Workers won't be forced to take unsuitable jobs: Finley
Published Tuesday, May 15, 2012 6:02PM EDT
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said Tuesday unemployed workers who are receiving employment insurance benefits will not be forced to take jobs that don't match their skills or be forced to relocate for a job.
Finley made the statement a day after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty suggested the government would force Canadians to take any job that was available to them, including work that does not match their education or skill set or would require them to move.
"There is no bad job, the only bad job is not having a job," Flaherty said Monday. The finance minister said that at different times in his life, he drove a taxi and refereed hockey.
"You do what you have to do to make a living," he said.
On Tuesday, the opposition hammered Finley about what prompted Flaherty's comments: the proposed EI changes contained in the government's massive budget bill.
Finley defended the changes, saying they are designed to help unemployed workers find jobs more quickly, and also help ease a labour shortage the government warns poses an imminent threat to the Canadian economy.
"We're not saying that you have to (move)," Finley told CTV's Power Play Tuesday evening.
"We're saying that if there's a job locally, that's appropriate to your qualifications, then yes. And if it's within a reasonable pay range, then yes of course, we need you at work, we want you at work and we're going to remove the barriers that are artificially keeping you from doing that."
When asked about the definition of the kinds of jobs deemed appropriate to an EI recipient's qualifications, Finley the government would unveil those details in "the near future."
A full detailing of what the government has in store for EI still remains a mystery, with other changes set to be unveiled in the coming months. However, Finley said there will also be changes to the amount of money paid out on an EI claim.
"We are changing that as well so that it will always pay to work," Finley said.
Matthew Mendelsohn of the University of Toronto's Centre for Policy Innovation said the government appears to be trying to stop repeat EI users, like seasonal workers who work for part of the year.
"The government appears to be trying to get at the fact that there are chronic users of EI in ways that the system isn't designed for," Mendelsohn told Power Play.
"The system is designed for people who lose their job through no fault of their own and then are out there looking for work. Right now, there are many people who don't fall into that category, who are cyclical, chronic, seasonal users who are going back to the same job in six months."
In his comments Monday, Flaherty had also suggested that the current system contains "disincentives" that keep some Canadians away from paid work.
"We are going to have significant labour shortages in this country," Flaherty said.
"That means we are going to have to encourage more persons with disabilities to work, more seniors to work, more aboriginal people to work, including young people. We need to get rid of disincentives in the employment insurance system to people joining the work force."
On Tuesday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair criticized Flaherty's messaging on the EI plan.
"Can the prime minister tell us how retirement is a disincentive, how living with a disability is a disincentive?" Mulcair asked during question period. "The only disincentive here is the Conservatives hurling insults at seniors and people with a disability and they should be ashamed of themselves."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper replied by hailing the work of Manitoba Conservative MP Steven Fletcher, who is a quadriplegic.
"One of the things that has changed very positively in the course of my lifetime has been our realization that people we call disabled are able to do a whole range of jobs," Harper told the House.
"An example of that is right before all of us here in the Minister of State for Transport."
Earlier Tuesday, the NDP held a news conference calling for more debate on the proposed EI changes before it goes to a vote. The NDP also accused the government of cutting benefits to seniors in its massive budget bill, with a proposed increase in the age of eligibility for Old Age Security benefits from 65 to 67.
NDP Finance Critic Peggy Nash accused the government of cutting seniors' benefits to pay for other programs.
"The minister of human resources knew her government was taking between $10 billion and $12 billion out of Canadian pensions but then they refused to ‘fess up,'" Nash told question period. "All along we've heard misleading talking points that have long since been refuted by independent economists. Conservatives simply don't want Canadians to learn about the real impact of their Trojan horse budget."
Finley responded by calling the NDP's accusations "wrong."
"What we're doing is we are delaying, starting gradually in 2023, the age of eligibility for seniors from 65 to 67," Finley said. "But there are no cuts to seniors' pensions in the budget. Not at all. In fact, starting next year, seniors will be able to delay their OAS and collect more if they choose."
With files from The Canadian Press