Open Letter to Quebecers on Employment Insurance from Minister Jason Kenney

GATINEAU, QC, Nov. 27, 2013 /CNW/ - The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, issued the following open letter to Quebecers on Employment Insurance:

"It is difficult to debate those who use misinformation and false rhetoric to engage in fear-mongering, and refuse to focus on the facts.  They do this because the facts show a different picture than they are trying to paint.

It is clear that the Commission nationale d'examen sur l'assurance-emploi that has been touring the province and is now prepared to release its "report" has been nothing more than a partisan exercise, whose only interest has been to scare Quebecers without informing them about the facts involved in changes by the federal government to Employment Insurance.

And, so I want to give the facts directly to Quebecers.

The changes our government introduced to the EI system in 2012 are modest and reasonable. They are intended to make EI more responsive, fair, and flexible.

Moreover, these changes were made in part because a growing number of employers were experiencing labour shortages, even in regions of high unemployment, and were resorting to bringing in temporary foreign workers from overseas, rather than hiring local unemployed individuals.

It is important to note that there has been no change in the way that the unemployed qualify for EI.

EI recipients have always been required to look for work in their local area while they are receiving benefits.

As a matter of fact, the most recent data available we have shows that, for 2013, of those people who were disqualified from EI, far less than 1% were disqualified because they failed to search for work or refused to accept suitable work. Data also shows that 80% of the increase in disentitlements in 2013 is due to claimants being out of the country during the process, which is clearly against the rules. This has nothing to do with our EI changes.

Available work will only be considered suitable if the recipient would be better off accepting new employment than receiving benefits.  And seasonal workers who cannot find work during periods of seasonal unemployment will be expected to look for work, but not expected to move or to accept work that pays less than their EI benefits. They will always have the option of returning to their regular seasonal employment.  If an employer is not willing to hire someone because they have indicated they want to return to their seasonal employment, that EI recipient will continue to receive benefits.

Personal circumstances, such as access to transportation and child care, are always taken into account when determining acceptable employment.  Quebecers are not required to move, nor will they be expected to take jobs for which they are not suited, or which are unsuitable based on their personal circumstances.

Quebecers may not be aware of the opportunities that exist in their community.  That is why we've taken concrete action, such as improving the Job Alert system, to help job-seekers learn about jobs in their local area that match their skills.  To date, over 58 million alerts have been sent to Canadians who have voluntarily signed up.

The Commission nationale d'examen sur l'assurance-emploi heard testimony from witnesses, like the Regroupement des employeurs du secteur bio-alimentaire, which includes 1,500 employees in Quebec, saying that our changes to EI have made it possible to avoid hiring foreign temporary workers, and that their factories, nine in all, turned to labour sharing arrangements instead. The St-Bruno ski centre recently said that the EI changes have enabled the centre to find workers more easily.

Employment Insurance continues to be there for those who have paid into the system and have lost their job through no fault of their own, including in areas where jobs simply do not exist outside of seasonal or specialized industries.

Making the Employment Insurance system more responsive, fair, and flexible, and helping unemployed Quebecers obtain good quality jobs in their local area is good for the economy and most importantly, is good for Quebecers and their families."

Jason Kenney
Minister of Employment and Social Development

SOURCE: Employment and Social Development Canada

For further information:

(media only):

Alexandra Fortier
Office of the Minister
Media Relations Office

Employment and Social Development Canada
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