While critics of the Harper government's omnibus budget implementation bill rail against the legislation's alleged attacks on environmental reviews, they might also want to pay attention to the parts of the bill that deal with employment insurance.
According to an article in the Globe and Mail, Bill C-38 would remove provisions of the Employment Insurance Act that allow EI recipients to turn down an available job if it is not in the claimant's usual occupation, is at a lower rate of pay or involves "conditions less favourable than those … recognized by good employers."
In other words, once the bill passes, cabinet (in theory) will have the power to deny EI to an unemployed scientist for refusing to dig ditches or pick fruit.
Ottawa isn't saying exactly what it has in mind, notes the report, but Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently expressed his frustration that Prince Edward Island was bringing in temporary foreign workers to fill fish plant jobs even though many Canadians in the area are unemployed.
Neil Cohen, executive director of Winnipeg's Community Unemployed Help Centre, said he's deeply concerned by the the new rules.
"It's always been up to the courts to determine what constitutes suitable employment," he told the Globe and Mail.
"This government is determined to reverse the course of 70 years of history … They're really giving themselves broad, sweeping powers."
Meanwhile, the Conservatives passed a motion Thursday limiting second-reading debate on Bill C-38 to seven days, infuriating the opposition parties who said it was far too little time to discuss the implications of the broad, 425-page bill.
"The number of measures that are going to fundamentally change how Canada works — and doesn't work, in fact — are all in this budget bill," NDP house leader Nathan Cullen told CBC News.
"It's an abuse of their power. It's an abuse of this mechanism. And the government knows it."
In addition to the changes in employment insurance, Bill C-38 includes controversial changes to old age security, more than 100 pages of new provisions to environmental regulations, an important alteration to the oversight of CSIS and significant amendments in laws related to fisheries, food safety, national parks and natural resource projects.