Trudeau announces EI benefits extended to three western regions
EDMONTON – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is extending employment insurance benefits to three western economic regions that were left out when changes were first made.
“More people … will be getting additional help from the federal government as we add them to the list of areas where residents will have access to extended employment insurance benefits,” Trudeau announced Friday in Edmonton.
“We said we would continue to monitor and assess the situation and act if need be,” he said. “Edmonton, southern Saskatchewan and southern interior B.C. now meet the criteria we established.
The March budget eased EI waiting periods and added weeks of coverage in 12 parts of the country hit hard by a prolonged downturn in commodity prices.
But the three western regions didn’t qualify under a formula used by the government.
The Liberals were under increasing pressure to add them to the list – especially from the premiers of oil-producing provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs due to low oil prices that have crept up somewhat in recent months, but nowhere near where they were two years ago.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall thanked the federal government for the extension of benefits in a statement but added more needs to be done to help the communities dependent on the oil industry.
“This will provide some relief to those insurable workers in southern Saskatchewan who have lost their jobs due to the downturn in the oil sector.” Wall said. “However, the real goal is to get people back to work which is largely dependent on the oil price but could be helped by the approval of national pipelines.”
Notley said the added EI aid is an important contribution to the province’s economic recovery. She thanked the government for putting up with her “nagging.”
Unemployed workers will be able to claim an extra five weeks of regular benefits up to a maximum of 50 weeks. Long-tenured workers will be able to receive an additional 20 weeks up to a maximum of 70 weeks.
“We’re doing this because we’ve heard from the people in these regions,” Trudeau said. “We understand their concerns. We’ve looked at the numbers. They show that additional help is merited.
Trudeau said no other regions will be added.
The prime minister was in Fort McMurray for much of the day to see first-hand the damage caused by a wildfire that swept through parts of the city last week.