COLUMN: Extending Employment Insurance sickness benefits

One of the challenges, with so many different events occurring in Ottawa, is that some become overlooked.

This occurred last week as the third party opposition Bloc Québécois had their first Opposition Day in the House and tabled the following motion:

Mr. Blanchet (Beloeil—Chambly): “That the House call on the government to increase the special Employment Insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks in the upcoming budget in order to support people with serious illnesses, such as cancer.”

After debate on this motion was complete a vote was held with the Bloc, Conservative and NDP voting in favour of the motion passing with the governing Liberals opposed.

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In the last parliament, this opposition motion would have been defeated however in this minority parliament, the motion passed.

Prior to this motion passing, the maximum time for the special employment benefit on EI was limited to 15 weeks, a limit that has been in place since 1971.

Unfortunately, how many Canadians might benefit from this change is unknown as the motion was not studied by committee prior to being submitted by the Bloc, as would have been the case with a bill.

This is one of the challenges in a minority parliament where a motion can be established politically and passed very quickly, potentially without sufficient scrutiny.

In this case, EI is a program funded by contributions from both workers and their employers.

This represents an extension of an existing EI benefit that could be of significant financial assistance to a person facing one of life’s greatest heath challenges.

In certain cases, it may very well be the only time some workers might access the EI benefits they have long paid into.

As a result, I supported this motion although I did state some reservations for the lack of proper parliamentary scrutiny.

My question this week:

Do you agree with the motion to extend “the special Employment Insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks in the upcoming budget in order to support people with serious illnesses, such as cancer.”

I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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