Facing fears workers won't work, P.E.I. asks Ottawa to change COVID benefits programs


P.E.I. Premier Dennis King is calling for changes to the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) to provide incentives to get people back in the labour force.

He's also asked Ottawa for changes to the federal emergency aid program for students, the Canada emergency student benefit (CESB), so it funds positions for student employment, instead of just paying them to stay at home.

King said he's raised the issues in calls with the prime minister, along with general concerns that programs meant to help Canadians who find themselves out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic are providing incentives for them to stay out of the workforce.

On Friday, P.E.I. began on the first phase of its plan to ease back COVID-related restrictions and restart the provincial economy.

"As businesses come back on stream … there certainly is a fear out there that if people are being paid not to work, it's going to be difficult for those businesses to attract people they would normally be able to attract," said King.

Programs should help build labour force

The CERB provides $2,000 per month to eligible Canadians who've lost their jobs or had hours reduced. The CESB provides $1,250 per month to students without work.

King said he's asked the prime minister to work with the provinces "to tailor programs so that we can actually be incentivizing people to get to work in the labour force, because for our economy to kick back into gear in any way, shape or form we're going to need an active labour force."

With regards to the student program, King said he would rather see the feds "working with the private sector, with NGOs and even with provincial governments so that we could be putting that money in the hands of students, but at the same time having students fill … many of the jobs that they used to fill in the past."