Ignatieff on EI
At long last, people are starting to get it. As recognized by the Globe and Mail in an editorial today (May 4) and by the TD Bank inthe study put out last Friday,Â our current EI system is leaving far too many unemployed Canadians out in the cold. Only four in ten unemployed workers currently even qualify for income support from EI, and many will run out of benefits before finding a new job.
We shouldÂ applaud the promise by Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff this weekend to lower the minimum entrance requirement from as many as 700 hours to 360 hours in all regions, as we have long called for.
At the same time, if the current system is changed ONLY to lower the entrance requirement, many people will continue to find that they qualify for as few as 19 weeks of benefits, depending upon how many hours they have worked over the previous year as well as the local unemployment rate.
Workers in all regions shouldÂ be eligible for the maximum benefit period of 50 weeks. Many workers will find a new job before they exhaust their benefits, but high and rising unemployment means that more and more unemployed workers and their families will be running out of benefits in the weeks ahead.
There should also be higher benefits of 60% of earnings over a workersÂ best 12 weeks, rather than the current system Â of 55% of earnings over long periods which oftenÂ include weeksÂ of no or very low earnings. The average EI chequeÂ today is for just $340 per week, not enough to keep even a single person out of poverty.
All of the political parties should agree on EI reform to lower the entrance requirement, to extend benefits, and to raise benefits. Anything less will fall short of what is needed by Canada’s almost 1.5 million unemployed workers and their families.