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

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Questions and comments. The hon. member for York South—Weston.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I think that all members in the House would agree that providing EI benefits to those who are self-employed is a very worthy, admirable objective that should have been faced up to many years ago. While the legislation is welcome, it has struck me that, as the member has pointed out, the special benefit that actually accrues as a result of the formula that is being applied will be one-quarter less than that for those where there is an employer and an employee contribution. Compounding that, our colleague has also pointed out that the employment insurance fund actuarially will be in deficit in 2010.

I am impressed with the manner in which the Quebec fund is administered, as the member has pointed out, but from a Quebec perspective, what approach will have to be taken with respect to that deficit where an actuarial charge now is going to be on top of that which will exist without having self-employed workers receiving benefits?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I said earlier that in Quebec, the premium for special benefits is now just over 80¢ per $100 in earnings, which is of course adjusted depending on plan expenses.

The problem is that the Liberals and the Conservatives had a surplus of $54 billion until last year, something we obviously always condemned. If the premium money had always been spent, we would have a better plan today.

I have a problem with my colleague's question, because he referred to employment insurance measures for self-employed workers. He then referred to special benefits, but he fell into the Conservatives' media trap, which was to announce a huge operation to create an employment insurance program for self-employed workers. But this is not an EI program for self-employed workers. Self-employed workers who lose their contract, earn less money or no longer have any income will not be able to receive employment insurance benefits. This program will only provide them with special benefits: maternity, parental or adoption benefits, sickness benefits and compassionate care benefits. That is what we are going to want to improve in committee.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, there are over 2.6 million self-employed in Canada. Of them, 21,000 are members of ACTRA. These are the people who work in television, film, in the arts. ACTRA has been pushing for years to extend benefits to the self-employed and to ensure that there is parental leave for workers in the film industry.

Steve Waddell, who is very active in ACTRA, said that this issue is one of basic fairness. I was speaking with Ferne Downey who said, “Our union has been fighting for years to get governments to recognize self-employed workers deserve these rights”. She said, “We are urging all parties to support the extension of benefits to the self-employed and for parental leave”.

In light of the hard work of what ACTRA does for the cultural sector of this country, will the Bloc work with the NDP, because we have supported these motions for some time, to ensure that our arts sector workers are given the parental benefits that they deserve?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, we are cooperating to create a real employment insurance program for self-employed workers.

But we will not do what the NDP did in the case of long-tenured workers, which was to exclude workers in tourism, farming, fishing and forestry. That was the choice the NDP made. It is not the choice the Bloc Québécois will make.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague for his excellent speech. I would like to ask him if he could again explain which unfair, additional premiums a Quebecker will have to pay if the bill is adopted.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord has done an excellent job of defending the workers in his riding, particularly those in the forestry sector. He is fighting hard with two Conservative ministers who refuse to get it.

I understand how he wants once again today to enlighten some Conservative ministers and members from Quebec, who do not seem to understand that Quebeckers already pay for certain special benefits.

We pay just over 80¢ on every $100. The Conservatives are asking Canadians to pay $1.73 and Quebeckers to pay $1.36, because they already cover a portion. That is a difference of 37¢, although Quebeckers already pay 80¢.

There must be real justice for Quebeckers in the House and it must not be just the Bloc that defends the interests of Quebeckers. The Conservative and Liberal members for Quebec should also rise and defend Quebeckers.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton--Sherwood Park can begin his comments and will have to be interrupted by statementss by members at 2 p.m.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on a bill that provides improvements to the employment insurance program which would, if passed into law, set up a system to allow self-employed Canadians to collect EI special benefits for the very first time. This will mean that our self-employed Canadians and their families would have access to the same treatment as most working Canadians for major events, such as the arrival of a new baby, a serious illness, or the need to care for a gravely ill relative.

I am particularly pleased to be able to contribute to this discussion since it provides me with an opportunity to speak on behalf of this group of hard-working Canadians who, through their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirt, have done so much to spur economic growth, inject new ideas, and foster greater innovation. There are some 2.6 million self-employed people in our country. They represent just over 15% of our workforce. This means we are talking about a large number of people who make a significant contribution to our economic well-being.

Self-employed Canadians are very often the people driving innovation in our economy. These are the people who harness creativity, courage and capital to build better lives. They themselves are creatively-driven, resourceful and entrepreneurial. They create businesses. They create new products. They innovate. They create jobs. They create wealth. They build our homes and they help us buy and sell our homes. They help us, when we need it, through the legal system. They fix our pipes and our wires. And they employ people who do all these things, too. They provide services that we need. We need them. They are farmers and realtors, carpenters and electricians, doctors and business owners, and so much more.

They build stronger communities and, in turn, a stronger country. Our self-employed entrepreneurs are the forefront of our economic vitality. We want to ensure our entrepreneurs can have strong, healthy businesses because stronger entrepreneurship means a stronger Canada.

We need their skills, we need their experience, and we need their energy and creativity to meet the challenges to come. They deserve fair treatment. I think this is most important. Self-employed Canadians deserve fair treatment. If the federal government is going to offer a framework and a structure for providing certain benefits to working Canadians, then all working Canadians should have the opportunity take part in that structure and to have access to those benefits.

That is why our Conservative government believes that these entrepreneurs deserve to have access to a system that would provide them with the same EI special benefits that other working Canadians can have access to. That is simply the fair and right thing to do.

Bill C-56 seeks to address the gap by giving such entrepreneurs access to EI special benefits for the very first time and, on a voluntary basis; a move that would improve their financial security and acknowledge the important role that they play in our economy.

When it comes to this action by our government, we listened to Canadians. We made a promise to them, and now we are delivering on that promise over and above what we said we would do.

Let me tell members about it. A year ago, our Prime Minister promised Canadians action. He said:

Self-employed Canadians, and those who one day hope to be, shouldn’t have to choose between starting a family and starting a business because of government policy. It should allow them to pursue their dreams, both as entrepreneurs and as parents...a re-elected Conservative Government will permit self-employed Canadians to join the EI system to access maternity and parental Employment Insurance benefits.

With this bill, not only are we keeping that promise and delivering access to that leave but we are also giving the self-employed access to sickness and to compassionate care that those other Canadians also have access to with EI special benefits. We are exceeding our promise made to Canadians. We are giving self-employed Canadians the same access as other Canadians. We are making this access voluntary because, of course, these benefits would require premium contributions, and we are ensuring that our federal government treats all working Canadians fairly in this manner.

We listened to Canadians. It is not surprising that many self-employed Canadians have been calling on the federal government to open up EI special benefits to them. They want fair treatment from their government and we agree. We do not want them to have to scale back or stop work when faced with joyous events like the birth or adoption of a child, or a difficult personal family challenge such as a serious illness or family crisis.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I will have to interrupt the member. When debate resumes, the hon. member will have 14 minutes remaining for his comments.

Veterans' Week
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, this year the world has mourned the passing of many veterans of the first world war, and Canada has only one member remaining, Mr. John Babcock, an amazing man. Mr. Babcock celebrated his 109th birthday this year and we are reminded that it is up to us as a nation to keep the memory of this great generation alive.

During Veterans' Week, which leads into Remembrance Day, let us remember significant milestones of the first world war, which are synonymous with our proud military heritage, for example, Passchendaele, the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Throughout these battles, regiments from coast to coast served and triumphed together, helping to create a new and stronger sense of Canadian identity.

Ninety-one years ago at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns of the first world war went silent. This November 11 we will pause to remember the generations of Canadians who bravely served our country and honour those still serving today.

Lest we forget.

Teaching Excellence
Statements By Members

November 5th, 2009 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour Ava Gomes, an early childhood educator in the Blue Wave Child Care Centre in Don Valley West. Ms. Gomes is a recipient of the Prime Minister's award for teaching excellence and excellence in early childhood education.

Ava goes beyond her regular duties to provide one-on-one attention to children. She participates with them in their extra activities, sends home creative projects and motivates her students through skits, props and music.

A parent of one of her students said it best:

Every day Ava builds [my daughter's] confidence, fosters her independence, makes her feel special. Like Ava, her classroom is warm and inviting.... Every morning [my daughter] wakes up excited and inspired to learn.

This award recognizes not only Ms. Gomes but also the importance of early childhood education. Liberals recognize this point very well. That is why any future Liberal government will be committed to a national child care program.

I congratulate Ava on this tremendous achievement and for inspiring students at the most critical moment of their lives.

Renil Belisle
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to an act of bravery by Renil Belisle, a blue collar worker from Delson, who rescued a neighbour, Yann Lamy, and saved his life.

Yann Lamy was repairing his car on October 6, when the vehicle, whose tires had accidentally not been secured, started to back up. Mr. Lamy was trapped under the vehicle.

Mr. Belisle heard his neighbour's cries for help. While his spouse called emergency services, Mr. Belisle remained calm and rescued Mr. Lamy by lifting the vehicle with a jack.

It is often said that it is the circumstances that create heroes. But I would say that these circumstances allow the hero inside to come out.

Mr. Belisle, your actions saved another man's life. You have every reason to be proud of this act of bravery, and on behalf of all my constituents, I commend you.

Canadian Olympic Teams
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, today the Olympic torch is in the Northwest Territories, in Inuvik and Yellowknife. As one can imagine, northerners have a special love of winter sports. Today allows them to show that love and to show their attachment to Canada.

Despite its small population, the NWT has been well represented on the Canadian Olympic teams, most notably by Sharon and Shirley Firth of Inuvik. The Firths were members of Canada's national cross-country team for 17 years. Between them, they won 79 medals at national championships and competed in four Olympics.

The NWT also has aspiring Olympians like Brendan Green of Hay River, who just made the national biathlon team. Others are still trying for places on those teams.

As part of the Olympic celebrations, Dene and Inuvialuit athletes will be showcasing traditional games. As well, NWT Day is being celebrated on February 19.

I support and encourage all northerners who aspire to Olympic greatness, and I know the entire NWT does as well.

Service Organizations
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, service organizations in Prince Edward—Hastings like the Rotary, Legion, Knights of Columbus, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Shriners, Elks and Kinsmen, among many others, have been responsible for bettering our communities and helping thousands of people.

One particular organization in my riding currently involved in a very worthy initiative is the Prince Edward District Masons, who are volunteers in the Masonic child identification program. This program is one of the most comprehensive child recovery, identification and abduction-awareness programs in use today. With individually tailored child ID kits, it provides all parents with a tool for helping to keep their children safe. Thanks to the masons of Prince Edward district. We appreciate their efforts to protect the ones we love.

I would also like to take a moment to congratulate a very special constituent who truly is an inspiration to one and all. While standing only 4 feet 9 inches, at 114 pounds and 65 years young, Kenzo Dozono, an eighth-degree black belt, recently took home three gold medals from the world karate open championships in Athens, Greece.

I extend my congratulations to Kenzo.