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MP Report by Jay Hill, M.P.

“Conservative Government Extends EI Benefits for Long-tenured Workers”

The global economic recession has brought about job losses around the world. Some industries have been hit harder than others.

Here in Prince George-Peace River for example we’ve seen how especially difficult it has been for many forestry workers who’ve been employed in the same industry or company or even the same mill, over many years, without ever needing Employment Insurance (EI).Now, as the forest sector struggles to recover, they face the challenge of transitioning to a completely different industry before their EI benefits run out.

Our Conservative Government knows that these long-tenured workers need even more time to weather the economic downturn and find suitable employment. Throughout the summer we were busy listening to Canadians’ ideas about how to help long-tenured workers with the intent to table a bill as soon as Parliament resumed sitting.

And so this week, Bill C-50 was tabled to help long-tenured workers who have lost their jobs because of the global economic downturn, by temporarily providing an additional 5 to 20 weeks of EI regular benefits, depending upon how long they have been working and paying EI premiums.

This measure will go a long way towards helping local forestry workers but it’s not exclusive to their industry. A long-tenured worker is someone who has contributed to the EI program (paid at least 30% of the annual maximum EI premiums) for at least seven out of ten calendar years AND has received regular EI benefits for no more than 35 weeks in the last five years.

It’s estimated that approximately 190,000 long-tenured workers in Canada will benefit from this temporary measure, which will be phased out gradually as the economy improves. This initiative builds upon the creation by our Conservative Government earlier this year of the Career Transition Assistance program to provide earlier or extended EI regular benefits to long-tenured workers participating in training so that they can transition to a new industry or occupation.

Also as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, we further responded to the needs of long-tenured workers in vulnerable sectors by extending and increasing access to EI Work-sharing agreements (WSA’s) so that more employees can continue to work while companies experience a temporary shut-down. These extended WSA’s have been particularly helpful to local mills and workers.

We have made many other reforms to the EI system, some permanent and some temporary in light of the current global economic downturn. Out-of-work Canadians now have easier access to EI, they’re receiving EI benefits sooner and they’re eligible for EI benefits for a longer period of time. We are doing all of this without increasing the payroll tax burden on workers and businesses through a two-year temporary freeze on EI premiums.

To ensure the long-term prosperity of unemployed workers, our additional investments to expand the training available to EI recipients totals more than $1-Billion over the next two years. 

While there has recently been a “light at the end of the tunnel” for Canada’s economic recovery, our Conservative Government wants to ensure that when we finally do emerge from this challenge that our industries, businesses AND our workers are prepared “better-than-ever” to compete and succeed!

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