‘Many residents are without work’: Leduc wants to be included in EI changes
Officials in Leduc are disappointed municipalities around Edmonton are excluded from the recently-announced expansion to Employment Insurance benefits and they want the federal government to reconsider the regions that qualify.
“As a result of the current economic climate, our businesses are struggling and many residents are without work,” Leduc County Mayor John Whaley said.
“These are skilled workers who supported the provincial and federal economy for many years, and now they need support,” Whaley said.
“It’s the right thing to do.”
Changes to EI were announced in the federal budget on March 22. They include reducing the time Canadians must wait before they start claiming EI and slashing the number of working hours they need to have accumulated in the year prior to applying to receive benefits.
The government said it picked 12 regions that needed the most help with extra weeks of EI benefits for jobless workers, “extending the duration of EI benefits where a rise in unemployment has been sharp and sustained and where there haven’t been signs of recovery,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained Tuesday while in Calgary.
Those areas included Newfoundland and Labrador, parts of northern and southern Alberta, northern British Columbia, northern Manitoba, northern Ontario, northern Saskatchewan, Whitehorse and Nunvaut.
Calgary was on the list but Edmonton was left off, as were parts of Saskatchewan.
Trudeau said Tuesday the government will review and monitor the situation and further impacts of the economy.
Officials in Leduc want the government to extend the improved EI benefits to workers there.
“Just like the rest of the province, a significant amount of our residents are out of work who were previously employed by the oil and gas sector,” City of Leduc Mayor Greg Krishke said.
“If Millet – a community in close proximity to us – is eligible for the new EI benefits, the Leduc region should also be included; we should not be treated differently.”
The government of Canada divides Alberta into four EI regions: Edmonton, Calgary, Northern Alberta and Southern Alberta. Leduc sits just 30 kilometres south of Edmonton.
In January, Alberta lost 10,000 jobs, bringing the unemployment rate in the province to 7.4 per cent – the highest in 20 years. However, Edmonton managed to avoid a lot of the pain, recording an unemployment rate of 6.5 per cent. In Calgary, the jobless rate now sits at 7.7 per cent, half a percentage point above the national average.
Whaley and Krishke said Leduc isn’t the only region being excluded; Nisku, New Sarepta, Beaumont, Calmar, Devon, Thorsby and Warburg also won’t benefit from the improved EI access.
They explain the Leduc region is home to the largest energy industrial park in Canada.
“Nisku and communities in the Leduc region have historically been largely employed by the energy and manufacturing sectors,” Whaley said.
“While we appreciate the need for diversification and exploration of alternative energy sectors for long-term sustainability, we don’t believe it is fair to penalize unemployed workers now.”
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