AFL calls on PM to fix the gaps in Alberta’s EI system

Putting money in the pockets of unemployed Albertans is the most powerful economic stimulus.

Edmonton - Alberta’s largest worker advocacy organization is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to broaden eligibility for employment insurance in Alberta.

The Prime Minister’s visit to Alberta on Tuesday was announced because of the need to boost the provincial economy, which has been hit hard by falling oil prices. In January, the Alberta Federation of Labour wrote letters to the Prime Minister and to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, asking them to make Employment Insurance reform a priority when looking at ways to stimulate the economy.

“I applaud Prime Minister Trudeau for taking the needs of the Alberta economy seriously,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “The federal government has promised to increase infrastructure spending in Alberta. Those kinds of initiatives are welcome, but I am also very hopeful that he will see that one of the quickest and most effective ways to stimulate the economy – and to help Albertans weather the current recession – is to reform and expand the Employment Insurance program.”

Today in Calgary, workers must work 630 hours before they can qualify for employment insurance, while in Newfoundland and Labrador, they only need to have worked 420 hours. Because of this disparity, only 37 per cent of unemployed Albertans receive Employment Insurance.

“This is clearly unacceptable and patently unfair — especially in the context of the current recession,” McGowan said. “The most powerful economic stabilizer in Canada is Employment Insurance. But when the vast majority of those who are out of work can’t access it, there’s something wrong with the system.”

The Alberta Federation of Labour is calling for dramatic changes to the EI system to make it fair for all Albertans and Canadians, including a reversal of changes in 2012 that saw the creation of a three-tiered system that made benefits harder to claim. Because of these changes, young workers and new Canadians face eligibility requirements for EI of more than 900 hours of employment.

“During times like these, EI isn’t just a tool that helps workers and their families bridge the gap between jobs. It’s a bulwark that helps the whole economy stave off the worst depths of a recession,” McGowan said.

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Link to AFL letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau HERE.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail orokne@afl.org

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