By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, May 11, 2013 - 0 Comments
Doug Finley, the Conservative campaign manager and senator and husband of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, has passed away at the age of 66.
Here is the statement from Ms. Finley.
“Doug fought a hard and very public battle with cancer. His death is a loss to our family, our friends – and to the entire country. Although further details will soon be announced, I do ask that our family have some privacy as we prepare to formally bid farewell to a great man.”
And here is the statement from the Prime Minister.
“It was with great sadness that Laureen and I learned of the death of Senator Doug Finley. Our Government has lost a trusted adviser and strategist. Canada has lost a fine public servant. I have lost a dear and valued friend.
“Senator Finley came to Canada as an immigrant and in a long and remarkable career he helped build a better country. In the business world, he rose to prominence in several important enterprises, notably Rolls-Royce Canada. He also expressed the love he felt for his adopted country through his work in the democratic process. Here his skills, style and passion were legend.
“When he learned he had cancer, Senator Finley faced this vicious opponent like the fighter he was. He continued to participate in Senate debates almost to the end, and shared information about his diagnosis and treatment with the public.
“A great Canadian has been taken from us, before his time. Laureen and I join with so many men and women from across the political spectrum, in extending our condolences to Doug’s wife Diane, his daughter Siobhan, and all their family. You are in our thoughts and prayers.”
John Geddes spoke with Mr. Finley in February 2011 about the Conservative party’s hopes for a majority. Laura Stone spoke with Mr. Finley last November about politics and death. Kady O’Malley notes that he gave his last speech in the Senate on Wednesday.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 11:56 AM - 0 Comments
After Question Period yesterday, the Government House Leader rose with the defining point of order of our time.
The approach employed by the NDP not only personalizes debate, but it does so in an offensive and inflammatory fashion. Consider what we might expect to hear if the NDP position became the accepted practice in the chamber. If this kind of name-calling is allowed, it would apply not just to ministers and parliamentary secretaries, of course, but to opposition shadow ministers. For example, the hon. member for Halifax, the NDP’s environment critic, could well be referred to as the NDP spokesperson for creating a crippling carbon tax.
According to the NDP, this would be parliamentary language. I do not believe it is. Instead of the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park described as the NDP finance critic, she could instead be called the NDP spokesperson for bigger government and higher taxes, or perhaps the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay could be the spokesperson for unethical interference with independent electoral boundary commissions or, since he changed his vote on the long gun registry, maybe he could be the spokesperson for betraying rural Canadians.
The complaint goes back to March 8, when the New Democrats made reference to “the minister responsible for butchering employment insurance,” which the Conservatives interpreted as an attempt to suggest that was Diane Finley’s actual title. This presents a fairly tricky parsing for the Speaker, I suspect—certainly less obvious than, say, NDP references to Tony Clement as the “Muskoka Minister.” Parsing parliamentary insults is always fun. For instance, I suspect that if the New Democrats had referred to Ms. Finley as “the minister who has been responsible for the butchering of employment insurance” or “the minister who butchered employment insurance” there probably wouldn’t be grounds for a complaint here.
I’m not sure Pierre Poilievre has apologized for referring to Charlie Angus as the “gerrymanderer-in-chief over there.” But perhaps an apology could be part of some kind of armistice agreement between the government and official opposition.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 10:21 AM - 0 Comments
The Conservative issued a bulletin on Wednesday morning to warn that Bill C-400, an NDP MP’s bill calling for a national housing strategy, would cost a minimum of $5.5 billion per year.
C-400, as a private member’s bill, can’t include “financial provisions” unless the government consents. According to the summary of the bill, its purpose is ”to require the Minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to consult with the provincial ministers of the Crown responsible for municipal affairs and housing and with representatives of municipalities, Aboriginal communities, non-profit and private sector housing providers and civil society organizations in order to establish a national housing strategy.” (With the Conservatives voting against, the bill was defeated Wednesday evening.)
So how does the Conservative party conclude that the cost is $5.5 billion per year? The party’s release cites “Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.” I enquired with the office of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley. Ms. Finley’s office directed me to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. CMHC did, in fact, publish a “backgrounder” on C-400. That backgrounder states “the proposed bill C-400 would cost Canadians over $5.5 billion per year in rental subsidies alone.” The backgrounder goes on for another 684 words, none of which explain that estimate.
So I asked the CMHC: How had this estimate been calculated? To what in the bill did it refer? And how often did the CMHC provide analysis of legislation and private members’ bills?
Wednesday night, the CMHC sent along the following. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 25, 2013 at 5:40 PM - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair stood first to mock.
“Mr. Speaker, Conservative Senator Mike Duffy has now admitted he mistakenly collected, maybe, about, $100,000 in Senate housing allowances. How does one accidentally claim $100,000 in living expenses? He says the form was too complicated,” the NDP leader reported sarcastically. “We also have Senator Pamela Wallin who has an Ontario health card while claiming to be a resident of Saskatchewan. She told the federal government that she lived in one province but told the provincial government that she lived in another. This would be unacceptable for any other Canadian. Why does the Prime Minister seem to think it is acceptable for his Conservative senators?”
The Prime Minister was away, so it was Peter Van Loan’s responsibility this day to offer the official reassurances. “Mr. Speaker, we have committed to ensure that all expenses are appropriate,” the Government House leader reported, “that the rules governing expenses are appropriate and to report back to the public on these matters.”
But Mr. Van Loan apparently sensed that Mr. Mulcair was not sufficiently serious in his concern for the Senate. “The reality is, if we want to see real change in the Senate, real change toward an accountable Senate,” Mr. Van Loan segued, “we need to embrace the Conservative proposal to actually let Canadians have a say on who represents them in the Senate. The NDP simply will not do that.”
So if you are truly upset with the actions of the senators Mr. Harper has appointed, you simply must agree to pass Mr. Harper’s legislation to reform the Senate. Neat trick, that. Indeed, if this has been the Prime Minister’s play all along, to appoint dozens of senators—and two former members of the press gallery at that—in the hopes that somehow someday they would do something to incite the sort of controversy that would leave everyone begging for change, he is precisely three times the brilliant strategist he is often thought to be.
Of course, if Mr. Van Loan really wanted to move ahead with Senate reform, he might invoke time allocation to bring the legislation to a vote. Unless the Conservatives now believe that such maneuvering, of which they have otherwise been so fond, is somehow undemocratic.
This much though was merely the preamble this day. Indeed, for perhaps the first time since Confederation, the Senate was only the setup and not the punchline. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 25, 2013 at 11:24 AM - 0 Comments
Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely false. Departmental employees do not have individual quotas.
Le Devoir now says it has a document that suggests otherwise.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 10:15 PM - 0 Comments
MPs helped packed the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier for a reception put…
MPs helped packed the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier for a reception put on by the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
While the Human Resources Minister was defending herself against misrepresentation yesterday, she was also faced with questions about child poverty. In response to Liberal questions on the topic, she offered the following.
Mr. Speaker, it is a little bit late for the Liberals to be showing an interest in this. Child poverty, under their reign, was over 18%. It is now under 8%.
This is not entirely untrue. In 1996, when the Liberals were in government, the percentage of those under the age of 18 in a low income situation was indeed 18.4% (see here). Thing is, the Liberals were in power for another nine years and 1996 was the peak in this particular regard. By 2005, the rate was 11.7%. From 1993, when the Liberals won power, to 2005, the rate dropped 5.3 points.
Here are the low income rates for those under 18 between 1991 and 2010.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 5:41 PM - 0 Comments
David Christopherson, in furious form, stood to recount the events of Friday morning.
“Last week, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, who once described EI as… ‘lucrative‘ defended her new quota system by describing the unemployed as… the bad guys.’ ”
At least in so far as Diane Finley had in fact spoken the phrase “bad guys,” Mr. Christopherson was correct. It is merely in the entire context of those words that the New Democrat led the House astray.
The official opposition had been pestering the minister on Friday morning about a report that quotas had established for inspectors charged with rooting out fraud of the employment insurance system. In the midst of this, Ms. Finley—on two occasions—suggested the New Democrats were on the wrong side of this matter. “Mr. Speaker, with respect to the employment insurance program,” she said, “it is very important to note that, once again, the NDP is supporting the bad guys.”
Perhaps this was a prepared line—an attempt to turn an attack around. Perhaps Ms. Finley came up with this in the moment in a fit of frustration. Either way, the New Democrats have apparently decided to see Ms. Finley’s oversimplification and raise her a distortion.
“Law-abiding out of work Canadians deserve better than to be treated like criminals,” Mr. Christopherson declared. “Why is the government cutting EI just when people need it to the most?”
Here John Baird was provided an opportunity to be reasonable. “Mr. Speaker, my friend from the NDP has it all wrong,” he scolded. “The minister made no such statements. He is flat-out wrong.”
A few moments later, Nycole Turmel stood to read the charges against Ms. Finley en francais. “Tell the truth!” protested a voice from the government side.
Perhaps for the sake of not being too blatant about all this, each of the men and women on the opposition resisted the urge to yell back, “you first!” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 25, 2013 at 1:03 PM - 0 Comments
Last Wednesday, Native Protestors blocked the QE II near Gateway Boulevard fully and then partially for a little less than 2 hours. Then during the afternoon commute, the same protestors set up a blockade on St. Albert Trail at Sturgeon Road. As St. Albert is a bedroom community of Edmonton, I represent many commuters. My office has been inundated with e-mails and phone calls asking why the RCMP allowed this admittedly peaceful protest to proceed. According to the St. Albert “Gazette”, the demonstration happened with the cooperation of the RCMP, who had met in advance with the protestors and were on scene to manage traffic. Apparently, the RCMP share Edmonton Police Service’s theory that managing a protest is a better tactic than stopping it.
I am not so sure. In the first place, acquiescing to an illegal activity does nothing to prevent further illegal activities. And make no mistake; the police were enabling an illegal activity. Section 430 of the Criminal Code clearly defines the offence of “Mischief” when one willfully “obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property”. Moreover, you can be charged with “Intimidation” when you compel “another person to abstain from doing anything that he or she has a lawful right to do” including one who “blocks or obstructs a highway”, which is “a road to which the public has the right of access” (Section 2).
A hallmark of a free society is our Charter protected rights of expression and assembly. Accordingly, I defend the rights of peaceful assembly without equivocation. However, one’s freedom to demonstrate cannot break the criminal law; one’s freedom to protest cannot trump another’s right to the lawful use of public property to get home after work. As enlightenment philosopher John Locke so famously declared: “my liberty to swing my fist is limited by the proximity of your chin.”
Blake Richards is similarly concerned.
That being said, some of the militant activists hiding behind the Idle No More banner are doing all they can to threaten the progress being made between our government and First Nations leaders. Canadians are growing increasingly frustrated and disappointed with the actions of those who blockade highways and railways. The blockades must stop. They are counterproductive, and an impediment to progress.
From a philosophical standpoint, violating the law is fairly central to the idea of civil disobedience.
Such protests are, of course, not unique to aboriginal causes. Farmers in British Columbia conducted a blockade of a private property on an entirely unrelated matter this month (the blockade ended Thursday at the RCMP’s behest). Farmers have used convoys in the past that have tied up or otherwise impeded traffic in the process of protesting government policy. (Farmers also protested the coalition in 2008.) And at least one such protest has occurred with support from some of Mr. Richards and Mr. Rathgeber’s colleagues (see story below).
Ultimately, we’re talking about tolerance: what should a democratic society be willing to tolerate and what should law enforcement be willing to tolerate before intervening? (From a policing standpoint, for the sake of maintaining peace and order, where is the line between letting a protest run its course and needing to enforce the law? At what point is it more troublesome to intervene than it would be to work around the situation?) Protesters who break the law probably have to accept the possibility of being arrested, charged or fined—though, with something like a highway blockade, working with law enforcement in advance might allow for reasonable compromises to be found. But protesters also have to keep in mind how the general public will view their actions: a protest might be meant to raise awareness, but it might hurt the larger cause if the action greatly angers and frustrates those directly impacted and is viewed unfavourable by the majority of those who read and hear the news. In that regard, Idle No More protesters might be smart to consider the complaints of Mr. Rathgeber and Mr. Richards, even if they disagree with their conclusions. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 1:57 PM - 0 Comments
Q And what’s your reaction to what you’ve seen so far?
A Personal circumstances will always be taken into consideration in determining someone’s eligibility. For example, if they don’t have transportation to another community where a job is, that will be taken into consideration. Child care responsibilities and costs will be taken into consideration because we want to make sure that when people work, they’re better off than when they don’t. That being said, Service Canada officials can only take into consideration the information that they have. If the claimant doesn’t provide all of the relevant individual circumstances, then Service Canada can only go with the information they have.
Q In this particular situation, do you know if the individual did provide that information to Service Canada?
A Service Canada has made multiple attempts to talk with her, to review her file, to go over the options, to get all of the information. But it had no success in reaching her and I really encourage her to get in touch with them.
Ms. Giersdorf, meanwhile, says she’s tried to contact Service Canada and also that she’s been protesting just outside a Service Canada office. And then there is bit of back-and-forth.
Last week, Queen said there were half a dozen jobs in Montague the woman could have applied for; however, Geirsdorf said they were all beyond her qualifications. Officials also say there is more to the EI case than meets the eye, but can’t discuss it.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 12:02 AM - 0 Comments
My Babysitter’s a Vampire won this year’s Shaw Rocket Prize of $50,000. The award …
My Babysitter’s a Vampire won this year’s Shaw Rocket Prize of $50,000. The award recognizes the best in Canadian kids’ programming. On hand to help with the presentation at the Fairmont Château Laurier was Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Diane Finley.
By John Geddes, Paul Wells, Jonathon Gatehouse, Julie Smyth, Aaron Wherry and Michael Petrou - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Maclean’s 2012 power list
Ask around about the attributes of influence in the federal government during Stephen Harper’s rule. The answers will vary widely depending on who’s doing the talking, but certain elements will pop up with intriguing regularity. Just about everyone, for instance, agrees that power these days tilts westward. And, sure enough, the top three on our list—the Prime Minister himself, inevitably, followed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the governor of the Bank of Canada—all hail from Alberta.
Yet Harper had little to do with the rise of Beverley McLachlin and Mark Carney. So is this top-of-the-list cluster of Albertans mere happenstance, or a true sign of a pattern of power? One thing it isn’t, we promise, is a contrivance. Maclean’s writers and editors compiled this admittedly subjective list based on our own combined experience covering Ottawa’s most important people, tested against the sage insights of political strategists, veterans of the public service and lobbyists who make it their business to size up the city’s elite.
What makes one partisan or public servant, public figure or private power broker seem to matter more than another can be mysterious. In some cases, managerial style lifted a figure into our sights, like McLachlin’s subtle touch with the nine egos on the top court, or the way top bureaucrat Wayne Wouters boosts the morale of a public service whose pinnacle he commands. Often power flows in well-worn channels, as through the offices of the finance or foreign minister. Sometimes, though, someone cracks the institutional edifice, and influence streams in unexpectedly. Look at what Kevin Page has done as the first parliamentary budget officer. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 12:56 PM - 0 Comments
The Interactive Commons is now updated with data through November 8. While the Prime Minister was away, John Baird (22 responses since the last report) and Pierre Poilievre (21 responses since the last report) played and Diane Finley (98 responses total this fall) has now been up more than any other member of the Conservative side.
In terms of asking, Thomas Mulcair still leads Bob Rae (82 questions to 62 questions), but Mr. Rae has proved nearly as verbose (having spoken 3,117 words in QP to Mr. Mulcair’s 3,207).
Fun fact: Conservative MP David Tilson and NDP MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault, both committee chairs, are the only MPs to both ask and respond to at least one question so far this fall.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 9, 2012 at 9:33 AM - 0 Comments
Diane Finley is moving forward with the Harper government’s plans for “social finance.”
Ottawa is making a bold push to have business play a bigger role in funding government social programs – asking Canada’s corporate and charities sector to submit ideas that could ultimately form part of the 2013 budget.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail on Thursday, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said interest in the emerging field of social finance is “very high,” pointing to multimillion-dollar investments from the Royal Bank. “We need to make sure that we’re not only not getting in the way, but we’re helping them advance their efforts to improve the outcomes in things like homelessness and literacy and other community challenges,” Ms. Finley said.
The prepared text of Ms. Finley’s speech is here. The plan is reminiscent of David Cameron’s Big Society, which has been met with mixed reviews. The Star looks at some of the criticisms of Ms. Finley’s plan. The NDP was unimpressed during QP yesterday.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:43 PM - 0 Comments
A tribute dinner was held to honour Conservative Senator Doug Finley at the War…
A tribute dinner was held to honour Conservative Senator Doug Finley at the War Museum. Proceeds went to the Scottish Society of Ottawa.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 15, 2012 at 5:25 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Conservative MP Dan Albas, still new to this place and apparently not yet exhausted of all ideals, lamented last week that the 35 seconds allotted for each response in Question Period were not nearly sufficient to explain the obviously complicated matters of national governance. “While it is possible to ask a meaningful question in 35 seconds,” he explained, “I am certain most would agree that when it comes to governance, very few answers can be given in such a short timeframe.”
Perhaps this explains why the Harper government has spent tens of millions in public funds on television advertisements to explain itself to the public. Perhaps that’s why Diane Finley, questioned repeatedly in the House about a flaw in her reforms to employment insurance, decided to announce a change in her plans via news release on the Friday afternoon before the House went on break for a week.
For sure, difficult questions are not easily answered. Witness Gerry Ritz, who, for another day, was asked not only to explain why the nation’s food safety system hadn’t prevented 15 people from getting sick, but also if he would just go ahead and resign. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 5, 2012 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, today announced the Government’s intent to adjust the Employment Insurance (EI) Working While on Claim pilot project.
“Concerns have been raised regarding the new EI Working While on Claim pilot project,” said Minister Finley. “We have listened to those concerns and today I am announcing our intent to make adjustments to the new pilot program.”
The current pilot project allows claimants to keep 50 cents for every dollar they earn from working while on claim. It removes the previous pilot project’s cap on earnings, which clawed back 100% of earnings over $75 or 40% which discouraged Canadians from accepting more available work.
Under the adjustment announced today, those EI recipients who were working while on claim between August 7, 2011 and August 4, 2012 will be given the option of reverting to the rules that existed under the previous pilot program. This change will go into effect January 6, 2013, but it will be applied retrospectively to August 5, 2012 – the start of the new pilot program.
For those who choose this option, their EI benefits will not be reduced on earnings made while on claim for the first $75 or 40 percent of their benefits, whichever is greater – the same as the previous pilot program. However, all earnings above that threshold will reduce their EI benefits dollar for dollar.
Beginning January 6, 2013, eligible claimants must make the request to revert to the old pilot parameters within 30 days of their last EI benefit payment. For claims that have already ended, claimants will have 30 days from the introduction of this option.
Eligible claimants will be required to make this request for any subsequent claims for the duration of the new pilot project, which runs from August 5, 2012, until August 1, 2015. For an eligible claimant who does not choose to be considered under the previous pilot rules, all current and future claims will be processed under the new Working While on Claim pilot rules.
For an eligible claimant, if they make the decision to opt for the previous pilot, they will not be able to revert to the new pilot during the same EI claim. In addition, if, in a subsequent claim, they receive Working While on Claim benefits under the new pilot introduced on August 5, 2012 they will not be allowed to opt for the old pilot should they file another claim the following year.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 1:41 PM - 0 Comments
Paul McLeod explains what the changes to employment insurance really mean.
The fact is this: the Working While on Claim program has been cut. Less money will be given to people working part time while drawing EI under the new system than the one that existed until this summer … Some people who work frequently — earning 80 to 90 per cent of their weekly EI claims — will be better off under the new system. But those who make less will take home less money than they would have under the previous system. The department says it doesn’t have the numbers required to calculate exactly how many people will make less, but the drop in funding gives some indication.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 12:39 PM - 0 Comments
Opposition parties are accusing the government of clawing back more money from the poorest of Canadians with its recent changes to EI. But Diane Finley, human resources and skills development minister, countered that saying the “vast majority” of EI claimants are better off under her department’s new clawback system.
The Chronicle Herald attempted to verify her claim, asking the department last Thursday for the average dollar amount earned by part-time workers receiving EI, as well as the dollar value of the average clawback under the previous system. The department responded Monday, saying it does not have the data to answer either question. The lack of data raises questions about how Finley could say the “vast majority” of EI claimants will make more money under the new system.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 5:53 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. It was of something Peter Van Loan said in his third response yesterday that Thomas Mulcair asked his first question today.
“Does the Prime Minister agree,” the NDP leader asked, “that employment insurance is, to quote his House leader, ‘an incentive for people to be unemployed?’ ”
Mr. Harper stood and clarified the necessity of employment insurance and asserted his interest in seeing people find jobs. Then he attempted to deal with the details.
“In the past, the way employment insurance worked was that individuals who went back to work lost dollar for dollar everything that they gained when they returned to work,” he said. “For the vast majority of people that is what happened. We are trying to make sure that Canadians can go back to work and continue to benefit.”
Mr. Mulcair proceeded to venture that Mr. Harper was not much interested in helping the unemployed. And, further, that Mr. Harper’s lack of interest extended to various people and concepts. ”Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is not interested in meeting with the premiers. He is not interested in working together. He is not interested in the unemployed,” the NDP leader alleged. “He will travel around the world to Davos, to South America, to China but he will not even sit down with Canadian premiers. In seven years he has only met with the premiers once, the worst record of any prime minister.”
There was grumbling from the government side.
“Why will the Prime Minister not even listen to the people on the ground?” Mr. Mulcair asked. “Why will the Prime Minister not work together with his own fellow Canadians here at home?”
Mr. Harper has actually met with the premiers en masse twice—in November 2008 and January 2009. But the Prime Minister had an even more impressive-sounding number to table here. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 12:18 PM - 0 Comments
The Globe editorial board says the Parti Quebecois’ victory puts the onus on the Prime Minister. A Conservative organizer predicts “great fun and games.” Human Resources Minister Diane Finley makes the first move, addressing employment insurance.
In an interview Wednesday morning, Finley shunned any suggestions of changing the way EI is managed, pointing instead to the ways Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has made the program more flexible to respond to provincial demands.
“Employment insurance has been federal jurisdiction since 1940,” Finley said by phone from Halifax where she unveiled an expansion of her national youth employment strategy. “It’s national programs to help all regions of the country. We’ve made it more flexible so that it does respond more directly to changes in local market conditions. But our focus is quite frankly on helping people get back to work, as evidenced by today’s announcement, so that they don’t need EI. I’m quite happy to work with Marois’s government on common goals.”
Her officials pointed out that Finley has not, however, said a flat No to anything from Quebec.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 11:26 AM - 0 Comments
Canada Day video greetings from Jason Kenney, Ted Opitz, Cheryl Gallant, Peggy Nash, Jinny Sims, Colin Carrie, Joyce Murray, Wayne Marston, Craig Scott, John Weston, Ralph Goodale, Elizabeth May, Robert Chisholm, Claude Gravelle, Christine Moore, Laurin Liu, Ray Boughen, James Lunney, Russ Hiebert, Jack Harris, Peter Braid, Steven Blaney, Randy Kamp and, expressing their best wishes in rather similar words, Daryl Kramp, James Bezan, Randy Hoback, Diane Finley, Ed Holder, Ryan Leef, Bob Zimmer, Dave MacKenzie,John Carmichael, Bal Gosal, Costas Menegakis and Parm Gill.
After the jump, a video from the Prime Minister and statements from Thomas Mulcair and Bob Rae. Continue…
By John Geddes - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
The government’s changes to Employment Insurance are far from what many expected
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley never stopped smiling during her news conference explaining the Conservative government’s Employment Insurance reforms—even though it’s among the most dangerous files any federal minister could ever be asked to handle. At every chance, Finley reassuringly said the changes weren’t about cutting benefits but about “connecting Canadians with available jobs.” Only once, when a reporter asked if a laid-off fish-plant worker might have to take a fast-food job, did she let slip the sort of comment that sets off alarm bells in high-unemployment regions. “Well, this is going to impact everyone,” Finley said, “because what we want to do is make sure that the McDonald’s of the world aren’t having to bring in temporary foreign workers to do jobs that Canadians who are on EI have the skills to do.”
That is exactly the sort of suggestion that many seasonal EI claimants, from fishermen to road pavers, tend to resent and fear. Despite Finley’s stray remark, though, the prospect of many repeat claimants being pressed to serve fries during their off seasons appears to be remote. The modest reforms she sketched last week won’t force EI recipients to take work that pays a great deal less than the last position they held. As well, the changes won’t typically ask them to commute more than an hour for a job, let alone move from a region with few opportunities to one where odds of finding work are much better. Instead, those drawing EI benefits will be asked to consider openings where they already live in occupations similar to what they’re used to. “It’s really hard,” said Colin Busby, a senior policy analyst at the C.D. Howe Institute, a Toronto-based think tank, “to conceptualize exactly who is going to be affected by these new reforms.”
In fact, officials in Finley’s department estimated that less than one per cent of the roughly 500,000 Canadians drawing EI benefits at any given time will be cut off. Although some opposition politicians and union leaders protested anyway, their reactions were by and large muted. In that respect, the pattern of the EI announcement—first anxious expectation, then a cautious policy move, prompting a subdued response—followed a familiar course. It’s what happened when the Tories changed Old Age Security. After setting the stage for something big, they finally announced that the eligibility age will rise gradually to 67 from 65, starting in 2023, a far-off move expected to trim $10.8 billion from what would otherwise have been a $108.7-billion OAS bill in 2030. A moderate saving from a huge program many years from now: no wonder there was little outcry. The same cautious approach arguably characterized Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s entire spring budget, which avoided controversial austerity at every turn in favour of low-key measures.
This is not what many expected when Prime Minister Stephen Harper ﬁnally won his majority just over a year ago. Although Harper has wagered political capital on a few strategic ﬁles—notably his push to fast-track environmental assessments of oil pipelines and other resource projects—he has tread carefully around social policy. On health care, for instance, the Conservatives won’t slow the current pace of six per cent a year increases in transfers to provinces until 2017-18, and even then promise to keep boosting payments at the rate of economic growth. On public sector pensions, last year’s budget took the nearly painless steps of raising the normal age of retirement for employees who start working for the government after this year from 60 to 65, while slowly increasing employee contributions to the plan.
By From the editors - Friday, June 1, 2012 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
The system Canada has right now is discriminatory, illogical and counterproductive
Assume for a moment you’ve been given the job of creating from scratch a federal program to help out-of-work Canadians find suitable employment as quickly and efficiently as possible. Would you begin with a system that provides greater benefits to workers who find themselves unemployed more often? Or provides incentives to stay in uncertain occupations forever? Would your ideal system offer identical Canadians vastly different benefits based solely on where they lived? And would you lard the program with inconsistent rules, such as offering benefits to self-employed fishermen, but not self-employed farmers?
Of course not. But this is exactly the sort of discriminatory, illogical and counterproductive system Canada has right now.
Last week Human Resources Minister Diane Finley unveiled a series of reforms to Canada’s much-criticized Employment Insurance program. While the changes don’t go nearly far enough to fix the entirety of EI’s problems, at least they mark renewed emphasis on the core task: getting people back to work.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 3:06 PM - 0 Comments
New EI changes are like ‘E-Harmony’ for job seekers and employers: matching Cdns looking for work with available jobs, data, support.
During this morning’s news conference, Diane Finley was asked specifically about the ramifications for seasonal workers.
Reporter: How does this impact on seasonal workers … if you take a fish plant worker, for example, works six months for the season. Then there’s a job at McDonald’s available. It’s deemed similar in terms of working around the kitchen. What do they do? They work six months at the fish plant, go to McDonald’s, say to the employer I’m here for six months and then I’m back? So how does this impact seasonal workers?
Diane Finley: Well, this is going to impact everyone because what we want to do is make sure that the McDonald’s of the world aren’t having to bring in temporary foreign workers to do jobs that Canadians who are on EI have the skills to do. It’s about taking advantage of the labour and skills that we have in this country, putting them to productive use and doing it in such a way that the employers are better off but the employee and his or her family is always better off. And that’s why we’ve made other changes leading up to this announcement to make sure that the worker is always better off taking work that’s available than not. And also it means that that money is here in Canada and not going to outside workers unless absolutely necessary.