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Internal Parks Canada report looks for ways to make money by selling, transferring assets





Putting tolls on highways that run through Parks Canada sites in Western Canada could net the federal agency about $85 million a year, says a consultant’s report on how to manage the parks’ roads, bridges and dams.

But that revenue-generating measure is likely “off the table” because of a federal policy that requires alternate free routes through national parks.

On the other hand, the report identified 183 dams and bridges worth almost $1.3 billion as prime targets for disposal, whether through sales or transfers to other levels of government.

The aftermath of a mudslide on Highway One through Glacier National Park. Parks Canada is looking at how to better manage its non-core assets, such as highways, through possible sales or transfers. (Parks Canada)

“There are no apparent legal show-stoppers in terms of ability to transfer land under the dams and bridges to another entity,” says the August 2018 report. “This should be examined more closely by PCA [Parks Canada Agency].

“Transfer to another entity is very likely to achieve the outcomes desired by PCA.”

The findings are part of a $204,187 assessment by KPMG LLP of the potential divestiture of “non-core” Parks Canada assets — infrastructure items owned by the agency that are not seen as having heritage or cultural value and therefore fall outside its core mandate.

The 59-page draft report was obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

Parks Canada owns about 15,000 infrastructure assets — buildings, roads, dams, etc. — worth $17.5 billion; about $8.3 billion of that asset pool is considered non-core. About half the entire inventory is considered to be in poor or very poor condition, requiring up to $2.9 billion in deferred repairs.

The Liberal government asked the agency last year to prepare medium- and long-term plans for its asset portfolio. Parks Canada hired KPMG to start the process.

Five stretches

The KPMG report examined five stretches of the Trans-Canada highway in Western Canada that have the potential for road tolls. About 186 kilometres of the coast-to-coast highway run through Banff (which has two sections), Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke national parks.

The consultants reviewed 2017 traffic volumes and assumed a one-way toll of $2.50 per vehicle. Costs to build toll booths, staff them and cover overhead administrative costs were also calculated.

“[P]otential net revenues from tolling were estimated at up to $85 million per year,” says the report. “This would be sufficient to cover the cost of implementation of a tolling system in the first one to two years.”

… the analysis indicates that tolling is not a viable option.– Parks Canada spokesperson Dominique Tessier

A spokesperson for Parks Canada said that the draft KPMG report is preliminary and still being reviewed, and that the “analysis indicates that tolling is not a viable option.”

“Parks Canada currently has no plans for divestiture of these assets and no decisions regarding future action or next steps related to Parks Canada’s assets have been taken,” Dominique Tessier said in an email.

She said the report was “exploratory” and will be finalized later this fall.

The report notes that current federal legislation forbids Parks Canada from transferring ownership of the land under the highways, and that tolling is not currently possible because of a federal policy that “requires … a reasonable alternative ‘free’ route to be available to the public.”

KPMG also suggests that Parks Canada could contract out highway maintenance to the private sector or other levels government to “better optimize” its operational spending.

The non-core bridges and dams “have moderate to potentially high pre-feasibility as a transfer candidate.” There are 80 such bridges — spanning the historic Chambly, Lachine and Rideau canals and the Trent-Severn Waterway — that together are worth about $225 million.

Another 103 dams on the same waterways, as well as the Saint-Ours Canal, are estimated to be worth about $1 billion.

A British Columbia member of Parliament whose Kootenay-Columbia riding includes four national parks – Kootenay, Yoho, Revelstoke and Glacier – said he worries tolls could end up making visits to the national parks less affordable for ordinary Canadians.

Charged again?

“These need to be places that everyone can afford to go to and to get in without having to pay additional costs,” New Democrat MP Wayne Stetski told CBC News.

“You’ve already paid for that highway once through your taxes. Should you be charged again through tolls?”

Stetski, who has experience working with the Manitoba and B.C. provincial parks services, said privatization could hurt small communities that support Parks Canada operations by drastically cutting wages.

“Parks Canada and the federal government need to factor in the potential impact on small communities of privatizing any of those resources, in terms of what it would ultimately mean for those communities being places (where) people can afford to live.”

Stetski said that, at a minimum, the Canadian public needs to be consulted before any decisions are made.

Parks Canada operates 46 national parks, a national urban park, four national marine conservation areas and 171 national historic sites, including nine historic canals.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter


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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future





Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M






Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.


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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study






The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”


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