House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I will say a few words on this important but incomplete bill which obviously does not answer the needs of workers in Quebec and Canada in terms of improving on the Axworthy reform.

As the member for Joliette said, we have been discussing the issue of employment insurance, formerly unemployment insurance, reform for ages. We have been discussing it since the days of Mr. Axworthy, who was replaced by the current Minister for International Trade, who was himself replaced by Mr. Dingwall, then by Mr. Doug Young, and finally by the incredible current Minister of Human Resources Development who had some problems we are all familiar with. Thus it is not the first time that members opposite are proposing major changes. They already did that with the disastrous impact we are all too familiar with.

In a riding like Trois-Rivières, in 1989 83% of workers were eligible for unemployment insurance benefits in the unhappy event that they lost their jobs because they contributed to the UI fund. Now only 34% of those who contribute to the EI fund qualify. This is what this government has managed to do. It is a scandal we are faced with daily.

This means that the Mauricie, which includes the ridings of Trois-Rivières, Champlain and Saint-Maurice, the Prime Minister's riding, is being short-changed by tens of millions of dollars in funds that could have been invested to keep the economy going.

It is a bit ironic to hear the member for Saint-Maurice, the Prime Minister, with all the problems he is experiencing with the Auberge Grand-Mère, say that it was to maintain and create jobs that he invested there and that consequently he is entitled to get his money back. We know that he was involved in some of the administrative measures taken by his own government, which have deprived our region of hundreds of millions of dollars since 1994. Therefore it is indecent on his part to say such irresponsible things, which show a lack of respect and contempt for the workers of his own riding.

There are some very serious omissions in this reform, as we can see from what happened to the surplus in the employment insurance fund. We know that in less than 10 years the surplus has grown to the point where it now stands at $35 billion. The government had maintained the 1997 decision to abolish the program for older worker adjustment, better known as POWA. This program was the result of cutbacks to a more generous program, work adjustment training or WAT. This program was designed specifically for the workers in the Canadian textile industry which fell victim to decisions made in Ottawa concerning a foreign trade deal with countries less developed than ours whereby we would exchange wheat for textiles. This measure affected the economy in Quebec where 70% of the textiles were produced in those days.

There was a program specifically created for the closing of textile plants, and it was known as WAT. It was designed for all textile workers. The program was fundamentally changed and became the program for older worker adjustment, POWA, which was more universal but had more stringent rules. In 1997 the federal government had too much on its plate in its fight against the deficit on the backs of poor people, so it decided to completely abolish POWA without any reservations and any further compensation.

Today, despite the $35 billion surplus, we still have to live with the same administrative decision. When plants close, sometimes ruthlessly or for external reasons of non- profitability compared to foreign competition or management negligence, workers are footing the bill and those who are 55 years of age and over are not receiving any compensation.

In Trois-Rivières this has had the following result: the Tripaq plant, despite considerable assistance from the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs du Québec, which should be recognized, that did everything in its power to save it, had to close its doors for objective reasons. The federal government totally washed its hands of the matter. However much we appeal to the government as we do on other issues, it was useless, I am thinking of my colleague from Drummond who on the issue of the Celanese plant had some people come here to show their frustration and express their hope of being able to rely on public funds they themselves contributed to, it was useless.

I want to remind the House that the federal government has no money in the EI fund. It is $35 billion that belongs to workers and employers. Today the federal government wants to maintain the rates it talked about during its totally demagogic election campaign because the Bloc courageously opposed this before the campaign. It wants to maintain control as if this was its own money, and this is totally indecent.

If members were to ask workers and business people if they wanted POWA to be reintroduced, with all the financial help and social solidarity this program entailed, I am sure that they would agree to have substantial help provided to older workers who lose their jobs.

In a riding like Trois-Rivières this can be devastating. Despite all its promises and all its billions of dollars, the federal government's lack of concern and understanding is quite shameful. What we are talking about here is a hidden tax, a special tax paid by workers earning $39,000 or less. With only 34% instead of 83% of the people getting benefits, this is a misappropriation of funds.

We will keep on criticizing the federal government for not spending public funds most effectively, for not showing more compassion to fathers, mothers and children facing hard times, and for not strengthening the social fabric.

When we go from 83% to 34% women working part time and seasonal workers are hard hit. I thought it was shameful and totally immoral for the federal government to stop talking about seasonal jobs and start talking about seasonal workers. These workers are full time workers who unfortunately have seasonal jobs. This is something we should remind the people in charge of the EI system and their minister of. We have to adapt the system to the realities these workers are facing.

Also, this legislation goes after the students. They have summer jobs and pay EI premiums, and yet they know they will never be able to collect any benefit.

The lack of concern of the federal government applies also to the POWA file, as I mentioned, but in view of the government's surplus it also applies to an issue that has to do with the pulp and paper industry, the existence of which I am pleased to mention today. I am referring to the integrated centre for pulp and paper technology, a natural field for the Saint Maurice valley, which is vital to how we have traditionally defined ourselves.

There is a plan to merge the research centre of the Université du Québec in Trois-Rivières with the Centre for Pulp and Paper Technology at the cégep de Trois-Rivières. The Quebec government has already announced its intention to be financially involved in this project, pledging tens of millions of dollars. It is a $85 million to $100 million project.

Hopefully this afternoon the minister of finance of Quebec is going to reaffirm her intention to support this project. However the federal government is stalling. The infamous Canada Foundation for Innovation, set up by the current Minister of Finance with $1.3 billion of taxpayer money, has so far said no.

To this day nobody in this government has cared to make up for this seemingly totally arbitrary decision. This project, which is a top priority in Quebec, does not even register on Canada's radar screen.

This issue is the perfect illustration of our two solitudes. It reflects two different ways of seeing things. It shows that our priorities are very seldom the same. Hopefully Quebecers will understand that they have no future in this country, and that it is only when we are masters of our own destiny once and for all that we will be able to work within a true partnership between Quebec and Canada.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise to express my opposition to Bill C-2.

My colleagues presented many aspects of the legislation that show that the government has no respect for employees as well as employers by not addressing their problems.

This legislation is hurting workers by refusing to address urgent situations and to correct the deficiencies of the current act.

What the Bloc Quebecois is asking for is clear. The measures the Bloc Quebecois is asking for are meant to correct flaws in the plan by taking into account the day to day condition of workers and a labour market that keeps changing, with students who have to combine a job and studying and an increasing number of independent workers. These two groups are not taken into account in the bill, but they will have to be soon.

It is the duty of the federal government to address the issue right away so that these two groups of workers are included just like other workers already covered by the plan.

The Bloc Quebecois is asking the federal government to respond to the hopes of workers, to further improve the EI plan and to eliminate discrimination in EI requirements.

We have to abolish the definition of labour force, because it penalizes directly the young and women in that they have to work a total of 910 hours in 52 weeks to qualify.

A women who re-enters the labour market after two years is considered a new entrant and not a member of the labour market. What a shame.

The same is true of young people who are also considered new entrants, because they are in their first job. This same definition allows certain workers to be eligible for the same plan with no more than 420 hours accumulated.

The self-employed have been completely forgotten. It might even be said that this segment does not exist at all, or worse, is not worth the bother to the government. Self-employed workers represented 12% of the total workforce in 1976. They represented 18% in 1999. The government cannot deny this segment of the population which now represents one worker in five. The figure is huge.

We must absolutely not forget that this sector of workers is growing. The federal government must, right now, include these workers fully in the employment insurance plan.

Another group penalized by this bill is that of young people. It creates a dichotomy in that students must go to school as well as work in order to survive and in the hopes of finding well paid work. However the standards in this bill give them no help at all.

The latest census in 1996 reported over 2.8 million full time students. According to the monitoring and assessment report one million individuals earned less than $2,000 and were therefore entitled to a refund.

However, only 40% of these people applied for a refund and 42% of them were under 25 years of age. In short, 2.6 million students are being taxed to study. Young people—

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but it is 2 p.m. and we must proceed to statements by members. He will have five and a half minutes to complete his remarks after oral question period.

Hockey
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to stand in the House and share with all members information on a truly unique event taking place in my constituency this weekend. The 12th annual Vince Ryan Old Timers Hockey Tournament is being held in Cape Breton beginning today and will see 125 teams from across Canada and the United States converge on my community.

The tournament's namesake, Vince Ryan, was recognized throughout Cape Breton and indeed the Atlantic provinces as a skilled athlete, a fierce competitor and a man who held high a sense of fair play and sportsmanship.

Upward of 2,000 players will compete in the spirit of fellowship in the country's national winter pastime in what has become one of Atlantic Canada's premier adult recreational sporting events.

I thank Duddy Ryan, the entire Ryan family, Ritchie Warren and his committed group of volunteers for ensuring that this annual event continues to be a highlight of our Cape Breton winters. I wish them all the very best in this week's tournament.

Auditor General
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, March 31, Denis Desautels, the Auditor General of Canada, will retire after 10 years of dedicated service as an officer of parliament. I rise today to acknowledge his contribution as one of Canada's most dedicated and trusted public servants.

He has served our country well. As members of parliament our integrity is often questioned in the House, but his integrity is beyond question. He has been our conscience and our watchdog. When he speaks, the nation listens.

Many of his reports have highlighted the problems of waste and mismanagement in government and the need for transparency and openness in government. At times he fundamentally disagreed with government and held his ground, but they all speak amply of his dedication to improving the service Canadians receive from their government.

On behalf of all members of parliament and senators, I thank the auditor general. We wish him a happy retirement or a new career, but whatever the future holds and wherever it may take him, he goes with the best wishes of all in the House and indeed of all Canadians whom he has served so well.

F. R. Crawley
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is Oscar week and the 25th anniversary of Canada's first academy award for a documentary film The Man Who Skied Down Everest .

This was won by F. R. Budge Crawley who in his acceptance speech said:

Thank you...for this American award for a Canadian film about a Japanese...who skied down a mountain in Nepal.

Crawley Films received hundreds of awards for its thousands of films and TV shows. It was a springboard for stars with names like Bujold, Davis, Greene, Grierson, Little, Pinsent and Plummer.

The late Budge Crawley was a pioneer cameraman, director and producer. He received an honorary degree from Trent University and was a member of the Order of Canada. His work, including much Arctic footage, now forms the Crawley Collection in the National Archives.

He was recognized for his Oscar in the House of Commons on March 30, 1976. We honour him again today.

Figure Skating
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week the World Figure Skating Championships were held in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Over 200 athletes from 55 countries and 540 volunteers participated in this global event which took place from March 19 to March 25. The federal government provided financial support of $250,000 through the hosting of major sporting events in Canada program.

Special thanks to the minister for amateur sport for his presence and support for this unique project in B.C. He, Senator Joyce Fairbairn and I worked together as a Liberal team to help promote B.C. and Canada to the world.

I extend congratulations to everyone involved in this successful event.

Student Achievement In Brome—Missisquoi
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to salute nine young students from Brome—Missisquoi for distinguished achievements over the past year.

Mélissa Arbour, of Magog, Joël Brault, of Cowansville, and Francis-Yan Cyr-Racine, of Bedford, received the Governor General's History Medal for the Millennium.

Isabelle Fontaine, of the Canton of Magog, and Adam Hooper, of Sutton, received the Governor General's Academic Medal.

Marie-Ève DuGrenier and Kim Desrochers, of Farnham, Joanie Beauséjour and Michelle Campbell, of Bedford, came away with honours from the Bell Science Fair Eastern Township regional finals.

Congratulations to these young people. They must be proud of their accomplishments. I admire their determination, creativity and desire to excel. A future full of promise is before them.

On behalf of the people of Brome—Missisquoi, I to tell them know how proud we are of their success.

Grants And Contributions
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the summit of the Americas takes place in Quebec City in three weeks, bringing together heads of state from 34 nations to discuss a number of issues including the creation of a free trade agreement for the Americas.

A parallel people's summit is being organized around the same time to protest the summit of the Americas. Groups who are participating in the people's summit include the Council of Canadians, Canadian Auto Workers and our very own NDP members of parliament, as well as many others.

What I find very disturbing is that some groups are advocating that people should break the law. They are very public in their intentions to train activists in the skills of civil disobedience.

What is even more disturbing is that these groups, through the people's summit, are being funded by our federal government. The Prime Minister has handed out $300,000 to these organizations. It is appalling that the government would spend taxpayer money to support people who intend to break the law.

Aboriginal Achievement Awards
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, two Nunavummiut, Mariano Aupilardjuk of Rankin Inlet and Zacharias Kunuk of Igloolik, are recipients of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation 2001 awards.

Both Mariano Aupilardjuk and Zacharias Kunuk are well known for their work in promoting Inuit culture within Nunavut and throughout the world.

Mariano Aupilardjuk is a teacher of Inuit traditional knowledge, a great performer known for his drum dancing and song writing and for the beautiful carvings he makes.

Zacharias Kunuk co-founded the first independent Inuit film company, Isuma Productions of Igloolik. He has just completed his own feature length movie, made in Igloolik and performed by local actors and actresses.

I know their families and friends are very proud of the two recipients. I wish to extend my congratulations to Mariano Aupilardjuk and Zacharias Kunuk.

Salon Du Livre De L'Outaouais
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday marked the opening of the 22nd Salon du livre de l'Outaouais, at the Palais des congrès de Hull. The theme this year is “Lire aux éclats”, which alludes to the great joy of reading.

The book fair runs for five days and will feature panel discussions, meet-the-authors, literary games, literary receptions, book-signings, interviews, and books, books and still more books, as well as hours of delightful readings.

This international event is the work of a remarkable team of people who have devoted their time, energy and passion to it for some months. Congratulations to them, and thank you.

Particular mention needs to be made of the generous contribution of Estelle Desfossés, chairman of the board of the Salon du livre de l'Outaouais, who is also the committee co-ordinator for the Bloc Quebecois.

We wish the Salon du livre de l'Outaouais every success.

Immigration
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the citizenship and immigration committee is hearing witnesses on Bill C-11 to help rewrite the Immigration Act for the first time in 25 years. It deals with issues such as visitor visas, landed immigrant status, permanent residency and refugee determination.

We want to hear from as many Canadians as possible. Our plan was to travel to Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and London, Ontario to hear people's concerns. Schedules were laid out, but the Canadian Alliance says it will not go. Instead we will be relegated to hearing people who can get to Ottawa and to teleconferencing.

The Canadian Alliance now wants to hijack committees the same way it has hijacked parliament. Canadians are fed up with these tactics. Instead of listening to concerns from across the country, the Canadian Alliance would rather throw mud and destroy parliament. It is doing a disservice to the country.

National War Museum
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, veterans and friends of the war museum from across Canada have raised millions of dollars toward the building of the new national war museum. They were told that it would be built in Rockcliffe to complement the aviation museum and the new military cemetery.

In 1998 when the federal government announced a new $70 million war museum there was great joy. Today it appears the location will be changed to LeBreton Flats. The original joy has now turned to bitter disappointment.

Why does the government feel that it has a right to change the original location without any consultation whatsoever with those who have donated so generously?

If this move takes place without total agreement from the loyal supporters of the war museum, it will be a national betrayal. Who will benefit from the property that was originally reserved for the war museum? Certainly not the vets.

Organized Crime
Statements By Members

March 29th, 2001 / 2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, since opposition members are silent on the important events taking place in the country, I would like to draw the attention of this House to the impressive job done by our police forces to fight organized crime.

By launching Operation Printemps 2001, police forces have destabilized criminal motorcycle gangs. In all, over 200 searches were conducted and 125 arrests were made, this following an investigation that lasted over two years. Let us acknowledge the remarkable work done by our police officers.

The message sent to criminal gangs is clear: criminal activities will not be tolerated in Canada. Our government is very concerned about the activities of criminal gangs. Our communities must not live in fear.

The commitments made during the last election campaign are clear. This week's operation shows more than ever that our government is on the right track.

Infrastructure
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the new Liberal government is only four months old and already we see that what the Liberals said during the election has nothing to do with their actions once elected. There is a long list of broken promises, from scrapping the GST and eliminating child poverty to an independent ethics counsellor.

What are Liberal members doing that they never talked about during the election? They never said a word about toll roads, but now the transport minister cannot wait for Canadians to start paying to use their own highways.

Another example is airport fees. It already costs an arm and a leg to fly. Now the Liberal government is letting airports jack up landing fees, taking even more money out of the pockets of travellers. The transport minister states that people voted for this when they voted in the Liberals. I wonder why the red book did not say a word about it.

Toll roads and airport fees would not be necessary if the Liberal government adequately funded infrastructure. Canadians expect their taxes to fund public infrastructure. They should not have to pay even more in the form of road tolls and landing fees.

The government has the money and it should commit the necessary funding for our highways and infrastructure. That is what Canadians deserve, not more Liberal neglect.