TIGNISH -- Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry is taking Egmont MP Gail Shea to task over a letter she sent to this newspaper in October claiming that a calculation problem with the Employment Insurance system that adversely affected some fishermen’s benefits has been fixed.
“She came out in public saying it was fixed, with benefits being applied retroactively to the first week of April 2013,” Perry noted.
“But no one has given any direction yet to the employees of Service Canada, or anybody within the EI program,” he said, pointing out he has heard from fishermen who are only getting a portion of their benefit because Service Canada continue to use the wrong calculation.
The matter has to do with fishermen and fishermen’s helpers who file using some fishing stamps and some labour stamps. They are receiving less benefits than if they had all fishing or all labour stamps, he explained.
Perry, who crossed the floor to sit as a member of the governing Liberals this fall because he said he was being restricted from speaking out against the federal Tories on the EI file, says he took his concerns to Shea’s office last spring. He said he was provided with a piece of paper promoting the EI changes.
“What it was, basically, was a piece of paper given to every Member of Parliament on the Conservative side, to read out to anybody who had questions regarding the changes to EI affecting fishermen. It was all positive, positive, positive. I said I wasn’t drinking that Kool-aid.”
Perry raised the issue with Premier Robert Ghiz in the legislature earlier this month and learned the Premier had not received any confirmation that the calculations affecting such claims have been corrected.
Moreover, he said he has heard from fishermen who continue to face hardship with their claims because the Service Canada people they’ve dealt with had not been advised of changes to the calculations.
Because of reductions to their EI income, Perry said there is a heightened fear that more seasonal workers will be leaving the province in search of work. That, he said, could leave fishermen struggling to find crews for their vessels come spring.
Perry said that on December 11 he sought a meeting with Shea on the matter and as of Friday was still waiting to meet with her.