Bill C-280 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.
Carol Hughes NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Committee Report Presented
(This bill did not become law.)
- June 16, 2010 Passed That Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), be concurred in at report stage.
- June 10, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
March 17th, 2010 / 4:30 p.m.
Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS
The idea is that people whose income declines will spend the money they receive on the things they need. Have you compared this bill with Bill C-280? Unlike Bill C-280, this bill does not relax the eligibility criteria for parental and maternity benefits. Do you prefer this change?
March 17th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC
I thought I was ready, Madam Chair, but I realized that I did not have the right file with me. That is what happens when you have to come here from the House of Commons in so little time.
Madam Chair, I would like to thank you for your welcome. Appearing as a witness before you is something quite new to me, as I was a witness on only one brief occasion in the past. I have been a member of this committee for the past six years and have considered all aspects and components of human resources and social development programs, and especially the issue of employment insurance.
This year, we have again tabled a bill intended to reform the employment insurance system. I believe this is the third bill, since we had previously introduced Bills C-280 and C-269. The latter is perhaps fresher in people's minds, because three opposition parties had agreed on a platform to move the planned reform as far forward as possible.
Madam Chair, you might wonder why we are so persistent in wanting to affect such far-reaching changes to the employment insurance system. The reason why is because the system is so terribly unfair to part of our society, i.e., the people who lose their jobs.
Before addressing the substance of the bill, I think that it is appropriate to remind ourselves of our shared motivation. I see colleagues here who, with myself and others, put forward changes to the employment insurance system in the past. That is extremely hard to achieve. Which brings us to the question: Why is it so hard to improve the lives of our country's most underprivileged people and yet so easy to feed or support the rich? We see that with the banks, the oil companies and the military industry. Madam Chair, $1.2 billion in funding was cut from social programs in September 2007, whereas close to $9 billion had been announced for the military sector in the summer, without any debate in the House of Commons. Why are things so easy for the rich and the military? We do not object to supporting the forces themselves, because they play a crucial role in our society, but the amounts that are committed to wage war, Madam Chair, are a matter of social choice—a choice that we do not share and call into question once again today.
Madam Chair, it is sometimes necessary to speak bluntly. I think that employment insurance represents a serious economic crime against workers, and particularly the unemployed, their families, regions and affected provinces. Why do I say that? I say that because money is being diverted from its stated purpose, i.e., to support the needs of people who have lost their income, people who have contributed to the fund along with their employers.That money is taken and used for other purposes. Over the past 14 years, $57 billion have been diverted.
Madam Chair, I am talking about an economic crime and asking my fellow parliamentarians whether we have not become white-collar criminals.
It is the same as when the people we entrust our money to to invest for our retirement use the funds for their personal benefit.
You might say that the difference here is that the government is doing so for collective purposes. That is the only difference because the harm is the same: it is attacking the less fortunate even though they had taken the precaution of contributing to an insurance fund in order to collect benefits in the event of job loss.
I wanted to begin by saying that because I believe that is something we need to think about each time we deal with this issue.
In 2004-2005, we produced the report I have here and completed it in February. Bill C-308 contains the thrust of the recommendations that we made.
Some of our recommendations are also contained in the committee's employability report that was presented in the House no later than April 2008. That report called on the government to take action in order to improve and broaden access to employment insurance.
I have these documents here. Is our work all done in vain? That would be most unfortunate because my colleagues and I believe in the work we do. We believe in restoring the important status of the EI system. How should we go about doing that? We must begin by putting forward a number of measures that I will set out. I will end with that in order to give my colleagues time to ask questions.
Needless to say, the bill includes a measure to improve accessibility through a reduction to a minimum of 360 hours of work, regardless of the regional rate of unemployment. We will see later how to calibrate access.
We now see that the government has tried to make some improvements to the system with partial measures, but they are temporary measures and have nothing to do with what is contained in Bill C-308.
We need to increase the benefit period from 45 to 50 weeks. The government has done so temporarily. In our view, that should be a permanent measure. By doing so temporarily, the government is confirming that there is a real need.
The rate of weekly benefits needs to be increased from 55% to 60% of insurable earnings. A 5% increase is not much, and I will show later that such an increase will not encourage people to remain unemployed.
We have to eliminate the distinctions between a new entrant and a re-entrant to the labour force. That is a measure that leads to some discrimination, which is also something I would like to touch on later.
We have to eliminate the presumption that persons related to each other do not form an employer-employee relationship. That concerns family situations where it is presumed that a person does not deal with a relative at arm's length. As a result, when that person claims employment insurance benefits, he or she is considered to be committing fraud. I would also like to come back to that issue.
I would like to welcome our colleague Diane Finley who has just joined us. Earlier, I spoke about those who contributed to reforming the system. Mr. Godin is one of them.
We also need to increase the maximum yearly insurable earnings to $42,500. We had debated that amount in 2005. We had agreed on setting that amount at $41,000, although we had considered a gradual increase. The government has taken the initiative of setting the amount at $43,200. We find that that is a suitable amount and would be willing to make a consequential amendment to Bill C-308.
Royal Recommendation and Ways and Means Motions
Private Members' Business
March 5th, 2010 / 1:25 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer
Before we begin private members' business today, I would like to make a brief statement regarding the issue of royal recommendation and ways and means motions with respect to private members' business
Just as individual items of private members' business continue their legislative progress from session to session, the Chair's rulings on those same items likewise survive prorogation.
Specifically there are nine bills on which the Chair either commented, ruled or has heard a point of order with regard to the issue of the royal recommendation. There was also one bill on which a point of order was raised regarding the requirement for a ways and means motion.
The purpose of this statement is to remind the House of those rulings and of the questions that remain to be dealt with.
Members will recall that, during the last session, some private members’ bills were found by the Chair to require a royal recommendation. At the time of prorogation, there were seven such bills on the order of precedence or in committee.
Let us review briefly the situation in each of these seven cases.
Three of these bills were awaiting report stage in the House at the time of prorogation, namely: Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity), standing in the name of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore;
Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period), standing in the name of the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi;
Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), standing in the name of the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.
On May 12, 2009, the chair had ruled that Bill C-201, in its form at second reading, needed to be accompanied by a royal recommendation. In committee, all clauses of the bill were deleted. In its present eviscerated form, Bill C-201 need no longer be accompanied by a royal recommendation.
As for Bill C-241 and Bill C-280, the chair ruled on April 22, 2009 and on June 3, 2009 respectively, that these bills in their present forms required royal recommendation. The committee stage has not altered this finding.
The following four bills were at committee stage: Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for loss of retirement income), standing in the name of the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska was before the Standing Committee on Finance; Bill C-308, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), standing in the name of the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas was before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;
Bill C-309, An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario, standing in the name of the hon. member for Nipissing—Timiskaming, was before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;
finally, Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (labour dispute), standing in the name of the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé was before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
The Chair ruled that all these bills in their present forms needed to be accompanied by a royal recommendation. The rulings were given on October 23, 2009 for Bill C-290, on October 29, 2009 for Bill C-308, on June 16, 2009 for Bill C-309 and, more recently, on November 16, 2009 for Bill C-395.
Furthermore, points of order were raised by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader at the end of the last session with respect to the need for a royal recommendation for two bills. These are: Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave) standing in the name of the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead and Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence standing in the name of the hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore. Both of these bills were at second reading.
Just as was done in the last session, the Chair invites other members who would like to make arguments regarding the need for a royal recommendation for those two bills or any of the other bills on the order of precedence to do so at an early opportunity in order for the Chair to come back to the House with a ruling as soon as possible.
Finally, a point of order was raised during the last session regarding Bill C-470, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (revocation of registration), standing in the name of the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville, arguing that it should have been proceeded by a ways and means motion. The Chair has taken the matter under consideration and a ruling will be delivered in the days to come.
I thank hon. members for their attention.
It being 1:35, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
Bill C-280, Employment Insurance Act—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
November 19th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 5, 2009, by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader. The point of order dealt with the admissibility of an amendment adopted by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in its consideration of Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits) and reported to the House on November 5.
I wish to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary for having raised this issue as well as the hon. members for Chambly—Borduas, Acadie—Bathurst and Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord for presenting their arguments on the matter.
The parliamentary secretary reminded the House that Bill C-280 was identified by the Chair as requiring a royal recommendation in a ruling delivered on June 3, 2009. He argued that the amendment in question, which seeks to increase the weekly benefits payable to a claimant from 55% to 60% of the average weekly insurable earnings likewise infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown. He completed his presentation by referring to page 655 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, first edition, which says:
An amendment must not offend the financial initiative of the Crown. An amendment is therefore inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the Public Treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications as expressed in the Royal Recommendation.
In his intervention, the member for Chambly—Borduas insisted that the committee was well aware that certain provisions in the bill already contained proposals which would result in increased spending and that the amendment was consistent with those proposals. The member for Acadie—Bathurst added that in situations of private members’ bills requiring a Royal Recommendation, the Speaker is responsible for deciding the question only once the bill is returned to the House. Finally, the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord claimed that there had been no discussion of admissibility regarding this amendment at committee.
As the House knows, the Speaker does not intervene on matters upon which committees are competent to take decisions. However, in cases where a committee has exceeded its authority, particularly in relation to bills, the Speaker has been called upon to deal with such matters after the bill in question has been reported to the House. In doing so, the Chair is guided by Speaker Fraser's succinct explanation of April 28, 1992, at page 9,801 of the Debates.
When a bill is referred to a standing or legislative committee of the House, that committee is only empowered to adopt, amend or negative the clauses found in that piece of legislation and to report the bill to the House with or without amendments. The committee is restricted in its examination in a number of ways. It cannot infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown, it cannot go beyond the scope of the bill as passed at second reading, and it cannot reach back to the parent act to make further amendments not contemplated in the bill no matter how tempting that may be.
Having examined the specific amendment at issue and reviewed the submissions of all hon. members, the Chair finds that the amendment in question does propose a charge on the public treasury and therefore infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown.
While the Chair can appreciate the difficulties that may arise when a committee must examine a bill which, upon its reference to committee, is flawed with respect to the royal recommendation, a committee must carry out its mandate without exceeding its powers. In my view, by adopting an amendment that infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown, even when it is directed at a clause itself needing a royal recommendation, a committee ventures beyond its mandate.
Consequently, I must order that the amendment to clause 5, adopted by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be declared null and void, and no longer form part of the bill as reported to the House.
In addition, I am ordering that a reprint of Bill C-280 be published with all possible haste for use by the House at report stage to replace the reprint ordered by the committee.
I thank the House for its attention.
Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business
November 16th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today in support of the bill introduced by the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, which would amend the qualifying period for individuals during a labour dispute. As it stands now, workers who are involved in a strike or lockout that lasts 52 weeks will not receive EI premiums during this time and will not therefore qualify for extended EI benefits.
The whole point of workers contributing to the EI program is so that when a person loses his or her job, he or she can access these funds. However, as the system currently stands, far too many people cannot receive EI even though they have paid into the fund.
According to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada figures, more than half of unemployed workers do not have access to employment insurance because they do not qualify under the current rules. The NDP has put forward a number of bills to amend the current EI system to ensure that it offers proper support to everyone who has paid into the system.
For example, Bill C-242, introduced by the member for Acadie—Bathurst, would increase the percentage of income claimed through employment insurance to 60%. Bill C-244, introduced by the member for Nickel Belt, would remove the waiting period for EI benefits. Bill C-280, introduced by the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, would, among other things, lower the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours.
However, I welcome the bill introduced by the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, which addresses another major flaw of the employment insurance system. The NDP is committed to working with other political parties to support legislation that strengthens social security policies in Canada, and I would like to congratulate the member for this bill. Why should workers who are involved in a strike or lockout not be covered by employed insurance?
The right to strike is an important one and, as it stands, people are penalized for exercising this right. Employers have the right to lock out workers and are not penalized by the government for doing so. Yet if a union votes to go on strike, it is penalized by the government through the flaws in the current EI system. In fact, as it stands, the government penalizes workers if they are locked out by their employer and it penalizes them if they go on strike. The government seems to support a lose-lose situation for workers.
In Sudbury, over 3,000 steelworkers at Vale Inco have been on strike since July 13. Today is the 126th day of that strike. Every day I speak to people affected by the strike: workers, their families and friends, small and local businesses in Sudbury. All these people want is a fair deal from Vale Inco.
Think of the consequences for Sudbury if this strike went on for a year and then these people were laid off. There would be over 3,000 people who would not only lose their jobs but also the employment insurance they paid into throughout their careers. There would be 3,000 families who would struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table. Think of the effect this would have on Sudbury's economy.
It is not just my riding of Sudbury that would be affected. Communities all across Canada are suffering. In Ontario alone, there are five more labour disputes currently taking place. At CEP Local 2003 in Toronto, 61 members were locked out in June by their employer, Cadillac Fairview, and then terminated one month later. At CEP Local 37 in Timmins, 95 members have been locked out by their employer, Grant Forest Products, since September 2006 and have walked the picket line for 39 months. At USW Local 271G in Erin and Cambridge, 44 members have continued to strike against Guardian Fibreglass Inc. since June 2007 for 29 months on the picket line. At USW Local 1-500 in Brantford, there have been 75 members on strike against ECP since August 2008, or 15 months on the picket line. At USW Local 9511, there have been 590 members on strike against DriveTest since August 2009, or four months on the picket line.
What is worse, as if the economic crisis had not brought enough hardship to these communities, is that many companies are using the situation for their own gain as to cause them to renege on agreements they made in the past. It is downright shameful. So many are using this economic crisis as a justification to roll back and renege on collective agreements. Workers should not be punished twice for standing up for the rights and benefits their brothers and sisters worked hard to obtain. This bill would fix that.
This bill would allow the extension of the EI qualifying period beyond the stated limit of 104 weeks for workers affected by a labour dispute, so that the extension of a qualifying period could equal the duration of the period of unemployment caused by the strike or the lockout.
This bill, if passed, would also be deemed to have come into force on January 1, 2008. This would mean that labour disputes which are affected by the current economic climate or brought on by companies exploiting the economic crisis for their own gain would be retroactively covered by this bill. It would also mean that members of the United Steelworkers Local 6500 in Sudbury would also be covered by this legislation.
This bill is not just about fairness for the workers on strike, it is about fairness for the communities they come from. One thing is certain, strikes do not just affect workers, they affect entire communities.
If 3,000 workers lose their salary and their EI benefits, it is not just 3,000 families that will suffer, it is the entire community; small businesses that rely on these workers and these families to spend their money; restaurants; and local charities. I will use the United Way in Sudbury as an example. It relies on the United Steelworkers in Sudbury for a significant portion of what it raises.
Entire cities will be affected. With a decreasing tax base, it means less revenue for cities, which is less funding for city infrastructure, services and so on. Families will break apart and parents will move to new areas to find work with no support networks.
As the representative of these workers and the citizens of Sudbury, a city that has been hurt deeply as a result of this strike, I am very proud and glad to voice my support, and will be voting in favour of this bill.
Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business
November 16th, 2009 / 11:15 a.m.
Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, once again, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-395, the proposed changes to the Employment Insurance Act with respect to labour disputes.
This legislation addresses what I think is a bit of a gap in the EI system right now and in the Employment Insurance Act. The question is: what should be done if the qualifying period for somebody who has lost his or her job includes work lost because of a labour disruption? This bill is a reasonable attempt to address the gap. At the very least, it is worthy of further study at committee, so we can identify whether or not there is more that needs to be done. Also, to some extent, we could perhaps address the issue of what the cost might be. I see that the Speaker has ruled that a royal recommendation will be required.
Let me speak to the issue this bill addresses and how it proposes to solve it. Right now, somebody's qualification for employment insurance is determined by the qualifying period that precedes the loss of employment, and that is 52 weeks. There are allowances for certain instances such as sickness, but not for work time lost due to a labour disruption.
During a labour dispute, employees cannot draw EI. They can, in some cases, receive strike pay. Or they could, conceivably, go out and get another job, although it is a very difficult circumstance in which to look for a job when one is hoping to go back to a job that one currently holds. If one gets strike pay, of course, it is different from having insurable earnings for EI.
It is always difficult to determine costs when we are looking at employment insurance. It involves very complex calculations. This year, we had the issue of what it actually costs in another area of qualification, the 360-hour national qualifying standard. Just over a year ago, last spring, because of a request from the committee looking at a private member's bill, the HRSDC department had estimated that cost at somewhere around $600 million or $700 million. The exact figure does not come to me, but it was in that range.
Other people have estimated it will cost $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year. That would make sense, because there are more people unemployed now than there were last spring, and there has been a slight escalation in cost. As a result of a request from the employment insurance working group established by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, we had the outrageous guesstimate, we might call it, of over $4 billion. They came back and said this would cost over $4 billion.
That did not make any sense. Everybody knew that was nuts. In fact, the government itself came back a little bit later and said the cost was actually about $2.5 billion. We asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer and he came in with a cost of about $1.1 billion, which notionally makes sense and obviously was statistically backed up. But that is why we have issues with costs when we start looking at employment insurance.
We have the same thing when we look at two-week waiting periods. What is the cost of a two-week waiting period? It is not really a waiting period; it is an out-of-luck period for a person who loses his or her job. What is the cost of that? The estimates have varied a bit on that, as is the case with this bill.
This bill does indicate that if a job is lost following a labour disruption, allowances can be made. It is very difficult for people and families who are already suffering from being unemployed because of a labour disruption when, all of a sudden, they come back and within a short period of time they are laid off completely and find out that their qualification for EI has been affected.
In essence, this bill will simply extend the qualifying period by the length of time of the labour dispute. As I have indicated before, qualifying is a huge problem in this country. It has been identified as the number one problem with the EI system. Many solutions have been proposed over the last number of years, and specifically in the last year.
We have had private member's Bill C-269 and private member's Bill C-265 from the member for Acadie—Bathurst and the member for Chambly—Borduas. In this session, we have looked at Bill C-241, Bill C-280 and Bill C-304. These are serious attempts to have a look at what the gaps are in the EI system, particularly at a time of economic difficulty.
We are still in this; we are still seeing job losses. We saw the numbers that came out the other day. There are still people in Canada who are losing their jobs. The economy needs a little bit of help. Everybody talks about stimulus. From any reports I have seen, the best stimulus is to invest in people who have lost their jobs or are in economic difficulty, because they will in fact put the money back into the economy, which is what stimulus is supposed to be all about.
We have heard from many people, including all the premiers from Ontario to the west, who normally have not spoken out much on employment insurance. All of the premiers of varying political stripes have said that we need to look at the issue of accessibility. We need to have a look at these variable entrance requirements, particularly at a time of economic difficulty, to see if they still make sense, because they are hurting the provinces. We heard that from the Minister of Finance's wife, when she was running for the leadership of her party in Ontario. We heard it from Premier Stelmach and Premier Campbell, and every premier, including Premier Brad Wall in Saskatchewan.
We have heard it from social policy groups. We have heard it from economists. We have even heard it from organizations that one might not normally think would call for such a thing. TD Economics has called for it. The Chamber of Commerce urged that we have a look at a couple of things in its prebudget submission this year, including entrance rates, but also at the two-week waiting period. These are all things that can be done to improve the system right away.
We have to have a look at what has the government done for employment insurance, recognizing finally that we are in a period of economic distress. As the House will recall, last November when the United States was already looking at proposals to assist people who were unemployed, we had an economic update that offered nothing.
In January, when we came back after Parliament was prorogued, EI was addressed in a specific way by adding five weeks of eligibility, which was a step forward in my view. If we look at the private members' bills that we have seen in the House over the past few years, the extra five weeks was always a small piece of it.
Of course, there was nothing on the two-week waiting period, nothing on accessibility, and nothing on increasing the rate of payment from 55% to 60%, which is called for a lot. But the five weeks were helpful and they were particularly helpful because they affected all Canadian workers; they did not pick winners and losers.
That is why the five weeks was a good piece of public policy at the time, but they are nowhere near to being enough and did not address the issue of accessibility that the 360-hour national standard would address. But the five weeks were something for all workers in Canada.
This fall we had a couple of pieces of legislation, one of them being Bill C-50, which would extend benefits from 5 to 20 weeks, but only for a select few, the fortunate few, in this country.
In the spring the government was saying that it was going to offer extra benefits to everyone, and then in the fall it said it was going to go back to a small percentage of the unemployed. One may qualify for between 5 and 20 weeks, but if one has drawn on EI before, too bad. If one happened to be a seasonal worker in northern New Brunswick, or in the fishing industry or the tourism industry, or others like that, one did not qualify for the extra 5 weeks.
That kind of discriminatory approach flies in the face of what the government was proposing to do at the beginning of the year, which was to provide equality in the employment insurance system, at least on the extension of benefits, if not in actually going to the number one source of irritation for Canadians, for workers, public sector unions, social policy groups, economists, think tanks, premiers and the wife of the finance minister. They were all saying that the system is not fair and that we have to fix it.
The reason it is not fair is that accessibility requirements range too much. At a time of economic difficulty, we need to do something to assist all Canadians and we need to make sure that people who lose their jobs do not feel like the government has forgotten them.
I would remind members that earlier this year the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development was quoted as saying she did not want to make EI too lucrative. I remind the House and the millions who are watching at home that average employment insurance benefits are somewhere in the range of $330 a week. There are not that many people in the House who would want to work for $330 a week, or would feel very excited about losing their job so they could get $330 a week. I think the maximum is $440 a week.
EI is far from being a lucrative proposal for anyone. We have to keep in mind as well that people cannot draw EI in Canada if they voluntarily quit their jobs. If they quit their jobs, they do not get EI. They are told that they do not qualify. They can appeal it and they might be able to make their case, but they cannot quit their jobs and get EI.
Therefore, for an individual to suggest that EI is lucrative and that anyone would deliberately try to qualify for it, the individual would have to suggest that the person find a way to lose his or her job without quitting it. That person would have to get the employer to let him or her go so he or she could make 55% of his or her previous earnings.
Bill C-395 is worthy of consideration. I congratulate my colleague who brought it forward. We think it addresses a gap in the system. We think that at a time of economic difficulty, this is when we need to invest in employment insurance, because employment insurance assists Canadians when they need it the most, through no fault of their own from a work stoppage. It should not be made harder because of a labour disruption in the previous qualifying period.
Bill C-280--Employment Insurance Act
Points of Order
November 5th, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.
Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, on June 3, 2009, the Deputy Speaker ruled on Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), as follows:
Bill C-280...proposed changes to the employment insurance program that include lowering the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours, setting benefits payable to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest paid 12 weeks....
It is abundantly clear to the Chair that such changes to the employment insurance program...would have the effect of authorizing increased expenditures from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized.
On June 10, 2009, Bill C-280 was adopted at second reading and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
On November 3, 2009, during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill the member for Chambly—Borduas moved an amendment to clause 5 of Bill C-280 to increase the weekly benefits payable to a claimant from 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings to 60% of the average weekly insurable earnings.
A further increase to the benefits payable from 55% to 60% of the average weekly insurable earnings would require a royal recommendation and therefore is out of order.
That is why when the amendment was moved to the chair of the committee the committee chair stated:
[T]his...money...would normally require royal recommendation. This would be out of order but...we're going to vote on this anyway because it's come before us.
The amendment to clause 5 was adopted.
Page 655 of Marleau and Montpetit states that amendments requiring a royal recommendation are not admissible in committee.
In particular Marleau and Montpetit states:
An amendment must not offend the financial initiative of the Crown. An amendment is therefore inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the Public Treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications as expressed in the Royal Recommendation.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the amendment should be struck from the report and the bill should be deemed to have been reported from committee without amendment.
Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities
Committees of the House
November 5th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in relation to Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits). The committee has decided to report the bill back to the House with an amendment.
November 3rd, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
The Chair Dean Allison
(Clauses 1 to 4 inclusive agreed to)
(On clause 5)
We now have the amendment that you see before you.
I'll put this in context. Because this is money, it would normally require royal recommendation and it would be out of order. The bill needs royal recommendation. The clause would need royal recommendation as well, but we're going to vote on it anyway because it has come before us and we'll do that.
The amendment is that Bill C-280 in clause 5 be amended by replacing line 27 on page 2 with the following: “to a claimant is 60% of the average of their”. That is the amendment.
Is there any discussion on the amendment?
Go ahead, Mr. Lessard.
November 3rd, 2009 / 4:10 p.m.
Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
I may stand to be corrected on that point, but the point of the matter was that benefits were reduced substantively, and that's why the accumulation was built. The benefits were not relevant to what was paid in, but that's not the main point.
The main point is that at this time they established the variable entrance requirement based on the unemployment rates in the various regions. As I understand Bill C-280, it would eliminate the existing regionally differentiated minimum qualification requirement, and you're talking about the 360. But it would retain the act's current benefit entitlement structure, which provides claimants residing in high unemployment regions with more weeks of benefits for a given number of hours of insurable employment.
What I'm saying is that you want to take away the regional differences on unemployment up front. Once you've qualified for the benefits, you would still retain the fact that those with the high unemployment rate would receive more benefits, or benefits for longer.
Am I correct in that or not? Perhaps Ms. Hughes can answer that.