Workers, employers and labour groups have pressed the point that recent changes to EI rules are impractical for the region. It’s hard to imagine the federal government will listen any more closely to East Coast political leaders on the issue.
At a meeting Monday in Nova Scotia, the four Atlantic premiers called on the federal government to suspend the changes. The concern – like those voiced by many of the region’s business owners – is that so much of the work available is seasonal.
Let’s not hold our breath for agreement to reconsider. The federal government has made it plain it is entrenched in the new rules, and individual Conservative MPs have gone to lengths to convince Atlantic Canadians they are better off.
People don’t want to sound like a bunch of whiners. In most instances, those who need employment income are happy to have a job, happy to work for their money, as opposed to counting on EI.
If the federal Human Resources department is concerned about cheats, by all means, do whatever it takes to detect them. But we need to be realistic about circumstances.
At play here is the thin population, small towns separated by great distances, and public transit only available on main highways, or in the handful of cities.
Proving you are actively seeking work is one thing. But being forced to accept a job within 100 kilometres of home for pay of at least 70 per cent of previous salary raises some obvious difficulties.
It’s not just workers complaining. Employers in the more outlying areas have warned the rules will send people away and they’ll never be able to find qualified workers.
Fortunately the Atlantic premiers represent the three main parties, meaning less likelihood of branding this a partisan gripe.
The premiers are quite right in their plea that research is essential. The region already has towns perilously close to ghost town status. This will only hurry that up. Surely the feds recognize such an outcome defeats the purpose.