The federal government should implement a temporary unemployment assistance program to plug some of the gaps left by the federal employment insurance system, according to a report by the Mowat Centre at the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.
“Canada’s signature and only federal social support program for the unemployed has not kept up with fundamental changes to the Canadian labour market,” said Matthew Mendelsohn, director of the Mowat Centre. “The program is failing as an automatic stabilizer, it is failing to protect most workers against the risk of unemployment, and it is failing to treat workers equally across regions, communities, and sectors.”
Temporary unemployment assistance (TUA) would be a repayable form of federal support for unemployed workers. It would be easily available for short periods of time. It would have no asset test and no up-front income test, making it flexible and responsive, said Workers Left Outside the EI Umbrella: Explanations and a Simple Solution.
TUA would increase federal income support for unemployed workers who are currently excluded from or cannot access the EI program. It would be targeted particularly at non-standard workers, new labour force entrants, and EI exhaustees who need more time finding work, said the report.
TUA would begin to reduce the regional disparities and the urban-rural divide that define many aspects of Canada’s approach to supporting the unemployed, said Mendelsohn.
“Reforming EI so that it is fairer and more responsive to the modern labour market should be a federal priority,” he said. “Implementing TUA is part of the overall reform package.”