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The Undeserving Rich


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Stephen Harper's tough talk on temporary foreign workers falls apart in one graph

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently delivered a scathing critique of the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program during a roundtable with members of the ethnic media in Vancouver, saying companies have been "abusing" the program and harming Canadian workers "only for the sake of the bottom line profit."

Too bad his government has been facilitating the growth -- and abuse -- of the program since coming to power in 2006 by:

 No wonder tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers have been flooding Canada to fill "McJobs" and others under the Harper government:

Migrant workers by job type, 2012

Source: Canadian Labour CongressHow the Conservatives Expanded the Temporary Worker Pipeline by Tony Biddle, www.perfectworlddesign.ca, 2013. 

(The federal government has yet to release full statistics for 2013, but the CLC has crunched the numbers for the first half of 2013, and found that jobs in accommodation/food services account for about 20% of temporary foreign worker positions. If retail and other service jobs are included, low-wage service jobs made up about a third of all positions. The CLC has also found that with numbers for the first half of 2013, total TFW positions were 51.5% of the 2012 yearly total.) 

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Did Ontario Tories really just double down on "right to work" agenda?

Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak raised eyebrows when he released a jobs plan last week that didn't include any reference to "right to work" legislation.

Making union dues voluntary is popular in some conservative circles, especially in the United States. It weakens unions so they can't bargain or organize effectively.

Hudak had been talking up "right to work" legislation in the lead up to an anticipated spring election, but then he didn't mention it as part of his jobs plan. The Globe and Mail noticed the omission, and mused about whether was Hudak setting the stage for a flip flop on his support for a "right to work" regime in Ontario.

After all, driving down wages and benefits for everyone isn't a great idea if you're trying to revitilize the middle class. Even corporate executives know that strong unions are a "key driver" in creating the middle class.

Dave Brister, a nominated candidate for Hudak's Progressive Conservative Party in the Windsor area, took to Twitter late Monday and Tuesday morning to give his two cents. He doesn't like "right to work" laws, and indicated he was pleased with Hudak's apparent change of heart.

By the end of the day, Hudak had fired Brister as a PC candidate, making it clear the fight with labour is on. Here's Brister's play-by-play:


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Photo: Ontariochamber. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

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Who represents Canada at the wealth inequality Olympics?

Canada's richest family, worth more than $20 billion thanks to inheritance and media holdings, are members of Club 85: the richest 85 people on the globe who own the wealth of half of the world's population.

Oxfam International's inequality index lays out how we got to a point where 85 families, including Canada's David Thomson and family, control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together. 

That's 3.5 billion people.

"In developed and developing countries alike, we are increasingly living in a world where the lowest tax rates, the best health and education and the opportunity to influence are being given not just to the rich but also to their children," explains Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima, who is attending this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

"Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations. We will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream. In too many countries economic growth already amounts to little more than a 'winner takes all' windfall for the richest." 

Speaking of windfalls for the rich, Statistic Canada's upcoming Financial Security 2012 survey, expected to be released within weeks, will provide an updated snapshot of wealth inequality in Canada.

The last time Statistics Canada looked at assets, debts and net wealth of Canadians in 2005, it showed the top 20% of Canadian families held 75% of total household wealth, compared to 73% in 1999 and 69% in 1984. The bottom 20% didn't even register.

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