a) Moving forward on the long promised review of the EI premium-setting mechanism
The review of the EI premium rate-setting mechanism is already underway. In the 2003 budget, the government launched a consultation process on a new permanent rate-setting regime for 2005 and beyond and outlined five principles upon which the consultations would be based.
--The Department of Finance and HRDC held a series of roundtable consultations with business and labour stakeholders, economists and technical experts and the EI Commissioners for Workers and Employers.
--All Canadians were also invited to provide submissions by mail or Internet to the Government of Canada before June 30, 2003.
The consultation phase of the rate-setting review is now complete. HRDC and the Department of Finance will produce a public document summarizing the views received during these consultations. Legislation will also be introduced in time to have a new rate-setting mechanism in place for 2005.
b) Bringing EI premiums into balance with EI costs
The 2004 premium rate has been set at $1.98 of insurable earnings in budget 2003. According to the private sector economic forecasts used in the budget, this premium rate should bring premium revenues in line with program costs over 2004. The premium rate for 2005 and beyond will be set as part of the new rate-setting regime. While the outcome of this process is not known, it must be emphasized that balancing EI premiums with EI costs is one of the five principles on which the future process is to be based.
c) Separating the EI fund from general revenues
Since 1986, following the recommendation of the Auditor General of Canada, the employment insurance account has been fully integrated into the overall finances of the Government of Canada as the government controls the parameters of the EI program. Separating the EI fund from general revenues is one of the several proposals that Canadians made during the premium rate-setting consultations.
At this time, it would be premature to speculate on the outcome of any particular option raised during the consultation process before all options have been thoroughly assessed.