Friday, November 13, 2009

Kicking them while they're down.

Yesterday, I wrote a short post on updated employment figures that show that it is the youth, impoverished and working class families that are most affected by growing unemployment in this recession.

Two stories that I came across recently confirm who is really being affected by the recession. First, a report from the Community Foundations of Canada is
pointing out that the youth unemployment rate has hit a 30-year high. Youth
unemployment rose to a staggering 16.3 per cent over this past summer. Even
those youth who are able to find work are getting far fewer hours.

In the meantime, Statistics Canada data is showing that "Young people,
low-paid workers and families with children have borne the biggest share of job
losses in this downturn, while those aged 55 and over had modest employment
gains." Talk to anyone in their early 20s and they can tell you stories about
themselves, or their peers who are under or unemployed.

I concluded by criticising pending government cutbacks as a kick-em-while-they're-down strategy, because programs like education, post-secondary education, affordable housing and income supports are being threatened with cutbacks.

I'm sure glad that the Alberta government is gearing up for a kick-em-while-they're-down strategy towards our youth, impoverished and families by planning to cut the social institutions that we have set up to help those people in our society who need it most.

Silly me, I wrote about this before our premier came out and delivered the biggest boot to the head of the unemployed, saying "The A and B Crews are working and the C Crew is at home until they change their attitude."

Well, Ed, it is clear who needs the attitude adjustment. You've earned your monicker of Steady Eddie, because we have a youth unemployment pandemic and you have done NOTHING to improve their situation. Which is par for the course on how you manage to handle pandemics.

The premier's flak Tom Olsen tried to clarify by saying that the premier meant to say these people got used to $80,000 a year jobs with no training and now aren't prepared to go out and get an education.

He's got a bit of a point. This government blessed oil companies with low royalties, low taxes and corporate handouts for the past decade allowing the oil industry to boom unchecked. We were desperate for workers - oil companies chased after our youth with promises of big bucks and big trucks. So, you can't really blame them for somehow getting the idea that life was easy. Many kids were poached from high school without a second thought for their longterm wellbeing and sent off to the rigs and the pits. For some, the work-hard, party-hard lifestyle and easy-come, easy-go cash flow resulted into some pretty nasty drug addictions.

Now, you're blaming them for having no job and no education. You have got to be kidding me! You tell them to go back to school, yet you're cutting finding to education, tuition is rising and student loans are becoming smaller and harder to get. Meanwhile, you're cutting oil royalties and corporate taxes to 'stimulate' the economy?!?! It seems to me the only things being stimulated are the oil executives and shareholders.

Ed, you better hope they don't learn how to vote.


Rob said...

The history of the development of Alberta's petroleum industry is something we should keep in consideration. Alberta's governments have been relatively averse to subsidizing economic development. It was the idea that low royalties and tax breaks that reward companies' economic success. Those low royalties and tax breaks did attract capital investment and advanced the province's economy.

In 1980, royalties increased and multinational oil and gas companies began taking their business elsewhere which exacerbated the economic downturn in Alberta.

Here we are again in an economic downturn, lowering royalties and giving tax cuts, for the time being, isn't nonsense. Proportionally we stand to make less money per barrel, but we're trying to increase the number of barrels and get our roughnecks back to work.

I agree, most certainly, that our provincial government has made plenty of odd choices this year but my question is, . . . where is our money? Our government has been bragging about its balanced budgets year after year and then . . . $4.7 billion deficit that they say will take a zillion years to pay off.

And we call ourselves Keynesians. We were supposed to be saving money so we could stimulate the economy during the downturn so we didn't have to spend ourselves into some hideous debt. Apparently we were spending what we should have been saving and now we're spending capital we don't have. Here come the cuts to social programs, education and health care.

I think the uncomfortable truth is that in economic hardship - we're going to have to suffer, we aren't going to be immune to it. Those of us who had good paying jobs but still lived paycheck to paycheck - well we're sleeping in the beds we've made. The majority of Albertans' lives aren't much different this year than in 2007 - but people in the lowest income bracket suffer during economic downturn . . . go figure.

Sorry for the long post, I'm (not) writing a term paper.

I don't think too many roughnecks got the idea that life was easy; maybe that finding work was easy - and that life was a lot 14hr+ days and 25 day months of hard work. The money isn't easy come - it can be utterly miserable work (those of us who haven't worked on an invert drilling rig at night in terrible weather with millions of moths flying around, can't fully appreciate how hard earned that money comes). I would say the money comes in quick and leaves quicker as many roughnecks desperately try to enjoy the few hours and days they have for themselves by spending hard and partying harder.

I do think, though, that we do our hard working roughnecks a disservice. It's not that they are uneducated or untrained, it's that they're education and training was obtained on the job - not in a formal educational institution. Roughnecks possess very specific and required skills that can, practically, only be learned on site - they're trained for their vocation.

But yeah, they payed 26% income tax year after year, then they're told to go back to school. But when they need the schools, largely funded by these guy's tax dollars, the schools' funding has been cut. Talk about the short end of the stick.

Atypical Albertan said...

I accidently deleted the following comment posted by Matt:

Rob, it's not the 1980's anymore. Where are the oil companies going to go? The oil sands are the second largest oil reserves in the world, Syncrude, Suncore and the others are heavily invested. Do you think they're really going to pack up and move just because they're going to have to pay a little more royalties? It's all rhetoric to keep the money in their pockets and in the pockets of their political allies. This type of policy doesn't serve the average Albertan or Canadian.