POLITICS

New Brunswick premier to seek regional support for moratorium on EI changes

04/24/2013 04:55 EDT | Updated 06/24/2013 05:12 EDT
FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's labour minister says the province will ask the Atlantic premiers to support a call for a moratorium on the federal employment insurance changes until more study is done on their impact.

Danny Soucy said Premier David Alward will make the request when he meets with the other premiers next week in Nova Scotia.

"We will ask the federal government to take a break and stop where they are right now, and make sure that there is a study done to see what the impacts are on the provinces before they go forward," Soucy said Wednesday.

"If there are jobs available we want people that are available to be in those jobs," he said. "But we also want to make sure that if there are no jobs available that people have the financial supports necessary to live their lives."

The premier met Wednesday with a coalition of New Brunswick groups opposed to the EI changes.

Coalition spokesman Danny Legere said there was no consultation with workers and employers before the changes were made and he welcomes Alward's move.

"I'm very pleased because up to that point the commitments that the premier was making was to try and address just specific issues in the reform and not tackle the reform as a whole," Legere said.

He said the changes are having a significant impact in Atlantic Canada because of the number of seasonal jobs and industries in the region.

"I'm fairly optimistic that the other premiers will certainly join a common front in lobbying the federal government for this moratorium," Legere said.

Under some of the new rules, those who frequently claim EI need to prove they're actively seeking work.

They also must accept any job within 100 kilometres of their home, as long as they're qualified and the pay is at least 70 per cent of their previous salary.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has said the changes will better connect Canadians with available jobs in their area.

The government estimates the changes will save $12.5 million this year and $33 million next year.