Atlantic premiers release EI report

Jim Day
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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.

A report on the impact of recent changes to employment insurance lacked enough data to examine the actual effects.

So P.E.I. and the other Atlantic provinces have been urged to conduct their own analysis in the wake of controversial changes made to EI by the federal government in January 2013.

“Atlantic premiers have a strong role to play in educating Federal counterparts and EI policy staff on the effects of seasonality to ensure that employment supports are available for Atlantic Canadians when they are needed,’’ an advisory panel stated in its final report released Monday.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REPORT

Premier Robert Ghiz says the P.E.I. Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning presented some preliminary work last year on the impact of EI changes and notes the province will continue to monitor impacts to the local economy.

Several recommendations were made by the Atlantic Premiers’ Panel that was struck in June 2013 to undertake a pan-Atlantic consultation and research into the impact of changes that include requiring people to 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.

Perhaps the most important recommendation, as far as P.E.I. may be concerned, is the panel’s call for the reinstatement of the Best 14 Weeks and the Extended Employment Insurance Benefits Pilot Project for all economic regions where high seasonal employment occurs.

Participants in the project told the panel they received higher payments on their claims than if the pilot wasn’t in place.

“This is an important recommendation for our province,’’ says Ghiz.

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Agriculture sector employers also found it helpful to maintain workers over a whole harvesting season.

Input was gathered over the past year from a wide array of stakeholders, claimants, government representatives and concerned citizens throughout Atlantic Canada.

In-person sessions, a telephone survey and a review of written submissions were done to develop the report.

The panel heard support for the changes from groups that felt that the EI program had inefficiencies that needed to be addressed. However, it did not receive substantiated reports of employers who were benefitting from the changes.

“One thing is abundantly clear — Atlantic Canadians have very deep concerns regarding the potential effects of the changes,’’ the advisory panel states in its final report.

“Much of the fear stems from the issues surrounding the way that the changes were introduced (lack of communications, misunderstanding of the issues) rather than any actual experienced effects.’’

Still, Ghiz maintains that the federal government cannot continue to use a ‘one size fits all’’ approach to EI programs.

“This has a disproportional impact on our province, due to our seasonal economy,’’ says Ghiz.

A spokeswoman for Employment Minister Jason Kenney informed The Guardian that the federal government changes to EI did not change the rules around applying and qualifying for EI, but simply clarified longstanding requirements.

“Furthermore, the federal government proactively gave the data gathered by Statistics Canada to the panel, and the 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 said in a statement.

“In other words, 99 per cent of EI disqualifications have absolutely nothing to do with our changes.’’

Strong opposition was voiced during the in-person sessions with the Atlantic Premiers’ Panel towards the existence of three classifications of claimants. Some described the multiple classifications as discriminatory, derogatory and unfair.

A strong belief was also held among participants of in-person sessions that out-migration from the provinces is a direct result of the changes to EI.

Premier Stephen Harper shot down that notion during a recent visit to P.E.I.

“To the extent that there’s outmigration, it has nothing to do with the employment system,’’ Harper said after a funding announcement in Charlottetown.

“It is just the reality, and it’s not unique to Prince Edward Island, that there are greater economic opportunities in some parts of the country than others.’’

The federal government has said the changes will better connect people with available job opportunities and they were required as a result of unprecedented labour and skills shortages.

Organizations: Council of Atlantic Premiers

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • don
    June 30, 2014 - 23:51

    well if you really want to help keep the people from the maritime's working. help start up training programs, and STOP allowing tfw in to take our jobs. all you are doing is helping canadians stay on welfare and ei. wake up the days of SLAVERY is over.

  • Rich EI fisherman
    June 30, 2014 - 18:24

    Funny ever hear of a lobstermen getting disqualified for selling scallops or lobster off the books . They do every day but never get caught .Kind of neat how they can but a carpenter or mechanic can't . The sales based fishing EI is being milked for every dollar .

  • New Leadership Required
    June 30, 2014 - 17:03

    Another study to a Liberal Consultant who probably has a student hired on through a wage subsidy program getting mega dollars to research it. $ well spent.

    • don
      June 30, 2014 - 23:54

      no canadian students do not know anything so they hired a tfw to do the job. but i think we can save millions by getting tfw to take the jobs of our mla's and the premiers of the maritime's. they can do a better job then you all can and cheaper.

  • a bit amazed
    June 30, 2014 - 14:59

    The panel was handpicked by the premiers to deliver a report to support their own position, they created a "dog and pony show" in communities, got all their partisans out, had the media eating out of their hands and what do we get, NOTHING! They couldn't even come up with one significant recommendation, we islanders are so gullible.

  • unbelievable
    June 30, 2014 - 14:53

    this is amazing, the report 5 months late has no details and says they don't have enough information, what a farce, instead of deling with our staggering debt that is costing islanders the highest taxes in the country and making the island a very difficult place to do business, Ghiz and his incompetent Innovation Minister make wild claims about EI and outward migration that are completely false. If only they would manage well their own responsibilities instead of blaming everything on the federal government we may have a chance to move forward.

    • Agree fully!
      June 30, 2014 - 15:49

      Right on! However; you could have included some of his other incompetent ministers, such as McKinley, Sheridan, Vessey, McIssac, Sherry, Docherty among others! Pretty incompetent group!! No wonder the net debt increased by one billion dollars in seven years!!! Blame it all on the Feds!!!

  • Tax dollars a (work) waste
    June 30, 2014 - 13:40

    "A report on the impact of recent changes to employment insurance lacked enough data to examine the actual effects." How much did this report cost to report on the lack of data necessary to conduct a proper report? Nobody knows, not enough data to report on the cost of this report that failed to report.

  • EasyCash
    June 30, 2014 - 10:51

    Some advice. First people on the list to receive some money should be all the poor fishermen that caught between 25-45 thousand lbs of lobster. They are the ones that are really going to need it. Cut the rest off, after all, they are the brass that keep us all going all year round.