Saturday, December 20, 2008

Compassionate Conservatism

In one of my pub debates with my Very Conservative Friend, I pointed out the reasonableness of many of the Coalition's demands. I said, "The Conservatives may want to wait for the Americans before implementing some stimulus measures, but surely they don't need to wait to do the really obvious things like reducing E.I. wait times or increasing benefits?"

He agreed. Stephen Harper, apparently, does not.

“We are not interested in making it lucrative to pay people not to work, it’s not what this government is about, that’s not what the taxpayers expect us to spend money on… not making Employment insurance more generous”

Riiight. Because all those poor bastards in Diamond Jim’s riding are just thrilled to bits to be out of their crappy, high-paying manufacturing jobs so they make slightly more than half their previous income in the oh so lucrative field of Unemployment Benefits Recipient.

It’s like watching the rotting corpse of the Common Sense Revolution suddenly rise from the grave and shamble into the U.I. office moaning “woooorkfaaare…”


(H/T to Steve V.)


  1. Jennifer, made from the same cloth. I had the "ditto thought experience." Soon they will be demeaned and workfare will be demanded, and you can't collect what you paid into it - as an insurance program - unless you are up at the crack of dawn daily looking for a job that will not exist cause we are going to be in a depression.
    And each week, you will have to send in a list of places you applied for a job, as a condition of getting your poggy cheque, and if you mess up, guess what, you will be thrown off with no appeal.

    And if the Iggy liberals team up with this small little man cause it's easier, I will actively work against this party who also doesn't give a "rat's ass" about ordinary out-of-work Canadians.

    I lived through the Harris years, with 3 little girls, and lost good paying jobs. I know what these mean spirited programs are like - so no I don't give a rat's butt about Iggy's political fortunes or rising star or nothing. It means absolute squat when trying to cloth and feed kids.
    When the going gets tough the tough stand up - say we collectively can do better - and than go. Words mean nothing.

  2. It is my understanding that at least the E.I. wait-time reduction is part of what the Liberals are demanding to see in the budget if they are going to consider voting for it.

    If they do cave on this issue... well, I sympathize with your sentiments, and as an NDP supporter you're more than entitled to work against the Liberals. Gods know I've been tempted more than once over the past year.

    But here's the thing. If left-of-centre Liberals like me get fed up and stop working to put social justice and equity at the centre of Liberal policy, then we will essentially be abandoning the party to the Martinites and the corporatists. And then what? We would be left with two large right-of-centre parties in this country, with the NDP as the lone voice crying in the wilderness.

    And even if the NDP were to pick up every left-of-center vote in the country and essentially replace the Liberals federally, how long do you think it would be before their ideals were compromised as they so often are provincially?

    Anyway, I know we've gone around and around about this before and aren't likely to agree now, but I do want you to understand that it isn't party loyalty or pragmatism that keeps me plugging away at what looks like a hopeless cause. It's that trying to strengthen and give voice to the so-called left wing of the Liberal Party is the best way I know how to resist the forces we are both fighting against.

  3. Well guys, I do agree that EI is supposed to be an INSURANCE program and that some of the criteria need to be relaxed in time like these when the chances of even finding something to apply for is slim. That said I do not have a great deal of sympathy for the auto industry or the highly paid workers whose union is STILL saying that there will be no concessions from them despite their $25 to $35 wage and above average benefits. I am disappointed as to how little discussion the recent Canadian Auto “bail out” has produced, as yet there is no one asking exactly what are the terms for this $4M of taxpayers cash. There has been a bit about ALL partys having to contribute to the “restructuring” but no details from either our Feds or the Province, meanwhile the union is still saying we still want our high wages and benefits whilst many folks who have been making half of that or less are also out of work and no bail out for them! In times like these every one is part of the problem or part of the solution and it seems to me that right now the unions, and not just the CAW, are part of the problem. Every day we see on the news some union, many of them representing public workers paid out of the public purse, wanting MORE, it makes me sick!

  4. James Laxer has an excellent rebuttal to that argument:

    Slash the pay of auto workers and then after them of wage and salary earners in general and the consequence is to push us more rapidly into deflation, the exact opposite of stimulus. Lower wages mean lower purchasing power. With that comes the further deterioration of retail operations and services in general. Cutting wages and salaries speeds up the downward spiral of the economy from recession to depression.

    I have my own issues with big labour, but Laxer's right - cut their wages and ALL wages are likely to fall. And then who is going to be able to afford to buy all those cars?

    The automobile industry has always paid high wages, long before organized labour. Henry Ford's original business model was to pay his workers enough that they could afford to buy the cars they were making, thus creating a built-in customer base while ensuring a stable, skilled workforce. It had nothing to do with unions - it was simply good business practice, and it worked like a charm for decades.

    What's keeping it from working now won't be fixed by slashing wages - it will only make it worse.

  5. Both the arguments given are reasonable and probably accurate, lord knows I am no economist. I do however view things on a more pragmatic level, it is the DIFFERENCE between the wages earned in the auto and public sectors (often for unskilled or semiskilled work) from that received by many in the private sector that bother me, can they afford to purchase those expensive cars (only a small part of which cost the labour force is responsible for, I will admit). It would seem that they cannot given the numbers sitting on the lot! I know I cannot despite my skilled trades background. I have seen several posts advocating a “livable” wage for the less fortunate in our society, both the working poor and those on government programs and indeed we should try and narrow the gap between those with and those without but there is a cost (usually shown in the rising cost of goods) to each and every “input” to a business.
    My thought is this, if those making above average wage were to scale back their expectations would that then make room for more jobs, less expensive goods and services for those not in that privileged position. Are the unions prepared to see job losses rather than retaining more jobs at lesser wages, is that a reasonable and practical approach?
    Make no mistake, the management and investors of at least some of these corporations have just as much culpability in the demise of their industries and have also happily cashed their inflated cheques during the good times, now they must all help out in the bad times.
    “it was simply good business practice, and it worked like a charm for decades.” As has the ever spiraling “need” for more, be it material goods, government supports, reduced working hours or gold plated retirements. But is it sustainable and will the wage gap get ever larger at the expense of the majority in the “average” worker category?

  6. Have any of you seen some of the material David Brin - better known for his science fiction, but broader in his attention to detail in the social sciences when writing that fiction - has been posting at his blog of late?

    You may be pleasantly shocked at some of his suggestions. I'm not sure of how it ought to be applied in our nation's context, but the ideas he proposes might be worth some attention.