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    Workplace Diversity, Keystone XL, and Credit Card Schemes

    Canadian Report Reveals Fraudulent Credit Card Upselling

    Have you ever scanned your credit card statement and noticed some official looking fees, but you’re not quite sure where they came from, or if you ever agreed to them? You may have unknowingly signed up for credit card insurance.

    CBC recently released a report on credit card balance insurance, sometimes listed as “balance protector insurance”, exposing the controversial practices large banks have utilized to sell this insurance.

    Typically, credit card balance insurance charges a percentage of the cardholder’s outstanding balance to the customer, on the premise that if the cardholder cannot pay it back, the bank will cover the outstanding balance.

    This might sound good in theory, but in reality, the insurance contains so many exclusions, many cardholders unable to pay their balance have been told they are not eligible for debt relief, despite paying for the insurance in the past.

    Further, using hidden cameras, the report exposed the shady practices that banks use to ‘upsell’ or mislead customers to purchase credit card insurance. In May, a financial watchdog group testified before parliamentary committee that the techniques used to sell the product were “problematic”. One anonymous bank employee stated that his colleagues are under pressure to meet sales targets and sell insurance with every credit card purchased, describing the product as a “scam”.

    The moral of the story? Read the fine print. Check your credit card statements thoroughly, and do your own research to decide whether certain financial products are appropriate for your lifestyle.

    Diversity in the Workplace Plateauing 

    In a recent report, using data collected from 279 companies employing over 13 million people, consulting firm McKinsey and Co and non-profit Lean In tracked the gender diversity progress of corporate America.

    Their conclusion; “Progress isn’t just slow – it’s stalled”. Taking an intersectional lens, the report found that women of colour, women in technical roles, and LGBTQ women face different types and degrees of harassment and discrimination in their workplaces.

    These levels haven’t changed significantly over the past 10 years. Underrepresentation at senior management levels is often blamed on workplace attrition, but the McKinsey report shows that men and women have nearly identical rates of leaving their companies. Instead, companies have been reticent to promote women within their ranks.

    In particular, black women face serious barriers to receiving support and access to senior management, putting them at a disadvantage when up for promotion or in gaining recognition for their contributions to a team.

    In Canada, less comprehensive data exists about workplace diversity. However, poor levels of gender and racial diversity on boards and in C-Suite positions are obvious. In 2017, of the 100 highest paid CEOs in Canada, three were women, and five were named Paul. Yikes.
     For all the discussion and hype around workplace diversity and inclusion, it remains no less urgent for companies to implement anti-bias and anti-harassment training, consistently review hiring practices, and implement programs to support minority employees.

    Keystone XL Faces Yet Another Challenge

    If you thought the negotiation of the USMCA was lengthy, prepare to expand your timelines for the approval of Keystone XL.

    The project, owned by Calgary-based TransCanada, issued a proposal more than a decade ago to extend the existing pipeline into Nebraska. Currently, the pipeline already goes from Hardisty, Alberta, to refineries in the Gulf Coast of Texas, meaning this extension is more of a conduit to an older route.

    Because the pipeline crosses into the United States, it requires approval from the US State Department. The Trump administration campaigned on approving the pipeline, which has stirred significant environmental critique.

    On Thursday, a Montana district judge issued an injunction to prevent both TransCanada and the US government from “engaging in any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation” of KXL. The judge cited potential oil spills, a lack of engagement with indigenous stakeholders, and poor consideration of oil price volatility as reasons for his decision.

    TransCanada is now forced to decide whether to appeal the judgment, lean on the State Department to address the criticisms, or lobby Congress to pass a law approving construction. Some analysts question whether the future political and financial climate will even justify the massive costs of the pipeline extension, which come in around $8 billion.  

    In the meantime, the Canadian dollar has already felt the hit, reaching its lowest level in four months. For Canadian oil producers, this decision comes as yet another forewarning of challenging times ahead.

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