Souris meeting calls for reversal of EI reform
Provincial parties all support turning back EI changes
A packed house in eastern P.E.I. called on the federal government to reverse changes to Employment Insurance.
About 200 people attended the meeting, and politicians from all the provincial parties spoke out against the changes.
Also speaking was Marlene Giersdorf, who has become the public face of EI changes since she started a protest against the federal government after her benefits were cut off earlier this month.
Giersdorf shared her story, as did many others in the crowded hall.
"I live paycheque to paycheque like most of us Islanders do. I'm a lot like most of us here tonight," she said.
CUPE PEI President Lori MacKay promises to keep sending the message to Ottawa.
"We want to continue actions until they decide to scrap the changes," said MacKay.
Provincial Innovation Minister Allen Roach said the EI system needs to take into account regional differences.
"We would like the federal government to recognize that … one size fits all, actually doesn't," said Roach.
Outgoing Progressive Conservative Leader Olive Crane lamented how the changes are already forcing more people to move to find work.
"We all know about people leaving Prince Edward Island, and it's nice when a person has a choice, that they want to take employment someplace else," said Crane.
"But our communities are bleeding, our families are bleeding and the impacts on people on P.E.I. are getting to the point where, how much more can people cope with."
Business leaders also called for a reversal of the changes. Alan MacPhee, a major retailer in Souris, worries about what the EI changes will mean to rural business.
"This federal government says they're pro-investment and business. But this policy discourages and penalizes business investment in eastern P.E.I., and dare I say eastern Canada," he said.
Members of Cabinet Minister Gail Shea's staff were in attendance though they didn't speak.