© Guardian photo by Steve Sharratt
Single mom protester Marlene Geirsdorf speaks to a reporter from the Toronto Star last Monday as her campaign against being cut off from her EI benefits continues in Montague.
MONTAGUE - It may be a case of phone tag, but the woman protesting against losing her EI benefits says she’s not that hard to find if Services Canada officials want to chat.
“I’ve tried to get in contact with them and left messages, so I’m not sure what they are saying,’’ said Marlene Giersdorf on Friday while manning her protest spot in front of the Services Canada building. “I can’t afford a phone so I use the number of a friend.”
Both National Revenue Minister Gail Shea and Alyson Queen, communications director for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, say efforts are being made to discuss the issue with the 30-year-old single mom, but to little avail.
Geirsdorf, who doesn’t have a car or access to public transportation, was advised two weeks ago she would be cut off her EI claim because she wouldn’t go to Charlottetown to work.
“No one will lose their EI benefits for the sole reason that they don’t own a car,’’ insisted Queen. “Nor will they be expected to buy a car or move. There have been multiple attempts to reach her.”
However, despite that clarification, there has been no settlement of the issue as Geirsdorf continues to protest. She has been advised that her “appeal” claim to have EI reinstated could be fast tracked.
Meanwhile, Geirsdorf insists she is protesting to alert other claimants in similar situations that the federal changes to EI are detrimental to those who are employed on a seasonal basis. She also says if a federal representative wants to talk to her she is standing just outside the building.
“While I am unable to speak directly about an individual’s circumstances, it is important that Ms. Geirsdorf works with Service Canada to bring resolution to this issue,’’ said Shea in a statement to The Guardian. “If there aren’t jobs in a particular area, EI will continue to be there.”
Last week, Queen said there were half a dozen jobs in Montague the woman could have applied for; however, Geirsdorf said they were all beyond her qualifications. Officials also say there is more to the EI case than meets the eye, but can’t discuss it.
Queen said if someone does not demonstrate they are actively looking for work, they risk losing benefits.
“I can’t comment on her reinstatement, but I encourage her to accept the help of Service Canada and learn of her options,” she said.