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

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am now hearing from the member for Yorkton—Melville who has been consistently on the side of refusing to deal with the facts.

Let us just deal with one fact regarding police officers. This comes from a letter from Mr. Momy, who is the current president of the Canadian Police Association. From 1999 to 2008 there were 15 police officers killed in this country. Like the member from the Bloc, I was at the funeral of the woman police officer just outside Montreal, Quebec. We took time off from the election in 2006 to go to that funeral. It was a tragedy for her family. She was an exemplary police officer. She was one of those 15 officers that had been killed over a 10 year period. Only two of those officers were killed with handguns. The other 13 were killed with long guns.

We could say that the firearm registry was in effect during that period of time, and ask why it did not stop those killings. There is a simple answer, and if the member for Portage—Lisgar was willing to deal with the facts she might know this. Throughout most of that period of time, the long gun registry was not being enforced. As a result of that lack of enforcement, we had significantly additional deaths, including among our police forces.

Let me state another example of the effectiveness of the long gun registry. Another tragedy in our country was the death of those four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe. We know from the same letter and from other sources that the key mechanism used in determining that the two men, who were subsequently convicted of aiding and abetting, had been involved in aiding and abetting the perpetrator of that crime was the long gun registry.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

That is absolutely wrong.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am hearing from the member that that is wrong. I heard from her when she stood up to attack the police chiefs and the leadership of the police associations in this country by calling them people who sit behind their desks and do not know what is going on in the street. Every single one of those men and women who lead the chiefs of police and the professional police associations came off the street. There is not one of them who did not come off the street. They know what they are talking about.

The information I just gave the House on the incident in Mayerthorpe came directly from Mr. Momy. I invite the member for Portage—Lisgar to have a meeting with him. Maybe she would find out that in fact they have surveyed their membership on an ongoing basis. The last time there was a survey was in 2004. That survey was based on if we had the gun registry under financial control, which we were beginning to achieve at that time--I think we had finished it around 2005-06--the police officers across the country by an overwhelming majority said to get the costs under the control and if that was the case, and it is now, then they support the long gun registry.

It is impossible to go through this in any kind of detail, but I want to cover one more point on the cost issue.

I have studied this extensively, as I sat on the public safety committee for a number of years. We know that we brought the cost under control. It is irrefutable, and we heard it from the Auditor General, from the RCMP which is administering the registry now, and from some of the other speakers today, that if we get rid of the long gun registry, the savings would be somewhere between a minimum of $2 million and a maximum of $5 million.

Again, we heard from the member for Portage—Lisgar, who has brought forth this bill, that we should be using all that money, and of course the Conservatives think in terms of the $2 billion, which is a totally fabricated figure, mostly coming from the member for Yorkton—Melville. The savings this year, and for the last three to four years, would be in the range of $2 million to $5 million. I will use the example of a police officer on the street. Somewhere between $150,000 to $200,000 a year has to be spent for the officer's wages, benefits and all the required equipment. It costs between $150,000 to $200,000 a year to equip and staff one police officer in this country. If we do the math fairly quickly using the figure of $200,000, we would get 10 more police officers and if it is the higher figure of $5 million--my math is going to fail me here--it would be 25 police officers.

If we do that we are going to see a proliferation of long guns in the country. After we brought the registry in and we were charging people to register their long guns, the number of weapons in this country dropped dramatically, we think by as much as several million and maybe as high as seven million. Corresponding to that drop we saw a drop in the number of suicides and accidental deaths, and that one was very significant. We saw fewer deaths as a result. We can do all sorts of analyses but there is no other explanation for the drop in the suicide rate and the drop in the accidental deaths as a result of the use of long guns than the fact that there were fewer of them in our country.

There is not a Canadian, and I do not think there is a member on the opposite side, as strong as they are against the long gun registry, who would say that spending between $2 million and $5 million on the long gun registry to save 20 or 30 and maybe as many as 100 lives from suicides and accidental deaths is not worth it. Again, if we get rid of the long gun registry, other than some attempt by the member for Yorkton—Melville in a previous incarnation of this bill, that being Bill C-301, there is nobody who wants to either curtail the use of and certainly not get rid of the registry that registers restricted weapons, mostly handguns. That savings is minimal. We need the long gun registry in order to ensure that we do not have a proliferation of guns back in the hands of people who are careless with them. That is really what the number of suicides and accidental deaths mean to us.

Mr. Speaker, I am really sorry that I ran out of time. I think there is work that can be done on the registry, and in fact on the acquisition certificates, that would make it a better and more effective system. That is what we should be driving at, not getting rid of the long gun registry, because getting the long gun registry out of our system is going to save very little money and we are going to have additional deaths in this country.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise today to support private member's Bill C-391, which is groundbreaking legislation to finally bring a conclusion to the wasteful long gun registry.

At the outset, I want to thank Dennis Young, who is now retired but who worked endless hours, days, weeks and years on this file. He sorted through over 550 access to information requests to expose the firearms registry fiasco. That is a lot of work over the 15 years that we have been battling that absurd legislation.

I also want to thank the member for Portage—Lisgar for her work on this file and assisting by bringing forward this private member's bill. She has done a lot of work. It is a huge learning curve to find out all about this firearms registry file. I also thank my staff, Brant and Sandy and all the others who have worked on this issue.

I am standing today filled with hope because so many Canadians are finally demanding a swift finale to a bureaucratic nightmare that has run more than 500 times over budget without saving a single life. That is the bottom line. There has never been a government program that has so spun out of control as this one and continues to waste taxpayers' dollars.

The gun registry is the epitome of political pretense. It pretends to protect us by reducing crime, but in fact, it does just the opposite. Ten years ago we had a government that introduced specious and hollow legislation designed to dupe the Canadian public into believing they would be safer if gun owners were forced to lay a piece of paper beside their long guns. Laying a piece of paper beside their long guns was portrayed as gun control and that it would save lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was empty paternalism in the raw then and it continues to be so now.

It was a government that tried to tell people, “We know what is best for all of us, and just bow down and do what we tell you. It flies in the face of common sense, but do it anyway”. That is what we heard from that government. Unfortunately, the propaganda blitz took hold and many people believed that the gun registry somehow protected their best interests. They concluded that the gun registry would separate criminals from the guns they used to rob, kill and intimidate.

That government did not stop to think that criminals do not register their guns and even if they did register them, as the head of Hells Angels did, it had absolutely no influence on their evil deeds. That government did not stop to think that Canadian hunters, sport shooters and farmers would suddenly be turned into criminals themselves if they did not register their guns, which flies in the face of many of the arguments that are heard from the NDP, Bloc and Liberals in regard to why people should register their guns.

While the gun registry was supposed to target the criminal use of long guns, it actually targeted responsible gun owners who were doing nothing wrong in the first place. It is truly repugnant that the disingenuous Liberal government of the day tried to dupe Canadians into thinking that the registry would reduce crime. The Liberal government was dishonest, pretending to take care of us when the opposite was true. It was there to try to win votes, and it did not matter if it would save lives or not.

This ploy, this deception continues to this day. The gun registry is still portrayed as gun control, which it is not. Latter day registry proponents continue the subterfuge by pretending that the registry is working. They have to cook statistics to prove their point. We have heard many of them today, statistics quoted endlessly, totally irrelevant to the argument. Sometimes the licensing addresses the issues they were trying to portray the gun registry as addressing.

It is not enough that it has cost Canadians billions of dollars which should have been spent to put more police and technology on our streets for the past decade, but what is particularly galling is the fact that the gun registry is actually placing Canadians in harm's way. It is doing the polar opposite of what it pretends to do.

Recent evidence shows that the list of gun owners, their guns, their addresses and phone numbers were placed into the hands of a major Canadian polling company for what is called a customer satisfaction survey. What a joke. The whereabouts of gun owners and their firearms has been made public, which is surely one of the most serious breaches of national security in the history of Canada.

Can anyone imagine the horror of gun owners who have been identified by the Canada Firearms Centre to EKOS Research Associates? I can assure the CFC that the gun owners being called by EKOS are neither satisfied nor are they customers. Calling gun owners customers in the RCMP files is absurd in the extreme. They risk criminal charges if they are not in that file. Are the criminals in our prisons customers as well? This is a misuse of the term.

Members of Parliament have been receiving emails, letters and faxes from licensed gun owners who want something done immediately about the security leak.

Until recently, most Canadians believed that the gun registry was merely a lame and wasteful appendage of the federal government. Now it has evolved into an agency that has leaked encrypted personal information that should never have seen the light of day. This is a sad day for Canada and it is potentially a dangerous day for every Canadian whose name appears in the gun registry.

It is even possible that a crime has been committed by making public this secret government information. Surely this breach of trust, this breach of security, this breach of common sense will be the final nail in the registry's coffin.

I also want to remind people who have not been following this file closely that this is not the first breach of security. Back in 2004, I exposed one of the most serious risks gun owners face when they register their firearms,. I received this information through Access to Information. I received confirmation from the RCMP that there were hundreds of confirmed breaches. I have the list here and members can go to my website. According to the RCMP's own files, there are hundreds of confirmed breaches. That means that the information on the registry was given to those people not authorized to receive it.

I want to give the House an example of why this is very serious. In Edmonton, right after someone registered his valuable firearms, his home was broken into. The thieves did not take all the valuable things that thieves would normally take. They went through that house until they found the very securely locked up firearms and took them. How did they know where those firearms were?

Those breaches of security are serious because it gives criminals a shopping list. They know where to find the tools of the trade. That is one of the main reasons the registry should not exist. That information is falling into the wrong hands. I could go into this a lot more.

There were many instances where the RCMP actually laid charges because of the breaches of information. There were many cases where we do not know where that information went, which criminal group, organization or person received that information.

This inane registry has been kept alive by former governments to deceive the people of Canada, and Bill C-391 is a timely and accurate tool to shut it down.

Many members of the opposition parties still claim to the long disproved notion that Canadian police run thousands of gun registry checks every day. Our party and the firearms experts have explained time and again that every non-gun related check of the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC, pings the registry and increases the count clock.

The anti-gun lobby chooses not to hear us even though most would admit nearly all of those so-called registry checks occur when police officers run simple licence plate numbers for minor driving infractions.

It is one thing to support one's personal lead but it is another to intentionally mislead the Canadian public into thinking the gun registry is somehow a valuable tool.

I have many quotations here that I will not be able to read but I would refer members to my website. There are over 30 pages of comments from police officers who say that we should get rid of the gun registry because it is putting their officers in harm's way and that it is hurting them. Police officers in my riding specifically instruct those people under them not to consult the registry.

I wish I had a lot more time to go through this. One can imagine, after 15 years dealing with this file, how much I have accumulated to show this is a complete waste of money. I would like to refer people to my website because it contains a history of what this fiasco has done to our country.

We need to get rid of the registry now. I wish I had more time to explain why.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

Noon

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill seeks to eliminate the long arms registry that was set up by Parliament in law.

Back in 1994, when the issue of the registry was first put forward, one of the things the Conservative members failed to mention was that the crime committed using long arms was actually greater than crime by handguns.

How could it have been greater? When we had a system where there was nothing to require the safe storage, training, registration and so on, all kinds of problems were happening. In fact, long arms were being stored by the front door and if there was a problem they would get the gun and go ahead.

If the mover of the bill says that the registry has done nothing to reduce crime, her own facts say that in fact now long arm crime is away down. Therefore, obviously it worked. Then she concludes that it is not helping to alleviate crime so we should get rid of the long arm registry.

If we follow that logic, then she must also say that we need to get rid of the handgun registry because clearly the registry is expensive, wasteful and does not do anything. That is not the truth. When police officers and public safety officers who have access to the CPIC system go into a situation where they are not sure whether there is a risk, that tool is available to them.

I intend to complete my speech the next time we deal with the bill but I do want to say that the member has raised selective facts. If she wants the bill to be passed, she needs to put it all on the table. It needs to be true, full and plain and the member needs to be accountable for her words. We will see.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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.

The House resumed from September 18 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

12:05 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity today to take part in this vital debate that concerns so many Canadians. I will begin by saying that I think Canadians are looking to this government to provide meaningful assistance and we are delivering the goods to Canadians.

It is mystifying, however, how the leader of the official opposition and his party are behaving. On the one hand, they apparently care so little about the unemployed that they could not actually be bothered to show up at committee meetings that were held this summer and technical briefings on this particular bill. We had great hopes for these particular meetings and it upset many of us to find that the Liberals were not prepared to work with us.

On the other hand, they say that they want to rush this legislation through so it will not interfere with their scheme to plunge the country into another unnecessary, expensive election. Nobody wants an election because we are currently fighting a global economic downturn and we need to have this government continue to show the stewardship and good management that we are showing.

The Liberals do not care about the nearly $1 billion in assistance for long-tenured workers because they are too interested in spending one-third of a billion dollars to advance their leader's personal ambitions. They should be ashamed.

This Conservative government is focused on fighting the recession. The Leader of the Opposition is focused on fighting the recovery. As part of our efforts to ensure economic recovery, our government has introduced many enhancements to the EI system. The bill before us today continues this process. It continues to help Canadian families. It is a much needed step to meet the needs of long-term workers.

It is no secret that the global economic slowdown has affected the lives of many working Canadians from coast to coast. Through no fault of their own, many workers who have held down jobs for years, often in a single industry, have been laid off, in some cases for the first time ever. With the rapid pace of change, it is not clear that these so-called long-tenured workers will even get those jobs back as a result of changes in the global economy.

Before I address how Bill C-50 would help these workers, I will reflect on the changes that are driving it. I want to focus particularly on the auto industry, which has been such an economic powerhouse for our country over the past years.

For generations, manufacturing was the heart and soul of our country in Montreal, Quebec, Ontario and many other parts of the country and the auto industry was the leader of the pack. Even today, with the global economic recession and what has taken place in Canada, it contributes close to 14% of Canada's gross domestic product. That is right, it employs nearly 1.8 million Canadians and that does not include all Canadians who work in jobs that service the auto industry.

An increasing global economy means more competition from low cost producers and there are more speed bumps slowing down our economic growth. Dramatic fluctuations in energy and commodity prices, as well as the Canadian dollar, for example, make it more difficult for our producers to plan ahead and export at a competitive price not knowing whether they will continue to have workers to build these automobiles and continue the manufacturing process in Canada.

These forces hit the industry hard and continue to hit the industry. The recession has only made conditions more difficult. Nervous investors sit on their capital instead of helping to buy new technology that could make industries more innovative and productive by spending their money. Anxious consumers even sit on their wallets waiting to see if prices will drop even further or whether things will happen differently. Meanwhile, too many new vehicles sit on the lots gathering dust and workers' jobs are in jeopardy.

Through all the shifting fortunes of their industry, Canadian auto workers have rolled with the punches. They have done their jobs and done them extremely well but increasingly they have gone home at the end of each day knowing they might literally be at the end of the line. These dedicated workers have paid their dues. As I mentioned, some have never been laid off before and have had these jobs for 30 years or more. They paid their taxes and have not significantly drawn benefits from employment insurance programs because the jobs have been steady and the manufacturing sector has been strong.

However, many are now laid off and their benefits are fast running out. They deserve more and this Conservative government is delivering more. Through Bill C-50, it is determined to give it to them.

I will now highlight how long-tenured workers would benefit from these proposed changes to the EI system.

The changes before the House today would provide additional EI benefits to long-tenured workers. Specifically, they would provide from five to twenty weeks of additional benefits, depending upon circumstances and individual eligibility. In so doing, this initiative would provide these individuals with extra time to find alternative programs and employment.

For the purpose of this new measure, long-tenured workers include workers from all sectors from coast to coast, and about two-thirds of EI contributors meet the definition of long-tenured workers. Just about a third of those who have lost their jobs since the end of January and have established an EI claim are also long-tenured workers. Bill C-50 would provide valuable extra time for these people.

By definition, long-tenured workers have been busy working for many years, decades in some cases, and it can be a terrible shock for them to be suddenly unemployed. On the government side, our hearts go to them. We will continue to fight for their priorities in Ottawa and ensure they get the retraining and the benefits necessary in order to continue their lives and their quality of life. Our goal is to get these extended weeks of benefits to claimants as soon as possible.

The changes proposed today should be seen in a larger context, however. Through Canada's economic action plan, our Conservative government has introduced measures that support all unemployed Canadians. Specifically, we have improved the EI system by extending the duration of regular benefits, by making it easier to take part in work-sharing agreements and helping long-tenured workers make the transition to new careers.

We are also freezing EI premiums until 2010 at the same rate as this year. We are providing an additional $1.5 billion to the provinces and territories to help support skills training, which is so important for these tenured workers who cannot go back to the same jobs they had before.

I also want to pay particular attention to an initiative that complements the one before the House today.

Of all Canadians who lose their jobs, long-tenured workers may have the biggest struggle to get back in the labour force. Many have a specific expertise, such as the auto sector, honed from years of practice and work, which is not readily transferrable to another job in this new marketplace and new global economy. These individuals may need training to develop new skills that can help them find meaningful work in new industries or new occupations.

The career transition assistance initiative, which is part of Canada's economic action plan and of which I am so proud, was designed to meet the particular needs of long-tenured workers.

The government has taken some very positive steps and this case has two components. The first is provisions for up to 104 weeks of regular EI benefits to long-tenured workers taking part in training that extends more than 20 weeks. The second provides earlier access to benefits for long-tenured workers who invest part or all of their severance packages in training.

Many hard-working Canadians have held down jobs for years and rarely have drawn upon the employment insurance program. Now, when times are tough, they deserve a government that will come to their aid. They deserve every opportunity to sharpen their skills without falling further behind, and we in this Conservative government are doing just that. The career transition assistance initiative gives them that chance.

I have spoken at length about this initiative because it concerns long-tenured workers, the same target group that we are addressing through Bill C-50. Indeed, by extending EI benefits for long-tenured workers, this bill is a natural complement to existing initiatives put in place through Canada's economic action plan. An extra five to twenty weeks of employment insurance benefits could make all the difference to long-tenured workers and their families, workers who have given so much of themselves to their jobs and who are now out of work, often for the first time.

By helping to meet the specific needs of these workers, the bill would ultimately help all of us. It would help all Canadians and our economy. Our country cannot afford to let long-tenured workers stay idle too long. They have too much experience and we need to put that to work for Canada, and they certainly want to get back to work just as soon as they can.

This government is coming to the aid of Canadian workers.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with fascination to my hon. colleague's dissertation. What has concerned New Democrats for some time now, as we have seen this economic crisis roll across manufacturing, particularly in the resource sector, is entire communities have had their economic base wiped out. Simply turning that around is not feasible at this moment. Expecting people to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs in communities like Red Rock, Smooth Rock Falls and Opasatika is simply not realistic.

The issue for us is if we can get these workers through the winter when we are trying to get smaller value added operations up and off the ground. It is the difference between restoring some fundamental economic viability and seeing entire regions plunged into heavy levels of poverty.

I know my hon. colleague represents a resource-based region. Many workers in my region have gone to his region and we would like to have them back working in our region. However, given the issues before us, how soon can we get this money flowing so we can assure those workers they will make it through the winter and can make their house payments?

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, first, if the Liberals would not have walked out this summer during the EI committee special hearings, maybe we could have already had this in front of the House for a vote, and we look forward to the support of the NDP. However, the government is moving forward. We are trying to get it done as quickly as possible. With those members help maybe, we might be able to get this money flowing as quickly as possible.

I appreciate the member's constituents who come to northern Alberta. Six per cent of the GDP comes from my riding. Right now we need people working there because there are jobs. We expect those people to go back home and take that money with them so they can share it across Canada. We enjoy them being there and very much welcome them.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, accountability in this place really gets strained at times. The member will know that the government did not propose any new initiatives at the summer meetings, none. The Conservatives could have suggested the idea of this bill, but they did not. Now the member is somehow suggesting that the Liberals walked out. The Liberals had no meeting to go to. There was no meeting called after the failure to table the documents by the minister.

The other point I want to make is this, and I hope the member will comment on it. It seems that the minister and the member now are making hay over the fact that there was a meeting called to give a briefing on this important bill. They are saying not one Liberal showed up for the meeting. However, if the member would go to the minister's office, or the minister's aide and look at the email that was sent out, he will see that only one Liberal member was given notice of it. If he is complaining that no Liberals attended, it is pretty hard to attend when we do not even get notice. I hope the member will withdraw his criticism of the members who would have liked to attend.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are four parties in this place that have been elected by all Canadians, and we are only one of those parties. We have formed government, but we are looking for ideas from everyone. We have sought ideas from the NDP even. We have sought ideas from the Liberals and the Bloc. We know Canadians put all members here and we expect, just like all Canadians, that they work with us. The Liberal members walking out of those meetings was not beneficial.

We need MPs in this place who will work with the government, who will promote good ideas, who will work together to get them. If we would have had those committee meetings with that input from the Liberal Party, which in essence cancelled those meetings, we could have maybe had the bill done more quickly. However, it is too late now. Now we have to seek support from other parties because the Liberals have obviously turned their blind ambition into an election platform for no reason. Canadians do not want an election now. We are in a global economic crisis and the Liberals should act maturely, recognize that and work with us to get this and other bills through, which Canadians so desperately need at this time.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois today on Bill C-50 to reform employment insurance.

I deliberately did not intervene in the previous debate between the Conservative and the NDP members. I allowed the NDP member to ask his questions because I am trying to figure it out. This bill, supported by the New Democratic Party, will help the auto sector. The Conservative member's speech was eloquent and 65% of his presentation addressed that aspect.

It is true that the automobile sector is in crisis. In 2008, the Conference Board already forecast the loss of 15,000 jobs in that sector. Workers in the auto sector are considered long-tenured workers.

To date, 15,836 jobs have been lost in the Quebec forestry sector, more than will be lost in the auto sector. No bill or assistance has been introduced to help the forestry sector. When we talk about this to the Conservatives, they tell us that those workers must switch careers. Forestry workers will probably be transformed into oil sands workers in the riding of our Conservative colleague from Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

This is ridiculous because the forest is like a garden with trees that grow back, whereas the oil sands provide non-renewable energy. One day, there will be no more. To hear the Conservatives talk, they are going to increase oil sands production fivefold. Thus, we will exhaust these resources more quickly. This Parliament, with the support of the NDP, is attempting to transform forestry workers into oil sands or oil production workers. that is just ludicrous, especially from the New Democratic Party.

I find it particularly ridiculous that we are creating new classes of workers. There are long-tenured workers, who are the auto workers. The remaining workers—in the forestry, tourism, agriculture and fisheries sectors—are not long-tenured workers. Even though these people have devoted their lives to maintaining industries that are found in all regions of Quebec and the rest of Canada, they are not treated in the same way by the NDP because they do not consider them to be long-tenured workers.

This is an aberration, and it is frustrating, because a great deal of money is being spent. The Bloc Québécois has introduced bills in this House, and the other parties have defeated them. The Bloc Québécois has tabled plans for employment insurance. Before the latest budget came down, the Bloc Québécois was the only opposition party that proposed a recovery plan. The Minister of Finance even congratulated us. But the Liberals supported the Conservatives on that budget, all because some members of this House are trying to save their own jobs instead of defending their constituents' jobs. I find that scary.

The Liberals wanted to save their jobs when the latest budget was tabled, because their polling numbers were not very good. Now, the New Democrats want to save their jobs, because their polling numbers are not very good. No one is thinking about the workers, and that is scary.

Once again, it is a good thing the Bloc Québécois members are standing up in this Parliament on behalf of workers in Quebec, especially forestry workers. I repeat that 15,836 forestry jobs have been lost in Quebec to date. We do not care much about polls, and it will not bother us to go to an election if we no longer have confidence in this government, which is ignoring a whole slew of workers who have lost their jobs. We will not hesitate to put our seats on the line on that issue. That is the strength of the Bloc Québécois. All the analysts and reporters are wondering what is happening in Quebec and why Quebeckers do not like Canada.

It is simple. Quebeckers just want members who defend their interests. That is what we do every day, and we take pride in doing it. What is happening right now in this House is out of control. It is an aberration, especially when it comes to this bill, which is designed as an assistance program for the automotive industry.

I believe that our Conservative colleague was honest: for 60% of his presentation, he talked about the auto sector, saying that it represented 14% of GDP.

What he forgot to mention is that, according to the Conference Board, some 15,000 jobs were lost in that sector and that over 15,000 jobs were lost in the forestry sector in Quebec alone. He forgot to mention that. He also forgot to mention the fact that his party has decided to ignore forestry workers.

He forgot to mention that his party is not planning to do anything to help agricultural, tourism and fisheries workers. He forgot to mention that. What I have the hardest time understanding is why the NDP is supporting this. I know that people in ridings in the Gaspé peninsula are starting to get angry. When people—workers who have dedicated their lives to fisheries, forestry, tourism and agriculture—see a party like the New Democratic Party, which claims to be the great defender of all workers, support a bill that will help only one industry, the auto industry, I can see why people in NDP ridings might start wondering what is going on. Those people are looking at Quebec and I am sure they are very glad to see that Quebec, at least, has MPs who are defending workers' interests. The only party doing that is the Bloc Québécois.

The government has created a new category of workers, so-called “long-tenured workers”. Simply put, these are workers who, over the past five years, have collected no more than 35 weeks of employment insurance benefits. So, the government created this new class of workers, and all other workers are not long-tenured. I find this term appalling. Conservative and NDP MPs use the term “long-tenured workers” as though workers in forestry, fisheries, tourism and agriculture were not long-tenured workers, even though these people have dedicated their lives to sustaining industries that, in some cases, are seasonal and, in others, like forestry, have been going through a huge crisis for the past five years.

If the Conservative Party—and the Liberal Party in its day—had made a similar effort to get the forestry industry out of the crisis, the industry would now be leading the Canadian economy and we would be out of the recession by now. That is the truth. But once again, forestry does not get the same treatment. It never does. People forget that in the forest, the trees keep growing. There will always be trees. We are sitting on one of the best assets in Quebec's economy, and one of the best in Canada's economy.

Once again, some members in this House—the Conservatives, the Liberals last spring at budget time, and the NDP today—are ignoring the forestry industry. These people are being cast aside. They hear promises. Maybe we will see what happens during an election campaign debate. For five years now, the Bloc Québécois has been rising in this House to say that there is a crisis in the forestry industry. We need to help this industry. It will take loan guarantees. We must be able to modernize our companies. We want to be able to do so because in Quebec, the forestry industry represents 108,000 jobs. That is the reality.

There are forestry workers in the other provinces, too. If we had addressed the forestry crisis five years ago, we could have already come out of the current economic crisis. But once again, the other parties, for purely partisan reasons, have decided to save their own skins. Today, it is the NDP, who, over the next four, five or six weeks will try to make us understand that this measure is truly good for the economy. These members need only return to their ridings and talk to their constituents to understand that these outrageous measures are not good for the economy.

What we needed was a real overhaul of the employment insurance system, especially because, as of 1996, the federal government no longer contributes to the employment insurance fund. It is funded entirely by workers and employers. That is the reality. The Conservatives even have the gall to say that they will use this money to pay down the debt they have racked up.

So, once again, I am proud to stand here on behalf of forestry, agricultural, tourism and fisheries workers. We are obviously against this bill because it is unfair for all the long-tenured workers in these industries.

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12:30 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I admire the member for his work. He is on the transport committee with me. I agree with him that we need to have a longer-term vision. This government is the first in many years to look at a long-term vision for renewable resources in this country, recognizing that we cannot renew some of the resources we currently take out of the earth

However, I would disagree with the member on some of what he said. The Bloc is toothless. Only the 10 Conservative members in Quebec can deliver the goods to Quebecers. I think that all Canadians and Quebecers realize that. We have provided many options. This government continues to provide options. We have provided billions of dollars for the agricultural industry and for the forestry sector in Quebec and other places in Canada. In my own riding, I have a huge forestry sector. I have mills that have shut down just in the last few months.

I recognize what happens to families in communities such as Slave Lake and High Prairie that are devastated as a result of mill shutdowns. I am wondering what the member is suggesting we do in this particular case. If the world is not buying Canadian lumber, what is the Bloc going to do? They cannot do anything. It is only this government that can deliver for Canadians and Quebecers.

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12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, as my Conservative colleague said, there are only a few Conservative members in Quebec. If he had any backbone, he would no longer be a member of that party, especially considering the bill before us, which is clearly bad for Quebec workers. That would be the first thing he could do.

As for the rest, I understand that a program that allows workers in his riding, as he said, to transition from the forestry sector to the oil sands is a program adapted to his needs. However, I am trying to make him understand that the oil sands will not last forever. What will Alberta do when there is no more oil? After all, it is a non-renewable energy source.

In the end, perhaps they will be happy to have programs that will help all workers by considering everyone, not just auto workers, as long-tenured workers. That is the problem I have with the Conservative Party, but I have an even bigger problem with the New Democratic Party, for getting into bed with the Conservatives.