Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I want to thank you for coming here this morning. You have helped shed light on the current situation. However, I must say that I'm a little surprised by your answers this morning. Not that I doubt you, but I am worried about what has transpired. We produced a report, as you know. Part 1 of this report was adopted on December 16, 2004 and Part 2, on February 15, 2005. The committee's report was entitled “Restoring Financial Governance and Accessibility in the Employment Insurance Program“. The report consisted of parts 1 and 2.
Recommendation 10 in the report called for the following:
[...] that the government implement a uniform 360 hours qualification requirement, irrespective of regional unemployment rates or the type of benefit. This would establish a qualification requirement based on a 30-hour week over a 12-week period.
Recommendation 14 also contains a reference to the best 12 weeks, something that we also see in the bill now before the committee.
These are the two main measures proposed in this bill. They are found in the recommendations adopted by a majority of committee members. Our colleagues Mr. Godin and Mr. Cuzner also sat on this committee. If memory serves me well, they worked on this report from September to December. From the outset, we asked for an estimate of the cost of implementing all of these measures, and specifically these two measures, namely the best 12 weeks and the 360 hour qualification requirement. The result was the report prepared for us by Mr. Malcolm Brown, Assistant Deputy Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. That was the department's name at the time.
You're telling us this morning that the report was drawn up in two days. Perhaps you had only two days to prepare it, but we worked on this for several weeks and each time we asked, we were told that work was progressing.
First of all, I have to question your explanation as to the difference in the numbers and your claim that you had little time. That could be a plausible explanation, but we understood at the time that the work was being done over a longer period of time.
Secondly, not only were we given an estimate in the millions of dollar, we were also given an estimate of the number of unemployed workers who would be affected. The 360-hour requirement represented a cost of $390 million. Mr. Brown informed us at the time that an additional 90,000 unemployed workers would be affected, which explained the figure quoted of $390 million. He also said that the best 12 weeks measure would cost $320 million and affect 470,000 unemployed workers.
I now have to wonder if all of the work that was done at the time was based on false information. Is the information we're being given today incorrect? As parliamentarians, I have to say that we did some serious work. Since then, the Bloc has tabled two bills, that is billsC-278 and C-269. The NDP has proposed some measures and tabled some bills. A tremendous amount of work has been done.
I have to say that I am quite concerned about the possibility that all of our work was based on false information.