EI changes welcomed by laid off Alberta workers — if they’re in the right city

Some Alberta workers to benefit from EI changes, but not all
WATCH: Some laid off Albertans will soon receive extended employment insurance benefits because of the economic slump in the province. As Reid Fiest reports, for many out of work Albertans, the relief is welcome, but what they really want is a job.

CALGARY — The line at a Calgary career fair said it all — 1,000 people queued up to land one of 100 jobs.

Gilroy Misquita said he is running out of time and hoped Wednesday would be the day he got an offer.

READ MORE: Here’s how much the new Canada Child Benefit will give you each month

Misquita was laid off from his job in the oilpatch a year ago, and his last Employment Insurance (EI) cheque will arrive in the coming days.

“It’s going to be very hard after that. I have a house, I have a mortgage to pay,” Misquita said.

“I don’t know how I’m going to manage.”

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EI changes for Calgary and rural parts of Alberta could see his benefits extended anywhere between five to 20 weeks.

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Requirements, along with wait times, will also be reduced.

“It will help for sure, but people don’t want to be on EI forever,” said Laura-Lee Lindstein, who was laid off from an oil company last October.

WATCH: The federal government is reducing wait times, cutting the hours needed to claim E.I. and extending how long you can collect it. Tony Tighe talked to some people looking for work at a job fair for their reaction.
E.I. changes welcomed by laid off Alberta workers
E.I. changes welcomed by laid off Alberta workers

The Alberta government estimates the changes are worth $380 million. But not everyone gets help.

Because Edmonton’s unemployment rate hasn’t risen as quickly the rest of Alberta, out-of-work Edmontonians are not eligible for the reduced requirements for EI.

READ MORE: The biggest losers of the 2016 federal budget: small business, wealthy Canadians

It’s an exclusion Premier Rachel Notley has said she will monitor.

“We will keep a sharp eye on the state of job losses in Edmonton,” Notley told reporters Tuesday, after the federal government released its budget for 2016-17.

“We will continue to push for changes if the situation worsens.”

Unemployed heavy-duty mechanic Mark Tonn said the situation is already bad. He believes he shouldn’t be excluded.

“We make all the money in Canada, so we should get just as good as benefits as everywhere else.”

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READ MORE: Trudeau won’t say why Edmonton was left out of EI extensions in federal budget 2016

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) said it’s not fair to workers who have always paid into EI.

AFL secretary-treasurer Siobhán Vipond said the federal government should review its decision.

“It’s not going to be hard to find a family who is wondering, just because of their address, [why] they’re not going to get the benefits to get through this time.”

Nine months of looking for work haven’t helped Kelly Kemick. She isn’t focused on a government cheque addressed to her; she wants to get back to work.

“I wish instead of an extension to EI, there was more incentives to get businesses up and running,” Kemick said.