POLITICS

New Brunswick premier says he can't pass judgment on proposed changes to EI

05/29/2012 03:48 EDT | Updated 07/29/2012 05:12 EDT
FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government is creating a committee of senior civil servants to study the federal government's proposed changes to Employment Insurance that would take effect next year.

While the three other Atlantic premiers have denounced the measures, Premier David Alward said his government needs more information before being able to pass judgment.

"We will get the necessary information so that we do know what the impacts, both positive and negative, are on our employees, our people, on our employers, on the regions — whether that be in rural or urban New Brunswick," Alward told the provincial legislature Tuesday.

Economic Development Minister Paul Robichaud said the information received so far from the federal government is not clear, and it's premature to offer a comment.

"We will try to answer those questions that are not answered right now," Robichaud said.

"Then we'll be in a better position to tell the federal government we are supporting some elements of your reforms, we are very concerned about some, and we would like to see some changes if changes need to take place."

Robichaud said the committee will report by mid-June.

Among the proposed measures, regular recipients of the EI program would have to consider lower paying jobs that could require a commute of up to an hour.

Liberal Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau said the EI changes would have devastating effects on New Brunswick and the premier should be joining forces with the other Atlantic premiers to oppose them.

"Those premiers are advocating," Boudreau said. "They're advocating on behalf of their provinces on behalf of their people, on behalf of their industries.

"Unfortunately this premier is choosing to advocate on behalf of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada."

Boudreau said the provincial government needs to oppose the changes as soon as possible, as New Brunswick's economy relies heavily on seasonal industries such as fishing, farming and tourism.