Friday, December 19, 2008

Get A Job

In response to a question on expanding EI benefits, Harper's ideology reared, and it demonstrated a complete lack of sympathy for people's predicament. With the economy going in the tank, more people expected to lose their jobs, the capacity to find other work drying up, Harper offers this gem to his CTV friends:
"We are not interested in making it lucrative to pay people not to work, it's not what this government is about, that's not what the taxpayers expect us to spend money on...not making Employment insurance more generous"

Lucrative? It's fine and dandy to put money into re-training, that's a great idea. However, as unemployment creeps up, it's harder for people to re-enter the work force, because, well, umm, I'm no economist, but the JOBS aren't there. You can acquire all the new skills you want, but if the market isn't there, nobodies hiring, because we are on the cusp of depression, sort of hard to land a new job.

Extending EI benefits, in a time of economic crisis, isn't social welfare, it's not some great gig for lazy people, it's a temporary necessity. Quite telling, Fife assumed Harper was considering the move, then Harper rises and says he "isn't like some other parties", then starts in with making it lucrative to sit on you ass. This government, and the former Liberal one's, had no trouble collecting the EI cash cow when times were good, why can't we see some "generous" initiatives during a crisis.

Re-training is mostly a long term goal, it takes time to acquire new skills, and it's a useless endeavour when jobs aren't available. What you need, in a time of uncertainty, is too give people more certainty, extending the period where a person can get back on their feet is exactly how government can make a difference. Harper's solution, let people run out their claims, force them into welfare or other avenues, or just lose their houses, etc, whatever. A VERY cold response, that suggests a real detachment and an underlying "you're on your own" mentality, underneath all the feigned concern.


northwestern_lad said...

It should also be noted that EI is not like most government programs and is not some charity program: It's a program that the workers themselves pay into. Those workers aren't just recipients, they're contributors to that fund.

To hear Harper say it, you'd think that EI funds just magically appeared from no where thanks to the "taxpayer" He needs to remember that all that EI money has been earned by the workers themselves. But that would involve giving up a chance to kick those pesky unemployed workers who probably won't vote for him while their down, and again he shows he can't be adult enough to control those urges of his.

Mike said...


Spoken like a true idiot who has never been on UI or EI or whatever it will be called in three months.

Considering this is an insurance scheme, one would expect you could get out what you paid in. And since it has been taking in far more than it is paying out for a decade, its clear that isn't happening.

How about just putting it back up to what it used to be?

Most people need EI to survive until they get that new job, not to party it up and get paid to do nothing.

I'm a libertarian and I can understand that for fuck sakes. Why is the government stealing this money from people under the pretense of insuring them should they lose their job and then refusing to pay it to them when they do?

In a lot of places, that would be called fraud.

Harper is a real jackass with no idea what "regular Canadian" have or are going through.

Anonymous said...

You do realize of course that given this was stated after the big sit down with Iggy, Iggy must have said something like "I think I can live with that."

Steve V said...

Sorry, that's the kicker that I failed to mention. When Harper says what "taxpayers expect", it's complete arrogance because it's our program.

Steve V said...


Actually big guy, Ignatieff mentioned this just yesterday, as well as help for low income people. The "big sit down" wasn't about specifics, just broad strokes, so NO, if you're inferring they sat down and cobbled a budget, you're too slow for words.

I think this is one of Harper's line in the sand positions, you could just see him physically get his back up at the mere mention.

Anonymous said...

About the EI Fund. If it was never meant to be used for laid off workers, why are the working people being forced to pay into EI in the first place? If I were young enough to be back into the working force, I would be refusing to pay it, & if I couldn't receive help when I needed it, I would also sue the government if I had too. I would think that might get them to change there tunes if enough people did so don't you think? Marie. Sorry for the anon but this is the only way I can make a post.

Anonymous said...

Did you just make fun of my Mennonite last name? Picking low fruit?

Well If Harper laid this one out without consulting the libs then he is really silly and getting sillier by the day.

If it is a line in the sand, do you think the libs will cross it?

janfromthebruce said...

I don't think the right word you used in this sentence is what you meant either Steve: "In response to a question on expanding EI benefits, Harper's ideology reared, and it demonstrated a complete lack of sympathy for people's predicament.
Sympathy "means feel sorry for" while a better analogy is "empathy", which means "an understanding from the other person's perspective." The rest of your blog was about Harper's lack of understanding from the "others" perspective.
You know when someone loses their job due to no fault of their own, we come up with "job training." You are right on the one hand, that this is bogus cause there are lack of jobs to train for, but more bogus, is job training in itself.
Research consistently bears out that the main beneficiaries are the "hired job trainers" as these are contracted out services. It is a make work project - busy work - and often since the least amount of money is actually put into "the training" it is about making a govt pretend to look like they are doing something, but in reality, it's most often a waste of time and money.
So you have trainers who provide "interview tips and resume writing." Of course, are there jobs for resumes - nope - but who cares.
Anyway, I sure hope Steve that you are right and Iggy didn't agree to the Harper frame. If he did, he just sold out workers, and no amount of spin will change that optic.

I think Harper's mad cause he can't use the EI cash cow to lower the deficit or whatever, and use it as his slush fund - like the libs did when they were running the shop. Perhaps it thus might not be such a surprise if Iggy was in coherts with Harper here - sadly - hope I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Well its all up to Ignatieff now to stop the deplorable treatment of the unemployed. I want to see him demand that Harper and Flaherty significantly raise EI benefits and also shorten the waiting time to get them. He MUST tell them that if they don't help the unemployed, the Liberals will vote down the government and form a coalition. PERIOD.

sassy said...

Anon at 11:16

.. shorten the waiting time ..

Steve V said...

"Did you just make fun of my Mennonite last name? Picking low fruit?"


Anonymous said...

""I suppose this experience of unemployment was valuable for me. I discovered that it is almost the most debilitating experience a person can have in life, totally sapping one's self-esteem, and plunging one into a maelstrom of depressive thoughts and feelings from which, eventually, one despairs of ever emerging. It certainly gave me a respect for the problems of laid-off workers, so airily dismissed by the media and their consulting economists, during times of what they nowadays call 'economic downturn'. Full employment should be the first social good of any decent government."
- Boyce Richardson
Boyce Richardson
Blog: Boyce'sPaper

Anonymous said...

Sorry - but I thought this interesting:

Written by John Geddes on Thursday, December 18, 2008 11:30 -
A lesson in Iggynomics
What does the new Liberal leader know about the economy?

Michael Ignatieff drags around the longest paper trail of any Canadian politician. As an author, professor, high-brow journalist and broadcaster, he wrote a stack of books, countless lectures, and many articles, not to mention documentary scripts, usually about human rights, foreign affairs, and security. But not much about the economy. And as federal Liberal leader—the job he landed sooner than expected at the end of the recent parliamentary crisis—economic policy is his first priority. He’s not in a mood, though, to fill in all the blanks when asked exactly what ideas he wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to adopt in next month’s recession-battling budget. “I want to be constructive,” Ignatieff told Maclean’s, “but I don’t see any particular reason why I should be especially helpful.”

Constructive yet not too helpful—it’s a pretty fine line. Ignatieff finds himself facing, from the very start, the dilemma that eventually confronts all Opposition leaders. On the one hand, the job is by definition to oppose. On the other, public approval tends to attach to politicians who project a positive vision. The trick is to present compelling ideas, but somehow not give them away to the governing party. So in the consultations leading up to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s Jan. 27 budget, Ignatieff’s challenge will be to display enough economic competence to build credibility for his Liberals as a government-in-waiting, without letting the government-in-fact simply snap up the best parts, and then boast it has built a multi-partisan consensus.

Ignatieff revealed just enough in an interview to leave no doubt he’s adopting the stance of a classic, centre-straddling Liberal. He argues that an economic stimulus package should put money in the pockets of the low-income Canadians who are bound to spend it. “There are all kinds of ways that we could pump money into this economy that, unless targeted, will just go to people who have disposable income anyway,” he said. “The trick is to get stimulus to the people who’ve got little disposable income, so they can keep their families afloat, and, in doing so, keep the economy afloat.”

Casting the stimulus package as a chance to redistribute wealth puts Ignatieff squarely in the camp of social-justice Liberals. But he placed just as much emphasis on using stimulative spending to reward companies for boosting productivity during the downturn. “We have to think about how we seize opportunity here,” he added, “to become more energy-efficient, to produce cars that people actually want to buy, to commercialize R & D, to invest in infrastructure that is badly needed, to address the productivity challenge that we’ve talked about for 10 years.”

Ignatieff said he “would not be drawn out” on specifics. But in separate interviews, his finance critic, Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison, and a key economic adviser, Ontario MP John McCallum, both touched on the same cluster of ideas. They stressed infrastructure spending and benefits targeted at those hardest hit by the downturn, with Brison suggesting the employment insurance system should be used to flow more money to the jobless, especially in Ontario. Neither mentioned any tax cuts beyond those already planned.

Ignatieff’s two-pronged prescription—stimulus based equally on compassion and competitiveness—might sound suspiciously like a politician trying to be all things to all people. But his interest in blending ideas about creating and spreading wealth go back to his early days as an academic. In 1983, when he was a research fellow at Cambridge University, Ignatieff collaborated with economic historian Istvan Hont on a paper about the 18th-century Scottish philosopher, and icon of economic conservatism Adam Smith. They read Smith’s Wealth of Nations as more than the foundational work on how competition creates prosperity. “Our argument,” Ignatieff and Hont wrote in the introduction to an essay collection entitled Wealth and Virtue: The Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment, “is that the Wealth of Nations was centrally concerned with the issue of justice, with finding a market mechanism capable of reconciling inequality of property with adequate provision for the excluded.”

Ignatieff studied Smith at about the same time Harper was taking economics at the University of Calgary. Whether in England or Alberta, the academic atmosphere of the early 1980s was charged with the conservative doctrines of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. For Harper, that climate was formative, pushing him permanently to the right. Ignatieff remained a Liberal, but the era’s lessons weren’t lost on him. “If you’ve studied and written about Adam Smith, you’re a believer in markets,” he said. “But Smith always believed that markets had to be regulated. So I’m a market guy, and I think we’ve all discovered that light-handed, smart regulation by government is needed to keep markets safe, honest, fair and transparent—that’s the lesson of the past six months.”

He is also keeping up on the way his elite U.S. network sees the global slump. When Ignatieff was director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, from 2000 to 2005, the university’s president was economist Lawrence Summers, who was recently named director of U.S. president-elect Barack Obama’s National Economic Council. Ignatieff mentioned Summers when he talked about how his Harvard stint sharpened his thinking on the economy. “If Larry Summers is at the lunch table,” he remarked, “you tend to learn things.” He also made a point of looking up a recent quote from Summers and reading it aloud: “All financial crises end, and when they end, they end in ways that create spectacular opportunity.”

Scott in Montreal said...

Indeed. I've been paying into EI since before it was EI (used to be Unemployment Insurance before Martin's days). Even when I was making 3.54 an hour as a McD's lobby boy. I have never collected it in 24 years of paying into it and Harper's attitude on this - like so many other things - is completely wrong-headed and plays to his small-minded base regardless of decency or logic.

janfromthebruce said...

macadavy said...

thanks for the great links and read on Boyce Richardson. Those who have never been FORCED out of work for any period of time, never been broke, lack the empathetic experiential knowledge of the "other."
Thus when I look at the "same elites" who could be your everyday conservative or liberal who sit on that economic advisory panel, one knows that their view of the world is limited to "their interests."

Words can have no meaning unless actually backed up with meaningful, fulsome action. So one can talk equally of competitiveness and compassion, but at the end of the day, look to what gets the lion's share of the cake and what gets the crumbs.
Watch the money flow, the directionality, and the level of flow. Empty and pretty words come to mind.
What comes to mind, is the rhetoric of Canadians having to make sacrifices - but as usual it is always the same ones - many who make those - and the usual suspects - the rich, the powerful, the elites - never.
Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss.

Anonymous said...

I was in the unfortunate position this week to have to do a layoff of some of my employees. A lot of these employees are making just above the current min wage in Ont, so they are already struggling to get by. Since, they will receive only 65% of their current wages they will be struggling even worse. Furthermore, some of these employees struggle with their English, which will make even more difficult to find work if I cannot call them back, especially in this slowdown. I had no choice in the matter but I a still feel bad about it. I am not sure if Harper gives a damn though.

Once again Harper is just showing his ignorant, insanley partisan viewpoint. Sure, the unemployed should not be allowed to be on EI foreever, but at least understand how the real world works before you make these ridicules comments.

sassy said...


It's actually 55% of current earning up the a max of just over $425 a week (which would be annual earnings of $41K). I think there could be extra for family/child benefits, but not sure.

Details here if you are interested