Growth hasn’t helped workers, says York professor

A central tenet of growth is that workers will enjoy a better standard of living by producing more with less effort. But despite our rising GDP, that hasn’t happened, wrote Maclean’s in its Aug. 17 issue. Since the 1970s, leisure time in America has plunged by almost one-third, and Canadians have seen their leisure time steadily decline since the 1980s.

In other words, says Peter Victor, an economist in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies and author of the book Managing Without Growth, many of the gains from productivity haven’t flowed down to workers. They’re just working harder to produce more stuff. “In the last 30 years the Canadian economy grew by about 140 per cent in real terms, yet a number of things didn’t happen,” says Victor. “We didn’t have full employment at any time during that period, inequality got worse, the number of people below the poverty line didn’t decline and a number of environmental problems got worse. So you can say growth really didn’t deliver.”

In his book, Victor argues that growth could dramatically slow without leading to massive unemployment, if people cut back on the amount of time they spend at work. Even some mainstream economists believe flat growth might have some appeal. But only to a point.

The ad campaign that’s made Dos Equis a household name

If this campaign was a risk, it was a calculated one, wrote Maclean’s in its Aug. 17 issue about the success of The Most Interesting Man in the World advertising campaign for Dos Equis beer. Alan Middleton, a professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University, believes Dos Equis had an opportunity: as large brewers turn their attention to growing markets including China, he explains, advertising in “cash-cow markets” like Canada has gotten lazy.

As a little-known brand, Dos Equis had little to lose, says Middleton. Even the recession presented an opportunity of sorts, as imports tend to struggle in a down economy, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Above all, the campaign is tongue-in-cheek, Middleton notes, and for young males, that’s the appeal.

Tim Hortons quits event opposing gay marriage

“Major error by the regional manager, here,” said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in a story in The Globe and Mail Aug. 11 about Tim Hortons’ planned sponsorship of an anti-gay marriage event in Rhode Island that was later pulled. “This is an operational slippage by Tim Hortons. Sex, religion and politics are things you try as a corporation not to engage in. This is particularly thorny because it deals with all three.”

Regardless of the political makeup of a region, companies will always try to sit on the fence when it comes to addressing controversial issues, said Middleton. That makes this a difficult public-relations challenge for Tim Hortons, because it may not want to be seen as either opposing or condoning gay marriage, he said.

On air

  • Douglas Young, social science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and co-author of “Fringe Explosions: Risk and Vulnerability in Canada’s New Landscape”, spoke about the Sunrise Propane explosion on the one-year anniversary of the accident on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Aug. 10. Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, also spoke about the anniversary on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” Aug. 10.