After waiting for 2 months for a reply from the Minister I received the following letter today. Nothing that we already didn't know but we can now assume she realises we're out here looking for benefits also. You be the judge!
Dear Mr. Hopkins:
I am writing in response to your electronic message of January 14, 2009, which the Office of the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, also forwarded to me, concerning the Employment Insurance (EI) program. I also acknowledge receipt of your subsequent correspondence of January 22 and 28, 2009, as well as February 4, 2009. I apologize for this delayed reply.
Self-employed workers are an important component of the labour force and they make a significant contribution to the Canadian economy and society.
Under the current EI eligibility requirements, workers receive benefits only if they have contributed to the program by paying premiums in the past year and if they meet qualifying and entitlement conditions. Moreover, the EI program is currently designed for workers in employer-employee relationships. Other than self-employed fishers who have a deemed employer, self-employed workers are not insured under the EI program. In regards to self-employed fishers, the buyer of their catch takes on the role of the employer by paying the employer's portion of EI premiums, filling out Record of Employment forms and maintaining records related to the self-employed fishers' earnings.
In the November 19, 2008, Speech from the Throne, the Government indicated that it would take measures to increase access to maternity and parental benefits under EI. Further to this, as you point out, Budget 2009 announced that the Government will be establishing an Expert Panel that will consult on how to best provide self-employed Canadians with access to EI maternity and parental benefits. These benefits could help self-employed parents to better balance work and family responsibilities and give them the opportunity to spend more time with their newborn or newly-adopted children.
You may be pleased to learn that through Canada's Economic Action Plan, the Government increased the funding to provinces and territories for training and support measures through the Strategic Training and Transition Fund, which will, amongst others, provide support to self-employed workers.
In regards to your interest in the membership of the Expert Panel, further information on the Panel will be made available over the coming months.
Thank you for taking the time to write.
The Hon. Diane Finley, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development