Employment Insurance system broken, needs complete overhaul | What's Left

This week, a new study on Employment Insurance (EI) was released by the liberal Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). It details how the Conservatives broke the system, and provides recommendations for massive changes to the EI system, including a focus on eliminating regional disparities.

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Unfortunately, debates around regionalization of social welfare and insurance benefits tend to end poorly for workers. Last year, the Mowat Centre flagged similar issues, saying that the EI system discriminated against Toronto workers. While this is true, the disparities have to do with the way the EI system calculates benefits. If the call is to eliminate all regional disparities then the only fair way to set it would be to give every laid-off worker access to their EI money. There is no point in trying to regionally balance the percentages of workers that get left out.

Critics of nationally funded programs are always quick to point out regional differences in allocation and say it is unfair. Then those same liberal think tanks “encourage labour mobility”, a red flag for anyone in the Atlantic or rural areas of Canada. Encouraging labour mobility means pushing workers to move to areas where there is work (of any type, short and long-term). This is not how you build a sustainable economy.

The Labour Movement has been calling for proper consultations with workers and communities about how best to manage unemployment support. Unions want workers’ experiences with unemployment and precarious work incorporated into a social welfare system that ensures people don’t bear all the risk of the current economic system.

Labour is calling for the previous budgets’ changes be scrapped and the following reforms brought in:

  1. Reduce the number of qualifying hours (for regular benefits) to 360 hours, no matter who workers are or where they live and work in Canada. 2. Measure a “week” as 30 hours instead of 35 when calculating benefit levels and duration, to reflect the average Canadian work week. 3. Increase the benefits period to 50 weeks. 4. Increase benefits to at least 60% of earnings being replaced calculated on a worker’s best 12 weeks.