July 19, 2013 – 6:04pm By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter
Dexter says changes reflect unfair view of Atlantic Canada
Atlantic Canada’s concerns with employment insurance changes are expected to get another airing next week as the country’s premiers gather in Ontario for their annual meeting.
Premier Darrell Dexter said it will be one of the issues on his agenda. He and his Atlantic colleagues agreed when they met in Nova Scotia in April to look at impacts of the changes and present initial findings at the Council of the Federation’s summer session.
Dexter said they had asked the federal government for data and analysis supporting the changes, but he’s not aware that the information has been provided.
In January, new rules required people who frequently claim EI to prove they’re actively seeking work. Workers would also have to accept a job within 100 kilometres of their home as long as they are qualified and the pay is at least 70 per cent of their previous salary.
Dexter and his Atlantic colleagues have said the new rules are unfair to many in the region, which has many workers in seasonal jobs in tourism, fishing and agriculture.
“I always thought that EI reforms reflected a view of Atlantic Canada that I didn’t think was either fair or accurate,” Dexter said.
Monday’s federal cabinet shuffle left a new minister in charge of employment and social development. Jason Kenney moved from immigration.
Dexter said whether that will make a difference in getting the information remains to be seen. He said he had some “moderate success” dealing with Kenney on the immigration file, with Ottawa allowing the province to bring an extra 200 people through the nominee program this year.
“Whenever you have a new minister, the opportunity for change exists,” Dexter said.
A spokesperson for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada could not provide an update on the premiers’ request Friday.
The premiers meet in Niagara-on-the-Lake from Wednesday through Friday. They met in Halifax and Lunenburg last year.
Other topics expected to be up for discussion are another controversial file under Kenney — the new Canada Job Grant — as part of talks on economic development, infrastructure and health care.