Rural P.E.I. to receive more EI benefits under new plan

Prince Edward Island is being split into two regions for calculating employment insurance, says Gail Shea, the Island's representative in the federal cabinet.

Rural P.E.I. to get more benefits due to higher unemployment in those areas

The Charlottetown region would stretch up to the North Shore. The rest of the province would be a separate region known as P.E.I. (Government of Canada)

Prince Edward Island is being split into two regions for calculating employment insurance, says Gail Shea, the Island's representative in the federal cabinet.

The Charlottetown area, which actually stretches up to the North Shore, will be one region, and the rest of the Island will comprise the second. The change takes effect on Oct. 12.

"It's a true reflection of what the actual economic conditions are in the region because, for example, in rural P.E.I. right now the unemployment rate is probably close to 15 per cent," said Shea.

“They would get more than five weeks in additional benefits, so it all depends on the unique situation that each worker finds themselves in and the number of hours they have when they go to claim."

The creation of the two regions reflects the difference in employment opportunities. Shea pointed out that between June 2011 and June 2013 the unemployment rate in Charlottetown was on average five points lower than in the rest of the province.

Innovation and Advanced Learning Minister Allen Roach wasn't excited about the announcement. He argues the Charlottetown zone extends into parts of rural P.E.I. — all the way to parts of the North Shore.

"After all of the discussion we’ve had with Ottawa and all of the suggestions we’ve made to Ottawa, they've addressed absolutely none of our concerns," he said.

Leigh Knox with the Prince County Fishermen’s Association is happy with the news. 

"This is a great announcement for our industry, for the plant workers, the second man in the back of the boat — this going to at least bring back some of the income for them,” he said.

Jessica Dorgan-Trail with West Prince Ventures agreed. 

"It's a good thing for the families of the communities all around that we may actually have a chance to stay here," she said.

EI reflecting economic conditions

In April of 2013, the federal government introduced a new method of calculating benefit payments based on the unemployment rate in the claimant's region.

Regions with higher unemployment use fewer weeks of employment earnings in the benefits calculation. That has the tendency to boost benefit payments in high unemployment areas, and drive them down in low unemployment areas.

Canada is divided into 58 EI regions.

Currently all of Prince Edward Island is part of the same EI region.

On P.E.I. 490 hours of work are required for benefits, with 23 to 45 weeks payable. The government has not yet provided details of how that would change in the two new regions.

Across the country, hours of work required vary from 420 to 700; minimum weeks payable from 14 to 35; and maximum weeks from 36 to 45.

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