From UI to EI
256 pages, 6 x 9
3 tables
Release Date:01 Jul 2005
Release Date:30 Nov 2004
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

From UI to EI

Waging War on the Welfare State

SERIES: Law and Society
UBC Press

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.

Campeau’s detailed account is concise, thorough and easy to follow. Alvin Finkel, Athabasca University, Labour/Le Travail, Issue 58, Fall 2005
Campeau’s book is without question a useful survey of the history of employment insurance in Canada. For those interested in the legislation itself, Campeau offers a detailed and esoteric look at its adoption and development over the years. For those interested in the constitutional skirmish that has been fought through the years over employment insurance, Campeau also charts out how that battle has progressed over time ... In sum, anyone with an interest in labour law, and in particular the past, present and future of employment insurance in Canada, would likely find From UI to EI an interesting perspective and an informative read. Robert Neilson, Saskatchewan Law Review, vol. 69, 2006
Georges Campeau spent many years defending the rights of the jobless as an activist lawyer. He is currently a professor of social law in the Faculté de science politique et de droit at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Richard Howard has been translating books from the French, chiefly in the social sciences, for over three decades.


1 Why UI?

2 The British Act of 1911

3 Developing a Canadian System 4) The UI Act of 1940

5 UI Expansion, 1940-75

6 Vision under Siege, 1975-88

7 Rights Enshrined in Case Law, 1940-90

8 The System Hijacked, 1989-96

9 Onward to EI

10 Case Law in the Neoliberal Riptide of the 1990s


Epilogue: Bill C-2, February 2001



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