EI surplus hits $51 billion

Taxpayers' federation calls for harmonized premium of $1.59

The employment insurance surplus has hit $51 billion, according to briefing notes prepared for Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg. That's an increase of $7 billion from the beginning of 2004, when the surplus sat at $44 billion.

Over the years, critics have demanded the government cut EI premiums so they're in line with the actual cost of the benefit. The chief actuary of Human Resources has said that the EI program doesn't need more than a $15-billion cushion, even in hard times.

The government has been using this excess cash as it wants, either for new spending or for tax cuts. So instead of using the money to better protect workers, the government is using the program as a revenue generator, said the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

While in opposition, the Conservatives called the surplus a "partisan piggy bank" and demanded the Liberal government lower premiums faster. However, the current Conservative government hasn't released any plans to revamp the program.

EI premiums have been decreasing slightly since 1994 when workers paid more than $3 per $100 of insurable earnings. As of Jan. 1, EI premiums for workers dropped to $1.80 per $100 of insurable earnings and the employer rate dropped by 10 cents to $2.52 per $100.

The taxpayers' federation is calling for a harmonized rate of $1.59 to be paid by both workers and business owners.

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