This weekend, the federal government is poised to stand by and watch as a door slams on thousands of Canadian workers, letting Employment Insurance (EI) temporary measures run out before a long-term fix is introduced. Workers will be left with an EI system that once again penalizes them for being unemployed.
On Saturday, a suite of EI temporary measures is going to expire In the midst of an affordability crisis, one of the single most effective things that the federal government can do in the near term is extend these EI measures. It would send a strong signal that Canada is turning a corner and is committed to labour market policy that empowers workers rather than punishing them.
Before the pandemic, only 40 per cent of unemployed workers were eligible to receive EI. This was a shocking policy failure
To be clear, this is not a budgetary question. It’s a political one. After all, the federal government excused itself from making any contributions to EI in 1990, then spent years plundering EI surpluses, slashing benefits, and making coverage less universal.
During the pandemic, Canadian workers got an EI program that began to address long-standing problems. We can’t now let the federal government quietly abandon workers when many have turned their attention away.