A Reminder: Harper's Conservatives Are Terrible

You know what is an awesome idea in a weak economy? I'll tell you what is an awesome idea (awesome if you are part of Stephen Harper's Conservatives, that is). Change Canada's EI rules make sure that already-marginalized workers are forced into taking shitty jobs that don't even pay for the gasoline it takes for the commute! THAT IS AN AWESOME IDEA, HARPERCONS!!!

The changes, expected to go into effect early next year, would create new regulations spelling out what types of work the unemployed must be willing to accept and the effort they must make to find a job. If they don't meet the new requirements, they face getting cut off benefits or not qualifying in the first place.... Earle McCurdy of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union said the government appears set on even further marginalizing seasonal workers, such as fishermen on the Atlantic coast. "Clearly seasonal workers are a target. It's clearly designed to make third class citizens out of seasonal workers," he said. Newfoundland Premier Kathy Dunderdale, a Conservative, has asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the issue, but said at first blush the new rules appear to make little sense for some workers in remote areas. "In a province where we don't have public transportation, if you were working a minimum wage job and you have to travel 40 miles away to work at another $10-an-hour job, is that sensible? Is that prudent?" she asked.

As a former resident of Atlantic Canada, I cannot even begin to wrap my head around how this is supposed to help put people back to work where there ARE NO EXTRA JOBS. The fisheries are seasonal, period. Tourism is seasonal, period. Harvesting Christmas trees is seasonal, period. There is no magic way to put more fish in the water or make loads of people want to visit Newfoundland in February. Other major regional employers, like the Department of National Defence, aren't going to magically start needing more workers either. Shipyards are never going to stop having down periods in between contracts. And in a less-than-vigorous economy, employers are not exactly going to start expanding their hires, particularly in the small, rural coastal communities where many seasonal workers live.

I suppose that with workers forced to take jobs outside their industry, at any pay rate, and potentially at a significant commute, there is the possibility that thre will be some very low-paying "job creation" of the sort that will only leave marginalized workers even further behind. But take heart: driving two hours in your truck to work at the Hot Bootstrap Sandwich Depot is actually a GOOD job! Or so says Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, citing his own experience as a cab driver and hockey ref as evidence of this "fact." Mmmm, Hot Bootstraps Sandwiches, dripping with Condescension Gravy!

Look, Cons: the only way to defend these policies is to buy into the biased right-wing mythology that unemployed people are just lazy. Frankly, I can't think of anything more insulting to my friends and family who make their living in seasonal or otherwise intermittent employments, jobs which are often quite physically demanding. So, really, Jim Flaherty and the rest of the Con crew: go fish. And while you're at it, go harvest dulse, go work in a fish plant, go build ships, go wait tables, and then tell me all about the lazy, unmotivated, periodically unemployed workers. If you have any energy left.

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