Bill C-278 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system)
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Paule Brunelle Bloc
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Royal Recommendation--Bill C-445 and Bill C-490
Points of Order
April 8th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to speak to the question of the need for a royal recommendation on two private members' bills.
On March 11, 2008, you noted that the spending provisions in two private members' bills appear to infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown. You invited members to make arguments on whether those bills require a royal recommendation. That is what I intend to do at this time.
The two bills are Bill C-445, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for loss of retirement income), and Bill C-490, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments).
Let me begin with Bill C-445. This bill would create a new refundable tax credit for the loss of retirement income.
Refundable credits are direct benefits paid to individuals regardless of whether tax is owed or not and are paid out of the consolidated revenue fund. As a result, any legislative proposal to create a refundable tax credit requires a royal recommendation.
I would draw to the attention of the House two recent rulings wherein the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate concluded that creating or increasing a refundable tax credit requires a royal recommendation.
On June 4, 2007, there was a Speaker's ruling that a proposed amendment to Bill C-52 to create a refundable tax credit could not be selected for report stage because the amendment required a royal recommendation.
On May 11, 2006, the Speaker of the Senate ruled that Bill S-212 was out of order because it would have increased a refundable tax credit. The Speaker of the Senate stated:
--bills proposing to alter refundable tax credits need a Royal Recommendation.
This is because the payouts that will be made to taxpayers, who are entitled to claim them, must be authorized. This authorization is the Royal Recommendation. These payments can only be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund; they are expenditures of public money.
Since Bill C-445 would create a refundable tax credit, it needs to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.
Now, in regard to Bill C-490, this bill proposes a number of changes to the old age security program which would result in increased spending and would therefore require a royal recommendation.
Clause 1 of Bill C-490 would apply to a person who ceases to have a spouse or common law partner because of the spouse's or common law partner's death and would provide that person with the old age security pension that would have been payable to the person's spouse or common law partner, for a period of six months. This extension of benefits would be a new program requirement, which would result in additional spending.
On December 8, 2004, a Speaker's ruling in the case of Bill C-278 concluded that a similar extension of benefits for the employment insurance program constituted a new and additional requirement for spending, and therefore required a royal recommendation.
Clause 2 of Bill C-490 would eliminate the requirement to make an application for a supplement for old age security benefits. Formal application is needed since the information available from the Canada Revenue Agency is sometimes insufficient to determine eligibility. This change would result in benefits under the old age security program being provided to persons who otherwise would not be eligible to receive them. This would be a new program requirement that would require additional spending.
On October 24, 2005, a Speaker's ruling with respect to a provision in Bill C-301, dealing with other proposed retroactive payments under the old age security program, concluded that:
Bill C-301...proposes to alter the process by which compensation is awarded to old age security recipients in the manner that retroactivity is handled.
Clauses 2, 3 and 4 remove the requirement that the recipient must make an application before they can receive a payment...This changes the conditions of the compensation process and creates new or additional spending.
Clause 3 of Bill C-490 would increase the guaranteed income supplement monthly benefit by $110. The Department of Human Resources and Social Development estimates that this change could cost up to $2 billion a year. This would constitute additional spending for a new and distinct purpose and would therefore require a royal recommendation.
Clause 6 of Bill C-490 would provide for retroactive payments where a person has not received a supplement, or a portion of a supplement, to which that person would have been entitled under the act.
On October 24, 2005, a Speaker's ruling on the retroactivity of payments in the case of Bill C-301, respecting the monthly guaranteed income supplement under the Old Age Security Act, concluded that:
--retroactivity is limited by the date upon which the application was made. Late applicants may only be eligible for the period dating from the application. It would appear then that this modification authorizes increased spending which would require a royal recommendation.
The Department of Human Resources and Social Development estimates that Bill C-490's provision of unlimited retroactivity for guaranteed income supplement monthly benefits could represent an initial lump sum payment to beneficiaries of up to $6 billion.
In conclusion, Bill C-490 would result in increased spending for the old age security program in the new and distinct ways I have just outlined. The bill therefore requires a royal recommendation.
Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business
November 26th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform concerning the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement), standing in the name of the hon. member for Brampton West.
On October 18, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform drew attention to the fact that Bill C-362 would increase old age pension security and guaranteed income supplement benefits by lowering the threshold for residency requirement from the current 10 years to three years, thus resulting in significant new expenditures for the government.
The hon. parliamentary secretary argued that precedents clearly establish that bills which create new expenditures for benefits by modifying eligibility criteria or changing the terms of a program require a royal recommendation.
I would like to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform for having raised this issue.
The Chair has examined Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement), to determine whether its provisions would require a royal recommendation and thus prevent the Chair from putting the question at third reading.
As has been pointed out, Bill C-362 amends the Old Age Security Act to reduce from 10 years to three years the residency requirement for entitlements to a monthly pension.
The parallel made by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform between Bills C-362 and Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), is a pertinent one.
As the Chair pointed out on November 6, 2006, in a ruling on Bill C-269, “...all of these elements [contained in the bill] would indeed require expenditures from the EI Account which are not currently authorized”.
It went on to say, “Such increased spending is not covered by the terms of any existing appropriation”.
By reducing from 10 years to three years the residency requirement for entitlements to a monthly pension under the old age security act, Bill C-362 would reduce the requirements currently authorized for payment of benefits. In doing so, the bill would authorize an inevitable increase in the amount of expenditure of public funds and therefore requires a royal recommendation.
Consequently, I will decline to put the question on third reading of this bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received; however, the debate is currently on the motion for second reading, and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Laval.
Bill C-265--Employment Insurance Act
Points of Order
February 7th, 2007 / 5:05 p.m.
Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with regard to Bill C-265. Without commenting on the merits of the private member's bill, I would appreciate your consideration on whether the bill requires a royal recommendation under Standing Order 79.
Bill C-265 would increase employment insurance benefits by lowering the threshold for eligibility for some claimants in changing the formula for the calculation of benefits. Both of these changes would result in significant new expenditures under the Employment Insurance Act.
Precedence clearly establishes that bills that create new government expenditures for employment insurance benefits require a royal recommendation.
Mr. Speaker, on December 8, 2004, you ruled, in the case of the 38th Parliament's bill, Bill C-278, which extended employment insurance benefits, that:
Inasmuch as section 54 of the Constitution, 1867, and Standing Order 79 prohibit the adoption of any bill appropriating public revenues without a royal recommendation, the same must apply to bills authorizing increased spending of public revenues. Bills mandating new or additional public spending must be seen as the equivalent of bills effecting an appropriation.
On November 6, 2006, you ruled, in the case of Bill C-269, extending employment insurance benefits, that:
Funds may only be appropriated by Parliament for purposes covered by a royal recommendation, as explicitly stated in Standing Order 79(1). New purposes must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.
Again, on November 10, 2006, you ruled, in the case of Bill C-278, extending benefits, that:
...would require the expenditure of additional funds in a manner and for a purpose not currently authorized. Although contributions to the employment insurance program are indeed made by employers and employees, appropriations for the program are taken from the consolidated revenue fund and any increase in such spending would require a royal recommendation.
These precedents apply equally to Bill C-265, which should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.
Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business
November 24th, 2006 / 1:35 p.m.
Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak about Bill C-278, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (benefits for illness, injury or quarantine), and to continue the debate on this bill.
This bill will allow people who claim sickness benefits under the employment insurance program to receive benefits for a maximum of 50 weeks instead of 15 weeks, as the program currently provides.
I say that the bill will “allow” claimants to receive benefits, because they will not necessarily use the full 50 weeks, but will have access to benefits for a longer period.
The 2005 report on employment insurance by the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development indicates that roughly 32% of sickness benefits claimants in 2004-05 received benefits for 15 weeks. According to a survey, 75% of the 500 respondents stated that this period was not long enough. In addition, 76% of the respondents said they had missed more than 15 weeks of work.
Clearly, there is a real need to amend the Employment Insurance Act. But let us turn our attention back to the bill.
This bill is for the men and women, the workers who have been diagnosed with cancer or a serious illness, illnesses that may require medical treatment that lasts longer than the 15 weeks provided for in the Employment Insurance Act. We also have to consider recovery time, which is just as important and necessary to successful treatment.
Imagine being diagnosed with cancer and having to undergo treatment to beat the cancer and increase your chances of survival. Imagine having to choose between getting better and going to work. The last thing anyone would want to worry about is money and keeping a job. Regaining health becomes the only goal. Fighting the disease is the priority.
Those are the people for whom this bill was drafted and introduced in this House.
Why should a family worry about its finances when the mother is seriously ill? It seems to me that the most reasonable thing to do would be to try to ease the family's suffering. This bill gives us the power to do that.
This bill is intended for future mothers and pregnant women whose health, or whose baby's health, is at risk and therefore must stop all activity during their pregnancy. At present, these women who use all their sick leave in such situations are left with a shorter maternity leave and forced to return to work earlier than planned.
When the Liberal government extended maternity leave to one year, it was absolutely convinced of the importance of this year of leave. We of the NDP are just as convinced. For the best possible development, a newborn baby needs to form a strong emotional bond with his or her mother. This bond is formed over time and with the mother's presence.
What could be more painful for a mother than to have to return to work after only a few months spent with her newborn? This bill will allow these women to stay at home longer and take advantage of their full maternity leave with their baby. This is good news to the NDP.
This bill is also intended for workers who burn out at work. Burnout affects a vast majority of Canadians. Rest and reducing stress levels are two important remedies. People who must return to work after just 15 weeks of sick leave do not have the opportunity to recuperate and get back on their feet. Burnout symptoms often re-emerge, and the changes of getting over them are slim.
In 2005, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities tabled the report Restoring Financial Governance and Accessibility in the Employment Insurance Program. This report contained 28 recommendations, including Recommendation 27 which reads:
The Committee recommends that the government study the possibility of extending sickness benefits by 35 weeks for those who suffer from a prolonged and serious illness.
The Liberal government at the time did not consider this recommendation and never took the necessary steps to implement it. As for the Conservative members, they did not support the report but they did support this recommendation.
The NDP is pleased to note that the Liberal Party has changed its mind and is tabling a bill on this matter in this House. I can only hope that the Conservative government will support this bill given that it supported this recommendation when the report was studied.
Today we are talking about health—the physical and mental health of Canadians. What is more precious than health? As parliamentarians we must adopt the best measures to ensure the quality of life of our citizens.
The NDP supports this bill and will vote in favour of Bill C-278 to enhance the dignity of the people, the well-being of citizens, to provide relief to families and to support the sick in their struggle.
Private Member's Bill C-269
Points of Order
September 21st, 2006 / 3:05 p.m.
Rob Nicholson Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
Mr. Speaker, on May 31, 2006, you invited members to comment on whether Bill C-269 would require a royal recommendation. Without commenting on the merits of this private member's bill, it is the government's view that this bill does in fact require a royal recommendation. This is because the bill would increase spending beyond that authorized by the current Employment Insurance Act and the royal recommendation which accompanied it.
In particular, the bill would change the authorization in the royal recommendation for the act by: one, reducing the qualifying period regardless of the regional rate of unemployment; two, increasing the weekly benefits rate from 55% to 60%, which would increase the costs of the program; three, repealing the two week waiting period, which would result in additional costs due to an increasing number of very short claims; four, increasing maximum yearly insurable earnings. Removing the link to the industrial wage increase in the original statute in favour of a flat rate, would increase government spending in a manner that is different than provided for by the original royal recommendation. Finally, it would add coverage for the self-employed who are not automatically insured against job loss under the EI program.
The financial issues for Bill C-269 are the same as for Bill C-278 from the 38th Parliament for which the Speaker ruled on December 14, 2004 that a royal recommendation was required. The Speaker ruled:
The improvements to the employment insurance program envisioned by this bill include the required minimum number of hours worked in order to qualify, lengthening the period that one can receive benefits, and, as well, increasing those benefits.
It is clear that such changes to the employment insurance program would have the effect of authorizing increased expenditures of public revenue. Inasmuch as section 54 of the Constitution, 1867, and Standing Order 79 prohibit the adoption of any bill appropriating public revenues without a royal recommendation, the same must apply to bills authorizing increased spending of public revenues. Bills mandating new or additional public spending must be seen as the equivalent of bills effecting an appropriation.
June 2nd, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC
Madam Speaker, I am not claiming for starters that the NDP is not up to it. The motion or solution is not up to it. The NDP could be up to it if it took an approach for a policy that is not piecemeal, a policy that solves only part of the problem while continuing to discriminate elsewhere.
Our colleague asked us to debate employment insurance for a day. If we were to do this, it would be in regard to all the recommendations. So far, we have not proposed bills with only partial solutions. We have proposed two bills: Bill C-280 on an independent employment insurance fund—for the same very well known reasons—in order to shelter this fund from pickpockets, and Bill C-278 on all the measures. That is what we need to emphasize. The member did the same thing, but we should leave it at that. A measure like the one that the NDP is proposing today suits the Liberal government. We try for a whole day to debate something that is so limited in comparison with the extent of the problem, knowing in advance that the Liberals will vote against it. They are against it. My friend acknowledges this himself. So why waste time on something that does not solve the problem?
Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business
April 6th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-278 under private members' business.
(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)
Business of the House
April 5th, 2005 / 4:30 p.m.
Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all chief whips and there is an agreement, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), to have the recorded divisions on Bill C-278 and the motion of the member for Red Deer concerning the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, scheduled on Wednesday, April 6, to take place at 3 p.m. rather than at the end of government orders.
Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business
April 4th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC
Mr. Speaker, in introducing Bill C-278, I have simply borne witness to the problems suffered by the working men and women in my riding and many other ridings all over Quebec and Canada, and to the present need for a discussion of social justice and equity.
As we know, there is no justice in the employment insurance system at this time. There are many workers who, having paid EI premiums all their lives, cannot draw EI benefits. That is unacceptable. We are seeing that the social fabric is wearing thin and poverty is everywhere. We have problems with health and there are costs associated with that. We are laying the foundation for a very difficult future. It is a very short-sighted policy not to provide even such minimal protection to the working people. The people, therefore, have asked for help in getting the government to recognize their rights.
All our lives, we work hard to pay for life insurance so that our families will not have money worries when we die. I do not see why, then, when we die, anyone would refuse them the right to collect those benefits. How can it be that only 38% of workers are able to collect benefits?
From another point of view, the government has handled its transfers from big business to small and medium businesses so badly that, in my riding among others, we have seen a dramatic rise in unemployment rates, because of the closing of the textile mills and the problems in the paper mills due to the still unsettled softwood lumber dispute.
As a consequence, on one hand, the economy is being allowed to wither away, and on the other, no support is being provided to the working population.
We have also seen, in the Canadian Labour Congress's economic analysis, that under existing rules, women and new entrants to the labour force are the ones affected. We know that women heading single-parent families are the poorest in our society. Thus, Canadian children are poor and malnourished, and that is a very difficult problem.
Coverage for young people is also truly discouraging. We know that from 1990 to 2001, it dropped from 52% to 16%. Therefore, it is really necessary to help our young people. That is why this bill has five major principles.
The first principle, obviously, is to protect the workers, so that all can benefit from coverage.
The second principle consists in making eligibility criteria more flexible, so that people can qualify for employment insurance after 360 hours. That is really reasonable. It would solve the problem women workers have when they return to work after a pregnancy. It would also solve the problem of young people starting out in the work force. What kind of a society are we preparing for them? They need to be integrated as part of our work force.
The third principle is extension of benefits so that workers in seasonal industries—suffering from what my colleagues have referred to as the seasonal gap—and workers with precarious employment can have proper coverage. It is a matter of adding five weeks on to the period to which people are entitled to benefits.
The fourth principle is more generous benefits. This is relatively minor. Going from 55% to 60% is not any great generosity, when these people are the ones who paid into it. Why then can they not get benefits back? This is a real injustice.
The fifth principle is helping new entrants. It is a matter of helping make it possible for everyone to live in a society where there is inequality between the rich, the big businesses, which will also be saving on contributions, and the poor. Equality between them is needed.
I therefore call upon all of my colleagues in this House to vote in favour of improved employment insurance. This bill is nothing more than a reflection of reality, of what the people in our ridings are asking for. It will be a change for the better from all points of view. Particularly where politics are involved, people very much need to see that the administrators here share their concerns and are at last helping the least advantaged members of our society.
Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business
April 4th, 2005 / noon
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I would like to stand here today and support Bill C-278. It is an important bill and I would like to commend the member for Trois-Rivières for bringing this forward to the House of Commons.
This is an important issue not only for persons who have to collect employment insurance in times of need but also for those they support in their families, whether it be their sons, their daughters or other members of the family. They require a direct income in their households to provide food on the table, to ensure their kids go to school and that they will get the transitional support necessary to get back on their feet again because something has happened in the workplace that has dislodged them from an opportunity or from an employment situation that they had.
It is important to recognize at the outset that what we are talking about here are modest improvements to return the system back to what it was intended to do. It was intended to support workers and their families, and to ensure that we had a national strategy for people who are out of a job to get back on their feet and be productive again.
That is what it was about and those workers paid for that. They paid on a daily basis into a system for insurance, so that they could have the decency and integrity of chasing the Canadian dream to ensure that their families would be well taken care of and progress. They paid for that. It is not something that was handed to them on a plate. It is not a handout. It is something that people and workers paid into, and employers as well, because we all recognize the need to have the supports necessary when people lose their jobs, especially in this day and age when we have more transitional employment than ever before.
We have workers who are paying for upgrades at schools, putting out thousands of dollars in education because a lot of workplaces do not do it anymore. They have to pay that debt back at the same time that there are fewer opportunities to find employment that will be sustainable, consistent and support them in a decent lifestyle.
The government has stolen from them. It is as simple as that. People pay every single day that they work into a fund that should be there for them in a time of need. It is important to recognize the situation that happens when workers lose their employment and they end up having--