Many seasonal workers continue to criticize reforms to the Insurance Employment Program, which took effect yesterday.

Under the new rules, recipients must be ready to accept jobs farther from home and at less pay. They must also prove they are actively searching for work.

The changes have many seasonal workers concerned, especially in the Maritime region where seasonal work is the backbone of many communities.

In Louisbourg, N.S., many businesses close when the tourists leave and the resulting layoffs leave many locals with little choice but to spend the off-season collecting EI.

It’s a similar scenario for workers at the town’s two seafood plants. Processing is finished until the spring, but now it will be more difficult for laid-off workers in either sector to stay on EI unless they abide by the new rules, which include leaving town for work.

“They can support themselves with seasonal work and a bit of unemployment, but now the government says we got to take a job by driving to Sydney for an hour to get a job that is paying $5 or $6 an hour, or minimum wage,” says EI recipient Sandy Evans.

Accepting a job that may involve a longer commute and lower pay is just one aspect of the new EI rules.

Recipients of jobless benefits must also prove they are doing everything possible to find work on an ongoing basis, which means registering for job banks, attending work fairs, applying for positions and documenting the efforts.

Recipients will also be delivered online job postings that they must consider twice a day, even if it is only part-time, minimum-wage work.

“Who can support two children, provide a home, provide groceries, pay the power bill and phone bill on 20 hours a week?” asks fish plant worker Nicole Provost. “You can’t.”

Protests across the country have failed to derail the new EI rules, which are aimed at finding jobs quicker for more than 500,000 current recipients.

The MP for a riding with unemployment approaching 16 per cent says the overhaul is unfair.

“There is just no rationale to the changes,” says Liberal MP Mark Eyking. “At the end of the day, it is a complete attack on seasonal workers and small businesses.”

The latest overhaul is expected to remove several thousand claimants from the program.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald