Ontario failed to shake the Harper government’s refusal to enrich employment insurance but made some progress on the growing problem of pension shortfalls for retirees, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said after a federal-provincial meeting yesterday.
Duncan came to the finance ministers’ one-day gathering vowing to push for immediate action on EI. The Ontario Liberals say laid-off workers in this province are being shortchanged under current rules, with nearly 70 per cent of unemployed Ontarians unable to qualify for regular EI payments.
But Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is resisting demands to ease eligibility rules even though federal opposition parties threaten to force an election over what they say is an inadequate program during a recession.
Asked about his demand for EI improvements, Duncan said, “Clearly, we have not achieved that objective.” But he said Ontario will continue to press Ottawa on the issue, noting that increasing EI payments is the fastest way to pump stimulus money into the economy.
Earlier in the day at Queen’s Park, Premier Dalton McGuinty said he would consider creating a provincial pension plan if Ottawa didn’t act.