An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (persons who leave employment to be care-givers to family members)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Peter Stoffer  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 3, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Open Government Act
Private Members' Business

April 26th, 2004 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-462, which is a lengthy private member's bill that would make a considerable number of amendments to the Access to Information Act. Indeed, I do not think it is going too far to say that Bill C-462 constitutes a major effort to overhaul the Access to Information Act.

Clearly, the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot once again has focused our attention on the Access to Information Act by bringing forward his extensive bill. Accordingly, my purpose today is to comment on the member's bill, which I intend to do from more than one perspective. Before doing that, I want to take a moment or two to make some introductory and background comments.

I do not know if all the members of the House are aware of how long the member has been working on reforming the Access to Information Act. I believe I am right when I say that he first introduced a private member's bill to amend the act in the fall of 1997. The bill was then numbered as Bill C-264. The member made certain improvements to Bill C-264 and reintroduced it in 1998 as Bill C-206. In the summer of 2000, Bill C-206 was defeated. Prior to this, the member had twice obtained more than 100 signatures in support of his bill.

I want to elaborate on a point to which I alluded a moment ago, which is the importance of access to information legislation. Here in Canada, we are fortunate to have had such legislation in place at the federal level since Canada Day 1983. As so often happens, we have a tendency to take this for granted because we have benefited from the Access to Information Act for more than 20 years.

The Supreme Court of Canada has said that one of the pillars or cornerstones of a democracy is a law that gives citizens a right to gain access to government information. Of course, this right to government information is not absolute or unfettered, and certain government information must still be kept confidential. Some good examples of this are taxpayer information, sensitive and confidential business information that a company provides to the government, sensitive government information such as the contents of an upcoming budget, and information relating to the defence of Canada.

These examples do not detract from the general principle that most government information should be accessible so that Canadians can, if they wish, find out what the government is doing. Put simply, allowing Canadians to check up on the government is an important part of our democracy.

Although many may not realize this, Canada is viewed as somewhat of a pioneer in the field of access to information legislation. Various countries in the world are developing democratic principles for themselves and some of these countries seek Canada's advice on how to create access to information legislation for themselves. In some of these countries, the government can, based on whimsy or whatever good or bad reason it chooses, completely ignore a citizen's request for government information or untruthfully tell the citizen that the information does not exist. Regardless of whether our Access to Information Act is out of date and in need of some modernization, the fact remains that, fortunately for us, the situations I just mentioned are contrary to our federal law.

So far I have attempted to make the general point that we are fortunate to have access to information legislation. I wish now to turn to Bill C-462 itself. What I intend to do in the next few minutes is mention a number of proposed amendments in the bill that are worthwhile and then draw the House's attention to a few proposals that I think require some additional thinking, examination and refinement.

Before doing this, let me say that, as we know, the Minister of Justice is responsible for any reform of the Access to Information Act. The minister does not oppose the general direction of this bill. However, certain concerns needs to be addressed.

In the category of worthwhile amendments that are proposed in Bill C-462, I want to begin with one in particular. As everyone in the House knows, the repercussions of the horrifying attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, are still with us. In this regard, this bill proposes a seemingly small but, in my view, quite important addition to the Access to Information Act.

Currently, section 20 of the act essentially protects trade secrets and other confidential commercial information that a government institution receives from a third party, usually a company. The proposal in this bill is that this exemption be amended to add a specific protection for information relating to critical infrastructure. As I mentioned earlier, the right to gain access to government information is not absolute. Certain information must be kept confidential, and I think that for security reasons information on critical infrastructure falls neatly into this category.

Sometimes an issue arises when a request is made under the act for records subject to solicitor and client privilege. Certainly, the act currently contains an exemption that can be used to protect records covered by this privilege. However, when the government is willing to discuss part of a record covered by solicitor and client privilege, there is concern that the privilege in relationship to the remainder of the material might be endangered. Bill C-462 tries to address this concern by specifying that the disclosure of part of such a record does not constitute a waiver of the privilege in relationship to the remainder of the record. This proposal is worth examining further.

I have one further comment to make in the positive category before moving to some of my concerns. At present, the act states that if a requester is unhappy with how her or his request has been handled, or with the records that she or he has been given, the requester can complain to the information commissioner within one year from the date on which the request was made.

The difficulty that requesters can encounter with this section is that sometimes, legitimately or not, government institutions do not respond to requests until later than one year after the date on which the request was made. The proposal in the bill, which I view as entirely sensible, is to amend this section to say that a requester can complain within 12 months from the date of the request or such other time as the information commissioner may allow.

Turning now to my concerns, the following two proposals concern me because I believe they go further than necessary to accomplish the policy goal. Therefore, at the very least, they need to be very carefully scrutinized. First, the bill is proposing the outright repeal of section 24 of the act. Let me take a moment to described what that section does.

As I mentioned earlier in this speech, the Access to Information Act contains several specific exemptions that serve to protect from disclosure certain types of confidential information. One exemption, section 24, is slightly different. It requires the protection of information that is described as confidential in other statutes.

Attached to section 24 is a schedule that lists the confidentiality provisions in the other statutes of Parliament. Included in the list are, for example, a section of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, the Defence Production Act, the Income Tax Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act, the Statistics Act, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, and sections of the Criminal Code and the Patent Act. In addition to these, the list in the schedule contains about 50 other statutes. I do not believe the complete repeal of section 24 is the correct approach.

No conclusion regarding section 24 should be reached until after each and every confidentiality clause listed in the schedule has been examined and evaluated, and every entity that could be affected, for example, CSIS, Statistics Canada and the anti-money-laundering agency, Fintrac, has been thoroughly consulted. We simply cannot afford to not get this right.

The second proposal that causes me considerable concern again does so because I think the proposal in its current form may well go too far. I am referring to the proposal in the bill that the definition in the act of a government institution be expanded to include not only parent crown corporations but also their wholly owned subsidiaries and “any incorporated not for profit organization which receives at least two-thirds of its financing through federal government appropriations”.

I am not entirely sure what this proposal would mean in practice. It seems to mean that any charity that receives most of its money from the government would be subject to the Access to Information Act. This might require charities to expend time and money on creating the necessary infrastructure to deal with requests under the act. If I am right, is this result desirable? It is a question.

Regarding the wholly owned subsidiaries of crown corporations, we need to have a complete and up to date list of these so we know exactly which entities we are talking about.

Furthermore, a related proposal in Bill C-462 makes it clear that the CBC would be covered by the Access to Information Act. Would this mean that people could send Access to Information Act requests to the CBC in the hope of discovering information about confidential sources or investigative reports? Again, if I am right, is it appropriate and desirable?

I wish to move now to certain points that concern me less but to which I still want to draw the House's attention. We are puzzled with one proposal in Bill C-462. A few years ago, as a result of another private member's bill, C-208, a criminal offence was added to the Access to Information Act to cover essentially the intentional destruction, alteration or concealment of a record in order to thwart the Access to Information Act. Accordingly, I do not understand why the member sponsoring this bill is proposing to add another quite similar criminal offence to the act.

The final concern is related to an issue I mentioned a moment ago, and that is the coverage of crown corporations and their wholly owned subsidiaries.

The Minister of Justice does not oppose the general direction of the bill, nor does he oppose this bill going to committee. However, he strongly believes that certain concerns need to be addressed. I mentioned a few. It remains an open question whether this bill could in fact be repaired at the committee stage. That is the position of the justice department.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

October 8th, 2003 / 7 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, unlike my Progressive Conservative colleague, I would like to state that an NDP government, and that has a wonderful sound to it, would ensure that a motion of this nature, which, next to some of the motions I have presented, is one of the finest pieces of legislation to hit the floor of the House of Commons, is passed. My colleague from Churchill should be congratulated for her efforts on behalf of injured workers throughout the entire country.

Anyone who has ever dealt with workman's compensation, whether they live in the three territorial jurisdictions or the ten provinces, knows what a quagmire it can be. It is an absolute bureaucratic mess. All the member is doing is ensuring matters for people who are injured on the job. We know the statistics. Every day in Canada three people die on the job and hundreds are injured; they should not be punished in their long term retirement plans by deductions of CPP. It naturally should be included. As my colleague from Dauphin--Swan River said, it is part of a person's income and should be considered as such when it comes to retirement benefits such as CPP.

We know, of course, that this is a good motion. It is good for workers and good for their families, so the Liberals must be against it then, but what is new about that? They have voted against every positive resolution we have ever presented. This is a pragmatic motion. We know there is a problem and we know the motion will address that problem. Does it address all the problems? No, nor was the member indicating it would. This is just one small step toward fixing the problems.

I know of what the member speaks. Five years ago, I presented Bill C-206, the caregivers' legislation, which, basically and briefly, stated as an example that if my wife and I had a child and we were both working, either one of us could take a year off work and get unemployment insurance, through maternity benefits or paternity benefits.

However, what happens if the doctor diagnoses our seven year old child with cancer and says our child had six months to live? What are we supposed to do? I ask members to ask themselves what they as parents would do. Would they institutionalize the child? Would they take time off work? Would their company allow them to take time off work? Would they suffer a financial loss because of it? All of these questions go through the minds of Canadians every day.

All my bill said was that if a physician stated that someone has a relative under palliative care, the caregiver should be able to take time off work to prevent that person from being institutionalized. The bill stated that the caregiver should be able to collect unemployment insurance for up to one year, like maternity benefits, which would allow the caregiver to have job security, flexibility and an income while caring for that person. For every dollar spent through the EI system, $4 would be saved in the health care system. Those are facts, right there on pages 184 to 188 of the Romanow report.

The Liberals were against that but they did introduce a program, a very small one, a starter step, starting in January, for six weeks for children. I will give them credit for that.

However, I will come back to my colleague from Churchill, Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world, by the way. My colleague states very clearly that there is a need for this type of legislation. I know the member quite well. She does not throw out legislation willy-nilly just to have a conversation and tie up this full House we have tonight, standing room only of course. She thought this over very carefully. She has worked with various groups, organizations and individuals who have gone through this. She, being a good member of Parliament and a fine representative of her beautiful area of northern Manitoba, has said very clearly that she would like to introduce this into legislation.

It has some merit, because the committee that deals with private members' business has made it a votable item. The committee of her peers is not made up of fools. They are good people from all the respective political parties. They know the motion has merit. We are rather ashamed that the Liberals are against it, but we have not spoken to every one of them. Hopefully we can change their minds and work toward this motion being passed.

No injured worker under any circumstance should have to suffer when it comes to CPP. We in the NDP have always stated that a pension plan is a cornerstone to retirement. Although the Canada pension plan has not done everything that we would like it to, it has prevented an awful lot of people from slipping into dire straits.

The public pension plan is a very good idea. In fact, it is a social democratic idea. It was people like Stanley Knowles, M.J. Caldwell and J.S. Woodsworth, and the pages are looking at me wondering who were those great people. They were the founders of our party. They were the ones who fought for health care. They were the ones who fought for pensions, long before it was ever cool to talk about these things. They knew the need was out there. If it were not for those great people, we would not have those things today.

The New Democratic Party, and previously the CCF, has done terrific work. Although we have never formed a federal government, one day I hope I to sit in this House as a member of an NDP government. The reality is that this is the type of legislation people would see from a very progressive government, a social democratic government.

Public health, public education, a publicly funded military, a publicly funded police force, a publicly funded system of roads and transportation are all social democratic ideas. We are very pleased when opposition parties right of centre, and the Liberals are the right of centre of party now, actually support some of those initiatives. They grew up in this country under those programs. Those programs were fought for by members of the New Democratic Party as well as many people in the social movement. Union members have died for these types of rights. If I can give the union movement a plug right now, if it were not for the unions, we would not have the concept known as the weekend.

Having said that, this is a fine piece of legislation. It is worthy of further debate. It should go to committee so we can have a more constructive debate and dialogue on it. There are those who would oppose it in any way through lack of information, lack of knowledge or maybe they just do not like it. Maybe we can change their minds to vote for something to help injured workers in this country in their retirement plans.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

May 12th, 2003 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, continuing on with thousands of other petitions that we introduced in the House earlier, from Leroy, Saskatchewan, from Port Dover, Ontario and the Magdalen Islands, the petitioners pray upon Parliament to support Bill C-206, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, allowing for security of employment status and career opportunities for people who take employment insurance while they care for their loved ones under palliative care or under severe rehabilitation.

It is a great honour for me to present this petition on their behalf.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

April 28th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the next petition is on behalf of thousands of Canadians across the country who have written in in support of my Bill C-206. They are asking Parliament to support and enact the legislation to allow caregivers an opportunity to leave their place of employment for up to a year to care for someone under a palliative care situation.

Caregivers
Statements By Members

March 31st, 2003 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, a growing number of people are leaving their jobs to help a family member who has a disability or an illness, or who is elderly. These individuals known as caregivers make a difficult choice in staying with a loved one 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without pay.

More often than not, they are women. Indeed, 80% of caregivers are women.

Sadly, last week, this House did not pass Bill C-206, which would have provided caregivers with financial support. Sadder yet, in voting against this bill, the Secretary of State for the Status of Women ignored one of the demands made by the International March of Women.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

March 27th, 2003 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member who just spoke and of course his colleague from Elk Island, two Alliance members who are from the family values party, which we have heard about from that party many times, and who supported Bill C-206, a bill to offer compassionate care leave for caregivers in our country.

I know that one good thing about the Alliance is that it allows free thought and free votes in its party and I support that. We have heard the words family values many times from the Alliance Party. I would like to ask the member to comment, if he could, as to how the leader and the former leader of that party could vote against the bill. Half the Liberals voted against it too, but I am just working on the Alliance right now.

How were Alliance members able to stand up in the House and purport to be a party of family values when all I asked was that this bill, which would offer assistance to caregivers, at least be debated in a committee? They did not have to agree with the bill. The member supported it and so did his colleague, but his front bench and the official opposition leader said no. All we asked was that it go to committee.

I know why the Liberals did not go for it, which is despicable in itself for half of them, but why did the leader of the Alliance Party and his colleagues vote against that great recommendation in regard to, again, one of the finest bills ever to enter this great hall?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

March 27th, 2003 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, sometimes we wonder why members of Parliament keep being elected all the time. We have the fine member for Fredericton who has one of the finest Picasso's in the country hanging right in the beautiful gallery in Fredericton.

I have three questions. First, I have a large military base as well, as the member knows, and he talked about his base in Gagetown. A few years ago he fought very hard to prevent alternate service delivery from happening in his riding, which happened in Goose Bay. Does he think the funding is enough for the military, especially after the recent announcement about Afghanistan with close to a thousand troops?

There is also the Coast Guard. The member comes from Atlantic Canada and he knows the value of the Coast Guard. It did not receive as much funding as we were hoping. In fact, the estimates show there was actually a decrease in funding to the Coast Guard.

My third question, could he explain why half of his party, not him personally because he supported it, but half of his party and half of the official opposition voted against Bill C-206, one of the finest pieces of legislation ever to grace the halls of Parliament?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

March 27th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I was asked by my party whip to come to the House to debate the budget. I thought that was what we were doing.

I do want to at least allow the opportunity for the Liberal member to say that in terms of the economic argument, there is no question that this was long before September 11. The United States is one of the most protectionist societies when it comes to protecting its farmers with generous subsidies, looking after softwood lumber concerns and the PEI potato battles. The Americans started all that long before September 11. The fear for most Canadian is that by not supporting the efforts of President Bush on the war, it will exacerbate the damages.

The other day we had a vote on Bill C-206, the compassionate care leave bill, which would allow individuals who care for a dying child or a dying relative the opportunity to leave their place of employment and collect unemployment benefits and job security while they care for that individual. It is exactly the same for two people who are married and have child. They can collect maternity benefits for up to one year. We have a program at the beginning of a person's life, but we do not have a program at the end of a person's life.

We have proved again to government that for every dollar on the EI system we would save $4 to $6 on the health care system. This is why we had support from people like Gary Marr, the Alberta provincial health minister, and people throughout Atlantic Canada. Over 84 national groups across Canada supported the bill. All I asked was that it would go to committee. Unfortunately, half the Alliance, the family value party, and half the Liberals voted against that very reasonable request.

Why does the hon. members think that the majority of MPs voted against that reasonable request to help the caregiver--

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

March 27th, 2003 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to seek unanimous consent to re-introduce Bill C-206, the compassionate care leave bill, for a vote in the House of Commons to move the bill to committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

March 27th, 2003 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe it was recently that we had the vote on Bill C-206. While lauding the initiative of the member who proposed that private member's bill, according to my understanding there were several aspects to the bill that were technically impossible to deliver given the current framework.

I would suggest to the member that Rome was not built in a day. I am sure she could find room in her heart to say that the federal government is at least moving in the right direction. In fact, a number of provisions in Bill C-206 were, as I understand it, announced in the budget and that it might have been a duplication of effort and initiative to support that bill.

That said, the member and I are of one mind when it comes to doing what we can to support those who are disabled or the people who support those who are disabled. I believe she will at least agree with me that the initiatives that have taken place under our watch since 1993 have seen remarkable improvements. However we can agree that there is always room to do better, whether it is this file or the other files that constantly face a government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

March 27th, 2003 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear the member's comments about people living with disabilities and the families that support them. In that context, I would ask the member why he and other members of his caucus, along with members from the Alliance Party, chose not to support a very important proposal before the House, that being Bill C-206, the private member's bill on caregiver benefits, presented by my colleague, the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore.

The member will know that Bill C-206 was a proposal to the House to deal with the fact that the burden for caregiving falls heavily on women's shoulders and requires a meaningful solution by way of using some of the $45 billion EI surplus.

Given the need that he has identified and the fact that we had a constructive proposal, why did he and so many others in the House choose to vote against that constructive proposal and instead create a situation where families continue to grapple with the need to provide care for children with disabilities, for aging parents, for sick members of their family or for people who are dying, and do so without a meaningful alternative?

I think the member needs to explain to us what was wrong with that proposal and why he and others would reject something that was so positive.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

March 26th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I again rise in the House to present petitions in support of Bill C-206, the caregiver legislation, which would employment insurance benefits to those who care for people under palliative care or severe rehabilitation.

Let it be shown that although the bill was debated yesterday, the family value party, the Alliance, its leader, as well as three-quarters of the Liberal Party voted against the bill to move it to committee to support and further debate. Let the record show that indeed happened.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

March 25th, 2003 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, March 20, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-206 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Interim Supply
Government Orders

March 25th, 2003 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would find consent in the House to proceed immediately to the taking of the division on the main motion on Bill C-26 and the amendment to Bill C-20 and to proceed following that with the motion on Bill C-206.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

March 20th, 2003 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of Bill C-206 are deemed put and a recorded division is deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, March 25 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

It being 6:50 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:50 p.m.)