- Bill Tieleman tears into James Moore for his callous disregard for child hunger, while PressProgress reminds us that plenty of the Cons' policy choices reflect Moore's complete lack of concern for his neighbours' children. And Polly Toynbee looks in detail at the UK Cons' attempts to turn support for needy children into a perceived political weakness rather than a matter of basic empathy and compassion:
The dirty war has begun; the early signs are that this will be the most poisonous, socially damaging election campaign for many a long year. Corrosive malice will be poured over anyone on any benefit. The Conservatives are convinced they are laying a killer trap by branding Labour as "the welfare party".- Elizabeth Benzetti highlights the absurdity of wealthy and privileged scions of the right like Conrad Black and Rob Ford putting on a "woe is us!" routine while calling for life to be worse for mere ordinary citizens. And Andrew Coyne similarly laments the infantilism and lack of principle which form the basis of the right in Canada - though he's too quick to try to distance that impulse from conservative politics.
The language used by Zahawi captures a swelling theme of the election – dividing the "taxpayer" from the "benefit taker" – with this: "Many couples take the decision to delay having a third or fourth child until they are sure they can afford it." The comments that followed were heavily anti-child: "If you can't afford kids why expect the state to keep them?" and "It's a parent's responsibility to provide, not the government". There lies the great dividing line: why should the state support children at all?
As the Child Poverty Action Group eloquently argues, benefits for children not only spread the cost of living between richer and poorer, but also smooth the bumps in everyone's life cycle. When children are born costs are highest and earnings meagre, but later many will earn more, pay more tax and get less out. The banal moral truth is that children are the future, paying for the care of the childless. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says this government's legacy will be a steep rise in child poverty by 2015: a monumental £12bn benefit cut is in George Osborne's post-2015 plan.
Cameron bets the screw can be turned twice as hard, as Osborne enters the election with huge cuts to meet his impossible deficit targets. Labour has no intention of matching his plan. The only way to avoid the Tory "trap" is to tell the truth of where incomes are heading, how child poverty is soaring. Rachel Reeves lays out her policy for the first time in January. Ed Miliband has already said he'd shrink the housing benefit bill by building homes, and the dole with guaranteed jobs for the unemployed and a living wage to ease the cost of tax credits. Labour can never out-nasty the Tories, so nice is the only way to be.
- Anna Mehler Paperny reports on the state of minimum wage laws in Canada - with not a single jurisdiction providing for the minimum wage above the poverty line. Andrew Jackson takes a look at the composition of Canada's workforce and notes that a majority of workers may have trouble reaching what would generally be seen as a middle class lifestyle. And the Globe and Mail rightly slams Jim Flaherty for positioning himself as the primary obstacle barring the way to a sufficient Canada Pension Plan.
- David McLaren comments on the Cons' decision to restore a colonial philosophy to Canada's foreign policy. And John Baird's spin on the Cons' international priorities is accurate only to the extent that their sole concern is with profits rather than jobs.
- Finally, Sandra Azocar and Noel Somerville take a look at Alberta's experience to make the case against for-profit seniors care:
The inconvenient reality is that, because of acute staff shortages, seniors are not being fed properly and medications are not being administered properly.
The magnitude of the current staffing problem has been well documented in a recent study done by the Parkland Institute. This study, entitled From Bad to Worse — Residential Elder Care in Alberta, demonstrates the deterioration that has occurred in Alberta from 1999 to 2009.
The Parkland study quantifies the differences in care provided in public, not-for-profit and private for-profit facilities. The hours of care per patient in not-for-profit facilities was 83 per cent of that provided in publicly operated facilities. The hours of care per patient in private for-profit facilities was only 71 per cent of that provided in the publicly operated facilities.
(T)he availability of long-term care beds in Alberta, relative to the age 75-plus population, has slipped by 20 per cent and is now the second lowest of any Canadian province. This decline is on top of the 40 per cent cut in long-term care beds per capita that occurred in the 1990s. Further, over the study period, the number of assisted living beds which provide much lower level of care, has grown by 187 per cent.
All of these realities suggest that the government is pursuing a continuing care strategy that serves to divest itself of responsibility for providing care to seniors. When it comes to expanding seniors care in this province, this government has opted to give massive public handouts primarily to corporations seeking to profit from the health needs of seniors.
Ironically, Premier Alison Redford won the Tory leadership race in large part by claiming to be devoted to our public health-care system. Yet this government continues its ideologically driven efforts to shift costs and responsibility from the government to individual health care users and to promote increased private-sector participation. Sadly, this is why we are now more than ever hearing heartbreaking stories from seniors and their families that attest to the shabby state of elderly care in our province.