Federal changes to Employment Insurance would not be such a big deal on P.E.I. if the province created more jobs for Islanders, says an opposition MLA.
Steven Myers made the comment at a meeting Tuesday night organized to hear the concerns of Islanders about changes to EI. The changes will force regular recipients of EI to broaden their work search, and Premier Robert Ghiz has said they show Ottawa does not understand the seasonal nature of employment on P.E.I.
Myers said the province should be thinking more about what it can do to help unemployed Islanders.
"I think from a local perspective we really need to pull up our pants and start doing the big-boy work," he said.
"It's easy for us to throw stones at the federal government for what they're doing wrong, but we're doing lots wrong here in the province too. I think we're failing Islanders as far as job creation goes, in particular in the rural areas."
Union leaders, representatives from the fishing and tourism industries, as well as those focused on poverty reduction were amongst the 18 people who attended the Georgetown meeting. Everyone who spoke said they were frustrated by a lack of solid information from Ottawa on the changes.
Liberal MLA Charlie McGeoghegan said job creation does need to be a long-term goal, but that the immediate concerns Islanders, especially seasonal workers, are raising with the impending EI changes could not be ignored.
Don Cudmore, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., is one of the people raising those concerns.
"Especially in housekeeping and food-service departments. That's where we have the most turnover," said Cudmore.
"If we lose some of these employees, we're going to have to retrain new employees. And there are no substantial dollars available for training."
All the MLAs agree part of the solution has to be the creation of more, better paying jobs on P.E.I. The politicians voted to hold separate public meetings focused on economic development and job creation.
The MLAs will meet again to discuss EI reform on Thursday.