Seriously. Seriously who voted for these assholes? They certainly didn’t run on a platform of sticking it to seniors, seasonal workers and refugees. Yet that is what is happening. Every day we seem to hear another cut to some social program somewhere. Harper and his cronies are consistently targeting the poor, the old and the stateless all under the guise of fiscal prudence. However, a little analysis will show that these cuts are just plain cruel and the amount of savings is chump change when compared to the size of the overall Canadian Federal budget.
Small ‘c’ conservatism, at its roots, is steeped in Protestant Christian doctrine. Canada, a country founded mostly on Protestant Christianity, has deep roots in Calvinism. John Calvin, a French theologian, believed in predetermination. He believed that a person’s fate in the afterlife was predetermined, meaning there was nothing a person could do in their life that would change this outcome. Out of this grew a belief that successful people, those with wealth and power, would be going to heaven. Clearly this cast the poor and the downtrodden as expendable as they had no hope of going to heaven anyway. We see this principle alive and well in Canada today. Even though our society is multicultural and far more secular today these beliefs still inform political ideology. Income supports to help the poor and disenfranchised are almost always the first thing on the chopping block in times of economic uncertainty even though they are a very small part of the overall budget.
Harper has been quite strategic in his cuts to OAS. He has not targeted current recipients or even people 5 years away from claiming OAS. Instead, he has put the age increase for eligibility a full 10 years down the road. This really does not make sense as it is the glut of baby boomers retiring in the next 10 years that will cost the program the most money. Clearly Harper knows that messing with seniors is never a good idea. Current recipients of OAS don’t really care what is going to happen in 10 years and those of us that it will affect are too busy trying to make a living to protest these changes.
This week’s announcement about changes to EI really reflects conservative ideology. The fact that the EI program is well funded by contributions from individuals and working Canadians seems to have escaped him. Other governments have actually taken money from the EI program to help offset other deficits. In the changes announced, Harper and his merry band of con artists is going after seasonal workers. These changes will not affect Harper’s traditional base of support in the western provinces. Instead it will punish those who did not elect Conservatives. By limiting the amount of EI a seasonal (or heavy user as they are now being called) worker can receive will have a huge impact on the local economies where it can least be afforded. Reducing the amount of money in circulation will have huge ripple effects through already depressed areas of the country. These changes will also put more pressure on provincial welfare systems.
Harper’s reason for this change is completely insulting. The federal government is arguing that Canadians are sitting on EI while Tim Horton’s and McDonalds have to bring in temporary foreign workers to staff their outlets. In the ‘new world’ ‘heavy users’ of EI would have to take a job that pays 70% of their normal wages if it is within an hour of their homes. First of all this is going to be so difficult to enforce, in fact I think it will cost more to enforce this edict than the money they will save. Let’s not forget that the EI program is healthy – there is no fiscal reason for these changes. Instead it is about keeping the poor in their place, under the thumb of the federal government.
I have saved the best for last. While the changes to social programs above are draconian, it is the cuts to the refugee health program that are the cruelest. Canada agrees to take about 3000 refugees per year from war torn areas of the world and refugee camps. We transport them here, they receive a monthly stipend and health coverage under the Interim Federal Health (IFH) program. We also accept refugee claimants who are also covered by IFH. Through a quiet order-in-council, the Harper government has made deep cuts to this program to save $80 million over 5 years.
Under these changes, which take affect at the end of June, refugees will only be treated for diseases that are a danger to the Canadian public or diseases that make a person a danger to society. If the refugee has tuberculosis they will be diagnosed and treated. A severe mental health issue like psychosis or schizophrenia may be treated if the government believes the refugee could hurt people. If you have diabetes the government may pay for the diagnosis but not the treatment – so no insulin or medication. They will also not provide medical equipment or pay for emergency dental work or medication for depression. Refugees whose claims have been rejected or who are from a Designated Country of Origin will not have any coverage. So if a rejected refugee presents at a hospital with a heart attack they will receive treatment, as the hospital cannot turn them away. The refugee will then be stuck with a huge bill and no way of paying so ultimately the province will be on the hook for the costs.
IFH will not pay for any medication except under the two exemptions of conditions that pose a risk to the Canadian public. In some cases they will pay for the diagnostics and a surgical procedure if it is warranted. One example that was given is that of a refugee who needs to have a stent put in their heart. This would all be paid for but the medication needed like blood thinners or statins would not be covered. This literally makes no sense and, in fact, is counter-intuitive. If you pay for a surgery but not the medication to maintain its efficacy, the patient will be back in hospital for further procedures. Most refugees live in abject poverty for the first couple of years at least and if the choice is medication or feeding the children you can guess where the money is going to go.
My solution to all of this is for the Harper government to cancel a couple of fighter jets. Why do we need fighter jets? We are not at war with anyone except the poor, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable. Our government’s priorities are extremely screwed up. As an individual I feel powerless to do anything to change what is happening. I am only hoping that we have something that still resembles Canada at the end of this government’s mandate. In the meantime you can all expect some long rants.
 Except Quebec and some other French-speaking enclaves which are primarily Catholic.
 They have to pay the transportation costs back at the end of the first year. For some large families this amounts to a debt of thousands of dollars. Welcome to Canada and your new indebted life.
 80 million sounds like a lot of money unless you put it in perspective. This amounts to $16 million a year on a $6 billion budget. Basically the government is going to go through the couch and gather some change.
 Think canes, walkers, and crutches.
 Designated Country of Origin – is a country, determined by the Federal Immigration Minister that has a high refusal rate for claims or a country where refugees abandon their claims. Currently Mexico would be such a country. We don’t yet know which countries will be on the list.