Photo: flickr/Martin Cathrae

CHARLOTTETOWN  – The PEI Coalition for Fair EI is asking tourists to support Island workers in their fight to defend Canada’s Employment Insurance Program.

Since 2011, Conservative Government changes have reduced Island workers’ access to Canada’s Employment Insurance program.

Most notably, the January 2013 overhaul of the program penalizes repeat claimants and requires workers to look for and accept lower paying work further from home. Many feel these changes are putting pressure on Prince Edward Islanders to leave the Island in search of work.

Today, members of the Coalition will greet passengers of the Princess Ruby — a cruise ship carrying 3000 travellers — as they re-board the ship after spending a day touring the Island.

The group is hoping the passengers will help them send a message to federal Minister of Employment and Social Development, Jason Kenney: scrap the changes.

“Access to EI in this country hasn’t been this low in seventy years. Six out of ten unemployed Canadians are not able to access EI benefits,” says Marie Burge of the Cooper Institute and a member of the PEI Coalition for Fair EI.

“It’s a disgrace. If our government isn’t going to listen to us we’ll have to ask for help, so we’re turning to the tourists. We’re hoping the passengers aboard the Ruby Princess will reflect on their visit here and will help support all the seasonal workers who made it possible.”

The Coalition has printed thousands of postcards addressed to Mr. Kenney, urging him to reverse the changes.  Cruise passengers will be encouraged to sign these postcards, which the Coalition will then mail to the Minister.

“For a seasonal economy like PEI’s this ongoing gutting of the EI program is devastating,” says Leo Broderick, Vice-Chair of the Council of Canadians and member of the Coalition.

“Tourist havens like PEI can’t exist without seasonal workers. If the rest of the country wants to keep enjoying what the Island has to offer — our hospitality, beaches, lobster, agricultural products, beautiful landscapes–we need to find a sustainable way to uphold this economy and support these workers. We can start by reversing these changes.”