'We're applying the cold, hard mathematics,' PM says of EI changes - Macleans.ca

‘We’re applying the cold, hard mathematics,’ PM says of EI changes

Brad Wall and Justin Trudeau continue to spar over EI program changes

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall speaks to reporters before a meeting with premiers hosted by the Council of The Federation in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. (Justin Tang/CP)

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall in Ottawa on Nov. 23, 2015. (Justin Tang, CP)

EDMONTON — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall renewed his attack Wednesday on Justin Trudeau’s employment insurance changes but the prime minister said the issue boils down to “cold, hard mathematics.”

Wall praised the extensions to EI coverage for 12 areas hit hard by the resource downturn, but questioned why the government employed a straight-up regional statistical cutoff rather than helping people in specific industries, such as oil and gas.

“It’s not a lot, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction, except the federal government excluded two-thirds of our oilpatch,” said Wall.

Wall took aim at some of Trudeau’s comments from Tuesday, when the prime minister said those in Edmonton and Saskatchewan complaining about being left out of changes should feel fortunate their areas have not been harder hit by the downturn in energy prices.

“I know those laid-off workers,” said Wall.

“If the federal government has a program to help provide a bit of support for energy workers, why in the world would they exclude southwestern Saskatchewan, southeastern Saskatchewan, and why then would anyone say that you should happy about that? They’re not happy about that.”

Last week’s federal budget included provisions to help workers in regions where the unemployment rate increased by two percentage points or more for a sustained period over the last 12 months when compared with the lowest point between 2014 and early 2015.

The 12 regions are: Whitehorse, Nunavut, northern British Columbia, northern Manitoba, northern Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Alberta, southern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan, Calgary, Saskatoon, and Sudbury, Ont.

The budget adds five weeks to the regular 45 weeks of EI benefits, effective in July and retroactive to January 2015.

Long-tenured workers will also be eligible for an extra 20 weeks of benefits, to a maximum of 70 weeks.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has expressed concern that workers in Edmonton have been excluded.

The job losses have been less severe in the Alberta capital due, in part, to the city being home to many provincial civil servants.

Notley’s government has not cut the civil service during the downturn, saying that would make a bad situation worse.

Trudeau faced renewed questions on the Edmonton exemption while touring the city Wednesday.

He reiterated that the federal government is not arbitrarily picking winners and losers.

“We’re applying the cold, hard mathematics,” Trudeau told reporters after meeting with families at a southside library.

“We’re continuing to base our decisions on evidence and facts and making sure that we’re helping out the people who need the help the most.”


‘We’re applying the cold, hard mathematics,’ PM says of EI changes

  1. A big segment of workers in the oil and gas industry (and mining industry) are commuters. Consider three laid off workers from same oil sands facility in Ft. MacMurray. One lives locally in Ft. MacMurray, one commutes from Edmonton, and one commutes from Newfoundland.

    Under Trudeau’s nonsensical plan, two of the workers are eligible, and one isn’t, even if they have been working side by side.

    • Amazing how rules that were fine when they were seen as applying to the East are considered bad when more lenient versions of them are applied to the West.

    • If what you claim was true then unemployment in Alberta would be much more even across the province.

    • And finally, the length of time people receives EI is based on the level of unemployment where they live and therefore the possibility of finding a new job there. What you want is a new rule made up especially to apply to the oil sands that was not seen as necessary when anyone else was unemployed.

      • How about, instead, a new rule that recognizes the equity of returning to unemployed Edmonton area workers some of the hundreds of millions of EI premiums they and their former employers have contributed in recent decades that were not paid out to Edmonton area claimants because of historic low unemployment? Or is that not relevant, just like billions in equalization payments aren’t relevant when it comes to seeking pipeline approvals in recipient provinces?