© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Premier Robert Ghiz , of P.E.I., left, shakes hands with Premier David Alward of New Brunswick at the end of a Council of Atlantic Premiers meeting in Saint John, N.B. on Monday, May 26, 2014.
SAINT JOHN, N.B. _ The premier of Prince Edward Island says he wants changes to the Employment Insurance program reversed, regardless of what a report says about the impact those changes have had on Atlantic Canada.
``My demand in regards to EI has not changed, regardless of what this report is going to say,'' Robert Ghiz said Monday following a two-day meeting of the Atlantic premiers in Saint John, N.B.
``If (the federal government) wants to change how the EI system in our country works, they should do it in consultation with the provinces.''
A year ago, the Atlantic premiers commissioned a panel to study the impact of Employment Insurance changes on the region, and this week the premiers got to look at a draft report. But they say it will be a few more weeks before the panel releases the final document and they won't release details in the meantime.
Under some of the new rules, those who frequently claim EI need to prove they're actively seeking work. Workers must also accept a job within 100 kilometres of their home as long as they are qualified and the pay is at least 70 per cent of their previous salary.
The premiers have repeatedly expressed concerns that changes to the Employment Insurance program will hurt seasonal industries and businesses in the region.
The office of federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney said he would like to know what info the panel is examining.
``We are curious to know on which data the panel is basing its report on as the Statistics Canada data and findings could not be more clear: far less than one per cent of EI disqualifications have to do with the federal government's changes to EI,'' Alexandra Fortier, a spokeswoman for Kenney, said in a statement.
``Employment Insurance continues to be there for those who have paid into the system and have lost their job through no fault of their own, including in areas where jobs simply do not exist outside of seasonal or specialized industries.''
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the report was ``a snapshot in time,'' adding that more work will be needed in the future to continue to measure the impacts of the EI changes.
McNeil and New Brunswick Premier David Alward said the report is a recognition that before changes are made to federal programs, Ottawa needs to speak to the provinces.
The changes to the EI program have prompted numerous protests across the region.
The federal government has said the changes would better connect people with available job opportunities and they were required as a result of unprecedented labour and skills shortages.
The changes to the program were expected to save the public treasury $33 million this year.
During their meeting, the premiers also discussed energy developments in the region, the need to be able to attract more immigrants, and they signed a memorandum of understanding on apprenticeship harmonization.
They said the memorandum is intended to help retain skilled workers for current and future development in the Atlantic provinces.