January 25, 1956 (22nd Parliament, 3rd Session)


Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Labour)


Hon. Milton F. Gregg (Minister of Labour):

There is a question from the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre which I have not yet answered. It has to do with the qualification of certain claimants for unemployment insurance following upon the application of the provisions of the new act. Other members have referred to this matter in speeches and otherwise and I hope that this statement may serve to clarify the matter for them.
The new act was not long in force when the commission found the rate of disqualification for regular benefits under it exceeded the rate experienced under the old act. A survey was undertaken by the commission and it was found that the interpretation which had been placed on section 119(b) was the cause of the disqualification in a substantial number of cases.
Section 119 (b) reads in part as follows:
119. For the purposes of establishing a benefit period and calculating the rate of benefit . . . under this act . . .
(b) Six days in respect of which contributions were payable and paid under the old act shall be deemed to be a contribution week . . .
The narrow view given to the subsection was that six daily contributions, regardless of whether they were earned in one, two or three weeks, would count for no more than one weekly contribution under the new act, and nothing less than six daily contributions would count as a contribution week.
As a result of the survey the commission reconsidered the subsection and came to the conclusion that the view was too restrictive and was not in accordance with the spirit and intent of the new act.
Here, in a few words, is what the commission proposes to do. The ordinary provisions of the present act concerning the computation of the number of contribution weeks will be applied to all calendar weeks occurring before the act came into effect. In order to do this, the earnings of an insured person during the calendar week must be known; if they were $9 or over, the week would count as a full contribution week under the present act, and if they were less than $9, the week would count as half a contribution week. However, for the calendar week under the old act for which the evidence necessary to establish the earnings as above is not available, the statutory week provided for in section 119 (b) of the present act will be applied. This consists in dividing the total number of daily contributions for a period by six, and counting the result as so many contribution weeks for the purposes of the present act.
I am further informed that the commission is giving instructions to their field offices to expedite the review of the claims on which entitlement was not established, and to ensure prompt readjudication and retroactive payment to those who will be relieved as a result and who have proven, or can now prove, unemployment since the commencement of their claim.
The great majority, if not all, of those who were not qualified for regular benefits during October, November and December, are now in receipt of seasonal benefits which now provide benefits at the same rates as those established for regular benefits.
We all know that the local offices of the commission will be encountering, in a few weeks, their peak load, and I am sure that hon. members will realize that these readjudications and retroactive payments cannot be accomplished in a day. However, they

Inquiries of the Ministry can be assured that everything in the commission's power will be. done to expedite the matter. Since claimants in this category are already registered at their local offices, I can give assurance on behalf of the commission that such claimants will be notified direct by their local offices to call.
I must thank all the hon. members who brought the situation to my attention and that of the commission. This is an expression of our common solicitude for those workers who stand in need of all the protection which last year's revision of the Unemployment Insurance Act was designed to afford.

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