TIGNISH -- In a yearend interview, Egmont MP and Minister of National Revenue Gail Shea sought to reassure constituents that Employment Insurance will still be available to those who can’t find a job.
“Is there more enforcement? Yes, there is, but I think it wouldn’t be argued there was not much enforcement in the past,” Shea said of changes made to the Employment Insurance Act. She said the system was sometimes frustrating for employers, because they felt like they were competing with the EI system when seeking employees.
She pointed to what’s driving the changes to the EI system: “We have an aging population, a shrinking workforce and there’s a real concern of who’s going to do the jobs in the future when we just don’t have the people.”
There are more expectations on workers to seek out work while on EI. “There are some changes, yes. I think people need to know that EI will be there. It’s not going to be taken away from them, but, will they be expected to take work that’s available in their area, if the pay scale is within the range? Of course they will be, if they’re qualified for that work,” Shea stressed.
“I know some people are concerned and I’ve passed on all of the concerns,” she added.
But Prince Edward Island’s lone MP on the government side of the House said there are many opportunities available to workers, as well pointing out both the federal and provincial government have invested heavily in skills training. That includes new Holland College campuses in Alberton and Summerside. “Anybody would tell you more and more people are taking up those opportunities to get trained. The facilities are there and the assistance is there,” she said.
The regional minister for Prince Edward Island was also asked about the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s decision to terminate core funding to Regional Development Organizations, including Resources West and the Central Prince Development Corporation at the end of the current fiscal year in March. She pointed out ACOA has employees spread throughout Atlantic Canada who deliver many of the same services. “We can’t be spending taxpayers’ money duplicating things,” she stressed.
She pointed out the Minister responsible for ACOA, Bernard Valcourt, has indicated he will be having discussions with the provinces going forward on the best way to ensure services continue to be delivered. She said she will be passing on to Valcourt discussions happening within the RDOs about project management and will seek answers on whether the federal government can partner with the province in delivering services out the Rural Action Centres.