First Michael Igniateff draws a line in the sand on 360 hours for EI eligibility, saying the federal Liberals would bring down the Harper government if the broken EI system is not fixed. Then he makes it clear that this is just a temporary measure during the economic crisis, not a permanent repair. Next, Harper and his Minister Diane Finley crank up the rhetoric about “new tax burdens” if EI is reformed. It looks like a shoot-out at the OK Corral is looming, with the Tories clearly playing the mean guys.

So who comes riding to the rescue? The right wing Premiers of the western provinces! B.C.’s Gordon Campbell pens an Op-Ed in the Globe and Mail calling for a national standard of 420 hours everywhere, and an additional one-year extension of benefits to ease the impact on western communities. He argues that the provinces should be willing to help pay for the extra year, as they will be shelling out welfare payments if the jobless can’t get EI. Open support comes from Alberta and Saskatchewan Tory Premiers.

Then last Saturday, the Globe comes out swinging for the bold new compromise. Looks like Harper has an option he can pick up if he wants to avoid an all-out war. And the Liberals will have to choose fighting an election over 360 or take a deal on 420. What about the absurdly low benefit rates, that are less than people got two decades ago? Neither of the big business parties see the need to fix that. They really just want the problem to go away.

Even more reason to keep on signing the petitions from the Good Jobs for All Coalition. You can download them from www.goodjobsforall.ca or www.labourcouncil.ca. If you have some signed, please get them back to the Labour Council office soon.

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