Monday, August 02, 2010

Monday Morning Links

A bit of light reading for your Saskatchewan Day...

- deBeauxOs notes that the recession looks to have resulted in the corporate sector slashing jobs and wages far out of proportion to any actual harm from economic conditions, then pocketing the difference. Which fits in nicely with what looks like a pattern of corporate profiteering under cover of outside forces which deserves plenty of further study: for example, do we know yet how many Ontario and B.C. businesses were able to sneak in price increases under the cover of the HST?

- Meanwhile, the CAW's Laurell Ritchie reminds us that our EI system is falling far short of providing the benefits needed by workers facing extended periods of unemployment:
Haunted by the spectre of a double dip recession, it would be a huge mistake to remove fiscal stimulus through EI benefits when we still need economic oxygen to support this fragile recovery.

Many workers are facing their second or third layoff since 2008. Statistics Canada has just reported that regular EI beneficiaries increased in May for the first time in eight months, to more than 680,000. That’s not reassuring.

Also troubling is that Canada’s long-term unemployed has doubled as a percentage of the country’s total unemployed, prompting a recommendation from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that temporary EI extensions “be maintained until the pool of long-term unemployed begins to drop significantly.” This is good advice to be heeded by a federal government that often appears too quick to consider the economic meltdown a thing of the past. Too many Canadian workers are still in survival mode, forced to rely on precarious, part-time and temp agency jobs.
- For those who haven't yet seen it, Terahertz Atheist's series on developing a secular equivalent to church culture is well worth a read.

- Gerald Caplan rightly notes that for all the Cons' efforts to stoke fears of honour killings as a means of bashing Muslims, far more needs to be done to stop violence against women of all cultures:
Between 2002 and July 20, 2010, a total of 151 members of the Canadian Forces have been killed serving in Afghanistan. Each received respectful coverage in the media, as they should have. Yet more women are killed on average each year, often with no public attention at all, than the total of soldiers killed since we joined the Afghan war. Why has our government not declared war against the enemy at home who continues to murder so many women?

Violence against women doesn't always end in murder. In Canada in 2007, nearly 40,200 incidents of "spousal violence" (i.e., violence against legally married, common-law, separated and divorced partners) were reported to police. And yet the figures show that such reported incidents had actually decreased by 15 per cent between 1998 and 2007. Let's put that another away. Despite a 15 per cent decline in those years, more than 40,000 Canadian women still reported being subjected to violence by their partner in 2007.

So the struggle for women's equality, including the simple right not be abused or murdered, continues. Today in Canada, the struggle must focus on the Harper government, surely the most anti-women government in modern times. Stephen Harper refuses to support terrific programs at home or abroad that promote women's equality. Charity from above for the less-fortunate, sure; solidarity with equals, not a chance.
- While Greg has already highlighted it, the derisive take of a leading U.S. statistician on the Cons' census spin is worth repeating:
The Chicago-based statistician then laughed at the details of Canada’s plan to pass out more questionnaires to make up for less compliance. He was part of a 2003 experiment in the United States to make voluntary the Census Bureau’s own detailed questionnaire, known as the American Community Survey. Statisticians quickly concluded the data would be less reliable and more expensive to obtain.
- And finally, Joanne McGarry points out that the Cons' goal of preventing present-day Canadians from getting an accurate picture of their country will create distortions lasting far into the future:
If you know what your great grandparents did for a living, where they were born and how old they were in 1881, there’s an excellent chance you (or the family tree service you used) got the information from the Canadian Census.

For me, it’s also how I found out that two people I thought were family friends were actually great uncles, and that there were unrelated people living in the same house, officially as “lodgers” but quite likely as erstwhile employees in the family hotel. It’s also how I learned there were Anglicans in the mix on both sides of the family, not just one as I had thought.

In all the official reaction to the proposed changes to the census, few people, if any, have mentioned the role Statistics Canada plays in helping Canadians find out more about their own histories, as well as the country’s. A voluntary survey won’t capture information about religion and ethnicity, for example, simply because the response rate won’t be high enough to be accurate.
In the future, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will probably be just as curious as we are about their cultural, religious and geographic roots. Perhaps that is the one function that only a well-designed census can fulfill.

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