EI working group's mandate concerns small business

    CALGARY, June 17 /CNW/ - Today's announcement that Prime Minister Stephen
Harper and Leader of the Opposition Michael Ignatieff have reached an
agreement to form a working group to look at Employment Insurance (EI) for the
self-employed as well as eligibility requirements concerns the Canadian
Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
    "While we are pleased that the call to reduce nation-wide eligibility for
EI to 360 hours has not been adopted this week, Canada's job creating small
businesses will be alarmed to learn that changing eligibility requirements is
now under active review," said Dan Kelly, CFIB's senior vice-president of
legislative affairs. "Our political leaders need to ensure that efforts to
help the unemployed don't end up creating incentives to stay out of the
workforce thereby contributing to the shortage of labour that most firms were
experiencing only a few short months ago," Kelly added.
    "CFIB believes the mandate of this working group is too narrow to really
accomplish the goal of helping those who have lost their job. We also question
the timing of this announcement as CFIB and other data show that the economy
is beginning to recover," Kelly said. He also noted CFIB believes there are
better ways of helping grow the economy than the measures being contemplated
in this announcement.
    In addition, said Kelly, CFIB has concerns with how extending the EI
system to the self-employed would work on a practical level. "Can a
self-employed Canadian actually lay themself off?" Kelly questioned. "We hope
this working group includes those representing the self-employed and other
small businesses as we have some serious questions about whether such a plan
can work."
    "If our political leaders are looking for EI reform that may actually
help the unemployed or those in jeopardy of losing their jobs, CFIB suggests
that the working group examine an 'EI Hiring and Training Tax Credit' that
would assist small firms create more jobs and offset training costs to prepare
the economy for the future," Kelly said. He pointed out a recent CFIB report
on workplace training found that the cost of training a new employee without
experience in a small firm averaged $5,400 across Canada.
    In previous periods of higher unemployment, a former government
introduced a 'New Hires' program which provided an EI holiday for employers
who created jobs or increased their payroll. CFIB proposes that the working
group also considers building on this positive experience with a credit linked
to both hiring and training.

For further information:

For further information: To arrange an interview with Dan Kelly, contact
Chad Ford at (403) 444-9290

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