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Trace the Information: Do Canada’s top CEOs earn the average worker’s yearly salary every 27 minutes?

SKILL: Trace the Information

DIFFICULTY: Challenging

SUBJECT(S): Politics/Current Events

Students will trace this information to learn that Canada’s top CEOs don’t earn the average worker’s yearly salary every 27 minutes, but rather in 27 minutes plus one day.

Background

Unifor is a Canadian trade union that represents workers from a variety of industries. Unions often advocate for political issues that affect their members, such as income inequality and labour laws.



About the Example

This tweet from @UniforTheUnion claims that “in just 27 minutes, Canada’s top CEOs earn what the average worker makes in a year!” 

The tweet links to an article from the CBC, so we can click through and see if we can find any additional context about this shocking statistic.  

Here we learn that a think tank called the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives produced a report that found that the 100 best-paid CEOs in Canada make a record-breaking 246 times what the average worker earns. We can also learn that by 9:27 a.m. on January 2nd of this year, the best-paid CEOs had already made $60,600, which is more than the average yearly salary of a Canadian worker.

But this is more than 27 minutes of work, as these numbers include Monday, January 1st as a paid holiday. So a more accurate tweet would specify that Canada’s top CEOs earn more than what the average Canadian worker makes in a year in 27 minutes plus one vacation day.

While the tweet’s claim was a whole day away from the full truth, we can’t know if Unifor accidentally mis-transcribed the statistic or chose to exaggerate it to persuade others to support their advocacy for labour rights. After all, it’s still a pretty shocking statistic, even with the extra 24 hours!

We do know, however, that facts are much more convincing than claims that have been altered or manipulated, and that it’s always important to trace your information, especially when it’s surprising.



Activities 

  1. Show students the tweet and have them identify the claim it makes. What do they think about the statistics it presents?
  2. Have students click the image that links to the CBC article, and ask them to identify the claim’s original source. 
  3. Have students read the first three paragraphs of the CBC article. Guiding questions: 
    • Is the tweet’s claim mostly true, mostly false, or somewhere in between? How did you decide?
    • Did learning the true context of this claim change your understanding of the story? 
    • Why is it important to make sure that, when sharing facts and statistics, we stay as true to the original context of the claim as possible?


Optional Activities

Watch CIVIX Explains: Persuasive Sources and review the following terms:

AdvocacyAn activity by an individual or group that aims to influence public opinion and decisions within political, economic, and social institutions. Advocacy-focused activities can include media campaigns, public speaking and publishing research.

Think tankAn organization that does research on topics related to public policy (the economy, the military, the environment, technology, social policy, etc). The purpose of this research is often to advocate for certain issues or influence government policy.

Lobby group –  A group of people with common goals who try to influence public opinion and government policy. Lobby groups most often focus on a single topic or represent the interests of a specific industry.

Guiding questions.

  • Is the purpose of Unifor’s tweet to inform or persuade?
  • Do you think Unifor exaggerated the statistic in their tweet, or was it just a mistake? Do you think sharing the full statistic (one day and 27 minutes) would have impacted their message?
  • What kind of source is the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives? What does that mean about the purpose of the research they produce?
  • What positive roles do persuasive sources play in our society?


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