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Financial Sustainability

New procurement system set to launch

Queen’s new electronic procurement system will start rolling out across campus later this month.

“After extensive collaboration and engagement with the Queen’s community, we are excited to launch acQuire,” says Heather Woermke, Associate Vice-Principal (Finance). “Faculty, staff, and researchers will soon have an easy-to-use system that will better support their procure to pay activities.”

acQuire, Queen's new electronic procurement system, will start rolling out across campus later this month.

The implementation of acQuire will be staggered, with the Faculty of Education, the Department of Chemistry, Environmental Health and Safety, and the Finance and Administration portfolio receiving access first. Shared service business units will begin using acQuire in June, while the rest of the faculties will have access in July and August.

The project team will co-ordinate the rollout with business officers and departmental administrators for each faculty and shared service.

Benefits of acQuire

Queen’s is one of several Ontario universities that have implemented e-procurement systems in recent years. With online systems in place, universities have realized efficiencies and cost savings. acQuire will also:

  • Eliminate the need for multiple usernames and passwords for different vendors.
  • Allow users to shop from multiple vendors, adding items to their shopping cart but only having to check out once.
  • Provide automated workflow for purchase orders and invoice approvals.
  • Make it easier for shoppers to find, compare, and make their selection of products from suppliers.
  • Reduce the wait time between placing an order and having it filled by the supplier.
  • Provide clear tracking and visibility of where purchase requisitions, orders, and invoicing are in the process.
  • Support electronic supplier invoices, improving the efficiency of accounts payable processes.

“The new tool set will drive improved efficiency for Queen’s, and our team is very excited and looking forward to the go-live date,” says Andy Green, Director, Strategic Procurement Services.

Training resources available

The acQuire project team will be working with departmental administrators and faculty business officers to coordinate training for each department. Online training resources will also be available on demand.

If anyone has any questions on training or on the acQuire system, they can go to www.queensu.ca/procurement/acquire or send an email to acquire@queensu.ca. Any researchers who would like customized training for their lab should contact the acQuire team at acquire@queensu.ca

Pension plan project takes another step forward

Work continues on the multi-university initiative to create a multi-employer, jointly-sponsored pension plan for the university sector in Ontario.

Currently, a group comprising three universities – Queen’s University, University of Toronto, and University of Guelph – has been formed and is charged with finalizing the outstanding design and governance elements of the University Pension Project (UPP).

Once finalized, all Ontario universities will have the option to participate in the sector jointly sponsored pension plan. Participation on the part of any university would be voluntary and would require the consent of plan members.

At Queen’s, a joint working group between the university and its employee groups continues to meet, most recently on March 1, and work on the issues surrounding the UPP. The joint working committee was formed as a result of a memorandum of agreement signed by the parties during the last round of collective bargaining in August 2015. It is co-chaired by Al Orth, special adviser for Queen’s for the UPP and the former associate vice-principal (Human Resources), and Paul Young, chair of the pension committee for the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA), member of the OCUFA consultative group on the UPP, and a professor in the Department of Biology.

Whether or not Queen’s eventually decides to participate in the plan, some things remain constant. Individual pension benefits that have already been earned are guaranteed under law, so anyone moving to a new jointly sponsored pension plan, such as the UPP, will keep what they have already earned. Pensions already in payment are also guaranteed never to be reduced.


Queen’s currently has a pension deficit of $285 million on a solvency basis, a hypothetical scenario that assumes Queen’s closes its doors and terminates the pension plan. In 2015 Queen’s received stage two solvency relief and opted to defer payments on the solvency deficit for three years, but then would have to pay down the entire balance over the following seven.

During the three-year deferral period, the university will build a reserve fund to offset the impact of the solvency payments that would begin in 2018 if the University Pension Project is not successful. In addition, the university is still required to make payments on the plan’s $175-million deficit calculated on a going concern basis (assumes the plan continues to operate).

The UPP was originally led by the Council of Ontario Universities and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, with the active participation of individual universities and bargaining units. The project has received funding from the Government of Ontario.

More information about the Queen’s Pension Plan is available on the Human Resources website. Anyone with pension-related questions may contact Bob Weisnagel, Director, Pension Services, by email or at ext. 74184.

Revised travel policy approved

Itemized receipts are no longer required for meals purchased while travelling on university-related business, effective March 20, 2017. The change is one of several included in the revised Queen’s Travel and Expense Reimbursement Policy and Procedure.

“The revised policy reflects recent changes in government regulations and clarifies some areas of the policy that were ambiguous and caused confusion among our clients,” says Heather Woermke, Associate Vice-Principal (Finance).

A new Broader Public Sector Expenses Directive, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, removed the requirement for original itemized receipts for meal claims. Travellers on Queen’s business may now obtain reimbursement for meals using either per diems or submitting original receipts for actual costs. Travellers may use only one method per claim.

In another major change, travellers are no longer required to keep paper receipts for claims filed through the Expense Reimbursement System after Feb. 15, 2017. Electronic receipt images should be sharp, clear, and legible. Electronic receipt images must be an authentic representation of the original receipts or documents.

“This change will streamline the claim process, while at the same time ensuring that the university meets the legal requirements set out in the Canada Revenue Agency standards,” Ms. Woermke says.

The updated policy is posted online. Contact finance@queensu.ca if you have any questions or concerns.

Learn more about travel and related expenses on the Financial Services website

Reinvesting in Queen's future

The preliminary 2017-18 operating budget includes increased spending in several priority areas, while maintaining the university’s commitment to prudent fiscal management.

“Over the past several years, financial challenges have forced faculties and shared services to make tough decisions,” says Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf. “We are now in a position to make reinvestments that will enhance our student learning environment and bolster our research activities. The budget will support faculty renewal, which is a high priority for the university.”

Queen’s plans to hire 41 tenured stream positions in 2017-18, as a first step towards a five-year plan that could see 200 new hires over that period, including up to 20 Queen’s National Scholars positions. This is almost double the hiring pace of the past six years.

“The preliminary 2017-18 operating budget consolidates our financial sustainability and allows for critical reinvestments in our academic mission,” says Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon, who provided Senate with an overview of the preliminary budget at its meeting on March 20. He will present the budget for approval at the May 12 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

We are now in a position to make reinvestments that will enhance our student learning environment and bolster our research activities. The budget will support faculty renewal, which is a high priority for the university.
— Principal Daniel Woolf

The university is in a position to reinvest in shared services. The preliminary operating budget includes strategic allocations for the hiring of faculty-based research facilitators, the staffing of the sexual violence prevention and student conduct office, and bolstering the international initiatives to support international enrolment growth and encourage greater student mobility.

New allocations are also being made to support technology transfers and industry partnerships, IT upgrades, classroom renewal, as well as diversity and equity initiatives.

“Our work around racism, diversity, and inclusion – as well as our response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – will result in lasting change on our campus,” Principal Woolf says. “The preliminary budget sets aside funds for recommendations that may require immediate investments.”

Despite the positive outlook of the preliminary budget, Queen’s continues to face risks to its financial sustainability, most notably deferred maintenance and the pension deficit.

A recent audit showed the university faces $268 million in total deferred maintenance, roughly a 6 per cent increase compared to the $253 million reported in 2015-16. The university is increasing investments to address this issue.

Work continues on a multi-employer Jointly Sponsored Pension Plan for Ontario universities. The outcome of that process will impact the payments Queen’s has to make toward its pension solvency deficit.

“The preliminary 2017-18 budget sets Queen’s on a path to be a leading university over the long term. These important reinvestments will ensure we can continue to attract the best and brightest students and faculty members who will tackle global social problems and advance knowledge in emerging fields of research,” says Principal Woolf.

Statement from Principal Woolf on federal budget

On behalf of Queen’s University, I thank the Government of Canada for its continuing support of science, innovation and post-secondary education in Canada. Universities such as Queen’s play a critical role in supporting Canada’s prosperity by creating a highly skilled workforce and fostering innovation and discovery.

I note the government’s commitment to cultivating an innovative economy, including through an investment of nearly $1 billion in innovation clusters. Research universities such as Queen’s serve as anchors to virtually all globally competitive innovative clusters and we look forward to working with the federal government more closely. And we look forward with interest to further details on the Canada 150 Research chairs program.

Budget 2017 also makes significant investments in improving access to post-secondary education and training for adult learners returning to school, part-time students, students with dependent children, veterans and Indigenous students. The government has also included a number of measures in the budget that will have a significant impact on women, including through creating more opportunities in the workforce and promoting inclusive economic growth.

Queen’s also welcomes the federal government’s additional investment of $221 million over five years to create 10,000 work-integrated learning opportunities through Mitacs, as well as the government’s commitment to work with the provinces, the private sector, and postsecondary institutions to support skills development.

We look forward to further details of these programs, and to the release of the much anticipated fundamental science review.

Daniel Woolf,
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Queen’s University

Moving forward on benefits review

Work continues on the comprehensive review of Queen’s employee benefits plan, following successful education and consultation activities last fall.

The Multi-Employee Group Employee Benefits Committee, which is comprised of participants from university employee groups and the university’s benefits consultant, Mercer, co-ordinated the activities.

“We are pleased so many employees took the opportunity to ask questions at the sessions and provide feedback through the survey,” says Dan Bradshaw, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources). “This input will be invaluable to the committee.”

Queen’s Human Resources hosted nine employee education sessions between Oct. 19 and Nov. 2. Approximately 600 employees from various employee groups attended the sessions, where they learned more about the employee benefits plan and had the opportunity to ask questions.

The PowerPoint slides from the education sessions with audio narrative are available on the HR website for employees who wish to view them again and for those who were unable to attend. 

HR followed up the education sessions with an electronic survey, which was sent to all Queen’s employees who are eligible for insured benefits. The response rate was high, with nearly 50 per cent of individuals filling out the survey. Mercer, the university’s benefits consultant, is currently reviewing the responses, which will help inform the committee’s work.

More information about the employee benefits review is available on the HR website. Employees can send questions about the project to benefits.project@queensu.ca.

Reducing energy use an ongoing effort

The following article is the first in a monthly series focused on the work by Queen’s and Physical Plant Services to reduce energy consumption by the university. 

[Nathan Splinter]
Energy managment at Queen’s has been an ongoing effort for more than 20 years. Currently, Energy Manager Nathan Splinter is leading the effort to reduce energy comsumption at the university. (University Communications)

Each year Queen’s University spends about $18 million to $20 million on utilities, electricity prime among them.

Finding any way to reduce the final bill has a significant impact. Add to that the fact that most energy saving measures also reduce the environmental impact of the university, and it’s a win-win.

“Energy management has been a focus for Physical Plant Services (PPS) at Queen’s for more than 20 years”, explains Nathan Splinter, Energy Manager. 

However, with the cost of utilities climbing, there is more of an emphasis on the effort than ever.

Looking at it from an infrastructure angle, Queen’s is a massive, multifaceted facility, stretching over multiple campuses with a mix of buildings from cutting-edge modern to classic Victorian. Not surprisingly, PPS has a wide range of projects on the go, but all support a common theme – reducing the amount of energy that Queen’s uses. 

With new buildings this effort starts at the planning stage, Mr. Splinter says.

“We’ve engrained energy management into our building standards,” he says. “Queen’s has a set of building standards that incorporate an energy focus and that has enabled  the establishment of a good energy management reference point for buildings. The results can be seen in some of the university’s recent buildings including the School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences and Goodes Hall, which achieved Leadership in Energy and Engineering Design (LEED) recognition. The Integrated Learning Centre also received similar recognition with the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification.”

These new buildings are at the pinnacle of energy efficiency while some other existing buildings require retrofitting. 

A good example of this retrofit type of work occurred in Innovation Park recently. Mr. Splinter points out that $2.5 million was invested in upgrading the infrastructure of the sprawling building, including replacing all the lighting and chillers, resulting in reduced energy consumption. 

Lab ventilation was also improved by installing six high-plume exhaust fans, replacing 80 small independent stacks, resulting in better air quality and energy conservation.

Water consumption was another focus. 

“We reduced the water consumption from and 100-150 cubic meters a day to an average of about 5 cubic meters,” Mr. Splinter says. “This resulted in substantial cost savings for the facility.”

Each project requires a significant investment and the best technologies tend to be more expensive. However, by taking advantage of available incentives and grants the initial cost is reduced.  The savings on utility charges then pay for the initial expenditure in periods as short as four or five years.

“An average lighting project sees a 40 per cent to 60 per cent reduction in the electrical demand which is phenomenal,” Mr. Splinter says. “That’s the rationale for doing those type of projects. It’s a pretty exciting time. There are a lot of provincial grants to incentivize this type of work that we have been successful in securing.” 

To date Queen’s has received over $200,000 in grants to support energy conservation projects on campus.

Looking ahead, PPS is planning to introduce a new metering system that will allow them and the Queen’s community to monitor consumption for electricity, water, steam and natural gas in real time, providing valuable data immediately rather than waiting for the typical monthly reading.

“It’s essential to have enough data to do proper research and know what’s happening within our buildings,” Mr. Splinter says. “The metering project is really exciting and what we want to do as part of the project is create a public-facing dashboard so people can go online and see what they are currently consuming for water or what they are using for electricity.”

The end result will hopefully be greater awareness and knowledge about energy management, and that excites Mr. Splinter.

Supporting research infrastructure

Three Queen's-affiliated research facilities receive funding from Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Three Queen’s University-affiliated research facilities have received a combined $44.25 million in support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) under the Major Science Initiatives (MSI) Fund. The three Queen's-affiliated facilities accounted for 13.5 per cent of the $328.5 million in total MSI funding awarded in the 2017-2022 competition cycle. In addition, nearly 17 per cent of the facilities funded (three out of 18) are affiliated with Queen’s University.

“Today’s leading-edge research, particularly large-scale collaborative research projects, can be very expensive to undertake due to the extensive infrastructure needed and the indirect costs of maintaining facilities,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal of Queen’s University. “The funding announced today is critical to ensuring that these prominent research centres can continue to operate and remain competitive, while providing opportunities for researchers at Queen’s and across Canada to continue their groundbreaking research.”

The fund supports ongoing operations and maintenance costs for a select group of national research facilities which serve as hubs for collaboration and contribute to Canada’s reputation as a global leader in research and innovation. Through these facilities, researchers at Queen’s gain access to leading edge infrastructure – aiding them in addressing some of the most important issues facing society and probing the deepest mysteries of the universe.

The Canadian Cancer Trials Group has received a five-year, $8.68 million grant to support its Operations and Statistics Centre at Queen’s. CCTG is a cancer research cooperative that provides the expertise and infrastructure for researchers to conduct national and international phase I-III cancer clinical trials. From its centre at Queen's, CCTG has supported over 500 trials in over 40 countries, aimed at improving survival rates and quality of life for cancer patients around the world.

SNOLAB has received a three-year, $28.57 million grant from CFI, in support of the lab’s continued operation. Born out of the Queen’s-led Sudbury Neutrino Observatory – for which Arthur McDonald was named the co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics – SNOLAB is one of only a handful of underground laboratories worldwide capable of supporting the current and future generations of subatomic and astroparticle physics experiments, seeking to unlock the mysteries of the universe. The work conducted as part of the SNO collaboration and subsequently at SNOLAB has led to groundbreaking results cementing Canada’s, and Queen’s, reputation as a world leader in the field.  Building on this history of success, Queen’s is home to Gilles Gerbier, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics. SNOLAB continues to attract top-flight scientific collaborations, including the recently-announced Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre (CPARC).

Recognized worldwide for their work advancing innovation in micro-nano technologies, CMC Microsystems has received a three-year, $7 million grant from CFI, with the option to apply for an additional two years. The funding will support researchers across Canada’s National Design Network by providing state-of-the-art commercial design tools, expertise and industrial connections for research and development in advanced smart technologies. The long-term goal is to foster Canadian leadership in advanced technology manufacturing and establish Canada as a global technology leader. Queen’s contracts with CMC to manage CFI funds granted to Queen’s as part of Canada’s National Design Network.

“Through the MSI program the Government of Canada clearly recognizes the importance of sustaining key research platforms, and supporting large-scale collaborations that are conducting leading-edge research with global impact,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research).  “This support is crucial to the success of our leading research facilities as the funds enable our faculty, students, and post-doctoral fellows, as well as our collaborators to access state-of-the-art research infrastructure required to undertake their seminal research programs.”

Created in 1997, the Canada Foundation for Innovation makes financial contributions to Canada’s universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research organizations to increase their capability to carry out high quality research. The foundation provides funding to eligible Canadian institutions, through a rigorous competitive and independent merit-review process, through a suite of funds. Funding is awarded based on the quality of the research proposed and its need for infrastructure, its contribution to strengthening the capacity for innovation and the potential benefits of the research to Canada.

For more information on the Canada Foundation for Innovation, or the Major Science Initiatives Fund, please visit the website.

Queen's to update responsible investing policy

Individuals and groups invited to submit feedback on revised policy. 

The university is in the process of updating its responsible investing policy following recommendations made by the Principal’s Advisory Committee on Divestment: Fossil Fuels in its October 2015 final report. The report highlighted interpretive difficulties in applying the existing policy, the Queen’s University Statement on Responsible Investing, which was approved in 2009. The purpose of the new policy and corresponding set of procedures is to set down the principles that govern responsible investing practices at the university, while recognizing and respecting the roles of the diverse stakeholders that make up the university community. 

An ad hoc committee of the Board has developed the draft of the revised policy and members of the Queen’s community are encouraged to provide feedback to help inform the revisions.

“As we saw during the recent discussion on divestment, there are many factors and viewpoints to consider when looking at our responsible investing policy and procedures,” says Don Raymond, Chair of the Board of Trustees and former chair of the Board’s Investment Committee. “We want to hear from Queen’s community members and ensure that their feedback is incorporated into the policy process.”

Draft procedures have also been proposed that provide a mechanism for the university to engage with its external investment managers on environmental, social, and governance factors, and that outline criteria for consideration when a special request is received from the university community.

“The proposed policy continues to provide an avenue for members of the Queen’s community to make special requests, such as the one that occasioned the recent consideration of divestment from fossil fuels by the Principal’s Advisory Committee, within the context of the university’s fiduciary responsibility,” says Mr. Raymond. “It also recognizes that the university can make an impact through several means not limited to divestment, including shareholder engagement activities and through its core mission as an educational and research institution.” 

The draft policy has been posted to the University Secretariat’s website. Comments can be sent to policies@queensu.ca. The deadline for submission is Jan. 20.  


Preventing a cyber attack

Cyber Security Awareness Month highlights need for web vigilance. 

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and Information Technology Services (ITS) is committed to ensuring Queen’s community members have the knowledge and tools they need to be vigilant online.

“IT security at Queen’s is everyone’s responsibility,” says Bo Wandschneider, Chief Information Officer and Associate Vice-Principal (Information Technology Services). “The university has implemented several measures to help protect our users from malicious attacks; however, everyone needs to remain vigilant against such attacks.”

Most cyber security threats are delivered to victims by email, through websites, or by exploiting a vulnerability in a computer’s software or hardware.

By following five guidelines, individuals can help reduce the risk of cyber threats:

  • Keep your operating system, applications, and anti-virus software up-to-date with the latest patches.
  • Run routine anti-virus scans and promptly remove viruses and infected files.
  • Be careful about what you are clicking on. Don’t open unexpected emails, attachments, or web links.
  • Encrypt computers and devices that contain, or may contain, sensitive data. 
  • Back up your files regularly in case they need to be recovered from an earlier version.  Saving your files on OneDrive or in your Windows File Service drive ensures your files are protected if your computer is affected. Store your files on one of Queen’s University’s secure file storage services.

“If you suspect that your computer may be infected with ransomware or any other type of malware, please contact the IT Support Centre immediately,” says Denise Ernst, Queen’s University Information Security Officer. “We  also encourage members of the Queen’s community to complete the Information Security Awareness Training course, and familiarize themselves with the security resources available to them.”

To learn more on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a cyberattack, and putting your identity and the university data at risk, visit the ITS website


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