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 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Raynald Blais  Bloc

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

Status

Not active, as of June 22, 2006
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the method for setting the premium rate in the Employment Insurance Act. It also amends a number of provisions in that Act with respect to the Employment Insurance Account.

This enactment provides that every year the Canada Employment Insurance Commission will set the premium rate and cause a report to be sent to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development who will cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of Parliament.

This enactment provides also that the Employment Insurance Account will no longer form part of the accounts of Canada. The amounts paid into the Employment Insurance Account will become part of the assets of the Canada Employment Insurance Commission, and the Commission will manage them in the best interests of the contributors and beneficiaries under the employment insurance system.

At the request of the Minister of Finance, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission may extend a loan to Her Majesty in right of Canada and establish the interest rate and other terms and conditions for its repayment. Conversely, that Minister must extend a loan to the Commission if the Commission is unable to pay the amounts that it is liable to pay.

Under the enactment, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission is composed of four commissioners, including a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson, a person representing employees and a person representing employers. The persons representing employees and employers are appointed by the Governor in Council, the Chairperson is appointed by the House of Commons and the Vice-Chairperson is selected from among the Deputy Ministers or the Associate Deputy Ministers of the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development.

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.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

November 24th, 2006 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak on this bill to amend the Employment Insurance Act with respect to benefits for illness, injury or quarantine. The bill was put before this House by the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria under private members' business.

In summary, this bill extends the period for which benefits for illness, injury or quarantine may be paid from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I want to commend the member for his bill, which humanizes the EI program and takes into account the needs of those whose illness lasts longer than the prescribed period of 15 weeks.

I cannot help, however, but express surprise, surprise and joy, over the fact that such a bill was introduced by the member for Sydney—Victoria, when it is a well-known fact that, in May of 2005, at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, the Liberals, who were in government at the time, opposed a motion of that committee which was relatively similar to what the member is proposing today.

The hon. member for Sydney—Victoria was asked to explain this about face. I must admit that I find the hon. member's explanation for this somewhat amusing. Truly, his words should be quoted. However I also find his comments reassuring. It goes to show there is always hope. It is always possible, when faced with an obvious injustice, that reason and common sense will prevail.

Let us come back to the comments by the hon. member who said the following in response to his about face and that of the Liberals, “The reality is that our society is changing. At one time people who got cancer died. Now they get cancer and they come back to society and they are also working.”

Between the position of the Liberals forming the government in May 2005 and their position today, in November 2006, in the span of a year and a half, I would say that the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria, once in opposition, opened his heart and mind to understand the situation of workers in difficult situations following a prolonged illness, despite their desire to go back to work.

To the Bloc Québécois it is clear. Our party always strived to propose improvements to the employment insurance program and changes we deem necessary. We have always been in favour of substantial improvements to the employment insurance program.

In fact, the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle, from the Bloc Québécois, introduced, in May 2006, Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system). This bill received support from the House in October to be referred for consideration by the standing committee.

We are confident that all the opposition parties will support Bill C-269 and we strongly encourage the Conservative minority government to support it as well.

The Bloc Québécois also introduced, in October, Bill C-344, sponsored by my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, entitled An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting).

Previously there was Bill C-280 from the hon. member for Manicouagan, on creating an independent employment insurance fund. It was passed at second reading on April 13, 2005. Unfortunately, there was no vote at third reading.

In November 2004, my colleague, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, introduced her Bill C-278, a bill that proposed amendments to the employment insurance program.

Thus the House has paid particular attention to employment insurance in the last year is thanks in part to the efforts of the Bloc Québécois.

With regard to the bill before us, without getting into the actuarial and statistical details, it must be understood that it would help first and foremost workers suffering from the most serious illnesses, the oldest workers and mostly women.

I wonder how can anyone be opposed to that. I am convinced though that the Conservatives will find a way. Claims for sickness benefits have decreased among young people aged 15 to 24 and among workers aged 25 to 44 while they have increased among workers aged 45 to 54 and among older workers aged 55 and over.

Also, during the reference period, claims for sickness benefits decreased among men and increased among women. Even though the proportion of women who filed claims for sickness benefits remained relatively stable in 2004-05, women continued to file the majority of claims for this type of benefits, with 59%.

The last monitoring and assessment report of the Canada Employment Insurance Commission stated, and I quote:

About 32% of sickness beneficiaries in 2004/05 used the entire 15 weeks of benefits to which they were entitled. This proportion has been relatively stable in recent years, suggesting that for some types of claimants or illnesses, 15 weeks of EI benefits may not be sufficient.

I may have already mentioned that I was trained as a social worker. During my professional career, I often had to deal with workers who had left their job, because they were sick. Take cancer, a disease that is really wreaking havoc these days. One Canadian in three may be struck by cancer. A person who undergoes chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments over a number of long weeks goes through a painful experience that leaves him exhausted for a period longer than the 15 weeks covered by employment insurance.

In other words, the 15 weeks currently provided under the employment insurance program are not enough to ensure a full recovery for the person who gets these treatments and who manages to get cured. We often talk about these people, but we should not forget that caregivers—and the bill may be silent on this—who support cancer patients, because they are spouses, children or family members, also get exhausted in the process. Unfortunately, these caregivers must, at the end of the process, leave their job, for reasons of sickness and exhaustion, because they supported that relative or friend throughout his battle with cancer.

I am asking our governments to also reflect on the situation of caregivers who, in my opinion, are not getting much support from them.

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois intends to support this bill, which reminds us of the importance of reforming the employment insurance program. I wish to point out that Bill C-269, sponsored by the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle, is more complete than that of the Liberals, which still does not propose an in-depth reform of a program that is ill-suited and unavailable to over 50% of those who should be covered by it.

This is why we hope that parliamentarians in this House will support real improvements, such as those presented in Bill C-269.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

October 19th, 2006 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us, I will recall for the benefit of the people watching us today, increases from 15 to 50 the maximum number of weeks during which benefits may be paid for illness, injury or quarantine. Actually part of the title of this employment insurance bill is “benefits for illness, injury or quarantine.”

I indicated a while ago that we are delighted that a Liberal member of Parliament has tabled this bill. This shows some progress concerning the understanding of the issue and probably the degree of compassion we may feel for people who are victims of illness, a work accident or quarantine for contamination or some other reason.

The Bloc has worked constantly with a view to improving the employment insurance program, as our colleague indicated awhile ago. Since 2005, many measures have been proposed in the House, most of which have been rejected, particularly by the government then in place. We were hoping for progress of course with this new government in order to improve the situation of people who have the misfortune of being away from work because of illness, accident or quarantine.

One of the proposed measures appears in the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, namely recommendation 27. It reads as follows:

The Committee recommends that the government study the possibility of extending sickness benefits by 35 weeks for those who suffer from a prolonged and serious illness.

In other words, with an extension of 35 weeks beyond the 15, we get the 50 weeks proposed by our colleague in his bill.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Liberals are suddenly becoming concerned about unemployment. I do not particularly wish to attack the member, because he took this initiative, but my earlier question was to this effect: how is it that once a party in government is defeated it suddenly becomes sensitive to such situations? Actually the context, that is, the workers’ situation, was the same barely a year ago, when we submitted this recommendation to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

The Bloc Québécois has always been in favour of a substantial improvement to the entire employment insurance program, which of course includes amendments to the number of weeks of sick leave for absences caused by illness, accidents and quarantine.

The following is a history of the last two years. I want to remind the House briefly to provide some context.

On November 15, 2004, our colleague, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, introduced Bill C-278 proposing those improvements to the system. The party in power at the time, the Liberals, opposed royal assent.

On December 13, 2004, Senator Pierrette Ringuette, a member of the Task Force on Seasonal Work appointed by the Prime Minister of the time, issued her dissenting report entitled “Dissent and Distress”, a very meaningful title in view of the situation facing the unemployed.

On December 16, 2004, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities issued the first part of its report with the recommendations I just mentioned. This report was completed on February 15, 2005 and contained 28 recommendations.

On February 23 of the same year, the then Minister of Human Resources announced three minimal new measures to try to mitigate the problems facing regions that suffer from what is commonly called the seasonal gap or black hole.

Finally, on April 15, 2005, the Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence, which my colleague from the Basse-Côte-Nord sponsored. The purpose of this bill was to create an independent employment insurance fund.

I remember the Conservatives promising during the last election campaign to create this independent fund, but they still have not done it.

In May of this year, the Bloc introduced Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), to change employment insurance. I hope that our colleagues will vote in favour of this bill, and I hope that the Conservatives will not invoke royal assent this time.

More recently in October, this week in fact, we introduced Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence to create and establish an independent fund.

As can be seen, the Bloc has never stopped demanding improvements to the independent employment insurance fund. But all we have ever received are systematic refusals from each succeeding government.

I would like to return to how much we need the bill we are discussing and describe the situation in which people find themselves when they must be absent for the reasons covered by the bill.

In 2004 and 2005, the number of applications for sickness benefits increased by 0.1% to reach 294,350. Total sickness benefit payments increased by 4.5% to reach $813 million, while average weekly sickness benefits were $285. Hon. members talked about the costs earlier, although they have not changed very much.

People do not live very comfortably and do not go to restaurants very often on this amount of money. There was a 1.7% increase in comparison with 2003 and 2004. The average number of weeks over which sickness benefits are paid has remained relatively stable over the last few years.

During the years I mentioned, claims for sickness benefits have decreased among men. This is interesting to note because it allows us to see who ends up in certain situations and who has to stop working because of an illness or an accident. Those who are most vulnerable—either in terms of the insecurity of their employment or their working conditions—are women and older workers. During that time frame, this decreased by 1.2% in men and increased by 1.1% in women, even though the proportion of women who filed claims for sickness benefits remained relatively stable in 2004-05.

Women continued to file the majority of the claims for this type of benefit, at 59%. Claims for sickness benefits decreased by 2.8% among young people 15 to 24 and by 2.9% among workers 25 to 44, whereas they increased by 3.5% among workers 45 to 54 and by 7.1% among workers over 55. This confirms what I just said: certain categories of workers are more vulnerable than others because they are put in more precarious situations to do their work.

In closing, since I have just two minutes remaining, I want to reiterate that the bill currently before us is important. I am calling on the Conservative Party, which is now in power and whose attitude toward workers has been consistently insensitive, to take the next step.

This time, at least let the House vote on this bill without demanding a royal recommendation.

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

October 18th, 2006 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence.

Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing a bill to create an independent employment insurance fund, and I think it is appropriate to introduce this bill today.

With the creation of this independent fund, workers' and employers' contributions will benefit the unemployed alone. The government will no longer be able to use the fund surpluses to finance its own activities.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

June 22nd, 2006 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to introduce my first bill. This bill addresses an issue that affects many people in the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. It also affects everyone grappling with the horrible problem of an employment insurance fund that over time, over a number of years, accumulated some $50 billion. The unemployed of yesterday and today are victims of this situation.

This can also be a message of hope for some workers who are in very difficult situations. I am referring to the people in the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine in particular who are working in the crab or shrimp industry, for example, at E. Gagnon et Fils in Gascon and at Marinar in Rivière-au-Renard.

If the bill passes, it will correct an injustice and allow employment insurance to be managed more appropriately.

The Conservative Party already voted in favour of the bill at second reading during the last Parliament. I think we can count on their support again today. If they are consistent with their previous decision, we could easily pass this bill to correct an injustice and help the unemployed.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)