Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks after a roundtable on Employment Insurance in Calgary
Good afternoon everyone. Glad to see everyone here at the Kerby Centre today. It does extraordinary work for seniors in Calgary and is a wonderful occasion to highlight the great work that they do here.
I want to thank you all for coming out today and I especially want to thank the people you see behind me, who took the time to meet with me this morning. As you can see, it's an incredibly diverse group. There are young workers and seasoned veterans. People who worked in the oil and gas sector and others who worked in unrelated industries but who have also felt the effects of the economic downturn here in Calgary. What they have in common is that they've spent years paying into the Employment Insurance program and now, because the economy isn't doing as well as it once was, they need the security that the EI program can provide. We all sat down together this morning and had a really good conversation. A very honest conversation. People told me about their situations and about what they need government to do to help them get through this difficult period. One thing that kept coming back is their hopes to see Alberta come through this difficult period stronger. As challenging as their individual situations are, the sense of their communities, their neighbour...their neighbours and their province and country are always near to their hearts as well.
As I heard their stories I was struck by a few things. First, that these are people who embody hope and hard work. You don't send out almost 150 resumes if you don't have faith that one of those applications will pan out. And that's just one of the many stories I heard today, and I know it's not a unique one here in Calgary.
And second, I was reminded that the challenges Calgary is facing are not sector-specific. Oil and gas have been hard hit, but the whole community is feeling the effects. Whatever we can do to help one worker will help the entire community.
For my part, I was able to tell them about some of the changes to Employment Insurance proposed in last week's budget. One of the biggest changes involves extending the duration of EI benefits in areas where a rise in unemployment has been sharp and sustained and where there haven't been significant signs of recovery. Here in Calgary, this extension would mean that unemployed workers can claim an extra five weeks of regular benefits up to a maximum of 50 weeks, providing temporary financial support they need while they search for work. And for long, tenured workers - folks who haven't had to draw on the EI system in the past - the extension would provide up to 20 additional weeks of benefits, up to a maximum of 70 weeks.
Of course, it's not just about financial support. For those who receive these extended benefits, it's about the peace of mind that comes along with knowing that they'll be able, a little better, to pay their bills. They'll be a little better able to provide for their family while they continue to search for work; perhaps in an entirely different industry.
There are other changes to EI too, like reducing the waiting period to one week from two weeks. And making it easier for new workers and those re-entering the workforce to claim benefits when they need them. These are changes that will benefit people all across the country.
And we'll also make some significant investments in service improvements so that all claimants can get the information and support they need to receive EI as quickly as possible. Last week's budget also included significant and immediate investments in infrastructure to help create more good, well-paying jobs for Canadians. The kinds of jobs that will deliver long-term economic security to the middle-class and to those working hard to join it.
And the budget included other measures to help and strengthen and grow Canada's middle class. Measures like the middle-class tax cut and the new Canada Child Benefit. Together, these changes will deliver real, meaningful help at the time it is needed most. This morning, I was reminded that Canada's success isn't just the result of hard work. Canada is a great country because we work hard and because we take care of each other. Our budget reflects that truth.
Thank you again, all of you, for being here today, and I look forward to your questions.