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Government spending cuts have increased unemployment, are slowing economic growth, and are diminishing services and standards for Canadians.

In its pre-federal budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, CUPE is expressing deep concerns over the harm these imposed austerity measures are having on Canadians, and the need to strengthen social programs, like the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI).

Canada’s economic growth has been much slower than it was in previous recoveries. Federal spending reductions will slow the economy by an average of one percentage point (or close to $20 billion) a year and reduce employment levels by over 100,000, as estimated by the Parliamentary Budget Office last year.

CUPE is recommending an expansion of public services that could generate hundreds of thousands of additional jobs, boost wages, living standards and economic growth. The vast majority of individual Canadians and businesses would benefit from federal government measures focused on improving public services, boosting the economy, generating jobs and reducing inequality.

CUPE also recommends expanding the Canada Pension Plan by phasing in modest contribution increases over seven years that would in time double benefit levels. Improving CPP would benefit all workers, help stabilize existing workplace pension plans, increase economic security and stability for communities, reduce poverty and reduce pressure on social assistance programs.

When CPP contribution rates were last increased, unemployment fell significantly. The increase in contribution rates that we envision is considerably less this time. Polling shows that 75 per cent of Canadians support an expanded CPP, as do many pension experts and the majority of provinces.

CUPE is also advocating for the immediate reversal of cuts to Employment Insurance made in Bill C-38 that reduce eligibility for benefits, force claimants to take unsuitable and lower paid jobs and eliminated the EI Board of Referees. 

Introducing different classes of claimants and changing access to EI benefits particularly hurts seasonal workers and those in precarious employment most, including women, youth, low income and other marginalized workers in communities across Canada. Changes to the appeals process has reduced fairness for claimants unjustly rejected. All workers are negatively affected as such changes drive down wages.

Pre-budget submissions are being accepted until August 5, 2013.