People on employment insurance now have less time to find a new job as the federal government reforms its rules on benefits payments.

But critics say the new system will unfairly affect seasonal and contract workers — those who work in industries like forestry, landscaping and tourism — accustomed to collecting EI in the off-season.

These workers are still eligible for EI under the new changes, but the off-season is now a lot shorter.

Instead of having a few months in between jobs, they now only have a few weeks.

"The risk that is run here with these changes is that those people will leave those industries and go into other industries or be forced to go into other industries,” said Liberal labour critic Rodger Cuzner, MP for Cape Breton-Canso.

The Conservative government said the changes are meant to get workers back to work.

A new Canadian jobs alert system is expected to help make that possible, by sending two emails-a-day with potential jobs to people on EI.

But Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault said the changes are too complex.

"You need to be proving you are going to job openings and applying for job openings,” he said.

“They're creating this whole other system that now needs to be monitored. Well, who's monitoring?"

The ministry in charge of the changes says Canadians have always had the responsibility of actively looking for work while collecting Employment Insurance.

"The new regulations that came into effect on Sunday will help better guide them in terms of the expectations for conducting a reasonable job search and understanding what is deemed as suitable employment for them to accept," said Alyson Queen, director of communications for Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley.

"And overall, the changes are meant to better connect Canadians with available jobs that may exist in their local area, that match their skills.”

Thibeault acknowledges that people abuse the EI system, but doubt these new rules will change that.

“What we want to be doing is creating a system that will continue to support Canadians who have lost their job,” Thibeault said. “[We want to] make sure that they can get through, month-to-month, and then help them get that next job.”

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  • Reactions To EI Changes

    A selection of quotes on the newly announced changes to the employment insurance program.<br><br> <em><strong>With files from CP and CBC.</strong></em><br><br> (CP/Alamy)

  • Rona Ambrose

    "New EI changes are like 'E-Harmony' for job seekers and employers: matching Cdns looking for work with available jobs, data, support." - Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, on Twitter. (CP)

  • Peggy Nash

    What we heard today is the minister scapegoating unemployed Canadians . . . that they are not trying hard enough to find work." - NDP Finance Critic Peggy Nash. (CP)

  • Rodger Cuzner

    "While we're glad to see that the Conservatives have backed away from earlier draconian proposals floated by their most senior ministers, including the minister of Finance, we're concerned that the announced changes will force many Canadians to take low-skilled, low-paying jobs, jeopardize the economic security of communities that are reliant on seasonal industries, and that the appeals process will now be handled by a handful of political appointees based in Ottawa instead of by regional experts that are familiar with local circumstances." - Rodger Cuzner, Liberal Human Resources critic. (CP)

  • Elizabeth May

    "The main beneficiaries of the current employment insurance rules are not the workers that Conservative rhetoric seeks to demonize, suggesting that something is wrong with 'repeat users', but rather the employers in forestry, fisheries and tourism industries." - Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. (CP)

  • Kathy Dunderdale

    "We certainly need more information than we have. People having to search for work and having to go within an hour's radius of where they live and so on, on the face of it, that doesn't sound all that onerous or difficult. But that depends on what you work at. In a province where we don't have public transportation, for example, if you're working for a minimum wage job and you have to travel 40 miles away, which is within the hour radius, to work at another $10-an-hour job, is that sensible? Is that prudent?" - Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale, scrumming with reporters at the provincial legislature in St. John's. (CP)

  • Darrell Dexter

    "I'm disappointed that the federal government failed to consult with the provinces and territories on an issue that will impact workers and their families across the country... Under the new rules, some EI recipients that are eligible now will become less eligible in the future. The changes will also make it difficult for some employers to stay in business, including operators in the farming industry. It is already a challenge to keep rural communities strong. Economic changes are forcing people to leave their homes and communities to find work, and in many cases, once they leave, they're gone for good." - Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, in a statement provided to CBC News. (CP)

  • Robert Ghiz

    "When it comes to the EI system in Canada, a one-size-fits-all does not work... On P.E.I., we are very fortunate that our three largest industries are fisheries, agriculture and tourism: all three industries that are seasonal in nature. We are different than downtown Toronto and we are different than downtown Calgary. We know the federal government is looking at making changes that would be a hindrance to our industries that rely on workers coming back year after year that have expertise in these areas, that they need to come back and help to get their products to market." - Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz, speaking in the legislative assembly in Charlottetown. (CP)

  • Gregory Thomas, Canadian Taxpayers Federation

    "The new EI rules strike a blow for hard-working Canadian taxpayers, against habitual pogey collectors who have been enjoying part-time work with other people's money for far too long... If you've been collecting pogey more than one year in the past five, maybe it's time to get some training, find a different line of work, or move to where the jobs are... Let's remember, these so-called benefits are nothing more than other people's EI tax money - over $20 billion dollars - forcibly taken from them... Every Canadian should be entitled to keep the money they work for, not have government tax it away and give it out in an attempt to buy votes." - Gregory Thomas, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, from a press release. (Handout)

  • Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labour Congress

    "What she should do as a responsible cabinet minister is take these changes out of that budget bill and start to talk to the people who know the system better than she... Instead she comes up with more fatuous suggestions about situations that really don't exist out there... This is ridiculous economic policy. It's short-term thinking and it's political football with the people that are the most vulnerable in our society. People who are unemployed don't want to be unemployed. This government would have you believe that they're sitting there and surfing off the shores of Nova Scotia or skiing in the mountains of British Columbia... it's not true." - Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labour Congress, speaking on CBC News Network. (Handout)

  • Catherine Swift, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

    "We believe the changes to defining suitable employment, based on how frequently EI is claimed, will help to remove disincentives to work and hopefully make it easier for small firms to find the people they need... Under the current system, 22 per cent of small business owners said they had difficulty hiring as potential workers would rather stay on EI benefits and another 16 per cent said they had been asked by an employee to lay them off to allow them to collect benefits... Employers agree that EI should be there for those who lose a job through no fault of their own, but do not accept that the system should be used as some form of paid vacation or ongoing lifestyle for those who choose not to work." - Catherine Swift, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, quoted in a news release. (Handout