By Howard Levitt
Two biggest labour market changes, DEI initiatives and working from home, may soon become an historic anecdote
Wokeism, well entrenched in universities and now school boards, is increasingly infiltrating Canadian employers, even more so than American ones.
The essence of both free speech and the scientific method is a struggle for truth, not the forced enunciation of the accepted platitudes of the day, with punishment if you refuse.
Many employers, in their pursuit of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), have been increasingly requiring their employees to mouth wokeist pieties both externally to customers and stakeholders, and even to each other in the workplace, with the risk of discipline if they object.
It has not yet generally reached the depths of St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Renfrew, Ont., which suspended and then called the police on a young student for declaring in a class discussion his religious and personal belief that there were only two genders, which, last I checked the liturgy, remained Catholic teaching. Or that of the trustees of the Halton District School Board, who have taken the legally preposterous position that, because she declared herself to be transgender, they were not permitted to force their parody of a teacher with massive prosthetic breasts and protruding nipples from dressing properly as a role model for students.
Employers have not even descended to the depths of our regulatory bodies, like the Ontario College of Psychologists, threatening to delicense Canada’s most prominent psychologist, Jordan Peterson, and ordering him to take re-education because of his conservative political views, unrelated to his practice of clinical psychology. Who knows how many less well-heeled psychologists have already been censured or sent to re-education because they lacked the fortitude, finances or alternative career choices to resist it.
The Law Society of Ontario, in the same vein, attempted to institute a Statement of Principles (SOP) four years ago forcing lawyers to support, practice and advocate woke practices, requiring them to agree to and practice consistent with this SOP. The move was an obvious prelude to taking the same actions against lawyers as the College of Psychologists has against Peterson, if lawyers expressed political opinions it found out of line.
This development is particularly concerning as lawyers were the historic defenders of those requiring protection from big government and compelled thought and speech. Conrad Black wrote an eloquent plea in these pages on the part of those, like myself, running against this new group.
For employers, this trend is likely to collide against the generally predicted economic downturn, which will require them to end frivolous expenditures and refocus on the bottom line.
As Jim Geraghty wrote in the National Review: “The woke customer base is just too small, and the non-woke customer base just too large to ignore or antagonize.”
With tougher times, companies will not have the luxury to ignore what most customers want, spend money on causes unpopular with its customer base or expend any money that does not, in turn, result in profit.
To underline the point that I am making, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives just last week voted to overturn a Department of Labor (DOL) rule allowing retirement plan managers to factor environment, social and governance (ESG) into their investment decisions, rather than just focusing on profits as their fiduciary duty arguably requires and their pensioners, reliant on the results of these investments, obviously want. The Congress criticized the DOL rule as “politicizing” and “jeopardizing” Americans’ retirement savings. President Biden is likely to veto their vote.
The same economic pressures which will reduce DEI initiatives will also affect working from home. Most employers, at least in private, want employees back to work for productivity and teamwork. But they can’t force them to return for fear of losing skilled workers at a time of a labour shortage. An economic slowdown changes that calculus and remote workers will become what employees in the branch offices used to be, out of sight, viewed as more dispensable and quicker to be laid off. Employees ordered back to the office without available alternate positions will have to return. No more working from Mexico or Muskoka or their living rooms.
And employers want them back, with the decline in job ads for remote work an obvious sign.
The situation is particularly critical in the public sector with phones not answered, passports not issued and immigration processing years behind. It is the public sector who most completely abandoned the office, and it shows.
So if a recession hits, our two recent biggest labour market changes, DEI initiatives and working from home, may soon become an historic anecdote.