What is going on during David Alward’s Cabinet meetings? Aren’t our provincial Ministers and MLAs paying attention to the citizens they represent? Are they immune to the anxiety thousands of people have been expressing through radio talk shows, in social media, at public meetings or during protests in the streets?
Some of our elected provincial representatives attended public meetings. However, in spite of the profound changes and the insecurity caused by the EI Reform everywhere in New Brunswick, why are our elected representatives so slow to react? Are they really against those changes as they shyly claimed they are?
Even though Premier Alward has said that he joined forces with the Atlantic Premiers against the EI changes, we didn’t see anything concrete yet. Recently, PEI Premier stated publicly he and his government opposed the EI changes. Our neighbour, the Province of Québec, is seeking some explanations from Ottawa. What is New Brunswick doing?
Grand-Falls-Drummond- Saint-André MLA Danny Soucy has said that he was seeking a meeting with Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley, the Minister in charge of these changes. A meeting is set for March according to him. The question we must ask ourselves is what will be the content of the discussions since our government did not reveal its position?
When we listen to our Conservative MPs, especially Bernard Valcourt, it seems that thousands of unemployed workers, their family, their employers, their communities, especially in rural areas, and the Province have nothing to fear. According to him, the EI changes are in fact just adjustments made to the existing EI rules. Then why all the commotion in the Eastern part of Canada? Aren’t we smart enough to read and understand the information published on the EI Reform? Only our eight MPs have that ability? What about our MLAs?
More than $800 million of EI benefits came to New Brunswick in 2010-2011. Based on its own data, the Province made a summary assessment of the impacts of the EI cuts for New Brunswick. According to that report, if the number of New Brunswickers receiving benefits decrease at a rate of 10 %, it means a loss of 100 million dollars in the next three years. What will be the consequences for rural communities? How will it impact the Social Development’s budget ? It is clear that the situation is serious enough for our government to react more firmly.
We believe Premier David Alward must defend his citizens but also seasonal industries which are an important part of our economy. During the meeting with Diane Finley, our government must explain clearly the seasonal nature of these industries and their employees. As the Québec government did, they must demand from Ottawa a copy of the Impact Assessment which details the consequences of the EI cuts on New Brunswick. They must ask for explanations of why these changes were necessary. They must ask where the amount of more than $457 million dollars of reduction will come from. Our government must also demand that the Federal Government supports the development of the New Brunswick economy instead of pulling it down.
Premier David Alward has the obligation to defend us on this issue. The consequences for workers, the industries and the whole economy of the province will be important. He cannot remain silent any longer. He must take the leadership in developing a joint action plan with the Atlantic and the Québec provinces in order to stop the EI Reform which has the potential to change for ever the face of the whole Eastern part of Canada. Nothing less than that is acceptable now.