It’s time to re-examine employment insurance.
In fact, it’s beyond time.
Canada is circling the rim of a major economic crisis and will probably be pulled into its gravity well.
Businesses will collapse.
And Canadian workers are no longer well protected by the social safety net.
In the past, employment insurance shielded workers from catastrophic job losses. Almost 80 per cent of Canada’s workforce was covered.
Not so today.
Successive federal governments have ruthlessly tightened the program’s rules.
So today’s EI program isn’t the robust system that was available to workers in the 1990s, during the last recession.
Today, many laid-off employees are going to find themselves on welfare because they simply won’t qualify for EI.
Even those people who do qualify will only receive paycheques for a maximum of 36 weeks.
That’s scant time to adjust to a career-ending job loss.
And that social safety net protected more than workers and their families.
With employees guaranteed a percentage of their pre-job-loss income, the local business community wasn’t hit as badly.
Today, the situation is more dire for workers and local business owners.
And it’s unnecessary.
EI is paid for by workers and their employers.
It was supposed to protect the employee — that was the deal.
It generated its own pool of cash, and throughout the robust economy of the last decade posted huge surpluses — which were siphoned off by Ottawa even as they choked off the program’s coverage.
Now the nation is in a tight spot. And workers across the country are losing their jobs, often with little notice.
Employment insurance used to give an employee a few months to adjust to unemployment. That’s no longer the case.
The nation will soon feel the effects of this. Unless Ottawa moves quickly to widen the coverage of the EI fund.
It should do so quickly.