Thank you very much for the question.
I'd like to clarify one point before responding. That is, when I talked about Alberta, my projection is that individual workers in Alberta who are frequent claimants will be much more strongly impacted than workers in other regions, especially other regions with high unemployment rates. That's different from talking about whether the region will be very impacted by the policy change. I don't think Alberta will be much impacted.
There will be a small number of workers in Alberta who will be extremely impacted. The regions that will be most impacted are regions with a lot of workers who are frequent claimants and therefore most subject to the policy, and a region that has jobs available for those workers.
I agree with you entirely that Canada has a broad diversity of economic circumstances and a large number of regional economies. It's not clear that the EI system right now functions very well in any of those regions. If you think about the EI system, it encourages, in fact it subsidizes, part-year but full-time work. I think this is particularly detrimental.
There was a recent study—in my mind, a very good, high-quality study—comparing northern Maine and southern New Brunswick over an extremely long period of time. The U.S. introduced its unemployment insurance system first, in the 1930s. Canada then built its unemployment insurance next, and after that, the EI system became more generous. You can see workers over long periods of time, and you can see firms in particular, over long periods of time, tailoring their behaviour to the parameters of the EI system. You see a massive increase in part-year, full-time work.
I view this as very detrimental to the Canadian economy. If you look at some other countries, Scandinavian countries, that have weather and climate very similar to us, you don't see this. You don't see construction, for example, as a seasonal industry. It's not a seasonal industry. But in Canada, the EI system encourages it to become a seasonal industry.
I think the more we can redesign our EI system so that it does not subsidize, support, and in fact encourage seasonal work, and the more it encourages people to work all year round and encourages employers to have year-round jobs, the better we'll be.
This will be a painful thing for many workers to change, because we've built up this system that functions the way it does over a long period of time. Workers and firms have become very used to it. But for the very long term, it is problematic.