Two Employment Insurance zones does not do enough to address harmful EI changes

 CHARLOTTETOWN, PE – “Dividing Prince Edward Island into two Employment Insurance zones is a false division of our province and does not do enough to address harmful EI changes brought in by the federal Conservative government in 2012,” said the PEI Coalition for Fair EI.

The coalition, which includes labour and social justice groups, held a news conference today to respond to yesterday’s announcement by Egmont MP Gail Shea that PEI will be divided into two employment zones, rural and urban, for administrative purposes.

“When we held public forums across Prince Edward Island last year, in both rural and urban communities, the message was clear: These EI changes have had a significant negative impact,” said coalition spokesperson Lori MacKay of CUPE PEI. “We are very pleased that this change will improve the circumstances for some rural Islanders, but we want to see improvements to EI benefits that will improve the lives and incomes of all Islanders across the board.”

“Our message from the very beginning has been that these changes to the EI system are bad for Islanders, and we need to scrap the changes,” said Carl Pursey from the PEI Federation of Labour “Tinkering with administrative zones doesn’t fix what’s wrong with the changes.”

Coalition member Jane Ledwell from the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women said the changes are harming Islanders in both rural and urban communities. “The most positive point from Minister Shea’s announcement yesterday was that she recognized and acknowledged what we have been saying all along: that the EI changes introduced in 2012 are harming communities, industries, families, and individuals,” said Ledwell. “We disagree that these negative effects are limited to rural PEI, or only some parts of rural PEI. A fix that only applies to rural PEI is not enough.”

Ann Wheatley of the Cooper Institute and Working Group for a Livable Income added: “Shea’s announcement yesterday actually demonstrates that the Government of Canada has no will to implement a full-scale plan to address the detrimental effects of the 2012 EI changes and create a system that is accessible and fair for everyone. Far from clarifying or streamlining the EI system for current and future users, these changes continue to engender fear and confusion.”

“There’s a strong case for zones for EI administration, but not in Prince Edward Island. Our province is small and people’s patterns of work cross back and forth across these arbitrary boundaries proposed by the federal government,” concluded MacKay. “People in PEI are looking for the same jobs regardless of what side of a boundary line they live on.”