House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was help.

Topics

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a little confused by what my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel just said. I do know whether he plans to support the government or not. Yet that is the most important question. It is because of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP that the government can continue to claim that the bill it introduced will help Canadian workers.

I think my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel is actually speaking on the government side. Perhaps he will answer this question.

He has read the bill. He knows that the bill will not create one single job. He knows as well that the bill is intended to help long-tenured workers.

Just think about that language, long-tenured workers who have contributed for a minimum of x number of years and have not drawn out more than x number of weeks of pay. That means it helps nobody in the auto industry because the auto industry has been using the employment insurance system in order to retool, upgrade and do all kinds of other things.

It means that none of those employees can profit. Why would the member support the government in a smoke-and-mirrors exercise?

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, as my colleague clearly stated, it is true that he may not have understood everything. The point of my speech was to indicate that we will be voting against this bill, as I just mentioned.

However, coming from a Liberal member, it is understandable that he would be asking why we supported a government motion two weeks ago. Quite simply, we supported it because adopting the renovation tax credit was good for Quebeckers. I can understand that it is rather difficult for a Liberal member to rise and defend our constituents. Rising to defend personal interests is a Liberal trademark. That is his problem.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand why my Liberal colleagues are frustrated. It is because in this House they have never been interested in any Canadian job. They are interested only in Liberal jobs. That has been the issue with them from the beginning.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. In terms of this bill there is $1 billion on the table that will go to EI. He can say it is only going to a region but it is going to long-tenured workers. Will he not support money getting to unemployed workers?

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can understand because just now the member told the Conservative member that a number of citizens in his riding had moved to work in the Conservative member's riding. That is not what I hope for as an MP. I hope that all my constituents will be able to work in my riding. I will be a valiant Quebecker and, unlike the NDP, defend the interests of the workers of my riding.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-50, concerning the Employment Insurance Act and potential amendments.

My first reaction was to wonder why, if this was really important, it did not happen last May when numerous employment insurance bills were coming before the House on a regular basis. Why did it not happen during the meetings that were negotiated with the Liberal Party to sit down and work out important changes that could help the unemployed? Five hundred thousand families are living on EI right now. Jobs have been lost.

We have debates going on about a stimulus program, and we are going to get this infrastructure money out, and it is going to be shovel ready. How many people can remember when the government kept talking about shovel ready? In most people's minds all it takes is approving the money and giving the money to the approved project, and it is ready to go.

However, that is not the way it works. In fact, at the end of the last fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2009, there was about $3.5 billion of infrastructure funding that lapsed. It was for approved projects that were ready to go. We knew that the economy was under duress. Unemployment was rising and that is when we needed the investment.

Why did it not happen? Why did that $3.5 billion not get out before the end of the fiscal year? It was because the government wanted to manage the bottom line. It did not want to show a bigger deficit than what it was already going to have, because it had promised to balance the books.

I have raised these points to raise the issues of credibility and accountability. Accountability to me is when one can say “I can explain my actions and my decisions or my words truthfully and honestly and in plain and simple language. I can explain and justify them, and everybody will understand”.

However, what we have had is a lot of fuzz. We have had a lot of code words. The minister responsible for infrastructure will not talk about how many projects money has gone out for. He talks about what the government has announced.

There is a project that got money this past week which was announced six years ago. Therefore when the minister responsible for infrastructure talks about something being announced, it means nothing. It is simply trying to evade the reality that in fact monies have not gone out.

We are faced with an employment insurance problem, and we have a bill that has come forward. I think there has been a fair bit of debate and I do not want to repeat it. However, it is clear that there are many good arguments that this bill for long-tenured workers who have not claimed EI but have paid into the system means they are going to be able to draw benefits for longer periods. However, the benefit period will depend on the industry that the worker comes from, whether it be auto, forestry or the resources. Under the bill, that makes a difference.

I looked at the minister's speech, and I did not see that. The minister boasted that she had called for a briefing. In her speech and in question period that same day, Thursday, September 17, the minister went out of her way to make the point that we had a briefing and not one Liberal member came, and that therefore they do not support these important changes for workers.

I found that really hard to believe, because I did not see anything. It took me a couple of hours to track it all down, and what I found is that the e-mail from the minister's office went to only one Liberal member of Parliament. Then the minister had the gall to get up in the House and say, “not one Liberal member attended the briefing meeting”.

That is not my opinion, that is a fact. Government members can ask for a copy of the emails to prove it.

Other members have said that. The parliamentary secretary said the same thing in a speech. They have said that not one Liberal member showed up. When a notice is sent out to only one member, and if that member's staff happens to miss it or the member cannot make it, what do we do? It is not being accountable. It is not being truthful and plain. It is playing games. It is casting aspersions. If the truth were known, if it was in plain and simple language, it would not be an issue, and it should not be brought up.

If the minister's only argument is that the Liberals do not care, that argument just fell apart. On top of that, her colleagues are parroting the same erroneous facts. That is the reality that we have to live with here.

I raise this accountability issue because the member for Selkirk—Interlake on the Friday we were last here went through a little scenario about employment insurance premiums. He said that when the Liberals were in government, they kept raising employment insurance premiums.

After that but before question period, and the record can be checked, I rose on a point of order with the Speaker because this was clearly not a matter of fact. It was, in fact, the reverse. For 12 years in a row the Liberals reduced employment insurance premiums from the position they were at when we took over from Brian Mulroney. I did not know how to deal with this matter other than to raise it with the Speaker and the Speaker had to rule it as a matter of debate.

We have to think about this. If someone says something that is factually incorrect, not a matter of opinion but just factually incorrect, and another member rises to challenge it, there is no recourse in this place. A member has no recourse when another member gives misinformation that he or she knew or ought to have known was false.

The people of Canada continue to get the same rhetoric, the same misinformation. Suddenly, that misinformation shows up in all the Conservative literature that those members send out to everybody else's ridings. Everybody knows about the $30 million worth of ten percenters sent out to ridings of other members of Parliament--

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. The hon. Minister of Transport is rising on a point of order.

Economic Action Plan
Routine Proceedings

September 28th, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I do apologize to my colleague and friend from Mississauga South.

Pursuant to an order of the House of Commons dated February 3, 2009, I have the honour to table the third report on Canada's economic action plan.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase benefits, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me deal with one more issue of accountability and basically telling the truth.

The parliamentary secretary talked about Liberal members walking out of the EI meetings in the summer that were organized by the leader of the official opposition. At page 5112 of Hansard of September 17, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour went through the full agenda and the activities that took place. I will not read it, but for reference purposes it stated that every time that government members undertook to put information before the committee in advance of the meeting, they did not. They did table drafts, which meant that when we arrived at the meeting we were given something.

Those meetings were intended to look at opportunities to help 500,000 unemployed Canadians. It is projected that unemployment is going to go to almost 10%. Those meetings were meant to help the unemployed, but the reality is that the government continued to play games. Government members continued to say they would do things but then never delivered.

Now the government has come forward with this legislation. The parliamentary secretary says opposition parties are playing around. If the government were serious about this legislation, it would have referred it to committee before second reading. The bill would have been passed and we would have had this legislation much quicker. Things could have been done.

The reason why the Conservatives did not do that is because if we deal with it at second reading, time will be wasted and it will never get passed in time. Once a bill is passed at second reading, substantive changes cannot be made to it. Therefore, we can only tinker with it at committee and parties that want to improve it have no chance. If the government had referred the bill to committee before second reading, we could have made it a better bill.

That member has not been accountable to Canadians.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, based on my friend's comments, it appears that he is prepared to support this bill and move it through quickly, instead of having an election that is simply for his leader's self-interest.

Is that what the member is suggesting, that we can move forward and get some work done for Canadians now and that he will support this particular bill and the government's agenda on helping the unemployed in this country? Or is he suggesting that the Liberals will not support us and just want to push us to an election?

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that Canadians should note is how often government members want to talk on behalf of the opposition parties and what they are going to do. They never address what they have done. They never have addressed some of the key failings of the government, in terms of accountability.

In terms of accountability, and I was working on a little speech here, how about the income trusts broken promise? That was certainly one. How about the fixed election date?

How about announcing that the Conservatives will not raise taxes, but then announce that they are going to raise employment insurance premiums by $13 billion, which is a tax raise, when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said that premiums are not a tax?

The government is so out of it, in terms of being honest and truthful with Canadians. This place will only be functional when the government becomes accountable.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it sounds as if this member and perhaps his party are running a little scared and are trying to justify where they are right now.

I have a question for the member. For the people in Thunder Bay—Rainy River, this is a question of a billion dollars for the unemployed or a $300 million election. I heard loud and clear all summer that the election is not a go. Now we see movement from the government on pension reform, on things that we have been talking about, such as protecting workers' pensions. We have seen some movement from the government in the last week.

Let me ask the hon. member this question. Is he not even interested in moving forward, co-operating and protecting workers' pensions?

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we spent the entire spring trying to get important changes into the EI system, which the government just totally blocked.

I know the hon. member wants to help his constituents and the industries in his area, but he has to understand that the official opposition has a greater responsibility than simply to pick and choose. We have a responsibility to make sure that Canadians know that we have tried and tried, and that the current government cannot be trusted. We can get some peanuts every now and then, but when it gets down to doing the real work on behalf of Canadians, the current Conservative government is not the one that is going to deliver the goods for Canadians.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.

Having consulted the major unions in Quebec, we know that they are unanimously opposed to this bill. Acadie Nouvelle reports that unemployed groups, especially on the Acadian peninsula, are against the bill. I believe that my colleague also seriously questions the claim that 190,000 people would benefit from this bill and the $935 million, while our NDP friends are going one better and saying that the figure is now $1 billion.

Do they understand how they come up with these figures? To get 190,000 people, 85% of unemployed workers would have to receive their maximum benefit entitlement, whereas only 25% actually do.

Can my colleague tell us whether he has looked at these figures?

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Mississauga South, a short answer, please.