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Ontario animal welfare officials are giving jobs to stray cats




Here’s a help wanted ad for you: Hard-working, career-oriented cats being sought by the Ontario SPCA for a new program that aims to match unsocialized strays with farms, warehouses and breweries where they can work as mousers.

“We’re looking for a cat who doesn’t like the in-house, on-the-lap lifestyle, who’s a little more adventurous,” said Dave Wilson, senior director of shelter health and wellness with the Ontario SPCA.

“This would be the ideal situation for them to apply for this job.”

The idea is to find suitable living situations for cats that aren’t used to living around humans, but who still need someone to check up on them, Wilson said.

And what stray cats lack in cuddles, they more than make up for in natural vermin-hunting ability.

Two of Irene LaPointe’s cats in her barn at her 40-hectare farm in Puslinch, where she uses working cats to hunt down rodents. (Submitted)

“Essentially, for regular maintenance, veterinary costs, food, water and shelter you can have a very humane rodent control solution,” said Wilson.

Barn cats in Guelph

The program is piloted out of the Ontario SPCA’s location in Stouffville, but Wilson said similar initiatives exist in other parts of the province and across Canada.

The Guelph Humane Society in Ontario launched its own working cat adoption program in 2015 and has since placed about 50 cats a year, according to associate director Lisa Veit.

Irene LaPointe, who lives on a 40-hectare farm in Puslinch, became one of the program’s early adopters after walking into her chicken coop one day to find “about 10 rats” staring back at her.

“That’s how I knew I had a problem.”

LaPointe, who had been volunteering at the Guelph Humane Society, heard about the program and adopted her first two working cats, Garfield and George. They were soon followed by Garth, Billy Bob, Ringo and Jenny.

LaPointe says her working cats are relatively low maintenance. (Submitted)

LaPointe said the cats are relatively low maintenance. She takes them to the vet once a year, applies flea control regularly and replenishes their food dishes every morning.

Since taking on her small but fluffy workforce, LaPointe, said the impact for her farm has been “unbelievable.”

“I have not seen a mouse or a rat for the longest time,” she said. “A very well-fed cat is the best hunter going.”

Cutting down on cat overpopulation

As part of both the OSPCA and Guelph Humane Society’s programs, cats are vaccinated, microchipped and — most importantly — spayed or neutered. 

Cat overpopulation is an ongoing problem, according to Humane Canada, which said in a 2017 report that around twice as many cats are admitted to shelters as are dogs.

Humane Canada says cat overpopulation has declined somewhat in recent years, but remains an ongoing problem. (Feral Alley Cats)

Since the program launched in October, the Ontario SPCA has had a steady supply of cat candidates. On average, the provincial centre tends to get around one stray a week and has so far placed 12 cats through the working cat program, Wilson said.

During the winter weather, it becomes an increasing challenge for these cats trying to find suitable shelter.– Dave Wilson, Ontario SPCA

Now, the association is quickly running through its pool of available “employers” and is looking for prospective cat owners to come forward, Wilson said.

“One of the things we actually do need is a greater list or increased list of those breweries and barns we can use to actually send some of these cats to,” he said.

He expects the demand will only grow throughout the winter months, when people are more apt to bring cats spotted out on their own to shelters.

“During the winter weather, it becomes an increasing challenge for these cats trying to find suitable shelter and also access to food and water,” said Wilson. “That’s a big problem that the working cat program helps to solve for us.”


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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla




Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm




Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover




KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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