By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 0 Comments
Diane Finley entered the room smiling. The Human Resources Minister is seemingly a firm believer that—as the lyric goes—when you smile, the whole world smiles with you. Or at least that the whole world is less likely to hear what you’re saying as threatening. Furrowing of the brow is to be avoided. Bright eyes are the order of the day.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce improvements to employment insurance to make it work better for Canadians,” she said with a smile.
“Today,” she added a bit later, “I’m pleased to provide details on our plan.”
The centrepiece of this plan: more e-mails.
Canadians, it would seem, are apparently at a loss. Some are unaware of where to find work. Others do not realize that their skills match job openings in other industries. But soon, through the wonders of modern communication, the unemployed will be more deeply and frequently enlightened.
“Currently, Canadians receiving EI benefits are only sent three job alerts every two weeks. These alerts come from the job bank, which only has about 20% of the jobs that are available. And we believe that this must change. As I said, we must help Canadians who want to work get back to work,” Ms. Finley explained. “As part of our announcement, we will be sending job alerts twice a day to Canadians receiving EI. And the job alerts will come from many sources, including the job bank, but also from private sector sources.”
Some significant portion of the $21 million set aside for improving the EI system will be spent on these emails. Though presumably these new expenditures will be easily covered by the billions saved from consolidating the government’s computer systems. Perhaps the consolidated computer systems will even make sending these emails that much easier. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
Diane Finley has just now explained how the government plans to reform employment insurance. The official news release and backgrounder is here.
Early reviews are in from the Globe.
The Conservative government unveiled a sweeping overhaul of Canada’s Employment Insurance system, creating three new tiers of job hunters that will most directly affect repeat users of the program. The new rules will mean less generous terms for frequent users of EI, while giving Canadians who rarely use the program more leeway to look for jobs in their field.
Unemployed Canadians will face tougher requirements to hang on to their Employment Insurance benefits under a new crackdown by the Conservative government. The intent of the changes is to push unemployed Canadians off the insurance rolls and into the workforce, even if it means they must accept lower-paying jobs or work they might not want.
And the CBC.
The longer and more frequently someone is claiming employment insurance, the broader their job search will have to be and the lower the wages they must be willing to accept, according to proposed regulations outlined this morning.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has scheduled an announcement for 10:30 this morning at which she might explain what the government plans to do with employment insurance. In the meantime, Jason Kenney invokes the one-hour rule.
“I think the idea is, that within your own local community, within say an hour’s drive or so, if there are unemployed workers receiving EI and they’re not applying for jobs that are available at their skill level then there’s a mismatch,” he said, “And we want to solve that problem.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is urging the Harper government to explain what changes it wants to make to the EI system.
However, the CFIB is echoing opposition party demands for the Conservatives — particularly Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley — to finally explain what sort of overhaul they have planned for the EI system. ”It’s time for Flaherty and Finley to put forward what they’re planning to do because there is a bit of mass hysteria over this that I think is completely overplayed at the moment,” CFIB senior vice-president Dan Kelly said Wednesday. ”The government is right to be flagging this, but it’s a little past time now for them to actually put on the record what they’re planning to do.”
In the past year, the Conservatives have cited the CFIB’s views to justify government policy on Old Age Security, Employment Insurance rates, credit cards, pooled pensions, trade, the temporary hiring tax credit, the Canadian Wheat Board, Canada Post and the 2011 federal budget.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 5:50 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Peggy Nash was very nearly pleading. ”Will someone in the government,” she asked, “please outline right now what constitutes suitable employment?”
In Ms. Nash’s moment of need it was Ted Menzies, minister of state for finance, who stood. ”Mr. Speaker, I actually have some examples here of what constitutes suitable employment,” he reported.
At last, clarity seemed at hand. ”A mining company in Newfoundland is looking to hire 1,500 people in St. John’s, Newfoundland, through the temporary foreign worker program,” Mr. Menzies explained. “There are 32,500 people looking for work right now. That is why we are trying to make EI more effective to help these mining companies get people to employ.”
What precisely was the minister of state suggesting here? That if you are presently looking for work you might soon be expected to strap on a helmet lamp and make for St. John’s? And are there really only 32,500 people in this country presently looking for work?
There were chuckles of incredulity from the opposition side. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
In an interview with the CBC yesterday, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley was pressed again about what the government intends to do with the Employment Insurance powers provided for in the budget bill.
“We haven’t announced those details yet. We want to make sure the legislation gets through first.”
Later in the interview, she said “regulations have to be developed after legislation.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. For all of the budget bill’s pages and clauses—more than 400 of the former and more than 700 of the latter—opposition MPs seem strangely at a loss. So very many pages and yet still they cry out for more.
“Mr. Speaker, until now the Conservatives had refused to come clean on how much they plan to cut from old age security,” Thomas Mulcair reported this day as if reading the evening news. “Finally yesterday, when asked whether the Conservative cuts would take about $10 billion out of the pockets of Canadian seniors, the Minister of Finance said: ‘I’ve heard that number. I’ve heard $12 billion also, something in that area.’ ”
Staring across the aisle at one minister in particular, Mr. Mulcair moved for the quip. “I guess,” he said, “it is not just the Minister of Defence who has arithmetic problems.”
Peter MacKay nodded mockingly.
“Would the Prime Minister refresh the memory of his Minister of Finance,” Mr. Mulcair finally asked, “and table the full cost of his Old Age Security Cuts?”
The problem here was apparently one of wording. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 12:18 PM - 0 Comments
While deferring to Human Resources Minister Diane Finley for further details of what the government plans to accomplish with its unexplained budget bill amendments to employment insurance, Jim Flaherty hints at new expectations for the unemployed.
“There’ll be a broader definition and people will have to engage more in the work force,” said Mr. Flaherty, who then pointed to his own résumé from his student days at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “I was brought up in a certain way. There is no bad job. The only bad job is not having a job. So I drove a taxi. You know, I refereed hockey. You do what you have to do to make a living.”
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney offered similar sentiments last month.
The federal government wants to reduce disincentives to work and create a “greater connection” between the EI program and the temporary foreign worker program, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told the National Post editorial board this week. ”If you don’t take available work, you don’t get EI,” he said. “That’s always been a legal principle of that program.”
Under the proposed reforms, unemployed Canadians who are receiving EI would be required to accept local jobs that are currently being filled by temporary foreign workers … ”Nova Scotia provincewide has 10 per cent unemployment, but the only way Christmas tree operators can function in the Annapolis Valley is to bring in Mexicans through this agricultural worker program,” Kenney told the National Post.
The budget bill includes a reference to “suitable employment,” but the definition of suitable has not yet been explained. More from the Star.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
On April 24, Peggy Nash asked Human Resources Minister Diane Finley how much money the government expected to be saved by raising the eligibility age for Old Age Security to 67. The minister did not answer the question. Ms. Nash asked again. Ms. Finley again failed to answer the question.
On May 1, Scott Brison demanded to know how much would be saved. Ms. Finley avoided the question. On May 10, Thomas Mulcair put the question to the Prime Minister. Mr. Harper dodged. Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Nash again asked Ms. Finley. Ms. Finley again failed to offer an estimate.
But outside the House yesterday, Jim Flaherty said he’d “heard” a couple numbers.
Speaking to reporters after question period, Flaherty allowed that he has heard an estimate of $10 billion. ”I’ve heard that number, I’ve heard $12 billion also. Something in that area,” he said.
So is that the answer Ms. Nash, Mr. Brison and Mr. Mulcair were looking for? Maybe. Or maybe not.
Flaherty’s officials also refused to provide the estimate at a briefing to parliamentarians at the end of April, although they did give it to reporters covering the federal budget on March 29.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 10:13 AM - 0 Comments
The Harper government is using the budget implementation act to give itself new, unexplained powers to regulate employment insurance.
The measure is contained inside the budget implementation bill and would give cabinet the power to change employment insurance rules later through regulation without the approval of Parliament. Yet, even though the provision is currently before MPs, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley is refusing to explain its purpose other than to say further details will be announced over the coming months.
The budget bill reached the floor of the House yesterday, with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver leading the debate. Peggy Nash offered the response for the NDP. Scott Brison responded for the Liberals. Shortly thereafter, Peter Van Loan rose and gave notice of a motion of time allocation that will see the bill come to a second reading vote on May 14.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 11:01 AM - 0 Comments
Peggy Nash tries to reengage the Old Age Security debate.
Mr. Speaker, scandals are unacceptable to the NDP, just as they should be to the Conservatives. Changes to old age security are also unacceptable. Even though the Conservatives never talked about pension reform during the election campaign, they are now proposing to raise the eligibility age to 67. The Minister of Finance says that this will save money, but he does not specify how much. The question is simple: how much money will they save?
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley offered that “this is not about the how much money will be saved, but about long-term sustainability.”
The House of Commons will spend Thursday debating an NDP motion calling on the House to “reject” the government’s plan to raise the eligibility age for OAS and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 67.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Here is the final third of the prepared text for her remarks, with all the usual caveats about checking against delivery (a full video of the speech hasn’t yet appeared online). Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 13, 2012 at 5:43 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Peter Julian, head nodding and bobbing for emphasis, began with a harangue for the government’s F-35 fixation. Heritage Minister James Moore, today’s stand-in for the Prime Minister, enjoyed the opportunity to explain the difference between those who Support The Troops and those who do not.
This though was mere prelude to the matter of Old Age Security. “Everything is about choices and priorities, and the choice of F-35 is a bad choice,” Mr. Julian said by way of segue. “Another bad choice, of course, is the reduction of Old Age Security for Canadians.”
And this was mere prelude to Wayne Marston standing and reviewing, in his quiet, folksy way, the story so far. ”Mr. Speaker, first the Conservatives said that OAS was unsustainable and needed to be cut. On Friday, the Finance Minister said that changes to OAS would be delayed until 2020 or 2025. Then a government spokesperson said the finance minister is wrong,” Mr. Marston recounted.
This was merely the short version—leaving out both the Prime Minister’s triumphant speech in Davos at the start of this three-week saga and the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s rebuke this weekend. But, of course, this was mere prelude to the question that still hangs over all of this. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 1:33 PM - 0 Comments
Will the Conservatives change the eligibility age for old age security? Will the age increase from 65 to 67, yes or no?
Will the eligibility age for OAS benefits increase from 65 to 67? Yes or no? When will this measure go into effect?
Bob Rae then added one of his own.
I would like to ask the government today if it could at least make a commitment that none of these changes that it is talking about will take place until after 2015, so, at the very least, Canadians will have an opportunity to vote on the changes being imposed on them by the government.
In response, Diane Finley offered only that “anyone who is young enough, like myself, or people younger than I, will have time to adjust their plans for their own retirement.” Ms. Finley is presently 54 years old. She turns 55 in October.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 3, 2012 at 8:38 AM - 0 Comments
Here are four of the first five questions asked by the NDP yesterday afternoon.
Will he rise in his seat and say to the country that the age of eligibility for OAS will not be raised to age 67, yes or no?
Will he raise OAS eligibility to 67 years, yes or no?
There is enough money for tax gifts for large corporations, but now seniors will have to wait until the age of 67 to get their $540 a month? Yes or no?
Is the eligibility age going to increase to 67, yes or no?
None of those questions received straight answers. The House did though spend the day discussing the pension system and Old Age Security—starting here, resuming here. For whatever it might foretell or explain, Diane Finley’s speech on behalf of the government is here.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 5:52 PM - 0 Comments
Will the Prime Minister be cutting Old Age Security benefits, she asked, yes or no? Will the age of eligibility be raised to 67, she wondered, yes or no?
“We want an answer,” she concluded.
In response, the Prime Minister had two answers. “Mr. Speaker, I was very clear. This government will not cut benefits for our seniors. I am very clear,” he declared. “At the same time, we will protect the system for generations to come.”
After jetting off to Switzerland and standing proudly before the global elite and bragging of his stewardship and boasting of “major transformations” to come, the Prime Minister seems suddenly shy. It is as if, having scaled the rhetorical heights, he was suddenly reminded why he generally avoids high places. And so now he is attempting to stall, perhaps even soothe, with a sleight of hand. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 3:30 PM - 0 Comments
One part of the In-and-Out scandal came to an end with the Conservatives pleading guilty and claiming victory.
Romeo Saganash clarified himself and touted his skill. Niki Ashton asserted herself. Nathan Cullen continued to pitch cooperation. Paul Dewar set out his arts agenda. Peggy Nash won the endorsement of Alexa McDonough.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 5:17 PM - 4 Comments
In response to this post, the office of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley sends along the following.
As announced in August, Service Canada will improve the way in which EI claims are processed by introducing further automation to an increasingly outdated and paper-based system. This will happen over the next three years. With continuous improvements to the way that we do business – such as increased automation, improved online services, and a nationally-managed approach to the distribution of workloads – Service Canada is positioned to manage service demands in a more cost-effective way. Modernizing our services will mean changes to the way we currently do business but ultimately will allow for better services for Canadians.
Canadians expect their hard-earned tax dollars to be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. The government of Canada is working hard, on behalf of Canadians, towards eliminating the deficit, returning to balanced budgets and improving the services we deliver. Over the course of the year, and dependent on labour market conditions and other factors, there may be fluctuations in the volume of Employment Insurance (EI) applications which could affect the speed of pay from one week to the next. We continue to carefully monitor the number of claims to make sure that we provide the best possible service to Canadians who are in need of benefits.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 12:54 PM - 0 Comments
Two weeks ago, the NDP spent a considerable amount of QP haranguing the government side about problems at Service Canada. The Globe has now spent a few days detailing further troubles—government cuts, computer troubles and a complaints office that you can’t complain to. One assumes this will land back on Human Resources Minister Diane Finley’s desk at QP on Monday.
“The unemployment rate hasn’t dropped and the number of claims that has come in over the past couple of months has actually gone up,” Ms. Crowder said. And “they’ve started to reduce the [temporary] staff even as the claim load hasn’t reduced to the extent that they thought it would.” … The department has assured politicians that benefits to the unemployed will not be affected by the funding review, Ms. Crowder said. But the resources that are used to process those payments could be vulnerable. “So HRSDC needs to come clean on exactly how they are going to meet their obligations with regard to cuts,” she said, “and they haven’t done that yet.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 11:32 PM - 3 Comments
Reception at the Fairmont Château Laurier for Taiwan’s 100th National Day: Double Ten Day…
Reception at the Fairmont Château Laurier for Taiwan’s 100th National Day: Double Ten Day – put on by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Ottawa.Continue…
By Paul Wells - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 126 Comments
Paul Wells takes an inside look at where the power really lies in Ottawa
For a loner, Stephen Harper works surprisingly well with others. The Prime Minister won his job by earning the loyalty of the old Reform party even though he used to be Preston Manning’s most persistent internal critic. He ended a decade’s rivalry with the Progressive Conservatives after doing more than almost anyone to fuel the rivalry.
He has wooed former Liberals into his caucus, sent New Democrat Gary Doer to Washington as Canada’s ambassador, and even put the occasional former Bloc Québécois member on the government payroll. No premier except Newfoundland’s now-retired Danny Williams has seen any political profit in antagonizing him. Harper drives his political opponents so crazy that it’s less frequently noticed how often he makes allies.
But the flip side of that coin is that his alliances rarely last. He hardly talks to former advisers like Tom Flanagan. He is on his fourth chief of staff, sixth communications director, and fifth foreign minister since he became Prime Minister. Jean Chrétien kept Eddie Goldenberg at his side for nearly 40 years. Paul Martin kept his 1990 Liberal leadership team around him until the day he retired. Harper’s team is like George Washington’s axe in the old joke, its blade replaced three times and its handle 26. All that remains is the ability to chop down opponents.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 4:47 PM - 33 Comments
When I received a government news release today reminding me to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Universal Child Care Benefit, I thought, as I donned my colourful paper hat, “Has it really been a year? Time flies. Why, it feels like only last month we marked five years of those $100-a-month federal payments to parents for every kid under age six.”
Wait a minute. Now that I check, it was only last month. I have removed the hat.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 11:41 AM - 13 Comments
The NDP leader has announced his shadow cabinet.
I count 19 new MPs (Peggy Nash and Francoise Boivin are newly elected, but not new to Parliament).
Possibly of note: the NDP have split Human Resources and Skills Development between six shadow ministers. Jean Crowder will be Diane Finley’s main counterpart, but Minister Finley will also have the attention of Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Skills), Marie-Claude Morin (Housing), Claude Patry (Employment Insurance), Manon Perreault (Disabilities) and Rathik Sitsabaiesan (Post-Secondary Education).
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 11, 2011 at 1:34 PM - 71 Comments
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley wants a federal employee in Brampton disciplined for sending an insulting email from his government account to a Sun columnist (who, it is probably necessary to note, volunteered for the Conservative campaign in 2008).
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:49 PM - 238 Comments
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, rebutting a Liberal attack yesterday.
Mr. Speaker, it is the Liberals who wanted to ensure that parents were forced to have other people raise their children. We do not believe in that.
The Liberals once pursued—and still seek—a national daycare and early learning program