To the editor:
A person would have to be dead not to have heard the outcry over Employment Insurance investigators landing on the doorsteps of the unemployed. The Prime Minister has justified the house calls by saying that hundreds of millions of dollars are lost through false or inappropriate claims.
But how does he know that? Why have house calls become necessary at all if other means exist, such as the Prime Minister evidently has access to, for learning about EI fraud?
Kellie Leitch, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, has justified the house calls by saying, “We have a lot of excellent Canadians who are taxpayers who are playing by the rules and they deserve the opportunity to know that this system is intact.”
As far as I know, Leitch went unchallenged. The system runs on employer/employee contributions, not taxes.
What do home visits have to do with EI program activities, anyway? And what business does the government have in combing through the bank statements of the unemployed or enlisting former or prospective employers to act as conduits of information?
This is gross state overreach into the private lives of Canadians who happen to be unemployed, and it has weird Stasi overtones.
Given that there are six unemployed workers for every job vacancy in this country, why is the government conducting this onerous surveillance, anyway, instead of offering support?
Given that roughly seven per cent of the general population, 14 per cent of non-aboriginal youth, and 28 per cent of aboriginal youth are unemployed, why is the government tightening EI eligibility rules and hardly investing in employee training programs—never mind promoting the Temporary Foreign Worker program and the Skilled Trades Immigration Program as the means of filling whatever job vacancies exist in this country?
If the government is looking for rip-off artists, it needs to look no further than itself. It’s the Conservative government that raided the EI fund of $55 billion in 2008. If not for that, we’d have plenty of money for unemployment benefits and training.
In fact, we’re now running a deficit in the EI fund—a deficit expected to be $7.6 billion at the end of the year. In order to address the deficit, the government increased employer/employee contributions by 6 per cent this past January.
In other words, employers and employees are bailing out the government after they ripped us off—and all the government can think of doing is assigning quotas to their ‘integrity investigators’ to torment unemployed workers.
Why are workers unemployed, anyway? To hear Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney tell it, it has to do with corporate Canada failing to invest in job creation and the economy in return for low corporate taxes, and with Canadian bankers playing financial markets instead of investing in borrowers and the real economy.
Personally, I wonder if the unemployed will mount a strike once they’re invited to join the new union that’s being formed between the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.
Stay tuned for the fall, when the new union will hit the ground running.