Evidence of meeting #70 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was chair.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Gordon Boissonneault  Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Sue Foster  Acting Director General, Policy, Appeals and Quality, Service Canada
  • Margaret Strysio  Director, Strategic Planning and Reporting, Parks Canada Agency
  • Stephen Bolton  Director, Border Law Enforcement Strategies Division, Public Safety Canada
  • Michael Zigayer  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
  • Garry Jay  Chief Superintendent, Acting Director General, HR Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Jeff Hutcheson  Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Darryl Hirsch  Senior Policy Analyst, Intelligence Policy and Coordination, Department of Public Safety
  • Ian Wright  Executive Advisor, Financial Markets Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Nigel Harrison  Manager, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Lee  Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health
  • Anthony Giles  Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Bruno Rodrigue  Chief, Income Security, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Gerard Peets  Senior Director, Strategy and Planning Directorate, Department of Industry
  • Suzanne Brisebois  Director General, Policy and Operations, Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada
  • Louise Laflamme  Chief, Marine Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Transport
  • Judith Buchanan  Acting Senior Manager, Labour Standards Operations, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
  • Mark Hodgson  Senior Policy Analyst, Labour Markets, Employment and Learning, Department of Finance
  • Stephen Johnson  Director General, Evaluation Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • James McNamee  Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Graham Barr  Director General, Transition Planning and Coordination, Shared Services Canada

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

All those in favour of amendment Liberal-3?

(Amendment negatived)

(Clause 214 agreed to on division)

(On clause 215)

I will ask you to move amendment Liberal-4, Mr. Brison.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Chair, I move amendment Liberal-4.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

All those in favour of amendment Liberal-4?

(Amendment negatived)

(Clause 215 agreed to on division)

(On clause 216)

Mr. Brison, you can now move amendment Liberal-5.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Chair, I move amendment Liberal-5.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

All those in favour of amendment Liberal-5?

(Amendment negatived)

(Clauses 216 and 217 agreed to on division)

Thank you.

We shall move, then, to division 5, clauses 218 to 222.

Colleagues, I have no amendments for these clauses. Is there discussion on division 5?

I see no discussion on division 5.

(Clauses 218 to 222 inclusive agreed to on division)

We shall move, then, to division 6. I have one amendment for division 6.

Division 6 deals with the social security tribunal and service delivery in clauses 223 to 281.

I'll have discussion.

Mr. Caron, please.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Thank you very much.

Should I move the amendment first?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Just because of the way we're proceeding, because we have so many clauses, I think we'd prefer it if we could have a general discussion, and then if you could move the amendment later.... Is that okay?

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

That's fine.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Okay.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

We find division 6 of part 4, clauses 223 to 281, problematic for a number of reasons.

There are currently four tribunals or boards of referees that respectively deal with employment insurance, old age security and the Canada pension plan, and the fourth is an appeal tribunal. Those four tribunals will be replaced by one mega-tribunal, the Social Security Tribunal. That is problematic in a number of ways. Let us note that, last year, there were more than 27,000 appeals for employment insurance and some 4,500 appeals for the Canada pension plan and old age security. So that's over 31,000 appeals overall.

Right now, 1,000 part-time members are on these various tribunals, 900 of which deal with employment insurance. In addition, there is already a backlog of 80,000 employment insurance claims in Quebec alone. And it does not seem to be going down, on the contrary. The current administrative challenges suggest that those tribunals will be in demand.

It is important to know that three people are currently on the employment insurance tribunals or boards of referees: one person appointed by management, one by the union and one by the government. Of all the tribunals or boards of referees that are being eliminated, I am most familiar with those dealing with employment insurance. The proximity of these tribunals is very important. For example, there is a tribunal in Rimouski that handles cases from across the Lower St. Lawrence region. People can come from La Mitis, Haute-Gaspésie, western Lower St. Lawrence region, including Témiscouata or Les Basques, and they will find a tribunal that understands their concerns and realities.

There is a lot of discussion about the reform recently introduced by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, which we also find problematic. This reform will largely affect seasonal workers. The tribunals or boards of referees in areas like the Lower St. Lawrence region fully understand that reality. If we eliminate the structure of boards of referees or that of the tribunals for old age security and the Canada pension plan—which obviously does not affect Quebec as much—we run the risk of undermining the full understanding of regional realities, which these boards of referees could claim to have.

There will be a shift from 1,000 part-time members who sit on tribunals or boards of referees two or three times a week to only 74 full-time members. They will work full time, but their roles will be divided as of now, if we pass this amendment. They will have to decide on files dealing with employment insurance, old age security and the Canada pension plan, all at once. We will have full-time members, but they will not necessarily be able to absorb all the ramifications that are specific to the various issues handled by those tribunals.

I have talked to people, some of whom work in the administration of employment insurance, some on the union side and some on the management side, and they have some major concerns about that. Division 6, which has to do with the Social Security Tribunal, probably demonstrates best why this bill is problematic in its scope. We are talking about a major change, a major reform to a structure that has been around for decades, and we have barely had the time to address it, given that there are 753 clauses to go over. Some people have presented their technical expertise for about 10 to 15 minutes and they answered our questions about the technical aspects. But, since our time for the witnesses was limited, we were not able to get to the bottom of things.

As I said, that is a major reform of something crucial to the way social programs are run in this country. This issue should have been referred for further study to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. We are going to talk about it for a few minutes and that will be it. This will be passed with the entire Bill C-38, based on a single yes or no vote.

We honestly cannot vote in favour of those 58 clauses or so that have been presented to us, simply because we don't have any reliable indication of their potential impact. We have had very little data about how effective a tribunal like that can be, and how it would adequately address issues such as regional diversity, which are key to the success of programs, and of the tribunals and boards of referees that will deal with those issues. As a result, we would not be able to support an amendment like that in any way whatsoever. But we are still going to try to amend it so as to improve this bill, hoping that our friends in the government will give our amendment due consideration.

Unfortunately, I only have the English text.

I move that Bill C-38, in clause 224, be amended by adding after line 43 on page 201 the following....

I'll wait until after.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Mr. Caron, we're going to have a general discussion, and then we're going to vote on clause 223. Then we'll move to clause 224, and I'll ask you to move it.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Great.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

That's how I'll proceed.

I have the speaking list. I have Ms. Nash, Mr. Brison, Mr. Hoback, and Mr. Marston.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I guess I start from the question “if it ain't broke why fix it?”

4:35 p.m.

An hon. member

It's broke.