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Thursday, April 21st 2016 - Question Period - Employment Insurance Benefits

Employment and Social Development

Employment Insurance Benefits

Hon. Rose-May Poirier: My question is for the government leader in the Senate. The Trudeau government proposed to shorten the waiting period for EI to one week instead of two, effective January 1, 2017. Leader, I have a simple yes or no question. Will the claimants receiving benefits one week earlier lose one week of EI benefits at the end of the claim period?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I will find out that information and respond.

Senator Poirier: Although the measure is well-received in our area, the concern in my area is the potential extension of the black hole, where families have no income between the end of their EI benefits and the start of their new seasonal work. If your government's new measures effectively allow only the same number of weeks to be drawn and not the addition of one week, these families may need more help at the end of their benefits, not at the beginning when they have just received their last paycheque. With this one week of waiting time reduced, will this measure actually help the families of these seasonal workers or will it make it harder for them to make ends meet at the most critical time of their year?

Senator Harder: It is certainly the hope and expectation of the government that the measures undertaken will be of assistance to those affected.

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Rose-May Poirier on April 21, 2016)

Our Government has announced improvements to the EI program so that it is better aligned with today's labour market realities and is responsive to the needs of Canadian workers and employers.

Budget 2016 announced that the EI waiting period will be reduced from two weeks to one, effective January 1, 2017.

EI claimants will be entitled to the same maximum number of weeks of benefits. As benefits will be payable one week sooner, they will also end one week sooner.

In Budget 2016, twelve EI economic regions were listed as qualifying for extended benefits due to the downturn in the commodities sector. The Government of Canada promised to monitor the economic situation following the budget and fulfilled that commitment by announcing three additional EI regions.

This extension will mean that eligible claimants in these 15 regions can receive an additional five weeks of benefits for regular claimants, and a further 20 weeks of benefits for long-tenured workers. These benefits will be available for one year — beginning July 3, 2016 — and will apply retroactively to anyone who started a claim on or after January 4, 2015, and is still unemployed.

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