Monday, September 14, 2009

Conservative EI proposals don't address eligibility and access

From the early reports I'm reading of the Conservative Party's rushed announcement on proposed employment insurance reforms (after a summer of offering nothing but hot air) I can't say I'm overly impressed:

The Tory government is proposing legislation to extend employment insurance by up to 20 weeks for long-tenured workers, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced Monday.

Finley said the proposed measures, which would cost $935 million, would provide from five to 20 weeks of additional benefits depending on how long an eligible individual has been working and paying into EI.

Finley said the proposed legislation is a temporary measure that will be phased out gradually as the economy improves.
That's all fine and dandy, extended benefits are good. But it will do nothing for the many thousands of unemployed Canadians that don't even qualify for the program. It does nothing about the regional inequality of a system with a patchwork of national standards; there's nothing on national or even fewer regional standards or on a lower eligibility requirement.

These changes are fine, but there are months late and many dollars short. If the Conservatives were serious about EI reform, they would have brought these proposals to the joint Conservative-Liberal panel on EI reform during the summer.

Finley's presser today is an obvious attempt to make it appear the Conservatives are doing something on EI, without really doing much, going into an election. I would hardly call this a serious attempt at appeasing the NDP to avoid an election, as the Conservatives have done nothing to address the core concerns the NDP has around EI. Remember, the Liberals only wanted a temporary 360 hour national standard. The NDP wanted 360 hours permanently, and they chastised the Liberals for indicating "flexibility" on the number of hours.

Now, if the NDP does attempt to seize on this half-baked and inadequate Conservative proposal and call it a victory that lets them prop Harper up, they will be proven more desperate to avoid an election than I thought they were. And while I live to be surprised, I'd deem it unlikely.

No, there's nothing here that indicates Stephen Harper doesn't want an election this fall. And there's no fig-leaf for the NDP here either.

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devinjohnston said...

I think your analysis is correct from a policy standpoint, and I doubt that this will entice the NDP to support the Conservatives to avoid an election. That said, if it's introduced as a separate motion, I don't see any reason for the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc to vote against it: it would at least be an improvement and there would be other, better, opportunities just around the corner to bring down the government.

The Rat said...

Look, if you seriously believe that somebody who couldn't hold a job for the minimum number of weeks lost their job because of the recession, then I have real estate we should talk about.

The people who are hurt most by EI issues in this recession are those who have worked for years, and then more years and never used it. The deserve longer term benefits than those who can't make minimum or who lost their job because they were fired for cause or who quit. Making EI easier to get only benefits the EI ski team members, not those who are truly hurting in a recession. The ones I want to help, and thankfully so does the CPC, are those that have actually contributed to society a little before they latch on to the teat. I can see that the Liberals disagree. What a surprise.

gingercat said...

The Rat, I do agree with you about the Conservatives plan to extend benefits to the the long term employed that are now unemployed . But you have a couple of misconseptions about who qualifies for benefits.
1. If you quit or get fired you don't qualify for benefits.
2. This is only a temporary measure.
3.The reason for lowering the threshold on hours is to accomodate people who were underemployed to begin with. Permenent full time jobs are not exactly plentiful anymore.

You will have to forgive me for being cynical towards anything the Conservatives have come up with. It wasn't that long ago that they denied that we were in a recession to begin with and that Ms. Findly openly remarked that unemployment benefits were "lucrative". Maybe you would care to explain why the Conservatives only have a change of heart only when they become threatened.