This week the Drummond Report hit Ontario like an eight-ball swinging in a sock. Chock full of neoliberal shock doctrine and decline oriented austerity measures predicated on a ranking of life is a harsh medicine that may force Ontario's labour market into depression level unemployment and economic stagnation. It's also totally unnecessary and ill-timed as Ontario's economy is already starting to tank with broad-based deterioration in the youth labour market. Any further decline in public sector spending may well start an unrecoverable death spiral. Finally, the segment of society that's going to bear the brunt of the cuts will be the poor and the middle-class, while neither group was remotely responsible for the 2008 crash and the subsequent debt that was incurred they will nonetheless pay a heavy price through cuts to public sector services, increased user fees, and increased corporate welfare. All of this is amid inaction at the Federal level on issues like monetary policy and (un)equalization payments that result in a unbalanced form of federalism.
The foregoing being said there was one section that caught my eye. It deals with the Employment Insurance ("EI") system in Ontario. EI is a program that provides temporary financial assistance to people who lose their jobs. Now, the problem with the current system is that a person qualifies on the basis of hours worked and what region they live in (i.e. it's far easier to qualify in the Maritimes rather than Ontario). Also, for young people it's incredibly difficult to qualify given the changes in the labour market which have given rise to an increasing proportion of part-time contingent precarious work and self-employment. Simply put, it's near impossible to for young people to get EI to train for a new career or move to another locale in Canada that needs workers.
Drummond doesn't do a lot of his own thinking when it comes to the EI question, but he does pick up on the problems facing young workers in the new economy. He outsources much of the 'thinking' to the neoliberal cheerleaders at the Mowat Institute who recently released the final recommendations from their Employment Insurance Task Force. While the Mowat Institute's report picks up on the problem of youth unemployment in Canada and suggests some minimal changes to the program it doesn't go far enough in addressing the structural labour market issues that are impacting young workers such as income inequality, lack of career ladders, and precarious employment. Without innovative public policy that addresses these long-standing labour market problems we're going to continue to see increasing social strife, surging inequality, and intergenerational fracturing.
One interesting point that arises out of Drummond's discussion of EI is his suggestion of the establishment of a "national income-support for people with disabilities who are unlikely to re-enter the workforce". This is interesting, as it's a form of a guaranteed minimum income which is a public policy tool that seeks to establish a basic income floor for all citizens. This is an idea that deserves consideration for implementation across Canada for all citizens as a means to address the increasingly harsh economic conditions that we're all facing. Below, check out Naomi Klein discussing disaster capitalism and the shock doctrine, see: