The number of Prince Edward Islanders seeing their EI benefits taken away in 2013 is "staggering and unacceptable," says Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay.

The number of Islanders who've had their EI benefits cut off has increased 18 per cent since the federal government introduced new rules back in January. Close to 800 more Islanders were disqualified from EI during the first four months of 2013, compared to the same period last year.


The changes to employment insurance have proven to be just as bad for Prince Edward Islanders as he feared, says Lawrence MacAulay. (CBC)

Nationally, the increase in disqualifications has only been about four per cent. MacAulay says his worst fears have been realized.

"Unfortunately it's what I felt would happen for sure," he says.

"When these changes were made we knew they'd be devastating to Atlantic Canada but here now we find out that they're even more devastating for the people of Prince Edward Island. Not only people that are receiving EI, but every business, every retail operator on P.E.I. will hurt because of this.

MacAulay says to have such a significantly disproportionate figure is a massive blow to the Island. He is worried about the number of people who say they have no choice but to leave for Alberta to find work.

Federal officials say the cutting off of employment insurance benefits will only be temporary for many Canadians. When it made the changes, the government estimated about 8,000 Canadians would have their benefits temporarily discontinued. So far in 2013, an additional 16,000 have been cut off compared to 2012.

The government expects many will have their benefits restored once they demonstrate they are meeting their responsibilities under the new regulations.