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Jason Kenney, to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Thursday: 'We should not be bringing temp foreign workers from around the globe to take jobs in Canada in communities with chronic high unemployment.' (CBC)

People collecting employment insurance may be pushed to fill seasonal jobs often done by temporary foreign workers if the federal government's proposed changes to the system go through.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made the case for the changes while addressing the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

The Conservative's plan is to link those receiving EI cheques to employers who are hiring.

In Nova Scotia, temporary workers are frequently brought in from the Caribbean to help harvest crops.

"We should not be bringing temp foreign workers from around the globe to take jobs in Canada in communities with chronic high unemployment," Kenney said.

The proposed changes were first announced in the federal budget.

But Kenney was vague on some of the details.

The minister had no clear answer when asked by reporters whether those receiving EI would lose their benefits if they don't apply for jobs as farm labourers.

He referred that question to Human Resources Development Canada.

Premier concerned about changes

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter expressed concerns over the plan.

He predicted changes to the qualifying conditions for EI in rural areas could hurt the province.

"It essentially means less money coming in to the province: that affects our GDP and it affects the ability of people to be able to live in the province."

Ottawa has given no timeline for when proposed changes to immigration or employment benefits may be made.