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DeBellefeuille calls for employment insurance reform

Salaberry-Suroît MP Claude DeBellefeuille is calling for a global reform to the federal employment insurance program. The member of parliament aired her frustrations during a press conference March 15 at her office in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, where she denounced systemic delays within the program while demanding the implementation of quick and efficient solutions to remedy the situation.

DeBellefeuille was joined by France Robert, the executive director of the Comité chômage du Haut-Richelieu et du Suroît, who spoke of the backlog of requests for employment insurance (EI) that have accumulated in 2022 and 2023. “We have files where workers have been waiting for an answer for four, five, even six months,” she said, noting over 30 per cent of the files her organization handles are related to administrative delays. “This is unacceptable!” she exclaimed, while explaining how such delays can lead to unfortunate situations where workers are forced to scale back their expenses to make ends meet. “Workers are at the end of their rope right now and many are in distress.”

DeBellefeuille explained that there has been a sharp increase in the number of workers waiting on EI benefits who are calling her constituency office for help. “My office is helping people get through the administrative maze, but this is far from an optimal situation. Workers who have paid into EI all their lives are entitled to quality service,” she said, while noting her office has intervened on behalf of citizens facing delays with their EI claims in the past, but this used to happen in relation to complex cases. Now her office is hearing about issues that are quite simple, she said. “The machine is breaking down,” suggested DeBellefeuille, who insists solutions exist, but they involve better adapting the system to the new reality of the workforce.

 

Two women, smiling, sit in large black leather chairs behind a table. On the table is a small Quebec flag, a glass of water and some papers and pens.
France Robert the executive director of the Comité chômage du Haut Richelieu et du Suroît left joined Salaberry Suroît MP Claude DeBellefeuille in calling for changes to the federal employment insurance program PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

“It is high time to put words into action for mothers discriminated against by EI, for forgotten seasonal workers, and for workers receiving health benefits who have been abandoned too early by the program,” DeBellefeuille said, while reiterating her demand for reform. Robert, while seconding her call, also noted how important it is that workers recognize and stand up for their rights and ask for help when they need it.

Robert said the last time the program saw significant reform was by the Conservative government in 2012-13, which resulted in serious cuts to EI for seasonal workers, among others. The Liberal government made a few improvements to the program when they took over office, she explained, but she insisted these were far from the comprehensive changes they have been promising since 2015.

Chrystia Freeland has announced that the next federal budget will be released on March 28. She has suggested the budget will focus on clean energy, making life more affordable for Canadians and job growth. The Bloc Québécois has already signalled EI reform as a key demand that must be met for the party to support the budget.

“The ultimate pressure would be to vote against a budget that would go against the interests of Quebec workers,” summarized the Member of Parliament for Salaberry-Suroît.

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