New government policies – nothing but an election strategy!

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

On November 3, the Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen Poloz, spoke about the economic situation in Canada. One of the concerns he mentioned was the high rate of unemployment among young people (persons aged 17 to 25 who are looking for work). He noted the unemployment rate in this group is more than double the national average. His solution was that these unemployed youth should take unpaid or volunteer work in the hopes it will give them experience in the labour market and increase their employment prospects.  However, his solution doesn’t address the “employment scar” problem that comes from young workers forced to take jobs or volunteer work well below their capabilities. Further, this situation will continue well into the future unless the government changes its policies and actions.
The day after Stephen Poloz made his comments, Food Banks Canada issued its annual report on the status and use of food banks in Canada confirming that food bank usage is growing; the number of people utilizing the service is 25% higher than in 2008. More than 87,500 people visited food banks for the first time this year. In addition, food bank use by single adults living alone has doubled in the last 13 years, a consequence of the fact that social assistance benefits haven’t increased with the cost of living for about 20 years. And 12% of food bank users are employed in low income jobs, unable to meet basic needs for food, shelter and clothing. The demands on these institutions have become so serious that a number of them have actually run short and had to reduce allocations to needy people.
What Stephen Poloz and Food Banks Canada have in common is that they both point to some serious social issues the Harper government refuses to address. This government can afford to lose $27 billion of revenue on income splitting and family tax benefits that help the rich, but yet they do nothing for the poor and unemployed. However, child poverty, affordable housing, lack of employment opportunities for youth, and other major social problems go unaddressed.
The reasoning behind the Harper government’s policies and actions are fairly straight forward.  The less fortunate members of our society tend not to vote, so to get elected, financial decisions are made to appeal to a sufficient number of actual voters who will ensure victory on Election Day. But a government committed to social justice and support for the less fortunate needs to do more than just get elected – it must address the needs of its least fortunate citizens as well.