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Human Resources Minister Diane Finley won't confirm whether planned changes to Employment Insurance will target repeat users, but said the details will be announced "soon" and that they will benefit people using the program.
In an interview with Evan Solomon that is airing Saturday on CBC's The House, Finley was asked several times about a report that said upcoming changes to EI will require repeat users to accept lower-paying jobs than people using the program for the first time.
"We haven't announced the details yet but we will be going forward. What we want to do is make sure every Canadian who is working is better off working than being on EI," Finley said. "The details are going to be announced in the coming weeks and months and what I can assure you is they are going to be fair and they're going to be reasonable."
Finley did not say the report was wrong when asked, but she did not confirm its content.
"Those details have not been released, we haven’t explained what they will be. We'll be doing that soon," she said. "We're going to be discussing the details in the very near future and anything up to that point in time is purely speculation."
The budget implementation bill, Bill C-38, refers to changes that are going to be made in the criteria for defining what is suitable work for EI recipients and for defining what are reasonable efforts to find work. Recipients of EI must show on an ongoing basis that they are looking for work in order to qualify for the benefit.
The opposition parties have been demanding details on what the changes will mean but Finley has said the legislation will be passed first, and then the new regulations will be made.
She told Solomon that the changes will be fair and reasonable and will help connect people with available jobs.
"People will be given a lot more help than they have been in the past to find jobs that are within their skill range," she said.
Finley said the government is aiming to make the system fairer and to eliminate disincentives to working that she says are built into the existing system.
"We're going to help them find work, better, faster, but they're going to have to make sure they are doing what they need to do to find a job," she said.
Liberal MP Scott Brison said the lack of information shows "a total disrespect" for Parliament and for Canadians because MPs are being asked to pass a bill that will have a dramatic effect on EI without knowing what the changes will be.
"By failing to provide to Parliament and to Canadians the details on what these changes to Employment Insurance will be, the minister has created a vacuum, there's all kinds of speculation and Canadians don't know, parliamentarians don't know, we have not been told," he said.
NDP House leader Nathan Cullen expressed frustration with the government's resistance to share its plans about EI changes.
"We need the facts," he said.
The full interview with Finley can be heard on CBC Radio on Saturday at 9 a.m. ET.