Joint Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honorable Justin Trudeau

September 21, 2022

From: Federations of labour in the Maritime/Atlantic Region.

Subject: Do not revert to the old rules for Employment Insurance.

September 21, 2022

Dear Prime Minister:

We are writing to urge you to extend the uniform 420-hour entrance requirement for Employment Insurance benefits and administrative simplification measures that are scheduled to expire on September 24th, 2022. Introduced during the pandemic, the lower entrance requirement and administrative simplification measures have afforded access, and improved benefits for many part-time, seasonal, and precariously-employed women and racialized workers ordinarily shut out of EI.

Since 2019, your government has committed to creating an EI system for the 21st century that works for everyone. Public consultations about improving access and fairness are ongoing, and permanent changes have not been announced, much less implemented. We are dismayed the government is now poised to make the EI system worse, not better on September 25th, laid-off workers expecting to access EI under the temporary rules will find themselves shut out of the program. Many of these laid-off workers will have worked through the pandemic, even as others benefited from lower eligibility requirements for emergency recovery benefits and special EI rules. New mothers and parents will now be unable to access parental benefits.

At the same time as the government prepares to extend EI Sickness Benefits from 15 to 26 weeks, the expiry of the temporary rules will make it more difficult to access the benefit. Prime Minister, this is the wrong time to take this step. As inflation and interest rate hikes begin to slow economic activity, there is considerable uncertainty about the future. The jobs recovery has plateaued, economic growth is moderating, and the unemployment rate has risen. Labour shortages in the Maritime/Atlantic region have deeply-rooted causes. They will not be rectified by withdrawing access to EI benefits, as the termination of Canada Recovery Benefits in the fall of 2021 demonstrated.

The decision to allow temporary EI rules to expire, indicated in Budget 2022, is also not backed by current evidence. ESDC has been unable to provide simulations or modelling justifying the decision. Research by the Canadian Labour Congress suggests that after September 24th, many laid-off workers will be unable to access EI benefits. Based on existing unacceptable delays in processing EI claims, we also have grave concerns about the ability of Service Canada staff to process claims under the pre-pandemic EI rules in a timely fashion.

Prime Minister, I urge your government to extend the temporary EI rules until permanent improvements to access and benefit levels can be brought into force.

Carl Pursey PEI Federation of Labour
Mary Shortall NFLD Federation of Labour
Daniel Legere NB Federation of Labour
Danny Cavanagh NS Federation of Labour

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