“I want to convey my frustration and that of my party to constituents back home.
“They know I have been raising issues on employment insurance for quite some time. I have, as all MPs do, an active case file. There are constituents in my riding who are seeing their EI sickness benefits cut off at 15 weeks. Some of them have tried to go back to work, which has made them even sicker. When I see the stress and the strain of attempting to do that, I do not know why we have not taken the time to tackle this issue yet.”
For a long time, the NDP has advocated for improvements and reform in our Employment Insurance (EI) system, including the extension of sick benefits. In fact, we have stood with numerous advocates from coast to coast to coast, calling for an extension of up to 50 weeks for those who are dealing with terminal illnesses and those who need the support.
In 2016, I was honoured to support the introduction of my NDP colleague MP Fin Donnelly’s Bill C-288 in the hopes of amending the Employment Insurance Act to extend the maximum period for which benefits for illness, injury or quarantine may be paid to up to 50 weeks from their current 15 weeks.
As a former caseworker for NDP MP Jean Crowder, I met with many constituents who had problems with EI. Often these were people who were just a number of hours short of qualifying for benefits. I also met with a number who were approaching the end of their 15-week maximum for sickness benefits and facing the troubling choice of either returning to work when not healthy or trying to get well with no income. These emotionally charged experiences highlighted the real-life consequences of an MP’s work in Ottawa and they are what inspired me to run for office in 2015.
For decades, Liberal and Conservative governments have used the EI fund to balance the books, while fewer and fewer workers can access the benefits that they’ve already paid for. My NDP colleagues and I are prepared to make EI work for Canadians by immediately doing the following: introducing a universal qualifying threshold, restoring the appeals system, permanently re-instating the Extra Five Weeks pilot project, increasing the income replacement rate to 60%, installing a low income supplement so that no one receiving EI regular or special benefits receives less than $1,200 a month.
In June, I stood in solidarity with my NDP colleague MP Niki Ashton, when she stood up for Canada’s underprivileged women in the House of Commons, saying:
“Despite the Liberals so-called feminist cred, they have done nothing for women who need to access EI.
Only one-third of unemployed women can access employment insurance. When they finish their maternity leave, they have to work hundreds of hours to become eligible again. A growing number of women are stuck in precarious employment and cannot access EI.
“Women in Canada are paying the price of an EI system that discriminates against them.”
In our New Deal for People, my NDP colleagues and I propose major changes to the system to ensure that all Canadian workers have access to the help they deserve when they need it.
Rest assured, with your support, I will continue to raise these issues on behalf of the wonderful constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford to ensure we get the true progressive policies our country deserves.