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Veteran: "I feel like my government has betrayed me"

Terry Collins served in the Canadian military for two decades before retiring in 2008, and has relied on the services of the Veterans Affairs office in Sydney, N.S., ever since.

The retired warrant officer, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder following a tour of duty in Afghanistan, is now staring down at the closure on Friday of the Sydney office, along with eight other Veterans Affairs offices in smaller cities across the country.

"I served for 22 years proudly as a Canadian soldier. Now I feel like my government has betrayed me and let me down," Collins pleaded with the government last fall. "Veterans live everywhere, not just in the major cities."

Veterans Affairs minister Julian Fantino doesn't appear to be moved. First, Fantino skipped out on a meeting with vets on Tuesday ("bushwacked" in the words of the vets). By Thursday, Fantino was leading the Conservative fight against an NDP motion to keep the offices open, accusing the vets of being union stooges.

Meanwhile, these veterans are protesting around the country, including a rotating sit-in at the Sydney office.

Watch Collins explain why the offices should stay open:


Photo: YouTube

The real story behind latest Conservative attack on labour

The Conservative government's ongoing attack on unions — "a key driver in the creation of the middle class" — has reached a new milestone.

Bill C-525, the anti-union private member's bill tabled by a Conservative backbencher and backed enthusiastically by Stephen Harper and his cabinet, cleared a major legislative hurdle Wednesday night, when the bill passed Second Reading in the House of Commons. 

The bill borrows from Republican-style tactics in the United States to destabilize the labour movement and weaken the ability of unions to fight for fair wages and a shared prosperity.

C-525 proposes that a majority vote in favour of joining a union is no longer enough while letting a minority of the membership sign a petition to trigger a decertification vote. And by forcing a mandatory secret vote on employees who have already signed union cards, the bill makes the union certification process more difficult, allowing employers to intimidate employees.

This two-step process would put federal labour laws at odds with the rules in a number of Canada's provinces, where a "card check" of a majority of workers is enough to organize a union.

Wonder where this anti-labour agenda originates? It's not from the bill's author, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins. It goes much higher than that.

That's why the Prime Minister's Office meets so often with the anti-union lobby group Merit Canada. Maclean's Magazine looked at the Canada's lobbyist registry, and found that only five companies or organizations had more meetings with the PMO over a 12-month period.

Who Lobbies the PMO?

Photo: mfhiatt. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

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Corporate Canada done paying taxes for year, hoarding $541 billion in cash

Canadian corporations are done paying taxes for the year, according to a new study that links massive corporate tax giveaways to hoarding hundreds of billions in cash.

Wednesday is Corporate Tax Freedom Day, meaning that corporations have now paid their entire share of taxes for the year to all levels of government, the Canadian Labour Congress report shows.

And instead of investing in creating jobs after a decade of massive corporate tax cuts, corporations are hoarding $541 billion in cash.

"In return for tax breaks, business has promised to invest in training, research and development and job creation but they have failed to do that," said the CLC's Hassan Yussuff. "Companies have instead been hoarding cash and paying out fat compensation to their CEOs."

Here are other key findings in the report:

Corporations and CEOs are getting richer

  • Since 2000, the federal corporate tax rate has been cut at the waist, from 28% to 15%.
  • Corporate after tax profit margins rose 6.9% in 2000 to 8.1% in 2012.
  • During the same period, CEO compensation ballooned to an average of $7.96 million in 2012.
  • Between 2000 and 2012, the cash reserves of private, non-financial private corporations in Canada grew from $182 to $541 billion — an increase of 300%. 
  • And the rest of us aren’t seeing any benefits:
  • Corporate income taxes in 2012 amounted to only 7.85% of all government revenues, down from 10.1% in 2000.
  • Unemployment has increased. While the official unemployment rate currently stands at 7.1%, the real unemployment rate (factoring in underemployment and those no longer actively searching for work) stands at 14% as of December 2013.
  • Business investment in R&D has fallen from 1.13% of GDP in 2000 to 0.88% in 2012.
  • Investment in employee training and skill training is down by 40% since the 1990s. Canadian companies spent an average of $688 per employee on training; in the U.S. it was $1,701.
  • Economic growth between 2000 and 2012 was 1.14% — one of the longest periods of low economic growth in decades.

Happy Corporate Tax Freedom Day!

Photo: eric_fink. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

Veterans to Conservatives: "You bushwacked us"

The Conservative government has a big problem on their hands: angry veterans who feel disrespected after Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino skipped out on a scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

After failing to show up, Fantino just made things worse when he showed up just before the four veterans were about to start a press conference on Parliament Hill. The veterans had travelled from all across the country to plead with the government to keep nine veterans offices open.

They didn't like being dissed -- and they told the minister so.

"This finger pointing doesn't work very well with me," Fantino told one of the vets, who had asked for assurances that the offices would remain open.

"Well it didn't work well with us that you didn't turn up at a meeting that you were supposed to turn up to. And don't give me this thing about, 'Something came up.' You bushwacked us," responded veteran Paul Davis.

Watch what happened next:


Fantino, after noticing that newscasts weren't dropping the story, issued an apology on Wednesday afternoon.  

The veterans -- Ron Clarke, Bruce Moncur, Paul Davis and Roy Lamore -- followed up with a statement, saying the apology isn't good enough.

"What the Minister did yesterday was disgraceful. The only thing we want is a commitment to keep open the eight offices and reopen the Prince George office. Veterans have earned that respect."

Davis followed up by telling CBC News that Fantino was a "bully" who had to go.