CBC Digital Archives

Gainfully unemployed

Employment insurance is a legacy of the Great Depression, and remains a pillar of Canada's social safety net. The system was created to provide an income while unemployed workers find new jobs, but expanded to include seasonal workers, new parents and those caring for ill relatives. Canada's EI system was once among the most generous plans in the world, but tightened rules in 1996 brought surpluses in the billions of dollars. CBC Digital Archives documents how employment insurance has evolved since 1941.

In 1976, six years after an overhaul to the unemployment insurance system, the changes are really paying off - for claimants who know how to work it. The single dad who wants to focus on raising his son, the fishery worker who makes quilts during the off-season and the carefree young skiers in Banff: they're all freeloaders whose lifestyles are funded by UI, charges Eric Malling of CBC-TV's The Fifth Estate. In this clip, labour minister Bryce Mackasey defends the program, citing a ripoff rate of only two per cent.
• In February 1977 the Unemployment Insurance Commission announced that it would be stepping up its efforts to prevent fraud. It reported that in 1976 there had been 445,884 overpayment cases worth $62.8 million - an increase of over $14 million above the previous year. • An estimated 41 per cent of the overpayments were made to people who, upon investigation, were not eligible for UI. Another 39 per cent of overpayments were to people who failed to report other income.

Medium: Television
Program: The Fifth Estate
Broadcast Date: Sept. 21, 1976
Guest(s): Costas Halazabrackas, Doris Leblanc, Bryce Mackasey, Jim McCormick
Reporter: Eric Malling
Duration: 20:31

Last updated: January 13, 2014

Page consulted on January 13, 2014

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