Monday, September 14, 2009

Cheap Date

Extending EI benefits, gee where have we heard this before? Oh yes, that 2009 budget the NDP couldn't support, that concession the opposition "extracted" from the government to curry favor. Now, all of a sudden, this TEMPORARY "reform" is being lauded as encouraging and I've listened to simply amazing "in key" soundbites coming from both the NDP and Conservatives. The Conservatives, well it's typical, but to listen to the NDP ELEVATE this proposal is amusing at best. Don't get me wrong, I actually support this measure, but really it's hardly a big move to curry favor ("This is something we committed to some time ago" Diane Finley), this was coming the day the Liberals pulled out of the EI panel and the Conservatives wanted to nullify the file. In other words, this is the most miniscule of negotiated compromise imaginable to get the NDP on board.

A quick referral to C-280, the bill that Layton and company have referred to everytime anybody mentions EI, it's their cornerstone, right there for Parliament to vote on. See if you can spot any of the key wants in what is being floated:
This enactment
(a) by lowering the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours, makes special benefits available to those with that level of insurable employment;

(b) sets the weekly benefit payable to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest-paid 12 weeks in the 12-month period preceding the interuption of earnings; and

(c) reduces the qualifying period before receiving benefits and removes the distinctions made in the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate.

The Conservatives have also signalled they will introduce further EI reforms in a couple of weeks. This reform will center around the self employed qualifying, as outlined in their 2008 platform:
Self-employed Canadians can opt in to EI premiums and, in return, will be able to receive the same type of maternity and parental benefits available to regular EI participants.

Harper said he wanted this reform last June, so again there is no compromise in anything the Conservatives are offering, unless delivering on the Conservative platform is considered victory for the NDP. AND, why aren't the Conservatives bringing this all forward as a comprehensive reform package, rather than this piecemeal approach? BECAUSE, they are trying to string the NDP along for as long as possible, dangling this reform to move the target. Come on, this is 101 stuff, isn't it?

The Conservatives already telegraphed extending benefits a few weeks, long before the NDP came into the picture. To now spin this as "making parliament work", well, come on now. The real KICKER, these measures by the Conservatives, if allowed to pass, means that all the other demands of the NDP evaporate, we will not revisit EI anytime in the near future. The NDP agenda will be sold out in the name of political expediency, as they effectively accept what the Conservatives feel is reform. The issue will be dead, "progress" very similar to the budget, with a couple more shades for effect.

This is about allowing the government to put the EI feather in their cap. If we go to an election in the near future, the Conservatives would have reforms, supported by the NDP, what was an achilles heel, is now a point to show they listen, they get things done, the "feel" for the unemployed.

I don't know how this all shakes out in the end, but given these tactical soundbites coming from the NDP, it's clear that the will put aside the thrust of their reform package to avoid an election they don't want, and in the end become their former targets. No amount of bluster will change the factual context.


Anonymous said...

What gives? When will the NDP defenders arrive to tell you that Layton couldn't possibly be selling out the principals he's droned on about forever . . . how this is all just a set-up so they'll be "well-positioned" for the election they really, really want.

I tell ya, media narratives bug me more and more the longer time goes on. Not one article this morning even mentions the basic facts in your blog post. Not a one.

DL said...

don't forget that the Liberals are now TOTALLY IRRELEVANT to what is going on.

Steve V said...

I noticed that as well Joseph.

I've never criticized the NDP strategy, in a completely detached, isolated fashion. Given that they don't have the money, they realize that it's probable they lose seats, their new frame of looking productive is about as good as you can get. It starts with weakness and tries to turn a stink bomb into a rose. I get the spin, but when you compare, it's just so obnoxious really.

Steve V said...


I assure you, people love the prospects of the new latitude. You deal with him, good luck!

DL said...

My rule of thumb is that anytime the Liberal "blogosphere" starts to go ballistic about what Layton is doing - it tells me that he's doing the right thing.

Steve V said...

LOL. Whatever gets you through the day my friend.

Gayle said...

Oh DL - I doubt a lot of liberals are upset that Layton has agreed to prop up Harper. It really does not hurt the LPC.

Pointing out Layton is being a hypocrite is fair game, and you know you would be doing the same thing if the shoe was on the other foot. In fact, you WERE doing the same thing when the shoe was on the other foot.

Steve - I think it is better for the LPC if it looks like Harper and Layton had an agreement on EI. The more it looks like they are working together, the harder it is for Harper to hit the LPC with the coalition thing.

(My word verification is "twits" :))

Anonymous said...

Ah, not ballistic, DL. Intrigued. So much for Stephen Harper can never be trusted . . . seems Jack has a sudden crush.

And, besides, was just prompting you to speak.

Mission accomplished.

Just don't ever give us the "bravely principled" posture again . . . ends up the NDP is a political party after all. Who would've thought.

Steve V said...


In all seriousness, there is no downside for the Libs here, if these two want to engage in an awkward dance, that is destined to fall apart. I haven't heard one thing, from any Liberal, that shows the slightest concern with this new potential dynamic.

Gayle said...

Well BC'er seems to think there is nothing here Layton can support.

My gut tells me the NDP will support Harper.

Steve V said...

I think Jeff is making the same point from a different angle. There really is nothing here that addresses the NDP's chief wants, the absence is obvious and yet we have Dewar elevating timidity. The temporary aspect of this reform isn't getting much coverage, but given the past resistance, how they swallow this is... There is nothing to support here, if they do, it speaks to just how weak they really are.

Mark Dowling said...

The problem with the original Con proposal was that it allowed self employed to opt out of paying benefits until they became pregnant (and thus not paying into the EI fund). This meant that the self-employed would gain benefits well in excess of contributions while allowing them to defer contributing to the overall EI pool. Has this issue been addressed in the latest proposal? Considering the Cons have already been mooting EI changes to shore up an impending hole in the fund, you'd hope there would be a little more "Insurance" and less "Benefit" for the self-employed this time up.

Steve V said...

"Has this issue been addressed in the latest proposal? "

I could be wrong, but all I've read is more the vague concept, rather than the specifics.

Mark, don't you find it odd that the government would hold this particular measure back until after the Liberals receive their secured confidence vote? They introduced this today, and are leaving this measure, which everyone supports, until later. I think it speaks to a "string along" plan, buy more time and try to make it to the break. If they can get to the Christmas break without an election, they will consider themselves home free. Not to say they aren't prepared to go now, but again the already floated late budget next year tells us they've thought this strategy well in advance.

Jeff Jedras said...

Well BC'er seems to think there is nothing here Layton can support.

There is nothing here that Layton can support from a legitimate policy perspective, particularly if he wants to maintain credibility on the issue. But will he find a way to support it anyways to avoid an election? Depends how desperate he is. It would be a a major reversal of NDP policy however, and would be dicey to sell to his supporters.

Steve V said...

Sounds a tad desperate, from CBC twitter:

NDP Leader Jack Layton says Tories' proposed EI changes are a "step in the right direction," signals he may vote to stave off election.

Must have said that in the post-QP scrum.
I suspect they'll end up supporting this, saying it helps the unemployed, to reject would be irresponsible to those workers. Then a bunch of blah, blah, blah about pushing their other reforms in Parliament to maintain credibility.

As for the faithful, they seem content to lap up whatever they're told, without the slightest bit of introspection.

ottlib said...

Oh no! The NDP may support the government thwarting the nefarious plans of those dastardly Liberals.

Jack Layton has done it again. The Liberals will be crushed and many will take to their beds or the bottle to cope.

JimmE said...

I LOVED this "Tory NDP Coalition" talk

Yup VIVA the Reform-Socialist-Tory Coalition! Viva!

Steve V said...

I admit a partisan smile too.

Greg said...

Interesting discussion, but I think Brian Topp is on to something too.

Remember though, nothing has happened yet.

Steve V said...

Thanks for the propaganda Greg. I'm sure Lavigne will have an op-ed out any day now too.

RuralSandi said...

A report is out today that "60%" of Canadians work from pay cheque to pay cheque - how can Layton have a conscience and support Harper when Harper is going to increase EI contributions (back door tax) which would reduce the money they get to take home?

Gayle said...

Frankly, I do not blame the NDP for doing what they can to avoid an election. This really is not different from when the LPC had to cave to avoid an election.

They cannot afford it, and with the polls the way they are, they cannot risk it.

I am not going to pretend it is about some greater purpose, nor am I going to pretend the NDP really have a choice here.

Their supporters will accept it in the same way the LPC supporters did.

I just like Ignatieff being able to use it to attack Harper.

Greg said...

Thanks for the propaganda Greg.

No problem Steve, although I reject that categorization. I prefer calling it "clear-eyed analysis" .

I'm sure Lavigne will have an op-ed out any day now too.

I doubt it will be as good as Topps'

Steve V said...

"Frankly, I do not blame the NDP for doing what they can to avoid an election. This really is not different from when the LPC had to cave to avoid an election.

I couldn't agree more. It was always about the sanctimony.

JimBobby said...

It was always about the sanctimony.


Jerry Prager said...

But somewhere in all this is that great big EI tax hike and if the NDP walks into the EI tent, then how do they get out of the EI tax tent ? Its a trap.

Steve V said...


Mere mortals I say ;)


Once Harper fulfills his election promise on EI, he won't budge an inch and the NDP can't very well use EI again, as a justification for anything. The spreading out of the reform legislation is so transparent here. It's a trap.

I'm really looking forward to the climate change talks, if this government is still in power. Start thinking ahead just a little and you see the nightmare for the NDP unfold.

Mark Dowling said...

See - a NDP seat in AB didn't change the Albertans - it changed the NDP! We're all Reformers now, right Jack?