- Carol Goar discusses how the Cons' latest attacks on Employment Insurance add just one burden to the backs of workers who have already borne the brunt of decades of corporatist policy:
(L)ast Sunday, employment insurance benefits in two-thirds of the country were quietly reduced. Existing recipients were spared but new EI claimants — starting with the 54,500 workers who lost their jobs in March — will be subject to tougher rules. Most will get less support.
Generalizations are impossible. The impact on any person depends on his or her employment record, skills and the health of the local job market. But by and large, EI applicants in Oshawa, Windsor, Hamilton, the Niagara region, Sudbury, Halifax, Montreal, Winnipeg, Regina and Vancouver will fare worse under the new rules. (The effect in Toronto will minimal because EI claimants here never received the same benefits as their counterparts in the rest of the country.)
Employment insurance rates are set by formulas so complex they defy explanation. But the essence of this change is that the government has pushed the threshold to qualify for the most generous form of EI treatment out of reach for most Canadians.
Ironically, Flaherty’s objective was to make the EI system more equitable, a goal shared by Canadians and the Ontario government. They envisaged a uniform rate structure that would boost benefits for everyone. What the minister delivered was a plan to lower them.
It was equity of a sort — a stingy sort.
Sunday’s rule change was the government’s latest move toward a “flexible labour” agenda. It came on the heels of a crackdown on EI recipients last month to ferret out “false and inappropriate claims.” Federal officials made unannounced house calls, grilling recipients. The month before, the government imposed a requirement that repeat EI claimants accept any job in a 100-kilometre radius that paid as little as 70 per cent of their previous salary.
No doubt these measures will sharpen the private sector’s competitive edge. But they will drive down wages and make it harder for workers who lose their jobs to recover.
These trade-offs have far-reaching consequences. Over time, they will erode Canada’s standard of living and reduce the resilience of its workforce. All Canadians — even those with ostensibly secure jobs — need to pay attention.- Meanwhile, Karl Nerenberg nicely documents the Cons' "old-fashioned red-baiting" as the preferred means of distracting attention from how ill-advised policies are hurting Canadians. But if there's anything wrong with Nerenberg's approach, it's found in his apparent assumptions that the Cons would see the label as a criticism rather than a compliment.
- In what should come as a shock to anybody who's paid absolutely no attention, Don Cayo finds that once again the NDP has a better track record managing publicly money than right-wing alternatives. And Vaughn Palmer notes that the B.C. NDP in particular is taking the all-too-rare step of building an election platform on more realistic budget assumptions than the ones put forward by the Libs - trading the nominal spending room which would allow for larger campaign promises for the prospect that the NDP's platform might actually be deliverable.
- Finally, let's round up some others' reports and commentary on the NDP's convention this weekend - with Dan Tan, Gloria Galloway, Mia Rabson, Bea Vongdouangchanh, Jennifer Ditchburn, Arash Azizi, Lawrence Martin and Thomas Walkom among others contributing to the discussion.