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Canada needs workers — so why aren't more companies hiring the neurodivergent? – CBC News



The founders of a job fair for those with autism don’t only want to find careers for an untapped workforce — they also hope employers will realize these highly skilled job seekers can help solve a national labour shortage. 

“People with autism are very much capable of working and they are some of the best employees,” said Neil Forester who, along with his business partner Xavier Pinto, created the Spectrum Works Job Fair that ran Friday. 

Now in its sixth year, the job fair has grown from having 150 attendees to almost 2,000 job seekers with autism, all looking to connect with recruiters and hiring managers at major tech, finance, hospitality and retail companies across the country. Though it’s been held in various cities, the job fair was a virtual event this year and last. 

Getting companies to take part, though, has been a struggle. 

Of the 10,000 employers Forester and his team have reached out to in the last six years, just 40 companies took part in this year’s job fair. 

“The majority of the time we don’t get any response,” Forester said. 

The creators of the fair say they understand there is a wide range of abilities across the autism spectrum and, while perhaps not every person with autism is employable, both Forester and Pinto are confident a large portion of this community can and wants to work. 

And Forester questions why more employers aren’t looking at this neurodiverse talent pool to help solve the labour shortages that so many companies are experiencing.  

A national labour shortage

In the last quarter of 2021, Canadian employers were looking to fill 915,500 jobs, up 63 per cent from the year before, according to Statistics Canada. 

And with the current unemployment rate so low, “virtually all industries are bumping up against labour shortages,” wrote Royal Bank economist Nathan Janzen in an economic update this week. 

Even with the demand for workers, employment barriers remain for Canadians with autism.

Data compiled by the Public Health Agency of Canada found that in 2017 just 33 per cent of Canadian adults with autism reported being employed compared to 79 per cent of adults without a disability. 

Forester said he was unaware of just how few neurodiverse employees there are in the workforce before he started the job fair.

“I just didn’t realize how big of a problem this was or how big of an issue this was to the community,” he said.


Javier Herrera, a business systems analyst with an insurance company based in Vancouver, attended the Spectrum Works Job Fair last year and got a job offer. (submitted by Javier Herrera)

Javier Herrera is one of the comparatively few Canadians who are both employed and living with autism. 

He attended the Spectrum Works job fair last year and got a job offer. 

“It was overall a very positive experience. I met not only recruiters, but also other facilitators, coaches, government agencies, non-profits, you name it,” said Herrera who now works as a business systems analyst with an insurance company based in Vancouver. 

Herrera is encouraged to see that some employers purposefully seek out people with autism, but he feels that “as a society we are still doing baby steps” to get more people who are neurodiverse into the workforce. 

The ‘Big Four’ are buying in

That said, there are some companies specifically tapping into this talent pool, including two of the so-called “Big Four” accounting firms.

In the last few years, Ernst & Young has made strides in diversifying its hiring strategy.

The multinational launched the Neurodiversity Centre of Excellence in Toronto in November 2020, with a goal of recruiting employees with autism, ADHD or other sensory and cognitive differences.

“We’re dying for talent as an organization,” said Anthony Rjeily, a partner at Ernst & Young and the company’s neurodiversity program national leader. “So we wanted to see if there was any talent pool out there that we could potentially tap into.”

Since the launch of the program, the company has recruited 45 neurodiverse employees to their Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax and Montreal offices — and plans to expand recruitment in other cities. 

Rjeily said the initiative has more than paid off, noting the retention rate among neurodiverse candidates that the company has hired is 98 per cent. 

“The level of creativity, the innovation, the productivity that they are able to deliver is incredible,” he said. 


Under Ernst & Young Canada’s neurodiversity program, program leader Anthony Rjeily says the firm has hired 45 staff with autism, ADHD, or other sensory and cognitive differences. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Mohit Verma was one of the first people Ernst & Young hired in 2020 through the neurodiversity recruitment program.

“At EY my work revolves around certain sub-competencies such as automation, data science and, to some extent, blockchain,” Mohit said in an interview with CBC News. “So far I have been part of five to six main projects.”

Deloitte Canada is another corporation with an eye on hiring the neurodiverse. 

In an attempt to better understand the barriers and workplace needs of neurodiverse workers, the accounting giant teamed up with Auticon Canada, a global technology consulting firm that employs people with autism and recently did a survey along with Deloitte of what the needs of employees with autism might be.

Changing the interview process

The survey, ‘Embracing neurodiversity at work: How Canadians with autism can help employers close the talent gap,’ was done between July and October 2021. It included 454 respondents with autism who completed the survey online, as did seven companies that had neurodiversity in their workforces were interviewed over videoconferencing.

In their survey, they found that 41.7 per cent of respondents were underemployed, meaning they were working on a part-time, contract or temporary basis or were doing jobs that were “under their educational capabilities,” said Roland Labuhn who is a partner with Deloitte Canada.

One of the most eye-opening findings was that the hiring process itself could be a major barrier, as 40 per cent of those polled said the job interview was a “great challenge” for them.

“The people we surveyed felt that the interview was a trick or scary,” said Labuhn, who worries that the typical job interview process could eliminate some highly qualified candidates with autism. 

With a goal of getting better at both recruiting and retaining neurodiverse workers, companies like Deloitte and Ernst & Young are trying to change the interview process so that it focuses more on competence rather than how a candidate might behave in a certain scenario. 

That kind of accommodation provides hope to people like Pinto and Forester. 

The inspiration for their job fair came out of Pinto’s concerns about his son’s future. Xavi, 12, is on the spectrum and is “so creative,” his father said. 

He’s “really focused on what he wants done.”

And seeing more employers begin to sign up for the job fair gives him hope that he’s helping to create a world in which his son can go after his dreams. 

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As interest in electric vehicles soars, experts say they haven't quite hit the mainstream –



When a friend told Seymore Applebaum about the efficiency of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, he was intrigued.

Applebaum, who lives north of Toronto, was in the market for a new car. While safety features were top of mind, the high cost of gasoline couldn’t be ignored.

So in January, he traded in his sedan for a brand-new plug-in hybrid (PHEV), a vehicle that can run on both electricity and gasoline. Applebaum says he can travel almost 50 kilometres on battery power alone — more than enough to get around the city.

On a recent trip downtown, he recalled, “I drove about 45 kilometres … and the only thing I used was the electric motor and the electric battery that runs the car.”

“Normally, on a day like that, [it] would be comparable to $10, $15 of driving cost.”

Automotive industry analysts say rising gas prices have more consumers looking into electrified and electric vehicles (EVs). 

Gas prices have soared across the country in recent weeks. According to fuel price tracker GasBuddy, the national average price for regular gasoline was just below $1.98 per litre as of Sunday afternoon. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Prices at the pump have soared across Canada in recent weeks. Estimates suggest Vancouver could see the country’s highest prices this weekend, potentially hitting $2.34 per litre for regular fuel. According to fuel price tracker GasBuddy, the national average as of Sunday afternoon was just below $1.98 per litre.

“Canadians are motivated by high fuel prices, but they truly believe this is the new normal,” said Peter Hatges, national automotive sector leader for KPMG in Canada, pointing a recent survey by the consulting group. 

“When consumers believe it or perceive it to be true, they’re going to modify their behaviour around what kind of vehicles they buy.”

Kevin Roberts, director of industry insights and analytics for U.S.-based online vehicle marketplace CarGurus, told Cross Country Checkup he has seen a similar trend. 

“As gas prices went up, interest in electric vehicles went up almost in lockstep with just a couple of days delay for both new and used vehicles,” he said.

But even as interest in electrified cars spikes, experts say too few options — and too high prices — mean they haven’t quite hit the mainstream.

Where consumers in North America favour larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks known for their utility, EVs tend to come in compact or sedan-style models. EV range — and the availability of chargers — are also considerations for many Canadians, said Hatges.

Availability of charging stations, and the range of EV models, are top of mind for Canadian drivers. (Doug Ives/The Canadian Press)

Ramp up production

Big investments into electrification by major automotive makers, however, are beginning to bear fruit. 

A greater variety of models and sizes are coming onto the market in the coming years, the analysts say. Battery life is improving too, with several models able to travel more than 400 kilometres on a charge, according to manufacturer estimates.

“It’s absolutely a tipping point,” said Hatges. “I think there’s a confluence of factors that are pointing toward an alternative to the internal combustion engine.”

The big test for consumers will be whether manufacturers can cut prices enough to get customers in the showroom — and EVs on the road — said Grieg Mordue, associate professor and ArcelorMittal chair in advanced manufacturing policy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

WATCH | Questions about EVs answered: 

Your questions about electric vehicles answered

24 days ago

Duration 2:13

If you are thinking about getting off gas and buying an electric vehicle, or EV, you probably have a few questions. We went for a drive with an expert, and got some answers.

While a handful of models start below $50,000, many run far north of that figure with some selling for over $100,000.

The sweet spot for Canadian buyers? Between $35,000 and $45,000, says Mordue. Key to hitting that price point is mass production, he added. 

“We need production in North America of vehicles at that level, and we need high-volume vehicles — not little, niche vehicles where they sell 10,000 or 15,000 of them a year — because that’s a lot of the vehicles that we have now, Tesla notwithstanding,” Mordue told Checkup.

In April, GM announced a $2-billion investment, with support from the Ontario and federal governments, which will see electric vehicles rolling off assembly lines in Oshawa and Ingersoll, Ont., as early as this year.

Stellantis, which owns brands including Dodge and Jeep, is similarly investing billions into electrification at its Windsor and Brampton, Ont., plants.

Mordue cautions, however, that as plants begin producing electric models, it will take time for them to reach the existing output of gas-powered vehicles.

Seymore Applebaum says his recently purchased plug-in hybrid gives him the flexibility to take longer trips, but can run errands around the city without using any gasoline. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Focus on fuel efficiency

While interest in EVs may be gearing up, Hatges predicts a shift for gas-powered vehicles too.

“I think you’ll see a strive to make cars lighter, more fuel efficient, even when it comes to electricity,” he said. “Heavy vehicles use more power to power themselves down the road, whether it’s electricity or fuel.”

And as long as gas prices stay high, the market could see a shift from SUVs and trucks — which consumers and manufacturers have favoured in recent years — to gas-sipping models.

“We have a fascination with pickup trucks and SUVs, North Americans do, and there’s a lot of them on the road now…. I don’t see that changing any time soon,” he said.

“But in the medium term or in the immediate term, will you see a shift or reconsideration of cars that are more fuel efficient? I think so. The price in the pump is very, very significant.”

Applebaum touted the flexibility of a plug-in hybrid, saying he doesn’t worry about range at all. And though his PHEV cost more than a comparable non-electrified model, trading in his previous vehicle combined with the fuel savings over three to four years made it affordable, he said.

With gas prices now higher than they were in January, “that’s even more true,” he told Checkup.

Now, he says friends are taking notice.

“They’re saying the next car they purchase will be an electric car.”

Written by Jason Vermes with files from Abby Plener.

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Gas prices reach another record in the GTA after six cents per litre increase overnight – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Gas prices have reached yet another new record after rising six cents per litre overnight.

As of midnight the average price of a litre of fuel across the Greater Toronto Area is now 208.9 cents per litre, according to Canadians for Affordable Energy President Dan McTeague.

The latest jump means that gas prices have now risen 11 cents per litre since Friday, with no real relief in sight due to supply shortages brought about by Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine and the international sanctions that have been imposed a result.

“When you look at the fundamentals, supply and demand for diesel and for gasoline going into the summer driving season, not only is it low or critically low and that is one of the main reasons why prices are going up but the second factor is the Canadian dollar,” McTeague told CP24 last week. “It continues to show weakness despite the fact that in the old good old days when oil was $100 a barrel we would be on par with the U.S. dollar. The fact that we’re not is costing you 33 cents a litre.”

Gas prices have risen by about 60 per cent since last May, when drivers were paying around $1.30 per litre to fill up.

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Baby formula shortage: Canada's current situation – CTV News



A major infant formula recall by the U.S. manufacturer of Similac has exacerbated ongoing pandemic-related supply issues for some Canadian retailers, according to the Retail Council of Canada, while other stores have generally been able to keep shelves stocked, with shortages mostly temporary.

A number of powdered Similac products were recalled in February when four babies in the U.S. became very sick with a bacterial infection after consuming formula made at an Abbott Nutrition facility in Michigan. Two of the four hospitalized infants died. The plant was closed while the U.S. Food and Safety Administration (FDA) investigated.

The company, the largest manufacturer of infant formula in the U.S., said in a statement that “there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses”. The plant remains shut for the investigation, however, and U.S. retail tracking company Datasembly said the out-of-stock percentage for baby formula in the U.S. reached 43 per cent for the first week of May.

While Canadian retailers have generally not experienced the bare shelves seen in many U.S. stores so far, some Canadian parents are nonetheless concerned about any potential impact, particularly as a number of products are specialty formulas made for infants with special dietary requirements.

“Some retailers that I have spoken to have seen an impact since last year because of those global supply chain challenges. But it’s definitely become considerably worse since the production facility closure and product recall,” said Michelle Wasylyshen, the national spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada, in a phone interview on Friday.

Other retailers saw less of an impact, she said.

“The majority of that section within their stores, the baby formula is stocked. If there are any outages or shortages on the shelves, they should be temporary in nature for the most part.”

Wasylyshen said there was no clear answer on whether supply issues were regional because grocery retailers use different supply chains within the country and even within a province and there are different types of agreements and suppliers as well.

Walmart Canada told that there have been numerous ongoing global, industry-wide supply challenges with baby formula that have persisted for years and that it continued to work closely with its suppliers.

“Despite these challenges, including the most recent brand recall … [we] have secured a strong supply of baby formula across multiple brands and formats (concentrates, powder and ready-to-feed), to make available for sale both in-store and online,” said spokesperson Felicia Fefer in an email on Friday.

Costco and two of Canada’s three major grocery chains, Loblaws and Sobeys, had yet to respond at the time of publication. Metro declined to comment, saying the issue was not Metro specific.


Despite concerns, there are differences between Canada and the U.S. that have helped diffuse some of the impact so far, Wasylyshen said.

All major grocery chains in Canada have strong “private label” or house brands, including for the infant formula category, she noted. While some of these store-brand versions of formula may also be manufactured by the same company as the major labels, most are sourced from competitors, giving shoppers more alternative options and preventing a two-fold impact.

In addition, Health Canada also approved an interim policy that temporarily allows other infant formula brands from the U.S., U.K., Ireland, and Germany to be imported into Canada. The policy is meant to “help prevent and mitigate shortages of these products in Canada in relation to the temporary closure of a large manufacturing plant in the United States, while ensuring a safe supply of these products to the vulnerable Canadians that rely on them” the document states.

The policy, which is in effect until June 30, also notes that safety assessments have been conducted by Health Canada for each product included in the list.

“Health Canada reviews infant formula submissions from manufacturers, including labelling and compositional requirements, before infant formula is sold in Canada,” Health Canada spokesperson Marie-Pier Burelle said in an email to on Friday.

“The products listed in Appendix A of the interim policy are imported from countries that have similar regulatory standards to Canada and are safe to use. These products would not normally be on the Canadian market because Health Canada has not received a request from manufacturers to conduct a pre-market regulatory review.”

The products might not meet some requirements like French and English labelling, for example, Wasylyshen said.

“They’re all still products that are safe and that are regulated, it’s just now they’re being temporarily allowed into Canada until we get a little bit more stability with the system,” she said, adding that this has been done in the past in situations where delivery of essential supplies was hampered.


Ongoing global supply chain issues during the pandemic was already an issue prior to the recall, including global shortages of raw ingredients that go into making baby formula, Wasylyshen said. But complicating the current situation is that other suppliers are now beginning to experience issues due to the increased demand in other products that are available.

“It’s not a big problem yet, but the longer that we continue to see the Abbott shortage or Abbott products missing from the shelves, other suppliers could experience additional problems within a month or two – perhaps by summer, so that’s certainly something that we’ll want to keep our eye on.” 

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