4.13 Reforming the Employment Insurance system

Recent changes to the Employment Insurance program have had the effect of reducing benefits, shrinking the time in which benefits can be paid, and denying benefits altogether for many employees. Cut-backs at Service Canada have left thousands of Canadians waiting unacceptably long times to access the benefits to which they are entitled.

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.

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:

  • Restore employment insurance to seasonal workers;

  • Restore adequate staffing to Service Canada to ensure access to the EI program for workers entitled to benefits;

  • Dedicate taxes collected on chemical contaminants and unhealthy food to reduce EI premiums to workers and employers.