Don’t blame P.E.I.’s record high out-migration rates on EI changes: Harper

Teresa Wright
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

This is the largest loss of P.E.I. residents to other provinces in more than 30 years.


A record high number of P.E.I. residents are leaving and moving to other provinces, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper says this has nothing to do with changes to employment insurance.

Statistics Canada data shows out-migration in Prince Edward Island reached its highest level in over 30 years in 2013 an increase P.E.I.’s Innovation Minister Allen Roach has directly blamed on the changes to EI eligibility.

During a visit in Charlottetown Thursday, Harper denied any link between the two.

“To the extent there’s out-migration, it has nothing to do with the employment insurance system,” Harper said Thursday in Charlottetown.

“It is just the reality.”

In 2012-13, P.E.I. experienced a net loss of close to 1,100 Islanders to inter-provincial migration, according to data from Statistics Canada.

This is the largest loss of P.E.I. residents to other provinces in more than 30 years.

Tourism and business representatives from across the province have expressed concerns about the out-migration of workers, also attributing this to the changes in EI rules.

An increasing number of Islanders, especially from rural areas, are going to western Canada for work.

Some are leaving P.E.I. altogether while other families are seeing husbands and fathers “commuting” to Alberta spending two weeks in the oil patch, one week at home.

A Families of Migrant Workers support group was even formed in western P.E.I. to help local women connect with others whose husbands, fathers, brothers and partners have left for extended periods to work out west.

Others have told The Guardian they are having trouble this year finding enough workers for their lobster boats or their farms due to the increased number of Islanders who have gone west for bigger paycheques.

When asked Thursday whether the EI changes were designed to drive workers from provinces with high unemployment rates, like P.E.I., to the oil sands, Harper said that decision is up to the workers.

“The job searches that we require do not require people to take work outside of their local area,” Harper said.

“It’s not unique to Prince Edward Island that there are greater economic opportunities particularly for young people, more economic opportunities in some parts of the country than others. And that’s just the reality of the situation; it’s not an EI phenomenon.”

But P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz says all four Atlantic premiers agree the EI changes “have not been good for Atlantic Canada.”

They have a draft report from a panel they struck to examine impacts of the EI changes, but have not yet made this report public.

“To the extent there’s out-migration, it has nothing to do with the employment insurance is just reality" Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Ghiz said that’s because it is too early yet to be able to accurately measure the long-term effects of the EI reforms on the region.

“We’re continuing to do research on the issue to make evidence-based research available to the federal government to be able to demonstrate that we think it has more of a negative impact in terms of provinces where seasonal industries play a larger role in the economy,” Ghiz said.

He added the report will call for a reversal of some of the reforms, including the cancellation of the five-week pilot that saw a five-week extension of EI benefits for workers in areas of high unemployment.

It also calls for the creation of two EI zones in P.E.I. to be scrapped.

Ghiz said this province is too small in population and in geographical area to be divided in this manner.

The Atlantic premiers’ EI report will be released very soon, Ghiz promised.

In the meantime, Harper says the EI system “will be there for people who have contributed to it and who are unable to find work through no fault of their own.”



  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • ToTheMax
    August 14, 2014 - 22:22

    I think in my opinion the island needs something new, sick of hearing the same stuff all the time for generations, PEI will be a ghost province and it is and has shown to been progressing towards that for years, fisheries going bankrupt, french fry sales declining in a more health conscious world, climate is changing in becoming warmer as it threatens crop productions, the list goes on, we are losing out and it is getting worst, EI makes us all sick to death with the same old ride all the time. There needs to be change here, a new idea, a new way for our island economy to flourish in not just relying on fish and the future declining of potato crops and tourist, PEI has been known for having the best soil for growing in the world so here is my pitch, Hemp and cannabis production worldwide is on the rise with no end in site, US is beating Canada in farming this, every state in the US that legalized the growing and production of this is actually flourishing and in fact its saving them from going into debt, I was watching a show about it, mayors and leaders of these communities are praising it saying if it wasn't for this our economy would be doomed, I really think PEI could really flourish from cultivating and competing on a demanding world market, it is time that we had something new and exciting for the future of PEI, even tourism will bring in bigger profits as well, many things can be made from hemp, cannabis is being used all over the world for medical purposes, we have to get with the future and forget the past cause it just isn't working for us anymore!

  • Ex Islander
    June 20, 2014 - 10:05

    I knew this bunch of comments would be fun when I saw the headline. People so mad, they can't spell or form sentences. The reality is, EI is a partial factor but the real reason is the Island has no resources and you can't change that no matter who's in the PMO. It's a beautiful place with no oil, no minerals, no forests, no factories etc. The only industries are some fishing for a select few, farming for a few others and tourism 2-4 months a year. The beauty of the landscape can't put bread on the table and pay the rent for the vast majority. Face facts, unless intellectual industries come to PEI, high unemployment and out migration will always be a fact of life.

    • Sitting at the Doc Of the Bay
      June 20, 2014 - 12:57

      Very Well Said ! I Think You Hit The Nail on The Head. Good Job !

  • townie22
    June 20, 2014 - 08:52

    what it boils down to is that there is excess in the EI fund that the CPC is putting towards the deficit, the more cuts made to EI, the more they can put into general revenue to use against the deficit., so they can brag for the next election how they defeated the deficit, albeit at the price of cuts to Veterans, unemployed, health care, etc. plus, the harder it is to qualify for EI, the lower the unemployment rate shows, making the CPC look better, try factoring in the hidden unemployed and see the real rate. as a Newfoundland Conservative Senator recently said, the Harper Government considers it that Canada ends at the Ontario Quebec border.

    • Angus
      June 20, 2014 - 10:17

      Actually Townie Islanders along with much of the East Coast have decided that by their electoral choices. Just as have Quebecers. Hard to understand you're complaints against a government you folks decided you didn't want to be part of. Regional interests are defended inside the government caucus 'twas ever thus. So stop your be-ching!

    • townie22
      June 20, 2014 - 12:07

      so Angus, are you saying if we had of voted for the CPC these changes wouldn't have happened? all you did there was confirm CPC political partisanship by the CPC. oh, and Gail Shay is supposed to be P.E.I.'s representative in cabinet, and we all know how that is working out....

    • Angus
      June 21, 2014 - 00:16

      Actually Townie it's Gail Shea - just to give the minister the right to have her name spelled correctly. You may someday want to remember it at the ballot box. And what I am saying is that much as in the days of successive Liberal governments, as anyone with any political experience on PEI or elsewhere will attest, when you need to make the case for your province, it is best made in the government caucus wherein lies the power. Islanders have chose to act otherwise and sent the 3 blind mice to Ottawa to scrabble for bits of cheese, while other provinces eat steak. It's their choice as it will be next time. Seems silly to complain of the effects of their decision after the fact. If they are happy with their choices both provincially and federally and prepared to live with them, then whom am I, or you for that matter to argue with them.

    • Joe saunders
      June 21, 2014 - 03:00

      The access in EI doesn't mean you should get it! If it went by area and your area got what it paid in you'd be getting 1$ a week!

  • J
    June 20, 2014 - 08:44

    What's wrong with people going other places to work? It's been happening for ages. what's better than show your children etc that you want to work instead of receiving an EI chegue. The government won't touch the fishermen, would open too big of a can of worms. I wonder how many people would invest in a business in the first place where they have to live on EI most of the year? Some would say that's bad business ....

  • Angus
    June 20, 2014 - 08:27

    Ambitious Islanders wanting a better lifestyle for themselves and families have been leaving PEI for years. Only the downtrodden and the spineless want to life life under the Family Compact that has run PEI forever and includes the elites of both the Liberal and Conservative party. To blame Harper is ridiculous. It's been the same for over a century. Those who want a 'pogey\welfare' life style or who are fortunate enough to enjoy the largesse that comes with political partronage will remain content. Those with drive and ambition will go elsewhere for opportunities that don't have to come with a family name or how you vote.

  • R J Halifax
    June 20, 2014 - 08:22

    I worked with a young man from the Maritimes, and he explained that one of the means for a family to make money, is to have Dad ask to be laid off from the fish plant when he he qualifies for EI. Then oldest son takes that job until he qualifies for EI, then the younger son takes that job....and so on, and so on. So, you get three guys collecting EI during the same year,for the same job. And this fellow thought it was clever. The EI system needed to be changed......but the culture that sees this type of abuse as normal will be harder to change

  • Cons B gone
    June 20, 2014 - 08:08

    Harper quotes "There is a dependence in the region that breeds a culture of defeatism," (Stephen Harper, CBC News, May 30, 2002) "I think in Atlantic Canada, because of what happened in the decades following Confederation, there is a culture of defeat that we have to overcome. …Atlantic Canada's culture of defeat will be hard to overcome as long as Atlantic Canada is actually physically trailing the rest of the country." (Stephen Harper, New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, May 29, 2002) "There's unfortunately a view of too many people in Atlantic Canada that it's only through government favours that there's going to be economic progress, or that's what you look to …That kind of can't-do attitude is a problem in this country but it's obviously more serious in regions that have had have-not status for a long time." (Stephen Harper, Toronto Sun, May 31, 2002) [Alliance] leadership race. I delivered [speeches] everywhere I went, including in the Maritime provinces on several occasions, about the spirit of defeatism in the country and what drives it and how we have to address it.” (Stephen Harper, National Post, May 31, 2002)

    • Garth Staples
      June 20, 2014 - 11:13

      PM Harper got it correct. Now if the Maritimes would listen instead of 'harping'.

    • scott
      June 20, 2014 - 13:02

      Garth Saples, How did you arrive at your conclusions or did you pull more bias from your quiver? Your the most biased tory lackey on the net. pot/kettle

    • Dave
      June 20, 2014 - 13:36

      I live and work with many relocated Islanders/maritimers and I don't know one who doesn't agree with Harper. Once you leave it is a lot easier to see it. Not so much when you are in the middle of it.

  • Quiet Observer
    June 20, 2014 - 07:12

    When I listen to Harper I hear Ghiz. When I listen to Ghiz I hear Harper. These 2 are cut from the same cloth. Niether cares about the average person and both are out of touch with the working poor and underemployed.

    • Sitting at the Doc Of the Bay
      June 20, 2014 - 13:05

      I Get The Same Feeling When I Seen The Video. This GHIZ Guy Got To Go.

    • Dave
      June 20, 2014 - 14:17

      But..................aren't the working poor and underemployed much better off leaving for a region where they and their children will be much more successful? Continuing the cycle certainly doesn't help.

  • Fishing EI abuse must stop
    June 20, 2014 - 05:58

    To bad he can't stop fishermen from draining the EI system with 2 EI claims per person in the same year even after selling $150 k worth of lobster . The CRA and DFO seem to ignore the rampant cash sales of lobster and scallops on PEI . EI should be a fair system with no special groups draining EI on the backs of the rest of us .

  • voter
    June 20, 2014 - 05:46

    NOT TO BE TRUSTED --- every one of them -harper,ghiz, trudeau , and the rest ,right down to the family compacts and businesses that breed,support and sponge off them

  • Working out west
    June 19, 2014 - 22:25

    Some of the comments here reveal the strong NDP and Liberal roots.....your bias is a riot....Do you really think TRUDEAU or Mulclair know anything about Maritime life....NO... do they know why islanders leave ..NO they play games also YES......DO the NDP and LIberals miss being at the trough getting the goodies ..YES.....Will HARPER bedaround for the next election.. YES..will ridings vote Liberal and lose out on Govt programs againYES......was there EI abuse ..YES.. IS NO Google Right ...YES...IF you want to work you will be willing to move like alot of us did.....the days of working 6-8 months a year ...and doing nothing for 4 are over........demonizing Harper does it work NO...times have changed..

    • GetReal
      June 20, 2014 - 10:05

      People need to be held responsible for the decisions that THEY are making. Constantly comparing the current prime minister's decisions to those that happened in the past is just plain dumb or trying to second guess what Mulcair and Trudeau know is ridiculous. They aren't in power. They aren't making decisions. Harper's decisions speak volume about what Harper thinks and knows... not anyone else. And politicians do get to work 6-8 months and do nothing for 4 or more months.... and look at their pensions and benefits!

  • up easterner
    June 19, 2014 - 20:55

    Robert Ghiz,could you live on 12.00- 15.00 dollars an hour and make ends meet! You bunch of thieves have got to stop lining each others pockets and continually rising taxes on us average wage earners.Yes,people on this island want to work but it gets harder every year because you thieves are continually rising taxes for foolish expenses .In the next 10 years the only people able to survive here will be politicians,public sector employees,account ants and lawyers!!! AND!! I AM NOT WHINING,JUST CONCERNED FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE COMING OUT OF SCHOOLS!!!

  • Ghiz hates rural PEI
    June 19, 2014 - 20:19

    Well, let's see. We have a provincial government that doubled our debt -- something that took 143 years to create, they managed to match in just 7 years; they increased the net price of homes by 5%; they increased taxes on small business job creators by 350%; they hiked the price of electricity and gasoline by 9%, plus they made the most foolish deal with Maritime Electric anyone has ever seen which allowed electric rates to skyrocket while taxpayers were saddled with Maritime Electric's private debt on the government's balance sheet (Ghiz probably owns stock in the company, folks!); they've closed essential services in rural areas like schools and health facilities and they accidentally revealed their plan to close more; they've given unprecedented amounts of money to foreign corporations who have cashed our cheques and fled, and; they've increased taxes while allowing unemployment numbers to increase. But yeah. Good call everyone, blame unemployment insurance as the fault for the Ghiz government's completely abysmal financial record. Some of these Liberals belong in jail, but they still have government credit cards. Hi Brooke!

    • karma
      June 20, 2014 - 07:31

      And all these increases have to happen! The people forced to leave are paying their taxes in Alberta, at a much lower rate than here too. So, the tax collector here on P.E.I will soon be crying they aren't getting enough and hike that too! It will never end until this Island is full of summer residents and retirees. But, I guess then there will be no need for schools. Just one big Cavendish

    • True,true,true!!!!
      June 20, 2014 - 09:00

      A well written and very true assessment of Ghiz and his incompetent crew. Robert Ghiz has never applied for and worked at a full time job in his life; and it shows!!!! In spite of these facts; those mis-guided liberal will continue to blame Stephen Harper for the lack of jobs ad opportunity on PEI, and will vote him in again! Sad, very sad for PEI!!!

  • So out of touch
    June 19, 2014 - 20:02

    Cry minister Harper doesn't even realize what goes on let alone what life is about in the maritimes, or only what his lackies tell him; he's so disconnected with the hinterlands of upper Canada he can't even begin to believe that we should consider that his opinion of us and lives even matter to him and his party and their agendas

    • Garth Staples
      June 20, 2014 - 08:39

      How did you arrive at your conclusions or did you pull more bias from your quiver?

    • Observer from the East
      June 20, 2014 - 11:40

      Oh Garth Staples, if there was anybody on this site who shouldn't talk about bias in their comments, it would be you #ToryHack

  • Ed
    June 19, 2014 - 20:01

    Anti-Canadian Harper exists only ror Alberta and his fat oil cabal. Any Canadians who vote for con MPs under Harper are traitors to their own province.

    • don
      June 20, 2014 - 00:43

      the biggest traitor to PEI is ghiz and his gang. he is not wanting o use some of the money from islanders to help make jobs but to give ,donate o the rich liberals. and that is driving islanders away. how many islanders i wonder have tried to start a business and gets told sorry we have no money or we do not loan out o that area. but then they had 10 million to donate to OCI that is NON ISLANDERS and to certain farmers that owes multi millions and have they paid it back NO will ghiz right it off YES so who pays the money owing = tax payers. that is why our kids are leaving. if we could only se the real books the truth not lies we would be scared and faint as to who really got money.

  • In The Know
    June 19, 2014 - 19:44

    People are waking up. Claims of this kind are not fooling anyone any more. People know the games that are being played and they don't swallow it any more. Say what you will Mr. Harper. Nobody is buying it.

    • bob from cardigan
      June 20, 2014 - 07:46

      buying what exactly. what are you even talking about. how would EI have anythign to do with people leaving pei for work. You have to work to get EI. No work, no EI. guess what, there is no work on pei. 20 + applicants for every job posting. does that ring a bell. wake up.

  • ff
    June 19, 2014 - 19:38

    this is for no google.u are probly one that works under the table.practice what u preach.take a good long look in ur own backyard before judging anybody.u will have grandkids someday they might be on ei and work for what?

  • Questions
    June 19, 2014 - 19:34

    And just HOW does Mr. Harper know WHY people leave PEI?

    • bob from cardigan
      June 20, 2014 - 07:49

      your disdain for the man doesn't make what you believe correct. think about what he said than use your brain. pei never has jobs and never will be an economic powerhouse. upei produces 1000's of graduats a year but no jobs. ghiz cuts teachers jobs, no one says anything. hareper is right on this one folks. now go grow some apples with sheila.

  • no google
    June 19, 2014 - 18:55

    The ambitious people go out west , learn skills , work hard , save money and in many cases by property on P.E.I. .These people will return and will be a valuable part of P.E.I. in the future. The E.I. abusers stay here, work a few weeks then work under the table for the rest if the year. They are dregs on society.

    • Ed
      June 19, 2014 - 20:02

      You are just another paid PMO shill. Guaranteed.

    • apples
      June 20, 2014 - 05:23

      Face facts Ed what the PM is saying is the trueth. No google is corrrect in his assessment. Are you one of Ghiz's 14 weekers that is depended on EI for years?

  • sentance
    June 19, 2014 - 18:50

    To suggest that outmigration has nothing to do with EI changes is simply ridiculous, though it's equally ridiculous to suggest it's the only cause.

    • Check your facts
      June 19, 2014 - 20:20

      It has never been stated that if was the only reason/ but a contributing factor. Harper and Shae have no clue and and embarrassingly out of touch with the Maritime way if life.

    • And Just
      June 20, 2014 - 07:33

      And just what is the Maritime way of life ?????????????????????????????

    • Dave
      June 20, 2014 - 13:27

      I too am really curious how the Harper's ignorance of the "Maritime way of life" relates to changes to EI. Please elaborate