Try It Yourself, E-Mailer Tells Poloz After Work-for-Free Remark

If Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz had any doubt that his comment suggesting jobless young people should work for free to build a resume was controversial, this e-mail should have cleared it up:

“As the parent of three young people, I say they will work for free when you do,” one person said in an e-mail from Vancouver.

Poloz’s Nov. 3 comments, aimed at what he called kids living in parents’ basement, provoked written responses from at least 51 people, 13 of whom suggested the governor himself should try working for free. Ten people suggested Poloz was advocating a form of slavery. The e-mails were contained in 115 pages of correspondence sent to Bloomberg News after a freedom of information request.

Unpaid job experience “is very worth it,” Poloz said at a press conference in Toronto after speaking to a business audience there. He reiterated his comments later that week in parliamentary testimony. The Governor was offering his advice for young people struggling in what he called a tough job market, and his words became front-page news.

The documents didn’t include any responses from Poloz. He did respond to some of the correspondence, however it was outside the timeframe of Bloomberg’s information request, Josianne Ménard, a Bank of Canada spokeswoman, said by e-mail, adding the volume of correspondence during the period was “slightly higher” than usual.

Out of Touch

Criticism arrived from a variety of people, among them a retired employment counselor, the head of one of the country’s largest labor unions and the Ontario employment minister. Messages range from formal, polite letters questioning Poloz’s grasp of economic policy to profane e-mails fired off from mobile devices.

“Mr. Poloz has presented himself as being just as out of touch with Canadians as the corporations he obviously serves,” one person wrote.

Three people referred to French Queen Marie Antoinette. Eight resorted to profanity. Three said the governor should resign.

“What does this guy know about the horrors of unemployment, poor wages, poverty and all that junk that afflicts folks who are trapped in these cycles of lack,” one person wrote.

Kevin Flynn, Ontario’s labor minister, said “the rise of unpaid work is a troubling phenomenon that undermines minimum wage laws and other employment standards,” in his letter dated Nov. 7.

Not everyone disagreed with Poloz. Four people expressed support for his position, including one person who called it “good advice,” and offered the governor some guidance:

“Treat this tempest as training for the slings and arrows that will be hurled your way once the time comes for the Bank to start raising interest rates.”

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