Ontario urged to encourage immigrants to look beyond the GTA

Ongoing challenge that most provincial governments are grappling with – how to encourage immigrants to go beyond the largest centres.

Ontario actually does better than most other provinces in this regard, given the number of immigrants and visible minorities in cities such as Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener Waterloo, London and Windsor.

The real challenge lies more in rural and northern Ontario.

Ontario must start encouraging immigrants to settle in communities outside the GTA in order to reduce pressure on housing, transit and other infrastructure in the 905 and stimulate growth in the rest of the province, a new report says.

According to the Conference Board of Canada report, 45 per cent of Ontario’s 13.5 million people live in the GTA, but each year almost 80 per cent of new immigrants settling in the province make the region their home, meaning that most of Ontario doesn’t get enough newcomers to sustain their communities, and that even more pressure is being put on an already strained housing pool and other services in the 905.

Last year, 106,000 immigrants settled in the GTA, while just 31,000 made their homes in the rest of Ontario.

“The GTA has the difficult task of integrating large numbers of newcomers into its labour market each year. Nearly half of its newcomers arrive under the family and refugee classes, which means they require more labour market supports than economic class newcomers,” said the 47-page report, “Immigration Beyond the GTA,” being released Thursday.

“On the other hand, some communities across the province — particularly those in Northern Ontario — are in desperate need of immigrants to support their economic health, but less than one-quarter of the province’s newcomers choose to settle outside of the GTA.”

Spreading more immigrants across Ontario is more urgent than ever, the report warns, since demographic pressures, if not addressed, will significantly impact the province’s economic performance over the next two decades, with the average age of residents rising to 44.1 in 2040 from 40.5 in 2017. By 2040, almost a quarter of Ontario’s population will be 65 and over, compared with just 17 per cent in 2017.

While communities outside the GTA do not have the same number of job opportunities, settlement services, cultural amenities, and ethnic diversity, they still offer a range of immigration advantages compared with the GTA, said the report, written by researcher Kareem El-Assal.

With the exception of Barrie, it said, other census metropolitan areas currently all have lower unemployment rates than the GTA. Hamilton, Kingston, Guelph and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo all have unemployment rates below 5 per cent, compared to 6.4 per cent in the 905 area.

Although all levels of government have recognized the need to “regionalize” the distribution of immigration, including the most recent federal pilot program to encourage newcomers to settle in rural and remote communities, the report calls for the creation of a regional strategy led by the province with active participation from municipalities.

Municipalities have had few options in immigrant recruitment because immigration is a shared federal-provincial jurisdiction. However, the report said all three levels of government can draw inspiration from Canada’s latest international post-secondary education strategy, which has successfully brought all players to the table to promote the “regionalization” of foreign students across the country.

The study said a regionalization strategy must set targets to ensure half of newcomers to the province settle outside of the 905. The province should juggle the point grids of the provincial immigrant nomination programs by rewarding applicants with community and family ties outside of the GTA because those are among the most important considerations for newcomer settlement.

A 2016 evaluation of Nova Scotia’s various provincial immigration streams found that 82 per cent of those who arrived under the community identified class with strong ties to an established cultural community had continued to stay in Nova Scotia instead of moving to other provinces.

Given immigrants always go where the job opportunities are, the report suggested business groups such as chambers of commerce take the lead in sharing information with local employers on hiring newcomers, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment and tapping existing newcomer communities to reach out to immigrant talent.

“Ontario municipalities must showcase their leadership. One way they can do this is by ensuring they have immigration strategies of their own in place,” said the Conference Board. “This is crucial to signalling their intention that they want to welcome more immigrants and will take all necessary steps to succeed.”

Source: Ontario urged to encourage immigrants to look beyond the GTA

Lessons from the Doug Ford School of Public Administration

I could not resist posting this pointed, and unfortunately all too accurate, rant by Les Whittington. Hopefully, year two will show a more measured and mature governing style (but not hopeful):

School is out at Queen’s Park, but here are the lessons for the next semester based on the first year of Premier Doug Ford’s government in Ontario:

Talk about helping “the people” while you slash programs that many need: Roll back promised funding increases for rape crisis centres, cut legal aid by 30 per cent, cancel a $1 increase in minimum wage, remove rent control for new units, get rid of the basic income pilot program, scrap legislation to help part-time workers, cancel free prescription medication for young Ontarians, kill off free university tuition for low-income students, and slice $84-million in funding for children and at-risk youth.

The public doesn’t pay attention so there’s no problem promising one thing and doing something else: Tell voters “not one single” public service job will be lost under a Ford government, then once elected change that to no “frontline” jobs. Then put thousands of teachers’ jobs at risk by raising school class sizes. Watch other jobs disappear at agencies that are being axed or downsized. Put thousands of beer store employees’ jobs in jeopardy.

Don’t worry about honouring your promise to continue with the planned increase in municipalities’ share of gas tax funding… they can do without that extra $300-million.

Treat the public like a bunch of dazzled rubes: Bread and circuses, supplemented with divisive anger, can be a winner, as U.S. President Trump has shown. Above all, in Ontario this means prioritizing beer and booze. Commenting on the Ford government’s budget, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner noted the emphasis: “If you look through this budget, it mentions booze and gambling 63 times, it mentions climate change 15 times, and it mentions poverty zero times.”

Avoid annoying demands for consultation and advance information:Better to release details of your unexpected decisions in phone calls to the officials involved rather than publicly, as was done with the planned amalgamation of regional health organizations. Another example: Without warning, the Ford government trashed years of urban planning designed to keep Toronto liveable when it took over the city’s planning in a move to allow developers to build higher buildings—and more of them—in the city’s downtown and midtown. After all, developers need a freer hand.

Personal grudges are as good a basis for public policy as anything else:Given the province’s power over Toronto’s affairs, why not unexpectedly cut the size of Toronto’s city council in half? Didn’t the council give brother Rob Ford a hard time when he was mayor? Rob Ford always favoured a subway line to Scarborough. By taking over subway planning, a Progressive Conservative government can make it happen. As for the provincial Liberals, only old-fashioned notions of fairness could have stopped the PC majority from changing the rules to keep the Ontario Liberals from having a chance to achieve official party status.

Provincial taxpayers are so apathetic they won’t mind if their tax dollars are spent on federal political ads: If your government opposes carbon pricing imposed by the Trudeau government, why not spend millions from the Ontario treasury advertising against it? Also, there’s no need in today’s post-truth environment to mention the fact that Ottawa will be rebating the carbon tax revenues to individual Ontario taxpayers.

Don’t bother the public with difficult issues like climate change or the need to prepare for the green economy: Voters will buy things like park clean-ups as a substitute for action on global warming. So, you can cancel Ontario’s cap and trade program and cut 700 green energy programs, undermine the province’s independent environmental watchdog, and earmark $30-million to challenge the carbon tax in court.

Policies based on illusions of past greatness are always more popular than forward-looking plans designed to try to address the complex issues of modern life: Reduce financial support of post-secondary institutions and kill off new satellite university campuses while cutting funding for innovative research and work on improving Canada’s economic prowess. The future will look after itself.

Don’t bother with nuisances like avoiding favouritism in major government appointments or not interfering in politics outside your sphere: Just because Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner was a Ford family friend didn’t mean he wouldn’t have been a good choice for OPP commissioner.

On the federal-provincial scene, a premier should stake out the most provocative position possible, as in this Ford quote from October 2018:“We’ve taken Kathleen Wynne’s hand out of your pocket … and we’re going to take Justin Trudeau’s hand out of your pocket.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer needs all the election help he can get, so pitch in. How could that not work out well for him?

Source: Lessons from the Doug Ford School of Public Administration

Ontario announces new foreign tech worker stream and immigration pilot for smaller communities

Every province appears to be emulating the Atlantic Immigration Pilot in attracting and retaining immigrants to smaller communities along with a number of Ontario-specific initiatives to address labour market needs.:

Ontario will create a new immigration stream for tech workers and a new immigration pilot initiative with the goal of attracting highly skilled immigrants to smaller communities around the province, the province’s government announced April 11 in its 2019 budget. 

The initiatives are among four immigration-focused priorities outlined in the province’s new $163.4 billion budget, which was unveiled Thursday afternoon in Toronto.

“The Province is responding to the needs of Ontario’s employers by attracting the skilled workers they need through enhancements to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP),” the budget says.

“Through modernization of the OINP, and in tandem with its other initiatives, the government will continue to ensure that Ontario’s workforce remains among the most highly skilled for the modern economy.”

Dedicated stream for tech workers

To this end, the budget says the government will create a “dedicated stream to help Ontario’s technology sector attract highly skilled employees,” though no details were provided beyond this.

CIC News has asked the OINP for more information on this and the other immigration plans outlined in the budget and will provide updates when they become available.

The new dedicated tech immigration stream would feed Ontario’s booming tech sector in cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Waterloo, which have all seen significant high-tech job growth in recent years.

The OINP has targeted foreign tech workers in the past through its Human Capital Priorities Stream. The stream is linked to the federal Express Entry system, which manages the pool of candidates for three of Canada’s main economic immigration categories — the Federal Skilled Worker ClassFederal Skilled Trades Class and Canadian Experience Class.

Find out if you are eligible to enter the Express Entry pool

Immigration pilot for smaller communities

The budget says the government will also begin a pilot initiative “to explore innovative approaches to bring highly skilled immigrants” to smaller communities around the province.

The government said the pilot’s purpose will be to “spread the benefits of immigration to smaller communities.”

The proposed pilot follows calls from community leaders in Northern Ontario for a program similar to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP), a joint federal-provincial initiative that allows designated employers in Canada’s four Atlantic provinces to recruit skilled foreign workers for jobs they haven’t been able to fill locally.

Canada recently unveiled a Northern and Rural Immigration Pilot similar to the AIP that will help small or isolated communities in provinces and territories outside Atlantic Canada to recruit foreign workers.

Expanding eligible in-demand occupations

Ontario’s new budget also says the government will seek to include truck drivers and personal support workers under the occupations that are eligible for the OINP’s Employer Job Offer: In-Demand Skills Stream.

Among other criteria, the stream allows the OINP to nominate foreign workers with a permanent and full-time job offer from an Ontario employer in one of its eligible occupations to apply to live and work permanently in Ontario.

Eligible occupations under the stream are classified by Canada’s National Occupation Classification (NOC) as Skill Level C or D.

Entrepreneur immigration

The fourth immigration-related innovation in Ontario’s 2019 budget is the government’s promise to “recalibrate” investment and net worth thresholds for the OINP’s Entrepreneur Stream.

The government said doing so will “make Ontario more competitive with other provinces” and expand the province’s base of prospective candidates.

The current minimum net worth under the stream’s eligibility requirements varies depending on where the business will be located:

  • $1,500,000 minimum net worth for entrepreneurs hoping to locate within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
  • $800,000 minimum net worth for entrepreneurs hoping to locate their business outside the GTA.
  • $800,000 minimum net worth for entrepreneurs in the ICT/Digital Communications sector regardless of where they want their business to be located.

The current minimum personal investment thresholds are:

  • $1,000,000 minimum personal investment if the proposed business will be located within the GTA.
  • $500,000 minimum personal investment if the proposed business will be located outside the GTA.
  • $500,000 minimum personal investment if the proposed business will be in the ICT/Digital Communications sector regardless of location.

“Fair” OINP allocation

The budget calls on Canada’s federal government to work with Ontario to ensure the OINP’s annual allocation through Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program is “fair.”

The OINP receives an allocation each year from Canada’s federal government that allows it to nominate a set number of economic immigration candidates for permanent residence in the province.

The OINP’s 2019 allocation is 6,900, which fell short of Ontario’s request for an allocation of 7,600 nominations.

The allocation represents a small part of annual immigration to Ontario, which totalled 137,410 newcomers in 2018.

Source: Ontario announces new foreign tech worker stream and immigration pilot for smaller communities

Ontario asks federal government for $45-million to fund legal aid for refugees, immigrants

Pre-federal budget political positioning as much as substance:

Ontario Attorney-General Caroline Mulroney is calling on Ottawa to fully fund a $45-million provincial legal-aid program for immigrants and refugees in Tuesday’s federal budget.

In a letter sent to the federal ministers of justice, immigration and finance, Ms. Mulroney says costs associated with providing immigration and refugee services has “increased significantly” in Ontario as a result of federal government policies.

“Ontario must ensure we have a stable and sustainable system. Let me be clear, this was a federally created challenge, and one our government has called on you previously to fix,” Ms. Mulroney wrote in the letter sent Friday to Justice Minister David Lametti, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

“As you table your budget, I am confident that you will see the need to properly fund Ontario’s legal-aid program, and recognize that the failure to do so will place hardships on those who rely on this system.”

The latest salvo in the battle between Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government and the federal Liberals over the costs associated with immigration and refugee claimants comes as Ottawa is set to table its pre-election budget on Tuesday.

While the number of asylum seekers has been steadily decreasing over the past few months, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) – the arm’s-length body that adjudicates refugee claims – has struggled to keep pace with the number of new cases being added to its backlog of files.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government has already demanded that Ottawa foot a $200-million bill to cover the costs of resettling thousands of asylum seekers crossing into Canada from the United States. And Toronto recently said its proposed 2019 municipal budget will only be balanced if the federal government offers up $45-million to cover the costs of housing the influx of refugee claimants in the city’s shelter system.

Pierre-Olivier Herbert, a spokesman for Mr. Morneau, said the federal government recognizes the importance of proper funding for legal aid. Since 2016, he said, the federal government has increased its contribution for immigration and refugee legal-aid services in six provinces by more than $22-million.

“Our government understands that immigration plays an important role in driving our economy and has contributed to our success as a country. While the Conservatives continue to try to divide Canadians, by promoting fear and misinformation, we will continue to defend our immigration system,” he said.

Legal Aid Ontario, which is responsible for providing legal services to low-income Ontarians, estimates it will spend $45-million this year to deliver its immigration and refugee program, which includes IRB hearings and appeals to federal court. But Ms. Mulroney says the federal government is only contributing $16.9-million to the program, “leaving a shortfall of nearly $28-million that the province is expected to subsidize to support matters of federal jurisdiction.”

Last September, the federal government allocated an additional $10-million to Ontario, on top of a previously committed $7-million.

A report released last December from Ontario’s auditor-general, Bonnie Lysyk, shows Ontario’s portion has risen from $19.3-million in 2014 to $28.4-million in 2018.

The report said Legal Aid Ontario has “faced challenges managing the increase in refugee and immigration cases without a known increase of funding from the federal government,” noting that Ontario receives a lower federal funding portion than other provinces.

It also found Legal Aid Ontario’s “rushed decision-making” in expanding eligibility for certificates contributed to $40-million in deficits over the past two years. A certificate allows a client to retain a private-sector lawyer on one of Legal Aid Ontario’s rosters.

Ms. Mulroney recently named a former Progressive Conservative attorney-general, Charles Harnick, as the new chair of Legal Aid Ontario.

Source: Ontario asks federal government for $45-million to fund legal aid for refugees, immigrants

TVO’s The Agenda: Directed Immigration Across Ontario

Good discussion this past Wednesday of some of the issues with respect to encouraging immigration to rural and remote areas with Charles Cirtwill of @NorthernPolicy, Maggie Matear of @TimminsEDC, Effat Ghassemi of @NCPTweets.

Similar issues and discussion elsewhere in Canada where the Provincial Nominee Program, The Atlantic Immigration Pilot, the recently announced federal Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

The record of the longest running program, Official Language Minority Communities (francophone) has never met its target of 4 percent of the total number of immigrants.

Every year, the Greater Golden Horseshoe adds thousands of newcomers, while other parts of the province struggle just to keep the residents they currently have. Already, such outflows for those communities mean labour shortages and stagnating local economies. The Agenda discusses what it would take to even out which parts of Ontario attract immigrants.

Little to no proof police carding has effect on crime or arrests: Ontario report

Significant study:

Police street checks widely known as carding have little to no value as a law enforcement tool and should be significantly limited across Ontario, a judge tasked with reviewing the practice said Monday.

The report from Justice Michael Tulloch outlines certain circumstances in which police may have legitimate grounds to conduct street checks, or stop people at random and request identifying information.

But Tulloch, who was hired by Ontario’s previous Liberal government to assess the effectiveness of new regulations meant to limit the impact of street checks on racialized groups, said those circumstances are very specific and the practice as a whole should be sharply curtailed.

“There is little to no evidence that a random, unfocused collection of identifying information has benefits that outweigh the social cost of the practice,” Tulloch wrote in his 310-page report.

“Given the social cost involved with a practice that has not definitively been shown to widely reduce or solve crime, it is recommended that the practice of randomly stopping individuals to gather their identifying information for the creation of a database for intelligence purposes be discontinued.”

Tulloch, who previously led a review into Ontario’s complex police oversight system, was asked to turn his attention to carding months after the previous government made moves to eliminate what it described as systemic racism in law enforcement.

Police oversight

Street checks started coming under intense scrutiny several years ago amid data showing officers were disproportionately stopping black and other racialized people.

In 2016, Ontario introduced rules dictating that police must inform people that they don’t have to provide identifying information during street checks, and that refusing to co-operate or walking away cannot then be used as reasons to compel information.

The aim was to end arbitrary stops, especially those based on race, though anti-carding advocates have called for the practice to be abolished entirely.

Race is prohibited as forming any part of a police officer’s reason for attempting to collect someone’s identifying information.

Police had long argued that street checks have value as an investigative tool, a notion Tulloch challenged in his report.

“A widespread program of random street checks involves considerable time and effort for a police service, with little to no verifiable results on the level of crime or even arrests,” he wrote. “Some police services reported that there are other ways to gather data or use data that they already have more effectively.”

Tulloch’s report also debunked the notion that carding had played a role in solving the high-profile killing of Cecilia Zhang, a nine-year-old girl who was abducted from her Toronto home in the middle of the night in 2003.

Tulloch said many of the more than 2,000 people consulted for the report cited the arrest of Min Chen, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Zhang’s death, as an example of a carding success story. Tulloch said, however, that Chen’s name first came to be in police files as a result of a non-random stop that did not fit the definition of carding.

Chen was stopped in response to a complaint of illegal fishing filed weeks before the girl was killed, Tulloch said, adding the information gathered during that interaction later gained relevance when Chen’s name surfaced in the Zhang investigation.

“The Cecilia Zhang case does not support the proposition that the police should be authorized to randomly request and record identifying information,” Tulloch wrote. “It simply reinforces that when identifying information is properly obtained during a police investigation, as it was in that case, that information might be useful to help solve a crime.”

Additional recommendations

Tulloch said street checks have value in cases where there are clear suspicious circumstances, or when police need to identify the identity of a missing person or crime victim. Among his many recommendations to the new Progressive Conservative government were some stating the 2016 rules should not apply in such cases.

But other recommendations advise the government to take a harder line on street checks, tightening definitions of terms such as “identifying information” and “suspicious circumstances” and broadening protections during vehicle stops.

Tulloch also recommended an overhaul of the training that was put in place when the new rules took effect. He said it lacked the critical component of explaining why the changes were being made, which left some officers hesitant to get on board.

“Implementing new rules for police officers to follow has little value — and will not achieve the intended goal — if officers are not effectively and adequately trained on the reasons why the changes were necessary,” Tulloch wrote.

He also recommended officers at all levels “should learn how the widespread use of carding by some services and some officers has been abused in the past.”

Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said the government is taking time to go through Tulloch’s findings, but said his work would “inform” efforts to reform police legislation in the province.

“We are committed to developing legislation that works for our police and for the people of Ontario,” Jones said in a statement. “Our new police legislation will reflect a simple principle: racism and discrimination have no place in policing.”

Source: Little to no proof police carding has effect on crime or arrests: Ontario report

Chris Selley: Ontario’s no-health care-for-terrorists bill is nonsense at its best

Another good column by Selley on the Ontario Conservatives virtue signalling:

The Ontario government wants to make convicted terrorists ineligible for licences to drive, hunt and fish, for public health insurance, for housing and income assistance, for student loans, and to parent their own children. It wants to do this because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is soft on terrorism — specifically on the question of Canadians returning home after fighting for ISIL.

“I am disgusted that the federal government is not dealing with this,” Progressive Conservative MPP Dave Smith told reporters this week. “What we’re doing is we are taking away privileges from criminals.”

“If you leave Canada to go fight for ISIS, you should not be welcomed back with open arms,” Premier Doug Ford tweeted. “Since Justin Trudeau doesn’t seem to take this seriously, (Smith) is taking action to send a message that there are consequences for leaving Ontario to commit indefensible crimes.”

Sometimes governments come up with laws that they think will make their jurisdiction a better place, and they advance them in their legislature and in the media in good faith. And sometimes they come up with laws the primary purpose of which is to generate opposition to those laws, which they can then use to attack the opponents. The federal Conservatives’ Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, and the accompanying “snitch line” announced during the 2015 election campaign, was a good example of the latter. To question its necessity or wisdom or choice of wording was to be accused of sanctioning everything from child marriage to polygamy to female genital mutilation.

The Ontario Tories’ Bill 46, more soberly titled the Terrorist Activities Sanctions Act, certainly has great potential as the second kind of legislation: Have fun out there arguing on behalf of a terrorist’s right to health care or a hunting licence or to raise his kids unmolested. (Bill 46 would deem any such children in need of protection under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act.) But let’s give Smith and Ford the benefit of the doubt and assume they also think this is good public policy.

Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, or any other lawyer, could tell them that their public policy is almost certain to be torn to shreds in the courts, at great and pointless public expense. As it stands even the most vile criminals, if released, are entitled to public health insurance; denying it to one class of criminals as explicit punishment for violating a section of the Criminal Code would attract no end of legal opposition. It could be found to violate the Constitution, which unambiguously makes criminal law the federal government’s jurisdiction. It could be found to violate Section 7 of the Charter, which enshrines the “right to life, liberty and security of the person”; or Section 12, the protection against cruel and unusual punishment; or even Section 6, which guarantees the right “to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province,” and which isn’t vulnerable to the notwithstanding clause. Legal arguments aside, the federal government could simply withhold transfers until Ontario started providing health care to all its citizens again.

Howard Anglin, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, doesn’t buy all the legal arguments being made against Bill 46. But he thinks Canadian courts might well buy many of them. “I would bet pretty heavily that the Canadian courts would find that the province is violating a right to health care for these individuals,” he says. “The health care component is probably dead in the water.” As, he argues, is the bit about taking away people’s kids. “That’s not going to fly,” he says, arguing that determination requires a “quintessentially individualized analysis.”

There are logical arguments the government might make for some of these measures. Cars and trucks being popular tools for terrorists nowadays, perhaps we’d rather ISIL veterans not be authorized to drive them. We certainly wouldn’t want to license them to own firearms, let alone hunt with them. But the government isn’t making those arguments. It’s making no bones about the fact it simply wants to punish these people for a criminal act, which is not its bailiwick — points for honesty, but it makes it all the more likely the courts will torpedo it.

It’s entirely understandable that people are appalled by the idea of Canadians returning home after committing atrocities in Syria and not face consequences. Anything Canada can do to bring these people to justice, while respecting constitutional rights and the rule of law, it should do. But that only highlights the central absurdity of Bill 46: It doesn’t even apply unless someone is already convicted of a terrorism offence under the Criminal Code, which is precisely what Ford’s government complains isn’t happening.

The convicted would (or certainly should) face many stringent post-release conditions that actually make sense. Neither denying them “free” treatment for a communicable disease nor prohibiting them from fishing makes any sense on any level except as arbitrary, bloody-minded and very likely counterproductive retribution that it’s not in the province’s power to mete out in the first place. This bill is a turkey, and someone with a hunting license ought to kill it.

Source: Chris Selley: Ontario’s no-health care-for-terrorists bill is nonsense at its best

Ontario to exempt Sikh motorcyclists from helmet law

Sigh. Religious accommodation to ride a motorcycle? Would a government grant an exemption for wearing seatbelts? In line with other provinces, however, even if the justification is flimsy.

“The wearing of the turban is an essential part of the Sikh faith and identity,” stated the Brampton South MPP.

Wrong on two counts: not all Sikhs wear turbans and riding a motorcycle is not an essential part of Sikh faith and identity:

Sikhs with turbans will be exempt from wearing motorcycle helmets starting next Thursday, Premier Doug Ford says, revving up concerns over higher medical and insurance costs.

Highway Traffic Act regulations are being changed to fulfil Ford’s election promise of a helmet reprieve on religious grounds, which the previous Liberal government refused to do for safety reasons despite years of lobbying from the Canadian Sikh Association.

“Soon we will have a right to ride with our pride,” the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Ontario posted on its Facebook page Wednesday.

British Columbia, Manitoba and Alberta already have helmet exemptions for Sikh motorcyclists, as does the United Kingdom. Helmets often do not fit over turbans, which take time to put on and take off.

“The safety of our roads will always remain a priority,” Ford said in a statement Wednesday. “But our government also believes that individuals have personal accountability and responsibility with respect to their own well-being.”

So contentious is the issue that the premier held a news event in Brampton mainly for the local Punjabi media, excluding the Queen’s Park press corps.

Ford’s office defended the unusual move to bypass the mainstream media.

Safety experts said it’s more dangerous to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, with the non-profit Canada Safety Council noting they reduce fatalities by 37 per cent and head injuries by 67 per cent.

“You’re certainly taking on more risk,” said Raynald Marchand of the Ottawa-based group and a rider since 1974, who encouraged Sikh motorcyclists to use eye-protecting goggles at a minimum.

“It’s always better to wear a helmet,” added Brian Patterson of the Ontario Safety League.

The helmet exception for Sikhs exploded on social media, with commentators questioning whether riders should have to sign waivers so taxpayers won’t be on the hook for any head injury treatment costs.

But the safety experts downplayed the likelihood of much impact on the health-care system, given that Sikh riders are a small fraction of the motorcycling population.

“I don’t think the numbers are significant,” Marchand told the Star.

It’s unclear, however, what could happen to overall motorcycle insurance rates, given that companies can’t single out Sikh riders for higher premiums under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Given the size, it may not be significant enough. Insurance companies will look at premiums based on data,” said Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Ford’s announcement followed last week’s introduction of a private member’s bill on a helmet exemption by Brampton South MPP Prabmeet Sarkaria.

“The wearing of the turban is an essential part of the Sikh faith and identity,” Sarkaria said in a statement.

Source: Ontario to exempt Sikh motorcyclists from helmet law

Advocates fear for future of province’s anti-racism directorate

Expect it will go. Sad, given that one of the main activities was data collection, data needed to inform policy:

What will happen to the province’s anti-racism directorate?

For many who work in anti-racism, this has been the question since June, when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives won the provincial election with a majority government.

Community members who worked closely with the anti-racism directorate say they’ve received no answers from the government, which controversially moved the directorate to a new ministry and recently disbanded its subcommittees.

Longtime anti-racism advocates who lived through the Mike Harris years are now having flashbacks to 1995, when his Conservative government was elected to Queen’s Park — and promptly moved to eliminate what was then called the anti-racism secretariat, established just a few years earlier.

Two decades would pass before the anti-racism body was revived by the Liberal government in 2016, amid controversy over carding and debate over the acceptance of Syrian refugees. But less than two years into its mandate, the body, this time labelled a “directorate,” has fallen back into the hands of a Conservative government and community activists worry the province’s anti-racism efforts are once again doomed to fail.

“It just feels like 1995 all over again, where we take two steps forward only to go three or four steps backwards,” said Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. “What we see is a very hard, right-wing government that I don’t believe has any intention of honouring the commitment that the previous government has made towards the anti-racism directorate’s strategy.”

There are already early signs that changes are coming to the directorate, which had a number of subcommittees, including four community groups that consulted on issues of anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous discrimination, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

In early August, some members of the subcommittees told the Star they were contacted by staff and informed that their services would no longer be needed. “It was basically ‘Yep, your year is up, thank you very much,” said longtime Jewish rights advocate Bernie Farber, who co-chaired the anti-Semitism committee.

Farber said he and other members received no information about the future of the directorate, whose aim is to advance racial equity and address systemic racism in government policy legislation programs and services.

Nothing can be gleaned from Premier Ford’s mandate letters to ministers, either, which might clarify some of his intentions for the anti-racism directorate — the government is keeping these letters secret, even though they were publicly released under the previous administration.

The anti-racism directorate also ignored a list of questions sent by the Star on Aug. 20. These questions included: What is the directorate’s budget? What’s happening with the government-wide plans to collect race-based data? And what are the province’s priorities for the anti-racism directorate going forward?

“We don’t know anything,” said MPP Michael Coteau, who was previously the Liberal minister in charge of the directorate. “One of the most troubling pieces with the new government is that there’s been no transparency with regard to their mandate.”

“People are quite worried,” said MPP Laura Mae Lindo, the NDP critic for anti-racism. “You can’t approach anti-racism that way; you have to be transparent in what it is that you’re doing. You have to be willing to listen to the community organizations.”

To Barriffe, what the Ford government has been transparent on is its views toward issues that matter to racialized communities. He points to comments Ford made during his campaign where he expressed support for TAVIS, a now-defunct police unit that was heavily criticized for its negative impact on racialized communities. When the NDP recently introduced a motion to ban police carding — also known as “street checks,” which disproportionately affect people with black and brown skin — and destroy data collected through the practice, Conservative MPPs largely voted against it.

“I think that we have to believe what we see and what we see is them reversing all of the forward movement that we made in addressing anti-Black racism in society,” he said.

But Barriffe doesn’t necessarily think the Ford government will kill the anti-racism directorate outright. Rather, he suspects it will die from a thousand cuts — neglected and “defanged from its original purpose and intent.”

Already, the directorate has been relocated to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which is headed by MPP Michael Tibollo — the minister who was heavily criticized by opposition parties for making “blatantly racist” comments in July, when he described wearing a bulletproof vest during a visit to the Jane and Finch neighbourhood.

The move diminishes the directorate’s influence within the government, said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, who served on the directorate’s consultative body.

Previously, the directorate was based at the Cabinet Office. “The idea behind that was that anti-racism is important across the board, not just for any one ministry, and that all the ministries must pay attention to the issue of racism and finding ways of eliminating it,” she said. “Once you’ve slated it under one particular ministry, then we lose that cross-departmental knowledge-sharing and accountability measure.”

But the decision to move the directorate to this ministry — the same one in charge of police and prisons — also sends a troubling message, says longtime community activist Nene Kwasi Kafele, who also served on the consultation group with Go.

“The implication (is) that racism is simply an issue of policing and safety,” he said. “In my view, there’s some dog-whistle stuff around Black people and racialized communities being a danger, and therefore targeted approaches to them generally need to be subsumed under an area that addresses security and safety. It’s a terrible message.”

Lindo notes that the directorate, under the previous government, did have its flaws, however. For one, she believes it could have done a better job of folding in the work of community groups, many of which have already been on the front lines of anti-racism for decades.

Farber also has his criticisms of the directorate. He felt issues relating to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia were not prioritized as much as they should have been during the early stages of the directorate — though he started seeing signs of progress in the months leading up to the election.

“We started to make some headway; there were resources there that we were looking at to provide education on anti-Semitism,” Farber said. “And that’s what we were working towards, during the time leading up to the last provincial election. And then, quite frankly, things sort of grinded to a halt.”

Kafele points out, however, that while the directorate was just getting started, it did achieve some major accomplishments. The provincial government now has a legislative mandate towards combating racism in the province, he said, as well as a commitment to collecting disaggregated race data; commitments were also made towards underserved and marginalized populations, like Black youth in Ontario.

None of this existed back in the early ’90s, when both Kafele and Farber were involved with the anti-racism secretariat the first time around. And despite some of its early hiccups, Farber agrees the need for an anti-racism directorate is as urgent as ever, especially with the rise of right-wing extremist groups and an increasingly polarized political climate.

“The government gives (importance) to concepts like a buck-a-beer but not when it comes to racism, which has huge impacts on society,” Farber said. “The world is getting not just more complex but more dangerous, and we need to have policies and understandings in place as these issues go forward.”

Source: Advocates fear for future of province’s anti-racism directorate

How we stopped worrying and learned to love robots

Still looking for someone to translate the expected AI impact in terms of what it means in terms of immigration levels and skills:

As Bob Magee, chairman of the Woodbridge Group, walked us through his foam-manufacturing facility just north of Toronto, a familiar story emerged. Automation for this company isn’t a simple calculation of substituting one machine for one worker. Rather, it is one of many incremental steps in a process of continuous improvement that requires engaged employees at each and every step.

At the Woodbridge Group, automation is beneficial for the firm and workers alike. It contributes to improved competitiveness — a necessary precondition for jobs — while making existing jobs easier, more efficient and, from our observations, more enjoyable. Where workers were once required to lift and place heavy sheets of foam, these tasks are now done by machines. Workers are free to do what they do best: oversee processes, ensure quality and work as a team to make the plant more efficient.

Despite many stories like these, concerns over automation decimating the workforce and leaving millions unemployed persist. Is automation driving us toward a jobless future or a more productive and prosperous economy for firms and workers alike? To better understand what’s happening and what’s coming in Ontario, Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Growth and Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development commissioned the Brookfield Institute to take a closer look. Our in-depth analysis included systematic reviews of existing literature and data, interviews with over 50 people representing labour, business and developers of technology, and a two-phase citizen engagement process in communities across the province involving roughly 300 individuals. Our work and findings were overseen and reviewed by an expert advisory panel of 14 people with technology, academic and industry expertise.

The extent to which communities and workers are impacted by automation depends on the behaviour of firms — that is, whether they invest in automation technologies. This decision is influenced by a myriad of internal and external factors, including domestic and international competition, changing consumer preferences and the need to maintain output as workers age and retire. The ultimate goal of automation is always to improve productivity, product quality and overall competitiveness.

Given Ontario firm’s track record on technology adoption, large-scale disruption is likely not around the corner. Just as many factors influence tech adoption, others impede it. These include cost barriers and risk aversion, the difficulties associated with integrating new technology in existing legacy systems and — surprisingly — shortages of workers with the skills to properly implement and maintain technology.

For many firms in Ontario these barriers significantly inhibit technological adoption. The gap in information and communications technology (ICT) investment between Ontario and the US is substantial and has grown in recent years. In 2015, Ontario firms’ annual ICT investment was 2.39 percent as a share of GDP, versus 3.15 percent in the US and 2.16 for Canada as a whole. This disparity puts a damper on predictions of an imminent automation-driven jobless future.

If Ontario firms continue to lag when it comes to tech adoption, the associated decline in competitiveness could spell disaster for them and their workers.

In the Canadian manufacturing sector (to which Ontario manufacturers contributed roughly 47 percent of output in 2016), firms’ ICT investment per worker was 57 percent of that of their US counterparts, as of 2013. Despite this lower rate of investment in technology, Ontario experienced sharper declines in employment (5.5 percent from 2001 to 2011) than both the US (4.2 percent) and Germany (4 percent) — jurisdictions with higher rates of technology adoption. This suggests that while automation has enabled many manufacturers to produce more goods with fewer people, low rates of technology adoption may also be a concern for workers.

Without skilled workers, automation simply would not be possible. They are needed at each and every step, to identify inefficiencies and to integrate and oversee technology.

When new technologies are adopted, the impact on workers is a function of how those specific technologies affect business activities, what new skills are needed as a result and whether these new skills are present in the firm’s existing workforce and in the broader labour market.

Automation can help firms retain existing jobs, albeit with different skill requirements. In some instances, employees can be redeployed, often to more interesting, productive and safe work. Automation can also help existing firms expand and new businesses form. Historically, automation has created more jobs than it eliminates, in the long run.

In Ontario’s finance and insurance sector, for example, automation has contributed to improved efficiency, yet employment continues to rise. Between 2002 and 2016, the number of workers required to generate $1 million in output declined from 5.9 to 5.2, but employment expanded by 35 percent, or 85,350 workers. But automation has also contributed to significant shifts in skill requirements, increasing demand for both soft and technical skills, including those related to client experience, sales, and project and risk management, as well as software development and data analysis. This shift is perhaps best exemplified by the impact of the ATM on bank tellers, whose numbers actually increased after ATMs were introduced.

Automation can eliminate certain kinds of job tasks and sometimes whole occupations. When new jobs are created, they often require different skill sets and frequently emerge in industries and regions different than those where jobs might have been lost. If workers are unable to move, to acquire new skills to adapt or to change jobs, they may experience a prolonged adjustment period of underemployment or unemployment. This in turn can depress local labour markets and exacerbate the inequitable distribution of wealth among individuals and across regions.

For workers and firms to be successful, Ontario must overcome barriers and embrace automation with an intensity comparable to that of our international peers. This process will require a skilled workforce able to support technological adoption. For many workers, the benefits are clear: jobs will be retained and may even get better. But an increased pace of automation could leave others behind. We need to ensure that workers have the skills and opportunities to adapt to and even drive automation. This will require more than incremental changes, and our public and private sectors will need to rethink and better coordinate existing programs geared toward promoting technological adoption and delivering skills training.

Source: How we stopped worrying and learned to love robots