Concerns over new EI rules raised in Ottawa

Teresa Wright
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Protesters rallying against EI changes at Egmont MP Gail Shea's office in P.E.I. in October, 2012. Guardian file photo.

Concerns about new employment insurance regions in P.E.I. made their way to both the House of Commons and the Senate Tuesday, with the NDP and Liberals alike calling for all EI reforms to be scrapped.

During question period in the Commons, Nova Scotia NDP MP Robert Chisholm zeroed in on federal Fisheries Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea, who last week announced changes to the way EI will be administered in Prince Edward Island.

He accused Shea of looking out only for the residents of her own riding.

“The minister of fisheries has recognized that there are serious problems with the (EI) changes the government has made and she has made changes within her constituency,” he said.

“Why don’t they recognize that the unemployed across the region, Atlantic Canada and Quebec, are hurting as a result of these changes? Scrap the changes and come to this House with some real reform.”

Employment Minister Jason Kenney defended Shea, saying she has shown leadership on this file and that P.E.I. will be better off as a result of new rules announced last week.

“P.E.I. was the only province that did not recognize the difference between the urban and the rural economies. Now we have fairness for Prince Edward Islanders,” Kenney said.

But critics say these new EI rules are the opposite of fair, as they will create inequities between those living in Charlottetown and those in rest of the province.

Under the new rules, set to take effect in October, Prince Edward Island will go from being one EI region to having two EI zones — a capital and a non-capital region. The change will allow for higher EI benefits for rural claimants, but will in turn mean those living in the new Charlottetown region will have to work longer to qualify for EI and could be eligible for less money.

Representatives from the Canadian Union of Public Employees from all four Atlantic provinces slammed the changes in a letter published in The Guardian’s opinion page Tuesday.

The union reps said it was ‘patently unfair’ to make changes that benefit only select areas of the province. They also called the changes a “cynical ploy to buy votes by the fisheries minister.”

The controversial new EI rules were also raised Tuesday in the Senate.

Liberal Senator for P.E.I. Libbe Hubley similarly took aim at Shea, calling the latest changes ‘nothing but a political ploy.’

“As many have observed, those who will most benefit are residents in the minister’s own riding of Egmont, while residents of Malpeque, Cardigan and, most of all, Charlottetown will be negatively affected,” Hubley said during question period in the Senate.

“Why is the minister, who represents the entire province of Prince Edward Island, looking out for only the seasonal workers in her riding when she is responsible for the well-being of all Islanders?”

Malpeque MP Wayne Easter said he has been inundated with calls about the new rules, especially about how the Charlottetown region is being identified.

The federal department is using a census agglomeration map of Charlottetown to identify this new metropolitan EI region. This map encompasses not only Charlottetown proper, but also the better part of Queens County, including a number of rural areas and communities.

Easter says people are getting conflicting information about how to determine which EI region they live in.

“This announcement of Gail (Shea)’s on employment insurance of splitting the Island into two zones is an absolute mess and unnecessarily so,” Easter said.

“I want to inform my constituents about the details and no one from her office, deputy minister in Ottawa or Service Canada can outline the details for me in a comprehensive way.”

But Shea’s spokeswoman, Sophie Doucet, says P.E.I.’s Liberals MPs are trying to confuse the issue on purpose.

“Now that Wayne Easter has said he will campaign to change these rules in the 2015 election campaign, he needs to hope that the people in his riding who will benefit from these changes never learn the details.”

Organizations: House of Commons, NDP, Canadian Union of Public Employees Service Canada Liberals MPs

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Ottawa Atlantic Canada Quebec Queens

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Recent comments

  • sickofjr
    February 27, 2014 - 06:49

    Why is everyone worked up I am happy with the EI system I sold 60 k of lobsters and still managed to get 4 fishing claims for me and my wife the current system is working fine as far as I am concerned . I even sold 20k of scallops but that does not go on my bottom line. So to all the people fishing just keep your neighbour's from talking about it too much .

  • Wayne Cudmore
    Wayne Cudmore
    February 26, 2014 - 19:08

    Instead of assigning different areas in qualifying for EI, why don't they change it to the type of work a person does. If they are employed in seasonal industries, no matter where they live, they shouldn't have to have as many weeks to qualify. That way, you aren't pitting one area against the other. Tourism jobs are non-existent in most cases in the winter all over PEI. I don't consider people as being lazy if they can't find a job and have paid EI to hold them over until the seasonal jobs open up again.

  • Sentance
    February 26, 2014 - 17:40

    And Northern Ontario includes urban areas like Sault Ste Marie on a similar scale to Charlottetown.

  • ed
    February 26, 2014 - 15:13

    hey garth I am a fisherman in Charlottetown not rural take another look !.always got something to say and knows nothing.

    • Garth Staples
      February 26, 2014 - 17:00

      Living in Charlottetown? Then I guess you are benefiting from all the perks of the City. How much more do you want? If you are domiciled in Charlottetown then you are one lucky guy. PS : Why didn't you sign your real name? Never mind I can guess who you are!

  • Scott
    February 26, 2014 - 15:11

    I see the islands Tory hack garth is pounding the keys on behalf of his dear leader harper. Garth, we grow tired of your blue tinted glasses. Give it a rest. Better yet, put your name on the ballot so you can really see what people think of your opinions. Oh wait... the Tory back room would never allow it... too busy shaking thier heads and laughing at you... and thats a fcat.. from someone in the Tory back room.

      February 26, 2014 - 16:24

      I agree...he had a temper tantrum with Robert Ghiz ... word has it Robert wouldn't give him what he wanted so he stomped out...just like Rob MacEachern

    • Garth Staples
      February 26, 2014 - 16:56

      You are so funny. Got your goat I see. I never operated from the backroom. I learned from Robert L. Stanfield , not Chretien and definitely not Trudeau---that boy in man's clothing. By the way I did put my name on the ballot in NS and PEI. Won one , lost one. That's batting 500.

  • Rural resident
    February 26, 2014 - 13:41

    I live in rural pei but am classed in urban.. Now I don't need Ei but if I did it wouldn't be fair the way they have the zones set up.. Pei's main industries are farming and fishing so how many farming and fishing jobs are in Charlottetown???? So is it fair??? I think not.. And no I'm not a liberal or ndp supporter I'm for the best person available at election time!!!!! Government should not have control of the Ei money because it's paid into by employees and employers and they treat it as a personal slush fund and it has been proven by both liberal and conservative governments.. Billions taken out and still no balanced budget so therefore it would be considered another tax would it not

    • Garth Staples
      February 26, 2014 - 14:07

      What in the name of Dixie are you talking about. The new plan will help rural PEI workers. The last time I looked Fishers and Farmers were in rural PEI.

    • Rural resident
      February 26, 2014 - 17:26

      What I'm trying to say is that there is more jobs in farming and fishing on pei then there is jobs in Charlottetown so why the special treatment?? You still have to prove your looking for work so you will have to travel to town to look for work in the off season and when offered work cannot refuse work even if you have to travel to town... There is just no jobs on pei rural or urban... I know because I have 2 sons that have resumes all over Charlottetown for months now and guess what NO WORK.. Unless your an immigrant ;(

    February 26, 2014 - 12:43

    This pe!!!!!!!!!!, what have you is only a summer employer . We must face it we depend on summer people , also the employer must hirer 40% visible minorities . So that takes 40% of jobs that we once had from us .SO GOOD LUCK FINDING A JOB , I AM STILL TRYING, BEFORE WE HAVE TO LEAVE .Yes in my line of work spelling is importing .

    February 26, 2014 - 11:58

    Rumour has it that Gail Shea is so Embarrassed about this announcement that all the Mirrors have been removed from her house. By far the lowest form of Vote Buying the Island has ever seen. Harper and his Reform Party are The Worst Govt. Canada has ever had.

    • Captain Canuck
      February 26, 2014 - 14:10

      *slow-clap*... real classy Buddy, real classy.

  • Great job Shea!!
    February 26, 2014 - 11:56

    FINALY chtown get's a taste of what the rest of the island has been going through. Anything the government ever does always has to revolve around "Charlottetown" Finally, it's the other way around and everyone starts to cry. I think this is the best news in a while!!! What goes around, comes around!

    • LMAO
      February 26, 2014 - 13:42

      Are you for real or what??? Oh wait I bet you have a POBOX and live in Charlottetown.

    • Garth Staples
      February 26, 2014 - 14:04

      I now understand why the LIBERAL/GRIT MPs are so critical. They are afraid of losing the Liberal seats in Cardigan and Malpeque. Finally a taste of their medicine.

  • Fed up
    February 26, 2014 - 10:20

    What about the Town of Summerside? With the gst centre there, there is lots of work....and with this stupid division, Summerside is considered Rural? Come ON Shea wake up...this is not helping anyone except Tignish...and all the fishermen...who already draw full EI....along with wives, sons, etc....

  • memyselfandi
    February 26, 2014 - 09:41

    Get off the pot you DUMMIES if you think these rules would be better off for all of PEI!!, This is discriminating and unfair to residents of the Charlottetown area. It may be ok if you bend the rules a bit for the workers in the areas that need it but the rules should not be changed to residents of Charlottetown, that is just not right!! I have applied to over 30 jobs in Charlottetown and although I have excellent letters of recommendation and solid references I never hear any response at all! Not even the decency to thank you for my resume!! So if you think that there is more opportunity for us here in Charlottetown think again! It's obviously who you know around this town. This concerns me and cheezes me off, it's not as easy to get a job, there are hundreds of people vying for one position. Think about it!

  • totally appalled
    February 26, 2014 - 08:59

    gotta love this fair representation for all Islanders. Gail Shea is only interested in her own bottom line, never mind the people. Might just have to board up the whole island soon because there will be no one left.

  • Kay
    February 26, 2014 - 08:49

    These changes are not reflective of creating economy within this Island. If a person who has been out of the workforce for a number of years wants to qualify for Employment Insurance in order to access the retraining available and they live in Charlottetown, they will be required to work many more hours than someone working outside the Charlottetown area for the same program. Furthermore, some of these people choose to live in the Charlottetown area, because they can not afford to maintain a car, pay insurance, taxes and registration not to mention upkeep of a vechicle. How is this treating people fair and with equality?

    • Frank
      February 26, 2014 - 11:31

      Actually Kay, someone who has been out of the workforce for many years will need 910 hours to qualify for EI whether they live in Charlottetown, Tignish or Northern Ontario.

    February 26, 2014 - 07:19

    All you Islanders are lazy! You all believe you are entitled to these benefits without barely working. C'mon give me a break. The only people on PEI who deserve a raise are our lawyers and politicians who have to put up with you.

  • Sentance
    February 26, 2014 - 07:17

    PEI is the only province that hasn't recognized the difference between rural and urban because by the usual standard applied in the case of EI we don't have an urban area. All other stand alone urban regions in the country are census metropolitan areas with populations in excess of 100,000, a level Charlottetown falls far short of.

    • Garth Staples
      February 26, 2014 - 11:36

      It is the capital of the province and is where the concentration of job opportunities and jobs are located. Are the same opportunities in Souris, Montague, Morel, Murray River etc? When you have more you want more.

    • Sentance
      February 26, 2014 - 17:45

      It may be urban by Island standards, but it's on the same scale as dozens of other modest urban areas across the country that aren't singled out, but are included in regions that are a mix of urban and rural districts. Why are we being treated differently?

  • Garth Staples
    February 26, 2014 - 07:15

    Hello! Is anyone listening at the Guardian? Where are your investigative skills? The EI system now is being adjusted to bring equality with other regions in Canada. One example is Northern ON is a region because of high unemployment so the rules are different from Toronto. Does Wayne Easter et al think for a moment employment opportunities are the same in Souris as they are in Charlottetown? Who in the media will be fair for a change and call these Liberals to defend their spreading of misinformation?