Lib­er­als told to build new ben­e­fits for ill, un­em­ployed work­ers, docs show


OT­TAWA — The Trudeau govern­ment has been given an am­bi­tious plan for clos­ing sev­eral gaps in the so­cial-safety net for ill and un­em­ployed Cana­di­ans that in­cludes cre­at­ing a new pro­gram to help those whose em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance or sick­ness ben­e­fits are about to run out.

The plan is con­tained in a govern­ment-com­mis­sioned re­port and would rep­re­sent a ma­jor step for a govern­ment that has pre­vi­ously tweaked parental and care­giver ben­e­fits, among other so-called spe­cial EI ben­e­fits, but has yet to touch the core of em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance — which ex­perts say is in des­per­ate need of re­form.

Specif­i­cally, the re­port rec­om­mended the govern­ment close gaps in the so­cial safety net by cre­at­ing a new pro­gram to catch those who ex­haust sick­ness ben­e­fits but don’t qual­ify for a pub­lic dis­abil­ity pen­sion.

The pro­gram would also help job­seek­ers who ex­haust reg­u­lar EI ben­e­fits and could be headed for pro­vin­cial wel­fare sys­tems.

The ideas stood out to fed­eral of­fi­cials re­view­ing the re­port, which pro­vided a road map to mod­ern­ize and close gaps in the em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance sys­tem and was ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press through the ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion law.

Yet while the Lib­er­als ap­peared to have lis­ten to some of the re­port’s other rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing chang­ing the scope and value of a ben­e­fit for the work­ing poor and peg­ging the value of the child ben­e­fit to in­fla­tion, those two big ideas have re­mained just that — ideas.

The Novem­ber 2017 re­port to So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jean-yves Du­c­los pro­vided an anal­y­sis of gaps in in­come-sup­port pro­grams, which spans 61 pro­grams in eight de­part­ments.

Those pro­gram pro­vide money di­rectly to in­di­vid­u­als, ex­clud­ing wage sub­si­dies to em­ploy­ers, and non­re­fund­able tax cred­its.

Un­tan­gling that web of com­plex­ity is no easy task be­cause many pro­grams are based on a 1970s’ view of the work­force, said Kate Bezan­son, a so­cial pol­icy ex­pert from Brock Univer­sity.

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