01/15/2013 09:22 EST | Updated 03/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Quebec worries about impact of EI reforms

The Quebec government is demanding the federal government evaluate the impact that recent changes to the Employment Insurance program will have on the province.

Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier said Ottawa has failed to recognize the extent to which workers in many regions of Quebec rely on seasonal industries.

"It's not good for the economy. It's not good for the workers. It's not good for anyone," said Cloutier.

He said the two-thirds of all seasonal workers in Canada live in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

Workers in forestry, fishing and construction will be the most affected by the federal government's changes, Cloutier said.

The federal government's reforms will force people who are out of work to accept jobs below their skill level, which could subject them to wage cuts of as much as 70 per cent. Workers could also be forced to accept jobs as far as an hour away from their homes, and they would have to pay their own travel costs.

The EI reforms went into effect on Jan. 6.

Pressure tactics from seasonal workers

Last Sunday, 4,000 people took part in an anti-EI reform protest on the Magdalene Islands. The organizers said they are planning other pressure tactics against the changes.

The provincial government said it expects an increased number of applicants to welfare programs.

In the Abitibi region, soup kitchen organizers fear the federal reforms will result in more people needing their services.

Quebec's Labour Minister Agnès Maltais and Federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley will be meeting in February to discuss the new changes, according to Cloutier.

During last year's election campaign, Premier Pauline Marois said she wanted to open conversations with the federal government and see if the province could have its own EI program.

Quebec is the only province to opt out of the Canada Pension Plan in favour of its own retirement regime, and already has charge of the parental-leave component of EI.