We will no find out how eager the Conservatives (and the NDP) are to avoid an election. Given that the bipartisan panel of Liberals and Conservatives got nowhere, it seems unlikely that the Conservatives will bring forth any reforms that are very significant although one never knows for sure. Perhaps they will introduce a few minor reforms but not enough to satisfy any of the opposition parties and then will claim that the opposition is obstructionist and preventing measures that will help the unemployed. On the other hand if the Conservatives want to avoid an election they may include a few crumbs to mollify the NDP or Bloc. We will soon see. Iggy seems to have already committed to an election.
Conservatives to introduce EI reforms
CBC News has learned the Conservative government plans to introduce a bill next week to make significant changes to employment insurance.
The proposed legislation will have two parts. The first will extend benefits to laid-off workers who have worked for years, according to government sources.
A page arranges the desks of members of Parliament on Thursday as the House of Commons is prepared for the return of MPs. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)Although the exact criteria have not been approved by cabinet, the focus is on workers who have paid EI premiums for many years, but have drawn few benefits.
The second part is to be introduced later in the month, and will fulfil a Conservative campaign promise from 2008 to extend maternity and parental benefits to the self-employed.
In the Conservative platform document for the 2008 election campaign, the cost of extending those EI benefits to the self-employed was estimated at $147 million.
Women are heavily represented among the self-employed and are a constituency the Conservatives covet, but one that has proved difficult for the party to attract.
Sources told the CBC the measures are being introduced to woo the NDP in advance of a possible confidence vote. NDP Leader Jack Layton has signalled his party is prepared to work with the Conservatives if Prime Minister Stephen Harper is prepared to compromise.
The New Democrats have pushed hard for major employment insurance reforms, including lowering the threshold to qualify for EI to 360 hours in a year.
NDP MP Carole Hughes put forward a private member's bill that would have improved benefits for workers aged 45 and older who have 10 years on the job.
A senior NDP official told CBC News the party would look closely at the Conservative proposals.
"There needs to be substance behind the EI improvements for NDP support," the official said. "The unemployed need real help and they need it now. NDP bills and motions on EI point the way to what needs to be done."
Canadian Press reported earlier Friday that the government is planning to bring forward a financial ways-and-means motion on Friday, Sept. 18. The motion is considered a confidence issue, and its defeat could trigger an election.
However, a spokesman for Government House Leader Jay Hill said a final timetable on when the motion may be introduced has not been set.