Harper's London Visit: No Help To Stop Job Losses, No Help for Unemployed

London – Employment Insurance claims in the London region jumped 75% in February 2009 in comparison to 2008 but Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcements at Fanshawe College in London today will do nothing to help those hardest hit by the current recession says NDP MP Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe).

“The only ‘new’ measure we heard from the Prime Minister today was an extension of Employment Insurance eligibility for workers who use their severance packages to pay for the cost of their retraining out of their own pockets. The Prime Minister seems unable to grasp what I have been telling the government for months; those workers who are lucky enough to get a severance package need that money to put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of their families.

They cannot afford to divert that money to pay for training programs!” Mathyssen said.

“The Prime Minister then went on to catagorically deny that Ontarians are being treated unfairly by the existing EI rules. He said ‘Let’s be very clear what we are talking about. There is no discrimination against Ontario in eligibility for Employment Insurance.’ then he had the callousness to say ‘the higher the unemployment level, the easier the entry to Employment Insurance benefits...eligibility is becoming easier in Ontario.’ Well he is right about one thing, EI eligibility is becoming easier in Ontario because his government is doing nothing to stem the loss of good paying jobs. Premier McGuinty, the Government of Ontario, municipal governments, and every opposition MP in the province understands that the current EI formula is unfair to Ontario workers. Unfortunately Mr. Harper’s ideological tunnel vision seems to prevent him from seeing this.”

Mathyssen has been calling on the government to overhaul the entire EI program to provide fairness for all Canadians and presented a motion in the House of Commons on February 5th outlining the changes she is advocating.

“We can make the EI program work for Canadians again if we make these changes and we can pay for them with existing revenues, provided the Harper government unlike the Liberals, stops raiding the EI fund for other projects and puts that money into the pockets of those who have paid into it and now need it.” Mathyssen said.

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M-290 — February 5, 2009 — Ms. Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe) — That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) eliminate the two week waiting period for employment insurance; (b) reduce the qualifying period for employment insurance to 360 hours in all regions; (c) increase the rate of employment insurance to 66% of previous earning; (d) exclude severance, vacation and pension entitlements from earnings under the Employment Insurance Act; and (e) allow a reach back period of five years in order to qualify for employment insurance.