National revenue minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea is taking heat for leaving just before being asked to vote on an Opposition motion in the House of Commons Wednesday calling on government to reverse its EI reforms.
The NDP motion called the controversial changes made over the last several months to employment insurance eligibility and benefits 'devastating.' NDP members in the House at the time stood one by one and voted to support the motion.
But just before it came upon her time to vote, Shea suddenly left the floor of the House of Commons.
Charlottetown MP Sean Casey says he believes Shea should have stayed to vote in order to show Islanders where she stands on the EI changes.
“I think her constituents in particular and Islanders in general are entitled to see whether she supports the government's position or whether she supports (P.E.I.'s) view,” he said.
“The fact that she denied them the opportunity to see whether she would stand on her feet with her constituents with the prime minister is troubling.”
Shea was not made available for an interview Thursday, but her director of communications Clarke Olsen told The Guardian she had to leave the vote “for personal reasons”.
Casey and other politicians of all political stripe, both federal and provincial, say they're hearing daily from Islanders concerned and fearful about the changes to the EI system that have been rolling out over the last several months.
These changes specifically target frequent users and put a greater emphasis on claimants looking for and accepting available work. The feds also cancelled a pilot project that saw an additional five weeks of payments for those in higher areas of unemployment, including P.E.I.
P.E.I. and other Atlantic provinces have raised serious concerns over the impacts these controversial new EI rules will have on seasonal industries and workers.
The NDP motion Wednesday called on the Harper government to reverse these changes, which they believe “restrict access and benefits, depress wages, push vulnerable Canadians into poverty and download costs onto the provinces.”
The motion was defeated by a vote of 148 to 130.
Casey reviewed a videotape of the voting Wednesday evening, and noted Shea would only have had to remain for just over a minute in order to stay for the vote.
He said he finds it hard to believe she could not stay this additional minute and show Islanders where she stands on the issue.
“The single biggest political political issue on Prince Edward Island is the changes to EI,” Casey said.
“Wherever she had to leave to go to, the urgency was such that she saved just one minute and fifteen seconds by leaving early.”