Sunday, July 21, 2013

Class Warfare - Harper Style

Harper's government has never been a friend of Canada's middle classes.  Recent changes to EI have served to be another plank in Harper's war on Canada's middle class.  Lurking in the midst of the Conservative party's twisted view of things is the assumption that people who are taking advantage of EI are engaging in fraud.

Investigators with the Integrity Services Branch were provided with a 23-page manual, dated October 2012, outlining investigative techniques intended to be used in a pilot project starting in November and winding up at the end of March. 
The document makes it clear the Service Canada employees are to leave no stone unturned in their inquiries, even in the absence of evidence that selected EI recipients had done anything wrong. The document suggests investigators check addresses, bank accounts, medical documents and even the physical appearance of claimants. 
The pilot project involves controversial home visits in which agents knock on the door of an EI claimant's home and ask for an interview on the spot, or deliver a letter to schedule a mandatory face-to-face meeting.

The supposition that underlies this is that EI claimants are inherently engaging in fraud to justify their claims.  While I am sure that there is a certain degree of fraud involved in a system like EI - not all people are going to be scrupulously honest in their dealings with the government, the nature of the government's program here is such that it creates an investigative program that presupposes that EI recipients are engaging in fraud.

Today, it became public knowledge that the person who leaked those documents has been suspended:

Therrien leaked documents to the media anonymously in the spring showing investigators were ordered to find $485,000 in savings each year by denying claims. 
The federal government denied that any quotas were in place, but the opposition hammered the Conservatives on the issue. 
"Telling investigators that they each had to find half a million in fraud presumes that there is widespread fraud, that they're all a bunch of cheaters and criminals," said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair in the House of Commons in February.
But, look at this through a different lens for a moment.  Harper is running around making a social safety net program that assumes Canadians who use it are thieves.  Meanwhile, his government is doing precious little to catch up with wealthy Canadians who have tried to hide their money offshore in so-called tax havens.

This can only be seen as one thing - a class war being launched against Canadians by this government. Harper has been consistent in taking positions where the average Canadian comes out disadvantaged, and the wealthy end up with more.

Whether we are talking about the ever expanding ... and unmonitored ... Temporary Foreign Worker program, Mandatory Minimum Sentences, the seemingly non-existent pursuit of tax-evaders who have buried millions of tax dollars in offshore havens or, for that matter, the surprisingly rapid processing of Conrad Black's application to reside in Canada.

On the other side of the coin, it appears some people have started to pick up on what is happening, and are starting to organize in response.  I don't think that unions are the complete answer here - too much has changed since the need for unions emerged in the industrial revolution.  But they are a legal construct, and one that will end up serving a key role in the process that is coming where people will once again assert control over their government, taking it back from the concentration of power and wealth in the oligarchy.

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