House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, those are two good questions.

One thing about being in government is that one wants to be responsible. When I speak to people in my riding, they want to ensure we treat unemployed people responsibly. They actually like the idea that if people have been paying EI premiums for 15 years, they should get a little more benefit.

I am sure the hon. member would agree. Why would he be treated the same if he has been paying premiums for 15 years as the guy who has been working for only a year? There has to be a little give and take in the system and that is what we are doing. We are allowing older workers to get jobs and giving them a bit more time to find proper jobs.

The member is sincere when he says we should not be playing politics, but in question period or any other time in the House, that is exactly what is going on. In the agriculture committee, all the member for Malpeque does is play politics. When the member talks about playing politics and the seriousness of it, he should quit playing politics, get serious and vote for Bill C-50.

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-50 and the three report stage motions on today's order paper. Substantively, Motions Nos. 2 and 3 are fairly straightforward.

The first motion deals with a royal recommendation as well as a change to the number of weeks. The benefit period that determines the weeks required would be changed from what was originally debated by this place back at second reading before the bill went to committee.

I thought it would be useful to make a couple of comments about Bill C-50 itself. Its genesis was to take into account the fact that extraordinary things happened in certain industries across the country, some more different than others, for instance, the forestry sector.

The forestry sector, because it relies so heavily on seasonal work similar to the fisheries sector, relies on the EI system to complement its working availability. Similarly, the auto industry. If the auto industry needs to retool or rework the factory for new models or for changes in models or whatever, it relies on the employment insurance system to provide a continuity of income under the plan to fulfill its purposes.

The petroleum industry, though, is a bit different. It does not rely on a ready and available workforce because it has down times and up times. The petroleum industry, particularly in the west, has grown enormously. We can see that by the shift in population, the demand for housing, the rise in prices of housing and all kinds of other things that happen. It had a very the stable workforce.

When the crunch came and the price of oil went down, all of a sudden there was this exodus of people from the petroleum industry. These people are the ones who will benefit the most from Bill C-50. Most of them are long service employees. The bill will get them more benefits than they would have otherwise been entitled to receive.

Table 1 in the legislative briefing notes lays out the level of benefits that people could get. Someone in the seven to ten year group would get five weeks. The table goes right up to 12 to 15 years. Someone in that group would get an extension of benefits of about 20 weeks. That is pretty substantial. There are a number of categories but I will not go into them.

This was basically to look at employees who had served for a long period of time, were not regular claimants of EI, and for no reason of their own had been laid off. This would allow a super benefit, as it were, during a certain period. The amendments under report stage Motions Nos. 2 and 3 indicate that the benefit period would begin on January 4. The benefit period would be retroactive to that date rather than when the bill actually received royal assent.

I asked a question earlier of an hon. member about the whole EI discussion. A special task force was established between the official opposition and the government to look at some of these questions.

It really concerns me that there was a void of information coming from the government representatives to the task force as to the kinds of things at which we could look. The task force was looking at the 360 hour eligibility base. If people got 360 hours within the time prescribed, they would qualify for benefits. It also was looking at the costing. It was interesting to note that the 360 hour benefit period was summarily dismissed by the government members of the task force, the minister being one, because they said that the cost of implementing the benefit level was $4.4 billion, and it was just too much.

We would think that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, who is responsible for the Employment Insurance Act and who has a full department of people who know much it costs for a certain level, would have the tools and the resources to know approximately how much it would cost if we were to change one of the variables. That was not the case. Subsequently we had some different assumptions. In fact, the cost of it would only be $2.5 billion. That is quite a bit different. That is $1.9 billion less than the Conservatives had said when they summarily dismissed the whole discussion.

Then after we got other third parties involved and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and that is a whole story in itself, the estimates for introducing that level benefit came down to $1.3 billion compared to what the Conservatives initially said as being $4.4 billion. How can they be more than 300% off the actual cost of introducing those changes, when they are the government, when she is the minister, when she has a whole department and she knows exactly all the variables and how they work?

It leads to a question of credibility, and I know a number of the other members who have been concerned about the bill have been concerned about the equity. We do not have unlimited dollars and we just cannot holus-bolus spread it around. However, the minister had said very clearly, and other members have affirmed this, that this benefit was to be provided for all Canadians. It was estimated that some 190,000 people would benefit.

When the members did their homework and when they started to look at the areas in which there was long service of employment but reliance on employment insurance benefits, some industries were more advantaged and others were not getting a fair share. This is the kind of thing that really concerns Canadians because they cannot trust the government to tell them the truth. It really comes down to that. This is exactly what the bill comes down to.

When I look at the charts and the various gradations, somebody has gone to a lot of work to make this more complicated than it should have been. If the real intent was to assist long-service workers who found themselves all of a sudden out of work for a protracted period of time and they had not been users of the system, there could have been a very simple approach to it, but there was not. It begs the question, why?

I know the premiers were on side to get these changes done, but the summer task force was totally shut down. The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who was on the committee, told me what was happening. He said that when the government was ready, it set up a meeting and it was agreed that any of the proposals, any of the information that any party wanted the group to consider would have to be circulated to the members in advance. Not once did not happen. Every time the government members had something to submit, what did they do? They brought it and tabled it when the meeting started. They did not give anybody a chance to really understand what was there.

It shows a lack of good faith, a failure to show that a person could be trusted. It is a sloppy bill that will not help all Canadians. It will only help some and I know who they are.

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to Bill C-50.

I must admit that, when the minister and the Minister of National Revenue talked about it for the first time, in a press conference, I was rather shocked.

It smacked of improvisation on the part of the Conservative government. Why? Purely and simply because it could have proposed something concerning EI in the budget brought down earlier in the year. What did we get? Zilch, zero, nothing. Sadly, the Liberals did not put any proposals forward. They simply made their own what the Bloc Québécois had done. The NDP, too, made further proposals.

In its economic recovery plan, the Bloc Québécois put forth a vision and ideas for unemployment insurance. There are great problems with EI, besides what the Liberals did during the mid-1990s. The Liberal members will argue that they were dealing with a totally different problem and that their action was justified. Unfortunately, we cannot go back in time.

It was totally irresponsible to plunder $57 billion from the employment insurance account. That $57 billion did not belong to the government; it belonged to the workers and employers who contributed to it.

The government has never put a single penny into that fund. It was a form of insurance, which is why it is called employment insurance. It is a contract between workers who pay into it, and employers who also contribute. So that money was there just for the workers. Since the economy was much more prosperous at the time, a surplus accumulated.

What was the first thing the Liberals did to wipe out their deficit, apart from passing it on to the provinces, as only they know how to do? They also plundered the employment insurance fund in order to balance their budget. Whenever we try to clean up this mess created by the Conservatives and the Liberals, we are not helping matters any by trying to always add more. That does not make things any better.

What the Bloc Québécois wanted was a complete overhaul of the EI system. We must make sure the government does not have complete control over the fund and that it cannot plunder it whenever it likes. I said earlier that it smacked of improvisation. However, what is even more improvised is the NDP's response.

I listened carefully to what the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst was saying earlier. I do not doubt his genuine desire to defend workers. Throughout his speech, he explained the many flaws in Bill C-50. Why is he supporting such a bad bill? I understand that an additional $1 billion is being spent on employment insurance, but when we look at the people who will be affected, we see that the NDP's response was sheer improvisation. It merely wants to prop up the government in order to stall for time for electoral reasons. Personally, I think that is the only reason. Why? Because when the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst was talking about it earlier, he was saying that there were some problems with seasonal workers, especially in his riding. As we know, many people in his riding work in the fishing industry, and that is seasonal work. This bill does absolutely nothing for those people. It does not help unemployed seasonal workers. That is the main problem.

I do not understand why the NDP is supporting the Conservative government. In January, the Liberals were the Conservatives' new friends. Now we see that it is the NDP's turn. I find that sad. It sold its soul to the devil for peanuts. They could have at least tried to negotiate a little in order to get a bit more. They did nothing. The leader of the NDP is bragging that it is thanks to him that the unemployed got an additional $1 billion. I have a big problem with that.

The reason the Bloc Québécois is against this bill is that it does not help seasonal workers. Take people in the forestry sector, for example. These are people who labour hard in Quebec's forests to try to earn a living.

They will not get any additional help from Bill C-50. The bill says that claimants cannot have received employment insurance benefits during roughly the past five years. This is extremely complicated for people in the forestry or fishery sectors. There are many fishers in Rimouski and Rivière-du-Loup. Theirs is seasonal employment.

We see that the Conservatives have done a lot of improvising and so has the NDP. It was a vaudeville act. It is unfortunate that the Conservatives never gave us any figures in terms of the unemployed who would benefit from this in Quebec. They are not even able to tell us how many unemployed people in Quebec will be affected by this bill. There is a reason for that and it is pure electioneering. This will help workers in the auto industry. It will help people in Ontario. It will help regions where the Conservatives want to make gains in the next election. We saw that they injected $10 billion into the automobile industry. I do not have a problem with them injecting $10 billion into the automobile industry. In fact, they are injecting an additional $1 billion for unemployed people who are connected to the auto industry.

However, I have a problem with the fact that, in these times, there is absolutely nothing for Quebec. The unemployed in Quebec are given nothing. That is the problem. I often explain the main reasons why I am a sovereignist. This is another good reason. The member for Prince Albert said that, when he returned to his riding, people were pleased. When I went back to my riding, people told me to vote against the bill because it does not help Quebec. That is why Quebec unions are against this bill. That is why the Sans-Chemise are against it. The reason is simple. Quebeckers quickly realized that this bill will not help any of our workers because it is tailor-made for the Ontario auto sector. That is the main problem with Bill C-50.

I was saying earlier that the NDP improvised on this one. What really makes me mad is that the NDP puts on such a show about being the great champions of the unemployed, those who do not have jobs, and yet we see that this will have no impact in Quebec. It will have very little impact in the Atlantic provinces because most jobs there are seasonal.

I am being told that I only have two minutes left but I could have gone on for hours having realized that this bill was just cobbled together. If the Conservatives really wanted to do something for the unemployed, they would have done it in the budget. They would have introduced bills well before this. They would have tried to speed up the process a little and introduced bills in January and February. We have known for months, even a year, that we are in a recession. The Conservatives have woken up one year later and, all of a sudden, introduced a bill that will not help anyone in our ridings. I do not believe anyone in my riding will be offended when I vote against this bill. On the contrary, as I took part in a great number of activities in my riding, my constituents have let me know that this is a bad bill that does not help Quebeckers.

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Repentigny on his remarks about Bill C-50.

He clearly stated that the Bloc Québécois is against this bill. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most important reason is that basically, very few Canadians will benefit from these measures. Only 6% of unemployed workers can expect to benefit. The amendment in Motion No. 1 would reduce that number even further.

I asked around in my riding and other ridings too. Nobody would benefit from this bill. Apparently the same is true for his riding. Can he comment on that? Has anyone called him or visited his office to ask him to vote for this bill?

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the simple answer to that question is, of course, no.

However, it is clear that my colleague from Chambly—Borduas is very knowledgeable about this issue. That is not surprising because he worked in the labour sector for years, and nobody understands the needs of unemployed workers better than he does. For years, he has been doing great work with the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. He is truly amazing, because even the minister herself does not know her own department's numbers even though they are right there on the website. The member for Chambly—Borduas needs to explain them to her. Does she even know what she is talking about?

The problem is that the Conservatives are coming up with these feel-good bills that will not change a thing out in the real world. That is because they want to cut back on government interference, get rid of it. Of course they want to cut benefits. The problem with cutting benefits is that our people are the ones who end up suffering.

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask my colleague from Repentigny the other question. Has anyone in his riding come to him and asked him to vote against this bill?

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, in fact, many people have told me to vote against the bill.

I have a very good relationship with the unions in my riding, and many union leaders have told me to vote against the bill. For example, the FTQ has told us not to vote for such a botched bill that will not help Quebeckers. The people in my riding want me to represent them, and that is a job I do humbly, but faithfully. I listen to them, and so far, they have supported me.

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know that the NDP is all about defending the indefensible. We are here today talking about Bill C-50 for one reason: a very important vote was held. The Liberals and the Bloc voted against the bill, and the NDP voted for it, using the unemployed to avoid an election. From that moment on, the NDP became the standard bearer for the Conservatives and the self-styled saviour of the people. But we can see that that is not really true.

I would like to ask my colleague what he thinks of the statement that the NDP is using the unemployed to try to look good in people's eyes?

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will answer quickly. First, I have never seen such a heated debate in the House of Commons. It is good to see people get worked up occasionally.

I have to admit that the NDP is doing the work of the Conservatives. It is trying to save the government's skin and pass a bill that is not in the interests of the unemployed. I find that extremely regrettable. As I said earlier, the NDP sold its soul to the devil for peanuts.

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-50 at report stage. This is the Conservative government's bill that will amend the Employment Insurance Act to increase employment insurance benefits for long-tenured employees.

In particular, I will be talking about the technical amendment. The amendment ensures that long-tenured workers, already receiving EI regular benefits when royal assent is obtained, have sufficient room in their benefit period to receive all of their additional benefits. We have added this amendment because we want to ensure that all long-tenured workers benefit from the additional weeks provided by the bill.

Bill C-50 was brought on by a particularly severe global recession that led to serious cutbacks in production and workers losing their jobs. In particular, it has tended to affect workers who have held down jobs for many years, often in a single industry or who face difficult prospects of getting back into the workforce. These long-tenured workers have done their jobs and they have done them well. They have paid their taxes and EI premiums, and they have not known what it was like to have been laid off or to be looking for another job.

What is really quite unsettling is that for many of them their benefits are fast running out and that is what Bill C-50 is all about. It is about treating workers who have worked long and hard with respect. It is helping them out in their time of need. Bill C-50 would provide from 5 to 20 weeks of additional EI regular benefits depending on circumstances and individual eligibility. In so doing, this initiative would provide these individuals with extra time to find alternative employment.

The amendment before the House would make certain that if they are receiving or have recently exhausted their regular benefits when the bill finally receives royal assent, they would have sufficient time to receive all their additional benefits under Bill C-50. This will benefit long-tenured workers from all sectors of the economy.

Long-term workers make up about one-third of those who have lost their jobs across Canada since the end of January and who have established an EI claim. Bill C-50 provides valuable extra time for workers who must now look for a new job. To be unemployed can be a terrible shock for someone who was not expecting it after years and years on the job.

To ensure that workers benefit from this measure regardless of the timing of royal assent, this new provision would establish a fixed date of January 4, 2009 for eligibility. Given that the measure would be available to new long-tenured claimants up to September 11, 2010, this means payment of these extended benefits would continue until the fall of 2011. It is estimated that this temporary measure under Bill C-50 would ultimately benefit about 190,000 long-tenured workers.

The amendments to Bill C-50 and Bill C-50 as a whole are part of the great economic action plan for Canada. In short, our economic action plan contains measures to help all unemployed Canadians.

Bill C-50 tells long-tenured employees that they deserve these extra weeks to help them take charge of their lives, because they have contributed so much to their former employers and now find themselves without work for the first time.

We are focusing our efforts on what is important to Canadians; we are helping those most affected by the recession; and we are investing in training and job creation. We have taken a lot of measures. The best way to help the unemployed and their families is to revive the economy and help Canadians return to work. This is our top priority.

Additional measures have been put in place for long-tenured employees. They are the Canadians who have paid premiums for many years and are having difficulty finding new jobs.

So, Canadians are benefiting from the measures included in the economic action plan. There were, for example, other measures that I will mention now. We added an extra five weeks to employment insurance, something that will help 300,000 Canadians. Job sharing has made it possible to protect the jobs of 165,000 Canadians. Freezing the EI contribution rate means that employers have more money and can create more jobs and that Canadians can keep more of their hard-earned income. Our measures include the payment of an additional $60 million to older workers, because they have inestimable knowledge and potential we must continue to tap. Finally, investments have been made to ensure that Canadians get benefits in a timely manner.

For all these reasons, I call on my colleagues to join me in voting in favour of Bill C-50.

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's speech.

I think he would agree that we do not agree on very many things. I think we could begin there, as a common place. I think he would probably understand that people in Timmins—James Bay voted for me and support me because I am opposed to many of the things that the Conservative Party has brought forward and continues to support.

However, I think the hon. member would also agree with me that in times of crisis we are called to put aside the larger differences we have if it means moving forward with pieces of legislation that can actually benefit people who would be in crisis.

For example, we have the bill that is before us right now. Does this address the NDP's concern about EI? Certainly not. However, the difference between the position of the NDP and the position of the Bloc and the Liberals is that they will simply oppose the bill for the sake of opposing the bill.

We want to get this legislation through because we know people who are being affected right now, who, if this bill is not going to help, will be losing their homes this winter.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague on behalf of constituents who have phoned me and asked why this bill was being held up, what kinds of games are being played, and how soon this bill was going to get through? So, I ask the hon. member, how quickly can we get this bill done, working co-operatively, so we can get help to the people who need it?

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his support on these important measures which concern all unemployed Canadians.

I think he is quite right in saying that this is a very positive step forward for unemployed Canadians. It is actually quite a surprise to me that the Liberals are fighting this every step of the way. In fact, I would say that our government is fighting the recession; however, the Liberal leader is fighting the economic recovery.

I point out the Liberals because it is the Liberals who are not giving their full support to these measures. I would encourage them to give their full support to these measures. I think that, in part, responds to the question from my colleague.

If we have all the parties working together for the best interests of Canadians, then this bill will move quickly through its process and receive royal assent.

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to address a particular thing here that has come up not only in this Chamber but also in committee as well, wherein members of the opposition particularly would say that this is just one thing only. They give the impression it is a big stand-alone kind of thing. The fact is there are many other things that our government has done in respect to the unemployed. There are some good measures.

I would like to ask my colleague with respect to his particular riding, the good riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, if our vast suite of employment measures have been helpful, and how are these measures affecting his constituents in his particular riding?

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly my riding, as the ridings of most MPs, has being affected by the economic difficulties which we find ourselves in. The town of Hawkesbury, for example, is a town that is centred on manufacturing, and has had plant closures and layoffs. PGW is in the process of shutting down. Ivaco has undergone many layoffs.

To answer my colleague's question, Bill C-50 is a very important measure for those Canadians who have worked all their lives or much of their lives in one job. In addition to the 190,000 Canadians that we are going to help, those long-tenured Canadians, we have undertaken other measures to help employment insurance help Canadians.

We have extended EI by five weeks. This is helping 300,000 Canadians. We have expanded work-sharing. Work-sharing is used in my riding by businesses. We are helping to protect 165,000 jobs across the country. We have frozen EI premiums, for example. This leaves more money in the pockets of both employees and employers, definitely a benefit for Canadians in my riding and Canadians in every MP's riding.

Again, I must encourage the Liberals to support our government in all of these measures but particularly with Bill C-50. They should stop obstructing positive bills like this that will help Canadians in these difficult times.

Motions in Amendment
Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity today to put a few thoughts on the table about this very important piece of public business before us.

I want to remind folks that there are actually two issues at play in this debate. One is whether we want to have another election, which has been spoken of and is being spoken of with great trepidation and fear by certainly many of my constituents and others across this country. The other one that is rooted in this bill is the question of whether we want to move the yardsticks on EI.

When I spoke at second reading on this bill a few weeks ago, I called on the House at that time to work to find a way to, in a common cause, do the best that we could in the interest of protecting people out there who are really feeling the hurt of this recession that we have all been part of for quite some time now.

I asked the different parties, the government party, the official opposition, the Bloc, and ourselves, to work together in the interests of workers and those families affected by people losing their jobs, hundreds of thousands of jobs. These jobs are not returning and many communities are still reeling, still wondering what they are going to do.

This recession, even though it may not feel like it in here, at times, is still very real out there. When we go back to our constituencies, the people we run into on the street or in the coffee houses will tell us that it has not let up and the impact is very real.

So, what has happened since then? How has the House responded to that request, to that plea by myself and members of my caucus to try to find some common cause?

Well, the Conservatives, the government party, put $1 billion on the table for some part of the unemployed work community. It is not everything that we wanted. It is not everything that obviously the Bloc and the Liberals wanted. However, it is certainly a lot more than the Liberals themselves got in their discussions with the Conservatives over this past summer when they met several times over a very important piece of work on behalf of families and workers and communities out there. They came away empty-handed.

What the Liberals decided, because they could not get any movement, any agreement from the Conservatives on this important issue, was that they wanted, instead, to have an election.

I say the time for an election has passed, at this particular juncture. The time for an election, in my view, was last January, when all of us in the opposition benches lost confidence in the government. What the government had tabled at the end of November, the beginning December in this House, was such an insult not only to us who come to work here, who understood the depth and the breadth of this recession that was coming at us, but certainly to the people of Canada. There was nothing in that package, absolutely nothing, that reflected that the government understood that we were in difficult economic times. Those difficult economic times were extraordinary in nature, akin to, some at that time said, the dynamics of the Great Depression. People were actually then beginning to lose their jobs and lose value in their pensions as well as all of the other ways that this recession has come to affect and hurt many working families and communities across the country.

We certainly led the charge at that time and offered to make the leader of the official opposition the prime minister, by way of the coalition. Those who took the time at that particular juncture to look at the package that we had put on the table, by way of a program for the new government, would have recognized that it included the changes that both the Liberals and the Bloc were expecting would happen by this, I guess, offering by the government to reform EI. It was all there.

We have not been shy to talk about the different efforts we have made by way of opposition day motions and by way of bills tabled in the House to reform EI to more adequately reflect the needs people have for support in their time of difficulty.

Here we are halfway across the river. People are really struggling. When I went back home in September of this year after the Liberals announced that they were going to bring the government down and cause an election, people said to me very clearly that that was not the time for an election. That was not the time to be spending $300 million on an election which the polls showed--and yes polls change during elections--would simply result in our ending up back here with a similar makeup of government.

When I go back to my riding even today people say to me “no election; this is not the time”. They say to me, “Tony, go back to Ottawa and see if you can find a way to work together to get something done”. People are asking because they are paying attention to what is going on here. They are asking me when Bill C-50 is going to pass, because they are at a place in their working life, and the recession is having an impact on them such that they will need the extra benefit that will come to them when this bill is passed.

One billion dollars is a lot of money. That fact may not have been reflected in the input that we heard this morning from either the Liberals or the Bloc, but I have to say that one billion dollars, however short it may fall of the total amount that is needed in terms of reform to EI, will help a lot of people at a time when they need it most.

As we keep the government going for the short term, we are also told that there will be legislation coming forward this week to reform EI for self-employed individuals. There are a number of people in my riding who are self-employed, who own small businesses, who are struggling just as those who work in big industry are, and they are concerned because they have no safety net. They are asking us to work with government to create a safety net that would give them some assistance when they need it, as they look ahead and see that things do not look so great for them either.

I am also hearing via the media that the finance minister is indicating a willingness to do something on pensions and is actually talking about the very good recommendations and ideas that the NDP are bringing forward and putting on the table with regard to pension reform. We look forward to having that discussion with the government to see if we can find some common ground so that we can give some sense of confidence to people who are either looking at retirement or living in retirement on pensions that in fact those pensions will be improved and protected.

A time for an election will come, perhaps next spring after a budget is tabled, but this is not the time. Today we need to pass BillC-50 so that one billion dollars can be put out the door and made available to workers who have lost their jobs.