Donnelly tries again with benefits bill

New Westminster News Leader, 18 November 2011 By Staff Writer

New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody NDP MP Fin Donnelly is giving it another shot in his bid to get the federal government to strengthen its medical employment insurance benefits for those suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer.

On Tuesday, Donnelly reintroduced a private members bill that would extend EI benefits from 15 to 52 weeks. "Canadians who are struck with catastrophic illnesses should be able to focus on recovery, and not have to worry about how they will survive financially," said Donnelly in a news release. "Too many families across the country have been affected by illnesses such as cancer. This is difficult enough to cope with, without having to worry about their medical benefits expiring."

He first brought the bill forward in 2010 after meeting with breast cancer survivor Natalie Thomas, whose benefits ran out two days after her second surgery.

"After a lifetime of contributing to employment insurance benefits, I nearly lost my home at 61 years olds while fighting breast cancer," said Thomas. "This bill would provide critical financial support to Canadians suffering from serious illnesses when they need it most."

Since then, Donnelly said he has received hundreds of emails and letters of support. Three-time cancer survivor Marie-Hélenè Dubé of Montreal has also gathered hundreds of signatures for a petition calling for the changes, said Donnelly.

"Employment insurance has always been intended to assist Canadians who find themselves temporarily out of work through no fault of their own," said Donnelly. "At a time when more and more Canadians are being diagnosed with cancer, updating the Employment Insurance Act to reflect this reality only makes sense."