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:
(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.