Can Someone Please Explain to me What Is So Wrong With EI Reform?
I’m sorry, I know some people come to personal finance blogs solely for information on how to save money, and how to invest it properly amongst other things. While today’s topic definitely deals with keeping cash in your pocket, if you are one of those A-Political-types go ahead and click through to something more to your liking, because today I want to ask my predominantly Canadian readers a serious question:
Are we really becoming a nation that is afraid of work?
I will admit right up front that I have a definite Libertarian bent on most issues. In Canada this means that while I would be in favour of legalizing marijuana, am a supporter of gay marriage and women’s rights, I ideologically fit best with the Conservative Party. This rant/slash serious financial discussion does not come solely from my Libertarian bias however, it comes from a recent conversation I had with my dad.
My father has ran his own small lumber harvesting business in Canada his entire life. I can honestly say he is the hardest working man I know. He is also very common sense-oriented and sees the world practically as many people in his generation do. My father was also a lifelong supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada. I remember him driving around the local MP when he would come out to our rural Manitoba area to knock on doors, and he always spoke very highly of him. The Reform Party and/or PCs were rarely mentioned in our house, and never spoken about positively. In our recent conversation my dad commented that he believed this country was truly falling apart. He said that he couldn’t believe we actually had to put in laws to ask people to take work if they were on EI. You see in his mind (and mine) EI is a really great thing that the government can do to help people who are in-between jobs. The idea that someone would actually turn down work while systematically abusing a government support system is totally foreign to him. He can’t understand why no one will work for $15 in our rural area (when the minimum wage is $10). The end result of our conversation was his statement that he couldn’t see himself ever voting for the Liberal Party again.
I absolutely cannot believe that any self-respecting Canadian of any kind, regardless of party affiliation and/or partisanship can disagree with the common sense reforms of EI that are being brought into law. I definitely understand if you disagree with the way it was “bullied” through the system bundled within a massive budget, but the actual reforms themselves are nothing drastic. In fact, I know I personally would like to see something much more radical!
In case you have only heard the spun version of what is going to happen to EI here are the basic facts:
-EI claimants will now be split into three groups. For a complete summary, see this CBC article.
-People who systematically collect EI year after year will be the ones most affected by the changes.
– No changes apply to Canadians receiving EI special benefits, such as maternity, parental, compassionate and sick leave.
– Approximately 17 per cent of EI claimants are considered frequent users, while 58 per cent fall under the occasional category and 25 per cent under the long-tenured category (CBC.ca)
-The numbers that you hear quoted most often: “70% of their wage” only apply to the people who have used the system extensively over the past few years.
-People will be required to look for jobs within 60 miles or 100 KM of their residence.
-Under certain circumstances people will have to prove they are looking for work every day they don’t have a job and are collecting EI (what a novel idea).
There is little doubt that right now the EI system is a mess. With varying rules for each part of the country to claim EI, and certain people knowing exactly how to take advantage of the system while deserving claimants get lost in the bureaucratic mess. I ask people genuinely, from a completely non-political perspective, what is wrong with asking people who are unemployed to look for work?!
Every time I watch the news I see another “seasonal worker” (the lumber harvesting business is very seasonal by the way, winter is the only season when the ground is hard enough in most areas to accommodate all of the necessary machinery) complaining about how the government isn’t being fair to them. This seems to border on sheer lunacy to me. These people truly believe that the government has a responsibility to subsidize their chosen way of life. I honestly don’t understand what is so wrong with asking people to work the full year if at all possible. So you have to drive an hour to work every day? My mom drove 130 KM to work for most of her adult life. I can’t believe the arrogance and the audacity to believe that simply because your main source of income is seasonal, you should be paid every single year by the rest of Canada. I don’t understand how politics play into this belief at all. I’m sorry, if you live in an area that is not economically viable, then the reality of the situation is that area IS NOT ECONOMICALLY VIABLE. Why should the rest of Canada have to subsidize your personal decision to work in an area that only offers seasonal employment? It’s no wonder we are in trouble when we are distorting the labour market this badly. My dad worked all kinds of odd jobs during the summer, he did everything from welding, to making roads, plowing garbage dumps (in 100 degree heat), doing mechanical work, and a hundred others. This is the life you are choosing if you choose seasonal employment. Why should it be any different?
The second huge issue I have is the “outrage” at the 70% figure. We are bringing in temporary foreign workers to do jobs that are worked mere minutes from peoples’ houses that are collecting support from the government! This is infuriating to me as a Canadian taxpayer, and frankly I don’t understand how that sentiment is not widespread. I’m all for giving people help when they need it, I really am. I just can’t see where anyone gets off saying they are too good for a job when they don’t have one. I hear arguments like, “Well if we settle for a job beneath our qualifications we will miss the one we could have gotten that would have benefitted everyone more with me in it.” This is a ridiculous notion. Does your day end when your workday does? Do you not have a lunch hour? Pick up the phone and continue to look for a job as you work somewhere. The fast food industry has flexible shifts, work there in the evenings while you pound the pavement during the day. We bring in people from around the world everyday who can’t believe their good fortune at being able to work the jobs that we truly believe are beneath us!
I’m not saying the government couldn’t do things better. Maybe certain incentives need to be offered by the government to encourage labour movement to high-need areas. Maybe re-training initiatives and support for education options for in-demand fields need to be seriously considered. I don’t know what the final product of EI reform needs to be, but I do know it shouldn’t be the current system. I have seen it abused my entire life, and now I work in the education system where the “two months of collecting pogey” for educational assistants, secretaries, janitors, and bus drivers is a given. This is ridiculous. Maybe those people deserve to be paid more, that is a separate conversation, but to just hand them money when there are plenty of minimum wage jobs available in the area makes me sick.
As Canadians we need to do right by our elders that built this country and our children that will come after us looking to build on what we leave behind. We need to remember what it is to put our collective shoulder down and work hard instead of asking for entitlements. We need to quit voting ourselves a bigger handout at the expense of other taxpayers and future generations, because if we don’t, Greece has given us a great example of the eventual outcome.