Bear with us for a moment, and understand that some of this is tongue-in-cheek. But there’s a side to the federal government’s plan to revamp rules in the employment insurance system that we should really stop to consider.
Right now, the Harper government has not explained the particulars, but they are telegraphing a plan to tighten up rules and make it harder to obtain EI if there are jobs available — any jobs.
Essentially, you might be trained as a microbiologist, but if you’re laid off and there’s a minimum-wage job trimming Christmas trees, you’ll have to take it.
“There’ll be a broader definition and people will have to engage more in the workforce,” federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in a speech on Monday.
“I was brought up in a certain way. There is no bad job. The only bad job is not having a job. … So I drove a taxi. You know, I refereed hockey. You do what you have to do to make a living.”
The feds argue that immigrant workers are being brought in to do low-skill jobs in this country, even in areas of high unemployment. EI, so the argument goes, is just too generous. (There’s probably the extra benefit that a burgeoning EI fund will provide extra cash for the feds to siphon off, making your EI contribution a form of undeclared federal tax. But who’s counting?)
But let’s return to the argument that there are no bad jobs, and that the only bad job is not having one.
One of the enduring reasons that we’re told we have to pay our politicians top dollar — and provide them with massive pensions that they pay only pennies for, and huge severance payments when they retire or are defeated — is that, as a result of going into politics, their economic abilities are stifled.
When they lose in an election or quit, it is supposed to be difficult for them to find the kind of employment and income to which they have become accustomed.
Being an ex-politician, apparently, means you can’t find the kind of job you might otherwise deserve and might get stuck in a bad job that doesn’t pay the amount you feel you should get.
But wait a minute: the bar is in the process of being moved.
If you remember, there are no bad jobs.
Now, chances are, a retiring Jim Flaherty will find himself choosing between banking vice-presidentships, possible patronage plums and a variety of corporate directorships — clearly, no need for severance or taxpayer-funded pension there, although he would still qualify.
But even if the jobs lottery turns unkind, there is probably nothing in the hiring qualifications that would prevent Flaherty from gaining meaningful employment flipping burgers. Think of the possibilities: Environment Minister Peter Kent as a duck-washer in a Fort McMurray waste pond. Bulldog Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird as a Wal-Mart greeter. Lock-’em-up-and-toss-away-the-key Public Safety Minister Vic Toews working with the John Howard Society to reintegrate offenders into Canadian society.
And all without the benefit of a post-employment safety net. Because that’s what they want, right?