House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was registry.

Topics

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak during the late show this evening regarding a question I asked about employment insurance.

We know that in recent years, the Conservatives have never been very eager to help with employment insurance or the issue of pilot projects. It is clear that if we want to ensure that the regions, and particularly rural regions, have a chance to continue to prosper, we must appreciate them and give them the tools they need so that people can continue to live and raise their families.

This is what is going on with the Conservatives. Let us take the example of the best 14 weeks for employment insurance. We know what happened in September. The Prime Minister announced in the media that the pilot project for the best 14 weeks would come to an end. This was a reality and a shock to all those living in rural regions in this country. They realized that all of a sudden, a few weeks before the holiday season, employment insurance benefits would decrease for all those applying after September 17, 2010. Then, all of a sudden, the Conservative government changed its mind and decided to temporarily extend this measure because of the crisis this country is experiencing. That is just one example.

The second issue was the fact that people could earn more money while they were receiving employment insurance benefits. Those were two extremely important aspects in helping families and people in rural areas. But of course, those aspects could also affect many people across the country.

The reality today is that the Conservatives decided to extend it for only eight weeks. Their first mistake was not making it permanent. That would have put an end to the debate and would have made sure that workers in rural areas and in seasonal jobs could continue benefiting from it and continued receiving benefits without having to struggle month after month and year after year. Since the Conservatives came to power, the only thing we have seen are little handouts here and there, such as employment insurance pilot projects. Why do they do that? Because they are afraid. They are afraid of the crisis and how the public will react.

In the case of the two pilot projects I mentioned, the government announced that it would extend them for eight months. As of today, there are six months left. That is all fine, but I am convinced that the parliamentary secretary will tell us today that he has extended them for another eight months and that we should be pleased. The reality is that we are getting tired of always having to fight for extensions. Initially, programs were extended for a little more than one year. Then they were extended for one year and now we are talking about eight months. Today, there are only six months left.

When seasonal workers employed in the winter season will lose their jobs, due to seasonal constraints, I am sure it will happen at the very end of the six months remaining, at exactly the same time the 14 best weeks pilot project will expire. People who apply at that point will no longer enjoy the advantages of the 14 best weeks program.

I have always considered this program and pilot project to be an incentive to work. It provided incentives to people by stating that the government would stop penalizing workers—members will remember that it was the previous Liberal government that put it in place—and that instead of taking the most recent short weeks, the 14 best weeks of the entire preceding year would be taken. That really encouraged people to work. That also gave families and workers the tools to move forward and to ensure that they could support their families.

Therefore, I hope that the parliamentary secretary will not be spouting rhetoric today, but will give us something tangible. I hope he will tell us that the Conservatives will no longer set up pilot projects and that they will make these programs permanent.

6:25 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to what the hon. member had to say, I would only mention that he needs to put all of this into context. It can hardly be said that we are not devoted to helping those on EI. The fact is that we have done a number of things and they are not just tiny things.

As a government, we are focused on what matters to Canadians: job growth, expanding the economy, investing in skills training and helping those hardest hit by the global recession. We have also worked to ensure that the EI system remains responsive to the needs of Canadians by taking prudent and reasonable action on which, in many cases, the opposition is opposed.

With respect to the EI pilot projects, on October 12, our government announced that it was extending two EI pilot projects for eight months. First, we extended the best 14 weeks pilot project for eight months. Second, we extended the working while on claim pilot project for eight months. We also announced that we were re-introducing the extended EI benefits pilot project for up to two years. That will be available for two years until September 15, 2012 or earlier if we experience sustained economy recovery. The extensions will provide additional information on labour market impacts of those pilot projects through a period of economic recovery.

We have taken many actions to help hundreds of thousands of Canadians through our improvements to the EI system and those were just a few. We have done much more. We have made timely improvements to help Canadians by providing five extra weeks of EI benefits to all Canadians on EI during the global recession. Over one million Canadians have received additional weeks of benefits, thanks to those five extra weeks of benefits included in our economic action plan.

The jobs of more than 260,000 Canadians have been protected by expanded work-sharing agreements all across Canada. These workers are being retained by companies and their skills are staying up-to-date. This is a big help to businesses across Canada and it is not a small step.

Our government is also focused on helping Canadians get back to work so they can provide for their families. We made unprecedented investments in training to this end and they were made available whether people qualified for EI or not. In 2009-10, we invested more than $4 billion in training, helping over 1.2 million Canadians. We also froze EI premium rates for 2009-10 and kept the rate increase for 2011 to help employers maintain and create jobs so that many Canadians could keep more of their hard-earned money. This can hardly be called tinkering.

Career transition assistance is helping tens of thousands of long tenured workers who need additional support for retraining to find a new job. We passed Bill C-50 which is helping approximately 190,000 long tenured workers to receive between 5 to 20 extra weeks of EI while they search for new employment. We also introduced access to EI benefits for approximately 2.6 million self-employed Canadians on a voluntary basis. This was a first for Canada.

All of this is to say that we have done our part. We have acted strongly to help Canadians through the global recession and we have done so in a responsible and reasonable way.

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I think that the parliamentary secretary and his Conservative government do not grasp the reality: all these pilot projects were not set up to deal with the economic crisis. All these pilot projects were set up by the previous Liberal government and the vast majority were set up after I was elected in 2004. They were implemented to help the rural regions that needed them because seasonal work was predominant.

Therefore they were not created because of the economic crisis, but because the need was there in those regions. The parliamentary secretary, his government and his Prime Minister should stopping telling tales to the Canadian public and stop looking for excuses not to renew these pilot projects.

These projects were set up for one simple reason: the need was there. The need is still there. Whether there is a crisis or not, and even when the crisis subsides, these needs will still be there.

Accordingly, the parliamentary secretary should withdraw his comments immediately, this evening, and announce permanent support for these pilot projects. I am not just talking about the ones we are discussing today. I am also talking about those that have been extended for a few days or a few months, and those that have been cancelled.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, let us have a look at the record and at the facts.

The Liberal Party has a shameful record of voting against help for Canadian workers. It voted against the 5 to 20 additional weeks of EI for long tenured workers. It voted against extending the enhanced work-sharing program. It voted against additional funding to help youth gain valuable work experience, the apprenticeship incentive grant and tool tax credit.

The Liberal Party complains about EI premiums and yet it and its Bloc-NDP coalition partners support bills calling for huge spending and premium increases, like the costly and irresponsible 45-day work year. The coalition's EI plan would cost an estimated $7 billion and result in an astronomical 35% permanent increase in premiums. The Liberal leader admits that it is fiscally irresponsible to do this but continues to support these ideas, as does his caucus. The Liberals are not responsible on this file.

Census
Adjournment Proceedings

December 7th, 2010 / 6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today for results of the question that I asked on September 22 of the Minister of Industry. It had to do with the summer announcement that the Conservative government made that it would scrap the mandatory long form census. Its claim was that it was too intrusive into people's lives, that it wanted to free the citizens of having to answer those questions.

The three opposition parties, Statistics Canada, more than 350 associations and the majority of Canadians all opposed this move. They did not want the changes. They realized what was involved with good statistics. Even Munir Sheikh, who was the Chief Statistician at Statistics Canada, resigned in protest over the changes.

This is pretty serious stuff. It does not just happen. People just do not quit a job that they have done all their life and walk away for the heck of it. This was very serious. He realized what was going on.

The Liberal Party introduced an opposition day motion asking that the proposed changes be reversed. We had all three opposition parties in favour of reversing the changes. But the Conservative government decided that, no, it was not going to do anything; it was going to stick with it.

Many of the areas that we look at when we have the long form census are essential for people to make decisions.

The argument that the Conservatives came up with makes little sense. They are saying that it is intrusive, that people do not want to answer those questions. It really does not make any sense. Then they came up with the idea that people do not deserve to be thrown in jail for not answering this.

The minister was asked many times how often that had taken place. Never. Not once since the census was put in place has anyone been put in jail. The threat was there. One time in committee I myself asked the minister to just take off that penalty and we would still get the information we need and go on that way.

The minister would not change it. Instead, he left it and just got rid of the mandatory requirement completely.

What ended up happening was that the Conservatives decided to make it so that people could answer it if they wanted to. However, in order to do that, they thought they would put forward a campaign.

Do members know how much that campaign cost? It cost $30 million. There was $30 million spent on propaganda telling people that they should fill out something that they would have normally filled out anyway and not paid much attention to. The argument that they make often is that thousands of people argued and thousands of people called and said they were not going to fill this in. It turns that there were not that many at all.

When I asked my question, I did not get an answer. I got some bantering back and forth.

Basically, why is this being done? Is it creating a crisis so that people will be afraid to go to jail? It is getting people excited for nothing.

It is really getting people on a bandwagon so that the Conservatives can create a crisis and then come across as the white knight who solves a problem that never existed.

Census
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the opportunity to address some of his concerns. I will address those concerns one by one.

The hon. member talks about the long form being scrapped, and I will correct him in that. In fact, the long form has not been scrapped. It has been transitioned to a different format that is no longer mandatory and will no longer threaten Canadians with jail time and fines simply because they do not want to answer questions such as what their religion is or how much yardwork they did last week.

In fact, one of the common misconceptions, which the Liberals have done nothing to correct, is that the short form has been scrapped, that somehow the census has been scrapped. In fact, the short form census still exists. The census that most Canadians would equate with the word census still exists in the same form that has existed for decades. All Canadians will still have to answer questions about their age, where their houses are and how many people live in their houses and marital status. Those basic questions still exist in the census.

In terms of intrusion, the hon. member says that no one complained about this. That is interesting because he obviously has not talked to his Liberal colleague from Richmond Hill, who took the time to write on behalf of his constituents. He said:

They are primarily concerned with the great deal of personal information they are required to fill out and therefore potential invasions of privacy....I share this constituents concerns...

In regard to the threat of jail or the threats being faced by those who do not want to fill out the mandatory long form census, the hon. member downplays that.

However, let us talk about the reality of new Canadians, for example, who, for whatever reason, do not want to tell the government what their religion is. There may be many reasons. I do not know what the reason would be. If people tell the enumerator that they do not want the enumerator how much yardwork they did, or what their religion is or how many bedrooms are in their house, the enumerator, in the process of his or her job, has to fill out a total refusal form.

It interesting that at the top of this total refusal form, it instructs the enumerator that, “The information provided in the following sections may be used to support a legal prosecution”. That sounds fairly threatening. Further on in the total refusal form the enumerator has to fill out, again keeping in mind that these are people who simply do not want to tell the government what their religion is or how much yardwork they did last week, the enumerator has to fill out a section which says, “Description of the person who refused (e.g. age, gender, height, weight, other physical details such as facial hair, tattoos, glasses, birthmarks, distinctive clothing, etc.)”.

That does sound threatening. It does sound a little over the top for a Canadian citizen who simply does not want to tell the government what his or her religion is or how many bedrooms are in his or her house.

Census
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting because those questions are actually put together and run through the cabinet. Therefore, it is the Conservative cabinet that is asking those questions and putting them together, but I guess it does not really want to know the answers and it really does not concern it.

Let me go to something a little more substantial. When I asked my questions, I was asking about the mandatory census and how getting rid of the mandatory census and making it voluntary would affect people. One of the groups that came up was nurses. They were concerned about pandemic planning, something like the H1N1 virus. Stats are very important when planning for a pandemic. When the stats are not there, we cannot always plan and we cannot always do things with solid information. Solid stats allow us to move ahead and make the right decisions.

When we look at health researchers, some of the information that they were looking for was essential information—

Census
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The member's minute is up. We will go to the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Census
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, when we were at the industry committee hearing on the census, we heard from several expert witnesses. One of those witnesses was Mr. Darrell Bricker, who is a statistician. He said, “it's not impossible to move to a voluntary census and generate very high quality data that would be as high a standard as anywhere in the world”.

The difference between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, in its approach to the census, is that we on this side the House believe Canadians should be treated like adults. The other side is moving a Liberal-sponsored private member's bill that would re-enshrine the threat of $500 fines for Canadians who do not want to tell the government what their religion is, how much yardwork they did last week, how much time they spend with their kids or how many bedrooms they have in their houses.

This side of the House does not believe Canadians should be threatened to get that information.

Census
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:42 p.m.)