Shifting the focus: The JLT Canada public sector summit

JLT Canada held its inaugural Public Sector Summit in The Blue Mountains, Ont., in October. Decision-makers from Canadian municipalities attended a variety of sessions on the biggest issues affecting cities today. Here are some highlights.


Crimes haven’t changed—criminals have just gotten more technologically savvy. That was the message from crime risk consultant Chris Mathers.

“There’s no new crime,” he said. “But there are new ways of getting that crime to the consumer.”

Giving a presentation on crime in the 21st century, Mathers—who spent 20 years as an undercover operative for the RCMP, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Customs Service—said that many of the cyber crimes perpetrated today are no different in nature than crimes of yore.

Ransomware, he offered, is just the modern-day equivalent of taking hostages for ransom. And sometimes, Mathers noted, paying the ransom is the best course of action.

“I always say if you’ve been ransomwared, pay the money,” Mathers said. “Because if you don’t, you’re not going to get your data back.”

Mathers cautioned against using public Wi-Fi, noting the ease with which criminals can steal personal data over public networks using skimming devices known as pineapples—much like a pickpocket who might steal your wallet.

“Using Wi-Fi is like picking gum up off the street and chewing it,” he said. “I know criminal groups who work the airport full-time, skimming people’s information using devices like a pineapple.”

Mathers also suggested that connected homes could pose cyber security risks, since hackers can get into private home networks by gaining access through connected devices, such as smart thermostats.

“Once they do that, they’re into your network completely,” he said. “And they can do this. Most of them have never kissed a girl, but they can do this.”


The majority of municipalities are ill-prepared to deal with flooding, said Gord Hume, an expert on municipal governments and president of Hume Communications Inc.

“North American cities have generally done a lousy job at preparing for flooding, fire and catastrophic events,” Hume said. “We have not invested sufficiently in the smart things.”

Speaking at a panel discussion on building great cities, Hume noted that aging city infrastructure struggles to keep up with the growing frequency of floods. Municipalities, he said, are the first line of defence against flooding and other weatherrelated events.

“I have a growing belief that municipalities are really the tip of the spear in the climate change war,” Hume said. “If we can’t win that in our towns and cities, we’re not going to win it as a nation.”

Jeff Reitsma, the practice lead with 30 Forensic Engineering, acknowledged the expense of updating storm water infrastructure to deal with worsening extreme weather events.

“To build hard concrete infrastructure for large storms is very costly, and by its nature, you rarely use it,” he said. “It’s a tough sell.”

Reitsma suggested cities could consider investing in green infrastructure to divert storm water naturally and help mitigate the risk of flooding.


Ontario could be at the forefront of autonomous vehicles, according to Ken Coates, the Canada research chair in regional innovation at the University of Saskatchewan’s Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

“Ontario has the potential to be a world leader in autonomous vehicles for the simple reason that you have the full four seasons,” said Coates.

“In Ontario, you have everything from extreme heat to lots of cold ice and snow. And you have the world’s worst driving platform, which is [Highway] 401,” he quipped.

Coates’s keynote presentation focused on what Canada may look like in the year 2050, and touched on the increasing number of cyberattacks Canadians face on a daily basis.

“Every day, you probably get about 150 attempts to steal from you,” he said. “They’re viruses trying to get inside your computer, they’re attempts at identity theft—there are all sorts of scams out there.”

Coates also noted that social media poses a growing problem, as it can serve as a meeting place for extremists.

“One of the impacts of social media is that it’s allowed us not to talk to each other, but to talk to people who think exactly like us,” he said. “So the spread of information has not resulted in greater understanding; it’s actually resulted in [people fragmenting] into tiny groups where white nationalists talk to each other all the time. Extremists of all parties talk to each other all the time.”

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the December 2017 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P.
Transcontinental Media G.P.