Monday, September 14, 2009

New Employment Benefits Target Older Workers

The last session of Parliament ended with the threat of another election. The reason for going to the polls would have been the Government's refusal to reduce the qualifying period for unemployment benefits to 360 hours. Instead an agreement was reached between the Liberals and Conservatives to use the summer to come up with a solution.

The Government announced their plans for temporary changes to employment insurance. Benefits will be extended by 5 to 20 weeks for people who have been working 7 of the last 10 years with limitations based on if they have collected benefits during that time. A ways and means motion on Friday will determine if this will be approved or if Canadians will once again go to the polls.

The Liberals and NDP took the approach of focusing on the benefits for people unable to hold jobs for a long period of time. The Conservatives have focused on older workers who have been in the work force for a long time. This demographic tends tend to have the hardest time adjusting to unemployment. The extra time may be enough to make the difference between time to retrain properly or jumping back into the job market. If all it takes is a few more weeks for upgrading skills the entire economy benefits.

Election fever has hit Ottawa once again. It will be hard to sell why this improvement is worth bringing down the government. The NDP and Liberals have an inverse relationship in terms of when is best for them to go to the polls. They target many of the same voters, the Liberals want a majority government and the NDP want a minority Liberal government. This leaves the Conservatives in the best position to serve up legislation that the opposition parties will have no choice but to vote down. That will not happen until the polls put them in clear majority territory. When you are playing a game of chicken, anyone can lose. The best scenario for Canadians is to hold of on an election and have the government get some work done, followed by a majority government to put an end to the election fever games.

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