Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

From UI to EI: Waging War on the Welfare State

Document type Book
Author Campeau, Georges
Author Howard, Richard
Publisher UBC Press; Vancouver, B.C
Date 2005
ISBN 0774811226
Pages xiii, 235 p.


Established in 1940 in response to the Great Depression, the original goal of Canada’s system of unemployment insurance was to ensure the protection of income to the unemployed. Joblessness was viewed as a social problem and the jobless as its unfortunate victims. If governments could not create the right conditions for full employment, they were obligated to compensate people who could not find work. While unemployment insurance expanded over several decades to the benefit of the rights of the unemployed, the mid-1970s saw the first stirrings of a counterattack as the federal government’s Keynesian strategy came under siege. Neo-liberalists denounced unemployment insurance and other aspects of the welfare state as inflationary and unproductive. Employment was increasingly thought to be a personal responsibility and the handling of the unemployed was to reflect a free-market approach. This regressive movement culminated in the 1990s counter-reforms, heralding a major policy shift. The number of unemployed with access to benefits was halved during that time. From UI to EI examines the history of Canada’s unemployment insurance system and the rights it grants to the unemployed. The development of the system, its legislation, and related jurisprudence are viewed through a historical perspective that accounts for the social, political, and economic context. Campeau critically examines the system with emphasis upon its more recent transformations. This book will interest professors and students of law, political science, and social work, and anyone concerned about the right of the unemployed to adequate protection.


Contents: Why UI? -- The British Act of 1911 -- Developing a Canadian system -- The UI Act of 1940 -- UI expansion, 1940-75 -- Vision under siege, 1975-88 -- Rights enshrined in case law, 1940-90 -- The system hijacked, 1989-96 -- Onward to EI -- Case law in the neoliberal riptide of the 1990s.

Includes bibliographical references (p. [216]-223) and index.

Statement of responsibility: Georges Campeau; translated by Richard Howard.

Translation of: De l'assurance-chômage à l'assurance-emploi.