House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was military.

Topics

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have had a chance to chat with the parliamentary secretary and others on that side about the bill. It certainly looks like something that would get all-party support, but I obviously do not speak for the other parties.

Does the minister know how many people would likely be affected by the bill? What would be the annual cost of the bill?

Would the minister be prepared to look at some amendments at committee? If it turns out that there are some people who may not have been covered who could have been covered by this bill, would the government be prepared to entertain amendments at the committee stage?

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's support of this important bill.

It is only an estimate, but we estimate that some 60 soldiers' families would benefit from this each year. The estimates at this point in time are that it would cost approximately $600,000 per year, which I believe is a very small price to pay.

We want this bill to go forward. We want it to help as many Canadian Forces families as possible. If the hon. member has reasonable amendments that would help us put this through to benefit as many people as possible, we would certainly be willing to entertain them.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-13. The only thing I did find a little curious was that the minister is using the same arguments in favour of Bill C-13 that she rejected regarding the bill to eliminate the employment insurance waiting period. I find that rather strange.

I would like to know if the minister's bill will include retroactivity. In other words, will this apply only to Canadian Forces members who need it once the bill comes into force, or will there be any retroactivity for members who have already returned but also need it?

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again, I very much appreciate the Bloc's support. Our objective is to help the families of Canadian Forces members who cannot be with their new baby for the first year. That is what we want to do.

Under existing legislation, there is a two-week waiting period before benefits can be paid. That waiting period will be maintained, because it applies to everyone who receives benefits. However, we are trying to include all military personnel who should be able to access those benefits.

If the hon. member would like to propose a reasonable amendment to include people who are already receiving these benefits, I would welcome such an amendment and take it into consideration.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:10 a.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, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this important bill that will support Canadian military families. By improving the access of Canadian Forces members to employment insurance parental benefits, we are recognizing their profound and dedicated contribution of service to our country and to all Canadians.

The men and women who serve in the Canadian Forces play an enormous role representing Canada abroad and serving our interests at home and around the world. Our contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is only the latest of many overseas missions past and present, which have called our service men and women away from their families on behalf of service for us all.

When we recognize their service, we must also recognize their sacrifices. We recognize those who make the ultimate sacrifice. We should remember them always and every day as we go about our lives in peace, security and prosperity in a country ruled by laws and blessed by freedom. We remember them solemnly every November 11 and we commemorate them on April 9. We did that less than a month ago in a moving ceremony not far from this place.

By the same token, we must recognize the tremendous hardship that arises when a Canadian Forces member has to leave his or her family because of an imperative military requirement, and it is an imperative requirement for the members to do so. Our Canadian Forces members spend many months on end away from their families, often more than eight or nine months at a time. This is very hard on a family and even harder on a family with or expecting children.

Our service men and women in these situations deserve our support. We need to help them preserve and strengthen the ties of family. The bill would help them do just that. The current Employment Insurance Act does not recognize the unique circumstances that our soldiers and their families face. It is time the act recognized the important and imperative contributions made by our Canadian Forces and the members of the forces.

We also announced in budget 2010 that we would take steps to make it easier to access EI sickness benefits for immediate family of military personnel who unfortunately died as a result of a service-related injury. This change will provide recognition of the impact on family members of losing a loved one in service, the shock and the sadness that no family should have to endure, but many do endure because they have to.

All Canadians are deeply and profoundly touched by the sacrifices made by our soldiers on behalf of us and on behalf of others. That is why Canadians, by the thousands, line up each unfortunate time to observe the memorial motorcades on the Highway of Heroes. That is why on Fridays Canadians wear red.

I cannot adequately express the thanks we give to our service men and women. Through initiatives like this bill, we can get a step closer to ensuring our soldiers have access to the programs and services to which they are entitled. As our minister has stated, the bill is the right and fair thing to do.

Canadian soldiers are willing to give their lives for our country. They are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, often make many other painful sacrifices for all of us. The least we can do in return is to give them some time with their families.

Technically, what the bill would do is extend the eligibility window for EI parental benefits by the number of weeks that a Canadian Forces regular and reserve members' parental leave is deferred or interrupted because of an imperative military requirement during the eligibility window. The window would be extended by up to a maximum of 52 weeks for a possible total of 104 weeks to allow these individuals to access part or all of the 35 weeks of EI parental benefits available to them. This would allow Canadian Forces parents time to share in those important milestones that form an integral part of every family's story. That is why we are doing this.

As I have said, we must recognize the service and sacrifice of these brave men and women. They face circumstances other Canadian workers do not. Most Canadians do not face imperative military requirements as a normal part of their daily life. Canadian Forces members put their lives on the line for our country and our government is proud to stand behind them and support them in whatever ways we can.

Under the legislation, we propose to address the specific challenges faced by Canadian Forces members, including reservists, who have their parental leave deferred or are ordered to return to duty while on leave due to imperative military requirements. The measure we have proposed is similar to what is offered to parents on EI parental leave who have a child in the hospital. The period in which parents can claim benefits is extended one week for every week the child is hospitalized, up to a maximum of 104 weeks.

EI parental benefits play an important role for many new parents by providing income replacement. Use of EI special benefits, including maternity and parental benefits, is high. The 2008 monitoring and assessment report found that more than 186,000 Canadians accessed parental benefits in 2007-08. The number of parents sharing parental benefits continues to rise. Parents use almost 95% of the time available to them under the benefit. It is well used and well received. Everybody recognizes the importance of the early years and the intellectual and emotional and social development of children.

Canadians recognize that service in the Canadian Forces is honourable, but comes at great personal risk. That is why our government values the extension of parental benefits as a meaningful gesture to the men and women serving in the Canadian Forces. It shows that we value their sacrifice and we value strong families.

Military families also deserve our support in another way.

As it currently stands, eligible individuals who are unable to work due to illness, including the stress caused by the injury or death of a loved one, can qualify for up to 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits.

Budget 2010 proposes to facilitate access to EI sickness for immediate family members of military personnel who died from a service-related injury. This recognizes the impact on family members of losing a loved one in service to their country. It reflects our country's deep appreciation for the new generation of men and women in uniform who stand up for the values and principles that Canadians hold dear.

We owe so much to the Canadian Forces members who have served and continue to serve with great distinction. I encourage my fellow members of Parliament to show their support to military families by facilitating access to EI and by passing this bill. I would ask that this bill be passed quickly and unanimously by the House.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my parliamentary colleague, who is on the human resources committee, a similar question to the one I asked the minister.

I think all parties in the House are generally supportive of the bill, but there are certain military members who still do not qualify for family maternal benefits for certain reasons specific to the bill.

Would the parliamentary secretary, whose judgment I have come to respect, give us his word that we would consider those if this comes up in the course of our study in the House of Commons? I do not anticipate that would be a long study. This is a fairly limited bill, small in nature. However, if we find some way to improve the bill, would he be amenable to that?

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, my minister indicated that she would consider all reasonable amendments. I would do the reasonable thing and go along with all reasonable amendments.

It is fair to say, generally speaking, that this is a very specific amendment that we all support. We want to ensure that no one is left behind. When the bill is enacted, personally I would like to see that anyone who has been in service, or is in service, and is not able to qualify for all of the 35 weeks of parental benefits is given the opportunity to do that and is not prejudiced by the fact that those weeks have been interrupted because he or she was deployed to service.

We certainly will work with the opposition to ensure that comes to pass.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe the secretary's answer is along the same lines as my question. However, I wonder he could elaborate on something. It would be possible for a reservist to have been absent for 35 weeks. Could this apply to a reservist who was there 10 or 15 weeks, which is quite plausible for a reservist with the Canadian Forces?

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, we will have to look at the specifics of what the hon. member has proposed. We will certainly undertake to consider it.

My personal view is we need to ensure that any benefits that are interrupted and not available should be corrected by this bill. We will do everything possible to ensure that happens and take whatever constructive suggestions the members opposite may have to ensure that is achieved when the bill is passed.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on a previous question that was asked about the costs and number of soldiers involved. I believe the minister said that we were looking at 60 soldiers, at a cost of about $600,000 per year.

Is it contemplated that we would be looking at 60 new cases per year? If that is the case, would the government be willing to look at maybe expanding the bill in other areas in case more people would benefit from this?

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the numbers provided by the minister have obviously been looked at. As I mentioned before, the desire is to cover all those who would be affected and that no one would be left behind. We will certainly be prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish that.

The dollars are an estimate year to year. The numbers affected are not substantial. If we were to ensure that no one would be missed, the costs would not go up significantly. We will again have a look at that when we discuss the matter in committee.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to this bill, which was introduced a couple of weeks ago and has come up today.

I want to divide my comments into a few areas. I am going to talk about the bill itself, what it actually means and what it actually does. I want to chat a little bit about the challenge for military families, coming from a military area. That is the second thing. The third thing I want to do is talk a little bit about EI itself and how this fits into the whole context of what could have been done for EI. That is what I am going to talk about, so members who are here and were planning to doze off can adjust their schedules accordingly.

First, this is a bill that is designed to assist members who are serving in the Canadian Forces. Although it is very specific in nature, does not capture many Canadians, and does not make a huge impact on the national level, it certainly could be argued it would make an impact for certain military families.

It addresses the special situation in which CF members can be placed when they are called to return to duty while they are on parental leave. In some cases such a call could translate into a loss of parental benefits, since parents have a limited period of 52 weeks after the child is born to claim those benefits.

When a child is born, a claim for employment insurance must be made within 52 weeks. This bill would address this by extending the period during which CF members can claim their parental benefits if they are called for duty during their parental leave, extending the benefit from 52 weeks to 104 weeks.

It does not mean that Canadian Forces members would have more than 35 weeks of parental benefits. It is the same as everybody else has, it is just that it recognizes that Canadian Forces members are sometimes not actually here in Canada to start that benefit. According to HRSDC officials this will only affect approximately 60 people a year, and it is somewhere in the range of $500,000 to $600,000 a year.

It is the position of the official opposition that it makes sense to support the bill. In fact, I think we should support it as quickly as we can, get it into committee, and have a look at it. Also, as I indicated a few minutes ago, I do not think it needs a whole lot of study. There are many things in our committee, including a report on poverty that we are hoping to finish that has to be done. However, as soon as this gets to committee, it will get the attention that it requires.

I do want to commend the member for Nepean—Carleton, who is one of the members of this House, like myself, who has constituents who might be affected by this. I am quoting from the Nepean-Barrhaven newspaper from April of this year, referencing the family the member for Nepean—Carleton came across, the Duquette family. The article states:

Four days following the birth of their first son, Jacob, in July 2004, Major Jim Duquette had to leave for duty in the Golan Heights in the Middle East. He returned to Canada in August 2005 and attempted to apply for a deferred parental leave, only to find that the benefits had expired in his time away from home.

“That was really difficult”, said Anne Duquette, his wife. “Part of what got us though in that first year of parenting was the thought that we could have that extra time together”.

During the 52 weeks following a birth or adoption, 35 weeks of parental benefits may be paid.

That is a specific case that was brought forward by the member for Nepean—Carleton. I wish he had mentioned this last summer when I had the occasion to spend many hours in small rooms with the member and the Minister of HRSDC. We might have been able to deal with this last year. Nonetheless, it has now been brought forward.

I come from a strong military area. I come from a part of Canada where we have the east coast navy, 12-Wing Shearwater, Windsor Park, Stadacona, and a very long and distinguished military history in Dartmouth and the greater Halifax area.

One of the great pleasures and one of my great prides is the opportunity to be a member of Parliament for an area that is rich in veterans and also rich in serving members of the Canadian Forces. I was reminded of this the other day when I went to the launch of Senator Bill Rompkey's book about St. John's, Newfoundland and the Battle of the Atlantic. It is a fabulous book. I commend it to all members. If members move quickly, they could get an autographed copy from the senator.

It talks about St. John's, and keep in mind that Newfoundland and Labrador were not part of Canada during World War II, they joined us in 1949. They played an integral role, particularly in keeping the channels open between North America and Europe.

I know, coming from Halifax where a number of the great corvettes sailed from, how important that was. Where I come from, HMCS Sackville is called Canada's naval memorial. It is the last of the corvettes, the last of those great sturdy, rugged, small vessels that kept those shipping lanes open in the cold north Atlantic.

I am a proud trustee of HMCS Sackville. I was a trustee before I was a member of Parliament and I suspect I will be a trustee when I am finished in this place.

When one lives in Halifax-Dartmouth, when one meets people like Allan Moore, Doug Shanks, Hank Einerson, Charlie Carroll and people like this, that I have the opportunity to rub shoulders with on a regular basis, one gets a sense of the great heroism. However, the heroism does not come from what they say because they will not talk about. The heroism comes from being in their presence, knowing what they went through and getting little pieces of information from them about their experience in World War II or talking to Tom Estabrooks about what he went through in the Korean War and talking to our many peacekeeping veterans who have served this country so well.

I think it is incumbent upon us as a country to ensure that all of our social infrastructure, including employment insurance, is designed in such a way that the great veterans of this country, including the very recent ones and the serving members of the Canadian Forces, have full access to those benefits.

I think, living in an area as I do, that we have an even greater respect and a greater understanding of our military. Everyone knows people who have served in Afghanistan. I know many people who have been in Afghanistan. I know people who are in Afghanistan today. I think of a family in my community whose father right now is serving in Afghanistan whose son is on my son's soccer team. Although they keep it inside and they deal with their responsibilities in a very personal, respectful manner, I know how difficult it is when families are called upon to serve their country. All members of the House would share the respect that we have for them.

I have seen how families adjust. I have seen how families make sacrifices. I have seen how families have had to adjust everything from their finances, to the school year, to vacations, in order to have one member serve. We should do whatever we can to make it as easy as possible on those families.

Of course, not everyone who serves comes back the way that we would like them to come back. One of the darkest days that I have had as a member of Parliament was the day in 2006 when we flew back from Ottawa. There were a number of parliamentarians on the plane. As we touched down we all turned on our Blackberrys to the news that Corporal Paul Davis had died. He was one of the first casualties in Afghanistan. His father Jim and wife Sharon are very good friends of mine and I know other members of the House. We would all hope that when people who serve their country and choose to do something to make the world a better place, as Paul Davis did, that they come back obviously in different circumstances. Not everyone does.

I have had the opportunity to meet people in my constituency who suffer with PTSD. I recall sitting on a deck with a constituent. This was a person who we could just tell was a very vibrant individual who joined the Armed Forces as a robust, energetic person who wanted to serve the world. Now in many ways he is a broken person and he needs help. He needs more help than he is getting.

I meet with veterans who do not qualify for the VIP who are having trouble keeping up with their daily chores and obligations.

However, many people do come back and we need to ensure that whatever we do, we know and respect the challenges that they face when they come back.

I get to meet with a number of constituents in that circumstance with my assistant, Percy Fleet, who is a former member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. He understands the situation very well. One of the great pleasures of being a member of Parliament is to help veterans to advance their cause and to pay them back in some small tangible way for the service that they have given this country.

We should do more. Though this is a small step, it is a significant step. It will have my support. I want to look at the bill in committee to see who is covered and see whether there are other people who might be covered considering the small cost of the bill.

It seems to me that there may be opportunities. I certainly will not hold the bill up, but we might want to look at some of those considerations.

Over the past year or so, employment insurance has been a hot topic. It has been a hot topic because this country has gone through a difficult time. I want to quote from a report that came out this week from the Citizens for Public Justice, which was developed with funding support from World Vision Canada's programs. CPJ is a faith-based organization. It looks at issues of poverty and it is a great advocate for Canada doing more to assist those most in need.

It produced a report that puts some numbers and figures behind what Canada has been going through in this recession. We all have a sense that things have been difficult, but it has been hard to quantify exactly how difficult it has been, particularly for Canadians most in need. This report, released on Tuesday, said:

The recession also demonstrated the inadequacies of EI. While the rate of EI coverage increased, just over half of unemployed Canadians qualified for EI benefits. Over 770,000 unemployed Canadians did not qualify for EI. Benefits for those who qualified for EI were low, with the average weekly benefit representing a poverty income for households without any other source of income. As many as 500,000 Canadians may have exhausted their benefits in the past few months, as the average length of unemployment increased during the recession. Workers who exhaust their benefits or who do not qualify for benefits at all either need to turn to social assistance or live off of savings or credit. Social assistance caseloads increased across the country, as social assistance had to fill in the gap created by EI.

Employment insurance has been a hot topic and the response of the government has been inadequate. While the numbers have changed month to month, I recall that last year less than half of 1.6 million unemployed Canadians qualified for EI.

There was a call across the country that we should have a national standard, at least during this period of recession, for employment insurance. It was called for by the Leader of the Opposition and all opposition parties. It was called for by labour unions and public policy think tanks. It was called for by the wife of the federal Minister of Finance. It was called for by all the western premiers and just about everybody else.

If we are going to look at employment insurance as a fundamental piece of the social infrastructure of this country, let us do something significant. Let us have a national standard. The government decided that it would not do that and I think that was a mistake.

We have had private members' bills in the House. The member for Brome—Missisquoi, the member for Chambly—Borduas, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, the member for Madawaska—Restigouche, and the member for Sydney—Victoria have all brought forward bills in the House that could have improved employment insurance for those who need help and need help immediately.

There is no shortage of people who have been shortchanged by the employment insurance system. We could get into all kinds of reasons for that. I know that people like to blame different people for what happened on employment insurance. The fact is that at some point in time we have to move from history to current events. We have to look at the recession that came upon this country. It was not as if people were not saying that we should do more. It was not as if the case was not being made by a wide range of people from all political parties and from all across society who said that this is when EI should be invested in, this is why we have an employment insurance system.

This bill brings to mind another case from a year or so ago and that is the case of Trooper Kyle Ricketts. This was brought to national attention by the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte. In this case, I am going to quote from the Ottawa Citizen. It said:

Trooper Ricketts was severely injured by an IED on March 8 while in Afghanistan. He was enduring a dozen or more reconstructive operations and his parents wanted to be by his bedside when that was happening. As the CBC originally reported the military flew Sadie and Maurice Ricketts, who live in Pollard's Point in Newfoundland's White Bay, to Ottawa to help care for their son. The couple, however, was told they will lose the employment insurance benefits they were collecting since they were laid off if they stayed away from their home for more than a week. Officials told the couple that only one of them is entitled to “compassion leave”, meaning that the other would lose EI benefits unless they returned to Newfoundland within a week. The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development said the case will be revisited.

In the end, I think Trooper Ricketts got taken care of through the heroes fund. It was only due to the intervention of the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte.

I use that case to illustrate how many potential ways we could use the employment insurance system, even specifically for the people who choose to serve in this country's military.

We come to this bill now. As the critic for the Liberal Party, I expect all members of the Liberal Party will support this bill. To that extent, we think the government has done a sensible and a wise thing. The problem is it leaves so many holes unfilled as we continue to go through a difficult time.

A report came out this week from the Citizens for Public Justice indicating the statistics it has put together in terms of caseloads for social assistance in Canada. Alberta is a prime example. It went up by 43% during the recession. Ontario and B.C. both went up by 20% or more. They may still be going up.

It is not good enough to suggest that we are at the end of a difficult time. We do not know when the end of a difficult time will be. It may be that for people who do well enough the recession may be over. Now we are looking to see what happens in Greece and Spain and other economies. For many people who were poor going into the recession, it certainly is not over. For those who were driven into poverty during the recession, it certainly is not over.

We have to look at this bill in the context of the overall situation that affects Canadians. We are helping 60 families. It may be that in committee we can look at how we can help others. There are millions of Canadians who go to bed hungry. There are millions of children who wake up hungry, who go to school on an empty stomach, who do not have the social infrastructure that a country as wealthy as Canada could afford. I hope that is something that will be addressed by the government.

On Bill C-13 I offer my support. I hope that at committee we can deal with it reasonably quickly. If we can find a way to strengthen the bill, we should do that. I am pleased that the minister and the parliamentary secretary have indicated that they are open to those kinds of considerations.

The people who choose to serve in our military, the people who choose to go to foreign lands on behalf of Canada in the sincere and honest belief that they are making the world a better place, deserve to be well treated.

The other day I supported Bill C-201 from the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. I wish that had been a bill the government could have supported.

We need to have fair standards for all Canadians, but I also believe it is reasonable and fair and aligned with most Canadians that those who serve in our military, those who take on dangerous tasks without complaint, deserve the very best that we can offer them.

This bill goes partway toward that goal, and for that reason, I would be pleased to support it.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member in his comments is always on point and makes sense in terms of his critique of the minister and the government where it hands out small crumbs to people in our country who are in need of support from the government. I agree with him that today we have a bill that we can all get behind and support.

Certainly these days it is easy to be cynical of a government, sometimes for very political reasons. In this instance, though, we can agree on the right thing to do which is to extend a benefit for a group of people when they come back from Afghanistan. We must consider the government's vote on a bill that went through this place yesterday regarding the pensions of veterans. There was a lack of interest and support from the government to reform that whole system, but this bill is something the government is doing that is right.

The member and I and the member for Chambly—Borduas have seen in committee other pieces of legislation that present a flashing bright light on the political horizon for the government, but at the end of the day, when it actually rolls out and we look at the finer details on how many people it actually helps and what it is doing for a group that we want to give assistance to, it really is not what it was cracked up to be.

I wonder if this bill is a Trojan horse. I wonder if the member has discovered anything in the nature of this bill which in a week or two down the road as we begin to look at it may show it to be less than it is presenting to be today.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, certainly we have to look at those things and see if there is something that can be made better.

I was surprised when I went to the departmental briefing to find out that this is about 50 to 60 people a year and half a million dollars in cost. It is not a big bill. I am not an expert on parliamentary procedure, but I have to wonder whether it is something that could have been done some other way. I do not think anybody is going to oppose that.

I do want to say that we have tried to work with the government on things that we agree on. It brought forward a bill for the self-employed before Christmas. I always indicated that I had no problem with EI for the self-employed. I have advocated for that, but there were some issues with the bill itself. What is the rate in Quebec versus the rest of Canada? Where is the money going to come from? Is the EI fund going to have to backstop it?

At the end of the day, we were all asked to support the bill in order to get it through before Christmas so it could take effect. I did that. I worked with the parliamentary secretary. He knows that, but there were questions about it. This House passed a motion from the Bloc the very last night that we sat before Christmas so that we could monitor that, because there are always things that come up that maybe the government does not think are a problem, but we get into committee and we find out that they are.

I do not know exactly what might come up on this bill, but I hope the government is open to it. If we are going to go through this whole process for a bill that is only going to cost the treasury something in the range of $600,000, perhaps there is a way that it could assist more Canadians who need that help as well.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his speech on this bill and for his fine work in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, as well as for the role he plays as a parliamentarian.

In many ways we are very similar in our desire to improve the employment insurance system.

My question is twofold. First, does the hon. member agree with me that this government has been negligent in terms of its support for our soldiers upon their return from a mission when they are often physically exhausted from their injuries and emotionally exhausted by the strain of reintegrating into their families and into society?

Second, does the hon. member agree that it is high time to protect the employment insurance fund in order to make the improvements he himself has suggested to help families when a family member has the misfortune of losing their employment?