Green Party of Canada Platform: 4.13 Reforming the Employment Insurance system, 4.14 Ending homelessness

A continuing review of  the Green Party of Canada’s Platform:

4.13 Reforming the Employment Insurance system

In this time of economic hardship, many Canadians are attempting to access Employment Insurance for the first time. After paying into it for years, recently unemployed Canadians are finding it far too difficult to access benefits. Changes were made to reduce the usefulness of the Employment Insurance scheme back in the 1990s. Prior to the changes, 82.9% of those who were unemployed could access benefits. By 1997, this fell to 43.8%, where it held steady through 2004. Workers had to log a longer employment period in order to qualify, and the benefits received also shrank.

Ironically, the current recession is an ideal time to expand and improve the EI benefits. Economists, such as Ian Lee, Director of the Sprott School of Business, have determined that spending on EI is especially effective in stimulating the economy. Those receiving benefits spend nearly every cent received in essential purchases (food, clothing, shelter). Expanding the EI system can be justified as a sensible economic measure, as well as a matter of equity. This is one measure that does not require finding new money. The EI system has a healthy fund built up, yet the majority of unemployed workers are denied its benefits.

Green Party MPs will:

  • During this time of need (until the unemployment rate in Canada drops below 6%), provide EI benefits retroactively, without imposing additional premiums, to all those who have lost their jobs since the beginning of November 2008 and who have paid into EI for at least three months, and also urge that EI benefits last for 52 weeks to provide a safety net while waiting for the economy to recover and, if necessary, extend EI benefits beyond 52 weeks if the economic recovery is not sustained.

4.14 Ending homelessness

We have witnessed the disintegration of our social safety net to the point where many Canadians, through no fault of their own, have been forced into unsafe, unhealthy living conditions. Some are on the streets. Others are barely getting by. Homelessness began to escalate during the 1990s with federal government cuts to social housing programs and cuts in income support programs by both the federal and provincial governments. As housing prices increased, even people working for minimum wage were increasingly unable to afford rental housing.

If the people who need help are not properly cared for, this puts a strain on everyone. Basic needs are not being met for a significant number of Canadians, and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. The Green Party believes that our country has enough resources to care for all residents.

The Green Party believes it is the right of every Canadian to have affordable, safe and secure housing. It enhances people’s health, dignity and life opportunities. It is an essential prerequisite to an equitable society. The Green Party supports the delivery of social housing dollars to provincial, territorial and municipal governments through the traditional vehicle of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The funding for social housing needs to be dramatically increased. CMHC programs must be directed to the communities most in need, and fast-tracked to provide homes for people at risk. The housing provided must be designed with energy conservation in mind.

Access to housing should be free from discrimination, including, but not limited to, ethnicity, race, cultural background, language, class, income, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, political or other opinion, ability, health, status or other personal characteristic or circumstance.

Universal housing will alleviate poverty. Universal housing provides a basis for employment, schooling, community services and contacts. The development and delivery of adequate universal housing and emergency accommodation must be a high priority.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Advocate the inclusion of a clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that specifically states that everyone living in Canada is entitled to safe shelter or affordable housing.

  • Urge the government to appoint a Minister for Housing to oversee development and implementation of a National Affordable Housing Plan.

  • Require the National Affordable Housing Plan to set an annual rate of building affordable housing so that lack of access to affordable housing is no longer a factor in homelessness by 2019.

  • Change the mandate of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to include responsibility, as it once had, for affordable, non-market and co-operative housing.

  • Create a National Affordable Housing Program that provides sufficient funds annually through CMHC to community-based agencies across Canada to:

    • Ensure that an adequate supply of new subsidized affordable homes is built: 20,000 new and 10,000 rehabilitated affordable units per year for the next ten years using capital grants and changes in tax and mortgage insurance regulations.

    • Provide rent supplements or shelter assistance for an additional 40,000 low-income households per year, for ten years.

    • Provide credit and loan guarantees to non-profit housing organizations and cooperatives for the building and restoration of quality, energy-efficient housing for seniors, people with special needs, and low-income families.

    • Subsidize private developers to include a percentage of affordable housing in their housing projects.

    • Change the Income Tax Act to offer tax cuts for affordable housing including incentives to stimulate construction and investment in the building of and maintenance of an ongoing supply of affordable, healthy, energy-efficient, multi-unit rental housing and to include tax credits for gifts of lands, or of land and buildings, to community land trusts to provide affordable housing.

    • Dedicate funding to the co-operative housing sector to enable more new affordable housing projects to proceed.

Comments and discussion are welcomed.  I am examining this as I go to gain a better grasp of their platform and invite all who are interested to do the same with comments and discussion.

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