View from Labour, June 19, 2009

Over the past several decades the Government of Canada has taken money from the EI fund to balance the budget. This, along with a mean spirited attitude towards the unemployed, has caused much hardship to those laid off. In the 1980s EI lasted for 52 weeks and could be continued for another year if you managed a few weeks work. Now the benefits only last anywhere from a maximum 41 to 50 weeks, depending on where you live and even if you are in a very depressed region you have to work a minimum of 52 to 88 days to try to reactivate your claims. If you only worked the minimum qualifying time your weeks of benefits could last only 19 weeks depending on where you live.
If you qualify, you can get a maximum of $447 per week or 55% of your income before being laid off. If making $10.00 per hour for 40 hours per week you will only get $220.00 per week. Try living on that.
The federal Government must quit stealing the money from the unemployed. If the money was used for increased benefits and training our economic situation would not be so severe and the deficits may not be necessary.
As I write this Micheal Ignatiff and Stephen Harper have come to some sort of agreement on EI Payments. So far all the band aid improvements to the fund completely ignore families who have had benefits run out increasing the chance of homelessness.
Our Premier Gordon Campbell is calling for a unified EI program.—If it unifies in a way to help families and workers, it is a good idea.
Once again the Federal Government announced a lame duck fund of several $billion to assist the “forest industry”. They claim that if we switch to bio mass fuel the wood workers will benefit. How so? The loggers and mill workers will still be out of work due to the Softwood Lumber Agreement. Yes, markets are playing a part in the forestry down turn, but the Softwood Lumber Agreement forces the operating costs up of those companies still converting logs to lumber. The Softwood Lumber Agreement is the biggest sell out of workers and communities since the so called Free Trade Agreement signed by Mulroney. That agreement sold out all of Canada. In the face of all the economic devastation, Stephen Harper and Gordon Campbell are still trying to tell us it is good for us. Without it, we are told, we’d be out of work!---Would we notice the difference?
The announced fund sounds like so many others over the years---lots of talk but no cheques will be cut to anyone who is affected.