Friday, May 25, 2012

What they don't understand about EI

Here's what the Harper Conservatives don't understand about many EI frequent flyers:
It's not the workers that EI is subsidizing.
Its the industry they work in.
Activities like commercial fishing, vegetable and fruit growers, small-scale manufacturing, mining -- they all have grown to depend on EI to keep an experienced workforce nearby and available throughout the year.  The industry doesn't have to try to pay these workers during annual down-times, because EI will.
Here's what some of these employers are saying about the new EI rules:
. . . farmers are not looking forward to being the staging ground for Ottawa’s new social experiment, they say. They worry that years spent moulding unwilling neighbours into farmers — more a coaching gig than a business model — will put them in the red and even shut them down.
. . .  One Valley workforce available in the summer is winter lobster boat crew members who work in the Bay of Fundy. . . . About 95 per cent of the association’s roughly 520 members use EI seasonally, Hudson said. The spread between the seasons is too long for them to live off savings, and there are about seven weeks of work needed each off-season to prepare boats and equipment for the next year.
. . . Webster [fruit grower] started using seasonal migrant labour in 2010 and brought in 16 Mexican workers last year. . . . Webster, whose core employees go on EI for about four months of the year, said he’s afraid his business will pay the biggest price in next year’s dry run.
UPDATE: This also raises the larger question -- do the Harper Conservatives actually understand the Canadian economy they are trying to manage? There's a lot of talk about "not picking winners and losers" and "standing on our own feet" but the Canadian economy, in many sectors, is never going to be competitive on an international scale -- nobody here can beat the California growers, with their two or three vegetable crops a year and their easy access to thousands of migrant workers. Nobody here can beat the Florida and Louisiana fishing industries, with the whole gulf coast to harvest all year long. Nobody here can beat the mega-farms of the American mid-west, with plenty of transport options to large ports that are open year-round. The Liberals understood this -- they instituted all sorts of under-the-radar measures which subsidized our smaller-scale and less competitive Canadian industrial and agricultural producers.
Who then turned around and voted Conservative because they were successful businessmen who didn't need any gol-durned government handouts, no siree bob!  
Canada under the Harper Cons will be a bleaker and ultimately less productive place.

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