The business side of woodworking March 2014
Kerry Knudsen

Diversity runs in the family

Well, my journalist colleagues are at it again. Last week on their “chat” site, the discussion turned to “diversity” in the newsroom. One newsroom bragged about having Native Canadians in the newsroom. Then one upped the challenge with FEMALE Native Canadians. As with fishing stories, the first presenter doesn’t have a chance.

Not wanting to be left out, I wrote that skin colour is way too superficial to use as a measure of diversity in the exchange of ideas, and, “Other studies indicate journalists in Canada, the U.S. and Australia are even more monolithic and discriminatory on such substantial issues as political, economic and moral positions.” In English, this means journalists in newsrooms are over 80 percent liberal, so what does it matter whether the next Occupy riot is instigated by which minority?

This is important for industries that depend heavily on family owned businesses for labour, investment, supplies, production and sales, since liberals have a tendency to see the pity in the plights of others and know who has the resources to fix it under their direction. I always introduce the caveat that I am not talking about your political party or how you vote. I am speaking of small-l liberals, or, in this case, capital-J journalists.

To advance my point one more step, I said, “For example, as journalists, should we not be equally skeptical of activists as their targets?” This did not go over well, as journalists prefer to ask questions and pontificate, rather than answer or engage.

It is embarrassing to be a voyeur, watching what should be an advanced discussion area for reviewing issues of free speech, political oversight and media law reduced to a chant of mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the most diverse newsroom of them all?

Family businesses, whether in agriculture, tourism, retail or manufacturing, are in trouble. The system, as it has evolved, has divided (dare I say diversified?) with employees socially above and employees socially below family ownership businesses. The “above” group can be further split into corporate employees that may earn a hundred times more than a small-business owner, and authority-wielding regulators. However, they are employees, nonetheless, and likely have little personal attachment to consequences in the sense an owner does. There is a qualitative difference between losing a job and losing a company.

The issue of family businesses has been interesting to me as long as I can remember. My life experience says families are the foundation of society. Strong families are the foundation of a community, a political party, a governmental system and an industry. Never mind that strong families are the target of the underperforming and the envious, without the leadership, self-serving or benevolent, of strong families, society atrophies. Boardrooms, committees and consensus are not leaders, though they may be enforcers.

We seem to find ourselves in a situation where the demands of the employee class have put unbearable burdens on the ownership class. You don’t have to look far for examples. In every small business, the cost of compliance with an ever-increasing burden of regulations has become unbearable. This is not an exaggeration. Family businesses are evaporating every day because they ran afoul of one rule or another. It has become so outrageous that one company even was held criminally liable because a couple of workers got stoned on the job and killed themselves.

One has to assume if the company had fired the employees for being stoned on the job, it would have run a significant risk of being sued into oblivion by the same committees, consensus-deliverers and newsrooms that carried the torch of criminal accountability in the absence of said firing. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I get a kick out of some of the governmental “industry-support” organizations. Heritage Canada, for example, allocates hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to advance our cultural heritage. I don’t need to tell you the kinds of things you are paying to promote under the banner of art and culture. However, if you look at Canada’s heritage, you will see it is closely tied to families and business – to production and trade.

We have addressed this point before, but ... has anybody looked at two simple facts of life in Canada? One: all our trade sectors are lacking skilled workers. Two: we have a surfeit of capable men and women hanging around campuses and their parents’ rec rooms, too educated to work and too in debt to live. I ran into one yesterday that, failing in getting useful employment with a bachelor’s degree in Modern Expatriate Lit, has to stay in school for a master’s degree. Once enrolled, she can get a stipend to stay in school.

Just imagine what she will be worth in five years.

The bright side of this somber situation is that the whole mess is reaching critical mass. The bills are too high, and the benefit is too low. We can not only not afford to let everybody “do your own thing,” we also cannot pay for it. Everybody knows it and nobody is arguing. Not even the debt-ridden academics in Expatriate Lit. All we are waiting for is the leadership.

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