Unemployed Calgary oil and gas worker hopes for an extension in EI benefits
In the U.S. economic crisis, the government extended employment benefits to 99 weeks in 2009
An out of work specialized oil and gas accountant is hoping the federal government will look at some sort of emergency measures for extending employment insurance benefits, similar to what the United States did in 2009.
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Karen Muma lost her job last February and she hasn't been able to find work for almost a year now.
"There are no jobs, how are people affording to live?" Muma asks.
She says she has tried to find work outside of oil and gas, but found employers were reluctant because they fear she will leave once the industry recovers.
Along with some severance pay, she qualified for 35 weeks of EI benefits but they run out next month.
"I was very surprised, I have never in my life been on EI and wasn't sure how it worked," Muma said. "I thought it was a year and you know it's getting close to that date where it's going to be cut off and it's like, what am I going to do?"
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Muma is not alone.
Tens of thousands of oil and gas workers have lost their jobs in the province as the price of oil plunges and energy companies rethink their workforce.
Employment insurance benefits vary by region, where the unemployment rate is lower, benefits don't last as long on the belief that it should be easier to find work.
Franco Savoia, an anti-poverty advocate, is concerned things could get much worse.
"My metaphor is, we have a hidden flood … we don't have water in our basements but there are thousands of Calgarians affected right now and I am really, really concerned," Savoia told CBC News.
"There are no easy fixes except that I think all of us as a community just have to really increase our awareness … [for those still working] we have to dig deeper and not just for Christmas but on a year-round basis, in all kinds of different ways."
Promise of jobs
Muma wonders if, on a federal level, Canada should look to what some other countries have done in extreme periods of unemployment.
In the United States during the economic crisis, Congress extended employment benefits to 99 weeks in 2009.
But Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk says Canada's federal government is not considering extending benefits at this time.
"What we are doing is trying to fulfil our campaign promises first," said Mihychuk, noting that their infrastructure projects will create jobs for Albertans.