Leaders’ debate on the economy: Narrow appeal of private interests

Renewal Update (September 18) – A debate said to be on the economy with three party leaders was hosted last night by the Globe and Mail. It is one of several debates for the 2015 election, all organized by private interests. If an informed electorate is the bedrock of democracy as is often claimed then, on a scale of one to ten, the debate didn’t even hit the charts. If the debates define the election issues and provide the framework for how the people are to participate as the ruling circles and their monopoly media like to repeat, then we have only the say so of the political parties themselves and their particular champions amongst the media. They are the ones telling us who “won” the debate and why. As one pundit put it – it was not the voters. We concur. The voters are no more in charge of their economy as a result of the debate than they were before it took place.

Each of the privatized, neo-liberal debates organized in this election has been narrower than the last. The Maclean’s debate had less than 40 per cent of the viewers of the 2011 simulcast election debates, and that number came overwhelmingly from the three television stations on which it appeared. Only 1.5 million Canadians watched at any given time and only 278,000 tuned in online. The Globe debate aired on only one of those television stations and dropped one of the four party leaders included in the Maclean’s debate.

It looks like the ruling class which organizes these election debates is appealing to a very narrow section of Canadians indeed. It is they, not the people, who are choosing which champion is fit to win the spoils of war.

A debate on the concerns of women in Canada was not even deemed worthy of participation by two of the party leaders, nor did any private broadcasters come forward to sponsor it, so it was cancelled.

Renewal Update will give extensive coverage to both the economy and the concerns of women at this time.

Harper’s bogus budget surplus victory

Depths of Harper government attacks on working class

Employees and employers pay a payroll tax into the Employment Insurance Fund. The EI system is supposed to sustain unemployed workers while they look for a job. This is not the case. EI benefit eligibility has been so tightened most unemployed Canadians no longer qualify for benefits. Less than 40 per cent of officially unemployed Canadians now qualify for regular EI benefits. This means the program into which Canadian workers pay taxes does not represent a social program that they can rely on when losing their jobs for whatever reason.

Routinely refusing EI benefits to over 60 per cent of unemployed workers means that the EI fund records a regular large surplus. This surplus amounted to $4.5 billion for 2014-15. Finance Canada in its recent summary of the Harper federal budget, said the $4.5 billion EI surplus was moved over to general revenue to help create a general government budget surplus of $1.9 billion. Without siphoning the $4.5 billion away from the EI program, the Harper government general budget would have recorded a $2.6 billion deficit not the $1.9 billion surplus Harper is trumpeting all over the country as a great neo-liberal victory.

People should denounce with total revulsion and disgust Harper’s so-called surplus budget victory, paid for in part through additional hardships of unemployed Canadians. The neo-liberal surplus is an anti-social anti-worker attack to pay the rich, destroy social programs and further weaken the economy.

A recent study by LivingWork.ca reveals the depths of the Harper Conservative attack on the working class (see announcement by PSAC below). Instead of dealing with the scourge of unemployment, Harper has cut back social programs that alleviate its consequences on the working class. The result is cruel punishment for the unemployed for economic problems over which workers have no control and for which they are not responsible. A government that attacks its own people in such a way and tells them to fend for themselves in an economy and social structure over which they have no control and which is completely socialized is not fit to govern.

New report shows workers feeling the recession

– Public Service Alliance of Canada –

Mass actions against the Harper goverment’s wrecking of EI: (top) New Brunswick – 2012 and (bottom) Montreal – 2013.

A new report on Employment Insurance demonstrates that the recession is hitting Canadian workers hard. The report, Employment Insurance Levels on the Rise- this is more than a “technical recession”, highlights that most workers now do not receive any EI benefits when they lose their jobs.

Current Recession Is Real

The report provides solid proof that we are in a recession, despite claims of the Harper Conservatives that this recession is “technical” and not widespread. The effects of the recession are very real for Canadian families and communities.

The Facts

The number of EI claims have risen 17% in a year-to-year comparison between June 2014 and June 2015. EI claims have risen in several provinces, which shows that the recession is not just affecting the oil sector and Alberta.

Most Unemployed Workers Can’t Get Benefits

The report also confirms that most workers who lose their jobs don’t qualify for EI and therefore aren’t captured in the analysis.

“Many workers aren’t covered by the EI system and that means the real costs of unemployment are much worse,” says Paul Tulloch, the report’s author. “The real problem is underemployment and a lack of good jobs”. Tulloch, a former Statistics Canada economist, has more than twenty years’ experience working with labour statistics.

The rate of unemployed workers who can receive EI has fallen to a record low in recent years because of the Harper Conservatives’ EI reforms. It means that as more workers find themselves out of a job, many will not get the help they need. This impacts families and communities across Canada.

Vote to Stop the Cuts!

(September 10, 2015)

Extracts from study on Employment Insurance

The following contains extracts from the study: Employment Insurance Levels on the Rise — this is more than a “technical recession”!

The latest GDP numbers have confirmed that Canada has officially entered into its second recession in less than 10 years. Without much but denial from the federal government. […]

The level of EI claims are a very sensitive indicator of the health of the labour market. […]

Analysis of the Employment Insurance data provides the following summary highlights:

1) The number of EI claims have risen 17% in a year over year change from June 2014 to June 2015, and notably 14% over the first 6 months of this year (latest data available is June 2015). With many new more stringent Employment Insurance eligibility requirements — as compared to previous periods — this has undoubtedly biased the number of claimants downwards. So one must take the 17% as an underestimate when comparing to earlier recessionary periods in our recent economic history.

2) A regional breakdown of the EI Claims shows that several provinces have experienced a rise in the number of claimants. This indicates the recession is digging a wider hole in the economy beyond that of the oil sector and Alberta. Year over year change from June of 2014 to June of 2015 in EI claims have risen in Alberta 42.3%, Saskatchewan 12.6% and Ontario 9.2%.

Given the newer rules of EI eligibility, especially those relating to seasonal workers, it will be difficult to fully assess the regional aspects of EI levels as compared over time, as we know some areas have higher concentrations of seasonal workers such as in Eastern provinces, and Northern areas of the country.

3) The third summary point that arises from the data focuses on the trend in EI claimants as compared to past recessions …. The trend or signal in the monthly EI time series was extracted (blue line in graphs). The data reveals that the relative economic impact compared to previous recessions is beyond a technical recession that pundits have labelled. The evidence is quite clear — that so far in this early stage of the recession, at least according to the growth in EI, this current recession is larger than the 2002 recession that was the result of the Dot.com meltdown. However it is not as great as that witnessed during the Great recession of 2008. As can be seen in the trend line — the acceleration has not changed from its upward trajectory and therefore we are definitely not at the end of this recession. So it is difficult to compare given this recession has just started. The message is fairly obvious from the trend line — this is much more than a technical recession. […]

4) The coverage rate of Employment Insurance Beneficiaries as a proportion of the unemployed is the last measure that was calculated. This measure is quite important in determining the overall effectiveness of the EI program in reaching its functional goals in providing relief to those experiencing job loss. As can be seen in the last chart, the coverage rate has declined substantively from the past levels and reached a low point of 38% in 2011 …. This is due to the continued dismantling of the program, where now less than 2 of 5 unemployed workers actually qualify for this job loss insurance — a tragic outcome for workers. These lows in EI benefit payouts are occurring during the longest economic stagnation and recession prone times in the history of Canada. The coverage rate has increased a small amount in the past year- but this is mainly due to the uptick in unemployment — and not due to any new more worker friendly policies.

Employment Insurance claims have shown a dramatic rise in response to the recessionary period that Canada entered in the first half of 2015. Given the new more stringent eligibility rules for collecting EI benefits, the rise in the number of claimants is under-representing the extent of job loss when compared to previous recessionary periods. This is contrary to what many have concluded — that the Canadian economic recession was merely — a “technical recession”. […]

The EI claim data also point to a much wider recession across more sectors and regions of the economy — wider than the oil sector, and more decentralized than Alberta as many economists have suggested. Lastly – the data in terms of trend predicts that the job loss and EI claims associated with it, will remain high for at least the next several months.


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