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.