What I cannot figure out is why the provinces have not been more vocal on expanding both eligibility and the duration of benefits for EI given the EI program is a federal program and welfare is provincial. From a provincial point of view the more restrictive the EI program the greater the provincial welfare bills. So why are the provinces not calling on the Feds to at least temporarily expand the program in a meaningful way? I doubt the provinces are worried about moral hazard. So what has been going on?
I agree that the silence is surprising, even if the provinces disagree amongst themselves on the best way to extend the system. The social assistance issue may be less relevant since the retrenchment of eligibility of both EI and SA through the 1990s means that these programs don’t feed into each other that much anymore — i.e. if you are in a good enough job where you can qualify for EI, chances are you have too many assets to qualify for SA (this is the Boychuk “adrift between islands” argument).
Plus, with the growth of two earner households, those who exhaust EI (or never qualify) may still be ineligible for SA on the basis of a spouse’s income.
But I agree that the silence on EI is deafening. On the other hand, it is also telling that the provincial poverty reduction strategies have downplayed the issue of improved EI as a potential fed contribution to their strategies, but instead have looked for enriched federal child and working income benefits.
To the extent that most political parties are anti-universalist and anti passive LMPs and SAPs it makes sense that they are looking for bigger Tax credit programs. Whatever merits these programs (tax credits) may have they all drive in the direction of re-enforcing the reliance on access to paid labour. To my mind this is the hallmark of neoliberalism more than say financialization.