Federal analysis outlines how extra EI benefit program topped $1.92 billion

A Liberal program to give extra employment insurance benefits to workers in regions hit hard by a drop in natural resource prices will end up costing almost $2 billion _ more than double original estimates.

The government budgeted $827.4 million for the extra payments.

The latest department estimates show the measure will end up costing $1.92 billion, largely the result of changes that allowed more workers to receive extra payments and unemployment rates that stayed higher for longer than the government anticipated.

Further details will come out later this year when the government releases its annual report on the EI system.

The extended benefit program rolled out in 2016 for workers in 12 regions that had seen a sharp and sustained drop in employment as a result of a downturn in energy prices.

Most workers were given an extra five weeks of benefits, while long-tenured workers received an extra 20 weeks.

By July, weekly data revealed that payments had exceeded $1.3 billion and department officials warned Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in a preliminary assessment that costs were likely to top $1.9 billion.

The assessment obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act says costs went up due to the addition of three regions to the program and making payments retroactive to January 2015, which gave workers who had already exhausted benefits an extra couple of weeks of payments.

This was particularly true for long-tenured workers. The department says these workers account for $1.7 billion in payments, despite being only 28 per cent of all recipients of the extra benefits.

The assessment noted about one-quarter of EI claimants usually use up benefits before going back to work, but almost half of workers exhausted their benefits under the Liberal program.

Employment and Social Development Canada said the unemployment rates in those regions also stayed higher for longer than officials expected, increasing “the number of claims and their likelihood of taking advantage of the EI extended benefits.”

The combined result of policy decisions and economic conditions was that 412,000 people qualified for extra benefits, instead of the 235,000 federal officials originally estimated would use the program.

“They failed to estimate just how hard it was going to be for people to get work,” said Frances Woolley, an economics professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“I’m kind of surprised that mistake was made.”

Parisa Mahboubi, a senior policy analyst from the C.D. Howe Institute, said extended high unemployment rates would have made it difficult for workers to find jobs, leaving them to stay on the program longer than anticipated.

She said the extended benefits could have also reduced incentives for workers to find new employment.

Woolley said the policy itself appears to have been helpful for workers in need, even though it went well over budget.

New report proposes national pooled longevity insurance program

Since Canadians rely on a patchwork of incomes to fund their retirement, the worry by many of running out of money is a real possibility.

A new report from the C.D. Howe Institute proposes a pooled risk savings program that could provide more security for retirees of advanced age. “Retirement will span beyond age 85 for more than half of 65-year-old Canadians,” wrote Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, senior research fellow at the National Institute on Ageing at Ryerson University and resident scholar at Eckler Ltd., in the report.

“Retiring Canadians want to protect their later years. We need innovative solutions now — ones that add definitive value but place no new pressures on the Canadian public purse.”

Annuities don’t always appeal to seniors, as they prefer to maintain control over their savings, the report suggested. Instead, longevity insurance could replace annuities as an income stream. However, the tax environment in Canada doesn’t favour private market longevity risk products, according to the report.

As such, MacDonald recommends a voluntary, national program — dubbed Living Income for the Elderly (LIFE) — that would allow retiring Canadians to buy into a pooled fund that would begin to provide steady income at age 85. At their discretion, Canadians would begin to allocate money to the fund at age 65, she suggests, and proportional monthly payouts would start at 85. They wouldn’t be able to make commuted-value cash withdrawals during the deferral period or the payout stage.

Those who live longer would benefit from additional security as the fund would distribute the investments of deceased participants equally among the remaining members. The so-called mortality premium would allow lump-sum bonus payouts as members age.

During the accumulation period, a members’ account in the fund would allocate investments in a relatively aggressive manner, the report noted. Upon reaching 85, the investments would revert to a more conservative portfolio designed to provide a stable, monthly payout. And the retirees wouldn’t have any investment decisions to make as a government institution would manage the fund’s capital, says MacDonald.

She stresses that the government, in addition to administering the fund, would need to address some of the proposal’s unfavourable tax implications.

Overall, the concept would increase stability for seniors living longer without putting added pressure on Canadians as a whole, says MacDonald. “LIFE will encourage retiring Canadians to proactively prepare for advanced ages while allowing them to maintain control of the vast majority of their financial savings,” she said in the release.

“The program will benefit not just Canada’s elderly population, but Canadians on the whole.”

Illegal ride hailing underway in B.C. while government reconsiders laws

By Linda Givetash

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER _ As the British Columbia government explores the impact of allowing ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, a number of companies have already been operating illegally in the province.

The Passenger Transportation Branch said at least seven app platforms are known to be in use by drivers and consumers in Metro Vancouver.

An advisory issued by the branch last fall said the drivers, not the app developers, are assuming the risks of running an unlicensed commercial transit service and face fines of $1,150.

Branch director Kristin Vanderkuip told an all-party legislature committee meeting in Vancouver on Monday that $12,650 in fines have been issued to illegal drivers to date. Some of the services have been found in the Victoria area as well, she said.

The branch is trying to educate consumers about the risks of using unlicensed ride-hailing services, she said.

Ted Townsend, communications director for the City of Richmond, said Tuesday it’s difficult to tell how many drivers or services are involved and their exact location because they’re organized online and transcend city boundaries.

Municipalities can’t provide business licences to drivers or app providers because there is no legal framework for them, he said in an interview.

Officials are responding to the issue as they would with any business operating without a licence, he said, but identifying drivers is a challenge.

“It’s difficult to obtain the type of evidence and information that would be required in many cases to take action,” he said. “They’re not bricks-and-mortar type of operations so it’s hard to establish exactly where they’re operating, where they’re based.”

Townsend said a provincial framework around ride-hailing businesses, which the government is exploring through hearings this week, will help cities do their part in licensing or prohibiting services.

In the meantime, he said Richmond is working with the Transportation Ministry and neighbouring cities to crack down on illegal ride-hailing.

The ministry said it has received complaints about the unlicensed companies and has several ongoing investigations.

The Passenger Transportation Branch has issued more than 20 cease and desist orders to vehicle owners across the province, it said.

The ministry warned drivers and consumers about the risks associated with the companies.

“The driver is subject to all penalties for operating illegally on the road the driver is subject to all penalties for operating illegally on the road _ and they are subject to fines of $1,150, as well as further penalties for not disclosing the commercial use of their vehicles to their insurance provider,” it said in an emailed statement.

“Customers need to know that if they choose to get a ride through these apps they are choosing to take a trip in a vehicle that has not been licensed to operate legally and safely in B.C.”

Government of Canada removes processing fee to hire foreign caregivers

When live-in caregiving is more affordable for Canadians who need it most, families can spend less time worrying about finances and more time with their loved ones.

That’s why today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, announced the elimination of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) processing fee for middle class families seeking to hire foreign caregivers for children, and all families seeking caregivers for individuals requiring assistance due to a physical or mental condition.

Achieving the Minister’s mandate letter commitment to eliminate the $1000 LMIA processing fee for certain families and individuals will support those most in need of financial assistance to meet their family caregiving needs and responsibilities.

Quote

Our government knows that Canadians deserve better access to care for their loved ones. Waiving the LMIA fee will help put care within reach of more Canadian families.
– The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

Quick Facts

  • To provide financial relief to families or individuals seeking to hire foreign caregivers, the Government of Canada is eliminating the $1000 per position LMIA fee for the following two groups:
    • individuals seeking to hire foreign caregivers to provide in-home support for themselves or for another individual (for example, mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, friend), who requires assistance due to a physical or mental condition; and
    • families or individuals with less than $150,000 in gross annual household income seeking to hire foreign caregivers to provide childcare in their home to a child or children under 13 years of age.
  • In April 2017, the Government of Canada set a path forward for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, including fulfilling its commitment to better protect vulnerable foreign workers. This included a commitment to work with community organizations devoted to protecting vulnerable temporary foreign workers to ensure they are informed of their rights and protections when they arrive in Canada.
  • To qualify for the LMIA processing fee exemption for individuals requiring assistance due to a physical or mental condition, a medical certificate from a treating medical practitioner attesting to their condition will be required at the time the application is submitted.

Associated Links

SOURCE Employment and Social Development Canada

N.B. proposes insurance changes to ensure domestic violence victims are covered

New Brunswick is moving to ensure people have insurance coverage if their home is damaged in domestic violence cases.

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers says most home insurance policies exclude payment for loss or damage caused intentionally by anyone insured by the policy.

She says that can hurt spouses if one of them deliberately sets fire or damages the property.

The proposed Insurance Act amendments would prevent insurance companies from using exclusions to deny coverage in such cases and allow victims to receive their share of compensation.

The changes were developed with the Office of the Consumer Advocate for Insurance, the Financial and Consumer Services Commission and the Women’s Equality Branch.

Commission CEO Rick Hancox says the changes would bring New Brunswick in line with several other provinces and reduce the financial loss to people experiencing intimate partner violence.

 

Great plate fight: Saskatchewan, Alberta tussle over job site licence plates

Alberta promised a court fight and mocked Saskatchewan’s lagging economy following a move by its neighbour to the east to ban Alberta licence plates on future job sites.

“(Saskatchewan Premier) Brad Wall needs to smarten up, and he has one week to kill this ridiculous restriction, or we’re going to be taking him to court,” Alberta Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said Wednesday.

Bilous said Saskatchewan’s move violates interprovincial free trade rules.

“Brad Wall is absolutely desperate,” Bilous said.

“We know our economy is growing by four per cent. Their economy is in the dumps, so he’s grasping at straws.”

Earlier Wednesday, December 6, 2017 Saskatchewan Infrastructure Minister David Marit announced that vehicles with Alberta licence plates will no longer be allowed on future government highway and building project sites. Existing projects will not be affected.

The ban includes contractors, sub-contractors, consultants and workers. Ministry staff will enforce the provision through job-site monitoring.

Marit said the ban is in response to reports from Saskatchewan workers who say they face similar restrictions in Alberta.

“Saskatchewan operators feel forced to register their vehicles in Alberta if they want to do business there,” said Marit. “Today’s (12/06/2017) announcement just levels the playing field.”

Bilous said there are no such restrictions in Alberta on out-of province workers or licence plates.

Alberta officials said there were no prior discussions or advance warning of the change from Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association lauded the move.

“Saskatchewan heavy construction contractors have been one of the largest employers in the province in good years and in bad,” association president Shantel Lipp said in a release.

“As local construction companies obtain a larger share of the Saskatchewan construction marketplace, they develop the people, equipment and capacity to maximize their economies of scale.”

The plate feud is the latest cross-boundary sniping between Wall’s right-of-centre government and Premier Rachel Notley’s left-leaning NDP.

Wall’s government has previously complained about new rules to assist Alberta’s craft brewers that Saskatchewan calls unfair to out-of-province beer producers.

 

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