House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised at the member's remark. She talked about throwing some fat on the fire. In my opinion the member jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

I was hoping the member for Mercier would talk about her amendments instead of giving the usual rhetoric we heard from the Bloc Quebec during the full course of the committee hearings and debate.

The member did not talk about her amendment. Maybe there is a reason for that. I would be embarrassed to talk about the amendment proposed in this section if I were her as well.

I want to deal directly with that amendment. I want to address a couple of points the hon. member talked about. She quoted the letter from the Prime Minister of March 26, 1993, that "the Liberal Party of Canada shares your concern".

The Prime Minister and this party do share the concerns. This is not the same old bill the Tories of the past brought in. The member is trying to mix apples and oranges.

This bill is a major restructuring of UI to EI. It moves away from the kind of tactics of the past, a little patch here and a little patch there, in which we would raise premiums one time, shorten weeks another and move to some other provisions that usually ended up hurting workers.

This is a major restructuring of the bill. It tries to bring better balance to the bill and maintain the insurance concepts. It tries to address the problems of those in low income areas, maintaining and targeting areas where there are seasonal industries so the program is there for not only employees but employers. It tries to

maintain the economic restructuring that comes about as a result of EI as well.

The member knows but does not want to admit this party and the committee, of which she was a member, went out and talked to people. The member from Carleton-Charlotte talked earlier about some of the provisions in the bill and some of the amendments Liberal members made to the bill which will improve it in terms of addressing the needs of regions and of workers.

The members also should recognize this party and committee members in committee listened constructively to what Bloc members had to say. If they recall correctly we even adopted an amendment. It was the only one which you brought forward that seemed reasonable to us. You could have been more constructive in bringing forward amendments. However, you cannot deny that we adopted it.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would remind the hon. member that he has to put his remarks through the Chair. "You" has to refer to the Speaker.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, my apologies. I was just trying to convince the member opposite that if she had been more constructive we might have been able to adopt more of her amendments. The kind of amendment that came forward from the hon. member for Mercier on this point, to us, did not make sense.

The bill maintains the insurance features. It finds a better balance. It targets better low income. It brings more people in. It gets rid of the 15-hour job trap. With the amendments that have been put forward by several government members, the bill has been substantially improved. That is progress. That is what democratic debate is all about.

Let me speak directly to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Mercier. It is an amendment which the member must be embarrassed to talk about because she did not address it in her remarks.

The part of the motion that removes section 5 removes the whole financial footing on which coverage under the unemployment insurance program is based. The removed section defines the jobs on which premiums are to be paid and establishes that the coverage is for those who work as employees and thus cannot control their unemployment. I might remind the hon. member for Mercier that the removal of all penalties for quitting would require that every claimant be paid benefits even if the claimant deliberately caused his or her own unemployment by quitting to go skiing or by stealing from an employer and being fired.

The motion ignores the basic premise that unemployment insurance is to provide income support to those who are involuntarily unemployed. It is entirely against the insurance principle that benefit should be denied to an insured person who voluntarily causes the loss against which they are insured.

The motion of the hon. member for Mercier is equivalent to paying fire insurance to the person who burned down his or her own house. That is ridiculous. Maybe that is why she was so embarrassed to talk about her amendment. Facts speak for themselves and that is the fact.

The motion goes further than reversing the C-113 provisions for an indefinite denial of benefits for voluntarily quitting, it also will prevent any temporary disqualifications of seven to 12 weeks, as existed before 1993.

I was told, on investigation, that before the changes were made that those who quit their jobs without just cause were taking over $1 billion out of the fund each year. I would like the hon. member for Mercier to try to justify taking $1 billion out of the system for those who abuse the system and cause their own problems.

Simply put, if the government adopted the motion, persons who quit their jobs without just cause or who were fired for misconduct would not be subject to any penalty whatsoever. This kind of irresponsible motion will fail to score any points with Canadians, including hardworking Quebecers.

As I said earlier, when we get reasonable motions that make sense, such as the one which came forward at committee, government members are willing to consider them and, in fact, adopt them which we did.

This motion is so absurd that it flies in the face of the common sense provisions that have been part of the unemployment insurance program since it began 55 years ago. If the government adopted the motion, Canada would be one of the few countries, if not the only one, that allows people to quit their jobs and receive insurance benefits with impunity. Perhaps that is what the hon. member wants, or perhaps it was just thrown in for the sake of moving an amendment without giving it reasonable thought.

The current UI program and the new employment insurance program are designed to help workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. That is why it is called insurance. As an employer, I see it as an extremely important program which makes it possible, in the industries and the region I am in, to ensure that we have skilled workers available for the busy season. It is a program that benefits not only employees but employers, and I certainly want to admit that.

If workers choose to quit their jobs or are fired for misconduct, there is no way that they should expect to collect benefits. The amendment proposed by the member for Mercier would allow that to happen.

I have given their amendments serious thought but I have no choice because of the lack of thought given to this one than to say nay to that amendment. Maybe we will come to some others later that will make more sense, but certainly that one does not.

I expect that is the real reason why the member for Mercier did not speak about the amendment that the member proposed. Instead she talked rhetoric, of things in the past. Again that rhetoric does not apply.

What the member needs to admit is that this bill is a major restructuring and improvement of the situation for employees and employers right across the land. As the evidence becomes clear I am sure that eventually the member will want to admit that.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a number of occasions since the beginning of this debate, I have had the opportunity to speak after the hon. member for Malpeque when he had the chance or misfortune of speaking after the hon. member for Mercier. I listened to what he had to say.

I believe the member for Malpeque has a reading and concentration problem. It is truly incredible to hear him say that what the member for Mercier proposes will be terrible, that it will take us back to the previously existing situation, when we were losing a billion dollars because people voluntarily quit their jobs.

The member has a right to say what he thinks, but if he had listened carefully, if he had concentrated all his attention to the debate instead of being distracted by his parliamentary secretary, perhaps he would have understood that the member for Mercier was essentially stressing the fact that, in the March 26 letter he wrote at the time, his leader, the current Prime Minister, voiced his outrage at the Conservative government's plan to recognize fewer valid reasons for voluntarily leaving a job, including sexual harassment and harassment or abuse at any management level.

The member forgot about that, saying-and this is what is so incredible-that these are words and things of the past. The member is effectively telling his leader that the kind of commitment he made on March 26, 1993 is a thing of the past, that it is not proper. I hope the Prime Minister is listening and will remember the comments of the member for Malpeque.

This is incredible. We are essentially repeating today the views expressed by the current Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition. Now, a member of his party is telling him that these views do not make sense, that Canadians would not accept them. But the Prime Minister was elected to this House on the basis of his views, as were the other members here, including the member for Malpeque. It is difficult to believe what we hear these days, given what happened with the GST. The Prime Minister keeps referring to his red book, but he has a tendency to not recognize comments he made in the past, such as when he talked about scrapping the GST.

However, in this case, he cannot claim not to have made these comments about UI reform. They are in a letter bearing his signature. I have a copy of it, and I could table it if the House gave its consent. But I am sure that it is not necessary. The Prime Minister surely remembers this letter, which he wrote when he was Leader of the Opposition.

In the same vein, the hon. member for Malpeque adds that opposition members only propose negative things. They have a negative point of view. Let me remind the member of a small paragraph in a letter written by the current Prime Minister:

I can assure you that the Liberal Party shares your concern regarding this attack against the unemployed. We do not believe either that the recent superficial amendments will change the fundamentally unfair nature of these measures-

Unfair. These measures were unfair three years ago, but they have now become fair. This is a simple reminder to the member for Malpeque.

The most recent figures on unemployment, which were released this morning, tell us that the unemployment rate has gone up in Canada, including in Quebec. The national rate is currently 9.4 per cent, compared to 9.3 per cent last month. In Quebec, the rate went from 10.9 per cent last month to 11.1 per cent now. Unemployment is on the rise.

And if unemployment is on the rise, it means there will be more jobless and more unemployment insurance claims. But what does the government want to do? It wants to reduce unemployment insurance benefits. Is this a satisfactory solution? It makes no sense at all. They should in fact be increased, accessibility improved.

In her amendment, the member for Mercier proposes to go back to an earlier system predating even the Conservative proposal, because the Liberals did not think it was fair at the time. It is normal to ask for something. As things stand now, with the system changing from weeks to hours, people will be forced to hold down more than one job in order to reach the required number of hours. They will have two part time jobs. We will then see impossible situations where an employee with two part time jobs will be told by one of his employers: "I would like you to work a few more hours for me. I need you". If he agrees, he loses the other job. It becomes a voluntary separation. Consequently his future rights to benefits will suffer.

Does the member find this normal? When we told him this in committee, I recall that he shook his head. We raised another objection. Someone receiving benefits and subsequently incarcerated, for one reason or another that is not important, obviously loses his benefits while he is in jail. But when he gets out of jail, his rights have not suffered, because he picks up where he left off and is entitled to receive UI benefits, unlike the fellow who left one of his two McJobs. Is that fair?

I appeal to hon. members across the way. Is that fair? That someone just out of jail has more rights than someone forced to leave a job by one of his two employers. The member for Malpeque is not reading the amendments or his bill properly.

That is why we would have liked more time. I am certain the majority of the members opposite have not read all 190 clauses in this bill. If they were to read them carefully, they would be against them, as we are. I invite them to reread the Prime Minister's letter of March 26, 1993. Then they would understand.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being approximately eleven o'clock, we will now have Statements by Members.

National Forest Week
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, during National Forest Week I would like to highlight the new science and technology network that the Canadian Forest Service has adopted.

As many research organizations know, good research needs more than good science. It needs strategic alliances and partnerships. The Canadian Forest Service is committed to creating mutually beneficial relationships around policy issues and research priorities.

This collaboration maximizes the use of scarce resources, bolsters research efforts and maintains Canada's reputation as a world leader in sustainable forest management.

During National Forest Week I would like to recognize the town of Swan River in my riding of Dauphin-Swan River for having been chosen the forest capital of Canada for 1998. Congratulations Swan River.

National Forest Week
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are now midway through National Forest Week, an event that has been celebrated for the past 70 years.

For Canadians and Quebecers, forests represent both a natural resource and a treasure which has had much to do with shaping our lifestyle, our history and our traditions.

How could it not, when forests cover half of Canada's area, providing 340,000 direct jobs and $19 billion of our gross domestic product? The economy and the life of Matapédia is centred on its forests, which provide a living to hundreds of families.

National Forest Week reminds us that we are responsible for this precious resource, and that we must make sure it stays healthy, drawing upon it reasonably so that it will be there for our children.

Composting Week
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, "Compost: For the Love of the Earth" is the theme of this year's national awareness composting week.

During this week, May 6 to 12, the Composting Council of Canada supports activities in communities, schools and workplaces across Canada to celebrate the many benefits and uses of compost.

Compost, familiar to gardeners as a valuable soil amendment, is also being used to assist in erosion control along roadsides and in strip mine reclamation.

Here at the House of Commons an ambitious composting initiative is one of the many successes of the greening the Hill program. Since 1991 Food Services, in partnership with the Office of the Environment, has diverted more than 80 tonnes of organic waste from landfill. Currently all organic waste, including starch, dairy and meat products, is sent to a state of the art vessel composter located at national defence headquarters.

I encourage all Canadians to get involved in composting.

Schep Family
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the accomplishments of the Schep family in my riding are quite remarkable. The Schep's Thunder Bay Oak Cheese Farm utilizes the cheese making skills the family learned in its native Holland to operate Ontario's first and only Gouda cheese on-farm operation.

Mrs. Schep comes from a long line of cheese makers near the city of Gouda, Holland. Her parents still make cheese. Since the Scheps moved to Canada in 1981 to take over a large dairy operation they have been making the occasional Gouda cheese. What was originally a hobby has become a full time operation.

This is yet more evidence of hard working immigrants coming to Canada and contributing to our economic growth. I am proud of the government's positive immigration policies and especially proud of the accomplishments of the Schep family.

The Senate
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, spending in the other place appears to be out of control. To illustrate, the Senate spent more than $206,000 on a committee on euthanasia to produce a report that has been shelved. In addition, its Pearson airport committee ran up a bill of over $210,000.

The Senate has an annual budget of over $40 million. Now, with no explanation, it wants another $4 million tax dollars to top up its budget.

My motion, passed by the Standing Committee on Government Operations, will request the Senate's board of internal economy to appear before the committee to account for its expenses.

As with all public institutions, the Senate must and will be held accountable to taxpayers.

Youth Canada Day
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Harold Culbert Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, last Friday more than 700 students, teachers and administrative staff of St. Stephen High School in New Brunswick celebrated Youth Canada Day.

With their theme of national unity, these students, led by their student body representatives Heather Estey and Rob Driscoll, held a truly Canadian assembly marked by the harmony of our national anthem, Canadian declarations and the many Canadian flags lining the halls of this school.

With our very large and diverse country, it is heart warming to see today's youth lead the way toward true Canadian unity, representing diversity and truly demonstrating what it means to be Canadian.

Congratulations to St. Stephen High School students and staff. They are truly leading the way for all Canadians. I am proud of their incentives and achievements in this area.

Assisted Suicide
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Daviault Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week we grieve the passing of Austin Bastable, a Canadian who had two terrible battles to endure in recent months. His first battle, a hopeless one, was against the disease which finally led to his decision to choose death in order to put an end to his suffering.

His second battle was against the government's lack of action to recognize people's right to die in peace and dignity at the time of their choosing. Unfortunately for him, and for all Canadians and Quebecers facing horrible deaths, his government did not heed him, nor would it even listen to what he had to say.

This Canadian had to seek self-imposed exile in the U.S. in order to get the qualified medical assistance he needed to end his life. Mr. Bastable himself said, only a little while before his death:

"If it had been left to the Canadian government I would have suffered for much longer, perhaps indefinitely".

The debate on this question so often promised by the government must take place.

Gavin Maxwell
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville—Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I congratulate Gavin Maxwell of Oakville who last Saturday won the single man canoe race at the hemispheric qualifier in Gainsville, Georgia.

This convincing victory guarantees Gavin a trip to the Olympic Games in Atlanta this summer. The win was especially satisfying because two of the paddlers in the field, the American and the Mexican, had defeated him last fall at a pre-Olympic regatta.

Gavin Maxwell is a fine young man who not only excels in athletics but is an outstanding example to the youth of our country. His hard work and integrity have made him a model ambassador for sport and for Canada.

I know the people of my riding of Oakville-Milton are extremely proud of Gavin and will be cheering him on this summer in Atlanta.

Land Mines
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, more than 25,000 people worldwide are killed by land mines every year, and thousands more are injured.

On Wednesday the Minister of Foreign Affairs said Canada is one of the few countries that have banned outright the use of anti-personnel land mines. This is simply not true.

Earlier this year Canada declared a moratorium on the production, export and use of land mines. However, a moratorium is not a

ban. Although it is good, we need Canada to take the lead by domestically banning the production, use and sale of these heinous silent killers.

The minister was incorrect in his statement this week. Canada has long been one of leading voices in calling for a total ban. It is now the topic of discussion for a proposal which would establish a land mine free zone in the Americas, which Canada supports.

It is time now for Canada to show bold leadership and send a clear signal to the international community by declaring a domestic ban on the import, use and production of land mines.

Jeux De La Francophonie
Statements By Members

May 10th, 1996 / 11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier this morning the cities of Ottawa and Hull, the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton and the communauté urbaine de l'Outaouais announced the signing of an agreement of understanding to establish a partnership so Ottawa-Carleton and the Outaouais could bid on the 2001 Jeux de la Francophonie.

There are two parts to these games, which have been held every four years since 1987: the sporting competitions and the cultural competitions. The games also include competitions for young people with a handicap.

The host country welcomes some 2,700 athletes and artists from 49 participating countries for a two-week period. The economic benefits of these games are readily apparent.

I wish every success to those who proposed this initiative and I can assure them of my solid support in the effort to obtain the Jeux de la Francophonie.