Islanders protest closure of EI centre
About 200 people turned out in Montague, P.E.I., Saturday to protest the closure of the Island's only Employment Insurance processing centre.
The federal government said the shutdown will take place in March 2014, resulting in 28 job losses.
Donna MacDonald, national vice-president of the Canada Employment and Immigration union, said the proposed closure will affect many Islanders.
"It's jobs, it's P.E.I. jobs, that we're concerned with and that the people are concerned with," she said.
"We also had people from the public there who are very concerned with the EI wait times and what's going on with that — why is it taking so long to get their EI completed, yet they're shutting down these processing sites."
She said the jobs pay about $50,000 per year.
"A salary of $50,000 a year in Montague is a lot different than $50,000 a year in Halifax or Toronto or Vancouver. So these people make a career of the job that they do. They're quite happy to stay there, so what you have then is a very experienced workforce," MacDonald said.
Island politicians of all stripes attended the rally, MacDonald said, with the exception of Conservative MP Gail Shea.
In November, Cardigan Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay and Liberal Senator Catherine Callbeck called on the federal government to reverse its decision. The EI centre is in MacAulay's riding.
Over the next three years, Human Resources and Development Canada plans to cut the number of offices that process EI claims from 120 nationwide down to about 20.
Of the 20 processing centres left, more than half will be in Conservative ridings and only one will be in a Liberal riding.