November 2014 Archives


Veterans heading into joint press conference with PSAC.jpg

It’s been one horror story after another. Veterans are having to sue the government to get the benefits they are entitled to. The government has torn up the social contract with veterans that has been in place since World War I. Essential services for veterans are being cut back. A rising suicide rate among veterans has already moved past the combat fatality rate. The Minister of Veterans Affairs, Julian Fantino, openly sneers at vets while he sports a chestful of medals as though he’s one of them.

It’s no coincidence that the government announced it will allocate some money for veterans with mental health problems just after the news broke that Veterans Affairs gave $1.1 billion back to the Treasury instead of spending it on the people it was intended to help. Imagine the services that could have been retained had that money been spent as intended.

This all puts Harper’s grand and expensive celebrations of the War of 1812 into a bit of perspective, eh? Of course it’s important to remember the past. But it’s equally important, I would have thought, to give badly needed assistance to those who are alive today.

Here are some facts: since 2010, Veterans Affairs has lost nearly a quarter of its workforce. Since 2012, 1,255 VA employees have been handed “affected” notices. Nine VA regional offices have been closed. Client service agents presently have a caseload of 750 to 1,200 veterans each. Something simply has to give. Unfortunately, it’s our veterans who are unfairly bearing the brunt of these cutbacks.

Our response? We’ve tabled a proposal at the bargaining table asking the government to declare a moratorium on Veterans Affairs cuts until an independent study is carried out to see if the department can still fulfil its mandate. And we will continue to work with veterans across the country as we have been doing for some time, to do what every citizen of this country should be doing—showing support for those who need assistance. Remembrance Day was just a few days ago—but how quickly some seem to forget.

“It’s not about left and right in politics,” said Don Leonardo, of Veterans Canada, who is an injured veteran himself. “It’s about what’s right and what’s wrong and the Conservatives on this file are absolutely wrong.” Amen to that.

Robyn Benson, PSAC

Think about the children

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It's good to see the idea of a national childcare program back on the public agenda, where it's come and gone since 1970. To say "it's about time" would be silly. It was "about time" more than forty years ago when the Royal Commission on the Status of Women first proposed it. It's well past due now.

Quebec led the way on this, introducing its own affordable childcare program in 1997. The boost to the Quebec economy was significant: by 2008, 70,000 more mothers were employed outside the home than would have been the case without the program, and Quebec's domestic income rose by about $5 billion. Given the tax revenue generated, that benefits everyone, including the federal government. An accessible childcare program, in other words, makes good economic sense. But perhaps most importantly, quality child care is good for kids and for all families of all income-levels.

On the federal scene, the Liberal government of Paul Martin had achieved all-province support for a national childcare program, but when Stephen Harper was elected in 2006 he promptly trashed the deal. Instead he brought in a "Universal Child Care Benefit," (UCCB) which was a pittance then and will remain a pittance under the recently announced new increase--to $160/month, when parents outside Quebec are paying as much as $2000/month for a childcare space. A slight rise in the Child Care Expense Deduction won't give much respite to parents either. The biggest problem, though, is that neither the UCCB nor the child care expense deduction has created new affordable child care spaces. For the $17.5 billion that the Harper government has spent on the UCCB so far, 700,000 new childcare spaces could have been created if the money had been directed to building a child care system instead.

Stephen Harper also announced income-splitting to help families. What he didn't say is that it's a measure that will benefit very few. You don't get that benefit if you're a single parent, or you and your spouse are in the same tax bracket. In fact, 86 per cent of Canadian families will get nothing from this measure. And not surprisingly it's . the wealthy who will end up with most of the benefit. Whereas a universal childcare program helps everyone and more than pays for itself in economic benefits, the considerable loss of tax revenue resulting from income splitting will mean more cuts to federal programs and more "austerity" for Canadians.

In a few federal workplaces the PSAC managed to win workplace childcare several years ago. But the employer is now taking the same negative attitude to those modest advances--for example, forcing the popular Tupper Tots Daycare Centre to relocate by abolishing its rental subsidy last year.

Luckily, however, the broad-based movement to fight for a national child care program is being revived and getting ready for action. On November 13-15, in my old stomping ground of Winnipeg, the Childcare2020 National Conference will bring together experts and activists from across the country to share information and strategize about moving forward. I will be there, representing our union, and I'm proud that the PSAC, long a campaigner for a national childcare program, is helping to sponsor this event.

Neither individual parents nor the country as a whole can afford to wait much longer. Let's all help to keep this vital issue on the national agenda until next year's federal election.

Robyn Benson, PSAC

N'oublions pas les enfants

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La création d'un programme national de garderies fait les manchettes de façon intermittente depuis 1970. Si on peut se réjouir que l'idée soit de nouveau à l'avant-scène, il serait absurde de croire que le moment est bien choisi. Le moment aurait été bien choisi il y a plus de 40 ans, lorsque la Commission royale d'enquête sur la situation de la femme au Canada a proposé l'idée pour la première fois. Aujourd'hui, le moment est au rattrapage.

C'est le Québec qui a ouvert la voie en mettant sur pied son propre programme de garderies abordables en 1997. L'économie de la province ne s'en est que mieux portée : on estime qu'en 2008, le programme avait majoré le produit intérieur brut d'environ cinq milliards de dollars et permis à quelque 70 000 mères de plus de travailler à l'extérieur. Si on tient compte des recettes fiscales additionnelles, il s'agit d'une formule gagnante pour tout le monde, y compris le gouvernement fédéral. En d'autres mots, les services de garde de qualité sont bons pour l'économie, et plus encore pour les enfants, toutes classes sociales confondues.

Rappelons que le gouvernement libéral de Paul Martin avait obtenu de l'ensemble des provinces qu'elles appuient un programme national de garderies. Cette entente, Stephen Harper l'a mise au rancart dès son accession au pouvoir en 2006, la remplaçant par la Prestation universelle pour la garde d'enfants (PUGE). Cette prestation mensuelle était dérisoire à l'époque et rien n'a changé. Car même si elle passe à 160 $ par mois, comment aidera-t-elle les parents qui vivent à l'extérieur du Québec, où les places en garderie peuvent coûter jusqu'à 2 000 $ par mois? Ce n'est pas non plus la légère augmentation de la déduction pour frais de garde d'enfants qui les soulagera. Ni la PUGE, ni la déduction pour frais de garde d'enfants ne créent de places abordables en garderie : c'est là tout le problème. À ce jour, le programme de PUGE a coûté 17,5 milliards de dollars aux contribuables. Avec cet argent, le gouvernement Harper aurait pu créer 700 000 nouvelles places en garderie dans le cadre d'un programme national.

Stephen Harper affirme que le fractionnement du revenu aidera les familles. Ce qu'il ne dit pas, par contre, c'est que cette mesure ne profitera qu'à une faible minorité des ménages. Elle ne profitera pas aux familles monoparentales ni à celles dont les deux parents font sensiblement le même salaire. En fait, elle ne changera rien à la situation de 86 % des familles canadiennes. Le fractionnement du revenu allégera le fardeau fiscal des mieux nantis, un point c'est tout. Tandis qu'un programme universel de garderies aide toutes les familles et que ses retombées économiques compensent largement les coûts, la perte de recettes fiscales découlant du fractionnement du revenu se traduira par d'autres coupes dans les programmes fédéraux et par davantage d'« austérité ».

Il y a plusieurs années, notre syndicat a négocié à l'arraché des dispositions sur les services de garde pour quelques milieux de travail fédéraux. Aujourd'hui, l'employeur fait à nouveau des siennes, comme en témoigne, par exemple, l'élimination de la subvention au loyer de la garderie Les tout-petits de Tupper, qui a forcé cet établissement très fréquenté à déménager. L'opposition à nos modestes acquis persiste.

Heureusement, le mouvement de lutte pour un programme national de garderies refait lui aussi des siennes! On le verra en action à l'occasion du congrès Services de garde 2020, qui se tiendra à Winnipeg, dans mon coin de pays, du 13 au 15 novembre. Le congrès permettra à des spécialistes et des militants de partout au pays d'échanger information et stratégies. J'y représenterai notre syndicat qui, je suis fière de le rappeler, fait campagne depuis longtemps pour la création d'un programme national de garderies et coparraine le congrès.

Les parents n'ont plus les moyens d'attendre. Le pays non plus. Ils comptent sur nous pour maintenir la question à l'avant-plan jusqu'aux élections fédérales de 2015.

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