Pot legalization: What will it mean for schools?

The revelation that the federal government will legalize marijuana in Canada by July 1, 2018 has sparked a flurry of speculation about possible implications. 

But those imagining a disastrous Canada-wide increase in high school students showing up stoned in classrooms need not worry, school boards say.

“Even if it may be decriminalized and even if a student may be of the age in which he or she can purchase marijuana, our code of conduct is still in place,” said John Bowyer, superintendent of safety and security for the Durham District School Board, east of Toronto.

John Bowyer

John Bowyer of the Durham District School Board says even if a student were old enough to legally buy marijuana, it would still be a violation of the code of conduct to attend class under the influence. (Nicole Ireland/CBC )

“What we expect is that our students come to school prepared to learn and … in a state of mind that they can be safe and they can learn appropriately.” 

Earlier this week, CBC News learned that Ottawa would set a minimum age of 18 to buy pot, but the provinces will be able to increase that age. How marijuana is distributed and sold will also be up to each provincial government.

The Durham board is waiting to get that kind of specific information from the Ontario government, Bowyer said. But in general terms, he sees potential marijuana policies as similar to those governing alcohol use. 

“Right now alcohol is legal to be purchased by someone who is 19 years of age or older [in Ontario], but we do expect that students do not show up to the school in possession of alcohol or having consumed alcohol.”

The Ontario government’s health and physical education curriculum already teaches students about substance use and addiction. The Durham board runs a “healthy choices” program, which focuses on the risks associated with alcohol and other drugs, whether legal or illegal. 

Legalization likely won’t “dramatically” change the conversation with students about marijuana, Bowyer said, because the impact and possible consequences of using it remain the same. 

But Art Steinmann, manager of the substance use health promotion program with the Vancouver School Board, hopes legalization will actually help “normalize” conversations about pot and lead to more educational opportunities.

Art Steinmann

Legalizing marijuana will give educators the opportunity to speak with students about the health risks associated with using pot at a young age, says Art Steinmann, a Vancouver School Board manager. (Vancouver School Board)

“A lot of kids today are fairly knowledgeable about alcohol and tobacco and yet … they entertain a number of myths about marijuana,” Steinmann said. “They think it’s a harmless herb for the most part.”  

Although he doesn’t have hard data to prove it, Steinmann said, he believes the fact that pot is illegal means people in authority might not talk about it with students as much as they do about alcohol.  

“A lot of, say, classroom teachers, or even school counsellors, gym teachers, coaches, whatever, probably don’t really feel comfortable or don’t feel they want to get into discussions on that,” he said. “[But] those same people might be comfortable with saying, ‘You know, if you ever  do drink, don’t drink and drive.'”

“There’s sometimes a little more societal comfort to talk about products that have been, you know, clearly categorized and delineated as to where they fit in our culture, and with cannabis, that hasn’t been the case.”

More open conversations about marijuana are vital from a public health standpoint, said Benedikt Fischer, senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Even though most secondary school students won’t be old enough to legally use it when the legislation changes, there’s an obligation to educate them about cannabis, he said, noting about one in three Canadians between 16 and 25 either have used or are using the drug. 

Research suggests using marijuana could be damaging during teens’ developmental years, and it’s important to teach them how to minimize the risks, Fischer said.  

“If you can delay [using] it from 14 to 17 or 18 or even later, that is likely going to bring quite a bit of health gain.” 

The age requirement that comes with legalization paves the way for conveying that message, Steinmann said. 

“It’ll give us the ability to say, ‘You know what? They’re legalizing, regulating this stuff. And by the way, did you notice there’s an age limit? Now why might that be?'” he said.

“We would have an opportunity to say, ‘Wow, it seems like people who have really studied this and really looked into it are saying that younger people should not be using this.'”

Ford recalls 440,000 vehicles for fire risk, door latch trouble

Ford Fusion Sport

The Ford Fusion V6 Sport is seen in this promotional image. (Ford)

Ford is recalling more than 440,000 vehicles in North America including more than 20,000 in Canada to fix problems that can cause engine fires and doors to open unexpectedly.

The first recall covers over 230,000 Escape SUVs, Fiesta ST subcompacts, Fusion midsize cars and Transit Connect vans with 1.6-litre turbocharged engines from 2013 through 2015. 

21,854 of the affected vehicles are in Canada, Ford told CBC News Wednesday, breaking down as follows:

  • 528 – 2014 Fiesta ST
  • 6,005 – 2013 Fusion
  • 110 – 2014 Fusion
  • 15,074 – 2014 Escape
  • 134 – 2014 Transit Connect
  • 3 – 2015 Transit Connect

The company says engines can overheat, causing the cylinder head to crack and leak oil that can catch fire. Ford has 29 reports of fires, but no injuries.

Owners can keep driving the vehicles but should go to a dealer if the cars overheat or frequently need coolant.

The company also is adding 211,000 vehicles to a previous recall to replace faulty door latches. That recall covers the 2014 Fiesta and the 2013 and 2014 Fusion and Lincoln MKZ.

Purolator back to business as usual as agreement reached with union

New

Package delivery company temporarily stopped accepting new packages Tuesday

CBC News Posted: Mar 29, 2017 5:42 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 29, 2017 5:42 AM ET

Purolator will be accepting packages again Wednesday as the company has reached a tentative agreement with its largest union, averting a strike.

The agreement must still be ratified by Teamsters Canada, the union representing thousands of members who work at Purolator.

The company said it will not discuss the details of the tentative agreement until union members have had the opportunity to review and vote on it.

“We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience over the past few days,” said Ken Johnston, Vice President of Human Resources and Labour Relations at Purolator. “We’re happy to get back to delivering our customers’ packages now that we’ve reached an agreement that positions the company and employees for sustainable growth in today’s fast-changing marketplace.”

On Tuesday, the company stopped accepting new shipments after issuing the strike notice, which had been set to start Wednesday afternoon.

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‘How dare you say these hateful things?’ Woman takes on Islamophobia at school board meeting

A Toronto area woman who confronted a group of people shouting Islamophobic comments at a Peel District School Board meeting told CBC News that the energy in the room that night was “explosive” and “sick.”

Christina Dixon, who grew up in the Peel Region and has a child who goes to school in the district, can be seen in videos of last Wednesday’s meeting standing and shouting “Shame on you!” at a man who is ripping pages out of a Qur’an.

The meeting, which was eventually cleared by police, was interrupted from its regular agenda by attendees deriding Islam in protest of a 20-year policy allowing Muslim students space to pray in Peel schools on Fridays.

Dixon, who works as an actress and activist, said she attempted to keep calm but found the comments being yelled out too objectionable.

“They started yelling ‘shame’ at the school board … I heard someone yell, ‘This is a Christian country.’ It was a combination of hearing all those different things, and the rage and the anger with which it was being said, that inspired me to stand up,” she explained.

At one point, Dixon rose to her feet and shouted, “How dare you say these hateful things?”

“I’ve lived in the Peel Region for most of my life,” she explained later. “I never would have expected that this kind of rhetoric and anger and hatred and ignorance … I never would have expected it in our community to this extent.”

Peel District School Board Chair Janet McDougald told CBC Toronto last week that a vocal group has been attending school board meetings for the last two months or so “specifically to make it known they are against Muslim prayer in schools,” adding the board has since begun bringing police officers to meetings for security.

McDougald also said the board will no longer allow questions or presentations related to religious accommodation at meetings. 

Christina Dixon

Dixon told CBC that when she stood up to attendees who were shouting Islamophobic comments, it felt like the entire room was yelling at her. (Desiree Thomas)

‘This is not where I grew up’

Syed Imam, a University of Toronto student who filmed portions of the meeting on his cellphone, said he was moved by seeing Dixon stand up for his community.

“She was the only one in the room at the time who was defending me and my faith,” said Imam, who is Muslim. “She really flipped the game by having that kind of courage.”

Imam, who attended Gordon Graydon Secondary School in Peel Region and “benefited from the religious accommodation for all four of my years there,” said he’s shocked and dismayed to see pushback against what was always a non-controversial policy. 

“It really only does take one person to stand up against a number of bigots or racists.”

– Syed Imam

“This is not where I grew up. I grew up in a society where everybody was accepting of each other,” he told CBC Toronto.

Emboldened by Dixon, Imam said he turned off his camera when it ran out of space to record and got into a “back and forth” with a man who was making offensive statements about Islam. 

“If she wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have said anything at all,” he said. “It really only does take one person to stand up against a number of bigots or racists.”

After the meeting was cleared, Dixon gave Imam “a big hug and apologized even though there was nothing she did that was wrong,” he said.

‘The temperature has been rising over time’

Bonnie Crombie

‘I don’t know that it’s any organized group at all,’ says Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie of the people responsible for disrupting the school board meeting. (CBC)

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie told CBC News on Tuesday that she would like to reassure residents like Imam and Dixon that “the reaction we have seen does not reflect our community.”

“The Mississauga I know is a vibrant, diverse city,” she continued, adding that she felt that it was a small, vocal group of residents that aren’t necessarily organized that are behind the disruptions.

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey agreed, calling diversity one of the great strengths of her community.

“The temperature has been rising over time [on this issue] … but it’s not what I see on the ground,” she said, “I see us come together when bad things happen.”  

Jeffrey also put out a statement earlier this month, underlining that the Ontario Human Rights Code mandates religious accommodation and expressing concern over the “fear mongering” and “outright falsehoods” she had seen circulating.

The issue has also caught the attention of provincial politicians.

Last Thursday, the Ontario ministers for education and child and youth services, Mitzie Hunter and Michael Coteau, released a joint statement decrying the fact that “hate continues to spread even in the most diverse regions of our province.”

Mitzie Hunter

Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter spoke the day after the school board meeting about the importance of respecting religious accommodation in schools. (CBC)

Who is behind it?

Meanwhile, questions linger over who the people are that can be seen yelling and tearing pages in the video.

An online petition calling for the end of religious accommodation in Peel schools put out by a group called Religion Out of Public Schools has attracted upwards of 5,800 signatures, but the group, which goes by ROOPS for short, said it had representatives present but had nothing to do with the disruptions.

“We strongly condemn the act of hatred and what transpired,” wrote Gayathri Iyer, who identified herself as a member of the ROOPS team in an email to CBC.

Const. Mark Fischer, from Peel Regional Police, said the incidents that took place at the meeting were investigated and that the force’s diversity relations unit was “utilized,” but no charges were laid.

Identity of mysterious men, missing kids explored in laundry chute death inquest

The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Nadine Machiskinic said her injuries indicate she went down a  Regina hotel laundry chute one of two ways – either feet first or head first while on her back.  

The lawyer representing Machskinic’s family, Noah Evanchuk, said the two options Ladham presented raise serious questions. 

On January 10, 2015 the 29-year-old mother of four somehow ended up in a very narrow laundry chute, approximately 45 centimetres high and wide, and plunged to her death.

On the second day of the coroner’s inquest into her death, Dr. Shaun Ladham testified about the nature of her injuries and how she may have fallen at Regina’s Delta Hotel.

“The two ways that I think are coming clear are one option is feet first despite the fact there are no injuries to the feet or lower body at all,” said Evanchuk.

He said the second option, in which Machiskinic would have gone in head first on her back “would imply someone, Ms. Machiskinic was put there by somebody.” 

Noah Evanchuk

Noah Evanchuk is representing the family of Nadine Machiskinic in a coroner’s inquest into her death. (CBC)

Evanchuk argued it would be too difficult for someone to throw themselves down the chute.

“You would have to turn the handle, pull it out and hold it out all at the same time the physics of that seem to beggar belief that that would be one person doing that and going in headfirst. That’s my take on it,” he said. 

That’s just one of many unresolved issues for the jury to ponder this week, which also includes whether the victim’s level of intoxication would have precluded her voluntarily entering the chute. 

“There were a lot of procedural problems that occurred in the case in particular dealing with Ms. Machiskinic being written off. The initial response was that she lived a high-risk lifestyle,” Evanchuk said.

“I would like to think as a citizen that my fellow citizens would get due protection of all these institutions and the system failed Ms. Machiskinic plain and simple.”

Who were the children?

Police have only tracked down one person who saw Machiskinic on the 10th floor the morning of January 10, 2015. 

William Creeden was staying at the Delta Hotel that night. He had come to town from his home in Kansas City for a gathering of union officials. 

William Creeden

William Creeden was staying at the Delta Hotel on a business trip the night Nadine Machiskinic died. (CBC)

Creeden’s interview with police was played for the jury, in which explained that he was awoken early that morning by an alarm and a woman banging on his door. 

He said he peeked out the door and saw a frantic woman with dark hair yelling that the hotel was on fire. 

Besides her dark hair, the other thing that stood out to Creeden was the two children “peering out from behind her.” 

He said they were not teenagers and not toddlers but somewhere in between in age. 

In the inquest, police testified that they attempted to find out who these children were but have so far been unsuccessful. 

And that’s not the only pair police have failed to track down. 

Men on the elevator yet to be ID’d

The jury heard that one year after Machiskinic’s death Sgt. Troy Davis and his partner with assigned to have a new look with fresh eyes at the evidence. 

One of the first tasks Davis set for himself was to get a list of all the guests who stayed in the hotel the night Machiskinic died. 

“That became very important for us,” he said because surveillance video appeared to show Machiskinic getting on the elevator with two men shortly before she plunged to her death.

Davis soon discovered that the previous investigators failed to get a copy of that list. 

When he first approached the hotel to get it “they didn’t want to turn it over.”

He told the jury that months later he was provided a copy of the list but it was incomplete. 

“What we got was a purged document,” Davis said, which had some guests but not others.

“If you’re not a regular Delta person that stays there after a few months you would be purged off,” he added. 

Davis explained that he and his partner went to great lengths to track those men down but in the end they were unsuccessful. 

Canada and U.S. on diverging tracks as Trump signs climate order: Don Pittis

Only six months ago, Canada and the United States seemed like trains on the same track.

Sure, there were policy differences. But especially after the election of a Liberal government in Ottawa, the two capitals were generally agreed on climate change, free trade, immigration, taxes, bank regulation and many other issues.

But suddenly, with the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president instead of the widely expected Hillary Clinton, everything changed.

Different tracks for different folks?

This week, as Trump makes new announcements to soften rules protecting the environment and hints emerge of $18 billion in cuts to social programs, it is as if someone had suddenly opened a switch and turned Canada and the U.S. onto completely different tracks.

If the U.S. abruptly changes direction, can Canada afford to follow its own path?

USA-TRUMP/ENERGY

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up an executive order on ‘energy independence,’ eliminating Obama-era climate change regulations, at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

It was a question that came up obliquely during the recent federal budget as the Liberal government put off details to wait for developments south of the border. 

In the U.S., Fed chair Janet Yellen has raised interest rates twice with at least two more quarter-point rate cuts planned for later this year to compensate for the stimulating effect of new Trump spending and tax cuts.

‘I think Canada has the opportunity to present itself as the new shining city on the hill, the place that welcomes diversity and innovation.’ — Frank Graves, Ekos Research

Yesterday Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz seemed gloomy and disinclined to raise rates. That is helping to push the Canadian dollar down.

“We talk about serial disappointment. It looks OK, but then some new shock comes along,” Poloz said yesterday. 

Bad or really bad?

Growing protectionist rhetoric from the United States represents one of the potential shocks of diverging policy.

“If a tariff went up across a border, then consumers on two sides of the border may react differently to those different prices,” said Poloz. “Will it be slightly bad for your business or really bad?”

Stephen Poloz Durham College

While the U.S. central bank is raising interest rates, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz seemed to be heading the opposite direction. (University of Ontario Institute of Technology/Twitter)

Until recently, polling data from Ekos Research have demonstrated that values in Canada and the U.S. are remarkably similar, says Ekos president Frank Graves. And like Trump supporters, many Canadians face anger and despair.

Similar and converging

“The values in aggregate held by Canadians and Americans [show they] are probably the most similar societies in the world and the pattern has been one toward greater convergence, not divergence,” says Graves.

Of course, the U.S. and Canada can see dramatic swings in government policy following an election. 

An example of one of those swings was yesterday’s new presidential order opposing climate change.

“My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” said Trump. “To reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations.”

Just as Trump was celebrating his new climate policy Erin Flanagan from the environmental group the Pembina Institute was issuing a release congratulating the government of Canada for sticking to its climate plan.

Flanagan says Trump is simply missing the boat by failing to support a booming U.S. clean-energy industry.

“It’s clear that the world is changing,” she says. “I think it’s a really great signal that our government is not going in that Trump direction.” 

Many supporters of the fossil fuel industry in Canada disagree, saying the divergence in policy will be just one more hit for a troubled sector as U.S. producers get a competitive advantage.

Businesses outside the sector are also worried their U.S. competitors could garner further advantages from tax cuts, tariffs favouring the U.S. and deregulation. Meanwhile a free-trading Canada would face competition from Europe, Asia and Mexico.

Canadians for Trump

Already Ekos research shows a Canadian backlash against Liberal policy and in favour of Trump. Graves says among Canadian Conservatives, his polling show 57 per cent support Trump’s policies although that compares to “single digits” among everyone else.

Graves points out that Canada has taken profoundly different policy positions from the U.S. over the years. Before the arrival of Trump it seemed the U.S. was gravitating toward Canada with a move to socialized medicine and legalized cannabis.

Regina Co-op refinery train tracks

It may not be bad that Canada and the U.S. seem to be heading down different political and economic tracks. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

But as to whether Canada should stick to its own values or, as Graves says, “get with the room” and be more like the U.S., Ekos polling shows Canadians remain “pretty divided,” though people are generally agreed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should cultivate a personal relationship with Trump.

But it is possible that at this moment in history, divergence is in Canada’s interests. For instance, there are credible forecasts showing Mexico will be the fifth largest economy in the world by 2050, he says.

Is the U.S. going to hell?

“So why would we want to be tying ourselves to the American economy when it may be just going to hell in a hand basket?” asks Graves. 

Rather than cutting taxes for the rich and deregulating to boost the economy, Canada can fight anger and despair by emphasizing skills training, knowledge, greater economic equality and openness to the world. 

“I think Canada has the opportunity to present itself as the new shining city on the hill, the place that welcomes diversity and innovation,” says Graves.

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

More analysis from Don Pittis

Deadline for women to opt out of RCMP sex harassment settlement is today

Today is the deadline for female Mounties to decide if they want to opt out of a historic sexual harassment class action lawsuit.

Any woman who has worked as a civilian or regular member of the RCMP is eligible to file a claim under the negotiated settlement to compensate for on-the-job harassment and abuse.

RCMP Const. Agata Purcell said she’s sticking with the class action because she doesn’t want to subject her family to the challenges of going it alone with an individual lawsuit. 

“I hope that by identifying myself as another person involved in this fiasco, I’m able to persuade someone … who is siting on the fence and debating whether they should pursue it or not,” she told CBC News from New Brunswick, where she is stationed.

Purcell alleges she was subjected to continuous sexual harassment during her first five years on the job when she worked in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. It started almost 10 years ago, when she was two months into her new job and still in training.

Purcell recounted how a senior officer approached her and demanded she disclose to him the details of any intimate relationships so he could protect her from appearing — as he put it — “the town bicycle.”

“You don’t know what the rules are. You don’t know what the norm is. You don’t know if this is a thing that just happens as part of your training process, right? It’s really hard to evaluate at the time. You go with the flow because you really have a desire to prove yourself,” she recalled.

Harassment continued for years

Yet the harassment, sexualized comments and eventual taunting about getting engaged to another Mountie continued for five years.

“A supervisor, a sergeant at the time and on duty, had seen me walking my dog. He came out of his way to approach me, to talk to me and to let me know my taste in men was similar to my taste in dogs because my dog was ‘f—ing ugly.’ It’s upsetting. It’s demeaning. It’s degrading and it’s hard to deal with. Just one of many incidents,” she said, her voice quavering with emotion.

After reporting the harassment, Purcell said she was told it was being dealt with but that she would not be told the outcome.

In the end, she and her husband were posted to a new detachment and, ever since, Purcell reports they’ve worked in supportive environments, free of harassment.

Compensation levels vary by abuse

Thousands of women make up the class-action sexual harassment lawsuit against the RCMP, which was certified in January. The settlement is expected to formally receive court approval at the end of May.

The federal government has set aside $100 million to compensate the women. CBC News has obtained a copy of the negotiated compensation schedule:

Level 1 — $10,000

  • Culpable conduct includes: sexualized comments and jokes, inappropriate questioning regarding complainant’s personal life.
  • Effect on victim includes: anxiety, loss of self-esteem, feelings of discomfort.

Level 2 — $35,000

  • Culpable conduct includes: exposure to pornography, bullying, simulating sexual intercourse or masturbation, sexual touching.
  • Effect on victim includes: physical wound, loss of confidence in others, panic attacks, feelings of rage.

Level 3 — $70,000

  • Culpable conduct includes: gender-based putdowns, persistent kissing or touching, exposure of genitals to complainant, persistent exposure to pornography.
  • Effect on victim includes: severe anxiety, mild drug or alcohol abuse, loss of desire to communicate feelings of love or desire.

Level 4 — $100,000

  • Culpable conduct includes: touching of complainant’s genitals, forcing oneself on victim physically, exposure to violent pornography.
  • Effect on victim includes: severe stress affecting health, post-traumatic stress, drug or alcohol abuse, absenteeism.

Level 5 — $150,000

  • Culpable conduct includes: persistent intimidation, bullying or aggression, forcing complainant to perform non-penetrative sex acts, assigning menial tasks.
  • Effect on victim includes: obsessional tendencies, suicidal thoughts, wound leaving a permanent mark.

Level 6 — $220,000

  • Culpable conduct includes: forcing complainant to engage in penetrative sex acts, acts to denigrate and affect career development, acts meant ot cause emotional stress.
  • Effect on victim: chronic psychiatric condition, personality problems, severe post-traumatic stress.

“We’re talking about criminal acts here. That some of these women have been sexually assaulted and molested. That was one of the biggest things for me. How do you put a price on that?” asked Purcell.

The document notes that amounts were calculated by analyzing decisions from human rights tribunals and the courts, along with analysis from professionals on the impact of the culpable conduct.

“We must also be alive to the fact that not all people react the same way to a traumatizing event,” reads the document.

Settlement offers protections

Megan McPhee, a lawyer with Kim Orr Barristers and class counsel to the plaintiffs, said anyone who wants to pursue their own lawsuit has until the end of day Wednesday to opt out.

But McPhee feels the settlement offers unique protections.

“It’s completely confidential. It’s determined by an outside administrator, and the RCMP doesn’t respond. They don’t get to learn who’s filing a claim,” she said.

RCMP Harassment 20161006

RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson, left, answers a question during a news conference, as plaintiffs Janet Merlo, centre, and Linda Davidson look on, in Ottawa last October. Paulson has apologized to hundreds of current and former female officers and employees for alleged incidents of bullying, discrimination and harassment. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Some women have told CBC News they’re holding back because they believe the class action could cause them to lose benefits they’re receiving from Veterans Affairs Canada.

“We’ve been able to negotiate that the receipt of a VAC pension does not preclude a woman from filing a claim,” said McPhee.

Purcell said she doesn’t care about the money. For her, it’s about finally getting closure.

“I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s OK to speak openly about being a victim. That has been the biggest part of it — is not wanting to talk about it … not wanting to classify myself as a victim to the harassment.”

As for another lawsuit in the works for male employees of the RCMP who allege workplace bullying and harassment, McPhee said her firm intends to proceed soon.

‘I feel duped’: Why bank employees with impressive but misleading titles could cost you big time

Mike Black says he feels “completely betrayed” after trusting RBC employees with impressive-sounding titles to manage his life savings, only to earn far below the market average for six years.

“I worked 35 years at two jobs and saved up a considerable amount due to the fact that I didn’t have a pension and would need money for retirement,” said Black, who managed to put away nearly $1 million.

An RBC “financial advisor” — “advisor” with an “o” rather than an “e” is important, but more on that later — invested his money in mutual funds, but when the portfolio performed poorly for three years and Black threatened to leave the bank, he was sent to an RBC “vice-president” who would manage his money.

Black received a financial plan that claimed his nest egg would earn “about six per cent in annual interest” when invested in different mutual funds, mostly owned by RBC.

His investments actually earned less than three per cent and cost Black more than $30,000 in mutual fund fees over six years.

“How is it that you end up getting a return of this kind over this period of time, when this is to be managed by a professional and we pay such high fees?”

‘All they are doing is selling what the bank wants them to sell.’ – Mike Black, RBC investor

Turns out, the RBC vice-president was actually licensed as something called a “dealing representative” — a salesperson.

“I feel duped,” Black said. “My portfolio is my pension. All they are doing is selling what the bank wants them to sell.”

In an email to Go Public, RBC said its “internal review found that the portfolio was appropriate based on the risks and objectives the client communicated to us.”

Deceptive employee titles

A recent report by the Small Investor Protection Association found there are 121,000 people registered as financial professionals in Canada, and the vast majority are registered as dealing representatives — salespeople licensed to sell financial investments.   

Only about 4,000 of these registered financial professionals have a fiduciary duty, which is a legal obligation to act in the client’s best interest.

Larry Elford

Larry Elford says thousands of bank employees across Canada are salespeople with fancy titles. (Dave Rae/CBC )

“The game today is to earn clients’ trust,” said Larry Elford, a former certified investment manager with RBC and lead researcher of the SIPA report. “And never let them know that you are actually a commissioned salesperson and you don’t have to honour that trust.”

The stakes are high, says Elford, who points out that a two per cent management fee on mutual funds typically cuts an investor’s retirement fund by about half over a 35-year period.

What’s in a vowel?

A common trick for misleading customers, according to Elford, is the banking industry’s use of the term “financial advisor” — spelled with an “o.”

He says “advisor” is an unregulated title that anyone can use, whereas the title “adviser” — spelled with an “e” — can only be used if the employee has a fiduciary responsibility to the client.

“Advisors can sell you the third, fourth, fifth or least beneficial product to you,” Elford said. “They do that a great deal of the time if it makes them more commissions, or if their bank manager is telling them they need to sell more of the house-brand product.”

In an email to Go Public, the Canadian Securities Administrators confirmed that it does not regulate most titles used by employees in the financial industry.

‘It’s completely about selling’

Many bank employees who’ve contacted Go Public say they act more like salespeople than anything else because of pressures from “high up” to hit revenue targets. CBC is concealing their identities to protect their jobs.

“I would say 90 per cent of my day is trying to hit targets,” said a financial services representative at TD Bank.

“I have to go [meet with] my manager daily and go through each customer that’s scheduled for me and see how many ‘units’ I can get from that customer.”

‘I had zero training and had to learn on the go.’ – TD financial advisor who recently quit

She says if a client has money in a savings account, she’s encouraged to get them to buy TD mutual funds instead of giving financial advice she thinks would be better, such as paying down a credit card or high-interest loan.

“It’s completely about selling,” she said.

A TD financial advisor who quit last month says he was “thrown into the role” and expected to learn on the job.

TD-RESULTS/

A TD financial services representative who contacted Go Public said 90 per cent of her day is spent trying to hit sales targets. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

I had zero training and had to learn everything on the go,” he said.

A CIBC financial advisor says he spends his day selling investments that may not be in his customers’ interests, even though they think they’re getting impartial advice.

“The term financial advisors is bank jargon for salesperson,” he said. “At least in other industries they are more open about it. You sell cars? Well, you are a car salesperson. We are not advising people on anything. We are just trying to make sales.”

An RBC branch manager in B.C. says tellers are now called “client advisors,” and are required to get a licence to sell mutual funds.

“How do you expect a 20-year-old employee who’s getting paid $12 an hour to provide advice with the title ‘client advisor,’ when they’re really just equipped to sell? It’s not fair to anybody … you’re putting clients at risk.”

In a statement, RBC says it “stands behind the advice and support” its “investment advisors provide to clients.” 

Bank employees at all levels at BMO and Scotiabank told Go Public they, too, feel their titles are misleading because they’re mostly under pressure to sell bank-owned mutual funds and other products to boost the bottom line.

In previous statements to Go Public, TD, CIBC and Scotiabank said their clients are their top priority and they expect their employees to behave ethically. 

‘Self-regulating doesn’t work very well’

Stan Buell, founder of the Small Investor Protection Association, says he’s heard too many stories from people who thought a financial advisor was going to look out for their best interests.

Stan Buell

Stan Buell, founder of the Small Investor Protection Association, says bank employees should be called salespeople if that’s their role.

“I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of people who’ve been victimized,” Buell said. “And every one trusted their advisor.”

He said he doubts any of the advisors were actually advisers — with an “e” and a fiduciary duty. “They’re all salespeople, trained in sales.”

He says banks and other financial institutions need tougher regulations.

Self-regulating doesn’t work very well,” he said. “It must be an outside agency that is not composed of the industry to have the power to handle complaints, to investigate and authorize and even pay restitution for the victims of the financial institutions.”

As a start, Buell would like Canada’s big banks to be more transparent and call their employees salespeople, not “advisors” or other titles that suggest they’re working in the customer’s interest when they’re actually serving their employer.

Mike Black says he took his money out of those fee-based accounts at RBC Dominion Securities and hopes for better luck with his next investment.

But his experience has left him shaken.  

“I’ve always been very trusting, conscientious, both me and my wife. We’ve walked the walk. And quite frankly, I feel like it’s been a hit and run.”

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Byelection performance can be predictive of future results

After the votes are counted in Monday’s five federal byelections, only the parties that make gains will want to talk about the results.

The others will point out that byelections are local affairs that tell us nothing about broader national trends; that they don’t really matter. 

But that’s a myth.

In fact, there is a relationship between how a party does in a byelection and how that party performs nationwide in the next general vote.

Byelections will be held in the ridings of Calgary Heritage, Calgary Midnapore, Markham–Thornhill, Ottawa–Vanier and Saint-Laurent. The Conservatives are the incumbents in the two Calgary ridings while the Liberals are in the other three. All are considered safe seats.

An upset in any of them is unlikely. But the results from the byelections will nevertheless provide clues as to the future prospects of each of the parties.

An analysis of 103 federal byelections held since 1978 shows that a party’s change in support in a byelection is an indication of how that party will perform in the next general election, both at the provincial and national level.

Since 1978, a party that has lost (or gained) vote share in a byelection has gone on to lose (or gain) support provincewide in the next general election 65 per cent of the time.

Parties have repeated nationwide either a gain or a loss in a byelection in the subsequent general election 66 per cent of the time. 

The chart below shows the relationship between the results of a byelection and a party’s change in support in the next general election in the province in which the byelection was held.

Relationship between byelection and general election results

In short, this means that a party that is, for example, on a negative trajectory in a byelection, will be more likely to perform worse in the subsequent general election — both in the province where the byelection took place and in the country as a whole.

Pre-2015 byelection hints

The 15 byelections that occurred between the 2011 and 2015 federal elections are a demonstration of this relationship. The Conservatives lost support in every byelection held over that time. The party then lost support in every province where the byelections had been held (with the exception of Quebec) in the 2015 federal election, as well as nationwide.

The New Democrats, another party to experience across the board decreases in support in 2015, saw their vote share drop in 13 of 15 byelections held during the last parliament. The Liberals, who made gains nationwide in 2015, increased their vote share in 13 of the 15 byelections.

Since 1978, parties that dropped vote share in byelections lost, on average, three points both at the provincial and the national levels in the subsequent general election. A party that increased support in a byelection also saw a three-point gain in provincial or national support in the next vote.

Time did not have a significant impact on the likelihood of a byelection’s trend line being continued into the next general election — byelections held two years before the next general election (like the five that will be held on Monday) were just as likely to predict a party’s subsequent performance nationwide.

Past performance not a guarantee

Still, a byelection is not a perfect predictor of what to expect a few years into the future. Roughly one-third of the time, a party that, for example, loses support in a byelection, subsequently makes provincial or national gains in the next national vote.

On Monday, it is possible that one or more parties will experience gains in some ridings and losses in others. In those cases it would be more instructive to look at the party’s overall performance in byelections, as was the case for the NDP and Liberals between 2011 and 2015.

And it is important to note that there isn’t necessarily a causal relationship between byelection and general election performance.

Nevertheless, a party is twice as likely to replicate byelection trends in the subsequent national election than to reverse them.

The notion that governments do badly in byelections is inaccurate — they retain their seats as often as the opposition. The line about byelections telling us nothing about broader trends is also incorrect.

But that won’t stop the parties who take a drubbing at the polls from using that line.