New Brunswick

Justin Trudeau promises employment insurance reforms

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised major changes to the employment insurance during a campaign stop in Bouctouche, N.B., on Tuesday morning.

Liberal leader will stop in Beausejour, Miramichi-Grand Lake and Fredericton on Tuesday

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced major changes to the Employment Insurance program during a campaign stop in Bouctouche, N.B., on Tuesday. (CBC)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised major changes to employment insurance during a campaign stop in Bouctouche, N.B., on Tuesday morning.

Standing in front of Le Pays de la Sagouine, an iconic tourist attraction in southeastern New Brunswick, Trudeau criticized the EI reforms brought in by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and promised to reverse some of the most controversial aspects.

"Although things might look fine for Stephen Harper from 24 Sussex Drive, in many parts of the country, including here in Atlantic Canada, people need help," Trudeau said at a campaign stop.

"They need real help, not the empty reassurances that Stephen Harper offers or the empty promises of Thomas Mulcair."

Trudeau announced four specific changes Liberals would make to the federal program.

The Liberal leader said the waiting period for EI benefits would be cut to one week from two weeks.

"This means that after losing a job and applying for EI, workers will only be without income for one week instead of two. This will put hundreds of dollars more in the hands of workers who apply for benefits," he said.

The Liberal leader also promised to reduce the waiting time for claims to be processed. He said claims can, at times, take five or six weeks just to be processed by the federal government.

Trudeau called that waiting period "unacceptable."

'Canada has to make these changes'

Among the other proposed reforms, the Liberals would end the 910-hour eligibility period before people can collect benefits would be eliminated.

Trudeau also promised to make parental leave and compassionate care benefits more flexible.

He also said there will be more federal funding for the Labour Market Development Agreements.

The Liberal leader said these proposed changes will benefit those Canadians, who need help from the federal government.

"I've heard clearly from seasonal workers here and across the country that the changes that will make the immediate difference will be cutting the waiting period in half and reducing the time it takes to start receiving benefits," he said.

"There is no question that Canada has to make these changes."

The EI reforms introduced by Stephen Harper's Conservative government prompted protests across New Brunswick.

The former Progressive Conservative government of David Alward also distanced itself from the federal changes.

Atlantic premiers also called on the federal government to suspend the EI reforms in 2013.

The EI reforms caused significant concern in many communities that rely on seasonal employment and the tourism industry.

The Liberal leader said he has long promised to reverse the changes made by the Conservatives.

"There is more that the federal government can do to help these workers and indeed all workers who find themselves temporarily unemployed," Trudeau said.

New Brunswick campaign

The EI announcement was made in the tourist town of Bouctouche, which is in the heart of the riding of Beausejour, where Dominic LeBlanc is running for re-election. LeBlanc was the only Liberal elected in New Brunswick in 2011.

The campaign will shift to Neguac on Tuesday afternoon, where Trudeau will appear with Pat Finnigan, the candidate for Miramichi-Grand Lake.

The Liberal leader will end his New Brunswick tour at a campaign barbecue in Fredericton, where Matt DeCourcey is trying to win the Fredericton riding for the party.

The Conservatives held eight of 10 New Brunswick ridings when the election was called.

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