POLITICS

New Brunswick government still hopeful of changes to new rules for EI

12/14/2012 12:38 EST | Updated 02/13/2013 05:12 EST
FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's deputy premier says he remains hopeful there will be revisions to contentious changes to employment insurance even though Ottawa has said it is forging ahead with them in three weeks.

Paul Robichaud said Friday he believes modifications could still be made even after the EI changes take effect Jan. 6.

"With my experience in politics, sometimes changes could happen after the bill has been adopted," he said.

The EI changes to be brought in will mean that recipients of the program will face stricter, more complex rules for keeping their benefits.

New regulations will encourage unemployed workers to take available jobs fairly close to home, even if they pay less than their previous work.

The requirements for job searches are also being tightened — EI recipients must research job opportunities, prepare a resume, register for job banks, attend job fairs and apply for jobs.

The federal government says the changes are intended to have unemployed workers back into the workforce sooner.

The Atlantic premiers have complained the changes could have a devastating effect on seasonal industries like the fishery, farming and tourism.

They say they're concerned that if people are encouraged to leave for other jobs, they may not return.

Robichaud said he has spoken with many of his federal counterparts including Bernard Valcourt, the minister of state for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and believed revisions were in the works.

"We will continue to do our work to make sure that piece of legislation will reflect the reality of the Atlantic provinces," Robichaud said.

But New Brunswick Liberal Opposition leader Victor Boudreau said Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward hasn't done enough to press the case with Ottawa.

"We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that can be lost in the province of New Brunswick based on these changes," Boudreau said.

"The premier was not there to fight. He puts politics before people every single chance he gets. He will never speak out against his federal Conservative cousins."