PEI

Why are constituents asking MLAs for jobs? Green MLA asks

Trish Altass, the MLA for Tyne Valley-Sherbrooke, said she's been approached by several people in her community who are under the impression that as an MLA she's responsible for landing them work.

Trish Altass says people 'may feel obligated to vote a certain way to gain or maintain employment'

Green Party MLA Trish Altass says MLAs should have no involvement in allocating jobs through the Employment Development Agency. (Shutterstock)

A Green MLA is questioning why she's being approached by constituents asking for jobs.

During Thursday's sitting of the legislature, Trish Altass, the MLA for Tyne Valley-Sherbrooke, said she's been approached by several people and organizations in her community who are under the impression that as an MLA she's responsible for getting them work, or workers.

Altass said there are ethical concerns around MLAs being involved in any hiring process.

"Why do you think these individuals and organizations believe that MLAs have a direct role in EDA job allocation?" Altass asked Fisheries and Communities Minister Jamie Fox.

The Employment Development Agency (EDA) helps connect job applicants with seasonal work and finds employees for businesses in need of short-term help.

Fox didn't directly answer the question but said that job allocation through the agency is done in collaboration with non-profit groups — and EDA staff fill jobs in areas based on need.

"Any MLA that receives a request should actually forward that on to our staff and then they will do the placement and look at the application on a need-to-meet basis," Fox said.

MLAs could exert 'improper influence'

But Altass said that people approaching MLAs for work is problematic. 

"Clearly there are ethical concerns involved when individuals are under the impression that an MLA gave them a job," she said.

"They may feel obligated to vote a certain way to gain or maintain employment."

Altass asked Fox what he would do to "ensure that MLAs don't exert improper influence" in allocating jobs.

Fox said staff at the department have been told that requests forwarded by an MLA should follow proper guidelines, but Altass argues MLAs shouldn't be involved in the process at all.

"I think we should just cut out the middle man here and just help people to get to the EDA staff themselves, to fill out the applications — but I should never be a filter for this process in any way," she said.

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