Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Conservatives spooked at prospect of EI-triggered campaign

I think this brouhaha around employment insurance that the Liberals have been raising since their convention, and the NDP for some time before that, is starting to cause the Conservatives deep concern.

How else to explain that this morning I woke-up to an inbox stuffed with clippings from Conservative pundits and editorials from Conservative-friendly papers all poo-poohing the Liberal proposals for a fairer EI system. And Diane Finley (’s staffer) even wrote an op/ed today filled with so many falsehoods it raises the question: if a Conservative minister wrote an editorial saying the sky is purple and the ocean tastes like koolade, would CanWest just print it without comment?

Clearly, they’re spooked. And I can well understand why. While I really don’t see how we get into an election over EI, if we do I know which side of that campaign I’d want to be on. And it’s not their’s.

Here’s an interesting fact I learned in my morning reading. Now, the Liberals have been proposing a national 360 hour standard for EI for the duration of the recession. Critics say that number is crazy low. And not having a point of comparison, I thought maybe it was. Then I learned the current figure is between 420 to 910 hours, depending on where you live.

So, at the low end, we’re talking a difference of 60 hours. Or, a week-and-a-half of full-time work. Quelle horror! And while that regional disparity may have made sense once, it really doesn’t in today’s economy. It just doesn’t make sense anymore that someone in Ontario needs to work twice as long to qualify for EI as someone in Newfoundland. Nearly 70 per cent of unemployed Ontarians don't qualify for EI. Fighting to maintain that unfairness isn’t a position I’d want to take in an election campaign.

Will the Conservatives be putting this comment by Diane "Let them eat cake" Finley in a commercial?

"We do not want to make it lucrative for them to stay home and get paid for it.”
Probably not. But I’m sure someone will be ensuring that comment gets lots of play, as well as all the similar comments made by Conservative ministers, not to mention Stephen Harper himself, who called changes to make the system fairer an “absurdity.”

Anyone who has been on EI knows its far from lucrative. Why would someone voluntarily leave a job will full salary (and maybe benefits) in order to collect a fraction of their salary? It doesn’t make sense. What we’re talking about is helping Canadians who have lost their jobs because of this recession get back on their feet and find new employment, and ensuring they can benefit from a system THEY paid into.

Unemployment is rising sharply in regions where it never has before, highlighting the disparities of he current system. Over 300,000 Canadians have lost their jobs since the last election, thanks to a recession only the Harper Conservatives didn’t see coming. And many, many more are concerned about the safety of their jobs and the livelihood of their families.

Do the Conservatives really want to die on this hill, and fight an election calling potential EI recipients featherbedding freeloaders? Fighting against a fairer EI system when so many Canadians are either losing their jobs or fearful that they will soon be out of work? Saying people in Ontario should work longer to receive benefits?

They’ll back away from this somehow. And they should, because the focus here should be on making the EI system work for Canadians, and because they’re not that stupid.

If they want to unnecessarily force an election on this though, I say bring it on. Luckily for all the unemployed Conservatives that election will create, the Liberal will ensure a fairer EI system will be there for them.


*Michael Ignatieff's op/ed on employment insurance reform
*Liberal fact check on EI and Conservatives mistruths
PS. Check-out my entry for the YLC's positive politics ad challenge, "Is this your Canada?"

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Joseph said...

To answer your question about Canwest's policy on conservative editorials, it goes without saying the answer is "Yes!"

Besides, isn't the sky purple? I could certainly detect the scent of grape when I walked along the seawall last weekend.

Stephen Taylor said...

An election on EI? That'd be a snoozer wouldn't it?

I've been doing more video these days and am looking into getting a condenser mic myself to improve the audio of my vids. I'd recommend it for yours too.

I'm looking at this one:

RayK said...

"While I really don’t see how we get into an election over EI, if we do I know which side of that campaign I’d want to be on. And it’s not their’s."

Perhaps I'm taking you too literally, but in this situation it's the Conservatives who want to maintain the status quo and Micahel Ignatieff who has threatened to defeat the government if they don't act. So, we wind up in an election if the Liberals threaten the government with a non-confidence motion and the Conservatives still don't back down. If the Liberals don't respond to the Conservatives rejection of their proposal with a confidence motion then they are backing down.

Wouldn't you agree?

A BCer in Toronto said...

Well Stephen, it's no Green Shift but I think we could have some fun with it. And let me know how the mic works out. My alternative is to get a government grant and hire a voice-over artist for 360 hours...

Ray, there's a number of scenarios. The government could agree to the Liberal demands and survive, it could say hells no and the HoC votes non-confidence, it could say hells no and the Libs back down, it could say hells no and buy off one of the opposition parties with unrelated concessions, or it could offer modest concessions that one or more of the opposition parties find acceptable.

Frankly, my preference would be for the government to seek to find middle-ground on the issue with the majority of MPs that want EI reform. I wouldn't predict than scenario though.

RayK said...


My point is that the Conservatives don't have to do anything unless they think there's a chance they'll be defeated. Their best case scenario is the status quo.

So, it's a little odd to say that you "eally don’t see how we get into an election over EI" when Ignatieff's supposed strategy relies on the threat of bringing the Conservatives down.