The News Rundown
- UVIC, or the University of Victoria, is widely regarded as one of Western Canada's best universities, and as one of Victoria's biggest (and best) employers. However, the criteria for a job posting has raised the ire of social media denizens. Just what has got the users of X so riled up over the venerable post secondary institute?
- A job posting for UVIC's School of Music, for the position of 'Assistant Professor of Integrated Music Composition, Music Technology and Theory' which as of recording, you can look for yourself in our supplemental links, was recently posted, which boasted a 6 figure salary range, tenure-track, and numerous other benefits.
- However, in bold letters, at the top of the posting, the position is being limited to a very select group of people. From the ad: "In accordance with the University’s Equity Plan and pursuant to Section 42 of the BC Human Rights code, the selection will be limited to members of the following designated group: Black people. Our search committee will review the pool of applications from those who self-identify with this designated group. Candidates from this group must self-identify in their cover letter to be considered for this position."
- On social-media site X, unrelated posts by UVic have received a deluge of responses by users calling the hiring criteria discriminatory and questioning whether it’s legal. Many of those commenting appear to live in the US.
- Kasari Govender, B.C.’s human rights commissioner, says that not only is the posting legal, but should be encouraged. Govender said B.C. Human Rights Code allows organizations to treat people from disadvantaged groups differently in order to promote more equitable workplaces. She says that B.C.’s human rights law is designed to identify and eliminate persistent patterns of inequality, and that can’t be done unless employers are allowed to proactively address systemic discrimination in their workplaces and institutions.
- UVic has a special program for preferential hiring of self-identified Indigenous people, women, Black people, members of a visible minority and people with disabilities, Govender said. The program applies to all employee positions, including faculty, librarians, leadership and staff.
- From UVIC's hiring website, there are two different types of equity based hires - preferential hires, and limited hires. Preferential hires give preference to what they call "Indigenous Peoples, Black people, people with disabilities/disabled persons, racialized people or people of colour, and women and gender diverse peoples", meaning that if two people that had the same qualifications applied for the same job, the person self identifies with one or more of the above groups, is more likely to get the job.
- Limited hires are the same as preferential hires, but candidates are not just screened on preference, but are actually stopped from applying for those jobs if they do not self identify as one of those above groups. The job posting for the assistant music professor is a limited hire.
- Cassbreea Dewis, executive director of equity and human rights at UVic, said the university has had a special program designation for at least 10 years.
- “In order to achieve equity, it’s sometimes necessary to treat people differently and this might mean we’re advantaging a marginalized group over a more dominant or over-represented group in a particular focused area.” she said.
- Dewis said she couldn’t comment specifically on the decision to seek Black candidates for the school of music posting, as she wasn’t involved in the decision. Previous job postings have also sought candidates from specific groups, she said.
- Through surveys and focus groups with students, staff and faculty, the university recently asked what it needs to do to be more equitable and what barriers exist for marginalized groups. The message received was that diversity needs to be a priority, Dewis said, and according to her, the feedback showed that UVIC wasn't actually 'doing enough' and that 'representation [of marginalized groups] was not increasing'.
- The university collects data on employees to determine how its representation of women, people of colour, people with disabilities and Indigenous people compares to the general population.
- Dewis claims that people of colour and people with disabilities are underrepresented in the university population. Of 817 continuing faculty and librarians, 14.8 per cent are part of a visible minority, compared to 20.8 per cent of the general population, according to UVic's data. Just 3.9 per cent are people with disabilities, compared to 8.9 per cent in the overall population.
- In trying to defend the policy, it was pointed out that the university’s proportion of women is higher than the general population. Dewis said that’s not true in all departments, and used engineering as an example where women are under-represented. Also, the proportion of Indigenous faculty and librarians is a little higher than the general population.
- So while social media may be upset at what they call UVIC's racist policy, it's clearly one that is backed up by law in BC, and happens in a lot of different workplaces in Canada as well. Those who have experience with post secondary institutions will not be surprised by these equity policies, as they are rampant.
- If people are really upset at these sorts of policies, then they will have to try to affect change in their own way. Until then, we shall remain just one step away from a job posting saying that 'White Males need not apply'.
- This week we have to talk about what will or won’t be under the tree this Christmas for Albertans. Etched into our collective memory is the election campaign from this spring where it was said that the UCP might not win and that the NDP were really close. The reality was that a vote shift in one direction would’ve produced an NDP win while a vote shift in the other direction would’ve produced a UCP super majority.
- Nonetheless, the UCP won a majority and have to govern now for 4 years delivering on the promises that they made.
- We have talked time and time again about how Jason Kenney’s UCP government was an anomaly in politics in that they kept an astounding number of their commitments.
- This week we are learning that the tax cut promised in the early days of the election campaign may not be under the tree this Christmas!
- The tax cut was announced on the first day of the election campaign and it would create a new 8% tax bracket for those making less than $60,000 per year which would equate to a savings of $760 per year.
- This week Calgary Sun writer Rick Bell was told that the tax cut is “part of the government’s long term plan”.
- This should raise alarm bells because the government is presently in budget consultations and we should see the next budget in late February or March.
- What was thought to have been a given, that the tax cut would be there, is now up for question.
- It has been said that the government doesn’t want to speculate about what would be in the budget.
- It raised the eyebrows of many including yours truly when the UCP did not hold a late spring or summer session to get the ball rolling after they were re-elected. The benefit of doing so would have been to hammer home and deliver on the most important campaign commitments.
- Finance Minister Nate Horner was asked about the tax cut in the Legislature and noted that it was a campaign commitment but the government has to go through the budget process and there are pressures coming “in the out-years” and he’s focused on debt servicing.
- What was also a campaign commitment, to keep the fuel tax suspended until December 31, 2023 will be acted upon and the tax will be reinstated on January 1.
- With this gas prices will go up 9 cents a litre.
- The tax we pay is base on the value of oil and with oil going down the tax goes up. Its full value is 13 cents.
- The meat of the issue is that taxes are going up under the UCP.
- And that something that was the first announcement in a do-or-die campaign should have been enacted in a summer session or at least the fall session.
- It was also the general consensus that the extremism of a number of NDP candidates AND the UCP’s focus on the economy, affordability, and tax measures like these won them the election.
- There is a narrow cross-section of voters who seem to now have the ability to float between the NDP and UCP, these used to be core Progressive Conservative voters. These voters need to be reassured that their vote for that tax cut and economic measures was not in vain.
- The old Progressive Conservative coalition of conservatives and centrists who valued economic prudence is still very powerful in Alberta.
- That’s how Jason Kenney won the PC leadership, won the UCP leadership, and won 2019 combined with support from the right, populists, and the Wildrose.
- Jason Kenney knew this and for what people fault him for, his performance during the pandemic, the focus was always on the economy.
- This voter block cannot be forgotten and some of those voters may be hoping Jason Kenney comes back for Christmas delivering tax cuts in the big red sack.
- If the UCP government does not enact this tax cut in the upcoming budget they will have taken away a reason for the core voter block that delivered them a majority to vote for them again in the future.
- As we head into February we’ll be keeping an eye on this issue and delivering any updates that we see or hear.
- NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is rejoicing this holiday season, as just over 2 years of propping up Justin Trudeau's minority Liberal government has finally yielded something that the NDP have been campaigning for for awhile - a dental care program.
- The deal calls for a plan that would offer dental benefits directly to low- and middle-income Canadians without private insurance; a condition of the Liberals' supply-and-confidence deal with the New Democrats to secure the opposition party's support on key votes.
- The new federal dental insurance plan will be phased in gradually over 2024, with the first claims likely to be processed in May. Applications are expected to open as early as next week, starting with qualifying seniors over the age of 87, but it will take months before they can start to claim the benefits.
- Eligibility will gradually expand over the course of the year to include all qualifying seniors over the age of 65 by May 2024, then children under the age of 18 and people with disabilities by June.
- The government aims to make the program available to all qualifying Canadians in 2025. Once the program is fully expanded, it will be available to roughly nine million people, making it the government's largest social program. It is budgeted to cost $13 billion over the first five years.
- To qualify, applicants must be Canadian residents with a household income under $90,000 and no private insurance. Those with an annual family income under $70,000 will have no co-pays.
- Eligibility for people with disabilities will be based on whether they have an active disability tax credit, at least until the program is expanded to all people who fall under the income threshold.
- Though enrolment will be phased in over the next year, NDP health critic Don Davies said his party is ecstatic to have a concrete program in motion by the deadline, especially if a gradual approach means a smoother roll-out. The NDP have pledged to monitor the program carefully, and have called for regular reviews to track what is working and what isn't.
- People receiving existing federal dental benefits, including refugees, veterans and First Nations people, will still qualify for the new federal program. So far, there are no plans to amalgamate the programs.
- And, miracle of miracles, Ottawa is not setting up a federal Department of Dentistry stocked with hundreds of bureaucrats. The government signed a $750-million contract with Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada to administer the claims. Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos previously announced a $15-million agreement with the company to lay the groundwork in September.
- On paper, the new federal dental care program sounds like something designed to give night terrors to the NDP. Rather than universal coverage, the program works around the edges of existing benefits, focusing on those without private insurance.
- British Columbia Dental Association president Dr. Robert Wolanski says the government plan is more of a social program than a typical insurance program. Wolanski says that program has some distinct differences from an employer insurance program in terms of the eligibility criterial and the administrative burden for oral health-care providers.
- The dentist from Nanaimo, B.C., says it’s not clear yet exactly how patients’ experiences will differ when they arrive at the dentist’s office because those details haven’t been released by the federal government yet.
- There are worries among dentists about what Ottawa’s presence on the scene will mean for the price of dental services. It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up a scenario in which the federal government pushes for reductions, or at least freezes, to limit the costs of the program.
- And then there is the substantial cost of the program itself. Even with a limited scope and with co-payments, Ottawa says it will spend $13-billion in the first five years, and $4-billion annually after that. That hefty price tag is justifiable, but it’s incumbent on the Liberals to find economies elsewhere in the budget. Ratcheting back the explosion in civil service numbers would be a good start.
- The NDP can rightly take credit for pushing the Liberals into launching a dental benefit. But the party also needs to demonstrate that its parliamentary alliance with the Liberals is a political winner.
- We're going to have to keep an eye on this program and see how the rollout goes, but on its surface it does seem like a very expensive program at a time of already high expenditures, but unlike much with the Trudeau government, these funds are actually going to where people need it to. Dental health is very important in preventing larger health care issues from cropping up, and lower income families and people definitely could use the help in this day and age.
- What is worrisome for Canadians is either the scope of the program is so limited to not be helpful, and that the amount of money spent on the program may not justify the positive outcomes it provides. While we don't have a full picture yet of what the program may provide, we'll just have to wait until the spring to see how it all shakes out, and if it really helps people like how the NDP want it to.
- Industry Minister Francois Philippe Champagne announced that he was in talks with grocery executives from around the world looking for a foreign competitor to expand into Canada.
- He sees there being a net benefit to Canadian consumers where Loblaw, Empire, Metro, Walmart, and Costco now control about 80% of sales.
- Champagne says the plan is to drive down prices and to inject more competition.
- There is also a piece of legislation on the books that would seek to add more competition to the market and this law would outlaw the “restrictive covenants” as called by foreign grocers.
- These covenants, for example, prevent the grocers landlords from renting nearby space to competitors.
- In a report released this summer by the competition bureau, it said that the grocery market is so concentrated that it’s “more difficult than ever” for businesses to enter.
- Foreign grocers have said they’re worried about existing competition and bilingual labelling requirements. And perhaps the biggest issue, some were concerned about developing a mix of products that would fit into Canada’s “unique multicultural grocery experience.”
- That’s an issue but there is a bigger issue with drawing international retailers to Canada.
- Fred Waks, a real estate executive who has been developing shopping centres for decades, said attracting international players to Canada has been tough, mostly because the population is too small to put up with the complications of moving here.
- Waks ultimately concluded that the work to outlaw the restrictive covenants won’t be enough to convince anyone to change their mind.
- What would need to happen would be similar to when Walmart came to Canada, they bought out Woolco’s Canadian stores in the mid 1990s.
- And with that in mind, the existing grocers are too strong for a takeover to make sense.
- Champagne is still going to try though, he said, “I’m not the shy guy usually, I pick up the phone. Volkswagen started with one phone call, so why not? We have not had an international player looking at the Canadian market for a long, long time. Now, I think there is more momentum.”
- This is one angle of what’s going on and we need to admit that yes, it is very difficult for any competition to start up in Canada, foreign or domestic.
- Target tried to come to Canada, buying out most Zeller’s locations but they were not able to deliver the Target experience that Canadians expected, the American Target experience.
- The closest take on what is likely to happen is what was illustrated by Waks.
- And with that we have to ask what else is at play?
- Beyond retail chains and buildings we have to look at Canada’s food sources.
- It was only during the last Conservative government that the Canadian Wheat Board was dissolved. Supply management still governs dairy farmers.
- This means that eggs, milk, and other dairy products are going to be way more expensive than their American counterparts.
- We also have to question food regulations in terms of how difficult it would be for a food company selling pre-made soup to get their soup into Canada.
- Do the regulations let it be imported without re-label?
- Would it need to be produced in Canada?
- Then how expensive is it for said company to deliver it across Canada?
- Then finally, how well will it sell?
- All of these questions illustrate why we don’t see competition in the grocery industry.
- This is why Nestle’s Delissio pizza left Canada. This is one of the biggest frozen pizza brands in the US sold as DiGiorno.
- This is why Kleenex left Canada.
- We are left with a situation where we not only have a small collection of outlets to shop at but we also have a small selection of products in those outlets.
- This harkens back to 1989 when Boris Yeltsin made an unscheduled trip to a grocery store in Clear Lake, Texas.
- Yeltsin said to his Russian entourage, “if [our] people who often must wait in line for most goods, saw the conditions of U.S. supermarkets there would be a revolution. Even the politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev.”
- This illustrates the stark difference between a market economy and a closed socially planned economy.
- Yeltsin talked to workers, managers, and customers and marvelled at all: produce, fresh fish, meat, frozen goods such as pudding, and even the checkout counter.
- I bring you this story of Boris Yeltsin in Texas to ask: is Canada closer to the soviet world or the American world of the 1980s?
- Your answer to that says what direction we need to go and why even adding a foreign retailer might not be enough.
Quote of the Week
“if [our] people who often must wait in line for most goods, saw the conditions of U.S. supermarkets there would be a revolution. Even the politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev.” - Future President of Russia Boris Yeltsin on American grocery stores in 1989. Is Canada headed in this direction?
Word of the Week
Covenant - agree by lease, deed, or other legal contract
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Spring Smiles
Teaser: UVIC’s equity hiring policy raises ire on social media, Alberta’s low income tax cut is nowhere to be seen, and the Liberals roll out the federal dental program. Also, Champagne looks at grocery competition to lower prices.
Recorded Date: December 16, 2023
Release Date: December 17, 2023
Edit Notes: UVic names
Podcast Summary Notes