State of the Nation 2008

3. Foundations for Innovation — Elements of the Innovation System

3.2 The Importance of Healthy Communities

As recent studies have shown, talented people (those who play the lead role in knowledge-intensive production and innovation; and provide the ideas, know-how, creativity and imagination so crucial to economic success) are not spread equally across nations, but tend to concentrate within particular city regions. The most successful city regions are the ones that have a social environment that is open to creativity and diversity of all sorts. Communities of creative people active in arts and culture that are open to diverse ethnic, racial and lifestyle groups, provide distinct advantages to regions generating innovation, growing and attracting high-technology industries and spurring economic growth.10

Canada's respect for diversity and our engaged citizenry attract talented and creative people from all nations. Canada is a top destination for highly skilled immigrants. In 2004, Canadians donated an estimated $8.9 billion to charity, an average of $400 each and contributed a total of two billion hours to voluntary efforts, the equivalent to one million full-time jobs.11 Residents have access to high quality and comprehensive public health and education systems. According to the United Nations Human Development Index 2007, which combines social and economic well-being indicators, Canada ranks fourth among 177 nations. A liveability study, published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in the summer of 2008, awarded Vancouver first place, while Toronto placed fifth and Calgary placed seventh out of 123 cities.12 Finally, according to Mercer's 2008 Quality of Life Survey,13 which compares 215 cities based on 39 criteria, Vancouver ranks 5th, Toronto 15th, Ottawa 19th, Montréal 22nd and Calgary 25th. Canadian cities rank high because they benefit from good infrastructure, plenty of recreational activities, low crime rates and relatively low population density.

Tracking Water Contaminants to Their Source Protects Health

Safe drinking water is essential to the health of Canada's population. The outbreaks of disease and death in recent years due to contaminated drinking water have greatly heightened Canadians' concerns over water-borne disease. Dr. Asit Mazumder, a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Industry Research Chair in Water at the University of Victoria, led a four-year Canadian Institute of Health Research funded collaborative study to track the sources of coliform bacteria contamination in several watersheds in Okanagan and Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. To ensure knowledge transfer, Dr. Mazumder's research team partnered directly with federal and provincial government departments, industries (forestry and livestock) and municipalities.

As a result of the study, Dr. Mazumder's lab developed a unique risk assessment tool for measuring potential damage to water supplies from fecal (human, livestock and wildlife) contamination of source water. The new approach combines the use of molecular (DNA) markers with biochemical and geochemical markers of septic and sewage origins. The tool is currently in use, through cooperation with Dr. Mazumder's lab, in several British Columbia municipalities, such as Victoria, Kamloops, Vernon, Prince Rupert, and Kelowna. His lab is currently working with federal and community partners to characterize and model safety of groundwater in First Nations communities across Canada. In the summer of 2009, Dr. Mazumder will present the risk assessment tool to researchers and managers at the International Symposium on Environmental Science and Technology in China.

10 Meric S. Gertler, Richard Florida, Gary Gates, and Tara Vinodrai, Competing on Creativity: Placing Ontario's Cities in North American Context. A report prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation and the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, November 2002, p. ii.

11 Statistics Canada, Caring Canadians, Involved Canadians: Highlights from the 2004 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, Catalogue no. 71-542-XIE, June 2006, pp. 9-10.

12 In the EIU's list, Ottawa and Edmonton also ranked within the top 25.

13 Mercer's list is especially important, since it is often used by companies to determine where they will open plants or offices and how much they pay their employees.