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Political Eh-conomy: The Temporary Foreign Worker Program and labour solidarity

Yesterday, I took a look at the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and how it helps enforce labour discipline on all workers, and low-wage workers in particular. Today, I want to explore the migration side of the migrant worker equation. The context of migration not only makes it easier for employers to exploit TFWs, it also serves to obscure the common core of labour solidarity that should be at the basis of responses to the greater labour discipline that the TFWP enables.

The expansion of the TFWP and its increasing application to low-wage work has occurred alongside other changes (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Angella MacEwen takes a look at the large numbers of unemployed and underemployed Canadians chasing a tiny number of available jobs. And Carol Goar calls out the Cons and the CFIB alike for preferring disposable foreign workers to Canadians who aren’t being offered a living wage: If employers want to talk about the government’s abrupt about-face, that is legitimate. If they want an “adult conversation” about work and remuneration, they should be ready to answer some key questions: Why should they be exempt from market discipline? The law of supply and demand provides (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: The Temporary Foreign Workers Program and labour market discipline

While it is a truism that migrant labour built Canada, this same migrant labour has long been used to discipline domestic workers. Both facts are imprinted into the history of Canada. Today is no different and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is at the centre of debates about migrant labour. Often missing from the debate are the deep links between labour policy, (im)migration policy and the ways these interact to undermine the power and solidarity of workers.

The TFWP has become a lightning rod of criticism as details emerge of the private sector hiring temporary foreign workers (TFWs) for (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Timothy Shenk discusses Thomas Piketty’s contribution to a critique of unfettered capitalism and gratuitous inequality: Seen from Piketty’s vantage point, thousands of feet above the rubble, the fragility of this moment becomes clear. Economic growth was a recent invention, major reductions to income inequality more recent still. Yet the aftermath of World War II was filled with prophets forecasting this union into eternity. Kuznets offered the most sophisticated expression of this cheerful projection. Extrapolating from the history of the United States between 1913 and 1948, he concluded that economic growth automatically reduced (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Livio Di Matteo discusses the wasted opportunity to improve Canada’s health care system through concerted national investments. And Ryan Meili asks who will provide future direction now that the Cons have scrapped the Health Council of Canada: Now we see the federal government making a bad situation worse by walking away from the process of rebuilding a national health system entirely instead of negotiating a more robust agreement with targets and timelines for innovation and cost-savings.

The elimination of the Health Council only further underlines this movement away from national planning for (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Tim Harford proposes four first steps to start combatting income inequality. And the Star’s editorial board makes clear that there’s tax room available for Ontario (among other jurisdictions) to pursue in order to serve the public good: Sousa promises to protect the “middle class” — whatever that is. But he need not fear a backlash if his spring budget increases the burden on those making substantially more than the average, whether that starts at $150,000 or some higher level. Four other provinces — including B.C., whose government leans right — have (Read more…)

The Canadian Progressive: Rights groups demand independent oversight of federal agency CBSA

by: BC Civil Liberties Association | Press Release

Public inquiry recommended oversight in 2006 – no action since that time

The BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers today called on the government to end its long inaction on the need for an independent and effective complaints and monitoring mechanism for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The Maher Arar judicial inquiry recommended that CBSA’s national security activities be subjected to independent review in 2006. The federal government has failed to act on this recommendation.

While CBSA has sweeping police (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Stephen Hume writes about the importance of tax revenue in building a functional and compassionate Canada: My taxes provide our mostly peaceful, prosperous and safe society; a health care system that for all its flaws and glitches is pretty darn good compared to the alternatives; a policing and justice system that despite occasional hiccups is fair, merciful and trustworthy; a brave and honourable military.

My taxes provide income support for the unemployed, the indigent, the impaired and the unlucky. My taxes helped create educational facilities of exceptional quality and performance; public infrastructure that (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Justin Fox questions whether traditional studies tracking the distribution of wealth by quintiles do much good when the most obvious economic faultline is between the (give or take) 1% and everybody else: Something really dramatic is going on up there in the top 5%, the top 1%, the top 0.01%. But while economists know some things about the impact of increasing overall income inequality, they still don’t know all that much about what this 1% stuff means. In their new paper, Chetty, Hendren, Kline, Saez, and Turner write that their finding of (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Angelina Chapin highlights the drastic impact a guaranteed annual income would have on Canadians currently living in poverty: To set and meet goals, you have to think long-term. When you’re poor, you can’t focus on the future (and Bill Gates wasn’t raised poor, by the way). You worry about finding boots, not pulling up your straps. The best way to “motivate” poor people is with programs that help lift their gaze from the ground to the horizon. A guaranteed annual income program would do that.

The idea is simple: in place of a (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your weekend.

- Jeremy Nuttall discusses why the Cons’ temporary foreign worker program is ripe for abuse, as it ensures workers have every incentive to avoid reporting employer wrongdoing since the employer can singlehandedly ship the employee out of Canada in retaliation.

- But the good news is that workers who aren’t quite so easily sent away are making efforts to fight back against the Cons’ anti-labour plans – as Kathryn May reports on a pledge among public service unions not to give in to attacks on sick leave and disability benefits. And on the provincial (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne calls out Stephen Harper’s hypocrisy in paying lip service to the problems with the use of disposable temporary foreign labour while expanding exactly that policy throughout his stay in power: The program was supposed to be a last resort for employers dealing with skills shortages and used in a truly temporary fashion to fill high skill gaps until Canadians could be trained for those jobs.

That has not been the case under the current federal Conservative government. Not only has the program been used as a source of cheap labour, it (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Robert Reich (via GlenInCA) points out the connection between a strong middle class and curbs on corporate excesses – with may go a long way toward explaining why the business lobby is working so hard to eliminate the concept of a secure livelihood for most workers: Last week’s massive toxic chemical spill into West Virginia Elk River illustrates another benefit to the business class of high unemployment, economic insecurity, and a safety-net shot through with holes. Not only are employees docile, eager to accept whatever crumbs they can get. The public is also (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Juxtaposition

The Cons can’t wait to lock up any refugee who might arrive in Canada on the wrong ship: Immigration Minister Jason Kenney insists Canada’s new measures [including mandatory detention for every single passenger on a designated ship] will provide a strong deterrent to anyone thinking of paying a human smuggler to cross the Pacific…

Canada’s new law, C-31, requires mandatory detention for so-called “irregular arrivals” — to include arrivals by boat or cases where human smuggling is suspected. The detention will be reviewed after the first 14 days and then every six months. Previously, detention was reviewed every 30 days.

(Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Krugman comments on the role of fear in boosting employers’ authority over workers: The fact is that employment generally involves a power relationship: you have a boss, who tells you what to do, and if you refuse, you may be fired. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If employers value their workers, they won’t make unreasonable demands. But it’s not a simple transaction. There’s a country music classic titled “Take This Job and Shove It.” There isn’t and won’t be a song titled “Take This Consumer Durable and (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: How Harper can avoid turning a Budget Implementation Bill into a Duffy budget bill

On November 25th, I made the following submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance regarding Bill C-4, Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2, on behalf of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

1. Introduction and Context

Thank you for the invitation to appear before the Committee, as Members of Parliament review the second budget implementation bill for the budget of 2013.

It is a particular honour to appear as a witness, since this committee will only hear eight hours of testimony from witnesses — including one hour from the Finance Minister — over (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how governments are outsourcing policy decisions to employers in areas ranging from immigration to employment insurance – and on why that may not be any more desirable for employers than for the people affected.

For further reading…- The relatively fine print surrounding the new immigration nominee program is here, with the key takeaways being that only 250 skilled worker applications and zero student applications will be considered “without an offer” from an employer.- Details on the federal government’s perpetually-shrinking list of eligible family class immigrants can be found here and here. – Finally, the (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- James Bloodworth discusses the most important challenge facing Ed Miliband and Labour in the UK – which largely matches the task for progressives around the globe: People have never put all that much stock in politicians of course, and the expenses scandal did a great deal to erode trust further. But to some extent voter apathy (not the ‘frauds and liars’ sort, but the more common sort of fatalism) might also be blamed on the limits within which today’s managerial politicians operate: voters are only too aware that there is only so (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: By invitation only

There’s been plenty of outcry over the Cons’ latest omnibus budget bill. But I haven’t yet seen any discussion of the changes it makes to immigration – and I’d think it’s well worth looking in more detail at the additional steps the Cons are taking to slam the door in the face of would-be Canadians.

Now, the story is far from a new one. It was in 2008 that the Cons made changes which I discussed here and here – with the result that the immigration minister is effectively free to set whatever restrictions he or she wants in determining (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Andrew Nikiforuk writes that air quality in Alberta’s Upgrader Alley may be among the worst in North America, including dangerous concentrations of cancer-causing chemicals. And Danny Harvey points out that the planet as a whole stands to be damaged by excessive tar sands development which is utterly incompatible with meaningful action to combat climate change.

- Andrew Jackson discusses how preferential tax treatment of stock options both exacerbates inequality and warps incentives for big business: One objectionable aspect of paying already well-remunerated executives in the form of stock options on top of (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Joseph Stiglitz reminds us that inequality isn’t an inevitability, but a choice favoured (and lobbied for) by the few who want to remove themselves from the general public: (W)idening income and wealth inequality in America is part of a trend seen across the Western world. A 2011 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that income inequality first started to rise in the late ’70s and early ’80s in America and Britain (and also in Israel). The trend became more widespread starting in the late ’80s. Within the last (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Gordon Hoekstra reports on a study by British Columbia determining that Canada lacks any hope of containing the types of oil spills which will become inevitable if the Cons’ pipe-and-ship plans come to fruition. But once again, the Cons’ response is to make clear that they consider an ounce of self-delusion and denial to be worth a pound of cure.

- Meanwhile, the Star-Phoenix’ editorial board recognizes the desperate need for resource-rich provinces to handle their wealth responsibility: (P)rovinces such as Saskatchewan and Alberta are dipping ever deeper into their one-time resource revenue (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that to end your weekend.

- Daniel Goleman writes about the role of wealth in undermining empathy: (I)n general, we focus the most on those we value most. While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work. The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference. Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, (Read more…)

drive-by planet: ‘Into the Fire’ video: targeting of immigrants in Greece by the authorities and Golden Dawn fascists

Into the Fire sends a powerful message about the xenophobia and violence faced by immigrants in Greece struggling to survive against steep odds. A large percentage were driven to seek asylum not as a matter of choice but because of war and other problems in their countries of origin. Many have been forced to live on the street with no legal papers. Too often they are targets of harassment and physical assault, not only by fascist thugs linked to the anti-immigrant Golden Dawn but even in some cases by police who have been filmed either actively participating in attacks on (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Toby Sanger asks who really bears the risk when governments agree to hand over billions to the private sector through P3 arrangements: While Canada may be one of the leaders in the market for P3s, we’re far from a leader when it comes to transparency, assessment and accounting for P3s.   P3s are already a murky business when it comes to financial transparency—and we’re close to the bottom of that pool.  The value for money assessments used to justify P3s in Canada are simply not credible for a number of reasons…

All the Canadian (Read more…)