Ontario government is working together with the province's education sector to voluntarily place available employees in staffing roles needed at congregate care settings during the COVID-19 outbreak. This initiative is part of the government's ongoing efforts to redeploy broader public sector workers to areas where they are needed most, such as hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, women's shelters, and homes serving those with developmental disabilities. The framework was endorsed in principle by all four trustees’ associations, and the following unions and councils of unions at the provincial/central level: Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Education Workers’ Alliance of Ontario (EWAO), Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA).
Many COVID-19 cases have been reported through community transmission, with 81 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada likely spreading this way. What can be done to track the spread of COVID-19 on surfaces in our community? UW asked Trevor Charles, Director of the Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research, to help us understand the spread of this virus in communities. COVID-19 is not an airborne virus, what does this mean for how it is transmitted? The term “airborne” is considered different from droplet-based transmission, which is how COVID-19 is spread. Virus particles are transmitted in cough or sneeze droplets traveling through the air. The recommendation for keeping 2 meters apart is so that we aren’t as susceptible to these droplets spread by others. The virus can get onto surfaces in two different ways, it could come from droplets landing on the surface, or it could start from someone with the virus touching their face, and then the surface. Once the virus is deposited onto a surface, other people pick the virus up from touching the surface, and then touch their face to get infected. This is why we are being told to not touch our faces, and to wash our hands frequently.
Campaign 19 was launched by the rare Charitable Research Reserve on April 14, 2020 to fight the impact of COVID-19 on rare’s Springbank Food Bank Gardens. As food banks across our community remain busy and experience shortages, rare is committed to providing the essential service of growing fresh, organic produce for those who need it most. “The extensive gardens provide fresh, nutritious, quality fruits and vegetables to community members challenged with food security,” says Deb Whissell, a previous rare garden volunteer. During these difficult times, many people are experiencing physical and economic barriers to accessing sufficient foods to lead a healthy life. Regular donations to our local food banks are essential for our community to stand strong together and to keep people’s well-being intact. In less than a month, over $4,400 has been raised towards rare’s Campaign 19 and the Springbank Food Bank Gardens. Toyota Canada generously stepped forward as a leader of the campaign by pledging $2,500 and encouraging the community to match their gift during the month of April. Many of these generous gifts were made on May 5, 2020 for #GivingTuesdayNow, the global day of giving and unity declared as an emergency response to COVID-19. Every donation builds community resilience through the power of locally grown food.
In The Conference Board of Canada’s latest Major Cities Insights report, released today, the similarities and differences in how local economies will weather the pandemic are emerging. The report forecasts key economic indicators for 13 Canadian cities from 2020 through to 2024. Travel restrictions and social distancing measures are having an impact in all major cities. Job losses are affecting income and consumer confidence—providing a blow to spending on accommodations, retail and restaurants in every location. Population growth and new home construction are also being affected across the board. While all cities will be affected by the pandemic, there are regional differences in the economic outlooks based on local sectors and pre-pandemic conditions. Edmonton and Calgary will be most impacted by energy sector production curtailments and the low price of oil. Construction, manufacturing, utilities, and technical services sectors will contract in both metropolitan areas this year as a result.
Eight southern Ontario-based companies working on COVID-19 solutions will receive $30,000 in seed funding and $10,000 in-kind business supports to accelerate the launch of pandemic-inspired products and services via the Accelerator Centre’s dedicated COVID-19 Cohort of its AC JumpStart program. Funded by FedDev Ontario and delivered in partnership with Conestoga College, the University of Guelph, the University of Waterloo, and Wilfrid Laurier University, the program is aimed at helping technology and technology-enabled companies establish and grow their businesses in southern Ontario. The specialized 10-month COVID-19 Cohort seeks to drive innovative business growth in southern Ontario to not only support the province’s recovery during the outbreak, but to also enable economic expansion following the pandemic. “In the fight against COVID-19, we must harness the talents of both our public and private sectors – and it’s inspiring to see so many Canadians mobilizing,” said the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “I want to thank AC Jumpstart and the eight companies working with it for making such important contributions to this endeavour. In this era of uncertainty and upheaval, government, academia and industry are united in our efforts on behalf of all Canadians. We’ve got your backs.”
While the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery remains closed during our provincial state of emergency, staff working remotely from home have organized and opened an online version of their annual exhibition of student artwork from across Waterloo Region that was cancelled for the first time in this tradition’s history due to COVID-19. Featuring artworks in a wide range of media by over fifty local students, Expressions 45: Rework/Revisit is now available for online viewing at kwag.ca/digital-exhibitions. “Expressions has been an important part of our exhibition program for 45 years,” explains Shirley Madill (photo), Executive Director. “The COVID-19 pandemic may have prevented us from showcasing work by Waterloo Region students physically this year, but it has not impeded us from sharing their creativity online.”
“Ontario’s business community is eager to re-open safely and responsibly. The critical elements needed to do so are personal protective equipment, smart quarantine policies, protection for the most vulnerable, mass testing, contact tracing, and workforce management systems. “Mass testing, contact tracing and consistent workforce intervention are three critical solutions which will be key in containing the virus to allow the economy to re-open and stay open. Government intervention is needed to help businesses working with limited resources have adequate assistance and materials available for success.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in uncertainty and anxiety for businesses and their employees. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are at the heart of our economy and our communities. As a source of local employment and pride, they play a key role in the well-being of communities across the country. That is why the Government of Canada has implemented a series of concrete and tangible measures to help them retain their employees, pay rent and access capital to pay their bills. Building on these measures, the new Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) is being delivered by regional development agencies (RDAs) to help more businesses and organizations in sectors across the economy such as manufacturing, technology, tourism and others that are key to the regions and local economies. RDAs are best positioned to provide this additional support as they work closely with communities across the country every day and understand the diverse local realities.
The latest findings from the late April Modus Business Monitor survey of over 950 Canadian managers and executives (April 20 to 30) show a lukewarm response to federal programs. While the vast majority of Canadian businesses recognize a contribution from the federal government, fewer than 1 in 5 see it getting them across the finish line.
As workplace pensions evolve, rules and regulatory law should adjust to reflect the realities of the 21st century pension landscape, says a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. In “The Shifting Ground of Pension Design: Reflections on Risks and Reporting,” author Bob Baldwin (photo), a pension industry veteran, offers his personal reflections on the unhelpful hyperbole surrounding defined-benefit and defined-contribution plans and explores the way forward for workplace pension design. Baldwin explores the risks associated with different pension arrangements, arguing that generalizing about the merits of defined-benefit (DB) and defined-contribution (DC) pension plans has little precise meaning. “The diversity in the design of the plans, combined with current financial and economic circumstances, has varied results for all types of pension and retirement savings plans, making it difficult to generalize the merits of each plan,” says Baldwin.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced borders to close and raised protectionist measures around the globe. At the same time, in Canada, we see an unprecedented level of collaboration at all levels of governments. Partisan differences have been set aside and replaced with a shared goal to keep our country safe. Governments have become more responsive and adaptive to feedback from people and employers as they race to provide support. As communities around the world explore steps to reopen their economies, The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s new policy brief Collaboration in a Crisis explores the need for continued cooperation, both within and across countries. “The unprecedented nature of the pandemic is provoking a similarly unprecedented level of collaboration in Canada,” says Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Throughout the crisis, we have seen countless examples of collaboration. Businesses and governments have worked hand-in-hand to share information, craft urgent policy responses, and supply critical products and services.”
The coronavirus pandemic risks cancelling out recent progress in transitioning to clean energy, with unprecedented falls in demand, price volatility and pressure to quickly mitigate socioeconomic costs placing the near-term trajectory of the transition in doubt. Policies, roadmaps and governance frameworks for energy transition at national, regional, and global levels need to be more robust and resilient against external shocks, according to the latest edition of World Economic Forum's Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2020 report published yesterday. COVID-19 has forced companies across industries to adapt to operational disruption, changes in demand and new ways of working, and governments have introduced economic recovery packages to help mitigate these effects. If implemented with long-term strategies in mind, they could also accelerate the transition to clean energy, by helping countries scale their efforts towards sustainable and inclusive energy systems.
With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting almost every sector in Canada, temporary foreign workers and their employers are confronted by new challenges in a rapidly changing job market. Many temporary workers with employer-specific work permits lost their jobs this spring. While some have left Canada, others are unable to leave due to international travel restrictions or the reduction in flights available. Under existing rules, to change jobs they need to apply and wait for a new work permit to be issued before starting to work at their new job. “Temporary foreign workers are an integral part of the Canadian workforce and Canada’s COVID-19 response. They are helping us meet urgent labour needs, to ensure our food security and deliver essential goods and services. While there will always be jobs for Canadians who choose to work in these sectors, these changes help support our economy by ensuring that temporary foreign workers already here can contribute during these extraordinary times," said the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P., Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has released a Tourism Recovery Technical Assistance Package to offer guidance to Member States in response to COVID-19. The package is structured around three main pillars: economic recovery, marketing and promotion and institutional strengthening and resilience building. With tourism among the hardest-hit of all sectors, UNWTO has identified three possible scenarios for the months ahead. Depending on when restrictions on travel are lifted, international tourist arrivals could decline by 60-80% in 2020. This could translate into a decline in export revenues from tourism of between US$910 billion to US$1.2 trillion and place 100-120 million jobs directly at risk. The social ripple effect is also feared to be at least equally challenging for many societies the world over.
This September, the York University School of Continuing Studies is launching their new Certificate in Information Privacy to address the critical skills gap in this vital field, which, during the COVID-19 pandemic, has become more pronounced. To combat the spread of the virus, organizations have had to collect, use and disclose sensitive data, such as public health information. While there was already a significant shortage of information privacy professionals prior to the COVID-19 crisis, now more than ever, organizations need to employ personnel who can assess, implement and audit privacy policies to ensure personal data is collected and used ethically and legally. "The COVID-19 crisis has shone a spotlight on the significant role data can play in initiatives which advance the public good, and on the critical importance of building trust in those initiatives through the protection of privacy," explains Vance Lockton, Manager Digital Governance at Waterfront Toronto, Consultant to the Canadian Anonymization Network (CANON) and Certificate in Information Privacy Advisory Council Member. "The York School of Continuing Studies' Certificate in Information Privacy will help learners understand how to meet both of those goals - responsibly leveraging data in a privacy-protective manner."
A UK report indicates the way in which accountancy firms are using technology to manage client engagements is becoming increasingly fragmented, leading many in the industry to believe quality is suffering under increasing time pressures and the need to juggle multiple applications to keep work on track. This is the key finding from a new study published by Huddle, comprising interviews with more than 250 partners and senior executives across the US to understand how firms are using technology to work with clients. The findings reveal that although 88% of US accountancy firms have a client engagement strategy in place, 35% of respondents feel that their organizations are far too slow in adopting the right technologies to accommodate client demands. As a result, employees are becoming fatigued by the sheer number of technology solutions options available to them when working with clients, causing fragmentation in common workflows, slowing productivity and introducing risk.
In a release by the Region of Waterloo it was shared that the Grand River Transit (GRT) has implemented a number of safety measures to protect both employees and customers, including the recent installation of Lexan barriers (similar to those in retail outlets) from cummicalble transmission of COVID-19. As such, the GRT will reintroduce transit fares beginning June 1, 2020. As a result, customers will return to front door boarding.
As another step in their coordinated emergency response to the global pandemic, the Region of Waterloo and all area municipalities extended the public closure of municipal administrative and operations facilities until at least June 30. The decision aligns the municipalities with Sunday’s announcement from the provincial government delaying the re-opening of the province’s schools until June 30. It is also consistent with the “Framework for Reopening our Province” recently released by the provincial government.