4.13 Reforming the Employment Insurance system

In this time of economic hardship, many Canadians are attempting to access Employment Insurance for the first time. After paying into it for years, recently unemployed Canadians are finding it far too difficult to access benefits. Changes were made to reduce the usefulness of the Employment Insurance scheme back in the 1990s. Prior to the changes, 82.9% of those who were unemployed could access benefits. By 1997, this fell to 43.8%, where it held steady through 2004. Workers had to log a longer employment period in order to qualify, and the benefits received also shrank.

Ironically, the current recession is an ideal time to expand and improve the EI benefits. Economists, such as Ian Lee, Director of the Sprott School of Business, have determined that spending on EI is especially effective in stimulating the economy. Those receiving benefits spend nearly every cent received in essential purchases (food, clothing, shelter). Expanding the EI system can be justified as a sensible economic measure, as well as a matter of equity. This is one measure that does not require finding new money. The EI system has a healthy fund built up, yet the majority of unemployed workers are denied its benefits.

Green Party MPs will:

  • During this time of need (until the unemployment rate in Canada drops below 6%), provide EI benefits retroactively, without imposing additional premiums, to all those who have lost their jobs since the beginning of November 2008 and who have paid into EI for at least three months, and also urge that EI benefits last for 52 weeks to provide a safety net while waiting for the economy to recover and, if necessary, extend EI benefits beyond 52 weeks if the economic recovery is not sustained.