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Social Media Campaigning Is the Norm, but Many Fail

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For the past five months, my social media radar has included the mayoral and council candidates running in the upcoming Monday, October 24th, Toronto election.

As I write this, there are less than three days left for candidates to explain why Toronto would be better off with them as mayor or on the city council.

In this day and age, when candidates have the ability to get their name and platform out without mainstream media interference, I am disappointed by what I’ve seen.

Side note: Candidates are not entitled to media coverage. Journalism is a business. The business model of media outlets, usually private enterprises, dictates that newsworthy candidates get covered. Obviously, a candidate’s newsworthiness will not be universally agreed upon. However, it is a media outlet’s prerogative to decide whom they should cover and how much coverage they receive.

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It is painfully evident that when it comes to social media, many candidates, even incumbents, do not understand:

  • How to compose tweets and posts that sell their qualifications and why they should be elected.
  • The importance of hashtag usage. (g., #TOpoli, #Toronto, #TorontoVotes, #TOVotes22, #VoteTO, #Ward24)
  • How to build support around their candidacy.
  • Engaging in flame wars (READ: Fighting to prove “they are right.”) is never a good look.

Most candidates lack a robust social media presence. Therefore, they are unable to leverage social media to promote themselves and their platforms. This is equivalent to, If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? 

It takes years to prepare for an election. Winning an election takes more than simply posting a few statements on social media, usually to a small number of followers, or constantly bashing the incumbent you are challenging.

In 2022 anyone running for public office needs to prioritize cultivating a following BEFORE seeking office.

Many candidates, especially those who have not been visible in their community, seem to think they will secure votes simply by showing up on the scene. All they have to do is make cliché promises, which often exceed the mayor’s or councillor’s absolute powers or scope of influence, and presto! they will win.

Conveniently forgotten when making election promises: The provincial and federal governments have overarching powers over Toronto, and global factors, such as inflation, the climate change, impact the city, which local politicians have no control over.

It has become a political script to use the following rhetoric to get elected:

“I promise to fight against crime, to help the homeless, to build affordable housing, etc…” 

Since Toronto was founded, every elected official has promised to “fight, help and build.” Yet, Toronto still has its share of crime, homelessness, and lack of affordable housing et al., issues that every metropolis worldwide struggles with. The many social issues Toronto experiences are the same issues all large cities experience.

Instead of pointing out their opponent’s shortcomings, candidates should be using social media mass communication capabilities to explain why their experience (if any) and community involvement (if any) make them the best candidate.

I expect that throughout the next three days, there will be a flurry of last-minute activity among mayoral candidates and those seeking council seats. Ideally, candidates will step away from their laptops and spend this weekend interacting with the people of Toronto. When running for public office, social media does not beat meeting people face-to-face. However, as we have seen, social media is the primary means of campaigning for many candidates because it is easy to sit at home typing on a laptop. In either case, candidates should consider incorporating the following into their social media activity while they still can.

 

Live video.

Why have candidates not utilized live video when meeting constituents at community events, conducting virtual town halls or knocking on doors?

Social media video allows candidates to break their own news and communicate with constituents in real-time. Unlike traditional newscasts, live video is available 24/7 without editorial interference.

Streaming live on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and even Twitter, where most candidates seem to like to hang out, can be highly effective. Rather than just talking to voters one-on-one or in group settings, live video has a much greater reach. The added benefit is that the recording can be posted for constituents to view, share, and comment on.

 

  • Don’t make election promises that can’t be kept.

At this point in the election, the horses have left the barn on this. Countless election promises have been made on social media platforms to get votes.

I get it; political campaigns are all about getting votes. I also understand that telling people what they want to hear is a vote-mining strategy that’s been around since the Greeks invented democracy.

Much has changed since the ancient Greeks raised their hands to indicate for or against the most notable: technology.

Candidates should keep in mind that nothing on the Internet ever disappears. Posts, tweets, and comments made on social media leave a digital footprint, which, if someone screenshots, exists forever. Social media makes it possible for constituents to find out what a candidate promised years after the election. Hence, candidates should be careful to make only election promises they can genuinely keep. If a candidate is elected, the last thing they need is promises they made on social media that are being unfulfilled, coming back to haunt them. Worse than broken promises haunting the candidate would be their unprofessional behaviour on social media.

As I mentioned, many candidates, especially those running for councillor, make promises that they cannot be fulfilled by a councillor. In many cases, municipalities, provinces, and the federal government hold overriding power, which candidates conveniently overlooked. Additionally, Toronto’s mayor has new veto power.

A councillor’s job is to serve the residents of their ward. However, many candidates think that being a councillor means they will have a platform to advocate for social change. On the contrary, a councillor’s job is to be a conduit between their constituents and city hall, assisting residents in navigating city hall’s complexities. Therefore, being a councillor is about serving your constituents. Servitude may not be as glamorous as “I will save the world!” but it is the essence of a councillor’s job.

SUGGESTION: Candidates, especially those with a good chance of winning, should edit their social media posts and tweets that they don’t want to be associated with in the future.

 

Ask questions!

The use of questions on social media has been proven to increase engagement. Yet, I’ve not seen candidates asking Torontonians questions.

Asking questions relevant to Torontonians or residents of their ward is a simple way for a candidate to generate some back-and-forth. Furthermore, asking questions shows a candidate’s willingness to listen to voters.

Facebook and Twitter appear to be the preferred platforms among candidates. However, there are several other social media platforms candidates should consider using, such as Instagram, LinkedIn, which offers outstanding targeting abilities, TikTok and even Snapchat.

One last piece of advice to all candidates, incumbents included. This weekend, get out in the community! Knock on doors, attend events, stand on busy street corners handing out flyers—do whatever to introduce yourselves to voters. Explain to every Torontonian you speak with why you should be Toronto’s next mayor or sit on the city council.

As I mentioned, many candidates have been using the lazy strategy of campaigning solely via social media. Regardless of how media savvy a candidate is, “couch campaigning” doesn’t replace meeting constituents and engaging them in a meaningful way, even in 2022.

______________________________________________________________

 

Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto. You can follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram @NKossovan

 

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Food prices in Canada: Families to pay $1,065 more in 2023 – CTV News

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HALIFAX –

Canadians won’t escape food inflation any time soon.

Food prices in Canada will continue to escalate in the new year, with grocery costs forecast to rise up to seven per cent in 2023, new research predicts.

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For a family of four, the total annual grocery bill is expected to be $16,288 — $1,065 more than it was this year, the 13th edition of Canada’s Food Price Report released Monday said.

A single woman in her 40s — the average age in Canada — will pay about $3,740 for groceries next year while a single man the same age would pay $4,168, according to the report and Statistics Canada.

Food inflation is set to remain stubbornly high in the first half of 2023 before it starts to ease, said Sylvain Charlebois, lead author of the report and Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy.

“When you look at the current food inflation cycle we’re in right now, we’re probably in the seventh-inning stretch,” he said in an interview. “The first part of 2023 will remain challenging … but we’re starting to see the end of this.”

Multiple factors could influence food prices next year, including climate change, geopolitical conflicts, rising energy costs and the lingering effects of COVID-19, the report said.

Currency fluctuations could also play a role in food prices. A weaker Canadian dollar could make importing goods like lettuce more expensive, for example.

Earlier this year the loonie was worth more than 80 cents US, but it then dropped to a low of 72.17 cents US in October amid a strengthening U.S. dollar. It has hovered near the 74 cent mark in recent weeks, ending Friday at 74.25 cents US.

“The produce section is going to be the wild card,” Charlebois said. “Currency is one of the key things that could throw things off early in the winter and that’s why produce is the highest category.”

Vegetables could see the biggest price spikes, with estimates pegging cost increases will rise as high as eight per cent, the report said.

In addition to currency risks, much of the produce sold in Canada comes from the United States, which has been struggling with extremely dry conditions.

“The western U.S., particularly California, has seen strong El Nino weather patterns and droughts and bacterial contaminations, and that’s impacted our fruit and vegetable suppliers and prices,” said Simon Somogyi, campus lead at the University of Guelph and professor at the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics.

“The drought is making the production of lettuce more expensive,” he said. “It’s reducing the crop size but it’s also causing bacterial contamination, which is lessening the supply in the marketplace.”

Prices in other key food categories like meat, dairy and bakery are predicted to soar up to seven per cent, the researchers found.

The Canadian Dairy Commission has approved a farm gate milk price increase of about 2.2 per cent, or just under two cents per litre, for Feb. 1, 2023.

“The increase for February is reasonable but it comes after the unprecedented increases in 2022, which are continuing to work their way through the supply chain,” Charlebois said of the two price hikes of nearly 11 per cent combined in 2022.

Meanwhile, seafood is expected to increase up to six per cent, while fruit could increase up to five per cent, the report said.

Restaurant costs are expected to increase four to six per cent, less than supermarket prices, the report said.

Rising prices will push food security and affordability even further out of reach of Canadians a year after food bank use reached a record high, the report said.

The increasing reliance on food banks is expected to continue, with 20 per cent of Canadians reporting they will likely turn to community organizations in 2023 for help feeding their families, a survey included in the report found.

Use of weekly flyers, coupons, bulk buying and food rescuing apps also ticked up this year and is expected to continue growing in 2023, the report said.

“We’re in the era now of the smart shopper,” said Somogyi, also the Arrell Chair in the Business of Food.

“For certain generations, it’s the first time that they’ve had to make a list, not impulse buy, read the weekly flyers, use coupons, buy in volume and freeze what they don’t use.”

Last year’s report predicted food prices would increase five to seven per cent in 2022 — the biggest jump ever predicted by the annual food price report.

Food costs actually far exceeded that forecast. Grocery prices were up 11 per cent in October compared with a year before while overall food costs were up 10.1 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

“We were called alarmists,” Charlebois said of the prediction that food prices could rise seven per cent in 2022. Critics called the report an “exaggeration,” he said.

“You’re always one crisis away from throwing everything out the window,” Charlebois said. “We didn’t predict the war in Ukraine, and that really affected markets.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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Family says Amazon shipped fake product, refuses refund until 'correct' item returned – CBC News

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When Matthew Legault graduated from high school in June, his parents figured they’d recognize his hard work by buying the parts he needed to build his own personal computer.

They placed an order with Amazon and it arrived at their Calgary home quickly.

But when Matthew opened the graphics card — a $690 part — he discovered the plastic casing had been hollowed out and filled with a putty-like substance to give it weight.

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“It was actually a bit of a shock,” he said. “Everything looked pretty official up to the point where I pulled it out and took a second look.”

The real shock came, though, when Matthew’s father tried to get a refund. 

François Legault followed Amazon’s return instructions and sent the item back, expecting a refund. 

Instead, Amazon said in an email there would be no refund until the “correct” item was shipped back.

On top of that, the Amazon rep said the returned, fake item had been thrown out, to protect other employees.

“It was absurd,” said François. “It’s just a piece of plastic so I doubt there’s any danger to their employees. And secondly … now they’ve destroyed the piece of evidence.”

Amazon repeatedly claimed it had shipped the correct item. 

Legault repeatedly explained he had received and returned “a complete fake” and attached photos to prove it. 

Telling customers the item they’ve returned has been disposed of is a great way for Amazon to “end the conversation,” said marketing specialist Marc Gordon, who coaches both small companies and big-name multinationals on interacting with customers. 

The fake graphic card, filled with a putty-like substance to provide weight, that Matthew says arrived from Amazon. (Submitted by François Legault)

But “that’s impacting the quality of service they provide.”

Service, Gordon says, may be affected as customers who flocked to the online retailer during the pandemic return to brick-and-mortar stores, forcing Amazon to re-organize.

“They don’t have the time or the resources to deal with every customer complaint, every inquiry, every problem,” said Gordon. “They want this done and they want to move on to something else.”

In an email, Amazon’s Canada spokesperson Ryma Boussoufa said: “Not every returned product can or may legally be resold or donated for hygienic or product safety reasons. In those cases, we will recycle products where possible.”

‘Slap in the face’

François says his history with Amazon should have stood for something — he’s been a loyal customer for years, and rarely returned anything.

“The box had obviously been tampered with,” he said. “We kind of expected that Amazon would have better quality controls, better procedures to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen.” 

Amazon’s global profit growth slowed between 2020 and 2021. Industry experts estimate this trend will continue. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

“They’re basically saying that we’re trying to defraud them,” said François. “We’ve never had a pattern of returning things, or anything of that nature.”

An Amazon rep had, at one point, said the decision was final.

“That’s a little bit of a slap in the face,” said François. “They’re basically shutting this down and saying that there’s nothing else to discuss. And unfortunately, I beg to differ.”

After Go Public made inquiries, the company refunded François and apologized for taking almost five months to resolve the “unfortunate incident.” 

Amazon reported global profits in 2020 of over $386 billion US, a 38 per cent increase over the previous year. It doubled its workforce between 2020 and 2021 and rapidly expanded. 

But last year, growth was slower — a 22 per cent increase over 2020 — and growth for the current year is expected to be slower again, according to industry experts.

Matthew games on the personal computer he built with parts ordered from Amazon. The Legaults eventually bought its graphics card from a local store. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Last month, Amazon confirmed it would be laying off some 10,000 employees worldwide.

The returns customers make every day are a major expense for Amazon, Gordon says. 

Online retailers in general lose an average of 21 per cent of a returned item’s original value — once costs for shipping, processing and restocking are factored in — according to a U.S.-based study by Pitney Bowes earlier this year. 

Go Public asked what percentage of orders were returned last year, but Boussoufa wrote that the company doesn’t release that data “for reasons of commercial sensitivity.”

More returned products ‘disposed’

Go Public heard from more than half a dozen others who said they, too, were frustrated by Amazon’s policy of disposing returned items before a dispute was resolved. 

Allan Papernick of St. Davids, Ont., ordered a $280 Citizen watch last April. But it was difficult to read the black hands on its black face, so he sent it back. 

Amazon repeatedly told Papernick he had sent back an “older model” watch, which it had then discarded. It asked him to return the correct item. 

“If I was scamming them, then let them send that item back to me,” he said. “Getting rid of it is a weird business practice, to say the least.”

He threatened to sue for $10,000 and received a full refund the next day. 

Amazon did not answer when Go Public asked whether all outgoing packages are individually inspected to confirm the contents. But every returned item is carefully inspected “to accurately determine its condition,” according to Boussoufa, the spokesperson. 

Other customers, like Justin Tabbert of Ottawa, say they will never again order from Amazon after similar, frustrating experiences.

WATCH | What to do when your Amazon package arrives:

Advice from a customer experience expert

5 days ago

Duration 0:28

Marc Gordon shares a tip to give consumers the upper hand when opening an Amazon package. 

He spent about $700 ordering RAM for his computer last April, but says his package had been opened and was missing half the order.

When he sent it back, Amazon complained it was “missing components.” It ended up resending the full order, but the issue’s still not resolved.

“Now they are saying they will charge me for another [order], because in their view, they’ve sent two,” said Tabbert.

Make an unboxing video

Gordon says Amazon’s tactic of insisting a customer return an item they say they don’t have is designed to put the onus back on the customer to fix the issue.

“The problem is, it doesn’t work,” said Gordon. “You just end up with a really irate customer who feels that they’ve been taken advantage of, or misled or screwed over.”

He says anyone worried about not being able to get a refund if an online order has problems, should make an unboxing video. Have someone grab their phone and film when a package is opened.

“If it’s exactly what they ordered, great, they can delete the video,” said Gordon. “If it is, in fact, something that’s been substituted or fake or fraudulent, well, it’s right there in the video. There’s no denying it.”

As for Matthew Legault, the high school grad is happy his computer is up and running — he uses it to play games with friends and is learning how to write computer code. 

His father says the Amazon dispute has taught him something, too.

“This whole experience has really motivated me to shop local again,” said  François. 

Amazon has “lost a lot of business from us.”

Submit your story ideas

Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories, shed light on wrongdoing and hold the powers that be accountable.

If you have a story in the public interest, or if you’re an insider with information, contact GoPublic@cbc.ca with your name, contact information and a brief summary. All emails are confidential until you decide to Go Public.

Follow @CBCGoPublic on Twitter.

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GM converts CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., to make electric delivery vans – CBC News

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A General Motors plant in Ingersoll, Ont., has been converted into an assembly line for electric delivery vans, making it the first full-scale electric vehicle-making facility in Canada.

The first BrightDrop Zevo 600 rolled off the line at the CAMI plant on Monday, marking the reopening of the facility that was temporarily shuttered in May in order to retool itself from making internal combustion engines into one that builds electric vehicles.

“We are fully committed to an all-electric future,” GM Canada president Marissa West told CBC News in an interview. “We’re seeing a really high customer demand.”

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Representatives of the provincial and federal governments, which each kicked in $259 million to help the automaker upgrade the facility, were on hand for a media event commemorating the opening. The total price tag for the GM’s upgrades to its facilities in Ontario in Ingersoll and Oshawa was $2 billion, GM has said previously.

BrightDrop is a unit of GM that focuses on building delivery vehicles for commercial customers, not passengers. Prior to the CAMI upgrading, GM made the BrightDrop vans on a very limited basis at another facility in Michigan.

Similarly, other electric vehicles have been made on a limited basis in Canada, but nothing on the scale of what GM has planned with the BrightDrop launch.

Banking on electric future

After decades as a key hub in the North American auto industry, Canada’s status as a car-making powerhouse has slipped in recent years, as the major car companies have slowly cut back production at facilities scattered across southern Ontario.

The last round of union negotiations in late 2020, however, made it clear that both sides see the industry’s future is electric, and Monday’s unveiling is likely the first in what’s set to be a long line of Canadian-made EVs.

“We really believe that we’re at an inflection point where EVs are becoming much more mainstream,” West said.

Growing market

Though niche right now, electric vehicles are taking up more and more space on Canadian roads. Up to five per cent of all vehicles in Canada are either fully electric or hybrid, and that ratio is expected to increase in the coming years. 

By 2035, the government insists that all new vehicles in Canada will be electric, an ambitious target for a little over 12 years from now, but Monday’s announcement brings that one step closer.

WATCH | GM Canada on why the future is electric:

GM Canada’s President on the future of auto manufacturing in Canada

9 hours ago

Duration 7:13

Canada’s first electric vehicle assembly line is up and running in Ingersoll, Ontario. The CBC’s Nisha Patel sat down with GM Canada’s President, Marissa West, to find out what this transformation means for Canada’s auto industry.

According to West, GM has a similar timeline for its operations around the world, with the company forecasting its entire global fleet to be free of tailpipe emissions by 2035.

Jacquie Richards, the quality launch manager at the facility, says the future is now, when it comes to electric vehicles.

The vehicle itself, the BrightDrop Zevo 600, will be used primarily by commercial customers including FedEx, Walmart, DHL, Verizon and others.

“I’m excited to see this vehicle we’re making delivering packages in our neighbourhood,” Richards said.

Production will start slow, with just a few thousand vehicles annually, but that’s expected to ramp up to 50,000 at year by 2025.

After a rough few years for the industry, Mike Van Boekel, chair of Unifor Local 88, which represents the plant’s hourly workers, said it’s nice to be positive about the future again.

He said roughly 700 people who were employed at the CAMI facility have voluntarily retired in the past two years, but the new work means anyone who had a job there before who wants one now can have one.

The plant was idled in May for the refurbishment, but as of Monday, there were about 400 workers on the line — with maybe more to come.

“We’ll actually have to hire for the third shift, which is good news for people looking for work as well,” he told CBC News. If that happens, there could be as many as 1,600 people working at the CAMI plant by the end of next year.

With the GM news and other initiatives about critical mineral mines and battery facilities, Canada’s automotive sector is pinning its hopes on the future on electrification, and automotive consultant Sam Fiorani says that’s a smart move.

About 400 people are working the line making electric vans at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll today, but that is expected to ramp up in the coming months and years. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Countries like Norway and others are well ahead of North America in terms of electric vehicle adoption, but consumer appetite is growing, the founder of Auto Forecast Solutions said.

“The U.S. Canada, and much of the rest of the world are going to be behind them. But we’ll get there over the next 20 years.”

A big problem facing the industry for now isn’t demand, but supply. “Supply of vehicles has been so tight that dealers can offer whatever they want,” he said. “I’ve walked into dealerships where they tack $5,000 onto the list price of a car; it’s just outrageous at the moment.”

But as inventories slowly build up, there will be more and more vehicles for consumers in the key price range of $20,000 to $40,000, which is when things will really take off. And Fiorani says Canada is poised to make more than its fair share of them.

“With the market in the U.S. moving very rapidly toward EVs, the Canadian industry will be really well-situated for providing a lot of vehicles for the U.S.,” he said. “They’re well-positioned to get more than their share. I think Mexico might be behind at the moment.”


Do you have a question about climate change and what is being done about it? Send an email to ask@cbc.ca

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