Three Technologies Poised to Change Food and the Planet
Agriculture’s impact on the planet is massive and relentless. Roughly 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface is used for cropland and grazing. The number of domestic animals far outweighs remaining wild populations. Every day, more primary forest falls against a tide of crops and pasture and each year an area as large as the United Kingdom is lost. If humanity is to have a hope of addressing climate change, we must reimagine farming. COVID-19 has also exposed weaknesses with current food systems. Agricultural scientists have known for decades that farm labour can be exploitative and hard, so it should surprise no one that farm owners had trouble importing labour to keep farms running as they struggled to ensure food workers stay free from the virus. Similarly, “just enough, just in time” food supply chains are efficient but offer little redundancy. And pushing farmland into the wilds connects humans with reservoirs of viruses that — when they enter the human population — prove devastating.
Humans are creatures of habit. Most of us are hardwired to leave our homes to go to a place of work, along with colleagues. Most never really questioned it. Earning a living was about going through the endless commute, dealing with gossip and office politics, and working with people you like and dislike. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis surrounding it have made the inefficiencies of the normal 9-to-5 work day more obvious. Almost a year after the pandemic came suddenly into our lives, reports suggest that many people are working longer hours while experiencing screen fatigue and the challenges of working remotely. Many have struggled to strike a balance between work and personal time when both are spent under the same roof. Physical barriers that divided us from our workspace no longer exist for many of us.
City of Waterloo Council has unanimously approved the University Avenue Gateway Strategy (UAGS). The strategy aims to provide streetscaping principles and recommendations to serve as a guide for the evolution of University Avenue as a gateway to the city. In addition, Council directed staff to advance the following: The overall intent of the UAGS is to provide a high-level guideline document, which can help inform future streetscaping projects, public art and other street related initiatives. The basis of the UAGS are the four themes of Learning, Discovery, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Taken together, the four themes provide the foundation for the goals, design objectives and streetscaping principles for the Gateway Strategy. From these four themes an overall vision and goal for the corridor was developed. An abbreviated version of the vision for University Avenue is:
Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services will receive nearly $7.8 million in funding, over three years, from the Province of Ontario to expand the community paramedicine program for long-term care. The program works to support seniors on long-term care waitlists or eligible for long-term care to stay safe while living in the comfort of their own homes for a longer period of time. Certified community paramedics provide in-home, non-emergency medical care to seniors and individuals living with chronic illness or ongoing health needs. The program includes scheduled check-ups, health assessments, and in-home safety assessments. Once an individual’s needs are determined, the community paramedic will connect them to appropriate services in the community. The program to support long-term care will provide:
Canadians cannot afford to let their guard down when it comes to fraud prevention, according to a new survey conducted by Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada). Almost three quarters of the individuals surveyed (73 per cent) reported having received fraudulent requests and one out of three (33 per cent) noted they had fallen victim to one or more types of fraud at some point in their lives. As we enter Fraud Prevention Month in March, the good news for Canadians is that 62 per cent are doing more to prevent themselves from being a victim of fraud than they were five years ago. "Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting Canadians, therefore, vigilance in protecting yourself is essential," says Doretta Thompson, CPA Canada's Financial Literacy Leader. "With our lives increasingly being lived online due to COVID-19's new world, it's more important than ever for Canadians to be diligent, on alert and safeguarding their private information."
Congratulations to the students from the University of Waterloo, School of Accounting and Finance for their compelling research which earned them the winning title for the local level of the CFA Institute Research Challenge Award. The student team members, Brendan Mick, Anna Shen and Noah Yabrov, each will receive a thousand dollar prize and will be advancing to the sub-regional competition of the CFA Institute Research Challenge. Winners of each sub-regional level will advance to the regional semi-finals on 15 - 16 April 2021. “Over the last five months, our team has put countless hours into researching Empire Company. Despite being entirely online, our team has never felt closer. Like all teams, we faced adversity along the way, but these only made us stronger. The day of the competition was extremely nerve-racking. After weeks of preparation, our hard work paid off as we presented to a panel of experienced industry professionals. We owe a large portion of our success to the unwavering support we have received from our Faculty Advisors and alumni network.
The number of variant cases continues to grow in Waterloo with 32 total variant cases identified. Four cases have been confirmed as the B.1.1.7 variant, the variant first detected in the UK. An additional 28 cases have screened positive for a variant but the specific variant has not yet been determined. This is not unexpected given the growth of variants in Ontario, but underscores the imperative for Waterloo Region residents to continue practicing with upmost vigilance the recommended public health measures. This includes staying at home unless you need to go out for essential reasons and avoiding gathering with others outside of your household, to slow the spread of COVID-19, including its variants.
Last week, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its latest report on Ontario’s labour market which evaluates the impact of the pandemic on employment across various demographic groups, industries, and major cities. Ontario lost 355,300 jobs in 2020, marking the province’s largest annual decline in employment on record. The sharp job loss caused the province’s annual unemployment rate to jump to 9.6 per cent in 2020, the highest since 1993. In addition to the job losses, an increasing number of Ontarians worked far fewer hours, bringing the total number of employees affected by the pandemic to just over 765,000 – representing about one in 10 jobs.
The overall flood risk throughout the Grand River watershed this spring is considered high due to an above average snowpack, much of which has remained in place since mid-December, as well as the presence of ice in local waterways. Despite the moderate start to winter through January, temperatures fell below the long-term average in February with much of the watershed seeing above average precipitation. These conditions have resulted in a snowpack with higher than average water content and intact, but unsafe, ice conditions on many local water bodies.
Last week, Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF) and partners have awarded $236,000 in funding to 9 social purpose organizations throughout Waterloo Region, Guelph, Stratford, Perth South and Centre Wellington, as part of the Government of Canada’s Investment Readiness Program (IRP). These organizations are working to create meaningful jobs, strengthen the charitable and non-profit sector, and address social challenges, including the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With the assistance of the IRP funding, they will be better prepared to receive investment, including through the Government of Canada’s Social Finance Fund.
The UK supreme court handed down its decision on Friday that rules Uber drivers are employees and not self-employed as the company has tried to argue for years before lower courts. “The decision reached by the UK supreme court is the right one and jurisdictions around the world need to take notice,” says Paul Meinema, UFCW Canada National President. “Gig workers are kept stranded from the rights and protections they deserve as employees, as legislation fails to keep pace with a rapidly changing employment landscape. This needs to change.” The decision of the UK supreme court should set the precedent for international norms as it applies to the gig-economy. For decades, platform employers have been using technology to undermine workers’ rights to fair and decent employment. This means access to minimum standards and statutory benefits like pension and EI, but most importantly the right to join a union.
Investment in the telecommunications sector is vital for ensuring Canada’s next generation digital infrastructure, says a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. At their recent meetings, the Telecommunications Working Group identified and discussed policy challenges facing Canada’s telecommunications sector. The group of experts in both the private sector and academia is co-chaired by Len Waverman, Dean of DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University; and Steve Orsini, Adjunct Professor, Public Policy & Administration, Carleton University and former Ontario Secretary of Cabinet. The shift to remote work and digital services due to COVID-19 underscores how essential reliable and leading-edge infrastructure is.
More than 26,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given in Waterloo Region since December 22, 2020. This includes more than 12,000 people who are now fully vaccinated with two doses. Last week, the Province released new details about priority groups eligible for vaccination in Phase One and more specific prioritization of health care workers. In Waterloo Region, vaccinations will focus on the following groups over the next three weeks (subject to available vaccine supply):