Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Austerity, Social Program Restructuring, and the Erosion of Democracy: Examining the 2012 Employment Insurance Reforms

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Austerity, Social Program Restructuring, and the Erosion of Democracy: Examining the 2012 Employment Insurance Reforms

Article excerpt

Abstract

The austerity period in Canada, unfolding under the Harper government since 2011, has involved not just the cutting back of social programs, but a complex process of state reregulation and restructuring in the social policy area. In announcing the turn to austerity the government stated that the post- 2008 recession deficit was to be eliminated "without raising taxes, cutting transfers to persons, including those for seniors, children and the unemployed, or cutting transfers to other levels of government that support health care and social services, Equalization, and the gas tax transfer to municipalities." Despite this assertion, a significant re-orientation of social policy and social programs is occurring; one which has involved cuts, which is likely to have a significant impact on the level and quality of support and services available, to further increase inequalities and which charts new roles for the federal government in these areas.

Keywords: Employment Insurance; democracy; social programs

Résumé

La période d'austérité, débutée sous le gouvernement conservateur de Harper en 2011, n'a pas seulement impliqué la coupure des programmes d'aide sociale, mais aussi, la restructuration et la re-régulation dans le domaine de la politique sociale. Malgré les déclarations faites par les conservateurs que la récession déficitaire post-2008 sera éliminée « sans augmentation des impôts, coupure des transferts personnels, incluant ceux alloués aux personnes âgées, aux enfants, et aux personnes sans emploi, et, sans coupures des transferts des autres niveaux du gouvernement qui soutiennent la santé publique et les services sociaux, la péréquation, et les transferts des impôts sur le gaz aux municipalités », une réorientation significative de la politique sociale et des programmes sociaux a pris place. Cette réorientation inclus des coupures, qui vont fort probablement avoir un impact significatif sur la qualité du soutien et des services disponibles. Cela risque également d'augmenter les inégalités, et cela délimite des nouveaux rôles pour le gouvernement fédéral dans ces domaines.

Mots-Clefs : Assurance Emploi; démocratie; programmes sociaux.

The austerity period in Canada, unfolding under Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government since 2011, has involved both the cutting back of social programs and a complex process of state reregulation and restructuring in the social policy area. In announcing the turn to austerity the government stated that the post-2008 recession deficit was to be eliminated "without raising taxes, cutting transfers to persons, including those for seniors, children and the unemployed, or cutting transfers to other levels of government that support health care and social services, Equalization, and the gas tax transfer to municipalities" (Canada, Department of Finance, 2011, p. 17). Despite this assertion a significant re-orientation of social policy and social programs is occurring; one which has involved cuts, which is likely to have a significant impact on the level and quality of support and services available, to further increase inequalities and which charts new roles for the federal government in these areas.

Employment Insurance (EI) has been central to this austerity-related social policy change. While the Conservative government's spring 2011 budget marked the turn from a stimulus response to an austerity program, the most significant austerity measures were introduced in the spring 2012 budget. Bill C-38, the 2012 budget implementation bill, was 450 pages long and amended some 70 pieces of legislation. Among these amendments were significant changes to the EI program. On the one hand, the EI amendments continued the erosion of benefits and of state responsibility for the unemployed that had been on-going for some time. On the other hand, the 2012 EI reforms also indicated changes at a deeper level and new directions for the program. Particularly striking was the increased state control in certain labour market areas, seen, for example, in the centralization within Cabinet of decision-making with regard to key aspects of the program and in subsequent, more coercive, regulations requiring certain categories of EI recipients, particularly "frequent users", to accept a wider variety of work at considerably lower rates of pay. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.