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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Canada's Economic Recovery Plan (For Dummies)

With the economy on life support, businesses closing their doors and laid off workers stacked up like chord wood across the Country the political thermostat has been cranked up on bust in Ottawa and the self serving rhetoric is flying around like hungry bees at the hive.

Unfortunately the only ones with anything to gain from all the hyperbole are the politicians themselves. Like it or not, the rest of us are on our own.

They can spin it however they like but the fact remains that there is no money available to bail out the forestry sector or the commercial fishing industry, both of which until recently employed hundreds of thousands of individuals. You see the problem with those industries, according to the Conservative talking heads, is not one that Ottawa can address. It’s all about a lack of markets for their products.

On the other hand to listen to our elected officials, you’d somehow believe that pouring billions upon billions of our tax dollars into the auto sector, which employs tens of thousands, is simply the right thing to do.

Funny, but I thought I read someplace that a lack of buyers for North American gas guzzlers was what was killing the industry. My mistake I guess.

Meanwhile, up on the Hill, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc are all claiming to be the champions of the working classes. Yes sir, they all want to be seen as standing up for little guy who’s lost his job. Why if the Harper government doesn’t soon implement changes to the qualifications for EI and help those people the opposition will…well it…

What? What exactly will Mike, Jack, Gilles do anyway?

Every MP in Ottawa knows the odds of electing another minority government are staggering. Nobody knows if the Liberals can actually win the next time out or not. According to the polls both the NDP and the Bloc stand to lose seats if an election were held right now. Add to this the fact that it would take all three parties to boot the Tories out of office, at a time when a huge percentage of MPs (mostly with the Bloc) need only one more year in office to qualify for their fat taxpayer funded pension and we all know exactly what they’ll do.

They’ll complain and attack each other for political advantage, protect their own incomes, ensure that 45 members of a party bent on splitting Canada apart get a good federally funded pension and they’ll do all of this, knowing full well that at the end of the day none of it will help the unemployed who need EI to survive.

On the topic of EI, I’m sick and tired of the rhetoric surrounding how many hours it takes to qualify. Once again the political elite and pundits have pulled Newfoundland and Labrador out of their back pockets (or from slightly to one side of it) in an effort to show how unfair the rest of the Country is being treated and how easy Newfoundlanders have it on the “rock”.

The latest trend these days is to compare the number of hours necessary to qualify in BC or Ontario, between 600 and 700 hours, while, and I quote, “…in most parts of Newfoundland it’s almost a God given right to collect and you only need the minimum of 420 hours”.

What they never mention is that the high number of hours quoted for Ontario, BC (or what ever province is the flavor of the day) is what’s needed in urban areas with low unemployment rates. By comparison, in the North East Avalon region (call it the St. John’s area if you like) you also need more than 600 hours to qualify, just as in most urban parts of Canada.

While I’m on the subject, they also don’t inform anyone that roughly half the population of Newfoundland and Labrador lives in that particular area or that in parts of Ontario and BC and across Canada there are rural areas, just like those in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the minimum number of hours are all anyone needs.

The only difference between Newfoundland and Labrador, when it comes to EI qualification, is that many other provinces have far more people living in those rural areas than Newfoundland and Labrador does and as a result are more likely to have large numbers collecting EI, or as Jim Flaherty is likely to refer to them these days, “EI finalists”.

Personally I don’t like the idea of someone only having a job for 45 days being able to collect EI for a year. On that one point Stephen Harper and I can agree, but really, why all the bawling and blaring over EI anyway? To hear Steve and Diamond Jim Flaherty talk about it you’d think lowering the number of hours required was going to crush Canada and send the national debt spiraling into some bottomless abyss.

It seems they’ve conveniently forgotten something. For years the Canadian debt was paid down by siphoning off EI premiums meant to be used in just the sort of situation the Country finds itself in today. Billions were diverted over the years to debt reduction instead of being put aside for income support. Some estimates put the figure at $50 billion or more.

In other words the comparatively low Canadian debt the Harper government is so happy to talk about in these hard times is there, in large part, thanks to $50 billion in EI premiums that were collected from individuals and businesses who thought they were paying an insurance premium. If the debt now needs to be increased by a billion or two in order to see workers and families through the tough times it’s only fair Mr. Flaherty get off his high horse and pony up.

But of course he won’t and the reason is simple.

Any increase in EI costs would impact the federal budget and debt. If, on the other hand, a large percentage of laid off workers don’t qualify for EI and instead have resort to joining the welfare rolls it’s a provincial cost to deal with and who really thinks Ottawa could give a crap about provincial deficits or crushing debt loads?

So what lessons can we take away from all of this?

1. Canada’s politicians are very concerned about job losses and stabilizing family incomes, primarily their own;

2. Money to bail out corporations in major urban centers and protect tens of thousands of jobs– Good. Money to bail out industries in rural areas and save hundreds of thousands of jobs – Bad;

3. Canada’s growing deficit isn’t the result of large corporate bailouts or unchecked federal spending. It’s being caused by laid off workers who paid into EI and who would now like to collect a little of the insurance they paid for; and

4. No matter how bad things get, or how much they improve, someone will always find a way to crap on Newfoundland and Labrador simply because it exists.


NL-ExPatriate said...

I see the National Tyranny of the Majority PROXY parties are back at the Hot Potato Poll-itics again.

It's our political and electoral system we need to change not the insane game of negative Ping Pong partisan poll-itics which represent the 2/3 Upper Lower canada majority.

Ussr said...

There is only a recession in Ontario and Quebec. Everybody else is fine right.

Or is that just Harper and his opinion?

" Republic Of "

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