MP takes government to task over proposed EI changes

Skeena - Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen took the Conservative government to task over changes to the EI system.

Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen took the Conservative government to task over changes to the EI system, and the lack of debate on the massive budget bill they are part of.

Under the proposed changes, EI recipients would be put into one of three categories:

– Long-tenured workers, those who have paid into the system for seven of the past ten years and collected EI for less than 35 weeks in the past five years

– Frequent claimants, those who have made three or more claims and collected benefits for more than 60 weeks in the past five years

– Occasional claimants, which includes every other EI recipient.

Frequent claimants, like fishermen, would be required to accept a larger range of jobs than long-tenured workers. In most cases, people on EI would have to accept a job that is within an hour’s drive from their place of residence that pays within 70 per cent of their previous job. Finley says that the proposed changes will be an incentive for unemployed Canadians to get back to work considering that currently EI pays recipients 55 per cent of their former wage.

“These changes are absolutely horrendous for communities that have bee hit hard. Shooing people out the door when they are let go is one thing, but EI is there to transition people into jobs that they are trained for. Asking a nurse or a fisherman to go into flipping burgers is ridiculous,” he said during a May 31 media call, noting that the riding will be hit particularly hard due to the seasonal nature of many jobs in the north.

“We have had a subcommittee of the Finance Committee and the Finance Committee itself hear from people about this from everyone from pensioners to fishermen to unions..Saying it’s going to affect their quality of life, their pension and their future. Some things in a budget you can change in a year, but something like this could last generations.”

According to Cullen the changes will not only impact the amount of money people earn by making them take jobs that pay 70 per cent of their previous wage, but will make EI payments more difficult to receive.

“Of all those people who contribute to EI, more than 40 per cent of those can’t get at it. What these changes are going to do is increase that so more than half of contributors won’t be able to access it. They’re trying to break the insurance program,” he said.

“The employer and employees pay into it, traditionally the government has had little interference.”

Along with taking issue with the changes, Cullen says the government is really pushing through the bill with the changes and a number of other cuts and alterations to Canadian laws.

“So far conservatives have said not willing to change a single comma or period in the over 400 pages of the budget bill,” he said, saying the government is shutting down debate on the subject.

“This government showing amazing arrogance in saying it is our way or the highway.”