Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 20, 2014

Minister defends revised employment insurance rules

Changes to the federal employment insurance program means it will be harder for residents of Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit to qualify for payments and a shorter period for benefits for those in the northern capitals.

By Stephanie Waddell on February 20, 2014 at 4:12 pm


Photo by Vince Fedoroff

TALKING EI REFORMS – Jason Kenney, the federal Employment and Social Development minister, addresses the audience on hand Wednesday in the Pit of Yukon College.

Changes to the federal employment insurance program means it will be harder for residents of Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit to qualify for payments and a shorter period for benefits for those in the northern capitals.

Jason Kenney, the federal Employment and Social Development minister, was in town Wednesday as part of a tour across the North which took him to Yellowknife today.

He spoke Wednesday at Yukon College, touting the EI changes as a sign of Ottawa’s confidence in the North.

Since the 1970s, the EI program assumed an unemployment rate across the North of 25 per cent.

Recognizing more realistic unemployment figures of about five or six per cent in Whitehorse and 12 to 13 per cent in other communities, Kenney said the new formula considers the actual unemployment figures for each region.

It means that the three territorial capitals – Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit – will be their own separate regions, with the remaining parts of each territory their own regions under the employment insurance program.

Once the changes come into effect in October, residents of the northern capitals will have to work 700 hours in 52 weeks rather than the current 420 to qualify for EI, with benefits to run out after a maximum of 36 weeks instead of 45.

It essentially makes the three capital cities subject to the same rules as southern Canada.

“Things are changing for the better here in the territory,” Kenney said.

The changes will encourage more people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own to look for work, he said.

Throughout his presentation at the college, Kenney also highlighted a number of other initiatives under the federal budget tabled last week designed to “create jobs and opportunities and increase the quality of life for northerners….”

He also pointed out that with an average unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent, the Yukon has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country “and has enjoyed 10 successive years of economic growth.”

It’s also expected, according to the Conference Board of Canada, the Yukon’s economy will grow by nearly six per cent next year.

Speaking to reporters following the announcement, Kenney stressed the federal government is also focusing on training programs and investing in initiatives to help deal with skill shortages across the country through employers.

“We want employers to come to the table,” said the minister, who has long been touted as a potential Conservative Party leader.

Work is continuing on coming up with a new Canada Job Grant, with the federal government expected to bring a new proposal to each of the provinces and territories shortly.

See more on Kenney’s visit.

CommentsAdd a comment

bobby bitman

Feb 20, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Still extremely generous.  I agree whole heartedly with these changes.  Sometimes the Conservatives do get it right.  I admire them for having the courage to hit the hornet’s nest when it is neccessary.

Next thing should be lowering EI rates for employers to reflect the decrease in the costs of the program.  That should have been announced at the same time, otherwise it appears that the Conservatives are using the excess revenue in EI to dip into worker’s and employer’s pies to balance the budget so the Cons look good before the next election.

When are we going to hear about the premium decrease, Jason?

Yukoner 2

Feb 21, 2014 at 12:37 pm

If they want to save money go after welfare it’s a cancer on the tax payers.

bobby bitman

Feb 21, 2014 at 1:27 pm

I just did a bit of homework:  As of Jan 1 2013, the EI Operating Account had a deficit of $8.1 billion. Expected cash flow surplus for 2013 was $2.3 billion, which was used to pay down the debt in the account.  So I guess there will not be a premium decrease any time soon. Fair enough.

I am happy that the Conservatives are reducing the pay outs so the system sustains itself on average.

Five months of work will now qualify a person for 9 months of EI - still seems extremely rich to me and patently unneccessary.  Nine months to find a job?

June Jackson

Feb 21, 2014 at 7:18 pm

I agree with all previous contributors.  However, the changes won’t mean much to the recipients, as after their EI runs out, they just go back on welfare, find a seasonal job somewhere (or not), collect EI, and back on welfare. 

Those who want to work will find a job right away.  And that is the crux of it.. way too many do not want to work.


Feb 22, 2014 at 10:58 am

The only ones that honestly care, are either the bums who are too lazy to find a job or the ones that only want to work in the winter.  Yukon government needs also to toughen up its welfare system, other provinces could care less if your broke, get a job.

Max Mack

Feb 22, 2014 at 2:46 pm

The unemployment rate in the Yukon is distorted by the extremely high ratio of government employment. This distorts the market in all kinds of ways. Take out government employment and you get a very different picture.

The boom and bust nature of our economy is still driven by the resource sector, in particular mining. Currently, mining and exploration is in a downturn - while not quite a bust. This has led to lots of layoffs.

It is not clear where this will lead, despite the optimistic projections of some. Kenney has fallen into the same trap as countless others, that recent history in in the Yukon can be used to gauge future events.

I feel for people who are caught in the EI trap. It is very difficult to find meaningful work in today’s market conditions. Minimum wage pay in dead-end jobs is not very appealing.

Red Kneck

Feb 22, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Capitalism depends on a pool of unemployed labour. If everyone had a job capitalism would come to a grinding halt. That’s why they draw upon the unemployed in other countries. Supporting the unemployed is a development out of the dark ages of the industrial revolution.
Sounds like on this page the scape goaters would like us to go back there. Regressive attitudes that also want to trash the environment so someone can have a job.

bobby bitman

Feb 24, 2014 at 9:27 am

Max, it is true that mining along with many other resource industries including fishing and forestry, has long been subsidized by tax payers in many ways including paying a stable of workers to remain idle when the seasonal work stops and/or during temporary ‘down turns’ in commodity prices. That way they are available when the work starts up again.  It is all just an accepted part of the job package.

Being that this is expected, workers in these industries should be paying many times the EI rates that other workers do so that we stop subsidizing the mining industry.  The true costs of this industry should come out of their profits, not be passed along to other workers who have higher EI rates in order to keep paying resource workers who fully expect to be laid off on a regular basis whether due to seasonal work or commodity prices.

Time for the mining industry to start paying its own way.  WCB is run this way with different industries paying different rates.

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