House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was united.

Topics

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today to speak to the bill from my colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, and I echo the compliments that have been given to him about his social conscience.

Tonight we are debating private member's Bill C-206 concerning EI benefits for persons who are caregivers for family members. There is no doubt that the issue of compassionate care and the need to find a way to provide support and job protection for workers who have to take time off to care for very ill or infirm family members is a key one for the House to consider. We know that everyone has a stake in workplace issues: employees and unions, employers and governments, and social commentators, for example. Virtually all have identified the need for some kind of compassionate leave program for Canadians who have to be away from work to provide needed care for family members.

We have a lot of evidence to look at. For example, almost one in four Canadian workers say that they or others in their households provide care to an elderly, disabled or seriously ill family member. We also know that almost half of Canadians feel moderate to high work/life stress. This is almost double the rate of a decade ago. We know that women are more than twice as likely to feel the stress of trying to blend work and personal responsibilities. Workers with dependant care responsibilities, such as children or elderly relatives, report even more conflicts between work and life than their fellow employees. The member raises an issue that is of great concern to Canadians and that is already high on the government's priority list.

There are numerous ways to look at this issue. To some it is an issue of work and life balance. To others it is an issue of workers' rights. More recently it was identified as a health care issue. For example, both Romanow and Kirby looked at it in the context of the health care system. Mr. Romanow told us that as much as 85% to 90% of home care is provided by family and friends. His report concludes that home care could not exist in Canada without the support of social networks and informal caregivers. Senator Kirby too recognized the fundamental role played by family caregivers in home care. His report specifically recommends that benefits be provided to employed Canadians who choose to take leave from work to provide palliative care.

The government appreciates the views presented in these reports and accepts that attention to the issue of support for family caregivers is an important element of the overall health care agenda, but we also see this as a key workplace issue, especially in the context of looming skill shortages in many Canadian workplaces.

We have some facts that illustrate the extent of this issue in Canadian workplaces. First, we know that 56% of family caregivers also work full time and another 12% work part time. We also know the following: 69% of women with children under 16 are part of the employed labour force; 75% of males and 62% of females who provide care to seniors are employed; and the proportion of employees caring for both elders and children is going up dramatically, in the past decade increasing by 9.5%, to 15%. One survey showed that 77% of Canadian workers who care for gravely ill family members have had to take some time off to provide compassionate care.

The need to balance caregiving and workplace responsibilities is one that has impacts on many individual Canadian workers and their workplaces and, given the demographics of our population, it seems safe to assume that the extent of the impact on individual workplaces will continue to grow.

The issue of being able to provide compassionate care and still stay attached to the workforce is one that has important implications for the labour market of this country. Our objective must be to make sure that the valuable skills and experience of employees continue to be available to the labour market. At the same time, we should try to support their need to meet vital caregiving responsibilities.

In other words, the government's response to this issue should meet workers' needs for temporary income support while they are away from work but at the same time should allow them to stay attached to the labour market. Governments are not alone in seeing this need. Employers too are recognizing the growing need to provide temporary leave to meet family responsibilities. For example, a survey of medium sized to large businesses showed that 59% offered some kind of family responsibility leave, although only about half had a formal policy. The survey also showed that typical employer workplace supports are largely unpaid, informal and very short term. In other words, there is growing recognition of the need for temporary workplace support for caregivers but not yet a systematic approach.

As we look at the issue from the perspective of the government, some key considerations emerge. First, although representatives of both employers and employees acknowledge the need for some kind of program to allow workers to balance their work and family responsibilities, no systematic response to the problem appears to be forthcoming from the private sector. Second, the typical need is for a temporary form of income support which will ensure that workers can retain their attachment to the labour force. Third, any solution must be affordable. Fourth, a program response from the federal government should involve both the public and the private sectors.

These are the key considerations that are guiding the government as an appropriate response is developed to meet the throne speech commitment to deal with this issue. I once again compliment the member for his work in the social field in raising this important subject for us to deal with in the House.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I must inform the hon. member for London West that there are four minutes before we call the hour for private members' business.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will take four minutes now although that does not give me enough time to say what I would like to say about the bill.

I am very pleased that we are having this debate. I believe in compassionate care. I believe that with an aging population our country will have a need for it. Our demographics show us that by 2011 our population over 65 will have increased by 23%.

Who will be giving care? Typically it will be women. Who are these women? They are working in homes right now. We have changed over time.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Right on.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Yes, and I have my financial hat on too. With my financial hat on, I must say to my hon. colleague that as it is written now, the bill would be very expensive. It would be coming out of a fund. However, I am saying that there is a need and I think that we can work toward this as a goal. I would like to see that coming very soon, but I am not in agreement with the way my friend's bill is currently written. However, I can assure the hon. member who sponsored the bill that as for the cause we can reach agreement over time with consultation.

Right now in Canada there is a void. What comes under the labour code? Only a couple of provinces are taking part. I have done some research. Apparently only six provinces in this country provide a short term period of unpaid leave when someone has extreme family responsibilities and/or emergencies and must provide for relatives. One of the problems I have with my friend's bill is that the definition of “relative” is pretty broad, but again, these are details and we can work on details.

The numbers of unpaid leave days under labour code protection right now are: three in New Brunswick; five in British Columbia; five, apparently soon to be doubled to ten, in Quebec; seven in Newfoundland and Labrador; ten in Ontario and twelve in Saskatchewan. If a person's mother or father has cancer, that leave will just not fix things.

One of the other areas I am concerned with is women working outside the home and the additional stress there will be if they have to quit a job. I am looking at something that still has a labour attachment, not a voluntary quitting. I think we add and stockpile stress in a home situation if we have to quit a job. We do not need that. Again, I think there are ways to work this out. All of us here can do things that are realistic, that can meet real needs inside families and that do not deprive workforces of highly skilled and trained individuals, including those men and women who must do caregiving in their homes. In fact, 81% of Canadians feel somewhat the same about this. When approached on this issue, they say that there should be a role for the federal government in this.

Now it is a temporary replacement, and I will be the devil's advocate here. I will argue that if I am the sick person, I am not entitled to the 52 weeks that this bill provides for the caregiver, with potential extensions, but quite substantially less than that. This is another issue that we will have to grapple with.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to participate today. I will be involved as this bill, or an alternate bill of the government, moves along. I suggest that we all work toward getting the issue resolved.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The member still has six minutes left if she wants to use them.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not use my next six minutes. I will let somebody else take the time to contribute.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Pursuant to order made Monday, January 27, 2003, the House will now go into committee of the whole for the purpose of considering Motion No. 13, under Government Business.

(House in committee of the whole on Government Business No. 13, Mr. Bélair in the chair)

Iraq
Government Orders

January 29th, 2003 / 6:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That this Committee take note of the situation in Iraq.

Iraq
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chairman, when the House last debated the question of Iraq in early October we grappled with the challenges posed by Iraq's disregard for its Security Council obligations. We considered the long brutal history of Saddam Hussein's regime, the importance to all of us of seeing that it is disarmed, the role of the United Nations in assuring our collective peace and security, and our shared humanitarian concerns for the people of Iraq.

During that debate I asserted that Canada would seek a peaceful resolution to this crisis through UN weapons inspectors and through Iraq's active and complete support in the process of disarmament.

The government's objective remains the same, because our faith in the United Nations was well placed. The Security Council met the challenge of handling the problem in Iraq by passing resolution 1441 unanimously. This resolution has allowed arms inspectors to return to Iraq and has given the Government of Iraq one last chance to comply with its obligations.

Inspectors returned to Iraq at the end of November after a four year absence. They have since been working on the job assigned to them by the Security Council. Once again, some expressed doubts about the inspectors' ability to carry out their responsibilities and predicted that the mission would soon fail. Others complained that it was nothing but a trap set for Iraq and that the operation was nothing more than a provocative western scheme to spy on Baghdad.

However these skeptics were wrong, my friends. The inspection teams did good work under very difficult circumstances, having carried out more than 300 searches and seizures. We congratulate them for their professionalism and their dedication. They managed to gain access to sites where previous inspection teams were not allowed. They made important discoveries, including empty chemical weapons shells. They are demonstrating the objectivity required to show that this process gives Iraq a fair chance.

In a nutshell, the inspectors have shown that they have the ability and the determination needed to carry out their work, provided they have the support they need from Iraq. Therefore, when Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei ask for more time, our government believes that we must give it to them.

At the same time, as the Prime Minister has said, this is not an open ended process. It can succeed only if Iraq understands that this is its last chance to come clean and acts accordingly. Unfortunately, the jury is still out whether the Iraqi government is willing to embrace this final opportunity. The inspectors have bluntly criticized the Iraqi government's approach to inspections. As Dr. Blix said in his report to the Security Council on Monday:

...resolution 1441 states that this cooperation shall be “active”. It is not enough to open doors. Inspection is not a game of “catch as catch can”.

The government believes that Iraq must actively provide evidence and answers to all of the many questions still outstanding. Inspectors are not satisfied with Iraq's answers about what happened to tonnes of deadly nerve agent. They are still waiting for the real story behind Iraq's ballistic missile program. They need answers about biological and nuclear weapons research. They are asking these questions because resolution 1441 demands answers.

We must remember that resolution 1441 is not a paper tiger. It warns of serious consequences if Iraq does not comply. The United States, the United Kingdom and some others have begun preparing for the potential use of force against Iraq should this be necessary. Canada has been engaged in prudent military to military discussions with the U.S. to be prepared, if necessary, as well. This credible use of force has been an essential support for diplomacy as it keeps the pressure on Iraq to comply. I assure the House however that no decision on the use of force has been taken by the government and we see it as a very last resort.

The government has been criticized by some for inconsistencies on its policies on Iraq. However, our policy is unchanged since the last debate. Some insist that Canada should commit now to the use of military force before all of the evidence is in or before the UN process has had the opportunity to reach a conclusion. Others say that Canada should ignore what the UNMOVIC and the IAEA may find, ignore our duties as a member of the UN, and announce now that we will never play any part in the enforcement of Iraq's Security Council obligations.

That is not what the government believes and it is not what I believe. I do not believe it is what Canadians believe. Canada must continue to seek a peaceful resolution to the challenge posed by Iraq's non-compliance with its international obligations. Our objective is the complete elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction by peaceful means and in accordance with Security Council resolution 1441. In this way we believe war can be avoided.

This is not the time to abandon the UN process, at the very point when the inspectors are beginning to make real progress and when concerted international pressure is finally beginning to bring about Iraqi cooperation, begrudging as it has been. Inspectors must be given the time they need to use every tool at their disposal. This is the message I will deliver to Secretary Powell when I see him tomorrow, and this is the message that the Prime Minister gave President Bush when they spoke last week on our relationship.

Ours is a solid relationship based on a commitment to common values and it permits this sort of exchange and allows for respect for each other's views together with an understanding of each other's concerns.

Allow me to address the possibility that force would be used to back up the Security Council resolutions on Iraq. It may well be that the weapons inspectors will find evidence of Iraqi non-compliance. Certainly the record of Iraqi compliance is not good. Should that happen, we must be ready to back up our words and principles with action. The Security Council has unanimously agreed that Iraq will face serious consequences if it violates its obligations.

Even as we recognize that war is not inevitable, we must also accept that a peaceful outcome depends critically on whether Iraq begins to co-operate fully and actively. We must not rule out a peaceful resolution, but neither can we rule out the use of force.

As we in the House know, Canada and the United States are best friends and allies. We have a long history of cooperation and partnership, and on matters of values we see eye-to-eye. However friendship and alliance do not imply that we two sovereign countries must adopt identical approaches on all issues. It is in the discussion and debate of differing views and the pursuit of varied but complementary approaches, that we are able to offer to each other the best kind of advice and support.

An independent foreign policy for Canada benefits the United States as well as ourselves. We value our differences as does the United States. Our partnership is the better for it.

On Iraq, we share the same goal: the complete and verified disarmament of Iraq through a peaceful UN process.

Last night I watched President Bush speak of how the United States will make up its mind. He said:

Yet the course of this nation does not depend upon the decisions of others.

Canadians expect no less of their government. Why would Americans expect anything less of ours from what they demand from themselves?

The government is working closely with our friends and allies around the world who share our desire for a peaceful outcome, and our goal of achieving this through our multilateral institutions. The countries of the region have been engaged in this important effort to convince Saddam Hussein that for the good of his people, and for the stability of the region, Iraq must comply with its international obligations.

They, like us, look forward to a time when Iraq will be reintegrated into the international community as a peaceful and prosperous nation. The Iraqi people deserve no less.

Many have asked whether Canada would insist on a second resolution before supporting the use of force against Iraq. To my mind the pertinent question is whether the current process established by the existing council resolution 1441 enables us to address the two fundamental issues we face: whether Iraq is in violation of its disarmament obligations of the world community, and whether the use of force is the only way to bring it into conformity.

Resolution 1441 does enable us indeed to address these two issues. Resolution 1441 has returned inspectors to Iraq, strengthening their hand and giving them new tools. Resolution 1441 with its clear statement of serious consequences of non-compliance, together with a credible threat of force, has compelled the measure of Iraqi compliance we have seen to date. Resolution 1441 lays out a process by which the council will receive reports from the inspectors and then consider the appropriate course of action, which might well involve another resolution.

Resolution 1441 has brought us to where we are today, just as it lays out the way forward. Let us focus on using resolution 1441 to its full extent before we speculate on what else might or might not be necessary.

War is not inevitable, but for conflict to be avoided Iraq must fully comply and act with the UN. Canada will stand together with the world community to see that it does.

I will conclude by echoing the views of Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday when he said:

I really hope that Iraq will comply and we will be able to get on and disarm Iraq peacefully. I have not given up on peace.

We should not either.

Iraq
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Chairman, I listened with close attention to what the Minister of Foreign Affairs had to say. I noticed that he went to great lengths to say that the government has not changed its position. However, I could produce a whole series of quotes over the past two months not only illustrating such changes, but particularly in the tone. The tough and clearer tone that the minister employed tonight is somewhat refreshing.

The Canadian Alliance has asserted that we should be working more closely with the American and British allied coalition on putting maximum pressure on Saddam Hussein to disarm. We have called for participation in the predeployment exercises. The government appears to date to have rejected that position. However, I note that the minister talked about consultations between the United States and Canada and I forget the exact wording, but on military preparations.

Is the minister in effect saying that the government is involved in a limited form of predeployment activity?

Iraq
Government Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

No, Mr. Chairman, I would not put it that way to the House. I have made it very clear in my speech, the government has always made it clear and the Prime Minister has said on many occasions that if force is deemed necessary to force Saddam Hussein in Iraq to disarm in conformity with resolution 1441 and the United Nations process, Canada will be there.

In the process therefore of examining what facilities, prudent military planning would suggest that we must look at assets, we must decide, we must talk with other countries and we must look at what we would do. The Minister of National Defence has been able to do that, but this is without any commitment of any kind. This is not of the nature of military dispositions, of moving troops or anything of that nature.

We strongly believe that, while the threat of force is a part of enforcing diplomacy, in these circumstances it is very important that the world know that it is the Security Council and the United Nations process which will provide the way out of this impasse and if we operate within that process, we do so in a way which will ensure not only that the use of force, if it is required, will be legitimate. However ultimately the resolution of this will mean that in the Middle East and in the rest of the world there will be stability rather than the fear of invasion by other countries. This is the most important principle. We have always been guided by that. Our actions have been careful and our words have been careful. We remain within that context.

Iraq
Government Orders

7:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Chairman, the minister has spoken about the importance of working within the United Nations context. Could he explain to the House why the government so far has refused to be unambiguous about a position that it would resort to force only within the context of the United Nations? Why the ambiguity? Could he explain that to us?

Iraq
Government Orders

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chairman, I do not think the hon. member is interpreting the words correctly. We have been totally unambiguous in terms of our wording, saying that we will only operate within the framework of the United Nations process. That framework is presently laid out by resolution 1441 and that resolution is still being examined.

The President said last night that Secretary Powell will go to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, lay out a case, set out with the security council what they might do and which way they might move given the present circumstances. We heard the report of the two inspectors the other day. I spoke to Dr. Blix myself the other day and we expect a new report on the 14th of February.

Nobody in the United Nations or in the world in my view, such as the United States or France or any of the other powers that are expressing this opinion, or this preferable option or the other, is saying that at this point the use of force is inevitable or that this is the way we will go. Everybody is seeking to operate within that framework and within that context. That is exactly where Canada started when the Prime Minister spoke to Mr. Bush some time ago and that is where we remain. This is the best way to ensure that we will get to the end where we have a credible, legitimate result.

Iraq
Government Orders

7:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Chairman, yesterday, after the state of the union address, it was quite clear that the United States still reserved the right to attack Iraq on its own or, to use the President's words, with a willing coalition.

Now, it seems that the minister is saying that Resolution 1441 is sufficient to attack Iraq. He says that he will be meeting shortly with Colin Powell. When Colin Powell asks him the question, “Are you following us to Iraq, unilaterally, without waiting for another UN resolution?”, I think that after what he just said, the minister will answer, “Yes, I will follow you to Iraq”. Am I mistaken?