Friday, March 01, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- The Star's editorial board highlights why our elected representatives should be countering the effect of precarious employment (rather than exacerbating them as the Cons have done):
Simply put, programs like Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan were created back in the days when employees received wrist watches for 40 years of service. Unemployment was considered a temporary misfortune, and big companies were expected to provide adequate pensions to be topped up by government cheques. Those programs have not adapted to the new, more “precarious” world.
For example, EI benefits have been pared back for many years, to the point where less than half of jobless workers now qualify for benefits (and only 40 per cent of those in Ontario). That leaves many in the unstable job category out of luck, since they likely won’t collect enough weeks of work to qualify.
Unless laid-off workers can quickly bounce into a new job, many may end up on welfare — but not until their savings are exhausted, as required by Ontario social assistance rules. It’s a bureaucratic mess.
These flawed social programs trap workers whose tenuous existence helps private sector companies focus on their bottom line. EI should provide a soft landing, during a job search, instead of pushing workers onto welfare.
Old age benefits are no better. Since unstable jobs rarely provide company pensions, many future retirees will subsist on their limited income from the Canada Pension Plan. That makes the drive to modernize the CPP and significantly boost pensions all the more urgent.
- Meanwhile, David Climenhaga asks a rather important question as to what's happening to Alberta's publicly-owned resources - and the answer shouldn't come as much surprise:
“The transfer of public wealth to private shareholders is blistering, and our own government, rather than fighting like an owner, or even thinking like an owner, is just happy to find investors who want to cash in.” (Those investors, Dr. Taft noted as an aside – well before this became a national scandal – are frequently state-owned companies from such places as China, Abu Dhabi and Korea.)

How blistering? Well, corporate profits were up 317 per cent in the same period health care spending rose 28 per cent, incomes went up 35 per cent and education spending increased 2 per cent!

One question Taft said he couldn’t answer from the data he worked with is where all the money goes once it flows into these bloated corporate profits. But you and I don’t need a book to tell us the answer to that one: Most of it leaves the country for places where it does nothing for Canadians.

No wonder, when you think about it, that corporate special interests and their paid representatives in Canada are so aggressive in defending their “right” to rapidly export even more of our resources via pipeline to wherever – the environment, the rights of Canadians, and due process be damned!
- Tim Harper discusses the end of Kevin Page's term as Parliamentary Budget Officer - along with the importance of having a watchdog to track and challenge often-implausible official numbers.

- Stephen Harper's chief Senate flack has declared she plans to treat the residency requirement under Canada's Constitution as being met solely by a standard form declaration - with no need for the declaration to be true. Watch for criminal justice to get a lot less expensive as smart defense counsel prepare Declarations of Non-Guilt and insist there's no basis to test them through actual evidence.

- Finally, Robert Benzie reports on a rare example of conservatives imposing something resembling austerity on themselves - though it remains to be seen whether the Ontario PCs actually plan to run a more frugal election campaign or are simply using the threat to bring in more money in the short term.

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