Tag Archives: government

Oh, you got sick during your vacation leave? Have another.

by Willem van de Kerkhof

The Court of Justice of the European Union made a decision this week that if you get sick during your guaranteed, annual, four to six weeks of paid vacation leave, you should get to have another. After all,

…the purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. The purpose of entitlement to
sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.

I thought this was a great ruling on the side of the European Union, particularly during a time when Europe is ” mired in recession, governments struggling to reduce budget deficits and officials trying to combat high unemployment.” In light of the economy, I’m sure this was a difficult decision to make. People are still people, and they deserve to live their lives well without working themselves to the bone. After reading about this ruling in the NY Times, I decided to research other countries’ vacation policies.

In doing so, I have learned that Canadian workers are entitled to two weeks of vacation leave per year, paid a minimum of 4% their regular wage.

In China, the number of days granted for paid leave increases with the time length of consecutive employment (this is not uncommon among countries). That is to say if you have worked under an employer for one to ten years, you are entitled 5 days of vacation leave with full pay; 10 to 20 grants you ten days; 20 and above grants you 15 days.

On the other hand,  Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of the USA “does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations, sick leave or holidays (federal or otherwise).” Although there is no legislated minimum, it has been estimated that average employers grant their employees 15 days of vacation. The USA is the only advanced country without a national vacation policy.

This information really made me think about the extent to which full-time employees (in the most generic sense) spend working. I can’t help but be reminded of the feelings I had when I wrote my previous blog post: What can I do with my life such that I will feel satisfied spending 8 hours a day doing my work? Will I really be able to find a career for which I will happily wake up at 7am every weekday? I’m not sure about my future, but for now I will concentrate on gaining experience and information about careers I can potentially pursue as I finish up my undergraduate degree.

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Law enforced to lift outdoor-clotheslines ban…. wait, what?

Passing laws to prevent the banning of outdoor-clotheslines is nothing new in the nations that are Canada and America. I recently came across an article that discussed the controversy surrounding outdoor-clotheslines, and I have to say I’m shocked at how stupid it all is. The article discussed how in 2008, the Ontario premier enforced a law to lift  outdoor-clotheslines bans. (Forgive me for being a few years late on this, but I just saw this and had to write about it)

According to the video featured in the article,   bans are often enforced because some home buyers feel more comfortable buying homes in a neighbourhood where they don’t have to look at drying underwear. For the record, my family has been hanging out our laundry in the backyard for a longtime, and I can safely say that I’ve seen my neighbours’ laundry hang in their backyards as well. Not because we’re poor or rude, but because when the weather’s hot and the sun can dry clothes almost as well as any dryer machine, why not? (It should be noted, as it is on Wikipedia, that this view on clothes lines only applies to a small percentage of people, and does not represent universal views on clothes lines) It actually wasn’t the government who had banned it in the first place, but it was the building developers. They wanted to appeal to people who don’t want to look at their neighbours’ underwear hanging in their backyards. I personally think that this was a bit extreme in the first place. Continue reading

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I am a citizen – Canadians and their Politics

This week, on January 27th, 2010, YouTube hosted a Q&A with Barack Obama, featuring questions from the YouTube community.

I may not be American, but I was certainly interested in what his answers were. Particularly under the jobs and economy topic. I’m glad a number of the highest rated questions were those asking about why the corporations get richer and the poor suffer.

The government in any country is composed of a set of individuals that ‘govern’ the affairs of the state. They make the taxes go up, they represent the nation, and they are the ones we blame; such is the heart of politics, as most people understand it.

The most miraculous fact about the government, at least in North America, is this: the people only think about their government when things go wrong;  the rest of the time we, quite frankly, just don’t care. (That is to say, this is perceived as the norm in many areas.)

This is a generalization of course. In 2008, the Canadian national elections received voter turnout of 58.8% (http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=ele&dir=turn&document=index&lang=e). In America, that same year the voter turn out was 56.9%.

The turnout dropped about 6% since the last Canadian election. Even then, it strikes me as odd; why isn’t it near 100%? I mean, what good is it if the government is elected by the people if a good chunk of these ‘people’ don’t even care enough to vote? Then there are those who simply vote for the sake of voting or whom, no matter the party leader, always vote the same party? I understand that different leader or not, a political party will more or less have the same goal, but still. Sometimes people hardly even know who is running. Canadians are apathetic to politics. A friend of mine, studying journalism at Ryerson University, mentioned to me how when she was covering the mayoral elections in the fall of 2010, the people with the most complaints were the ones saying they weren’t going to vote. Ironic, indeed.

But not unexpected. These days, many people live under the mentality that “just one” doesn’t do anything. Just one person can’t make a change; just one voice can’t amplify the choir; just one vote won’t make a difference in an election. Of course, we all know how the Bush and Gore presidential elections turned out.

I believe people should care more about politics. Many don’t, and deem it ‘boring.’ Really? Sounds you live in a world where everything worthwhile do is in the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment. Let me just say you are in for a world of disappointment. Don’t deem something boring because you don’t understand it. Heck, I don’t even understand politics very well, but the difference is I want to. I want to know why people make the decisions they do when they’re deciding who will run their country.

To return to the topic of the video at the top of my post, I also want to know what the people in charge have to say to the people’s cries of woes, of insecurity, of anguish. Will their responses be robotic and emotionless? Will they be reading from answers that have been scripted? (Everyone had access to the question list on YouTube ahead of time) Will they hold true to their word?

Stephen Harper also did a Q&A on YouTube, but it has less than half a million views. A bit saddening, but regardless I felt like Harper could have given the Q&A more publicity. I had only heard about it when I complained to a friend of mine that Canada should have a Q&A like Obama did. Turns out we did.

No matter how much one complains about our politicians, you have to admit to two things: firstly, you put them there; secondly hey, the country hasn’t deteriorated in a toilet bowl of collapsing economy and civil war, right? So they must be doing something right, acceptable. Running a country is probably one of the hardest things a small groups of people can do. I mean, there are 30 million or so Canadians; how do you make 30 million people happy with one decision? My mother can’t even make my two brothers and I happy with one dinner entre, she has to make my youngest brother some pork because he won’t eat fish. So what do you do with an entire country? It’s simply impossible to make so many people happy. That’s why no matter what a politician does, people will be unhappy. Laurier did his best to make the Francophones and Anglophones happy in his day, and although he tried his absolute best and had his time in parliament deemed “the Golden Age of Laurier,” the people still weren’t always happy. I guess that’s why politicians do things that make people feel unhappy. They deny and give al sorts of good reasons for the HST and smile while thinking “If I did what made you happy this province’d be a damn stick in a swamp filled with man-eating piranhas that were introduced to the environment thanks to crazy swamp dwellers who thought they’d make cool pets until they got their fingers bit off.”

I’m (somewhat) optimistic that things will change in the future. That there will come a time when humankind truly discovers the best political system. Not capitalism, not democracy, not communism (albeit in theory communism is a great ideal… but it’s just that; an ideal) not anything we have nowadays. Albeit Sweden seems pretty close. Then again North American culture is too busy ripping people off all over the world to enforce the same tax rates… even if it means significantly cheaper post-secondary education…

Don’t even get me started on the conditions of the Global South, which are all the fault of colonialism and… well I’ll leave that for another post.

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