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.