Transcript: 10 Questions on the Sharing Economy | Jun 14, 2016

Music plays as an animated slate shows the title "10 questions."

Then, Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and checked purple tie.

A caption on screen reads "10 questions about the Jamaican diaspora."

Steve says YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD
ABOUT THE SHARING ECONOMY, SUCH
AS WHEN SOMEONE TOLD YOU ABOUT
THEIR GREAT AirBnB VACATION
RENTAL OR AS A FRIEND SUMMONS A
RIDE BY TAPPING A SMARTPHONE
APP.
BUT WHAT IS IT REALLY?
AND WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM
THE REGULAR ECONOMY?
TOM SLEE, THE AUTHOR OF "WHAT'S
YOURS IS MINE: AGAINST THE SHARING ECONOMY" HAS SOME THOUGHTS ON THIS AND HE JOINS US
NOW FOR 10 QUESTIONS ON THE
SHARING ECONOMY.

A picture of the book appears briefly on screen. The cover is blue, with two hands holding the title.
Tom is in his sixties, with receding gray hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a gray suit, striped shirt, and burgundy tie.

Steve continues HI, TOM.

Tom says HELLO, STEVE.

Steve says READY TO GO?
QUESTION ONE: WHY DO YOU FEEL
THE SHARING ECONOMY WOULD BE
BETTER NAMED THE ON DEMAND ECONOMY?

The caption changes to "Name change needed."
Then, it changes again to "Tom Slee. Author 'What's yours is mine.'"

Tom says AS YOU SAY, THE
MODEL FOR THIS IS A COMPANY IS
COMING IN, SETTING UP AN
INTERNET PLATFORM THAT MANAGES
EXCHANGES BETWEEN PEOPLE, RIGHT?
AND SHORT-TERM RENTALS, VACATION
RENTALS, OR TAXI RIDES ARE AN
OBVIOUS EXAMPLE, RIGHT?
SO EARLY ON THAT GOT CALLED THE
SHARING ECONOMY AND WE STILL
CALL IT THAT BECAUSE WHY NOT?
BUT THAT FOCUSES ON THE EXCHANGE
BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS, YOU KNOW,
AND IT SAYS WE CAN DO THIS
WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF A BIG
COMPANY BEHIND, YOU CAN JUST
DEAL PERSON TO PERSON.
WHAT'S HAPPENING INCREASINGLY IS
WE HAVE SOME VERY BIG COMPANIES
IN THIS SPACE.
SO THAT NAME IS REALLY... IT'S
REALLY BECOMING SOMETHING THAT
DOESN'T REALLY APPLY.

Steve says A LITTLE MISLEADING.

Tom says YEAH.
SO INCREASINGLY THE FOCUS ON
DEMAND, THE ON DEMAND ECONOMY
FOCUSES ON THE FACT YOU DO THIS
THROUGH YOUR PHONE, YOU DO IT
THROUGH A WEB BROWSER, CLICK,
IT'S THE CONVENIENT, THE FOCUS
ON CONVENIENCE.
ANOTHER NAME IS THE GIG ECONOMY
WHICH FOCUSES ON THE WORKER SIDE
OF THIS AND A TENDENCY FOR IT TO
BE PART TIME AND OCCASIONAL
WORK.

Steve says QUESTION 2: WHY HAVE
YOU COMPARED SHARING ECONOMY
JOBS TODAY TO WOMEN'S JOBS OF 40 YEARS AGO?

The caption changes to "Ladies first."

Tom says WELL, BECAUSE IF
YOU LOOK BACK AT THE '70s AND
THE '60s, WHEN WOMEN WERE
COMING INTO THE WORK FORCE IN
BIG NUMBERS, WE HEAR A LOT OF
THE SAME LANGUAGE.
AT THAT POINT PEOPLE SAID, YOU
KNOW, IT'S NOT, IN A SENSE, A
REAL JOB, THEY DON'T NEED THE
SAME BENEFITS AS MEN BECAUSE
THEY'RE NOT THE BREADWINNER FOR
THE HOUSEHOLD.
IT'S JUST A BIT OF EXTRA MONEY.
SO WE DON'T NEED THESE AWKWARD
THINGS LIKE BENEFITS AND EQUAL
PAY FOR EQUAL WORK AND THAT KIND
OF STRUCTURE.
THOSE ARGUMENTS GOT LOST, YOU
KNOW, AND WE REALIZE THAT, NO,
YOU DO NEED A JOB, A JOB IS A
JOB, AND IT NEEDS THE
PROTECTIONS AND STANDARDS THAT
GO ALONG WITH IT.
NOW THESE COMPANIES ARE SAYING
THE SAME THING.
OH, IT'S NOT REALLY A JOB.
IT'S JUST A BIT OF PART-TIME
WORK.
SO IT'S CASUAL.
WE DON'T NEED THE STRUCTURE OF
BENEFITS AND SICK LEAVE AND SO
ON.
WELL, YOU KNOW, I THINK WE'RE
SEEING THE SAME ARGUMENT AGAIN
AND I THINK WE NEED TO PUSH BACK
JUST AS MUCH AS WE DID THEN.

Steve says QUESTION 3: GIVEN
THAT 71 percent OF PEOPLE WORKING IN
THE SHARING ECONOMY DESCRIBE
THEIR EXPERIENCE AS POSITIVE,
DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO IMPOSE A
HOST OF RULES AND REGULATIONS ON
THEIR WORK?

The caption changes to "Job satisfaction?"

Tom says WELL, I THINK...
IT'S OBVIOUSLY A GROWING
PHENOMENON.
IT'S LED BY COMPANIES WHO ARE
CURRENTLY PRIVATELY OWNED.
THEY'RE PUSHING FOR GROWTH AT
ALL COSTS.
THEY HAVE A LOT OF MONEY TO KEEP
PEOPLE HAPPY.
AND THAT'S THE MODEL THAT
THEY'RE DOING IT.
IF THEY CAN'T KEEP PEOPLE HAPPY
NOW, THEY WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO
KEEP HAPPY ONCE THEY ACTUALLY
HAVE TO REPORT TO INVESTORS
ABOUT THEIR BOTTOM LINE.
SO 70 percent... I MEAN, I WOULD SAY
THAT IF YOU GOT 30 percent OF
DISSATISFIED PEOPLE AT THIS
STAGE, THEN THAT'S A PROBLEM.
WHAT WE DO KNOW IS THAT IT'S AN
ECONOMY WITH A LOT OF FLUX IN
IT.
UBER DRIVERS TEND TO COME AND GO
WITHIN A YEAR, 50 percent TURN OVER.
ARAB B AND B HOSTS, ABOUT
50 PERCENT WILL GO WITHIN A
YEAR.
IT'S ALL RIGHT UNTIL IT ISN'T.
THE EXPENSES OF MAINTAINING YOUR
CAR PERHAPS ALL OF A SUDDEN
YOU'RE LIKE, YEAH, THIS WAS ALL
RIGHT FOR A WHILE, BUT NOW I
HAVE TO TAKE IT IN FOR AN EXTRA
CHECKUP BECAUSE THE EXTRA WEAR
AND TEAR ON THE CAR.
MAYBE IT DOESN'T LOOK SO GOOD.

Steve says QUESTION 4: THE
SHARING ECONOMY SEPARATES RISK
FROM REWARD.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

The caption changes to "Risk and reward."

Tom says IT MEANS THAT THE
WHOLE PREMISE OF SOME OF THE BIG
COMPANIES HERE IS, WHEN PUSH
COMES TO SHOVE, THEY SAY, WE ARE
JUST MATCH MAKERS BETWEEN A
SERVICE PROVIDER AND A CUSTOMER.
THERE'S A COMPANY CALLED HANDY,
FOR EXAMPLE, THAT DOES HOME
CLEANING AND OTHER ODD JOBS
AROUND THE HOUSE.
IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG ON THAT
ODD JOB, YOU CAN'T REALLY GO TO
HANDY TO COMPLAIN ABOUT IT, YOU
GO TO THE PERSON, THE
INDIVIDUAL, AND THEY SAY... AND
IT'S THE SAME WITH ALL OF THEM.
IF YOU LOOK AT THE AGREEMENTS
AND FOR ALL THEIR TALK OF
INFORMALITY, THEIR LEGAL
AGREEMENTS ARE VERY THOROUGHLY
WRITTEN, LET ME TELL YOU.
YOU LOOK AND THEY SAY, WHEN PUSH
COMES TO SHOVE, THIS IS NOT OUR
PROBLEM.
SO THEY'RE MAKING MONEY BY
PUSHING OFF THE COSTS OF
STANDING BEHIND THEIR BUSINESS.

Steve says QUESTION 5: IS THE
SHARING ECONOMY AS ECOLOGICALLY
SUSTAINABLE AS IT CLAIMS?

The caption changes to "Eco-benefits."

Tom says LET ME TELL YOU
HOW YOU DO THIS IF YOU'RE
Airbnb.
THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE.
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO DON'T
TRAVEL.
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO TRAVEL
USING Airbnb AND LET'S SAY
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO TRAVEL WHO
USE HOTELS.
IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR
ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION TO A CITY,
YOU COMPARE YOUR Airbnb
TRAVELERS TO THE PEOPLE WHO
DON'T TRAVEL AT ALL AND YOU SAY
LOOK AT HOW MUCH MONEY WE'VE
BROUGHT TO YOUR CITY.
WHEN YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE
ECOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL
BENEFIT, YOU COMPARE THE PEOPLE
THAT ARE TRAVELLING USING
Airbnb TO PEOPLE WHO ARE
STAYING IN HOTELS AND YOU SAY
LOOK AT HOW GREEN WE ARE
COMPARED TO THE OTHERS.
YOU CAN DO THE COMPARISON THE
OTHER WAY AROUND AS WELL.
I THINK THERE IS A LOT OF
GREEN-WASHING GOING ON IN THOSE
STATEMENTS AND THEY'RE NOT
EXAMINING THEIR OWN BUSINESS AS
CAREFULLY AS THEY SHOULD.

Steve says QUESTION 6: HOW BIG
AN IMPACT DOES THE SHARING
ECONOMY HAVE ON CANADIAN TAXES?

The caption changes to "Tax impact."

Tom says SO RIGHT NOW, I
MEAN, WE'VE TALKED ABOUT MAYBE
IN THE LOW TENS OF MILLIONS OF
DOLLARS IN TERMS OF TRANSACTIONS
THAT MAYBE SHOULD BE TAXED THAT
ARE NOT BEING TAXED.

Steve says FOREGONE REVENUE?

Tom says FOREGONE REVENUE.
I THINK WHAT'S NEW ABOUT THIS...
AS I WAS SAYING, WE HAD THIS
PROBLEM BACK WITH AMAZON.
A LOT OF THE BOOK SHOPS SAID
IT'S UNFAIR BECAUSE IF PEOPLE
COME TO US AND BUY A BOOK, THEY
HAVE TO PAY H.S.T.
IF THEY BUY FROM AMAZON, IT'S A
NOT-IN-PROVINCE TRANSACTION, SO
THEY DON'T HAVE TO PAY H.S.T.
NOW WE'RE SEEING THAT SAME MODEL
EXTENDED TO THE SERVICES.
A TRANSACTION OBVIOUSLY HAPPENS
RIGHT HERE AND NOW, GETTING A
RIDE FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER.
ALL OF A SUDDEN IT'S SOMEHOW NOT
SUBJECT, OR CERTAINLY UBER'S
PART OF IT, NOT SUBJECT TO
CANADIAN TAX.
SO IN THE END THAT MAKES THEM
PARASITIC, IF YOU LIKE, ON THE
CITIES IN WHICH THEY OPERATE.

Steve says QUESTION 7: WHAT CAN
WORKERS DO TO OPTIMIZE THE
SHARING ECONOMY?

The caption changes to "Work with me."

Tom says WELL, I THINK
THEY'VE GOT A CHALLENGE BECAUSE
A LOT OF THIS IS BUILT AROUND
THE MODEL WHERE THEY ARE... THE
PHRASE IS MICRO-ENTREPRENEURS.
BUT IN THE END, THEY HAVE A
CHALLENGE.
IT VARIES FROM INDUSTRY TO
INDUSTRY.
BUT IF YOU'RE A DRIVER WORKING
FOR UBER, YOU DON'T, FOR
EXAMPLE, SET THE RATES.
SO YOU'RE NOT AN ENTREPRENEUR IN
THAT SENSE.
ONE OF THE NICE THINGS THAT
CUSTOMERS LIKE ABOUT UBER IS
THEY DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH
ANYONE.
YOU PRESS THE BUTTON, YOU GET A
RIDE.
BUT IF YOU'RE A DRIVER, THEN YOU
GET THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT: HOW
DO YOU NEGOTIATE WITH A PIECE OF
SOFTWARE?
HOW DO YOU... IF YOU THINK
YOU'VE BEEN BADLY TREATED, WHO
DO YOU GO TO?
IT'S NOT CLEAR THAT THERE'S
ANYONE TO GO TO.
IN THE END, THE BEST ANSWER I
THINK IS THAT PEOPLE NEED TO GET
TOGETHER, AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE,
AND THAT'S WHAT UNIONS WERE
ABOUT A LONG TIME AGO, AND STILL
ARE TO SOME EXTENT.
THERE ARE A LOT OF FORUMS IN
WHICH I WOULD SAY PARTICULARLY
UBER DRIVERS HAVE STARTED TO
GATHER TOGETHER AND ARGUE FOR
THEIR INTERESTS.
SO I THINK THERE ARE AVENUES
WHERE PEOPLE CAN GET TOGETHER,
CAN ARGUE FOR THEIR INTERESTS,
AND THEY NEED TO DO THAT
COLLECTIVELY, AS THEY ALWAYS
HAVE DONE.

Steve says A BIT OF A
FOLLOW-UP, QUESTION 8, WHAT CAN
CITIZENS DO TO MAKE THE SHARING
ECONOMY BETTER?

The caption changes to "Citizen influence."
Then, it changes again to "Tom Slee, @whimsley"

Tom says I THINK THE MAIN
THING WE CAN DO AS CITIZENS IS
TO RECOGNIZE THAT... IN OUR
LIVES WE PLAY THREE DIFFERENT
ROLES.
WE ARE CONSUMERS, WE ARE MOST OF
US WORKERS OF ONE KIND OR
ANOTHER, AND WE ARE CITIZENS.
AND WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS
RECOGNIZE THAT WE CANNOT JUST
LET OUR CONSUMER SELVES DECIDE
HOW OUR CITY SHOULD OPERATE,
RIGHT?
I THINK FOR ALL ITS FLAWS, CITY
GOVERNMENT ARE DEMOCRATIC
INSTITUTIONS AND DEMOCRACY IS
IMPORTANT.
AND I DON'T THINK WE SHOULD LET
THE TEMPTATIONS OF A FREE MARKET
CONSUMER-FOCUSED MODEL UNDERMINE
OUR ABILITY TO SHAPE OUR OWN
CITIES THROUGH DEMOCRATIC
INSTITUTIONS.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: TVO.org, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; @theagenda"

Steve says QUESTION 9.
WE SEEM TO BE TAKING A
MUNICIPALITY-BY-MUNICIPALITY
APPROACH RIGHT NOW TO DEALING
WITH THE SHARING ECONOMY.
DOES THAT MAKE SENSE TO YOU?

The caption changes to "Different places, different rules."

Tom says IT DOES, ACTUALLY.
I THINK IT DOES.
AND I THINK IF YOU LOOK BACK,
YOU HAVE TO ASK WHY, IN THE
FIRST PLACE, HAS TAXIS ALWAYS
BEEN REGULATED CITY BY CITY, NOT
JUST IN CANADA BUT AROUND THE
WORLD?
YOU KNOW, THERE ARE SOME
REGULATIONS THAT ARE BROADER.
LABOUR STANDARDS REGULATIONS,
SAFETY REGULATIONS.
BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE
DETAILS, DIFFERENT CITIES HAVE
DIFFERENT NEEDS.
SO IN TORONTO, THE TAXI
INDUSTRY, THERE'S A LARGE PART
OF IT THAT IS THE HAILING, A
FLAG-DOWN KIND OF BUSINESS.
IN KITCHENER-WATERLOO WHERE I
LIVE, THEY SAY THAT'S ABOUT 5 TO
10 PERCENT OF THE BUSINESS.
SO DIFFERENT CITIES ARE
DIFFERENT.
SOME HAVE A TOURIST PROBLEM
WHERE Airbnb MAKES A PROBLEM.
YOU KNOW, OTHER CITIES HAVE NO
TOURISTS.
SO IT'S DIFFERENT NEEDS FOR
DIFFERENT PLACES.

Steve says QUESTION 10: WHY
SHOULD PEOPLE WHO USE UBER OR
Airbnb CARE ABOUT ANY OF THE
ISSUES YOU'VE RAISED IF ALL THEY
WANT AT THE END OF THE DAY IS
CHEAPER RATES AND MORE CONVENIENCE?

The caption changes to "Why should I care?"

Tom says I THINK THE
QUESTION ANSWERS ITSELF.
IF REALLY ALL YOU WANT IS
CHEAPER RATES AND MORE
CONVENIENCE AS A CONSUMER, YOU
KNOW, YOU'RE FREE TO ARGUE FOR
THAT.
BUT DOES THAT TAKE US TO A GOOD
PLACE?
NO, I DON'T THINK IT DOES.
I THINK IT LEADS TO A RACE TO
THE BOTTOM IN TERMS OF SALARIES
AND PAY, ON THE OTHER SIDE, AND
I THINK IT LEADS TO AN EROSION
OF OUR CITIES IN TERMS OF COMMON
INFRASTRUCTURE THAT IS SUPPORTED
THROUGH BUSINESSES THAT DO
LEGITIMATE WORK HERE.

The caption changes to "Producer: Gregg Thurlbeck, @GreggThurlbeck"

Steve says THAT'S 10 QUESTIONS
WITH TOM SLEE, AUTHOR OF "WHAT'S
YOURS IS MINE: AGAINST THE
SHARING ECONOMY."
THANKS, TOM.

Watch: 10 Questions on the Sharing Economy