I know, I know — you’re all going to scold ITQ for being so darned cynical, but it’s hard to see how this leaders’ panel/working group/subcommittee on employment insurance is going to be able to cobble together anything approaching a consensus – let alone a common policy – on reforming the current system.
I mean, within minutes of the official announcement, the PM had all-but-categorically dismissed of one of the key Liberal proposals –streamlining regional qualification levels. Meanwhile, Michael Ignatieff had already announced his intention of filling one of his three allotted slots with his senior policy advisor, Kevin Chan — who, ITQ readers will recall, had been a similarly senior advisor over at PCO until last January, when his decision to leave the public service for Team Ignatieff so aggrieved one Senior Government Official that he all but accused him of smuggling state secrets to the enemy.
Later in the day, we learned that one of the three Harper-appointed slots would go to Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, which is one of those things that sounds like it makes sense, until you think about it for a second, and realize that, as the minister, she’s not exactly going to be able to take an arms-length position on her government’s current policy, but will likely see her role as defending the status quo, and pushing the Conservative proposal to extend optional benefits to self-employed workers, likely to the near exclusion of all else.
Now, given the masterful negotiating skills that we’ve seen from Ignatieff this week, if he was one of two Liberal MPs on the panel, he’d probably end up signing on to whatever she proposed, provided he could somehow rationalize it as a “compromise”, but his other two chosen representatives – Marlene Jennings and Mike Savage – will probably make for a considerably tougher audience.
That said, there are still two more slots to fill on the government side of the table, so let’s help out the prime minister, shall we?