EI reforms are unfair to Islanders, MP Wayne Easter says

By Mitchell Peters
Feb. 25, 2014

LouAnne Gallant ran out of EI in April last year. She had to go without until June.
She relies on EI because there is simply no work.
And she knows of people whose benefits ran out in February and must also wait until June.
“You just survive,” Gallant told the Guardian.
She relies on the tourist industry in the summer, then draws on EI to fill in the gaps.
The recent reform in Employment Insurance has divided the Island geographically into the Charlottetown area, and every where else.
If you live outside the Charlottetown area where unemployment is higher, the benefits will be higher. Inside the area has lower unemployment, so it’s harder to get EI and the benefits are lower.
The new system of EI is ridiculous, says Malpeque Liberal MP Wayne Easter.
“They took a cookie cutter and cut P.E.I. into pieces.”
The federal government is robbing one side and giving to another, even though they may work in a different spot than they live, said Easter. Islanders have become neighbours in two very different systems.
UPEI political science professor Don Desserud doesn’t think it is a reform that was needed.
“I think it’s a good example of pandering.”
Conservative MP and federal cabinent minister Gail Shea faced criticism over EI rules that have left some Islanders unable to get EI, Desserud said. These latest changes are an example of a minister being pressured to make reforms.
The government is not concerned about losing voters in a place where they don’t already have the vote, such as Charlottetown. It is more for show. It is something the government is doing so they can tell Western Canada they are making changes, he said.
“But when you really get down to it, nothing’s changed.”
Some have criticized the EI reforms for making more youth leave the Maritimes. This likely isn’t responsible for youth who head out west, Desserud said.
“It is an interesting correlation,” he said. “That’s just the time people are adventurous, that’s part of the spirit.”
He knows this from personal experience, having a daughter headed out west to find work. Eventually she returned to the Maritimes.
It will always be that way because when else are you going to be free to get out and be adventurous and make money, he said. What important is having opportunities to bring people back.

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