Justin Trudeau talks jobs, economy and pipeline expansion in Kamloops

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back in British Columbia on Wednesday, flying into Kamloops for a public town hall and fundraising lunch.

Trudeau said he expects jobs and the economy to be at the forefront of the discussion, hosted at Thompson Rivers University.

« That’s one of first things we focused on as a government in terms of growing the economy and creating good jobs, » he said.

« We’ve had good numbers in B.C. particularly, some of the lowest unemployment rates in history in B.C. right now, and across the country. But there are also people who continue to struggle. »

Pipeline protests

One of the most contested topics in Kamloops currently is the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, with some adamantly supporting the pipeline because of the jobs it could create and others opposing it for environmental reasons.  

Trudeau said he’s confident about keeping the peace around the pipeline debate.

« Most people understand that we need to both create good jobs for the future and protect our environment at the same time, » he told Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops.

« Getting those two things done together is a bit of careful navigating … and that’s exactly what we’re focused on. »

RCMP officers approach the barricade at the Gidimt’en camp in northern B.C. Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have been preventing company workers from getting through their checkpoints, asserting they can only pass if they have consent from hereditary leaders. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Trudeau said he’s not happy with the police response to recent protests about an LNG pipeline project in northern B.C. RCMP moved in to remove protestors and have made a number of arrests.

« It’s not an ideal situation, » said Trudeau.

« A hundred years ago, if the government decided ‘Well, the railway is going here,’ nobody was consulted and the government could just do this. That’s not how we do things anymore and that’s now how we should do things. »

Elder Carmen Nikal speaks at a rally in Smithers, B.C., Tuesday. She was among 14 people arrested Monday at the Gidimt’en camp for defying an injunction. She was released overnight but the others were held in custody. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Trudeau said he isn’t planning to visit the northern pipeline protest on this trip to B.C.

« One of the things that is really important is to try to reduce the temperature a little bit and sometimes engaging in that way is actually raising the political attention and the stakes, » he said.

‘Exercise in democracy’ 

Trudeau’s visit to Kamloops is part of his annual tour of town halls around the country during January, which he describes as an important exercise in democracy.

He emphasized that it’s a chance for British Columbians to express their concerns, give feedback and share their opinions.

« It’s an opportunity for Canadians to come out and ask questions to the Prime Minister  — there’s no vetting, no entrance fee. Anyone who wants to show up can show up, » he said.

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Canada added 9,300 jobs in December, 163,000 for 2018 as a whole

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Canada’s jobless rate held steady at 5.6 per cent in December as the economy added 9,300 jobs, but about the same number of people were looking for work.

Most of the jobs were part time, Statistics Canada reported Friday. As 28,300 new part-time jobs were added, 18,900 full-time jobs were lost. 

The numbers were slightly lower than the gain of about 10,000 jobs that economists had been expecting for the month. The jobless rate, meanwhile, remained at the lowest level on record — 5.6 per cent.

A record-low jobless rate may seem like an encouraging sign, but that figure belies some troubling trends below the surface, one economist says.

« The headline unemployment rate may have defied expectations to remain at a record-low 5.6 per cent, but the way we got there was less encouraging, » Brian DePratto of TD Bank said. « Not only were the job gains entirely in part-time work, they were also driven by self-employment as both private firms and the public sector shed jobs. »

He also said that despite the economy creating new jobs, wages aren’t increasing much, as pay packets grew on average by just 1.5 per cent last year — less than the current inflation rate. « While many measures would suggest the we have a tight labour market, the signal from wages says otherwise. »

Across the country, there were job gains in Newfoundland and Labrador, while the job market shrank in Alberta, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Everywhere else, job market held steady.

December’s figure means that for 2018 as a whole, Canada’s economy added 163,000 jobs, which represents 0.9 per cent growth. That’s lower than the pace of growth seen in 2017 (when the job market expanded 2.3 per cent) and 2016 (when it grew by 1.2 per cent).

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Students to lose jobs after Ford government axes school programs

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Nearly 100 students will be laid off from their part-time jobs at the Toronto Catholic school board because the programs they work for are being axed by the Ford government as part of the province’s $25 million funding cut to school boards.

Those job losses are just the “tip of the iceberg” because all of Ontario’s 72 school boards are being impacted by funding cuts or reductions to specialized grants.

“It’s deplorable and despicable,” said Toronto Catholic District School Board chair Maria Rizzo. “Kids will suffer in the long run (by the cuts).”

A report by the board’s staff to its trustees outlines which of its programs have been impacted by the cuts and reductions because of the 2018-2019 funding changes to EPO (Education Program-Other). Cancelled programs include the Focus on Youth’s after-school program, which operates in high-needs urban neighbourhoods and employs about 60 part-time students, mostly from high school. Also on the chopping block is the Tutors in the Classroom program, which will impact about 35 university and college students.

“Those kids are going to be laid off,” said Rizzo, adding the government is impacting students who rely on those jobs to pay for tuition and gain valuable work experience. And those job losses are just at that one board, she said, adding she assumes hundreds will be impacted provincewide.

Dallin said students were “blindsided” by news of the funding cuts and reductions, saying the programs “are extremely important to maximize the potential of youth.”

Other cancelled programs include ones that help support Indigenous students, the physical activity needs of elementary and secondary students, and projects such as SpeakUp, which encourages students to lead projects in their schools. According to the report, the TCDSB estimates the cancelled programs amount to about $655,000 in EPO funding. But because these programs are being cut in the middle of the school year, the report notes that the board has already spent about $255,000 on them.

Other programs will receive reduced funding, but it’s unclear how much less. The province is expected to provide more details by the end of the week.

New Democrat MPP Marit Stiles called the cuts a “slap in the face” to parents who took part in the government’s public consultations on changes to the education system, which wrapped up Saturday — a day after the government announced the $25 million funding loss. For this school year, EPO funding will be $400 million.

“They are causing utter chaos in our school boards and in our schools,” Stiles, the NDP’s education critic and a former Toronto school board trustee said Tuesday in the legislature. Stiles accused the government of “taking an axe to programs” that help vulnerable students.

“Overwhelmingly, the programs affected are designed to help at-risk youth. The government has yet to share what actual research they have conducted that shows that children getting physical activity or children getting programming to help them succeed if they are at risk or providing leadership opportunities for children are programs that need to be cut.”

Education Minister Lisa Thompson noted the government will continue to spend $400 million in EPO funding this school year — even though $425 million was promised by the previous government last March.

“We’re moving forward with thoughtful investments that make a difference in the classroom environment,” Thompson said during question period.

She has previously said that following a line-by-line audit of spending, the changes were “responsible.” Her spokesperson has previously said some of the EPO spending was “wasteful.”

Thompson also said “tens of thousands of people responded” to the government’s education consultations.

“I can’t wait to start diving into that data, it’s so rich,” she said. “That consultation was based on informing our direction for the next school year of 2019 … that’s what our consultation was based on.”

Speaking with reporters, Premier Doug Ford revealed that the government received about 35,000 responses as part of its public consultation process, calling it “the largest consultation in Ontario’s history.”

And when asked whether the cuts in EPO funding are responsible because they impact vulnerable children, he said, “we’re reviewing everything right across the board … we have to go line-item-by-line-item.”

With files from Robert Benzie

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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Most Canadian employees are ready to quit their jobs, survey finds

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Canadian employers may need to step up their game if they want to avoid costly staff turnover, a new survey suggests.

Research conducted by Nielson on behalf of human resources software company Ceridian found that nearly three quarters of respondents were either looking for work, or would consider jumping ship if approached with the right opportunity.

Among 1,001 Canadians and 1,000 Americans surveyed for the company’s annual Pulse of Talent report, 37 per cent said they were either actively or casually looking for a new job, and 36 per cent say they’d consider a new position if recruited.  

In November, the unemployment rate in Canada hit its lowest point since Statistics Canada started tracking that data 40 years ago. Given the particularly tight labour market for skilled workers, human resources experts say companies can’t afford to assume staff will stick around — even for a few years.

In fact, most of the employees surveyed said they knew within one year on a job whether or not they’d stay long-term.

Lisa Sterling, who heads up HR for Ceridian, said that means employers must act faster to work with junior employees on their career development and job satisfaction — things that naturally build loyalty.

Lisa Sterling, head of human resources for software company Ceridian, said employers risk losing staff if they don’t reach out to them early in their tenure to ensure there’s a clear path for their development and growth. (Ceridian)

Going for growth

Perhaps unsurprisingly, better pay was the reason cited most often for accepting a new job — but not by a landslide. After compensation, people were most likely to leave because they didn’t find their work interesting, followed closely by not feeling respected, and by lack of opportunity to take on new responsibilities.

Sterling says that doesn’t surprise her. « I think it’s absolutely imperative for organizations to have a significant structure around a growth philosophy. It’s incredibly important for people at any age to feel like they have growth and movement. »

Traditionally, employers target senior staff for promotions and opportunities to expand their portfolios of responsibility, she says. But that won’t cut it today.

Millennials do have a desire to do work that is interesting to them … I think they’re more willing to walk away than the generations that came before them. »– Lisa Sterling, Chief People and Culture Officer, Ceridian

« The expectations are different than even 10 years ago, » said Sterling. Raised by baby boomers, many of whom clocked long hours on the job, millennials don’t want to wait decades for work they find fulfilling.

« Millennials have a desire to do work that is interesting to them. Things that give them joy and satisfaction. I think they’re more willing to walk away than the generations that came before them. »

Sterling says that spirit is beginning to influence older workers, too. « It’s one of the positive things that we’re seeing from millennials — they’re driving this desire for meaning across the organization regardless of age. »

Beyond the corporate ladder

All of this requires employers to rethink the traditional career path in ways that don’t necessarily require somebody to move into management in order to grow in their role.

« The way work is evolving now, it’s more about continuing to have an expansion of your knowledge and your experience, » says Sterling. « It doesn’t always mean climbing a ladder. »

Employees of Klick Inc. on a monthly lunch-hour bus trip, this time to St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. (Klick Inc.)

Klick Inc., a Toronto-based technology and health marketing company, has won dozens of best-employer awards, including being named a Top 100 Best Places to Work in the Globe and Mail seven years running.

Executive vice-president Glenn Zujew said that’s because of the emphasis the company places on keeping staff happy both in and out of work. 

On the personal and professional growth side of things, the company has thousands of hours of curated online training content on its so-called Klick University — and not just for work-related tasks.

« You can learn how to DJ here; you can learn how to get your first mortgage. You can learn how to be a designer, » he says.

Investing in retention

Klick has a team entirely dedicated to making sure staff are happy, said Zujew. It runs monthly lunch-hour outings to visit local attractions, holds sessions that help staff adjust to new parenthood, organizes clubs that cater to various interests. It takes groups to football games and has even brought puppies into the office. On Father’s Day, it held a pickle-making workshop and on Mother’s Day a flower arranging class.

If a staffer is pulling long hours on a special project, said Zujew, « they’ll reach out to the family and make sure some Swiss Chalet is delivered to the home or a cleaning person is sent. » It’s a small investment with a big return in loyalty, he says.

« The cost to retrain somebody, to bring in a new employee and do all the onboarding is way greater than doing something like that. » 

Priyanka Mehandiratta, a Toronto-based human resources consultant, said employers are wise to take this kind of holistic approach to retention.

« Employees have a lot of choices now, » said Mehandiratta. « If the work doesn’t give you the satisfaction at the physiological level, you’re not going to do it for a long time. »

She says workplaces must cultivate an employee-friendly culture that’s inclusive and flexible. « If you’re stuck in an old-school model and still looking at when an employee is coming or leaving work, I don’t think you’re going to stay relevant. » 

In the end, it’s the employees who make the company and that’s the simple truth.– Priyanka Mehandiratta, HR consultant

Mehandiratta said employers can keep people happy by cultivating « a culture of feedback » so both staff and managers know how they’re doing.

« Listen to your employees, promote from within, train from within, » she said. When employees feel valued and heard, they’re more motivated to go above and beyond at work, said Mehandiratta.

« In the end, it’s the employees who make the company and that’s the simple truth. »  

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Ron Taverner was considered for other top jobs with province, sources say

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Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner was offered the top position at the Ontario Cannabis Store and considered for a deputy minister post in the months leading up to his appointment to the job of Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, sources have told the Star.

Taverner, a close friend of Premier Doug Ford, rejected the idea of running the government cannabis store, and longtime bureaucrats at Queen’s Park made it clear the veteran Toronto police divisional officer did not have the normal qualifications to oversee the massive Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner was named last month as the new commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. Two reviews of his appointment have since been requested, after allegations of political interference.
Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner was named last month as the new commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. Two reviews of his appointment have since been requested, after allegations of political interference.  (BERNARD WEIL / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

“Doug wanted to do something for Taverner. That is what we were hearing,” said one source.

On Wednesday, the Star sent detailed questions about this to numerous top government officials, including the premier; his chief of staff, Dean French; cabinet secretary Steve Orsini; the deputy minister of community safety, Mario Di Tommaso; and Taverner. None of them has responded, even to acknowledge receipt of the Star’s request for an interview.

Taverner is to start the job of OPP commissioner on Monday. Two reviews of his appointment have been requested, following separate political interference allegations from both opposition MPPs and the current acting commissioner of the OPP.

Taverner and the Ford family go back many years. Taverner is the senior officer in the Etobicoke divisions where the premier and other family members live and where the Ford family company, Deco Labels, is located. It has not been unusual for Taverner to be at a backyard barbecue hosted by the Ford family, and he is a frequent attendee of the annual Ford Fest community event.

“There’s no denying the friendship,” said former Etobicoke councillor Suzan Hall, who served with the late Rob Ford when he was a councillor. Hall speaks highly of Taverner, saying the affable cop has been very helpful to community groups in Etobicoke. She said that if ever a group needs equipment or help from officers, “he makes sure” whatever is needed is sent over from 23 Division.

Taverner’s road to the $275,000 OPP job, commanding one of the largest forces in North America, began around the time of the spring election with a decision that created a job opening at the cannabis store.

Under the previous Liberal government, career civil servant Nancy Kennedy was the president of the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), which was preparing to retail pot through government-owned stores. Doug Ford’s new Progressive Conservative government decided to confine the OCS to online sales, and instead allow privately owned bricks-and-mortar outlets. With the role of the OCS diminished, sources close to Kennedy say she did not want to stay. With a strong financial background from previous jobs, she was asked by the Ford government to return to the public service and was made deputy minister of the Treasury Board secretariat, effective June 29.

Supt. Ron Taverner displays drugs and a gun seized during a police raid in this 2002 photo. Taverner reportedly rejected an offer this year to head the Ontario Cannabis Store. Police sources told the Star that Taverner may not have felt it was a good fit, given his 50-year Toronto police career.
Supt. Ron Taverner displays drugs and a gun seized during a police raid in this 2002 photo. Taverner reportedly rejected an offer this year to head the Ontario Cannabis Store. Police sources told the Star that Taverner may not have felt it was a good fit, given his 50-year Toronto police career.  (Randy Quan*p66 quinn)

That opened up the post of president of the Ontario Cannabis Store. A source close to the discussions said it was offered by government officials to Taverner during the summer, but he declined. The Star does not know why. Taverner, in his 50-year career with the Toronto Police Service, has dealt with and made arrests in many drug cases, often posing as a senior officer in media photo opportunities with bags of illicit drugs. In the 1970s he was part of a joint Toronto-OPP task force investigating biker groups, and police officers have suggested to the Star that Taverner may not have felt it was a good fit for him to be retailing marijuana.

Next up was a suggestion to make Taverner a deputy minister in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which presides over police, jails, forensic and fire marshal services across the province.

The Star has no direct verbal or documentary evidence that Ford ordered his staff to find a job for Taverner. However, the Star has information from two sources who say senior bureaucrats close to Ford made it clear to them that Ford wanted to give Taverner a job of some sort. They were never told why. Opposition critics and the acting head of the OPP have suggested there was “political interference” in the selection process.

The Star’s sources spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to speak about these matters and that they feared repercussions in their employment if they spoke on the record. The sources said that in policing and government circles, it was an open secret that a post was being sought for Taverner.

The Star has no direct verbal or documentary evidence that Premier Doug Ford ordered his staff to find a job for Ron Taverner. However, two sources told the Star that senior bureaucrats close to Ford made it clear to them that Ford wanted to give Taverner a job of some sort.
The Star has no direct verbal or documentary evidence that Premier Doug Ford ordered his staff to find a job for Ron Taverner. However, two sources told the Star that senior bureaucrats close to Ford made it clear to them that Ford wanted to give Taverner a job of some sort.  (Kevin Viner)

Over the summer, when the idea of appointing Taverner as deputy minister of community safety was being floated, the position was held by Matt Torigian, a former Waterloo Region police chief. Torigian had been deputy for four years and was highly thought of by the civil service, including cabinet secretary Steve Orsini, the province’s top bureaucrat, who had served under Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and been asked to stay on by the Ford government.

Sources have told the Star that by August, Torigian had the feeling that he was no longer wanted in the Ford government. The career police officer had spent four years at Community Safety and seven years as Waterloo police chief. He is a graduate of courses at the FBI National Academy. Torigian was offered and accepted an appointment at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy to lead an international initiative on global policing.

During August, sources say, there were discussions at Queen’s Park among Ford staffers that Taverner should become deputy minister. According to sources, Orsini said that would not be a good job for someone with front-line policing but little administrative experience of the type needed to run a ministry with a $2.6-billion budget.

Orsini announced Torigian’s departure from the ministry on Sept. 24, saying on Twitter he wanted to offer Torigian “a big shoutout and congratulations.”

One week later, on Oct. 1, Orsini tweeted out a welcome to the new deputy minister of community safety, Mario Di Tommaso, a career Toronto police officer who at the time was staff superintendent of communities and neighbourhood commands. While some deputy minister openings are posted publicly, others are not, and there appears to have been no job posting for this one. The executive search company the Ford government has been using for other deputy ministers told the Star on Thursday it was not involved in Di Tommaso’s posting.

Di Tommaso began work as deputy minister of community safety on Oct. 22. That same day, the provincial government, through executive search company Odgers Berndtson, released a posting for the job of OPP commissioner. When first released, the posting called for applicants to have a rank that would have excluded an officer at the level of superintendent, such as Taverner.

Two days later, on Oct. 24, that posting was revised, removing the line that stipulated the candidates had to have a minimum rank of deputy police chief or assistant commissioner.

Taverner was appointed OPP commissioner on Nov. 29, prompting an immediate storm of controversy. The NDP’s community safety and correctional services critic, Kevin Yarde, and Leader Andrea Horwath have asked the province’s integrity commissioner to examine the appointment.

“If Taverner’s swearing-in goes ahead on Monday, what will Ford be demanding of him?” Yarde said in a statement from his office Thursday. “It’s critical that police forces operate without political interference and without conflicts of interest — real or perceived.”

Horwath has also asked Taverner to delay assuming the position and is calling for an all-party committee to review the entire appointments process related to the OPP commissioner’s job.

Supt. Ron Taverner, seen here after Rob Ford's death in 2016, is a longtime friend of the Ford family. Suzan Hall, a former city councillor, said Taverner, who oversaw Etobicoke police divisions, has always been very helpful to community groups in the area.
Supt. Ron Taverner, seen here after Rob Ford’s death in 2016, is a longtime friend of the Ford family. Suzan Hall, a former city councillor, said Taverner, who oversaw Etobicoke police divisions, has always been very helpful to community groups in the area.  (Randy Risling)

A Star story following the appointment showed that a former Deco Labels employee, who is now a top political aide to Ford, had sold her Weston house privately to Taverner last year, something opposition MPPs suggested was a sign of a close connection, but which minister Sylvia Jones dismissed as “willing seller, willing buyer.”

On Tuesday, the interim commissioner of the OPP, Brad Blair, who had himself applied for the top job, released a scathing letter to the provincial ombudsman complaining about the selection process. In one instance, he notes that in the first round of interviews, conducted Nov. 12, the three men on the interview panel were Di Tommaso (who he notes was Taverner’s direct supervisor at the Toronto police force), executive search company official Sal Badali, and deputy attorney general Paul Boniferro.

In the next round of interviews with a smaller pool of candidates, on Nov. 20, Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French, was present in place of the deputy attorney general.

Blair, in his letter of complaint to the provincial ombudsman, said that with no explanation, French abruptly left the interview area and he was later told that French would no longer be involved. A source told the Star that French left because Toronto Star reporter Rob Ferguson had just sent questions regarding a story he was working on. The story, published the next day, revealed that French had ordered senior political aides to direct police to raid outlaw cannabis stores the day recreational marijuana became legal, and to show “people in handcuffs.”

The remainder of the interviews were done with a two-person panel. In his letter, Blair said it appears a decision was made later that day on who the next OPP boss would be. The official announcement came out on Nov. 29.

Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-312-3503 or at kdonovan@thestar.ca. Follow him @_kevindonovan

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She started a program to help newcomers make connections. It helped hundreds find jobs

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HALIFAX—Thirty years into a successful business career, Robyn Webb can still empathize with those who are just starting out.

Her soft voice becomes a bit sombre when she talks about the social and financial pressure on the jobless and underemployed — people who may have families to support, or student debt looming over them.

Though it’s been decades since she faced a job hunt herself, she conjures the stress of it easily because every day she works with people who are in the thick of it.

For the past 14 years, Webb has worked for an economic development organization, the Halifax Partnership.

In the beginning, her clients were Halifax business owners. By virtue of the city’s middling size, many of those businesses were small, and Webb would help them plan and grow. Each business seemed to have its own unique needs, but one thing they all shared was the difficulty in finding the right people to fill their jobs.

“Over the years, no matter whether the economy was doing really well or not so great, one of the top three issues facing all businesses was finding the right talent,” she says.

But Webb knew the talent was available and looking — sometimes desperately — to fill those very spots. It was as if both sides were grasping around in the same dark room and Webb simply thought to flick on the light.

In 2009, she spearheaded the creation of a program that introduces job-hunters to people in their industry, starting with a group she believed was in most need of introduction: immigrants.

Now making those connections is the centre of Webb’s work, and she says helping individuals build the foundations of their careers is what gives her job meaning.

Since its inception, the Halifax Connector Program has helped more than 1,000 people find jobs in Halifax, and organizations in other cities have taken notice. Webb’s model has now been implemented in 35 communities across Canada, working with almost 5,000 newcomers.

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Webb has shared her program with groups from Sweden and Switzerland, and earlier this year saw the launch of the Pittsburgh Connector Program in the United States.

She calls it “intentional networking.” While the ultimate goal is to find jobs for the job-hunters — or “connectees,” as Webb calls them — she doesn’t actually put them in touch with people who are hiring. Webb recruits industry insiders, or “connectors,” who can offer frank advice and direction.

“What we wanted them to do is just to have a connection, have a cup of coffee with a newcomer from the same industry, and let them learn a little bit about the industry: what the upcoming needs are, how do they fit into that, where are the opportunities?”

“And then the most important thing is that each connector that becomes part of the program agrees to provide three referrals into their business network. Then the connectee meets with those three and has the very same experience. So before long, that person now has 12 people looking for them, keeping an eye open for them, and seeing if there are opportunities coming up that they can connect them to.”

Connectors help newcomers navigate the job market in a new place with an unfamiliar culture. Webb says it can be especially hard for immigrants to find work, not because they’re unqualified, but because they don’t have access to the so-called “hidden” job market.

“A lot of (small businesses) don’t have an HR person,” Webb explains. “So how do they mitigate the risk when they’re hiring? It’s by picking up the phone and phoning a trusted person that they know and saying, ‘Do you know anybody?’”

If newcomers only know other newcomers, and perhaps some staff or volunteers at immigrant settlement organizations, then job prospects may seem scarce.

Recognizing that, Webb reached out to staff at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), the city’s largest immigrant settlement agency, and asked them to recommend people to be the program’s first participants.

They found 34 people who were “job ready,” which to Webb means their English is at a professional level and they have a post-secondary education.

She then sought out 34 professionals and matched them up.

“The very first connections that we made, we were very selective as to making sure the connectors that we brought on would be really dedicated to … making those three referrals, because that’s the key; we only make one match, so we really need to make sure that that person is engaged,” she says.

Webb attributes the program’s success to that careful scouting and preparation of connectors.

And almost a decade later, it seems to still be in practice, according to one connectee.

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Abinaya Rajendran moved to Canada from India in September 2017. After a couple of months in Toronto — the only city in Canada she and her husband had any acquaintances (a couple of friends) — her husband landed a job in Halifax and they moved.

Although Rajendran’s resumé boasted a master’s degree in engineering and a few years of work experience from back home, she struggled to land a job in construction — her chosen field.

She submitted applications and dropped off resumés, unsolicited, but didn’t get any interest. It was perplexing to her because back in Chennai, India, that simple process was all it took.

“I got a call, I had an interview, and then I was selected and I got the job,” she says of her last job-hunting experience. “The majority of the jobs (in India) are, if there’s a job, it’s posted online and then you apply and you get the job.”

But credentials didn’t seem to be enough in Canada.

She applied to the Halifax Connector Program in early 2018 and was matched with a local engineer. As promised, that first connection spun off into more.

“It took some time, but I think having met these people I’m much more confident in my job search … because I know what a Canadian employer is looking for,” she says.

Rajendran is still looking for a full-time job, but in the meantime she’s on a short-term work placement in her industry until early 2019, and she’s training herself on software that’s regularly used by engineering firms in Canada.

She says she’s hopeful about finding something permanent in the near future, crediting her optimism to her connectors.

“They’re very accommodating. They respond and they really want to help you. So that’s something that’s really encouraging for a new person, for an immigrant. I think that’s important, that you know that there is a support system here,” she says.

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Born and raised in Dartmouth, N.S., Webb speaks tenderly about the city of lakes where she also watched her kids grow up and paddle for sport.

But the depth of that fondness was cemented earlier, when she left for a short time in the early 1980s. She was newly graduated and moved to Lethbridge where her husband was going to school. Despite the business degree to her name, she struggled to find work.

It was a relief to return home to Nova Scotia after a year, where she started her career in earnest and put down roots.

She says that over the years she’s been offered jobs in other cities, but always turns them down.

It’s atypical for Maritimers to resist moving west. In the past few years, only an influx of international immigration has prevented Nova Scotia’s population from decreasing.

Webb says in a city like Halifax, in a province like Nova Scotia, where the population is aging and many industries are desperate for skilled workers, someone has to show people it’s viable to stay before they’re tempted to try their luck in another part of the country.

There’s a “small window” to attach people to the city, according to Webb, before necessity or ambition pull them away. She’s made it a personal mission to attach as many people as possible to her hometown by settling them into meaningful work.

With the initial success of the program for immigrants, Webb started thinking about how other groups could fit into her mandate.

New graduates are often in a similar position to newcomers: unattached, and eagerly looking for work. So within a year of launching the immigrant stream of the connector program, Webb invited international graduates to join.

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Within a couple more years, a third stream was added for local graduates.

Bo Qin says without Webb’s program, it isn’t likely she would still be in Halifax.

She came here from China to study internetworking. After completing a master’s degree in 2016, she had all the right qualifications on paper — just like Rajendran — but soon found herself working part-time as a restaurant server.

“I just dropped resumés online and even dropped paper resumés in a company at the front desk, but it didn’t work,” she says.

As months went by, she started getting anxious.

A year had already passed since she graduated and Qin worried if she couldn’t find a job before her three-year work permit expired, she’d have to return to China.

Qin grew up in Shanghai — a city of about 24 million people — and says its vast size, the size of companies there and the fast pace of work and life were unappealing to her. “I prefer Halifax,” she says.

It was ISANS — the immigrant settlement agency — that referred Qin to the connector program last year.

Her first connector worked for a cybersecurity consultancy firm and recommended Qin sign up for a program to learn more computer languages. While she was in the midst of those studies this spring, the company her connector worked for started hiring.

Qin was thrilled to receive a call — and a job offer.

Ignoring for a moment the year of waiting and worrying, Qin’s hiring seems about as easy as can be — no cover letter, no formal interview, just a plum offer. But it was only because of the connection she’d made, and she doesn’t forget that.

Webb says the sooner one can start networking, the better. Which is why she’s now working on accepting immigrants into the program before they even arrive in Canada.

“When they get off the plane, they probably have three people to follow up with,” she says.

As Webb continues to push the boundaries of the program (next on the horizon is a connector app), more and more communities are taking notice.

She now spends a good amount of her time sharing the process nationally and internationally because she knows the challenges she sees in Halifax are universal.

This is the last of the Star’s Changemakers series profiling 12 Canadians who are making our lives better.

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter focusing on education. Follow her on Twitter: @tarynalgrant

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Unemployment reaches 40-year low with 94,100 new jobs added in November

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A blast of 94,100 new jobs last month has knocked the country’s unemployment rate down to 5.6 per cent — its lowest level since Statistics Canada started measuring comparable data more than 40 years ago.

The overall number marked the labour force survey’s largest monthly increase since March 2012, when there was a gain of 94,000 jobs, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The November employment surge was fuelled by the addition of 89,900 full-time positions. For employee work, the private sector added 78,600 positions in November, while the public sector gained 8,300 jobs.

Last month’s increase pushed the jobless rate down from October’s reading of 5.8 per cent, which had been the previous low mark since comparable data first became available in 1976. The old statistical approach — prior to 1976 — registered an unemployment rate reading of 5.4 per cent in 1974.

But Friday’s report also contained disappointing details.

Weak wage growth

Year-over-year average hourly wage growth for permanent employees continued its decline in November to 1.46 per cent — to deliver its weakest reading since July 2017.

Experts have been expecting wage growth to rise thanks to the tightened labour market, but it has dropped every month since its May peak of 3.9 per cent. It now sits well below inflation.

The Bank of Canada keeps a close watch on wages ahead of its interest-rate decisions. On Wednesday, the central bank held its benchmark rate at 1.75 per cent. But in explaining its decision, it highlighted other economic negatives, such as weaker-than-expected business investment and the sharp drop in oil prices.

Statistics Canada’s report Friday also said that, compared to 12 months earlier, employment was up 1.2 per cent following a net increase of 218,800 jobs. The addition of 227,400 full-time positions offset a small decrease in part-time work.

The November jobs report showed the goods-producing sector added 26,900 jobs, following a notable gain of 14,800 construction positions. The services sector generated 67,200 jobs last month with help from the addition of 26,000 positions in professional, scientific and technical services.

By region, employment rose in six provinces and was led by gains in Quebec and Alberta.

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Liberals changing Canada Summer Jobs attestation after reproductive rights controversy – National

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The Liberals are changing the controversial Canada Summer Jobs attestation that required program applicants to attest respect for a range of established rights, including access to abortion.

Now, groups that work to undermine those rights or that promote discrimination simply won’t be eligible for funding.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the Canada Summer Jobs crackdown on anti-abortion groups

“The changes this year are really a reflection of the conversations we’ve been having with Canadians, with members of Parliament, with faith-based leaders and with progressive groups across the country,” said Employment Minister Patty Hajdu in an interview with Global News.

“At the end of the day, we are extremely pleased with how this landed. We think that we’ve managed to listen to Canadians and listen to a variety of voices.”

WATCH BELOW: Conservatives, Liberals trade jabs over Canada Summer Jobs program attestation






An announcement from Service Canada with more information about the changes is set to go out to MPs on Thursday.

The changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program will also allow all youths between the ages of 18 and 30 — not just students — apply for jobs funded through the program.

Last December, the government introduced a new attestation that required all employers seeking a Canada Summer Jobs grant to attest that “both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights.”

READ MORE: Canada Summer Jobs program will no longer fund anti-abortion, anti-gay groups

Those other rights “include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

Religious groups and Conservative critics quickly cried foul, arguing that requiring employers to attest to what they deemed a “values test” breached their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Several anti-abortion groups that refused the attestation filed a lawsuit against the government in Federal Court; the lawsuit remains ongoing.

Federal officials argued the decision on whether to apply for funding is entirely voluntary, and employers had the choice not to do it.

WATCH BELOW: Employers should have no problem with new attestations on reproductive rights: Hajdu






Hajdu said that while the government had tried to make it clear the attestation wasn’t targeting “beliefs or values,” some people were still confused and uncomfortable.

“Last year, what we were trying to ensure was that money didn’t go towards activities that would in any way ask a kid to undermine or violate the rights that Canadians have fought for and won through hard legal battles,” she said.

“Despite our effort to make that case, many faith-based groups still felt it was uncomfortable for them to sign and so we wanted to make sure that we worked with faith-based groups, with leaders, but that we also worked with rights organizations to get it right, to make sure the attestation gets at the core of ensuring that any funding doesn’t support activities or projects that in any way undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.”

Under the new eligibility criteria being set out for applications this year, any employer wanting to use the money to hire youth for work that would undermine or restrict reproductive rights, promote intolerance or prejudice or that would otherwise discriminate on any prohibited grounds cannot receive funding.

COMMENTARY: Liberals will win the fight on Canada Summer Jobs program

Prohibited grounds for discrimination, as defined under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, include sex, age, religion, race, ethic origin, any form of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

All of those were originally covered by the attestation wording introduced last year.

However, the changes to the attestation set to be announced would essentially remove the responsibility of specifically attesting to those from the employer.

Instead, it will be up to Service Canada to assess applications and determine whether employers meet the criteria.

WATCH BELOW: Trudeau says no religious group will be barred from summer jobs grant






Hajdu says she had several one-on-one meetings with religious leaders earlier this year as well as subsequent group consultations on the issue.

Her staff has also been going back and forth in discussions about proposed language changes to the attestation in order to find wording that both gets to the root of the issue that the government wants to address and reflects concerns from religious groups that they were being judged on their values.

“They understood that objective, by and large, and I think felt very comfortable and happy that we were listening to their concerns, that we were so open to working with them,” she said.

“Certainly, we’ve been reaching back on a regular basis to propose various kinds of language that would get at those mutual goals, and I think, by and large, many faith-based groups are quite happy.”

WATCH BELOW: Trudeau’s fight on government grants and reproductive rights






The original attestation, put in place last year, was sparked by a series of media reports in spring 2017.

Those reports revealed that anti-abortion groups had been using the program to obtain tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to advocate for the erosion of reproductive rights.

READ MORE: Anti-abortion group got $56K federal grant from Liberal MP

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid had approved $56,000 in 2017 to the local chapter of a group that is infamous for using graphic pictures of aborted fetuses in their efforts to curtail reproductive rights.

Given that Khalid had run under the pro-choice banner of the Trudeau Liberals, documents obtained by the Canadian Press under access to information laws showed that news caught Hajdu’s attention.

Rachael Harder, the Conservative status of women critic, was also found to have approved thousands in funding to similar groups and centres in her riding.

WATCH BELOW: Christian faith leader slams Justin Trudeau over summer job changes






By August 2017, Hajdu had directed her department to come up with ways to ensure the Canada Summer Jobs money went only to groups with “mandates that are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and court decisions.”

The attestation was announced in December 2017.

READ MORE: Canada Summer Jobs attestation endorsed by 80 Canadian rights groups

While more than 80 human rights groups in Canada signed a declaration supporting the move, some religious groups and Conservative critics were outraged.

Hajdu would not comment when asked about whether the ongoing legal challenge was an impetus for the change to the 2019 attestation.

“I don’t have any information on that,” she said.

Employers can begin submitting their applications for 2019 funding on Dec. 13.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Edmonton dad creates app to help kids find odd jobs in neighourhood – Edmonton

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An app created by an Edmonton dad is helping connect kids and neighbours to tasks in their community.

Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 can sign up for Heydan as a forum to communicate with neighbours to apply for age-appropriate jobs like shovelling driveways, babysitting or walking a dog.

Heydan screengrab

Greg Kusyk/Heydan

Creator Greg Kusyk said he came up with the idea after his son, Josh, began shovelling neighbours’ driveways to earn money for a guitar.


READ MORE:
Winnipeg students create on-demand snow shoveling app, will partner with Hire-A-Refugee

“What I saw come from that was a relationship with these neighbours. They knew he was doing this so Josh could pay for a guitar, then it was snowboards,” said Kusyk. “It became a relationship, with them supporting Josh and his interests.”

He began talking with a friend who understood software, discussing an app that would support communities and kids.

“[My friend] grasped onto that right away, so we decided to go ahead and do it,” said Kusyk. “We are just launching now. We’ve been working on the app for the last year and a half.”

Kids can earn money for their own personal goals or for a charity or a sports team, as well.

LISTEN BELOW: Edmonton dad creates app to help neighbourhood kids find work

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“For example, you have a hockey club that wants to use the app. The coach puts the details in the app of the contact person who’s controlling funding and then when the youth go into the app, they select the job they want to do and decide what portion of their earnings go to the sports team.”

Kusyk said the app has received positive feedback so far.

“It’s been overwhelming enthusiasm about the whole idea. I never imagined this,” said Kusyk. “A lot of kids seek out these jobs and do their own advertising. This app provides a forum for them. It’s going to be a useful tool for kids. Then, all the resources are there for you to do it safely.”

Safety is a prominent feature in the app.

“A youth creates their account and they are required to get a code from their parent, which links a parent to that account. Then they can monitor the chat and job history,” said Kusyk. “There’s also confidentiality. The app outlines a radius of one kilometre from that youth, but will not reveal their address or other details.”


READ MORE:
Montreal researchers develop HIV self-testing app

Kusyk also hopes his app will bring communities closer together.

“We want to take kids from a sedentary lifestyle on their smartphones and transition them to getting to know their neighbours, being active in their community and having an opportunity to support charities and sports organizations,” said Kusyk.

Heydan is available on Apple and Android devices.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Botanica Restaurant Column: We Left Our Dream Jobs to Open a Restaurant Across the Country | Healthyish

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Emily Fiffer and Heather Sperling are two editors-turned-restaurant-owners in L.A. Their first restaurant, Botanica, is an airy all-day cafe in Silver Lake and a strong contender for most healthyish restaurant in America. We’ll catch up with Emily and Heather regularly for stories, recipes, and dispatches from the front lines of a women-led, vegetable-first kitchen.

The power went out during our first-ever New Year’s Eve dinner. Our restaurant Botanica was a mere six months old, and we were booked solid and eager to please (NYE = high expectations). Suddenly the emergency lights flicked on, turning the low-lit dining room into a fluorescent box. Music stopped mid-beat. The kitchen was cloaked in complete darkness, and equipment whirred to a halt. Before we had time to panic, our staff sprang into action: Line cooks seared lamb kabobs on a small backup stove. Spouses and partners brought dozens of balloons to cover the emergency lights’ obnoxious glare. One friend dropped his holiday plans to play guitar on our patio; another brought her stereo to stream music inside.

As co-owners of an ever-growing, always-changing, beautiful beast of a restaurant in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, we are often asked why we did it. Why did we leave our “dream jobs” (we’re both former food and lifestyle journalists) for the heavy-lifting, micro-managing, and sleeplessness of the restaurant industry? In this column, we’ll try to answer that question by giving you a peek into our crazy lives, from how we deal with power outages to how we stock our market to our favorite cooking techniques.

When we first decided to open a restaurant back in 2014, the food world hardly resembled what it is today. Vegetables had just begun to take hold of America’s hearts, the #metoo movement didn’t exist, and aggression, addiction and perversion weren’t just acceptable, they were proof that you had what it took. We made the jump from writing about restaurants to building one because we wanted to create something that celebrated what we thought was important, not what was already there.

We wanted to change things from the inside out by proving that health, wellness, and nourishment could be incorporated into every aspect of an ambitious restaurant. We wanted to lavish vegetables, fruits, and grains with the attention and respect we thought they deserved (while showering some love on Pacific seafood and sustainably raised meat, too). We wanted to build a business that would respect and support its staff and care genuinely and personally for its guests via hugs and wholesome cookies and copious pours of natural wine.

And, as two women in a male-dominated industry, we wanted to do it on our own and in our own way: by sheer force of will, energy, and optimism (and a lot of hard-ass work).

So: We moved from Chicago to LA, talked friends and strangers into giving us money, built a website to share our recipes, gut-renovated a decrepit 1940s liquor store, pulled together an intensely wonderful crew of staff, makers, and purveyors, and brought Botanica to life.

Today we’re just beyond our year-and-a-half birthday, and Botanica is legitimately thriving. We’ve made it through the insanity of the opening months (nonstop maximum output; self-care regimens down the toilet; living off granola and cold six-minute eggs pulled straight from the walk-in) and now, thanks to our incredible 50-person dream team, have occasional moments to pause, breathe, and eat actual meals.

Perspective is hard to come by in this business. We often get mired in the minute-to-minute drama of broken refrigerators, rancid cashews, and AWOL everything, from dishwashers to dairy orders. Much of our time is spent putting out fires (literally, we’ve put out three), all while maintaining a sense of cool, calm collected-ness so our dining room full of guests feels cared for. Sidenote: On that first New Years, no one complained. Midnight came and went, and the lights were back on for daytime service.

But the upside to owning our own restaurant? It’s huge. It’s no exaggeration to say that we spend every day among the most delicious and beautiful products around. We work with a team of fiercely creative, passionate people devoted to making things—food, natural wine, cocktails, coffee, tea, ceramics, floral arrangements, music—that bring joy.

When we actually stop to think about it, we feel like the luckiest people in the world. (And then we think: Oh man, we need a massage. And we need to follow up with the plumber! And we should add curry leaves to the vadouvan cauliflower dish. And damn, did we order more matcha? And…)

Our goal for this column is to share it all with you: stories, lessons, obsessions, favorite things and, of course, plenty of colorful, healthyish, vegetable-centric recipes. We hope you’ll enjoy (and come see us next time you’re in LA!).

xo, Emily and Heather

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