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New Brunswick Liberal leader says Premier David Alward late on EI opposition

FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative government has been too slow to speak out against federal changes to the employment insurance program, the leader of the Opposition Liberals said Tuesday.

Shortly after he was sworn in at the legislature, Brian Gallant focused his criticism of the government over what he said was a belated response to the EI changes that were implemented four months ago.

"It is frustrating to see the premier has come to the party a bit late," Gallant said.

"It would have been nice to have the premier's support in December when we sent a letter to Stephen Harper denouncing the changes to EI."

Gallant's attack came a day after Premier David Alward and his Atlantic counterparts unanimously called on Ottawa to suspend the changes, saying they will hurt the region's seasonal workers and industries. The Atlantic premiers have agreed to study the issue further.

New Brunswick deputy premier Paul Robichaud defended Alward on Tuesday, saying the premier helped forge a united position on the issue.

"We have been able to reach a consensus with the other Atlantic premiers on a common front," Robichaud said.

Federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has said the changes will better connect Canadians with available jobs in their area and result in savings of $12.5 million this year and $33 million next year.

Gallant said the public needs to speak up and exert pressure on their MPs ahead of the next federal election in 2015.

"I think there are many MPs across the country who are feeling the heat," Gallant said.

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