Ottawa left EI reform out of Budget 2023. Here’s why – National

The liberal government this week removed employment insurance reform from the federal budget. They are concerned that reforming the program in a slowing economy could push up premiums for workers and employers.

This is according to a spokesperson for Jobs Minister Carla Quartrow, who said the federal government “continues to work on modernizing the EI system.”

“However, current and near-term economic conditions have warned against measures that could put pressure on EI premiums and could make it harder for workers and employers to earn a living. We had to be careful with the decision,” the spokesperson said. email.

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After the last federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau distributed a power of attorney ordering Quartraf to advance and implement a plan to “modernize the EI system for the 21st century” by the summer of 2022.

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As the summer drew to a close, the minister promised reforms would soon begin. “By the end of the year, we will know what the vision for EI is,” she said in her September.

A few months into 2023, there was little hope that the federal budget would finally hint at the government’s plans. Sure enough, the focus on the clean economy and healthcare left other topics on the agenda.

With a mild recession expected this year, the federal government appears to be avoiding EI reforms so as not to drive up the cost of the program. A recession is likely to be accompanied by unemployment. Now, expanding the eligibility may make the program available to even more people.

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But this latest delay has left labor groups and experts feeling impatient.

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There is a long list of complaints regarding the program’s current structure, eligibility requirements, funding, and management techniques. But workers’ biggest concern is that too few people have access to the program.

In 2021, liberals will campaign on a promise to modernize the EI, pledging to expand the program to cover the self-employed and address the gaps highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. bottom.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland hinted on Thursday that broader reforms are still underway.

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“My colleague Carla Qualtrough … is working hard on broader EI improvements, and it’s an important task that has to be done carefully and carefully,” she told reporters in Surrey, British Columbia.

Freeland cited two changes to EI announced in the budget.

One measure proposes to extend the EI temporary changes introduced in 2018. This increases the number of weeks of compensation available to seasonal workers. The other is intended to strengthen federally regulated prohibitions on gig worker employee misclassification.

The National Unemployed Council responded to the budget by asking the NDP to withdraw its support for the Liberal government through the party’s Supply Confidence Agreement.

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“We are utterly disappointed that the government has betrayed its promises and has once again chosen to maintain the status quo,” the group’s spokesperson Pierre Serret said in a statement.

“In light of this situation, we are calling on the LDP to withdraw its trust in the government and to ensure that lawmakers secure their seats on this issue.”

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Members of the Canadian Employment and Insurance Commission, including the voices of both workers and businesses, supported and criticized the oversight and review of the EI system.

Pierre Laliberté, the commissioner for workers, said it was “extremely disappointing” to see EI reforms left out of the budget.

At a minimum, the federal government could have addressed key gaps and included interim measures to expand access, he said. It’s really quite strange that I thought it was unfit to be blocked.”

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During the pandemic, governments expanded access to EI systems through temporary measures. They expired in September, despite strong opposition from labor groups and the LDP.

Under the temporary measures, workers are forced to comply with the national requirement of working 420 hours of insured employment hours, compared to the usual 420 to 700 hours, depending on local unemployment rates. I qualified for EI based on Also, money paid to workers when they leave their jobs, such as severance pay, was not deducted from benefits.

The future of EI reform is uncertain as many economists expect the Canadian economy to enter a mild recession this year.

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Bare Bruske, President of the Canadian Labor Council, said the implementation of EI reforms will help “protect the economy from recession” by ensuring that social safety nets can support those facing layoffs. said to be helpful.

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But Laliberte said EI reform did not appear to be a priority for the Liberal Party or the NDP. Both focus on providing federal dental care plans, even though health care is under state jurisdiction and the EI program is a federal responsibility.

“It’s not glamorous,” says Laliberte of the EI reform. “Announcing something new like dental care _ glamorous, right?”

In a statement, NDP deputy financial commentator Peter Julian said the New Democrats were proud of what they had achieved for Canadians on budget but were “not satisfied.”

“It’s a shame that liberals didn’t include EI reform in their 2023 budget when economists warn we’re headed for recession,” Julien said.

“New Democrats will continue to push Liberals to reform EI and make sure no workers are left behind.”

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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