Ralph Goodale discusses EI Reform, and why it is important for all Canadians...
FAIRNESS, EFFECTIVENESS DRIVE EI REFORM
All through the recession, the Liberal Opposition has been pushing the Harper government to fix the rules on who’s eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.
The existing rules make EI harder to get in some parts of the country. To qualify in Regina, for example, you have to work almost twice as long as someone in Windsor, Ontario. There are 58 different thresholds across Canada.
These rules were devised more than 10 years ago, when the country was at the beginning of the biggest economic boom since World War Two. Today’s circumstances are quite different.
Close to 500,000 jobs have evaporated since last October. Some experts predict the economy may stop shrinking sometime in the next six months. But recovery will be slow, and job losses will get worse through this year and next. The unemployment rate in 2010 is expected to hover near 10% (up from 8.6% today).
Even here in buoyant Saskatchewan, recent indicators signal some troubled waters ahead. We lost 5,000 jobs last month and our unemployment rate went up.
Whether you’re a recession victim in Regina or Windsor or elsewhere, you’re equally jobless. So Liberals call for one national EI eligibility rule that’s fair to all unemployed Canadians, regardless of location.
The provincial Premiers agree there’s a big problem of EI unfairness. But all through the spring, Mr. Harper claimed everything was just fine. He even threatened to run an election on keeping EI just as it is.
Then, at the last minute in June, he finally admitted he was wrong, and agreed to examine EI eligibility alternatives.
It’s not only a question of fairness. It’s also about effectiveness.
Putting more purchasing power in the hands of jobless Canadians would do more to stimulate the economy than anything else this government has proposed to combat the recession.
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