My name is Mireille Laroche. I'm the director general of employment insurance policy at HRSDC. This is my colleague, Mark Hodgson, from the Department of Finance.
In the budget implementation bill there are six proposed changes to the Employment Insurance Act. I will go through them in sequence.
The first change proposes to align the calculation of EI benefit amounts with local labour market conditions. This proposes a new approach to calculating EI benefits that would come into force on April 7, 2013.
Under the new approach the required number of best weeks, which would range between 14 and 22 weeks of employment earnings, that would be considered for the purposes of calculating benefits would be determined in accordance with the local unemployment rate in the region where the client resides.
The second change pertains to the refund of premiums to a self-employed person. It would ensure that insurable earnings as well as self-employed earnings were taken into account when determining whether a self-employed person who has opted into the program to receive special benefits can be eligible for a premium refund.
The third measure regards the administration of overpayment of benefits. This amendment would provide discretion in pursuing potential overpayment arising from employer bankruptcy or wrongful dismissal. It would provide this discretion under two conditions: first, if more than 36 months have elapsed since the layoff or separation from employment; and second, if the administrative costs of determining the overpayment would likely exceed the amount of the repayment.
The fourth change pertains to the assignment of benefits program within the EI program. It would remove the requirement that claimants have to consent in writing to have deductions made from EI benefits to reimburse any provincial government for social assistance or welfare payments that they would typically receive prior to receiving their special benefits or regular benefits.
The fifth change pertains to premium rate setting and is in response to the public consultations that were held on this matter in the fall. It has three broad elements. The first one provides for an earlier announcement or notice of the new EI premium rate for the coming year by advancing the date by two months, that is, from November to September. The second change proposes to amend the EI Act to change the premium rate setting per se. Under this proposed change, the premium rate would be set annually at a seven-year break-even rate to ensure that the EI operating account is in cumulative balance at the end of that period. This rate-setting mechanism would come into force once the EI operating account has returned to a cumulative balance. The third change within the premium setting proposal is to affix the legislative limit on year-to-year changes to the premium rate to 5¢ per $100 of insured earnings.
The last proposed change is with regard to connecting Canadians to an available job. It proposes to amend the Employment Insurance Act to provide the Canada Employment Insurance Commission with the authority to develop regulations pertaining to the definition of suitable employment for various types of claimants and also to define what would constitute a reasonable job search.