Northerners stand to lose $7M with new EI changes

Northern residents may lose more than $7 million in employment insurance benefits with changes to EI rules coming into effect this weekend.

Changes that divide each territory into 2 labour market zones take effect Sunday

Northern residents may lose more than $7 million in employment insurance benefits with changes to EI rules coming into effect this weekend.

The changes take effect Sunday and affect Yukon, N.W.T., Nunavut and Prince Edward Island.

Each territory will now have two EI zones and it will be more difficult for people living in the capitals to qualify for benefits versus the rest of the territories.

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey obtained the documents through the Access to Information Act and shared them with CBC News. They forecast the impacts of the new rules based on current employment insurance data.

The changes mean people in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit will have to work 700 hours to qualify for EI, up from 420. They will also collect benefits for a maximum of 36 weeks instead of 45 weeks.

Estimates are nearly 1,400 hundred people across the North will be negatively affected by the changes — an average decrease of about $5,000 per person.

The projection is more than 600 people in Whitehorse will get fewer weeks of EI or less money, a total loss of around $3.3 million.

About 240 people in Yellowknife and 430 outside the capital may lose a total of $3.4 million; and about 50 people in Iqaluit and 50 outside the capital will lose about half a million total.

N.W.T. MP Dennis Bevington says many of the people affected work in seasonal positions.

"The money lost in the system is going to have a big effect on the local economy because those people that are on employment insurance, that money is spent; it's moved through the system," he said.

"It's vital for their very survival. In the North right now with the cost of living, it's something that's going to hit people very hard." 

The documents say that since the Conference Board of Canada is forecasting economic growth across the North, the timing is right for these changes. 


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