Taking media lessons from Wayne Lapierre

Man who – on multiple occasions – expresses desire to “go out with a bang and take people with him” shoots 3 RCMP officers in Moncton, New Brunswick with 2 long guns that once would have been registered. Wounds 2 more. Still at large.

What is Canada’s National Firearms Association response?

“Incidents like these demonstrate the validity of the mounting evidence that none of Canada’s firearms control efforts over the past 50 years have had any effect on preventing violence, or otherwise stopping bad people from carrying out their evil deeds.  Canada’s excessive firearms control system has failed again.” 


Right. That’s the lesson.

Ronald’s bad timing

In a recording of the call given to the CBC, McDonald’s Canada CEO John Betts discusses recent CBC stories on the company’s use of temporary foreign workers and his resulting meeting with federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney.​

“This has been an attack on our brand. This has been an attack on our system. This is an attack on our people. It’s bullshit OK! I used those words when I described my conversation with the minister last week. He gets it.”

McDonald’s Canada CEO calls foreign worker controversy ‘bullshit’ – CBC News Apr 24, 2014

Meanwhile, earlier that day…

Changes to the temporary foreign worker program that made it easier for employers to hire from abroad in recent years were a factor in rising unemployment rates in B.C. and Alberta, according to a C.D. Howe Institute report released today.

Low-skilled workers with some high school education were hardest hit by the changes, according to the report by Simon Fraser University public policy professor Dominique Gross titled Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: Are They Really Filling Labour Shortages?

A change to the program between 2007 and 2010 accelerated rising unemployment levels by 4.8 percentage points in B.C. and 3.1 percentage points in Alberta, the report said.


“This suggests that … by lowering employers’ constraints on hiring TFWs, the federal government reduced the incentives for employers to search for domestic workers to fill job vacancies.”

Foreign workers drove unemployment higher in B.C.: C.D. Howe report – Vancouver Sun, Apr 24, 2014.

I think John Betts might convene a crisis meeting tomorrow.

Bonus Betts:

“Yes, they are disenfranchised. Some of them don’t work for us anymore. But in the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.

Temporary Foreign Workers are vulnerable.

B.C.’s Employment Standards Branch and the restaurant chain launched an investigation after Filipino Richard Pepito, a former employee, went public with accusations that the franchise owner gave him paycheques that included overtime, but then required Pepito to pay the owner the overtime back in cash.

He told The Sun last year he wasn’t alone in being denied overtime pay, and staff were led to believe that if they complained they would lose their status under the temporary foreign worker program and be sent back to live in poverty in their home country.

“I felt discriminated against, harassed and bullied,” said Pepito.

They are being exploited to undercut Canadian workers, breeding resentment.

Immigrants to citizens, not disposable serfs.

UPDATE: The CFIB’s Dan Kelly weighs in unwisely again:

You’d think one would have get the data first before offering full-throated support, but that’s just me.


It’s time to have an adult conversation about the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been receiving some press lately, much of it negative. Who would think a program to bring workers from low-wage countries and/or with dicey political situations – one with oversight problems – might be subject to exploitation by Canadian employers. All to solve a problem that likely doesn’t exist.

[T]he Parliamentary Budget Officer reported that he could find little evidence of systemic or countrywide job shortages or skills mismatches

The latest involves a Victoria McDonald’s franchise. In a statement to the CBC, Dan Kelly, the President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, weighs in to protect the ethical reputation of Canada’s small businesses.

HAHA…I mean call Canadian workers unreliable and shifty.

Although Kelly said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the B.C. McDonald’s case, he said that, unfortunately, he does hear more and more from business owners that “temporary foreign workers are often their hardest working employees” who will “take every late shift or early morning shift that’s offered to them.”

They’re not going to take the day off because they have to take their dog to the vet. They’re going to show up to work on time, they’re going to work a full week without disappearing,” Kelly said.

“The strengths of some of the TFW workers, in terms of their work ethic is, it pains me to say this, but, sometimes it is better than that of their Canadian counterparts,” Kelly said.

It’s really hard to explain away just how contemptuous of Canadian workers the comment about “taking their dog to the vet” is [presumably you should allow your dog to die rather than miss a shift). It's a moment of the mask slipping (and a somewhat ironic one at the that because in other "national conversations" the CFIB is full of praise for the work ethic of private sector workers vs. their public sector counterparts).

But what I really want to highlight this very brief part of Dan Kelly's eloquence here:

I can tell you, anecdotally...

You see, we have a government organization called Statistics Canada. And they keep detailed data on such things as absentee rates. Which, oddly, Dan Kelly doesn't cite.

For example, the Days lost per worker in year for the Accommodation and food services sector is 7.6.

6.1 days for illness or disability. And 1.5 days for Personal or family responsibilities - you know, where you take your dog to the vet.

The inactivity rate - absent workers divided by total workers - is 3.

So one can sort of, kind of begin to discern why Dan Kelly wouldn't mention any of this, and instead chose to rely on anecdote.

The second thing worth mentioning, from the CFIB's own perspective, is just how bad the messaging is here. This group has long warned us of the need to "cut red tape" on "small business" or jobs might be at risk. But now we see these jobs might not be for you or me. Why would Canadians support cutting, for example, health & safety regulations for businesses that seemingly don't want to employ them?

It's a terrible own-goal. But, you know....

Kelly said it's time to have an "adult conversation about the world of work" and that "we have to admit as Canadians that there are certain sectors of the economy and certain regions of the country where Canadians are not particularly excited about working.

Given the statistics on absenteeism and national unemployment rate, one wonders what he's on about. Oddly, even Jason Kenny - yes, JASON KENNY - understands the solution1...

"I have stood up in front of business groups and said that if employers want to keep complaining about a general skills shortage, then they should be reflecting that by increasing salaries, wages, benefits and investments in training," [Kenny] said.

It’s time to have an adult conversation….about the CFIB. Who they are and what they really represent. Because it’s not you or me. Or even Canada.

1Although of course the Conservatives can screw that up too

Raising the ire of some critics is the Conservative government’s decision to drop the regulation that prevented employers — who had criminal convictions in human trafficking; sexually assaulting an employee, or causing the death of an employee — from applying for workers under the TFWP.

Dissent, audited

It’s been known for the past few years that the Harper Government would utilize the tools of the Canadian Revenue Agency in order to harass the bearers of bad news [as it relates to Conservative party policies].

The labour movement is one. But most notably, the environmental movement.

Bruce Campbell writes on this today in Behind the Numbers blog over at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The tactics employed, how CRA’s rules are [likely] being retroactively changed to fit with the Tories predetermined outcome. A sample:

While this government is focused on reducing so called red-tape for for-profit businesses, it has imposed an onerous and seemingly interminable administrative burdens on the charitable organizations it chooses to audit.

These audits are highly intrusive—requesting information that has no discernible relevance to an organization’s charitable activities. They demand the most miniscule of financial details. They force charities to devote considerable resources to compiling successive rounds of information, diverting from their policy and other charitable work, and incur substantial, sometimes prohibitive, legal costs.

In some cases they have demanded charities turn over all e-mail correspondence, a measure which has major privacy implications.

But towards the end comes this newsflash:

While the targeting of environmental NGOs has received prominent media attention, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), whose work covers a broad range of public policy issues, is also being audited.

The CCPA is a registered charity. Like charities have for many decades it produces original research on and speaks to public policy – mostly on economics but on a variety of subjects.

Much like the Fraser Institute.

Which is not, to public knowledge, being audited. And all things being equal, they bloody well should be. But as we all know, some animals are more equal than others.

The Conservatives, and conservatives, may find it politically convenient to utilize the tools of the State to make life difficult for those that disagree with them and have the facts to back them.

But this is short-term, short-sighted expediency. In the long game they are playing with fire. For one, they might not be in power in a few years time. Precedents have been set, rules have been changed. If I was the Fraser Institute I might be tempted to lay low for the next couple years. But what I would really do would be to stand in solidarity with the CCPA. For despite differences they are the same sort of organization, serving the same purpose. For the day may come when CRA auditors go through their accounts with a fine-toothed comb (and maybe finally we’ll find out who their donors are).

The Fraser Institute cannot condemn the CCPA without condemning themselves.

Second, the Tories, by redefining the rules so that the outlets for disagreement and dissent are increasingly narrow and toothless, are pushing a lot of people towards radicalism. Ordinary people.

It’s not healthy for our democracy.


The important part of the Rob Ford story isn’t Rob Ford

It’s Ford Nation.

Who [at time of writing] are seemingly standing by their man, in effect flipping the bird to the rest of Toronto as well peeing on their own, you know, purported “common sense, small-c conservative” values – “Hey, he may be a crack-smoker who hangs out with criminals on a regular basis in between drunken stupors and lies about it…but at least he’s not a communist.”

“Communist” is short-hand for anyone “not us.”

Tribal politics. How democracy ends.

UPDATE: Brad Plumer interviews Dennis Pilon, a political scientist at York University, in the Washington Post:

The profile of Ford Nation is a good indication of our political times. There are these alienated populist voters who are often just lashing out. They’re typically not well-integrated into political system, not well integrated into their communities. They tend to not have as much money as median voter and aren’t always as informed on the details of politics.

So one of the things they do is that they end up identifying with politicians personally. So part of Rob Ford’s appeal is that he does make a lot of mistakes, he does speak improperly. And when his critics attack him, that just reinforces the support among alienated populists who also feel that they don’t always speak properly, that they make mistakes.

The [34th] Fall of the House of Ezra

Something inexplicable has happened. Mr. Ezra “Freedom of Speech” Levant has decided to be free of my speech. On Twitter.

He’s blocked me.

Which is quite odd, as he feels seemingly so passionately about the free exchange of ideas, no matter how morally repugnant they might be.

Now the last thing I tweeted about Ezra Levant was this:

Which was a musing to myself prompted after viewing this video…

…in which Mr. Levant speculates – based on name alone – a repeat offender’s ethnicity.

“Now I didn’t see it in the newspapers, but the name Chauncey Elijah Mustard sounds aboriginal to me”

He then goes on about how the justice system “is soft” on aboriginal people all the while in the background loops video of dark-skinned people being arrested. For reference, a photo of the accused can be found at the Winnipeg Sun.

But then I’ve tweeted to Ezra for years and it hasn’t bothered him before. So why the need to shut out critics now? Now, it’s true he might be under a bit of stress these days. But he’s been through lawsuits before. Lots of lawsuits.

Compare & Contrast: Cadillac Fairview edition

Compare: Vancouver cleaners told $12.65 wage too much:

[Rai] works from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. and most of her co-workers pay for a three-zone SkyTrain pass to get to work from Surrey to clean the building for $12.65 an hour plus benefits.

But the owner of the building says Rai and her co-workers are overpaid and has decided to dump the company she works for in favour of one that will do the job cheaper. The cuts means 150 building cleaners will be out of a job…

Cadillac Fairview, owner of Waterfront and Pacific Centre where the workers clean, is going ahead with its plan to contract out the job to a cheaper outfit after years of using Servantage.

…and contrast with Cadillac Fairview’s “Social Responsiblilty” Policy:

As a leading North American real estate company, Cadillac Fairview strives to achieve excellence when it comes to operating our business in a socially, ethically and environmentally responsible manner. The spirit of our ongoing efforts to manage our business as a conscientious member of our community and to improve our performance in this regard is reflected in the high standards we have set for ourselves in our Corporate Social Responsibility Policy.

Cadillac Fairview’s Corporate Social Responsibility Policy focuses on three essential areas as follows:

1) Social commitment: Our social commitment reflects Cadillac Fairview’s recognition of the importance of ensuring the health and welfare of our employees, tenants and customers as well the value of actively investing in our community and participating in philanthropic activities…


Of note, whether the other workers have longer shifts or not, the woman quoted only works 1 1/2 hours a day.

Also of note, the living wage for Metro Vancouver is $19.62/hr.

UPDATE: Cadillac Fairview is a private corporation, but according to this website it’s revenues are in the range of $500 million.

UPDATE 2: A private corporation…owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. Will the union leaders on the board have something to say?

Childcare in the real world

Spouse just updated me on a friend, a single Mom.

In the Fraser Institute’s world, she is someone who spends nothing on child care. In the real world she is someone who has been forced to take 2 night shifts a week (ie. work until 3 am) to accommodate care of her child.

Because she couldn’t find childcare for her toddler.

Now, think about that. You work 2 night shifts. 3 day shifts. How do you think your sleep pattern is holding up? How often do you get to see your child?

She has a good union job. It’s not about being unable to afford it, although it would undoubtedly be a big financial hit.

It’s because there simply aren’t enough childcare spots to go around.

Reader mail: On the state of journalism

A friend and former reporter from Scotland writes:

Right. I’ve read the post. So how do I put this…

You’re right. And you’re wrong.

Right, inasmuch as the shenanigans highlighted are a sad and troubling sign of the decline of the journalism professionalism.

Wrong, inasmuch as the role of “editor” is no longer one synonymous – or requiring – extensive, practical journalism experience. And it hasn’t been for 30 years or so.

As sheer commercialism has come to dominate the newspaper industry, so has the role of editor become one more attuned to that of departmental manager in a large industrial organisation. He need not necessarily have a nose for news or be capable of noticing the subtle swings in his readership’s attitudes so long as he can deliver a “product” to a budget.

Too, I’ve got to say, having this Mr Mihlar cruise from a thinktank into a media role and then into a public policy position is substantively no different from newer generations of politicians graduating from think tanks to public positions and then to cosy board appointments. Both types of career can be subject to accusations of nest-padding or shilling. How often do we bait our political masters over their lack of “real life” experience, of having experienced only the world within a bubble of unreality?

I was touched to read “The public need investigative reporters, not court stenographers or industry spokespeople.” You could have had this in the era of that redoubtable Canadian press baron, Lord Thomson. But in the day of Murdoch? Not so much.

Seriously, for an insight into the general lie of the media land today, have a gander at “Flat Earth News”.  Written from a UK media perspective, it nevertheless applies across the board  in those places where a “free” press is supposed to prevail. Read it, weep, and wonder no more why I turned my (principled?) back on the field years ago.

Mr Mihlar’s progress is merely a symptom of a deeper disease. It’s that malady that should be being railed against. But it’s difficult to do (or, at least difficult to do credibly) because it means recognising that the media audience/market has changed, that readers no longer clamour for news and that we ourselves bear responsibility for this decline from the ideal. The mover-and-shaker classes (the career politicos, big business etc) have recognised that, by and large, people just don’t give a sh!t any more. It’s said we get the politicians we deserve. Same goes for our media.

Perhaps I’m idealistic or naive or both but I tend to think the decline in profitability of newspapers is in part due to this de-highlighting of their traditional role outlined above. Despite the widely held belief “the people” want Entertainment Weekly rather than hard news I think it’s more a case the people want Entertainment Weekly with their hard news. The success of The Guardian speaks to that, I think.

But The Scot is wise and almost always right.

Fazil Follies: The Perfect End

Fazil Mihlar went from the Fraser Institute to being an editor with the Vancouver Sun to being the Assistant Deputy Minister in charge of the B.C. Liberal government’s oil & gas initiatives. Joining other journalists who have moved seemlessly from the pages and television screens of big journalism into the employ of those they were reporting on and, supposedly, serving as watchdog over on the public’s behalf (Hi, Pamela Martin!).

During his time at the Sun, Mihlar wrote countless articles in support of oil and gas projects (Example. Also: See here). Can we really say he was acting on the behalf of the public interest during his tenure?

That’s a rhetorical question.

This is a big problem for the field of journalism. A big problem, and I’m sorry that people like Vaughn Palmer don’t see what the big deal is. The public need investigative reporters, not court stenographers or industry spokespeople. Even if it’s just a perception of a conflict of interest, perception counts. And in this case I don’t think it was merely perception. The record speaks for itself.

P.S. I’m sure Mihlar is a very nice fellow on a personal level.

UPDATE: Here is Mr. Mihlar’s LinkedIn profile. You’ll note he has an M.A. in Public Administration, a B.A. in economics, a “diploma” in Marketing and, notably, no degree/certificate/diploma in journalism. Yet he was Editorial Page Editor at the Sun 2003-2012. Guess which degree diploma he got the most use out of?

Again, I’m sure he’s a very nice fellow. This is not ultimately a comment on Fazil Mihlar. What this really speaks to is the Vancouver Sun and how much faith you, the public, should put into it.