When Thomas Mulcair raised important questions about the effects of high (and rapidly growing) oil exports on the economy, the conservatives said he was pitting region against region.
In fact, not only is Mulcair not doing that, but it is the conservatives who are pitting the west versus the East.
The recently announced changes to EI will most affect Atlantic Canada.
In the course of 2010 and 2011, about 4 or 5% of the adult populations of BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario used EI at least once. Québec was 6.4%. However, in Atlantic Canada EI, about 12% of people in New Brunswick relied on the service, 9.3% in Nova Scotia and 16% in both PEI and Newfoundland needed to access EI at least once. (See the chart below or this link for figures)
The reason is partially because of seasonal employment, a staple of Atlantic Canadian life. However, seasonal workers are implicated being targeted by the new EI rules which targets repeat EI users (and maybe this is a good time to remind that EI is not charity or a government perk, it’s something everyone pays into as insurance…)
Here’s what the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador (a Progressive Conservative) Kathy Dunderdale said:
“There seems to be a real disconnect between what the federal government is trying to achieve and the reality of peoples’ lives in rural parts of the country — particularly here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
And regarding the new EI rules:
When the industry closes down because the season has closed, then there’s not somewhere to travel to. … Such a statement offends me — truly it does. All of us want to work towards the goals of having long-term, sustainable employment for our citizens that pays a living wage. But there are challenges, and you have to realize what people are living with every day, in their communities, in their homes, and the challenges that they have to face in terms of making the transition from part-time to full-time employment.
We expect our government to be responsible. They do have responsibilities to all of the people of this country of which we are a part.
Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz said the policy would have a negative impact on his province:
On Prince Edward Island we are very fortunate that our three largest industries are still agriculture, fisheries and tourism – all industries that are seasonal in nature. We are different than downtown Toronto and we are different than downtown Calgary.
The President of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association echoed those concerns:
You’re only giving us six weeks of unemployment and then we have to find a job. That’s going to be interesting here on Prince Edward Island. The jobs are not here. Plus we’re working. We have jobs to deal with. We’re filling gear. We’re painting buoys, repairing the boat – in order to get ready for next season.
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said:
They seem to be saying there’s some widespread abuse that needs to be fixed. The people who they most seem to be targeting are actually those who are in seasonal jobs. That’s not an abuse, that’s part of the rural culture of Canada.
Beth Densmore, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture said, “Without it (EI), our industry will suffer.”
The Economic Manager of Sydney in Cape Breton called the policy change ‘one of the biggest threats to the development of Cape Breton’s economy’. He said:
To the extent that these types of policies are actually implemented, they’ll have a tremendous impact on Atlantic Canada. There’s tens of thousands of people who work in seasonal industries who have relied upon employment insurance to carry them through a full year.
The president of the Cape Breton Labour Council said it was “an attack on the region”.
Unemployment in the Atlantic provinces has been a long standing problem, my father (and many others) left 1970s Nova Scotia for opportunities elsewhere. Attacking the seasonal industries of fishing, farming and forestry is not going to help Atlantic Canada. We need to respect these industries as part of the Canadian way of life.
This isn’t about ‘reform’ … it’s about the fact that the Reform Party, and later the Alliance, and now it seems the CPC just don’t like people who use EI. They think using EI means you’re lazy, playing into a sterotype of Easterner’s ‘living off the system.
To highlight what I mean, here’s another quote: In 1995, Diane Ablonczy, then a Calgary Reform MP, now a CPC minister, said Atlantic Canada had “an unwelcome dependence on the social program known as unemployment insurance.”
Oh, and the Government is cutting the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency by 16 million and is eliminating support for regional development agencies. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/05/22/nb-acoa-funding-regional-economic.html)
This is divisive, pitting region against region and bad for the economy.