What's Left 2015-07-26 Volume 22

There has been a healthy dose of suspicion around the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) – the Conservative government's latest attempt at buying votes. Many have criticized the timing, execution, and eligibility with good cause. However, one of the more substantial issues is that of public policy.

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Harper’s Universal Child Care Benefit not effective, just a cynical attempt to buy votes

There has been a healthy dose of suspicion around the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) – the Conservative government’s latest attempt at buying votes. Many have criticized the timing, execution, and eligibility with good cause. However, one of the more substantial issues is that of public policy.

What’s the goal of the UCCB? If it’s to help parents find and afford quality child care, it’s a solid policy fail. Many parents are left in a serious child care bind with regulated spaces available for only 22.5 per cent of children 0-5.

And then there’s the question of affordability. In 2012, the Canada-wide median monthly fee was \$761 for infant care – skyrocketing to a whopping \$1,152 in Ontario. In Toronto, it’s even higher at \$1,676/month.

So, how will the UCCB help with child care costs in Ontario? If you can actually find a regulated space, the \$160/month UCCB for children under the age of sixteen will cover just 14% of the median cost of an infant space. That’s without counting the taxes on the UCCB.

Public policy is about choices. If you took the combined costs of the enhanced UCCB and the equally ill-considered income splitting policy, you could actually cover a \$7/day child care program in all provinces outside Quebec (which has an existing, equivalently priced program).

The Conservatives say #YourKidsYourWay. Well, “Our kids, Our way” involves a universal, affordable and quality child care system.

Contribution by Sarah Ryan

More: The NDP’s Child Care plan

Infographic: Two Child Care Plans: Same cost, real difference



Here’s how the power of Canada’s unions slowed down the growth of inequality

Researchers at the London School of Economics have found that the slower growth of inequality in Canada – when compared to the United States – is due to the power of the Canadian union movement. In the 1970s, unions in the US abandoned a history of disruptive political and social militancy and failed to build a true labour political party. Meanwhile, Canadian workers continued to forcefully push for wage gains and protections both at the bargaining table and in legislation through the NDP. The study’s result is not surprising for socialists, but the very notion that unions have such a positive effect is largely ignored by governments and the corporate media.

Unfortunately, with Conservative and Liberal governments – both federal and provincial – continuing their unrelenting attacks on the collective rights of workers, inequality is bound to gain momentum. The study shows that the only true counterweight to the 1%’s interest in Canada is none other than the union movement.

More: How the power of Canada’s unions helped slow the growth of inequality.

Mistakes pile-up in Hydro One sale

The Liberals seem to be fumbling the Initial Public Offering of Hydro One. In a public letter this week, CUPE’s lawyers asked the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) to review the government’s interference with the legal obligations of Hydro One’s board. The Board is required to protect the rights of all stakeholders, but the Liberals had eliminated the previous board’s right to do exactly that. The letter says the process undermined shareholder rights and the stability of financial markets in Ontario.

In response to the letter, the Liberals changed their board process twice in five days, presumably after getting it wrong the first two times. Does anyone trust that they’ve now gotten it right?

This fumbling should not surprise anyone as the Liberals have a long history of failure when it comes to privatization. Think gas plants, Ornge, and the \$8 billion wasted through public-private partnerships.

In additon to their fumbling, the Liberal’s privatization narrative contains more than a few inconsistencies. It jumps from saying that government revenue from high Hydro One is important, to saying that the loss of revenue from the sale is minor. It says rates cannot be regulated under public ownership, but lower rates can be effectively regulated if it is private. And, they claim to think it is not worth it for the province to own Hydro One, but it is a super valuable investment for the financial community.

In the end, Ontarians will be on the hook – paying too much for their power, getting lower quality service, and freezing in the winter while the rich get richer.

More: CUPE union claims Hydro One sale violates securities law

Employment Insurance system broken, needs complete overhaul

This week, a new study on Employment Insurance (EI) was released by the liberal Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). It details how the Conservatives broke the system, and provides recommendations for massive changes to the EI system, including a focus on eliminating regional disparities.

Unfortunately, debates around regionalization of social welfare and insurance benefits tend to end poorly for workers. Last year, the Mowat Centre flagged similar issues, saying that the EI system discriminated against Toronto workers. While this is true, the disparities have to do with the way the EI system calculates benefits. If the call is to eliminate all regional disparities then the only fair way to set it would be to give every laid-off worker access to their EI money. There is no point in trying to regionally balance the percentages of workers that get left out.

Critics of nationally funded programs are always quick to point out regional differences in allocation and say it is unfair. Then those same liberal think tanks “encourage labour mobility”, a red flag for anyone in the Atlantic or rural areas of Canada. Encouraging labour mobility means pushing workers to move to areas where there is work (of any type, short and long-term). This is not how you build a sustainable economy.

The Labour Movement has been calling for proper consultations with workers and communities about how best to manage unemployment support. Unions want workers’ experiences with unemployment and precarious work incorporated into a social welfare system that ensures people don’t bear all the risk of the current economic system.

Labour is calling for the previous budgets’ changes be scrapped and the following reforms brought in:

  1. Reduce the number of qualifying hours (for regular benefits) to 360 hours, no matter who workers are or where they live and work in Canada. 2. Measure a “week” as 30 hours instead of 35 when calculating benefit levels and duration, to reflect the average Canadian work week. 3. Increase the benefits period to 50 weeks. 4. Increase benefits to at least 60% of earnings being replaced calculated on a worker’s best 12 weeks.

Conservative laws to be challenged in court

Two major challenges were launched this week, each taking aim at a recent law adopted by the Conservative majority in Ottawa.

The first was launched by some of the largest federal public service unions. Their court challenge is against part of the government budget bill that stripped workers of their bargaining rights. The Conservative budget bill violates the Constitution by unilaterally forcing specific sick leave and other terms in federal workers’ collective agreements. The Conservatives know, after losing more than a few court cases, that the Constitution grants workers in unions the right to negotiate. This bill was passed as a way for Harper to steal millions of dollars from public workers so he could balance the budget. Not only was this maneuver a smoke and mirrors ploy to balance the budget in advance of the election, but the Conservatives have done such a terrible job managing the economy, even the smoke a mirrors budget won’t be balanced. So bad laws were passed by a conservative government, hurting workers and helping no one.

The second case is being led by journalists and civil liberties association. At issue is the controversial Bill C-51 that was portrayed by the government as an “anti-terrorism” bill. Over the time that the bill was debated in the House of Commons, it was ardently challenged by a number of groups as being an unconstitutional attack on free speech and privacy rights – while expanding the powers of security and police agencies. The court challenge is being supported by renowned constitutional lawyer Paul Cavaluzzo.

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=d85270de21&e=8484a6ba75][Largest public servants’ union launches court challenge of Conservative government budget bill]]

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=e4d77b62b1&e=8484a6ba75][Journalist group and civil liberties association start constitutional challenge to anti-terrorism Bill C-51]]



TTIP: corporate driven trade agreement

A new infographic by the Corporate Europe Observatory shows the extraordinary power that corporate lobby groups have in the process of negotiating trade agreements.

More: TTIP: a corporate lobbying paradise