Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fraying of social safety nets necessitates charity - REPLAY

First published in 2012:


I listened to parts of Friday's CKNW Orphans' Fund Pledge Day, wondering if they would be more forthright about shifting over $1 million from the charity to pockets of Corus Radio since 2006.

CKNW employees are now careful about saying "Every cent goes to the children." Instead, they allow on-air guests to leave the same impression. Examples from Friday's radio show:

Brooks Patterson — Safety Manager, Pacific Group of Companies
“There’s no admin fees, those are all picked up, so it’s a real easy charity to get behind. So, we’ve always been big fans."
John Daily, Global TV
“The administration is done gratis. It’s all volunteer. So you’re not looking at an organization that has a lot of overhead here. It’s got like zero overhead. The money goes to the kids and the families that need it."
Wally Oppal, BC Liberal Remittance Man
“My understanding is that there’s virtually no overhead involved, that all the money that’s given by the donors goes to the needy people. That’s great.”



By the way, NW's event involves a little deceptive counting. In the past, the station's claims for Pledge Day have exceeded the charitable receipts issued for an entire year. This technique, aimed at building prestige, involves announcing or re-announcing every actual or hoped for receipt on the day of celebration, regardless of whether the money has already been collected or may never be collected.

Repeated expressions about NW paying the charity's administration costs - as they did in pre-Corus days - are simply not true. So why are they made?

Because the Pledge Day event is mostly a seasonal orgy of self-congratulation aimed at promoting businesses. CKNW is the prime beneficiary. Their concern for social justice might be better demonstrated by encouraging maintenance of the social safety net and an economy with opportunity and fair wages for all.

Perhaps the worst example Friday was the Denny's restaurant chain in Vancouver appearing on Pledge Day to pat themselves on the back for delivering money collected from employees and customers. This is the company accused in a $10 million BC Supreme Court action of abusing low wage foreign workers:
"Fifty workers from the Philippines say they were hired to work at Denny's as cooks and servers through the Canadian Temporary Foreign Worker Program last fall.

"But they allege they were cheated out of wages and accuse Denny's of not paying back the recruitment and processing fees they were forced to provide in order to come to Canada.

" 'Very vulnerable workers that are being brought over under the temporary foreign workers program shouldn't be taken advantage of,' said their lawyer, Charles Gordon."
Throughout Pledge Day, I heard people saying that society's most needy are fortunate to receive charity, I'm reminded of a scene written by Charles Dickens. To gentlemen entering Scrooge's counting-house collecting for the poor, Scrooge responds,
"Are there no prisons? And the union workhouses - are they still in operation? Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course."
I'd prefer a year with 365 days worth of social justice, rather than one day of questionable generosity.
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20 comments:

  1. Sooner or later we all share the same fate.
    It is very sad that people, including all the talking heads and the so-called leaders can not share similar values in life; respect, honesty, integrity, altruism, etc.
    I am so glad I do not ever have to listen to CKNW.
    Mark B

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  2. I hope there's a special place in Hell for the people who decided to skim from the top of a once proud charitable venture.

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  3. For anyone inclined to send Christmas cards...

    Garry McKenzie (General Manager Corus Radio Vanvouver)

    CKNW 980AM
    Suite 2000 -
    700 West Georgia St.
    Vancouver, BC
    Canada V7Y 1K9

    and...

    John Cassaday (President and CEO),
    Chris Pandoff (Executive Vice President and President, Corus Radio)
    Tom Peddie (Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer)
    Gary Maavara (Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Corporate Secretary)
    Judy Adam (Vice President, Finance)
    Kathleen McNair (Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Corporate Communications)

    Corporate
    Executive Head Office
    (President and CEO, CFO, General Counsel)
    Corus Entertainment Inc.
    Corus Quay
    25 Dockside Drive
    Toronto, Ontario
    M5A 0B5

    Corporate Head Office
    (Executive Chair, Corporate Secretary)
    Corus Entertainment Inc.
    630-3rd Ave SW, Suite 300
    Calgary, Alberta
    T2P 4L4

    Human Resources Department
    Corus Entertainment Inc.
    Corus Quay
    25 Dockside Drive
    Toronto, Ontario
    M5A 0B5

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  4. I think I have to send out some Christmas greetings.

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  5. Yes, when the Pacific group said there were no administration fees, it was speaking for itself. I didn't hear CKNW make such a claim for obvious reasons. But, the casual listener would get the impression that CKNW is promoting its charity fund raising out of the goodness of its heart. Let's face it. CKNW acts in its own best interest-end of story. For that reason, my Christmas donation went directly to a local food bank.

    On the other hand, the CBC fund raising may provide a better alternative. There is less hype at the CBC which is an indication that it is a truer charity. Of course, people will say our tax dollars are being used to raise money for charity. But, I don't have a problem with that. CBC raised over $500k on Friday.

    It would be interesting if you could compare the two stations.

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    Replies
    1. I was a little reluctant to quote Brooks Patterson of the Pacific Group because I'm told he's a good guy, managing a good company.

      In fact, I was ready to avoid further discussion of the whole Orphans' Fund issue. It was the Denny's Restaurant segment that really fuelled the fire. Denny's is a whole different story, particularly when you consider the class action suit by foreign workers and the multi-billion dollar wealth behind the owners and how that wealth originated. Think about the name Gaglardi and the issues of land development and highways access.

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    2. Norm: My "Pacific group" comment was intended to recognize its commitment to ensure that every cent raised by the organization went to the Orphan's Fund. Every organization which turns over its entire funds raised deserves to unequivocally state that no administration charges were deducted. This provides a sharp contrast as to what is occuring at CKNW because a portion of the Pacific group's contribution was lost to administrative charges applied by CKNW or its owners. I am sorry that that the Pacific group was offended by my comment.

      I strongly urge the Pacific group and any other organization that turns over 100 percent of the funds raised to the charity of their choice (as I believe is always the case), to always clearly indicate such in the future. That might be exert pressure on the recipient charity to at least clearly disclose its financial interest, if not minimize or abandon it all together.

      As I commented earlier, my Christmas donation went directly to a local food bank for the above concerns. Aside from receiving a tax receipt, it is worthwhile to experience the profound sense of gratitude expressed by the people who run the food banks.

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  6. As Christmas draws near, I urge everyone to read, not watch, Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", as i do, from a book printed in 1902. Though Alaster Sim's rendition of Scrooge is the best, the book is far more 'Gothic' in its portrayal of the ugliness of Victorian England.

    It is with a profound sadness that charity today is but a big business, where large amounts of money are given, yet a large portion of that money is taken by the charity, to fund administration. I know of a charity, where the officers of the charity, went and had a $7,000 dinner, yes that's right $7,000! I know, I was guilty in attending and I resigned the very next day after a I sent a very terse email to all involved. I am told that they now hold their self congratulatory dinner out of district to prevent local embarrassment, with a 'Limo" service to ensure everyone has their fair share of drink.

    Our local charitable thrift shop has an annual sale of the good bits, where friends of the charity are invited to shop the night before and are allowed a "friends discount".

    We allow this to go on because in most cases, we do not know the inner working of most charities and most charities keep their operations as secret as they can. If the public knew the truth about many charities, they would soon go bankrupt - yes bankrupt because most charities are big business.

    In the end, I donate to the Sally Ann because I believe most of the money is given back to the community in worthwhile endevours, yet events in Toronto have shaken even my belief in the Sally Ann.

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  7. Long ago, it dawned on me that charity was a way for people who had taken too much to organize the rest of society into giving time, goods and money to fill the gaps left by their own accumulations of wealth and power. This became particularly and painfully evident in some of the early rounds of trashing the contracts of health workers at the dawn of the BC Liberals new economic paradigm for BC, where the Salvation Army became a contractor taking over various services with stripped contracts, while at the same time holding onto large reserves of cash and property. In a sign of the irony of charities engaging in business, it was about this time that the SA became a listed entity on the NASDAQ: I'll leave the religious niceties to others, but it was emblematic of the whole charity industry, where many good people work their hearts out in the service of outsourcing the principal business of society: making life livable for all, but whose efforts ultimately serve the desires of a small, greedy and uncaring minority. The rise of food banks in the early '80s seemed like a lovely gesture, but the fact that they have become such a fixture and are so burdened with a constant stream of new clientèle and a reduced donor base speaks volumes for the direction that governance has taken at all levels of society. The sad part is that it is very difficult find productive outlets for effort and money to address the root causes of poverty and inequality because politics and the judiciary have been compromised and the public in general is held in thrall to a game of governance where there is no ethical choice: our collective ignorance perpetuates a fear-based participation in a vicious cycle of limited choices and no clear path to true social investment. The whole of an economy based on growth and consumption produces a soul-stealing inequality where those who "have" are driven to accumulate for fear of becoming one of those who "have not", this dispossessed and disenfranchised whose designated image is that of social discard. I know people who are sponges, welfare bums and leeches, but they are few in relation to the overall ranks of strugglers, who, like most of us, need only a realistic opportunity to make a contribution to become constructive members of a larger community. Even one who writes very bad poetry or makes very bad music is less of a drain on society and the environment than someone who plies the same trade in aid of advertising campaigns to encourage further consumption, yet the Madison Avenue copywriters and jingle composers are well remunerated while we scrape to help look after those deprived of opportunity and a decent living. This rather long-winded diatribe hardly scratches the surface, and doesn't deal with the pillage of resources outside out borders, thinking of Fantino's recent pronouncements about how Canadian aid overseas should work, but even without looking outside our own house, there is enough of a pall to incite us to some form of constructive action beyond supporting charities of any stripe.

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  8. Great Post Norm...many of these social injustices, are highlighted by one thing "corporate greed".

    Seems that somewhere along the way, society has lost its moral compass. "Justice" only means what high priced lawyer, can you get, to get you off the hook. The real issue, the truth, is only a view of the world that is "sanitized" for consumption, by the rest of us. True "justice" no longer exists. Even the "esteemed justices" in the system are brought into question.

    One has to wonder, what the future holds for a society, steeped in greed, corruption and malfeasance. In Canada each day, we are reminded of the slide into corruption and manipulation, we are enduring. Is there no end to this stupidity? Whether by governments, corporations or even charities, the descent, into the "moral vacuum", just seems to get worse all the time.

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  9. I heard the comment from Mr. Patterson as well. I've never heard him speak before, but found him to be likeable and genuine. I know for sure the Pacific Group are good guys. Nevertheless, the comment made me think that CKNW does not charge any admin fees at all. I would hazard to guess CKNW may have been less than forthright explaining admin fees to even their most valued contributors. After all, in our local media world there is no such thing as "common knowledge".

    I have no problem with organizers of a charity recovering costs or even making a profit, as long my choice on who to support is based on truthful information. I feel lucky being able (most of the time) to be able to give a bit here and there....but....don't mislead me by stretching the definition of "non-profit" in the same way media outlets stretch the definition of "news".

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    Replies
    1. You make a good point about providing truthful information. In other words, full disclosure.

      I wondered if CKNW charged the charity for air time on pledge day or any other times. However, the Orphans' Fund makes no disclosures of financial details and you can't become a member and ask questions at meetings. Membership is open only to those invited. Of course, that makes the Orphans' Fund a tiny self perpetuating organization without scrutiny from outsiders.

      In general, groups that resist public accountability and disclosure have things to hide. Why else do they resistance transparency?

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  10. Speaking of full disclosure...
    It's the third-party fundraisers that get my goat.

    Works this way: Say a "worthwhile" group needs $20,000, but they don't have enough volunteers themselves to make calls or knock on doors. So they hire, for example, ABC Fundraising Company.
    ABC enters into a contract and starts making calls.
    Within a month they've collected $400,000 (I did say it was a worthwhile group, didn't I?).
    The group receives their $20,000 and ABC keeps $380,000.

    Nowadays I ask: "are you a third-party fundraiser?"
    A "yes" is followed by a hang-up or slammed door.

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  11. charity is big business, it offers salaries well above a "living wage". people go to university to specialize in these fields. Sticking to a couple of local charities and for international stuff, the Mennonite church. their organizations are staffed by . when you go into a Mennonite thrift store and see all those seniors working? Well they are volunteers from various churches. the store usually has one paid manager and the rest, volunteers. check our your local rotary club. they are usually community minded with simply volunteers, well they are in our area.

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  12. Very good. But have you gone to CKNW to get their explainations as to the growth of the "cost of fundraising"? Ask the real questions, get answers, perhaps go to their Pledge Day event and be persistent, if the public should know they need both sides. You did well on this side, but it still hasn't squared as to the explaining. Ask exactly - does the money raised from the Orphan's Fund Pledge Day directy go to the charity, or is there something else?Perhaps another fundraiser to raise money to run and administer, which doesn;t need growth of costs as you accurately provide.

    Need the other side of the equation. The story is only have complete right now.

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    1. CKNW and the Orphans' Fund choose not to explain, answer questions or provide detail. All I can do is ask; all they've done is refuse. For example, today one of the charity directors was unwilling to address a single point that I've made, saying only, "I don't share your concerns."

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    2. Not an answer. It may well be the donation from Pledge Day are going directly to the Orphan's Fund, while other fundraising activities are going to the Orphan's Fund minus
      administrative costs. Seems to be languishing in blogland and not out into the public arena. While this is good for your readers, Joe an Mary Sixpack in Richmond and Joe who donate annually may not be aware unless it is brought forward to the public arena.

      Needs more work than languishing in blogland. Any "journalist" (not opinion writers) worth his or her salt will keep on pressing until everything is squared off.

      Too often I've seen blog hobbyists raise issues with their opinions just to collect agreement on positions, but don't persue any further since they all want their own sounding board, and that's it. Need to take this to the next step.

      "I don't share your concerns" is not acceptable. Press further.

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  13. Good idea Anon 11:53. Go for it! In the meantime I'll take the lazy route and donate elsewhere.
    John's Aghast

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  14. Well, well, well:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/01/18/canadian-pacific-exec-unions_n_4624038.html?utm_hp_ref=canada

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  15. Just a piece, but read the whole article.
    Pacific’s vice-president for human resources and labour relations, Peter Edwards, credited unions with the creation of the modern middle class.

    "When you talk to anyone remotely connected to the world, they understand the role of unions providing what we have today,” he said.

    “They're a key driver in the creation of the middle-class, for the reduction of work hours, paid vacation, all sorts of benefits that we all enjoy."

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