Toronto City Summit Alliance

October 06, 2005 08:00 ET

Toronto City Summit Alliance: Ontarians Can No Longer Count on Employment Insurance to Provide Temporary Income between Jobs

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 6, 2005) -

Toronto and Ottawa Have Lowest Coverage in Canada

The Task Force for Modernizing Income Security for Working Age Adults released its review of Employment Insurance (EI) today, revealing that EI no longer fulfils its role of providing temporary income to most unemployed Canadians who are between jobs.

The inadequacy of EI is most pronounced in Ontario's large cities. The report discloses that Ottawa and Toronto have the lowest levels of coverage in the country with only one in five unemployed workers in those cities receiving any EI benefits.

"EI is irrelevant for the majority of unemployed in Ontario's cities, including Toronto", says Susan Pigott, CEO of St Christopher House and Co-Chair of the Task Force. "The result is that those folks fall straight through what should be the first layer of our social safety net, and many do not stop falling until they land on social assistance. There needs to be a new approach."

Highlights of the MISSWA report include:

- EI coverage has fallen across Canada to just over 40% of the unemployed in 2004, from 80% in 1990.

- The precipitous decline in EI coverage was the result of changes in EI combined with changes in the labour market. More self-employed and more people in 'non-standard' jobs such as temporary and contract work can't get EI.

- Cities like Toronto with high immigration levels and high rates of temporary and contract employment have fared the worst in coverage.

- The unemployed across Ontario have always had lower coverage than the rest of Canada and the gap has grown over the past twelve years.

- While Toronto would be expected to be a net contributor to EI given its lower unemployment rate, the gap in coverage has seen a huge gap in contributions versus benefits - Toronto now contributes 19% of EI funds and receives only 10% of EI benefits.

"Toronto's very low EI coverage relative to other regions with similar unemployment rates is primarily the result of high immigration levels", say study authors Jill Black and Richard Shillington. "Many unemployed immigrants face much tougher rules to qualify for EI creating a penalty for those cities like Toronto where immigration has been so important to labour force growth."

David Pecaut, Chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance and Co-chair of the Task Force, says, "Poor EI coverage in our large cities like Toronto shows that the Canadian social safety net needs fundamental reform. This is both a social and an economic imperative as cities like Toronto could face fiscal disaster in the next recession as the unemployed fall through the safety net and land on provincially and municipally funded social assistance."

The review is available at and

The review can also be viewed by clicking on the following link:

The Task Force was launched last year by the Toronto City Summit Alliance and St. Christopher House to identify failings in the current income security system and recommend a road map for change. It is composed of leaders from business, labour, government, academic, and not-for-profit sectors, including those with first-hand experience dealing with income security issues. The final report of the Task Force and its recommendations will be released later this year.

About the Task Force for Modernizing Income Security for Working Age Adults (MISWAA)

The Toronto City Summit Alliance and Toronto's St. Christopher House launched the MISWAA Task Force in the fall of 2004. It is composed of over fifty civic leaders from many sectors including business, academia, community service and organized labour, as well as low income adults and front-line agencies with first hand experience dealing with income security issues. MISWAA's goals are to make recommendations for reform aimed at the federal, Ontario, and municipal levels of government, as well as parts of society that can contribute to the solution.

The Atkinson Charitable Foundation is MISWAA's lead sponsor and provided the seed money to set up the Task Force. Additional funding is being provided by: KPMG and TD Bank Financial Group from the private sector, the United Way of Greater Toronto, and a number of foundations including the Laidlaw Foundation, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Maytree Foundation, and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

About the Toronto City Summit Alliance

The Toronto City Summit Alliance (TCSA) is a non-partisan coalition of civic leaders from the private and public sectors, labour, voluntary associations and agencies, think tanks and academia in the Toronto region, as well as a network of hundreds of volunteers - who all share a concern about the challenges to the future of the city region such as poor economic integration of immigrants, decaying infrastructure, and lack of affordable housing. In April 2003, the TCSA published Enough Talk: An Action Plan for the Toronto Region. Since then it has been advocating for its recommendations and working with community partners and governments towards their implementation.

About St. Christopher House

St. Christopher House is a non-religious, Toronto-based neighbourhood centre with 92 years of experience working with diverse individuals, families and groups. It provides support to people of all ages, including immigrants and people who are lower-income, and is strongly committed to community development in all aspects of its work.

Contact Information

  • Meg Routley
    Administrative Coordinator,
    Task Force for Modernizing Income
    Security for Working Age Adults and
    Project Officer, Toronto City Summit Alliance
    (416) 955-4220