Employment Insurance is an anchor of economic security for Canadian workers. Its benefits are there for people if they lose their jobs through no fault of their own or are temporarily out of the workforce to raise a child, provide care for a loved one, or to get necessary skills training. In challenging economic times, a reliable Employment Insurance system is vital to ensuring that Canadians get back on their feet and that our economy can recover from downturns.
Employment Insurance is a crucial social and economic policy – it must do a better job at both helping Canadians when they need it, and supporting a well-trained, highly skilled work- force.
Unfortunately, over the past decade, Stephen Harper has cut Employment Insurance benefits, and far fewer Canadians qualify for the benefits that they need. In 2012, Harper introduced changes which force unemployed workers to move away from their communities and take lower-paying jobs. At the same time, Harper has been reducing service levels at Service Canada for Employment Insurance claims, leading to serious delays in processing times. This has forced some Canadians to turn to food banks as they wait for the benefits into which they have paid. Harper has also frozen Employment Insurance premiums at artificially high levels – not to enhance benefits, but to pad his budget and provide benefits to the wealthiest few.
Liberals understand that we need an Employment Insurance system that reflects our changing labour market. This means a system that is flexible, that does a better job of getting benefits to Canadians when they need them, and that helps Canadians develop the skills required for their next job. We will reduce Employment Insurance premiums in 2017 from $1.88 to $1.65, reducing payroll costs for employers and employees, while also ensuring that we can invest in strengthening Employment Insurance. With our new plan, we will build an Employment Insurance system that supports Canadians, and will help boost Canada’s economic growth now and in the long-term.
A Liberal government will accomplish this by doing the following:
- We will reduce the waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits to one week from two. In addition, Employment Insurance processing will be a starting point for our new commitment to higher service standards in government, including reduced waiting times. We will deliver Employment Insurance benefits quickly and reliably.
- We will end the higher 910-hour eligibility penalty for new workers and those re-entering the workforce, stopping the discrimination that makes it harder for some of Canada’s most precarious workers – including parents returning to the workforce, younger workers, people who have left the workforce due to illness, and new Canadians – from accessing the benefits that help them get back into the workforce.
- We will increase investment in skills training, through a $500 million annual increase in funding to the Labour Market Development Agreements with provinces. We will work with provinces and territories to ensure that these new funds support their training priorities, support initiatives that demonstrate real pathways to good quality jobs, and develop the skills that employers need to grow our economy.
- We will make Employment Insurance parental leave more flexible for family and work circumstances. This includes providing parents with the option to receive their benefits in smaller blocks of time over the first 18 months of their child’s life, or take a longer leave (up to 18 months) at a lower benefit level.
- We will introduce a more flexible and accessible Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefit so that six months of benefits are available to those who are providing care to a seriously ill family member, rather than only those caring for a loved one at risk of death.
- We will repeal the 2012 Harper changes to Employment Insurance.
- We will work with the provinces and territories to assess how successfully the Employment Insurance system is delivering its core mandate to provide income security to workers in a changing labour market. This will result in changes to the program that ensure more Canadian workers, particularly those in more insecure work, can get access to the benefits they need. We will make the appropriate legislative and policy changes to ensure that Employment Insurance contributions are only used to fund Employment Insurance benefits and programs, and are not used by the government to fund other programs.
- Our enhancements to Employment Insurance will apply to the 2017 calendar year.