EI changes already taking their toll

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 Only days after the new federal employment insurance regulations became effective, a Lower Montague woman whose EI benefits were cut off has generated a groundswell of empathy. It also has refueled anger toward the federal government. Clearly others are apprehensive about how the new EI changes could affect them and their families.

For the past year, Ottawa's planned overhaul of the EI system has been the subject of heated debate between government and its critics. Ottawa has claimed the change is meant to make the system more effective, while remaining flexible enough to respond to individual circumstances and need. But detractors say it's an attack on seasonal workers and regions dependent on seasonal industries. Ultimately, they warn, the rules will force workers to work for less money, take jobs for which they're not suited, and in some cases, travel long distances to get to work.

It seems that's the case of Marlene Geirsdorf, the Lower Montague woman who has drawn national attention after being denied benefits because she won't go to Charlottetown to work. It's not that she doesn't want to - she can't. She has no car or any means of public transportation to get her to the capital city, yet Service Canada has cut off her benefits - which she began receiving in November after leaving a job for stress reasons. She was told to apply to the provincial government for welfare.  

Since then, the 30-year-old single mother's plight has triggered a deluge of reaction. Online sentiments reflect a split. Many commenters question why she would leave a job without having another one lined up, and assert that EI is a program of last resort for specific and very occasional circumstances; others adamantly support Geirsdorf, insisting she's a victim of federal cutbacks aimed to penalize seasonal workers. Since she began her protest outside the Service Canada office in Montague Monday, she has received many offers of support.

So what has been government's response to this story? Human Services Minister Diane Finley's spokesperson has repeated the familiar talking points: that jobs are available in Montague, that personal circumstances of EI claimants are considered, and that "EI will continue to be there."

Those must seem like pretty hollow words to Geirsdorf, who appears to have a legitimate claim to EI. The half-dozen jobs available in Montague are mainly trucking or science-related jobs, she says, for which she isn't qualified. Yet her benefits have been cut off.

Geirsdorf is appealing the decision, and she may well triumph at the end of the day. But that doesn't negate her experience or alter the implied warning for other EI claimants. How many others could end up having to fight for their benefits?

  

No big surprise

 

The recent poll showing the federal Liberals have rebounded in Atlantic Canada wasn't particularly surprising.

The poll, conducted by Corporate Research Associates in Halifax, revealed that the federal Liberal party increased its standings in all four Atlantic provinces so significantly that it leads the other three main parties in the region for the first time since August 2010.

Given the unpopularity of some of the current policies of the governing Conservatives, and the fact that this is traditional Liberal territory, some  improvement in the polls for the Liberals was predictable. The interesting question is, will they be able to build on this substantial jump in support?

        

Organizations: Service Canada, Corporate Research Associates, Conservatives

Geographic location: Montague, Ottawa, Charlottetown Atlantic Canada Halifax Liberal territory

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Recent comments

  • Max Headroom
    January 19, 2013 - 07:27

    She quit her job.

    • Harpersucks
      January 19, 2013 - 11:27

      Which has NOTHING to do with her losing her benefits. She was approved for benefits because she left a job due to stress. They don't give out EI easily to people who quit jobs, apparently you are even stricter on the issue. But that's not what this is about. She should not be cut off because she has no transportation to Ch'town. That is wrong.

    • Garth Staples
      January 21, 2013 - 18:58

      Oh Nameless shameless one: She should not be cut off because she has no transportation to Ch'town. That is wrong.------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hundreds of cars travel thru Montague everyday en route to Charlottetown. Where have you been?

  • ANNE MARIE CLARKIN
    January 17, 2013 - 14:57

    IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS HELL BENT ON MAKING THINGS DIFFICULT FOR THIS SINGLE MOM. THESE FATCATS WITH THEIR BIG JOBS AND BIG SALERIES HAVE NO CLUE HOW HARD LIFE CAN BE ON THE EASTCOAST AND ON TIP OF THAT SHE IS A SINGLE MOM, WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING TO THE PROGRAMS WE'VE PAID INTO FOR YEARS.

    • Garth Staples
      January 18, 2013 - 08:07

      And the programme is still there. Same rules. EI claimants had to show evidence that they were actively searching for work. I had many enter my business looking for my signature indicating their visit. Lets be a little more creative. There are cars travelling to Ch'town every day often containing only the driver. Apparently shuttle service is also available. Don't blame the Fed Govt. Maritimers have been making it difficult for themselves for years.

  • Tony Bagnall
    January 17, 2013 - 12:46

    Harper won't get off so easy attacking the east coast the way he does with the rest of Canada. Gail Shea, Peter MacKay and the rest of his harpacrites will gone after the next Federal Election. Danny Williams was right, ABC Anything But Conservative.

  • Frustrated Again
    January 17, 2013 - 09:18

    Hello....unless things have changed since last month .....there is transpotation from Montague via a shuttle ! it is called Shuttle Up and it runs Murray River To Montague then on to Charlottetown ! There is a notice at the CDS in Montague . That is in the Mall and is where people go to do job and career searches ! Why do you keep writing false information !

  • Garth Staples
    January 17, 2013 - 08:09

    It so sad to see a newspaper publish information based on one view of a situation. As the saying goes there are always two sides to a story. As far as I can determine we have heard one. More investigation Guardian.

    • Angus
      January 17, 2013 - 10:22

      Typical media laziness Garth. Much like the dependancy on polls instead of research. And btw - did the original report not say she quit her job? And is their not a report today saying companies on PEI can't find skilled workers?Maybe not in this lady's case perhaps - but lots of these folks won't go back to school no matter what. Might interfere with the '45' games and old-timers hockey. No wonder the rest of the country questions the pogey-culture, the nice houses and big boys toys owned by those who collect it. That's what the Liberals have ingrained in many who continually draw it year in and year out. - bread and circuses, sitting on their arses and keep voting for the Grit.