Island should be proud of seasonal work, EI committee told

Nigel Armstrong
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Ann Worth, executive director the the P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance is framed between MLAs Buck Watts, left, and Pat Murphy during a meeting Wednesday in Rustico. She made a presentation to a standing committee of the Legislature that is touring the Island to hear about changes to the federal EI program.

RUSTICO — Stand up, be proud and don’t apologize for the seasonal nature of work on P.E.I. and the role EI plays in supporting it, says an advocate for adequate income for Islanders.

Marie Burge made a presentation Wednesday on behalf of the P.E.I. Working Group for a Liveable Income to a meeting of members of the legislative assembly in Rustico.

While EI is a federal program, that has not deterred the P.E.I. Standing Committee on Fisheries, Transportation and Rural Development, with MLA Sonny Gallant as chair. It is touring the Island to hear about changes to the EI program.

The next meeting is in Souris on Wednesday, Oct. 10 in St. Mary’s Hall at 7 p.m.

“We must never, as citizens of P.E.I., be apologetic to anyone for the fact that the P.E.I. economy is based on seasonal industry,” said Burge. “We should be proud of it. We produce a lot during those short seasons and we need to say we are proud of that.”

Governments and media help push along a false notion that Islanders are too lazy to work full time, said Burge.

“We like our geography, we like how we have the sea and the land and those as our resources,” she said. “Seasonal workers are probably the hardest workers in the system.”

She also wants to change the attitude on temporary foreign workers. They too, do not prove that Islanders are too lazy to work, said Burge.

They come to fill an important role of providing intense, short-term work that Islanders cannot do because Islanders need longer work periods than that and because the EI program, for example, will not allow it, she said.

“When the federal government tries to pit temporary foreign workers against local workers, that’s very dangerous,” said Burge. “That’s dangerous for us because it really does belittle our own people. Local people know how to work too.”

She also wanted the committee and everyone across the Canada to remember that EI is no tax money, but money put into the program by employees and employers together.

Proposed changes to the federal Employment Insurance system will have a bad affect on employers in the aquaculture sector, the committee was told by another presenting group.

Ann Worth, executive director of the P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance, gave the presentation. She said the aquaculture sector accounts for thousands of jobs that will be affected by the changes.

The seasonal industries of P.E.I. require part-time workers, said Worth.

The EI changes act as a huge dis-incentive for Islanders to take on part-time work, said Worth.

The alliance has suggestions for the federal government.

It suggests “meaningful dialogue” with industries before making changes.

“Understanding the potential impacts of change is a first step,” she said.

There should be broad consultation before making changes that could have negative affects.

Organizations: Employment Insurance, EI committee, P.E.I. Standing Committee on Fisheries Rural Development P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance

Geographic location: P.E.I., RUSTICO, Iceland Souris Canada

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Recent comments

    October 05, 2012 - 15:21

    TO SHIRLEY. I am the one who put the NOT FOR CHANGE comment and I stand by it. I worked FULL TIME FOR 46 YEARS and paid EI and CPP the entire time. I am sick and tired of going downttown or for a coffee and hearing people say things like well thats it for me until May, they wanted me to stay another 4 weeks but I talked one of the opther guys into it. or one time when I asked a supervisor of a paving crew why they waited until mid June to pave, The answer was most of the crew are still on EI. Does this answer your comments?

  • JB
    October 05, 2012 - 14:42

    All you whinning and going on about people on EI must be Robert's friends the ones with big paying jobs scare you will not get all the pie .Do something productive with your time and go out and protest plan B oh no you could not do that as it would be aganist Roberts wishes.Grow up get a life and do your work that you brag so about and leave others alone.Sick of do gooders"""""""""" AND NO I AM NOT ON EI JUST SICK OF BLOW HARDS.

  • Old Timer
    October 05, 2012 - 12:49

    I have strong feelings on the matter of seasonal work and EI. Having worked for 45 years and having given birth the 4 kids, I never drew any EI benefits for anything of those during my career. I paid in from E.I 's inception. After retirement, I took a part time job as a replacement for someone off on maternity leave (different employer). It was for a period of one year. I was told to file for E.I. by someone who worked for E.I., so I did. I was simply astounded to see how easy it was to just go on the computer every two weeks, click a few boxes and have money come to me. While only a small amount, I loved it. I suddenly saw why so many people like to work a short while and get this money. I paid in a couple of hundred dollars and got back over $1000. I couldn't do that with lottery tickets. I understand why people do it. I am not overly proud that I took the money, but it sure felt good. In fact, it gave me enough to go on a trip! Is that right? No, but come income tax time, I found that I had to pay almost all of it back in taxes, so my guilt eased substantially. My point is that people in the days before E.I. found other work to do when the fishing season ended or the crop planted, tended to and harvest was in. They might have planned for leaner times, and I haven't read of too many who starved to death or froze to death. Over the lifetime of my career, which was fulltime (thankfully), I paid in several thousand dollars and my employer paid in the same or more. There are hundreds of thousands of Canadians like me who paid in for their entire working lifetimes, and you can't honestly blame them for scratching their heads and asking why they should have paid the same premiums as those who 'work the system' of minimum required hours or weeks, and collect maximum benefits. As one other poster said, if it were through a private insurance company (and it IS an insurance), those to are chronic, er, annual users, should be made to pay higher premiums and those who never use the system should be given discounts. This is just one old-timers contribution, for what it is worth. For those who think federal government employees get big pensions, by the way, the CPP payments are clawed back, unlike for those who work for any other industry. Kind of makes me sick to hear bashing of those who really worked hard in service to our country, and also to know that people believe they are exercising a right to get that money in such large quantities for such a little investment.

  • Sam
    October 05, 2012 - 10:34

    So EI isn't a tax, it's just money we and our employers pay that goes to a program that we're forced to pay into regardless of whether we want to or not? Thank goodness it's not income tax, which is money we and our employers pay that goes to programs that we're forced to pay into regardless of whether we want to or not. "We should be proud of seasonal work"? What kind of crap is this? Why should I be proud that work on the Island consists of less than half of what others do? Seasonal workers may work hard when they actually do work, but that doesn't mean that I should be proud of them for taking half the year off. EI is a terrible blemish on PEI's record, to say otherwise is ridiculous. More than once I've heard people say they COULD get a job, but if they did they'd be making less than if they were on EI. I don't think some people realize how economics works if they think this is a good idea.

    • FYI
      October 05, 2012 - 12:28

      Anyone who critizes the EI system, obviously is lucky enough to have permanent work. So lets say everyone employed in seasonal work goes and "by some miracle" finds permanent work. Who the He## do you think is going to clean your motel room, or take your order at the resteraunt you eat in, or processes your lobster and seafood, or help you dock your car on the ferry. I am sick of people ragging on about "lazy" EI receipents. FYI I know many seasonal workers, who through no fault of their own, have no work when their season ends. They take on part time work because NOONE can live on 55% of their wages, which is what EI is. So the next time you stick a potato in your mouth with that "silver" fork, count your blessings that you don't have to be out in the fields in the middle of cold wet weather so that others may eat and belittle you while doing it. BTW, I am fortunate enough not to have to rely on EI, but am thankful it is there for those that need it.

    • Ulfric
      October 05, 2012 - 13:20

      You have some very good points. But, I wouldn't go comparing EI deductions to income tax. Compare a year round workers tax return to a seasonal worker who claims EI and you will notice a huge difference. I've been in both positions and with 14 weeks work and EI the rest of the year you can easily end up owing money back instead of $700-$1200 returns from year round work. It's no easy life being seasonal however you are right, being on EI is nothing to be proud of.

    • FEDUP
      October 05, 2012 - 18:34

      She also wanted the committee and everyone across the Canada to remember that EI is no tax money, but money put into the program by employees and employers together. Yes but she should also remember that it is the people in the rest of Canada that work 12 months a year who pay for these people to sit around idle for 38 weeks each year. That's really something to be proud of.Please!

    • Ulfric
      October 06, 2012 - 00:03

      TO FED UP: As a full time worker, you get a nice tax return, People on EI do not. Who's the winner here? The year round worker. Get your head out of the gutter and check both sides of the road

  • The Truth
    October 05, 2012 - 10:29

    Unbelievable. Lets celebrate the sit on your a** culture that is a big reason that the Martiimes is an economic backwater propped up by the rest of the country. The "special needs" Maritimer that pays less and gets more for a longer time than workers in the rest of the country is a joke, and the companies using government subsidized wages instead of paying real wages are stealing from the rest of us. If you had insurance on your house and burn't it down every year your premiums would go up. They should for these leaches. If companies can't compete without 50% wages they should go broke. Tough love yes, because when the gravy train stops and it will as the rest of the country gets sick of throwing money down a bottomless hole the standard of living here will be less than the poorest countries in the Americas. It is time for these bottom feeders to be face reality.

  • Frankie
    October 05, 2012 - 10:07

    They should create a new social program, call it seasonal workers pay or something and let that pay the seasonal people and leave IE for those who really should use it (people who have lost a full time permanent job). Let seasonal employees and employers pay into the new social program, see how long the money lasts! And while on the topic of social programs, lets get some of those able body people on welfare to work! There are plenty of them, just go into any MacDonald's or Walmart during the day and you'll find plenty of them! (I'm not saying everyone at MacDonald's or Walmart are on Welfare, some people do work shift work, but it's not hard to pick out which people are on their day off and which are on welfare...the welfare people are spending more money!!!)

  • Tbird
    October 05, 2012 - 09:17

    Joe Blow... the people who repeatedly draw EI year after year, cycle after cycle, end up drawing more out than they EVER put in!!!! Then it ends up being the consistenly employed members of our society who fund thier "Lotto 14/38 vacation"!!! BTW - I am quite sure that you'll never find a reference in any legislation that refers to a right as a "full blown right". Furthermore, you don't have a "right" to draw EI, you just happen to be fortunate enough live in a country with social programs that all citizens have access to. Let me guess are you the same guy who a few years ago said you had "a right" to be able to buy acnned pop?

  • Chad
    October 05, 2012 - 09:13

    I am not the biggest fan of the new EI changes but I do feel we need to do something about these people who use EI as a career. I believe EI should be there when you loose a job, not because it is easier then finding one. I think we should use this as an opportunity to talk about EI and how we can make a better balance to helping people either find year round jobs, or creating jobs for when the seasonal work is done. Punishing the ones in need over a few bad apples is never a solution.

  • Shirley
    October 05, 2012 - 08:36


  • peiman
    October 05, 2012 - 08:11

    Come on guys, EI is not EI on is welfare....don't talk about how much you pay in!!! and on another issue, why is the PEI government having hearings on a program that is federal, while they ignore citizens on the many other issues, ie Plan B, health care, etc etc.

  • over used
    October 05, 2012 - 06:39

    yes every working person does pay into the EI fund. but the very small amout that a seasonal worker puts into this fund would not pay back much to that worker. its the year round work force that keeps this fund up and running. so dont kid yourself and think your just getting back what you put in if your working 14 or 15 weeks per year job!!! so why should i have to pay for everyone on EI to sit home?

  • Lets see
    October 05, 2012 - 06:23

    Really...Not Change Thinking,are fortunate enough to have full time jobs,nothing lasts forever and some day you will be happy to see an EI or pension cheque, then you will know how others feel

  • this is unbelievable
    October 05, 2012 - 06:13

    There is nothing wrong with only working a few month of the year, that's ok, just don't expect to get paid for the whole year. This idea that working for 16 weeks and living off the people who work year round is poison, when are islanders going to realize that we need to work year round. All this talk of seasonal industries is just as stupid, fishers draw EI in July and then go on TV and say you can't fish in winter, everyone knows that but you can work in july! Why bother though if you can receive $450 a week for doing nothing. Our seasonal industries would be run very differently if they did not have access to this wage subsidy call EI. And this stupid statement about "its not government's money, it belongs to employers and employees", it is part of payroll tax, try not paying it, you will be fined or go to jail. Where do government's get any money but from employers and employees? How can someone pay $500 of ei premium and collect $7000 ei benefit year after year, this makes no sense, it is poison for our youth and our communities, 50 years of this "system" has not improved anything, some industries and people have become dependent on this and have no desire or ability to get off it. This silly committee with Gallant's wife showing up as a witness is a farce.

  • nitpicker
    October 05, 2012 - 06:07

    I agree we shouldn't apologize for the seasonal nature of our economy; we are what we are. And yes, its unfair for everyone to be painted with the same brush. But that said, I have heard far too many stories about jobs being difficult to fill in "pogie season". To me, a better definition of pride is not accepting EI cheques when work is really available (assuming the work is something you could reasonably be expected to do). EI is insurance for when you lose a job through no fault of your own and cannot find subsequent employment.

  • money for nothin
    October 05, 2012 - 05:34

    all of my family worked their 30 or 40 years to date and paid for ei -- never collected -- yes on pei -- WONDER HOW WE DID IT ???????? if you want to find work you can ---i know people need ei and i am happy to have helped the system work but i know a lot of people who steal from the system by abusing it

    • Situational circumstances
      October 06, 2012 - 00:12

      Must be nice. Because it's All about who you know and who you 8l0w. Thick head attitudes everywhere. Nobody reads between the lines.

  • John W.A. Curtis
    October 05, 2012 - 03:50

    Marie Burge should run for politics she would become another 14 week pogey politician. There is no onus on seasonal industries to expand to provide year round employment. P.E.I. 'S provincial politicians work seasonal two short sessions and then take the rest of the year off.

  • Joe Blow
    October 04, 2012 - 23:04

    The EI system is a great system to be able to use when needed!!! Whether that means because of a seasonal job or because someone is in between jobs. Every person who has ever worked and had EI taken from their cheques has the full right to open an EI claim and draw money from the fund if they need to. The government is trying to penalize us for using money that WE gave to the EI does that even make sense? It is our full blown right to draw EI !!! Its the same as us telling the government that they can't use their pensions the way they want. They paid into their pensions for years, much like we have paid into the EI fund. There are seasonal workers all across Canada that rely on EI to get them through to the next season of work. Its not like they are making the hundreds and thousands of dollars that our government officials give themselves....they are taking home a percentage of their income while they are drawing EI. The government needs to leave the system alone!! It works and sure is handy to fall back on in times of need.

  • Really?
    October 04, 2012 - 21:49

    Marge, are you serious? Extend your genorosity throughout Canada and see how your comment works. Back off the meds. If you think this works, please help me work out a plan that sees me working for a few weeks and living off your wages for the rest of the year.

    October 04, 2012 - 21:13

    Marie, you will not change the thinking of the vast majority of EI payers who work full time and watch year after year as the Island PART TIME people do their 14 weeks then sit back for the rest of the year and are now complaining that they can't have full EI and a job also., Time for change on this Island.

    • Hankic Ousiwasjeck
      October 05, 2012 - 06:54

      I am with you 'Not Change Thinking. get the government out of this program all together. Let people figure out how to make a living. I did and I do not rely on the government in the winter time. Get out and do some work for cripes sake. This is just funding sloth.

    • Ulfric
      October 06, 2012 - 00:08

      What change exactly? Any suggestions, I'd love to hear them? I Look forward to hearing back to some logical answers instead of taking jabs at people in a worse position than yourself. Have a nice day!