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MFL President offered some suggestions to the prime minister on Employment Insurance

Saturday, July 17, 2010


July 16, 2010
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2

Sent by e-mail: harper.s@parl.gc.ca

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

When your government took steps to ameliorate the worst impacts of the economic crisis on unemployed workers and their families through budgetary action and the establishment of special Employment Insurance programs, the organized labour movement in Manitoba thought these were appropriate and timely steps, and we said so. We are contacting you again to urge you and your government to take action to keep these measures in place and not allow them to lapse, beginning in September.

As you are aware, many of the current 750,000 EI benefit recipients would no longer qualify for Employment Insurance support if these pilot projects are allowed to lapse on the current schedule.

We echo the sentiments already enunciated by U.S. President Barak Obama that underscore the importance of G20 government continuing their stimulus spending programs to avoid a relapse into economic recession. Needless to say, we are concerned about the statements made by many of the other G20 Toronto meeting participants about the need to immediately turn government attention to deficit reduction at the cost of stimulus spending and the people who rely on such programs to survive.

It is our belief that the economic recovery is still fragile and abandoning the important stimulus measures prematurely may return us to recession and make matters worse for unemployed and under-employed Canadians.

We are not alone when we offer this advice. Here's what others have said on these points:

The OECD noted that the number of long-term unemployed almost doubled as a percentage of the labour force in the last two years and recommended: "the temporary extension of the duration of Employment Insurance should have provided a much-needed buffer for households who lost jobs during the recession and should be maintained until the pool of long-term unemployed begins to drop significantly."

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada: "Although the labour market is clearly improving, with three-quarters of the jobs lost now recovered, too many Canadians who want to work are still out of a job, and many of those still employed are working fewer hours than they would like."

Manitoba has fared not badly compared to many other regions of Canada through the economic collapse and its aftermath due, in large part, to significant economic intervention by the Government of Manitoba and our relatively balanced economic structure. But the most recent census data available to us, points out two things. One, our most impoverished neighbourhood, Lord Roberts in Winnipeg, has a poverty rate of 68% and it would be much worse off if austerity measures are taken by the senior levels of government. And two, it underscores the importance of accurate and complete census information which will no longer be available to the formulators of effective public policy if your government does not reverse its decision to scrap the census long form.

We urge you to extend the EI stimulus measures beyond September 2010 and at least to the end of 2011, for both existing and new claims.

This is vital to a sustainable recovery, as well as unemployed workers and their families. The federal government “borrowed” more than $57 billion from the Unemployment Insurance Account and subsequently the EI program. Its time to return it to unemployed and under-employed Canadians.

These temporary EI measures need to be extended beyond 2010 or made permanent:

  • extra 5 weeks benefits
  • 50 week regional maximum
  • long tenure worker extension
  • pilot project using best 14 weeks
  • pilot project allowing 40% if working on claim
  • pilot project using 840 hours for new/re-entrants
  • EI training benefits (EEITI)
  • EI Work Sharing flexibilities

Workers (employed, unemployed and underemployed) in Manitoba await your action on these matters.

Kevin Rebeck, President
Manitoba Federation of Labour

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