Ottawa won’t change EI program, but acknowledges not all will be better off

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Human Resources Minister Diane Finley

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley is sticking to her guns on controversial changes to employment insurance, although she concedes not all workers will be better off.

The minister told the House of Commons on Monday her pilot project will help Canadians remain attached to the labour force while collecting EI benefits, and will encourage them to work longer hours.

The pilot, introduced Aug. 5, replaces the previous system that clawed back EI claimants who found part-time jobs once their pay exceeded 40 per cent of their benefits, or $75 a week, whichever was greater.

The new program reduced the clawback on new earnings to 50 per cent, but kicks in with the first dollar earned, not at 40 per cent.

The effect is that low-wage earners will wind up penalized by the new system; however, those who work longer hours and at higher pay will wind up being able to keep more of their earnings.

NDP members tabled a motion Monday asking the government to take steps to fix the program, with one MP saying four in 10 affected by the program would wind up with less take-home pay under the new system.

“This country is short of workers. We have employers who are begging for skilled labour ... and the old system discouraged people from working more than one day a week,” Finley responded.

“There are cases, yes, where somebody was better (off) on day one, but they were totally discouraged from working days two, three and four.”

British Columbia MP Kennedy Steward noted the average EI recipient receives about $360 in weekly benefits, meaning he or she would have little incentive to find work unless it paid at least $300 a week. If the part-time job paid only half that, the worker would be about $70 worse off under the new rules as opposed to the old.

“The minister should admit she made a mistake here and redesign the program so it works properly,” he said.

Finley has been under attack on the changes almost from the first day Parliament resumed in mid-September, with Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner of Nova Scotia leading the charge, peppering the government with examples of individuals adversely impacted.

One such person is Rhonda Smith, a manager at a veterinary hospital in Halifax who went on maternity leave and returned to work for one day a week prior to the August changes. Under the old program, she kept all of the $143 she earned in addition to her EI benefits; under the new, $71 was clawed back.

She said in an interview that once she pays for daycare, she nets about $10 for her one day of work.

“It’s very frustrating to suddenly change my benefits that I worked for and paid taxes for half-way through my maternity leave,” she said. “It was a slap in the face, basically.”

She said the government should be encouraging mothers to re-integrate back into the workforce, rather than discouraging them.

“Whether it was intended or unintended, there are people being hurt,” Cuzner told Finley. “What we are trying to do today is to try and help some of the most hard-pressed in this country.”

During debate in the House, Finley said the program encourages unemployed Canadians “to work more while on claim.” She said the old system discouraged workers from seeking to earn more beyond a certain point.


Organizations: House of Commons, NDP

Geographic location: Ottawa, Nova Scotia, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • Stop the reliance on UI
    October 02, 2012 - 21:05

    TO many people used UI as part of their financial plan..go on pogey.. and sit around for 6 months..........meanwhile we bring in Mexican,Russian and Chinese do work these ui claimants will not do..does that make sense?? The liberals milked this for votes..... and it kept the communities in a state of poverty and dependence on social programs.........that is not growth......UI is a TEMPORARY support nota regular part of your plan!!!Take the hint take a course,do your GED,do something to better yourself ..not sit around looking for handouts and complaining..........yes may have to move...the island will always be here to come back to.............Don't blame the govt....... and don't listen to the conspiracy nuts talking about "Elites".......

  • Lets Face It
    October 02, 2012 - 09:05

    I don't know about the rest of the Maritimes , but in my area there must be job's when they are bringing in 100+ people from China to fill the factory job's in this area . The last several years Tia people were also brought in . What is that saying about Islanders on EI . Something looks fishy when you read about no work ??????

  • don
    October 02, 2012 - 03:00

    Wade Mason we need to get ghizzy and the nuts in ottawa and maybe if we had ben ladin we would be better off.

  • fred
    October 01, 2012 - 21:14

    5 dollars an hour is Quite an encouragement to work .After expenses mrs finley would take home more in one day than i would in a month / If i worked 8hours a day 5 days a week for a month. Something wrong with this picture.

  • Wade Mason
    October 01, 2012 - 20:49

    the faster we get these fools out of Ottawa the better off we will be

    • Eileen Brown
      October 01, 2012 - 23:07

      I would like to see those in Ottawa work for our wages And paying what we pay for Gas to get to work , we pay for our own gas. I agree with Wade Mason.

    • don
      October 02, 2012 - 02:58

      Human Resources Minister Diane Finley puts me in mind of dizzy and his gang both are glueless. i wonder are they related?

  • bilderbergs
    October 01, 2012 - 20:27

    There will be more family break ups and sucide rate will go up, and banks will take homes and the power companies will cut the power for unpaids bills. the food banks will be be running empty most of the winter,Minister Diane Finley will watch from her ivory tower,GAIL SHEA ARE YOU ASHAMED? YOU SHOULD BE. TO BELONG TO THIS REFORMER PARTY,I VOTED FOR YOU BUT NEVER AGAIN. SPEAK UP FOR THE PEOPLE WHO PUT YOU THERE..... GAIL SHEA ASK YOUR SELF THIS QUESTION ....IS PEI BETTER SINCE YOU TOOK OFFICE I THINK NOT

  • Island Boy
    October 01, 2012 - 19:43

    It is 'funny",Gail Shea (and Sen. Mike Duffy) seem to be around when the news is "Positive" but disappear when it is "Negative". Must be taking lessons from Ghiz!

  • Bill Kays
    October 01, 2012 - 19:29

    face it, Finley has no clue and is completely out of her mind. WAKE UP PEOPLE and recognize these governments as not being for the people. They are bought and paid for by the global elite in order to advance their agenda of big business only and corporate greed rules. I have to wonder "do people not realize that government today is a much different creature than it was 20 or 30 years ago. It is obvious that big biz wants all the Island workers to move west so that "GHIZNEYLAND" can proceed. He has sold the Island out but has he actually sold the Island? Harper's gang of thieves should all be prosecuted for crimes against Canadians. So tell me, will the next government repeal these latest crazy law or will they be just as bad for not repealing the new changes. Will the new government finally go after the old government for mismanagement or breach of public trust, if anyone can remember what that means?

  • bitter islander
    October 01, 2012 - 18:55

    ( this country is short of workers ) is the east coast short of workers or jobs. by the sound of that comment harper and findley are trying to get people to leave their homes in the east and head west. i think findley and harper should apply for a job here in the east and see how they make out.. bring jobs to the east... instead of slashing our federal jobs to death and at least give people a chance to make it here without having to leave their hometowns they must have stole more of OUR ei money AGAIN that WE put in there and they are scrambling to get it back

  • don
    October 01, 2012 - 18:40

    maybe she should be put on ei. or better still in the poor house. all she cares about is her pay. i stillwhat i was told years ago that if everyone in canada stoped pay tax's where are they getting the wages from? and what are they going to do put us all in jail?