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The Conversation: Have we reached Peak Car?

[Cars lined up on a street]
Cars clogging downtown streets is a common sight in any North American city. (Photo by Nabeel Syed/Unsplash)

General Motors has announced it’s shuttering five production facilities and killing six vehicle platforms by the end of 2019 as it reallocates resources towards self-driving technologies and electric vehicles.

The announcements should come as a surprise to no one, as they echo a similar announcement made by Ford earlier this year that it will exit all car production other than Mustang within two years.

[The Conversation]Why the sudden attitude adjustment toward cars? Well, both firms cite a focus on trucks, SUVs and crossovers. OK, sure — that’s what more people are buying when they buy a vehicle today. But there is a broader and more long-term element to this discussion.

Have we reached Peak Car?

Many may remember the dialogue associated with Peak Oil, or the idea that we had reached or would soon reach the peak production levels of oil around the globe.

Such forecasts and predictions were likely related to price run-ups on commodity and investment strategies in the oil industry. However, new exploration discoveries and extraction technologies ultimately mean we are a long way from running out of oil. While we may still hit peak production in the near future, it is more likely due to a decreasing need as society moves to alternative energy sources.

But what about cars? North American car production hit 17.5 million vehicles in 2016, and dropped marginally to 17.2 million in 2017. Interesting, but perhaps not significant.

More telling are changes in driver behaviour. In North America, for example, fewer teens are getting driver’s licences. In 1983, 92 per cent of teens were licensed, while by 2014, that number had dropped to 77 per cent. In Germany, the number of new licences issued to drivers aged 17 to 25 has dropped by 300,000 over the last 10 years.

[Cars in a parking lot]
Cars fill a parking lot. Has North America reached Peak Car? (Photo by Ryan Searle/Unsplash)

The future is driverless

Factor in ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, the comprehensive cost of vehicle ownership and more effective public transportation (everywhere but Canada) and we get a sense of some of the reasons for these evolving automotive strategies.

Most significant, however, is the evolution of self-driving technology. Picture this scenario:

Julie is an ER doctor at the local hospital, on the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. She jumps in the family car at 6:30 a.m. and is at the hospital by 6:50 a.m.

After dropping Julie off, the car then heads home, arriving in time to take Julie’s two children to their high school; one of them tosses their hockey equipment in the back of the car. The car then returns home to take Julie’s husband to the law office where he starts work at 9 a.m.

The car then swings by the school to take Julie’s daughter to hockey practice at 2:30 p.m., and then returns to the hospital to pick Julie up. And so on.The technology to support the scenario above exists now, and will result in reduced car ownership through a more economical and efficient approach to managing cars, whether accessed through independent household ownership or fleet membership.

As it is today, a family like Julie’s would need two or possibly three vehicles, and those vehicles would largely sit still most of the day. Tomorrow, the family could be down to one vehicle, possibly an SUV for the hockey gear. What happens when families or groups of people further pool their assets for more ride-sharing or increased capacity?

Fewer cars on the road within a decade

We are moving from a do-it-yourself (DIY) transportation economy to a sharing or do-it-for-me (DIFM) economy. Many of us won’t like it — I honestly like to drive — but the numbers and the technology are there.

As safety technologies improve and societal paradigms shift, this evolution will gather momentum. Based on the young driver statistics above, it seems reasonable to anticipate a reduction in cars per capita of 20 to 30 per cent in the next decade.

Unions at GM and Ford are justifiably unhappy, but they shouldn’t be surprised. It is quite possible that we have reached Peak Car in North America and Europe.

Companies that want to succeed in this new environment will need to be different, and especially better in some way. If car volumes drop by 30 per cent over the next 10 years, there better be something special about the car company that hopes to survive, let alone prosper — like better technology, better comfort or better service.

If current trends continue, we can anticipate more shutdown announcements — like GM’s — from car companies and parts suppliers, as there won’t be room for all of them.The Conversation


Barry Cross is an assistant professor in the Smith School of Business at Queen's University He is an expert and thought leader in innovation, execution and operations strategy. 

The Conversation provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen’s researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors. 

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Queen's remembers Jeff McGill

One mark of a great professor is how much he or she gives back to colleagues, students, and others. In that regard, Jeff McGill was simply outstanding.

[Professor Emeritus Jeff McGill]
Professor Emeritus Jeff McGill

“Jeff was a mentor to many, he gave back as an editor of academic journals and he had a significant impact in making (Smith School of Business) a leader in analytics,” Professor Emeritus Brent Gallupe,, said in remembering his friend and colleague. “We were very fortunate to have him at the school.”

A longtime Smith faculty member and Professor Emeritus, Jeff McGill passed away at his home in Kingston on Aug. 10 surrounded by family. He was 68.

McGill joined Smith in 1993 as an assistant professor. His area of research was dynamic pricing and revenue management. Essentially the study of selling the right product to the right people at the right time and the right price, revenue management has in recent years become a popular topic in business. Yet in the 1990s, it was still something new. McGill was an early expert, notably in the area of transportation and airline pricing.

“A lot of people consider him a pioneer in the field,” said Yuri Levin, Executive Director of Analytics and Artificial Intelligence at Smith.

In 2013, Levin and McGill led the launch of the Master of Management Analytics program. “Analytics is really starting to brand the school. Without Jeff’s support and influence, the analytics program here would have had a much slower start,” Gallupe said.

McGill’s work was recognized by his peers many times. Among his awards: the 2008 Research Historical Prize in Revenue Management and Pricing from the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS). In 2013 McGill, Levin and fellow Smith professor Mikhail Nediak were awarded the INFORMS Practice Prize in Revenue Management and Pricing.

McGill’s work was also recognized at Smith. In 2008, he received the school’s Research Achievement Award.

Despite his accolades, McGill was a modest man. “He did not brag. He was passionate about the profession and the school, and he showed a great deal of respect to his colleagues, particularly younger colleagues,” Levin said.

Deputy Provost Teri Shearer remembers McGill for his generosity to others, devotion to friends and for his leadership in management science at Smith. “He was very community minded and he put the group ahead of himself,” Shearer said.

Gallupe recalls his sense of humour, always delivered with “a smile and twinkle in his eyes.” Outside work, McGill enjoyed golfing and playing poker with friends. “He was just a good person,” Gallupe said.

Jeffrey McGill was born Nov. 1, 1949 in Montreal. After graduating with a BSc in physics from Bishop’s University in 1970, he took a job in new product development at Domtar in Montreal. Three years later, he went to work in operations research at CN Rail, while getting his MSc in mathematics from Concordia University.

McGill began teaching in 1979, first at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the University of British Columbia (where he received his PhD in management science in 1990), then at the University of Denver.

One student McGill made a lasting impression on was Kam Moud (MSc’04), now managing director with AIG in New York City. The two met during one of the school’s information sessions. Moud had just moved to Canada from Sweden and was thinking of returning to school. McGill encouraged him to apply to the Master of Science in Management program, and over the next several years, “he took me under his wing and gave me a lot of guidance,” Moud said, adding McGill was as helpful to other students as well.

Upon graduation Moud thought he’d like to one day repay McGill for all his help. He did just that three years ago, creating a scholarship in McGill’s name.

Today, the Jeff McGill Graduate Fellowship is awarded to an international student on the basis of academic excellence enrolled in the MSc or PhD management science programs. Said Moud: “In your life there are people whose support makes a real difference to you, and you end up somewhere better for it. For me, Jeff became one of those people.


Smith expert sees positives for Canadian economy in 2019

The Canadian economy will remain upbeat in 2019, despite falling oil prices and rising interest rates.

That’s the prediction Evan Dudley, Associate Professor of Finance at Smith School of Business, made Thursday at the school’s annual Business Forecast Luncheon.

[Evan Dudley, Business Forecast Luncheon]
Evan Dudley, Associate Professor of Finance at Smith School of Business, makes a presentation during Thursday's Business Forecast Luncheon. (Supplied Photo)

“The economy is pretty much at full capacity right now,” he says. “But it’s still going to grow.”

Real gross domestic product will rise two per cent nationwide in 2019 — the same as this year he says. Record-low unemployment of 5.8 per cent in October will fall to 5.75 per cent by October next year.

Deficit spending remains an important economic stimulator.

“Neither Canada nor the U.S. seem interested in lowering their deficits,” Dr. Dudley says. “That’s why I still see room to grow, even though the economy is already doing really well.”

Ongoing worldwide demand for Canadian fuel, minerals and other resources will also contribute to growth.

After raising interest rates three times in the last year, the Bank of Canada will hike rates just twice next year (by 25 basis points each time), he predicts.

“It’s going to err on the side of caution as long as oil prices remain low,” Dr. Dudley says.

The central bank won’t be as aggressive on rates as the U.S. Federal Reserve. As a result, the Canadian dollar will slide to 70 cents against its American counterpart by next December. (It’s 75 cents now.)

Inflation, which stood at 2.4 per cent in October, will slow to two per cent next year. The prime interest rate will reach 4.45 per cent by next December, up from 3.95 per cent now.

Rising wages, falling home prices and Canadians’ recent tendency to spend with debt signal an end to the current growth cycle. But Dr. Dudley anticipates a gradual slowdown rather than a sharp fall into recession.

He also doesn’t believe the recent fall in oil prices will trigger a nationwide downturn. When oil fell in the past, so did the Canadian dollar. But that isn’t happening now, Dudley says.

“It tells me the Canadian economy has diversified away from the oilsands,” which makes up around 1.9 per cent of GDP, he explains.

Smith’s Business Forecast Luncheon at the Four Points by Sheraton in downtown Kingston drew more than 200 local business and government leaders. Speakers included Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson and Smith professors Kathryn Brohman and Ken Wong.

Dr. Brohman discussed her research into organizational “cost of execution,” the subject of her upcoming book, Shift: A New Mindset for Sustainable Execution.

Only 40 per cent of organizations successfully deliver on strategy, according to a 2012 survey. Why so low? Dr. Brohman determined to find out, studied hundreds of firms and uncovered 12 common barriers. They include poor prioritization, technology gaps, complacency and a silo mentality among employees.

One interesting observation that she noted: “People are extremely resourceful at finding ways to overcome execution barriers to achieve aggressive short-term goals.”

But sometimes long-term goals are sacrificed in the process.

Her book contains a tool used by more than 750 companies to identify execution barriers. It can also determine how much poor execution costs individual firms.

“A high cost of execution can result in a decrease in long-term performance,” she says.

The subject of strategy also came up when Mayor Paterson took to the stage for a fireside chat led by Professor Wong.

Paterson discussed his “smart growth” vision to tackle issues such as employment, transit, economic development, and, perhaps most important, housing. As of October, the city’s rental vacancy rate was just 0.6 per cent, the lowest in Ontario and well below the city’s 10-year average of 1.6 per cent.

Smart growth will allow Kingston to “achieve a number of goals all at the same time,” the mayor said.

Paterson said he believes that smaller cities like Kingston can have an advantage over major cities as they can more easily “co-ordinate strategy and bring everyone around the table” to get things done. As an example, he cited the popular Kingston Penitentiary tours, which required co-ordinated effort by the city, Corrections Canada and the St. Lawrence Parks Commission to get off the ground.

Wong asked the mayor about potential cuts to municipal funding as the Ontario government looks to cut its deficit.

Paterson said he would like to see Ontario loosen certain regulations that, “restrict the creativity the city can have.”

As an example, he cited development that, even after municipal approval, is sometimes held up for years by provincial authority.

“If the government can let us be more flexible we can do a lot more with the dollars that we have,” he says.

Kingston’s economy will have grown 1.9 per cent in 2018, with unemployment at 5.5 per cent, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

“Kingston is becoming more attractive for students, retirees and also increasingly for professionals as new companies establish themselves here,” Dr. Dudley says. 

A hall of fame career for Stephen Smith

[Stephen Smith at Goodes Hall]
In 2015, Queen’s University announced the naming of the Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business in recognition of his historic $50-million donation to the business school. (Photo by Suzy Lamont/Queen's Alumni Review)

Stephen Smith is being inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

The hall recently announced that Smith will enter the hall in June as part of the class of 2019.

Smith (Sc’72, LLD’17) is co-founder, chairman, and CEO of First National Financial Corporation and one of Canada’s leading entrepreneurs.

He’s also known for his philanthropy and is a longtime supporter of Queen’s.

In 2015, Queen’s University announced the naming of the Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business in recognition of his historic $50-million donation to the business school.

“It’s really an honour for me to be part of the hall of fame along with so many great nation builders,” Smith says. “People who are business leaders know the challenges of setting up businesses and running them. So that makes this recognition quite gratifying.”

The hall of fame is a who’s who of legendary Canadian executives past and present – from Samuel Bronfman (Seagram Company) and Joseph-Armand Bombardier (Bombardier Inc.), to Heather Reisman (Indigo), Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil), and Jim Pattison (Jim Pattison Group). It started in 1979. Inductees become Companions of the Order of the Business Hall of Fame.

Smith’s significant contribution to business began in 1988 when he and Moray Tawse founded First National Financial in Toronto. Their goal was to create value in mortgage lending, and they introduced several innovations to the market. Among these were various securitization techniques to finance mortgage assets.

Another innovation was through information technology. First National’s proprietary underwriting system, called Merlin, was Canada’s first web-based, real-time broker information system. It created a paperless 24/7 management platform for mortgage brokers.

“In many ways, First National is the original fintech,” Smith said. “We just didn’t call it fintech back then.”

Today, First National is Canada’s largest non-bank mortgage lender. It employs approximately 950 people across the country and has more than $100 billion in mortgages under administration.

Smith has expanded his financial industry investments over the years. He is chairman of Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company, which he owns in partnership with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. He is also the largest shareholder in Equitable Bank, the country’s ninth largest bank. He recently co-founded Peloton Capital Management, a private equity firm.

“We’re honoured to have Stephen Smith as a companion in the Canadian Business Hall of Fame,” said David Denison, Chancellor of the Order of the Business Hall of Fame. “Mr. Smith’s achievements and contributions to the business community are immense.”

Denison added that Smith has also proven “a tireless supporter of Canadian culture through his philanthropic efforts and dedication to social causes.” These include support and involvement with the arts, history and charities. In 2012 he was given the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to Canada.

Smith received his Queen’s degree in engineering, but his success came in the world of business, which inspired his transformational gift to the business school.

Smith has expressed a desire to direct his philanthropy to education, which he says has the power to transform lives.

“I think a lot of the wealth in Canada is in the human capital that we have, and that comes from a great educational system,” he says.

Stephen Smith will be inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame at a ceremony June 19 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre alongside three other business leaders: Claude Lamoureux, retired president and CEO of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan; Clarence Louie, chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band; and Annette Verschuren, chair and CEO of NRStor Inc. 

This story originally appeared on the Smith School of Business website.

Incentives for health

Queen’s Health Policy Council to examine state of preventative medicine in Canada.

Incentives for Health icon

Members of the Queen’s University Health Policy Council (QHPC) will soon gather at the Queen’s School of Policy Studies to discuss how Canada’s medical system increasingly rewards healthcare providers for services to treat illness or injury, at the expense of better-quality preventative medicine.

On Tuesday, Nov. 20, the QHPC will host Queen’s students, academics, and healthcare professionals at Incentives for Health – a series of panel discussions and keynote talks examining this and related issues, including the future of funding, hospital-based care, and health maintenance.

“Evidence suggests that 75 per cent of population health is attributable to social determinants like education, personal and financial security, employment and working conditions, healthy child development, gender, and culture,” says David Walker, Executive Director of the Queen’s School of Policy Studies and QHPC member. “Yet, most of the available funding is directed into healthcare services tailored toward treatment. We want to explore this imbalance and how changes to incentives could affect healthcare productivity, and ultimately improve the health of Canadians.”

Dr. Walker is set to open the day’s discussions with an introduction of the QHPC, its members, and its purpose. Formed in 2016 by several individuals at, or closely associated with, Queen’s, the council set out to discuss, develop, and disseminate useful policy options to both decision-makers and students of health policy.

“The QHPC is a multidisciplinary group that includes many of Canada’s top health policy and medical minds,” says Dr. Walker. “Its breadth of expertise encompasses everything from economics and public health, to emergency and family medicine, veteran’s health, government policy, health administration, and more, well-positioning us to offer comprehensive reviews and recommendations on issues affecting the Canadian healthcare system.”

Numerous Queen’s experts sit on the QHPC with Dr. Walker, including:

  • Don Drummond (Policy Studies)
  • Ian Gilron (Biomedical & Molecular Sciences)
  • Michael Green (Family Medicine)
  • Kieran Moore (Family Medicine; KFLA Medical Officer of Health)
  • John Muscedere (Critical Care Medicine; President, Canadian Frailty Network)
  • David Pedlar (Rehabilitation Therapy)
  • Richard Reznick (Dean, Health Sciences)
  • Chris Simpson (Vice-Dean, Medicine)
  • Duncan Sinclair (Dean emeritus, Faculty of Arts and Science, Medicine)
  • Ruth Wilson (Family Medicine)

The council also includes representatives from medical organizations, government funding agencies, public health organizations and others. Many QHPC members have contributed significantly to health policy development, with far-reaching impacts on health services restructuring, primary care reform, provincial healthcare strategy, and medical leadership.

“Health reform in Canada is an intricate task with a lot of moving parts,” says Dr. Walker. “Through collaborations like the QHPC, we can create a visible and respected forum for health policy discussion, and seek to advance our knowledge, learning, and implementation of strategies that will continue to improve the overall health of our communities.”

You can learn more about the QHPC’s work by visiting the website, and about some of their policy positions on the Queen’s Policy Blog.

Update (10 am, Nov. 19, 2018): Registration for Incentives for Health is now closed, as all seats have been filled.

Introducing our new faculty members: Ricard Gil

Ricard Gil is a faculty member in Smith School of Business.

This profile is part of a series highlighting some of the new faculty members who have recently joined the Queen's community. The university is currently in the midst of the principal's faculty renewal plans, which will see 200 new faculty members hired over five years. 

Ricard Gil (Smith School of Business) sat down with the Gazette to talk about his experience so far. Dr. Gil is an associate professor of business economics.

[Queen's University Ricard Gil Smith School of Business]
Ricard Gil is a faculty member in Smith School of Business. (University Communications)
Fast Facts about Dr. Gil

Department: Smith School of Business

Hometown: Barcelona, Spain

Alma mater: Harvard University (post-doctoral fellowship), University of Chicago (PhD), Universitat Pompeu Fabra (undergraduate)

Research area: Organizational economics

Hobbies include: European football, Netflix (House of Cards), food, sports

Dr. Gil’s web bio
Tell us a bit about your academic journey.
I completed my PhD at the University of Chicago. My first job was at University of California in Santa Cruz – which was a lovely place to be, at least for a little while. I recommend Northern California to everyone.
While at UCSC, I took a one-year hiatus to complete a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Business School. I was offered tenure at Santa Cruz, but made what might be considered an unconventional decision…I instead took an offer without tenure at John Hopkins University. I was single and young back then, so it made sense at the time.
In between, I took a year off and visited the MIT Sloan School of Management and the department of management at the London School of Economics.
Hopkins was a good experience as I had never taught in graduate programs before. I also met my wife and started my family in Baltimore.
I have lived in three different time zones since moving to North America – it has been an interesting journey so far!
What are you researching right now?
My scope of research has to do with firm behaviour. It’s all about governance.
The idea is, for very simple transactions like you and I going to the grocery store…there’s no governance for that. Why? Because it is very simple. You go to the store, you buy a product, they give you a receipt which is a contract that states if the product is not in good condition you can bring it back.
The world is not always characterized by these very simple transactions – especially when you have firm to firm, firm to government, or government to individual relationships. The complexities can come from the fact there are more than two parties involved, or how to define the limitations and the contributions of each party. You need to establish a good governance model in these cases.
I study how transaction characteristics drive the adoption of different governance models. I have studied it in the airline, movie, and TV industries…and I once even studied dry cleaning.
[Queen's University Ricard Gil Smith School of Business]
Dr. Gil demonstrates the demand and supply curve. From his career, it is clear his knowledge has been in high demand - he has taught and researched at five universities, including Queen's. (University Communications)
How did you decide this was what interested you, and that you wanted to research it?
You are basically able to observe the same sort of transaction, under the same circumstances, and understand why the diversity of governance models happens. I find that interesting.
I always thought that, through the study of many years, one comes out with many questions which others might not be reflecting on. I like to communicate those.
If I get to shake students out of their comfort zone and make them think in a way that is not conventional, it’s a good day. That’s what keeps it interesting.
What do you do for fun?
I am a soccer fan – I root for Barcelona. I like sports in general – European football tends to drive my weekend.
I like to travel. I watch a lot of movies and shows – not as much as I used to, with young kids I don’t travel as much anymore, and don’t get to watch movies in-flight. Having said that, I just finished the latest season of House of Cards. I am always looking for new shows.
How did you decide Queen’s was the right fit for you?
While I was at Hopkins, I came to Queen’s for a research seminar. I met some people and liked my experience here. There was a job opening a few months later and some of the people I met encouraged me to apply.
Kingston seemed more attractive than Baltimore, and the university’s student profile made it seem like a pretty good deal. So my family moved to Kingston in May – mainly to avoid moving during winter! My wife is happy, my four-year-old is enjoying his school, and our nine-month-old doesn’t seem to mind.
I am looking forward to teaching next year once it is determined who I am teaching. I hear very good things about Smith undergraduates.
In the meantime, I am helping the school with some committee work, getting ready for winter, and conducting some research and supporting my colleagues’ research. And I am once again navigating the bureaucracy to obtain Canadian permanent residency – I currently hold Spanish and U.S. citizenship.

Welcoming Indigenous staff voices

Queen’s has added new staff positions to provide greater support to Indigenous students and those working with Indigenous communities.

In recent years, Queen’s has been devoting additional resources to supporting and recruiting Indigenous students at Queen’s. This effort has only increased since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission task force report, which featured multiple recommendations (6, 9, and 14) centred on hiring more Indigenous staff and offering greater support to students.

The Gazette sat down with some new members of the Queen’s community (or, in some cases, familiar faces in new places). Please note this is not a complete listing of Indigenous staff members of the Queen’s community, and many positions supporting Indigenous students continue to be posted on a regular basis.

Office of Indigenous Initiatives

Haley Cochrane, Coordinator

[Queen's University Office of Indigenous Initiatives Haley Cochrane]
Haley Cochrane. (University Relations)

Job number one for Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) when she was appointed Director, Indigenous Initiatives in 2017 was to determine which supports she needed to fulfill her mandate.

Haley Cochrane was the first person she hired, in May 2018. Prior to joining Queen’s, Ms. Cochrane worked at another Ontario university in an Indigenous recruiting capacity.

“When I saw this position, it was appealing because of all the Indigenous work happening at Queen’s and the momentum that has already been built,” she says. “It has been a pleasant surprise to see just how much is going on here, and how many allies there are. That kind of commitment makes the work more fulfilling.”

Since that time, Ms. Cochrane has been instrumental in the recruitment of a Cultural Advisor and a Knowledge Keeper to the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, and spearheading many other events and initiatives such as the recent Indigenous Knowledge Symposium.

Ms. Cochrane was raised in Whitby and she is of mixed ancestry. Her father is from England, and her mother is Algonquin from Pikawakanagan First Nation (Golden Lake), in the Ottawa Valley area. Haley is a member of the Bear clan. 

Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator), Cultural Advisor

[Queen's University Office of Indigenous Initiatives Allen Doxtator]
Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator). (University Relations)

Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator) sees his role as focused on education, and bridging the divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.

“There has to be a lot more opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to teach at schools so that people are more aware of the truth of what has happened to Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” he says. “We are not trying to make people be oppressed by what we’re saying – we are trying to make people understand why we are oppressed. We need to be able to pull ourselves together – both Indigenous Peoples and settlers – and stand up for each other, and support each other.”

To that end, Mr. Doxtator is encouraging Indigenous Peoples on campus to share their stories and ensure their stories are presented in their own words. He also encourages non-Indigenous People to speak up and take action to support Indigenous Peoples, rather than dwell in the past or take pity.

“I am a strong believer in change and being able to make ourselves change, especially as Indigenous People,” he says. “We can make ourselves not feel that oppression of colonization, and it can make us grow into a better and stronger people and find our way back to our way of life.”

Mr. Doxtator originates from Oneida First Nation of the Thames near London, Ontario, and is a member of the Bear Clan. He brings more than 45 years of experience as a social worker and in related fields to his role at Queen’s.

Grey Thunderbird (Tim Yearington), Knowledge Keeper

[Queen's University Office of Indigenous Initiatives Grey Thunderbird Tim Yearington]
Grey Thunderbird (Tim Yearington). (University Relations)

“It’s about helping people learn and remember,” Grey Thunderbird (Tim Yearington) says of his new role. “It’s about helping people learn and remember the traditional ways, which are really about being better people.”

In his first four weeks, Mr. Yearington has had many opportunities to do this. He has helped host education sessions with staff, advisory sessions with PhD candidates conducting Indigenous research, and participated in recent Indigenous events on campus such as the Knowledge Symposium and Research Workshop. But the process is not always so formal.

“Sometimes we just meet people out and about and have conversations with them about what they’re going through, what they’re struggling with, or what they want to learn,” he says. “In the academic environment, which is about head space and intellectual thinking, we try to balance that out by helping people understand how to learn through their hearts, their being, and their spirit. We also help people break down their fears and barriers so they can learn about traditional Indigenous knowledge and let go of their preconceived notions.”

Mr. Yearington is Algonquin-Métis from Kitchizibi (the Ottawa Valley). He previously worked for Correctional Services Canada in Kingston.

Faculty Resources

[Queen's University Faculty of Health Sciences Cortney Clark]
Cortney Clark. (University Relations)

Cortney Clark, Indigenous Access and Recruitment Coordinator, Faculty of Health Sciences

She began in a new position focused on recruitment, student support, and academic and cultural programming at Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences in August. This new role was created following recommendations from the faculty's Truth and Reconciliation Task Force and from multiple student requests – in fact, when Ms. Clark was hired, she was given a large stack of ideas and offers of support from students.

“There are so many exciting things going on within our faculty – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous initiatives – to address gaps within higher education,” Ms. Clark says. “For instance, later this month we are hosting the National Indigenous Health Sciences Circle to demonstrate our allyship and leadership on this important topic, aimed at driving greater representation of Indigenous Peoples among the health professions in Canada.”

She works closely with other Indigenous student support advisors on campus, ensuring a wide breadth of coverage for Queen’s and Queen’s programs during recruitment activities, and ultimately for overall student recruitment, support, and success through their time here at Queen's.

Ms. Clark is of Mohawk descent and is a member of the Wahta Mohawk Territory in Northern Ontario.

Ann Deer, Indigenous Recruitment and Support Coordinator, Faculty of Law and Smith School of Business

[Queen's University Ann Deer Goodes Hall Smith School of Business Faculty of Law Chipewyan McCrimmon Amanda Kerek]
Ann Deer (centre) speaks with master's student Chipewyan McCrimmon (left) and Smith School of Business staff member Amanda Kerek (right). (University Relations)

“It has to be a team effort in order to be successful,” Ann Deer says, as she reflects on the key lesson she has learned in the two years since she was hired at Queen’s.

Her role has evolved in that time – what started as a recruitment-focused position for three separate faculties has now become centred on recruitment and Indigenous student support for Smith School of Business and the Faculty of Law.

That teamwork approach extends not only across faculty lines – it also extends to students. A pair of Indigenous students - Chipewyan McCrimmon, a student registered in the Master of Management Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, and Lauren Winkler, second-year Juris Doctor degree student – a planning a new conference focused on economic reconciliation to help create greater community resilience and economic prosperity for Indigenous Peoples. Ms. Deer is supporting this initiative with the coordination of administrative assistance from the Faculty of Law and School of Business.

“I am really excited about the support I have received for new ideas to engage the students,” she says, referring to both the conference and an annual start-of-term gathering she organizes for Indigenous students.

Another way she has engaged both students and community is through a series of coffee chats that she launched in the Faculty of Law. This initiative has resulted in a relationship with Akwesasne Mohawk Territory where students make an annual trip to learn about its unique Indigenous court system.

She notes Queen’s is ahead of the curve in its Indigenous recruitment and outreach – when she encounters other school recruiters, many have one person for the entire institution. Mr. McCrimmon, who is Dene and originates in the Northwest Territories, noted the fact that Smith had its own Indigenous support person was a key reason he decided to enroll.

Ms. Deer is Mohawk of the Wolf Clan, and hails from Akwesasne Mohawk Territory.

Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre

Adamina Partridge, Indigenous Events & Programs Coordinator

Adamina Partridge’s first couple of months at Four Directions have been busy. 

In addition to the re-opening of Four Directions following its expansion and renovation, Ms. Partridge has been organizing a number of cultural events including an exercise event based on Indigenous powwow dancing and a traditional Anishnaabe hand drum-making workshop.

Ms. Partridge is Inuk from Kuujjuaq, Québec, though she has lived among various Indigenous communities growing up. She hopes to bring some of her culture into the programming mix at Four Directions.  

“We are hoping to have an Inuit feast coming up if we can get some northern foods in, such as caribou, and possibly some Inuit events next semester,” she says.  

Ms. Partridge also notes she has had the opportunity to share her culture with students, and learn from them. One Inuit student at Queen’s has expanded her knowledge on traditional sewing projects, for example. 

[Queen's University Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre Keira LaPierreAdamina Partridge]
Keira LaPierre (left) and Adamina Partridge (right) of Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre. (University Relations)

Keira LaPierre, Indigenous Recruitment Representative

While recruiters such as Ms. Clark and Ms. Deer focus on specific programs and faculties, Keira LaPierre helps to paint the overall picture of Queen’s Indigenous supports for prospective students.

Ms. LaPierre’s role connects her most frequently with high school students considering Queen’s. Her expertise mainly lies in the Indigenous admission policy at Queen’s, and in explaining the university’s Indigenous support resources including Four Directions.

“Indigenous students want to know about services we provide and ensure they won’t be disconnected from community during their time here, especially if they have strong ties and may be leaving home for the first time,” she says. “Having a centre like Four Directions is very beneficial to these students, and we want to ensure they access the people and spaces we have here.”

Ms. LaPierre is not on campus much throughout the fall, as she is mainly on the road giving presentations and speaking with prospective students and their families. Her work takes her as far as James Bay in Northern Ontario, though most of her time is spent in eastern and southern Ontario.

Ms. LaPierre is Algonquin, with her father hailing from the Golden Lake area near Pembroke.

Other Indigenous staff and faculty at Queen's
Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2018 - Inclusion in the classroom (Dr. Ian Fanning)
Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 - New support for Indigenous students near and far
Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2017 - Two 2017 Queen's National Scholars announced

The Conversation: Soot-filled rivers show need for national wildfire strategy

[Soot-filled river]
Black water cascaded down Cameron Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta after a 2018 wildfire denuded the landscape. (Photo by Kaleigh Watson)

During the record-breaking 2018 fire season, the typically clear waters of Cameron Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta flowed black. But it had nothing to do with the extensive fires that torched much of British Columbia and a small part of Waterton.

The carbon came from the remnants of another wildfire that had raced 26 km — from one end of the park to the other — in less than eight hours the year before. Heavy rain from a violent thunderstorm in July 2018 flushed the ash, soot and blackened debris that lay on the forest floor into the Cameron River.

Waterton officials, concerned about the impact of the fire on drinking water and the river’s aquatic species, brought in University of Alberta forest hydrologist Uldis Silins to monitor water quality in the park over the coming years.

I was fortunate to spend some time in the field with Silins in Waterton and in the Castle Crown Wilderness, where the water quality has still not fully recovered from the 2003 Lost Creek fire in Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass.

What I learned from those trips and from several others that I recently made to fire-scarred watersheds in British Columbia, Alberta, California, Montana and elsewhere is that wildfire’s impact on water quality is just as sobering as its impact on public safety, air quality and the forest industry.

What we don’t know — and what we’re not prepared for — is frightening and underscores yet again the need for a multi-disciplinary national wildfire strategy that involves the federal government, the provinces and municipalities, universities, First Nations and the business community.

Charred watersheds

Fire often removes a lot of trees in a watershed. The soils in these denuded landscapes can bake in the hot, drought conditions that sometimes follow a fire as it did in Colorado in 2002 following the Hayman Fire, one of the biggest to burn in the state up until that time. Some spring-fed streams stop flowing, and the soils can become impenetrable to water.

Fire can vaporize chemicals in the trees and drive them into the soil. As they condense, they form an impervious layer just below the surface. Hydrophobic is the word that geologists use to describe such soils.

Without trees, vegetation and a stable soil structure to absorb the heavy rains that may follow a fire, tonnes of ash, debris, heavy metals, sediments and nutrients are flushed through the watershed.

Periodic flushes of this wildfire-generated material can overwhelm fish and aquatic life. It took a decade for the world-class South Platte trout fishery to recover from the effects of the 2002 Hayman fire in Colorado. It may be happening now to some salmon spawning streams in B.C.

These flushes of wildfire-generated carbon, sediment and nutrients can also overwhelm water treatment facilities.

That’s what happened in Fort McMurray following the 2016 Horse River fire. The town has spent more than $2.5 million dredging its raw and untreated water storage reservoirs to decrease the risks associated with post-fire algal blooms that are more likely after severe wildfire.

According to Monica Emelko, a University of Waterloo engineer who works with Silins on various fire-related research projects, including one related to Fort McMurray, these blooms have the potential to lead to service disruptions, especially if they produce toxins.

Water alert

It could have been a lot worse.

In the past 16 years, fires have denuded the landscapes around the watersheds serving Denver and Fort Collins, in Colorado, and Canberra and Melbourne, in Australia.

The 300,000 people living in Fort Collins were prohibited from drawing on their traditional water supply for more than three months. Denver spent US$26 million hiring 60 scientists and planting 175,000 trees to deal with its water problem. Canberra was forced to build a new water treatment plant.

This should be a wake-up call for the federal government, the provinces and municipalities, which are responsible for the quality of the water in national and provincial parks, towns and cities and on First Nations reserves.

Most of the country depends on water that is stored and filtered in forests. Some provinces, such as British Columbia, draw as much as 80 per cent of their water from forested watersheds. In many places, the quality of that water is already being degraded by drought, pollution, climate change, agriculture and urban development.

Groundwater may be keeping the surface water cool and clean in places where burned watersheds are now more exposed to the warming effects of the sun, such as in Lost Creek and, hopefully, in Waterton National Park. But we don’t know how long this may last, because we have not adequately mapped out, evaluated and diligently protected our underground aquifers. Instead, we’re selling groundwater at rock bottom prices to companies like Nestle.

Rivers under stress

Wildfire isn’t all bad for watersheds. It can add food to nutrient-deprived rivers and lakes, and transport the sediments that salmon and trout need to build their nests.

But the prospects of more fires burning bigger and more often is bound to further degrade water flowing in and out of our forests. Investing in water treatment facilities and training people to run them, as the federal government promises to in First Nations communities, is only part of the answer.

It’s time to connect the dots. There are 25 major watersheds in Canada. We know little about their flow, the fish and aquatic life that dwell in them because there is, as the World Wildlife Fund recently pointed out in a comprehensive report, no centralized or systematic method in place to monitor them.

What we do know about highly stressed rivers is that they are losing water too fast. The rivers in the South Saskatchewan watershed, for example, won’t have enough water in them by 2030 to supply the needs for more than half of the communities in the region without significant conservation measures. We are increasingly seeing the threat of serious water shortages in many other parts of the country.

How can bad could it get?

Sometime soon, we’re going to have another severe, cross-country drought like the one that started in 1999 and ended in 2004. I described the impacts in a report for the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

At the height of the drought, thirty-two massive dust storms swept across the prairies. Forest fires ignited at five times the ten-year average. Thousands of prairie ponds (or sloughs as they are called in the west) dried up, and tens of thousands of waterfowl were unable to find suitable wetlands in which to nest.

During the summer of 2001, irrigation districts in southern Alberta were literally put on rations. On average, they were allocated only 60 per cent of the water they traditionally received.

The 2001 and 2002 droughts dried up virtually every part of the country. Vancouver recorded its second-lowest amount of rainfall and snowfall since its earliest days of record-keeping in 1900, and Canada’s west coast hit a 101-year low. Atlantic Canada had its third-driest summer ever.

For the first time in a quarter century, farmers across Canada reported negative or zero net-farm incomes. Over 41,000 jobs were lost. The GDP took a $5.8 billion hit.

David Phillips, Canada’s most famous climatologist, described the drought as “un-Canadian,” because the weather that produced it was almost tropical.

When another drought like that settles in, there will be less water in our watersheds, more mountain pine beetle killed trees to burn and quite possibly more intense fires because there will be higher temperatures brought on by climate change.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) recently recognized the challenges that lay ahead when it announced funding for the “forWater Network,” which connects 24 researchers and nine universities across Canada to focus on technologies that will enhance water protections. What NSERC has not done thus far is make wildfire science a research priority.

There is a road map to the future that is slowly working its way through the bureaucratic process in the federal government. While it is short on details, the blueprint makes the business case for investing more in wildfire science.

The take-home message for the decision makers who will consider it, if it climbs far enough up the ladder, is that we are not prepared for the future of wildfire in this country. Unless something significant is done soon, we will see more evacuations, more denuded watersheds and more rivers running black.


Edward Struzik is a fellow at the Queen's Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy, School of Policy Studies. He is the author of Firestorm, How Wildfire Will Shape Our FutureThe Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation: Why we think businesses are out to get us

Research shows that people often take a dim view of businesses, interpreting many different actions as an attempt to take advantage of consumers.

Downtown buildings
Research shows that people often take a dim view of businesses, interpreting many different actions as an attempt to take advantage of consumers. (Photo by Samson Creative/Unsplash)

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, made headlines in the U.K. recently for his speech at the Trades Union Congress conference in Manchester, England.

His remarks were forcefully pro-union and strongly disapproving of corporations, the profit motive and the wealthy.

He singled out Amazon for not paying their fair share of taxes in the U.K. and the gig economy as a “reincarnation of an ancient evil.”

To the archbishop, capitalism, with its pursuit of profit and inequality of outcomes, is inherently immoral.

Other religious leaders have, over the years, made similar points. In 2015, Pope Francis denounced capitalism and the pursuit of money and, in 2008, the then-archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote an article for a British magazine criticizing capitalism in the wake of the financial crisis.

Such negative views of business and profit are hardly uncommon.

A recent article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology documented widespread anti-profit beliefs.

In my research with some of my graduate students, I have found that people often take a dim view of businesses, interpreting many different actions —such as a small price increase or a product recommendation — as an attempt to take advantage of consumers.

Viewed as conscious entities

But what underlies these views? Why is business and the pursuit of profit so maligned?

We think the answer lies, in part, in how people view firms and the resulting inferences they draw from the attempts of these firms to make a profit. To the first point, people seem to view companies as conscious entities — as living, breathing organisms with thoughts, feelings, intentions and motives.

Research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners has found that patterns of neural responses when considering other people’s mental states (the parts of the brain involved in “theory of mind”) are indistinguishable from the pattern of responses when considering the behaviour of organizations.

What this means is that people are likely to attribute distinctly human motives to business actions that are the product of entirely different processes.

In addition to viewing companies as people, consumers often view their transactions with firms as zero-sum — like sharing a pie, where more for one person means less for the other. This means that when companies are perceived to be making a profit, that profit is viewed as coming at the expense of customers.

Distrust of profitable firms

This is where profiting becomes problematic. Because we mentally view firms as people, this is seen as a wilful act — a deliberate attempt to take advantage of customers — and it violates an important norm of interpersonal conduct, a moral norm even, that forbids benefiting at another’s expense.

We have found that a wide range of actions by businesses appears to be interpreted in this light: price increases, discounts for other people, product recommendations and even advertisements.

Even when people don’t buy goods or services from a company, and therefore no profit is made, perceptions that a firm tried to profit lead to negative responses.

Even sales clerks are suspect

In one extreme example, we found that even when a salesperson recommended the cheaper of two alternatives, customers still assumed it was to benefit at their expense.

Our research has not yet investigated how firms can mitigate such reactions or whether they even can. If our results are anything to go by, some readers may think that these are legitimate reactions that should not be curtailed.

However, we would point out that a purchase is a consumer decision. No company is forcing consumers to buy their products against their will.

What’s more, businesses bear the burden of the risk in offering products for consumers’ consideration; the products that they make available to us are often a tremendous source of value in our lives; and, ultimately, the only reason companies develop and offer such products is to make a profit. Otherwise, what would be the point of going into business?The Conversation


Laurence Ashworth is an associate professor in marketing at the Smith School of Business.

This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Up close and personal with a deputy minister

The Fall Policy Talks series opens with a personal look at the balancing act of a deputy minister.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Minister of Public Safety, speaks to a packed room of School of Policy Studies graduate students and Queen’s and Kingston community members. (Photo: University Communications)
Malcolm Brown, Deputy Minister of Public Safety, speaks to a packed room of School of Policy Studies graduate students and Queen’s and Kingston community members. (Photo: University Communications)

A packed room of School of Policy Studies graduate students and members of the Queen’s and Kingston community listened keenly to the stories and advice of Deputy Minister of Public Safety Malcolm Brown, the first speaker of the Fall 2018 School of Policy Studies “Policy Talks” Series.

“At the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, we make decisions that impact Canadians’ physical safety and environments. For example, at the Canadian Border Security Agency, 300 to 400 decisions are made every day on who to allow into the country,” says Mr. Brown. “In an emergency preparedness capacity, we’re responsible for planning for what we hope never happens, from natural disasters to threats to the continuity of government.”

A Queen’s alumnus, Mr. Brown (Artsci’82) holds the most senior public service position at Public Safety, advising the Minister and acting as the connection between bureaucracy and politics. The department covers a large portfolio, including Correctional Services Canada, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA), Parole Board of Canada and the RCMP. Mr. Brown spoke about the role he plays in public policy and the relationships he manages to keep the portfolio running efficiently.

The School of Policy Studies hosts Policy Talks, a weekly series that covers a broad range of policy topics. Mr. Brown’s opening talk for the series gave the audience a look behind the scenes of one of Canada’s most high security departments.

“I report directly to the Clerk of the Privy Council Office and support the Minister, and I manage the relationship between the Minister and the department,” says Mr. Brown. “Deputy Ministers need to understand their Ministers to make this work. Figuring out how my Minister works and takes in information is crucial. If you don’t work together properly, you both operate in a vacuum.

“It’s essential that I, as the Deputy Minister, am the most trusted public service advisor to the Minister. Transparency and respect between other leaders in the portfolio departments keeps stakeholders in the loop, while also allowing me to manage those relationships.”

Audience members peppered the Deputy Minister with questions after his speech, including what it takes to be a leader in federal government.

“Impatience,” he says. “You can’t be satisfied with how things always are. You need to politely, and with respect, challenge the ways we’ve always done things.”

Many of the talks will be livestreamed this year. For details on this and upcoming Policy Talks, visit the School of Policy Studies website.


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