Friday, July 29, 2011

Stephen Hawking Centre Grand Opening at Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Image credit: Wikipedia

WATERLOO, Ontario, July 28, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - This September 16 to 18, the all new Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute launches with three days of exciting events.

The state-of-the-art facility will help advance scientific progress by providing the ultimate environment for physicists to interact and conceive, visualize, and understand the nature of physical reality, from the subatomic world to the entire universe.

With an innovative and interactive design, the Stephen Hawking Centre doubles the size of the initial research complex and will accommodate up to 250 physicists and research trainees, making Canada's Perimeter Institute the largest facility of its kind in the world devoted to research, training and outreach in theoretical physics.

So how do you design a collaborative environment from the ground up to facilitate scientific research and discovery? Why is Perimeter's expansion the first entire centre Stephen Hawking has ever lent his name to? What exactly is theoretical physics and why is just one major discovery - such as those due to Newton, Maxwell and Einstein - literally capable of changing the world and making possible the new technologies that will transform our future?

About the Grand Opening

The all new research complex - and the mysteries and wonders of our universe - can be explored from September 16 to 18 through a series of special events, self-guided tours of the 55,000 square foot expansion, interactive exhibits, PI Public Lectures and many opportunities to chat with Perimeter's international scientists.

The activities are made possible by BMO Financial Group, presenting media partner TVO, and Perimeter Institute's public-private partnership including the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

About Perimeter Institute

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) is an independent, non-profit, scientific research organization working to advance our understanding of physical laws and develop new ideas about the very essence of space, time, matter and information. Located in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, PI also provides a wide array of research training and educational outreach activities to nurture scientific talent and share the importance of discovery and innovation among students, teachers and the general public. In partnership with the Governments of Ontario and Canada, PI is a successful example of public-private collaboration in scientific research, training and outreach. Visit for more information.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Keeping an eye on healthy vision

TORONTO, July 27, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Probably the most worrisome health concern for Baby Boomers as they age is the increased possibility of visual impairment or vision loss. For this reason, early detection is critical in successfully preventing and treating eye conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, before they lead to major visual changes.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in the greying population for which there are no definitive medical treatments. Macular degeneration destroys the central vision by damaging a part of the retina called the macula, leaving peripheral vision unaffected. Symptoms include dim or blurry central vision, a blank or blind spot, objects appearing distorted or smaller than they are, and trouble with tasks like reading or driving.

While the cause of macular degeneration is not fully understood, there is some thought that it is partially caused by free-radical damage to the retina. Macular degeneration is caused by hardening of the arteries that nourish the retina. There are two classifications of macular degeneration: dry and wet. New abnormal blood vessels form rapidly behind the retina in wet AMD, leaking damage-causing blood and fluid to the macula. Medical treatment may include laser surgery, injectable drugs, or photocoagulation. In contrast, dry macular degeneration, which progresses slowly, is caused by build-up of drusen, small yellow deposits that form within the layer of the retina, and loss of pigment. Its advancement can be further slowed or halted by taking high doses of specific nutrients and antioxidants. These include the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin found in high concentrations in the retina but especially concentrated in the macula, vitamins A, C, and E, along with the minerals copper and zinc, as low dietary zinc levels appear to be related to an increased risk for developing AMD. In addition, a recent study1, summarized by the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute on its website, reveals that higher intakes of DHA/EPA and fish containing long-chain omega-3 fatty acids were related to a decreased occurrence of macular degeneration in women.

Cataracts, a clouding of the lens in the eye, are another leading cause of vision loss. More than 2.5 million Canadians have cataracts. Symptoms include blurred or hazy vision, poor vision at night or in bright light, dulling or change in colour vision, loss of contrast, or seeing "ghost" images. Most cataracts are related to aging, but can be a side effect of diabetes. Cataract formation appears to be partially caused by a faulty antioxidant defense system due to a deficiency in the body's master antioxidant, glutathione. Supplementing with vitamins C, E and the mineral selenium, along with alpha lipoic acid can help increase glutathione levels. Interestingly, cataract patients tend also to be deficient in the antioxidants of lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin A.

Though our eyes may be the window of our soul, it is the simple act of looking out a window with healthy eyes that matters most. Through preventative measures including a healthy diet filled with a colourful array of fresh fruit and vegetables rich in antioxidants, and the addition of select natural health supplements, vision health can be maintained to ensure the glow of our golden years is filled with the colours of the rainbow.

1 Reference:
Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake and Incident Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Women
Christen, W. G. et al., Arch. Ophthamol., in press, 2011
Div. of Preventive Medicine and Aging, Dept. of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

Michele Sevier Biography

Michele Sevier, DNM, DAc, is an educator and advocate of natural health and healing. As an independent advisor to Nutrition House, she is actively involved in many facets of integrative medicine including research, the formulation of specialized supplements, and providing natural health solutions to the general public through Nutrition House's 'Ask Our Expert' service at

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

OPP Urges Motorists To Obey "Move Over" Laws To Ensure Safety Of Emergency Personnel

AURORA, Ontario, July 25, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers, other police service personnel, ambulance workers and firefighters will be out in force this holiday weekend keeping Ontario's roads safe and rescuing the unfortunate. But their own lives will be endangered by drivers who do not obey "Move Over" legislation.

In Ontario, Section 159 (2)(3) of the Highway Traffic Act requires drivers to slow down and proceed with caution when passing an emergency vehicle parked on the side of the highway with its lights activated. If the highway has more than one lane, the law requires the driver to move over and leave one lane between their vehicle and the parked emergency vehicle if it can be done safely. Failure to do so can result in fines from $400 to $2,000 and three demerit points for a first offence.

"Officers report that often it is older drivers who are ignorant of this law since it was enacted in 2003 after many current motorists already had their licence. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse to endanger the life of a police officer or an emergency worker," says OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis.

In partnership with the media, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and other police services, the OPP will conduct an educational campaign to make motorists aware of their obligations from July 25 to 31. From August 1 to 7, OPP officers will conduct a focussed enforcement campaign aimed squarely at drivers who continue to violate this law.

"This is an important education and targeted enforcement campaign. Since 1989, five OPP officers have been killed doing their job on the sides of Ontario roadways and many more have been injured. Our colleagues at other police services, ambulance and fire services have also lost friends and co-workers to these preventable roadside collisions," says Larry Beechey, OPP Deputy Commissioner for Traffic Safety and Operational Support.

The OPP has produced posters and information cards on the Move Over law for the education campaign. A high quality, 30-second video about the law has been recorded for use in theatres and for broadcast and posting by interested television stations and web sites. Scripts for Public Service Announcements on the Move Over laws for radio stations that want to contribute to educating of the driving public are also available. All materials are bilingual.

OPP officers will be out in force this week and throughout the holiday weekend targeting the "big four" causal factors for collisions on Ontario roads: aggressive driving, lack of driver and passenger restraints, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and distracted driving.

When these irresponsible driving practices inevitably cause collisions, ambulance and fire personnel will be working alongside police officers to save lives. All drivers should slow down, proceed with caution and move over if it can be done safely.

Constable John Gregovski, killed on January 4, 1989, when he went to assist a disabled van on the Queen Elizabeth Way at the base of the Garden City Skyway Bridge. A wrecker had been called and the two men were seated in the cruiser, which had all its roof lights activated. A westbound tractor trailer came up in the right-hand land of the three-lane roadway, struck the cruiser, pushed it into the disabled van and sent both vehicles 200 feet up the Skyway Bridge. Both the officer and the 36-year-old passenger sitting in the police car died instantly.

Senior Constable Michael Gula, killed on April 2, 1996, while patrolling the Queen Elizabeth Way northbound in Niagara Falls. Constable Gula observed another highway cruiser stopped with a female motorist. He stopped and activated his roof lights to complement those of the other cruiser. Suddenly, as Gula stood on the shoulder of the road talking to the other officer through the car window, a sport utility truck struck him from behind. The officer was thrown against the cruiser and then projected into the passing lane of busy the highway.

Constable Charles Mercier was assigned to safeguarding and directing traffic at a construction site on the Queen Elizabeth Way on September 30, 1999. His location was the right shoulder of the eastbound lane near the base of the Garden City Skyway in St. Catharines. Just after 8 a.m. Constable Mercier was in his marked cruiser with a raised rooftop-activated flashing arrow sign when a cube van crossed from the passing lane and ploughed into the rear of the highly visible police car. The car was pushed 132 feet into a ditch between the highway and Dunkirk Road. The OPP vehicle was wedged under the truck, killing the officer.

Senior Constable James McFadden was working the day shift on traffic patrol east of Chatham on December 31, 1999. He stopped a Michigan driver for speeding and was parked behind the subject's vehicle with his emergency lights activated while he wrote the ticket. Another driver came up behind the two stopped vehicles and rammed the cruiser from behind, killing Constable McFadden.

Sergeant Marg Eve died, June 9, 2000. On June 7, Sergeant Eve and Constables Brad Sakalo and Patti Pask were stopped on the side of Highway 401 in the Chatham area checking a vehicle that was suspected to have been involved in an armed robbery in Windsor. While talking with the occupants of the car, a driver of a transport truck drove directly into the three police cruisers, the suspect vehicle and all five people standing on the shoulder of the highway, killing Sergeant Eve and seriously wounding the others.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

No Vacancy: Ontario Health Coalition Finds Hospital Overcrowding at Untenable Levels

TORONTO, Ontario July 21, 2011 – A new report, “No Vacancy: Hospital Overcrowding in Ontario, Impact on Patient Safety and Access to Care” released today finds that Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per person of all provinces in Canada. The result is serious hospital overcrowding that puts patients at risk.

Among the report’s key findings:

...More than 18,500 hospital beds have been closed since 1990.

...Ontario’s hospital occupancy rate is 97.8%, compared to average occupancy rates of 75% in the OECD and 68.2% in the United States.

...Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per person of any province in Canada.

...Ontario is fourth last in the OECD in numbers of hospital beds per person, followed only by Turkey, Chile and Mexico. In fact, Ontario has half the number of hospital beds per person compared to the OECD average. (Ontario is at 2.5 hospital beds per 1,000 population. OECD average excluding Canada is 5.2 hospital beds per 1000 population.)

...Hospital bed cuts have not been offset by increases in care outside of hospitals. Approximately 10,000 people are on wait lists for home care in Ontario and more than 23,000 people are on wait lists for long term care homes.

...Alternate Level of Care patients number 4,093 across Ontario, but 911 of these patients are waiting for care in hospital. Of the 3,182 waiting for care outside of hospital, 2,271 are waiting for a space in a long term care home and 196 are waiting for home care. Even if all Alternate Level of Care patients were discharged, Ontario would still have hospital occupancy rates far higher than other comparable jurisdictions.

The consequences of overcrowded hospitals include:

...Overcrowded emergency departments

...Cancelled surgeries

...Coercive tactics used to force patients out of hospital against their choice

...Inappropriate staffing ratios

...Increased hospital-acquired infections

...Poorer health outcomes and increased mortality rates

“Ontario’s hospital occupancy levels are at untenable levels, far above other comparable jurisdictions. For patients, this means a higher risk of hospital infections, cancelled surgeries, backlogged ERs, not enough staff, and patients waiting on stretchers for hours or even days,” said Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “Yet Ontario has not done a systematic study to assess hospital occupancy and determine the appropriate number of hospital beds needed.”

“Part of the solution is to create a cross-province plan to enhance home care and long term care to meet community need. But an important part of the solution also is for Ontario’s government to restore hospital bed capacity with sufficient funding and evidence-based targets to reduce hospital overcrowding across Ontario, “she concluded.

The full report can be found at:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

University of Toronto engineers put their heads together to reinvent the toilet

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants the University to write the traditional latrine a "Dear John" letter

TORONTO, July 20, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - I hope you're sitting down - here's a challenge for you.

Design a toilet that's off-the-grid - no running water, no sewerage system, no electricity. Make sure it's self-contained: human waste goes in; clean water, carbon dioxide, mineral ash (for fertilizer) and energy comes out, in about 24 hours. Oh yes, and it has to work for only five cents per user, per day.

That's the problem the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put in front of leading universities worldwide through the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. The Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto was one of eight schools that was awarded almost $400,000 to think outside the box about water closets.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced this grant at the AfricaSan conference in Rwanda as part of more than $40 million in new investments launching its Water, Sanitation & Hygiene strategy.

Professor Yu-Ling Cheng in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, will be leading an international team who will be coming up with a sustainable sanitation solutions for the developing world.

"This is a vital problem and is just the sort of global issue engineers, especially engineers from U of T, are so well suited to tackle. I am confident that we will contribute to solve this major sanitation challenge and health issue for the developing world. We are deeply grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for selecting us as the sole Canadian recipient of this funding," said Dean Cristina Amon, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.

"It is a fascinating problem," said Professor Cheng. "Those of us in the West don't give toilets much thought. But there are 2.6 billion people in the world who don't have access to safe and affordable sanitation." The result is the prevalence and spread of water-borne diseases like dysentery and cholera. "Lack of clean drinking water is important," said Cheng. "But the lack of a way to safely deal with human waste is even more pressing."

Cheng is also the Director of the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN) at the University of Toronto. CGEN promotes scholarly, interdivisional research and other educational activities related to Engineering in a global environment. "So, U of T was in the right place at the right time," said Cheng. "Not only are we a world-leading Engineering school, but we're focused on just these kinds of global challenges and opportunities."

Over the next year, in Phase One of the Challenge, Cheng and her team will develop the technical ideas at the centre of their approach, create a prototype and conduct field testing of the concept in Bangladesh to make sure the ideas are culturally appropriate. Then they'll vie for additional funding for Phase Two.

"It is a developing world problem," said Cheng, "but, really, if we could make a toilet that didn't require water, sewerage and power, and we add a splash of First World stylishness, who wouldn't want to use it in Toronto."

"To address the needs of the 2.6 billion people who don't have access to safe sanitation, we not only must reinvent the toilet, we also must find safe, affordable and sustainable ways to capture, treat, and recycle human waste," said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Most importantly, we must work closely with local communities to develop lasting sanitation solutions that will improve their lives."

About Engineering at the University of Toronto

The Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto is the premier engineering institution in Canada and among the very best in the world. With approximately 4,850 undergraduates, 1,600 graduate students and 230 professors, U of T Engineering is at the fore of innovation in engineering education and research.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Almost Half of Canadians Would Give up TV Before Phone or Internet: Survey

Majority of British Columbia and Alberta residents willing to give up the tube

TORONTO, July 19, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - A new survey conducted on the Angus Reid Forum and commissioned by Primus Canada, a PTGi company, revealed that almost half (46 per cent) of Canadian respondents would give up watching television before they would give up surfing the Internet or using their phone. Another one-third of respondents (35 per cent) would rather give up their phone in order to continue their online and television access, while only 20 per cent would give up their Internet access. Of those polled, Western Canadians were more likely to give up TV over Internet access or their phone, with 61 per cent of British Columbians and 58 per cent of Albertans, respectively, stating these facts.

"This survey proves that Canadians have reached a comfort level and reliance on the Internet that is at least on par with that of TV and phones," says Rob Warden, Vice President, Residential Services at Primus Canada. "With the increased interactivity offered by both online and mobile phone access, the ability to connect, be entertained and more is easier than ever."

The Primus survey also revealed that 35 per cent of those aged 55 years and older would rather give up television than the Internet or their phones, suggesting that the acceptance and use of digital technology is steadily rising among seniors. As well, a majority - 67 per cent - of the 18 to 34 year-olds surveyed would give up television as opposed to the Internet or phone (perhaps not surprising since many in this segment have only known a world that includes online access, computers and digital technology).

Primus Canada, the largest alternative full service provider of unlimited Internet, home phone, wireless and long distance services, commissioned the survey to gauge the level of attachment that Canadians had to the Internet.

Additional findings from the survey include:

...When asked if they would rather receive one million dollars and never use the internet again or prefer to keep the Internet, one-fifth of Canadians would turn down one million dollars in order to keep their Internet access

...Females were more willing to give up television in order to keep the Internet or their phone than were males with 50 and 41 percent, respectively, reporting this fact

...The majority (52 per cent) of Canadians earning over $100,000 per year would forego television before giving up their phone or Internet access in comparison to only 12 per cent who would give up the Internet to keep watching television or using their phone

...The higher the level of education, the more likely the respondents were to choose to give up television, with 54 per cent of post-university respondents admitting to this, in comparison to only 13 per cent of the same group who would rather give up Internet access

About the Survey: From May 23rd, to May 24th, 2011, an online survey was conducted among a randomly selected, representative sample of 1,009 Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panel members. Individuals were sampled according to Census data to be representative of the Canadian national adult population. The full dataset has been statistically weighted according to the most current gender, age, region, education (and in Quebec, language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. The margin of error is ±3.1%, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc.

Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc. is the largest alternative communications carrier in Canada and now serves over 1 million customers across its suite of services. Primus Canada offers a wide selection of consumer and business telecommunications services available nationwide including Home Phone, Internet, Long Distance, VoIP, Wireless, Hosting, Managed services and Enterprise IP Telephony. Primus Canada is a wholly-owned subsidiary of McLean, Virginia-based Primus Telecommunications Group, Incorporated (NYSE: PTGI). Additional information is available at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Innovation Procurement Offers a Compelling Opportunity for Canadian Health Care

OTTAWA, July 14, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Governments are the largest purchasers of health care products and services in Canada. Procurement - what governments and public institutions buy and how they buy it - therefore offers huge potential to improve health system performance and value. But a
Conference Board of Canada
report finds that Canadians are still hesitating, while others, notably the United Kingdom, use new approaches to procurement to drive fundamental improvements in public health care.

The report, Innovation Procurement in Health Care: A Compelling Opportunity for Canada, calls for action on four fronts to seize these opportunities: federal leadership; targeted funding; regional implementation; and culture and attitudes.

"The sustainability of Canada's public health-care system will depend in large part on innovations that can enhance the efficiency, safety, quality, and productivity of health and health-care services," said Gabriela Prada, Director, Health, Innovation, Policy and Evaluation. "Innovation through procurement offers a compelling opportunity for Canada to generate better value for public health-care spending."

The experience of the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) shows the potential for innovation procurement to improve the quality of care, keep a lid on growing costs, and boost the economy in important industry sectors - such as the life sciences - in a relatively short time period. Key success factors include: a steady commitment to innovation from the central government, a regional mandate to advance the innovation agenda, targeted funding for health innovation, and the strategic development of talent at all levels. The end result has been a cultural transformation within the NHS.

In stark contrast to the U.K. experience, the concepts of innovation and procurement are still poorly connected in Canada's health-care system. A survey of Canadian health executives, conducted as part of this research, suggests that the driving force behind procurement practices in health care continues to be cost control - rather than increasing value.

Respondents were almost unanimous in agreeing that innovation is essential for improving organizational performance in the health sector and for the sustainability of Canada's health-care system. They were much less likely to say that innovation is a recognized priority within their organizations or to see procurement as a lever for innovation. Strikingly, although 60 per cent of respondents agreed that innovative products and services were very important or important in achieving their organizations' goals, over half said that procurement approaches in their organization do not support the development and uptake of innovative products and services.

Unlike the U.K., responsibilities in the Canadian federal system are divided. However, Canadian efforts to revamp primary health care demonstrate that it is possible for jurisdictions to work together.

In Canada, action can be taken on four fronts:

Federal leadership
- The expiry of the current federal-provincial/territorial health transfer agreement in 2014 provides an opportunity for the federal government to ensure that the next agreement is structured to encourage innovation.

Targeted funding - New approaches to procurement aimed at driving innovation in health care will require funding up front to: encourage greater risk taking, shift the focus of procurement to value generation, and invest in the development of the skills needed to manage a more innovative process. Governments also should consider the use of competitive funding mechanisms that would reward those who lead the way in achieving key health outcomes.

Regional implementation - While there is a need for a coordinated federal and provincial/territorial policy framework for innovation procurement, the U.K. experience suggests the need for a strong regional focus. Governments should give health regions an explicit mandate as health-care innovators and should support the development of regional innovation hubs.

Culture and attitudes - The survey responses in this study point to the need for a more fundamental shift in the culture of Canadian health care. A more innovative and entrepreneurial culture would drive a higher-quality and more cost-effective health-care system and could make the health-care sector a key factor in building a more competitive Canadian economy.

The report is published by the Centre for the Advancement of Health Innovations (CAHI), which is a joint initiative of The Conference Board of Canada and the Canadian Health Industries Partnership (CHIP). CAHI, which has the support of governments, academia, industry, and health care organizations, aims to identify strategies and options to develop a supportive policy, legislative, and regulatory environment in order to advance Canada's health innovation system.

The Canadian Health Industries Partnership (CHIP) is a voluntary collaboration between the federal, provincial and territorial governments and the leaders of Canada's industrial health innovation sector. The Chair of its Board, Mr. Mark Lievonen, President of Sanofi Pasteur Limited (the recipient of the 2009 Premier's Catalyst Award for Company with the Best Innovation) is also a Co-chair of CAHI.

The publication is available at

Friday, July 15, 2011

Renewal of retrofit program welcome news for homeowners, CHBA says

OTTAWA, July 13, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) today applauded Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver on the announced details of a renewed ecoENERGY Retrofit - Homes program.

CHBA President Vince Laberge of Edmonton said:

"This announcement will be well received by both our industry and Canadian households. It means that homeowners can begin the process of making their homes more energy efficient, right away."

The program is complemented by the government's on-going support for the R-2000 initiative, the EnerGuide Rating System and ENERGY STAR for New Homes.

By requiring written receipts for expenses eligible for a grant, the ecoENERGY Retrofit - Homes program has the added benefit of encouraging people to work with professional renovators. This will bolster the government's efforts to combat the underground cash economy in home renovation services.

"The renewal of the ecoENERGY Retrofit program will help to enhance the quality of our country's housing stock, particularly in terms of its environmental performance," Mr. Laberge said. "The residential sector is already a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and this federal government commitment will help homeowners achieve even more. Improved energy efficiency saves homeowners money, and it helps Canada meet its environmental goals."

The Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) is the national voice of the residential construction industry, representing more than 8,000 member firms across the country. Membership comprises new home builders, renovators, developers, trade contractors, building material manufacturers and suppliers, lenders and other professionals in the housing sector.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rich Canadians Are Getting Richer

OTTAWA, July 13, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The richest group of Canadians increased their share of total national income while poor and middle-income individuals lost ground since 1993, according to The Conference Board of Canada's How Canada Performs analysis of income inequality. Even though income levels for the poorest group of Canadians also rose, albeit minimally, the gap between the rich and poor in Canada widened.

"While the poor are minimally better off in an absolute sense, they are significantly worse off in a relative sense," said Anne Golden, President and CEO of the Conference Board. "High inequality raises two questions. First, what is the impact on the economic well-being of a country? The answer is that high inequality can diminish economic growth if it means that the country is not fully using the skills and capabilities of all its citizens or if it undermines social cohesion, leading to increased social tensions. Second, high inequality raises a moral question about fairness and social justice."

The average Canadian is better off than he or she was a generation ago. In 1976, average income was $51,100; by 2009 it was $59,700—an increase of 17 per cent over 33 years, after adjusting for inflation. But average income does not necessarily reflect how the majority of people are doing; instead, some analysts suggest using median income—the income level that divides the group into two equal parts. Median income grew by only 5.5 per cent over the same period.

The most commonly used measure of income inequality is the Gini index, which calculates how the distribution of income among individuals within a country deviates from an exactly equal distribution (a Gini index of 0 means that every person in the society has the same amount of income; whereas, 1 would indicate that one person has all the income).

Canada's 2009 Gini index (0.32) means that 32 per cent of Canada's national income would need to be redistributed in order to have a country that was completely equal in terms of income.

The pattern of inequality growth throughout the past three decades has been uneven. Canada made significant progress in reducing inequality in the 1980s, with the Gini index reaching a low of 0.28 in 1989. Income inequality rose in the 1990s, but Canada's Gini index remained around 0.32 in the 2000s.

Canada is not alone among its peers in experiencing an increase in income inequality. Global inequality is rising and most of Canada's peer countries have also experienced rising inequality. But rising inequality among developed countries is not inevitable. For example, Austria (0.265) and Denmark (0.232) have lower income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, with incomes per capita nearly equivalent to that of Canada.

The average income level of the poorest group of people in Canada increased—after taxes and transfers and after adjusting for inflation—but only marginally, from $12,400 in 1976 to $14,500 in 2009. However, the gap between the real average income of the richest group (the top quintile) of Canadians and the poorest group (the lowest quintile) grew from $92,300 in 1976 to $117,500 in 2009.

Between 2000 and 2009, every province with the exception of Ontario reduced its share of the population living in low income. Recent data, however, indicates that income inequality rose during and after the recession. Between 2007 and 2009, seven out of ten provinces experienced a rise in their low-income rates - Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick are the exceptions. The largest jump occurred in Alberta, where the low-income rate rose from 6.6 per cent to 9.9 per cent.

Another worrisome trend is the rise in elderly poverty since the mid-1990s, following 20 years of dramatic reductions. The biggest jump occurred in the group of elderly women. Between 2006 and 2009, nearly 128,000 more seniors were said to be living in low income, of whom 70 per cent were women.

How Canada Performs is a multi-year research program at The Conference Board of Canada to help leaders identify relative strengths and weaknesses in Canada's socio-economic performance. The How Canada Performs website presents data and analysis on Canada's performance compared to 16 peer countries in six performance categories: Economy, Innovation, Environment, Education and Skills, Health, and Society. This year, the Conference Board is assessing Canada's performance on 10 Hot Topics.

...for more information visit the Conference Board here

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just Like Teens, Parents Get Personal on Facebook

Photo Credit: Flickr fadedgenes

GUELPH, Ontario July 11, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

They may not dress like Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez, but parents are a whole lot like their teenagers when it comes to their behaviour on Facebook. That’s the finding of a new study by University of Guelph researchers.

Parents are just as likely as their kids to disclose personal information on the social networking site, according to the research, which will be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science and is available online now.

And (gasp!) Mom and Dad are just as susceptible to the need for popularity.

“Facebook is not just a phenomenon among young people,” said Emily Christofides, a PhD psychology student who conducted the study with doctoral student Amy Muise and psychology professor Serge Desmarais.

“The online environment influences people of all ages. Both parents and teens share and show more about themselves than they might in other social settings, and the same psychological factors underpin that behaviour.”

The study involved 285 non-student adults between the ages of 19 and 71, and 288 youths aged nine to 18. Although Facebook requires users to be 13 or older, about 7.5 million users are younger than 13.

The researchers found adolescents reveal more than older users, but only because they spend more time on Facebook, not because they care less about privacy. Teens spend on average 55 minutes a day on Facebook, compared with 38 minutes for adults.

Adults were actually less conscious of the consequences of sharing personal information on Facebook, the study revealed. For both groups, spending more time on the site made people more likely to share. Less awareness of consequences and greater desire to belong predicted more disclosure of personal information.

“Once again, the need for popularity was found to be a significant predictor of information disclosure,” Muise said, adding that information disclosure is the key factor in assessing one’s popularity.

Being on Facebook requires posting pictures and information and engaging in discussions. What others share and say about you is also a big part. “The people who are the most popular are those whose online identity is actively participated in by others. So the more you share, the more others respond,” she said.

Popularity and disclosure become linked, the researchers say. “Facebook is an environment that encourages people to share personal information,” Christofides said. “People with a high need for popularity may indeed care about their privacy, but they may not be willing to sacrifice their popularity by implementing privacy controls.”

The study was funded by a federal grant from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. The researchers selected Facebook because it’s the most popular social networking website in Canada. Launched in 2004, the site has more than 750 million active users worldwide.

Previous studies by the three Guelph researchers found that the need for popularity drives young adults to disclose more personal information on Facebook and that site use fuels jealousy in relationships.

Desmarais, who is Guelph's associate vice-president (academic), studies gender issues and interpersonal relationships. He said it’s important to research online networking sites because they are changing social relationships.
“This is the new reality for some; aspects of their lives that were once private are now open for all to see."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Deadly hospital superbug outbreak linked to private US contractor

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario, July 6, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The outbreak of a deadly superbug at Niagara-area hospitals where dozens have died underlines the risk of outsourcing infection control to private US contractors, according to staff at the hospitals.

Frontline staff repeatedly warned executives at the Niagara Health System they were putting patient safety at risk by outsourcing responsibility for infection control to Aramark, a $13-billion American corporation which has a multi-million dollar cleaning contract with the hospitals.

The corporation is responsible for cleaning of all patient and common areas at the three hospital sites in the Niagara region where there has been a deadly outbreak of c-difficile.

"For years this contractor has been cutting corners and using cheap chemicals to increase its profits at the expense of patients. The result has been a breakdown in infection control and loss of life," said Sharleen Stewart, head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents staff at the hospitals.

Staff have urged the hospital to do a scrub down with stronger, bleach-based chemicals and to take back full responsibility for cleaning and sterilization from the contractor.

"The buck should stop with the hospital. It is simply too dangerous to hand off responsibility for infection control at a public hospital in Ontario to a private healthcare company based in America," said Ms. Stewart, who represents more than 1000 nurses, aides, and hospital staff at the sites.

The Niagara Hospital System has been one of the most aggressive in the province at contracting out services at public hospital sites to for-profit companies.

"This has gotten out of control. Healthcare is for people not for profit. Lives are being lost," said Ms. Stewart.

Carol McDowell, a Registered Practical Nurse in Niagara, said frontline staff were working in close cooperation with the hospital to ensure every precaution was being taken to halt the spread of infection.

"As a nurse, I can only say it is a tragedy it took loss of life for the hospital to take action on poor infection control. Our condolences go out to the families," she said.

Recent studies have repeatedly shown a link between private cleaning contractors and the spread of C. Difficile spores and infectious diseases in hospitals.

A new study of Vancouver-area hospitals just published by Dr. Daniyal Zuberi from the University of British Columbia found that more than 60 per cent of staff reported negative impacts from outsourcing infection control at hospitals to private companies.

After a deadly outbreak in the United Kingdom, the U.K. Department of Health reported that cleaning and decontamination were critical in preventing infection because C. Difficile spores survive well on surfaces and in the environment.

The Journal of Hospital Infection also found a conflict of interest between the profit motive of private contractors and patient safety, finding that increased hygiene standards in the hospital reduce the profit margins of private companies, giving contractors an incentive to cut corners.

Aramark declined to comment.

SEIU is the fastest-growing union in Canada and represents more than 50,000 frontline healthcare workers in Ontario.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Canada's Next Great Wildlife Photographer to have Work Captured on a Royal Canadian Mint coin

Mint partners with Canadian Geographic on 4th Annual Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year Contest

OTTAWA, July 4, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Royal Canadian Mint is pleased to announce that it is partnering with Canadian Geographic to invite Canadians to participate in the fourth annual Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year contest. Canada's best wildlife photograph to be selected among thousands of entries from across the country will be featured on a superbly-crafted collector coin, to be issued by the Mint in 2012.

Until September 2, 2011, Canadians can submit a maximum of ten photographs of Canadian wildlife in any of the five contest categories: Amphibians, Reptiles and Insects; Birds; Mammals; People and Pets; and Junior Photographer (ages 15 and under). In addition to featuring the grand prize winner's entry on a collector coin, the Mint will also award prizes to the contest's five category winners, 10 runner-ups and 15 honourable mentions.

"The Royal Canadian Mint is always proud to showcase wildlife through the work of talented Canadians on coins whose designs and craftsmanship captivate collectors, in Canada and around the world," said Ian E. Bennett, President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint. "We are thrilled to collaborate with Canadian Geographic in a unique contest which brings together thousands of photographers from across Canada to celebrate the wealth and variety of our wildlife heritage."

"Photography is one of the cornerstones of Canadian Geographic and we are thoroughly delighted to partner with the Royal Canadian Mint on the 4th annual Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year contest," said André Préfontaine, President and Publisher of Canadian Geographic. "Our partnership with the Royal Canadian Mint enriches the contest and featuring the grand prize winning photograph on a collector coin offers an unparalleled opportunity for Canadian photographers."

The grand prize winner and five category winners will see their entries published in the December 2011 issue of Canadian Geographic. Additionally, the amazing work of the category winners will be showcased in a wildlife photography exhibit which will make its debut at Ottawa's Canadian Museum of Nature in 2012.

To find out more about this year's contest, submit entries or admire the work of past winners and runners-up, the public is invited to visit

About the Royal Canadian Mint

The Royal Canadian Mint is the Crown Corporation responsible for the minting and distribution of Canada's circulation coins. An ISO 9001-2008 certified company, the Mint is recognized as one of the largest and most versatile mints in the world, offering a wide range of specialized, high quality coinage products and related services on an international scale. For more information on the Mint, its products and services, visit

About Canadian Geographic Enterprises

Canadian Geographic Enterprises (CGE) publishes the award-winning Canadian Geographic magazine, Canadian Geographic Travel and Géographica. CGE is wholly-owned by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, among the largest not-for-profit education organizations in the country. CGE also operates related websites and the Canadian Geographic Photo Club, Canada's most extensive online photographic community that is also the home of the annual CG Photo Contest and the Canadian Wildlife Photo of the Year Contest.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How Old Hotel Soap Can Save Thousands of Lives

Toiletries at a Seattle hotel. Photo: Daniel Morrison / Creative Commons.

by Jennifer Hattam, Istanbul, Turkey

I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for those little hotel soaps and shampoos and lotions. I rarely go home from a hotel stay without a handful of them stuffed in my bag. But they are wasteful, with hundreds of millions of soap bars discarded each year in North American alone -- a surplus that a Ugandan refugee has turned into a life-saving solution to diseases caused by poor sanitation.

After fleeing Uganda with his family during the reign of Idi Amin, Derreck Kayongo lived as a refugee in Kenya and eventually came to the United States, where he was shocked to learn how much soap gets thrown away in hotels, CNN reported earlier this month.

Fighting Preventable Diseases

Drawing on the knowledge of his father, a former soap maker in Uganda, Kayongo founded the Atlanta-based Global Soap Project, which collects used hotel soap from across the country, cleans and reprocesses it, and sends it to impoverished nations in Africa and the Caribbean:

For Kayongo, collecting soap is "a first line of defense" mission to combat child mortality around the world. Each year, more than 2 million children die from diarrheal illness -- the approximate population of San Antonio, Texas. According to the World Health Organization, these deaths occur almost exclusively among toddlers living in low-income countries.

"When you fall sick because you didn't wash up your hands, it's more expensive to go to the hospital to get treated," [Kayongo said]. "And that's where the problem begins and people end up dying."

Some 300 hotels donate their soap to the project, which relies heavily on volunteers to recycle the bars. So far it has donated more than 100,000 bars of soap to communities in nine countries. There's still plenty of room for the project to expand, though: An estimated 2.6 million bars of soap are discarded in U.S. hotel rooms every day... read more story at