The Harper government is trying to douse a growing political firestorm over the finance minister’s claim that “there is no bad job,” insisting Canadians on Employment Insurance will be expected to take jobs in keeping with their skill levels and in the areas where they live.
The Conservatives also contend they don’t know the long-term cost-savings of increasing Old Age Security eligibility to age 67 from 65 — despite maintaining the current system is unsustainable — but said an estimate is likely to come over the next few months.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has come under heavy fire this week for saying — as the government contemplates reforms to the EI program — that there is no such thing as a bad job.
The NDP accused Flaherty of proposing a “nanny state” in which unemployed Canadians will lose their EI benefits unless they reluctantly accept jobs for which they are overqualified or leave their home regions to find work.
The federal budget bill, which is weaving its way through the House of Commons, gives Cabinet the power to define what is considered “suitable employment” — which could affect whether a person qualifies for EI and the benefits they are paid.
A definition of what is deemed suitable employment will be announced in the coming months. Flaherty told Canadians this week: “There is no bad job. The only bad job is not having a job,” noting he once drove a taxi and refereed hockey.
On Tuesday, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley seemingly took a step back from those comments and tried to reassure Canadians seeking EI that they won’t be forced to take jobs outside their skill sets or regions.