Question Period: Employment Insurance Senator Jane Cordy April 30th, 2013
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, Senator Cowan asked the leader a question about EI and whether there would be further consultation with premiers of the Atlantic provinces. I would like to let Senator Cowan know that there never was consultation with the Atlantic premiers before these changes came into being. I suppose one would ask if there would be new consultations.
The Atlantic premiers are obviously very concerned about the changes. In the last by-election in New Brunswick, which the Progressive Conservatives were expected to win and in fact came in third, the Progressive Conservatives lost the deposit because people were so annoyed. Senator Alward — I do not mean "senator." Perhaps that is in the works for when he loses the next election. Premier Alward yesterday said that what is alarming is the fact that the federal government did not do any background work, any economic impact assessments of what these changes would mean. Were assessments done? Were studies done before these background checks were brought in? If studies were done, would the leader table them in the Senate?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, our government's priority is the long-term prosperity of the country, jobs and growth. Obviously we want Canadians to fully participate in the economic well-being of the country, including and most importantly, having a good job.
There are many new programs connecting people with available jobs. However, for those who are unable to find work through no fault of their own, the EI fund is there, was there and will be there for them to access.
Senator Cordy: That was a great answer except it was not an answer to the question I asked. Honourable senators, the four provincial premiers of Atlantic Canada are committed to releasing initial results of their own EI regional impact study in July at meetings scheduled in Ontario. Was Premier Alward correct that there was no background work and no economic impact assessment of what the changes would mean to Atlantic Canada?
Senator LeBreton: First, I noted that they are working on a report that they say they will release in the summer. I am sure that my colleagues in the government will be very interested in hearing the results of that report.
Senator Cordy: My question the last two times was: Did the federal government do any assessment, any background work, before making these changes to EI as to what the effect would be on Atlantic Canada?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, my answer is: I was not the minister in the room so I cannot answer that.