Montreal

Candidates in Gaspésie explain how they'd solve employment issues

Candidates in Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine explain how each plans to solve the region's problems of underemployment and limited job opportunities.

Candidates in Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine outline their plans to address underemployment, EI woes

Gaspé resident, Alain Cotton, wants to know what candidates will do to help people who require employment insurance to "survive". (Marika Wheeler/CBC News)

CBC asked voters in the Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine what election issues matter the most to them and then put their questions to the candidates.  Here are some of their answers:

Employment insurance and job creation

"Employment insurance is a way of life," said Gaspé resident Alain Cotton. "We don't have any choice because there is no work around here."

Cotton says the Conservative government's changes to the employment-insurance (EI) program in 2012 have made it harder for people to make ends meet.

Many people in the riding rely on EI for several months every year, as they work seasonally — often in the fishing or tourism industries.

"There's no permanent work," said Réjean Collin, also from Gaspé. "We need to create jobs… It's not like the city here: Permanent jobs where you work 12 months per year, there aren't many of those here."

Jean-Pierre Pigeon, Conservative candidate, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Marika Wheeler CBC News)

Jean-Pierre Pigeon, Conservative candidate, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine

Jean-Pierre Pigeon said it is hard for him to defend his party's changes to EI, adding he's disappointed the new rules were applied from one end of the country to the other.

He said he would have preferred to see special measures for people living in Atlantic regions that rely heavily on fisheries and tourism to survive.  He is asking voters to trust him to persuade his party to change its rules.

Philip Toone, NDP candidate, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Marika Wheeler/CBC News)

Philip Toone, NDP Candidate, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine

"Employment insurance is the crux of the matter in all of eastern Canada," said Toone.  

 The New Democratic Party is proposing:

  • 360 hours worked to gain access to EI.
  • Compensation based on the 12 best-paid weeks of the year.
  • Up to 45 weeks of medical leave.
  • Increased compassionate care and parental leave.
  • EI funding limited to helping workers and employers.

"Politicians have to remember they don't create jobs, business people do," said Toone.

"We have to create the groundwork so that business people feel comfortable bringing in investments into the region."

As for the federal civil service, Toone said he wants to see it decentralized, so that not all of those jobs are based in urban centres.

"We need to make sure that decisions are made here, for the people that live here. I don't understand why we have a fisheries and oceans' office in Quebec City, quite frankly. The real decision-making needs to be where the resource is — Gaspé and the Magdalene Islands."

Diane Lebouthillier, Liberal candidate, Gaspésie-Îles-de-le-Madeleine. (Marika Wheeler/CBC )

Diane Lebouthillier, Liberal candidate, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine

Diane Lebouthillier says her party would abolish the employment-insurance reform brought in by the Conservative government and bring in changes including:

  • Cutting in half the wait, to one week, for people to get their EI benefits.
  • Hiring more people to process claims and reduce the wait times for a first payment.
  • Allowing longer leaves for medical reasons.
  • Limiting EI fund's uses to helping employers and employees and offering training.

Asked about what she would do to create jobs, Diane Lebouthillier said there is actually a shortage of trained workers in the region.

She said too few people are signing up for training courses offered by Emploi Québec.

"If people in the region aren't willing to get training, we will have to look outside the region to fill the jobs, because right now some businesses are at risk," Lebouthillier said.

Nicolas Roussy, Bloc candidate, Gaspésie-les-Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Marika Wheeler CBC News)

Nicolas Roussy, Bloc Québecois Candidate,  Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine

Nicolas Roussy said the EI program needs to be rebuilt.

He said a claimant should have to have worked 360 hours to gain access to EI.

He said EI payouts should be based on the 12 best-paid weeks of the year, rather than 14.

Roussy said he wants to start offering entrepreneurship programs in the region, to retain youth interested in starting small- or medium-sized businesses.

If elected, Roussy said he would travel to other countries to promote the products and expertise of the local businesses, notably those in the fishery.

Jim Morrison, Green Party candidate, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine

The Green Party registered its candidate on Sept. 30, after CBC was in the riding to conduct these interviews.

About the Author

Marika Wheeler

CBC Quebec's travelling journalist

Based in Quebec City, Marika travels across the province telling the stories of people who live and work in la belle province for CBC Radio One and CBCnews.ca.

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