Mr. Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for her remarks.
Since taking office in 2015, our government has faced two overarching challenges. First, we have been working very hard to implement our own agenda of real change to help middle-class Canadians and those working very hard to join the middle class to attain the jobs and status they need to be able to provide for their families and themselves. At the same time, we have faced a second challenge, which is to reverse and fix the disastrous changes put in place by the previous government. While we see these two challenges playing out across the whole of government, I feel that the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has highlighted an area where we have been working especially hard to meet the needs of Canadians who need help the most.
While our employment insurance system has long been one of the core pillars of our social safety net for all communities, the fact is that under the previous government, long overdue and long required changes were left undone. Rather than ensuring that EI gave Canadians the flexibility they needed during challenging times, the previous government generally ignored the system and just hoped for the best.
That is why, since taking office, we have been working hard to make sure that EI meets Canadians' needs by providing equitable benefits across the country.
We have reduced the waiting period from two weeks to one, easing the financial burden on EI recipients at the beginning of their benefit period.
That change means Canadians are receiving an extra $650 million per year.
We rescinded the 2012 changes that specified what kind of jobs unemployed workers were supposed to look for and accept. We improved access to the program by getting rid of certain eligibility criteria for workers who are new entrants or re-entrants to the labour force.
I apologize for my French. I played hockey last year against the Conservatives and had my teeth knocked out, and proper pronunciation is still evading me at times. However, I will struggle on.
We introduced a more flexible working while on claim pilot project that helps certain claimants stay connected with the labour market and to earn extra income while they are on the claim between work sessions. Just a few weeks ago, we introduced new, more flexible EI benefits that help new mothers and parents spend more time with their families and other Canadians to take care of their loved ones during difficult times.
In her question, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot talked about seasonal workers and EI in the great province of New Brunswick. The reality of course is that this challenge goes beyond simply a single province and encompasses some very important sectors of the Canadian economy from coast to coast to coast, including agriculture, forestry, fishing, construction, all of which are essential components of our labour market and all of them reliant to various degrees on seasonal labour.
As the member knows, EI is designed to respond automatically to changes in an EI economic region's unemployment rate. That way, people residing in similar labour markets are treated fairly and similarly, with the amount of assistance provided adjusted according to the changing needs of regions and communities.
Our government is reviewing and seized with these issues. While we are very proud of what we have achieved so far, particularly considering the state of the system when we took it over, we will continue to work hard to provide more EI improvements to more Canadians who need it most all across the country. The issues that have been raised about the gap are significantly important, and we are working with employers, workers and unions, as well as provinces and local municipalities to try to find a way to resolve these issues as quickly as we can. Meanwhile, we continue to move forward with reforms that we think are important to EI.