Monday was “Family Day“, a provincial holiday in Ontario. It’s also Washington’s Birthday in the U.S. (Note: I was surprised to discover that Presidents Day, though more commonly used now, is not the official name of the holiday. Who knew?)
Not everyone got the day off. There’s considerable variation in how holidays are categorized: federal, state, provincial; public sector, private sector; unionized, non-unionized; essential or non-essential workers, etc., etc.
Family Day is fairly new in Ontario. It was only created in 2008, to alleviate the dearth of time off between New Year’s and Easter. The addition brought Ontario’s tally of annual public holidays to nine, similar to most other provinces.
Diana Gibson is research director of the Parkland Institute, a University of Alberta social policy research think-tank which just released a study on the work/life balance: Family Day on the Treadmill.
As reported in the Ottawa Citizen, figuring out how much time off is healthy and how and when holidays should be offered, is something of a muddled controversy. For Gibson, it’s clear:
“Everyone should be getting more time off. It’s good for society”
One often hears that Europeans can count on six weeks of paid vacation per year. Nice as that sounds, current (and alarming) headlines remind us that Europe is wrestling with massive unemployment and a looming economic crisis that could drag the world into another recession or worse.
Can countries still afford to designate leisure time as a right and a social good? Gibson wants Canadians, at least, to take a good look at the question and follow a humane balance.
“Why would we want to be like the U. S.? They’re in a mess. Why would we aspire to be like that? Why not look at some other models?”
On the other hand, who exactly pays that piper? Is there such a thing as some magical right to time off? If so, who is going to bring that blessing to folks like ag workers, the self-employed and the uncounted numbers who don’t enjoy any of that now?
Or are we all headed toward some dog-eat-dog globalized world where the good and easy things get flattened out and fade away?