The Meek Shall Inherit… the inkwell

Who is this Jim Meek? He is described as a freelance writer in Halifax (and works for Bristol Communications). He has been serving up a steady diet of thought-provoking articles dealing with the lack of economic development in the region.

This one on Saturday talks about a controversial report that looked at the long-term effects of pogey in New Brunswick and Maine.

Their conclusions?

The authors look at five decades of data in the study – entitled The Long-Term Effects of a Generous Income Support Program: Unemployment Insurance in New Brunswick and Maine, 1940-1991. Kuhn and Riddell conclude that in Canada – with its generous (un)employment insurance (EI) programs – not working became an attractive “lifestyle” choice.

Successive reforms to the EI system made part-time work more and more attractive. By 1990, New Brunswickers could earn (about) 80 per cent of full-time wages by going to work for a mere 30 weeks. If you only wanted to put in 20 weeks on the shop floor, you could still take home 70 per cent of full-time wages.

This was nice non-work if you could get it. And it wasn’t that hard to get. Thirty per cent of “New Brunswick’s workers received some UI benefits in 1990. This corresponds to about six per cent for men in Maine, and three per cent for women.”

Meek’s conclusion?

More important, Canada’s EI system has entrenched a culture of dependency in rural areas of this region. And anyone who thinks that the politics of pogey is dead and buried should be reminded that the Martin government “improved” benefits for seasonal workers in 2005.

And what has the mean-as-Bush Harper government done about this? It left the Martin reforms in place, and extended a pilot program that provides an additional five weeks of benefits to seasonal workers. This is Canada, after all. And there’s always another election to be fought.

Who is this guy?

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0 Responses to The Meek Shall Inherit… the inkwell

  1. Anonymous says:

    I always get a kick out of people who have never set foot in the parts of the maritimes they seem to understand so well. Not a mention is the other side of the coin, the EMPLOYERS who are FAR more likely to untilize the system.

    You can hire somebody part time, then before they start demanding full time, or decent benefits, or try to join a union, you lay them off and replace them.

    But look at a place like Bathurst. What exactly are these wonderful full time jobs that people are choosing pogey over? Anybody that thinks EI has gotten more generous doesn’t know many people on it.

    Ironically, Maine is moving in the opposite direction, with considerable political pressure on their EI program because it simply isn’t functioning.

    However, I won’t steal all the thunder, the Gleaner posted an effective reply-and of course don’t forget that the majority of Maine’s industry is in shipbuilding, directly subsidized by their feds. Perhaps we should get the industry, THEN talk about the lazy shiftless deadbeats.

    “In the last few weeks, much has been made of a Queen’s/UCSB study
    comparing labour market trends and EI in New Brunswick and Maine. The
    Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) and a number of individuals
    have since used the study to suggest that (1) EI reform should be
    contemplated, and (2) New Brunswick should adopt a system comparable to
    that in the State of Maine.

    As an economics professor, I am not necessarily against the objectives
    outlined in point (1), but I fail to see how point (2) necessarily follows
    as Mr. Crowley from AIMS, editors in our provincial papers, and a number
    of individuals have since concluded.

    First, while the study suggests that the economies in the two regions are
    similar, they are clearly not the same. The labour market and indeed the
    entire economy of New Brunswick are dominated by a few large players
    including the Irving Corporation. This is not the case in Maine. At the
    very least, we need a made-in-New Brunswick solution.

    Second, whenever we study labour across the Canada-U.S. border we have to
    be extremely careful. There are subtle but meaningful differences in the
    definition of unemployment in the two societies. Moreover, these
    definitions change slowly over time which further serves to complicate
    analysis across years.

    Finally, both provincial and federal policy makers seem to be following
    the American lead and I find this curious to say the least; this call for
    EI reform, the push for Atlantica, New Brunswick’s desire to ship natural
    gas to the U.S. at all costs, and the changing role of the Canadian
    military are just a few examples.

    The U.S. government deficit (new debt) has skyrocketed under the current
    administration’s foreign policy of military dominance. Moreover, the net
    personal savings rate in the U.S. is negative suggesting that much of
    America’s national economic growth has been fuelled by debt.

    The U.S. economy seems to be headed for a drastic downturn and the current
    U.S. administration’s foreign policy does nothing to improve this outlook.
    Why then, are our provincial and federal leaders looking to the U.S. for
    guidance and partnership?

    Rob Moir

    Clifton Royal, N.B.