O'Toole slams outsourcing to China, calls for better conditions for workers

O'Toole slams outsourcing to China, calls for better conditions for workers

National Post


Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Canadian workers have been betrayed by political and financial elites, and bemoans the falling rates of private sector unionization as industrial jobs have migrated to China.

His remarks, given in a virtual speech to the Canadian Club Toronto on Friday, are another example of how O’Toole is changing the party’s message since being elected leader in August.

O’Toole’s speech noted that private sector unionization has “collapsed,” observing that one in three private sector workers were union members in the 1950s but today it’s “closer to one in 25.”

“It may surprise you to hear a Conservative bemoan the decline of private sector union membership,” said O’Toole. “But this was an essential part of the balance between what was good for business and what was good for employees. Today, that balance is dangerously disappearing. Too much power is in the hands of corporate and financial elites who have been only too happy to outsource jobs abroad. It’s now expected of a shareholder to ask a CEO: ‘Why are we paying a worker in Oshawa 30 dollars an hour when we could be paying one in China 50 cents an hour?'”

O’Toole, whose riding is in the Oshawa area where General Motors plants have steadily scaled back and threatened to close entirely, has made championing workers a key part of his rhetoric as leader. He said he’s seen his hometown of Bowmanville “hollowed out” over the past few decades, a situation made worse by the economic chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to tell you that everything is not okay,” O’Toole’s said, echoing a line that was in a recent Conservative advertisement.

He said Canadian workers used to be able to expect full-time employment, a steady salary and a pension, but that now feels like a “bygone era.”

“Do we really want a nation of Uber drivers?” he asks. “Do we really want to abandon a generation of Canadians to some form of Darwinian struggle? A future without the possibility of home ownership? A sense of inevitability? While some benefit, millions are losing hope and resentment is growing.”

O’Toole said the Conservatives recognize that during the pandemic, unusual measures are needed to protect vulnerable Canadians.

“We understand the need for deficit spending at a time of national emergency,” he said, and pointed to the precedents set by spending during the World Wars and, more recently, the 2008 financial crisis.

“This is not something I would support in normal times, but these aren’t normal times” he said. “We are facing more than a health crisis. We are facing the greatest economic crisis of our lifetime.”

But he warned the Liberals are attempting to use this crisis to “launch a risky experiment with our economy,” moving Canada sharply to the left. “Exploiting understandable concerns for the environment, they want to implement vast green energy experiments,” he said.

O’Toole’s concluding section of the speech argued that political, financial and business elites have been insulated from economic turmoil as they steadily let China take over more manufacturing jobs.

“We made a mistake in allowing ourselves to de-industrialize totally,” O’Toole said. “Thirty years ago, the Western world’s political, financial and business elite made a bet: we would allow China to have unfair access to our market while they protected their own… Once it became a rich and prosperous country, we hoped it would turn into a good actor, would democratize, take human rights seriously, liberalize, and play by global rules. We all know that this has not happened.”

O’Toole went on to describe China as “state-owned juggernauts, Orwellian surveillance technology, cyber-theft on an industrial scale, hostage diplomacy, and increasing human rights abuses within its borders, and increasingly within its wider sphere of influence.”

He said it is not in Canada’s national interest to let China manufacture supplies like drugs, masks and ventilators.

“So, I will say this: when the most efficient outcome does not align with our national interest, a Conservative government will ensure that the national interest comes first,” he said. “Free markets alone won’t solve all our problems.”

O’Toole concluded by saying that GDP growth is not the “be-all and end-all of politics.”

“We need policies to shore up the core units of society — family, neighbourhood, nation,” he said. “We need policies that build solidarity, not just wealth.”

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OTTAWA – A broadcasting advocacy group is urging the federal Heritage minister to put an end to the seemingly “cozy” and “unacceptable” relationship between senior officials in his department and Facebook after emails show the tech giant trying to recruit policy workers from the government.

In February, Facebook’s Canadian Head of Policy Kevin Chan emailed Owen Ripley, a senior official at Canadian Heritage, asking him if he knew of a “promising senior analyst” within the public service he could poach, according to emails obtained by the NDP and first published by The Toronto Star Wednesday.

In his message to Ripley, Chan says that Facebook is looking for potential applicants for a “challenging,” “fascinating” and lucrative job within Facebook’s public policy team.

“I am happy to circulate to a few people who might be good candidates,” replied Ripley, who is director general, broadcasting, copyright & creative marketplace at the department and is currently spearheading the government’s efforts to regulate internet giants such as Facebook.

The apparently “chummy” relationship between Facebook and a senior official of the federal department that is meant to regulate the company is of great concern to FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting, an independent media advocacy group.

“FRIENDS is alarmed to learn of the cozy relationship between one of Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s most senior officials … and Facebook’s most senior Canadian lobbyist,” the organization’s executive director, Daniel Bernhard, wrote in a letter to Guilbeault Thursday.

“This revelation is especially critical as it comes precisely as the Department of Canadian Heritage was drafting legislation that would have major impacts for Facebook.”

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Of particular alarm for Bernhard is the fact that Chan told Ripley that he was open to hiring public servants who took a temporary leave of absence from their department to come work for Facebook. They could then later return to their public sector jobs.

“Incredibly, Mr. Ripley saw no problem with Facebook’s suggestion that these staffers return to public office after a short stint at Facebook, so that they could resume regulating the company that had just paid them handsomely,” Bernhard wrote to the minister.

“As the country awaits long-promised amendments to the Broadcasting Act that could have a significant impact on Facebook, the appearance of a cozy, undisclosed relationship between Facebook and senior officials in your department could undermine public confidence,” he said.

FRIENDS is urging Guilbeault to publicly denounce Ripley’s “unacceptable” behaviour and to publish a list of meetings between Chan and officials at both Canadian Heritage and his office.

“To clear the air further, it would help to quickly introduce legislation that ends special treatment for Facebook and their ilk, by ensuring they comply with Canadian law, pay Canadian taxes, and submit to Canadian regulatory requirements, just like any other company,” Bernhard’s letter continues.

In a statement that didn’t refer to Ripley directly, Steven Guilbeault said that he fully trusted the public service to give “independent” recommendations and that it was up to the department to manage any human resource issues.

But he also warned that public servants must always steer away from any real or apparent conflicts of interest.

“Public servants also have a responsibility to minimize the possibility of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest between their current responsibilities within the federal public service and their subsequent employment outside of government,” the minister said in an email.

A spokesperson for Canadian Heritage sent a similar statement Friday, saying that public servants are free to pursue professional job opportunities sent by stakeholders outside of government so long as they “minimize” the possibility of conflict of interest. The department did not say if any sanctions or issues were raised with Ripley specifically.

Guilbeault also reiterated that his government is “strongly” committed to taxing web giants and making sure their revenues were shared “more fairly” with Canadian media.

It’s a request that has been made for years by the cultural sector, news publishers and broadcasters as well as industry analysts, who argue that web giants such as Facebook and Google eat up a majority of the country’s ad revenue all the while paying little to no taxes, or fees to content creators.

According to a report published last week by News Media Council, an alliance of major publishers including the Toronto Star and Postmedia Network Canada, which owns the National Post, Facebook and Google alone soak up roughly 75 per cent of digital advertising revenues in Canada.

“We will be announcing very good news soon, as the first step for a comprehensive and fairer digital regulatory framework in Canada,” Guilbeault added in his statement.

Facebook Canada did not respond to questions on Friday.

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Canadians are being urged yet again to limit their contacts with other humans to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19. But while the second wave will require “weeks and months” of sacrifice, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seemed to be ruling out any repeat of the nationwide spring shutdown.

According to the latest federal modelling data, confirmed cases in Canada could exceed 8,000 daily by December if people maintain their current rate of contact with others. Expose themselves to more people, the pandemic will resurge even “faster and stronger.”

“We know what bad behaviour leads to,” Trudeau said at a media briefing Friday. “We know when people actually do follow instructions and manage to reduce their contacts and do the things that matter, we know that we do see better outcomes,” Trudeau said.

However, “We shut down our economy and our communities and our country in March, and yet the curve continued for a number more months, and that’s what we really have to remember,” he added.

“This is temporary but we have to get through it. We have to make sure that it’s not just, ‘OK, I’m going to hole down today and not see anyone, or hole down today, tomorrow and this week’ — we have to continue to engage in these behaviours, even as it becomes frustrating.”

The country has been able to avoid large-scale shutdowns because more is now known about the virus and how it spreads, said Trudeau. “We are able to do things now in a targeted way that is better able to prevent needing a very blunt instrument of a nationwide massive shutdown,” Trudeau said.

According to the latest federal projections, daily case counts of COVID-19 continue to increase nationally, the percentage of people testing positive is rising across the country, deaths are steadily increasing and confirmed infections are growing across all age groups, though they remain highest among the under 40-year-olds, the update shows.

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While growth in Quebec seems to be stabilizing, over the past two weeks British Columbia, the Prairies and Ontario all marked their highest daily case counts since the beginning of the pandemic, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said at Friday’s briefing. However, Ontario appears to be dodging its worst-case scenario for the second wave: although cases are still increasing, the growth of the pandemic appears to be slowing, according to provincial data released Thursday.

Nationally, the reproduction rate remains above one, meaning every 100 people infected are passing the virus to more than 100 others, “with each new generational spread getting larger,” Tam said. The epidemic dies out when each new case infects less than one person.

According to the short-term forecast, deaths could reach 10,400 by Nov. 8.

Early forecasts in April predicted Canada could see 11,000 to 22,000 deaths over the course of the pandemic, with fatalities easily topping 300,000 under the worst-case scenario, with no public health measures.

There’s been an increase in hospitalizations nationally — an average of more than 1,100 people with COVID-19 being treated in hospitals on any given day over the past seven days — but it’s below the peak of more than 3,000 cases a day during the spring wave.

The average age of death for people dying due to COVID-related illness is 84 in Canada; the youngest was 19, the oldest 107.

If Canadians reduce the rate of contact with other people by 25 per cent, the epidemic is forecasted to come under control.

“After Canadians worked with public health to hammer the COVID-19 curve in the spring, we had our first dance over the summer,” Tam said. Now, “some of us have lost our lead.”

“This virus will cut in anywhere and anytime we let it.”

Tam said people should keep to their household bubbles as much as possible and take “all the necessary precautions” if they have to buy groceries or pick up food.

Not everyone can stay at home. It’s hard to reduce contacts when people are working in low-income jobs that require public transit or living in congested housing. “Not everybody can keep to exact numbers,” Tam acknowledged. “But collectively we need to reduce contact as much as possible.”

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Chief Mike Sack is on his way to Digby. In his pickup, skirting along Highway 101, it is two and a half hours of picturesque driving from his band’s reserve in central Nova Scotia to communities on the province’s southwestern coast, where lobsters grow plump and delicious in St. Marys Bay.

It’s a road he’s been on a lot lately, while his band, the Sipekne’katik First Nation, is embroiled in a stormy dispute with non-Indigenous lobster fishers over its claim of aboriginal right to catch lobster out of season, while others must keep their traps dry.

It’s not a great time for him to be away from home.

Monday is election day, when the 1,400 adult voters, about half the Sipekne’katik band list, elect a chief to lead the province’s second-largest Mi’kmaq community for the next two years.

“I haven’t had a chance to campaign. I haven’t campaigned at all. I’ve just been down there fighting for this, right,” he says as he drives. “But this is a big thing for our community, so I’m putting a lot of my energy here.” There are two women running against him, this time.

“I guess that will be my report card.”

While he is well-known in his community, most in Canada only recently noticed Sack, through the news and, for a certain demographic, online memes, both heroic and horrific, sparked by alarming events as the lobster dispute turned violent.

After a lobster pound housing the band’s catch was attacked, a van torched, and the chief himself assaulted, Sack, a youthful-looking 39 years old, walked over to speak with reporters, wearing a sweatshirt with a fish and moose logo and the large number 1752, the year of a peace treaty between the Mi’kmaq of Shubenacadie and the British.

On his head was a ball cap with a play on the industrial rock band NIN’s logo, cleverly changed to read NDN, meaning “Indian.” He understands the power of visual messages.

Sack told reporters that day, Oct. 15, he is sending a letter to the prime minister, calling for police to protect aboriginal fishers: “Does Trudeau care about our people? Does he care about reconciliation,” he asked. Those are a different kind of fighting words from the often-racist abuse thrown at him in the month-long dispute.

It’s a fight he watched growing up.

In 1999, 35 Mi’kmaq men were charged with cutting timber on Crown lands without authorization. They admitted to the logging but denied they needed permission. They said it was their treaty right. It led to a lengthy legal appeal to the Supreme Court.

One of those loggers was Carl Joseph Sack, the chief’s father.

“I used to cut for him in the woods as a kid. Their equipment was seized and their lumber,” says Sack. “It was the same thing — just wood instead of lobster, I guess.

“We’ve been fighting for this forever.”

Only it wasn’t the same.

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The lumber charges followed on the heels of a landmark ruling of the Supreme Court in a similar challenge, when a Mi’kmaq fisherman was charged with catching and selling eels out of season. That case, R. v. Marshall, 1999, accepted the centuries-old treaty that allowed the Mi’kmaq to continue to extract “a moderate livelihood” from its traditional trading activities.

The loggers were not as fortunate as the fisherman. The Supreme Court later differentiated commercial logging from fishing, saying it did not have the same tie to Mi’kmaq’s traditional trading.

The convictions were upheld but Carl Sack died before the final decision was delivered.

Sack came of age during his father’s treaty right dispute. He inherited his father’s fighting spirit and also his father’s businesses.

Sack became an active entrepreneur. He wholly or partially owned several local companies over the years — construction, management, contracting, excavation, seafood brokerage.

He was also involved in band affairs, serving as a band councillor on and off for years since 2004, and was first elected chief in 2016 — defeating the incumbent by just 26 votes.

This mix of business and politics didn’t always go smoothly. His companies did a lot of business for the band, receiving millions  of dollars in contracts over the years. Sack also lent the band money to help with cash flow, often with extremely high interest rates, which a financial audit released in 2014 called “questionable.”

At the time of his first election as chief, Sack had been under a cloud of suspicion. He was elected while owning a luxury house that was partially built with money stolen from the band.

An audit commissioned by the band found $790,000 of band money was unaccounted for between 2009 and 2012. The fraud was pinned on the band’s financial manager, who used some of the stolen money to buy property for a new house. He hired Sack to build it.

When police followed the missing money trail, they found Sack now owned the house. The manager was charged with theft, fraud, breach of trust by a public official and possession of stolen property. Sack was charged with possession of stolen property and perjury.

In 2016, a jury in Halifax convicted the manager. Charges against Sack were withdrawn, after he agreed to an adult diversion process. By Sack’s account, the manager hired him to build the house but halfway through construction couldn’t pay him. His lawyer arranged for him to take ownership of the house in lieu of payment.

While the prosecutor at the manager’s trial said Sack must have been wise to the manager’s schemes, Sack denies it: “I never knew where his money came from,” he says. By agreement, he paid what the manager spent of the band’s money on the house. Sack sold the house a few years ago, he says, having never lived in it. He called it “the house from hell.”

“I had to fight it in court and spend God-knows-how-much or I could (pay) that and it’d be done with. I had a hard time accepting that because I knew I did nothing wrong but, at the same time, I needed my life back on track.”

Once in Digby County, Slack visited the scenes of the lobster dispute and met with his fishers. Things had settled down by Thursday.

Sack hopes it stays that way. For him, this is how this ends, with a whimper not a bang. No more violence but no epic legal showdown, either. He doesn’t want to emulate his father’s plod through a court challenge.

“It’s going to take a long time for people to get used to it. People are uncomfortable with change, so over time, eventually they’ll adapt to it. They have no choice but to adapt to it.”

Sack says he wants to get home for the weekend, with an eye to Monday’s election.

“I don’t know how much I’ll get accomplished campaign-wise,” he says. He will do what he can before the vote.

Chief Mike Sack is coming home from Digby.

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My kids have been after me for years to bring an interior designer into the fold for our job sites. And up until recently, I resisted it. Why? Well, for me, it didn’t seem necessary. I felt that our team was up to the task of making the decisions that would usually fall under the responsibility of an interior designer.

But as I let my kids take on more responsibility on the job site, they persisted, and Dad relented. And I have to say, they make an incredible addition to the team. Their knowledge and expertise makes our job as contractors easier — and at the end of the day, that makes for happy homeowners.

So why do you want the services of a contractor AND an interior designer? Here’s why.

*What does an interior designer do?*

When you think interior design, your mind might immediately wander to things like paint colours and furniture choices. Now, sometimes, this is part of it (and for homeowners who are renovating — a key factor), but interior design is more about how you’re going to fundamentally make use of your space.

Do you want an open concept home? They can design the floor plan. Do you want to add a skylight or some new windows? They can help find the perfect spot.

Interior designers are trained in code, and can help make recommendations on those major structural changes in your home. However, at the end of the day you’ll still need an architect to sign off on the plans.

*Your renovation team*

Your contractor and your interior designer will be working closely together, so it’s a good idea to look for a team that can work well together. Often, a contractor will have a designer or two they like working with and vice versa, and they can provide some references for you to check out.

This isn’t an excuse not to do your due diligence and thoroughly vet your team. Renovations are expensive, and you want to ensure it’s done right. Make sure you’re asking for several references from each, and calling their previous clients. Online reviews are a good start, but they shouldn’t be your only source when it comes to hiring the people who will be working on your home.

*Integrating you team*

The most important thing to remember when working with your contractor and your interior designer is that you’re a team. What you shouldn’t do, is hire a designer to come up with a plan — and then once you’ve got the sign off, hire a contractor to do the work.

You want them to each be part of the conversation from the very beginning. A contractor can provide a fresh set of eyes to the designer’s plans and let them know if they’re not feasible for the space. Identifying these problems early is key, because it means less time wasted on the job site, and less materials wasted, which will save you money.

Having the team involved from start to finish is a good way to keep communication open throughout the project. Your team can discuss who’s responsible for ordering which products, and securing permits, and set up a work schedule to ensure things go smoothly.

*Why include a designer?*

You might think that a contractor is sufficient, so what other benefits can adding an interior designer to the equation bring?

I’ve often found that as a contractor, getting homeowners to discuss realistic budgets with me can be like pulling teeth. But if they’ve already spoken to a designer about their vision — the designer can give them a realistic idea of what kind of budget they’d need to be working with.

Not only is this great for the homeowner, as it will allow them to view their renovation realistically — it makes things easier for me as well. This lets me put my focus on the construction of the project itself.

A designer can also get the homeowner to define the specifics of the project. This helps us create a plan of attack for the project, and helps ensure that it’s a success.

I’ve seen the light. From now on, my renovations will include an interior designer as a key part of your team — and if you’re serious about your project, you’ll consider it too.

To find out more about Mike Holmes, visit makeitright.ca

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