Federal minister takes her message to Prince Edward Island in an effort to dispel “fear mongering and outright lies”
© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Diane Finley, minister of human resources and skills development, walks down Kent Street in Charlottetown on her way to The Guardian, where she met with the newsroom about changes to the employment insurance program. Finley said “common sense” will be used in the redrafting of the EI program.
Nobody will be forced to move and if people demonstrate they’ve looked for work and there are no jobs, their employment insurance benefits will continue, says the federal minister of human resources and skills development
But Diane Finley said changes need to be made because the EI program, as it is known, discourages people from working.
Finley took her message to Prince Edward Island Thursday, meeting with workers, employers and the media in an effort to explain sweeping changes to EI and to stop what she referred to as “fear-mongering and outright lies” by some.
“We have an EI act that has always said that employment insurance is supposed to be a temporary income support to look after you while you’re looking for another job,” Finley said during a meeting with The Guardian’s editorial board.
“There is an obligation in return for the right to collect EI, a responsibility to be doing a reasonable job search, and to accept what is known as a suitable job.”
The EI changes were part of the massive budget bill, which is currently before the Senate.
Details surrounding the changes to the pogey program are still are not known.
But what has been announced is those on EI could be required to commute up to one hour for work.
Seasonal workers, or those who are frequent claimants, will have to accept wages starting at 70 per cent of their previous salary.
The changes will go into effect this time next year.
Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association, said he remains cautiously optimistic that fishermen will not be adversely affected by the changes.
Still, McGeoghegan said he’ll wait to see the regulations written on paper before passing final judgment.
“It was better than I though it was going to be,” McGeoghegan said, following a 30-minute roundtable meeting with the minister.
“You know politicians, they talk really well. Once it’s on paper, it may be two different discussions.”
All four Atlantic premiers have expressed concerns about the changes being made to EI and the impact it will have on this region.
Island Senator Catherine Callbeck is urging the federal government to consult with provinces, territories and other stakeholders before going forward with its changes.
Callbeck said the provinces have not been consulted.
“I find this rather shocking, considering the potential impact these changes will have on the employment insurance program and the effect they will have on the finances of the Atlantic provinces,” said Callbeck.
“We know that the premiers were not consulted beforehand.I would like to know who the government did consult before bringing forward these sweeping changes. I want to impress upon the federal government the importance of taking the views of stakeholders, including provinces and territories, into consideration before making any final decisions.”