06/01/2012 02:30 EDT | Updated 08/01/2012 05:12 EDT

EI reform will hurt Island industries, says Minister

P.E.I.’s Minister of Innovation is speaking out against proposed changes to the Employment Insurance Program. Allen Roach met with Human Resources Minister Diane Finley in Ottawa this week to make his case.

Under the proposed rules, a clamant would have to accept any job that fits their job description after six weeks, even if it pays as little as 70 per cent their regular wage.

Roach believes the reform will be hard on people in the Island’s primary industries of fishing, agriculture and tourism.

Roach said farmers will be compelled to hire inexperienced locals rather than the temporary foreign workers they’ve used for years. The minister said experienced Island agriculture workers will be harder to find, something he believes Finley overlooked.

“My concern is that, when it comes to seasonal workers, that perhaps they don’t quite get the expertise or the skill level that’s developed in those season areas.”

Other Atlantic politicians have voiced their concerns about the plan. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale called the lack of consultation with the provinces “disturbing.”

Nova Scotia's Labour Minister Marilyn More spoke to Finley by phone Thursday to express her concerns.

But Finley said last week the changes will help Canadians find local work that matches their skills.

Her department said that in January, 294 unemployed P.E.I. fish plant workers made EI claims, while 60 foreign workers were approved for work in the same type of job.