Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Julian Beltrame reports on the Cons' concerted efforts to add to corporate bottom lines by attacking working Canadians:
One of the measures is so sneaky, says NDP MP Pat Martin, nobody seemed to notice the line buried deep in the 452-page Bill C-38 that simply states, "The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act is repealed," giving no explanation.

With those 10 words, Ottawa intends to wipe out a 1985 law compelling contractors bidding on federal contracts to pay "fair wages" and overtime.

"I would have missed it and I'm from that industry. It was number 68 of 70 bills that they changed," said Martin, a former journeyman carpenter and construction worker.

Martin notes that unlike most measures in the budget bill, there was no prior discussion of the measure or even a signal such a change was contemplated.

"It's a solution without a problem. The only conclusion I can come up with is that it's a war on labour and the left. It's what the Americans did with the right-to-work states and the end result is $8 or $9 an hour is now the average wage in places like North Carolina."
(Perrin Beatty's claim that employers will take anybody willing to work) is hard to square with a national unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent, and new figures showing there are 5.8 unemployed workers for every vacancy. Officially, there were 1.37 million Canadians actively looking for work in April, and that doesn't count the hundreds of thousands of discouraged workers, involuntarily self-employed or part-timers wishing to be employed full-time.

Labour economist Erin Weir of the United Steelworkers says he has never bought the labour shortage argument, noting that in a market economy if that were the case wages would be increasing. Instead, they are barely keeping up with inflation.
 - Tim Harper criticizes the Cons' EI slashing as well for pushing Canadians into dead-end jobs. And Susan Riley echoes the point that the Cons' plan has nothing at all to do with evidence or reality:
It sometimes seems the only people slow to understand that the majority of jobless Canadians are not scofflaws, living the high life on their $485 (maximum) weekly benefit while “suitable” jobs go begging, sit in the Harper cabinet.
Finley has repeatedly advanced the hoary myth that EI benefits can be a “disincentive” to finding work. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, hearkening back to his days as a taxi driver and hockey referee, grumped that “there are no bad jobs.” And Jason Kenney, the hard-working immigration minister, seems to think the unemployed need to be prodded to drive to the next community to work, even though his home province is teeming with Maritimers who have left behind family and friends in pursuit of a paycheque.

In fact, senior federal officials predict fewer than one per cent of current EI recipients will be denied benefits as a result of these changes — which suggests “abuse” is hardly widespread. In that light, the Finley reforms look like a solution in search of a problem.
Like other elements of the sprawling “budget” bill, the EI measures, to take effect in 2013, seem hasty, driven by anecdote rather than evidence, much less face-to-face consultation with those affected. They will likely be marginal in impact, for better or worse.
- Seth Klein points out that increasing inequality (which the Cons are doing so much to exacerbate) figures to be a major obstacle in the way of action on climate change.

- Finally, Dan Arnold nicely sums up the most important takeaway from David Wilks' remarkable shift from claiming he'd oppose his government's omnibus bill if only he thought it could make a difference, to falling back in line:
(T)he man has no one to blame for this controversy other than himself. If he truly supports the budget - as he now claims to do - he should have thanked his constituents for their feedback, said he'd consider what they said, then explained to them why he supported the budget.

If he truly opposes the budget - as he said he did yesterday - he should vote against it. Wilks is wrong when he says one MP can't make a difference. John Nunziata and Bill Casey brought more attention to the budgets they opposed than they ever would have by meekly supporting them. Michael Chong's opposition to the Quebec Nation resolution may have prevented Harper from going further down that road. I also like to think that the more acts of defiance we get, the more likely we are to see an attitudinal change in Ottawa that gives a greater say to individual MPs. Some may disagree with me, but I think that would be a welcome shift.
 [Update: fixed formatting.]

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