A snapshot of how professors from across the Rotman School weighed in on curbing the spread of COVID-19, Canada’s vaccine rollout, the pandemic’s impact on professional sports, foreign telecoms in Canada, regulating AI and cryptocurrencies in April 2021.
In April 2021, Canada and other nations were administering the COVID-19 vaccine widely and developing strategies to prevent and manage outbreaks. As well, economists and policy makers were contemplating whether foreign telecoms should be allowed to do business in Canada, how to regulate AI and whether businesses should start accepting cryptocurrency as payment.
In his piece for The Hamilton Spectator, Joshua Gans explains why providing Ontario workers with the proper protection is key to preventing COVID-19 outbreaks in the province.
“The solution is, in fact, sitting right in front of our noses: masks,” writes Gans, a professor in the Strategic Management area and the Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School. “We are now in a position to mandate that all workers in workplaces with more than 20 to 30 people, be given a new N95 mask every day they come into work. Such masks are 95 per cent effective in preventing droplets. In many respects, that is better than a vaccine. Some vaccines protect people at that rate.”
Meanwhile, Ramy Elitzur, an associate professor in the Accounting area at Rotman, expresses his disappointment in Canada’s vaccine rollout in his opinion piece for The Hill Times. He questions the federal government’s handling of negotiations for the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines and why Canada initially bet on acquiring a Chinese vaccine when tensions between the two countries are heightened.
“The COVID-19 vaccine rollout campaign illustrates how the government reverted to bounded rationality in its decision-making throughout the crisis, being reactive instead of being proactive,” he writes. “As a result, at the time this is written, Canada ranks 42nd in the world in vaccination rate.”
Elitzur also took a moment to consider how the global pandemic has affected major league baseball (MLB) in his opinion piece for The Conversation Canada. With the significant financial losses from last year — the league posted a $1-billion loss in the 2020 season — now, more than ever, teams struggle to afford salaries and advanced analytics used to evaluate player performance. Drawing from insights from his own original research, he explains this phenomenon and points out that it’s teams with small budgets that will suffer most.
“It’s a tough time to be a small-market team in baseball. The Moneyball advantage is gone. COVID-19 has reduced revenue. And without a big payroll, it’s almost impossible to succeed,” Elitzur explains.
Rotman professors had a lot to say in April 2021, impressively participating in three of The Toronto Star’s weekly debates that month.
Walid Hejazi (an associate professor in the Economic Analysis and Policy area) and Daniel Trefler (a professor in the Economic Analysis and Policy area and the Douglas and Ruth Grant Canada Research Chair in Competitiveness and Prosperity at Rotman) make the case for foreign telecoms in Canada. Otherwise, the authors point out that Canadians will continue to pay artificially high prices.
“Research we conducted at the Rotman School of Management found that government-imposed restrictions on foreign participation not only raise prices for every Canadian that uses these services, but also impede productivity and employment across the entire economy,” they write. “Our evidence shows that if the Canadian government allowed foreign competition into these essential service sectors, there would be significant benefits for the Canadian economy.”
In her piece for The Toronto Star, Gillian Hadfield, a professor in the Strategic Management area and director of the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology at U of T, argues that a future with artificial intelligence (AI) should not be feared. Though AI has the potential to vastly improve analysis and forecasting, many are concerned about its associated risks in perpetuating bias in employment and criminal justice procedures and contributing to misinformation.
However, Hadfield argues that new regulations around AI can be developed.
“The secret to a future where we don’t fear AI is being bold about new ideas for regulating AI. I’m looking forward to the day when young entrepreneurs are boasting about building the latest technology to make sure that AI is safe and democratic. That day is on the horizon,” she writes.
In light of the recent news that Tesla will begin accepting Bitcoin payments for electric vehicles, Lisa Kramer, a professor in the Finance area at the University of Toronto Mississauga and the Rotman School, explain why it might be too soon for businesses to do the same in her piece for The Toronto Star’s weekly debate.
The fluctuating value of cryptocurrencies will likely incur headaches for businesses when it comes to issuing refunds or filing taxes.
“It may make sense for firms like Tesla —with a big appetite for risk, deep pockets, and a burning desire to be in the fast lane —to accept cryptocurrencies. Other businesses should resist the urge.” Kramer warns.