Michael Ignatieff, the new leader of the Official Opposition in Ottawa, missed an important opportunity to show his support for Canadian working families that will be losing their jobs in the weeks and months to come as a result of the recession affecting the country as well as the rest of the planet.
In exchange for the backing of the Federal Liberal Party of the Flaherty budget presented January 27 last, Michael Ignatieff could have demanded and obtained – the liberalization of Employment Insurance eligibility requirements allowing for a greater number of workers who have lost their jobs to receive benefits.
It is indecent that only 48% of workers who have lost their jobs qualify for EI benefits because of EI eligibility requirements that are too strict. This is utterly outrageous considering the accumulated surplus of about $58 billion in the EI Fund, a surplus, may I remind you, that has been created by EI premiums paid by workers and employers.
For ten years now EI has no longer been fulfilling its mission towards laid-off workers. In the 80s, 83% of workers who had lost their jobs qualified for Employment Insurance benefits of 60% of their salaries with a maximum set by law. Now, not only have the benefits been reduced to 55% of the salary but the eligibility requirements have been tightened to a point where less than half of laid-off workers today are eligible for temporary income to support themselves and their families.
Where have your liberal values and compassion toward your fellow citizens gone Mr. Ignatiefff ? You have miserably missed a truly important opportunity to support those workers who are the victims of the recession.