Government reluctantly lifting claw back measures

If you have something embarrassing to announce a good time to do it is on a Friday afternoon.  It is believed that most news outlets have set their stories by that point, and the majority of journalists are not paying attention to the news ticker.   This is even truer on a Friday before a long weekend, which is probably why the Conservatives chose that time to announce their about-face on a contentious part of their Employment Insurance (EI) reforms.  That they would adopt changes they had spoken against and voted down earlier that week.

To set the stage; since parliament resumed New Democrats have been asking the government to resolve flaws in their Employment Insurance reforms.  The biggest problem has to do with the unfair ‘working while on claim’ pilot project that rewards those who earn more and punishes those who need it the most.    New Democrat MPs spent the summer hearing from constituents affected by the pilot project and brought a motion to parliament that would correct the worst parts of the government’s reforms.

The government spent that day arguing that they were on the right track. That more people were better off under the new system despite the mounting evidence that showed this was not true.  The EI reforms reward people who earn $400 or more a week while on claim and punish those who earn less.    It is a claw-back on the very people who need a little extra money to get by like seniors and low-income earners.

What the government announced on a Friday afternoon is not a permanent fix.  In fact, claimants can opt out of the new system this year, but won’t be able to in the future.   This shows the Conservatives are not interested in fixing the bigger problem; they just want to change the channel for a while.  New Democrats won’t give up so easily and Canadians won’t either.  Our sense of fair play is too deeply ingrained and no amount of government spin can change that.

We saw another example of dogged determination making change this week as Peter Stoffer celebrated the removal of a claw-back on disability benefits from our veterans.   Some people will remember the popular New Democrat Veteran’s Affairs Critic from his visits to AMK where he met with local veterans groups.  Mr. Stoffer is a feisty MP who had been fighting this claw back from the start - which dates back to Paul Martin’s Liberal government in 2006.

It is important to note that the current government is not making this change out of the goodness of their heart, but based on a Federal Court ruling last spring.   They had no problem upholding the previous regime’s denial of benefits to disabled veterans for six full years - they only acted on command.  As we approach Remembrance Day it is good to know these proud veterans will be receiving better support from the country they served.