To the editor:
Last spring when the federal Conservative government announced changes to a program that allows people to work part-time while they are receiving Employment Insurance (EI), it seemed like an improvement.
Well, the devil is in the details. The changes actually punish low-income Canadians by clawing back 50 per cent of the very first dollar an EI recipient makes.
Until now, an “allowable earnings provision” let people earn and keep up to 40 per cent of their weekly EI benefit, giving them an incentive to work more. For example, if Kenny Gettabreak is receiving a $400 weekly EI benefit, he could earn and keep $160.
The Conservatives claim the new Working While on Claim program allows “claimants to keep more of what they earn,” yet they conveniently forget to mention that it eliminated the allowable earnings provision. While Kenny Gettabreak used to be able to keep the full $160 of earnings, now he only gets $80 since 50 per cent of it is clawed back.
They are forcing people in low-paying jobs or who only work a few hours a week to do with less.
Since Parliament resumed this fall, the Liberal Party has been demanding Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley reinstate the allowable earning provision. Not only is she unwilling to do so, she is also unwilling to even admit that low-income Canadians are being penalized.
Knowing the dogma of this Conservative government, either they believe people working part-time are too lazy to work more, or it is just another hidden measure to force people to move out of our small communities. Either way, it is a punitive new program for low-income Canadians that reinforces my belief in these Conservatives: don’t trust them as far as you can throw them.
Rodger Cuzner, Liberal MP
Human Resources & Skills Development critic