EI changes too complex, onerous, critics claim

People on employment insurance now have less time to find a new job as the federal government reforms its rules on benefits payments.

But critics say the new system will unfairly affect seasonal and contract workers — those who work in industries like forestry, landscaping and tourism — accustomed to collecting EI in the off-season.

These workers are still eligible for EI under the new changes, but the off-season is now a lot shorter.

Instead of having a few months in between jobs, they now only have a few weeks.

"The risk that is run here with these changes is that those people will leave those industries and go into other industries or be forced to go into other industries,” said Liberal labour critic Rodger Cuzner, MP for Cape Breton-Canso.

The Conservative government said the changes are meant to get workers back to work.

A new Canadian jobs alert system is expected to help make that possible, by sending two emails-a-day with potential jobs to people on EI.

But Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault said the changes are too complex.

"You need to be proving you are going to job openings and applying for job openings,” he said.

“They're creating this whole other system that now needs to be monitored. Well, who's monitoring?"

The ministry in charge of the changes says Canadians have always had the responsibility of actively looking for work while collecting Employment Insurance.

"The new regulations that came into effect on Sunday will help better guide them in terms of the expectations for conducting a reasonable job search and understanding what is deemed as suitable employment for them to accept," said Alyson Queen, director of communications for Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley.

"And overall, the changes are meant to better connect Canadians with available jobs that may exist in their local area, that match their skills.”

Thibeault acknowledges that people abuse the EI system, but doubt these new rules will change that.

“What we want to be doing is creating a system that will continue to support Canadians who have lost their job,” Thibeault said. “[We want to] make sure that they can get through, month-to-month, and then help them get that next job.”

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