Saturday, August 08, 2020

On temporary measures

It should never be a surprise to see the Libs talking about big progressive plans - particularly in the context of a mooted election - while making no effort to follow through on them. But it's worth noting how it's the Libs who have chosen to avoid making any plans lasting more than a couple of months - with the result of creating uncertainty for the people who need it most.

Faced with an income support system which was woefully inadequate (both in covering far too few people and in being too clunky to process a rush of applications), the Libs eventually got around to implementing the CERB, providing a source of income for the people who needed it most. But they've refused to maintain it for a period of more than a couple of months at a time - meaning that people without alternative income lined up have never been far from an impending cliff.

At the beginning, it might have been justifiable to set the CERB up for speed, and worry later about what came next. But as the time frame for the pandemic has extended to a period of years, any responsible government should be expected to ensure that workers have a new normal other than constantly staring down the barrel of impending doom.

And it's not as if the Libs would have to look far for models of policies designed to last the duration of the pandemic. The Libs' current plan is to make a wage subsidy available to businesses until at least the end of 2020. And for a Saskatchewan example, the Moe government's suspension of pay in lieu of notice is set to last for the period of the public health emergency, plus another two weeks.

It would take little effort to tell Canadians that the CERB will be available for a similar time period (subject to transitioning to a different income format if that proves appropriate). But when it comes to individual income supports, Trudeau has preferred to keep people who have lost their income from knowing they'll have support for more than a month or two at a time.

For the moment, that means people have to count on some unspecified EI reform being developed and implemented by the end of August. And if that weren't bad enough on its own, the fact that the Libs are relying on a system built to limit the availability of benefits offers a worrisome signal that what gets developed next will keep people dangling at the edge of the abyss.

In sum, while Trudeau's insiders may be trying to burnish his progressive credentials, their choice to leave Canadians in as precarious a position as possible says far more than the political message they've laundered through the press. And the fact the Libs can't even commit to a sound safety net for a full season offers every reason to doubt their longer-term commitment to basic personal security and income equality.


  1. Greg, the adage about working for change from inside a party has lost its currency. As a faithful Liberal for 40 years who gave up back in the Ignatieff era I am deeply troubled these days that the Liberal rank and file will so quickly turn their heads and allow their once proud party to be debased.

    Stephen Harper had one overarching goal - to permanently shift Canada's political centre far to the right. He didn't hit a home run but he sure got a triple. The Liberals under Ignatieff followed in Harper's wake. Layton and Mulcair were right up with them. The Liberals became Conservative Lite, the NDP became Latter Day Liberals, all vying for the brass ring. The progressive left were largely cut loose.

    Everybody talks a good game today but their deeds never conform to their words. To hear Trudeau tell it, "Canada's back" only his government isn't on course to even meet Stephen Harper's climate change targets. The Trudeau government supports a resolution declaring a climate state of emergency in Canada and, less than 24 hours later, greenlights a massive bitumen pipeline expansion.

    I don't know how you stay engaged with Canadian politics. I have given up, joining the growing ranks of disaffected Canadians. If there's one area of real growth in our political economy it's the rise of the precariat. Given the state of governance, not just in Canada but across the Western nations generally, is it any wonder that liberal democracy is waning?

    1. I can certainly understand your sense of frustration, and have experienced it myself (particularly when NDP governments in Alberta and BC have chosen to fall in line with fossil fuel interests).

      But I still don't see a plausible alternative to electoral politics in seeking to advance the needs of humanity in general over the interests of the corporate and financial elites. And giving up only allows them to rewrite political rules to make it even more difficult to change course.