Letter to Mr. Flaherty

“Any Job is a Good Job”

“I was brought up in a certain way,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said last week. “There is no bad job, the only bad job is not having a job. I drove a taxi, I refereed hockey. You do what you have to do to make a living.”  I read Mr. Flaherty’s proclamation some days ago and my head blew off.   I was beyond incensed when I read his words.  Take any job. 

So I decided to do the math: If I am to contribute to the family purse, after almost two decades in the professional world but after over a year of looking, I have to, according to good old Jim, at least consider a job that is not in my field.  When I looked around my geographical locale, I found a range of highly skilled (read: engineering, aeronautics and the like) jobs and a boatload of minimum wage retail / seasonal jobs available.  Well, it’s too late to be an engineer, so I skipped those and decided to work out what it would cost me to work a minimum wage job.

At $10.25 / hour, if I can get full time hours at 40 hours a week, I would earn $820 per 2 week pay period.  There would be federal income tax withhold of $109.54, provincial withhold of $43.68, CPP deduction of $34.17 and Employment Insurance deduction of $15.01.  This would leave me with a bi-weekly take home pay of $617.60, or a weekly budget of $308.80.

Registered and licensed daycare, even in an area likePeterborough, averages out at $35/day.  If I can find a suitable one and that is not allowing for early care, after care, or evening care, but thankfully I have a husband with flexible hours.  So a week of daycare is $175 (which is cheap – try living inToronto, where the average price is more like $300/week).  I would have $133.80 left for everything else: food, housing, etc…

Now someone is going to point out to me that I chose to have a child and that therefore, it’s more or less my problem.  Wrong again.  StatisticsCanada released their 2011 numbers this week: in 1971, 8% of the population was over the age of 65.  In 2011, that number has jumped to 14.8%.  So out of a population of 33.5 million Canadians, that’s almost 5 million seniors.  If we younger folks stop having kids, who do you think is going to pay for all this in the future?  Government is cutting back OAS pensions (or at least delaying when seniors can access it), which is delaying many from retiring.  Furthermore, the trend on the aging population is set to continue to increase over the next two decades. 

This is also assuming someone would hire me for one of these jobs.  A friend of mine, who is a teacher by profession and long experience, recently found herself out of work.  She applied at various minimum wage jobs with a ‘trimmed down’ resume and was turned down at every one.  Most did not bother with an excuse but one did and it was basically intimating that she was overqualified and would leave at the first opportunity, so why should they bother?  Well, Mr. Flaherty?  How do you respond to that?

None of these ‘costs’ factor in the very real cost to my ego.  Is that relevant, you ask, in the face of eating and keeping a roof over one’s head?  Yes, I do think it is very relevant.  It’s an unbelievably hard thing to go from being a contract consultant and a business owner to a barista.  I am not saying there is anything wrong with being a barista, or a clerk or a sales person, but why did I get the education I did and pursue the long hours of work I have worked to achieve the skills that I did if it was only to turn around and, as Andrew Coyne noted in his piece, “sling fries”* for a living?  What is the point in that?

As a self-employed person for the last decade, I haven’t paid in to EI and so am not entitled to any retraining opportunities, or any other help of any kind, so really the whole EI argument doesn’t apply to me.  But the ever changing economy versus the obvious trend in our demographics does apply to me, and to everyone else.  We need more than false rhetoric and inflammatory statements, Mr. Flaherty. 



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