Government's EI restrictions draw ire

Marc Lalonde
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Local MPs blast Tory employment-insurance reforms

NDG-Lachine MP Isabelle Morin blasted the government's new EI restrictions, saying they will keep wages artifically low and hurt average Canadians.

The federal government’s recent Employment Insurance program changes are just another example of Tory government obfuscation, Pierrefonds-Dollard MP Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe said, saying tightening of eligibility rules while telling Canadians the government is actually ‘improving,’ and ‘enhancing,’ Canadians’ access to EI is disingenuous.

“I’m not surprised, because it’s not the first time the government presents something and calls it something else,” said Blanchette-Lamothe, who defeated longtime incumbent Bernard Patry for the seat just over a year ago. “They say they’re improving access to (EI) but they (will be forcing) workers to accept jobs that might not be acceptable to them,” at an earlier point than previously.

The new government restrictions will largely affect seasonal workers, forcing them to accept jobs earlier on in the EI process than previously, but will also apply to claimants who fall under the ‘occasional’ category, which will force them to accept a job that pays 70 per cent of what their previous salary was in order to remain eligible for benefits.

Recently, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty justified the new EI rules by saying labour shortages in parts ofCanadamean that no EI claimant who wants to work should be out of a job.

"We are going to have significant labour shortages in this country," he said. "That means we are going to have to encourage more persons with disabilities to work, more seniors to work, more aboriginal people to work, including young people. We need to get rid of disincentives in the employment insurance system to people joining the work force."

That statement directly contradicts numbers showing a national unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent, and statistics showing there are 5.8 unemployed workers for every vacancy.

NDG-Lachine (which includesDorval) MP Isabelle Morin also took exception to Flaherty’s statement, saying  the Tories’ plan to get people back to work will not increase prosperity – rather, the opposite effect will become true. The government de facto forces Canadians to accept salary cuts if they want to be eligible for EI.

“Workers could be forced to take a 30 per cent wage cut.  If they are laid off again, they get another 30 per cent wage cut.  Will the government agree to base future EI claims on the workers’ original wages?  The Conservatives are putting Canadians into a downward spiral of lower wages and reduced eligibility,” she said.

Then again, with few seasonal industries filling local coffers, the executive director of a local non-profit agency mandated to help over-40 managers who find themselves out of work said most out-of-work West Islanders want to get back in the workforce as quickly as possible.

“We help professionals that are 40 and over, and they’re all looking for employment that suits their professional abiliities, and a lot of those professionals understand there’s going to be a drop in salary, especially with a new company,” said Larry Riley, the executive director of Pointe Claire-based Executive Available.

Organizations: Employment Insurance, Conservatives

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