EI: How Soon They Forget!

Less than two years ago, in June, 2009, a Liberal threat to vote down the spending estimates led the Conservatives to establish a special two party task force on Employment Insurance. The Liberals were then pressing for at least a temporary reduction in the entrance requirement to 360 hours in all regions.  It was widely recognized, even by mainstream economists at the TD Bank, that many unemployed workers were being unfairly deprived of access to benefits. The Task Force bringing together HRSDC Minister Diane Finley and Liberal MPs  Michael Savage and Marlene Jennings met over the Summer.

The Conservatives rejected the proposal to ease access, but, under pressure from the opposition parties, they did temporarily extend benefits by 5 to 20 weeks for so-called long tenure workers.

Less than two years later, the unemployment rate is down by all of one percentage point from its recession high, from 8.7% to 7.7%. And just a fraction of unemployed workers are collecting regular EI benefits in many hard hit communities, as illustrated in this Table.

 

Unemployment Rate and EI Beneficiaries As Percent of Unemployed
December 2010
Unemployment Rate EI Beneficiaries as % of Unemployed
Canada 7.7% 44.3%
Montreal 8.5% 35.2%
Toronto 8.3% 28.6%
Oshawa 9.4% 25.3%
St Catharines-Niagara 9.4% 26.8%
Windsor 10.9% 34.6%

Statistics Canada data for Census Metropolitan Areas (3 month moving average)

 

Today, the Canadian Labour Congress called on all parties to address the issue of EI in the election.

The New Democrats and the Bloc both support a lower EI entrance requirement in their platforms. But there is nothing in the Liberal platform on access to regular EI benefits, despite it being the top issue back in 2009.  Why?

 

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