House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-27.

Topics

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the surplus is in excess of $42 billion and the auditor general said that a $15 billion surplus is sufficient to meet the needs of the unemployed.

She added that the size of the accumulated surpluses in the employment insurance fund is totally unjustified. This is what the auditor general said. Moreover, the government is refusing to improve the program.

Will the Prime Minister recognize that the employment insurance program must be used to share the wealth, not to fill the government's coffers, not to divert money that should go to the unemployed?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is at the request of the auditor general himself that we, not our government, but the previous one, stopped having a separate fund and paid into the consolidated revenue fund employment insurance contributions, which were at $3.07 per $100 of insurable earnings when we took office in 1993 and which are now at $2.20 or $2.25.

So we succeeded in reducing workers' contributions to the employment insurance fund by one-third.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the auditor general has spoken out against the huge surplus in the EI fund, which will have reached $43 billion by next March, and wonders why such huge amounts have been collected without justification.

Will the Minister of Human Resources Development admit that the only solution is the creation of an independent employment insurance fund, as the unions, the workers, the employers and the Bloc Quebecois have been calling for?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, the Standing Committee on Finance has suggested a program to review what can be done about contribution rates.

The EI fund is not a shoebox and, as the Prime Minister said, what we have done is put it into the consolidated fund on the advice of the Auditor General of Canada.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the surplus of an independent fund could also be in a government consolidated fund, as is the case with the CSST fund in Quebec.

What is the most scandalous, however, is that this surplus has already been used, whereas if the fund were separate, it would still be there.

Will the minister admit that this surplus has already been spent and that if we are hit by a recession she will not be able to meet her obligations?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, what is very clear is that on this side of the House whenever there is justification to increase and improve the benefits for employment insurance recipients, we have done that.

What is equally clear is that whenever that side of the House has had an opportunity to support us it voted against those changes. That is what is clear.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the surplus in the employment insurance fund is organized crime, pure and simple.

The government is using the workers and taking their money, yet when it comes time for workers to receive assistance, they close the door in their faces. “Ineligible”, says the minister. What we should close the door on is this government's policy of stealing.

Will the government finally give their money back to the workers?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we have clearly indicated that the current system was imposed upon the previous government by the auditor general, who found it unusual, at the time, that there was a deficit every year in the employment insurance fund.

So, the auditor general at the time said that the fund had to be included in the government's consolidated revenue fund. That is what the previous government did.

Currently, in order to help workers, we have also reduced their contribution from $3.07 to $2.20.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the blah, blah, blah does not just come from the minister. It is coming from the Prime Minister on this question.

We are not talking about the practices of the previous government. We are talking about the practices of this government condemned by the auditor general.

This is supposed to be the festive season yet the government continues to pick people's pockets and leave the unemployed in the cold while the grinch sits on the EI chest.

Will the finance minister put an end to this organized theft and put the money back where it belongs, which is in the--

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I would draw to the attention of the hon. member for Halifax the words I said at the beginning of question period and ask for a little restraint.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

I do not think she listened to you, Mr. Speaker, or she cannot improvise so she had to read a text that was prepared before the question. I think it leads nowhere when words like that are used.

We have administered the programs of the government very well. It is why rather than having a deficit of $42 billion we had a surplus of $18 billion last year. It is the proof that we have provided an excellent government for the people of Canada.

Auditor General's Report
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, what is unprecedented about this auditor general's report on defence is that she questions both the government's preparedness and the government's word. The department's claim, she said, “should be taken with a grain of salt”.

The government's response yesterday admits that, and I quote, “national defence does not yet have a reporting system that tracks overall equipment availability”.

Why not? If the government is so well prepared, why can the minister not even track the equipment our forces need?

Auditor General's Report
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, at her press conference yesterday the auditor general said “If you want a really quick summary, the army seems to be able to maintain its level of activity and has done so pretty consistently. The navy as well”.

They do not look at all of the report. They just take a little bit of the report. There is one thing: never have the Canadian armed forces been abroad like in the last years. They have always done a great job and Canadians have always been proud of them. Only the opposition is dumping on the Canadian army.

Heating Fuel Rebate
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, just before the last federal election, the government delivered its pre-election economic statement.

The most remarkable result of that Liberal initiative was that 7,500 deceased persons received cheques for heating costs.

Could the Prime Minister tell us how many of these deceased persons voted Liberal?

Heating Fuel Rebate
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, you asked us to be nice today, so I will be nice.

In regard to this program, the Minister of Finance had to make a decision. There were problems in two-tenths of one per cent of all cases.

There is an amount of $2 million that cannot be fully accounted for. The Minister of Finance figured that in order to monitor such a program down to the last penny, it would have cost tens of millions of dollars.