POLITICS

EI changes will be at forefront of premiers meeting

06/04/2012 08:06 EDT | Updated 08/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Premier Robert Ghiz said recent changes to Canada's Employment Insurance program will be at the forefront of discussions Tuesday and Wednesday at the Council of Atlantic Premiers meeting in Brudenell.

Ghiz said the premiers are still trying to gauge the impact of the federal government's EI changes on Atlantic Canada.

"It's a big issue and this will be an opportunity for us with the other Atlantic premiers to find out what they’re hearing, see if they’re getting any different information from the federal government," he said, "to see what research is being done…"

P.E.I.'s Minister of Innovation Allen Roach met with federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley last week to discuss the recent EI changes.

He said Friday, until the new regulations are in place sometime in early 2013, it is difficult to know the direct impacts they will have on Islanders.

"(When the) legislation gets passed, then they get to make the regulations and as we all know the devil is in the details. In this particular instance, the devil is in the regulations and we don't know what they are," Roach said.

He said, for instance, it isn't known how the changes will affect seasonal jobs such as fishing, or the kinds of jobs recipients will be required to travel for. He also said it still is not clear what happens to someone's EI if they quit those jobs or are fired.

Part of Ottawa's plan is to require EI claimants to take jobs they usually wouldn't.

Ghiz said reforming EI is a complicated issue for this region, given the seasonal nature of the workforce.

He said he's not sure whether the Atlantic premiers will take a united position on the changes.

"We all know EI is (important) here in Atlantic Canada, what we need to find out is exactly how these changes are going to affect our respective provinces," Ghiz said.

The Council of Altantic Premiers includes premiers from P.E.I., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.