House of Commons Hansard #156 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you what we are sympathetic to. We are sympathetic to the employers and the employees who have been ripped off consistently by the minister's department over the years. That is what we are sympathetic to.

The minister's own HRD department had an audit and it found that 70% of the people who were told they overpaid had not. Her own audit implies that half a billion dollars was taken from over 200,000 workers.

Would the minister tell us how much she gouged, how many victims were ripped off and will she pay them back?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is completely out of touch. In fact, the report that was done by officials in the department was a very useful document which encouraged the department to make changes and improvements to the administration of the provisions of undeclared earnings.

I can do nothing more than remind the House that the member's party was vociferous against our making these changes just a year ago.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are asking the minister to look at files to find people who were overbilled by the department. We want the minister to go into those files, find out who was overbilled and pay the darn money back to them. I would like a commitment to that today.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that there is a full appeal process in the employment insurance system.

I would also reiterate my commitment to look at any new information in individual files and have the department ensure that the law was applied appropriately.

I find it very strange that the member's party is asking me not to recover public funds that were paid to individuals who were not eligible. Since when did that party lose its concern for accountability for public funds?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, HRDC has lost sight of its social mandate.

The EI fund and the guaranteed income supplement are two flagrant examples of this. As well, we have the business of undeclared income and excessive penalties being charged for nearly five years.

By modifying the regulatory provisions of subsection 19(3) of the Employment Insurance Act in August 2001, the minister acknowledged that her department had made a mistake. Can the minister then, as a consequence to this, make the commitment today to reimburse retroactively those who have been unjustly penalized sine 1996?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, let me say again that individuals who through no fault of their own made mistakes in declaring their earnings are not charged an administrative penalty.

We have a system in place where individuals who were working and receiving benefits and did not declare their earnings had those moneys recovered for the public purse.

The system is clear. There are appeal systems in place and those systems are applied.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, despite what the minister thinks, people committing fraud are the exception.

Since her department has acknowledged that the penalties imposed at the time were excessive, can the minister commit to retroactive reimbursement of those her department has fleeced?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the only people who were charged administrative penalties were found to have committed fraud.

Health Care
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the primary victim of the federal-provincial fiscal inequity that the finance minister is always so anxious to deny is the health care system.

The minister knows full well that the needs of our health care system will continue to grow as the population ages. He also knows full well that these needs could be met in the future if the government would agree to alter the CHST formula to allow for greater transfers of tax points since this would lead to a predictable and expanding supply of funds as the economy and tax base grows.

Why therefore does he insist that the health care golden rule must be that Ottawa withholds the gold while demanding the maintenance of rules?

Health Care
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, even among the provinces the issue of tax points is highly controversial for the very simple reason that tax points benefit the richer provinces to the detriment of the poorer provinces.

If the hon. member is suggesting that there should be better health care in the richer provinces as compared to the poorer provinces because of the transfer of tax points, because they are worth less, then that may well be his party's policy. However, our policy is that all Canadians should be treated fairly.

Health Care
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister's policy is evidently that if we withhold money from all provinces this would somehow benefit the poorer provinces.

Let me draw the attention of the finance minister to the remarks of Canada's academic authority on fiscal federalism. Thomas Courchene recently observed that by denying adequate health care funding, the Liberal government is engaged in the practice of:

--forcing the provinces to transfer resources away from all other programs into health will lead to a situation where there is a willing and receptive citizenry for Ottawa's spending in areas...which are...under provincial jurisdiction.

Academic authorities and provincial governments agree this is a jurisdiction grab. Why does the minister deny the obvious?

Health Care
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, a little over a year ago the Prime Minister signed an agreement with the provinces, $21 billion over five years plus another $2.5 billion for early childhood development. That was the largest single transfer to the provinces for health care in the history of the country. It was over a year ago. The hon. member and his party voted against it.

Canada Post Corporation
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

David Price Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1994, this Liberal government declared a moratorium on rural post office closures. In the past month there have been two such closures, one in Saskatchewan and one in B.C. Rural post offices give an essential service in these communities.

I ask the Deputy Prime Minister this. Is this a new Canada Post management plan?

Canada Post Corporation
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I have met with the president of Canada Post Corporation. I have made it very clear that the government policy of having a moratorium on the closure of rural post offices remains in effect.

I have received his assurance that there is no plan to go about the country closing rural post offices. We have also maintained the strong commitment on the part of Canada Post Corporation to maintain the standards of rural postal services across Canada.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, a Mrs. Arsenault in my region, who was receiving employment insurance, signed a delivery receipt for items delivered to the take-out restaurant run by her brother-in-law, where she used to work. She did so because his employee was busy at the back.

She has now been asked to pay back $17,300. What is more, the Minister of Human Resources Development is thinking of charging interest on amounts obtained by fraud.

I would like the minister to tell us whether this is a case of fraud.