Opinion Editorial

Padding the safety net 0

Brian Lilley, Parliamentary Bureau
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks to the media at Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 25, 2012. (Andre Forget / QMI AGENCY)

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks to the media at Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 25, 2012. (Andre Forget / QMI AGENCY)

I have to wonder what happens to people when they become politicians - do their brains fall out?

Last week Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made the very sensible proposal that the government will try to get unemployed Canadians to fill jobs that are currently going begging rather than importing temporary workers. Kenney pointed out that in places like Nova Scotia, where unemployment sits at 8.3%,thousands are collecting unemployment benefits while Christmas tree farmers need to import labour from Mexico. In P.E.I., where unemployment is about 11%, fish processing plants are importing Russian workers to fill positions.

"What we will be doing is making people aware there's hiring going on and reminding them that they have an obligation to apply for available work and to take it if they're going to qualify for EI," Kenney said.

Of course, saying that those collecting unemployment benefits should be looking for work and taking available jobs was just too much for the opposition.

P.E.I. Liberal MP Wayne Easter complained to his local CBC about the possibility of "work camps."

"I think we're seeing a very much the undermining of the social safety net that we have in Canada by the Harper government and this is one of their ways of going about it," Easter said. "You know, are we going to look at work camps in this country? Is that where we really want to go?"

Meanwhile in Newfoundland fellow Liberal Gerry Byrne complained to one his local papers that unemployed teachers shouldn't have to work as cashiers and that welders shouldn't have to serve coffee. Take away the ability of people to live off the dole without taking a job, said Byrne, and it will ruin Newfoundland.

"None of our communities will survive,"?he said. "Quite frankly, many of our cities will be hurt as a result."

You could just dismiss Easter and Byrne as two politicians just trying to muckrake when one of their opponents makes an announcement, but I think it goes deeper than that. This is about the growing culture of entitlement.

Who says a welder shouldn't have to serve coffee or a teacher work at such a "lowly" job as cashier? When did it become the government's duty to make sure you got a job in your chosen field in the town you want to live in?

I've been on pogey and it isn't fun. I've had to take jobs that were not my first choice in order to feed my family and like millions of Canadians, I've moved to find work.

I heard about the insane reactions of these two Liberals while chatting with a pair of friends. All of us had moved for work, none of us were doing exactly the job that we went to school for but all of us are happy in having a job and finding satisfaction in a job well done.

Wayne Easter says he's worried about the social safety net, but his comments make it sound like he wants a social bean bag chair, nice and comfy, paid for by taxpayers, to make sure everyone is comfy just where they are.

- Lilley is the host of Byline on Sun News Network. He blogs at lilleyspad.ca


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