CBCradio

February 16, 2009

Pt 1: Job Lay-offs - The numbers are devastating and they are relentless. In all, 235,000 jobs were lost in Canada between November 1st of last year and January 31st of this year. That's like taking everyone in a mid-sized Canadian city -- say Windsor, Ontario or Burnaby, British Columbia -- and giving them a pink slip. And for every person who is laid off, there are several more left wondering if they're next. That's an awful lot of financial pressure and emotional stress. And for this days show, we asked how much - if any - obligation companies have to try to minimize the damage done to the people they're laying off.

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Pt 2: Financial Woes and Alternative Policies - In part one we looked at the rash of lay-offs across Canada. But some companies are trying another approach. Mitel is a hi-tech firm in Ottawa. It too is facing financial woes. But instead of laying people off, it's ordering all of its employees to take one day of unpaid leave every three weeks. Mitel employees have mixed feelings about the new measure.

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Pt 3: Bankruptcy Stories - Fully employed or not, a lot of Canadians are having a hard time making ends meet these days. Consumer bankruptcy filings soared by 51 per cent last December, compared to the same month a year earlier. And here's the truly scary thing...

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It's Monday, February 16th.

After stops in Illinois, Indiana, Florida and Virginia, Barack Obama is back on the road this week. He'll visit Arizona, Colorado and Canada.

Currently, It's all part of his campaign to reach out to his more conservative constituencies.

This is The Current.


Job Lay-offs

The Employee

The numbers are devastating and they are relentless. In all, 235,000 jobs were lost in Canada between November 1st of last year and January 31st of this year. That's like taking everyone in a mid-sized Canadian city -- say Windsor, Ontario or Burnaby, British Columbia -- and giving them a pink slip. And for every person who is laid off, there are several more left wondering if they're next. That's an awful lot of financial pressure and emotional stress. And for this days show, we asked how much - if any - obligation companies have to try to minimize the damage done to the people they're laying off.

For her thoughts on that, we began with Janice Rubin. She's an employment lawyer in Toronto. And she has serious concerns about the way people are being laid-off in this recession.

The Employer

Now there's no question that being laid-off can be a devastating experience. But not everyone thinks it's up to the employer to try and make it easier. Kevin O'Leary is an investment manager and entrepreneur. He's also one of the Dragons on CBC Television's Dragon's Den. And he's in Vancouver this morning.

Mail Call

And if you have anything to say on this issue -- or anything else you hear on The Current -- here's how to reach us.

To e-mail us, go to our website at http://wwww.cbc.ca/thecurrent and click on the Contact Us link. You can also call us toll-free, day or night at 1 877 287 7366.

  


Financial Woes and Alternative Policies

In part one we looked at the rash of lay-offs across Canada. But some companies are trying another approach. Mitel is a hi-tech firm in Ottawa. It too is facing financial woes. But instead of laying people off, it's ordering all of its employees to take one day of unpaid leave every three weeks. Mitel employees have mixed feelings about the new measure.

This brings us to the next sub-issue here.

The economic downturn has pushed many Canadian companies to look at ways to save money while avoiding lay-offs - slashing spending, freezing wages and in some cases imposing wage cuts. But while those measures might save jobs, they can still do a lot of damage to the company and its employees.

Seth Klein is the British Columbia Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He's also the co-author of a report about the living wage for people in Vancouver. He was in Vancouver for the show.

And Frank Reid has spent a lot of time looking at how a reduction in working hours influences a company and its employees. He's an economist and the Director of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto. He was in Toronto.


Bankruptcy Stories

Fully employed or not, a lot of Canadians are having a hard time making ends meet these days. Consumer bankruptcy filings soared by 51 per cent last December, compared to the same month a year earlier. And here's the truly scary thing...

That spike in bankruptcies came after the Canadian economy had been in recession for just one quarter. The last time Canada faced a similar recession -- back in the late eighties and early nineties -- it took three economic quarters before we started seeing numbers like that.

It's not hard to find stories of Canadians who are struggling. The Current sent a couple of our producers to gather some of these stories for the show.

Producer Sandra Ferrari hit the streets of Toronto. And Vancouver producer, Anne Penman, brought us a few more stories from the city's food bank.

Bankruptcy and Counselling

Plenty of people all over the country are telling variations of stories like the ones we heard off the top of this part. And the current financial climate is threatening to make their situations even worse.

Laurie Campbell is acutely aware of the crunch many Canadians are facing. She's the Executive Director of Credit Canada, a not-for-profit credit counseling agency in Toronto. Hello!

History of Debt

If you want to get a sense of the degree to which credit cards have become fixtures in our lives, consider this. There are about 31 million Canadians. And collectively, we hold about 64 million credit cards -- more than two for each of us, even babies and toddlers.

But credit cards are a much more recent phenomenon than most people think. The very first credit card was issued 51 years ago. And when they first came out, even banks didn't want to have much to do with them.

Linda Leatherdale has spent her career monitoring the way Canadians spend their money. She's the former Money Editor for The Toronto Sun. She now writes her own column on financial and consumer issues on her web site, lindaleatherdale.com. She was in Oakville, Ontario for the show.


Last Word

We left you with a rare celebration of tough times. In the heart of the Great Depression, the great George Gershwin tried to shine a little light on those dark times. In 1934, his American opera classic Porgy and Bess was staged for the first time.

Twenty three years later Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald did their own unique version of one of the memorable songs from that musical. Here they are with I Got Plenty of Nothing.

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