Eight Hundred Sixty Seven Million Dollars
17% of Canadians who pay into Employment Insurance are never able to collect it, because they work too few hours per year to qualify. According to Service Canada,
Most people will need between 420 and 700 insurable hours of work in their qualifying period to qualify, depending on the unemployment rate in their region at the time of filing their claim for benefits. ... [I]f you are living in one of the 23 participating economic regions, you could qualify for regular benefits with a minimum of 840 hours instead of 910 hours.Most of the workers who do not meet the cutoff are low-income women, who often have short-term, temporary jobs, and are exactly the kinds of people a rationally-designed (un)employment insurance system would benefit most.
When you show that you have at least 490 hours related to employment in the labour force during the labour force attachment period you will need between 420 and 700 insurable hours to qualify for regular benefits. Otherwise, you will need a minimum of 910 hours to qualify regular benefits. In some instances, a minimum of 910 hours in the qualifying period may be needed to qualify.
Under Brian Mulroney in 1990, and then again in 1994 and 1997 under Jean Chretien, it became progressively harder and harder to collect EI. Now, the federal government has a $51B surplus in the fund reserved for Employment Insurance payouts, and has been posting billion-plus dollar general funds surpluses since 1997/8.
That's even despite dispiriting news such as this reported (in an oddly right-wingily celebratory sort of way) by Statscan:
Federal government revenue fell to $190 billion in 2002/03, down from $192 billion in 2001/02. This second straight decline was due in part to a drop in personal income taxes, explained largely by weakness in the stock market. As well, corporate income taxes dropped, reflecting a weak profit performance in the previous year.So, personal income taxes are down, the politicians are handing out tax cuts left and right (mostly right), corporate income taxes are down (and if anyone thinks that's because of "weak profit performance" instead of the Liberals' "business friendly" attitudes, I have a tower in Toronto I'd like to sell you, cheap), and so have government revenues.
At the same time, federal government expenditures decreased, albeit marginally, from $185 billion in 2001/02 to $184 billion in 2002/03.
Meanwhile, so has the national debt as a percentage of government spending, " from a high of 33 cents of every dollar of revenue collected by the federal government in 1995/96 down to 19 cents in 2001/02."
Yet we're still directing vast amounts of money into "debt reduction" (as if, at this time, with one of the healthiest economies in the world, we need to do any more debt reduction) and tax cuts, while starving beneficial social services because the benevolent bureaucrats in Ottawa would rather sit on a $51B surplus than do something useful with it, like make sure it gets paid out to its supposed beneficiaries.
That's approximately $160.00 of money from every Canadian, not just the percentage of the population currently paying into EI (which excludes children, retirees, the self-employed, people who don't work for other reasons, et cetera). Not that I'm saying every Canadian should get cut a cheque for $160. For one thing, a lot more people would get $160 out of it than ever paid into it. But that's not the point. $51B is an awe-inspiring amount of money.
For once in your stupid, useless, right-wing, University of Manitoba School of Economics lives, policy wonks in Ottawa, do the economic right thing and invest that $51B where it will do some good: a revamped EI programme that gives a fair break to women and minorities; infrastructure; healthcare and social services, and maybe some roses to go with the bread, too.