Rafferty calls on Tories to put Canadians first
Thunder Bay-Rainy River NDP MP John Rafferty said 2012 was a frustrating year and if he has a New Year’s wish, it’s that the Harper government “will make a conscious decision to work with other MPs from other parties to get good things done for Canadians.”
Of immediate concern for Rafferty is the federal government’s Employment Insurance (EI) reforms, which take effect Jan. 6.
“With Employment Insurance, it’s employer money and employee money,” Rafferty noted. “They’re the ones that put it in.
“As we’ve seen in the past, the government has skimmed off the top billions of dollars and this government won’t be any different,” he charged.
“Unfortunately, they’ll be trying to reduce the deficit on the backs of people who are unemployed.”
Rafferty said the changes were made without the government having consulted employers or employers.
He also said there’s no training component to the changes, nor are there any measures to help people relocate to start new employment.
“Part of finding employment in some cases is moving, and some people are quite happy to move if they can find employment in their chosen field,” Rafferty remarked.
“But there’s none of that in there.”
Looking at the pulp and paper mill here, Rafferty said he’d like to have seen reforms to EI which would allow older workers who have been laid off, and were close to early retirement, to bridge the gap.
“There should be some help there,” he noted. “Some of the workers at the Resolute mill paid in for many, many years and there should be that sort of benefit if you’re an older worker.”
Rafferty said it seems the EI changes “are being made up as they go.”
One of the requirements under the new rules is that those collecting EI will be required to look for work an hour or less commute time from their home.
A couple weeks ago, this was changed to be longer than an hour commute time.
Stacking this requirement with other changes, Rafferty theorized this could lead to a situation where a person would be expected to take a job in Atikokan, commuting five times a week for a minimum-wage job.
If that person is a single mom who has to pay for child care, that employment becomes even less appealing.
To make matters worse, Rafferty said there’s fewer case workers to help people who come in for EI help.
“Everybody is different in their situation, you can’t just plug people into a table and say, ‘You fit here, you fit there,’” he argued.
“With all the jobs being [cut] in the public service, particularly Service Canada, there’s not going to be anybody to help them sort this out when the new rules come in,” he warned.
Rafferty also said he’s seriously concerned about the omnibus budget bill (Bill C-45), which now is going through the Senate.
“One of the things I’ve talked about is is there are no environmental watchdogs, federally, on most lakes and rivers in Canada,” he noted.
“Those kinds of changes won’t be immediate to people, but they will be when your neighbour upstream decides to put a little dam in the river and no longer needs an environmental assessment to do that and the only option you’re going to have is to take him to court.”
Rafferty added the recent “Idle No More” movement is based on “the government ignoring its responsibilities for the land.”
“The ‘Idle No More’ movement grew out of concerns for controls being lost on our lakes and rivers, and from that aspect, the ‘Idle No More’ protests are well-founded,” he remarked.
“That’s indicated by the snowball effect that’s happened with the movement over the last month, and I am sure we’ll see continue into the latter part of the winter and the spring,” added Rafferty, noting it’s a clear sign of the growing frustration with the Harper government felt by First Nations and many others.
Meanwhile, as reported in mid-December, Rafferty tabled motion M-417 in the House of Commons to establish a Royal Canadian Legion Infrastructure Renewal Fund to assist individual Legion branches across Canada in modernizing and upgrading their physical infrastructure.
“I’ll certainly be following up on that in the new year,” he pledged.
Rafferty also will be introducing a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder bill in February.
“Part of the job when you put these motions and private members’ bills through is talking to the government side, talking to the ministers, and getting them to at least get it on their radar,” Rafferty explained.
“So that if it does have an opportunity to come forward at a later date, we can find some support on the other side of the House.
“But it’s a pretty frustrating government—it’s more about politics than what’s good for Canadians,” he charged.
“I, like the rest of the NDP caucus, will just keep hammering away at the government,” Rafferty added. “You’ve got to do what’s right.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s Employment Insurance, if it’s takeovers by foreign companies, if it’s temporary foreign workers taking Canadian jobs—whatever the case is, we’ve got to hold this government to account or they’ll just continue,” he stressed.