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Updated: Tue, 01 Jul 2014 10:40:40 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Atlantic Premiers release report on impact of EI changes



Premiers Robert Ghiz, David Alward, Stephen McNeil and Tom Marshall met in Saint John this week. Robert Jones/CBC

Premiers Robert Ghiz, David Alward, Stephen McNeil and Tom Marshall met in Saint John this week. Robert Jones/CBC

The Council of Atlantic Premiers released its long-awaited report Monday on the impact of recent changes to Employment Insurance.

In June of 2013, the Atlantic premiers announced the creation of an advisory panel to do a detailed study on the impact of the changes on this region.

Over 11 months, panel members spoke with claimants, business owners, government representatives and concerned citizens.

In its report, the panel said Atlantic Canadians have deep concerns about the potential effects of the changes. It said much of the fear comes from the way the changes were brought in. 

But it said without detailed statistical analysis of the EI claimant data it's not able to provide a detailed examination of actual effects. It said that work should be done in future.

The panel does however make several recommendations.

They include improved communication to claimants, implementation of service standards for the EI program and revision of the "working while on claim financial formula" to ensure that claimants use the program and employers can find workers for short-term employment.

The panel also recommends the reinstatement of the "best 14 weeks and extended employment insurance benefits pilot project."

"This is an important recommendation for our province," said P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz.

"The report tells us that the federal government cannot continue to use a one-size-fits-all approach to these programs."

"This has a disproportional impact on our province, due to our seasonal economy.”

The panel also said Ottawa must commit to collaborate with the Atlantic premiers to address employment issues.

A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development minister Jason Kenney said the changes to Employment Insurance did not change the rules around applying and qualifying for E-I -- they simply clarified longstanding requirements.

Alexandra Fortier said the federal Government proactively gave the data gathered by Statistics Canada to the Panel, and the findings could not be more clear with far less than 1 percent of E-I disqualifications having to do with the Federal Government's changes to E-I.

"In other words, 99 percent of E-I disqualifications have absolutely nothing to do with the changes," said Fortier.

"Our government made reasonable changes to the Employment Insurance system in part because a growing number of employers were experiencing labour shortages, even in regions of high unemployment, and were resorting to bringing in temporary foreign workers from overseas, rather than hiring local unemployed individuals". 

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