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OTTAWA — The Harper government is trying to douse a growing political firestorm over the finance minister’s claim that “there is no bad job,” insisting Canadians on Employment Insurance will be expected to take jobs in keeping with their skill levels and in the areas where they live.
The Conservatives also contend they don’t know the long-term cost-savings of increasing Old Age Security eligibility to age 67 from 65 — despite maintaining the current system is unsustainable — but said an estimate is likely to come over the next few months.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has come under heavy fire this week for saying — as the government contemplates reforms to the EI program — that there is no such thing as a bad job.
The NDP accused Flaherty of proposing a “nanny state” in which unemployed Canadians will lose their EI benefits unless they reluctantly accept jobs for which they are overqualified or leave their home regions to find work.‘Canadians would be expected to take jobs appropriate to their skill level in their area’
The federal budget bill, which is weaving its way through the House of Commons, gives Cabinet the power to define what is considered “suitable employment” — which could affect whether a person qualifies for EI and the benefits they are paid.
A definition of what is deemed suitable employment will be announced in the coming months. Flaherty told Canadians this week: “There is no bad job. The only bad job is not having a job,” noting he once drove a taxi and refereed hockey. NATIONAL POST – Jason Fekete and Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News
Whither the “agenda” of PCs now that they own parliament
By Terrance Gavan – the Shr!ke.ca – May 15, 2012
Jim Flaherty’s disingenuous remarks the other day extolling his employment history and urging PhDs to apply for greeters’ jobs at their local Walmart gave legs to dystopic leftist theories that the Harper government is nursing “an agenda” for Canada.
The left – or center, or center left or whatever passes for TC Douglas in today’s hoary climate – were already sharpening their harps on Stephen Harper’s dramatic pronouncements regarding old age security benefits and now on the heels of that scary hooey we have a finance minister delivering a blithe screed about EI guidelines.
Indeed, if you parse the finance minister’s remarks and recognize that His Hairness, Stephen Harper likes to delegate his worst case scenarios to his firebrands in cabinet?
Well, then you might be forgiven for joining the ranks of Liberal leader Bob Rae and ‘les grande orange’ head knock Tom Mulcair who see this latest Flaherty fandango as the thin edge of some malicious wedge.
The NDP attacked the government over Flaherty’s comments and the looming EI changes in the wide-ranging budget bill, arguing Canadians would be squandering their skills if they were forced to accept any job in order to qualify for EI.
“They can try to send in Ms. Finley to give a slightly different answer from Minister Flaherty. Mr. Flaherty’s the minister of finance. It’s his project and he’s giving the real government version,” Mulcair told reporters. Fletke/Kennedy Postmedia News
But in the wake of Jiminy’s prose comes a surprisingly quick response from – we can only assume – the PMO, and some less caustic Tories, who are dancing away from Flaherty’s comments like Nureyev pirouetting above cowpies in an Alberta feedlot.
And of course if you have the privilege of living in a community of OAS baby boomers or a community with the second lowest per capita income in Canada – and yes I reside in a riding that encompasses both of those outstanding stats. You will know that if the Tories continue to espouse such blather they will wind up on the wrong side of the next parliament.
So as a recently invigorated prairie populist I am confident that Hard Hair Harper will disabuse himself of Flaherty’s brash tokenism in an attempt to mollify the boomers and the unemployed, at least until he gets the results of the latest EKOS-Reid polls which will be coming shortly.
Stephen Harper is a lot of things – we won’t, ahem go into that here – but he’s no knee jerk opportunist. This is his first majority government and if he has learned anything from Chretien’s Liberal conglomerate? Absolute power can be a pretty corrosive and compelling accelerant. To entitlement.
Step up t the podium please Peter ‘Whirlybird’ MacKay and Bev ‘Limo’ Oda.
Look for The Rationalist Decider to jerk the reins of the chattering classes in Cabinet and beyond.
Harper has already seen the kind of backlash that tampering with OAS can cause.
Let’s all assume that telling a bunch of educated people that they should dump their 7 years of post secondary education in favor of an apron or a cab or a pick and shovel is going to lead to some potent political fallout come 2015 or whenever the next election happens. These things, like EI and OAS are twin daggers and Team Harper know that a majority of Canadians voted for the other guys in the last election. Their majority came not because they’re a majority. Their victory was a result of the skewed and gerrymandered layout of the democratic paradigm of this huge chunk of territory – sea to sea to sea. See?
So Harper is not stupid. But he is riding herd on a pretty reactionary bunch of zealots, some of whom are as dumb as a bag of hammers. That’s where the agenda sits. Not with the guy in charge, who we think is savvy enough to recognize that he’s got a pretty good thing going here. But with the lumpen proletariat and the detritus of the ex pat Reformers who are leaning right like an America’s Cup crew hanging ass wide on a hard upwind tack.
And Harper is wily. And his agenda includes more than a dance with this single majority. He has a sense of history and his only agenda – and we can be thankful for this – is entrenching his hegemony for years to come.
So watch for Harper to pull back from OAS reform. And to tread very lightly with EI reform and sundry platitudes and self-righteous and impolitic remarks from his entitled subordinates in Cabinet and beyond.
Tweet! Two minutes for lookin’ so good Flaherty!
You may fire away at Terrentino Gaverina at email@example.com. Twitter.com/terrance gavan.