An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (parental leave for multiple births or adoptions)
Sana Hassainia NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
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- March 27, 2013 Failed 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.
The Conservative Government
Statements By Members
April 15th, 2013 / 2:05 p.m.
José Nunez-Melo Laval, QC
Mr. Speaker, March 28 was a dark day for the House of Commons. On that day, three important bills were arbitrarily rejected by the Conservative caucus.
The Conservative caucus overwhelmingly voted down the good intentions of providing justice and giving the Government of Canada the opportunity to do the right thing and support some just and worthy causes. Bill C-380 would have prohibited imports of shark fins. Bill C-459 would have helped consumers, in particular air passengers. Bill C-464 would have supported Canadian mothers in the event of multiple births.
On March 28, the ignorance of our honourable government colleagues was on display again. Even worse, they failed to grasp the negative consequences for which they will be held to account in the next election.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
March 27th, 2013 / 6:25 p.m.
The House resumed from Friday, March 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-464, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (parental leave for multiple births or adoptions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Canada Labour Code
March 27th, 2013 / 3:45 p.m.
Murray Rankin Victoria, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to present petitions to this House in support of the bill introduced by my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes. Bill C-464, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act , which would grant extended parental leave for multiple births or adoptions as a way of levelling the playing field for parents with multiple children.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
March 8th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
Francine Raynault Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, I will speak today from experience. On June 27, 1968, life gave me a very generous gift. I had twin daughters. They came into my life when my oldest daughter was only 27 months old. It was hard work, but I was young.
Having a child turns parents' lives upside down. While parents feel a tremendous amount of love as they build a relationship they will enjoy for the rest of their lives, they also have to work harder to include the newborn in their daily lives and to make things work at home. You can imagine how much energy it takes to raise two newborns at the same time. In 1968, things were different, because you only learned that you were having twins at the birth.
Parents with twins encounter many challenges. The babies are never hungry at the same time and so parents are constantly on standby. Daily life is a marathon of diaper changing and feedings. I can assure you that after all these years, I still remember those days. However, they are happy memories. Parents must also discover the distinct personality of each child, stimulate them and see to their needs without making compromises, and all the while not overlooking the older sibling.
In the first few months, taking care of an infant is a full-time job. Having twins requires even more energy, and is much like a vocation. I can say from experience that having twins is twice the amount of work of a single baby.
That is why I strong support the bill introduced by my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes. It is synonymous with social justice and equality for all parents. Why would we abandon parents of twins when we help all other parents?
The NDP believes that we must help Canadian families because our economy, our societal choices and our communities revolve around them. At a time when the birth rate in Canada is declining, anything we can do to help parents must be taken seriously. I will explain why this bill is a good opportunity to help parents.
We already have several programs in Canada to support families, but we can do better. The Canada Labour Code gives an employee a maximum of 35 weeks of leave. The Employment Insurance Act also gives 35 weeks of parental benefits. Is that really fair in the case of twins? A major difference, from my own experience, is that people generally need two incomes to survive in this economy. I know that with my three little ones, including a set of twins, I would have needed much more than 35 weeks at home.
Even with a single child, parental leave in Canada is not an extraordinary amount of leave compared to what you find elsewhere. In Canada, parents are entitled to 35 weeks of leave at 55% of their salary to a maximum of $485 a week. During that period at 55% of the salary, families are not living the high life. In Norway, parents get 44 weeks at full salary; in Germany, 47 weeks at full salary. In Sweden, parents are entitled to 47 weeks of leave at full salary or 69 weeks at 80% of their full salary. Sweden also gives an additional six months of leave for each additional child. Things are even better in France. Mothers are entitled to up to three years of leave. In addition to that, France also graciously provides a number of services, including subsidized daycare services and generous monthly allowances.
Those are some concrete measures for dealing with the declining birth rate. It is fair to say that Sweden and France encourage families. However, that is not the case in Canada, even less so when it comes to parents of twins. By all indications, Canada prefers to give tax exemptions to corporations rather than families. Bill C-464 is a step in the right direction if we want to remedy the situation.
My colleague is proposing that we amend the Canada Labour Code to increase parental leave to a maximum of 72 weeks. This would allow both parents to take adequate leave.
At a time when we are striving for equality in all aspects of society, the least we could do is allow each parent to have the same level of involvement at home.
My colleague is also proposing that we amend the Employment Insurance Act to extend the number of weeks of parental benefits to 70 in the case of multiple births. Parents of twins and triplets, just like all other parents, contribute to employment insurance and deserve to receive adequate benefits.
Not every member of this House shares the view that employment insurance belongs to those who contribute to it. I must remind members that employment insurance is a service paid into by workers, for workers. Why should parents of twins not get their fair share?
People may like to know that the amendments to EI and to the Canada Labour Code proposed in Bill C-464 would cost $40 million. That amount of money might shock some, but it is nothing compared to the dormant $526 billion sitting in the coffers of major Canadian corporations in the form of tax exemptions.
Rather than setting up programs that would really help Canadian families, the Conservatives prefer to give gifts to large corporations under the ideological premise that the money will be automatically reinvested. Yet, we know that it is not being reinvested. Large corporations are saying “Thank you and so long”.
Bill C-464 is therefore an opportunity to make amends to Canadians by showing them a little bit of respect. We have the duty to support the economy, and that can be done in several ways, including putting SMEs, new green technologies and research to good use. However, let us not make the mistake of abandoning families because, as I said before, our society revolves around them.
In closing, I would like to point out that multiple births are on the rise in Canada. In fact, their number has been steadily increasing over the past 30 years.
It is therefore high time that the House take responsibility and provide families with what they expect from us: policies that really help them in their daily lives.
I therefore urge hon. members to vote in favour of Bill C-464, which was introduced by my NDP colleague, because it is definitely a step in the right direction.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
March 8th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak about Bill C-464, introduced by our colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes. She is a very progressive MP who, unlike the Conservatives, thinks about the future. I can assure the people of Verchères—Les Patriotes that they are very well represented in the House of Commons.
I am not surprised that the Conservatives are not supporting this bill. I do not think anybody should be surprised. They used to be a progressive party, but they are a long way from being progressive right now. Of course, we costed this bill at $26 million. The Conservatives have costed it at $100 million, and we should not be surprised by that either. After all, their costing numbers have been out in space ever since they became government. We only have to look at the F-35s and the way they costed those. They are applying the same costing system to this bill. If anything, I would like to see this bill go to committee so that we can discuss it properly and the costing can be reviewed. If we do that, I am sure that we will see that $26 million is a proper cost.
It certainly is a pleasure for me to rise today, for personal reasons. We have multiple births in my family. We also have multiple births in my wife's family. I could have been a parent of twins. Unfortunately, because of unfortunate things that happened, we are not parents of twins, but that is history. The fortunate thing that happened because of that is that a couple of years later, I got to meet my daughter for the first time. Maybe, if I get lucky, she will present me with twins some day.
My mother-in-law is a twin, and as I said, my wife was pregnant with twins. My aunt also had twins, way back when. I can still remember the difficulty of raising twins back in those days. It is not easy today. It was not easy back then. However, we can help families with multiple births today by passing this bill or at least by sending it to committee.
On my wife's side of the family, my nephew and his wife gave birth to twins. I can remember that they were having difficulty with their twins. It is not easy raising one baby. Imagine raising two babies at once. My wife and their mother and mother-in-law and others went to help. It is very important that these parents of multiple births get help.
Would it not be nice if we were to amend the EI Act so that the father could take part in raising his kids, his twins for, I believe, 35 or 37 weeks? That would certainly make a big difference in the lives not only of the mother but of the babies. Hopefully we can send this bill to committee.
People at Multiple Births Canada had this to say about multiple births and this bill. They said that if this bill is passed or sent to committee, “parents will be able to provide their infants with better (quality and quantity) bonding time—with more weeks, with one primary caregiver or two parents at home, parents will have more opportunities to interact individually with their infants”.
I want to remind people in the House today and people who might be listening in that it is so important that both parents be involved in the first months of a child's life. It is doubly important in the case of twins.
The primary caregiver will be better equipped to handle physical and emotional stress.
I have two kids. It is physically challenging for a woman who has been through a difficult birth to take care of one baby, let alone two babies. This bill would certainly go a long way in supporting the parents.
Another thing this association says is that:
Parents can focus on their babies, not their financial challenges-- ...more financial resources to meet the increased cost of two or more babies, and more flexibility to work when it best meets their needs. Also, there will be less need to seek daycare for their infants, which is difficult to find for two or more babies at the same time and extremely expensive for twins or more.
Except for those who live in Quebec, where people are quite fortunate to have responsible daycare, it is very expensive to have one child in daycare. Let us imagine having two children in daycare at the same time. It becomes very expensive and is onerous on the parents.
In the past, governments have made changes to EI. They have adapted to certain situations for illness and different reasons, mortality for example. We are asking that the bill go to committee so we could look at making changes that would allow parents of multiple births or adoptions to be given more time to spend with their new children.
Raising one child is difficult and costly, but raising twins is double the cost and double the work. It is double everything. It would certainly be a blessing for these parents to get help from the government. I guess that is too much to ask from the Conservatives. They are not really interested in helping ordinary Canadians, let alone mothers who have multiple births.
I just want to read one more line from Multiple Births Canada:
Mothers will have better support after pregnancy complications--with more time, be it with one primary caregiver or two parents at home, mothers have more time to rest and recover while caring for their babies.
Sometimes pregnancies can be complicated, especially where twins are involved. It is rather difficult for a mother who has just given birth to recuperate from a difficult birth or pregnancy. This bill would address this, and it certainly would go a long way in helping mothers and fathers, but most of all it would help in the bonding between parents and new babies.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
March 8th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-464. The bill would amend the Employment Insurance Act to double the maximum number of weeks of parental benefits for new parents who are blessed with multiple children from a single pregnancy, or who adopt more than one child at the same time.
Our government supports all Canadian families, including multiple-birth families. However, our government cannot support the bill because it would contradict the intent of the Employment Insurance Act.
Please let me explain. EI is not a social welfare program where an individual's financial needs and personal circumstances are determinants in deciding whether or not he or she is eligible. EI is an insurance program. This means that eligibility criteria and entrance requirements apply to all claimants equally.
The Employment Insurance Act is very clear in terms of the treatment of multiple births for the purposes of receiving parental benefits. It states that the maximum number of weeks that could be paid in EI parental benefits as a result of a single pregnancy or adoption is 35 weeks. Parental benefits are intended to support parents in balancing demands of work and family by providing the flexibility they need to stay home and care for their newly born or newly adopted children.
The Employment Insurance Act provides flexibility, allowing moms and dads to share the weeks of benefits as they see fit. They can either be taken consecutively or concurrently, providing flexibility for those families. In addition to the 35 weeks, the mother is also entitled to 15 weeks of maternity benefits. The principle underlying maternity benefits is that the mother should be protected from an earnings loss caused by her physical inability to work or to seek work in the weeks surrounding the birth.
There is considerable evidence that shows that parental care in the first year of life is critical to parent-child bonding and to establishing a foundation for subsequent growth, development and learning. That is why our government provides a full year of EI maternity and parental benefits and requires only 600 hours to qualify for those benefits.
In Canada, access to EI maternity and parental benefits is high. Women continue to make up the vast majority, which was 86.5% of the claims in 2011. However, the number of claims for men is increasing, and this signals that more couples are sharing the benefits between men and women.
Canadian families are a priority for our government. We have done a lot recently to help families going through a difficult period. Our government is also supporting the parents of critically ill or injured children, by creating a new EI benefit of up to 35 weeks for those parents under the Helping Families in Need Act. We have also amended the Employment Insurance Act to facilitate access to sickness benefits for parents should they fall ill while receiving EI parental benefits.
We have also made amendments to the Canadian Labour Code, to ensure employees in federally regulated industries have job protection and are not penalized when they have to take time off work for the special circumstances that I previously mentioned. The Canada Labour Code covers about 128,000 workplaces and close to one million people across Canada. These people work in federally regulated industries, such as transportation, communications, banking and crown corporations.
Our government is helping Canadian families in other ways as well. We have introduced changes so that military personnel in Canada who must report for duty have improved access to parental benefits. Through the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, our government extended access to EI special benefits, including maternity and parental benefits, for self-employed people who opt in to the EI program. We have also provided greater flexibility under the EI program for parents who foster children and have committed to adopting them, through earlier access to parental benefits.
We believe that families are the bedrock of our society. That is why each year we spend billions of dollars in transfer payments to the provinces and territories to support early childhood development and child care. We also help Canadian families through direct spending and targeted tax relief. For example, the Canada child tax benefit, the working income tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement provide income to support low and middle-income families across this nation.
Our government will not waiver from its commitment to support the well-being of our country by investing in the bedrock, which is our families.
Canada's economic action plan has further strengthened the universal child care benefit to help 1.5 million families and more than 2 million young children every year. An estimated 22,000 families have been lifted out of poverty since this benefit was introduced. Working parents are important to our economy, so we have invested heavily in the creation of new spaces for child care.
As members can see, our government supports parents in many ways. Working parents are vital to a strong and prosperous economy. That is why we want to help them balance work with their family responsibilities and their family obligations. That being said, we will not change the fundamental nature of a national program such as EI that has already proven to be flexible and adaptable to parents' needs. Time and time again our government has demonstrated its commitment to helping families.
Our government has costed this bill at around $100 million a year, and that does not include the cost of administration of the bill. This would be in addition to the $8 billion a year cost to Canadian taxpayers that EI measures that the NDP would like to create, including a 360-hour work year. The result of implementing the NDP's EI agenda would see a 40% increase in EI premiums, which would be economically crippling to these people in fragile economic times.
While our support for families is clear, it is also clear that Canada cannot afford the risky financial plan of the NDP, the one it has for Canadian taxpayers. I would encourage all members of the House to vote against this legislation.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
March 8th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to wish everyone a happy International Women's Day. I would like to encourage all parliamentarians in the House to continue fighting for women's rights. We unfortunately have a Conservative government that views the struggle for women's rights as an advertising campaign, but we must nevertheless work together to take real action.
I am very pleased this afternoon to speak to the bill of my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes, which amends the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act to correct the injustice done to parents in the case of multiple births and adoptions. I want to thank her for her excellent work with families.
We have heard Conservative members say at length that parental leave can be improved in Canada. Before going any further, I would like to compare the parental leave offered in Canada with that offered in other jurisdictions elsewhere in the world.
In Canada, parents are entitled to 35 weeks at 65% of their salary, to a maximum of $501 a week. In Sweden, parents are entitled to 47 weeks at full salary or 69 weeks of leave at 80% of their salary. In Norway, parents are entitled to 44 weeks at full salary and those in Germany are entitled to 47 weeks at full salary. It is therefore entirely possible to improve this program, as my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes is trying to do.
The Canada Labour Code currently draws no distinction between cases involving single or multiple births or adoptions. Parental leave in both cases is 35 weeks. That leave may be taken entirely by a single parent or by both parents, simultaneously or consecutively. Parents of twins and triplets are doubly in need of a break.
The bill amends the Canada Labour Code to increase the amount of leave to a maximum of 72 weeks in cases of multiple births or adoptions. It also amends the Employment Insurance Act to increase the maximum number of weeks during which parental benefits may be paid in the case of multiple births or adoptions to 70.
While the birth of a child is a joyful occasion, it is important to recognize that parents of multiple births face increased physical, financial and psychosocial stresses. Having a child—especially in today's world, where both partners usually have to work and grandparents often live in another city—requires a lot of time and effort from parents. Of course, when it is a multiple birth or multiple adoption, parents' responsibilities increase exponentially.
It is unfortunate that the Canada Labour Code and the employment insurance system do not take this simple reality into account. I am sure everyone would agree that it takes more hands and more energy to care for two children than just one. There are two mouths to feed and twice as many diapers to change. There is twice as much care to give and, often, half as much sleep for parents.
It is important to also recognize that multiple births often lead to medical complications. In particular, twins are often born prematurely, and mothers who give birth to twins often have to stay longer in hospital in order to avoid fatigue and other health problems.
Like my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes, I believe it is important to provide the parents of multiple births with more support. They need to be given enough time to deal with the challenges associated with a multiple birth.
As we all know, it was a couple from Ottawa who ignited the spark that led to this bill. They have been fighting in the courts since 2009. Christian Martin and his wife, Paula Critchley, both applied for 35 weeks of parental leave, or 70 weeks in total, when their twin daughters, Lucie and Athena, were born in April 2009.
The couple argued that since parents of children born a year apart are entitled to two 35-week periods of parental leave, parents of twins should receive the same privileges.
In September 2009, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission agreed with them. Christian Martin was given 35 weeks of parental leave and his partner was also given 35 weeks—one parental leave per child. However, an umpire and a federal court judge overturned the decision because the Employment Insurance Act allows for 35 weeks of parental leave for care given to one or more children resulting from the same pregnancy.
Now Christian and Paula want to take their case to the Supreme Court. They feel that the Employment Insurance Act violates the right to equality set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We will see what will happen with this case, which is so important for families, but I think we could solve the problem right now by passing Bill C-464, which is before the House this afternoon.
It is even more important that we pass this bill because the number of multiple pregnancies is constantly climbing. In Canada, the explosion in the number of multiple births in the last 30 years is consistent with that found in the rest of the developed world. Between 1974 and 1990, birth of twins has risen 35% per 100,000 successful pregnancies. Over the same period, the incidence of triplets and higher order multiple births has increased over 250%. In Quebec in 1980, there was one twin birth for every 54 births. In 2010, that number has risen to one twin birth for every 33 births. The number of births from multiple pregnancies is going to rise even more because more people are using assisted reproductive technology.
I would also like to remind my colleagues that the cost of this bill is reasonable. The parliamentary officer recently reviewed his first estimate and determined that extending the parental benefits period under the employment insurance system would benefit 6,700 families a year, for an initial annual cost of approximately $40 million.
I was quite shocked to learn that the Conservatives are opposed to this bill when they claim to want to help families. The Conservatives like to boast about their measures that are supposed to help families, but in reality, they are abandoning many parents. For example, in 2007, they implemented a children's fitness tax credit. It certainly made for nice photo ops during the election campaign. However, what they did not say was that the tax credit mainly helped wealthy families who had enough money to register their children in organized activities. People had to spend $1,000 to get a $150 credit. Of course, I am not against encouraging young people to play sports. However, I would simply like to point out that the government is doing little bits here and there just to try to win votes and, if it would get its priorities straight, it would not have any difficulty finding the $40 million needed for this bill.
I would also like to remind hon. members that the Conservatives opposed another NDP bill that would have helped Canadian families by improving pregnant women's access to healthy and safe working environments. On May 9, 2012, they opposed Bill C-307, which was introduced by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. This bill proposed amending the Canada Labour Code in order to allow female workers to avail themselves of the provisions of provincial legislation regarding preventive withdrawal when those provisions are more beneficial. This is another example of the Conservatives betraying families.
In my opinion, Bill C-464 is a good investment because it allows parents to get back on their feet after a multiple pregnancy and ensures that the newborns get a good start in life by giving parents more time to look after them.
In closing, I would like to point out that my colleague's bill is supported by Multiple Births Canada, an organization that advocates for the equality of parents of multiples, and by many other organizations. I hope that the Conservatives will not miss this new opportunity to prove that they have not completely abandoned Quebec families and that, in the end, they will support this bill. This bill must be sent to committee so that we can hear from Canadian parents and the organizations that represent them.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
March 8th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to an important issue.
Employment insurance has been a great benefit to people who find themselves in difficult situations when they have to change occupations. Quite often they are not doing it on a voluntary basis but because of a shift in industry, a decrease in demand for a product that ultimately leads to layoffs and, in some situations, individuals being fired.
We need to reflect on what we are trying to achieve here today. We in the Liberal Party are open in principle to the idea of an extension of parental benefits. To that degree, we are prepared to allow the bill to go to committee and see what others have to say. We will listen and hopefully even improve the bill, or pass final judgment in third reading. However, at the very least, let us see it get out of second reading.
Employment insurance was created a number of years ago, back in the 1940s. Prior to that, the provinces were responsible for providing for the unemployed. In fact, it took a constitutional change, which ultimately empowered Ottawa. It was a Liberal administration back then that sought and was successful at getting the constitutional change necessary for Ottawa to establish a national unemployment program.
We did not stop there. Unemployment insurance provided some very basic dollar amounts, and it would have been basic at that time. Through the years there has been a great deal of consideration of how we could expand the program, dating all the way back to virtually when it was first brought into existence. Today we are talking about the potential of increasing parental benefits with Bill C-464, but it was about 40 years ago, back in the 1970s, when Pierre Trudeau actually brought in maternity benefits in recognition that there is value in providing employment insurance for individuals who have to leave the workforce to have a child. That was a fairly bold move back around 1970 or 1971.
There have been other areas where we have seen employment changes and enhancements. In the last federal election, I recall knocking on doors and talking with people on the issue of employment insurance, primarily because we in the Liberal Party were talking during the election about using employment insurance to provide for different types of care situations.
For example, quite often there is a need for direct care for a parent or close family member who is terminally ill. In situations like that, are there things we could do within the employment insurance programs to allow that to take place?
It is not strictly a cost, in the sense of money going out of the employment insurance program; it is about the quality of life. It is about allowing families to be together during difficult times. Quite often when we do something of that nature, we save at the other end, because then the need for other health care services is greatly diminished. Health care services are very expensive, especially for people who require home care services. Because no one in their immediate family is able to be with them in their homes, quite often they will end up in palliative care units in a hospital or long-term care facility, which is exceptionally expensive.
When we talk about how employment insurance can be utilized to compensate individuals who are not able to work for a good reason, we should, at the very least, be open to that idea.
The support the Liberal Party is providing on this bill by encouraging members to allow it to go to committee will ultimately allow a healthy discussion at the committee level. For example, to what degree can employment insurance be used as a tool to compensate individuals who have been in the workforce and for a good reason need to be taken out of the workforce for a relatively short period of time? I would welcome the opportunity to hear what other members have to say.
One of the speakers on the bill indicated that we should try to narrow it so that it would apply strictly to people who find themselves unemployed because they have been fired or laid off. Maybe that is all that speaker feels anyone should be entitled to.
I would have to disagree. I believe that in a number of situations within our community or within our workforce, we should be open to allowing an individual to stay home from work for a short period of time and not have to fear not having the income necessary to sustain himself or herself in the short term. The best way to achieve that is through the employment insurance program.
No political party owns all the good ideas out there, but I would suggest that if we allow it to go to committee, we might hear what different stakeholders believe on this issue of the extension of parental benefits. There could be other things that would come out of it. That is the reason I think it would be of great benefit to allow the bill to get to committee stage.
As I indicated to the constituents I represent, I believe in social programs that are effective in improving the life standard of all Canadians. The employment insurance program has a critical role going forward, as it has in the past, but we should be looking for creative ideas going forward to enable people to be off work and not have to worry about their household income. That is the reason we should be looking at it.
Michael Ignatieff, the former leader of the Liberal Party, talked in a very passionate way about caring for family members. I believe the idea of allowing individuals the opportunity to be with close family members was very well received by most Canadians.
The other issue is in regard to the number of hours one has to put in to qualify. In 2000, the Liberal government increased parental benefits to 35 weeks from 10 weeks and reduced the hours of eligibility from 700 to 600, allowing more parents to spend more time caring for their children without having to worry about the loss of income from not being employed.
The bottom line is this: let us see the bill go to committee. Let us allow for presentations on the idea of how parental benefits could be further enhanced. If it makes sense in the committee, I suspect we will have a better chance of getting support at third reading.
Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business
March 8th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON
Mr. Speaker, I would like to review the reasons we cannot vote in favour of Bill C-464 on this side of the House. Quite simply, the bill from the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes bill goes against the spirit of the Employment Insurance Act.
EI parental benefits provide eligible parents with a maximum of 35 weeks of parental benefits to care for their child, regardless of the number of children that resulted from a pregnancy or adoption. This is because it is the lost earnings the individuals are insuring, not their social or financial circumstance. This is fundamental to the concept of employment insurance.
If parents decide to share the benefit between themselves, it can be split so that the benefit can be received either simultaneously or concurrently. The private member's bill proposes to double the number of weeks parents are eligible for parental benefits from 35 to 70 weeks in the case of multiple births or adoptions. It would also allow one of the parents to collect the entire 70 weeks of benefits if he or she so desires.
We recognize the hon. member's good intentions. However, EI is an insurance program. It is not a social welfare program whereby the financial needs and the circumstances of the individual are considered in determining the eligibility, entitlement and rate of weekly benefits.
I know this seems a bit confusing to the members opposite, so let me explain what I mean. If we look at the other benefits, we see that the requirements are universal for an event. Sickness benefits do not change upon the illness an individual has. Compassionate care benefits, again, do not change depending on the type of illness that has put a family member at risk of dying. This is because the benefit is based on a category of life events that earnings are insured for.
The legislation is clear. The EI parental benefit is not tied to the number of children born or adopted at any one time. Doubling the number of weeks during which parents are eligible to receive these benefits would go against the very essence of the EI program, making it more similar in concept to a social welfare program.
Our government knows the importance of family. That is why this government is providing families with fair and adequate assistance through the EI program as well as through several other measures. These measures include the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit supplement, and the universal child care benefit. We have also delivered on our commitment to provide income support to Canadian families through the Helping Families in Need Act.
We agree that families are the bedrock of our society and that parents need adequate assistance to provide adequate care to their children during the formative years. This government, more than any other previous government, understands the importance of families. However, the bill would not be financially responsible at this time, and it would undermine the insurance-based principle of the EI system.
It was estimated by the member of Parliament for Verchères—Les Patriotes that the extension of the parental benefits proposed by Bill C-464 would cost $27 million. However, the government estimated that the cost would be closer to $100 million in program costs alone, not including the administrative costs.
So far we have seen the NDP propose almost $8 billion a year in new EI spending. That is per year. This is $8 billion that would need to be contributed by workers and employers through increased premiums to pay for these benefits.
I would encourage all members of the House to join me in voting against this legislation.