Helping Families in Need Act
An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act and to make consequential amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations
Diane Finley Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
February 4th, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour
Mr. Speaker, there is no argument that children are a blessing. I became a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in part because of my love for children, so I understand that the hon. member has only the most compassionate motives in proposing this legislation. However, accepting the bill as it stands would run contrary to the intent of the Employment Insurance Act, as I will explain.
On multiple births, the EI legislation is very clear. It stipulates that regardless of the number of children born or adopted, the maximum number of weeks of EI parental benefits that can be paid as a result of a single pregnancy or adoption is 35 weeks. The legislation allows one parent to receive the benefit, or both parents to share the benefit at the same time or consecutively. The Federal Court of Appeal recently ruled on this issue and the decision of the court affirmed the legislation as it stands and rejected the charter argument on unequal treatment.
The bill seeks to increase the maximum number of weeks during which parental benefits can be paid from 35 weeks to 70 weeks in the case of multiple births or adoptions. Unlike a social welfare program where the financial needs or circumstances of each person are considered in determining eligibility, EI is an insurance program. It is the loss of wages that is being insured against. EI benefits replace a portion of those wages of a person's losses for their time away from work. Allowing this change would undermine the insurance nature of the EI program and change its purpose.
In addition to the 35 weeks of parental benefits, a new mother also qualifies for an additional 15 weeks of maternal benefits. The principle of maternity benefits is that a new mother should be protected from an earnings loss while she is physically unable to work or seek work in the weeks surrounding the birth of a child or children. The EI program ensures that working families who experience loss of income receive support to balance the demands of both work and family by providing the flexibility they need to stay home and care for their children, their newborn or adopted child.
Our government has delivered several initiatives recently to provide greater financial stability to parents facing difficult circumstances, through the Helping Families in Need Act. We amended the Employment Insurance Act to facilitate access to EI sickness benefits for claimants who had fallen ill or injured while collecting parental benefits. Also, a new EI benefit for parents with critically ill children will help ensure that families do not suffer undue financial hardship due to their child's illness.
As a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, I have seen the immense pressure a family faces when they have a sick child. I can say from personal experience, having seen parents present at the bedside of their child, that it is crucial that they be there when their child needs them. As parents in my riding of Simcoe—Grey have said, they are very pleased that the government has made this substantial investment in supporting families in their greatest time of need.
As well, there is a new grant now available to parents of murdered and missing children. These parents face tremendous emotional stress and often have to take time off work to cope with this tragedy or to be part of the criminal justice process.
We recognize our responsibility to help parents balance work and family responsibilities. We have repeatedly shown our commitment to support families and will continue to do so. Through Canada's economic action plan we have strengthened the universal child care benefit to help more than 2 million young children and 1.5 million families every year. Since it was introduced, this benefit has lifted approximately 22,000 families out of poverty.
We are helping working parents by making major investments in creating new child care spaces. Our government has allocated billions of dollars to support early childhood development and child care through transfers to the provinces and territories, direct spending and tax measures for Canadian families. To assist low and middle-income families, we have provided additional support through the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement.
In addition, through foster-to-adopt programs, foster parents are eligible for EI parental benefits as soon as they have taken the necessary steps to adopt a child into their care. Moreover, self-employed persons are now able to opt into the EI program to receive maternity benefits as well as parental sickness and compassionate care benefits. In addition to this, Canadian Forces members who are ordered to return to duty while on parental leave or whose parental leave is deferred as a result of a military requirement also have an extended eligibility window for EI parental benefits.
Regarding the suggested change to EI, we have estimated that the cost to workers and employers would be approximately $100 million per year if implemented. This is in addition to the $4 billion a year in EI measures the NDP would like to create, including a 360-hour work year, that would drive up EI premiums by 16%.
I was fortunate enough to be involved in the EI rate-setting consultations that occurred in the fall of 2001. I heard from businesses and workers all across the country about the importance of stable and predictable EI premium rate-setting. While our government introduced a new rate-setting mechanism to ensure stability and predictability for EI premiums, the NDP is proposing measures that would see EI premiums rise by over 16% in a single year.
Nothing is more important than the role a mother or father plays in caring for their child. The family is the fundamental unit of society, the backbone of a successful country. Time and again our government has demonstrated its commitment to helping families. However, in this fragile economic time when small businesses are concerned about EI premiums, supporting a bill that would result in increased EI premiums would be fiscally irresponsible.
While I certainly understand the good intentions of the hon. member opposite in proposing this bill and fully share her desire to provide greater support for Canadian families, as we done most recently with Bill C-44, the Helping Families in Need Act, I cannot support this bill at this time because of the huge negative impact increasing premiums would have on small businesses in my riding of Simcoe—Grey.
I encourage all members of the House to join me in voting against this legislation, which will put a huge burden on the backs of small businesses, employers and employees in this country.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
February 4th, 2013 / 11:25 a.m.
Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate this morning, not just as the critic for human resources and skills development for the Liberal Party but as the father of three boys. There is a fairly significant storm hitting the east coast today and schools have been cancelled in Cape Breton and in many districts. As my wife teaches at the community college, she is home today. Therefore, I will be very cautious not to try to overstate how much impact I had in those early days in rearing the three boys. However, from my perspective, I was a spectator in something that I thought was pretty impressive with all that goes on with raising three pretty high-energy boys who were sort born in steps and stairs.
Young mothers almost need a third arm, with all the bags, strollers and kids. We can only imagine the impact when they are trying to do this for twins. When there is a situation with multiple births, we can only appreciate the additional effort and work that has to go into that situation. It is certainly not a normal situation. It is not an abnormal situation, but it is certainly one that I think deserves this opportunity to look at the bill that was brought forward by my colleague.
There are a number of points that I want to raise in my 10 minutes. The challenge is to find that balance between the special circumstances that arise in cases of multiple births and balancing good, fair, reasonable social policy against the cost to the people who fund the program. That is where we have to come up with something pragmatic that also makes sense.
Millions of employers and employees pay into the employment insurance fund. It is our responsibility, as legislators, to ensure that changes in legislation and regulation are looked at and vetted here. Unlike what we have seen with the changes to the current EI system, when we look at working while on claim and some of the other changes that have had a significant impact on seasonal industries, I believe it is in Canadians' best interests that these changes be vetted.
However, I have some questions that I think need to be answered before the bill can be properly judged. I do not think we have seen all the information. There have been a couple of points made. I certainly am not confident in the information that I have. I believe the vetting of this issue and the opportunity to hear witnesses on both sides of the issue would serve us well. It would serve the committee well and that would serve the House well, as this goes forward.
However, I do not think that we can dismiss the intent of the bill, which is to help families deal with unforeseen and challenging circumstances. That is why I want to support the bill going to committee so that we can assess the merits of the bill.
Canada is one of the most generous countries when we talk about maternal and paternal benefits. Being a proud member of the Liberal Party, I think there is much that the Liberal Party has done in contributing to the reputation that we hold in the world. In 1971, the government led by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau brought forward the first maternity leave, the 15-week maternity leave. Nineteen years later, Prime Minister Chrétien's government increased those parental benefits to 35 weeks and reduced the hours of eligibility from 700 to 600, allowing more parents to spend more time caring for their children without worrying about losing their jobs or where to find income.
It is noteworthy that my colleague from Durham is speaking on behalf of the Conservative Party. It is worth pointing out that when Mr. Chrétien brought that legislation in to increase the benefits, the Canadian Alliance, in fact, voted against those increases. I was not surprised to hear that he was not ready to get up and champion this particular piece of legislation.
Bill C-464 is admirable in the sense that it is trying to help parents who face a special situation. I think all of us here in the House can agree that multiple births are a very special situation. The Dionne quintuplets were very special and captured the excitement and imagination of an entire country. Many times, in multiple births, there are problems with the pregnancy and delivery, whether it is twins, triplets or quintuplets. There is physical, emotional and psychological stress placed on the parents and children, not to mention the financial burden that comes with multiple births. I think those challenges are high and worth noting.
According to Multiple Births Canada, 57% of twins and 98% of higher order multiples are born pre-term, with low birth weights and postnatal concerns. These facts cannot be overlooked or lessened. They are part of the basis of why this bill should at least be studied.
However, some of the arguments put forward in support of this bill have flaws as well. For example, the fact that some countries, most notably Europe, have additional benefits for multiple births argues that Canada should. However, in many of these countries, the total benefits provided are less than what Canada's current system already provides.
Proponents of the bill say that the additional challenges multiple-birth parents face warrant an additional 35 weeks of unpaid leave and EI benefits; if a single birth parent gets 35 weeks, it would automatically mean that parents of twins should get double, or at least should be viewed as getting double. With twins, I am not sure that there is twice as much work, so to take that correlation and apply it here to simply double the 35 weeks I am not sure is something we are able to do or it makes sense to do.
What we should be charged with as elected officials is to try to get something right, to try to get something that works for the parents that is responsible in terms of protecting the employment insurance fund.
According to the PBO, there are approximately 13,000 multiple births per year, and 6,700 parents would be eligible for this extended benefit. The PBO estimates this cost at approximately $80 million per year. That seems fairly high. However, it is approximately the same cost as Bill C-44, the government legislation that created the new special parental benefits last fall. This is another reason we should absolutely send this bill to committee to have it looked at.
My time is winding down here, so I am just going to sum up. I am sure there are things we can agree on in this House. Multiple births are very much a special circumstance. Whether we ultimately agree that parents of twins, triplets or other multiples should get twice the benefits as parents of single births is not the most relevant question with respect to whether this bill should go forward. This bill is at second reading, so it is about trying to gather more information.
For this circumstance, I believe we should support the bill. Whether doubling is the right way to go, I do not know, but I think we should recognize the challenges faced by the parents of families with multiple births and at least support this legislation as it goes forward to committee.
November 29th, 2012 / 9:05 a.m.
Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON
Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you to both ministers for being here.
Like you, I very much enjoyed the time we shared here together with Bill C-44. Since you enjoy being here so much, I wonder if I could start off by asking whether you'd be willing to be here for two hours instead of just one hour, in the same spirit of cooperation that we showed during the debate on Bill C-44.
November 29th, 2012 / 8:55 a.m.
Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, it was only a short while ago that Minister Finley and I were here to talk about Bill C-44, the Helping Families in Need Act, and I'm delighted to be back again.
That legislation that we were talking about previously showed our government's commitment to the welfare of Canadian workers and their families. We believe that Canadians are entitled to be treated fairly on the job.
With that in mind, we foster good working conditions, constructive labour-management relations, and healthy, safe workplaces free from discrimination, because by doing all these things, we are making a vital contribution to Canada's prosperity and to our overall quality of life.
That said, we can't ignore that uncertain economic situation in which we are working today.
Some workers in our country are still vulnerable, and they are worried about the ability to provide for their families. We know that when Canadian workers were hit hard by the economic downturn—especially those employees whose employers went bankrupt, closed down, and did not pay their workers the money they were owed—Canadian workers did suffer.
That's why in 2008 our government introduced the wage earner protection program, or WEPP: because we wanted to make sure that the workers who were affected like this received timely compensation for their unpaid wages and their vacation pay.
We expanded the WEPP in 2009, and we included both unpaid severance and termination pay as well.
In 2011 we expanded again, to make sure that workers were covered in situations where a company attempted to restructure but was unsuccessful and ended in bankruptcy.
Overall, since the start of the program in 2008, more than $120 million has been paid to over 53,000 workers. Given the expansion of this program over the time, we are now adding $1.4 million annually in operating funds to ensure that we deliver to WEPP applicants the benefits they are entitled to when they need them most. Therefore, we're requesting additional funding through the supplementary estimates to fulfill this commitment.
We know that in uncertain times, workers suffer, businesses suffer, and indeed the whole country suffers. That's why our government remains focused on creating jobs, on long-term growth and prosperity, but in that, a crucial part is labour peace. We know that good labour relations help create a stable and a reliable environment in which businesses can thrive, but they also give workers the security that they need to be productive and to support their families.
The Federal Mediation Conciliation Service is a part of Labour Canada, and it really does do a remarkable job in supporting the stable, peaceful, and cooperative labour environment.
FMCS has a section for preventive mediation services. That service helps unions and management to build and maintain constructive working relationships that deal with difficult workplace issues as they arise, not necessarily at a point in time when a collective agreement is being bargained. To make this service available to more clients, we are committing half a million dollars in annual ongoing funding.
I want to make a point here on this issue. Despite the impression that may be created by media or by coverage of certain events, cooperative labour relations in Canada really are the norm. Strikes and lockouts are the exception. Indeed, in the past four years 94% of labour negotiations in the federally regulated private sector were settled without work stoppages when FMCS was involved.
Contributing to harmonious working relationships and therefore to labour stability is really only one aspect of the labour program's goals for federal workplaces. As minister, I firmly believe that a healthy and a safe and a fair workplace is a key element to Canada's formula for success. Indeed, I've called the workplace the engine room for the economy.
The workplace is important because where there's more morale, where there's ingenuity, where there's productivity, Canadian businesses are helped to compete with the best in the world, so we promote safe and healthy workplaces through both preventive education and reactive strategies. Most importantly, we encourage workers and employers to take an active role in ensuring the health and safety of their workplaces.
This past fall I visited China, and I'm really proud to say that Canada is recognized internationally for our expertise in workplace health and safety.
Lately, as well, we've been focusing on a different aspect of health and safety in the workplace: mental health.
Mental health in the workplace is a significant concern not only for businesses but also for workers and for families. Half a million people a day miss work because of mental health problems. That can translate into a loss of productivity of about between $33 and $50 billion annually. Quite frankly, this is something that we have to deal with.
That's why the Government of Canada provided $367,000 in funding to the Mental Health Commission of Canada to help develop a voluntary national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace. My labour program provided the commission with technical expertise. The project is a really great partnership because it received funding from Bell Canada and the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.
What's really exciting about this is that it will be the first standard of its kind in the world. It really is an example of how governments and organizations can work together to help modernize workplace health and safety. We're working with businesses and we're working with unions. They were part of the psychological standard creation. With those two parties and with the help of the government, we are creating these dynamic workplaces where cooperation and fairness are the rule, workplaces where health and safety are integral parts of the culture, workplaces where workers and employers can contribute, innovate, and increase productivity for the benefit of all, including the general Canadian public.
Those are some ways that we in the labour program are helping Canadian businesses and families and continuing to strengthen our economy.
Mr. Chair, I hope this overview has been helpful and I'd be very pleased to answer any questions that you or the committee may have.
Thank you very much for your time.
Helping Families in Need Act
November 20th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
The House resumed from November 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act and to make consequential amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations, be read the third time and passed.
Safe Food for Canadians Act
November 19th, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.
Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his speech. He mentioned that amendments suggested in committee were simply dismissed, even though the opposition parties worked hard to develop those amendments.
Earlier today we were debating Bill C-44. What I find funny is that although everyone agreed on the principle of the bill, the opposition's suggested amendments were also rejected, without any real argument or debate.
That is unfortunate, because the NDP has been clear that Bill S-11, as it stands right now, might not have prevented the major beef recall we had recently—the largest beef recall in Canada's history—or the 22 deaths resulting from the 2008 listeriosis crisis.
The amendments proposed by the opposition deserve to be seriously considered, which the Conservative government did not do. That is unfortunate. I would like my colleague to comment on that.
Helping Families in Need Act
November 19th, 2012 / 3:40 p.m.
Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL
Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with my colleague more. He has made a very valid point.
That is what we are saying about Bill C-44. While we think it is a step in the right direction, it really does need to be improved upon, and we have recommended amendments and improvements to the bill.
We hope the government will recognize that we could be in this together. We could ensure that Canadians have the best possible EI system they could have. They are paying into it. It is their system. Let us work together. Let us not treat it as something that only the Conservatives, or the NDP or the Liberals are doing it. Let us work together and do what is in the best interest of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Helping Families in Need Act
November 19th, 2012 / 3:25 p.m.
Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL
Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from York West said, we are supporting the legislation, the helping families in need act. Just the title of the act shows that it is the kind of legislation that one would be inclined to support. Obviously, as my colleague said, it is a step in the right direction but so much more could be done.
The legislation would modify the Canada Labour Code to enable employees to take leave if their child is critically ill, dies or is missing as a result of a criminal act. In addition, Bill C-44 would make substantive changes to the Employment Insurance Act to allow ill claimants receiving parental benefits to also access sick benefits. Finally, the bill introduces a grant of $350 per week to parents who earn a minimum of $6,500 annually and are forced to take leave from their employment because they are caring for an ill child or their child was murdered or is missing.
None of us would ever want to be in that particular position. As my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso said, there is so much more that could be done. What we are trying to do here is convince the government that working together we can make a difference. We could do so much more with a bill like Bill C-44.
Overall, it is a step in the right direction. This has gone on for too long. The legislation is badly needed but it can be improved, and this is what I want to speak to. The government can and must do more to ensure that parents receive financial flexibility during extremely difficult times such as caring for a child who suffers from a critical illness or the tragic death or disappearance of a child.
Bill C-44 legislates two tiers of tragedy by enforcing different supports depending on the unfortunate circumstance. If a parent takes leave from work to care for a dying child, he or she is guaranteed up to 37 weeks off work under the amendments to the Canada Labour Code, but if a parent takes leave because his or her child is missing, the individual gets 52 weeks off work. While away from work, a parent would receive $350 per week.
It is impossible to even imagine the pain and fear that a parent in any of these tragic circumstances would be forced to endure. I cannot even put myself in the place of parents who find themselves in such circumstances. I most certainly support the 52 weeks guaranteed for parents of a missing or murdered child, and I am sure we all do. However, I believe that parents who are caring for a critically ill child and are suffering from many of the same uncertainties should also be permitted 52 weeks instead of only 37 weeks as would be permitted under this legislation.
I agree with the intent of the bill but I believe that the supports must be stronger and more equal. That is why the Liberals introduced amendments at the committee stage that would have improved and strengthened the supports that Bill C-44 would provide. Unfortunately, the committee, as we all know, was comprised of a majority of Conservative members who voted these measures down. Sadly, it appears that some on the committee could not rise above petty partisanship to deliver for Canadian families. In spite of the lack of co-operation that we found on committee, which my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso referenced, we support the bill.
While I welcome the specific improvements this legislation would make to the EI system for Canadian families, Bill C-44 is part of a larger conversation about the EI system and its failure to meet the needs of Canadians.
For many Canadians, the EI system provides supplementary benefits beyond the unfortunate case of loss of employment. For example, the EI system also provides maternity and parental benefits to individuals who are pregnant, have recently given birth, are adopting a child or are caring for a newborn. In addition, EI provides sickness benefits to individuals who are unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine.
Yet the question remains, are Canadians receiving the benefits they pay for, and in some cases require, in the manner to which they need them? The simple answer is no. I think if we ask anyone in the House who is familiar with the situations that Canadians find themselves in when they need to access EI, a program they have paid into, in essence their program, we would find that they are not being treated fairly.
Bill C-44 would enhance benefits to those who would find themselves in a very unfortunate and particular circumstance, but it would not solve many existing problems with the inability of the EI system to conform and adapt to the way Canadians need to use it.
Although, from time to time, some may make it seem like the benefits provided by the EI system are gifts from the Government of Canada, the fact is it is a system that is paid into by Canadians. It is in fact a fund that is put in place by Canadians. It is a crime when those Canadians are unable to access EI when they need to and in terms of the amounts that are required.
Because of this critical but often maligned fact, it is extremely important, as members of Parliament and representatives of our constituents, that we take part in a larger conversation with Canadians about how EI benefits are delivered and how they can better be delivered. This is where we really do need to engage Canadians. That is what is missing from the discussion.
The fact is that decisions are made and we design legislation without really doing the proper consultation with the Canadians who will be impacted. No one really knows whether they will be impacted by it. Therefore, it is very important to recognize, as members of Parliament, our constituents who may be working today but may lose their job through no fault of their own. It is that consultation that is missing here, that discussion with Canadians about the EI system and how it can best be administered to deliver for Canadians in the way in which it should be delivered.
One area where benefits need to be looked at is sickness benefits. Currently those who are eligible for sickness benefits are entitled to up to 15 weeks of benefits if they are unable to work because of their illness. Unfortunately many Canadians who are sick are forced to refrain from going back to work long after their benefits expire.
For example, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is forced to take leave from work so she may undergo treatment. She will face a gruelling treatment regime that is often longer than the 15 weeks allowed for by the current regulation, leaving her stranded, unable to work while receiving treatment and unable to access more EI benefits even though her sickness has left her in a difficult position. In this case, the goal to provide support while she is receiving treatment is not being met fully. Clearly, in a situation like this, and in other similar situations, there is a gap in the program delivery.
How do we explain to people in that situation that we really cannot respond in the way that we should? We know they are going through a difficult time, we know it is a program they have paid into, but we are not there to meet their needs.
More generally, but equally important to this conversation, Statistics Canada reports that from 2010 to 2011, the most recent data available, access to EI benefits was at its lowest level in nearly a decade. According to Statistics Canada, one reason for the decreasing access to EI benefits was the lack of available full-time jobs.
Although all employees pay into the EI fund, only those with a certain number of hours worked can access the benefits for which they pay. That is one of the many reasons why Canada needs a government that spends less on political advertising and actually does more to create the desperately needed full-time jobs that far too many Canadian families are struggling to find.
Instead of focusing on creating full-time jobs, the government hiked the employment insurance rate on job creators, essentially raising a direct tax on employment, not to mention the Conservative government's declaration of war through its changes to the EI system on many of my constituents who are without a job through no fault of their own. This can be found in a lot of rural areas. While people want to work, unfortunately full-time jobs are not available.
Furthermore, with 14 million phone calls from Canadians trying to access their benefits, automatically hung up on by Service Canada that does not have the resources to respond, we are finding they are not getting the services they need.
Helping Families in Need Act
November 19th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
Judy Sgro York West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to continue speaking to this very important bill, Bill C-44. It is an issue that was looked at when the Liberals were in office and something that we had also committed to improving had we become the government in the last election. Therefore, I am pleased that the government is at least picking up the issue. I am not satisfied that the Conservatives have done enough, but at least they are moving forward with baby steps.
As Liberals, we continue to believe that families must not be financially ruined because of an illness or when providing care for a family member who falls ill. I and many other parliamentarians, I am sure, have sat down and talked with families who are in that situation and have had to quit work to stay home and care for a sick child or a dying parent or relative. That is just not the way it should be. This belief is why we campaigned for a family care benefit through EI during the last election. That program would have delivered improved support to Canadians when they clearly needed it most.
We also believe that additional enhancements to the EI system should be studied, including increasing sickness benefits and creating a part-time benefits system to help support people with illnesses and disabilities such as MS. These suggestions would not be difficult to implement, even at this stage in the legislative process. We proposed a number of amendments during the committee's study of Bill C-44 and would be pleased to elaborate on them today, because they are very important. Perhaps this could be an item on which we all work co-operatively and deliver something good to the collective benefit of all of our constituencies and all Canadians.
I would again suggest looking at extending the leave of absence for a parent of a critically ill child from 32 weeks to 52 weeks. This would align with the amount of support a parent of a missing or murdered child is entitled to under Bill C-44. It is just common sense that we would have the two of them aligned, rather than having one at 37 weeks and another at 52 weeks. People have a hard enough time managing and accessing government programs and systems as they are, so why not try to keep things a bit similar? It seems to me that for parents of a child who has been killed or murdered or dies from a serious illness or other very serious issues, these benefits should naturally be consistent.
Also, we should consider extending the period for which a parent of a critically ill child could continue to receive benefits, from the last day of the week on which the child succumbs to 14 days after the child passes away. This proposed extension would acknowledge the period of grief following the loss of a child and would provide parents with additional support during a period of bereavement. We surely cannot ask employees to return to work and expect them to be productive after losing a child, never mind losing another relative.
We also called for a reduction in the labour force attachment hours required of EI claimants, from 600 hours over six months to 420 hours over that same time. Reducing the number of hours required would have the effect of extending benefits to part-time workers who would not otherwise qualify for this special EI benefit.
These are only a few suggestions that could make Bill C-44 a far better bill, and I would again call on the Conservatives to consider them. This is a bill that we can all stand and salute and say that we all had a part in it, because we are providing an important service to Canadians.
I understand that some of these ideas fall outside the technical scope of this bill, as determined by the government majority on the committee. However, I also know that this House has several procedural options available to it, if there were a will to do it correctly. What would be lost by looking at other ways to help Canadian families and parents who are facing some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable?
Today we have a choice. We can stand in our places and enact measures that would truly help those we are all here to serve, and whom I believe we want to serve. We can extend a hand-up to people like those living in my community at Jane and Finch, or we can continue to accept mediocrity. I would like to think that this particular issue is one on which we can all gather together and make a true statement about the kind of Canada we want, that we want a compassionate and caring Canada that is economically strong but knows that when things are difficult we are there to help the people.
I truly hope members of the government, particularly those on the back benches, are listening and are prepared to do the right thing by going along with these amendments so we can ensure that Canadians truly have an alternative in difficult times ahead.