Time to face EI reality

Eric Sparling
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Changes to EI pending


The Stephen Harper government is using its usual tactic: floating vague plans about future changes and waiting to see what they hear back from the public. One of those sketchy ideas coming down the line is changes to Employment Insurance – changes that will have an impact on seasonal workers who use EI to bridge over periods of unemployment.

The actual changes are still undetermined, although one newspaper is reporting it will involve new definitions of suitable employment, as well as the level of effort to find employment.

Legitimate complaints about EI have existed for ages. Many people who probably should qualify don’t, and many who pay in never see their money back (hence “insurance”).

But moves to end the use of EI as a semi-permanent source of income would be welcome.

It’s a controversial issue. In this province, there are seasonal workers who rely on EI to pay their bills in the off-season. Rural areas may have a brisk tourism season and little else in the way of employment in the off-season. And some fishermen count on EI when they can’t catch.

We’re not oblivious to the very real challenges faced by workers and their families. But a cold reality must be faced. It is not the responsibility of government or taxpayers to supplement a citizen’s living expenses for half the year, year after year. Seasonal workers with no prospects for off-season work must make the good months stretch to cover the bad, find new ways to generate income, or accept that the lifestyle they live is unsustainable.

No one’s pretending any of those three options are easy. But reality owes us nothing. History is full of examples of ways of life that flourished and declined. A community that can only provide a living for half the year should not expect other Canadians to provide a living for the other half.

Jobs are out there. Many of them pay terribly. But people work them day after day to try and make a modest living for themselves and their loved ones. Receiving EI month after month, year after year – with no intention of doing otherwise – is an insult to minimum wage workers who fight daily to provide.

Organizations: Employment Insurance

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Recent comments

  • wife of seasonal worker
    September 17, 2012 - 14:36

    My question is why do we pay ei premiums if it can't be used when we need it? why should my husband make less money and have to travel therefore having more expenses incurred because the Stephen Harper government feel this will reduce costs.? Maybe a decrease in some of Senate wages would help out instead of crapping on the guy who works his butt off for over half the year only to be laid off when his very wealthy company decides they can only afford to pay the piddly wages they get for that time. Writer, try it sometime to see how you can live on the little bit of ei you actually get. The seasonal jobs are required what would happen if all seasonal workers moved out of those jobs to full time employment in other industries who then would build your fancy house pave your nice roads fix your roof catch the fish you may like to eat? What about the guys who plow your road in the winter how are you going to get to your precious full time job when you can't get to it in the winter think about that!

  • LOL
    May 11, 2012 - 09:39

    after reading the comments, i have to say making changes is just stupid. i,m on EI. worked full time at this job for years, now cut backs i was the first to go. i make more on ei then if i was to go out and get a job at min wage. i also have to be available for work when they call. day here day there till it picks up. if i miss calls i can lose my job. why would i give up good money, pension, sick benifits to go to work at say wendy's while i,m on EI. not gonna happen. 2 parts to everything. and as troy stated i also know people like that. uses the system. but why not. how much does higher up gov emplyees milk eveything for $$$..they can do it, why shouldnt we.

  • Lee
    May 10, 2012 - 18:42

    I don't think EI should be removed because seasonal workers do pay into it so they should use it. However I don't tolerate the thought of people milking the system like its free money. I am on EI right now and working part time and in the summer will get more hours so it is helping me. The first time I had EI I looked for week the entire time... I know people who don't even look for work while on it. The service canada website does have a section explaing that you must look for work while on EI yet 90% of people don't. Maybe its time that the people looking after who gets EI starts calling the people on it and finding out where they applied and making calls this way. Find out who is abusing it and kick them off of it. If someone worked the hours to get EI they can work no lie there. I do think its a great thing to have but I am tired of seeing people getting it who just abuse it, considering I hate to fight for mine and I was laid off from full time employment...

  • Troy Thompson
    May 08, 2012 - 19:32

    I know about 100 people that go out west and earn just enough hours to get UI and then sit on their butts and draw it for the summer. Its unreal. I for one am glad they are making it harder for people to get it. Get a real job and stick to it people.

  • reg
    May 07, 2012 - 19:47

    Time to to face EI reality! mmm. Sounds like Mr. Sparling is floating the idea for Harper himself. One half of the population can't sustain seasonal workers for 6 months of the year? With chronic high unemployment in the whole Atlantic area for years and many young people already leaving to find work elsewhere maybe Mr. Sparling wants even more people to leave our region. This federal gov. spent over a billion dollars on the G8 etc summits and didn't blink an eye. Its do as I say, not as I do. Some people abuse EI but not the majority and its sorely needed here. Semi permanent source of income, sure...hope you don't lose your job, Mr.S.

  • Monique
    May 07, 2012 - 11:04

    Well written Eric. It can be a tough call no matter how you look at it. Yet, I agree that many struggle to 'keep working' with their minimum wage salaries. Season workers can try to find something in their off-season, rather than anticipating the regular EI handouts....

  • Fuzzy Bear
    May 06, 2012 - 22:33

    Come on all you EI receipants you have to be a little more understanding of the happenings in Ottawa. Do you know the cost of a glass of orange juice up there in Ottawa today...its about $16.00, and if that's not enough do you know how much your personal chauffeur makes an hour when you have to pay him/her time and a half while they are waiting for you outside in the car while you are having a snooze in your office and they are parked in your limo? It's averaging somewhere in the $20 K range yearly folks!! What if you had to work a whole 6 years to get a very lucrative pension that is almost fully funded by the taxpayer, can you imagine how tough that would be? So stop your piddly griping about how bad you have it and think about our poor ministers and other elected officials in Ottawa. They have it so rough I'm surprised we can even get a few of these exceptional individuals to run every 4 years!!

  • Wilfred Le Blanc
    May 05, 2012 - 14:44

    Time has come for privatization of E I most people are not laid off because they want to be if this Government dose not want to help workers in need then refuse to pay into E I take out an Insurance that will help when you are laid off.

  • Jason
    May 04, 2012 - 12:13

    where's our MP...Scotty Armstrong on all of this? towing the line? doesn't matter in good ole blue Amherst.

  • sparky
    May 04, 2012 - 09:55

    The other thing that doing this will do is prevent employers from using the EI system to cover the costs of their workers, much likje Irving just did in laying off 83 workers. There are two sides to this issue, and plenty of employers force their workers into using the system to their advantage as well. JMO

  • elllen cameron
    May 04, 2012 - 09:42

    so instead of keeping them on EI, it will be welfare for most seasonal workers.Is there a difference. With no education (grade 12 ) and no jobs in most of N.S., what else is there? Halifax, Truro and Amherst is not all of the province!

    • sueb
      May 11, 2012 - 09:27

      @Ellen Cameron: Exactly!! If the jobs aren't out there, EI and welfare are pretty much the only options. Also, how prudent is it to cut off the people who are providing most of our food? Any guesses as to what will happen to the price of food if producers are forced to pay higher wages because their employees are no longer eligible for EI?? A large segment of the population can't afford to eat healthy foods now. But hey, if the poor can't afford fish, fruit and vegetables - let them eat cake!