Who will drive the tractor or run off lobster gear come May?

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P.E.I. Liberal MLA Sonny Gallant makes a valid point: It is not Prince Edward Island’s seasonal workers’ fault we don’t grow potatoes or fish lobsters in the wintertime.

Likewise, the need for workers to staff the water slides at Mill River or Shining Waters Fun parks is non-existent at this time of year.

The seasonal nature of Prince Edward Island’s economy, particularly in rural P.E.I., was front and center during Thursday’s town hall meeting in Alberton, hosted by the P.E.I. Coalition for Fair EI.

It seems clear that the changes made to the Employment Insurance System are harmful to low-income seasonal workers and to employers who rely on a seasonal workforce.

Workers are expected to scour the countryside for jobs that basically don’t exist at this time of the year. Many workers who are able to find a few hours of work during the week are finding their EI income is lower than it would have been under the old rules, and the weeks they can claim are being cut back.

Because of all the uncertainty and stress, more workers than ever are considering pulling up stakes and heading to regions where jobs are more plentiful. It was even suggested during the town hall meeting that the hidden agenda behind the EI changes is to provide cheap labour for the oilfields.

So what happens if a large group of seasonal workers move west? Sure, they might earn higher wages, but, unless the whole family moves out, they incur two sets of living expenses. And either way, that’s leaves less money being spent locally on food and fuel, and less people in the seats at the theatre or hockey arena.

The stress those changes are causing is eroding local communities.

And then, what happens when the fisherman launches his boat in April or when the farmer gets ready to till the land? Will their crewmembers be back, or will they still be out West somewhere? Sure, it could mean new opportunities for young workers, but employers need to be able to draw on experience, too.

No, we don’t grow potatoes in January and theme parks don’t operate at this time of year, but those operations need workers in the summertime. Some employers need extra workers only on an occasional basis at this time of year.

The EI changes do not take those realities into consideration and that’s disgraceful.

We would all be better off if we had full-time, year-round work but that’s not realistic. Tearing rural communities apart is not realistic either.   

Organizations: P.E.I. Coalition for Fair EI, Employment Insurance System

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Mill River, Alberton

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Recent comments

  • Joseph W Harper
    March 10, 2013 - 11:31

    When will the politians vote the way their constituents want them to instead of listening to the premier or prime minister ? Isn't their job supposed to be representing their people who elected them? And the 2 % raise plus another 1 % in April that they gave themselves in silence while we only get increases in living expenses...Every permit and license that we need has and does increase each year and now HST.... EI is another whole ball game ..... where will it all end ????

  • don
    February 12, 2013 - 13:33

    Liberal MLA Sonny Gallant. do you need a bigger shovel? where is all the work and the doctor for every islander that your dizzy was going to get us back in 2007. he is suppose to be the greatest and smartest man in the world then what is the proble? to much BULL. and DAVE the money went to help there friends and family get more money in the bank fort there future. but i hope they all remember the people they craped on when they went up the ladder as they will be seeing them on the way down and they will be eating from the food banks.just like the big money guys in the 1930's. but theses so called brains has to remember all it takes is one person to make them fall.

  • dave
    February 03, 2013 - 17:50

    where did all the PNP money go it should create jobs

  • I'm available in April.
    February 03, 2013 - 16:18

    When the local hockey rink shuts down in the end of March, I'm looking for work for the summer, same as the last 4 years. I've always managed to find something. Luckily the last 2 years I got something in the first week and didn't have to do a waiting period. That first month when you try to decide 'eat or keep the heat on' is no fun.

  • John W.A. Curtis
    February 03, 2013 - 13:19

    I know people who are employed in farming and aquaculture year round so fisherman and farmers have to employ their people longer oh well. i keep telling people stop electing 14 week pogey politicians, Ontario is now a have not province so P.E.I. has to change.

  • former islander
    February 02, 2013 - 22:33

    totally agree with Sonny

    • Misplaced Islander
      February 04, 2013 - 09:56

      I as well totally agree with Sonny. We left our beloved Island in June of 2007 as after my husband's workplace of 22 years burnt and was not being rebuilt, his only options were go back to work construction on PEI which as we all know is seasonal and again dealt with EI or take the plunge and moved out west. Having to dealt with EI was a total headache 25 years ago and with the new changes even more so. PEI needs skilled seasonal workers and these new changes are totally undermining the island way. I know some people say that Islanders are lazy but the reality is that without the seasonal workers what is PEI going to do.