Ralph Goodale explains the Conservative game-playing this summer...
STOP THE DISTORTIONS; TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT EI!
Last week, I described why the Harper government should correct the rules on who’s eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits during the current recession.
The existing rules impose different eligibility requirements in different parts of the country. Unemployed people in Saskatchewan face among the toughest federal restrictions.
Fixing this discrepancy is a matter of fairness to all those – wherever they may live – whose jobs have been killed by the recession. There are nearly 500,000 such victims nationally; more than 5,000 just last month in buoyant Saskatchewan.
It’s also a matter of effectiveness. By allowing more people to qualify more quickly for the EI benefits they’ve already paid for, the government would inject new purchasing power into the economy, which would immediately help stimulate recovery.
Provincial governments (led by the three western-most Premiers – Wall, Stelmach and Campbell) agree there are EI problems to be fixed. In Ontario, both the Liberal government and the Conservative opposition are on-board.
Beyond politics, independent experts are also supportive, including the moderate Conference Board of Canada, the right-wing C.D. Howe Institute, the left-wing Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the neutral TD Bank.
Unfortunately, Mr. Harper persists in distorting what’s being proposed as possible solutions.
For example, the Conservatives claim a Liberal idea for one national EI eligibility standard for the remainder of the recession would cost more than $4 billion. That’s false! The actual cost would be about one-third of that. And it would constitute only a tiny fraction (maybe 0.5%) of total federal spending.
The Conservatives also claim EI premiums would go up. Again, not so! While Liberals were in office, we cut those premiums 13 consecutive times. The rates are now frozen at that lower Liberal level. They would only go up IF Mr. Harper breaks his promise (again), and raises taxes.
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