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, 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 should  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 should  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 workers best 12 weeks, rather than the current system  of 55% of earnings over long periods which often include weeks of no or very low earnings. The average EI cheque 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.

8 comments

  • There isn’t anything about this that we know now that that didn’t know when the budget was presented. Ignatieff made a speech about the problem then, so he understood it then, but he didn’t want to bring down the government.

    Now suddenly he is thinking about bringing down the government. What has changed? Liberal poll numbers? It’s been long enough from the last election to have another one?

  • I agree with Andrew that we are making important headway on the EI issue. But I also agree with Darwin that, before we go crazy applauding Ignatieff, we might remember that he just recently opted against actually improving EI through a substantive amendment to Budget 2009. It is also worth noting that he has now called for “a temporary eligibility standard of 360 hours” rather than any permanent increase in accessibility.

  • Iggy had his chance with the one budget amendment and could have made a difference with it but instead declined and focused on some half assed accountability clause that will never provide for much accountability.

    Iggy made a quite loud statement to working people by the inaction on the last budget. In the end it was the liberals that cut the EI in the first place and took the 50 billion from the unemployed.

    Potentially a labour friendly liberal government is in the offing, but I wouldn’t count on it. Iggy’s nose is poised pretty high up in the air.

    pt

  • janfromthebruce

    Yes, don’t be fooled again. How many times to Libs run on the left as opposition and when elected rule on the right. WE also know from previous election promises that their promises mean nothing. By the time there is an election, Iggy won’t be feeling the need to change squat – remember the vow to get rid of the GST???

    Encouraging these great pretenders means the “blinded” vote for them.

  • The EI issue is a perfect wedge issue for the libs. Many (neo)conservatives dislike the EI system while many (red)conservatives see it as a valuable tool for macro-economic and individual stabilisation. Both the the NDP and the Bloc view an expanded system in favourable light.

    Neither the NDP or the Bloc would want to be viewed as obstructing liberal attempts to improve the system. Harper will have to effectively call an election on the issue and Iggy will be able to run as a credible pragmatic and compassionate liberal (talk left govern right)…the worst possible situation for the NDP and Bloc. It is a masterful three for the price of one check mate.

    I have to admit the man is incredibly good at triangulating his way to whatever policy position is required of the day: torture or an EI overhaul it really does not matter. Let us just hope the present dynamics persist such that he is triangulating in a good direction and not one that leads in the direction of Guantanamo.

  • My own skeptical take on the Liberal position is here:
    http://www.rabble.ca/columnists/2009/05/liberals-undermine-unemployed
    Without having read Andrew’s post, I suggested we “Hold the applause,” for the same reason given by Erin in his comment. The Liberals proposed change to 360 qualifying hours is only to be temporary.

  • Chantal Hebert has the reason for the Liberal shift On E.I.: playing to Ontario.
    http://www.thestar.com/canada/columnist/article/629664

  • “Neither the NDP or the Bloc would want to be viewed as obstructing liberal attempts to improve the system. Harper will have to effectively call an election on the issue and Iggy will be able to run as a credible pragmatic and compassionate liberal (talk left govern right)…the worst possible situation for the NDP and Bloc. It is a masterful three for the price of one check mate.”

    I am sure that what Travis has written is very much in line with the hopeful script being imagined by Liberal HQ strategists and Grit precinct captains. However, there is no law in Canada which requires the other parties to read and act out the script handed to them by a party that has one quarter of the seats in Parliament. The notion that the NDP and the Bloc will be rhetorically trapped, no choice but to vote no-confidence if the Liberal motion is worded in a way that aligns itself with their policy positions on one issue is simply not true. It’s like saying that Prime Ministers/Premiers can only call a mid term general election if some great and dividing issue has presented itself.

    For my own part, I welcome the idea of eliminating the regional variable entrance requirements and moving to a flatter system of benefit entitlements. The replacement ratio should be higher and any differentiation in personal entitlements should be based on personal attributes, not regional employment or unemployment rates. Perhaps people with higher levels of education should have shorter entitlement periods than those with incomplete HS on the grounds that they are more easily re-employed? Perhaps older workers should be granted some extra benefit period?

    To me the biggest EI issue is that benefit entitlements for middle-aged people who have worked over 20 years in a local industry, that may now have closed permanently, are limited to less than a year. That’s not a sufficient period for a complete re-education and adjustment. Yes, there are discretionary elements that allow for extensions for training, but that’s not the same as a lengthened entitlement.

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