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Author Topic: NDP don't care about EI?
Political Will
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posted 20 February 2004 02:50 PM      Profile for Political Will     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The Quebec Court of Appeal has recently ruled that parental, maternity and sick benefits are provincial jurisdiction, and Canada doesn't have the right to provide them under the EI program.

This is very serious and threatends one of our essential national programs. So where is the NDP, where is Jack?

If this decision isn't appealed it will have devastating effects for the so called 'have not' provinces and their workers.

Either we are too concerned about a handful of votes in Quebec to bring it up, we haven't realized what's on the go, or the media is not picking up anything we are saying on this.

I hope it's the latter


From: Red Square, The Rock | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Sara Mayo
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posted 20 February 2004 03:22 PM      Profile for Sara Mayo     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Hopefully we'll see some thoughtful debate on this thread, because it is a very important issue and gets to the heart of some of the fundamental tensions that exist in the NDP and the Left in general (centralism vs. decentralism, parliamentary rights vs. judicial power, and Quebec's status in the federation)

Political Will, you are right that the NDP has said nothing on this issue. I would imagine the federal caucus is locking horns on this issue, and I know that the Quebec section has tried ot lobby Jack to come out exactly against the position you are advocating.

As you saw in the Asymtric Canada thread, the issue is not cut and dry.

First of all, there is the constitution. The courts have determined that the constitution dictates that a parental leave program is in provincial jurisdiction and that hte federal government can't unilaterally step into that area. Should the NDP advocate that the Canadian Constitution should be ignored? The ends justify the means?

Second of all there is the issue of centralisation vs. decentralisation, and the solution os asymetry. There are lots of good reasons that English Canadians often feel that the federal government is the best level to handle social programs, but what if your province was in Quebec's shoes? What if Newfoundland and Labrador wanted to make a much better paternal-leave program, one in which more than 90% of parents would be eligible, even self-employed and under-employed parents (which is not the case with the current program)? Wouldn't you think that was a great idea? Wouldn't you be quite mad if Ottawa didn't give Newfoundland the equivalent EI premiums that Newfoundlanders pay towards the parental leave program so that Newfoundland could use the money to create a better system?

Well that's the reality in Quebec right, now and one reason why the federal government isn't popular there.

Why should the NDP agree with the Federal Liberals that it is OK to prevent Quebec from setting up a very progressive parental-leave program? Aren't we happy when provinces want to expand social programs? To argue otherwise would make the NDP look ridiculous.

Hopefully weakling willy will join this thread to argue these points much better than I can, but for now let me quote him from the other thread:

quote:
The idea of asymmetrical federalism was taken up by the NDP in the 1960s as a means of by-passing this roadblock to building pan-Canadian programs: if Quebec's constitutional objections slow down the development of the welfare state, why not allow Quebec to opt-out with compensation to do its own thing. That way, rather than being two scorpions in a bottle, the Canadian and Quebec nation-building projects can co-exist relatively harmoniously.
...
Some have pulled out the old canard, "if Quebec can opt out, why can't my province?" Asymmetrical federalism as proposed by the NDP and parts of the Canadian left (you can always look up Judy Rebick's version in her _Imagining Democracy_) has relied on the argument that Canadians outside Quebec agree in wanting a stronger federal role, particularly in social programmes. This may be wrong, and ignore public sentiment in Newfoundland or Alberta. But I do note that in January 1999, all provinces joined Quebec in demanding the right to opt-out of new federal programs in areas of provincial jurisdiction. And on February 4, 1999, all provinces except Quebec had dropped that demand and signed the Social Union Framework Agreement. I thus conclude that the NDP is probably pretty bang-on in its reading of public opinion outside Quebec.

From: "Highways are monuments to inequality" - Enrique Penalosa | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
weakling willy
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posted 20 February 2004 03:53 PM      Profile for weakling willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
PARENTAL LEAVES:WHY THE NDP SHOULD OPPOSE AN APPEAL

BACKGROUND

• Maternity leaves were originally placed under Unemployment Insurance as a means of getting around the constitutional division of powers – a fact admitted by Sylva Gelber, head of the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labour in 1971. Identifying maternity as a conventional situation of unemployment was roundly denounced by women’s groups at the time

• Placing parental leaves under EI is bad social policy, since only those qualifying for EI have access. This discriminates against the growing ranks of self-employed and contract workers, and part-time workers. It also makes it difficult for women having children close together to requalify for benefits. Quebec's proposed alternative provides for wider eligibility and higher benefits.

• The Quebec court decision forces the federal government to negotiate with Quebec. This lifts an obstacle blocking the extension of Québec’s forward-looking family policy which includes enhanced parental leaves, universal daycare, and increased child benefits. It is unlikely to affect the existing EI program elsewhere in the country, since the other provinces are not currently interested in taking on the responsibility, but see its usefulness.

• The NDP’s Social Forum document recognizes Québec’s right to opt-out with compensation from new federal programs in areas of provincial jurisdiction, without having to meet conditions. In this case, Québec is opting-out and asking for compensation, in order to launch a more progressive program than the federal one. To appeal the Quebec decision is to go against the spirit of party policy in a situation where party policy allows us to easily do the right thing.

PROPOSAL

• The NDP should support actors on the Québec left in opposing an appeal of the Quebec court decision.

• The NDP should use the opportunity to press the federal government to act in concert with the other provinces to allow all Canadians to benefit from a programme such as Quebec’s – not just in parental leave, but also in universal daycare.

Barbara Cameron, a thoughtful social policy analyst on the left, argues that the federal government should negotiate with Quebec, but also appeal the decision so as to protect the existing program. I think that this is unrealistic: as long as the issue is not settled (that is, in appeal), the federal government will no doubt continue to refuse to negotiate in good faith with Quebec. At the same time, it is unrealistic to believe the federal government will simply allow parental leave to fall on constitutional grounds -- if anything, having to rejig the system to make it fit with the constitution provides an important opportunity for progressives to intervene to improve the existing program along the lines set out by Quebec.

MY KEY MESSAGES

“Saskatchewan innovated in health care, and the federal government acted to allow all Canadians to have access to health care. Québec is innovating in child policy with better parental leaves and $7-a-day childcare, and Paul Martin wants to nip it in the bud!”

“The Liberal government would rather waste time in court fighting over the Constitution, rather than working with the provinces to extend Quebec’s modern parental leave policy for all Canadians.”


From: Home of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
BleedingHeart
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posted 20 February 2004 04:01 PM      Profile for BleedingHeart   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Why just say that whole consitutional mess of federal provincial jurisdiction which the NDP had no part in setting up is just that, a complete mess and why should we offer solutions particularily as the national media doesn't see us as a viable governing alternative.
From: Kickin' and a gougin' in the mud and the blood and the beer | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Political Will
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posted 23 February 2004 09:31 AM      Profile for Political Will     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I have to say most of this decentralizing BS is just an excuse to cut social programs.

You can pretend that Quebec is the only province in the country, and that we should oppose an Appeal in order that they can create better maternity, parental and sick benefits.

On the other hand, it could be that if the federal government does not cover these programs many provinces (including NL) will not be able to afford these programs, or will have sub-par protection and access.

This decision is not about allowing provinces to improve benefits. The Fish Food and Allied Workers' have pointed out that any province could have improved these benefits, and none has.

This could spell the end of federal EI if it is not appealed. I fully expect the NDP to come out against this as the CLC, and a host of Women’s and labour groups.

For the sake of workers in at least half of Canada's provinces (us 'have nots' as we are so lovingly referred to), I hope this is appealed and reversed soon.

Last year alone these benefitted Newfoundlanders and Labradorians $38 million. That is not money we can do without. Not our mothers, parents or sick workers.


From: Red Square, The Rock | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Lard Tunderin' Jeezus
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posted 23 February 2004 10:04 AM      Profile for Lard Tunderin' Jeezus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I have to say most of this decentralizing BS is just an excuse to cut social programs.

Agreed.
Our friends in Quebec may think that they are immune from the aggressive axes of the neocon hordes, but they too are their victims on the federal front. And Charest and even p'tit Mario are proof that progressives in la belle province have need of allies in the ROC.


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Sara Mayo
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posted 23 February 2004 10:15 AM      Profile for Sara Mayo     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
The Fish Food and Allied Workers' have pointed out that any province could have improved these benefits, and none has.

That is the real BS. That's like a situation where the federal government runs hospitals, staffs it with sme doctors and nurses, and people saying, provinces can improve the hospitals by hiring some extra nurses and doctors and telling them to go work in the federally-manged hospitals. The provinces cannot improve the benefits without an agreement with Ottawa (which Ottawa has refused to negotiate for the last five years) and without at least co-managing the money and the rules for the system.

quote:
This could spell the end of federal EI if it is not appealed.

That is a myth. First of all the court ruling does not affect the regular parts of EI (the unemployement benefits), only parental leaves.

Second of all, I completely understand your fear that this ruling will have negative effects on provinces like Newfoundland, I would be like you, completely opposed, if I believed that that was the outcome of this ruling.

But that is not the case. What I and weakling willy are advocating is that Quebec be allowed to opt-out of the parental-leave program, and that Ottawa come to an agreement with the other provinces so that Ottawa is allowed to continue to manage the full EI program (including leaves) in these provinces. Since there is no tax revenue that subsidizes these programs (just employer and employee premiums), and since the program is very popular in all provinces, the provinces will have no choice but to agree, unless they want to substancially improve the program as Quebec wants to do.

If anything, allowing Quebec to opt-out could lead to improvements in the Canadian parental leave program. When Canadians find out that Quebec is using the same EI premiums for a better leave program, they will wake up to the fact that the federal government could and should create a program on par with the better one.


From: "Highways are monuments to inequality" - Enrique Penalosa | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
weakling willy
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posted 23 February 2004 11:28 AM      Profile for weakling willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I am surprised that a babbler from Newfoundland considers my "decentralist" views (I see it differently, but that's not worth the debate here) as problematic: last week it was not a weak central government, but a strong one that told Newfoundland and the other "have-less" provinces to f***-off with their demands for a better equalization program, and which has refused other requests to build equalization elements into the CHST. So, if have-less provinces are having troubles providing comparable services at comparable levels of taxation, the problem may be a strong federal government that refuses to listen to the provinces and loosen the pursestrings on its surplusses. this is the same central government that has been strong enough to torpedo ONtario's progressive social assistance reforms of the late 1980/early 1990s, to force its deficits on the provinces through transfer cuts, and to refuse to help in the development of Quebec's universal daycare system by transferring money that Quebecers can no longer claim in childcare tax credits (because they don't have to pay that much money directly for their care anymore). Canada does not need a strong federal government. They have a strong federal government. What they need is to find a way to get that government to nurture progressive provincial social policy innovations, rather than the regressive ones (like federal support for provincial workfare programs starting in the mid-1980s)

As I noted before, there are ways of maintaining more or less the same system as in place now while respecting the spirit of the Quebec Court decision. The feds could offer to pay virtually the whole cost of leave programs provided by the provinces provided they conformed to the EI provisions. This would be attractive to the provinces (and it would be hard for a province to hold out), would not saddle have-less provinces with extra costs (provided the feds paid virtually the whole cost), and might create pressures in some provinces to top-up and improve on the existing system (following Quebec). IT is true that these improvements might leave the have-less provinces behind short-term, but it would add strength to demands to better equalization.

The only problem here is that the feds probably could not fund such a system out of EI (as they currently do), since the constitution prevents the feds from spending in provincial jurisdiction if they apply a specific levy for that end. But it would not be impossible to simply reduce EI premiums and increase income taxes to compensate. this would improve the tax progressivity of the measure, I do believe.


From: Home of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Political Will
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posted 23 February 2004 11:39 AM      Profile for Political Will     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sara, I hope you are right, but I think you underestimate the work that many have put into devolving the EI program to the provinces, and the direction this will likely take outside of Quebec (and probably there as well unless the PQ are re-elected).

Here in Newfoundland Doug House has just been appointed as a Deputy Minister by Premier Williams, and getting provincial hands on EI money has been on his agenda for years.

The Tory governments of Atlantic Canada, Alberta, and our BC Liberal friends would all be a threat to this program if the door is opened to this reinterpretation.

Making EI a national program was a constitutional battle to begin with. It was one we won, and one I don't think we can afford to pass up now.

If there was a guarantee that we would maintain federal standards for these services and simply allow any province to improve them, that would be fine. However, that is not what this ruling does.

It takes control from the federal gov, and asks the provinces to take care of these benefits.

It also provides a cost-saving federal government with an excuse to duck its responsibilities and download these services on provinces, which have an unequal ability to pay.

The decentralizing agenda is very strong in this country, and it is not afraid to use Quebec’s social conscience to the detriment of federal programs and progressive measures in other provinces (where progressive programs are often federal).

I think this court case is a test case to set precedence for further erosions to EI. Maybe not, maybe I'm wrong. If so, I'd like to see what the federal government says it will do if the Quebec decision stands. Is it as socially progressive as what Sara and weakling willy suggest?


From: Red Square, The Rock | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Political Will
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posted 23 February 2004 11:39 AM      Profile for Political Will     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sara, I hope you are right, but I think you underestimate the work that many have put into devolving the EI program to the provinces, and the direction this will likely take outside of Quebec (and probably there as well unless the PQ are re-elected).

Here in Newfoundland Doug House has just been appointed as a Deputy Minister by Premier Williams, and getting provincial hands on EI money has been on his agenda for years.

The Tory governments of Atlantic Canada, Alberta, and our BC Liberal friends would all be a threat to this program if the door is opened to this reinterpretation.

Making EI a national program was a constitutional battle to begin with. It was one we won, and one I don't think we can afford to pass up now.

If there was a guarantee that we would maintain federal standards for these services and simply allow any province to improve them, that would be fine. However, that is not what this ruling does.

It takes control from the federal gov, and asks the provinces to take care of these benefits.

It also provides a cost-saving federal government with an excuse to duck its responsibilities and download these services on provinces, which have an unequal ability to pay.

The decentralizing agenda is very strong in this country, and it is not afraid to use Quebec’s social conscience to the detriment of federal programs and progressive measures in other provinces (where progressive programs are often federal).

I think this court case is a test case to set precedence for further erosions to EI. Maybe not, maybe I'm wrong. If so, I'd like to see what the federal government says it will do if the Quebec decision stands. Is it as socially progressive as what Sara and weakling willy suggest?


From: Red Square, The Rock | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Political Will
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posted 23 February 2004 11:48 AM      Profile for Political Will     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sorry about the double post, still getting use to this whole system.

Weakling Willy, don't get me started about equalization (we don't have space or time), but if need and desperation arn't enough to get the feds to look at us, I don't think a new EI system is going to do the trick. I fear it will only add to the burden.


From: Red Square, The Rock | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
weakling willy
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posted 23 February 2004 12:02 PM      Profile for weakling willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Just to confirm the point: the court ruling only applies to the leaves, not EI as a whole. The constitution is clear on EI as a whole, since the 1940 amendment was precisely to allow for a federal program. But that amendment had nothing to say about parental leaves. IN the late 1960s and early 1970s, the federal government recognized it had no clear constitutional jurisdiction over parental leaves. And unlike in hospital insurance, where it also had no jurisdiction, there was no provincial interest at the time in a leaves program, so it couldn't set up a cost-sharing program (as it had in medicare, hospital insurance, social assistance, housing etc.).

But, as my reference to Sylva Gelber (did anyone see her obit in the Globe the other week -- what a trailblazer!) made clear, the federal government thought they could get around the constitutional division of powers by treating maternity leaves as a form of unemployment. It is this conceit that has been struck down, especially as the federal government lengthened the leaves and opened them to both parents.

IN the end, this might be a good thing, because putting the leaves in EI meant that only those eligible for EI get access. This means that women with children born close together often cannot get the necessary hours to requalify. It also means that the self-employed cannot qualify for leaves, because they are not covered by EI. IN short, the federal use of the EI power as a means of launching a federal leaves program leaves us with an unduly narrow and restrictive system of parental leaves. It also means the system is financed out of EI contributions, while it would seem to make sense that it be funded from general taxation, since leaves benefit all society.


From: Home of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Political Will
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posted 23 February 2004 12:16 PM      Profile for Political Will     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Alright, I have to get back to work, so last reply.

I really hope you are right, and that this leads to stronger programs, with more benifits, and open to more citizens. However, I would also be surprised if this was the case. Increased access and benifits has not been the direction EI has gone in the past several years. If this program is not replaced by an agreement which is coverded 100% by the federal government it will have detrimental effects on workers, especially in the poorer provinces that let those benifits slide inorder to save money. If this is the outcome and we did not push for an appeal we will look like (and be) fools.

I hope all goes well, and maybe someone with an insider scoop can tell me what the expected (rather than hoped) outcome of this will be.


From: Red Square, The Rock | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
weakling willy
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posted 23 February 2004 12:33 PM      Profile for weakling willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Here's my guess at expected outcome: the NDP will call for the feds to negotiate with QUebec while appealing the decision. IN other words, I doubt my position has much weight when labour and progressives in English Canada are so firmly in favour of an appeal.

When the liberals do appeal it, its in the hands of the Supreme Court, at which point it is a crap-shoot. The S.C.C. will want to find a way to split the difference on such an important question, but I think will be very hard pressed to do so. My sense is that they'll uphold the Quebec Court decision, at which point we're back to where we would be without the appeal. This could have a positive impact (if the left prepares the ground in advance), or a negative one (as Political Will points out). I think provinces are happy with the current program, and don't want to be the ones blamed for a fairly popular program disappearing. This gives me hope for the positive result. In addition, child policy has been one of the few relatively harmonious fields of fed-prov negotiation over recent years, so there is some hope there as well. That said, federal intransigeance on equalization and health care financing (further evidence of a strong federal government not necessarily leading to better social policy) may sufficiently poison negotiations that we get the negative result you suggest.

If the Supreme Court does not uphold the decision (and thus saves federal use of the EI power to deliver leaves), I suspect the feds would then find a way of backtracking out of any deal they made with Quebec in the interim. And the growing ranks of self-employed Canadians will continue to go without income should they choose to have children and take time to care for them. But perhaps a constitutional law expert in the Babble community can set me straight on likely outcomes.


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West Coast Lefty
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posted 24 February 2004 01:06 AM      Profile for West Coast Lefty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Great topic and excellent arguments on both sides. This is a very touchy issue both for the NDP and for the federal Liberals. A few thoughts:

- Sara and Weakling Willy are absolutely right on the principle. Parental leave is a social policy issue that clearly falls within provincial jurisdiction and using EI to lever the federal government into this area is an unconstitutional leap of logic;

- That being said, I heard on CBC radio this morning that women's groups in the Maritimes are vehemently demanding that the decision be appealed. Since letting the judgement stand would effectively end the current parental leave EI program, without any readily available replacement in most provinces, this would not be a desirable outcome from a social democratic perspective. Thus Cameron's solution to "appeal but negotiate" may be the best course of action here;

- Ultimately, the solution to situations like this is the "opting out with full compensation" model. Provinces who approve the federal intrusion into their jurisdiction should be free to allow it; those who don't should be able to opt out of the federal program, and get full compensation IF they implement a program with the same objectives that meets or beats the federal standards.

So, Quebec would not be penalized for going above the federal standards, but presumably the Quebec gov't would have to top-up the program beyond the baseline federal funding for their enhancements to the program.

I believe something like this was proposed in the Social Union negotiations. Although Quebec didn't sign the final deal, I seem to remember Bouchard agreeing to the principle of the compensation for opting-out provinces being contingent on the provinces adopting a program that conforms to the national objectives (which was a huge concession from the traditional Quebec demand of compensation without conditions). My memory is hazy on this stuff, so I'd appreciate any clarifications that other babblers could provide on these points.

[ 24 February 2004: Message edited by: West Coast Lefty ]


From: Victoria, B.C. | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
weakling willy
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posted 24 February 2004 10:29 AM      Profile for weakling willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The "Saskatoon Consensus" that brought Quebec into the provincial common front (Summer 1998) stated, "Premiers emphasized that the flexibility afforded to provinces/territories through the ability to opt out of any new or modified Canada-wide social program in areas of provincial/territorial jurisdiction with full compensation, provided that the province/territory carries on a program or initiative taht addresses the priority areas of the Canada-wide program, is an essential dimension of the provincial/territorial consensus negotiating position."

the problem with this position was that getting there involved a significant concession by Quebec (this was about as far as it would go in recognizing the federal spending power), while for the other provinces it was only a negotiating position. Which I take to be another argument in favour of asymmetry, but that's me.

Where I disagree with the Maritime women's groups is in the idea that no appeal will mean no leaves. There would be a large outcry to maintain the current system (albeit rejigged to make it consistent with the Constitution), and perhaps we could use the opening to push for a better leaves system.

The other thing is: who says the Supreme Court will favour the federal government? If that's the case, are these groups already throwing in the towel?

Or we might end up with a terrible decision (eg. upholding maternity leaves for the length of medically necessary withdrawal from the workforce) but striking down parental leave as not being in the EI power. I think that sort of result would be worse because it would be harder to mobilize to save the broader parental leaves than if we simply had to fight to replace the whole leaves system with a federal-provincial leaves program.


From: Home of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Political Will
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posted 24 February 2004 11:13 AM      Profile for Political Will     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It would be great if these benefits could be provided for under opt-out funding. I too would like to see parental benefits taken out from EI and made more accessible.

My fear is that if progressives are not out on this issue it will be used to cut these programs. Could the Quebec decision be beneficial? Certainly, but it could also be the first step in reducing or cutting these benefits all together. Had reliable contingency plans been made I would not be as nervous, but I have to say I don't trust the actors on this issue at all. I don't trust the feds to not want to cut expenses, and I don't trust my provincial government not to try and use the funds for their own purposes.


From: Red Square, The Rock | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Wilf Day
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posted 25 February 2004 12:33 AM      Profile for Wilf Day     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I apologize for not having read the Quebec Court of Appeal decision yet. Meanwhile, there might be a good reason to appeal even if one agrees with the result (that parental leave is not unemployment insurance.) Namely, the reasoning of the Court of Appeal might have been sweeping enough to affect other issues as well. It might be desireable to appeal even if the only benefit was for the Supreme Court to uphold the result, but on narrower grounds.

In other words, constitutional law is not always the best field for partisan debate.


From: Port Hope, Ontario | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
West Coast Lefty
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posted 28 February 2004 02:10 AM      Profile for West Coast Lefty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
So, was this decision appealed? I thought today was the deadline for the feds to appeal the Quebec court ruling...anybody know what happened?
From: Victoria, B.C. | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
West Coast Lefty
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posted 06 March 2004 08:24 PM      Profile for West Coast Lefty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
To answer my own question , the judgment was appealed. Not surprisingly, the federal government isn't exactly bragging about this, as I couldn't find a news release anywhere on the Governnment of Canada website. I finally found some mentions on the La Presse website, but the articles are all subscriber-only , so all I got from them was that the feds are appealing to the Supreme Court. So, it is the "negotiate but appeal" strategy on this issue.
From: Victoria, B.C. | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged

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