House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Reform

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join in the debate on Motion No. 222 which reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take immediate action to restore employment insurance benefits to seasonal workers.

I note that there has been an amendment by the Liberal member for Miramichi and a further subamendment by the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton.

In beginning my participation in the debate, I wish to assure hon. members present that although seasonal workers are often referred to in speeches on the east coast, I am very familiar with the impact of seasonal employment. My own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has its share of seasonal workers. These workers are primarily found in three different occupations: fishing, tourism and, although members may not believe it, in forestry today.

As we all know, the fishing industry has been particularly hard hit on both the east and west coasts. Declining fish stocks brought about by poor management, changing water temperatures, cyclical changes and other factors all resulted in a loss of jobs for fishermen and the support industries.

The forest industry actually is no different. Due to the poorly drafted softwood lumber agreement, the crash in the Japanese economy, the glut of newsprint on the worldwide market and the slowdown in the number of housing starts all across Canada, many forestry workers are faced with seasonal work rather than the level of full time employment that they once enjoyed.

Tourism is fast becoming the number one source of new jobs in Canada today. Indeed, tourism is truly seasonal employment. Many cities and towns are doing what they can to build upon and expand the resources that they have in their communities, all in an effort to draw tourists.

I have previously spoken in the House about my own home town of Chemainus, the little town that did, and the enormous number of tourists that arrive every year between May and October, about 400,000 of them. The Nanaimo Dive Association is about to sink a second artificial reef just outside the harbour. Why would they do that, one may ask. It is simply because the first artificial reef has attracted thousands of divers every year since it was sunk.

Why do I talk about these three industries today? I know that seasonal workers are found in each one of these industries. I also know that each one of our ridings has its share of seasonal workers. Whether they dig potatoes in the Fraser Valley, pick peaches in the Okanagan Valley, custom seed or combine across the Prairies, work in summer camps or vacation lodges in Ontario and Quebec or are part of the tourism trade in the maritimes, each one of our ridings is certainly affected by seasonal workers. This is a very real problem and one that each of us should take very seriously.

We may have different solutions however. Most of us can agree that there are problems within the system. It appears to me that one of the problem areas is the so-called intensity rule. As hon. members will know, the intensity rule was introduced in the 1995 Employment Insurance Act and distinguishes between frequent and infrequent recipients of EI benefits. Those who are frequent users of EI have their benefits reduced. While the intention appears to have been to discourage the frequent use of EI, I do not believe that the intensity rule has really worked in this manner. On this issue I do agree with the government amendment that there is a need to review employment insurance benefits for seasonal workers.

Unfortunately the limits of time in this debate are not sufficient to adequately address nor seek solutions to the problems that are part of the 1995 Employment Insurance Act. Systemic problems require more than a cursory debate in order to be resolved. While I see a need to review and address the problems within the EI system, I believe that the wording of the original motion will not solve any of the real problems. Rather, it will perpetuate them.

In resolving the inadequacies of the EI system there are a multitude of issues that must be researched and resolved, issues such as how businesses are using or abusing the EI system, the rates of benefits for frequent and infrequent users, as well as the premiums for businesses that are frequent and infrequent employers of seasonal workers.

I note that the 1998 EI monitoring and assessment report produced by the Department of Human Resources Development acknowledges that communities with high levels of seasonal employment were more likely to have industries that showed declining benefit levels. The concern I have regarding this is that the data used in writing the report would appear to have been gathered in the time immediately following the implementation of the revised 1995 EI act. I would question what has changed since that time. Is the data all relevant? Do the assumptions and conclusions in that report remain true today?

The government clearly hoped that with the implementation of the intensity rule the workers would have an incentive to move out of seasonal industries and regions. I question whether the rationale of seasonal workers receiving lower benefits has moved anyone out of seasonal work altogether. While some may have moved out of seasonal work, no doubt there are others who have moved in simply to take their place.

Why has the implementation of the intensity rule not changed the number of seasonal workers? Simply put, most seasonal workers state that they have few employment options outside their current seasonal jobs. According to the 1998 monitoring report, the intensity rule did not appear to be an incentive to look for non-seasonal work.

As part of an intensive review of EI legislation we must begin by looking at what was the original intent of employment insurance. If employment insurance was intended to protect workers against the risk of temporary, involuntary unemployment, we must ask ourselves whether the program is working. If it is not working, what are the options to fix the system? Should companies that hire primarily seasonal workers be assessed higher premiums? Does this place an unfair burden on some businesses but not on others?

With regard to seasonal workers, is it not a matter of risk that they will be unemployed? They already know that when they begin. Seasonal work clearly has different factors affecting it than full time work. Some of those factors may be due to the size of the crop or the length of the season.

Let us be clear in this debate. I believe that Motion No. 222, as originally struck, may prove to stifle any efforts to find real solutions in the debate over seasonal EI recipients.

There are markets that are and will remain seasonal and they should not be unduly penalized. There are other markets that would appear to be taking advantage of the current legislation and, of course, this is not right either.

Employment insurance should not be used as a wage subsidy program. I understand that the original role of the EI program was to be protection against involuntary and temporary job loss. There is no question that the EI program has assisted many individuals and families and this should not be overlooked.

As part of this debate we must note that there are other factors to contend with. The use of excessive EI premiums by the government to fill the finance department coffers is inappropriate. I must wonder, if the premiums were not excessive and the money left in the pockets of the businesses, could the businesses better afford to hire additional workers? If this were the case, would some of the seasonal workers actually have the opportunity to become full time employees?

I strongly believe that money left in the pockets of the businesses and workers of this country is the wisest investment that government could ever make. Canadians are wise people and know when they are being taken advantage of. Currently they know they are being overtaxed. Businesses and individuals alike are not prepared to work under a prohibitive taxation structure. The flaws that we have before us will not be resolved by this one motion, but it could be a starting place if we can look at it systemically and not just in isolation.

I thank the hon. member for his motion and for the opportunity to take part in this important debate today.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wish to seek the unanimous consent of the House to say a few words at the end of the debate, as the mover of the motion.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, in whose name this motion stands before the House, has asked for the unanimous consent of the House to have the last five minutes of debate. Does the House give its unanimous consent for the member to have the last five minutes?

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the third hour of debate on Motion No. 222 tabled in this House by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst and seconded by the hon. member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton. It reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take immediate action to restore employment insurance benefits to seasonal workers.

That motion was later amended by the hon. member for Miramichi, seconded by the hon. member for Oak Ridges. The amendment does not ask for benefits to be restored, but rather for the issue of employment insurance benefits for seasonal workers to be reviewed.

Then the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton, seconded by the member for Winnipeg Centre, came back with an amendment to the amendment asking that the review take place as part of country-wide public hearings.

Should the motion take the form suggested by those who participated in the debate and proposed an amendment and an amendment to the amendment, it would read as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take immediate action to review, in country-wide public hearings, Employment Insurance benefits for seasonal workers.

The seasonal workers issue is a real problem for the people affected by this blatant injustice, which completely distorts an insurance scheme to which people do not even have the right to abstain from contributing.

Indeed, the government makes it mandatory for every worker and employer to contribute to the EI fund from the very first hour of work. Everybody contributes in case the employer were to decide he or she does not need the worker's services any more.

In fact, there are people who have to face unemployment every year and at the same time of the year. They are categorized as seasonal workers.

From the second world war until the Liberals came to power in 1993, seasonal workers were sure to get unemployment benefits for the whole duration of their seasonal layoff.

Since the Liberal reform, the government is not providing an insurance scheme for the unemployment period but for the employment period which has not been changed for seasonal workers. The workers are not the ones deciding that their work will be seasonal, but rather the local economic structure that determines the working conditions in any given region.

The lower St. Lawrence—Gaspé—Magdalen Islands region, for example, is struggling with the seasonal workers issue, as are our colleagues in the maritimes.

This is why representatives of the RCM faced with this situation submitted to the Minister of Human Resources Development a pilot project aimed at trying out new ways of helping seasonal workers who, year after year, find themselves in what we call the black hole, or spring gap, namely a period of up to 10 weeks where they go without a paycheque between the time when their benefits run out and when their seasonal job starts.

This is not a geographical problem as it is tied to the very nature of the economic structure of the area, as I mentioned earlier.

What is this pilot project that was submitted to the minister all about?

The government could use section 109 of the current Employment Insurance Act and grant a special status to seasonal workers. The project could run for three years, as provided under section 110 of the same act.

Moreover, the pilot project could cover areas where seasonal work is very prevalent, such as the lower St. Lawrence region, the Gaspé and the islands. It would allow the government to test beforehand changes to the current employment insurance scheme regarding seasonal workers.

As I mentioned it earlier, a seasonal worker is a worker who makes a claim for the current year at approximately the same time as the previous year. These claimants have to apply for benefits because the work they do can only be done during a given season.

Seasonal workers are greatly affected by the intensity rule. In the lower St. Lawrence region, the type of unemployed workers registered with Human Resources Development Canada in Rimouski matches the profile of seasonal workers.

Our region has a resource-based economy in important areas such as logging, peat production, agriculture and agri-food, tourism and commercial fishing.

In December 1999, 17,983 unemployed workers applied for benefits. Of that number, 14,353 were frequent claimants, which means that they are affected by seasonal variations in employment. The lower St. Lawrence region has a 80% frequent claimant rate, compared to 20% for the Montreal region.

In this context, a pilot project is necessary, because seasonal workers are penalized by the intensity rule, whatever the reason is that forces them to rely on employment insurance.

Moreover, many of them have to live through the so-called “black hole of spring”, which refers to the period of up to 10 weeks without benefits before they are called back to work, as I was saying earlier. It is very important to understand what it means to the seasonal worker to receive no money for a certain period of time.

This situation is a consequence of the calculation of the benefit period based on the regional unemployment rate rather than on the number of hours worked.

A pilot project giving special status to seasonal workers would encourage them to keep their jobs, to upgrade their skills and to participate in the development of the local economy.

A stable labour force would encourage businesses to invest more readily in personnel training, so that employees can better contribute to the increased efficiency and profitability of the business.

How would that pilot project to give a special status to seasonal workers work? Simply as follows.

The seasonal workers would obtain the following advantages: first, the intensity rule would disappear; second, the admissibility would no longer be determined by the unemployment rate in the region, but rather by the minimum number of hours required by the present Employment Insurance Act, that is 420 hours. The workers would receive benefits during the total unemployment period, which would mean no more spring gap with no cheque. Fourth, the exclusion of small weeks rule would remain. Fifth, the basis for calculation would be the actual number of weeks worked.

I hope the government will agree with this motion, which is extremely important for our seasonal workers. I invite all my colleagues in the House to massively support the motion when we vote on it later.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words in support of the hon. member's motion. Two of my colleagues from New Brunswick have already spoken to this motion, and I want to say a few words on behalf of seasonal workers in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

First, let me make one thing absolutely crystal clear. The Liberal government's changes to the unemployment insurance system, the so-called employment insurance system, were and still are a direct attack on seasonal workers in Atlantic Canada in particular and in rural Canada in general.

The insurance system for the unemployed has been gutted. We are all very much aware of that. The changes to the UI system, the so-called reforms, introduced by the Liberals make it harder to qualify for benefits. When one does qualify, it is for fewer benefits and for a shorter period of time.

I can see why they dropped the word unemployment from the title of the new program. In 1989, 87% of Canada's unemployed qualified for benefits. Today only 36% of Canada's unemployed qualify for benefits in a system that has a multibillion dollar surplus.

It is no longer workers' insurance against becoming unemployed. It has become a system which has forced 50,000 Newfoundlanders to pull up stakes and move to other provinces in central and western Canada.

If people cannot or will not move from their home communities in rural Newfoundland, there is only one option. If work is not available, then they have to go on social assistance. For those who cannot move away it has become welfare insurance, not employment insurance.

In rural Newfoundland and many other places in Atlantic and rural Canada there are not many job options available. Most of the work which is available is seasonal work. At one time people could work seasonally, draw unemployment insurance and head out to look for jobs elsewhere. If they could not find jobs they would have the assurance of returning to their seasonal work when it became available.

Let me remind hon. members that it is not a crime to be a fisherman. It is not a crime to be a logger. It is not a crime to be a construction worker. These are trades that make valuable contributions to the people of Newfoundland and valuable contributions to the people of Canada. They should be recognized that way, but it has all changed.

If people are lucky enough to find seasonal work and they do qualify for EI benefits, then in all likelihood the benefits will not carry them to the point of returning to the seasonal work. People will live part of the year with no income at all. At that point they must deplete their savings. They probably have to turn to extended family for support and help, or they have to move away to find work. If that option is not available, they have to go on social assistance.

It would not sound so bad if the EI system were broke, depleted of benefits by the unemployed, but the system is not broke. It is awash with cash. The system is not broke, it is broken. It was deliberately broken by the governing Liberals. That was a piece of cold, calculated, social engineering on the part of the Liberals.

Their plan proved to be quite effective. Their strategy was to tighten up the EI system, making it impossible for someone to earn a livelihood at seasonal work, which would force the migration of Atlantic Canadians to areas of higher employment, and let welfare take care of the rest of the people who could not move or who would not move.

That piece of social engineering has cost my province about 10,000 people a year over the past few years. It has cost the Liberal Party all of its seats in Atlantic Canada. It will continue to cost the Liberal Party all of its seats in Atlantic Canada unless it does something about the EI system.

This piece of social engineering has cost the province of Newfoundland and Labrador $1 billion in lost EI revenues since the Liberals came to power in 1993. The city of St. John's, just to give a small indication of how it is spread out, is losing $78 million annually. My riding of St. John's East, which is comprised of the eastern part of the city of St. John's and the rural area along Conception Bay, is losing $50.2 million annually. St. John's West, where the Liberals hope to win the byelection on Monday, is losing $56.3 million annually.

Let us look at the riding of Burin—St. George's. Joining the Liberal side was supposed to be good for that riding. How much is it costing the people of Burin—St. George's in lost EI revenue? It is costing them $81.7 million a year.

These are not numbers to which only accountants can relate.

The people kicked out of the EI system have either moved away or they have had to go on social assistance. For the most part there was no new work in the area.

EI cheques, believe it or not, were not replaced by cheques from shiny, new, year-round factories. This money has simply gone from the local scene. It is sitting in the pot right here in Ottawa to help the finance minister balance his budget. This is money no longer being spent in restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores in Atlantic Canada and rural Canada. As I said, in Newfoundland we have lost $1 billion in EI revenue. In an economy the size of ours that has to hurt, and it has hurt many families and many communities.

Much has been said about the Liberal Party wanting to regain seats in Atlantic Canada in the next election. The Liberals have been promising to restore some of the benefits which they took away under the old UI system, but so far all they have come up with are a lot of empty words, a lot of empty rhetoric. I have a feeling that is the way it will remain.

In the last budget the government made a lot of extending EI sponsored maternity leave from six months to a full year. What the government did not say in the budget was that with its new hours based EI system only 31% of unemployed Canadian women actually qualify for these benefits. Given the fact that it is harder to qualify for maternity benefits than regular benefits, that is very cold comfort indeed.

The government's so-called reforms to the UI system and its creation of the new EI system was a deliberate and well planned attack on rural and Atlantic Canada, and unfortunately Canadian women as well. These changes might have gone down well in the more prosperous parts of the country, but they have been devastating to Atlantic Canada in general and to Newfoundland in particular.

Seasonal work is not a crime. As I said a moment ago, it is not a crime to be a logger, it is not a crime to be a fisherman and it is not a crime to be a construction worker. It certainly is not a valid excuse to force the migration of rural Canadians. However, this is what the government has done, and quite deliberately.

At the last election the Liberals paid a very stiff price for what they did to Atlantic Canadians. If they want votes in Atlantic Canada and in the province of Newfoundland next time they had better change their tune. The fishermen, the loggers and the construction workers of Atlantic Canada will not stand for what the government has done to them over the last three, four or five years.

I support the motion and I commend the member for having brought it to the floor of the House.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before I recognize the hon. member for Oak Ridges, I thought the debate was finished at 6.30 p.m. It is not. It is supposed to be finished at 6.15 p.m. Is there unanimous consent to go to 6.15 p.m. with the hon. member for Oak Ridges, then go to the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst and then we will have bells at 6.20 p.m.?

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We said by unanimous consent that the last five minutes would go to the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, so that gives the hon. member for Oak Ridges two minutes. Is that agreed?

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not take issue with you at this point, but I would indicate that, in fairness, the government needs to respond and the government will respond to both the motion and to the amendment that was proposed.

I point out to all members of the House that we all share concerns with regard to seasonal workers. The original motion called upon the government to restore EI benefits to seasonal workers. I reject the premise that EI benefits have been taken away from these workers. I would support, however, the amendment proposed by the member for Miramichi. His proposed amendment would ask us to take immediate action to review EI benefits so that workers with seasonal jobs could continue contributing to the economy and building a better quality of life. I think this is important for everyone.

Canadians and seasonal work remain an important factor in government social and economic planning. An estimated 327,000 Canadians worked in seasonal jobs in 1997, about 3% of all paid workers. In Atlantic Canada the numbers were obviously higher than the national average.

Furthermore, within certain industries themselves there is greater seasonality in Atlantic Canada than elsewhere in the country. In other words, employment fluctuates more with the seasons.

We must recognize that seasonal industries are a large factor in the Canadian economy and indeed we must recognize the increased importance to the Atlantic region in general. Obviously the treatment of seasonal workers on employment insurance is an important concern to the government and will be treated as such. However, it seems that whenever EI comes up for discussion in the House we must return to the basics.

Why was the EI system introduced in 1996? We had to make the system fairer. There had to be greater incentives to work. We wanted to increase assistance for low income families with children and we wanted to ensure the future viability of the program. Overall, we wanted a balance in the system, redirecting resources to help unemployed Canadians get back to work.

The EI program introduced in 1996 included measures to achieve these ends, but it was never designed, nor should it have been, to be the sole solution, the sole guarantee of well-being for Canadians in any region.

Concern for unemployed workers has always been a priority of the government. We must ensure that EI benefits continue to provide income while unemployed individuals look for a new job. In addition, EI provides active re-employment measures like career counselling, self-employment and skills development to help improve the employability of individuals. Indeed, active re-employment measures are now helping people to return to the labour market.

While a strong economy was the result of the creation of 383,000 full time jobs last year, we have nevertheless maintained our efforts to help those workers, regions and industries which face special challenges.

We introduced EI to help contribute to the adjustment in the fishery. We created small weeks adjustment projects at a cost of $225 million to help workers, many of whom are seasonal workers, collect higher benefits and maintain a hold on the job market.

We have established a working group with the provinces and territories to examine ways to address the specific needs of seasonal workers, including options for pilot projects to create employment opportunities in the off season. We have invested $30 million over two years to launch pilot projects to help workers maintain a strong attachment to the workforce.

The minister has recognized this and she has committed her regional officials to work closely with these workers to better appreciate local needs and explore how we can better help communities help themselves.

The redesigned EI plan introduced the hours based system rather than the previous system based on weeks worked. The hours based system is much fairer in that every hour of work counts toward eligibility of benefits. Remember, seasonal workers tend to work a large number of hours in a given week, so the EI system benefits them particularly.

Evidence is building that many seasonal workers are in fact finding the extra work needed to qualify for longer benefits. Keep in mind as well that we are attentive to working families with low incomes. Seasonal workers in this situation receive higher benefits with the family supplement. If they receive the family supplement, they are exempt from the intensity rule.

Also, many seasonal workers are receiving increased benefits because of participation in small weeks projects.

But the point we should be bearing in mind during debate on this motion is that the effects of various changes introduced in the EI package can only be measured as they are played out over time.

The EI program and its efforts are being monitored continuously, and there is a requirement for annual assessment reports for the five years following its introduction. The third report has just been released and it provides a more up to date assessment of how the program is working.

The EI reforms cannot be looked at in isolation from what has been happening in the Canadian economy and the labour market. Unemployment rates have declined dramatically across the country and unemployment is at its lowest level in decades. Job growth was particularly strong for women and youth.

It is not immediately apparent what this has meant for seasonal workers, since EI data seldom differentiates between seasonal and non-seasonal workers. However, there is a great overlap of seasonal workers and frequent EI users. Data for these groups are often very similar.

In 1998-99 frequent claimants received about 43% of all regular and fishing benefits, up from 41% in the previous year. Benefit payments to these claimants were $3.4 billion, virtually unchanged from the previous year. At the same time, benefits paid to unemployed workers in most seasonal industries increased substantially with the highest increases taking place in fishing and trapping which was up 70% and mining, oil and gas which was up 52%. While the percentages of benefits received by frequent claimants increased, the number of regular and fishing claims made by frequent claimants declined 5.7% to 604,000 due in part to a general decline in claims overall.

I will sum up by saying I believe the third annual monitoring and assessment report demonstrates that the EI regime does indeed provide better coverage for seasonal workers compared to the system it replaced. Therefore the amendment moved by the hon. member for Miramichi is more in keeping with what is happening with regard to the EI regime. We should indeed be monitoring EI benefits not only for seasonal workers but for all workers. This is what we are doing. With respect to the proposed subamendment that the review include cross-country hearings, while the intentions may be honourable, the net result would only add to the cost of the existing process. The government certainly will support the amendment.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing me a bit of leeway with regard to the time.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues from all parties who took part in this debate on employment insurance and seasonal workers.

This motion specifically concerne rural areas in this country. It is of paramount importance for all workers in seasonal industries who were penalized by employment insurance reform. Furthermore, this reform had devastating effects on regional economies throughout our country.

For instance, in the riding of Acadie—Bathurst, the local economy was deprived of $69 million a year as a result of employment insurance reform. This means that the small and medium size businesses were severely affected by this reform. This is a huge sum for this rural area.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Dubé Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Doug Young's reform.

Employment Insurance
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

The same thing is happening in every region in Canada whose economy is based on seasonal work.

At their convention, even the Liberals passed a motion acknowledging the harm that employment insurance reform had done to seasonal workers. The Liberals acknowledged that, whereas the changes made to the Employment Insurance Act during these last ten year have affected in a disproportionate manner the workers of the Atlantic Region in seasonal industries and their families—

At their convention in March, even the Liberals acknowledged the harm they had done to seasonal workers. That said, the Liberals recognize that the law must be revised.

We have heard the comments of the members of all parties in this House. They have all underscored the importance of seasonal industry in the economy of our country.

Let us take the case of the loggers at home. What message do the Liberals want to send to the loggers? I listened to my colleague saying that the employment system worked, that it encouraged people to go to work.

Have members ever seen a logger go to work when the forest is closed? Have they ever seen blueberries being picked in winter, in December? These are some of the seasonal jobs in the rural regions.

Have members seen the fish biting in Caraquet when the bay is frozen over? This is the problem we have with seasonal jobs. This is what the government has to understand. It is not enough to say they will support an amendment to have a review without any change. I hope that this evening they will act in all good faith.

If they want to pass this motion, it is to make changes that Canadians across the country have been waiting for. Real changes have to be made for workers.

Do members know what the black hole created by the employment insurance reform represents? It represents children who get up in the morning to go to school without having anything to eat. This is what the black hole the Liberals created in 1996 is all about. This has to change.

They are saying to workers and loggers at the moment “You, because you are in a black hole every year, sell your motorcycle. You should not have one. Sell your skidoo, because you are going to be on welfare. When you are on welfare you are not entitled to have a skidoo or a motorcycle. You are not even entitled to have a car”.

That is what the Liberals are telling forestry workers; that is what they are telling workers in the fishery and in the tourism industry, where people work for only ten weeks a year.

That is why I am asking the House this evening to vote in favour of my motion. But more than that, I am asking the federal government, the Liberals opposite, to make the real changes that Canadians need.

When I travelled across the country examining the human impact of EI, I noticed that Canadians throughout Canada were suffering. Whether in Ontario, Regina in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Yukon, the Gaspé, Newfoundland or Cape Breton, everywhere, those who have lost their jobs are stuck in a black hole, I can guarantee it. It is a black hole and not just for the worker but for the children, the family and everyone.

I thank the House for giving me an opportunity to say a few works to wrap up the three hours of debate on my motion about EI. I hope that it will not be a partisan vote, but that parliament will express its opinion and that the government will take action to review employment insurance because it recognizes the wrong it has done Canadians. The government must make real changes that will help workers and their families, who have to contend with seasonal employment in Canada.