The EI changes brought in by the previous government placed many Island residents in hard times as they faced reduced weeks, lengthened processing times, and an increased hours threshold for new claimants.
Groups such as the Coalition for a Fair EI were successful in convincing the Harper government to allow for a partial reprieve of the Working While on Claim Pilot project that allowed someone to work without having it clawed back at 100%. This pilot project will continue.
In the federal budget, our government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that we will be reducing EI premiums for workers and employers, reducing the waiting period to one week from two beginning in 2017, speeding up claims processing, and reducing the hour threshold for new claims. It is important to make it easier for new entrants and re-entrants to the labour market to access EI; often, these people are among the most vulnerable in a shaky labour market. Before, claimants had to work 910 hours to qualify; now, claimants will be required to meet the same regional thresholds as others (665 hours for Charlottetown, 420 hours for the rest of PEI). As a side note, all four Island MPs remain committed to removing the two zones for EI on Prince Edward Island and we are working to help make this happen.
Lastly, one of the most controversial changes that the Harper government implemented will be removed. The requirement to accept lower-paying jobs, and/or to travel far from home in search of work will be ended. We heard and saw the burden this was placing on many individuals and families. EI is a vital part of our social safety net, and I am proud of our new government for implementing these important changes.