By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 26, 2012 - 0 Comments
Scott Clark and Peter DeVries hope C-45 marks the end of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board.
In the second Budget Omnibus Bill related to the 2012 Budget, the Government proposes to suspend the operations of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB) until such time the Employment Insurance (EI) Operating Account returns to balance. According to the 2012 Budget, this is not expected until 2016. Is this the end of the CEIFB? Lets hope so.
The CEIC was established in 2008 to “set EI premium rates for the upcoming year in a transparent fashion”. This has never happened. In every year since its creation, the Government has overridden the rate recommended by the CEIC through an Order-in-Council. In the March 2012 Budget, the Government proposed further changes to the EI rate-setting process. The employee EI rate is now to be limited to a 5 cent per year increase until the EI Operating Account is balanced. This precludes the CEIFB from setting rates for at least another four years.
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 - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 1:22 PM - 0 Comments
The House is proceeding with debate at third reading for C-38 today, the New Democrats have thrown a reasoned amendment at the bill.
That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: this House declines to give third reading to Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, because this House:
a) does not know the full implications of the budget cuts given that the government has kept the details of the $5.2 billion in spending cuts from the Parliamentary Budget Officer whose lawyer Joseph Magnet says the government is violating the Federal Accountability Act law and should turn the information over to the Parliamentary Budget Officer;
b) is concerned with the impact of the changes in the Bill on Canadian society such as: i. making it more difficult for Canadians to access Employment Insurance when they need it and forcing them to accept jobs at 70% of what they previously earned or lose their EI; ii. raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement from 65 to 67 years and thus driving thousands of Canadians into poverty while downloading spending to the provinces; iii. cutting back the federal health transfers to the provinces from 2017 on, which will result in a loss of $31 billion to the health care system; and iv. gutting the federal environmental assessment regime and weakening fish habitat protection which will adversely affect Canada’s environmental sustainability for generations to come; and
c) is opposed to the removal of critical oversight powers of the Auditor General over a dozen agencies and the systematic concentration of powers in the hands of Government ministers over agencies such as the National Energy Board which weakens Canadian’s confidence in the work of parliament, decreases transparency and erodes fundamental democratic institutions by systematically eroding institutional checks and balances to the government’s ideological driven agenda.
This apparently won’t do anything to delay a final vote on C-38—likely to occur tonight—but it does at least get the official opposition’s complaints on the record one last time.
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 Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 6:03 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The Prime Minister has a special gift for making his government’s policies sound altogether banal, utterly and profoundly unremarkable.
“We will continue to do our best to try and put some resources into helping people find jobs,” Mr. Harper said this afternoon, under questioning about his government’s proposed changes to employment insurance. “At the same time, for those who still cannot find work in their seasonal industries and seasonal parts of the economy where people have difficulty finding work, there will, of course, be employment insurance as a safety net for those people.”
But if Diane Finley’s smile did not assuage the opposition parties, what chance do Mr. Harper’s words? From the other side of the House, there is worry that seasonal workers will be particularly impacted. There is fretting that the unemployed will be compelled to take lower paying jobs. There is fear that those without work will be deprived of EI benefits. There are concerns that the Harper government didn’t consult with the premiers. There is even dismissal of the Conservative plan for more and better emails. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 25, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Elizabeth May recalls her own experience.
Ms. May said that from 1975 to 1980, she received what was then called unemployment insurance during the off-season while working as a waitress and cook at her family’s restaurant and gift shop business in Cape Breton, she says. Labelling regular users of EI, such as herself, as lazy or abusing the system is unfair, she said.
“I paid into employment insurance. When I needed it, I used it. When I didn’t, I didn’t. I raise my personal experience because I don’t think anyone should be ashamed that seasonal businesses in this country that are big, or small, have benefitted from a legal system of insurance that pays for itself.”
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.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 2:52 PM - 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 - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 2:03 PM - 0 Comments
“I guess it is particular to each region. I mean, you know, I don’t think that it would be proper or it would be reasonable to expect someone from Fredericton or Saint John to commute to Moncton for a job daily,” Valcourt said. “You know it doesn’t make sense. So we’re talking communities and surrounding communities. What is reasonable? The details are not out yet.”
It’s about a two-hour drive from Fredericton or Saint John to Moncton.
Valcourt said he knows many people in the northwestern city of Edmundston, who commute about 30 minutes to St. Leonard for work. But he said he wouldn’t expect people to travel to Woodstock, which is about two hours south of Edmundston.
“It’s the custom and if the economic fact of life of the region is for people to work in their community and the surrounding communities. I don’t think it would be proper to force people to travel to other areas in the province to get a job,” he said. “There are hundreds of small- and medium-sized business be it in Fredericton or Moncton or Saint John as we speak that are looking for employees. i think what is aimed and the objective here is to connect those people that want to work with available jobs in their communities and the surrounding communities.”
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 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 1:17 PM - 0 Comments
Greg Weston questions the existence of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board.
But in all three years the board has been in existence, the Harper government has simply capped EI rates to spare Canadian workers from potentially huge premium increases. As a result, the rate-setting agency has yet to set a single rate.
The board’s other main responsibility is to invest any surplus EI funds. That has never happened, either. Since the government started capping EI contribution rates, the employment insurance program has been running a deficit now totalling almost $9 billion.
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 - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 1:28 PM - 20 Comments
Bob Rae appeals to economics.
A premium is a tax, and payroll taxes discourage hiring. Make no mistake, payments to people who have no work is essential, and a hallmark of a decent society and an effective automatic stabilizer for the economy. But how we pay for them should be the subject of a serious debate. The Liberal Party is calling today for a freeze on employment insurance premiums, and a review of the tax into the future. The payroll tax increases planned by the Conservatives will put a new tax burden of 1.2 billion on businesses and workers just as the economy is slowing down. It is a very bad idea, and the Conservatives should change course.
We need to go further and address the income tax code itself. Like their other favourite statute, the Criminal Code, the Conservatives cannot resist tinkering with endless boutique tax credits and changes that respond to the flavour of the month politics that is now the hallmark of the political right. These credits are rarely refundable, which means that those who really need help don’t get it. Out of the roughly 25 million tax filers in Canada, eight million do not have enough income to pay taxes. Those are the people who need these tax credits the most and they are the ones who don’t even get to apply.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 12:37 PM - 10 Comments
The Liberals have persisted these last several weeks in asking the government side to cancel an increase in EI premiums scheduled for next year. The government side has persisted in ignoring these questions.
Today though, the Finance Minister will apparently announce that the planned increase will be halved.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 9:44 AM - 11 Comments
Scott Clark and Peter DeVries take on EI premiums.
Simply put, the EI premium rate is a bad tax – probably the worst tax that the government has available to raise revenues. It inhibits employment and economic growth; it is unfair in its impact on low-income workers; it is extremely complex to calculate and administer…
The best option would be to get rid of the EI premium rate altogether and replace it with an alternative source of revenue. One way this could be done is by replacing the lost revenues, about $20 billion, by increasing the GST and corporate income tax rates. This would address the problem of the working poor by spreading the burden over much larger tax bases. In addition, the GST low-income tax credit could be increased, sheltering these individuals altogether.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 2:12 PM - 7 Comments
Jack Layton promises new family care initiatives.
Under the program, families hoping to build a self-contained, add-on unit for an elderly relative would be entitled to a forgivable loan that would cover half the cost of renovations up to a maximum of $35,000. Mr. Layton also promised to extend EI benefits for people looking after a dying relative to six months — up from six weeks — and to introduce a new, up-to-$1,500-a-year caregiver benefit to help struggling low and middle class families who are looking after a sick or injured loved one. He further vowed to close the loophole that prevents Canadians who have accessed maternity, adoption, sick or other leave from accessing regular EI benefits should they lose their jobs when they return.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 4:34 PM - 11 Comments
If re-elected, the Tories would offer a two-year extension of the capital cost allowance, which is currently set to expire at the end of the year.
The program allows businesses to accelerate the timing of their capital cost deductions by 50%, deferring taxation and improving financial return on investments in new equipment and machinery.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 3:06 PM - 22 Comments
The NDP files its suggestions with the Finance Minister, including pension reform, EI reform, municipal funding, an extension to the home renovation tax credit and a repeal of planned corporate tax cuts.
In addition to job creation measures, the Government must address the looming structural deficit, as identified by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page. The deficit was caused, in part, by previous reckless reductions in corporate income tax rates. Like most Canadians, New Democrats recognize that in the long term, we cannot spend more than we collect. Yet your government has not only attempted to deny the existence of the structural deficit, it has aggravated the imbalance by reducing revenues despite the absence of any evidence that those tax savings have led to investments in jobs for Canadians. Your unbalanced corporate tax policy is exacerbating our overreliance on oil extraction, and contributing to a high dollar, which in turn hampers job creation and exports in the value-added sectors of manufacturing, forestry, aerospace and others. We propose that you announce the government will not proceed with additional cuts to the corporate tax rate in 2011 and 2012.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 6:24 PM - 46 Comments
The Prime Minister, the Liberal leader said, was planning to increase employment insurance premiums. This, he said, will deter employers from hiring. And this, he explained, would add to the tax burden. Across the way, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro was loudly displeased.
“Will the Prime Minister admit,” Mr. Ignatieff finished, “that he is raising taxes and that tax increases will kill jobs?”
Shaking his head and shrugging, the Prime Minister stood with his version of events.
“Mr. Speaker, on the contrary,” he said, “this government has frozen premiums for employment insurance for this year and next. In the long term, these rates are determined by an independent commission.”
Mr. Ignatieff listened to this response, then stood with a conclusion.
“Mr. Speaker,” he explained, “this means that ‘Yes, we’ll raise taxes.’” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 28, 2009 at 1:26 PM - 9 Comments
I try again to explain Jack Layton.
This seemed a terrible day for the leader of the NDP. But if you were thinking Jack Layton had just turned himself inside out, that the unrelenting opponent of this government had just debased himself for the purposes of political expediency, you would be wrong. At least so says the NDP.
“Canadians are fair-minded and want their politicians to use common sense,” Brad Lavigne, the party’s national director, said over coffee a few hours after the vote. “And what you’ve seen is probably Jack Layton’s best week of his leadership.”
Really? “Absolutely,” Lavigne conﬁrmed. “I’d say it’s one of his best weeks by far. In terms of seizing the opportunity, sticking to the principles, recognizing that it actually takes strength to get things for the people that sent us here. I think what Jack Layton has done this week is give a voice to the millions of Canadians who want to see this Parliament work and don’t want to go to an election.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 28, 2009 at 10:27 AM - 22 Comments
Jack Layton tries again to explain himself.
In the end, as we debated whether we would support the $1 billion for the unemployed or give Harper the election only he and Ignatieff seem to crave, I kept coming back to the faces of the many people I’ve met who asked me to help them. For them, the financial support will make a big difference.
I feel anguish right now, but it has nothing to do with the criticism that has been levelled at us. No, it is that we haven’t been able to help more hard-working Canadians who are in need. It’s going to be a hard, hard winter for far too many of them.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 21, 2009 at 11:07 AM - 38 Comments
Jack Layton explains himself.
This new reform falls far short in many ways. It doesn’t cut waiting periods, increase benefits or create uniform access across the country. We are under no illusions that this bill fixes the major problems in the EI system. We will continue to work for further changes to EI. In fact, we have a dozen proposed laws before the House that would improve other elements of the existing system.
But my party cannot, in good conscience, vote down legislation that is a step in the right direction.