Bend for Blueberries or Lose Your Benefits

Nova Scotia is the only province to have seen the number of farms grow over the past few years, increasing 2.9% to 3,905 farms. The federal Conservatives’ changes to Employment Insurance will reverse this positive trend. Ideology on foreign workers, the unemployed, and workers’ wages seems to be driving this move that will hurt forestry, fishing, and farming.

Seasonal workers provide a reliable workforce. Without knowing you can count on them, farmers will lose both predictability and confidence. And limits to foreign workers until every local person has a job will mean farmers who doubled their blueberry and strawberry fields these past years will be in a precarious position.

Younger seasonal workers will move west for work because they have to. And 60 year old snow crab fishermen will bend for blueberries or lose their benefits.

The Conservative idea that “a job is a job is a job” will mean more rural farm hands will leave for Fort Mac to work in the winter and not return in the spring, fishermen who lay-off workers temporarily as the season ends will not have those experienced workers the next season. A forestry worker on EI in the winter will receive twice-daily job alerts as the Harper government forces EI recipients to find work faster at a far lower wage – he’ll be a truck driver instead (and when there are no more local fish, logs and berries to ship out, due to a lack of seasonal workers, he’ll truck goods here instead).

Rural Canadians hands are the hands that feed you. Think of us when you visit your historic farmers’ market.

Believe the unemployed should be lucky to just have a job? Consider the Conservatives’ new 70 percent maxim: Lose your job and take another at a 30 per cent wage cut. Lose that job and take another 30 percent cut. If Conservatives really feel that Carribean crop-harvesters are stealing local jobs, the solution is not to import Carribean economies.

“To me, these changes seem to tear at the heart of rural Canada.”
– Nova Scotia NDP Premier Darrell Dexter

“There seems to be a real disconnect between what the federal government is trying to achieve and the reality of peoples’ lives in rural parts of the country.”
– Newfoundland PC Premier Kathy Dunderdale

Our three largest industries are still agriculture, fisheries and tourism. And like I try to point out to the federal government every time, is that there’s not a lot of people going to the beach or playing golf in January. There’s not many lobsters being caught in January and there’s not many potatoes being grown.”
– PEI Liberal Premier Robert Ghiz