|Fishing for |
To the locals, the onset of the lobster season is the enduring symbol of the resilience and perseverance of the hardy locals, who see the lobster fishery as a proud measure of their collective industry.
To the rest of us in Canada and the other regions of Quebec, where work, careers and taxes are a 12-month a year affair, the lobster industry should be seen for what it is, a cruel con on taxpayers, played out each and every year wherein nine weeks of work are exchanged for forty weeks of unemployment benefits.....yup, each and every year.
As you know the Harper government has threatened the very essence of this model of dependance, telling participants that they really need to seek alternate employment and that the model whereby nine weeks of work translating into 40 weeks of benefits is just no longer sustainable, nor acceptable.
This of course led to a massive reaction by those implicated with the largest demonstration against the reform happening this last weekend with thousands and thousands marching in the streets to save their benefits. While demonstrations organized by militants and sovereigntists over independence or language usually produce less than 500 demonstrators, nothing gets Quebecers into the streets as quickly as a threat to their entitlements.
Let's be clear about Quebec's lobster industry, it is a Quebec government ruse maintained to 'stamp up' the locals, a practice whereby a seasonal industry is used to qualify participants for long term unemployment benefits paid for by the federal government.
"Thousands of Montrealers snaked through the city's downtown core on Saturday afternoon to protest against the Conservative government's changes to employment insurance.
So don't vote for Harper next time! (joke)
The changes to EI, which came into effect in January, have spurred several protests this year across Eastern Canada — home to many seasonal workers affected by the new rules.
The reforms require workers to travel up to 100 kilometres and to accept jobs that pay as little as 70 per cent of their previous hourly wage — providing that is not below the province's minimum wage rate.
Saturday's protesters left early in the afternoon from three different points in the city and met at Montreal's Quartier des Spectacles, where they wrapped up their demonstration with several speeches.
Those participating included farmers, seasonal workers, human rights activists, labour unions, representatives from the Bloc Québécois youth wing, and members of organizations for people who are unemployed.
Many said the changes make it more difficult to collect benefits.Some demonstrators were concerned about the effects on eastern Canada's small fishing villages. They said the communities could be destroyed by the reforms, which would force residents to leave in order to find work." Read more
The practice was fine tuned and elevated to an art form by the Newfoundland government, where fish plants, sometimes working at a loss, were built for no other purpose but to provide workers the minimum hours of employment required to qualify for federal benefits, thus shifting the onus to Canadian taxpayers of supporting the Newfoundland indolent.
Here's a 2002 article describing the scheme;
In fact, in rural Newfoundland, the 'stamping up' phenomenon was so highly refined, that in towns where there weren't enough fish plant jobs to go around, once a somebody had worked enough hours to be 'stamped up' and eligible for unemployment benefits, he or she was expected to step aside and let another take his or her job!"In Newfoundland each summer fish plant workers race to put in the 420 hours needed to qualify for Employment Insurance.
Some plants are lucky and have no trouble, but for many smaller plants it is a cause for celebration when all hands are stamped up for the winter. For getting all hands to qualify is no mean feat.
Newfoundland has almost 140 fish plants, and up to 20,000 fish plant workers. Although some of the plants are highly automated, highly efficient operations that produce year-round. (National Sea's Arnold's Cove plant and Beothuck Fisheries’ Valleyfield plant are examples of a modern year round fish processing industry.) Many of the rest were put there for political reasons, often paid for by tax dollars, and often barely able to give their workers the 420 hours needed to qualify for 34 weeks of employment insurance.
Most are known as "stamp factories", a place one qualifies for EI. (Historically weeks worked for unemployment insurance purposes were recorded by pasting stamps in a record book.) Read this fascinating account: "Fishing for UI"
In the Magdalen Islands, about one-third of the non-governmental jobs are related to the lobster fishery and so you can imagine the impact on the local economy should the federal government change in any significant manner, the rules of qualification for employment benefits.
And so it isn't surprising that we are subjected to the shrill protestation of those potentially affected with agonized cries that if the Prime Minister goes forward with his reforms, he will be directly killing the Magdalen Islands, forcing families off the island in order to seek more permanent employment.
To those who receive benefits, it is the ultimate threat.... Stop paying us and you'll drive us out of our homes and destroy our community!
Here's a funny story told to me that supposedly happened at an Employment Insurance protest which was blocking a Montreal street.
A protester was haranguing a passerby in a stopped car describing the cruel fate that was to befall him and his co-protesters should the Harper reforms be rigorously applied.
Annoyed by the inconvenience of being delayed, the frustrated passerby lifted his leg and farted rather loudly, telling the complainer that; "this the closest you're going to come to me giving a shit!"
So I wonder how much taxpayers in Fort McMurray, Timmins, Weyburn or Kitimat really care about paying these people out of their hard earned taxes to sit on their asses for nine months a year in order to preserve a way of life.
If the Quebec government wants to preserve these uneconomic regions, should Canadian taxpayers across the country be obliged pay to for it, or should it be the responsibility of Quebecers to do so alone?
The Parti Quebecois, the unions, the separatist lobby all believe that it is Canada's responsibility, while Harper and his cronies believe that paying people to do nothing for nine months a year is not insurance, but rather welfare, strictly a provincial affair.
Let us remember that Quebec takes out 40% of the benefits of the total unemployment fund, while contributing just 23%.
At any rate, the kicker to the story is that before the Harper reform, the lobster industry in Quebec was complaining that the employment insurance program was unfair because the nine weeks of fishing plus the forty weeks of insurance money, left the participants with three weeks of no income, a situation which they referred to as a 'Black Hole," a stressful and unconscionable situation where no money was coming in.....something according to them, that the government 'had to address!'.
It's a good lesson about complaining, a perfect example that things can always get worse, much worse!