Just how low does Canadian Taxpayers Federation want to drive down EI eligibility?

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on the federal government to cut off even more unemployed workers from Employment Insurance benefits to solve Canada's problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

"Let's clarify straight away what the debate surrounding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is really about. This isn't about Canada not having enough workers — not when 1.3 million citizens are unemployed. It is about Employment Insurance paying too many people not to work," Kevin Lacey, Atlantic Director at the conservative lobby group, wrote in an opinion piece in Tuesday's National Post.

Here are five things about Canada's EI program to clarify straight away how absurd this position is.

  • Canadian workers began making contributions to the unemployment insurance fund on July 1, 1941, to fulfill the program's intended purpose to provide unemployed workers with temporary income relief during hard times. The program was expanded in the 1950s and in 1971, but changes made by successive Liberal and Conservative governments since the late 1970s have made access to benefits increasingly difficult.
  • The proportion of unemployed workers receiving employment insurance benefits has fallen dramatically since 1990, reaching a historic low over the last few years. In 2012, for the first time in almost 40 years, the beneficiaries-to-unemployed ratio fell below 40%. In other words, the insurance plan that Canadians pay into throughout their working lives to access benefits if they lose their job is no longer fulfilling its mandate.
  • In 2013, the ratio of beneficiaries-to-unemployed reached an all-time low of 37% after the government implemented further restrictions, requiring Canadians to accept any job it deems "suitable"—even if it's unrelated to their career and comes with a 30% pay cut and hour-long commute.
  • Bonus: After rolling back benefits to workers who contributed to the insurance fund, Liberal and Conservative governments have taken $57 billion out of the fund (to which employers and employees contributed) for other purposes.

Photo: Tania Liu. Used under a Creative Commons BY-ND 2.0 licence.

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