‘I didn’t get elected to de­fend Harper Con­ser­va­tives’ poli­cies’

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIC MCCARTHY

Changes to the Tem­po­rary For­eign Worker pro­gram need to be im­ple­mented early in the New Year, Eg­mont MP Bobby Mor­ris­sey says.

Mor­ris­sey ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with se­nior bu­reau­crats for suggest­ing the pro­gram is work­ing. He in­sists it’s not work­ing in Mar­itime Canada.

“I didn't get elected to de­fend Harper Con­ser­va­tives’ poli­cies,” Mor­ris­sey said.

Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern to the new MP is the 2016 fish pro­cess­ing sea­son.

“We’ve got a real crunch com­ing that, if it is not ad­dressed, it’s go­ing to have a sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic im­pact.”

He said the Is­land “needs sev­eral thou­sand highly skilled, highly mo­ti­vated peo­ple to run th­ese so­phis­ti­cated seafood pro­cess­ing plants to­day.”

If the prob­lem is not fixed, Mor­ris­sey warns, fish plants might be forced to en­act boat quo­tas, a sit­u­a­tion that for­eign buy­ers could seize to force down prices.

Mor­ris­sey re­calls for­mer Con­ser­va­tive Em­ploy­ment Min­is­ter Ja­son Ken­ney us­ing a statis­tic that sug­gested there were 1,000 peo­ple in the Bloom­field post of­fice re­gion who were un­em­ployed, and many of them be­ing fish plant work­ers.

While he strongly dis­putes that statis­tic, Mor­ris­sey points out many sea­sonal work­ers, es­pe­cially fish plant work­ers, main­tain an open EI claim even when they’re work­ing.

“A bu­reau­crat in Ot­tawa can brief their min­is­ter and say, ‘Look at this area: they shouldn’t be look­ing for for­eign work­ers be­cause there are 400 peo­ple un­em­ployed and they list their oc­cu­pa­tion as fish plant work­ers.’

“But, they’re work­ing.” Mor­ris­sey said.

Fish plants’ sched­ules, Mor­ris­sey pointed out, are largely dic­tated by fish­ing sea­sons es­tab­lished by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. While the real crunch time comes in May, Mor­ris­sey sug­gests many fish plants would be able to op­er­ate on a spo­radic ba­sis through­out the win­ter with lob­ster from Nova Sco­tia, if it were not for an Em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance sys­tem that, he says, dis­cour­ages sea­sonal work­ers from ac­cept­ing part-time work.

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