Hundreds rally in New Brunswick to protest EI changes
Published Wednesday, February 27, 2013 1:27PM AST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 27, 2013 7:50PM AST
About 300 people took to the streets of Shediac, N.B. today to protest changes to the employment insurance program.
The protest started just outside the Service Canada office on Main Street. Police closed the street down as the crowd marched several blocks to the federal building.
Like many workers in the Maritimes, protester Izmael Goguen is employed in a seasonal sector of the economy. He says the changes will hurt seasonal workers.
“I work in the forestry industry so it is going to impact us quite negatively,” says Goguen.
“My father owns a small business. We have some seasonal employees and we are a little bit afraid that we might lose them to the west.”
Organizer Pauline Richard says the changes don’t take regional differences into account.
“You are talking about people who have seasonal work in regions where there is absolutely hardly any work in the wintertime. The rivers are frozen. There is nothing that grows in the fields.”
Political scientist Mario Levesque argues EI was only intended as a temporary fix.
“That is not necessarily sustainable in the long term, so what the federal government is, in turn, turning around and saying is, ‘how do we address this? How do we change this in here?’”
Tory MP Robert Goguen is in Ottawa today and was not available for an interview, but he said this week that protesting is not the right approach and that EI recipients should instead be focusing on proving they are actively seeking work.
Today’s protesters are also calling on Ottawa to stop house calls by integrity workers.
Federal employees have been making unannounced visits at the homes of EI recipients as part of an audit as the program undergoes changes, but the house calls are making for some uncomfortable moments.
This week, Ottawa pulled the plug on home visits in New Brunswick due to the backlash, and union leader Daniel Legere says the change should be made nationally.
“And CUPE had real concerns for those workers who were going knocking on those doors because people are upset, people are scared,” says Legere.
Goguen fears the changes will break apart even more families.
“And they will have to go out west because they won’t be able to afford living down here anymore.”
Organizers walked away today but say they will be protesting again soon.
With files from CTV Atlantic's David Bell
Demonstrators gather in Shediac, N.B. to protest changes to the employment insurance program on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.