Sunday, August 29, 2010


During an investigation into some alleged wrongdoings on the part of key Liberal party ministers and officials during "HRDC-Gate" and "Sponsorgate", one former Minister David Dingwall, who eventually moved on to head the Royal Canadian Mint, told a Parliamentary Committee that he was "entitled to his entitlements". In another investigation, Brian Mulroney was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by accepting up to $300,000 in cash from an alleged German arms dealer shortly after he stepped down from his job as Prime Minister. These cash deposits were allegedly not put into any bank accounts, but a safety deposit box, which raised a number of eyebrows. Mulroney made a voluntary self-disclosure to Canada Revenue Agency years later. There was an expensive public inquiry into this matter, leaving many questions still unanswered and probably Karlheinz Schreiber probably ended up more tarnished than Mulroney did. But what would happen if you are I did the same thing?

At the provincial level, we learn about private consultants working for $3000 a day, plus benefits of disbursements, such as tea and crumpets from Tim Hortons. These consultants allegedly worked for e-Health, although I suspect they did other work in "communications" with the provincial government, likely to communicate their intention to cut the special diet program to poor and disabled persons with medical conditions requiring them to eat specific foods at a higher cost. All that got into the media, unfortunately, was one consultant's tab for tea and crumpets and the fact that a large Liberal-friendly consulting firm got a sole-source contract to achieve this e-Health program. This billion dollar boondoggle, like the federal one on sponsorships in Quebec, was stopped short of a scandal and Ministers resigned. Yet at the same time, none of the consultants had to pay a single penny of their "hard earned monies" back. Earlier, another Minister handed over $200.000 to a cricket club in his riding. These stories are running ad nauseum; even Mike Harris pushed Ontario into a significant debt after awarding Anderson Consulting a $284 MILLION sole-source contract to develop the computer systems for Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program ... and when there were errors, this same government had the audacity to bring them back in and pay them millions of dollars more to correct the mistakes they shouldn't have made in the first place!

During our recent recession, both provincial and federal government handed out tax dollars to the banks to the tune of over $50 billion, as well as to General Motors to the tune of $16 billion, while many workers lost their jobs and could not get on to Employment Insurance. In the U.S., George Bush as a parting gift to Obama, put the U.S. treasury over $1 trillion dollars into debt bailing out their banks and mortgage companies, many of them of which got saddled with bad loans and foreclosures. They also apparently own General Motors now, as some now call Government Motors. AIG, one of the loan companies bailed out, immediately paid its executives million dollar bonuses. After all, all of these people were entitled to their entitlements.

In Ontario, a woman named Eleonore Clitheroe was terminated from her position at Hydro One, after she raked in over $2.2 million in her last year, and upon looking into her expenses, it was also alleged that she expensed hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal expenses, such as limousine rides for her children as well as renovations for her upscale home. She naturally took the government to court and sued, it appears this likely got settled out of court. However, recently she got herself in the news again litigating over her "rights" to a $35,000 a month pension from the province, when she is apparently only receiving one in the paltry lower $25,000 level ... she argued with the court that she, too, was entitled to her entitlements.

Public sector workers, ranging from teachers, to fire fighters, to police officers and other workers "win" at least 3% raises each year for the next three years, until they start all over again. This, while many of us are losing jobs and cannot afford to pay anymore. Municipalities and school boards are helpless, as the province forces them to pay what arbitrators tell them to pay. It must be nice having a job in one of these sectors. They certainly aren't hiring anybody else, no matter how qualified you are, because if anybody at all is going to get the jobs, if there are any new openings, are those that already worked there ... so the rest of us either have to accept leftover jobs, like call centre, Wal-Mart and burger flipping, or invest in a time machine to bring us back to the 70's and 80's when new jobs were coming up in these fields and get hired then.

Workers in these public sector jobs have no right to complain about their salaries. Sure, they work hard, but so does the minimum wage doughnut shop worker. So does the teenager that fills your gas tank when you go to a full-service gas station. You say you went to school for a long time to get what you want ... not necessarily true. Teachers need a minimum of a four year degree, plus an educational degree which is one or two years. I know people who have been to school much longer and owe way more in student loans who are now stuck greeting shoppers at Wal-Mart, because virtually all the "good jobs" are in union shops and closed to the public. I know many teachers in my region, and they are the first to complain about the high cost of living here. I say, yes, try making it on less than half your salary.

Others work in the private sector in jobs like General Motors, TRW, US Steel, etc. and make over $30 an hour. They tell us they work hard. Sorry, people who make minimum wage also work hard, and yes - you can also be making minimum wage too if it weren't for the hard work and bargaining power given by others to make your job a good job. My bet is you had NOTHING to do with making your job a good job, other than being lucky enough to apply for the job at the right time and get in. To me, that is luck and not hard work. Others are single parents and get no pay at all, and they "work hard" too ... probably harder than many of the men that complain about their taxes. Some of you "hard workers" are self-employed, but the money you had to start your business probably came from your family, or perhaps the business you run belonged to your family and you got a place in it just because you were born there. So what, that means nothing to me. This doesn't make you more deserving than anybody else ... but time after time, it is YOUR TYPE OF PEOPLE who spend time on their computers at work instead of working, who bash the poor at websites, such as that for the Toronto Sun, Toronto Star and other places, where comment can be shared online. They always use fake names. I suppose they don't want their employers to read the sites and find their signatures there and esp. marked during working hours.

Personally, I have been involved as a teaching assistant and course coordinator at the university where I earned two of my degrees. I would say about half of the students attending my classes were not able to put a simple sentence together. My marking and teaching philosophy was often criticized by these students because I would mark them for grammar and sentence structure, as well as whether they were picking up anything from the course. I've had students bitterly complain to my department's chair that they had to get an 80% or more in the course, or they would not get to teachers' college. Yes, folks, many of these people just might be teaching your children today. After all, they are entitled to their entitlements.

I've known other students that never bothered showing up for lectures and would make an occasional appearance in seminars, usually looking half snapped up or on dope. In order to keep up, they paid other students for their notes and there have been occasions where plagiarism was caught red-handed. In these cases, I rightfully brought the papers to the department chair for her review and she agreed with my assessment and we gave them zeros. One of them came storming in about how his father works for such and such a law firm, and so forth, and how the school will get sued, and so forth ... I told them then to their face that I don't give a shit. Perhaps, he can go to his father to have him teach him how to write too, as that would be a great start before going to teacher's college. Very few of these students were on OSAP. A few made it quite clear they were from well to do families and did not have to take out a loan or work at all, and I believed them, because they certainly didn't work on their school work either.

Outside of school, I was also involved in consulting for a number of non-profit and publicly funded organizations. In many cases, people worked there for years taking very large salaries, and in one case, paying board members to attend meetings and help keep them in their jobs (despite not doing their job, of course). In another case, an individual would write reports for the board about the various meetings she went to or conducted, and when somebody checked this out - this person did actually nothing at all. There were no meetings and the people she spoke to did not exist. People often get into these jobs because they know somebody, whether that be a board member, the executive director, or somebody else closely tied to the organization. It is rarely about what they know. In fact, there is no law that prohibits publicly funded non-profits from hiring their relatives, high-school drop-outs or even those that have just come out of prison for fraud. This does not mean they all do this (as many organizations do care about their image -- but surprisingly not all of them), but without controls, many such organizations do fall to this. The only requirement I am aware of is vulnerable sector checks with the police, which is required only for organizations that work directly with vulnerable adults or children. However, I am not sure if the same is required for their executive director, or their accountant (although some such organizations do pass policies to cover everybody).

After many years of seeing this, I can honestly say there are not a lot of hard working people out there. Those folks that have a good job today think they did this on their own, when this is likely not the case. They likely knew somebody where they worked, had parents or friends connected to the business at some point or others who "encouraged" them to apply and gave a good word for them, or they had parents pay for their university education and possibly even their first car, so they are well out of the starting gate before their less fortunate peers even hear the starting gun. Personally, I don't care about these people and do not believe for a second, they work hard at all or they are even deserving of the good salary they make. People who read this can also relate to how on a day to day basis, they have to talk to you so-called "hard workers" in your positions, whether this be in government, insurance companies, health care organizations, car repair shops, or whatever ... and the rate of satisfaction with your customer service is pretty low. I been there. I know.

However, it is precisely this group of people and the well-paid public sector workers that do the most poor bashing. They try to convince people that they can just get "any job" and be making a middle class income within a year. First, somebody on welfare is not going to get a good paying job - ever. Studies have been done on this. Even when somebody on welfare is pushing themselves hard and takes any job for survival, they tend to cycle on and off welfare and low paying, short-term jobs. Very few are able to further their education, or get promoted in the jobs they do get. A teenager at 16 that starts working at McDonalds is not going to become its manager in the next ten years. Maybe even twenty or thirty years. We know that working at this low level does not improve their salary over time ... their wages stay the same and only increase if minimum wages go up. Ask people who work at Loblaws and Wal-Mart how often they get raises. Call centres are a bit better on the wage front, but most people do not last more than a year. I also know that very few people who are on welfare can ever move beyond a "paycheque to paycheque" situation to being a wealthy, even upper middle class person. It does not happen, not in the 21st century.

But at the same time, many of these well-paid workers get all summer off, full dental benefits that even cover cosmetic dentistry, a retirement income that many of us in the leftover sector can only dream of, as well as other things that they did not earn or work for. I know a few employers that pay people a couple of bucks more an hour just to show up! I asked them why they do this, and they tell me that many of their employees book off a lot. Office workers have been found to spend at least 30 - 40% of the time in the office on their employer's time on the computer doing personal transactions, whether e-mail, visiting personal websites, or chatting. Some employers have strict policies on this, but in larger companies it is difficult to track specific people. But I read the racist, ableist, classist and bullying comments on websites day after day, and the same pseudonyms pop up during all hours of the day, regardless ... I only wish their employers would check on these workers more often, and I suspect if they did, many of them would be on the unemployment lines right now as I speak.

I also see workers taking "personal days off" when they call in sick. This happens all the time. In a large employer you are allowed up to ten days during a twelve month period of "emergency leave days", but this doesn't mean you have to get paid. In the late spring, I've watched several people call in sick and they were at the beach, or they were heading into a bar. I heard them talk to their employers into their cell phones, saying they were sick as I watched them enter a bar on St. Paul Street ... or similar situations. Yes, they are entitled to their entitlements. I also know them when they come to my office at the other end and learn they have been fired, and ask me to represent them against their employers. Yes, there are many bad employers out there, but there are many, many bad employees. One employee apparently stole over a million dollars from her employer over seven years so she can gamble. A lot of fraud takes place by employees, we only hear about the big cases. A friend recently reported that a moving company took all day to complete what would have been a three hour move so they can bill for the whole day, as opposed to a few hours.

At a non-profit organization, there was a policy on "time in lieu" because the agency couldn't afford overtime, so as a result, they contracted with their employees to pay overtime in the form of time off equivalent, such as if they worked an hour overtime, they got an hour and a half worth of time off. Concerns were raised when I did some board training about the "abuse" of this policy. Staff seemed to spend a lot more time going to meetings and conferences than they did doing their jobs, and unfortunately, they got a lot of time off in lieu as a result! We had to re-work the policy limiting the number of hours per month they can claim for outside meetings or conferences, and anything over that was their own time - period. Even for the approved meetings and conferences, they had to be directly related to their job, and approved ahead of time by the program director.

I read in the paper that teachers are being pressured not to take marks off for late assignments, or for grammar/spelling, and to pass people more readily. Teachers are being pressured by students and more likely, their parents, to give their kids good grades. I am so pleased I had the backing of the university administration when I was in charge of my courses back then. I certainly hope things are the same now, and that these so-called hard working poor souls did not take advantage and push themselves through to "earn" undeserved credits.

Unfortunately, while nobody questions the billions of dollars that go out the window each year in tax breaks, corporate bailouts, questionable stimulus programs, and so forth, these same people bitch about the less than 2% of our gross domestic product that goes out to support low income, disabled and unemployed workers. They go on websites and claim to "know" that at least half the people who are getting disability are not in fact disabled. How do they know, I wonder ... I guess they must all be doctors and have all examined these people personally. They also seem to claim people on welfare get grossly inflated amounts of money, and query if they are really better off working. They say they are entitled to lower taxes because they "work hard", but people on assistance aren't entitled to anything more than say somebody who committed a crime is. As for whether YOU work hard, I say, PROVE it! The burden of proof is on YOU, if you are telling others how hard YOU work. I already know most of YOU do not work hard, and most of you lucked out in getting your better paying job, or got connected through somebody you know, and not because of what you know (if you know anything at all).

Nobody questions that 20 - 30% of tax returns that are filed fraudulently, at least in part, many by wealthy people who are abusing loopholes, or self-employed contractors accepting cash payments, etc., depriving the treasury of billions and billions of dollars a year, yet YOU focus on the less than 1% of people who are unfortunate enough to be on welfare that might be getting something extra they might not be entitled to. And YOU are entitled to your entitlements. I don't have the right to question you as to why you seem to be able to sit at your computer all day and evening writing racial and prejudicial epithets on websites, while you claim to work so hard. I don't have the right to ask who your employer is, so I can verify your information. For all I know, you could be on house arrest for drinking and driving or something, so don't give me any pity party stories about how hard you work, because I know you don't work hard at all. If you really did work hard, I would not be hearing from you on the web. You wouldn't have the time to go online! I have some time because I work online, and I am self-employed in an office, and it just takes a couple of minutes for me to check email, and various sites.

I hear whining and complaining from some of you saying you pay 50% of your income in taxes. In order to do that, you must be in the top 10% of income earners of Ontario, and I personally would rather make what you do and pay the taxes, than earn a lower income that doesn't attract as much taxes. So quit your bitching! You have nothing to complain about.

If the rules that applied to people that work who are on welfare applied to you, you WOULD be bitching! Not only would you have to pay taxes and regular deductions from whatever you earn, you lose an additional 50% of your pay. If you have a disability, and cannot work at all, and are forced to live on the Ontario Disability Support Program, and you are married and your spouse works, 50% of anything he or she earns AFTER TAXES is deducted from YOUR cheque! Most of you would be crying bloody murder by then, as most of you are in families where both of you work, and no matter how much either one of you earn, it does not lower the other spouse's income. I tell the government to change this rule, keep the spouses out of it, regardless of income, assets, savings, whatever ... keep them out of it and if the disabled spouse cannot work, give them their OWN income. They tell me they can't do that because then they will be making a middle class income as a family. Hey, if that disabled spouse WERE ABLE to work, he or she WOULD be making a middle class income ... so the government's position on this is that if you are disabled and unable to work, you deserve to be poor. You are also deserving of remaining single, unless you can find a spouse who is willing to take full financial responsibility for you and your disability requirements ... good luck to that today!

Some people with disabilities are self-employed. You think you can get off welfare or ODSP through developing a good business plan and "working hard"? Think again! You are NOT ALLOWED to hire paid help. That means if you are running a farm and it comes to harvest time, you have to do it ALL by yourself, and work around the clock. I wonder if the same could be said for those that own General Motors and other companies, that they should not be allowed to deduct the monies they pay to their staff to help run their plants ... there would uproar for sure, as there should be in this case too! They are also not allowed to pay off personal debts, so even though their ODSP and whatever they have left of their earnings is rarely enough to meet their own or their family's needs and they often have to put payments on credit card so they can eat or buy school supplies for their kids, they CANNOT pay back these debts.

Yet it is okay for them to declare personal bankruptcy every few years. I think if you have concerns about this, you should write to me and I will PROVE every one of my allegations about welfare and ODSP rules. If all businesses and employees had to live by these rules, our country would be bankrupt and nobody would be paying into the system ... their traps and tricks number up to 800 rules that keep people on the system and keep people poor, no matter how hard they work.

And ANYBODY can end up on welfare. Don't think it won't happen to you. If you bash the poor today, and I later learn you end up needing help, I certainly will be less than sympathetic when you start to complain about what it is really like when you come up to the other side of this very bad coin and complain when it happens to you.


wheelchairdemon said...

Good article. I suggest you read the book, "The Truth About Canada" by Mel Hurtig so you can get an even clearer view as to what you said here is all true. The book compares Canada to the other OECD countries and, believe me, it is not a pretty picture.

LRHB said...

Great article. You hit virtually every nail on the head. I know, I was / am there. I used to be employed at a university in western Canada as a tech. Now I am on ODSP. When I was employed I earned more per month than I get from ODSP. One summer, being paid in excess of 4K a month I had to fill 3 months painting 8 picnic tables. That was it. They could not risk laying me off for fear I would not return in Sept. Glad I found this site. I will be back

The Advocate said...

Keep those comments coming!

If anybody else has any sites of interest that pick on the rich and lazy, let us know ;-)