Tag: politics

Limitless Stupidity

The budget is out. Federal and Provincial, although it’s Premier Brad Wall’s provincial one which I am stupefied by. Stupefied is the right word – I do feel like dumbassery is an actual virus that is reaching epidemic levels in the world at the moment, and if I spend too long reading the news (and especially social media ‘news’) it will lower my IQ.

So, Saskatchewan is in a mighty big deficit. I can see several reasons why this arose – financial mismanagement and some seriously dodgy deals (Global Transportation Hub, anyone?) – but mainly just the province being almost wholly reliant on oil and gas, and oil prices falling so dramatically. Common sense would dictate that even if we must rely on a volatile commodity, it would be sensible to save some money from when the markets were doing really well (‘Saskaboom!’) to cover us when they are not, like now. Norway does this with its oil money and has zero national debt. Neighbouring Alberta did similar and used the surplus to build pension funds and negate the need to charge provincial sales tax. Brad Wall just cut corporation tax and then ran out of money for anything useful.

If that were not stupid enough, the tactics he’s using to try and get rid of the deficit are just myopic. A 3% wage cut for public sector workers. This is fine for MLAs and the cabinet members and people on six figure salaries. It is most certainly NOT fine for teachers and nurses and, well, a whole host of underpaid but *useful* people.

In the budget itself, there were more horrors: cuts to schools, the universities, obscure things like the provincial hearing aid program, and then libraries and the Saskatchewan Transport Company rural bus service. But don’t worry folks, they cut the higher levels of income tax by half a percent! This is so obviously a budget written by people who never have to use and have never worked in any of those services. It doesn’t actually affect people’s take-home pay, (directly) so it must be OK, right?

All these things deliberately hurt the poor, the vulnerable and anyone living in rural areas, and they are all interlinked. Cutting the STC bus service saves around $17million. Which is the cost of just over a kilometre of the new Regina bypass that they’re building just so people can avoid coming into Regina. Obvi..! However, the STC was never supposed to be profitable. It’s a service designed to link up small towns and provide an essential route for people who need to travel to the cities who may not be able to drive – lets see, like older people, or cancer patients going in for treatment, or students getting to the SIAST campus on the Regina-Moose Jaw bus in the mornings. But hey, SIAST lost some funding too, so maybe it’s not worth going to any more anyway… you can just do all your studying at the library, right? But no… the libraries are screwed too. What provincial funding the city libraries received could be supplemented by City Hall funds instead, (which means our City taxes may well go up accordingly) but rural municipalities just don’t have the population numbers to make up the shortfall from local taxation. And guess what? The STC buses were crucial for transporting *actual books* for the inter-library loans scheme too.

The school and university cuts fly in the face of the ‘Saskatchewan brain drain’ too. People with degrees and useful skills tend to leave the province to go make money elsewhere. So, as a friend pointed out, the budget helps ‘keep them dumb and keep them here!’ And look! They can’t even get the bus outta here now! Less flippantly however, the argument in favour of cutting public spending to fund corporate tax cuts is always ‘oh we have to remain competitive, if we don’t keep corporations happy, they will just leave the province and set up where it’s cheaper’. That is a remote possibility I suppose, but more likely they will leave because there is a lack of skilled workers to work in them! Cutting education funding is not going to help that one little bit.

It gets worse. On top of all that, the budget raised Provincial Sales Tax to 6%, but then added it on to things that were previously exempt like restaurant meals and children’s clothing. This has caused uproar within the restaurant business community and I can see why. My coffee shop proved unmanageably expensive to operate anyway (and I have just suffered through my business tax return so this is very raw!) but adding 6% to all the prices would have killed it far earlier. More expensive treats would mean fewer regular customers, plus adding 6% on to the cost of the ingredients would seriously hack into the bottom line. The news predicts a lot of restaurant closures, but of course, it’s all the small independent businesses that come off worst – the sort that are least affected by the cut in corporation tax.

It is this last part that affects me so directly. It damages my chances of either setting up another coffee business or even just getting a new job in that line of work too. And I really, really need a job. I’m up to 27 applications now, still nothing. This is becoming crucial because, on top of everything else, Carl just got laid off from his job! After 5 years there, being incredibly busy and putting in some serious overtime, getting a pay rise in January and even winning an award for his work at one point, they just let him go last week with no warning whatsoever, along with 10 others in the same office. Little consideration for the fact that he was actually in the middle of working on projects at the time, nor that he was the only person in the Regina office doing that job with that skillset. The only other person who could do what he does is in Saskatoon and only works part time. Someone, somewhere is not thinking things through, and it’s at our expense. The company could lose a load of business over this, and Regina is a small town – their reputation is in the mud now.

He can get EI benefits, but it is not going to cover things for all four of us, so we will have to rely on the Saskatchewan Social Assistance Program – that is, provincial funding that will help us cover all the new provincial taxes on things like clothes for our kids and no doubt, go towards the hike in city taxes that will come to make up for the provincial cuts too. Ironic, isn’t it?

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Want to help?? *bats eyelashes*

Alternative Facts and playing chess with air horns.

Sometimes, my beloved Canada is just far too close to the USA.

First milestone of the year: 22nd January produced my first bout of abuse on Twitter in 2017, from some Trumpanzee. Getting abuse on Twitter is nothing new, sadly, and nothing really out of the ordinary especially since I am guilty of the crime of Having Opinions Whilst Female Online. This week especially has proved Lewis’s Law of the Internet: any comments about feminism justify feminism. And in this case, any comments about the Women’s March totally justified the Women’s March.

What triggered enough Trump-supporting trolls was this image, originally from the US  National Park Agency:

c2qdr1xxcaa6wx4-jpglargeThis then got picked up by CNN who contributed their own versions. The emptiness was also recorded on countless other news sites and also by people’s personal phone videos and so on. Even better, it was then contrasted with images of the humungous crowds in the Women’s March.

Stupidly, I read the comments on the CNN piece. One of them was “Come on, CNN is #FakeNews. We’re not stupid.”

I admit it. I couldn’t resist. I replied: “Erm, yes you are.”

I know, I know… don’t feed the trolls. You can guess at the sort of responses I got to that! I went on a rapid block-fest (hence no screen-shots) and that was the end of it.  I am just incapable of comprehending the sheer level of stupidity here. This was just after Sean Spicer, the brand new press secretary came out with the claim that the Orange Toddler’s inauguration was the biggest and most watched in history, after saying no one actually had the numbers. Demonstrably wrong. Provably false. So why risk saying it? Because he/they could be absolutely certain that a significant proportion of their audience will believe it no matter what the evidence to the contrary. The Head Troll in this little twitter exchange actually told me that I shouldn’t watch so much TV because I was being brainwashed and should learn some critical thinking. Priceless!

2 + 2 = 5.

We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

Or, for a more modern version, try Picard’s desperate scream of

“THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!!”

In an even more dystopian statement, Kellyanne Conway then claimed that the White House are presenting “alternative facts”. Going back to Orwell, first they steal the words, then they steal the meanings.

There is no arguing with “alternative facts”.

There is absolutely no point in feeding the trolls by trying to argue against Alternative Facts with Real Facts because if they can no longer accept actual evidence, then the only recourse is to just provide your own defensive insults and the whole discourse very quickly disappears down a spiraling abyss of bullshit. I know this because I am guilty of it myself. I didn’t need to actually call that idiot an idiot directly. It obviously didn’t change his mind about anything, I dare say he wasn’t remotely bothered – and if he was, he certainly gave out worse than he received on the insult stakes. All I did was allow myself to be angered by it, triggered, which then opened up my feed to a whole new cesspit of trolls and in a way, validate their existence.

He is entitled to his opinion, as ignorant as it may be, and he has the right to voice it all over Twitter, just as I do. However, no one else is under any obligation whatsoever to agree with him, or even respect it. We don’t have to read it.

And that is the crucial bit. We don’t have to read it. Nothing is forcing me to spend a ridiculous portion of my day glaring at my phone on Twitter. Neither does anyone have to watch CNN if they don’t trust them. Reading Trump fans’ feeds is like picking at scabs – I know it will only make me feel worse, but its almost compulsive. I won’t achieve anything. Any sort of opposing interaction in this online black hole results in getting more and more wound up, angry and hate-filled, and that sort of ‘discourse’ is the entire basis of the Trump regime. Divide, obfuscate and conquer.

Trading insults anonymously in restricted, short soundbytes merely magnifies the antagonism and reduces the significance of what is said. It’s like we are trying to win a chess game in two minutes by repeatedly honking air horns at our opponent. It is never going to be productive from either side of the political spectrum, and we should all just stop. There are better things to do.

I am not saying we should go easy on the Trumpanzees. I am not saying we should ‘give Trump a chance’and normalise this utter crap. I’m certainly not saying we should accept everything we read in the news. And I am not even saying we should lay off the casual insults – rascists/misogynists/homophobes/transphobes/neo-nazis and LIARS should be called out as such, as should ignorance in all its forms. But for any sort of resistance to have a lasting impact, to create meaning out of the noise, we have to actually engage.

If we can’t dispute ‘alternative facts’ we can at least point out the logical fallacies and cognitive dissonance that created them. As we won’t be listened to online, we have to march in the streets. Anyone can just shout “Listen to meeeee! I’m RIGHT!” – but to be any more credible than the trolls, we have to demonstrate why we believe what we believe. ‘Othering’ our opponents by dismissing them all as ignorant actually empowers them because they then remain uncriticized. It also furthers the divisions in American society – and in the rest of the world. How do you combat ignorance? Education. And how do you educate? Through engaging curiosity, encouraging exploration and questioning everything. Not through sounding 140-character air horns.

Lost

inspiration

Feeling a bit hopeless right now. I haven’t posted about all the recent politics because I can’t think how to articulate my incredulity in any way that hasn’t been written a thousand times already. Brexit was bad enough… Trump is just unbelievable. Carl and I sat up watching the US election (alternating between BBC, CBC and Twitter, for ‘balance’) until it was clear that Hillary was not going to win; it was about 1am when we finally gave up and went to bed despairing of the world.  At the time I was angry and raging sarcastically online, but the next day I seemed to get a sort of political hangover. I didn’t want to do anything, couldn’t face going online in case there were still Trumpanzees on my Twitter feed, but couldn’t summon the motivation to go out and do anything else. I met up with friends and took the kids to the park and it seemed like we all felt the same, just numbed by the whole thing.

I can’t blame this entire malaise on Trump though. I am in a low spot for lots of reasons right now – maybe it’s the weather? (For the record, no snow yet..). It’s all about Uncertainty and not being in control of various aspects of my life at the moment, and I am never very good at handling that.

My ‘maternity leave’ (not that I actually took any) officially finished 6 months ago, and since then, I have had some actual leave in that I haven’t been doing any work that warrants a salary. Strangely enough, this isn’t sustainable for very much longer, as we are living paycheque-to-paycheque and struggling.  Theia will be 18 months old at the end of January, which means she can go to daycare then, IF we can afford it, and IF I have a job that requires childcare. That is extremely difficult to engineer though, because I not only have to find a job, I have to find a job at a time that coincides with when the daycare has space for her, AND that job has to pay me enough to make it worth me paying the daycare fees for. This isn’t as hopeless as it was in the UK when I found myself in the same position with Miranda – even a full-time minimum wage job here would net enough to cover daycare costs and spare me about $500 a month – which would certainly help right now. (As opposed to the UK where full time daycare would have cost me more than my entire month’s salary after tax)  But, I like to believe I am an adult now, I shouldn’t really be looking at minimum wage positions, and I don’t want to go to work just to have half to two-thirds of my earnings go towards paying someone else to raise my child.

To this end, I have applied for ten other “grown up” jobs, most of which I think I would actually enjoy doing too, and all of which, on paper at least, I had the qualifications for. I haven’t heard back from a single one of them. I can blame the economy or the time of year, but I think a large part of it is my resume. It  must be fairly obvious that I don’t know what I want to do with myself, and I honestly don’t right now, but that is not the same thing as saying ‘I DON’T want to work’, I just don’t know what work I want to do! Also, I am back to the overqualified problem. Turns out, the only thing worse than putting “obscure Arts PhD” on your resume, is putting “nearly a decade of self-employment” (NB: I am paraphrasing here). Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur… but one who still has to pay the bills.

Through the cafe in its various forms, and Wheelie Good Coffee on the market, I have basically put myself through an MBA only without the certificate at the end. At risk of immodesty, building a business from scratch with no money in a country you’ve only lived in for 2 years really takes some doing: it’s all problem-solving, multi-tasking, design, research, fundraising, communications, networking, social media, marketing, leadership skills, HR, business development, even financial wizardry (YOU GUYS I DID A BUSINESS TAX RETURN ALL BY MYSELF!!!) I guess the trick is to make it look like I can apply all these skills to things other than coffee. I know I’m capable, but there’s a fair chance prospective employers will just give preference to someone with more direct experience.

In the absence of any employment offers, my other hopes are that I/we can continue with the cafe in some form – that is, I work out a way I can return to work on/in it and pay myself enough to live off. Owning and running a coffee shop has always been my dream – and I achieved it. What I didn’t manage/haven’t managed yet is living my dream and making a living from my dream. ‘Ay, there’s the rub.’

In an ideal world I’d pick it up and move the whole endeavor to a better and cheaper location. And I would love to try and incorporate a bookshop. But I need the funds to do that, and I don’t have them. Even if I can raise some investment somehow, I lack the confidence now to know if I should even be considering this as an option. Is it too much of a financial risk, and should I concentrate on finding an actual employer instead? Somehow, all of this is so stressful that I haven’t got the mental energy to make that decision, let alone get on with doing something about it. I am exhausted.

Also, I wrote a book. An actual, 70,000 word, non-silly, zombie-free memoir sort of thing about coffee and about the whole entrepreneurial experience. For once, I’ve taken my writing seriously enough to have planned out a structure and storyline, and I don’t hate what I wrote! I have spent this year’s Nanowrimo trying to edit it properly. I even approached a couple of publishers and wrote a proper book proposal. Unfortunately, the publishers’ websites say things like “Please allow six months for a response”. So I don’t know whether its worth prioritising the editing over fruitless job-hunting when I get fed up, in the event that it gets rejected over and over and over after months of waiting.

So. The end of the year is looming, and the future is highly uncertain. I am lost, and in need of inspiration, something to boost me in the right direction again.

Something will turn up. It always does.

From the people who brought you “Boaty McBoatface”…

…comes Brexit! Another prime example of why sometimes referenda are NOT a good idea. I am a big fan of the late great Sir Terry Pratchett, who wrote that the mind of a mob is equivalent to the IQ of its stupidest member, divided by the number of people in the mob. This is all fine – democracy in action no less! – when you are voting online to name an arctic explorer  boat. I LOVE Boaty McBoatface and I love that that was the name the good people of Britain chose. I mean, why not? It’s not like the fate of the whole country depends on it. Wait, what?

The Leave vote actually won. It’s a week later and I am STILL incredulous. And angry.  (in fact, I was asked to look angry and pose in front of the cafe for the local paper’s piece on Brexit here) I know I can sit here in Canada smugly watching it all crumble, safe in the knowledge that it doesn’t really affect me here – we made our escape in time, but it DOES affect my friends and family and everyone I know over there. And it’s really scary!

So, in my opinion, the referendum should never have happened in the first place. Nothing this important with so many far-reaching and unpredictable consequences should be decided on without a very deep understanding of the issue, which, lets face it, very few people have. For all it’s benefits, the EU remains a faceless, impenetrable behemoth of bureaucracy and I’m sure not even the people who work there fully understand how it all works. The fate of Britain’s place in it definitely should not have been decided as a result of a popularity contest between old Etonians, or as a result of lowest-common-denominator scare tactics in the tabloids.

Let’s backtrack a bit. Buttock-headed posh boy David Cameron panicked about losing votes to the further-right wing UKIP party before the last general election. In order to appease the swivel-eyed loons of Nigel Farage’s party, he said if his Conservatives were reelected in 2015 then he would hold a referendum on whether or not Britain should leave the EU. To his credit, he campaigned to remain in the European Union, unfortunately, even members of his own party wanted to leave.    More significantly however, it shoudl have been clear even then that there was no actual plan to leave. Cameron promised to hold the referendum, he never promised to uphold the results of it. To make the referendum legally binding, he would have had to pass it through Parliament beforehand – the commons and the lords would have had to debate it and agree to implement the results of the referendum before it was held. He didn’t do this.

I genuinely believe no one in cabinet or in the higher eschelons of power actually expected the Leave vote to win. Sure, it would be close and there would be ample excuse for UKIPers to embarrass themselves with incoherent rants on Question Time in the run up.  But common sense would inevitably prevail, Remain would win but democracy would have been seen to be exercised and that should have been an end to it. Even better, there would still be a sizeable minority of people who still wanted to leave, and they could have been represented by Boris Johnson, who was quite obviously lining himself up for the PM’s job.

But BoJo, Gove and Farage actually won – and they seem as incredulous as I am about that. They’ve even admitted that most of their Leave campaign promises were blatant lies. And now it’s obvious that they don’t know what the hell to do next. Meanwhile, all the vile racist lice have come out of the proverbial woodwork at the call of frog-faced Farage, race-hate crimes are up all over the country, Sterling has nose-dived against the dollar (both the US and Canadian), whole regions like Wales, Cornwall and the North East suddenly realise that they quite liked getting all their development funding and subsidies, and now expect the government to reemburse them for those losses, oh and Nicola Sturgeon is (rightfully) calling for another Scottish independence vote that will no doubt actually break up the UK. Simple splendid news, eh Boris?

So, Cameron resigned – before invoking Article 50 which actually commits us to leaving the EU. *slow claps* Well  done you utter twonk, well played. This means, whoever takes over is faced with the concept of trying to negotiate their way through the total omnishambles that is the “exit strategy” AND getting Parliament to pass the invoking of Article 50, OR seemingly ignoring the democratic will of the people and not leaving the EU (which may be sensible but it is political suicide), OR, giving up and calling a general election – when neither party have any semblance of a plan nor any plausible platforms to run on. Did I mention the Labour opposition party have basically imploded? There is no functional opposition to the Etonian oiks…..

So, what should happen next? *Someone* needs to take charge – no idea who that should be though because they are all as bad as each other. How about Tim Farron for sake of argument? Let Parliament or the Lords quash the referendum in as dignified a manner as possible and lets pretend this whole sorry mess never happened! A lot of the Leave votes were protesting against the faceless, unaccountable and undemocratic forces that be in Brussels, so it’s fitting that the decision to remain should be made by our own faceless unaccountable and undemocratic house of Lords. Keep it British!

 

 

The Wascana Tea Party

I may not have written since Theia was born, but that does not mean we haven’t been up to much. In fact, at 10 weeks old, she has been getting political:

image

Since my last post, the country has changed, or at least we all hope it has. We experienced our first federal election! The build-up to it was (by Canadian standards) exceptionally long, and it was certainly expensive. But well worth it in that the deeply unpleasant cyborg tyrant, Stephen Harper was finally ousted after 10 years.
I have rapidly been learning Canadian politics from the relative comfort of my safe little left-of-centre middle class bubble. I even read Harper’s biography, and that was worryingly negative given it was written by a more right-wing sympathiser. I always thought that, ignoring a lot of dismal social policies, Harper had at least handled the economy well in comparison with most of Europe after the 2008 global banking crisis. Unlike the UK, Canada did not have any collapsed banks or major industries to bail out. It also recovered from the recession quicker than anywhere else. But then, I learned that we are now in another recession – in part of course a consequence of falling oil prices. And oh boy does Harper like oil. He probably dunks his Timbits in it. As I see it, the only way Harper managed to balance the budget was to cut the funding to all that was good in the world, namely women’s groups, First Nations services, environmental research, health care and support for war veterans, immigration and refugee services, CBC and Canada Post. On top of that, he’s also muzzled scientists and prevented any one publishing research that is in any way inconvenient to Tory policies – in other words, any thing related to climate change and how damaging the oil industry is. His environmental record is appalling. The government’s relationship with First Nations leaders is disfunctional at best. He’s an Islamaphobe and somehow managed to turn one woman wearing a Niqab into an election issue (although that did give rise to the wonderful tumblr account, Niqabs of Canada) and I even read about the PMO apparently vetting refugee applications from Syrians and giving priority to non-muslim applicants. I sincerely hope that’s not true. And he’s royally ballsed up the temporary foreign worker program (as I’ve documented on here!). Oh yeah and there’s the C51 anti-terrorist/license to spy on people bill and the un-Fair Elections act. And all the senate scandals. All in all, not a very nice guy.
Theia and I have already been on an Anti-Harper protest, we went to go sing “Harperman”. A pissed-off  government scientist (researching migratory birds?) wrote the song and put it up on Youtube, then got fired for it. So last month, groups all over the country staged a mass Harperman singalong, Regina included:
Harperman singalong in Regina

Anyway, we sat up to watch the election last night. We couldn’t vote, of course. We’ve been living here for 3 years, paying taxes for three years, we’re 3 years into the inordinately long permanent residency application, I started a business here and employ Canadians, I gave birth to a Canadian(!) But nooooo. No vote for us.(flippancy aside, I am not that surprised really…) I got talking to another expat on Twitter, and we decided that in the spirit of 18th century Bostonians, we would form the Wascana Tea Party. I got my tea bags ready to chuck in the lake:

image
No taxation without representation!

Even without our votes (ahem!), Harper was ousted. Unfortunately the NDP, who I would probably have voted for, also got pretty badly defeated. That leaves us with a Liberal Prime Minister called Justin. Justin. He’s young and charismatic and made out to be the saviour of the old liberal party, snd he fills me with fear because I just see a better-looking Tony Blair. Please don’t be a Tony Blair, Mr. Trudeau. I admit, I don’t know much about the Liberal’s actual policies yet, but, well, Harper’s benchmark was set pretty damn low, so they MUST be an improvement,  right? And as the internet has already pointed out, Trudeau is showing how in touch he is with the millenial generation – by moving bank in to his parents’ house…

I am Angry.

Anyone heard about the London Protests?

No, me neither.

Thanks to the seven hour time difference, Carl and I were able to watch the whole of the UK election last week in real time – the first time we’ve managed it without falling asleep, and I now have a new respect for the BBC teams who had to make sensible sounding comments on the whole thing all night and right round until about 7am Friday morning. I am severely sleep deprived too, so the thought did occur that I might be hallucinating the results, or maybe it was part of a nightmare… but no. The Tories “won” and actually achieved a majority government.

That is to say, they achieved a majority under the First Past The Post system. In actuality, they got about 37% of the vote, meaning nearly 2/3rds of the voting populace voted against them – a figure that corresponds far more closely with all the polls that were conducted in the preceding six months or so. The LibDems got LibDemolished, and Labour pretty much crashed and burned as well, though no so dramatically. The same system unfortunately left the Greens (1.1 million votes) with only 1 MP, the Scottish National Party (1.5 million votes) inexplicably with 56 MPs and (fortunately) UKIP with 3.3 million votes and one lone MP. Whatever your views, the fact that this system is completely inadequate should be painfully obvious. Sadly, the same thing happens in every election… I’m sure I was saying the same thing 5 years ago.

So, the Tories have been officially in power on their own (I mean, without being propped up by the spineless LibDems in coalition) for just five days. In that time, they have announced that the new Justice Minister, Michael Gove (who has no experience whatsoever in Law) wants to scrap the Human Rights Act, backed by his colleague Dominic Raab, who thinks feminists are “obnoxious bigots”. Add to this, making Caroline Dinenage, who voted against gay marriage, the Equalities Minister, and a new Minister for the Disabled who seems to be against any sort of disability or welfare benefits (Justin Tomlinson) and you have a highly toxic cabinet already. Then there’s this new, suspicious and badly thought-out “anti-radicalisation” legislation – which from my psuedo-Canadian perspective now sounds a lot like the loathsome C-51 bill that Harper has just pushed through and that Trudeau voted for (ooh look, Liberals propping up Tories! Where have we seen that before?) I wrote about the Tory’s inappropriate cabinet appointments back in Sept 2012 – HERE – but I actually think this new cabinet is actually worse. All this in FIVE DAYS. What are the next five YEARS going to be like?

Leaving aside the failings of First Past The Post for a minute, I still can’t really comprehend how these idiots actually gained any votes at all. Who would intentionally vote for further cuts to public services and more austerity measures? Who would vote for a party promising FEWER Human and civil rights? Yet some people clearly did. I get that the point of an anonymous vote and secret ballot is that you don’t have to tell people who you’re voting for, and if people really were (rightfully) ashamed of voting Tory, they probably could have just told the pollsters one thing then voted for the opposite.

But then I read stories like this: 200,000 ballot papers stolen. And you do wonder…. Then there were the London Protests over the weekend, which resulted in… Total Media Silence. NOTHING at all reported on BBC or Channel 4, and the hashtag #ToriesOutNow seemingly removed from Twitters’ ‘Trending Topics’ list. Here’s a few pics rescued from Twitter anyway:

Does that look like a response to a respected, wanted government who have just won a landslide majority?

I admit, I didn’t actually use my vote – we are still elligible to vote in the UK, but doing so is amazingly complicated and, as demonstrated by the FPTP system, would have been a wasted vote anyway. So I guess I can’t complain. I am angry though, and I am scared for the people still stuck there. Two friends have already asked if I will employ them as baristas and allow them to emigrate over here…. I did point out that we are governed by Tories too, (the OxyMorons – “progressive conservatives?! WTF?) but so far, they seem slightly less dangerous and destructive in comparison. I don’t believe that our dose of democracy should be limited to one X on a piece of paper every five years, especially if that X gets lost in a FPTP system. Democracy is far more than that – and it includes the right to protest, so good on those who took to the streets in London! I’m just sorry that I only caught on to it after the event and only via Twitter!!

The portal is closing….

This is in response to the new changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program. There has been a lot of coverage of this in the press already, but unless I’ve missed it, no one has yet actually asked the views of the people actually in the middle of this program – ie: the foreign workers themselves.
I’ve picked the Globe and Mail article because it’s a national newspaper and, well, it was the first one I found. Taking out all the editorial and opinion pieces though, they all say pretty much the same anyway!
Here’s the original article:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/jobs/ottawa-set-to-unveil-sweeping-changes-to-foreign-workers-program/article11601857/

“The federal government will announce sweeping changes to the temporary foreign workers program Monday, aimed at ensuring non-Canadian workers are employed in this country only after every effort has been made to put Canadians in the jobs first.”

– “sweeping changes” says it all. I’ve found nothing to suggest that these changes were on the cards before the RBC scandal broke. In other words, this sounds very like a knee-jerk reaction, and the Tories are just trying to be seen to be Doing Something.  The system ALREADY includes a process that should ensure the Canadians are given the opportunity first – it just needs enforcing better, not completely re-writing. A Labour Market Opinion (LMO) is exactly that – an opinion on the local labour market that identifies a skills shortage. They are only approved for skilled/managerial level jobs, and only after the prospective employer demonstrates that they have tried to recruit locally for a set amount of time, and not found any suitable, Canadian candidates.

“Other measures, to be announced either Monday or at a later date, are expected to require employers to pay a fee for a permit to hire from overseas.”

This is the bit that really, really annoys me. I can see the logic behind it: why should Canadian taxpayers pay for the system that gets foreign workers in to do local jobs? However, to my mind, this is going to severely hamper the system – both from the point of view of small businesses who can’t necessarily afford it, and for the would-be immigrants who then not only need to find a job, but also find an employer who is willing to cough up the fee, AND wait whilst keeping the job open for that person for the months it takes for all this bureaucracy to process. Even the old system was problematic for small businesses, because if you have few staff and are seeking to hire a key worker, the chances are you’d struggle to keep the business afloat during the ridiculously long wait for the application to go through anyway. As I have pointed out repeatedly, my LMO took an epic five months to go through, and I was just lucky that my employers waited for me (not that I ended up doing the job I was originally offered, but that is a different issue). To my mind, adding a fee on to that as well would be enough to make most small business rule out the option entirely.

“The reforms – which will also address the question of wage discrepancies between foreign and Canadian workers doing identical jobs – aim to reduce abuse of the system while not shutting off the tap supplying an essential source of workers.”

Rubbish. Again, the old system did address wage discrepancies – or at least, aimed to prevent temporary foreign workers undercutting the local labour market. Under the old system, a Labour Market Opinion document was only granted if they employer was willing to pay “the going rate” or the local average wage for that specific job or industry. My LMO was actually refused initially because my employers weren’t offering me the provincial average for the role.

The problems with the original LMO system arose from very large companies basically flouting the rules, fudging the applications, and exploiting the workers they brought in. To combat this, the CIC or Service Canada need to be a bit more rigorous with enforcing the existing system, and – most importantly – do checks on the company and the workers after they have entered Canada to check that the foreign workers are actually doing the jobs set out in the LMOs, check they are being paid what they should be according to the job description, and in the case of RBC, check that they are not actually being trained to replace Canadian workers facing redundancy!

There is no need to charge a fee for the application: big businesses will hardly be affected, and if they are determined to flout the system anyway, they won’t be dissuaded by an additional fee. The fee only hurts small businesses and makes the program an option exclusive to huge multinational companies. If a fee has to be charged, it should be in return for much faster, more efficient processing times so that small businesses don’t have to struggle to hold a job open for so long.

From the perspective of would-be immigrants, making the leap into Canada is difficult enough already. Either you get in on the Temporary Foreign Worker program – which in turn, means finding a job in Canada from outside the country, then persuading your prospective employer to not only apply for an LMO, but also hold the job open for you for several months – and then making your own way to Canada and paying for your initial work permit, and then going through the whole process again with even higher fees as soon as you are eligible to apply for permanent residency….

OR,

There’s the Federal Skilled Worker program, a process which can easily take over two years to complete, and which also requires you to have $12000 Canadian dollars  in cash, after the already steep fees for the application process, and on top of all your moving costs, to support yourself while you look for a job in Canada. Practically speaking, you couldn’t really look for a job in Canada from outside the country under this system, because you wouldn’t be able to tell your employer when you’d be able to start. Also, the backlog of applications for this program was so long in recent years that they just cancelled ALL the applications, refunded everyone’s money and restarted the whole system from scratch.

We started the whole process of emigrating when my daughter was one year and one month old. By the time we got here (even going through the LMO program), she was nearly two, (10 months in total) and the whole thing cost us over $10000. To reiterate, that was the Temporary Foreign Worker program. The Federal Skilled Worker program wasn’t even an option for us – whereas we did qualify under the points system, we don’t have that sort of money anyway, but more significantly, we couldn’t put ourselves into that program with no guarantees of the timescale and no guarantees of employment nor income, not with a small child in tow. You can’t plan your family’s future with the vague hope that you’ll get to emigrate “sometime in the next few years”, it’s just not practical, especially when children’s schooling, your own career and most problematically – your mortgage, are all up in the air indefinitely during the application process.

For the vast majority of people the Temporary Foreign Worker program, while difficult enough, is the only realistic method of emigrating to Canada. Watch any news program about Europe and you’ll see why there are many people wanting to escape. This article quotes the Canadian unemployment rate as being “stubbornly 7%” – well, the European average is now 12.1%. In the UK there’s around 2.6 million people unemployed: that is over twice the total population of Saskatchewan. Despite this regressive, knee-jerk reaction legislation, Canada is a wonderful place to be. If there are jobs to be done, let us in to do them.   Please don’t close our only portal!