COLUMN: Lilley – EI changes about helping people not attacking them

- May 25th, 2012

EI changes will work out: But Pogey Express loses its first-class seats

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

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10 comments

  1. Chris Wylde says:

    First Class ride??? have you ever been on pogey? It’s no first class ride pal, a person can barely make ends meet while on EI. Do you think that every job that NEEDS to be done in this country is full time and permanent?? If people that do important contract work (and to use an industry you’d maybe appreciate, the oil sands) stopped doing that type of work because they can no longer collect EI, then guess what? The economy of this country will come to a grinding halt. Harper’s precious oil sands won’t have anybody there anymore for all the upgrading/maintenence/construction because all the construction workers will be slinging coffee full time at Tim Horton’s. Get off your high horse and wake the “f” up.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have been out of work in my field for over 4 years. I have had to take a low paying part-time job just to survive. As for help from the government I have pretty much received nothing. I had applied to the Second Career Program and was eligible until it ran out of money. Now even thought it has gotten additional funding I no longer qualify. There are no other real programs for people between the age of 35-55. My wife works a seasonal position and is on EI in the winter as her job is tied to when Tourist season is in Stratford. Under this new law she is probably going to be one of those affected. She is already working a low paying job and now she is going to have to find an even lower paying one? Either that or drive to a job where we would need a second vehicle and most of the money she makes would go to gas due to the high cost of it right now. Or even better we should just back up our whole family and move to another province. And this is suppose to help people?

  3. Brian Lilley says:

    Chris, I have been on pogey and I know it stinks. I also know that making it easy to be a frequent flyer on the system is no way to help people.
    I don’t think a system that tells people to work every year in a seasonal job and that the system will top you up is what this was meant for. The EI system, started in the early 40s and was a result of the depression. It was not meant as a way to subsidize seasonal industry.
    And anonymous, it may not sound nice but yes, if there is no work in Stratford then move. I have moved for work and each year we see hundreds of thousands of people come to Canada for job opportunities, we call them immigrants. This is the way the world works.

  4. Bill Elder says:

    More commie style austerity rationing from people who have gold lined pensions. I don’t care how you try to sell this, it amounts to reduced benefits and discriminatory dole on a paid entitlement. If this were a private insurance plan with rates of payout and premiums based in actuarial stats, a frequent claimant would keep full benefits but pay more for them.

    Then again EI has never been run like an actuarial insurance plan – it’s been a cash cow with billions in reserve that never went to people in the system either as rebates or payments – it was a political slush fund used to shore up weal budgets in other fed departments.

    I used EI once when I was starting out but now with a married couple working sometimes 4 – 5 part time jobs under employment is a fact of life in Canada as job markets bleed thousands of good paying industrial jobs daily. I am not small enough to den someone something they paid for – obviously the Harper Tories are. They don’t act like my kind of Conservatives – going soft on politically correct issues and then beating up on people who are barely making it. Surly there are a dozen areas of waste than could be cut to fix the so called short fall in EI funding – start with Canada’s luxury class freeloaders in the CBC.

    No matter how you serve this EI roll back it leaves a bad taste in the mouth – and mark my words, this WILL come back to Haunt Harper at election time – it just could be THE issue that topples him. Whoever came up with this initiative should be sacked – they sure don’t have Tory fortunes at heart.

  5. Andrew says:

    Anonymous, if there is no job where you live then expand your horizons. I have done that in no so distant past and moved 4,000 km. And I am well over 50 so age does not seem to be a argument in such decision.
    Unless you prove to me that I and countless other like me who are shareholders in the UI program (yes, it is a UI, not a liberal EI new-speak) owe you to sustain your lifestyle at our expense.

  6. REJ says:

    To Chris Wilde
    Have you not listened or read the documents on proposed changes. After 16 weeks you will be encouraged to take a job that pays 70% of your regular job. Where the hell can I find a Tim Horton that pays (70% x Close to $40. an hour in the oil sands) which means $ 28.00 an hour. You get off your high horse and get informed. People like you are so anti Harper that you twist everything around and have no common sense or logics when you say that Harper’s precious oil sand won’t be able to find workers because they will be slinging coffee at Tim Hortons. I can’t figure out if you are twisting the truth hoping that you will actually convince people or if you are really stupid enough to beleive this s…

  7. Christine says:

    When the state does everything for you I am very afraid. Two things spring to mind

    1. Any government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.

    2. When everyone is dependent on the state it is called Communism.

    No thanks I want the old Pre Trudeau Canada back.

  8. Angus says:

    Harper just committed political suicide!!!!he might need EI soon or will he qualify …

  9. 66Scorpio says:

    If you can’t make ends meet on almost $500 a week, while not working, then there is something seriously wrong.

    I took a job in China because I couldn’t find steady work, there were no EI benefits available because I couldn’t get enough hours, and I didn’t want to be on welfare. I might upgrade to a better job here, but if I return to Toronto in August I will probably have to live off my savings for a month because there will be no EI while I line up a new job.

  10. Anonymous says:

    So are you then willing to pay for my move Brian? How bout finding accommodations out west which is becoming increasingly difficult. Then are you also going to find the support my special needs son requires? Here’s another fact. I moved here due to a job loss to begin with and there where jobs here and in the surrounding communities until this recession hit. Now there’s hardly any jobs in a 60 KM radius of here.

    This act is going to hurt every person who is stuck in a tourist related job that is depended on the season. You know who should be paying any EI deficit? The CAW who’s workers caused it in the first place because the government saved their @sses while letting the rest of Canadians dangle.

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