Thinking About the Economy: Why Can’t We Be Like Canada?, Part I

In the Liberal circles in the US, the Canadian system of welfare is often an object of envy. “Why can’t we provide the same social safety net that Canadians do?” people keep asking. I can’t tell you whether the welfare system of Canada can be transplanted to the US. However, as a proud citizen of that great country whose family and closest friends live there right now, I have to tell you that the Canadian system, as I see it, is deeply flawed. Over the years, I have come to believe that the Canadian version of “capitalism with a kind face” is a road to nowhere. Now, please don’t start getting angry already and just let me tell you why I think that.

My experience is mostly limited to the provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia, so if things are dramatically different in other parts of the country, feel free to tell me that.

The system of welfare in Quebec seems to rely on the basic conviction that if a person doesn’t feel like working for whatever reason, then she or he should be allowed to do so and be provided with basic necessities by society. (In Nova Scotia, this idea is less strong but it’s still there, at least do a degree.) If you want to spend your entire life in Canada and not work for a single day, you can absolutely do that. Abusing the system is very easy. I keep seeing people who declare themselves indigent and permanently unemployed (or unemployed most of the year) and who have much more comfortable lifestyles that those poor losers who work day and night, pay ruinous taxes, and can’t scrounge up enough money for a vacation.

“Ha ha ha,” the welfare-recipients sometimes say to the working bees. “You’ve got to be silly or something. You work and work, and what have you got? I, in the meanwhile, am going on a cruise in the Caribbean on my welfare money.”

If somebody is experiencing the need right now to tell me that I’m making this up, don’t. You’ll just make a fool out of yourself. I have played the working bee part in such conversations and have witnessed my family members doing so very very recently. And yes, I’m angry about that.

Of course, as a result, people start getting discouraged from working. My sister has her own job recruitment agency in Montreal. She tells me that often, when she offers entry-level positions to young people, she hears, “Nah, the salary isn’t all that much more than what I’m getting on  the unemployment, so why bother?”

An entire generation of the over-entitled, nah-why-bother people grows up.

(To be continued. . .)

23 thoughts on “Thinking About the Economy: Why Can’t We Be Like Canada?, Part I”

  1. I’d work just because I’d be getting an incrementally higher amount of money than on unemployment, but maybe that’s just me. Books and college don’t pay for themselves, you know.

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  2. Not to blow your horn for you but this is great stuff. The folks I hang around with do that whole “oh fuck Texas I’m moving to Canada” stuff quite a lot, and I’m occasionally one of them, but I knew the trade-off for excellent health care had to be a serious gouge.

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  3. There is a great deal of regionalism in Canada, which contributes to this attitude. Nova Scotia, for example, exists on Tourism & Fishing. Both are seasonal endeavors; during the off-season, people live off their EI (Employment Insurance) benefits. Government policy at the federal level has done nothing to discourage this life style. They relax the requirements to qualify for EI in Atlantic Canada, and the only (meaningful) investments they make in the region are to support the fisheries or tourism. There was a white paper in 1972 that indicated federal policy should move away from the fisheries, and invest in creating a diverse economy, before the fishing stocks collapse. It was ignored completely ignored. And the cod stocks collapsed. Now we’re overfishing for crab and lobster. Because the federal government still won’t invest in diversifying the economy. They just pump more money into tourism and fisheries.

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    1. You are absolutely right in everything you say here. I’m intimately familiar with the lifestyle of Nova Scotia fishers (we have family members who live there and are fishers), and I can say that the government policies in respect to that region are baffling to me. People live for few months out of a year overfishing for lobster, just like you say, and then in EI for the rest of the year. This does not seem like a sustainable model long-term.

      It just doesn’t make sense to me.

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  4. “The system of welfare in Quebec seems to rely on the basic conviction that if a person doesn’t feel like working for whatever reason, then she or he should be allowed to do so and be provided with basic necessities by society. (In Nova Scotia, this idea is less strong but it’s still there, at least do a degree.) If you want to spend your entire life in Canada and not work for a single day, you can absolutely do that. Abusing the system is very easy. I keep seeing people who declare themselves indigent and permanently unemployed (or unemployed most of the year) and who have much more comfortable lifestyles that those poor losers who work day and night, pay ruinous taxes, and can’t scrounge up enough money for a vacation.”

    This is the worst piece of shit that I read form you.

    “I keep seeing people who declare themselves indigent and permanently unemployed (or unemployed most of the year) and who have much more comfortable lifestyles that those poor losers who work day and night, pay ruinous taxes, and can’t scrounge up enough money for a vacation.”

    Did you know about “Black Market working”, which is very common in Québec?

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    1. Is black market working the practice where people get unemployment for decades but work under the table without paying taxes in the meanwhile? Yes, I know about it and I know people who have lived like that for a long long time.

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      1. “Is black market working the practice where people get unemployment for decades but work under the table without paying taxes in the meanwhile?”

        It’s work under the table but both are close related.

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  5. ““Ha ha ha,” the welfare-recipients sometimes say to the working bees. “You’ve got to be silly or something. You work and work, and what have you got? I, in the meanwhile, am going on a cruise in the Caribbean on my welfare money.””

    Did you have sex with Rush Limbaugh last week?

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    1. That’s the first time you’ve made me laugh out loud, David.

      Clarissa is extrapolating from a limited experience to the population at large. We suffer abuse in the system in Canada because it’s better to have the safety net abused than to not have the safety net at all.

      I doubt very much that the Caribbean vacationers were actually on welfare – probably more likely on EI (which is not wealth tested – only income tested) or WCB (workman’s compensation) or LTD (Long term disability) which are not income or wealth tested. On top of that, there is still substantial corruption (cash transactions) which enable the unemployed to earn a good living on top of their EI benefits. Individuals are generally blind to the big picture effects of their small step actions.

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  6. “She tells me that often, when she offers entry-level positions to young people, she hears, “Nah, the salary isn’t all that much more than what I’m getting on the unemployment, so why bother?””

    That’s also because of usury, which is wrong.

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    1. David you promise a debate but fall short and end up with empty huffing and puffing. Welfare should be limited to those in extreme circumstances (and limited in duration) or those unable to work for health related reasons. Opening the system to be used and abused while the rest of us pay insane amounts of taxes hardly seems fair.

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