Feds waiving normal EI rules for British Columbians left jobless by extreme flooding

The federal government is waiving the requirement for applicants to show a record of employment

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Federal employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says British Columbians displaced or left jobless due to extreme flooding should immediately apply for employment insurance benefits — even if they wouldn’t normally be eligible.

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Qualtrough says the federal government is waiving the requirement for applicants to show a record of employment, recognizing that it may be difficult for many to obtain the proper documentation under current circumstances.

She says the government is also looking at the fact that many people left without jobs due to flooding and landslides may already have exhausted their EI entitlements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She says people should apply anyway and the federal government “will figure this out” for them one way or another.,” adding Ottawa will be there to support British Columbians through this crisis.

Defence Minister Anita Anand says 500 members of the Canadian Armed Forces are on the ground or on their way to British Columbia already and thousands more are ready to go if needed.

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Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in 2020.
Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in 2020. Photo by Adrian Wyld /The Canadian Press

The two ministers were speaking at a news conference in Ottawa to provide an update on the federal government’s various efforts to support the province’s residents.

British Columbia residents are being told to brace for more rain as an atmospheric river moves south, bringing more precipitation to areas already hit hard by last week’s floods and mudslides.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for British Columbia’s North Coast, warning of potential flooding and landslides due to heavy rains.

The region is being hit by a system expected to bring 100 to 150 millimeters of rain to the Prince Rupert area and 30 to 60 millimeters to Haida Gwaii by Monday.

The storm is then expected to head south towards parts of the province, such as Abbotsford, that are still grappling with washed-out roads and widespread, flood-related damage following last weekend’s torrential downpours.

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“Additional rainfall will definitely lead to more pooling on the roads and that would be followed only by a short break until Wednesday when another system approaches,” Derek Lee, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said in an interview.

Lee said the rain expected on Monday isn’t too different from a normal winter storm, while Wednesday’s weather system is slated to bring a “significant” amount of rain to parts of southern B.C.

He said Environment Canada is working on a ranking system, similar to one used in the U.S., that would help identify the strength of an atmospheric river weather event.

“It really comes down to how the atmospheric river impacts a certain location,” Lee said. “Atmospheric rivers can bring varying amounts of moisture.”

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Chantel Penner reaches for a bowl as she loads personal items into a boat from her parents flooded home on November 21, 2021 in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
Chantel Penner reaches for a bowl as she loads personal items into a boat from her parents flooded home on November 21, 2021 in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Photo by Justin Sullivan /Getty Images

The federal ministers of emergency preparedness, transportation, environment, defence and employment are set to hold a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday afternoon to discuss the situation in B.C.

Mounties announced on Saturday that the bodies of three men had been recovered near Highway 99, bringing the death toll from the flooding to four.

Hours later, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said crews are working to repair damaged dikes as quickly as possible ahead of the rain expected later in the week.

The city’s Barrowtown pump station has been able to partially open its floodgates, with hopes of being able to fully open them before the next storm, Braun added.

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