Oil workers who have lost their jobs in southern Saskatchewan will now qualify for extended employment insurance (EI) benefits.
The southeast oil patch was one of the regions left out when the federal government offered extended EI benefits to areas hit the hardest by the downturn in oil prices. At the time of the federal budget in March, Edmonton, southern Saskatchewan and parts of southern interior B.C. did not qualify for the extra weeks of EI or shorter waiting periods according to a federal government formula.
After touring Fort McMurray on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that all three oil-producing western regions that were left out earlier now qualify for extra help.
“We’re doing this because we’ve heard from the people in these regions,” Trudeau said. “We understand their concerns. We’ve looked at the numbers. They show that additional help is merited.”
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has been pushing the federal government hard on this issue since the changes were announced in March. He issued the following statement by email on Friday in response to Trudeau’s announcement.
“Thank you to the federal government for listening and ensuring that the extension of EI benefits are expanded to southern Saskatchewan and are now consistent with the last unemployment numbers. This will provide some relief to those insurable workers in southern Saskatchewan who have lost their jobs due to the downturn in the oil sector. However, the real goal is to get people back to work which is largely dependent on the oil price but could be helped by the approval of national pipelines.”
Unemployed workers will be able to claim an extra five weeks of regular benefits up to a maximum of 50 weeks. Long-tenured workers will be able to receive an additional 20 weeks up to a maximum of 70 weeks.
with files from Canadian Press