Expanded parental leave, new caregiver benefit, to come into effect Dec. 3

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ New mothers and fathers planning to begin their parental leave on or after Dec. 3 will be able to spread their federal benefits over a longer period of time.

The federal government’s long-promised changes to parental leave rules will go into effect early next month, says Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, allowing eligible new parents to take up to 18 months of employment insurance benefits after the birth of a child.

On that same date, a new family caregiver benefits will also kick in one a 15-week leave to care for a critically ill or injured adult, the other a 35-week benefit to care for a critically ill or injured child.

Eligible soon-to-be-mothers will also be able to claim maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before the baby is due.

However, the government won’t increase the actual value of employment insurance benefits for anyone who takes the extended parental leave: instead, the Liberals are sticking with their 2015 election promise to spread 12 months’ worth of benefits over 18 months.

The change in rules will automatically give more workers in federally regulated workplaces like banks, transport companies, the public service and telecoms the option of taking time off, and are likely to spur calls for provincial changes to allow the other 92 per cent of Canadian workers access to similar leave.

So far, Ontario has publicly said it will amend its legislation to match the new federal rules.

Affected workplaces will have to decide how or even if to amend existing leave policies and collective agreements that spell out issues like salary top-ups.

As is, the federal parental leave program pays out benefits for up to 17 weeks for new mothers and allows parents to split an additional 35 weeks.

Under the changes first outlined in this year’s budget, new parents apply for employment insurance benefits, they will be able to decide whether to take additional weeks off, which can be split between parents.

Anyone who is already receiving 35 weeks of parental leave before the new measures officially come into effect won’t be able to switch and take the extra time.

The eligibility for the cash won’t change: A new parent will still need 600 hours of work in the previous 12 months to access benefits, while self-employed workers who have opted in to the EI system will need to have earned at least $6,888 in the last year.

The Liberals budgeted $886 million over the next five years for the new measures, and $204.8 million a year after that.

None of the parental leave changes will impact residents of Quebec, where the province runs its own parental leave program.

Pierre Laliberte appointed to the Canada Employment Insurance Commission

The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, today announced the appointment of Pierre Laliberté to the Canada Employment Insurance Commission as the Commissioner for Workers for a term of 3 years, effective October 3, 2017. Mr. Laliberté was first appointed last fall as the interim Commissioner for Workers.

The Commissioner for Workers is responsible for representing the views of organizations and individuals that are affected by Employment and Social Development Canada programs and services, particularly Employment Insurance. By consulting stakeholders, the Commissioner is able to convey their concerns and positions regarding the administration of legislation, policy development and program delivery.

Before serving the interests of workers in his current role as the interim Commissioner for Workers, Mr. Laliberté worked as an executive assistant to the President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) as well as an economist for that organization, where he represented the Congress both nationally and internationally. Prior to that, he worked as an economist with the International Labour Office in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was the editor for the research publication International Journal of Labour Research. Furthermore, he has a broad familiarity with labour issues having worked with unions—both the United Steel Workers of America and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec. Mr. Laliberté has been an active member of many advisory boards and holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Massachusetts.

This appointment is part of the rigorous new approach for open, transparent and merit-based Governor in Council appointments.

Quick Facts

  • The Commission has three voting members, representing the interests of government, workers and employers.
  • For more than 75 years, this tripartite organization has included representation from business, labour and the Government of Canada.
  • The Commissioner for Workers and the Commissioner for Employers are appointed by the Governor in Council. They are mandated to represent and reflect the views of their respective constituencies.

Associated Link

Canada Employment Insurance Commission

Saskatchewan moves to extend compassionate leave for people caring for loved ones

The Saskatchewan government has tabled legislation that will allow people to take more time off work to care for a dying or very sick loved one.

People would be able to take as much as 28 weeks of leave, up from eight weeks.

Labour Minister Don Morgan says people want to care for their children or parents when they’re ill.

He says the benefit of family support can be critical.

Compassionate care benefits through employment insurance allow a maximum of 26 weeks of leave, after a two-week waiting period, and the provincial change would guarantee job protection.

The extension does not cost the province anything financially.

 

IRONSHORE INTERNATIONAL INTRODUCES POLITICAL RISK COVERAGE FOR FILM PRODUCERS

Source: Ironshore Press Release

Ironshore International is introducing a specialty insurance product designed to address the risk exposure of film production companies shooting in at risk locations worldwide.
Ironshore’s Political Risk program is underwritten to protect film producers against loss and/or damage of equipment and property caused by acts of foreign governments while filming on location.  Policy coverage includes equipment, props, wardrobe and other production materials for loss due to abandonment, deprivation, expropriation and license cancellation. Ironshore’s Political Risk film production product will be offered within its War and Terrorism platform to provide film producers with comprehensive coverage of loss related to confiscation and various political violence perils

Risk coverage can include property damage and time element losses as a result of war, terrorism and political acts when filming in at risk locations worldwide outside of the U.S.
“Film production is an industry that reaches into every corner of the world, thus exposing companies to the potential for significant loss from acts of foreign governments,” stated James Dover,  Senior Vice President, War & Sabotage.  “Ironshore’s specialty product for this complex industry risk combines political risk with war and terrorism coverage to protect producers filming in territories with a history of uncertainty and turmoil.”

Ironshore’s Political Risk program offers structured, international policy protection for in country or cross border exposure to government actions and political risk events.  Ironshore International underwrites the film production product through its Pembroke Lloyd’s Syndicate 4000 in London.

Athabasca, Syncrude bring back project staff as wildfire risk recedes

Source: Canadian Press

Alberta oilsands workers forced to flee the ferocious Fort McMurray wildfire are returning to begin the tricky process of restarting their projects in northern Alberta, reassured by colder weather and a forecast of rain.

In a Tuesday morning update, provincial emergency officials said the Fort McMurray wildfire had grown to 523,000 hectares, almost the size of Prince Edward Island, and was still out of control but moving farther east and northeast away from the city and industrial operations.

A similar move to repopulate the projects a week ago was stymied when the fire suddenly changed direction to again threaten industry and force about 8,000 workers to flee work camps.

Syncrude Canada spokesman Will Gibson said Tuesday that his company has adopted a comprehensive evacuation plan in case that happens again.

“We’re making significant progress on our safe return to operations plan and details of when we’ll resume production will be available at a later date,” he said.

Analysts estimate more than one million barrels per day of oilsands production – nearly half their capacity of 2.5 million bpd – were offline at times over the past three weeks as the wildfire forced staff evacuations and the precautionary shutdown of inbound and outbound pipelines. None of the projects has reported substantial damage.

Athabasca Oil said May 24, 2016 that it has resumed operations at its Hangingstone project, which produces bitumen from wells using steam to melt the thick oil. It said the facility did not suffer any damage from wildfires that crept to within a few kilometres, forcing staff to scramble to safety three weeks ago.

Prior to shutdown, the thermal project commissioned last year had ramped up to 9,000 barrels per day on the way to output capacity of 12,000 bpd. Athabasca said it expects its underground reservoir to recover to normal operating levels over the next several weeks.

Meanwhile, Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) continued to bring workers back to its oilsands mining and thermal projects north of Fort McMurray after emergency officials lifted evacuation orders on the weekend.

A CIBC report published on the morning of May 24, 2016 estimated the cash flow impact of lost Suncor production will be about $760 million, while cautioning that number could be reduced by insurance coverage.

“We expect the mining operations will be up to turnaround levels later this week and in situ operations back to mid-turnaround levels next week,” CIBC analyst Arthur Grayfer said in a note to investors.

“Assuming there is no additional fire risk, we estimate the downtime from the fire and ramp to turnaround capacity to be three to four weeks, with an additional week to get production back up to full capacity with the completion of the turnaround.”

Suncor’s mining operations have a capacity of about 250,000 barrels a day but had been reduced by about two-thirds by a maintenance turnaround in its upgrader when the fire broke out. That work will have to be completed before the upgrader output returns to normal.

Suncor’s Firebag and Mackay River thermal operations, which were also closed, have combined capacity of about 235,000 bpd.

Syncrude, owned by a consortium that includes Suncor, has capacity of 350,000 bpd at its upgrader and Mildred Lake and Aurora mines.

Spokesman Rob Evans of ConocoPhillips said workers began arriving at its Surmont thermal project site on May 24, 2016 and the company expects to have 350 workers there by May 27, 2016.

The project was producing about 50,000 bpd before being shut down. Evans said its unclear when that level will be reached again.

 

Finance minister defends extra employment insurance help for parts of oil patch

OTTAWA _ Finance Minister Bill Morneau defended the Liberal government’s decision to boost employment insurance benefits for parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan while leaving some hard hit areas of the oil patch out of the budget plan.

Morneau said the government had to decide what areas across the country needed the most help with extra weeks of employment insurance benefits for jobless workers.

Left off that list were cities like Edmonton, and parts of Saskatchewan that Premier Brad Wall has said could also use the help.

Morneau told CTV’s  “Question Period” that the government picked 12 regions to help them” deal with what’s been a significant change and a harder time for those people to get re-employed.” The dozen spots included Newfoundland and Labrador, parts of northern and southern Alberta, northern British Columbia, northern Manitoba, northern Ontario, northern Saskatchewan, Calgary, Sudbury, Ont., Saskatoon, Whitehorse and Nunvaut.

Those 12 regions had what Morneau described in the television interview as  “sharp increases in unemployment that have been sustained,” or what the budget describes as a two per cent increase in unemployment rates over a three-month period over the last year  “without showing significant signs of recovery.”

The Liberals’ first budget this past week gave workers in resource-rich parts of the country like Alberta and Northern Ontario an extra five weeks of employment insurance benefits amid concerns that many are about to run out of EI payments. The budget also promised older workers in those areas an extra 20 weeks of benefits up to a total of 70 weeks so they wouldn’t have to worry about paying the bills while they looked for a new job, which usually takes them longer than younger workers.

Morneau said the government is making other changes to the employment insurance program that are designed to help the entire country, including cutting waiting times for applicants to receive their first payments.

“We made changes that are impacting everyone all across Saskatchewan, all across Alberta, and all across the country and then specific ones that are impacting Northern Ontario, parts of Alberta, parts of Saskatchewan, all of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Morneau said in the television interview.

“That was the choice we made in order to help those areas that have been particularly hard hit.”

Morneau also said the Liberals expect low- and middle-income families to spend money they receive through tax breaks and a new, income-tested child benefit unveiled in the budget and that will help the economy. He said the average payment to families from the new child benefit will be about $2,300 per child.

Morneau’s on-air appearances were his first to sell the budget on Sunday morning political talk shows marked. Morneau was pushed in his television appearances to defend the employment insurance decisions and the Liberals running a $29.4 billion deficit this year, the first of five years of deficits that total $113 billion.

He repeated the government’s new mantra that future spending decisions will be based on economic growth rather than specific, fiscal-discipline benchmarks.

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