Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay is the latest politician to speak out against Ottawa’s decision to divide P.E.I. into two zones for calculating employment insurance.
Currently the entire Island is one region for EI purposes. Come October, the province will be split in two: Charlottetown, comprising the city itself and a surrounding area stretching up to parts of the North Shore; and P.E.I., the western and eastern ends of the province.
Under the new rules, it's expected rural residents will have to work fewer hours to qualify for EI and could receive increased benefits, while the opposite will be true for residents in the Charlottetown area.
Liberal MP MacAulay’s constituency includes both rural and urban areas. He said the federal government’s decision is a “destructive” and “divisive” move and calls it yet another negative change to EI system.
“If you want to create division, this is the crowd to do it. But if they wanted to do something positive, all they had to do was leave the thing alone. This is so destructive to people that are trying to survive here. What this government has done, has destroyed the system, basically,” he said.
Gail Shea, P.E.I.'s representative in the federal cabinet, said the changes will better reflect differences in job opportunities in rural and urban P.E.I.
Shea has pointed out that between June 2011 and June 2013 the unemployment rate in Charlottetown was on average five points lower than in the rest of the province.
That has left some Islanders wondering why the Charlottetown region includes some areas that are clearly rural, such as New Glasgow, Rice Point and Afton Road.
The federal government maintains the new zones will be more fair, giving more benefits to people living in areas of higher unemployment.
The new zone changes come into effect Oct. 12.