Dalton McGuinty is vowing not to back down in his fight for a better employment insurance deal from Ottawa, despite getting some concessions in the federal budget.

McGuinty said yesterday he’s been focusing on Ottawa’s more helpful initiatives, but it’s time to make employment insurance a top priority amid a 30 per cent jump in claims in the province in December.

“We have a number of active files on the go with the federal government, and this one has percolated to the top, both by virtue of us having achieved successes in other files (that) have been set aside now, but especially because of our economic times,”

McGuinty said. “It’s part of a continuing conversation.”

Last month’s federal budget set aside enough money to extend employment insurance cutoff dates by five weeks, but the length of time a person can collect the money varies by region.

The federal government also agreed to address Ontario’s concerns on equalization as well as complaints the province isn’t treated fairly when it comes to federal funding for health and social transfers.

Ontario’s Liberal government has long argued that the province’s workers get on average $4,600 less a year in benefits than residents in other provinces.

“We’ve gotten lots out of the federal government on a number of fronts but there is more work to be done,” McGuinty said.

“Sometimes it takes a long time to achieve some successes.”

McGuinty wouldn’t speculate about why Ottawa now seems more willing to listen to him about employment insurance.

“They certainly heard us, that’s as much as I can say,” McGuinty said.

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