Experts offer a ‘toolbox’ to protect lives and properties from flooding, Canada’s costliest extreme weather challenge
Extreme weather events including floods are becoming more common. Every year, flooding causes millions of dollars in property damage. Approximately 1.7 million Canadian homes are at risk of riverine or overland flooding. And as our climate continues to change, the risk of flooding—and the costs associated with it—are expected to increase. The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation (Intact Centre) at the University of Waterloo and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) have joined forces to develop a new compilation of national standards and guidelines for increasing Canada’s resilience to flooding. Presented as a “one-stop-shop” for practical and cost-effective ways to alleviate the risk of future floods, the report’s key message is that Canadians already have the tools they need to protect lives and property from flooding. What has been lacking – until now – is a summary of practical actions that stakeholders in Canada can undertake to materially improve flood resilience in their homes, businesses and communities.
An expert in global education, Prachi Srivastava (right) investigates international development and equity in schools. She recently led a high-level policy brief for the T20 Task Force on the pandemic, which informed G20 world leaders, but her latest project is focused much closer to home. A Western University education professor, Srivastava has launched the COVID-19 School Dashboard, an interactive tool that reports and maps confirmed school-related cases of COVID-19 in publicly funded elementary and secondary schools in Ontario, Canada, and connects this to data on school-level social background characteristics and demographic data. “The effects of COVID-19 are more severe on high-risk communities, populations, and schools,” said Srivastava. “And there are strong equity concerns. Visualizing COVID-19 case data with data on school social background characteristics will give us a better understanding of the composition of affected schools. In short, we will get closer to understanding the human dimension of COVID-19 on school populations.”
Many Canadian regions will likely go through a second COVID-19 lockdown soon. And questions about the resiliency of our food supply chain are emerging again. With potentially 60,000 new COVID-19 national cases a day within weeks, it seems inevitable. Further lockdowns could well include even the Atlantic bubble. The COVID-19 virus knows no borders and is now spreading like a wildfire. Toronto and Peel region are experiencing a second lockdown in nine months. As news of a vaccine in reach gives hope, public health officials will naturally want to buy precious time and save as many lives as possible. Rest assured though, this new cycle of lockdowns will be different. In March, the virus caused an abrupt standstill to our daily lives. Most of the food industry didn’t anticipate such a shock. Two things happened that likely made the occurrences in the spring a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Yesterday, the CEOs of Canada's eight leading pension plan investment managers, representing approximately $1.6 trillion in assets under management, are joining forces to help shape a future defined by more sustainable and inclusive economic growth. For the first time, the CEOs of AIMCo, BCI, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, CPP Investments, HOOPP, OMERS, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, and PSP Investments have issued a joint statement. Together, they call on companies and investors to provide consistent and complete environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information to strengthen investment decision-making and better assess and manage their collective ESG risk exposures. "Our objective is to invest in companies that build a better future for their employees and communities while at the same time provide the appropriate risk-adjusted returns to help us meet our promise to our members. Providing clear guidance to companies on the sustainability frameworks that we support will help unlock the consistent and comparable information we need to make prudent investment decisions." - Jo Taylor (photo), President and Chief Executive Officer, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. ___________________
Guelph's Fill it Forward (FiF), a Canadian company inspiring the world to reuse through its sustainable products, interactive technologies and global giving initiatives, is revitalizing philanthropic giving in the era of COVID-19 with the development of a unique philanthropic giving model launched as the Fill it Forward — Always Giving Collection. The Always Giving Collection’s continuous giving model is two fold: succeeding in collecting one-off donations while also providing an opportunity for sustained giving to benefit both environmental and social causes. To date, almost all global and local charitable organizations have reported being negatively affected by COVID-19 — facing a steep decline in contributions, increased costs, broken supply chains, staffing and operational efficiencies, government and travel restrictions and an inability to meet the expectations of those served. The pandemic has impacted clean water initiatives and development work across Canada, with some of the hardest hit communities being Indigenous. One in five First Nations communities in Canada are currently under a boil water advisory, even during this critical time.
Whether you’re new to working remotely or have been doing it for years, you know one thing is true: Giving virtual presentations via Zoom and other online meeting platforms can be a challenge. Many professionals feel that online meetings lack the excitement and passion that comes naturally during face-to-face communication. And they’re right! The fact is that energy is contagious. When you’re speaking to a live audience, whether it’s a group of 5 or 500, your adrenaline is high and your presentation reflects that excitement. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to mimic that feeling when you’re giving a virtual presentation in your bedroom with perhaps your sleeping cat stretched out diagonally on your bed. In that instance you might suddenly feel “sleepy” too and you might start behaving this way. You may even speak in a whisper so you don’t wake the cat! While stillness and calm are great skills to use for your meditation practice, they won’t win the hearts and minds of your listener on any virtual platform.
On Monday, November 23, 2020, the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) General Membership held a special board meeting to review and discuss the Province’s proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act through Schedule 6 in Bill 229: Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures). While the GRCA board expressed support for the Province’s stated objectives to modernize the Conservation Authorities Act, and enhance transparency and accountability, the board also voiced deep concern that some of the proposed changes may have a considerable impact on conservation authorities, their watershed management responsibilities, and consequently, on the health and wellness of the Grand River watershed and its residents. If enacted, a number of these changes will significantly impact the role of the conservation authority board to establish and subsequently offer programs and services. As well, the proposed amendments will enable regulations that would either limit or completely change the role of conservation authorities in protecting Ontario’s environment and ensuring people and property are safe from natural hazards like flooding.
Men who have haemochromatosis, one of the most common genetic disorders in North America, are ten times more likely to develop liver cancer, according to a new study. Led by a team at the University of Exeter in collaboration with Dr. Paul Adams from Western University, the research has led to renewed calls for routine early testing for the condition which causes iron overload, previously thought to be a lower-level health risk. The findings are published today in the journal JAMA The new study projects that more than seven per cent of men with two copies of the faulty haemochromatosis genes would develop liver cancer by age 75, compared to just 0.6 per cent in the general population. Hemochromatosis causes the body to absorb too much iron from the diet and affects one in 327 Canadians. Reliable tests are available to identify those at risk – blood tests for measuring iron levels (serum ferritin, transferrin saturation) and genetic testing (HFE C282Y genetic blood test). Symptoms can include feeling tired all the time as well as muscle weakness and joint pains. The researchers say it can often be misdiagnosed as the signs of aging. Most of those with liver cancer develop liver damage first, often progressing to cirrhosis of the liver. Once diagnosed, the condition is easily treated by a process similar to donating blood several times a year in order to lower iron levels.
A fault called partial partitioning has been identified as the culprit of catastrophic computer system failures. The good news is that researchers have not only identified it; they have figured out how to fix it. Computer scientists at the University of Waterloo identified the fault, which can cause data loss, system crashes, or data corruption in many computer systems. “These failures can result in the shutting down a banking system for hours, losing your data or photos, search engines being buggy, some messages or emails getting lost or the loss of data from your database,” said Samer Al-Kiswany, a professor in Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science and co-author of the study.
A new theory from researchers at the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, UK suggests animals experience emotions much like humans - exhibiting positive moods when they “win” and negative moods when they encounter a “loss”. Their findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Animal contests are interactions between organisms when both are trying to use the same resource related to growth, reproduction, or survivability. Competition stems from the fact that resources are limited. There are simply not enough of some resources for all individuals to have equal access and supply. Until now, contest researchers have focused on how animals assess the resource’s value and their opponent’s fighting ability. The new paper argues that these assessments contribute to animals’ emotional state – and these emotions drive animal behaviour. ___________________
The Region of Waterloo’s proposed 2021 Budget Plan: Beyond COVID-19 is now available online. The proposed 2021 Budget is purpose built around the Region’s strategic focus areas of: Thriving Economy, Healthy, Safe and Inclusive Communities, Responsive and Engaging Public Service, Sustainable Transportation, and Environmental and Climate Action. Virtual budget deliberations began yesterday, November 25, 2020 with final Budget approval scheduled for January 20, 2021. “Our proposed 2021 Budget Plan: Beyond COVID-19 takes a deliberate, planned and intentional approach to help us build for the future. The plan is intended to embrace all community members while reflecting the acute challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Bruce Lauckner (photo), Chief Administrative Officer, Region of Waterloo. “We are committed to investing in the provision of high quality service to our 600,000 residents. We have managed our finances prudently and we will continue to address the challenges of the pandemic through prioritization of our strategic plan as well as tackling the economic challenges all of our residents are facing,” said Councillor Sean Strickland, Chair Budget Committee, Region of Waterloo.
On November 25, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang issued a Section 22 Order to shopping malls and retail stores that requires owners and operators to ensure capacity is managed and actively monitored, such that adequate physical distancing can be maintained in shopping malls and retail stores. In addition to the other requirements that need to be followed for their settings as outlined in the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020 (ROA). The order comes into effect on Friday, November 27 at 12:01 a.m. COVID-19 is present in Waterloo Region and poses a health risk to residents through community transmission. The risk of transmission is increased in close contact environments where persons are within two metres distance and/or not wearing face coverings. Shopping malls and retail stores are vulnerable to overcrowding during the busy holiday shopping season. ___________________
With Waterloo Region now in the Red-Control category of the provincial response framework, the cities and townships continue to work together with local public health officials to meet the new provincial regulations for the operation of recreation facilities and community centres. Certain changes to sport and recreation are required in the Red-Control category. Program participants will receive targeted information for city and township programs, and are encouraged to reach out to their minor sport organizations for more information. In addition to ongoing requirements for mandatory physical distancing, face coverings and the previous standardized rules at recreation facilities and community centres in Waterloo Region, provincial Red-Control impacts to sports and recreation include: ___________________