Crosscountry: Canada at a glance – November 2016

Canada’s military bases are falling apart due to chronic underspending, and Quebec prisons are overpopulated on weekends.


Humanly enhanced environment

Prevailing wisdom has it that humans degrade their environment. But in some cases, they enhance it over millennia, according to a Nature Communications article by researchers from Victoria, Waterloo and Arizona State universities, and the Hakai Institute. That definitely seems to be the case for British Columbia’s coastal rainforests, where long-term use of intertidal resources such as shellfish has had a beneficial effect.

The study finds that 13,000 years of repeated occupation by BC’s coastal First Nations has enhanced temperate rainforest productivity. The repeated disposal and stockpiling of shells and the use of fire have led to higher levels of soil pH and nutrients and improved soil drainage. As a result, western red cedar trees on the studied sites are taller, wider and healthier than in surrounding forests.

It is likely similar findings will occur at archeological sites along many global coastlines, says lead researcher Andrew Trant.


Pluck and luck

Stock prices dropping

The Canadian economy has been stuck in neutral since 2007, and the Bank of Canada forecasts 1.3% growth for 2016. The reason: our business leaders just aren’t brave enough, according to a recent Deloitte study, as reported by Montreal business weekly Les Affaires.

According to the Deloitte study, “The Future Belongs to the Bold,” courageous businesses outperform their peers with higher revenue and greater innovation and R&D.

What is courage? According to Deloitte: “Doing the right thing — the hard thing — for the greater good, despite being filled with fear, doubt or uncertainty.” Only 11% of Canadian businesses fit that definition. The “hesitant” and the “fearful” constitute a majority: 43% and 15%, respectively.


Missing action

Many military bases are falling apart because of chronic underspending on maintenance of sewers, roads, electrical systems, heating and water, according to a National Defence audit, as reported in The Huffington Post. The audit found that the problem stems from a lack of funding, combined with poor record-keeping. Canada spends less than 1% of its gross domestic product on defence — a figure that is among the lowest of all NATO allies. And although more than $200 million has been earmarked in this year’s budget for military infrastructure, it is not intended to address the under- funding identified in the audit.


Questionable quarters

Quebec prisoner looking out cell window

Prisons in Quebec are overpopulated, but only on weekends, reports Montreal daily Le Devoir.

Some 5,600 weekend prisoners lack space in the prison system, which means they are forced to sleep in windowless rooms packed with dozens of mattresses, or in visiting rooms or gyms turned into dormitories.

Normally, weekend detainees are meant to serve weekend sentences and present a low risk to society. But their numbers have grown by 64% over the past five years, causing new risks and creating a need for increased vigilance. Authorities say the upcoming opening of three prisons in the province should help unclog the system.