Employment Insurance That Strengthens Our Economy And Works For Canadians

Justin Trudeau leader of the Liberal Party

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.

Hard working Canadians have to have a little more money to spend and invest says Justin Trudeau

By André Faust

Fredericton – Justin Trudeau was the guest speaker at the Back to School BBQ hosted by Matt DeCourcey, Fredericton Liberal riding candidate at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre.

In the course of his speech Trudeau spoke about strengthening and expanding the middle class, which during the last ten years has been dwindling under the Harper government.

Trudeau’s plan for economic growth seems to have its roots in Keynesian economics. Keynesian economics states that economic growth can only come about from the aggregate demand created by households and business. To stimulate aggregate demand can only be made possible by deficit spending, which is diametrically opposite to austerity, which the Harper government has been doing.

During a recession austerity measures is not the solution because household stops spending money, which has a negative domino effect throughout the economy. During a recession according to Keynesian philosophy, you want to increase spending.

According to Justin Trudeau.

In order to create economic growth, Hardworking Canadians have to have a little more money in their pockets to spend, to invest, to save, to grow the economy to create a better future for their kids.

And speaking of kids when it comes to people who are working hard to join the middle class. People who need a little extra help were going to focus on a number of different things. First of all more generous Canada child benefits for a family earning, a single mom earning 30,000 dollars or less, that 6,400 dollars for a kid under a year tax free, a cheque of over 500 dollars every single month. A plan that will lift 315 thousand kids out of poverty. That a real plan.

We announced today significant improvement to EI so that the seasonal workers for people who are challenge through a difficult period in their lives will have better access to the benefits that they paid into, at the same time we will be decreasing premiums for Canadians across the country.

These are the kind of solutions that a smart government that listens to experts, that listens to community leaders, and to provincial leaders, and mostly listens to Canadians, is actually willing to put forward because that is what we need most of all.

Getting the facts straight: EI changes hurt unemployed workers

Reprint from the Broadband Institute
Postedon February 15, 2013 posted by Angella MacEwen

In the last federal budget (Chapter 3.3), the federal government tried to sell its changes to Employment Insurance by describing how some hypothetical workers would benefit.

Unfortunately, the scenarios they chose were so unrealistic that most workers wouldn’t recognize them.

Instead, let’s see how the changes that have been made impact real-world working Canadians.

Benefits based on best weeks

Susan is a municipal worker. She likes living in her rural community, and feels lucky to have her current job even though it is seasonal and her earnings are irregular and fluctuate from week to week. She often relies on EI to make ends meet while she is laid off. Her region has an unemployment rate between 8% and 9%. This means that the last time she was laid off she qualified for the Best 14 Weeks pilot, so her benefits were based on her best 14 weeks of earnings. Her benefit rate was $337 per week, $47 per week higher than it would have been without the pilot project. This year, with the new Variable Weeks pilot, her benefit is based on her best 19 weeks of earnings, which includes some weeks  of low earnings. Her benefit is now $305 per week. With public sector cut-backs, continued high unemployment, and high personal debt levels, Susan worries about the future for her small community.

Working while on claim

Sandra worked for years at a large department store that recently closed and laid off all of their staff. She has a partner, and a daughter who is currently enrolled in a half-day kindergarten class. She files an EI claim, but feels confident that her years of experience will help her find another job quickly. Even with her job experience and an effective job search, the best that Sandra can find is a job that pays $12 per hour and offers only 10 hours per week. Her previous wage was $600 per week, so Sandra’s EI benefit level is $330 per week. Under the old “Working While on Claim” rules, Sandra would have kept all of her part-time earnings while working on claim, and ended up with $450 per week. Under the new rules, Sandra will only be able to keep 50% of her earnings, or $60 per week. Since it will cost Sandra about $50 per week in gas, parking, and childcare, it no longer makes sense for her to take this part-time job. She continues her job search.

Frequent claimants

Steven makes $20 per hour in a manufacturing plant. Steven works hard. He has worked for several different employers in the industry over the past few years, and has been laid off by each employer at least once. Stephen doesn’t like being laid off so often, but he’s glad that EI is there when he needs it. He would like to retrain for a more stable job, but he can’t afford to. This time when he gets laid off, he’s classified as a Frequent Claimant. He must accept a similar job at 80% of his previous wage immediately. Stephen applies for all of the jobs that he finds through the Job Alert system and through his network of friends, but employers are unwilling to hire him because they know he’ll return to his higher paying manufacturing job as soon as he can. After six weeks he must accept any job at $14 per hour (70% of his previous wage). A temporary staffing agency is aware that there are many workers who have been laid off from the plant, and takes advantage of this information to offer temporary jobs with low wages that workers such as Steven would not normally accept, but now are compelled to.

The government should come down from its ivory tower and see how its EI changes are hurting working Canadians.

Angella MacEwen is the Senior Economist for the Canadian Labour Congress.