Who will reap the benefits of Quayside’s smart city data?

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KITCHENER—A lack of understanding about the value of data and technology led to the “fundamentally flawed” process that launched the Sidewalk Labs project, says a tech entrepreneur who sits on a digital panel advising Waterfront Toronto on the smart city proposal.

And Kurtis McBride, CEO and co-founder of Miovision, a Kitchener-based firm specializing in smart-city technology, warns that Waterfront Toronto, the city, province and federal government, need to focus more on the potential “economic value creation” of data and digital infrastructures that will flow from Quayside, a proposed smart city neighbourhood on the waterfront near Queens Quay and Parliament.

Waterfront Toronto has partnered with Manhattan-based Sidewalk Labs — an urban innovation company that is a sister firm of Google and owned by Alphabet — on a project that would include outfitting buildings with data-based sensors to measure every thing from air quality, to noise levels, the weather, and energy use.

Autonomous cars and waste disposal robots are also envisioned for the neighbourhood.

Sidewalk is planning to unveil a draft master plan for the proposal sometime next year.

McBride, who sits on Waterfront Toronto’s digital strategy advisory panel, a group of tech, data and privacy experts advising the corporation on Sidewalk’s plans, heads a company that captures traffic data from intersections and transfers it into software that helps cities understand what’s going on in their network of intersections.

Miovision has done work for dozens of European cities, and 100 in the U.S.

The firm has also worked in Kitchener and Toronto. Miovision has provided data for Toronto’s Bloor St. bike lane project, as well as the King St. transit pilot project.

On the Bloor St. project Miovision worked with the University of Toronto and looked at “conflicts” between cyclists and cars — moments when both occupied the same space on the road.

The goal of this work was to help avoid collisions.

On the King St. pilot, Toronto is using Miovision’s systems to measure traffic moving through intersections, predominantly along King before the pilot started and since.

The city had specific urban planning questions they wanted to use Miovision’s data to answer, McBride says.

In the case of Quayside, McBride believes the process was “flawed” from the start due to a lack of understanding by Waterfront Toronto — which represents the city, province and federal government — about how digital architecture can impact business models.

“What happened was (Waterfront Toronto) said “we don’t understand this technology stuff, so we’re going to bring in one of the biggest technology companies in the world (Sidewalk/Alphabet) and we’re going to have them run a process to discover what this architecture should look like,” he says.

What should have happened was a procurement process where the public first declared ‘this is what we want to buy, why, and this is how it should be structured’ followed by a search for a firm to carry that vision forward, McBride argues.

The Quayside project has been fraught with controversy. A fellow member on the digital strategy advisory panel, a member on Waterfront Toronto’s board, as well as prominent privacy expert advising Sidewalk, have all resigned this year over concerns about the Quayside project.

In a sharply worded report earlier this month Ontario’s auditor general called for the province to “reassess” whether Waterfront Toronto should be acting on its own in finalizing a long-term deal with Sidewalk.

The next day, the provincial government removed the chair and two other members from Waterfront Toronto’s board and it’s believed the corporation’s dealings with Sidewalk were partly to blame.

McBride says the potential market value from Quayside’s data infrastructure could be in the billions of dollars and policy makers should zero in on that.

“This (Quayside project) is not just a 12-acre development project. It’s a global, standard-setting project happening in Toronto. Digital architecture can move across borders instantly. It’s software, patents, intellectual property (IP) development.

“Once we build it here it will squish into every aspect of our lives as the digital domain moves across the internet with the speed of light,” McBride, 38, says in an interview at his company, one of several operations that lease space inside a massive tech hub near downtown Kitchener.

He fears the “economic value creation opportunity” from Quayside data could flow entirely to Sidewalk/Alphabet and other non-Canadian entities. Waterfront Toronto, and our political leaders need to dig in and ensure we get our fair share, McBride says.

“If you were able to find a way to capture value from that data, then you can actually share in the economic asymmetries created by giving that data to foreign multinationals. You could use that to fund infrastructure here in Canada, schools, roads, hospitals. It’s really nuanced and complicated but very important to get it right,” McBride argues.

To quell concerns over who controls the data pertaining to Quayside, Sidewalk is calling for the creation of a third-party ‘civic data trust’ that would oversee “stewardship, management and responsibility” for the data collected and used for the neighbourhood.

But McBride says rather than the data itself, the trust should control the source code, the base layer for the exchange of smart city data — like ‘HTTP” on the internet.

Code creates rules of the data economy such as the means by which data gets distributed and its format, says McBride.

“So a more democratic way of designing the protocol for (Quayside), in my opinion, would be to make the source code open source — publicly controlled and governed,” he says.

Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent

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Canadian veterans’ fight for more benefits, support a legacy of First World War – National

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OTTAWA – When the armistice that ended the First World War was signed and the guns fell silent on Nov. 11, 1918, Canadians wearily celebrated what they hoped was the start of a new era of peace.

For thousands of Canadian veterans, however, – particularly those wounded by bullets, shells or gas attacks – a far different battle loomed: the fight with Ottawa for support and benefits.

It’s a battle that persists to this day.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau visits Vimy Ridge exactly 100 years after end of First World War

Much has been made about Canada’s disproportionate contribution to the Allied war effort; more than 600,000 Canadians served in uniform, which represented around seven per cent of the young country’s 8 million people.

But there was a heavy financial cost that came with fielding such a large force – a cost that Ottawa initially believed would be covered by London, but which would later be borne by Canadians and result in a $2-billion deficit by the end of the war.

While the government did create veterans’ hospitals and disability pensions and provided some land to those who served, the services were difficult for many to access and extremely limited in actual benefits.

WATCH: Dutch PM’s special tribute to Canadian war veteran who helped liberate Netherlands from Nazis







Making matters worse was the fact many veterans had a hard time finding jobs.

“There was a great fear in Canada that we might get into the terrible mess that they got into in the U.S. after the Civil War with veterans’ pensions, which were an enormous economic cost on the federal public,” says author and historian John English.

“So we always had that in mind and we were conservative. But there was a sense of great disappointment.”

READ MORE: Canadian Jon Snyder helped save 50 Afghan recruits from the Taliban. Three days later, he died

The ensuing years would see the emergence of influential veterans’ organizations demanding Ottawa increase its support – and their sheer numbers ensured the government had no choice but to listen.

Hearings were held in Parliament, federal commissions were organized and the government opened its wallet, to the point where veterans’ pensions consumed more than 20 per cent of federal revenues starting in 1920.

One question went, and remains, unanswered: What does the government actually owe Canada’s veterans?

WATCH: Susan Campbell says giving veterans benefits to her daughter’s killer is ‘a wrong’ against her







Many veterans have pointed to a speech delivered to the troops by then-prime minister Robert Borden on the eve of the battle for Vimy Ridge as the genesis of a “social contract” or “social covenant” between the government and those in uniform.

“You need have no fear that the government and the country will fail to show just appreciation of your service to the country in what you are about to do and what you have already done,” Borden said.

“No man, whether he goes back or whether he remains in Flanders, will have just cause to reproach the government for having broken faith with the men who won and the men who died.”

READ MORE: Veterans Affairs doesn’t know how many family members receive government-backed benefits

The difficulty, says Canadian War Museum historian Tim Cook, is that while Borden promised the soldiers that their country would care for them, “no one could define that during the war and that led to a post-war conflict of what was owed to the veterans.”

Despite various agreements between veterans and the government, the dispute borne of that vague commitment more than 100 years ago continues even as it has evolved to include what is owed to veterans’ dependents, survivors and caregivers.

Most recently, six disabled veterans of the war in Afghanistan cited that speech in a high-profile lawsuit that alleged Ottawa broke its contract with veterans when it replaced the disability pensions available to previous generations with a lump-sum payment in 2006.

WATCH: Confusion over who qualifies for veterans’ family benefits







Government lawyers contended that Borden’s words were “political speeches not intended as commitments or solemn commitments” and noted that there is no “social contract or social covenant” enshrined in legislation.

READ MORE: Veterans Affairs to stop giving future benefits to family members in prison; Chris Garnier case unchanged

The government’s argument was consistent with its longstanding practice, says David Bercuson, a military historian at the University of Calgary, namely that while it may have a moral obligation to support veterans, there is no legal obligation.

“In other words, ‘We’ll give you money, but you don’t have a right to that money. We have a moral obligation and also it helps to re-establish society’,” Bercuson says. “They don’t want to be nailed down to a legal obligation.”

After several years of litigation and negotiation, the courts sided with the government as the B.C. Court of Appeal struck down the veterans’ claim in December and the Supreme Court of Canada said in August that it would not hear the case.

WATCH: Liberals fail to meet own target on caseworkers for veterans







The moral question persists. Many veterans, angry at the Trudeau government for not bringing back the old pensions, hope the other parties will pick up the torch in next year’s election.

“Going forward, there’s only one solution and that solution at the current time is a political one,” said retired major Mark Campbell, who lost both legs in Afghanistan and was one of the six plaintiffs in the recently dismissed lawsuit.

“We’re not adverse to talking to the Conservatives. We’re not adverse to talking to the NDP. We’re not adverse to talking to anybody who will work to move the yardsticks forward in a positive way for the veterans’ community.”

ARCHIVES: Major Mark Campbell’s story echoes in the House of Commons







For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February defended the new system for providing compensation to veterans, which includes money for rehabilitation, job-training and career support. He added that some vets were asking for more than the government was able to give.

The comment prompted boos from the crowd in Edmonton and demands for an apology from the Tories, while highlighting the balancing act between helping veterans and fiscal prudence that successive federal governments have cited for not doing more since 1918.

The reality, says Wilfrid Laurier University historian Mark Humphries, an expert on mental health among veterans since the First World War, is that there is no real answer to the moral question because society – and veterans’ needs – are constantly changing.

“The veterans don’t simply end,” Humphries says. “They continue to age and they continue to then experience being a veteran differently depending on how far they are from that conflict.”

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Veterans Affairs cuts benefits to jailed relatives, but won’t say if Garnier affected

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Veterans Affairs Canada will not pay for benefits for incarcerated relatives of veterans in the wake of the Christopher Garnier case.

But what wasn’t immediately clear whether this move by Veterans Affairs will have any direct impact on Garnier. The department wouldn’t comment on his case, citing privacy.

« Going forward, treatment benefits will not be provided to a veteran’s family member who is incarcerated in a provincial or federal facility, » Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a statement to CBC News. 

« Those facilities would be responsible for the treatment of persons in their institutions. » 

Garnier spurred controversy when it became known during a sentencing hearing in August that Veterans Affairs had paid for his PTSD treatment in jail. 

A Nova Scotia court heard Garnier developed PTSD as a result of murdering Catherine Campbell, an off-duty police officer.

The court was told that Garnier’s father, who had served in the Canadian Forces, also has PTSD, and that getting treatment for his son helps them both.

Garnier, 30, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Campbell in Sept. 2015. He later received a life sentence. 

‘A disgusting insult’

It’s unclear how many people the decision affects. Veterans Affairs Canada told CBC News it doesn’t keep records of how many incarcerated family members of veterans are receiving benefits from the department.

O’Regan formally announced the revised policy Tuesday in response to a question in the House of Commons from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who called the payments a « disgusting insult » and part of the « abysmal » Liberal record on veterans.

« I have reviewed the department’s findings on this issue, and I am directing them to ensure the services received by a family member of a veteran are related to the veteran’s service and where they are not, that the case be reviewed by a senior official, » O’Regan said.

O’Regan said the policy change was made in light of the Garnier case.

« We’re reviewing this in light of what happened with Christopher Garnier, no question, » O’Regan said.

O’Regan won’t discuss

« I am directing the department to immediately address its policy in providing treatment to family members under extenuating circumstances such as conviction of such a serious crime. »

O’Regan refused to discuss specifics of the case, insisting he is committed to protecting the privacy of the veteran.

His statement came after the Conservatives used their opposition day in the House to debate the issue.

During Question Period Tuesday, Phil McColeman, the federal Conservatives’ critic for Veterans Affairs, asked Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan to intervene in the Garnier case and « right this wrong. »

He said veterans across Canada are outraged Garnier is receiving benefits through Veterans Affairs.

« We will not let the minister avoid answering this question, » McColeman said.

‘You are a disgrace’

O’Regan said the federal government has placed the highest priority on making sure veterans and their families have support and services they need, when they need them. He said he wouldn’t discuss Garnier’s case.

« When it comes to Canada’s veterans and their families, we are not in the business of political opportunism. We are interested in getting veterans well again, » O’Regan said during Question Period Tuesday.

Earlier, Alberta Conservative MP Michelle Rempel berated O’Regan on Twitter, calling the minister a « ridiculous coward. »

« Do your job and revoke his benefits. You are a disgrace, » she tweeted.

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