Public Town Hall Meetings on Harper’s Cuts to Employment Insurance


PUBLIC MEETINGS taking place in communities across Nova Scotia, including:
• Dartmouth • Annapolis Valley • Cape Breton Regional Municipality • Antigonish • Lunenburg • Truro • Digby •

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour is organizing a series of PUBLIC TOWN HALL FORUMS on the Harper government’s changes/cuts to Employment Insurance (EI) and how they will affect all Nova Scotians.

The Harper government introduced changes to Employment Insurance (EI) which took effect at the beginning of 2013 which will have severe impacts on many Nova Scotian workers, especially those deemed to be “frequent claimants”. These changes affect Atlantic Canadian workers disproportionately, and especially affect workers who have “seasonal” employment (such as fishing and agriculture) and those who may file EI claims “frequently” (such as employees of School Boards and many others who are laid off for periods of time on an annual basis). This comes at a time when there are more than ten unemployed workers in the Atlantic Region for every available job in the region (and in some areas, such as Cape Breton, the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore, there are far more than ten unemployed workers for every available job).

Also, as has been reported in the media, at a time when the federal government is laying off thousands of workers (including laying off many Service Canada employees who deal with Employment Insurance and closing EI call centres such as the closure in Cape Breton), the government is now instructing EI agents to conduct unannounced “home visits” to EI recipients.

Additionally, the decades-old EI Appeals process (the “EI Board of Referees”, which has been a tripartite appeals panel in communities across the country made up of appointees from the business community, from the labour movement, and a chairperson appointed by the federal government) is being eradicated as of April 1st.

Are you worried about the Harper Government’s changes to Employment Insurance? Are you worried about not being able to access EI benefits when you need them? Do you wonder what this means for our communities, for the Province of Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Region?

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour is hosting a series of Public Town Hall Meetings running throughout March to discuss the changes to Canada’s EI program and strategies for fighting back.

Join us at for one of these important public meetings on EI changes (which run from 6:30pm to 8:30pm in each location) in a community near you in Nova Scotia, including:

Tuesday February 26th at the Holiday Inn Harbourview Hotel in DARTMOUTH (101 Wyse Road in Dartmouth, just across the MacDonald Bridge from Halifax) from 6:30pm to 8:30pm — see for details of the Dartmouth/HRM event

• Monday March 4th at the Old Orchard Inn in the ANNAPOLIS VALLEY (see for directions to the Old Orchard Inn) from 6:30pm to 8:30pm — see for details of the Annapolis Valley event

• Thursday March 7th at the Grand Lake Road Fire Hall in SYDNEY, CAPE BRETON (850 Grand Lake Road, next to the Mayflower Mall in Sydney) from 6:30pm to 8:30pm — see for details of the Cape Breton event

• Thursday March 14th at Saint Ninian Place in ANTIGONISH (121 St. Ninian Street in Antigonish) from 6:30pm to 8:30pm — see for details of the Antigonish event.

• Monday March 18th at the Lunenburg Community Centre at 15 Green Street in LUNENBURG (6:30pm to 8:30pm) — see for details of the Lunenburg (South Shore) event

Additional public forums are being planned in DIGBY and TRURO, with dates and locations to be announced soon.

ALSO – As background information: The Presidents of the four Federations of Labour in Atlantic Canada are condemning changes by the Harper government to the country’s Employment Insurance program, saying the changes are about creating a pool of cheap labour and suppressing the wages of all Canadians. They are calling on the government to “scrap the changes” and halt its campaign to “demonize and vilify” the unemployed. Read the press release at:

and ALSO: please see the below article from the Chronicle Herald newspaper on this issue:

From Halifax Herald – Scrap EI changes, labour federations tell Ottawa

February 11, 2013 – 12:42pm By SHERRI BORDEN COLLEY Staff Reporter
The presidents of the four labour federations in Atlantic Canada are condemning changes by the Harper government to the country’s employment insurance program.

In a news release Monday, the federations said the changes, which came into effect Jan. 6, are about creating a pool of cheap labour and suppressing the wages of all Canadians.

They are calling on the government to “scrap the changes” and halt its campaign to “demonize and vilify” the unemployed.

“I guess if you don’t try, it will never happen,” Rick Clarke, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, said in an interview Monday. “We’re only hoping that sanity will give clarity to this issue for people.”

The four federations, through their national body, the Canadian Labour Congress, have made contact with members of Parliament through the legislative process. They also want the Senate to revisit the issue if it ever comes back before the chamber.

“It’s just destined to have a devastating impact,” Clarke said. “We have a lot of seasonal and cyclical jobs, and these MPs live in these regions so they know the negative impact on us. So we’re hoping it will start getting to them.”

The purpose of employment insurance, in addition to serving as a safety net for Canadian workers and their families, is to allow for better job market matches, not faster matches, he said.

Under the new EI rules, claimants must show they are actively searching for work while drawing a claim and also look for work within an hour’s commute.

The labour leaders are particularly concerned for young workers in the region.

“They’re in apprenticeship programs, they’re generally some of the first ones laid off in a lot of workplaces when it’s cyclical or seasonal,” Clarke said.

“And so they’re the ones that will have to go down the road looking for employment elsewhere and in all likelihood not necessarily even in their given trade or skill.”

Taking other employment, Clarke said, could also mean workers would earn less.

“We’re already hearing from some workers that are just heading out west to work at their own trade which will advance them to their journeyperson status and they will probably earn 50 to 70 per cent more than they’re making now,” he said.

Given Atlantic Canada’s need for tradespeople over the next few decades for major projects like Irving Shipbuilding’s multi-billion contract to build combat ships, “that’s very concerning for young workers to have to leave.”

“It’s going to have a major negative impact on provincial economies,” Clarke said.

The Atlantic premiers have also said the new rules could have a devastating effect on fishery, farming and tourism industries.

Historic Quotes from Labour's Past in Nova Scotia.

‘… a cruel competitive sytem forces them to march through life along the edge of a chasm of poverty, and any small reduction in wages may at any time precipitate them into its woeful pit.’ — James B. McLachlan Labour Gazette, 1908, J. B. McLachlan: A Biography: The Story of a Legendary Labour Leader, By David Frank