Evidence of meeting #64 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was csis.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Talk one at a time.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

It's a simple question: the number of weeks per year.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Okay, let's let the witness answer the question.

5:40 p.m.

Chief Economist, Canadian Labour Congress

Andrew Jackson

We accept the status quo: that workers should not be eligible for EI unless they have lost a job through no fault of their own. They have to be laid off by an employer. The vast majority of unemployed workers, given those circumstances, will seek another job. As you've suggested, huge numbers of workers from rural Atlantic Canada, the high unemployment regions, have moved west in search of—

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

A welder in most parts of the country makes $30,000 to $40,000 a year. In Fort McMurray, they're making $150,000 to $180,000 a year. That's because there are not enough of them there. What I'm suggesting is, clearly the jobs are there. They're all over Alberta, they're all over Saskatchewan.

So, for a person coming to western Canada from Quebec or from the Maritimes or Newfoundland and Labrador, what is a reasonable expectation for the government to have of them to work? How many weeks do they need to work per year to collect unemployment insurance for the rest of the year?

5:45 p.m.

Chief Economist, Canadian Labour Congress

Andrew Jackson

I think the great majority of unemployed workers would like to work 52 weeks a year like full-time, permanent workers. It's not a matter of the government saying—

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

The jobs are there for 52 weeks a year; I promise you they are. I've been there my whole life. I can promise you they are there.

Can you answer the question? You can avoid it if you want. Just tell me you don't want to answer the question. What do you think is reasonable? You're opposed to our changes, so what do you think is reasonable? The jobs are there.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Okay, Mr. Jean, let's let him answer. We have to give him an opportunity to answer the question.

Mr. Jackson, we'll give you the opportunity to answer.

5:45 p.m.

Chief Economist, Canadian Labour Congress

Andrew Jackson

I think we're talking past each other. I mean, under the current system, whether you're eligible for EI is going to depend on the local unemployment rate. If you're working in Fort McMurray and are laid off from your job, you have a much shorter eligibility for EI than if you were working in Corner Brook.

I would frankly dispute your assertion that there are workers who go to EI, who collude with employers to have themselves laid off so that they can go back to Atlantic Canada. Typically people work very long shifts. When they fly in, they go back home for the off-shift, but—

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

They work very hard. They pay the taxes for the EI benefits—some people do, and a lot of my people do, and they support me in my position with the government in relation to Bill C-38 and the changes we're making. A lot of people do. In fact, I haven't found anybody who doesn't who works in Fort McMurray.

What I'm asking is how many weeks do you think it is reasonable to put in per year?

And Mr. Céré, you've avoided the question. So Mr. Céré, do you have any comments?

5:45 p.m.

Spokesperson, Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses

Pierre Céré

I certainly do have some comments. Sir, the bill in no way changes the eligibility requirements or the benefit period. That is not the issue. Once people are receiving employment insurance, three classes of claimants are being created and they do not have the same rights and requirements. The ones called frequent claimants are seasonal workers and they are in eastern Canada. This is a declaration of war on eastern Canada.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Do you have an answer to the question?

5:45 p.m.

Spokesperson, Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses

Pierre Céré

Let me give you an example. Not so long ago in a region of Quebec called Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the unemployment rate was about 13% or 14%. Today in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, where there is a lot of seasonal activity, the unemployment rate is 6%, not far off full employment. What does that mean? Does it mean that jobs were created so that people can work, or does it mean that they are less lazy now? Go and ask the people there and listen carefully to the answer.

People want to work, sir.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

I'll just mention the following. I know that members have a short time, but I'd encourage colleagues to pose a question and let a witness answer. And let's allow enough time for the witness to answer within the five-minute time period.

Ms. Blanchette-Lamothe, you have five minutes.

May 29th, 2012 / 5:45 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Thank you.

My questions are specifically about the Old Age Security program.

Mr. Jackson, what do you think about the changes to the Old Age Security program? What consequences will they have? Who will suffer most from the changes, in your opinion? As you mentioned, some people will be able to adapt to the changes more easily than others. In your opinion, which segments of society will not be able to adapt to the changes and will become poorer?