Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

An EI reform that everyone can support

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Canada's Employment Insurance plan remains broken. But today, it is a little less so.

EI is supposed to be a key part of our national social safety net. All workers pay into the system at the same rate, regardless of where they live. But the benefits fluctuate greatly. Seasonal workers in rural areas, where unemployment is often higher, typically get more generous benefits, without having to work nearly as long.

The system treats new Canadians, young people and part-time workers, heavily concentrated in places such as Hamilton, a lot less generously. They may get little or no EI when they're out of work.

In Ontario, fewer than 40 per cent of unemployed workers receive EI benefits. In Newfoundland, nearly all do. The system needs redesign, not tinkering.

But to be fair, the Harper government did a good thing this week announcing Canadian parents caring for critically ill children will be eligible for up to 35 weeks of special benefits. Only families living with this awful situation truly understand how traumatizing and life-changing it can be. This change would offer support to mitigate some of the stress, pain and anxiety families endure. It's the least we can do.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 11, 2012 A15

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