Ex­tended EI ben­e­fits sur­pass bud­get ex­pec­ta­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS -

The fed­eral Lib­er­als are look­ing for an­swers af­ter the gov­ern­ment’s pro­gram to help work­ers in hard-hit eco­nomic re­gions of the coun­try blew past bud­get ex­pec­ta­tions, with spend­ing now top­ping $1.3 bil­lion.

The gov­ern­ment fig­ured that just 235,000 peo­ple would use ex­tra weeks of em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance ben­e­fits when they un­veiled the pro­gram last year to help work­ers in 15 re­gions of the coun­try with stub­born un­em­ploy­ment rates.

That was pro­jected to cost the gov­ern­ment $827.4 mil­lion be­tween April 2016 and March 2019.

But as of July 9, Em­ploy­ment and So­cial Devel­op­ment Canada said that it had spent just un­der $1.31 bil­lion on the ex­tra weeks of ben­e­fits for 317,261 claimants.

The spend­ing fig­ure may yet change as of­fi­cials pore over the last few claims that trick­led in by last week’s dead­line for pro­gram eligibility.

A re­port will be com­ing out in Septem­ber with a re­vised cost for the pro­gram.

A spokesman for So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Du­c­los said that the high cost for the pro­gram was one of the rea­sons it wasn’t re­newed and that a re­view is un­der­way to de­ter­mine why costs ex­ceeded es­ti­mates.

Op­po­si­tion crit­ics ar­gued the fault lay in the Lib­er­als’ eco­nomic pol­icy.

Con­ser­va­tive critic Pierre Poilievre said the gov­ern­ment’s moves to in­crease taxes had a neg­a­tive ef­fect on hir­ing, which meant more spend­ing on em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance pro­grams.

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