Op-Ed: Are Some National Interests More Equal Than Others?

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        Justin Trudeau has landed himself in a major political scandal that has crushed his “sunny ways” brand and has left Canadians upset over his failure to live up to his election promise of doing politics differently: with honesty and transparency.

        Of course, I am referring to none other than the SNC Lavalin scandal, which has not only damaged his “sunny ways” brand, but has also put his feminist brand into question, with the resignations of two high-profile female cabinet ministers – former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, and former President of the Treasury Board, Jane Philpott.

        But what is Trudeau’s biggest failing? Well, the apparent answer is fairly easy to call out when it comes to the SNC matter: Trudeau and his government attempted to politically interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC Lavalin, when then Attorney General Wilson-Raybould chose to follow through with criminal trial proceedings, rather than granting a Deferred Prosecution Agreement; something for which Trudeau says he was pushing in an attempt to act in favour of national economic interests and save 9,000 jobs.

        However, when Trudeau says this, he is most likely assuming that Canadians are unaware of the fact that Wilson-Raybould was never supposed to consider how many jobs could be lost, because “prosecutors are forbidden to consider the ‘national economic interest’ under a Criminal Code provision passed by Trudeau’s own government.” Essentially, he’s managed to politicize a process which is supposed to be, and must always be, independent and free from all forms of interference.

        Unfortunately, this government needlessly plans to over-politicize yet another process, i.e. our pipeline approval process.  There is already so much uncertainty surrounding the Trans-Mountain pipeline which the government had purchased from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in 2018. Notably, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned Ottawa’s approval of the expansion, “citing a need for more consultation with First Nations and a review of the impacts of tanker traffic”, leaving Alberta extremely concerned about how they’ll ever get refined oil to market in a timely way, and eliminate the deep discount in the pricing of Canadian oil, which has severely hurt the economy of that province and resulted in severe job losses.

        With the proposed Bill C-69, our pipeline approval process will now be filled with even more uncertainty. It will give the federal cabinet a veto over all pipeline projects so that they can have the last word, and act in favor of whatever they would choose to define as the “public interest.” This bill will completely discourage companies from building pipelines in Canada, as they would have to worry about whether the cabinet will act in favor of “public interests” or political ones, on top of having to spend millions of dollars on the approvals process. As well, they would fear that all it would take is one province, in this case British Colombia, to derail the entire process by claiming to be concerned about environmental harm. BC’s hypocrisy became even more evident because they actually supported the development of the liquified natural gas industry, which also has a significant impact on the environment.

        When it comes to the Trans-Mountain pipeline, clearly, Trudeau’s government failed to exercise their own federal jurisdictional rights by not standing up to BC’s court challenge to block the building of the pipeline on the ground of environmental harm. If the feds truly want to demonstrate that they are as concerned about the tens of thousands of lost jobs in Alberta as they are about the 9,000 SNC jobs, they should not politicize the entire pipeline approval process any further.

        Instead, they should act with firmness, and invoke the notwithstanding clause to remove all hurdles against building the Trans-Mountain pipeline. The notwithstanding clause is a constitutional tool which is there to be used with great care in times of national emergency. Not making use of it right now would be a national shame, and a missed opportunity. Considering that Canada is still very much a resources-based economy, the feds would in fact be acting not just in Alberta’s interests, but that of all of Canada.

Trudeau SNC-Lavalin Scandal

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been embroiled in a huge controversy involving Montreal based engineering and construction services company, SNC-Lavalin, and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould.

On February 15, 2015, the RCMP charged SNC-Lavalin on several counts of fraud and corruption for its attempts to bribe the Libyan government to land important contracts.  While charges were being laid for this specific case, the company has been accused of bribery in a number of other occasions including the Bangladesh Padma Bridge and Montreal’s Jacques-Cartier Bridge.  If found guilty, the company would not be able to participate in bidding on Canadian government projects for 10 years which would have drastically lowered the company’s revenue. About a year ago, when the Liberal government was drafting a budget bill, it included an amendment to the Criminal Code known as a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.  This would function similar to that of a plea bargain where the accused corporation could avoid criminal charges by paying reparations. SNC-Lavalin lobbied for this as the provision would allow for it to continue bidding for Canadian projects. However, the prosecution would be the one to make the decision of whether to negotiate such an agreement with the firm, and in this case, it chose not to and would follow through with the criminal trial proceedings.

As Attorney General, Raybould had the authority to direct the prosecution service to negotiate an agreement with the company, however, she refused to do so and upheld the prosecution’s decision.  Later this January, Trudeau changed her position to Minister of Veterans Affairs. According to reports, she was pressured to overrule the decision and negotiate an agreement and her lack of cooperation was one of the reasons for her change in position.  Raybould later on resigned from her position in February whereas Trudeau still maintained that there was no pressure put on her. Towards the end of the month, the Prime Minister waived his solicitor-client privilege which allowed Raybould to testify in front of the justice committee.

In her testimony, she mentioned that she was constantly pressured by Trudeau’s office.  At one point, Trudeau and the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, mentioned the economic challenges when the province would lose thousands of jobs if an agreement was not made.  In addition, the Prime Minister is an MP in a riding in Montreal, which would be major conflict of interest in this case due to the upcoming federal elections. The opposition’s reaction ranged from a condemnation of Trudeau’s actions to calls for his resignation.  With these serious allegations, Trudeau has stated that he “completely disagreed” with Raybould’s version of events. While the investigation into this whole situation is not complete, it is seemingly becoming more reminiscent of the infamous Watergate Scandal which caused President Richard Nixon to resign.   

Bitcoin

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Bitcoin seemed unstoppable just before the Christmas of 2017. Its stock market price and value was rising exponentially, and many investors invested into the digital currency in hopes of generating profit from Bitcoin’s newfound popularity and uproar. As the biggest Christmas present of their lives, many investors held the stocks of one of the most successful cryptocurrencies in the world. In 2017, professional investors and amateur traders alike predicted that the stock price of Bitcoin would increase even more.

However, in January of 2018, Bitcoin’s price crashed to less than half of its December value. As a result, many people have speculated if Bitcoin would become a “bubble” and lose all of its value by the end of this year. In March, the price of Bitcoin hovered at approximately $8000. In spite of this dire situation, Bitcoin investors were enthusiastic, hoping that Bitcoin’s price would rise up to $100 000 again by the end of this year.

The cycle of financial bubble stems from three phase, which includes the buying, irrationality, and “saving yourself” periods. In the first period, many investors start to buy a lot of shares in the company. However investors and traders are persuading themselves that increasing prices are due to the fundamentals of the stocks, even if they aren’t. The irrationality period continues the buying period, but this is when investors convince themselves further that they can dodge the crash when it happens. The “save yourself” period happens as investors draw out of their stocks when the stock prices crash or decrease dramatically. Unfortunately, Bitcoin was in phase 2 before Christmas of 2017. Now, it may be in phase 3.

Likewise to Tesla’s stocks, in Bitcoin’s history of market crashes and revivals, optimistic investors insist that Bitcoin may rise again, becoming bigger and better than before. However, a provider of cryptocurrency once said, “Due to the fact that Bitcoin has no intrinsic value, it is extremely vulnerable to investor sentiment.” This idea is evident in the newest plummet of Bitcoin. Last month, the Bitcoin price plummeted to as low as $3600, but rose back up to $4000 in the last week of November. Many contradictory news articles of Bitcoin left its investors confused, but it is unsurprising that the fall of the price has not caused much pessimism among the cryptocommunity.

In the race where many economists view Bitcoin as a “bubble”, many investors choose different avenues to earn their profit. But the real question still stands; is investing in Bitcoin a “safe” option or will its bubble finally burst?

Fast Fashion: Ethical Issues and its Effects on the Economy

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In our current world, the ubiquitous presence of advertisements leads to people being unable to escape glossy adverts or glittering models. The idea of fashion is so incessantly present that it seeps into our routines—whether its carelessly scrolling past outfit ideas on Instagram or glancing at articles about celebrities and designer streetwear. It's ceaseless and inescapable; our own ties with consumerism led fast fashion to first emerge in the 1800s and then to become omnipresent.

What is fast fashion? Its physically embodied by stores like Zara, H&M, or Forever 21—with their gleaming signs screaming sales and deals and promising dreams. Its inexpensive clothing made in questionable factories with questionable conditions for the workers. Its taking trends from the runway that become identical pieces of clothing to sell to consumers.

This has been present for hundreds of years, yet we are only beginning to have conversations about its ethical issues and effects on the economy. There are innumerous environmental concerns, along with problems about the abominable way the industry treats garment workers. As fast fashion focuses on (as you can guess) how fast clothing can be manufactured, factories cut corners on environmental sustainability. The amount of pollution and waste that results from fast fashion is almost unimaginable—a car moving for around 130 kilometres is equal to the greenhouse gases emitted when manufacturing a pair of jeans. Furthermore, animal cruelty is also a major issue, as real fur and leather are used to create that jacket you adore. The fast-paced demand for new, new, and newer has also increased the discard rate of clothing, as clothes coming in will match the amount thrown away. This only increases the amount of manufacturing and adds to our landfills.   

Garment workers are directly in the midst of all of these issues. A notable incident occurred in 2013 in Bangladesh—1000 people died during the Rana Plaza collapse. It made national headlines and increased the overall global understanding of fast fashion. The conditions these workers are in are inhumane; a salary of $96 per month while working in a dangerous environment is unthinkable to someone from a first-world country. It would be hypocritical for me to comment about purchasing a $10 dollar shirt on sale (although with our sales tax, maybe wait for a better deal) but think about the multitude of almost identical shirts you have in your closet. Think about that shirt’s origin a little bit more.

This may seem bleak and purposely written to discourage any sort of purchasing, but the history of fast fashion cannot be rewritten. However, individuals, companies, and NGOs can alter the future of the industry. Studies have been made (notably from the Ellen McArthur Foundation and Global Fashion Agenda) about the economic effects of fast fashion. Currently, in the last fifteen years, the clothing produced has doubled, and it will only increase—proven by a predicted 400% growth in GDP by 2050. However, the waste created by the industry is incomparable, as $400 billion (noted in a report from Global Fashion Agenda) of clothing is thrown away too early. Currently, Pulse of the fashion industry reports has proven that by 2030, there will be a $192 billion advantage if ethical and sustainability issues are fixed in the industry.

The Pulse score in 2018 (uses the Higg Index to indicate current sustainability) was 38/100, which was 6 points higher than in 2017. By introducing disruptive solutions like sustainable materials, recycling technologies, and automation, this score will only increase. Through improving awareness, there will be lowered mindless consumerism—there’s nothing wrong with needing to purchase inexpensive clothes, but by limiting spending, it will be better for both the environment and your wallet.

Winter ‘19 Emerging Technologies Conference

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As technology becomes increasingly important in our everyday lives, understanding its uses and applications in different fields becomes indispensable. Held at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management in the heart of Toronto, the 2019 winter conference was titled “Emerging Technologies.” Featuring workshops, speakers, and activities, this conference integrated the fields of AI, Fintech, and Blockchain with the future of business.

“I feel that I could use this in everyday life, and as it is growing more in popularity, it’ll be much more relevant to the future.”

Attendees were given an incredible opportunity to network and talk with like-minded peers. In an energetic atmosphere, many new connections were formed between these young and determined individuals. The first keynote speaker, Roberto Sanabria from York University, talked about his experiences and how technology led him to founding Cryptoducation, a consulting company that teaches and advises businesses and individuals on how to incorporate blockchain into their company. Based on his extensive knowledge and past experiences, he gave valuable insights and advice for students aspiring to become young entrepreneurs.  

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“Today’s event was really informative and I got a lot of new information based on the new things learned. For example, privacy. A lot of different outcomes can come from these technologies and it’s really interesting to think about what we can do with this new information and how the world is changing with emerging technologies.”

Then, attendees learned about three different topics while engaging in a roundtable discussion and workshop. They listened to three keynote speakers talk about their experiences in the field. While the founder, of IG Liaison, Catherine spoke about privacy on the internet, many individuals became cognisant of the extent of their “internet footprint.” Eric, an IBM employee, spoke about his work with the company and offered insight of working with one of the biggest companies in the industry. Laura B and Laura M, the entrepreneurs that established Culture Vibes, spoke about their entrepreneurship and career paths, exemplifying that one’s passion and determination can lead to one’s success.

I think it taught me a lot on what I wanted to know and some extra information. Like, I didn’t know what Blockchain or Fintech was...I think I learned a lot more and developed an interest in what they talked about today. I’m definitely going to go home and do my own research about it.

After an exciting lunch and networking session, participants were able to do a coding activity with Chainsafe that targeted Fintech and applications of technology in business. Concluding the day with a speaker panel, attendees were able to gain insight on future career paths, entrepreneurship, as well as the emerging technologies within the fields of business.

With an exciting lineup of keynote speakers who closed many gaps of information, students were able to engage in interesting talks amongst peers with similar interests. The Emerging Technologies  Conference expanded particpants’ horizons through engaging workshops, and consequently, developing the business minds of Toronto’s future. A huge thank you goes out to our two incredible event partners in TOhacks and Blockchain Ryerson who helped make the day a success!



Open Banking – Opportunity for Some, Threat for Others

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Are we making use of the financial technology that makes banking as convenient as it can possibly get? Well, we regularly use online banking, where customers don’t have to visit the branch to perform simple tasks, like depositing a cheque, or transferring money from one account to another. All of these things can be done in minutes with a few taps on our phones.

However, online banking is no longer the newest way in which banking is made easier. Now we have open banking, and it has already started to change the way banks around the world provide their financial services.

In the present day, the bank is the immediate “go-to” for the average customer when he/she wants access to financial services. This is because banks have an old trick to make customers stay loyal, and, resultantly, have a larger market share: they operate under an independent system where they hold and “own” their customers’ data. Other financial institutions, as well as the customers themselves, don’t have access to this data. Open banking, though, will force banks to change the way they operate.

Open banking is a system that allows customers to easily access their own data which is held by their banks, and securely share it with third-party financial service providers and firms outside the financial sector. This will give customers the chance to pick and choose the right firm/institution to do business with, for each of their financial needs.

An example of this was given in a Globe and Mail article by Lisa Shields. She said, that with open banking, “you could temporarily grant anonymized visibility to your assets, liabilities, tax and employment information when applying for a loan or mortgage, and pick the right product and lender for you.” The main idea behind open banking, is that customers should have control over their own banking information, not the banks. Shields also said that this system “will improve competition and lower costs for individual Canadians and increase productivity for Canadian businesses.”

But what will it take for Canadians and Canadian businesses to actually benefit from open banking? Well, first of all, our banks need to be willing to provide services through third-party channels. Of course, in order for that to happen, they need to accept the fact that data sharing can be done securely when it’s done correctly.

In a LinkedIn article called Open Banking: The end of vertical integration in Financial Services, the writer, Gianluca Corradi, gave an excellent example of how The Commonwealth Bank in Australia created a property-guide app that uses external databases and augmented reality so “customers can simply point their phones at properties in which they are interested, and they can check in real-time the history of the buildings, the previous transaction prices and a whole set of relevant information useful for taking an informed decision regarding the purchase.” He explained that “by using this app, Commonwealth increases dramatically the probability of having customers apply for mortgages instead of going to competitors.” This shows that not only can open banking benefit customers, but it can also give banks a competitive edge as well.

Thanks to open banking, banks now also have a lot of room to expand in the retail-banking market. In the same article mentioned above, Corradi discussed how the UK’s Starling Bank became a “complete one-stop shop for a consumer’s entire financial life” by “utilizing third-party providers such as Wealthsimple, Habito and AXA.” At the same time, he also discussed that traditional banks should take advantage of their current size and brand trust to expand their retail role, otherwise, “challengers may overtake them.”

This is especially true for Canadian banks and financial institutions. So far, they’ve managed to hold on to their large market shares without making any significant steps towards adopting this new system, and do this by investing in, or buying out possible competitors before they become big. An example of this is how Power Financial Corp. invested a total of $165 million in Wealthsimple, a fintech, to decrease the chances of it disrupting the finance sector. As well, for loans of up to $35K, CIBC is offering their customers the option to access funding digitally through their fintech partner, Borrowell. The funds are deposited into the clients CIBC account the next business day. This is smart because CIBC mitigates the risk of losing a small business client to an external competitor. But if that CIBC customer truly owned their own data, they may be more free to select other vendors.

That is why financial technology cannot be contained forever by means of such partnership with the big Canadian financial institutions. That is also why such firms are paying close attention to the Canadian Government’s consultations with all industry stakeholders that is currently underway through their Advisory Committee on Open Banking. This committee is exploring the pros and cons of a system which would give consumers the ability to share their financial data with third parties.

As we have seen in other industries that have resisted change, the advances in technology cannot be stopped for too long. Blackberry and Microsoft learned that lesson the hard way. So, it will be interesting to see the outcome of the Committee’s recommendations, as well as the industry’s responses to it.

The Trap of the Chinese Debt Bubble

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China has established itself as one of the world’s premier superpowers through technological innovation, rapid infrastructure growth and substantial economic developments for the better part of the past 3 decades. The People’s Republic has also asserted their dominance in a geo-political manner by becoming a large lender as part of bilateral trade relations with struggling Asian and African nations which are at high risk of defaulting on loans thus regarding this practice as “debt-trap” diplomacy. However, China is in a trap of its own which can bring the global economy into crisis.

Following the global financial crisis in 2008; state-owned financial institutions in the mainland began to lend out large sums of money to developers and corporations to primarily finance infrastructure development and construction projects which would, in turn, stimulate and grow the economy as it provided local jobs, trade and local governments with revenue. Despite figures of measure regarding economic growth and prosperity, a problem which arose from this was “ghost towns”. This new phenomenon has been becoming more prevalent as regional governments strive to meet growth rates outlined by their parties which results in large loans of billions of dollars to generate economic activity becoming a large part of “value” and GDP.

China has had increasing urbanization rates which in 2017 supported by almost 21 million new urban civilians pushing the urbanization rate of the Republic to almost 60%. Moreover, there are almost 65 million vacant units in the country; this, however, is not the main issue. The primary concern is vacant units which are financed by growing debt to support economic prosperity collectively undermining the financial institutions and posing risks to de-stabilizing the global economy.

Much of China’s debt is divided between private entities and those of the state. Corporations in China have the highest debt to GDP% in the world. While China does have substantial amounts of debt, it’s not too far from those developed nations such as the US and UK; however, the difference between these nations is the fact that the US & UK’s GDP/Capita is almost 4x greater than that of China. In addition to the USD and Pound Sterling being backed currencies with stability. In 2008, the Republic’s debt as a % of their GDP was at 141% whereby mid-2017 this figure has ballooned to almost 280%. Nations which have piled on massive amounts of debt often have a recession and economic regression.

China’s almost $40 Trillion of debt is concerning since China is one of the largest trading markets leading the charge in corporate bonds and being the second largest economy; many other nations are dependent and have economies intertwined with China. Nations such as South Korea and Taiwan have as much as 15% of their GDP and economic activity dependent on China in terms of trade relations and exports.

Another issue in this looming debt crisis regarding lending practices is China’s shadow banking. Which is not uncommon in global practice; however the percentage’s at which lending occurs in this unregulated market is staggered in China as the defaults of corporations and inability to keep up with loan and interest payments is becoming problematic and creating issues for the government in Beijing.

   Though the government has created agencies and more stringent policies to combat shadow banking; the private sector is showing signs of weakness and inability to stay up-to-date with payments. Though the country has had a stable interest rate; any sudden increase may prove to be too much and cause a cycle of defaults on loans and payments which could, in turn, create a fallout affect requiring a government bailout for the “bad debts”.

   Chinese corporations hold almost $20 Trillion in debt and as a countermeasure introduced bonds to help pay back their loans. By the end of Q1 in 2017, 9 companies defaulted on bonds issued. As Beijing tries to sustain and limit future credit based growth; this may result in a greater number of entities being unable to make bond, loan and interest payments. An effect this has on the global economy for investors and stakeholders is on the financial markets.

    In March of 2017, on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Huishan Dairy was unable to make a loan payment; within a month the company lost almost $5 Billion of market capitalization proving worrisome for investors. This is very concerning as China has risen to become the world second largest economy and third largest bond market.

    If a crisis is to occur; there will inevitably be a catalyst. The first catalyst can be interest rates. Just as things are; corporations including state-sponsored entities are defaulting on loans and bonds. Any increase in interest rates which many countries around the world have done to combat inflation can prove to be problematic with the looming debt in China. Additionally, since for almost 3 decades, the nation has averaged near double-digit GDP growth; it has been able to keep up with debt payments. However with new de-leveraging policies to decrease and contain debt, if the country is not able to maintain economic growth, this slowdown makes it materially harder for the economy to keep up with debt obligations and payments.

    Overall, this is still a building issue and with a government driven by objective and meeting performance metrics. It will be interesting to see what unfolds in coming years; a global crisis or continued growth from this developing nation. It is unclear and difficult to foresee what may happen however if a crisis is looming; it can prove to be catastrophic.

The Keys to Leadership in Our Generation

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In a world where knowledge and information is becoming rapidly decentralized with the internet, skills outside of academics such as effective interpersonal communication are more important than ever. In particular, leadership is becoming increasingly valued by modern day businesses and industries.

Here, four experienced leaders at the Junior Economic Club of Toronto have come together to present you what they believe are the keys to leadership in the 21st Century.

“Strategic Vision and Execution.”

Roger Nath, Chief Strategic Officer at JEC Toronto
As a leader, you must have a focused vision for what your organization wants to achieve, paired with the ability to develop a clear plan to achieve it. Visions usually come in the form of a pain that your organization seeks to alleviate. For instance, the leaders at Junior Economic Club of Toronto seek to level the playing field for youth pursuing a future in the competitive world of finance. In this case, the pain that JEC Toronto seeks to alleviate is the pain that students face in finding equal leadership- and finance-focused opportunities in spite of their socioeconomic or academic backgrounds.

Likewise, you must define the problem that your organization is trying to solve. Who do you target, and what pains will you alleviate? Your team won’t be invested in a cause that isn’t explicitly established. Stepping into the shoes of becoming a great leader begins with defining your vision. Your vision is the foundation for leading your team to accomplish meaningful work within your community.

Once your vision has been established, you must develop a clear and thorough plan of how to achieve it. Which institutions and people must you reach out to? What resources do you currently have, and how will you best use them to your disposal? As a leader, you must be able to work effectively with your team to answer these questions. You must commit relentlessly to carrying out your plan despite any setbacks or obstacles that you face along the way.

“Confidence and Empathy.”

Iris Xie, Chief Marketing Officer at JEC Toronto

A great leader must also have a balance of confidence and empathy. First, believe in yourself. Trust your decisions, and have confidence that things will work out: especially when stepping into new territory like executing the plan for a brand new event or leading your team to reach out to unfamiliar companies or government figures for sponsorships and grants. If you are confident in what you’re doing, your team will seek to reflect that. If you set a high standard for professionalism and productivity through your own work, your team will follow in kind. You must always take it upon your shoulders to be a role model for effective team behaviour, even if you feel momentarily lost yourself. An effective leader inspires confidence in their team members by taking initiative and following through with their plan, head held high.

Next, be empathetic and trust your team members when it comes to their ability to fulfill their duties. Give them as much autonomy as their role and skill level allows, but be there to guide them when it is necessary or when they require support. If they’re faced with challenges or unanticipated obstacles in completing their tasks, be lenient and understanding within reasonable limits. Seek out your team members’ goals and learn what motivates them, and have the ability to do work that makes their jobs easier. Once you learn to be confident in yourself and your team, your team will learn to be confident in you, and they will be motivated to work towards fulfilling your organization’s vision.

“Authenticity.”

Maggie Li, Public Relations Representative at JEC Toronto

Leadership is a form of influence, not authority. The most effective way to influence others on your team to work towards a common goal is by being authentic. Don’t hold yourself against a predisposed idea of how a leader should interact with their team members. Whether it’s adhering to a rigid but uncomfortable standard of formality or trying too hard to maintain an image of authority, people can tell when you’re pretending to be someone you’re not. This creates a barrier which encourages your team members to question what else about you might be inauthentic.

Instead, focus on developing your personal leadership style. Leadership is not about putting yourself on a pedestal; it’s about bringing out the best in those around you. Find out what common interests you might share with your team members outside of your work, whether in sports, books, fashion, or politics. Build rapport and be vulnerable. People are inspired by humans, so show your team that you’re human by being open with your failures and who you are. In response, you will find yourself with a team that feels like a comfortable, tightly-knit community. Your team members will be motivated to complete their work to maintain a positive environment, and they will be more inclined to open up to you about their own difficulties: both within and outside the organization. In this way, being authentic is not only a key to fostering healthy relationships with your team members but also a practical method of uprooting and fixing problems that you otherwise may not be aware of.

“The Ability to Respond to Failure.”

Robert Di Marco, Chief Executive Officer at JEC Toronto

Perhaps the most important ingredient to leadership is the ability to persevere in the face of minor setbacks or severe failures. The reason why many people are unable to lead in the first place is because they are afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; leadership is not about being perfect.

It is always easy to take a risk and see it pay off in short term success. However, much like investing money in an account with compounding interest, leadership is a commitment which requires patience and perseverance. You will only be successful in the long term because of your ability to face failure and learn from your mistakes. This is easily said, but not done, as you risk tarnishing your reputation as a result.

Take Elon Musk as an example. Regardless of whether he’s recognized as CEO of Tesla and SpaceX or the man who smoked a joint on the Joe Rogan Podcast, his success is undisputed. However, most people do not recognize his incredible history of failures. In 1996, he was ousted as CEO of his own company, Zip2. In 1999, his first PayPal product was voted as one of the ten worst business ideas. In 2006, his first $6.7 million SpaceX rocket exploded within a minute after launching, followed by five critical launch failures within the next ten years. And in 2008, both Tesla and SpaceX were on the brink of bankruptcy.

Yet, in spite of numerous expensive and reputation-damaging setbacks, Musk continued to pull millions of dollars out of his own wallet to invest in his companies, persevering to see his ambitions to success. Today, Tesla is a global leader in electric car production, whereas SpaceX has become the pinnacle of humanity’s hope towards becoming an interplanetary species. Musk’s spectacular list of failures demonstrates that to create true, lasting change, leaders must persevere through hardships even when the odds are not in their favour.

Correspondingly, you must learn to work for long term goals rather than short term satisfaction. To be a great leader, you must learn to take calculated risks and be prepared to face outcomes that are not favourable. Instead of being dissuaded into giving up, treat forthcoming obstacles as motivators for success. Use your failures to drive you and your team to achieving your vision.

Fraud: Deceit, Manipulation, and Falsely Earned Money

Annually, the victimization of millions of citizens has an inherent impact on society and consumerism. The societal effects of fraud are omnipresent, as confidential financial information can be unknowingly accessed from a variety of sources. Common fraud ranges from prize drawings to medical insurance, and with the rise of the digital age, technology is utilized to provide even greater disadvantages to older generations.

Two specific types of fraud are application frauds and securities frauds. By accessing confidential documents like bank statements that may have been initially thrown away, they are able to create loans or contracts under another person’s name. Application frauds are quite common, as many people do not shred sensitive documents. Furthermore, securities frauds are also known as stock frauds or investment frauds, which relies on giving potential investors false information about the stock. This results in them paying for a stock that may be decreasing significantly in value.

Fraud cases are quite common, as activities such as phishing are greatly affecting people who are unaware. Sensitive information should never be sent with electronic mail, as hackers and false users have easy access. Specific types of phishing are deactivation scares, look-alike websites, and government look-alikes. These three typically prey on unaware victims who are usually scared to be involved in any credit card or legal trouble.

There are severe effects of fraud, both towards the victims and towards the economy. Important corporations could be suffering due to fraud cases, which would affect more than mere individuals. Psychological difficulties can result in an increased amount of fear and timidness in victims, as many people may unintentionally place the blame on the victim for succumbing to the scammer’s lies. However, by becoming more knowledgeable about fraud cases and protecting yourself against these crimes, there can be a decrease of possible victims.

As obvious as it might seem, be certain that sensitive information is not accessible to others; be sure to store documents in safe locations, use a shredder if necessary, and never verbalize or send out emails regarding personal data. Any suspicious phone calls or emails should be reported and ignored. If there are any questions about your financial state, there is no harm in physically travelling to a bank and speaking about possible charges made to your account. By speaking about these issues, many cases of fraud can be prevented in the future.

Merkel Steps Down: Now What?

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In late 2005, Germany saw to its first ever female chancellor as Merkel, the leader of the centre-right CDU, claimed a landslide victory. But now, with falling polls, an ever growing opposition, and most recently, a poor performance in Hesse, Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world, has announced last Monday that she is stepping down as her term ends in 2021.

Throughout her thirteen years, Merkel has emerged as a dominant force in the western world. She has led Germany through numerous hardships, such as the euro and Ukraine crisis. Perhaps one of most notable, her vastly controversial decision to open up Germany’s borders received the praises of many globally, but at the same time large backlash domestically, much of which came from her own party. This decision led to the influx of more than a million refugees, fueling support for Germany’s left. Many speculated it to be a turning point in her political career, stealing more than a million votes from the CDU during the 2017 Bundestag elections.  

So, as the global political weather takes a shaky hit, what exactly will her stepping down mean for the global economy?

At least in the short term, things aren’t looking so good. Mere minutes after her official announcement, the euro took a plunge, reaching a two month low, forcing European investors into a state of uncertainty, and remaining largely volatile throughout the week. But then again, most political shifts usually cause pandemonium in the Forex markets within the first couple hours.

With Merkel gone, investors may fear that populist parties are to gain even more seats across Europe’s parliaments. Depending on the who succeeds Merkel, this could lead to further challenges for the European Union and weaken the authority of the European Commission. That could end up damaging assets such as the euro in the long run, especially in Q4. Many of Merkel’s policies, such as her reliance on product exports for economic growth, may be changed as Germany slides to the left.

In recent years, many have called Merkel a “lame duck” for her rather conservative decisions and way of dealing with issues. Though Merkel received lots of criticism in southern Europe, her steady and cautious approach made her popular at home. A change in leader could mean the introduction of a more radically decisive Germany.

Nonetheless, as europe’s primary powerhouse, the change in German power should certainly mean the change in economic policies and relations both foreign and domestically. Merkel’s transatlantic allies, such the US, willing be “watching closely” to see who might take the reins of Europe’s biggest economy. But for now, Merkel remains to be “ the queen of Europe”.

Gen Z: What's the Outlook?

Gen Z are the future. Born in 1995 and beyond, they’re youthful idealists who hope to improve the world while building their own secure financial futures. Although they don’t remember the 9/11 catastrophe, the 2008 financial crisis is still fresh in their memories. They are the first generation to grow up with modern technology, the Internet, and because of their comfort with technology, they’ve been dubbed “iGen”.

The oldest members of GenZ are in their 20s, and starting to join the workforce. Before, millennials were decided to be lazy and entitled. However, GenZ are ambitious and industrious. Although the future for Gen Z seems very optimistic, they are eager to be successful in a world that’s not necessarily designed for steady employment. Employers will need to understand the needs of the new generation. Companies may lose hard work, commitment, and most importantly, Gen Z’s innate grasp on technology if they don’t adjust the way they recruit, train and retain employees. Gen Z believe that they can have it all; good pay, stable employment, meaningful work, and some liberty for their own work. Each new generation to the market brings its own set of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. As a result of growing up in an environment shaped by economic instability and social change, Gen Z are resolute, smart, pragmatic, and hard-working, among many other characteristics.

Thus, many Gen Z are aspiring to become their own managers; becoming entrepreneurs. By becoming a entrepreneurs, they are able to use their skills and knowledge, and take advantage of e-commerce platforms like, which lowers the barriers of entry for business owners. The internet has revolutionized many products, and has allowed many young entrepreneurs to successfully operate their business. Many have identified good market niches or founded startups even before they’ve started post-secondary school.

Gen Z are also more careful about money than millenials. A research study has shown that 12 percent of Gen Z were also saving for retirement. When it comes to their own finances, that means they’ll anything to avoid debt. The fiscal conservatism of Gen Z can be positive or negative. They are saving money, but this conservation of money causes political implications as well.

So, the future of Gen Z can go down two paths. They can either be part of the hard working class, serving as employees to bigger corporations, or they can become entrepreneurs. But, there must be a balanced amount of Gen Z who choose to go down either career pathway. Although Gen Z may seem less competent than other generations, like Gen X and Y, these young individuals have many qualities to offer. They are the future of the world and the world’s economy rests in their hands. As Denise Villa has once said, “Generation Z has arrived - and they’re very different from millennials.” With an excellent education within their grasp, along with their innate abilities to innovate with technology, Generation Z offers many traits that past generations have not had. They are the future of our society and they will lead us into a world with a stability within the world’s economy.

Can Blockchain be Green?

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The modern smartphone is more powerful than NASA’s Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), which put Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969. However, with rapid technological development and increasing rates of global smartphone ownership and internet usage, energy use is a growing environmental concern.

Take Bitcoins, the forefront of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. As a decentralized currency, direct transactions can be done between people and entities, existing on a shared data network called a blockchain. Virtual coins are “mined” by computers solving complex algorithms.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency mining company, Hut 8, recently opened Canada’s largest bitcoin mining project in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Powered by the low-cost, natural gas-fired power plant next door, the bitcoin plant can consume 10 times more electricity than any other facility in the city.

The Bitcoin algorithm works in such a way that only a limited amount of coins can be mined every day. As Bitcoin rises in popularity, and miners compete for a decreasing number of available bitcoins, facilities are constantly forced to use more electricity. Currently, most mining farms are using electricity from non-renewable, greenhouse gas-emitting sources. Digiconomists estimate that current Bitcoin energy use is 70 terawatt hours per year. 1 Terawatt is equal to 1 trillion watts, which means that miners use more electricity than countries like Switzerland or the Czech Republic.

Enter GEAR, a company dedicated to cleaning up the cryptocurrency mining space. They are the world’s first closed loop blockchain. They use mined cryptocurrency to fund green energy assets such as solar, wind, tidal and biomass to generate clean energy that feeds back into the mining facilities. Additionally, they invest a portion of their profits to support the research and development of renewable technologies and green energy.

Other blockchain projects that harness both the innovative technology and renewable energy include SolarCoins and Brooklyn-based LO3 Energy. Participants in the Brooklyn Microgrid can trade and sell energy generated from solar panels, via a decentralized blockchain-based local energy marketplace called Exergy.

Across the ocean, Power Ledger, an Australian startup, has developed a similar solar energy marketplace that allows you to take green power into your own hands. Blockchain installed into your power meter tracks the energy your solar panels produce. The company utilizes “Sparkz,” a digital currency used to buy and sell the renewable energy, worth one Australian cent. By using the trading platform, businesses and households can sell their surplus power at a higher price to another business or person than the low prices retailers offer. The other party also benefits, because they pay lower energy prices than their retailers charges them for.

Blockchain may have started as a self-governing means of distributing money, but it has many applications outside of cryptocurrencies. Now, it is paving the way for greener energy across the information, communication, and technology (ICT) sectors.

The Consequences of Rising Interest Rates

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Following the meeting that occurred a week ago, there are rising interest rates in the United States, which will have an impact on citizens. The effect is not limited to the States, as Canada will also face issues that result from the interest rate hike. The specifics involve the Federal Reserve and their conclusion for a 2.00% to 2.25% fund rate.

An interest rate is the percentage of the borrowed amount that needs to be paid for, in addition to the initially loaned asset. They can be referred to as an annual percentage rate, which extrapolates on how they are usually calculated yearly. Money is constantly borrowed in our society; this is especially true for prominent purchases or investments.

In particular, interest rates will lead to the increase of many facets of our lives: savings, rates for credit cards, and the prime rate. There will be a growth to savings, due to the money market and credit-deposit rates becoming higher. Although this sounds positive, the flip side is that people with financial burdens will need to use a greater amount to offset it. In addition, credit card rates will increase, as the prime rate—the rate of credit given to people with high credit—will rise. This mainly will affect people that need to be loaned money short-term, as these rates will be significantly higher than long-term agreements. A higher national debt will also result from this, as there will be an increase in the amount needed for the United States’ government to borrow money.

Rising interests rates will also lead to a decrease in money spent by consumers and the amount generated by businesses. As mentioned previously, with credit card rates becoming higher, people will think twice before swiping away money for items they may not be able to afford immediately. This will then lead to an impact on businesses—they depend wholly on being able to produce a steady income in order to expand. Banks may see a different outcome, but the profit for other types of companies will be lowered. This also has a significant effect on the housing market, as the overall increasement in the amount needed to pay back long-term loans are higher. Most people are unable to afford to purchase a house without assistance from a bank, which leads to less real estate being sold.

The impact on Canada is a repercussion of the close ties we have with the United States. Throughout the past year, the exchange rate has been an area of concern for most citizens, and foreign goods expenses will only increase. Imported items will have a higher cost to purchase, therefore limiting the buying power of many Canadians. This topic will be the most detrimental for people with debt, however, as the integration between the two countries will possibly have an effect on Canadian interest rates.



A New NAFTA?

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When it comes to foreign trade, many US lawmakers are focused on one thing: re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.  This comes amid the President’s promises to back out from, or at least re-negotiate, the trade deal as it is seen as unfair to American workers. So how did this all start?

        In 1994, the agreement was signed between Canada, America, and Mexico to ensure free trade of goods and services throughout the countries.  This ensured that tariffs would not be imposed on any products being traded within the nations. This resulted in the reduction of prices for many products as they were imported from other countries.  The lowered consumer prices were projected to help bolster the economy. However, many still had reservations about this agreement; namely, that it would export US jobs to countries like Mexico. This was then seen with manufacturing jobs, which have been sent to Mexico, as it was significantly cheaper to build cars and export them from Mexico rather than build them in America.  With a minimum wage around half that of the US federal minimum wage, it is evident that costs would be significantly cheaper in Mexico. This has rekindled the debate of free trade vs. fair trade, or in other words, whether all boundaries for competition should be lowered or local goods should be favoured over imported goods.

        Recently, the US and Mexico have already come to a bilateral agreement in principle.  They have even threatened to leave Canada out of the agreement if they do not meet the deadline by October 1st, however Mexico still believes that a trilateral agreement would be the most beneficial.  In fact, President Trump has stated his intention to rename the agreement to USM – United States and Mexico – and has said that he is willing to include an initial for Canada if they agree with the changes.  In the former agreement, the main target has been the automotive industry. Namely, they have agreed that 75% of automobile contents must be made in North America and that roughly 40-45% of components must be made by workers earning at least $16.  This was added to help reinvigorate the automotive industry in the US and discourage the production of most car parts from being manufactured through cheaper labour in Mexico.


        There are several reasons why Canada has not come to an agreement with the US.  For one, the US wants to get rid of Chapter 19 of the agreement, which is a provision that sends trade disputes to an independent panel rather than domestic courts.  Over the past few years, this panel has ruled against the US in a number of disputes. A bigger concern has been raised over Canada’s dairy products and the government’s quotas and prices that are set for the domestic products as well as the steep tariffs levied against any dairy product imported from the US.


        While both countries have not yet come to an agreement, they both have echoed similar sentiments as to the potential benefits of the trade deal.  With Mexico and the US Congress heavily leaning towards a trilateral partnership, it is left to see how the countries negotiate the remaining points of contention.

Op-Ed | Elon Musk: What in the world is he doing?

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Disclaimer: the views presented in this article do not necessarily represent the stance of the Junior Economic Club of Toronto as a whole.

With the continued issues Tesla faced over the past month, things are only getting worse for the electric car company after CEO Elon Musk’s decisions during a podcast show interview.

During the airing of the daily Joe Rogan Experience podcast episode this past thursday, the popular CEO made an appearance as a guest, sipping whiskey and talking about flamethrowers, artificial intelligence, and electric planes. At one point, the topic of conversation became marijuana, the controversial drug that isn’t legal in all American states yet. Musk received the joint and took a puff, while claiming that he doesn't regularly use the drug. Though recreational use of marijuana is legal in California (the state where the podcast was made), the controversy surrounding the use of the drug still seems very unprofessional for a CEO to do on camera. Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal.  

In the past few months, Musk’s behaviors have been repeatedly criticized. As of right September 14th, Tesla’s stock has plunged almost 120 points, more than 30% since Musk’s first announcement of Tesla’s privatization, which he later took back due to widespread public outrage, lawsuit threats from market manipulation, and investigations by the SEC. This time, within hours of release, the podcast went viral, and Musk once again received tremendous backlash. Now, in addition to their CEO, Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton and Head of Human Resources Gabrielle Toledano are also making headlines due to their sudden resignations, which can only mean further declines for Tesla.  

Tesla’s quarterly reports have been showing growth, though. Quarter 2 shows more than $4 billion in revenue, as compared to the $2.78 billion to quarter 2 of last year. However, Tesla’s financing and spending is quickly catching up as well. Tesla reported a $718 million loss, but they still have a positive cash flow. Unfortunately, with Model 3 production being pressured as much as possible and research happening with the Model Y, that could soon change, especially if Tesla keeps up their money-burning habit. Especially with the PR damage done by the CEO, things aren’t exactly looking bright right now for Tesla.

At the end of the day, this is another example of how severely the actions of the CEO reflect on a company, despite its great efforts to retain its public image. For Tesla, if Musk doesn’t change his strikingly odd behavior soon, they’ll need more than a positive cash flow to keep them afloat.

What Do You Care About?

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Chances are, the first thing that came to mind wasn’t economics. Maybe it was school, your friends, a significant other, or an extracurricular activity. As high school students living in an increasingly busy world, we tend to place most of our focus on the immediate and pressing issues in our lives. It’s difficult to give any significant portion of our attention to something that seemingly doesn’t affect us in the least, which de-prioritizes keeping up with current economic and political trends.

But, difficult as it may be, we need to remember that just because you don’t notice how it affects you, our rapidly-changing economy plays a huge role in your life. And the older we get, the more our lives will be affected by changes in the economy. Policies we never gave a second thought to will have a direct impact on what jobs will be available to us, how much we’ll make at those jobs, and how much student debt we will (or won’t) be buried under. That’s why it’s so important that we start to do our research now, so that by the time we notice these effects on our lives we have the knowledge and power to deal with them. Here are just a few reasons why you should make time to care about economics:

1. It’s a reality check.

Unlike almost every other facet of the current political climate, economics is objective. There is a concrete right and wrong, which helps us analyze and understand the effects of economic policy. As human beings, we often focus on the emotional and sensationalized component of current events, so studying and understanding economics helps us take a subjective situation and understand its objective effects.

2.  It helps you make financial decisions.

With the way our economy is constantly fluctuating, learning financial literacy is unfortunately not a one-size-fits-all experience. Once you’ve learned the absolute basics, making financial decisions involves a solid understanding of the current state of the economy. Global wars, elections, and crises will all have an effect on the value of your assets and investments. Knowing what stocks to invest in, how to manage your debt, and how to prepare for unemployment all depends on what is currently happening in the economic climate, meaning that you will need to keep up with current trends if you want to be able to make sound financial choices.

3. It prepares you for the future.

As previously mentioned, our economy is constantly changing, and a part of that involves the job market. As millennials or Gen Z-ers, the jobs available to us aren’t the same as the jobs that were available to our parents. Technological progression and development is causing uncertainty and turmoil in industries that were previously thought untouchable, and is creating demand for jobs in sectors that didn’t exist until only a few decades ago. Keeping up with these changes will help prepare you for entering a job market different from anything else in history.

As youth living in the twenty-first century, it’s a privilege to be connected to the rest of the world, but it also makes it our responsibility to use all that information to educate ourselves and stay up-to-date on current events. The older you get, the more imperative it is that you gain a deeper understanding of the world around you. As busy as we all are, if you take a little bit of time every week to read the news and learn something new, you’ll be surprised about how much it’ll change your perception of the world. The economy affects us all, like it or not, so don’t let a busy school year distract you from the bigger picture.

About the Author

Olga Starenky is an experienced writer and political enthusiast. As the Head of the Junior Economist, she advocates for student voice and involvement in economics and politics.

Olga Starenky

Olga Starenky is an experienced writer and political enthusiast. As the Head of the Junior Economist, she advocates for student voice and involvement in economics and politics.

What to expect from JEC in 2018/2019

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To Whom It May Concern:

Thank you. To begin, I would like to thank everyone and anyone who has been involved with JEC in the past.

To our past alumni, for forging a path that will lead this year’s team confidently from past years of success and growth.

To our sponsors, for allowing JEC to continuously promote financial literacy to the best of our ability to all students in the GTA.

To our guest speakers and mentors, for guiding us and leaving your wisdom and advice on those who have attended our past events.

A final thanks to our attendees and readers. Without an audience, JEC would have little impact in our community. You make JEC worthwhile for all the above-mentioned people.

The past year has been the most successful and rewarding year to date. From the top of the Globe and Mail Centre to the floor of the Toronto Stock Exchange, JEC prides itself in being able to say that we’ve had over 300 students attend our events last year alone. We are also proud to say that with the help of dedicated sponsors and mentors, we have fostered the growth of student-led start-ups in the GTA by investing $3000 into their development.

Entering our third year of operations, this year’s team plans on making 2018/2019 the best JEC can offer. We are planning more frequent events relating directly to helping students grow their financial knowledge and setting them up with connections, opportunities, and a network for their future endeavours during and after high school. We are branching out and will be hosting events with other student-run organizations in the GTA, aiming to reach out to other networks of students who are yet to benefit from JEC. With new technologies in the financial industry, JEC is looking forward to discussing such topics at our events throughout the course of the year.

Our website is being revamped, specifically through the introduction of our Alumni Network  as well as an update to our Junior Economist. Our Alumni Network will display contact information of all former JEC executives, including what they are currently doing since parting JEC. Our Junior Economist will transition over to a shorter blog-style format, improving the efficiency of the blogs and also posting the content on a timelier basis. We will also be introducing Junior Economist blogs and promotions related to our events, including recaps on the success of our events after they have happened.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this message, I’d truly like to thank everyone involved with JEC to date. I feel that this new year will bring bountiful experience and knowledge to all the students affected by JEC’s mission, including myself. Here at JEC we always strive to understand our audience and offer them experiences regardless of their social or financial background. After all, “Investing in Toronto’s future- Equal opportunity through financial literacy”, is what we do.

Warmly,

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Robert Di Marco

September 3, 2018

Cambridge Analytica

       Recently, Cambridge Analytica, a British data mining company has recently come under scrutiny for its use of Facebook data to try to influence the US election and Brexit.  While this is a pressing issue, it also raises bigger questions in regards to our privacy over the internet. So how did this all start?

       Cambridge Analytica, as previously mentioned, is a data mining company that tries to analyze the vast troves of data they collect to provide clients with richer insights.  The way they would do this is by collecting information about a person (ex. what Facebook they liked, their posts, locations, etc.). With this, they would create psychographic profiles on the each person, and this information would be passed on to campaigns.  These campaigns would then use the personality traits about individuals in certain states to drive behaviour. They were initially used by the Cruz and Carson campaign in late 2015. However, when it was reported that the company may have used personal information from Facebook users, Cambridge Analytica reportedly deleted them.  And so the question remains, why is this still relevant?

 
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       It turns out that Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm, SCL (Strategic Communication Laboratories), received the Facebook information from Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American psychology professor at Cambridge University.  He built a Facebook app called “thisismydigitallife” and it would collect information on users who completed the quiz. Not only was it able to collect data from the approximately 270 000 users, but was also able to collect private information of the friends of these users such as their likes, posts, location, etc.  This technique is known as “seeding” and it was pretty effective because on average, each user would have around 300 friends. This is how Kogan was able to collect the private data of over 50 million users. This data was then passed on to SCL who created psychographic profiles based on the Big Five personality traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.  This is where the controversy lies, not only did millions of people have their private data collected without their knowledge, but it was passed on to various campaigns. While users do consent to having their data passed on to researchers for academic purposes when they create a Facebook account, it is prohibited to transfer this data to any third party ad network, data broker, or any other monetization related service.

 
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       Around the time Trump was campaigning, Steve Bannon was the vice president of SCL who not only introduced Cambridge Analytica to the Trump campaign, but also secured funding from conservative mega donors Rebekah and Robert Mercer.  This is what has led to widespread investigations into this company. Congress and the Senate have both asked to hold hearings in regard to Facebook’s link to Cambridge Analytica. Robert Mueller has even requested the company to turn over internal documents in relation to the possible election meddling.  In addition, there are hearings being held in the UK over Cambridge Analytica’s role in the Brexit campaigns. With all these reports coming out about data leaks, these investigations are starting to raise concerns over the security of our data over the internet going forward.


 
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Ritvik Singh is a grade 11 student at the Academy for Gifted Children – P.A.C.E. His interests primarily lie in mathematics, economics, and computers. He is also an academic coordinator at FUSE Society and a member of his school’s robotics team.

 

Sprint and T-Mobile Merge

       America’s third and fourth biggest mobile network companies, Sprint and T-Mobile, have been talking again about the possibility of a merger, now for the second time since last November.

 
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       Now, T-Mobile is about to seal the deal again with Sprint to acquire it for $6.50 per share, or $26 billion in total, and will likely have T-Mobile's John Legere to run this new company. SoftBank, who owns more than 85% of Sprint, will own just 30 percent of the merger, while Deutsche Telekom, who owns about 60% of T-Mobile, would own about 42 percent.

       Talks had been called off last year after SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son decided he didn't want to lose control of a combined company, as well as after concerns of the potential inability of reaching a general consensus, and thus losing competition against bigger competitors like Verizon and AT&T.

 
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       However, several changes have been evident in the past months that have made Son accept a lower share. Lower corporate taxes from the federal government, 5G deployment transparency, and a changing wireless landscape that now includes cable providers. In the past few years, Sprint has acquired $32 billion in debt and lost millions of users since it was taken over by SoftBank, and T-Mobile is generating a mere fraction of Verizon’s and AT&T’s.

       If this deal goes through, a new mobile giant with over 127 million active customers will emerge, large enough to challenge Verizon, or even AT&T, who despite federal interventions in the late 1900s, still holds a huge chunk of the market. To users, this could bring about some bad news. With the merge of these two companies, they are now more evenly faced against the industry’s other two leaders, meaning they don’t need to offer as competitive prices and products to stay in the game anymore. This could result in drops in quality service, or less promotions/deals.

       Others are contemplating the possibility in which this highly saturated market is taken by a new triopoly, now with the third and fourth biggest companies becoming one, reducing the number of competitors. The US Federal Communications Commission made its point when it sued (and won) AT&T after an attempt to buy T-Mobile back in 2011, and with the final decision being in the hands of government authorities, it will take a while to become official even after the merger deal passes from both of the companies themselves.


 
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Derek Liu is an experienced cryptocurrency and stock trader with a background in finance. He follows and writes about controversial economic topics and American politics. Other than a writer, he is also an ambassador for multiple other student led economics and leadership clubs, such as Target Alpha and PUYO, and a grade ten student at St.Roberts CHS.

 

The Future of Plastic

       Look around you right now.

       No matter where you are, plastic is all around you. It’s in toys, bags, electronics, and almost anything non-edible (hopefully) that you can think of.

       Plastic is undoubtedly a global resource. But at the rate it’s being produced and polluted out of our control, plastic is becoming a global issue.

       Ever since its rise to mainstream use in the 1960’s, plastic has become the go-to material for all kinds of consumer goods, and was even hailed as a “miracle product” at the time. Fast forward a few decades, and global plastic production has gone from annually producing 15 million tonnes of plastic in 1966, to 311 million tonnes in 2014 alone.

What numbers are we looking at?

       Many of us are probably familiar with the "Pacific Garbage Patch", and some of its similar cousins in other oceans globally. Nowadays we are learning more about what effects plastics have on our planet, and our global sustainability as a human species. To give perspective, even those small plastic bags you may get from your supermarket take anywhere from 10-1000 years to decompose, meaning some of those bags can outlive you and me around 12 times.

       Globally, we produce over 300,000,000 (300M) tonnes of plastic each year, which is not that surprising when taking into account increasing global population and purchasing power in developing nations. However, although plastic is a recyclable material, a 2015 University of Georgia study showed that only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled annually. In the same study, they found that over 9.1 million tonnes of this plastic is ending up in the world oceans every year.

       In another study by The Ocean Conservancy, half of this plastic waste is coming from 5 specific nations: Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, and China. It was calculated that with the correct measures, these nations can reduce their own waste output, while also reducing the overall global plastic waste levels by 45%.

       All this presents some key questions we need to answer within the next coming years:

(1) How do we manage this plastic waste being produced by developing economies which cannot prioritize environmental sustainability over economic growth?
 

(2) What can be done in Canada to reduce our dependence on plastic?
 

(3) What else can economies of scale use that would ecologically and sustainably substitute plastic’s affordability and convenience?

 
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(1) Social Plastic: Stopping Problems Abroad

       Social plastic is a concept coined by a Vancouver startup: The Plastic Bank, and its implications are paramount to global environmental sustainability.

       Social plastic is a model of using plastic waste as direct currency, where individuals who collect such plastic can exchange it for consumer goods such as: stoves, groceries, etc. The Plastic Bank’s scalable business model that allows it to spread its mission worldwide, which it has already done in various nations globally. This model also allows for plastic waste to be traded in for standard currency as well.

       When implemented in Haiti recently, the Plastic Bank help started a civilian-level cleanup and reward process, right at point sources of ocean plastic dumping. All of this worked to provide those involved with appliances, groceries, and various other consumer goods.

       This is a new concept, and the idea of using plastic waste as a currency will be inevitably met with some skepticism. However, what powers this model so well is the constant global demand for recycled plastic, which will always give plastic an inherit value as a potential currency/tradable good.

       I’ve given a fairly brief overview of what social plastic. If you want to get involved and help with the cause, check out the website of the Plastic Bank at: plasticbank.org.

(2) What are we doing back home?

       Canada has a mediocre waste disposal record per capita, but in the field of plastic we are faring better each year. In a 2015 study, 67% of plastic bags were recycled at the municipal level, and 78% of rigid plastics were recycled too. This reduction trend is due thanks to the efforts of Canadian citizens, startups and lawmakers alike, especially with a new policy that's becoming more popular in Canadian cities.

       With Canada’s improving record, lawmakers in Montreal and other large Canadian cities have implemented “plastic bag bans”, where the distribution and use of standard plastic bags are banned by the city.

       What makes this solution well executed is the consideration for local business who relied on these bags. Ideas such as incentivizing reusable shopping bags and financial incentives, ultimately make the ban of plastic bags more feasible for a city’s environment and economy. This balanced approach to the by-law was met with general bipartisan support in the respective cities.

(3) Fight plastic with better plastic

       Although I’ve trashed talked plastic throughout this entire article, the reason why we are where we are right now, is because plastic is perfect for economies of scale. It’s cheap, uses a resource (oil) that’s already being extracted in mass, and is extremely convenient to transport. Knowing how crucial plastic is in our global economy, the solution to our original problem may lie in the way we produce plastic, rather than in a different material altogether.

       Recently, certain producers have begun creating plastic based off of various forms of starch, into biopolymers, which substitute for the oil-based polymers used in traditional plastic. These basic starches can even be vegetable-based, such as with potatoes.

       What is created as a result, is biodegradable plastic. This plastic can take 3-6 months to fully decompose, which is on par with various food items, and certainly beats out the 10-1000 year decomposition range of normal plastic. As biodegradable plastics become even cheaper to produce and use on a large scale, businesses will be further encouraged to use them, at the very least to boost their brand image and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

 
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Final Thoughts

       Plastic has gotten us far and has undoubtedly played its significant role in developing the economies of the second half of the 20th century.

       Doing our part as everyday citizens can include anything: helping out global efforts like social plastic, recycling your plastics at home and on-the-go, avoiding always using plastic shopping bags, and countless other unnoticeable changes to our daily routines that we can make.

       However, the reality still remains that without our natural resources, there is no base foundation of our global economy. True economic prosperity is based on longevity, and plastic will be one of many lessons in the general realization: that economic growth must exist to physically preserve itself in the long run, rather than focus mainly on short-term gains.

 
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Michael Trinh Orszag is a Grade 11 High school student, actively immersed in the fields of biotechnology, geopolitics, and sustainable technology. Combining both entrepreneurial and STEM experiences/perspective, he often writes about economical means of implementing sustainable change, upcoming biotechnology, and student advice articles in regards to starting one’s professional career in high school.