[Editor: Press For Truth hosted on U.S. servers believes this article brings out ideas that former Canadian governments did not want to touch because it would undoubtedly lose them votes in the next election. So they let “sleeping dogs lie”. Unfortunately now someone has to wake up the dog and the Conservatives are brave enough to do it regardless of their poll status because it is the RIGHT thing to do. It is about time we had a government doing the RIGHT thing because something has to be done and done NOW in order to prevent Canada from becoming Greece! One can only hope that Canadians as a whole are NOT so self-centred they care more about themselves than the future of our country! A very important educational discussion!]
from the National Post · May 28, 2012 | Last Updated: May 28, 2012 3:03 AM ET
Elizabeth May raises a valid issue when she questions the federal government’s targeting of “repeat users” in its reform of the Employment Insurance (EI) program. The response, however, might not be to her liking.
The Green Party leader revealed last Thursday that she spent several years as a repeat EI user between 1975 and 1980. She drew on EI support during the off-season at her family’s Cape Breton, N.S., restaurant, where she worked as a waitress. She believes that labelling regular users of EI, working when able in tough, seasonal economies, as either lazy or dishonest abusers of the system, is unfair.
“I paid into employment insurance,” Ms. May told reporters in Ottawa. “When I needed it, I used it. When I didn’t, I didn’t. … I don’t think anyone should be ashamed that seasonal businesses in this country that are big, or small, have benefitted from a legal system of insurance that pays for itself.”
Ms. May worked at her parents’ business on the Cabot Trail for nine years, collecting EI during some of them. Business usually stopped after Thanksgiving and picked up in May. The 35 to 50 workers could either try to scratch out other jobs or collect EI. Ms. May said she couldn’t find another job in the region, where work is in notoriously short supply.
“It’s a structural reality of the seasonal industries in this country. If you don’t like it, you can have a conversation about the fact that forestry, fisheries, tourism, mining in some parts of the country are seasonal and that very large corporations benefit from this system – If you don’t like it, then have an evidence-based conversation about changing that system. But since its legal [and] pays for itself, I don’t know why people have a problem with it.”
But having the conversation is exactly what’s been going on for the past several weeks, as opposition parties accused the government of planning to gut the EI program, only to be confronted with a set of reasonable, and longpast-due, reforms intended to halt abuse by a relatively small community of chronic claimants. In Ms. May’s mind, there’s nothing wrong with treating the program like an annual off-season subsidy. As she says, it’s legal. And seasonal industries would indeed have to adjust were it to be taken away.
But maybe it shouldn’t be legal, and maybe most Canadians never viewed employment insurance as Ms. May does. It was introduced as a means to help Canadians cope with limited periods of time between jobs. A stop-gap. A bridge that kept food in the cupboard and a roof over their heads while they looked for work.
Instead it has been transformed in parts of the country into an annual grant enabling some workers to put in a minimum number of weeks, and take the rest of the year off. If employees at Ms. May’s family business knew they’d be out of a job every November to May, is it the government’s responsibility to fill in the gap, year after year? That has nothing to do with insurance, and the program only “pays for itself” because Canadians elsewhere – who work the full year and most of whom never collect a dime of EI – pay the premiums to make it so.
Seasonal work is indeed a structural reality in some industries, and corporations benefit from the system. But, again, it’s not the responsibility of other taxpayers to subsidize that reality via employment insurance. It may be that another, more targeted program is required in specified industries, structured to prevent the kind of abuse that plagues EI. The employment insurance program is there to help people who want to work, and are willing to make a reasonable effort to find a job, even if that means commuting or, in some cases, relocating. People have a choice. If someone insists on living in a part of the country where work simply doesn’t exist, it’s their right. But it’s not the responsibility of other taxpayers to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for them.
After all, Elizabeth May found work for herself. It’s not impossible. It just requires effort, willingness and some flexibility. Which shouldn’t be too much to ask.