BOUCTOUCHE, N.B. — The federal Liberals are promising sweeping changes to the employment insurance system, including a reduction in premiums that won’t cut as much as what the Conservatives have promised.
The policy announced Tuesday would reduce EI premiums, increase spending to the provinces for skills training by $500 million per year and reduce wait times for recipients to receive their first payment.
The change in EI premiums would see them drop to $1.65 per $100 earned from $1.88.
That’s less than the $1.49 rate that the Tories promised in the 2015 budget, but the Liberals argue the extra $2 billion in revenue between the two figures would be reinvested under their plan.
The Liberals are also promising that if elected on Oct. 19, they would eliminate a rule that requires new workers or those re-entering the workforce after a two-year absence to work at least 910 hours before they become eligible for EI. Instead, the threshold would be set regionally.
All the changes would come into effect in the 2017 calendar year.
The Liberals unveiled the plan in New Brunswick as Justin Trudeau campaigns in the Maritimes, an area of the country where EI changes have angered many small communities that depend on the social safety program to help seasonal workers.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau spoke briefly about EI and jobs at a rally in Amherst, N.S., where he was peppered with questions about the possibility of a coalition government should no party win a majority next month.
Trudeau said Canadians don’t want a coalition if a party wins a minority government after the election.
“We will always be open to working with others,” Trudeau said.
“But the fact is Canadians aren’t interested in formal coalitions. Canadians want a clear government with a strong plan and come Oct. 19, that’s exactly what they’re going to get if they vote for the Liberal party.”
Talk of the possibility of a coalition government has grown in recent days.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was asked Tuesday whether he thought it would be legitimate for parties with the majority of seats to form a government.
“My view is that the party that wins the most seats in our system forms the government,” he said while in Mississauga, Ont.
“I’ve always lived by that and I hope that party is us.”
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said Monday he would be open to supporting a coalition with the New Democrats or the Liberals, but not the Conservatives.
Trudeau was campaigning alongside Bill Casey, the Liberal candidate for the Nova Scotia riding of Cumberland-Colchester.
Casey is a former Conservative MP who was expelled from the party in 2007 when he voted against the federal budget. At the time, Casey said he felt the budget would harm his province’s ability to secure revenues from the oil and gas sector.
His decision to stand up to Harper earned him cult-like status in the province. In 2008, he won the riding as an Independent, taking almost 70 per cent of the votes.