New Spending, EI and Training Improvements a Must for Budget, CAW President Says

January 26, 2009, 4:28 PM EST

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In the midst of a major economic crisis, the federal government must inject billions of new public investment to stimulate Canada's struggling economy and make long-overdue improvements to EI as well as training supports to protect Canadians from continuing economic decline," said CAW President Ken Lewenza.

"The crumbling of our economic fundamentals has been visible for years, especially as good-paying, family-supporting jobs have disappeared across the country," Lewenza said in a pre-budget release Monday. "The government must prove to Canadians it is willing to support workers at this time of crisis when it lays out its budget proposals tomorrow."

In addition to much needed funding for infrastructure improvements and new projects, Lewenza also stressed the need for the federal government to support Canadian jobs through a domestic purchasing policy, which would set a minimum level of Canadian content for government purchases.

The CAW is calling on the federal government to inject new and sustained stimulus equal to at least 2% of GDP, (or a minimum $30 billion per year over 3-5 years), which is in line with the International Monetary Fund's stimulus guidelines.

"Any federal stimulus must be strategic and targeted at new spending and income security measures to improve EI and training supports for workers," said Lewenza. "This is absolutely not the time for misdirected tax cut policies that have already been proven ineffective."

Lewenza said that reducing EI qualifying hours to a uniform 360 hours across the country, extending benefits to 50 weeks, eliminating the two-week waiting period and setting benefit rates to provide at least 60 per cent of previous earnings, all will go a long way toward stabilizing consumer demand in the country.

Enhanced income support for skills training and education, especially for older workers, will ensure that Canadians maintain a decent standard of living while adjusting to changes in the labour market, Lewenza said.

Lewenza further credited the opposition party coalition that formed in the days following the release of the November fiscal update for dramatically shifting the outlook of the federal government. "The progressive force of the coalition required this government to develop a strategy to deal with the current economic downturn and assist those most adversely affected -the poor and the unemployed," Lewenza said.

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