Bill C-43 (Historical)
Budget Implementation Act, 2005
An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Ralph Goodale Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
Part 1 amends the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Application Rules to
(a) increase the amount that Canadians can earn tax free;
(b) increase the annual limits on contributions to tax-deferred retirement savings plans;
(c) eliminate the foreign property limitations on tax-deferred retirement savings plans;
(d) increase the Child Disability Benefit supplement to the Canada Child Tax Benefit;
(e) allow for a longer period for the existence of and contributions to a Registered Education Savings Plan in certain circumstances where the plan beneficiary is eligible for the disability tax credit;
(f) increase the maximum refundable medical expense supplement;
(g) exclude emergency medical services vehicles from the standby charge;
(h) extend to January 11, 2005 the date for charitable giving in respect of the 2004 taxation year for the tsunami relief effort;
(i) eliminate the corporate surtax; and
(j) extend the SR&ED tax incentives to SR&ED performed in Canada’s exclusive economic zone.
Part 2 amends the Air Travellers Security Charge Act to reduce the air travellers security charge for domestic air travel to $5 for one-way travel and to $10 for round-trip travel, for transborder air travel to $8.50 and for other international air travel to $17, applicable to air travel purchased on or after March 1, 2005.
Part 3 amends Part IX of the Excise Tax Act to extend the application of the 83 per cent rebate of the goods and services tax (GST) and the federal component of the harmonized sales tax (HST) to eligible charities and non-profit organizations in respect of the tax they pay on their purchases to provide exempt health care supplies similar to those traditionally provided in hospitals. It also amends that Act to provide that a director of a corporation may, under certain conditions, be held liable not only for unremitted net GST/HST amounts, but also for GST/HST net tax refund amounts to which the corporation is not entitled. Finally, it amends that Act to allow, under strict conditions, the creation of a Web-based GST/HST registry to facilitate the verification of a supplier’s registration by a registrant for the purposes of claiming input tax credits.
Part 4 amends Schedule I to the Excise Tax Act to phase out the excise tax on jewellery through a series of rate reductions over the next four years.
Part 5 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to pay funds to a trust established to provide the provinces with funding for the purpose of early learning and child care.
Part 6 authorizes the Minister of Finance to pay funds to a trust established to provide the Territories with funding for the purpose of assisting them to achieve the goals of the Northern Strategy.
Part 7 amends the Auditor General Act to permit the Auditor General to conduct inquiries into and report on the affairs of certain corporations that have received at least $100,000,000 in funding from Her Majesty in right of Canada. This Part also amends the Financial Administration Act to extend the application of financial management and control provisions in that Act to wholly-owned subsidiaries of parent Crown corporations and certain parent Crown corporations.
Part 8 authorizes the payment of funds to various foundations, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for the purpose of providing funding to the Green Municipal Fund.
Part 9 amends the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada Act to focus the mandate of the Foundation, to modify its governance structure, to establish qualifications for the appointment of the directors and the President, to impose a duty of care on the directors and the President and to require that the Foundation offer its services in both official languages. It also amends the Act to specify the type of funds the Foundation may receive and the appropriate use of those funds and to require that those funds be invested in accordance with policies, standards and procedures established by the board. In addition, the provisions of the Act respecting auditing, annual reports and winding-up have been expanded.
Part 10 amends Part 1 of the Budget Implementation Act, 1998 to broaden the category of persons to whom the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation may grant scholarships and bursaries to include not only persons who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act but also persons who are protected persons within the meaning of subsection 95(2) of that Act, for example, Convention refugees.
Part 11 authorizes the Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities), pursuant to the initiative commonly known as “A New Deal for Cities and Communities”, to make payments for the purpose of providing funding, in the fiscal year 2005-2006, to cities and communities for environmentally sustainable infrastructure initiatives, in accordance with agreements to be negotiated with provinces, territories and first nations.
Part 12 enacts the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador Additional Fiscal Equalization Offset Payments Act. The legislation will implement the arrangements of February 14, 2005 reached with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia on offshore revenues. To do this, the legislation will
(a) authorize the payment of equalization offset payments to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia for 2004-05 to 2011-12, set out the conditions under which payments will be extended to any of fiscal years 2012-13 to 2019-20, and authorize payments for that period should those conditions be met;
(b) set out the manner in which the offset payments are to be calculated;
(c) authorize the making of a cash pre-payment in the amount of $2 billion in respect of the agreement with Newfoundland and Labrador and a cash pre-payment in the amount of $830 million in respect of the agreement with Nova Scotia; and
(d) implement all other aspects of the agreements.
Consequential amendments to the Budget Implementation Act, 2004 respecting offset payments to Nova Scotia will also be required to ensure that 100 per cent offset is being provided for in fiscal years 2004-05 and 2005-06.
Part 13 establishes an Agency, to be called the Canada Emission Reduction Incentives Agency, to acquire greenhouse emission reduction and removal credits on behalf of the Government of Canada.
Part 14 enacts the Greenhouse Gas Technology Investment Fund Act. That Act establishes an account in the accounts of Canada called the Greenhouse Gas Technology Investment Fund to which are to be charged amounts paid by the Minister of Natural Resources for the purpose of
(a) research into, or the development or demonstration of, technologies or processes intended to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from industrial sources or to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in the course of an industrial operation; or
(b) creating elements of the infrastructure that are necessary to support research into, or the development or demonstration of, those technologies or processes.
The Act also provides for the creation of technology investment units in respect of amounts that are contributed to Her Majesty for those purposes.
Part 15 amends the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act to
(a) increase the deposit insurance coverage limit for insurable deposits from $60,000 to $100,000;
(b) repeal the authority of the Corporation to make by-laws respecting standards of sound business and financial practices for member institutions; and
(c) provide that the deposits of a federal institution shall automatically be insured.
Part 16 amends the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act to provide for the termination of the obligations of certain borrowers in respect of student loans in the event of their death or if, as a result of their permanent disability, they are unable to repay their loan without exceptional hardship, taking into account their family income.
Part 17 amends the Currency Act with respect to the Exchange Fund Account and the management of Canada’s foreign exchange reserves. These amendments include authorizing the Minister of Finance to establish a policy concerning the investment of assets held in that Account and to advance funds to that Account on terms and conditions that the Minister considers appropriate.
Part 18 amends the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to provide the Minister of Public Works and Government Services with responsibility for the procurement of goods and services for the federal government, and to authorize the Minister to negotiate and enter into contracts on behalf of the Government of Canada and to make commitments to a minimum volume of purchases on its behalf.
Part 19 amends the Employment Insurance Act and the Department of Human Resources Development Act to allow the Canada Employment Insurance Commission to set the premium rate under a new rate-setting mechanism. In setting the rate, the Commission will take into account the principle that the premium rate should generate just enough premium revenue to cover payments to be made for that year, as well as the report from the employment insurance chief actuary and any public input. On an as-needed basis, the Commission may also contract for the services of persons with specialized knowledge in rate-setting matters. If it is in the public interest to do so, the Governor in Council may substitute a different premium rate. In any given year, the rate cannot change by more than 0.15% ($0.15 per $100) from the previous year’s rate, and for the years 2006 and 2007 must not exceed 1.95% ($1.95 per $100).
Part 20 amends the Employment Insurance Act, for the purpose of the implementation of a premium reduction agreement between the Government of Canada and a province, to allow for a regulatory scheme to make the necessary adjustments and modifications to that Act as required to harmonize it with a provincial law that has the effect of reducing or eliminating the special benefits payable under that Act. A consequential change is also made to the parental benefits provisions.
Part 21 amends the Financial Administration Act to provide the authority for the President of the Treasury Board to create a shared-governance corporate entity for the purpose of administering group insurance or other benefit programs. In addition, the amendments provide the authority for the Treasury Board to establish or modify those programs not just for employees of the public service but for other persons or classes of persons as well.
Part 22 amends the Old Age Security Act to increase the guaranteed income supplement by $18 a month for single pensioners and by $14.50 a month for each pensioner in a couple, effective January 2006. Also, the amendments increase the allowance by $14.50 a month and the allowance for the survivor by $18 a month, effective January 2006. In addition, the amendments provide for identical increases to the guaranteed income supplement, the allowance and the allowance for the survivor in January 2007.
Part 23 authorizes the Minister of Finance to pay funds directly to the provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan and to each of the three Territories.
Bill C-4—Time Allocation Motion
Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2
October 24th, 2013 / 10:30 a.m.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, the member is talking about the scope of this bill.
It has been common practice in the House to include various measures in a budget and the subsequent budget implementation act. That is nothing new, nor was it new in past parliaments and past governments. It is not groundbreaking. It simply reflects the essential and important role of a budget to a government's agenda.
What constitutes a budgetary item is traditionally very broad. In 2005, the former Liberal government brought in Bill C-43, one of three budgets it brought in that year. Bill C-43, which was introduced in the 38th Parliament, amended dozens of different pieces of legislation. Part of what the Liberals legislated in Bill C-43 was the Auditor General Act, the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada Act, the Broadcasting Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. There were 15 or 20 different acts.
It is common. The Liberal government has done it. Other governments do it. In some of these cases, it is to shepherd or move certain pieces of legislation through in an expedited fashion.
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
May 3rd, 2012 / 12:45 p.m.
Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB
Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague well knows, the budget implementation acts are traditionally very broad. Let me give an example to my colleague from the Liberal Party of a budget bill that his party put forward in 2005. In fact, Bill C-43, which was introduced in the 38th Parliament, amended dozens of different pieces of legislation including the Auditor General Act, the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada Act, the Broadcasting Act, the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador Additional Fiscal Equalization Offset Payments Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Canada Post Corporation Act, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act, and more.
It is hypocritical to stand in this place and tell Canadians that what is being done is unusual, because it is not. That member knows it, the members from the official opposition know it and every member of Parliament in this place knows very well this is not unusual. This is the way it goes. That member ought to be apologizing for misleading Canadians when he and his party have done exactly the same thing in the interests, they say, of Canada.
Bill C-38--Time Allocation Motion
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
May 3rd, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.
Ted Menzies Macleod, AB
Madam Speaker, my friend across the way and I sat through many hours on the finance committee and we agree on a lot of things and, of course, we will need to agree on what I will reflect on right now because I believe it was his government in 2005, on Bill C-43, that amended dozens of different pieces of legislation. I had the privilege of sitting in the House following that debate and I am sure that was an important debate and fairly concise.
What we are expecting here is that focus. I would encourage everyone not to just stand up and read a speech that has been repeated time and time again. I ask that they make a focus point. I encourage all hon. members to discuss with their constituents and bring their thoughts forward to the debate.
Jobs and Economic Growth Act
June 4th, 2010 / 12:25 p.m.
Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance
Madam Speaker, I thank the House for allowing me the opportunity to show my shock at some of the comments, as I stated in the House earlier today, that are completely fact-free.
I know the hon. member is very active on committees, and I congratulate him on being elected by his colleagues in this House as the second hardest working member of Parliament, but he does not have the privilege of sitting on the finance committee where we heard from over 50 witnesses who talked about the benefits that are in this legislation.
However, I do know that he has had the privilege of sitting in many Parliaments before, so I would assume that he supported many budgets because his government put them forward. One example is Bill C-43 in 2005. It actually impacted more federal acts than this legislation, such as the Auditor General Act, the Asia-Pacific act, the Broadcasting Act, additional payments to the maritime provinces and Canadian environmental protection. I am sorry but there are just too many to mention them all.
I have a list of budget bills that the member sat through that were far deeper and far more omnibus, if he wants to use that word, so how does he justify complaining about this bill?
Bill C-9--Time Allocation Motion
Jobs and Economic Growth Act
June 3rd, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
Stockwell Day President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we put this in context. My hon. friend mentioned that Canadians expect certain things and we definitely live up to that expectation.
Bill C-9 was introduced on March 29 for review by Parliament. It has already been in this chamber for 70 days. There have been over 50 speeches, which we appreciate. Finance committee has already had 10 meetings on this bill. It has heard from over 50 witnesses, but we are here and we are still debating it.
It is also important to remember that there are reasons, very important reasons, this legislation needs to move through and become law by June 30. We have to recall that once we are through the process here in the House of Commons then the bill also goes through the same legislative process in the Senate: second reading, referral to the Senate national finance committee, report stage, third reading. This bill still has a considerable distance to go and yet it is being delayed.
Canadians need to know what is at stake here. On one item alone, there are amendments that are required in order to put in place regulations to implement reforms that were announced by the government in October 2009, that were targeted at Canadians who are members of pension plans. These amendments require, for instance, an employer to fully fund benefits if the whole of the pension plan is terminated. They establish a distressed pension plan workout scheme and allow the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to replace an actuary. These have to come into force and royal assent given by June 30 because actuarial evaluations for federally regulated pension plans are required to be filed within six months of the end of the year. That makes it June 30 for those to be filed by December 31. Pension plans are at stake.
I will conclude by saying it is not uncommon at all to use this process of bringing in other legislation. Just one of many examples is that in 2005, the previous Liberal government in its last budget bill, Bill C-43, had over 20 different parts and legislation as varied as the Auditor General of Canada Act, the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada Act, the Broadcasting Act, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador Additional Fiscal Equalization Offset Payments Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Department of Public Works Act, Canada Post Corporation Act, Employment Insurance Act. I could on and on.
I do not want to use the word “hypocrisy” and I will not, but that member supported that bill in 2005 which had a whole lot of important legislation integrated into it. That is what we are asking for here and not to put pension plans of Canadians at risk right across the country.
Bill C-311--Climate Change Accountability Act
October 8th, 2009 / 11:45 a.m.
Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order that will be instructive to members, as I believe the table and the House are deliberating on the Conservatives' motion to defeat this process that we are in.
I call members' attention to a decision from May 30, 2005 concerning Bill C-43. The member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl and the member for Niagara Falls, who are now sitting on the Conservative benches, instructed the House through a motion that it give instruction to the Standing Committee on Finance to divide Bill C-43, which was an act to implement certain provisions of the budget. It was obviously an important bill. I will just read the last part of the motion because it is relevant to what we are dealing with today. It reads:
...that the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel be authorized to make such technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion; and that Bill C-43A be reported back to the House no later than two sitting days after the adoption of this motion;
My point of order is that we have had precedence for the motion that we have moved and are now debating today. The government has stood against the motion. We just had a vote over that very issue and it lost the vote. It then said that it was not in order, where clearly a motion moved by some of the government's own members, not four years ago, addresses this very thing, which is to divide a bill and seek the committee to return the bill by a prescribed date to the House so that it can have a free and fair vote in this democratic place.
Ways and Means Motion No. 10--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
March 13th, 2008 / 11:45 a.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East on March 11 concerning the admissibility of the ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget for which the hon. Minister of Finance gave notice on that day.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East for initially bringing this matter to the attention of the House, as well as for his subsequent intervention, and I would also like to thank the hon. member for Markham—Unionville, the hon. government House leader, and the hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois for their submissions.
The member for Pickering—Scarborough East, in raising the matter, claimed that Ways and Means Motion No. 10, standing on the order paper in the name of the Minister of Finance, seeks to have the House decide upon a matter which it had already voted on.
That vote took place on March 5, 2008, when Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions) was adopted at third reading. To this issue, the member for Markham—Unionville has added the contention that Ways and Means Motion No. 10, by including provisions related to Bill C-253, seeks to implement a measure that does not flow from the most recent budget, thus, he alleges, enlarging the usual parameters of budget implementation ways and means motions.
He further contended that this was a backdoor attempt to circumvent the rights of private members as provided for in the rules governing this category of business.
For the sake of clarity, I should state that sections 45 to 48 of Ways and Means Motion No. 10 are the subject of this point of order. They are conditional amendments that seek to amend or repeal the amendments to the Income Tax Act contained in Bill C-253 should the latter receive royal assent. The stated objective of these ways and means measures is, to quote the Minister of Finance at page 3971 of the Debates, “--to protect Canada's fiscal framework”.
The government House leader asserted that the broad scope of Ways and Means Motion No. 10, and the wide range of taxation and fiscal measures it seeks to implement are clear evidence that the motion is fundamentally a different matter than was Bill C-253, and therefore, that it should be allowed to proceed.
In support of his arguments a number of procedural authorities were cited, some of which I will return to later in this ruling.
Let me first deal with the argument that the inclusion of provisions regarding Bill C-253 in Ways and Means Motion No. 10 does not respect our conventions regarding the content of such motions.
The Chair wishes to remind the House that the budget speech and bills based on ways and means motions tabled at a later date are not necessarily linked. House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at page 748:
While a Budget is normally followed by the introduction of Ways and Means bills, such bills do not have to be preceded by a Budget presentation. Generally, taxation legislation can be introduced at any time during a session; the only prerequisite being prior concurrence in a Ways and Means motion.
At page 759, Marleau and Montpetit goes on to state:
The adoption of a Ways and Means motion stands as an order of the House either to bring in a bill or bills based on the provisions of that motion or to propose an amendment or amendments to a bill then before the House.
That text footnotes examples from 1971, 1973, and 1997. Furthermore, in the case before us, it must be noted that the title of Ways and Means Motion No. 10 states clearly that it not only implements certain provisions of the February 26, 2008 budget, but that it also aims to:
--enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget.
On this point, namely the objection that the motion includes provisions that were not contained in the budget, the Chair must conclude that Ways and Means Motion No. 10 is not procedurally flawed.
Let us now turn to the argument that the decision of the House to adopt Bill C-253 at third reading must stand since the House cannot be asked to pronounce itself again in the same session on the same subject.
The Chair wishes to remind hon. members that while a part of Ways and Means Motion No. 10 touches on Bill C-253, the question that the House will actually be asked to vote on today, assuming it is called today, is not the same as the question it agreed to on March 5, 2008, when it adopted the bill at third reading.
In this regard the Chair has found a number of examples where a bill repeals sections of an act already amended by another bill adopted by the House in the same session.
For example, in the first session of the 38th Parliament, Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Telefilm Canada Act and another Act, and Bill C-43, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, both proposed to amend subsection 85(1) of the Financial Administration Act.
In addition, there are also examples of bills proceeding concurrently even though some of their provisions are dependent upon one another.
As mentioned by the government House leader, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux ruled on February 24, 1971, on such a situation at page 3712 of the Debates. He stated:
There is, therefore, in my view, nothing procedurally wrong in having before the House at the same time concurrent or related bills which might be in contradiction with one another either because of the terms of the proposed legislation itself or in relation to proposed amendments.
This is further supported by the 23rd edition of Erskine May at page 580, which affirms that:
There is no rule against the amendment or the repeal of an act of the same session.
Most compelling are the rulings of Mr. Speaker Fraser from June 8, 1988, and I refer to the Debates at pages 16252 to 16258, and on November 28, 1991, pages 5513 to 5514, both of which were quoted by the government House leader. These rulings clearly support the view that the progress of any bill flowing from Ways and Means Motion No. 10 rests with the House.
As Mr. Speaker Fraser put it on November 28, 1991:
The legislative process affords ample opportunity for amending proposed legislation during the detailed clause by clause study in committee and again at the report stage in the House.
Insofar as this process affects private members' business as a category of business or indeed the rights of individual members to propose initiatives, I must point out that it is not the Speaker but the House which ultimately decides such matters.
For the reasons stated above, the Chair finds that Ways and Means Motion No. 10, as tabled by the Minister of Finance, may proceed in its current form.
Once again, I would like to thank the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East for having raised this matter.
September 26th, 2006 / 9:25 a.m.
Shannon Coombs Executive Director, Representative for Formulated Products Industry Coalition, Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association
Good morning, Mr. Chair, members of Parliament. It's a pleasure to be here today.
As per our presentation in May, we have two key issues we wish the committee to consider and make recommendations on in your report to Parliament for amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I will also outline a few comments on the CSDSL process as it is on the agenda today, and we did mention it in May.
My name is Shannon Coombs and I'm the executive director of the Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association. However, I am here today representing FPIC, the Formulated Products Industry Coalition.
Our unique industry coalition is a group of 15 trade associations that formed in 2001 when the Food and Drugs Act became subject to CEPA.
FPIC's member companies provide food, personal care products, household cleaners, cosmetics, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals to Canadians. Collectively we represent over 750 member companies and we comprise a $66 billion a year industry and employ 375,000 Canadians.
Why are we here today? Why are substances in the Food and Drugs Act subject to products captured under CEPA?
CEPA is the legislation that governs new and existing substances in Canada. In 1999 parliamentarians requested that CEPA be the safety net for all environmental assessments, and that assessment also includes a health assessment of substances.
In section 81 of the act there is a requirement for other acts that have pre-market assessments to meet or exceed CEPA. Other acts had two years to meet that requirement, and if they did, they were scheduled for exemption under CEPA. If they did not meet the requirement, then CEPA would be the act to govern environmental assessments. Other acts, such as the Seeds Act, the Fertilizers Act, and the Pest Control Products Act, met CEPA's requirements and were scheduled for exemption. The Food and Drugs Act did not meet those requirements, and therefore environmental assessments for substances in Food and Drugs Act products were subject to CEPA's regulations, the new substances notification regulation, the NSNR.
We have been working under this regime for the past five years and believe CEPA is the most appropriate legislative authority for these substances. However, when the Food and Drugs Act substances were captured under CEPA, it left in limbo a list of approximately 9,000 substances that have been used safely and effectively by Canadians for almost 20 years. These substances are in limbo because they are considered new, not existing under the act, and this needs to be remedied. I will refer to 9,000-plus substances as the in-commerce list.
Since most of our member companies have never been subject to anything other than rigorous pre-market assessment and/or notifications under the Food and Drugs Act, being subject to CEPA was new and challenging. Despite the learning curve, FPIC has recognized that CEPA's systems and regulations provide predictable, rigorous submission reviews to member companies and protection to Canadians and their environment.
FPIC is requesting that the committee consider this key recommendation for improving and adding clarity to the act, which only Parliament, you, can provide. It is as follows: acknowledge the in-commerce list as a list of existing substances under the law by creating a provision in CEPA to recognize them as such.
You might be asking yourself what is on the in-commerce list. It's quite a range of substances. There are pharmaceutical actives, cosmetic ingredients such as extracts. There are surfactants, food colourings, flavourings, kiwi essence, and oil of lemon, just to name a few.
Why do we want them treated as existing? The substances and the products have and continue to provide benefits to Canadians. These substances have been in commerce for almost 20 years, and clearly they're new, not existing, and this makes sense. To ensure there is a mechanism for the in-commerce list to be treated as existing, such as those on the domestic substances have been treated, we're suggesting that the government categorize, prioritize, or whatever word you'd like to use, the in-commerce list and then, if needed, provide a screening level risk assessment.
At the meetings in May there was a session where officials provided an overview of the categorization and screening of the domestic substances list, plus there were comments made on this initiative last week.
We believe that assessing and processing all existing substances the same makes sense. We recommend that parliamentarians recommend to the government in their report that substances in the Food and Drugs Act products be ensconced in the legislation by modifying section 66 of the bill. This would outline the parameters of the in-commerce list. We'd also seek an amendment to sections 73 and 74 to ensure there is a post-categorization process as well as a form to have appropriate risk assessments conducted, and then we'd also like to see section 81 amended, which is very important, so that all substances in the Food and Drugs Act products are formally subject to CEPA's NSNs, the new substances notification assessments regulations.
FPIC did provide a brief yesterday to committee on the key areas where we'd like to have the in-commerce list addressed in the legislation, and we do note that the list is not inclusive, and we're willing to work with all partners to ensure that the list is as fulsome as possible.
I'd like to turn to our second issue and recommendation request to the committee, and that is the issue and meaning of the term “toxic” in CEPA.
FPIC requests that the committee considers removing the term “toxic” from the legislation so that there is clarity and understanding with respect to how substances are assessed and managed under the act. If the risk assessment of the substance meets that definition, it is placed on schedule 1, and then some type of management for that particular use will often be invoked. As stated in our submission, the challenge is the misunderstanding around the term “toxic”.
It is our belief that Canadians, regulators, and non-governmental organizations interpret CEPA's toxic substances as being intrinsically toxic, i.e., poisonous and/or lethal. There are examples that cause confusion. CFCs destroy atmospheric ozone. They're toxic to the environment, but they're not toxic to humans, which is why they have been used in the past in asthma inhalers. Ammonia, which is a substance that was debated last week, is only CEPA toxic in the environment from ammonia traces found in waste water effluent. This substance is used in numerous other applications, such as fertilizer and glass cleaner. These products have subsequently become targets, because of the listing and because of misinterpretation. Carbon dioxide is also on schedule 1 so that greenhouse gases can be managed, but it's not intrinsically toxic as we all exhale this gas and plants rely on it for photosynthesis.
I will provide two examples of where the term “CEPA toxic” is being misinterpreted.
One is from an NGO group that has all schedule 1 substances listed on a website, along with the interpretation of products that the substances would be in and how they should be avoided. The first on the list is ammonia. It clearly says that it is CEPA toxic, that it's used in glass cleaner, and that you should not use these products.
The second is from the B.C. Buildings Corporation, which has a cleaning management chemical content standard; it's a procurement criterion. It states clearly in section 6 of that document that all substances on schedule 1 are not to be used in any products. This means that ammonia and other substances are stigmatized. There's no relation to the risk assessment that was completed and the use and the risk that's being managed.
Clearly, the prevailing challenge before us all is that the term “toxic” in CEPA is misunderstood, so actions that are not warranted are taken. From my examples, groups and regulators target products that may contain the substance, apply the label “CEPA toxic” to all uses of the substance, and alert Canadians to a risk that's not a risk.
We are recommending that the committee consider removing the word “toxic” from the legislation and include the wording suggested in the last budget bill, Bill C-43, part 15, where in section 64 the definition of “toxic” remains; however, the title is “Assessment and Management of Substances”. This accurately reflects what CEPA does and would assist with the government's challenge of adding substances to schedule 1. It would put them in context, i.e., the use of a substance, the risk assessment, the results of that assessment, and how they are being managed. We believe that if the term “toxic” is removed, it would provide clarity and enhance the credibility of the act.
With respect to the issues raised about the constitutionality of changing the word “toxic”, which has been raised by other witnesses, we would assert that this issue and validity of the revisions for CEPA would have been thoroughly discussed and addressed by Department of Justice lawyers prior to part 15 being added to the last budget bill and presented to Parliament.
In our experience, legislation from this Parliament is respected and upheld, but it needs to be flexible and responsive to unintended consequences. I'm sure that's why parliamentarians in their wisdom decided on a five-year review of this act--which is why we're here today--which has also set a precedent to include review periods for other acts. I don't believe our legislators would have known about the stigmatization issue and the unforeseen challenges arising from the listing process in section 64 when they included the word “toxic” in the legislation .
I would like to turn my comments to our final issue, and that is the categorization and screening of the domestic substances list. At our meeting in May, when the question about whether there is anything that can be done better regarding CEPA was posed to witnesses, we replied that there is always room for improvement.
CEPA is a huge piece of legislation. Our key concern at the time, and which currently remains, was that we need to increase the communication about the successes of this act and how it provides protection for Canadians. We believe a proactive communication strategy would be in everyone's best interest, especially around the results of categorization. Why? The CSDSL program mandated under CEPA 1999 is a made-in-Canada program. While other OECD countries have similar programs, Canada is in the lead. There have been 23,000 substances reviewed against criteria to determine safety for humans and the environment. The diversity of the substances on that list includes everything from industrial chemicals, gasoline, water, vitamins, sugar, etc. It's a very comprehensive list. Results of the program have provided government with priorities for further review, if warranted; and products and their ingredients are safe when used according to the product's directions.
While the results of the program have yet to be made public with an action plan from Ministers Ambrose and Clement, CCSPA would challenge the government that the list of potentially 4,000 substances that met specific scientific criteria needs to be put in context and communicated properly to Canadians.
We were most pleased to hear from the witnesses last week that they have been involved in the process, but they have been quoted consistently in our national newspapers as characterizing the list as the “baddies of the bad” and the “worst of the worst”. We're sure that everyone has seen the last publicly available list of substances provided to all interested parties in July of this year. The 4,000 substances may include such substances as tamoxifen, which is a life-saving cancer drug. Those also include titanium oxide, a key ingredient in sunscreen, which prevents cancer; vinegar; almond flavouring; and vitamin A, just to name a few.
Instead of scaring Canadians or not advising them about the facts, we should be telling them about the enormous work the government has undertaken and its plans to address any future concerns with all stakeholders, and most importantly, put into context what the list really means to Canadians. We need some true risk-benefit communications.
We would ask that you consider our two key recommendations: remove the word “toxic”; and add provisions to ensure that the ICL, or in-commerce list, is treated as “existing” during your deliberations. Our collective priority is to ensure the protection of Canadians and our environment.
November 22nd, 2005 / 2:15 p.m.
Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition
Mr. Speaker, the answer to all those questions is that we will clean up the mess the government created over the last 12 years.
The Prime Minister continues to run around the country threatening to take away an increase in seniors' pensions if an election is called. However the increase to seniors' pensions was contained in Bill C-43 which was passed by the House, by the Senate and supported by all three national parties.
Why is the Prime Minister trying to scare seniors by saying that he will take away the pension increase if an election is called?
Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business
November 18th, 2005 / 1:40 p.m.
Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-301, an act to amend the Old Age Security Act, monthly guaranteed income supplement.
At the beginning I would like to make it very clear I have some serious reservations about some of the things that have been happening lately. The Liberals claim that spending outlined in the supplementary estimates will be lost if an election is called before Parliament is able to pass the supply bill. Examples of the spending cited by the Liberals include a pay raise for the military and the increase in the guaranteed income supplement.
I would like to make it very clear for all seniors that this is not the case. This is not true. They will not lose the guaranteed income supplement. The money was voted on by Parliament early last summer as part of Bill C-43, the budget implementation act. It never needs to be voted on again. Rest assured, this will take place for every senior in Canada, regardless of the rhetoric they may hear due to a pending election.
The bill before us today amends the Old Age Security Act to allow eligible pensioners to receive a monthly guaranteed income supplement without having to make an application every year. It also repeals the restrictions respecting retroactivity. I applaud any legislation that enhances the quality of life for Canada's seniors. The intent of Bill C-301 does this. Although a few details require a review, I am quite prepared to support the intent of the legislation and look forward to it being discussed in committee.
Amending the Old Age Security Act to ensure eligible pensioners receive their monthly guaranteed income supplement is something that should have been done a long time ago, but it was not. Therefore, let us get moving forward with this and make it happen.
We continually see the Liberal government making every attempt to extract every last nickel from Canadian taxpayers. A perfect example is the attempt to freeze income trusts and the resulting uncertainty for investors. This uncertainty has cost seniors money that they are dependent upon. These responsible seniors have invested in money for their retirement years and the government cannot stand not having its hands in their pocket. Liberals feel they are entitled to a portion of the pie. They are not and they should be ashamed of itself.
Canadian seniors now live in fear that their nest eggs will be eroded by the government's indecisiveness on income trusts. Because the government has cast a shroud of uncertainty over them, Canadian seniors deserve to see this bill go forward for further study. There must be some degree of certainty for seniors.
Seniors and low income families are facing unprecedented hikes in home heating costs this winter and it is incumbent upon the government to mitigate these increases as much as possible. While Bill C-66 seeks to do this, we all know what happened in a similar circumstance five years ago when deceased persons and prisoners received cheques while many in desperate need received nothing.
Under Bill C-66, single seniors must be receiving the guaranteed income supplement to get their paltry $125 in assistance. I would suggest that very few seniors are aware of this fact and are expecting this assistance from government. Imagine their disappointment when they discover, because they did not fill out a form to receive GIS, that they will not receive any assistance.
This brings me to another point. It has been reported that between 300,000 and 380,000 eligible seniors do not receive the guaranteed income supplement because they do not know if they are eligible for it. Why is this? Many do not understand the eligibility requirements. Nor do they understand they must apply for it annually.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “guarantee” as “a formal assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled”. There is no guarantee that they will receive the supplement. There is no guarantee that they will receive the home heating rebate. The only guarantee seniors have is the incessant paper work required to get what is rightfully theirs.
As shadow minister for veterans affairs, I know all too well the hoops that veterans are required to jump through to get a disability pension or any of the benefits to which they are entitled.
Imagine having the double whammy of being a veteran and a senior, and trying to deal with the bureaucratic quagmire to get even the smallest bit of assistance? Instead of enjoying their retirement in dignity and comfort, many Canadian seniors are struggling to meet the most basic of life's needs.
It is incumbent upon us as a nation to ensure that those who helped build this nation live out their lives in relative comfort. Neglecting to ensure that seniors eligible for the GIS are receiving it has other repercussions as well. They are also losing out on the programs offered by many provinces, such as prescription drug plans, other income supplements, heating oil subsidies, and home care assistance programs that are available only to individuals receiving GIS. This is unacceptable.
It has a trickle down effect. When eligible Canadian seniors do not receive their guaranteed income supplement for whatever reason, they also lose out on other services that are essential to their quality of life.
This legislation would enable automatic processing of the guaranteed income supplement based on information from the Department of National Revenue, thus ensuring eligible pensioners receive their monthly GIS and without the annual application. I support this measure without question.
There are other aspects of this bill that require and deserve further investigation. With respect to the retroactivity, we need to look at how far back this would go, who it should apply to, and how it will be implemented. They are all important questions that need to be studied and this can be done best at committee.
I would like very much to see this bill go to committee, so it can be carefully examined and given the detail it needs. We need to ensure that it is a strong and viable piece of legislation that endures the test of time, as have our seniors. They deserve no less.
I am certain this legislation can be reinforced and strengthened for the benefit of our seniors. The need is unquestionable. As the Conservative critic for veterans affairs, I have consulted with seniors across Canada and can say unarguably that there is a broad consensus from coast to coast to coast that seniors need to automatically receive any and all benefits as they become eligible.
Let us not deny seniors their rights. I ask that we as elected representatives do what is right and necessary to ensure that those individuals who helped build this nation receive what is rightfully theirs.
For clarification, I will repeat my earlier statement. There is no need for any senior citizen to worry about the loss of GIS income if an election were to proceed. Those are scare tactics that are being used in a very unconscionable way against one of the most vulnerable groups of Canadians in this country. This money was voted on by Parliament early last summer as part of Bill C-43, the Budget Implementation Act. It never needs to be voted on again and it is assured for the seniors of Canada.
Premiers of Quebec
November 18th, 2005 / noon
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, apparently the misrepresentations and untruths are starting even before the election campaign gets under way. Today, during question period the Minister of Finance stated that if an election were to occur, then it is clear that the official opposition would have denied seniors the increase in their guaranteed income supplements. The hon. Minister of Finance knows full well that the increase was already under Bill C-43, the original Liberal government budget before we got into the NDP budget, so he should correct the record.
November 17th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.
Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK
Mr. Speaker, I have enjoyed listening to the debate today and to some of the specious arguments at best that I have heard from the government as to why we should not go forward with this common sense compromise idea.
Many of them centre around the seniors will not get their raise in January and the infrastructure money will not flow to cities. If my memory serves me, those were all passed in Bill C-43, the budget bill last spring, and there is a problem with delivery. Those guys are great at promising all these programs. We voted them through, being good governance. We worked together. We compromised. We worked on those programs and put them out there for people. However, the Liberals have not delivered them yet. Now they are saying that they are going to withhold them if there is an election. That is ridiculous.
We hear things such as the estimates process will be in jeopardy. That is the supplementary (A) estimates. There are generally supplementary (B) estimates that come in March as well for as much money as the (A) estimates. Those would be in jeopardy under the Prime Minister's game plan for an election.
There are many different arguments that are specious and not founded in any kind of reality. We saw a budget introduced under a ways and means motion. That is a novel way to do things. This is a novel motion and deserves some serious consideration.
We are hearing rumblings that there may be even a tremendous amount of cash for farmers who will go wanting if this election is called. Farmers are not fooled by that. They already realize they have had announcement after announcement for the last 12 years under the Liberals which have never been delivered.
The argument I would put forward is that the motion deserves some serious consideration. The opposition parties have come together to put this motion forward, and I would like--
November 15th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the motion to amend the Access to Information Act.
I want to come at this one from a bit of a different angle. I have listened to the debate all afternoon. The minister was up a few minutes ago talking about whether the committee did or did not do its work, and committee members tried to challenge that.
I want to get back to why this needed to be brought to the House at this time and debated. Why are we discussing this amendment, when it could have been done long before this time?
I congratulate my colleague from Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre for bringing the motion forward because it is important. It focuses the House on one of the big problems we have at the present time, which is accountability and transparency of the government. It is one of the reasons why the government is on its eleventh hour, or maybe a little beyond that, of its reign, a very short one as a result of Justice Gomery's report on the sponsorship scandal. It is all fresh in our minds and will continue to be fresh in our minds because it is so important.
The report laid out the facts which showed this was something that happened under the government's reign. It set up, ran and used the program to move money from the public purse into the Liberal Party of Canada. This was a theft of millions of dollars from the public treasury. It set up a culture of entitlement.
The government has had four consecutive wins. I guess if there is a lesson there for Canadians, it is that we should not leave any government in office too long. If this is what happens, that is not in the best interest of the public. Woe to our country if we give it five wins because it will send the wrong message. It would say that what the government has done is okay.
The electorate will have a choice. It will either condemn the actions of the government or it will condone it. A vote for the Liberals will be complicit. It will say that it is okay to be corrupt. I do not believe that reflects the values of Canadians. I think the government is about to learn that lesson. I would implore every Canadian to think very soberly. It is not about whether they grew up under a political banner of the Liberals, Conservatives or the NDP. They need to understand what is at risk in this election, which is the democracy on which our country was founded. We need to stand and protect that.
We just went through a Remembrance Day ceremony where we honoured our veterans for going to war and risking their lives to secure the democracy and the rule of law and justice. Yet we see it eroding before our very eyes. We in the House, where we come to protect and promote it, have seen that eroded. I see members of Parliament from all sides of the House failing to stand and fight to continue the battle to protect our democracy. This is very important. The amendments that have been brought forward shine the light on the lack of accountability and transparency by the government.
One thing that really amazes me is we have a motion before us, we will vote on it and if it passes, how many members in the House feel the government will act on it. I can think of votes in the House giving direction to the government of the day and the government has totally ignored them. That not only shows the amount of corruption, but it shows a lack of respect for the democracy of the land and for the will of the public, by extension through individual members of the House.
Some of these motions have been pretty significant such as the hepatitis C file. I remember when that came to the House. It was an issue we had been fighting for many years. It was a directive by the members of the House of Commons to the government that those individuals outside of the 1986 to 1990 window should be compensated. Yet not one cheque has been signed to comply with that motion.
We saw the same thing with another one that I brought forward to the House on the sale of pharmaceuticals to the United States on Internet pharmacies. It was a directive by 288 members to zero in the House. Yet we have seen absolutely nothing from the government to give us any confidence that this will happen.
This happens all the time. This will be the 15th time. We will vote on this, the House will agree with the motion and the government will ignore it. That is contempt of Parliament if I ever saw it, and it has to stop.
Why is it so important for us to deal with the Access to Information Act? I think it has to be examined because there is a question here. How does the government think it is in the interests of Canadians to take their money and put it into foundations, for example, which already have $9 billion in them, setting it aside so it can be hidden from them? Foundations are outside the purview of the Auditor General and outside access to information. It is as if the money the government puts into foundations has nothing to do with public money. It is as if it is Liberal money that the government is just sliding into a separate fund.
In light of the sponsorship scandal and the dollars we see going into foundations, we have to ask this question. What government in its right mind would take that amount of money and put it outside the Access to Information Act and the Auditor General's ability to investigate? I believe the government will have a difficult time answering that question.
I asked the Auditor General that question when she came to the health committee a little over a year ago. I was interested in one of those foundations, Canada Health Infoway Inc., which has $1.2 billion. I asked the Auditor General if she was not concerned about the number of dollars being spent or not being spent in Health Infoway. She said she was concerned and would like to take a look at it, but it was outside her ability to do so. She said she was just as concerned about the other eight foundations that were set up by the government.
Nine billion dollars of taxpayers' money is sitting in these foundations. I am speaking of foundations like Genome Canada, the millennium scholarship fund and many others. Why would a government not set up foundations so the House and Canadian taxpayers can understand what is in them?
Therein lies the reason we sought two changes, one under a minority government, which was the ability for the Auditor General to access a bit of crack in the accountability of these foundations. We were able to get Bill C-43 passed, which provides the Auditor General with the ability to look at foundations. Hopefully she will be able to look at them, although I am not sure that will actually happen. It is supposed to. The other change is the motion before us today. We will see whether the government will actually comply with it. I believe we will win. I believe there will be another motion on the floor. We will see how that vote goes. But I do not think anybody is too convinced that it is actually going to happen.
Why is Canada Health Infoway so important? This is not just about money or accountability. The Health Infoway money is about the loss of lives. The Baker-Norton report estimated that 24,000 deaths occur in Canada's acute care centres because of a lack of information or medical errors. If Health Infoway had medical records following patients, that would go a long way toward saving many lives.
This is not just about a government that is trying to hide money for its own self-interest. This is not just about the foundations that were set up inappropriately and our inability to access information. This is about government accountability.
What do we have to do to fix this? Accountability measures will be brought in by the Conservative Party when we become the government after the next election. We will have to change the rules of the House, unfortunately, because they are not stiff enough. The Liberal government does not understand what it means to be a servant of the public.
The Conservative Party will change those rules so that no corporate money will go to any political organization or political party. We have to limit to $1,000 any money going to a political organization.
We have to make sure there is whistleblower legislation so public civil servants know when they see corruption within government that they will have the opportunity to blow the whistle without losing their jobs or being disciplined.
We have to make sure that the rules regarding lobbyists change. Parliamentarians must not be impacted by those who have become lobbyists for five years after they have worked on the Hill or as senior bureaucrats or as members of Parliament.
We also have to give the Auditor General more power.
All of these measures have to be brought in. Why? Because we have to keep reminding the House, and now forcing the House, to understand that the job of members of Parliament is to represent the people who put them into office, not the people who lobby them or give them funds. That has to change in the House or we will not have democracy in this country. That is why it is so important that we change the act now. That is why we are going into an election: to have Canadians deal with this corrupt government.
Unanticipated Surpluses Act
October 27th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON
There we go. Those members even contradict each other. They cannot even agree on that side. One says that is a premium and the other says that it is a tax. It shows us what their policy is all about.
I want to touch upon the word “premium”. What has happened again is another reduction in the EI premium.
Back in 1993 our unemployment rate was 11.2% and 11.3%. The corporate world said to the government that it wanted to create employment, but it wanted the government to address EI and lower the rates. For so many consecutive years EI premiums have been reduced, and most recently again, with tens of billions of dollars less being paid by the employer and the employee.
If that is another fiction, then I challenge the member for Cambridge or anyone else across the way to talk to their constituents. Ask them if they were paying more then and less now. Members will get the answer. If they think it is peanuts, that is fine.
Members over there have the tendency to only complete half the sentence. The member talked about the GST. I state here and now that I am willing to take up the challenge with the member. In the 1993 red book we said that we would replace the GST with an equally revenue generating tax. He knows very well that unless we have revenue coming in, we cannot address areas such as Bill C-67, or Bill C-43, or Bill C-48, or $41 billion for health care, or money for post-secondary education, or money to address the concerns with respect to our environment or the close to $13 billion for our military. If this money is not generated, from where is that revenue going to come?
As I close my remarks, I first challenge the member to come and see me. I will show him the quote in the newspaper and the quote in the red book. Canadians until this very day are asking us why did we not get rid of the GST. We did not promise to get rid of the GST. We promised to replace it with an equally revenue generating tax, and that is in writing.
Second, the proof is in the pudding. Certain provinces have already harmonized. If other provinces were to pick up on that lead, it would be indeed a savings to the provincial governments.
Unemployment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business
October 26th, 2005 / 6:40 p.m.
Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC
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) 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.
- 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.