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Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Seasonal workers in certain areas of the country will get up to five more weeks of employment insurance benefits under a $189 million pilot project announced Monday by Ottawa.

Jean-Yves Duclos, the minister of Families, Children and Social Development, made the announcement at a fisheries plant in Escuminac, N.B., as other Liberals touted the project in Atlantic Canada and in Quebec.

An estimated 51,500 workers — in parts of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Yukon — will benefit from the extra weeks of employment insurance.

“We know that some seasonal workers have long struggled to find sufficient hours of work to qualify for enough EI benefits to carry them through the off-season,” said Duclos.

“Economic diversification and economic development are key to finding long-term solutions to help seasonal workers, but our government also understands that this is a pressing issue that requires short-term actions.”

Duclos said up to five more weeks will be provided to eligible workers in seasonal industries in 13 regions who start a benefit period between Aug. 5, 2018 and May 30 2020.

Those economic regions include eastern and western Nova Scotia, Madawaska–Charlotte in New Brunswick, central Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, excluding St. John’s, N.L.

“This means families will have more support to help them go through the winter. Today’s announcement will also help close the income gap and help give individuals and families the support they need when they need it most,” said Duclos.

The Liberals currently hold every seat in Atlantic Canada and the lone Yukon seat, and hope to make gains in Quebec in a federal election scheduled for October 2019.

The government said it was targeting areas with higher proportions of seasonal claimants to the total labour force and higher than average employment insurance unemployment rates in 2017.

The federal government said it would also provide up to $41 million over two years to all provinces and territories through labour market development agreements to provide skills training, wage subsidies and employment supports for workers in seasonal industries.

Ottawa said the funding was part of a budget commitment to provide $230 million to help workers in seasonal industries.

A list of economic regions included in Monday’s announcement:

1. Bas-Saint-Laurent–Cote-Nord

2. Central Quebec

3. Charlottetown

4. Chicoutimi-Jonquiere

5. Eastern Nova Scotia

6. Gaspesie–Iles-de-la-Madeleine

7. Madawaska–Charlotte

8. Newfoundland and Labrador (excludes capital city)

9. North Western Quebec

10. Prince Edward Island

11. Restigouche–Albert

12. Western Nova Scotia

13. Yukon (excludes capital city)