House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was special.

Topics

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to note that when we discussed Bill C-50, dealing with long-tenured workers, the government had actual statistics or figures that it could give us. It projected that Bill C-50 would affect 190,000 people and that it would cost roughly $1 billion.

I ask the member to provide us similar statistics for this bill. Surely before the government would introduce a bill of this type, it would have some projections as to how many people might be affected by this initiative and how many people are expected to apply in year one, two, three and year five.

I understand it will be a self-financing program, but if it is not, how will the shortfalls be made up?

Could the member tell us why the government has not released details similar to the same type of details it released in Bill C-50 just two weeks ago?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the fact is it is optional for the self-employed to buy into this program.

We have about 2.6 million self-employed Canadians. Overwhelmingly, when polled, they wanted this program. They have interest in it: 86% are interested in sickness, 85% in compassionate care, 64% in parental benefits and 62% of women are interested in the maternity benefits that this can offer.

Frankly, right now we do not know the numbers. We anticipate many of those 2.6 million will opt into this program. However, until the program gets going, we will not know how many, but we definitely anticipate many of them will. Many are interested in this program. It can help so many of them with their businesses and will allow them to balance business and family.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I like the many aspects of the bill. I hope it will be sent to committee, debated and refined in committee.

I have one concern, however. On matters of EI, we have seen time and again from the government misinformation on the actual numbers. It was in response to a question for the parliamentary secretary just last week. He stated in the House that the rates per $100 on EI, the premiums charged businesses actually went up during the tenure of past Liberal governments. That is absolutely and positively wrong. When we took over in 1993, it was at $3.18 and it was on its way up. Now it is down to $1.72, so that is a false statement.

What we hope for, and I hope the member can assure us of this, is the numbers coming forward before we vote on this are true numbers. Does he not understand fully that the numbers the parliamentary secretary cited were absolutely wrong?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, what is clear is the number of self-employed Canadians who actually need the bill and it is the reason we brought the bill forward. It was a commitment by the government, a commitment by the Prime Minister and a promise made to self-employed Canadians, because we believe that self-employed Canadians should not have to choose between family and their businesses.

Self-employed Canadians include small business owners, farmers, construction workers, professionals, realtors and those who have small businesses at home. More important, according to Statistics Canada, from 1976 to 2008, the number of self-employed men in Canada roughly doubled from 873,000 to over 1.7 million, but the number of self-employed women nearly tripled over the same period, going from some 300,000 to over 900,000.

The bill would help Canadians across all of Canada, and especially help women to balance work and family.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Edmonton for his excellent remarks about the bill, which would continue to serve the needs of workers, especially those who are self-employed in Canada.

I would like to have him comment about the Liberals new-found zeal for the unemployed. As he knows, Bill C-50, a government bill that is presently in the Senate, is providing additional support for long-tenured workers, in other words, those who have worked for many years without drawing on the employment insurance system and have suddenly found themselves out of work. We are making that system even more robust in providing additional benefits to those long-tenured workers. Unfortunately the Liberals, when their feet were held to the fire and they were asked to vote for the unemployed, voted against that legislation.

Perhaps my colleague could comment on how he perceives this inconsistency between how the Liberals speak in the House and then act when they are asked to vote on support for the unemployed.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member said that the Liberals say one thing and then vote in a totally different direction and really let Canadians down. Canadians are lucky to have a government that is supporting them, especially the long-tenured workers. So many Canadians have asked for this. They need it. We have added extra weeks onto EI, and now this bill would allow self-employed Canadians to benefit from EI special benefits.

Even in the arts and culture community, Ferne Downey, the national president of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, said:

This is a positive first step by the federal government and so we are urging all parties to support the extension of parental leave benefits to all workers.

These are Canadians across the country urging the opposition to support the bill so we can help them.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is often said that when a member speaks in this place or outside of this place, they are taking a risk because their integrity is being judged at every moment.

Previously a member asked the member directly about the information he gave about EI premiums increasing during the last Liberal government. The fact is, as the member knows, from 1993 there was a constant decrease, year after year, in EI premiums.

So I will ask the member very directly, would he please check his facts and affirm to the House what the truth is?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think Canadians want to know the truth about where all those EI premiums went to during the Liberal tenure, when they were in government for so many years.

For 13 years when the Liberals were in government, self-employed Canadians had asked for this bill, asked for provisions to help them, asked for an extension to EI. They did not get anything under the Liberal government. This government made a promise and we kept the promise.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-56 is great news for self-employed workers. It was utterly unfair that, in the past, only those who worked for other people's organizations have been able to collect employment insurance and parental benefits, while putting in an equal amount of work and paying taxes.

It is vitally important that all Canadians are able to find a balance between work and family. Extending maternity, parental, and compassionate care benefits to self-employed Canadians will mean that they will be better able to care for their families.

Perhaps the member could comment on how self-employed workers across this country would be allowed access to these benefits just like other Canadians.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question, her comments, and hopefully for her and her party's support for this bill.

I was speaking in my riding to members of the Sherwood Park and District Chamber of Commerce and they were saying how much they appreciate this, especially women and also new Canadians. Many new Canadians have built up businesses, have come into this country and invested, and they really would appreciate getting these EI benefits as well, just like other workers.

This bill is good news for all Canadians.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I waited patiently to participate in this debate on Bill C-56 at second reading. I had, in my mind, planned to talk about certain things, but following the debate, I am going to start off by going in a different direction and then I hopefully will have enough time to make the points I wanted to make about the merits or the demerits of the bill.

We are elected to come to this House with the intent of trying to bring forth legislation. Ideas and suggestions are tabled here and in committee to improve the lives of our people in good times and in difficult times. Our country today is going through some difficult times. There is high unemployment, and the economy is hitting rock bottom.

We eliminated the $42 billion deficit. We provided $100 billion in tax relief, the highest in Canadian history. Unemployment went from 11.3% or 11.4% in 1993 to 6.1% or 6.2% when we left government in 2006. People were working. There was confidence in the nation.

I want to go back to a couple of questions that were asked of the previous speaker, who is from the Conservative Party, the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. He was asked one question by two members of the Liberal team: first by our whip, the member for Cape Breton—Canso; and the same question again by the member for Mississauga South.

One might ask why two Liberal members would ask the same question.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Where is the $45 million?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

I will tell him where the $45 million is. If he is patient enough, I will tell him where the $45 million went and I will tell him where his party blew $70 billion.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Where did the adscam money go?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

I will tell him that too, absolutely.

Mr. Speaker, I do not mind being harassed. The problem is, when they hear the facts, they cannot take it. The fact is that the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, who was asked a similar question, was intellectually dishonest with his response. I know I can use that word. Why? The member for Cape Breton—Canso and the member for Mississauga South asked him a very simple question. Were the EI premiums, under Liberal administration, ever increased? In those 13 years that we served in government, did they go, as the member for Cape Breton—Canso clearly stated, from $3.18 per $100 to the $1.72 per $100 that it is today, saving employers and employees just over $14 billion?

Why could he not be honest enough and say, yes, they did go down? The Liberal member, and I have to stress, the good Liberal member for Cape Breton—Canso, simply asked a question. Where did the money go? Why did the parliamentary secretary mislead this House? If this Reform, now called Conservative, Party wants us to co-operate, the least thing they could do is be honest with us.

For example, the other day, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development was on television being asked questions about Bill C-52 and she really could not give answers. All she said was, “We will see” or “We do not know”.

It reminds me of what Kim Campbell said before the 1993 election. She said to reporters that she was not going to answer the questions then, she would answer them after the election.

No, Canadians are not stupid. Canadians want to know now, before they make decisions. That is why we are asking these questions.

The member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park talked about entrepreneurs and independent business people, the self-employed. An independent entrepreneur, an independent business person does not become a self-employed independent because he wants to become unemployed. He is an independent entrepreneur because he wants to continue earning a good living to support his family and his surroundings.

An independent business person, a self-employed person, does not become self-employed because he wants to become unemployed to collect EI.

My father, God rest his soul, told me a story as I was growing up. He said that when he went out looking for work he did not ask how much the job paid. He simply wanted to work. He was not concerned about how much EI would pay, he was concerned about whether there was work.

A self-employed person does not become self-employed because he plans to be unemployed. He plans to be gainfully employed for as long as he can.

Catherine Swift of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said that the bill makes it voluntary for self-employed Canadians who want to opt in and it fixes a “glaring gap” in the program.

The government cannot give us statistics such as who, how many, what the uptake is going to be, what the cost is going to be, et cetera.

I do not know what the gap is all about that Ms. Swift is talking about, because what is going to happen is that the people who are working are going to be taxed. We know that because hidden in the government's budget--