by Brian Lilley
Are there no poorhouses?
You would think from the reaction to the plan to change the Employment Insurance system that the Harper Conservatives were looking to send people into poorhouses if they applied to collect pogey. In fact, a few weeks back, when the changes were first discussed, Liberal MP Wayne Easter warned of work camps.
Instead, the changes unveiled by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley on Thursday simply make it so frequent flyers on the pogey express don’t get a first-class ride. Under the new rules, those who have had three or more turns on EI in the last five years and collected 60 weeks of benefits will now only have six weeks to find a job in their chosen field before they are encouraged to look for something in another line of work.
Currently, EI only pays out 55% of your previous wage to a maximum of $485 a week — that’s not a lot to live on. After six weeks of looking for work, the frequent flyers will have to take jobs that pay at least 70% of their previous wage or risk losing benefits.
I’m no math professor, but I do know that 70% is higher than 55%, so this plan won’t make anyone poorer.
Others collecting EI will have a longer period to find a job in their field before being encouraged to look elsewhere. No one is being forced to go from being an executive to washing dishes and no one is being compelled to move across the country to take work. Actually, a good chunk of the announcement Thursday will include ways to help unemployed Canadians find jobs, including sending regular job posting alerts via e-mail and closer connections between EI and the temporary foreign worker program.
As government documents distributed with the news release point out, Canadian employers are currently importing workers in a variety of fields, while people with those very skills, or something close to it, collect EI payments.
In January, there were 86 Ontario workers collecting EI who listed their skills as industrial instrument technicians and mechanics. At the very same time, there were 81 people brought into the province from outside the country to fill positions in that field under the temporary foreign worker program.
In Manitoba, there were 23 Canadians collecting EI in January, saying they couldn’t find jobs as food service supervisors, while 24 people were brought in under the temporary foreign worker program. That same month in Alberta, there were 292 people collecting EI while saying they were looking for work as light duty cleaners, while
289 people were brought into the province from overseas to fill those jobs.
The same story is repeated across the country and in industry after industry.
On what planet does it make sense to import workers to do jobs that Canadians say they want? Under the new system there will be a stronger link between these two programs to ensure Canadians get first crack at jobs before we bring in someone new.
The changes make sense and should help those who want to work while pushing and prodding those who abuse the system. That won’t stop the opposition and the liberal media from decrying these changes as an attack on the poor or making scapegoats of the unemployed.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And the best social program, of course, is a job.
Categories: Contributor Columns