I’m writing this because I’m once again forced to wonder how small-government “libertarian” conservatives can actually express support for the present government. The new proposal for EI, according to the minister, doesn’t mean kicking off people who would be eligible for EI today, or at least it only involves kicking off about 1% or so. And to achieve that grand objective, it may mean — must mean, given what’s been described to us by the government, the establishment of a new and enormous Big Brother-esque bureaucratic surveillance machine.
So far all we have to go on is a press release authored by the minister’s chief liar Alyson Queen, which suffers from a disturbing number of grammatical mistakes and bloopers resulting from some left-in remnants of early drafts. Let me be the first to declare shenanigans on this press release. It contains numerous errors and obviously has been through at least one major revision (since a couple parts got left in by accident and now float mysteriously, referring to nothing.) Some parts are duplicated. Several “backgrounders” are tacked on at the end, even though the “press release” itself is a Backgrounder — so you have Backgrounders to the Backgrounder. And so on. So Finley is both a liar, and incompetent.
Anyway, here’s the summary:
First, the government will divide everyone into three categories: less than 35 weeks of EI in the past five years, more than 35 but less than 60, and more than 60 (spread over at least 3 separate claims). This part is relatively easy to do and can probably be handled by EI’s computer system with only a little bit of retooling. How often you’ve been on EI in the past determines how choosy you can be about new work: down to 90% of pay for first-time claimants, or 70% for “frequent claimants.” More confusingly, your expectations are required to scale back in six-week increments: for instance, the middle group must accept down to 80% of their salay after 6 weeks, then down to 70% after 18 weeks, and so on.
Second, it requires that people accept any offer for “suitable employment.” That includes your usual line of work or, for frequent claimants or others after a couple months on EI, any job for which they would not require additional off-the-job training. People can refuse work if they are physically or medically incapable of doing it, or if they have “family obligations” which would interfere. You also can turn down jobs with unsafe working conditions, but absurdly, Finley claims that the only relevant unsafe condition would be if “position offered is not vacant directly due to a strike.” Huh?
The most interesting requirement, however, is transportation. This press release makes four potentially incompatible claims: that you must accept any job within an hour’s commuting time; that you must accept any job within your community’s average commuting time; that you must accept any job within your personal typical commuting time; and that you can refuse a job if you have “limited transportation options” available.
It’s worth asking how the EI system is going to monitor every single individual claimant to make sure they’re not turning down work that might not tick off any of the above boxes. Calculating commuting time is even more tough. For people who don’t have cars, the commuting calculation would have to be based on public transit, and so the one-hour time limit would have to be calculated on a case by case basis — not just for the individual claimant, but for every job they are offered.
Third, it requires that people undergo an acceptable “job search” or lose their benefits. “Reasonable job search” is defined according to four criteria, one of which is further subdivided into six required activities — researching jobs, resume-writing, searching for jobs (which is apparently different from researching jobs), filling out applications, attending interviews, and attending job fairs and workshops.
Not only are you expected to complete all of these steps, but you’re expected to develop an appropriate ratio between them all based on the area you live in. For instance, the government says that expects people in high-unemployment regions to spend more time researching “and not applying to the same job every day”, while people in low-unemployment regions devote a higher proportion of their time to filling out job applications. You must be able to show evidence of job searching on every day, 7 days a week.
There’s no way the EI system could possibly process all of this information for every claimant. Instead, they require that you “keep a record” of all of your activities and keep a file of “evidence” that can “support all job search activities.” I can see keepin a record of jobs applied for and interviews attended, but how exactly are you supposed to record “evidence” of searching and researching jobs? If you’re unsure how to answer this question, don’t worry, I’m sure Vic Toews and his Internet snoop squad will be happy to supply a copy of your Google search log to the EI people upon request.
Fourth, the government will send you a list of all available jobs in the country twice per day. Unlike the current biweekly selection of job offers from the federal Jobs Bank that you get every two weeks currently, this list will include jobs across the country, and it will bring together job offers from private job sites as well as the federal one. And you’ll get an updated list twice per day. It specifically says that you will receive job postings of “all available work… across Canada.” Yeah, that should be helpful.
This is, of course, completely ridiculous. There’s no way there are enough jobs being posted for any sort of qualified professional worker that they would need such a continuous stream of updates. Moreover, I can’t imagine how HRSDC thinks it is going to draw together all the information from the various private job bank sites and render it in a meaningful form. To do that, you’d either have to take over all the private sites (not likely under the present regime), force all private sites to transition to a common platform so that data can be exchanged automatically (not something private profit-seeking jobs sites are likely to agree to), or hire a legion of researchers to trawl the job sites every day searching for job offers to input into EI’s special new super-database.
Finally, the government is making some adjustments to the clawback rates. The stated purpose is to stop people from accepting only a few hours of part-time work in order to prevent their payouts from being clawed back under the current scheme. What they don’t mention is that under the new scheme you’ll actually have your net benefits slashed until you’re earning the equivalent of a full-time minimum-wage job (sort of defeating the purpose of the part-time-work exemption, if you ask me), even as people earning up to $3500 a month in “part-time” work will still receive some EI money as a top-up:
Additional Weekly Income
|$200 (half-time minimum wage)||$655||$568|
|$400 (full-time minimum-wage)||$655||$668|
|$700||$700 (EI benefits cease)||$818|
|$1000||----||$1000 (EI benefits cease)|
Of course, there’s no money left over in the budget for the creation of such a surveillance machine. HRSDC is cutting back just like every other department. So how does EI create its surveillance bureaucracy? Either it won’t actually create it at all, in which case all the grand new rules are just a bluff, or, more likely, they will create it by shifting workers out of EI operations units and putting them onto the surveillance units instead. So EI, whose service wait-times are already so absurdly long that the minister has publicly claimed there is a wrecking conspiracy at work among the lower levels, is going to get even slower.Tweet