Friday, 16 November 2012

Canada's Economic Action Plan: The faint hope clause


One of the reasons I've been a life-long liberal is that I feel the poor need protection from the rich and the greedy.

Take these companies who pray upon the unemployed to re-sell gas and flog other products door to door. They promise big fat cheques paid every week. They give people badges and cool jackets and take them out into the world, only to have their hopes dashed with the first door slammed in their faces.

Scott took one of these jobs as a temporary measure this week, trying to sell furnaces to people in the great town of Arnprior. He got on a bus with the rest of his poor colleagues -- all smoking -- and was dropped off in the town and made to go door to door to see if people needed new furnaces and water heaters.

He did this for two days, trudging along the street, fending off farmers with shotguns and townies with potty mouths. The reactions from the near hundred houses were all the same -- get the hell off my property. He made not one cent for two 12-hour days and so he sits here, unemployed, just before Christmas.

Why did he quit his car job? Because there were no cars to sell and he was going to spend the next month sitting in a show room not selling cars to people. So that's how he ended up on a bus to Arnprior not selling furnaces for a company of rich furnace owners. His experience reminded me of a prison work detail where the guards take the prisoners someplace to build furniture for ten cents an hour. The only difference is that Scott is not a criminal.

Today, he'll be looking for another crap job working for rich business folk where he will make minimum wage until he gets a city job for which he's been on a two year waiting list. The job is not a sure thing but it's the only hope this honorable 56-year-old man has at the moment. There are no jobs in his field. There are no clients for his video business. There's only the faint hope clause -- a real job for a man who has real responsibilities.

It made me wonder. I've been hearing all about Stephen Harper's (much lauded by Stephen Harper) Economic Action Plan. Hmm, I thought. Maybe the wiz has something in that bag of tricks for Scott.

There should be. The government's spending millions in television advertising about how it's going to help us po' folk get retrained and back to work.

So I decided to cut and paste the key elements.

  • Apprentices in designated Red Seal trades can receive up to $4,000 in grants to pay for tuition, travel, tools, and other expenses. (Nope, cameramen aren't red sealers, whatever the hell that is.)
  • The Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) provides guaranteed and timely compensation to workers for unpaid wages, vacation pay, severance and termination pay earned in the six months preceding an employer bankruptcy or receivership. (Nope, all the companies he's worked for a rich. They just keep their workers poor.)
  • The federal government is helping apprentices in the skilled trades and workers in regulated professions by making occupational, trade, and professional examination fees eligible for the Tuition Tax Credit. (Tuition credits do you no damned good if you don't have the income to credit.)
Then I saw this one -- ahah!
The Targeted Initiative for Older Workers is a federal-provincial-territorial employment program that provides a range of employment activities for unemployed older workers in vulnerable communities with populations of less than 250,000 to help them stay in the workforce. (Shit, we live in Ottawa.)
And if you want to get really mad, there's this:
Starting in 2012–13, practising family physicians will be eligible for federal Canada Student Loan forgiveness of up to $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000. (Just what we need, to give rich doctors more money.)
In other words, the wiz has nothing in his bag of tricks for Scott.

So I have news for Stephen Harper. I hope you go up in a big balloon with all your hot air and you fly too close to the sun.

Don't expect us po' folk on the ground to offer you a net. Our safety net ripped years ago and we can't afford to replace it.


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