EI report vindicates Kenney

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Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney

Premiers’ panel on EI reforms fails to provide proof federal changes hurting Atlantic Canada

Score this one for Employment Minister Jason Kenney. A report commissioned by Atlantic premiers on the impact of recent changes to employment insurance has come back with inconclusive evidence, largely vindicating the minister. Release of the report was delayed for weeks and now we know why.

Commissioned a year ago, the report was finally made public Monday. The timing was immediately suspicious, coming on a long weekend for many people and the day before the Canada Day holiday, usually a dead zone for any kind of close scrutiny.

The report concluded there was insufficient data to examine the actual effects. The premiers, and indeed many Atlantic Canadians, expected the report to be a ringing condemnation for cutting off benefits to thousands of claimants, forcing many of them to head west for work, and dealing a devastating blow to the important Atlantic seasonal industries of fisheries, agriculture and tourism.

Instead, P.E.I. and the other Atlantic provinces are told to conduct their own analysis of the changes enacted in January 2013. So what exactly did we pay for? Where is the irrefutable proof that jobless Atlantic Canadians are being forced to leave family and friends for the vast, cold, pitiless Alberta oilfields, thanks to heartless decision-making in Ottawa?

Premier Robert Ghiz lamely explained that his government presented some preliminary results last year on the EI changes and says the province will continue to monitor impacts to the local economy. It sounded like a concession speech.

The panel concluded that one thing is abundantly clear - Atlantic Canadians have deep concerns regarding the potential effects of the changes. What we still don’t know is whether those fears are well founded. It appears much of the concern stems from the lack of communications and misunderstanding surrounding the way that the changes were introduced, rather than any actual negative effects.

Mr. Kenney’s department reiterated that the federal government changes to EI did not change the rules around applying and qualifying for EI, but simply clarified longstanding requirements. Ottawa insists the findings are clear - less than one per cent of EI disqualifications have to do with the federal changes.

Until the premiers can come up with something more concrete, it’s time to cool criticism of the EI changes. Minister Kenney is on P.E.I. next week for a meeting with provincial labour ministers and his welcome should be much warmer following the EI report release.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the report missed an opportunity to support sensible EI reforms that will benefit the majority of Atlantic Canadians. The CTF insists we can’t grow the region by promoting 14 weeks of work in a 52-week economy. The federation is upset that two issues were ignored in the report: how to address the high rates of EI in some areas of the region while some companies still cannot find workers to fill vacant jobs; and the growing payroll burden of EI on average Atlantic workers who rarely, if ever, draw on the program.

Over the past five years, EI taxes on Canadian workers have gone up 25 per cent to $914 per year while employers are now paying $1,279 per employee. A bill before the Commons would prevent Ottawa from diverting EI funds to other programs and force down premiums.

 The CTF recommended that EI be replaced with Individual Employment Insurance Savings Accounts where premiums are paid into an individual worker’s account. Money is drawn from the account upon job loss and leftover funds would be transferred to an individual upon reaching the retirement age. That idea seems to make more sense than anything in the premier’s panel report.

Organizations: Individual Employment Insurance Savings Accounts

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Ottawa, P.E.I. Alberta

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Recent comments

  • father
    July 05, 2014 - 06:23

    It is too bad that one cannot express frustration and dissatisfaction with the way Ghiz has run this Province into the ground, without being accused of being a "conservative shill'. His ineptness is becoming so glaring as time goes by, that everyone can see it, - and hopefully will act on it when the vote comes.

  • Frustrated Islander
    July 04, 2014 - 17:06

    I think most people knew Ghiz and the Liberals have been damaging PEI's economy and pretending all the hardship was somehow Harper's fault. The truth is pretty easy to come by. The Harper government gives more in transfers, more for our health care system, spends more money in PEI themselves, and has actually done substantially more than previous Liberal governments have done. Ghiz on the other hand presides over a government wasting money on breweries while they close schools, they have $30 million to waste on parties and concerts while they lay off nurses, they fund anything Kevin Murphy asks them to while they raised taxes in every way possible on small businesses across the province. We're now spending almost as much on the interest payments on our debt than on our entire education system and the Ghiz Liberals just spend, spend, spend. Lots of money for Brooke MacMillan and Ghiz's pals but nothing for regular Islanders. It's disgusting and enough is enough. Hold a leadership race and get moving, Tories. We can't let Ghiz bankrupt the place.

  • Amazing
    July 04, 2014 - 14:13

    Amazing how many conservative shill come out and back an "editorial" by a conservative shill. Absolutely NOTHING in the report vindicates Kenney in any way. Are those the talking points you were all sent out with today?

  • Seriously?
    July 04, 2014 - 13:05

    This is not a vindication. The reason the report concluded that there was insufficient data, is because Mr. Kenny's department refused to provide the data to Deloitte! That's not vindication, that's simply withholding the evidence... It's easy to tell lies, when you're the only one with the evidence to prove otherwise.

  • mike
    July 04, 2014 - 12:36

    Dont agree with the idea of an individual EI saving account. That would mean seasonal workers would not have EI, cant really save 10-15 G in one season. Also young applicants going to school would not of saved up the 15-30 G by the time they went to school. If you even uped the amount to 1000 per employer max and 1400 employer match thats only 2400 a year. Not really any good if your seasonal or not making lots of money to reach the max amount.

  • herman
    July 04, 2014 - 11:53

    Amazingly frank assessment by the Guardian as well as Angus. Absolutely, they bank on the uninformed to rally behind the half truth they spin in order to discredit the Feds. Instead of working with the Feds for a better over-all standard of living they invent these issues for their own political gain. Ghiz has lost all credibility as far as I see it. He should resign, - and to make sure he does not surface again to cause us any more grief, we better prepare to NOT elect Trudau.

    • Here is hoping!
      July 04, 2014 - 12:19

      Good comment; and I agree with you totally! However; I think that Islanders will be again swayed by the lies of Ghiz and re-elect him and his very incompetent government of Sheridan, McKinley, Sherry, Docherty, McIssac, Vessey again! How sad for Prince Edward Island; how very sad!!!!

  • Angus
    July 04, 2014 - 10:35

    Everybody knows the game here by the premiers; scare the living bejesus out of low information voters and attack the feds. Same game as union leadership play with their members on a regular basis. You know running all over the place setting their hair on fire and yellling 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling!' It's a provincial vs the feds ploy used for years by the premiers to to take attention away from their own governments weaknesses and mistakes. Of course they waited to make the report public, when no one was paying attention. That's also a political ploy as old as the hills. What remains to be seen is if Islanders are going to be stupid enought to fall for all this and blame the Harper government for a fairy tale created by a bunch of amateur Maritime politicians. This will be an interesting chance to see just how astute local folks are or if, like lemmings, they'll just follow the Ghiz government over any cliff they can find.