An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Gérard Asselin  Bloc

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

Status

Not active, as of June 17, 2005
(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.

Unemployment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2005 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-280, introduced by a Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Manicouagan.

This is a very important bill for the simple reason that it deprives the Liberals of the possibility of stealing the workers' money to pay their debts and reduce the deficit to zero at the expense of people who have lost their jobs. It is as simple as that. This minority government then wants to hide behind royal assent. This is regrettable.

I have listened to the parliamentary secretary's praise of the member for Madawaska—Restigouche and the great work he did on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. It must be kept in mind that the member had recommended that the EI fund become independent and out of the Liberals' hands.

Another thing that is regrettable is that the member for Madawaska—Restigouche was not the only one in committee calling for an independent EI fund. The Liberal member for Beauséjour did as well, Those same two made a recommendation to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities that the 12 best earning weeks should be used for calculations

It is, however, no surprise that these same people are contradicting themselves in the House of Commons. In early June, I moved to consider the 12 best weeks, and they voted against it. Now they are contradicting themselves, which is regrettable.

It is a fact, the Conservatives want to have an independent EI fund. I agree. That is not all, however. They also want that independent fund to reduce EI premiums and do nothing else for workers, whom they consider to be a gang of abusers of the system. That is regrettable. It is to be hoped that those watching us this evening will remember that. That is exactly what the Conservatives are saying.

What is more, the Liberals support them in this, which is even more of a pity. They started with EI premiums of $3.04. This dropped to $1.98, then $1.93 , and they want to reduce them another 8¢. They claim that is what workers and employers want, which is absolutely false.

I have often said in the House of Commons that no worker has ever contacted me to complain that he was paying too much in EI premiums. What I have heard from workers is that they were even prepared to pay more if they had to, provided they could qualify for EI.

Employment insurance is a misnomer. It should be called unemployment insurance. It is the Liberals, in 1996, who changed the name to be able to steal the EI fund to pay for the national debt and reach the zero deficit. They did this on the backs of people who lost their job as well as on the backs of women in fish plants who have difficulty working for 12 weeks.

The Liberals then come bragging. The member for Madawaska—Restigouche rose in the House yesterday to congratulate the minister for the best 14 weeks changes. Yet, this same member, in committee, with the member for Beauséjour, recommended the best 12 weeks. I do not understand how they can be so uncaring. They cause suffering to families and children. Some people do not even receive $150 a week in employment insurance during winter periods. They have seasonal jobs.

Earlier, my Conservative colleague said that some employers were laying off workers on purpose because they could then receive EI benefits. He does not understand that, in the winter, Chaleur Bay, in the Atlantic, is frozen and that we cannot fish. He does not understand that lobster cannot be caught on the ice, as opposed to Lake Ontario, where people fish for fun. This is not how the industry works.

It is the same for the forest industry. When there are five feet of snow in New Brunswick, loggers cannot go and cut trees.

In Toronto, when there are two inches of snow, the army is called in to clear it up. This is not the same in my region. I can guarantee you that these people cannot go to work.

The bill before us today would have prevented the Liberals from trying to take the money from workers.

I am certain that in 1986, when the Auditor General proposed that the money be put into the consolidated revenue fund it was not to allow the government to use workers' money as it saw fit.

It is ironic to see that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development voted for the bill at first reading, when she was Conservative, but votes against it now that she is Liberal. It is as if you caught a sickness simply by crossing the floor.

It is disgraceful. The minister who voted for the bill and believed in its objective changed her mind. She now believes that royal recommendations cannot be given, that we cannot help workers.

It is sad to see how the Liberals operate. When there were problems in the eastern part of New Brunswick, the hon. member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac asked me personally to come to the assistance of people in the southeast of the province who were having problems. Everybody agreed that they should be helped.

However, when comes the time to vote in the House, they do not respect their own name and they are not courageous enough to vote for what they believe in. They even lied to us. Shame.

Back home, the unemployment rate tops 20%, because people have never received any help from the Liberals, who were elected for 100 years. If people in our ridings threw the Liberals out, there must be a reason. There has to be a reason, also, why the Conservatives would stand no chance of getting elected in our ridings, given their mindset. They are unable to acknowledge the fact that work is seasonal in some regions.

When I was in Forestville, in Quebec, on the North Shore, 2,500 people took to the streets and they were not just workers. There were also store owners. There were even priests, and I thought it was great when they said that it was no longer a political story, but a human story, and that it was about time that people rallied in the streets and marched to protest decisions by the federal government.

Today, in my opinion, the Liberals should be ashamed to grab $48 billion—that belongs to folks who have lost their job—when today in Canada, there are 800,000 people who do not qualify for employment insurance benefits, but pay the premiums.

Only 32% of the women who contribute to employment insurance qualify for benefits. They are the ones who were most affected. How can the government not recognize that?

Yes, this is insurance for when a person loses his job. This is insurance that lets people in today's labour force take parental leave, for example. Forty or fifty years ago, only five percent of Canadian women were working. That is no longer the case. We have to recognize the reality of today's labour market, and we have to adjust to this market, not do what the Liberals did.

In 1986, when the Auditor General, under Brian Mulroney's Conservative government, suggested that the employment insurance account be part of general revenues, the Liberals were in the opposition and they opposed the idea.

In 1989, my predecessor himself told New Brunswickers to fight against any change to employment insurance, because it would spell disaster for New Brunswick.

Jean Chrétien himself wrote a letter to the people of Rivière-du-Loup, to a group of people receiving employment insurance,and told them, “It is the Conservatives' fault, because they do not look after economic development, they are targeting the wrong people, they are targeting workers”.

When this same government boasted about using the money in the employment insurance account to pay down the debt and achieve zero deficits, it showed that did not care about those who no longer had access to employment insurance.

The Liberals did the same thing as the Conservatives and that is shameful. But I think people will remember. However the idea is not just to remember. The Liberals should know that there are 1.4 million children in Canada who are hungry. It is their fault, because when they cut employment insurance benefits for working men and women who lose their jobs, they worsened poverty in this country. They had better not boast about being a good government because of today's surpluses.

I am asking in all sincerity that changes be made to the employment insurance program for the well-being of workers, families and children in this country.

Unemployment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2005 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-280 concerning the Employment Insurance Act. I genuinely thank the member for Manicouagan for raising these important issues. It is important that we debate such things publicly from time to time.

I also thank the standing committee for its fine work on its ninth report in consideration of this bill. While the Government of Canada cannot agree with the key directions of the bill, we greatly appreciate the work of the committee. I personally thank the member for Madawaska--Restigouche for his passionate support of the unemployed and for unemployment programs, and for the advice which he has given me and other members of the committee during this process.

Bill C-280 proposes fundamental amendments to the EI Act. It is important to revisit the reasons for the present structure of that act. This historical context will, I believe, illustrate the importance, complexity and challenges presented by the proposals contained in Bill C-280.

Let me begin with the employment insurance account.

Both Bill C-280 and the committee's ninth report suggest alternative methods of accounting but I believe it is important to appreciate why the EI account is reported within the consolidated revenue fund and not, as the bill proposes, separate from the accounts of Canada.

In the 1980s the auditor general of that time expressed concerns about fragmented reporting of government activities. To rectify this situation, the auditor general was of the opinion that EI premiums paid by employers and employees were federal revenues and that given the government's control over EI policy and programs, they should be included in reported Government of Canada revenues, not in a separate account. On the advice of the auditor general, in 1986 the EI account was fully integrated into the government's general finances. This practice follows appropriate accounting methods consistent with the standards of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. This reasoning still holds true.

It is important to note, however, that because the EI account has been consolidated with the other accounts of Canada, in reality it is not an actual account containing cash but rather an accounting method that keeps track of both premiums and benefits.

Bill C-280 would have significant financial and policy implications for the way in which the federal government finances and governs the EI program. A cash-based account, outside of the control of the government, would represent a significant fiscal liability to the government and the taxpayers of Canada, and potentially the first step in loss of policy control.

The government realizes the importance of keeping EI in tune with Canadians. That is precisely why in budget 2003 we committed to undertake a review of the premium setting process and launched public consultations. We promised that the new process would be based on the following principles: first, that premium rates should be set transparently; second, premium rates should be set on the basis of independent advice; third, expected premium revenues should correspond to expected program costs; fourth, premium rate setting should mitigate the impact on business cycles; and lastly, that premium rates should be relatively stable over time.

Consultations were held with a variety of stakeholders. We heard from business, labour, economists, technical experts, the EI commissioners for workers and employers, and individual members of the public. In budget 2005, the Government of Canada introduced a new permanent rate setting mechanism that meets all the five principles that I have outlined and takes into consideration the views of stakeholders and the views of the standing committee which studied this. By the way, this new regime already exists.

Beginning with the 2006 rate, the EI Commission has the legislative authority to set the rate itself. It will be able to obtain, as needed, the services of those with specialized knowledge in rate setting matters. In other words, it can go outside a government. And it will hold consultations on the premium rate prior to setting it. Gone will be the requirement for the Government of Canada to approve this rate.

This new approach to rate setting is based on the principle that the premium rate for a year should generate just enough revenue to cover expected payments during that year.

I think it is important to raise this here and speak to the motion proposed by the member for Manicouagan. The motion outlines a premium rate setting process that is identical to the one originally proposed. The only difference is that it removes the role of the Chief Actuary from the rate setting process. The motion in no way has a substantive effect on the problematic aspects of the bill ruled upon, Mr. Speaker, by you, and your ruling on the fact that the a royal recommendation was needed for the original bill as it was phrased.

Perhaps, given the ramifications suggested in the motion, it is important at this time to clearly articulate the key function played by the Chief Actuary in the new rate setting mechanism this government introduced in the budget 2005.

Under the new mechanism, the EI Chief Actuary annually calculates on a forward looking basis the estimated break-even rate for the coming year based on economic variables supplied by the Minister of Finance. The Chief Actuary then provides a report of this break-even rate calculation to the EI Commission by October 14 each year.

Clearly, the role of the Chief Actuary is a critical component of the new rate setting process, as he provides independent expert advice to the commission concerning the break-even premium rate. The Chief Actuary's report is a key factor the commission must consider in its decision on the rate. It is the only mechanism that factors in important economic variables. Further, the Chief Actuary's report provides the basis to ensure that the premium rate will generate just enough revenue to cover expected payments during the year.

It is important to recognize the important function the Chief Actuary adds to the transparency of the rate setting process. It is his report, providing details of the calculation of the break-even rate, that is made public and provides the basis for the commission's consultations with all stakeholders.

I appreciate the House taking the time to listen to this description of the role of the Chief Actuary. It is important because it explains why this government would not support a rate setting process that does not provide for sound actuarial advice as a fundamental component of the EI rate setting.

These new measures that I have outlined address issues both in Bill C-280 and the standing committee's reports by increasing the independence of the EI Commission in the EI rate setting and strengthening, and this is most important, the transparency of the entire process.

It is important to add that over the past 11 years premium rates have steadily gone down while benefits to Canadians have been enriched. With the 2005 rate for employees at $1.95 and $2.73 for employers per $100 of insurable earnings, consecutive rate reductions mean that employers and employees will pay $10 billion less in premiums than they did under the 1994 regime.

I appreciate the contributions of the hon. members and of the standing committee to the debates on the EI Act. I also welcome this opportunity to share ideas but for the reasons that I have outlined, the government cannot support Bill C-280.

Unemployment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

moved:

That Bill C-280, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing lines 4 to 26 on page 1 and lines 1 to 38 on page 2 with the following:

“1. Section 65.3 of the Employment Insurance Act is repealed.

1.1 Sections 66 to 67 of the Act are replaced by the following:

  1. (1) Not later than November 30 in each year, the Commission shall set the premium rate that the Commission considers will, to the extent possible, over a business cycle,

(a) serve the best interests of the contributors and beneficiaries under the employment insurance system;

(b) ensure that there is enough revenue to pay the expenses authorized to be charged to the Employment Insurance Account;

(c) maintain stable rate levels; and

(d) ensure that the difference between the assets of the Employment Insurance Account and its liabilities does not exceed fifteen billion dollars.

(2) On the first day of October in each year, the Commission shall cause a report to be sent to the Minister containing

(a) the reasons for setting the premium rate for the year;

(b) any change to the amount of benefits that the Commission considers will, to the extent possible, over a business cycle,

(i) ensure that there is enough revenue to pay the expenses authorized to be charged to the Employment Insurance Account, and

(ii) maintain stable rate levels;

(c) a detailed description of the assets of the Commission on the first day of September in each year;

(d) a detailed description of the amounts that have been paid into or paid out of the Employment Insurance Account since the previous report;

(e) an estimate of the amounts to be paid into the Employment Insurance Account under this Act for the following year, calculated on the basis of the premium rate set by the Commission in the report;

(f) an estimate of the amounts to be paid out of the Employment Insurance Account under this Act for the following year, calculated on the basis of the amount of benefits to be paid set by the Commission in the report;

(g) any recommendations that the Commission considers necessary for the improvement of the employment insurance system, including amendments to Acts, regulations and policies with respect to employment insurance; and

(h) any other information that the Commission considers necessary.

(3) The Minister shall cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first five days on which that House is sitting after the Minister receives it.

66.1 Notwithstanding section 66, the premium rate for the year 2004 is 1.98%.

66.2 Notwithstanding section 66, the premium rate for the year 2005 is the rate set for the year by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister and the Minister of Finance.

  1. Subject to section 70, a person employed in insurable employment shall pay, by deduction as provided in subsection 82(1), a premium equal to their insurable earnings multiplied by the premium rate set under section 66, 66.1 or 66.2, as the case may be.”

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor as sponsor of Bill C-280, which is concerned with the creation of an autonomous fund.

To begin, I would like to say to all those listening to us that employment insurance is primarily insurance that is paid for by workers while they are working, in case they lose their jobs or stop working. The problem is that workers pay premiums thinking that they are insured, yet they are not. Since the 1994 Axworthy reform, under the Liberal government, insured persons who have paid premiums in order to be insured in case of job loss or separation have not in fact been insured.

The objective of the Liberal Party is to generate surpluses and deposit them in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The former finance minister, now the Prime Minister, used to crow that he was realizing annual surpluses of $9 billion, $10 billion or $12 billion. Again this year, revenues surplus to premiums and benefits have been generated in the order of $4 billion to $6 billion.

This motivated the Bloc Québécois, immediately upon its arrival in the House of Commons, to work on behalf of workers, the unemployed and the groups such as the Sans-chemise, and to defend their interests. This is not the first bill on the subject we are discussing in this House. The Bloc Québécois has felt itself obliged to make certain commitments to workers, the unemployed and the Sans-chemise. In the last federal election campaign, the Bloc Québécois promised to table in this House the bill we are debating today at the report stage, namely Bill C-280, which would create an independent fund.

In my riding of Manicouagan, I also have workers, unemployed people and students who pay EI premiums, yet unfortunately are not insured under the present employment insurance system.

I had the opportunity to speak at first reading, that is, when the bill was tabled, at second reading, as well as in committee, when this bill was studied. I was able to intervene, as did the hon. member for Chambly-Borduas and the hon. member for Québec, at the amendment stage. We agreed to huge reductions so that this measure would not be expensive for the government.

For example, we reduced the number of administrators. We would have liked to have seven representatives on the union side, as many on the management side, and three on the government side. As long as this fund is not administered by those who contribute to it, we will be faced with the problem we have today. The government takes the money in the fund and uses it for purposes other than those for which people contributed. It then becomes a disguised tax that is collected on the backs of seasonal workers and the unemployed.

I am now pleased to speak at the report stage. As I was saying, we have tabled some amendments. Our amendment that permits concordance with the budget has been accepted tonight. At the time we intervened in committee, the budget had not yet been passed and we were not able to make the necessary amendments. This evening, at the report stage, the Chair has deemed admissible an amendment we had tabled. This is simply an amendment to align Bill C-280 with Bill C-43, the Budget Implementation Act.

We do hope that cabinet, which has the authority to give royal assent, will give workers and the unemployed the money that belongs to them. For far too long, the government has been using that money for its own purposes and spending it on various programs. One might even wonder if this money from the EI fund—we are talking about $5 billion or $6 billion a year—was not involved in instances of waste of public funds. Put simply, I am referring to the sponsorship scandal. It would be disastrous if the government had taken money that belongs to workers and the unemployed to fund the sponsorship program in an attempt to pad the coffers of the Liberal Party. We are asking cabinet to give a royal recommendation with respect to this bill.

In addition, I hope that the House will get to vote on this bill at third reading stage, so as to show the true face of the Liberals. They keep promising to improve the employment insurance program, but no sooner do they get elected than they do the exact opposite.

The Bloc Québécois promised to introduce legislation. That is what we are doing today. That is what we have been doing ever since coming to Ottawa. If it is not passed and a majority of parliamentarians vote against it, the Liberals will pay the price.

Why is legislation necessary? It is necessary to stop the government from tapping into the surplus, these billions of dollars that belong to the workers, those who have contributed to an insurance fund they do not get to use because the government decided to undertake a much too stringent reform, which is increasingly preventing people from qualifying for EI benefits.

The independent employment insurance account management committee had the power to set premium rates and to pay out benefits, to administer and report to the House. It was also to recommend improvements to the employment insurance program. That is very important. It has the power to recommend improvements to the EI program.

Six women out of ten contribute to the EI fund, but are not eligible for benefits. That is disastrous. We are talking about 60% of women on the labour market, women and young people who are contributing to the fund. Six people out of ten do not qualify.

Why? Because the reforms are too strict. We are talking about new people on employment insurance. They need 910 hours of work. That is 910 hours in seasonal jobs. These are different kinds of jobs, and I find that everywhere in Quebec and Canada.

There are different kinds of jobs in which, as I was saying, six women out of ten did not qualify for employment insurance. These are women and young people. It is all the people who are on call, casual employees, replacements for workers on holidays, contract workers and even students.

I will be told that the act requires all workers to pay employment insurance premiums. However, the government knows very well that although everyone is obliged to pay premiums when they work because that is the law, the government is not obliged to pay out benefits to everyone.

We in the Bloc Québécois are proposing an independent fund, with administrators who would manage the premium and benefit rates. They would make recommendations and submit reports to the House. We also say that the 910 hours required to qualify for employment insurance should be reduced to 360.

We demand as well that the benefits be increased from 50% to 60%. We want to increase the number of insurable weeks to 50 in order to eliminate the gap.

Between the period when people receive employment insurance and the period when they return to work, there are workers in seasonal jobs in some regions who go as long as two months, two and a half months, often ten weeks, without any income.

There is also the abolition of the two-week waiting period. With a total surplus of $48 billion and annual surpluses of $4 billion to $6 billion, it is impossible to understand why the famous two-week waiting period cannot be eliminated. It really does take two weeks of waiting, two to three weeks if there is no investigation and all goes well. It takes about five or six weeks before people get their first employment insurance cheque.

In some families, when the employment insurance cheque arrives, it is certainly due. The banks do not wait, and neither do mortgages or grocery stores. Everybody needs it.

We also need a POWA program and a program for independent workers. I will let my hon. friend from Chambly—Borduas speak about that.

This bill is supported by unions and employers. Why employers? Because they are having difficulty recruiting employees. There is also the high cost of training employees.

On behalf of working people, on behalf of the unemployed, and on behalf of the Comité des Sans-Chemise, we ask the House to vote in favour of Bill C-280.

Unemployment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

October 26th, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-280.

Before I propose Motion No. 1 to the House, the Chair has to make a statement about Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence, which was reported from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on June 17, 2005.

I wish to remind the House that the Chair has previously addressed the need for a royal recommendation in this bill on two occasions: on February 8, 2005 and again on June 13, 2005. Members will remember that in his ruling on Bill C-280, given on Monday June 13, 2005, the Speaker stated:

—in its present form, Bill C-280 infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown for three reasons: first, clause 2 effects an appropriation of public funds by its transfer of these funds from the consolidated revenue fund to an independent employment insurance account established outside the consolidated revenue fund.

Second, clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose namely, the investment of public funds.

Third, as indicated in my ruling of February 8, clause 5 increases the number of commissioners from four to seventeen.

The human resources committee adopted a number of amendments to the bill following the ruling. Notably, the committee has reduced the number of commissioners from seventeen to four. While the amendments have altered the nature of the expenditures called for in the bill, neither the amendments adopted in committee nor the amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage, assuming it were to be adopted, would remove the requirement for a royal recommendation.

As it has been indicated in the previous rulings, it is my duty to inform the House that in conformity with Standing Order 79(2), I must still decline to put the question on third reading of this bill unless a royal recommendation is received.

Today, consideration at report stage and debate on the motion for third reading will continue as scheduled.

I shall now propose Motion No. 1 to the House.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

June 20th, 2005 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Sans-chemise ask the new minister to honour her previous stand and vote for Bill C-280, which was introduced by the Bloc Québécois to create an independent fund.

Is the minister going to persist in taking the direction she has chosen since becoming a Liberal and will she too betray these people who need her to defend them instead?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 17th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on Bill C-280, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence.

Members of the standing committee have been diligent in taking your two rulings into account as a guide in putting forward several amendments to this bill. The underlying principle in this private member's bill relating to financial initiatives by the Crown remains intact. Therefore, members on this side of the House voted against reporting Bill C-280 in its present form.

I wish to point out how cooperative the members of the committee have been, despite a divergence of opinions.

Employment Insurance Act
Oral Question Period

June 13th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

I want to thank the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell for his views.

With respect to the first issue, I assume he was referring to Bill C-280 in respect of a ways and means motion. Since the bill is not proposing to increase taxation but simply change the way the funds would be dealt with once they get paid into the consolidated revenue fund of Canada, I do not believe a ways and means motion is necessary. That is off the top of my head. However I will happily look into the matter and if my opinion is different I will get back to the House.

With respect to the second issue, he knows the Chair has no opinion whatever in respect to the rules of the House. I simply apply them. He also knows that as chairman of the procedure and House affairs committee he is in a position to bring in recommendations for changes to the rules that the House could adopt and then the Speaker would happily enforce them.

If he wishes to change the rules so that debate does not even start on third reading unless there is going to be a royal recommendation, then the Speaker will happily enforce that rule. However I have no opinion whatever on whether that would be a prudent course. That is entirely up to members. I am happy to abide by whatever decision hon. members make in that regard.

Employment Insurance Act
Oral Question Period

June 13th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

Order. I am now prepared to rule on the request from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities with respect to the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-280, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another act in consequence.

On June 6, 2005, the Standing Committee presented its seventh report to the House which sought clarification regarding the provisions of this bill as it related to the royal recommendation. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader made a submission on this matter as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development , and the hon. member for St. John’s South—Mount Pearl. The Chair thanks these members for their submissions.

As hon. members may recall, the Chair made an earlier ruling on this same bill at the commencement of second reading debate on February 8, 2005. At that time the Chair stated that it appeared clause 5 required a royal recommendation. The Chair proceeded in this fashion as a result of its responsibility to manage private members' business under Standing Order 94(1) and its responsibility under Standing Order 79(2).

As I explained in the statement of February 8 on Bill C-280, clause 5 mandated the appointment of 13 new commissioners to the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. The remuneration received by these new members would entail additional public spending and this spending required the bill to have a royal recommendation.

The Chair went on to state that debate on the bill could proceed, despite this impediment, until the moment for putting the question on third reading. If by that time no royal recommendation had been received, then the Chair would decline to put the question on third reading.

Since the beginning of this Parliament, matters relating to the financial initiative of the Crown and private members’ bills have been raised by the Chair at an early stage to provide all members with an opportunity to make submissions. In this way, if the House sends a bill to committee for detailed consideration, members of the committee are forewarned of its shortcomings. A committee can amend such bills to remove the spending provisions, or the sponsor can convince the Crown to provide a royal recommendation.

In the case before us today, during its deliberations on Bill C-280, the members of the standing committee considered amendments to remove the spending requirements of clause 5 in order to permit the bill to proceed to a vote at third reading. While this prospect would have responded to the difficulty signaled in the Chair’s February statement, a quite different question arose during its deliberations and the committee decided to seek clarification from the Chair.

Thus, in his incisive submission to the House, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader maintained that clause 2 infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown for two reasons: It creates a new fund outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and it alters the purpose of the original legislation.

Sections 71 to 77 of the Employment Insurance Act establish the operation of the employment insurance account as part of the consolidated revenue fund. Amounts are paid out of the consolidated revenue fund and charged to the account chiefly for employment benefits and the costs of administering the act.

The parliamentary secretary describes the current employment insurance account as a “virtual fund” since the actual funds are integrated with the general revenues within the consolidated revenue fund. The EI account actually expresses the balance of employment insurance transactions, that is to say, whether it is in a surplus or deficit position.

The parliamentary secretary claimed that clause 2 of Bill C-280 creates an independent EI account outside the consolidated revenue fund and, in so doing, creates an account that represents a new and distinct charge on the public revenue that is not currently provided for in legislation.

The parliamentary secretary raised another point relating to clause 2. As he explained, the purpose of the current Employment Insurance Act would be changed for it does not assign to the EI Commission the role of independently managing the amounts paid into the account, nor of investing the assets with financial institutions. Thus, he contended, the change to the employment insurance regime proposed by Bill C-280, particularly with reference to the commission, is a significant alteration of the circumstances, manner and purposes of the original legislative authority which was accompanied by a royal recommendation. To alter such provisions in this manner infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown. The parliamentary secretary cited a recent ruling on May 9, 2005 where the Chair explained on page 5780 of Hansard that:

--a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where more money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is being significantly altered.

The Chair has had an opportunity to reflect on the complexities of this case. I have carefully reviewed the submissions to determine whether Bill C-280 in clause 2 does anything more than rearrange the method of accounting for public funds. If not, then no royal recommendation is required: how public funds are recorded in the government’s ledgers does not constitute an appropriation for which a royal recommendation would be required. On close examination, it seems to the Chair that clause 2 in Bill C-280 involves more than accounting methodology

The Chair acknowledges that the proposed section 72 in Bill C-280 would credit monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Commission which would then place it into a new and separate account.

As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, this clause converts the Employment Insurance Account from an account within the Consolidated Revenue Fund to one that is outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Right now, monies in the Consolidated Revenue Fund are available for eventual expenditure for purposes of claims under the Employment Insurance Act. With the passage of Bill C-280, monies are expended immediately from the Consolidated Revenue Fund even though these funds are not needed for expenditure under the Employment Insurance Act. In other words, Bill C-280 effects an appropriation by spending or authorizing the spending of public funds by transfer of the funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to a separate EI Fund with the result that these monies are no longer available for other appropriations Parliament may make. These funds would no longer be available because, in effect, they have been spent, that is, transferred out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to a separate and independent account outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Such a transfer, in my view, constitutes an appropriation within the meaning of section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and for this reason a royal recommendation is required in respect of clause 2 of the Bill.

In relation to the argument that proposed subsection 72(3) creates new duties for the commission in terms of managing and investing amounts paid into the employment insurance account, the Chair believes that, here again, this would involve new spending for a new purpose and, as such, requires a royal recommendation.

Therefore, in its present form, Bill C-280 infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown for three reasons: first, clause 2 effects an appropriation of public funds by its transfer of these funds from the consolidated revenue fund to an independent employment insurance account established outside the consolidated revenue fund.

Second, clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose namely, the investment of public funds.

Third, as indicated in my ruling of February 8, clause 5 increases the number of commissioners from four to seventeen.

In conclusion, let me say that this is the ninth decision that I have delivered this session relating to private members' bills and the financial initiative of the Crown. In light of the new regime for private members' business, the Chair has had to view very seriously its responsibilities with regard to private members' bills, particularly with regard to the requirement that our procedures respect the financial prerogatives of the Crown.

I want to thank all hon. members who intervened in this situation and I want to encourage all hon. members, private members and the ministry, to raise at the earliest opportunity any concerns they may have with any bills the House is considering. Ideally, such concerns will be raised at the commencement of debate at second reading in keeping with the best traditions of this place so that decisions can be taken with full knowledge of the consequences of those decisions. When bills appear to contain financial provisions that should be recommended by the Crown, it behooves us all to ensure that proper attention is given to them.

I thank the House and the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for providing the Chair with this opportunity to make the necessary clarifications with regard to Bill C-280.

Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

June 6th, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, you will see as I briefly go through these comments exactly how incisive they are.

I would like to draw to your attention the two reasons why the government believes that Bill C-280 requires a royal recommendation.

My committee colleagues are currently engaged in discussing the advantages of the bill. My objective is simply to clarify the procedural and constitutional issues relating to royal recommendation.

First of all, this bill would create a new employment insurance fund and set out the amounts to be paid into it. Section 71 and subsection 72(a) of the Employment Insurance Act stipulate that the moneys paid into the EI account are part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

All of the money currently allocated to EI is virtual. When contributions are made, they become part of general revenue, and the same amount is credited to the EI account.

No amount is actually transferred to an EI account, however, which is why this is a “virtual fund”. When there is an EI expenditure, particularly for a pilot project, it is covered by general revenue and debited from the EI fund.

There is no transfer from the EI account, because there is no money in it. The actual funds are integrated with general revenue. Over time, the EI fund eventually reports some figure which represents the current balance of transactions—annual surplus or, as used to be the case, annual deficit—but this is also a virtual amount.

Section 72 would make it possible for moneys allocated to the Consolidated Revenue Fund under EI to be paid to legal entities other than Her Majesty. I would invite you, Mr. Speaker, to consult section 23 of the Human Resources Development Act.

This represents a potentially significant change in how these amounts are managed and disbursed. Subsection 72(2) requires the amounts in the account to be deposited with a financial institution. Subsection 72(3) provides that the commission is to manage the amounts paid into this account “in the best interests of contributors and beneficiaries” as opposed to the more general public interest. Subsection 72(3) would also require the commission to deposit the amounts with private financial institutions. Section 73 would allow these amounts to be used by Her Majesty subject to a decision of the commission to extend a loan and would be subject to the payment of interest as rates established by the commission. Currently, the commission has no role in such use and the Minister of Finance decides what, if any, interest is to be paid per section 76 of the Employment Insurance Act.

Section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867, provides:

It shall not be lawful for the House of Commons to adopt or pass any Vote, Resolution, Address, or Bill for the Appropriation of any Part of the Public Revenue, or of any Tax or Impost, to any Purpose that has not been first recommended to that House by Message of the Governor General in the Session in which such Vote, Resolution, Address, or Bill is proposed.

Section 2 of the Financial Administration Act defines the word “appropriation” as meaning “any authority of Parliament to pay money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund”.

Erskine May, at page 765 in the 22nd edition, specifies that “the following are categories of expenditure provision...which require authorization by Money resolution...” It then provides a list of items which includes at number five: “The authorization of a single payment out of the Consolidated Fund”.

The objective of Bill C-280 is clearly to ensure that the EI account is kept separate from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The payment to the new account represents “a new and distinct charge” on the public revenue that is not currently provided for under existing legislation. Clearly, the appropriation of a sum of this magnitude, which some members have estimated to be as high as $46 billion, must require a royal recommendation.

The second reason the government believes this bill should be accompanied by a royal recommendation is that the purpose of the original appropriations would be changed by this bill. The Acting Speaker indicated on May 9, 2005, that changing the purposes for which moneys are appropriated requires a royal recommendation:

In this particular case, Bill C-312 contains some provisions which caused the Chair to pause and consider its impact on the financial initiative of the Crown. As most members know, bills which involve new or additional spending for a distinct purpose must be recommended by the Crown. The royal recommendation is also required where a bill alters the appropriation of public revenue “under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out” in the bill. What this means is that a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where more money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is being significantly altered.

Amendments concerning the Canada Employment Insurance Commission's structure and responsibilities would change the purpose for which money allocated to run the commission would be used. The commission would be assigned new responsibilities for independently managing and investing as much as potentially $46 billion in funds but at least $15 billion, as well as providing independent recommendations for policy and legislative changes to the employment insurance program.

In addition, the purpose of the funds collected and granted under the existing Employment Insurance Act would be altered, since that act clearly did not provide for the investment of these assets as required by subsection 72(3)(b). These are clearly new purposes both for the money granted for the administration and operation of the commission and for the treatment of premiums currently collected under the employment insurance system.

For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I conclude that this bill requires a royal recommendation and I hope that you will consider these most incisive points very carefully.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 6th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on the provisions of Bill C-280, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, employment insurance account and premium rate setting, and another act in consequence.

A majority of the committee supported the need to refer the bill to the Speaker for another ruling with respect to the need for a royal recommendation.

We know the Speaker has ruled on one aspect of the bill which is designed to set up an independent EI commission. We believe that a massive transfer, $45 billion of public funds of this type, inevitably involves a royal recommendation.

Even changing the nature of the commission has important implications. Moving the commission outside of government, changing the roles of commissioners involves expense. We are concerned about the staffing of the independent commission. Will the independent commission draw on the tens of thousands of employees at HRSD and what are the financial implications of that? We urge, Mr. Speaker, that you look at the transcripts, as I know you will, and look again at the need for a royal recommendation for this piece of legislation.

Supply
Government Orders

June 2nd, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

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?

Supply
Government Orders

June 2nd, 2005 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to point out to the hon. members who just left that we were very respectful when they spoke. We did not hold parallel forums.

I am going to conclude the second part of my speech. I simply want to draw the attention of my distinguished NDP colleagues, who are about to vote on the budget. Did they read it? I imagine they did. Did they read carefully?

I refer them to pages 243, 244 and 245. The measure proposed by the NDP will generate new costs totalling between $100 million and $125 million for the government. Part of the amount of $320 million would already be committed, if the 14 week period is reduced. So, this is very little, considering the $16.3 billion budget for the year that just ended.

Let us take a look at the budget. What strikes me is the measure that the NDP is about to endorse. The government says it must spend more efficiently. This is why it launched, on December 16, 2003, an extensive exercise to review government to shift expenditures from low-priority areas—that is in the government's view—to high-priority areas. It has given the cabinet committee on expenditure review a number of responsibilities relating to cost reduction. The government says, “Savings identified in the course of expenditure review can provide the government with further funds to invest in today's priorities and tomorrow's opportunities”.

As regards these cuts, for which the expenditure review committee will be responsible, the budget includes the following, on page 245, “About $2.3 billion of the total savings will be achieved through improved efficiency in the employment insurance program, and a further $155 million in the Canada Pension Plan”. What does this mean? It means cuts in the employment insurance program. Some members might argue that these cuts will not necessarily be made to benefits, that they may target the staff, etc. That does not change anything, because these are still cuts to the system.

At the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst introduced a motion to appoint a counsellor in every employment insurance office to help the unemployed find their way through the system. It was defeated. Not only will no money be added, but $2.3 billion will be cut.

Our friends in the NDP thump their chests and say they got $4.3 billion in the negotiations over the budget. However, the Prime Minister said that only $1 billion of this is new money. When we do the math, it becomes clear that it was the unemployed who were sacrificed.

Today I am asking the NDP members who are going to vote to take a close look at that. Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or the day after the vote, I would ask them to explain their decision to the unemployed, when they used to campaign alongside us to have the entire employment insurance system restored and to ensure that the money which was misappropriated—as my colleague explained earlier—is used to benefit the unemployed. Not only are our friends not moving in this direction any more, but by supporting this budget, they are going to find themselves authorizing cuts of $2.3 billion.

That is what they need to look at.

There are other aspects. I am sorry, I do not want to drown us in figures, but since we are dealing with this, let us take major corrective action. The government has done $46 billion of damage to the unemployed. This is how much it misappropriated when it managed to produce surpluses by reducing accessibility. I repeat for people who have not yet understood that of all those who contribute to employment insurance and are laid off some day, only 38% can hope to receive benefits because the constraints are so great that people are not eligible.

If all 28 recommendations of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities were taken and implemented in full, and if the measure on increasing benefits from 55% to 60% of salary were included, the additional expenditure would be $1.9 billion.

Some will ask me if that would lead to an increase in premiums. Last year, the EI fund showed a $3.3 billion surplus. Year after year, the surplus has varied from $3 billion to $7 billion. All we hear from the Liberal government is that premiums could be reduced. People who contribute to the program say that the amount of the premiums is not the problem, they can pay that. The problem is the amount of the benefits received or the ineligibility to receive benefits.

There has been a surplus each and every year, and this year will be no exception. The surplus will be $2.2 billion. That is money left after all benefits have been paid, even though premiums were reduced by 3¢ in December. There is still the issue of the $46 billion that was stolen, and I think that is the right word. That money has to be put back into the EI fund.

In short, what we are saying is that we will support the motion even though it does not address the whole issue. This motion does not solve the problems resulting from the restrictive measures imposed by the Liberal government, and we deplore that fact.

We invite members of the House not only to vote in favour of this motion, but to decide right now that they will vote in favour of Bill C-280, which is now in committee, and that they will start thinking seriously about ways of getting the EI program back on the right track. In that respect, we invite our colleagues from the Conservative Party, and also our Liberal colleagues, if they still have some common sense left and, more importantly, some sensitivity to the plight of the less fortunate in our society, to join us in voting in favour of the measures I just mentioned.

Supply
Government Orders

June 2nd, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, we could fully endorse what was said by the last two speakers, especially by the leader of the NDP. He is completely right to say that the need is great. The difficulties endured by the unemployed, and consequently by their families, are the result of unacceptable policies. This is how one of my neo-liberal friends described these policies just a little while ago. They are based, actually, on a total refusal to improve the lives of these people, in order to give other things priority.

Where our views diverge—I might add, in passing, that my colleagues and I are going to vote in favour of this motion—because we perceive things differently, is in our approach. They say that the need is great. So why not do what is necessary to meet the need?

Something does not make sense in their approach. It seems rooted in some kind of embarrassment about being considered—I am not exactly sure—demanding or unreasonable. However, the 28 recommendations of the Standing Committee on Human Resources and Skills Development give us an idea of the extent of the measures that should be taken to deal with this problem.

The need is too great, under the circumstances, to feel embarrassed about maybe being considered unreasonable. We have a lot of difficulty understanding the NDP's approach in this regard.

In politics, you will agree, it is often a question of perception. It is hard to avoid considering them in a similar situation. With all due respect for my colleagues in the NDP, I must say that our perception is that the Liberal government did not want to offend its friends of convenience so that the budget would pass.

At the same time, the Liberal government did not want to give the impression that it was abandoning the unemployed, because it had abandoned them during the negotiations over the budget. It therefore had to find some half measure, which was not close to meeting the need of course, in order to give the impression that the NDP had obtained something.

We are going to vote in favour of this motion and I encourage all my colleagues to do the same. Nevertheless, it does not go far enough. The perception that the people and we ourselves are left with is the one I just described.

We do not share the NDP's piecemeal approach. However, the approach that we take is one that my friend in the NDP supported until just recently, that is to say, until the debate and vote at second reading of the budget. We feel—and I say this with all due respect for our colleagues—that the NDP turned its back on the unemployed in all these dealings.

Was it intentional? I am not ascribing motives to them. I think that they are sincere, as we all are, in wanting to address the unemployment situation. They are going about it the wrong way, however, in light of the strategic considerations I raised earlier.

On December 13, Senator Pierrette Ringuette, who was sitting on the Prime Minister's task force, raised a dissenting voice, advocating for 12 weeks. Like the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, she did not make the assistance conditional on a 10% unemployment rate. This means that the recommendation is now being watered down.

On December 16, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities tabled part one of its report, which contained the first eight recommendations, unanimous recommendations that is. This report included the recommendation for an independent employment insurance fund—to keep the government from dipping into it—to be managed by commissioners representing both groups of contributors: employers and employees. It provided for a mechanism to ensure that the fund is managed safely at arm's length and, more importantly, in the interest of the workers and employers who pay into it, especially the unemployed, of course.

On February 15, the second part of this report was tabled. It contained a total of 28 recommendations. Recommendation 14 contains the 12 week measure, but without the condition of 10% or more unemployment in each region. This explains why we cannot support the NDP's reasoning in this regard.

On February 23, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, at the time, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, put forward three measures and tabled them. Her riding is not the poorest in the country. In Quebec this is where the highest rate of income and lowest rate of unemployment are to be found. So, one of these measures is the best 14 weeks with the rate of unemployment indicator of 10% and over.

The NDP's motion unfortunately is influenced by the measure of the minister of the time.

Finally, Bill C-280 tabled by my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord institutionalizes the creation of the independent EI fund. The EI file is brought to attention of the whole House. Our NDP colleagues were present when all these measures were put forward, when parliamentarians and the House took these steps. They joined in. I really think they agree with us that all these measures must be adopted.

I am going to repeat what I have said. I do not want to tell them off, but I think that we have to speak the truth to one another. We have a lot of difficulty understanding today why the measure before us falls short. In terms of perception, it does not fit with the concerns expressed by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Supply
Government Orders

June 2nd, 2005 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that EI is set up in a separate account. It appears we may be moving in that direction, notwithstanding some of the efforts by government members on our human resources committee to punch some holes in Bill C-280.

Bill C-280 actually states that the government should repay the $46 billion. We have heard all kinds of excuses as to why that cannot happen immediately and we have heard about all the problems that would ensue. They almost make it sound as though the government actually has no intention of ever repaying that $46 billion.

I would be glad to work with opposition members from all parties to hold the feet of this government to the fire and make sure this money does not disappear. That is probably the biggest piece of this puzzle. As I said earlier, we can debate how we should bring this fund back into balance in terms of the amount that comes in and the amount that goes out, but I think the first and absolutely the most important point is to get this government to recognize that the $46 billion belongs to workers and employers.

Let us get that resolved. At that point, we can then have an honest discussion about how it would be divided.

Supply
Government Orders

June 2nd, 2005 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my friend from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean for his fine speech and the compliments he sent my way.

This member has the gall—the guts even—to rise in the House of Commons to lay such a burden on 19 MPs who managed to squeeze $4.5 billion out of the federal government to help students who are in debt and homeless people in need of a place to live. We will get blamed for that.

But were was the Bloc Québécois when we were negotiating with the government to improve the employment insurance plan? Who travelled the country to meet with workers? Who went to Rivière-au-Renard and even met with workers in a cathedral in the Gaspé? Who went to Forestville and joined the workers and employers who were demonstrating in the street to be eligible for employment insurance?

When we had the chance, we negotiated with the minority government. The Bloc Québécois wanted elections to be called and chose to team up with the Conservatives, who are against employment insurance. They should be ashamed of themselves. The member did not even stand up and address the people of Canada and Quebec with a straight face. The Bloc members have not done justice to their people.

We at least put forward a motion today to base calculations on the best 12 weeks. Bill C-280, introduced by the Bloc Québécois, deals with only one thing: an independent EI fund. Why did the Bloc not introduce a bill covering all the recommendations, as the hon. member said? This is a tiny bill dealing with only one thing. Where was the Bloc Québécois?

I introduced a bill dealing with all the recommendations, but it was defeated by this Parliament. Now, I am moving a motion to try and get a little something for the workers. I am sure that those listening to us today know that we have their well-being at heart. If the Bloc Québécois is ashamed of the work done by the NDP, it should vote against the motion. Pardon my French, but they should stop sucking up wherever and whenever it pleases them.