How changes to EI region boundaries could affect workers

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A federal department is reconsidering the boundaries that determine how workers in different areas qualify for employment insurance.

Changes to the 64 EI regions, as they’re known, would send political ripples through the country as some workers benefit while others find themselves with tougher hurdles to clear to get benefits.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the access-to-information law show how fraught the process can be, noting complaints that haven’t subsided after the last change five years ago.

Employment and Social Development Canada is working on a fast-tracked review of the current boundaries that help decide the number of hours workers need to put in to qualify for EI benefits and how much they can receive depending on where they live.

In general, the idea is to make benefits more generous in parts of the country where it’s harder to get work, though a quirk of the system is that it’s based on residency, not where jobs are. Two people who get laid off from the same company at the same time could have different benefit entitlements because they live on opposite sides of an EI-region boundary.

How the department determines where to draw the lines separating EI zones will be different from previous reviews, with the internal documents detailing a plan to emphasize some factors over others, including putting less reliance on unemployment rates.

If all goes according to plan, the department anticipates making recommendations by September 2020 — one year after this fall’s federal election.

“Changes in boundaries need to be made in a very thoughtful manner because any change in boundaries will involve losers and winners,” Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, who oversees the EI system, said in a recent interview.

Duclos said the objective needs to be making the EI system better and not about picking “who wins and who loses. That would be a political objective.”

Where the lines go can make a big difference in local politics. Alberta has zones centred on Edmonton and Calgary that include some suburban and surrounding rural areas but not others. After oil prices crashed, the Edmonton region was at first excluded from a 2016 boost to EI benefits, leading to complaints from people who worked in the oilpatch but had permanent addresses in the city.

The 2014 review split P.E.I. into two EI zones with boundary lines drawn in a way that benefited the lone Conservative riding in the province: The entirety of the riding of Egmont, covering the western end of the Island, fell into an EI zone where workers needed fewer hours of work to qualify for benefits.

Tory cabinet minister Gail Shea nevertheless fell to a Liberal challenger the next year. Changing the boundaries so P.E.I. is again one region — as the Liberals once pledged to do — could be problematic for rookie Liberal MP Bobby Morrissey, who holds the Egmont seat, where residents would suddenly lose their advantage.

“It’s extremely unfair, but the dilemma — and I can understand this from my colleague Bobby Morrissey’s point of view — is if you go to one system, then there will be a loss to P.E.I.,” said Wayne Easter, a long-time Island Liberal MP. His riding of Malpeque is partly in the EI zone with more generous benefits, partly in the zone centred on Charlottetown that has less generous benefits.

Any time he goes to an event, people in his own party like to point out the Liberals committed to reverse the changes and tell him that if “it isn’t changed, I’m not going to be able to support you.”

Federal officials, Easter said, must ensure there is a “better understanding of how and why” any changes are made.

The last two-year review wrapped in 2018 without any changes, and provided a set of lessons the department plans to apply this time around. A presentation to the department’s top official noted the unemployment rate should be considered separately from other factors when deciding the borders of an EI region.

The documents say that other labour-market factors — such as the kinds of industries, local demographics and the number of seasonal jobs — would provide a better understanding of the differences between neighbouring regions with similar unemployment rates.

Officials discussed using unemployment rates in the review by looking at long-term trends rather than at a single point in time.

The department said the current review started in October 2018, but there is no requirement at the end for the Canada Employment Insurance Commission, which is responsible for the boundary review, to make any changes.

Tornado victims fear rising insurance rates

Sunday’s twister damaged homes, downed trees

Robyn Miller · CBC News

Kim Lussier has had some bad luck with her car lately.

Lussier’s Hyundai sedan has been rear-ended three times in the last year. Then, during Sunday’s tornado in Orléans, a tree fell on it, smashing its rear window.

Now the car sits partly covered by a blue tarp in her driveway, and Lussier is fretting over much her insurance coverage will cost after this latest claim.

I don’t want to be a hostage of the insurance policy.- Kim Lussier, Orléans resident
“It’s hard because you don’t have a choice,” she said Tuesday. “You need insurance, and if you apply elsewhere they want to know your history of claims, so there’s no getting around that…. I don’t want to be a hostage of the insurance policy.”

Some of Lussier’s neighbours on Wincanton Drive have similar concerns about their insurance rates. On Tuesday, fallen branches and other storm debris still lined the quiet residential street off Jeanne D’Arc Boulevard N., near Petrie Island and the Ottawa River.

A large tree on Lussier’s property leaned precariously toward her neighbour’s.

“I’m supposed to retire in a couple of years and I’ve had all of this [bad] luck with extra expenses that impact my savings and my future,” Lussier said.

Waiting ‘all we can do’

Nearby, Mike Mullen was surveying the hole in his roof left by Sunday’s sudden storm. He said he contacted his insurance provider right away.

“We’re just kind of cleaning up and waiting, really. That’s all we can do,” Mullen said.

He was taking a more fatalistic approach to the possibility of rising insurance rates. “It’s an extra cost every month, right? But I don’t know what else we can do. It’s what it is.”

On nearby Lawler Crescent, Debbie Harris said she and her husband are also awaiting quotes regarding their damaged roof.

“I’m not overly concerned at this point, though I am hearing more tornados and things like that [could strike the area], so I would imagine at some point we’re going to see differences,” she said. “Definitely, I would think they’d go up before they’d go down.”

Will rates go up?

Pierre Babinsky, director of communications and public affairs with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, confirmed the storm damage could impact rates, depending on the insurer.

“Generally, premiums will go up once the insurer needs to adjust them to compensate for whatever they have to pay to settle claims,” Babinsky said.

“If it’s a costly year for the insurer and he’s paid more than he’s collected in premiums, then there’s a fair chance that he will raise premiums.”

Babinsky said in 2018, insurers paid nearly $2 billion in settlements related to severe weather across Canada, a historically high amount.

He advises tornado victims to get in touch with their insurance companies as soon as possible and to carefully document everything.

Child’s emergency near takeoff time voids rebooking despite ‘Flex’ airfare

Family purchased Transat’s Option Flex, which allows flight changes up to 3 hours prior to departure

Kate Bueckert · CBC News ·

A family from Fergus, Ont., had a vacation dream dashed after a medical emergency and now they’re warning others to pay close attention to the differences between flexible tickets and travel insurance.

Mark and Nicole Ruzycki and their two children were at the airport early in the morning on May 22, set to celebrate their daughter’s 8th birthday in Cuba. But about an hour before boarding, 3-year-old Jake developed a rash.

Airport paramedics recommended they not fly and instead, go right to the hospital.

“This has never happened to us, it was quite the scare,” Mark Ruzycki said.

The doctor at the Toronto-area hospital where they first went said it appeared to be a virus and sent them home. On the way home, Jake’s conditioned worsened and his face swelled up. They went to the emergency facility at the Fergus hospital, where doctors determined it was an allergic reaction.

It’s unclear what Jake reacted to and he has recovered, but the family missed their flight.

When Ruzycki tried to rebook their flight, Air Transat said they couldn’t rebook without further payment.

Credit offered

Ruzycki says the family paid $5,000 for the trip, including $59 per ticket for Option Flex through Air Transat. Option Flex allows people to change their flight up to three hours before the scheduled departure.

Because Jake had to go to the hospital less than three hours before takeoff, Air Transat has said the family cannot rebook without payment and will not get a full refund.

“When you book your dream vacation, you want to make sure you enjoy the ultimate level of flexibility should something unexpected happen. Option Flex lets you,” the airline states on its web page.

Air Transat has offered the family a $2,000 travel voucher, which is equivalent to the tax and fuel surcharge from their unused tickets.

The website also notes, “Option Flex allows travellers to change their departure date, destination or hotel up to three hours before departure, or to transfer their vacation package to a family member or friend up to 30 days before departure. They can also cancel their trip and obtain a full refund.” A footnote explains that the three-hour notice period also applies to cancellations.

Not insurance

The airline declined an interview request with CBC but in a statement said it’s “important to distinguish” between travel insurance and the Option Flex service.

“Option Flex is not a travel insurance and does not replace such insurance coverage, both of which should be purchased prior to departure,” Air Transat’s marketing director of social media and public relations Debbie Cabana told CBC in an email.

“The purchase of travel insurance could have prevented these customers from losing the value of their package.”

They did not purchase travel insurance, Ruzycki said, because they didn’t expect they’d have to cancel for any reason and if something were to happen, they’d just want to rebook the trip.

‘Feels for the passengers’

Ruzycki said his wife worked part time to pay for the trip.

“My wife was in tears,” he said. “Every penny she saved for this has gone down the toilet.”

The family says it’s considering taking the $2,000 travel voucher so they don’t lose all their money.

Gábor Lukács, founder and co-ordinator of Air Passengers Rights, says he “feels for the passengers.”

But unless an illness happens while on board the flight or is caused by the airline, it’s not the airline’s responsibility. He said the airline is within its rights in this case.

Lukács also said this kind of situation would not fall under the new airline passenger bill of rights recently introduced by the federal government. Lukács has been critical of the new bill of rights, saying it favours the private interests of airlines over legitimate concerns of travellers.

‘It just breaks your heart’

The Ruzycki family took a smaller vacation to Collingwood to celebrate their daughter’s birthday.

Ruzycki says his daughter was upset about not going to Cuba, but she understood the situation.

“We keep saying, ‘Look honey, we will go another time. But right now we have to concentrate on your brother’s health,” he said.

“But even our boy, now that he’s getting better, he goes, ‘So are we going to go on a plane now?'” he said. “It’s hard. It just breaks your heart.”

Ruzycki says he hopes Air Transat will change its mind and allow them to rebook their tickets rather than giving them money back.

“We just want to go on our family vacation that our kids and my wife were just so ecstatic to go on,” he said.

CLHIA announces withdrawal of Guideline G19

TORONTO, May 31, 2019 /CNW/ – The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) is announcing the withdrawal of Guideline G19 on advisor compensation for group benefits and group retirement services.

“Following extensive discussions with market players, including advisors and their associations, and careful consideration of what we heard, we have decided to withdraw this industry guideline,” Stephen Frank, CLHIA’s President and CEO said. “Our industry is still strongly in favour of market transparency and plans to work closely with regulators and other stakeholders on these matters going forward.”

The guideline’s withdrawal is effective today.

As a result, measures related to group retirement services sales that were to begin for new contracts on July 1, 2019, and annual disclosure for existing contracts on January 1, 2020 will not proceed.

Similarly, disclosure measures for group benefits sales, which were to begin on January 1, 2020 for new contracts and January 1, 2021 for existing contracts, will not proceed.

The CLHIA and our member companies remain committed to disclosure. We value the role advisors play in the life and health insurance marketplace. The participation of advisors and their associations is key to the successful development and implementation of conflict of interest management practices for group products and services.

About the CLHIA 

Celebrating its 125th year in 2019, the CLHIA is a voluntary association whose member companies account for 99 per cent of Canada’s life and health insurance business. The industry provides a wide range of financial security products such as life insurance, annuities (including RRSPs, RRIFs and pensions) and supplementary health insurance to more than 29 million Canadians. It also holds over $860 billion in assets in Canada and employs more than 155,000 Canadians. 

SOURCE Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc.

For further information: Kevin Dorse, Assistant Vice President, Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, (613) 691-6001 / kdorse@clhia.ca

Related Links

www.clhia.ca

RCMP were not called about the spill until 4 hours after it was detected and couldn’t find acid spots

Read more

The Cultivation Of Cannabis Can Lead To The Forfeiture Of The Right To An Indemnity Under A Home Insurance Policy

Article by Charles A. Foucreault

Despite the legalization of cannabis by the federal government on October 17, 2018, not all cannabis-related activities have become legal. In an insurance context, illegal acts can lead to the cancellation of a policy or to the forfeiture of the right to an insurance indemnity, as seen in the decision rendered by the Superior Court of Quebec on April 15, 2019, in Vo v. Compagnie d’assurances Desjardins (Desjardins, Groupe d’assurances générales).1

In this case, the Superior Court rejected the insured’s claim, who were seeking an indemnity under a home insurance policy following a fire in their building. The tribunal held that the insurer satisfied the burden of proving the general exclusion clause against illegal or criminal activities applied. Indeed, because of their possession of cannabis plants, an illegal activity, the plaintiffs could not benefit from the indemnity payable under the insurance policy

The facts

The plaintiffs were the owners of a quadruplex that was insured under a home insurance policy. In 2013, a high intensity discharge lamp used in the plaintiffs’ at-home cannabis operation started a fire in the building.

The insurer refused to cover the loss because the policy excluded any loss resulting from illegal or criminal activities, which included (and still includes) cultivating and manufacturing cannabis. The plaintiffs sued the insurer for the amount of the loss under the policy.

The Superior Court decision

The burden rested with the insurer to establish that the plaintiffs were engaging in illegal or criminal activities and, accordingly, the exclusion clause applied. However, the insurer did not need to prove in this case that illegal activities caused the damage because the plaintiffs admitted that their cannabis cultivation in apartment #4 caused the fire.3 The plaintiffs lived in apartment #3 of the building, whereas apartments #1, #2, and #4 were vacant, uninhabitable, and used exclusively for cultivating cannabis.

According to the plaintiffs, apartments #1, #2, and #4 were occupied by three different tenants. However, the evidence demonstrated that there were no personal belongings in those apartments and the apartments were uninhabitable.4 Additionally, the evidence showed that the existence of the alleged tenants was highly doubtful, since none of the tenants who had allegedly lived in the apartments could be traced.5 Moreover, the plaintiffs were paying the costly electricity bills of the three other apartments and at the very least, knew that there were cannabis plants in the building.

The court found that the insurer satisfied the burden of proving that the exclusion clause pertaining to illegal and criminal activities applied in this case.6 In addition to the evidence put forward by the insurer, the judge also considered the serious gaps in the plaintiffs’ evidence and their unconvincing testimonies.7 As a result, the plaintiffs’ claim was rejected by the court.

Conclusion

The legalization of cannabis has certainly had an impact on some exclusion clauses pertaining to illegal or criminal activities, particularly in matters of insurance of persons. Nevertheless, some cannabis-related activities remain illegal, such as the possession of cannabis plants in Quebec.8 Therefore, policyholders who engage in prohibited activities may forfeit their right to an insurance indemnity.

Footnotes

1. Vo v. Compagnie d’assurances Desjardins (Desjardins, Groupe d’assurances générales), 2019 QCCS 1382 [Vo v. Desjardins].

2. Ibid at para 24; 2803 CCQ; See also Levesque c. Compagnie d’Assurance Desjardins, 2013 QCCS 1552, at paras 59—60.

3. Vo v. Desjardins, supra note 1 at para 10.

4. Ibid at paras 23—24.

5. Ibid at para 41.

6. Ibid at para 62.

7. Ibid at paras 57 and 61.

8. An Act to constitute the Société québécoise du cannabis, to enact the Cannabis Regulation Act and to amend various highway safety related provisions, LQ 2018, c 19, adopted on June 12th, 2018, art. 5.


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