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Harper government changes Employment Insurance into workfare

Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

For those who have not heard, the government is changing EI into a conditional program where if you lose your job you will be connected to an employer, for example, one who was using foreign temporary workers, and you will have to take that job. Once connected your benefits will cease.

EI rules are clear: "You cannot work full-time while receiving regular benefits."

This means that if you had a good job your benefits could have been a great deal more than minimum wage. This change therefore effectively reduces your insured coverage from a percentage of your income to minimum wage for hard labour.

Some will want to question the obvious unfairness of having a premium that some pay more for (because of their higher income) but can not get a higher benefit for if everyone is provided the same hard labour take-it-or-leave-it option. EI is also not a tax-- because it if were it would be regressive since after a certain level of income you no longer have to pay. EI is being changed in to a repressively taxed workfare system.

Conservatives think this is great as it will serve several purposes;

- it will avoid the need to bring in as many foreign workers (This ought to be especially satisfactory to racists).

- it will provide low-wage serfs for labour businesses

- it will undermine any labour demands -- nobody will ask for luxuries like workplace safety or wages above minimum

- people will not want to support unions because if they lose their jobs they will become servants of labour camps (farm work, picking mushrooms etc.)

But Conservatives don't understand what EI is. EI is a part of the social safety net. It is a personal social safety net so if you lose your job you have an opportunity for a time to try to get another in your field or income level. They get that and of course, heartless as they are they want to destroy it. But the part they don't get is that EI is actually less of a safety net for individuals than it is for the economy itself. I'll explain:

EI does not insure you, it insures your job so you only get coverage if your job goes not if you quit or are fired for cause. It offers a time to get work but there are no guarantees you will be able to. Many people who lose their jobs don't get EI. Many run out at the end without finding a job. But also many do get a new job during the EI coverage period.

But EI is a net for the economy and for communities. If a large number of people are laid off, EI delays the full impact so that some of those people can save their income status by finding other employment at their income level. It allows a chance for a community to not impoverish itself when a major employer goes down or in times of great difficulty. It allows individual workers conditions that might allow them to do a job search rather than taking the first job at far less than what they were earning.

So what happens when you take that away?

Workers without EI forced into hard labour will no longer have the chance of stopping their spiral down to poverty. Almost instantly they will become minimum wage workers with all the issues of the lack of income mobility against them. They will not have time to save themselves from economic ruin or the supports to lift themselves up on. For the economy, this is devastating. This would in any community that has a large number of job losses call the bluff of the real estate market that thinks that housing can cost more than 10 times the average annual wage. When a person becomes overnight a minimum wage labour worker their mortgage goes unpaid. their house gets foreclosed if they have one. Landlord does not get paid.

Enough of that and the entire market is in freefall. Supporting businesses in the community also lose their safety net-- the one that keeps the economy alive while workers adjust. The ripple effects through the economy are dire. It should be noted that the US recent economic collapse was accelerated in part because they have fewer safety nets. The new EI changes in Canada appear to offer Canadians who lose their employment less than what Americans get. They at least will still have insurance income for a time so they can find a good job.

Apart from the individual pain which is obvious the community pain is dramatic with such a policy. When you have so many people who on the loss of their employment suddenly become minimum wage workers, you have created an economy that is a deck of cards in a windstorm. People who are still employed will not be spared. If enough people lose their jobs and their houses then those who have houses will lose their equity and possibly their ability to maintain financing. This would not be an orderly housing crash but a disorderly take down of the underpinnings of the national and local economy. Ironically, if there are a lot of people losing their jobs even the rich will suffer from the economic blows.The fear and stress of no longer having real employment insurance contributes to community stress that manifests it self in many ways-- all negative.

The Conservatives don't seem to understand what EI is. It is a key component in the stability of the Canadian economy. It is what separates our economy from massive cyclical ruination that other countries see. Ukraine for example saw an increase in housing prices in good times by several hundred percent and then it unravel in a single year. This is what we will see if we remove income insurance which is what EI is.

As for the social impacts on individuals and their families of replacing EI with workfare-- while these may not be a concern to selfish right wing extremists, we should at least mention them for people who actually give a damn about other human beings.

- a removal of the underpinnings of the social determinants of health

- an introduction of stress as workers know if they lose their jobs their lives can be ruined

- instant poverty for whole families

- likely a return to the trauma of job loss including high suicide rates etc.

- a chill on any workers' rights including workplace safety

This is, in my opinion, the greatest attack on the middle income group (what some call the middle class) in a generation. Those behind the proposal don't likely realize that it is in fact a full frontal assault on the economy itself.

A side note: those who said that the Conservatives under a majority would be no worse than they were in a minority have been proven wrong.

I think this is something we need to discuss.

NOTE: I have written this as an article so once again I am sorry that this is a long post. I guess there is a question as to whether it is ok to use this place to float articles and say discuss -- which is often what I do since I don't publish elsewhere and I am not a "Rabble writer." If I were I would post the article somewhere else and post a link saying here can we discuss. So my apologies to those who do not like that I post an article-length post to start a discussion. At some point I will try to find a place I can post articles but for now I am still doing it here...


Comments

Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Sorry I double posted the thread somehow-- please post any replies in this one-- thanks


quizzical
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Joined: Dec 8 2011

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
 EI is being changed in to a repressively taxed workfare system.

Hmmm won't peeps decide to work under the table for min wage and not pay into EI at all? or maybe being our money it could be challenged as not having to be paid?

Quote:
Conservatives think this is great as it will serve several purposes;

- it will avoid the need to bring in as many foreign workers (This ought to be especially satisfactory to racists).

- it will provide low-wage serfs for labour businesses

I agree they want low wage workers to compete on a global scale with China and India (for example). and with  not wanting to bring foreign workers in to Canada. hear enough about it all the time but do not agree in the main part with the stuff below. maybe i think i don't cause i don't understand how you came to the conclusion you did.

Quote:
it will undermine any labour demands -- nobody will ask for luxuries like workplace safety or wages above minimum

could you explain why you believe this to be true? 'cause i think people would grow quickly tired and there'd be some serious coming together to fight said crap. so i don't get this below too.

Quote:
- people will not want to support unions because if they lose their jobs they will become servants of labour camps (farm work, picking mushrooms etc.)

think  unionization or job action would happen quickly 'cause  the peeps you are talking about  being forced into these jobs wouldn't tolerate it for long. poor wages i mean.

i agree with the rest of your article though well done t'anks!


Sean in Ottawa
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.


quizzical
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Joined: Dec 8 2011

what where do u want responses to go then?


Sean in Ottawa
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quizzical wrote:

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
 EI is being changed in to a repressively taxed workfare system.

Hmmm won't peeps decide to work under the table for min wage and not pay into EI at all? or maybe being our money it could be challenged as not having to be paid?

Quote:
Conservatives think this is great as it will serve several purposes;

- it will avoid the need to bring in as many foreign workers (This ought to be especially satisfactory to racists).

- it will provide low-wage serfs for labour businesses

I agree they want low wage workers to compete on a global scale with China and India (for example). and with  not wanting to bring foreign workers in to Canada. hear enough about it all the time but do not agree in the main part with the stuff below. maybe i think i don't cause i don't understand how you came to the conclusion you did.

Quote:
it will undermine any labour demands -- nobody will ask for luxuries like workplace safety or wages above minimum

could you explain why you believe this to be true? 'cause i think people would grow quickly tired and there'd be some serious coming together to fight said crap. so i don't get this below too.

Quote:
- people will not want to support unions because if they lose their jobs they will become servants of labour camps (farm work, picking mushrooms etc.)

think  unionization or job action would happen quickly 'cause  the peeps you are talking about  being forced into these jobs wouldn't tolerate it for long. poor wages i mean.

i agree with the rest of your article though well done t'anks!

I think the Conservatives beleive that it will place a chill on labour demands-- they make the case that if labour pushes too hard place goes out of business-- with no employment insurance (program replaced with workfare) then people will do anything to protect their employer and threats about the potential for job loss often raised when people talk about forming a union will be especially pointed.

I also think that unions would be very hard to create in such conditions especially if a number of workers are foreign temp workers.

This is a huge shot at personal security-- people won't like to rock the boat invoking their rights when they lack even EI.

Remember with EI oyu could advocate for better conditions and if in the end the plant closed you still had EI for a bit to find something else. This would change that. All working people should consider the implication of losing a major part of their employment insurance. Just becuase it was a system that shrank it does not mean it had no value for people or did not offer some measure of comfort or security. The threat to send you to a labour camp with foreign workers is quite the chill.

People need to fight this.


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

Just thinking about this and other outrages Harper has imposed on this country - will an NDP government be able to overturn them all???


Sean in Ottawa
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quizzical wrote:

what where do u want responses to go then?

Sorry they may as well be here since now a discussion is started.

I really think we should merge the politics forum with the national news as there really is no difference when you look at the content. I thought this was news so put it here but this was the low traffic forum and then a newer one got started in the politics forum. anyway may as well let both threads run now...


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

I'm retired on disability, but, nevertheless, I'm more than ever hoping for a General Strike across this country, but I also realize it's wishful thinking. Frown


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Boom Boom wrote:

Just thinking about this and other outrages Harper has imposed on this country - will an NDP government be able to overturn them all???

If the NDP gets to govern, the terms of the government will be set by three factors:

1) majority or minority-- if minority it will need support form other parties

2) public suppport-- like it or not a government has to listen to the public on policies if it wants to stay in government. Even lying constantly does not last for ever. The NDP may well win an election because the Cons are now so extreme, out of step and arrogant.

3) Finances -- some of the policies may be more expensive to restore than they would have been to maintain. The condition of national finances will affect the agenda,

There are policies and programs that can be put back but others would be extremely difficult to restore. As well, there are trade implications that could be in play when it comes to privatized services.

There is no straight answer.

EI looks like one the NDP could fix quickly.


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

Thanks, Sean. Your posts are awesome.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Boom Boom wrote:

I'm retired on disability, but, nevertheless, I'm more than ever hoping for a General Strike across this country, but I also realize it's wishful thinking. Frown

I think so.

We may need to come up with something else.

People need to come up with protests that do not hurt each other but do hurt the government.

A strike that removes public services for example won't mean much to a government that does not believe in public services.

Protests that disrupt life for ordinary people are pointless again because the government does not care about people.

People have to do things that hurt the government in the areas it cares about that minimizes the damage to other people. This is hard to do.

Also not much of the Cons support has gone away-- so a protest would be seen as the same losers trying to change the result of a lost election.

For now we have to talk to each other-- convince people to change their support so that the Cons drop in the polls by more than a few points. If they dropped to less than 25% I think their party could blow apart.

 


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Thanks Boom Boom for the kind words-- makes the effort worth it. Not everything can be a quick response.


quizzical
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Sean in Ottawa wrote:
I think the Conservatives beleive that it will place a chill on labour demands-- they make the case that if labour pushes too hard place goes out of business-- with no employment insurance (program replaced with workfare) then people will do anything to protect their employer and threats about the potential for job loss often raised when people talk about forming a union will be especially pointed.

don't think what the Conservatives believe is actually rational. i know they want labour to be competative and  want to drive down labour costs but Canadian workers esp those you state as targeted will not become the puppets the Conservatives and it seems you think they will. if people can't survive on min wage they got nothin to lose anyway.

Quote:
I also think that unions would be very hard to create in such conditions especially if a number of workers are foreign temp workers.

if they are doing this to cut back on foreign workers then there won't be so many to sway anything.

Quote:
This is a huge shot at personal security-- people won't like to rock the boat invoking their rights when they lack even EI.

i agree it's an attempted shot but critical masses happen and Canadians are attached to their Rights. did a on line poll yesterday at the MacLeans site about our Charter Rights and  over 70% responders believed our Charter Rights either defined who we are or were the best thing that happened to Canada.

Quote:
Remember with EI oyu could advocate for better conditions and if in the end the plant closed you still had EI for a bit to find something else.

if a 1 industry town has its industry closed how are they going to find you work? and i don't really see how EI puts you in a position of bargaining for better? right now if you quit your job you can't collect EI anyway.

Quote:
 All working people should consider the implication of losing a major part of their employment insurance. Just becuase it was a system that shrank it does not mean it had no value for people or did not offer some measure of comfort or security. The threat to send you to a labour camp with foreign workers is quite the chill.

People need to fight this.

agreed but getting the upper middle class peeps to see any threat to their existence is impossible right now i think anyway.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Perhaps national protests would help -- short of strikes though for now.

We might get to the stage of a strike but the Cons support has to go down a lot before that would do anything but backfire.

This is what I think-- it is very possible that I am wrong as I am not certain about this.


Boom Boom
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"...right now if you quit your job you can't collect EI anyway."

 

 

I didn't know that. In the 1970s, if you quit your job, unemployment insurance benefits would be delayed six or seven weeks, but you could still collect. I know - I quit my job in Ottawa and went on UIC benefits until I decided to go back to university.


Sean in Ottawa
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quizzical wrote:

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
I think the Conservatives beleive that it will place a chill on labour demands-- they make the case that if labour pushes too hard place goes out of business-- with no employment insurance (program replaced with workfare) then people will do anything to protect their employer and threats about the potential for job loss often raised when people talk about forming a union will be especially pointed.

don't think what the Conservatives believe is actually rational. i know they want labour to be competative and  want to drive down labour costs but Canadian workers esp those you state as targeted will not become the puppets the Conservatives and it seems you think they will. if people can't survive on min wage they got nothin to lose anyway.

Quote:
I also think that unions would be very hard to create in such conditions especially if a number of workers are foreign temp workers.

if they are doing this to cut back on foreign workers then there won't be so many to sway anything.

Quote:
This is a huge shot at personal security-- people won't like to rock the boat invoking their rights when they lack even EI.

i agree it's an attempted shot but critical masses happen and Canadians are attached to their Rights. did a on line poll yesterday at the MacLeans site about our Charter Rights and  over 70% responders believed our Charter Rights either defined who we are or were the best thing that happened to Canada.

Quote:
Remember with EI oyu could advocate for better conditions and if in the end the plant closed you still had EI for a bit to find something else.

if a 1 industry town has its industry closed how are they going to find you work? and i don't really see how EI puts you in a position of bargaining for better? right now if you quit your job you can't collect EI anyway.

Quote:
 All working people should consider the implication of losing a major part of their employment insurance. Just becuase it was a system that shrank it does not mean it had no value for people or did not offer some measure of comfort or security. The threat to send you to a labour camp with foreign workers is quite the chill.

People need to fight this.

agreed but getting the upper middle class peeps to see any threat to their existence is impossible right now i think anyway.

Perhaps i was not clear -- there are two workplace unionization issues:

1) current workplaces that pay better-- people may not want to unionize for fear that they could lose their job and end up on minimum wage

2) the min wage locale-- many min wage employees don't unionized because there are just enough who see it as so temporary they won't rock the boat or are students etc. Even a small number of foreign workers can make the difference in a vote.

EI is critical-- even if work is hard to find -- if you have several months of income you can spend your time on a job search -- if you lose that then it is much harder. It is difficult to search for work if you have a demanding labour job. Most towns are not one-employer so the loss of a major employer if there is EI then there is time for the economy to absorb those people at a decent wage-- otherwise you force people to work for very little just to live and then they lose the chance to get a better job due to their life conditions. I am not talking about people quitting-- I am saying that when the union says we need better wages, conditions or safety and the employer says they might close the workers might cave. It is not as if this is not happening all the time these days.

Upper middle class as you call it may have the most to fear here. Their income is the furthest away from the manual labour jobs and they might not appreciate the lack of time to be able to replace a good job if they lose it. People who are already poor already earning a low wage might appreciate the connection and prevention of foreign workers so they get the jobs but someone with a mortgage payment won't like this idea if they think about it. So now you have a $70,000 job. You think you are covered for a time at least if your employer lays you off. But with this -- you could have your EI cut off and be forced into minimum wage within days of losing your job. Isn't that a bit scary for those workers? EI is insurance that insures their economic range-- it means that they don't have to take work for at least a few months that is less than X percent of the job they lost. All that changes with EI workfare.

A laid off mid management-type could be picking mushrooms within weeks if you take what the government is saying. You have a job -- you lose it on two weeks notice and then go to apply and the government says no, we have Joe over here with a mushroom farm -- take the job or else.


quizzical
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i think makin peeps find out about this and getting civil liberties involved  making comments about it and how it is against our Charter Rights because there is a Charter Right that states we cannot be compelled  into service of another or something like that.

once peeps are maybe 1/3rd of the way informed start national information sessions not so much as callin 'em  "protests". May is right around the corner maybe  the labour congresses, federations and unions can hold information picnics or something to hold informal info sessions for peeps?

or maybe the NDP can even?

etd to say this in not a response to Sean's last post but  the one before.

and to answer BB. yep it has been that way for a few years now if you quit basically without a Drs note you get no EI. the Liberals took away the penalty period it wasn't even Harper. if you can prove really bad working conditions you may get lucky and be able to collect though.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Boom Boom wrote:

"...right now if you quit your job you can't collect EI anyway."

 

 

I didn't know that. In the 1970s, if you quit your job, unemployment insurance benefits would be delayed six or seven weeks, but you could still collect. I know - I quit my job in Ottawa and went on UIC benefits until I decided to go back to university.

Well that was quite a long time ago that this was changed. The position is insured not you. So if you lose your job for cause or quite then you do not qualify. But if you have the weeks and there is a layoff then you can. EI is to insure layoffs only.


Sean in Ottawa
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quizzical wrote:

i think makin peeps find out about this and getting civil liberties involved  making comments about it and how it is against our Charter Rights because there is a Charter Right that states we cannot be compelled  into service of another or something like that.

once peeps are maybe 1/3rd of the way informed start national information sessions not so much as callin 'em  "protests". May is right around the corner maybe  the labour congresses, federations and unions can hold information picnics or something to hold informal info sessions for peeps?

or maybe the NDP can even?

No legal case there because the government is not forcing you to take the job -- they are just conditioning your continued EI on it. I don't think there is a good Charter case on this. Otherwise workfare could have been defeated this way.

The best legal case might be a form of breach of contract-- EI is paid as premiums for insurance-- and is not considered a tax.

 


NDPP
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Boom Boom wrote:

Just thinking about this and other outrages Harper has imposed on this country - will an NDP government be able to overturn them all???

NDPP

 I don't think the NDP intends to.


Boom Boom
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I apologise for thread drift - but I just have to say: if the Cons win again because of FPTP in 2015, what then?  Will we really allow things such as worker's benefits and quality of life  to continue to deteriorate?  At what point do people simply say "ENOUGH!!"  ???


quizzical
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'kay movin onto this one and not tackling the longer one yet.

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
quizzical wrote:
i think makin peeps find out about this and getting civil liberties involved  making comments about it and how it is against our Charter Rights because there is a Charter Right that states we cannot be compelled  into service of another or something like that.

once peeps are maybe 1/3rd of the way informed start national information sessions not so much as callin 'em  "protests". May is right around the corner maybe  the labour congresses, federations and unions can hold information picnics or something to hold informal info sessions for peeps?

or maybe the NDP can even?

No legal case there because the government is not forcing you to take the job -- they are just conditioning your continued EI on it. I don't think there is a good Charter case on this. Otherwise workfare could have been defeated this way.

The best legal case might be a form of breach of contract-- EI is paid as premiums for insurance-- and is not considered a tax.

could you explain what workfare is plz?


Boom Boom
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Sean in Ottawa wrote:

Well that was quite a long time ago that this was changed. The position is insured not you. So if you lose your job for cause or quite then you do not qualify. But if you have the weeks and there is a layoff then you can. EI is to insure layoffs only.

That sounds like quite a massive change to me. I paid UIC premiums - they were deducted from my pay cheque. Therefore I was insured - not the position.

What - do people not pay EI premiums now?


quizzical
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NDPP wrote:
Boom Boom wrote:
Just thinking about this and other outrages Harper has imposed on this country - will an NDP government be able to overturn them all???
NDPP

 I don't think the NDP intends to.

hard statement could you qualify it plz? 'cause it just sits there looking like an ill-informed bias.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Workfare began in General Pinochet's Chile. It ended in failure as it has in the U.S. and 1990s-2000s Ontario.

Google "Workfare" and "fail". It is an expensive plan for bureaucratic bloat to get people off welfare and into jobs sooner than admit that they and their corporate friends have no realistic plan for job creation.

Nobel economists have said that unemployment is like a game of musical chairs - there are either enough jobs to go around or not. With neoliberals, it's mostly not. 

Why neoliberals would want fuller employment policies is a mystery. They do not. It goes against their ideology for several reasons.


quizzical
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Joined: Dec 8 2011

Boom Boom wrote:
That sounds like quite a massive change to me. I paid UIC premiums - they were deducted from my pay cheque. Therefore I was insured - not the position.

What - do people not pay EI premiums now?

yep they do at ever higher rates. employers don't like payin  them though.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

quizzical wrote:

NDPP wrote:
Boom Boom wrote:
Just thinking about this and other outrages Harper has imposed on this country - will an NDP government be able to overturn them all???
NDPP

 I don't think the NDP intends to.

hard statement could you qualify it plz? 'cause it just sits there looking like an ill-informed bias.

 

Note that he says he doesn't think so. This is as opposed to everything in evidence to the contrary.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

NDPP was responding to a statement that asked if the NDP was going to reverse ALL the damage. In fairness that is not unreasonable. He did not say that the NDP would not reverse ANY of the policies just not all of them. Some of the things that are being done that are negative may simply not be worth putting back. Other things perhaps NDPP does not trust the NDP to want to put back-- seems like a fair opinion whether you agree or not. NDPP has not ruled out the NDP reversing some things.

He is basically saying, if I read between the lines, that he does not trust the NDP to want to reverse everything-- and I gather from the way it was written likely he does not trust the NDP to reverse even some things they should and could reverse. But let's not make this out as a sweeping statement that it wasn't.

I already stated that reversals would depend on where the public is at the time as that does matter and should matter, also what the economics are of each policy and whether the NDP has a majority or minority.

In the meantime the NDP can be grateful for skeptics like NDPP to push them to keep their word.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Boom Boom wrote:

I apologise for thread drift - but I just have to say: if the Cons win again because of FPTP in 2015, what then?  Will we really allow things such as worker's benefits and quality of life  to continue to deteriorate?  At what point do people simply say "ENOUGH!!"  ???

Hard to say-- people have to go down a long way before they feel they have nothing to lose-- they have to lose all hope before they do extreme things. I hope we don't get to that point as that is an ugly place-- and what would follow it could be decades of violent struggle. I really hope people do not lose hope en masse but that is what I am afraid of.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Fidel's definition of workfare is fine-- except I'd clarify by saying that these are punitive menial work programs designed to humiliate and make people want to not be on welfare. There was no intent as Fidel says to help them do something better-- rather the idea was to make them work their 'lazy asses' and 'improve their character.' Sorry but that is how the right wing saw it and how the program was designed. They would pick up garbage at the side of the road, for example, so that they would be seen by passers by and humiliated. It was that bad.

At the same time the government imposed draconian declaration requirements; if you were on social assistance you had to declare any help you got. This included if a friend invited you to Sunday dinner-- you were to declare the value of that dinner as if someone snitched on you that you did not you could be cut off for a year. Your kids would be taken away. There were suicides because of this including a famous documented tragedy.

This inhumanity was brought to you by the likes of Tony Clement and Flaherty.


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