An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.


Yvon Godin  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Not active, as of March 28, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment

(a) by lowering the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours, makes special benefits available to those with that level of insurable employment;

(b) sets the benefit payable to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest-paid 12 weeks in the 12-month period preceding the interruption of earnings; and

(c) reduces the qualifying period before receiving benefits and removes the distinctions made in the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


March 28, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Bill C-243--Employment Insurance ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2016 / 3:20 p.m.
See context


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to contribute arguments as to why my private member's bill, Bill C-243, would not infringe upon the financial initiative of the crown and therefore would not require a royal recommendation.

I appreciate the time of this House to present these arguments. As you know, Mr. Speaker, this is the only opportunity I have to do it, and I have to do it orally to get it on the record, so I apologize in advance for the time it will take to do that.

I want to begin by outlining exactly what my bill would do.

The first part would provide for the development of a national maternity assistance program, and the second part would amend section 22 of the Employment Insurance Act to expand the window of time in which existing maternity benefits could be taken if a woman worked in a hazardous job that posed a risk to her maternal health. Specifically, it would allow women to begin taking their 15 weeks of maternity benefits 15 weeks prior to the due date, rather than just eight weeks prior, as the current rules allow.

The argument I am putting forward today will focus on addressing the amendments to the Employment Insurance Act under part 2 of the bill. I will show that Bill C-243 would not increase or change the total benefits an individual is entitled to and therefore would not constitute a new and distinct expenditure.

My argument has two parts, and I will be citing both academic literature, in particular by Lukyniuk and Keyes in the Canadian Parliamentary Review, as well as relevant parliamentary precedent.

First, I will briefly show that Bill C-243 would not increase or change the total benefits an individual is entitled to and therefore would not constitute a new and distinct expenditure.

Second, I will show that these changes would not substantively alter the objects or purposes of maternity benefits. In other words, I will be arguing that it would not create or envision a new function.

The first thing to note is that there is a general authorization for EI expenditures that is sufficiently broad to encompass the provisions of the bill. To illustrate this, consider the comment on royal recommendations from Keyes, 1999, on page 19: amending bill that merely re-enacts or consolidates existing expenditure provisions does not require the recommendation.

The provisions contained in Bill C-243 would simply reallocate or shift existing maternity benefits, which are already authorized under the Employment Insurance Act. As such, the changes would fall within the purview of a royal recommendation, which provides for the general authorization of EI expenditures.

Allow me to further explain, with reference to specific examples, why this modest shifting of benefits would not introduce new and distinct expenditures. There are four elements that must be considered to substantiate this claim.

The first obvious point is that the bill would not increase the amount of benefits paid to an individual. Since the amount an individual is entitled to per week would not change, there is no concern that it would affect estimates or payments from the consolidated revenue fund.

This differentiates Bill C-243 from other private members' bills that were deemed to require a royal recommendation, such as past bills C-278 and C-279.

Second, Bill C-243 would not increase the benefit period or the number of weeks an individual is entitled to claim. Eligible recipients would still only be entitled to 15 weeks of maternity benefits. The only difference would relate to the window of time in which these benefits could be taken. I want to be very clear that this would be the only change.

In this way, Bill C-243 could be differentiated from several other bills, such as Bill C-278, which sought to increase EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks.

Third, Bill C-243 would not change the eligibility requirements such that more individuals would become eligible for EI.

Whereas bills C-279, C-265, and C-280 would have changed the qualification requirements, and thus expanded how many people could access benefits, Bill C-243 would not do this.

For example, in the case of Bill C-279, the Speaker explained that:

...more individuals would be eligible to receive EI benefits and those currently eligible would receive increased benefits.

Fourth, since Bill C-243 would simply shift existing entitlements, the only costs associated with this legislation would be administrative, and it has been well established in previous rulings that these administrative costs would not require spending for a new function. Instead, they would be operational costs that are part of the department's ongoing mandate. As such, they have constantly been ruled as not requiring a new royal recommendation.

To summarize my argument that spending under this bill is not new and distinct, I want to quote Keyes, 1997, who argued on page 20 that royal recommendation is not for “Provisions authorizing charges that are already or were previously authorized by Parliament, for example, a bill consolidating or revising existing legislation or authorizing spending for a particular group of people already covered under general legislation”.

In fact, that is exactly what this bill does. It authorizes spending for a particular group of people, women working in hazardous jobs, who are already covered under general legislation, in this case, the Employment Insurance Act. While Bill C-243 does shift the window of time for when an individual can receive maternity benefits, it must be understood that these are benefits that many women are already entitled to. They are not new and distinct.

I will now concentrate on the second reason why my bill might require royal recommendation, which is whether or not it fundamentally changes the objects or purposes of the spending. In other words, does the bill envision a new function for maternity benefits? The central question on which you will have to rule, Mr. Speaker, is whether El maternity benefits are currently intended to protect the health of the mother and her unborn child. If this function exists under the current spending regime, my bill would not require royal recommendation, as it simply shifts existing benefits in a manner consistent with the existing purpose.

I will present several arguments to show that maternal health is one of the functions, if not the primary function, of maternity benefits. I will begin by noting that while we are tasked with determining the purpose of El maternity benefits, the actual enabling legislation, the Employment Insurance Act, says nothing explicitly on this issue. As such, to make this determination we will be required to make reasonable inferences based on other factors, including the eligibility criteria, their practical usage, and indeed a common sense understanding.

Let us consider the purpose and eligibility criteria of maternity benefits, according to the departmental website. It states, “A maximum of 15 weeks of El maternity benefits is available. The 15 weeks can start as early as eight weeks before the expected date of birth, and can end as late as 17 weeks after the actual date of birth.”

My central argument is that protecting maternal health is a function of maternity benefits under the existing legislation and usage. That is why my bill, which touches directly on this function through existing entitlements, cannot be considered to be creating a new function. The function already exists.

The fact that applicants are already permitted to take benefits during their pregnancy, up to eight weeks prior to their due date, is strong evidence that maternal health and maintaining a safe pregnancy are existing purposes of maternity benefits. The legislation may not explicitly recognize this, or any purposes of maternity benefits, but I believe the interpretation and the spirit of the law confirm this understanding.

Legal analysis of the existing provisions is valuable, but should be complemented by a practical understanding of the benefits. In other words, it is not just my opinion that maternity benefits can be interpreted as having a maternal health function, but this is exactly how the benefits are being used.

Melodie Ballard, a constituent from my riding, is one of the many Canadians who chose to access their maternity benefits early because their job posed a risk to their health and that of their unborn child. This is not only allowed under the current rules, but in fact, it is one of the main reasons why benefits can be taken eight weeks before the birth. All Bill C-243 does is emphasize one of the existing purposes and practical usages of maternity benefits. That is it.

To be clear, I do not mean to suggest that this is the only function of maternity benefits, or the only reason that the legislation permits pre-confinement access. Indeed, maternity benefits can be taken after the birth, and in that sense they are also intended to provide a recovery period for the mother after childbirth. The key point is that maternity benefits should not be so narrowly interpreted as to exclude the function of maternal health, given the structure of the benefits and how they are practically used.

I will now present statements as to why my argument that employment insurance, and in particular maternity benefits, do serve the purpose of supporting a healthy pregnancy. To begin, consider this statement from the director general of El who, when she appeared before the HUMA committee on May 8, 2014 said, “Maternity benefits provide income support for a 15-week period surrounding childbirth to allow recovery from physical or emotional effects of the pregnancy and childbirth.”

It is clear from this statement that maternity benefits are used to support maternal health during pregnancy. Perhaps more specifically, Mr. Speaker, you will have to answer whether maternity benefits serve the purpose of protecting the mother when her job poses a risk to her health, or to that of her unborn child.

In other words, do El maternity benefits serve a similar purpose to the preventative withdrawal program that exists in Quebec? This is a topic that has actually been discussed during debates in this House, in particular on past private members' bills, Bill C-380 and Bill C-307.

I would refer to a contribution from the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame on May 3, 2012, “provinces outside of Quebec have been relying for numerous years on the Employment Insurance Act for compensation for pregnant and nursing women in the circumstances of a preventive withdrawal from work.”

That sort of statement makes my argument quite succinctly and coherently.

A similar explanation for how employment insurance benefits are used for the purpose of protecting the mother and unborn child were put forward in this House on October 17, 2005, by the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Labour and Housing at the time, “women under federal jurisdiction, if they must take leave, have access to employment insurance”.

The understanding that maternity benefits are an income support during a period of preventative withdrawal was corroborated by multiple members during debate proceedings on both Bill C-307 and Bill C-380.

In addition to members of Parliament, this understanding of El has been affirmed by departmental officials as well. When asked during the HUMA committee on October 22, 2003, about whether Canada had a system of preventative withdrawal, the Director of Labour Standards and Workplace Equity responded:

Where the job has been determined to be dangerous, the employer has an obligation to attempt to reassign her to work that is not unsafe for either the unborn child or the nursing child. If it's not possible or not reasonably practicable for the employer to reassign that individual, then she is entitled to leave without pay. What would happen under those circumstances is that she would take advantage of the employment insurance program...

It is clear that the employment insurance system, in particular the eight weeks of pre-birth maternity benefits, are an integral part to supporting women who choose to leave their job due to hazardous conditions.

Even though some statements do not mention maternity benefits explicitly, it is clear that this is the main form of El that would apply in these cases.

The final point I will make is to clarify that this bill does not affect any other type of El benefits, in particular parental or sickness benefits. Parental benefits would still only be able to be taken after confinement, which is in keeping with their purpose.

One might also think that protection of the expectant mother better falls under the category of sickness benefits. In fact, this is a very common misconception of sickness benefits. The reality is that sickness benefits can only be accessed if the individual is sick, not if there is a risk to their maternal health. Unlike maternity benefits, they cannot be taken for the purpose of protecting the health of the mother and the unborn child from the risks of a hazardous work environment.

Let me be clear, eight of the 15 weeks of maternity benefits can and are frequently being used for that purpose. As this function and purpose is well-established, my bill cannot be said to be creating a new function.

To conclude, the intent of my bill is simply to emphasize an existing function of maternity benefits, maternal health, for those who need it most, women working in hazardous jobs.

There is a royal recommendation that exists for spending on maternity benefits. There is no doubt that this bill would affect the manner in which that spending is done.

The central question is, does my bill shift spending in a manner that departs from the original purpose of maternity benefits? Put another way, does protection of the women's maternal health fall outside of the purpose of maternity benefits? I submit to you that it does not.

In closing, I will draw your attention to Keyes 1997 who argued on page 20 that royal recommendation is not required for cases where the bill authorizes spending for similar functions where “Provisions imposing additional functions on publicly funded bodies if the functions are of the same nature as their existing functions or are conferred for similar purposes.”

Second ReadingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2009 / 11:15 a.m.
See context


Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, once again, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-395, the proposed changes to the Employment Insurance Act with respect to labour disputes.

This legislation addresses what I think is a bit of a gap in the EI system right now and in the Employment Insurance Act. The question is: what should be done if the qualifying period for somebody who has lost his or her job includes work lost because of a labour disruption? This bill is a reasonable attempt to address the gap. At the very least, it is worthy of further study at committee, so we can identify whether or not there is more that needs to be done. Also, to some extent, we could perhaps address the issue of what the cost might be. I see that the Speaker has ruled that a royal recommendation will be required.

Let me speak to the issue this bill addresses and how it proposes to solve it. Right now, somebody's qualification for employment insurance is determined by the qualifying period that precedes the loss of employment, and that is 52 weeks. There are allowances for certain instances such as sickness, but not for work time lost due to a labour disruption.

During a labour dispute, employees cannot draw EI. They can, in some cases, receive strike pay. Or they could, conceivably, go out and get another job, although it is a very difficult circumstance in which to look for a job when one is hoping to go back to a job that one currently holds. If one gets strike pay, of course, it is different from having insurable earnings for EI.

It is always difficult to determine costs when we are looking at employment insurance. It involves very complex calculations. This year, we had the issue of what it actually costs in another area of qualification, the 360-hour national qualifying standard. Just over a year ago, last spring, because of a request from the committee looking at a private member's bill, the HRSDC department had estimated that cost at somewhere around $600 million or $700 million. The exact figure does not come to me, but it was in that range.

Other people have estimated it will cost $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year. That would make sense, because there are more people unemployed now than there were last spring, and there has been a slight escalation in cost. As a result of a request from the employment insurance working group established by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, we had the outrageous guesstimate, we might call it, of over $4 billion. They came back and said this would cost over $4 billion.

That did not make any sense. Everybody knew that was nuts. In fact, the government itself came back a little bit later and said the cost was actually about $2.5 billion. We asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer and he came in with a cost of about $1.1 billion, which notionally makes sense and obviously was statistically backed up. But that is why we have issues with costs when we start looking at employment insurance.

We have the same thing when we look at two-week waiting periods. What is the cost of a two-week waiting period? It is not really a waiting period; it is an out-of-luck period for a person who loses his or her job. What is the cost of that? The estimates have varied a bit on that, as is the case with this bill.

This bill does indicate that if a job is lost following a labour disruption, allowances can be made. It is very difficult for people and families who are already suffering from being unemployed because of a labour disruption when, all of a sudden, they come back and within a short period of time they are laid off completely and find out that their qualification for EI has been affected.

In essence, this bill will simply extend the qualifying period by the length of time of the labour dispute. As I have indicated before, qualifying is a huge problem in this country. It has been identified as the number one problem with the EI system. Many solutions have been proposed over the last number of years, and specifically in the last year.

We have had private member's Bill C-269 and private member's Bill C-265 from the member for Acadie—Bathurst and the member for Chambly—Borduas. In this session, we have looked at Bill C-241, Bill C-280 and Bill C-304. These are serious attempts to have a look at what the gaps are in the EI system, particularly at a time of economic difficulty.

We are still in this; we are still seeing job losses. We saw the numbers that came out the other day. There are still people in Canada who are losing their jobs. The economy needs a little bit of help. Everybody talks about stimulus. From any reports I have seen, the best stimulus is to invest in people who have lost their jobs or are in economic difficulty, because they will in fact put the money back into the economy, which is what stimulus is supposed to be all about.

We have heard from many people, including all the premiers from Ontario to the west, who normally have not spoken out much on employment insurance. All of the premiers of varying political stripes have said that we need to look at the issue of accessibility. We need to have a look at these variable entrance requirements, particularly at a time of economic difficulty, to see if they still make sense, because they are hurting the provinces. We heard that from the Minister of Finance's wife, when she was running for the leadership of her party in Ontario. We heard it from Premier Stelmach and Premier Campbell, and every premier, including Premier Brad Wall in Saskatchewan.

We have heard it from social policy groups. We have heard it from economists. We have even heard it from organizations that one might not normally think would call for such a thing. TD Economics has called for it. The Chamber of Commerce urged that we have a look at a couple of things in its prebudget submission this year, including entrance rates, but also at the two-week waiting period. These are all things that can be done to improve the system right away.

We have to have a look at what has the government done for employment insurance, recognizing finally that we are in a period of economic distress. As the House will recall, last November when the United States was already looking at proposals to assist people who were unemployed, we had an economic update that offered nothing.

In January, when we came back after Parliament was prorogued, EI was addressed in a specific way by adding five weeks of eligibility, which was a step forward in my view. If we look at the private members' bills that we have seen in the House over the past few years, the extra five weeks was always a small piece of it.

Of course, there was nothing on the two-week waiting period, nothing on accessibility, and nothing on increasing the rate of payment from 55% to 60%, which is called for a lot. But the five weeks were helpful and they were particularly helpful because they affected all Canadian workers; they did not pick winners and losers.

That is why the five weeks was a good piece of public policy at the time, but they are nowhere near to being enough and did not address the issue of accessibility that the 360-hour national standard would address. But the five weeks were something for all workers in Canada.

This fall we had a couple of pieces of legislation, one of them being Bill C-50, which would extend benefits from 5 to 20 weeks, but only for a select few, the fortunate few, in this country.

In the spring the government was saying that it was going to offer extra benefits to everyone, and then in the fall it said it was going to go back to a small percentage of the unemployed. One may qualify for between 5 and 20 weeks, but if one has drawn on EI before, too bad. If one happened to be a seasonal worker in northern New Brunswick, or in the fishing industry or the tourism industry, or others like that, one did not qualify for the extra 5 weeks.

That kind of discriminatory approach flies in the face of what the government was proposing to do at the beginning of the year, which was to provide equality in the employment insurance system, at least on the extension of benefits, if not in actually going to the number one source of irritation for Canadians, for workers, public sector unions, social policy groups, economists, think tanks, premiers and the wife of the finance minister. They were all saying that the system is not fair and that we have to fix it.

The reason it is not fair is that accessibility requirements range too much. At a time of economic difficulty, we need to do something to assist all Canadians and we need to make sure that people who lose their jobs do not feel like the government has forgotten them.

I would remind members that earlier this year the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development was quoted as saying she did not want to make EI too lucrative. I remind the House and the millions who are watching at home that average employment insurance benefits are somewhere in the range of $330 a week. There are not that many people in the House who would want to work for $330 a week, or would feel very excited about losing their job so they could get $330 a week. I think the maximum is $440 a week.

EI is far from being a lucrative proposal for anyone. We have to keep in mind as well that people cannot draw EI in Canada if they voluntarily quit their jobs. If they quit their jobs, they do not get EI. They are told that they do not qualify. They can appeal it and they might be able to make their case, but they cannot quit their jobs and get EI.

Therefore, for an individual to suggest that EI is lucrative and that anyone would deliberately try to qualify for it, the individual would have to suggest that the person find a way to lose his or her job without quitting it. That person would have to get the employer to let him or her go so he or she could make 55% of his or her previous earnings.

Bill C-395 is worthy of consideration. I congratulate my colleague who brought it forward. We think it addresses a gap in the system. We think that at a time of economic difficulty, this is when we need to invest in employment insurance, because employment insurance assists Canadians when they need it the most, through no fault of their own from a work stoppage. It should not be made harder because of a labour disruption in the previous qualifying period.

Speaker's RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2009 / 11 a.m.
See context


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The Chair is now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader on October 7, 2009 concerning the requirement for a royal recommendation for Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (labour dispute) standing in the name of the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this important matter, as well as the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé for his remarks concerning the bill.

In presenting his concerns with respect to Bill C-395, the parliamentary secretary stated that in his view the bill infringes upon the financial initiative of the crown. Specifically, he pointed out that the bill seeks to change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act by adding a new provision that would extend the qualifying period for an undefined period in case of a work stoppage caused by a labour dispute. He also argued that by altering the calculation of the qualifying period, the bill would result in increased government spending on employment insurance.

In support of his contention that the bill requires a royal recommendation, the parliamentary secretary made reference to a Speaker's ruling on Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits) on March 23, 2007 and a ruling by the Speaker of the Senate in Bill S-207, an Act to Amend the Employment Insurance Act (foreign postings) on January 29, 2009.

Both bills were similar to the present bill in that they sought to modify the employment insurance qualifying period, and both were found to require royal recommendation.

In his intervention, the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé argued that a royal recommendation is not required since the funds in the employment insurance account are paid by workers and employers and do not constitute government funds.

The Chair has examined the bill carefully and, it is clear beyond all doubt that Bill C-395 alters the terms and conditions of the existing program under the Employment Insurance Act. The argument put forth by the hon. member for Berthier--Maskinongé regarding whether or not funds contributed to the employment insurance fund constitute public revenue is a recurring argument. It has been brought forward during similar discussions on Bill C-308, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system) as well as Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system) from the previous Parliament. In essence, all monies received by the government, regardless of source, are deposited in the consolidated revenue fund and become public funds, that is, funds of the Crown. The Constitution Act of 1867 and Standing Order 79 apply to these funds. Thus, a bill proposing a new or increased expenditure of public funds, that is, an appropriation, requires a royal recommendation.

The employment insurance program operates under this framework. The funds in question are public funds and their management is subject to the financial initiative of the Crown.

By extending the qualifying period for employment insurance benefits by the amount of time a person was unemployed due to a work stoppage resulting from a labour dispute, Bill C-395 is increasing the expenditures under the act. These expenditures would be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund. As the House is aware, such provisions can only be put to the House for a final decision if they are accompanied by a royal recommendation as set out in Standing Order 79(1). Consequently, the Chair will decline to put the question on third reading of the bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.

Today's debate, however, is on the motion for second reading, and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the current debate.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

November 3rd, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
See context


Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity again to speak to Bill C-50 in the House. We spoke to it when it was introduced and we have dealt with it in committee.

We had a vote on an amendment yesterday that Liberals supported. One of our key concerns about this bill, shared even by those who have agreed to go along with this bill, is that it already disenfranchises so many workers. We did not want to see further workers disenfranchised because this bill has to work its way through Parliament.

It is impossible to look at Bill C-50 without considering the context, the situation that this country is in, what we have gone through in the last year and a half in Canada, and the economic crisis that the bill is supposed to address. The background, as we know, is that the crisis started last year. Questions were raised as far back as last spring in the House and outside the House about the potential for Canada facing some economic difficulties. Of course, the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister and everybody else told us not to worry, but to be happy. They told us that the sky was not falling and that Canada was not in any kind of trouble.

I have an article here from the National Post, a great Liberal institution, dated May 30. The headline is “[Finance minister] denies Canada headed for recession”. He goes into his thing about the economic fundamentals being strong. He said that we should not worry and that Canada was not heading into a recession. He also told us not to worry and that Canada would never go into a deficit. We were doing great, living off the strong fiscal management of the Liberal Party. The finance minister told us that we did not have to worry and that we could not mess it up that badly.

On September 27, in the middle of a federal election, when Canadians were worried about what was happening with the economy in Canada, we already had action in the United States from then-President Bush and incoming, soon-to-be-elected President Barack Obama, who said that we needed some stimulus and activity.

On September 27, the headline in the paper said “[Prime Minister] says Canada not in deficit, despite opposition claims”. The Prime Minister said:

The opposition tries to tell people that we’re in deficit when we’re in surplus. Tries to tell people we’re in recession when our economy is still growing. Tries to tell people we are losing jobs when actually more people are working.

That was only a year ago. The Prime Minister assured the people of this country that they should not worry, that people were working, that we were not in deficit, that we were not going to go into deficit, that we were not in recession, and that we were just fine. Then, we came back after the election.

The Prime Minister used a strategy to address this issue with Canadians. First, it was to tell them that it was a buying opportunity when their stocks went down. Second, it was to bring in an economic update that did nothing except throw political tricks into an economic update. Third, it was to prorogue Parliament. Fourth, it was to conjure up separatist-socialist coalitions. Finally, in January, prodding by the Liberal Party made the government say that it will try to have a look at this. It finally brought forward the budget in January of this year.

There were some things in there. Nobody would suggest it was enough. In fact, if one were to look at the reports that came out from the Caledon Institute, the CCPA, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, labour union groups and other social policy networks, they said that this would not be enough to help Canadians. However, at least there was that five extra weeks.

Everybody who was unemployed and had a claim was eligible. It did nothing to increase eligibility, which was and continues to be the number one issue with employment insurance, but at least it offered five weeks. It offered those five weeks to everybody. I have asked two members of the Conservative Party if they could explain the juxtaposition of the Minister of Human Resources who, in talking about those extra five weeks in her own estimates tabled here, said:

--including extending five extra weeks of benefits, which is now only available in some regions, to all Canadians.

That was one of the boasting factors that the Minister of Human Resources talked about from the January budget. She said that Canada has projects where people get an extra five weeks and that five extra weeks of benefits is something that was always part of private members' bills, initiatives and proposals put forward by other people. That is not a panacea, but she is saying that the government has taken it and given it to all Canadians. One would assume that she said that because she felt proud of it.

It is almost as if she believed in equality. It is almost as if she felt that everybody was equally deserving of assistance. Now, we are debating a bill that goes in exactly the opposite direction. It divides Canadians into those who are deserving and those who are not deserving. That is a very significant contradiction in view, expressed over a period of a few months.

We have had employment insurance bills in the House for some time that talked about reforming EI. In the last Parliament they were Bills C-265 and C-269. We looked at those bills. What did they ask for? They consistently asked for the elimination of the two week waiting period. As people know, when they get their employment insurance, it is not really a waiting period. My colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor would agree with me that people who lose their job do not wait two weeks; they wait a lot longer than two weeks. In some cases they wait two months. The standard for Service Canada is that 80% of people get their claim processed in 28 days. We brought that to this House of Commons 12 months ago and the minister denied there was a problem. Then in the spring, she admitted there was a problem and she spent $60 million hiring people, but eliminating the two week waiting period is a possibility.

Increasing the rate of benefits is a possibility. It is now 55%. A number of private members' motions, opposition motions, social policy groups have indicated that should be 60%. The way we calculate benefits, perhaps going to the best 12 weeks is another way of looking at this; increasing the maximum insurable earnings. If somebody is making $70,000 and loses their job and they qualify for EI, they do not get 55% of their salary of $70,000, they get 55% of the maximum insurable earnings, which is in the low forties.

There are a number of ways we can change EI if we are serious about reform. Who else was talking about that back in the spring, and what were they talking about? “To be locked into a system which has 58 separate employment insurance regions, where one Canadian gets treated dramatically different than another Canadian, it doesn't seem right to me”. That was British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell, who supported the call of the Leader of the Opposition for a national 360 hour standard of eligibility during the period of the recession.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said, “Here is an example where the recession's impact in Canada has moved from east to west, and we are feeling the effects”. Brad Wall supported the call of Mr. Campbell for some kind of national standard for employment insurance eligibility.

Again, Premier Gordon Campbell on May 29 called on the federal government to have one employment insurance standard throughout Canada. The Premier of Ontario had a position that said we should have one national standard across Canada, and 360 hours made sense. That is what people called for. Maybe it is 420 hours, which is the lowest eligibility, but the point is, we should have some equality in the system.

Premier Campbell is quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying, “The federal government needs to overhaul a clearly discriminatory employment insurance system to help the swelling ranks of the jobless in western Canada”.

The Premier of Ontario called for a national standard of employment insurance. It was not just the premier. Christine Elliott, who was at the time I believe running to be the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, had some pretty sharp words for the Minister of Finance, with whom she enjoys a particularly close relationship, saying, “Ideally, the federal government will quickly reform EI to better meet Ontario's needs. The federal EI program is unfair to Ontario”.

Premier Stelmach said, “Alberta has complained about varying eligibility rules”. Premier Stelmach weighed in as well, so every western province has indicated that there was a problem. This was not the Liberals, the NDP or the Bloc saying that there was a problem. These were Canadians from coast to coast to coast suggesting that there was a problem.

We had an opposition day motion on March 5 brought forward by the New Democrats which called for a number of changes: eliminating the two week waiting period; reducing the qualifying period to 360 hours; allowing self-employed workers to participate, and we will have a look at that in the next few days as the government unveils its plan; and raising the rate of benefits to 60% and basing those benefits on best 12 weeks. Those were all things that were mentioned.

I mentioned Bills C-265 and C-269 in the last Parliament. There is Bill C-280, which we have debated in this Parliament and which we will be looking at today or Thursday in the human resources committee. It calls for 360 hours, increasing the weekly benefit, and reducing the qualifying period.

The member for Brome—Missisquoi brought forward Bill C-241 that we looked at in committee last Thursday. It will be coming back to the House. It calls for the elimination of the two week waiting period. There was another bill brought forward by the NDP member for Welland, which referred to severance payments and how they are treated in EI.

There were a number of changes across the board, some of which are very standard, that people were calling for. Primarily, they wanted a national standard of 360 hours for EI eligibility and a two-week waiting period. They wanted to take a look at the rate of benefits, the maximum insurable earnings and how benefits are calculated. Those are all things we have talked about. I have not seen any academic, social policy expert, anybody, suggest that the answer to the crisis was to further provide benefits and then to limit those benefits to only a few people.

In the spring the leader of the Liberal Party made his point clear, that we would call for a national standard of 360 hours for employment insurance eligibility. That was the call of the Leader of the Opposition, supported by many people across the country.

Our proposal was that it would be temporary in nature during a difficult period of time. One thing that often gets lost in this debate is the importance of EI as a stimulative measure to the economy. Those people who get EI need EI. Those people who get EI spend that money on food and shelter, things that they need for themselves and their families. That money goes back into the economy. This is a country that went crazy for stimulus back in January and February. Everybody was calling for stimulus. Those who evaluate stimulus said that the best stimulus is to invest in social infrastructure, particularly EI because that means the money will go into the economy. The second best stimulus was in infrastructure. The third best stimulus was tax cuts, particularly tax cuts that do not disproportionately put money into the hands of those who need it the most, low-income and middle-income Canadians. It is a very important stimulative effect.

What was the government saying to all this at that point in time? It was discouraging.

The Minister of Human Resources was quoted as saying, at the end of January, after the Conservatives brought forward the budget and were being criticized for not having addressed the key issues of EI:

Our goal is to help people get back to work, and get back to work quickly in jobs that will last. We do not want to make it lucrative for them to stay home and get paid for it--

That quotation was never retracted. It raised the hackles of people across the country, particularly those who are on EI, not because they want to be on EI but because they have to be on EI.

There was a running smear campaign against people on EI, that it was a nine-week work year, as if people would find a way to get fired from their jobs. Members must keep in mind that people cannot collect EI if they quit their jobs. That is a change that was made. The minister's suggestion was that people would be rushing out, trying to find a way to get fired so that they could go on EI for a maximum of 55% of what they were earning in their job for a maximum of anywhere from 19 to 45 weeks, or 50 weeks with the extension, most of them at the low end of that. It does not make any sense. Who would do that? It is an insult to Canadians who lose their jobs.

She changed her tune a bit in June. The minister was quoted as saying, “There is no need to change the threshold for employment insurance eligibility because as the economy worsens, more and more Canadians will find it easier to qualify”. She also said, “If the unemployment rate goes up in a given region, then it gets easier for people there to access EI for a longer period of time, and most of the regions around Canada now have become easier to access”.

Let us think about that. The United States has Barack Obama's version of hope: equality for all; benefits for those who need them. Canada has the Conservative government's version of hope: “Don't worry. Things are getting worse. We are not doing anything to help you. But you will find it easier to get EI because more of your friends and neighbours will be unemployed and then the unemployment rate will go up in the region and it will be easier to qualify”. That is what passes for hope from the Conservative government, “Wait. Don't worry. Things are getting worse. It is good news for you, but bad news for your neighbours, bad news for your friends, bad news for Canadians”. That is what we heard from the government.

A very important report was released in June by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. The committee held hearings specifically about how EI affects women. I do not think it is much of a secret that with the system as it currently exists fewer women qualify for EI benefits and they get less payments. That is an inherent problem with EI that needs to be fixed. It is a problem which the Leader of the Opposition addressed when he called for a 360-hour national standard. That would have helped women and part-time workers.

He also called for an overhaul of the EI system. That is what is needed. We cannot do it piecemeal. There are things that we should do in the time of a recession. We do need an overhaul of the employment insurance system.

Changes came in. People were hurt. The economy was different. We were coming out of a time of recession and into a period of a long sustained recovery under Liberal governments. We are now back into a Conservative recession. Things have changed. That is just a fact of life. The circumstances are different now than they were in the 1990s. I could debate with colleagues in this House about what happened in the 1990s to no effect, but what we can do is impact people today who need help at a difficult time.

The status of women committee heard from a number of people. Richard Shillington testified at the committee hearings. He said:

Think of EI as a series of hurdles. To be eligible for your benefit, you first of all have to have had paid employment.... You have to have a certain number of hours. You have to have left your job for the right reason--you can't be fired; it has to be a lay-off.

We heard in the spring that 80% of people who were eligible were getting EI. That is incorrect. There was testimony from another witness who indicated:

The government likes to argue that 80% of all currently employed workers would qualify for regular EI benefits if they were to lose their jobs. However, this ignores the fact that job loss particularly affects those with unstable patterns of work, such as workers on reduced hours before a layoff as well as part-time, temporary, and contract workers. It also ignores the fact that many unemployed workers qualify for EI for a shorter period of time but quickly exhaust their benefits.

Those people would not be helped by Bill C-50 in the least.

There were a number of recommendations, a whole host of them which I will not read but I recommend this to all members for their consideration. One of the recommendations is that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada implement a uniform 360-hour qualification requirement. There is another about increasing the maximum benefit entitlement. There is one about the two-week waiting period. There are some recommendations about self-employment which I think we will be looking at in the next few days to see if they meet the needs of those who are most in need.

We had the EI working group over the summer, in which I took part. I have talked about that in this House on many occasions. I do not want to belabour people with that process, or how I spent my summer vacation. It was a discouraging time.

The government came up with numbers that were patently false, indicating that a 360-hour national standard would cost $4.4 billion. A week later the government said that it had made a bit of a mistake, that it would cost $2.5 billion. The actual cost as verified by the Parliamentary Budget Officer was $1.2 billion, but there still are government members, including the Prime Minister, who stand in the House and use the $4.4 billion figure. Unbelievable. There was documentation given to the committee that was marked “not for distribution” which had already been given to the media. That documentation showed those false numbers.

That is what we dealt with over the summer. I have talked about that before. It was a frustrating time.

I believe Parliament can work. I believe Canadians want Parliament to work. I had hopes that if we got together away from question period and used the strong resources of the human resources department that we could have effected some change. We could have all taken a little bit of water in our wine and come up with something that would have helped Canadian workers, but that was not to be, which is too bad.

The government came back in the fall and introduced Bill C-50. That is the bill we are talking about today. The fundamental problem with Bill C-50 is that it is discriminatory. Even the government would have to acknowledge that it picks winners and losers. It determines who is deserving of benefits. The minister has used this terminology herself, even at committee, “helping the most deserved workers”.

It is a discriminatory bill. Imagine a government coming forward with a health care system and saying, “We have a great new health care system. The only hitch is that if you have ever used the health care system, you do not get that health care. It is only for the deserving ones who have never used health care in Canada”. What would the outcry be to that? The outcry would be that that is clearly unacceptable. That is not what governments do. Governments do not pick winners and losers. Governments are governments for all the people.

Bill C-50 does not meet the needs of most Canadians. It does not meet the needs of most unemployed Canadians. It does not even meet the needs of most characterized long-term unemployed Canadians. It is a bill that is flawed. It is a bill that does nothing to address the number one concern of Canadians, which is to increase access to employment insurance for those who need it.

The bill does nothing to help seasonal workers who through no fault of their own work in the fishery, the forestry industry, or the tourism business. It does nothing for part-time workers. It is not a bill that we can support.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

June 3rd, 2009 / 6:45 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before resuming debate on this bill, I would like to issue a ruling.

On May 7, prior to the second reading debate on Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits) standing in the name of the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, a point of order was raised by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to the effect that this bill requires a royal recommendation.

The parliamentary secretary argued that Bill C-280 would result in significant new expenditures by lowering the threshold for eligibility for some claimants and changing the formula for the calculation of benefits.

He further noted that Bill C-280 was virtually identical to another private member's bill introduced in the last Parliament, Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), which had been found to require a royal recommendation.

In replying to the parliamentary secretary's point of order, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh expressed the opinion that a royal recommendation was not required since any new expenditure would be covered by contributions from workers and employers and not by the government.

I have examined the bills carefully and found that as the parliamentary secretary noted, Bill C-280 and Bill C-265 are indeed virtually identical. They both contain proposed changes to the employment insurance program that include lowering the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours, setting benefits payable to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest paid 12 weeks in the 12 month period preceding the interruption of earnings, and reducing the qualifying period before receiving benefits and removing the distinctions made in the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate.

On March 23, 2007, in a ruling on Bill C-265, on page 7845 of the Debates, the Chair had concluded that:

It is abundantly clear to the Chair that such changes to the employment insurance program, notwithstanding the fact that workers and employers contribute to it, would have the effect of authorizing increased expenditures from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized.

Therefore, it appears to the Chair that those provisions of the bill which relate to increasing Employment Insurance benefits and easing the qualifications required to obtain them would require a royal recommendation.

Having heard no new compelling argument to reach a conclusion that is different than the one concerning Bill C-265, I will decline to put the question on third reading of Bill C-280 in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.

However, today the debate is on the motion for second reading, and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook has seven minutes remaining in his time slot.

Private Members' Business--Bill C-280Points of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 7th, 2009 / 10:10 a.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, on February 25 you made a statement with respect to the management of private members' business. In particular, you raised concerns about five bills that, in your view, appeared to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown. One of the bills you mentioned was Bill C-280.

I am, therefore, rising on a point of order regarding Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits).

Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I submit that Bill C-280 contains provisions that would change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act, which would require new spending and, therefore, would require a royal recommendation.

Bill C-280 would lower the threshold for becoming eligible for employment insurance benefits. The bill would introduce a new benefit rate calculation method of the best 12 weeks in the past 12 months, reduce the qualifying period before receiving benefits and remove the distinctions made in the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate.

The Department of Human Resources and Skills Development estimates that the measures contained in Bill C-280 would cost a minimum of $2.3 billion per year.

Precedents demonstrate that the proposed changes in Bill C-280 would require new spending for employment insurance benefits not currently authorized under the Employment Insurance Act.

On March 23, 2007, the Speaker ruled, in the case of Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), which is identical to Bill C-280:

...the changes...envisioned by this bill include lowering the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours, setting benefits payable to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest paid 12 weeks of the 12 month period preceding the interruption of earnings, and removing the distinctions made to the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate. ...would have the effect of authorizing increased a manner and for purposes not currently authorized.

In the same ruling, the Speaker concluded:

...those provisions of the bill which relate to increasing employment insurance benefits and easing the qualifications required to obtain them would require a royal recommendation.

Bill C-280 is identical to Bill C-265 from the 39th Parliament, which was found to require a royal recommendation. Therefore, I submit that Bill C-280 must also be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Bill C-279Points of OrderOral Questions

April 28th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, on February 25, you made a statement with respect to the management of private members' business. In particular, you raised concerns about five bills, which, in your view, appeared to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown. One of the bills you mentioned was Bill C-279.

I am therefore rising, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order regarding Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (amounts not included in earnings).

Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I submit that Bill C-279 contains provisions that would change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act that would result in new spending and therefore would require a royal recommendation.

Bill C-279 would remove pension benefits, vacation pay and severance payments from the amounts that may be deducted from benefits payable under the Employment Insurance Act. The changes would allow individuals to receive employment insurance benefits when they otherwise would not have been eligible because pension, vacation or severance pay would have reduced their benefits or made them ineligible to receive employment insurance benefits.

The Department of Human Resources and Social Development Canada estimates that the changes proposed in Bill C-279 could cost as much as $130 million per year.

Precedents demonstrate the new spending for employment insurance benefits not currently authorized under the Employment Insurance Act require a royal recommendation.

On November 6, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), that:

Funds may only be appropriated by Parliament for purposes covered by a royal recommendation.... New purposes must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

On March 23, 2007, in the case of Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), the Speaker ruled that the changes envisioned in this bill “would have the effect of authorizing increased a manner and for purposes not currently authorized”.

The Speaker goes on to state:

Therefore, it appears to the Chair that those provisions of the bill which relate to increasing employment insurance benefits and easing the qualifications required to obtain them would require a royal recommendation.

Mr. Speaker, I submit that these precedents apply equally to the provisions of Bill C-279 which would change the purposes of the Employment Insurance Act resulting in new spending and, therefore, must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Opposition Motion -- Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 5th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
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Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, a number of parts of the motion make a lot of sense. I would not stand here today and tell the House which one of these things we will implement when we form a government, but I will say this. EI will be a central component of our campaign and of our government.

I remind my colleague, who is very passionate on this topic and I understand that, that every time in the last Parliament when a private member's bill or motion on EI came up, similar to the motion we are debating today, whether it was his Bill C-265 or Bill C-269 from my friend from the Bloc, Liberals voted for those. They did not vote because they were forced to do that. They voted because Liberals believe in employment insurance. We believe it is part of the social infrastructure of our country. Canadians will find out after the next election, if they choose, as I think they will, a Liberal government, that EI will be a central part of the reforms that we will bring to our country.

Motions in AmendmentEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2008 / 11:50 a.m.
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Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst for this bill, which is another demonstration of those who have fought hardest against the deficit and have had no return on their investment.

I would remind the House that the government managed to build up a surplus of $54 billion in the employment insurance fund by tightening up the system, by requiring more hours to qualify and, in the end, paying fewer weeks of benefits. That is how they turned off the taps. As a result, those who are the worst off have made the greatest contribution to fighting the deficit.

When we hear that Canada is now in a better financial situation, the people who are primarily responsible for this are the unemployed workers, employers and workers who have contributed to the EI system, which has really been used as a cash cow.

Now, when we try to correct the situation, for instance with Bill C-265, by lowering the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours, which would make special benefits available to those with that level of insurable employment, we are merely trying to restore its human side. That is how we must look at this bill.

We are also talking about weekly benefits representing 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest-paid 12 weeks in the 12-month period preceding the interruption of earnings. In other words, with an amendment like this to the legislation, someone who manages to qualify for employment insurance and loses his or her job will be given an income that is far from extravagant, but which represents a more reasonable minimum than under existing legislation, which, as everyone knows, is the result of these systematic restrictions under previous governments.

We now have the most appalling proof, that is, the $54 billion that the government would sooner forget. As though following this misappropriation of funds, in other words, after stealing this money, it was decided to record it, to put it down under lost accounts and stop worrying about it. However, the people who fought the fight and those living in this situation today still need some help, like the kind of help outlined in the bill before us.

The same is true for older workers. In my riding there have been some major closures. Unfortunately there was another one just last week. In a company with 50 or so employees, 5 to 10 are workers over 50 who cannot be retrained easily. I know there are some in the Quebec City area as well. I also know that some people have gone to their MPs and, facing this real-life situation, the latter have said, “We are going to change things”. But, today, the Conservative government is stepping back and not confirming the commitment it made to older workers.

Bill C-265 has to be seen as a heartfelt appeal for a modicum of fairness for people who have to live with the employment insurance system.

In the same vein, I would like to talk about one aspect in particular, that is not necessarily directly in the legislation, but is not unlike this situation. I am talking about all the pilot projects that are coming to an end in fall 2008. For example, there was the project that extended the unemployment rate, requiring fewer hours in order to be eligible and increasing the number of weeks of benefits. This project will end in October 2008 if the government does not extend it.

There is a pilot project for newcomers. Eligibility is based on 840 hours, instead of 910 hours under the regulations. This too will end on December 6, 2008. This helps keep young people in their regions and prevents us from losing them because, as everyone knows, there is an exodus of young people.

There is a project that allows all claimants to earn a minimum of $75 without any impact to their benefits or to earn 40% instead of 25% of their rate of benefit without being cut off. This encourages people to earn a little extra. This is another pilot project that will end in fall 2008.

There are two other projects: one that allows claimants to take the 14 best weeks and the other that grants five additional weeks of benefits in order to deal with the gap.

It is a series of measures. Under pressure from everyone who wanted the situation to be corrected, at least the government made adjustments by setting up pilot projects. These pilot projects have been in place for a number of years now and we now know they are necessary for ensuring minimum income for those who are affected by these pilot projects. We hope that the government will make these projects permanent and enact them in law, in the same spirit as Bill C-265.

The first few times the member for Acadie—Bathurst and I talked to each other, even before he became a member of Parliament, we agreed that the former government's cuts to employment insurance had to stop.

In our ridings, we saw how this negatively affected not only people's individual financial situations, but also the regional economy. The government's main message was that seasonal workers do not deserve reasonable support from the government; they should just move. We are still hearing this today: workers should move or go out west. I have nothing against the west. The government considers the law of the marketplace so important that it looks on people like cattle. It is time for a change.

We need to bring in measures that will restore some measure of dignity to the employment insurance system, measures like the proposals in Bill C-265 and the amendments the Bloc Québécois reintroduced in this House to ensure the debate took place. I appeal especially to the members from regions outside major centres, resource-based regions, regions with a major seasonal industry.

This is a private member's motion. Members must take this opportunity to exercise their rights as members and vote for this bill. This is a pivotal moment. This will not necessarily be the bill of the century that attracts the attention of the national media, but every member here in this House should look at the bill and ask himself or herself whether it would not benefit the people in his or her riding who are most in need and are experiencing financial difficulty. Would voting for Bill C-265 not be a great way to combat poverty?

All the efforts made by the members of this House to restore some measure of dignity to the employment insurance system deserve to be recognized. The effort that has been made to bring this bill before us deserves recognition. We need to put the $54 billion surplus and the money we want to provide for people into perspective. This bill will not make the system too broad, far from it.

For example, basing the benefit amount on the 12 best weeks will give people $320 instead of $300, or something like that. In a family, even if both parents are working, it can be very difficult to make ends meet during some winter months, especially on that much money.

In a society with such collective wealth, parliamentarians have the responsibility of ensuring that an adequate minimum amount of this wealth is distributed. We are more than happy to take advantage of the fruits of the labour of seasonal workers, who do not work full-time each year. Often more people are required to carry out this work. However, we need to ensure that they have decent minimum conditions. It is our responsibility to provide an employment insurance program that adequately responds to these conditions.

The fight for employment insurance has long been a defensive one. I hope that we are at the point of taking concrete action and that we will adopt legislation that will restore a minimum level of quality to the program and that will re-establish the balance between workers and employers. The 1994 changes have proven unduly harsh for those who lose or quit their job. The pendulum has swung too far, and the situation must be fixed.

In conclusion, I would ask the members in this House to consider, when they are voting, whether or not it is truly reasonable to accept what the bill is proposing, which is calculating EI benefits by allowing someone to qualify with 360 hours based on the best 12 weeks of earnings; by reducing the qualifying period before benefits are awarded; and by removing the distinctions made in the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate. Are these proposals not simply a way of bringing the pendulum back to centre, of restoring a better balance?

We must always remember that by voting for this measures, we are not returning the $54 billion surplus that was siphoned off. Today we are very happy that the Canadian economy is in better shape. If we had a way to give back to those who made the biggest contribution in Quebec and in Canada and who brought about this state of affairs, why would we not do so by voting in favour of the bill before us?

Motions in AmendmentEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2008 / 11:40 a.m.
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I hardly know where to begin after listening to my colleague from the Liberal Party. I did have some prepared comments, but he has actually knocked me right off my game with the outlandish remarks he made regarding EI reform and his efforts to convince Canadians that the Liberal Party sincerely would like to see the EI system reformed.

I would like the record to show that it was the Liberals who gutted the unemployment insurance program in 1996. It was the Liberals who paved the way in 1996 and showed the Conservative Party how to use the EI fund as a cash cow for everything except income maintenance for unemployed workers.

It was the Liberals who were punished resoundingly in the province of Nova Scotia by six seats because they had the audacity to undermine income maintenance for unemployed workers. They got slaughtered in the election in 1997 as a direct result of using the EI system to pay off their debt on the backs of the most vulnerable people in the country, unemployed workers.

Before I begin my remarks on the bill put forward by my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst, I must tell the House that the Liberals gave away $100 billion in tax cuts, which they are very proud of and crow about from the rooftops. Let me tell the House where they got that $100 billion to give away to their buddies.

The Liberals took $30 billion right out of the unemployment insurance program, whether we call it stealing or lifting or pilfering, and not one penny of that was their money. It was paid in by contributions from employees and employers, nobody else.

They took another $30 billion from the surplus of the public sector pension plan. Again, they had no proprietary right to the surplus in the pension plan without negotiating it with the beneficiaries. The Liberals took that $30 billion right out of there and used it to do whatever they wanted, from paying down debt to giving tax breaks to their buddies.

The last $40 billion they took was from direct social program cuts.

That is where the Liberals got the $100 billion that they gave away to their buddies.

I must not get completely knocked off my game. I will return to the issue at hand here, which is Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), introduced and sponsored by my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that working people in Canada have no greater champion on this issue than my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst. He was elected on the basis of his advocacy on this subject and he has been a tireless champion.

Throughout 11 years this June 2, this man has stood up many times to try to drum some reason into the ruling party of the day. There have been nine years of Liberal leadership and two years of Conservative leadership. He has been trying to get it through their thick heads that income maintenance for unemployed workers is a good thing to bridge the gap of employment.

He has been trying to tell them that our system is dysfunctional and broken. No wonder it was showing a surplus of $750 million a month at its peak: nobody was qualifying any more. It is not hard to design a system that shows a surplus if benefits are denied to virtually everybody who applies. That happened for two reasons.

First, the Liberals introduced a system that went to an hours-based system of 920 hours, which made it very difficult for people to qualify for the first time. The bill put forward by my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst proposes to reduce the eligibility qualifying time and return it to 360 hours. The benefit would be based on an individual's best 12 weeks.

We know who undermined that at committee. The heart and soul of this legislation, in summary, is that it would reduce the eligibility time so more people would qualify, and it would increase the benefit per week that individuals would receive so they would get a reasonable benefit based on former income. That was undermined at committee by the Conservatives, backed up by the Liberals.

This is a minority Parliament. The opposition parties could in fact effect this change in this finite window of opportunity, but it was gutted, stripped and undermined by the Liberals at committee. Therefore, we are right back where we started. Again we have the same fight of nobody qualifying for eligibility for EI any more and successive ruling parties in government using this fund as a cash cow to pay for everything but income maintenance for unemployed workers.

In 1997 we did a calculation of the impact of the Liberal cuts. In my riding alone, just the riding of Winnipeg Centre, when the Liberals gutted the EI system, $20.9 million a year in federal money that was coming into the riding of Winnipeg Centre was ripped out. It was like losing the payrolls of two huge pulp mills or auto plants. Federal payroll money of $20.9 million a year that was coming into the riding no longer did. It was stopped.

That was true in every riding across the country. There were some ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec where the impact was in terms of $50 million a year of federal money that used to come into those ridings. In the riding of Acadie--Bathurst, it was $81 million a year.

Do we wonder why the constituents were up in arms and sent the bums running by voting them out of office en masse in those Atlantic Canada ridings? That was the real impact of the changes to EI. Yes, the Liberals might have balanced the books, but they balanced the books on the backs of the people least able to afford it.

I am a journeyman carpenter. I have been on probably 10 different EI claims in my life, which is just a fact of life as an employee in the blue collar industries, but let me tell members about one thing that always bugged me, which neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives ever fixed.

When I was going through my four year apprenticeship, there was a two week waiting period even when I was going to trade school, as if I had been laid off. But apprentices are not laid off: the beauty of apprenticeship is that people earn while they learn. The employers give them six weeks off to go to the trade school and study for those six weeks.

It used to be that we could go right onto EI. That was part of the deal. Then the Liberals introduced a two week waiting period for apprentices, who had to starve and somehow borrow money to bridge that gap. That cost $11 million a year. A lousy $11 million a year would have made people whole for the two week waiting period, at least among the carpenters. I guess we have to extrapolate that to other trades.

That is how nickel and dime they were as they were trying to squeeze every ounce of juice out of the EI system. I will never forgive them for the inconvenience that it caused me and people I know.

Now that the Liberals think they are poised to form a government again someday, they are unwilling to fix the EI system, which they broke. In spite of all their rhetoric and being sympathetic to the issues, they are unwilling to fix it. I listened to that guy from Dartmouth and I could not believe it as he fudged around all of the issues that he knows very well are true.

When we add up the numbers of opposition members in this House of Commons, we see that we can do anything. United, we could bring this government down. United, we could fix the EI system. United, we could have a national pharmaceutical health care plan. United, we could have a national child care program.

We could do anything, but those members have squandered this finite window of opportunity.

I am running out of time, but I want to do justice to the bill that my colleague has introduced and has fought so valiantly for. It must make his blood boil to sit here in the House of Commons today and watch the other parties, the ruling party and its dancing partner, the Liberal Party, once again strip, undermine and destroy his efforts to fix the EI system.

I know that people in his riding had some optimism that perhaps this was the window of opportunity we needed, that surely Parliament would listen to them now that working people are represented in the House of Commons, and now that the three centre-left parties, so to speak, are united in opposition, but no, one of those parties went south on us. The official opposition went south on us, and we lost this again because the Liberals still see the unemployment insurance fund as a cash cow they can milk.

That $54 billion that we will vote on later today in Bill C-50 will be the end of that surplus money. Just let me state for the record one more time in case there is anybody who does not understand it: this is not the government's money. The entire EI fund since 1986 has been made up of contributions from employers and employees. Not one penny has come from the federal government.

When the fund dipped into deficit for a few years in the early 1990s, the total accumulated deficit was $11 billion. That was paid back, so as for the government taking $54 billion now and leaving only $2 billion in the kitty, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour says we should not call it theft, but I am at a loss for words for what else we would call it. It is simply not the government's money to use as it sees fit.

It is not too late, I urge members, to support my colleague's amendments to reinstate these conditions to make the unemployment system work. I call on all members to vote in favour of the amendments he has put forward today.

Motions in AmendmentEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2008 / 11:35 a.m.
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Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-265 introduced by my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst.

Employment insurance is a very important part of the social infrastructure of Canada. That is a core belief. It has changed over the years. Today fewer Canadian workers have access to EI in general. Canadian employers and employees have seen a surplus of premiums over benefits paid in the last decade. I think it is time to make some changes to EI. We know that other people believe this. A number of private members' bills have been introduced in the House and have gone through committee, for example Bill C-269, this bill, Bill C-265 and Bill C-278 by the member for Sydney—Victoria, which is a very important bill that would have seen the EI sickness benefit period raised from 15 to 50 weeks. It is an active file. Also, the government recently introduced a proposal to set up an EI crown corporation.

Let us start with a few facts to set the context.

Between 1994 and today there has been a surplus each year in the EI account. From 1990 to 1994 there was a deficit each year, the last time the economy had a serious slowdown. We have seen over the past decade or so premium rates drop significantly. In 1993 employees paid $3 per $100 of insurable earnings and employers paid $4.20. Those have dropped on the employee side from $3 to $1.73 and on the employer side from $4.20 to $2.42.

We saw some changes as well in 2000 and 2004. In 2000 we saw the extension of parental benefits from six months to a year. In 2004 the compassionate care benefit was added. Several pilot projects were introduced in 2005 for things such as going to the best 14 weeks. There were some other changes that were very positive as well, including an additional five weeks for areas of high unemployment. These pilot projects were set up to provide more benefit coverage in areas that specifically needed that assistance. In 2005 a new process was introduced in the rate setting mechanism, whereby rate stability was to be achieved by restricting the rate change to .15, in other words 15¢ per $100 of insurable earnings.

In 2004 the House subcommittee on EI made recommendations, one of which was for a more independent EI board, a commission, with a fund that would operate outside the consolidated revenue fund. It did not recommend total independence but it recommended that step. Many workers and employees felt that would be a good idea.

The EI surplus is a very contentious issue. It is a surplus or a no show surplus, depending on to whom one talks. One thing we know is that it is not theft, as some people would characterize it. The money was kept track of and allocated every year. In fact, interest has been allocated. On the $54 billion, the EI alleged surplus, some $11 billion of that is in fact allocated interest.

It is a contentious issue and I understand that. The money went primarily to pay down debt and perhaps to other services as well but most of that money went to pay down debt. One can agree or disagree with that decision, but that was a policy decision that was made by the Government of Canada.

There are many aspects of EI that need to be addressed: those who are excluded, self-employed people, creators, part time workers who are often women. I believe there is a need to re-evaluate benefits paid to those who already qualify. What we need is a serious debate. We do not need allegations of theft.

We do not need the leader of the New Democratic Party going to a CLC meeting and saying that nobody in the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party cares because they only had five minutes at the finance committee hearing and totally neglected the fact that a Liberal-led motion in the human resources committee evaluated this new EI corporation. If it was not for that, there would be no discussion of this. The government's response was to set up a crown corporation, but how do we know if it is a solution when there is no information available? We have been provided nothing.

We introduced a motion at the human resources committee. We heard from employees, employers, actuaries, labour organizations and business groups, many of whom said that it might be a good idea, but they just do not know and they need more information. That report will be tabled in the House this week. I hope that the government looks at the recommendations of workers as well as employers.

These meetings were public. They asked questions about things such as the size of the reserve, the accountability and how this would affect benefits.

I, like almost all Liberals, feel that EI reform is necessary. We particularly need to look at it at a time when many Canadians are worried about the economy.

Liberals are part of a group which included the NDP member for Acadie—Bathurst, the Bloc and labour groups that looked at a previous bill, Bill C-269, and came to some common ground on it. The common ground was negotiated in good faith and every Liberal in this House supported Bill C-269 when it came for a vote. Bill C-265 shifts that ground considerably.

As an example of what it takes to reform EI, this is a serious business. One proposed amendment to increase the rate of benefit from 55% to 60% would cost $1.2 billion every year. That was an estimate done in 2004. Reform is costly but it must be done. It cannot be done on an ad hoc basis. It is simply too important for that. It must be done by a government that accepts the fact that EI is a fundamental part of the social fabric of Canada that strengthens our communities and our people.

Reform cannot be done by running around and making allegations. We all play the constituencies. That is why it is called politics: to tell disingenuous stories about what is happening in this place when we visit with labour organizations or business groups, or to make allegations of theft and other issues about what happened before.

Changes to EI are needed, but what are those changes and what is the cost? What about the two week waiting period? We think something should be done about that. There is the five week black hole. Should it be the 14 best weeks or the 12 best weeks? What is the solution? Do we go from 55% to 60%? How are part time workers and self-employed workers covered? How is sickness covered? People have said to me that we should extend maternity leave to two years. There is no shortage of ideas. Those ideas will only be turned into action by a government that is serious about EI reform.

The Conservative government is not serious about EI reform. Reform will only be done by a government that accepts EI as a key part of the social infrastructure of Canada that strengthens not only the people and our communities, but all of Canada. It is time for a proactive and positive change to EI for employers and particularly for hard-working Canadian employees.

Motions in AmendmentEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2008 / 11:25 a.m.
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Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share with you our conclusions regarding Bill C-265, following its review by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

The first version of Bill C-265 proposes substantial amendments to the Employment Insurance Act, resulting in less stringent eligibility criteria and increases benefit rates. These proposals would have quite an impact on the fund. Before further discussing the repercussions identified by the standing committee, I believe it is important to analyze the situation in the more general context of today's labour market.

We acknowledge that there has been an economic slowdown in some sectors and certain regions in the country recently. However, in general, Canada's labour market indicators remain robust.

According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in Canada continues to be one of the lowest in decades and the proportion of the population that is working has reached almost record levels. The participation rate of working age Canadians is 77.9%, one of the highest in the world. In addition, a review of long-term unemployment indicates that the rate declined from 13.5% in 1996 to only 4.4% in 2006 and 2007, under our government.

In short, more Canadians are working and the labour demand is high. Employment opportunities are abundant because a number of sectors are facing labour shortages and the aging of the active population in the next few years will only increase labour demand. In this context, one of the important objectives, now and in future, is to encourage the full participation of Canadians in the labour market.

Of course we realize that even in periods of high employment, some individuals need the support of employment insurance. The facts indicate that the plan is meeting their needs. Statistics Canada's 2006 Employment Insurance Coverage Survey reports that almost 83% of individuals who pay into the plan and who lose their job or quit for allowable reasons are entitled to benefits. In regions where the unemployment rate is high, the proportion of eligible individuals has increased significantly.

Of course, the higher the unemployment rate in a given region, the harder it is to find a job there. That is why, in the employment insurance system, when the unemployment rate goes up, the number of hours required to be eligible for benefits goes down. Setting a fixed number of hours—360 hours in the first version of Bill C-265—works against the goal of achieving equal access to benefits across the country. In fact, the regions that would benefit the most are those that already have low unemployment rates. In such regions, eligibility requirements would be reduced by 50%, but regions with high unemployment would see only slight reductions.

When the standing committee reviewed Bill C-265, its members made it clear that a fixed rate, 360 hours, could have negative repercussions on the labour market and would be very expensive. By opposing that suggestion, the standing committee upheld the variable eligibility requirements and the provisions for people who are new entrants or re-entrants to the labour force, because it recognized that those requirements stimulate labour market activity.

With respect to benefit rates, following the standing committee's study, the bill still proposes increasing benefit rates by introducing a formula based on the 12 best weeks.

We believe that we need to find a happy medium between raising benefit rates and the possible factors associated with the notion of “best week” that could discourage people from working. It is important for members to keep in mind that we are currently conducting a pilot project in regions with high unemployment that calculates employment insurance benefits based on the 14 best weeks of income over the 52-week period preceding the claim.

This pilot project is designed to address the same issues as the best 12 weeks approach. It examines whether this way of calculating the benefit rates will encourage workers to accept jobs which, otherwise, would have lowered their weekly benefits.

Our government's approach is based on the certainty that Canada has to rely on the forces of the labour market and the economy. That is how we look at employment insurance. Based on the annual EI monitoring and assessment report, there is every reason to believe that Canadians are well served by the EI program.

At the same time, we have always sought to improve the program and bring in specific changes to address specific problems. For example, we have: relaxed the eligibility criteria for compassionate care benefits; launched a pilot project to examine the effects of providing additional weeks of benefits to those in high unemployment regions; extended transitional measures for two regions, in New Brunswick and Quebec, until the conclusion of the national review of EI boundaries; introduced just recently, in budget 2008, improvements to the management and governance of the EI account, against which the Bloc and the NDP voted.

As I said, our government believes it is important that the EI program strike a balance between providing temporary income support for Canadians while they find new employment and keeping individuals active in the workforce.

Given that it cannot be established that the fundamental changes put forward in Bill C-265 are absolutely necessary, two important factors have to be considered: the cost to Canadian workers and employers, and the potential negative impact on the labour market.

Bill C-265 is not the right approach in light of the current labour market conditions. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that all Canadians can participate and prosper in the Canadian economy. We believe that we can make the most progress and deliver the most results by investing in a variety of mechanisms, including the EI program.

Motions in AmendmentEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2008 / 11:10 a.m.
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Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

The Liberals did that in 1985, I agree. A Conservative colleague has just told me that the Liberals did that, and I agree with him, but nevertheless, they were supported by the Conservatives.

I am introducing Bill C-265, which would allow people who have worked 360 hours to qualify for employment insurance. But, in committee, the Conservatives and Liberals voted to delete this criterion of 360 hours. I hope that people are watching this debate today. I listen to the Liberals during debates or when they are on television. They say that they would like to be re-elected because they want to save employment insurance.

Yet, people often cannot receive benefits. We know that 68% of women in Canada do not qualify for employment insurance—even though they have contributed to the fund—and 62% of men who have paid into employment insurance cannot qualify because of the number of hours required. Quite often, women work part-time, 20 hours a week, and therefore cannot qualify.

That is what is currently happening in my region, and it is the same all across Canada, be it in Toronto or Vancouver. People would have us believe that it is only happening in the Atlantic provinces, but after the tour I did, I can say that it is happening everywhere.

As for the Bloc Québécois amendment, the consequences are too severe. The unemployed do not qualify with 420 hours, yet the Bloc Québécois wants to force them to have 700 and 875 hours.

With this bill, we can at least say that the two parties that are against employment insurance will have to take a position and indicate where they stand. I am anxious to hear the position of my hon. Liberal colleague who supported the Conservatives to remove the 360 hour requirement from my bill. I am anxious to hear my colleague from Nova Scotia, as though there were no problems in that province. I am anxious to hear from the Conservatives, who claim to be there for the workers, as though lowering premiums creates jobs.

We need only look at fish-processing plants in Atlantic Canada. Many are not operating at the moment; there is no work. We see this in the forestry sector, given all the closures. Now, we will also see it in the automotive sector. People have lost their jobs in Oshawa and they are leaving the factory. I hope they do not have to leave and that they win their fight. I wish them good luck and my thoughts are with them. Losing one's job is not easy. Furthermore, if they are given severance pay, they will not be eligible for EI benefits. It happened to workers at AbitibiBowater in Dalhousie and to workers at the Smurfit-Stone plant in Bathurst.

The employment insurance program is paid for by the workers, but under these types of formulas, they will not even be eligible, and this will leave them burdened with the biggest debts possible. Hopefully our amendment will be accepted and, in the end, the Conservatives and the Liberals will see a small light at the end of the tunnel, in favour of the workers, and give them a chance to survive.

Motions in AmendmentEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2008 / 11:05 a.m.
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Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity today to address Bill C-265, and the proposed amendments to it, which have now been grouped. I am glad the Speaker of the House found all three motions in amendment to be in order.

A number of years ago, in 1996, a change was made to employment insurance. This was the most significant change to EI and affected workers across the country. Some would have had us believe that the intention behind changes to unemployment insurance was to get people off employment insurance, to reduce their dependency on it. According to them, most people would rather receive EI than go to work. I can say that, everywhere we have gone, we have seen that this is not the case, and colleagues from across the country could say the same thing.

I would argue that the government is the one dependent on employment insurance. The surplus has been accumulating ever since the EI fund was created and now it totals $54 billion. Last week, theft from the employment insurance fund was made legal by a vote in the House of Commons. Ironically, when we finally vote on Bill C-50 tonight, that will seal the deal, and that will be that.

Bill C-265 seeks to re-establish the situation—I am not sure that that is the right word—in other words, it seeks to make employment insurance a little more humane.

People who receive employment insurance benefits get just 55% of their salary. Imagine what that means for people earning minimum wage. That is not at all uncommon in seasonal industries and tourism, for example. People working in the tourism industry earn little more than minimum wage, and most of those jobs are seasonal.

I have done the math, and it turns out that in most cases, 55% of minimum wage is much less than social assistance benefits. I should add that these employment insurance payments offer no benefits, such as a drug card—no benefits whatsoever. As such, that is a very low wage.

What does Bill C-265 seek to do? Employment insurance can be pretty complicated with all the formulas and so on. For example, some pilot projects use the 14 best weeks, but others do not even take that into account. That means the factor is 14. Consequently, for an individual who worked 12 weeks, the benefit calculation is still based on 14 weeks at 55%. That reduces the employment insurance benefit even more. This bill would see benefits calculated based on the 12 best weeks.

Some parts of the bill were not quite right, so that is why the amendments were made. When the committee members were studying Bill C-265 on employment insurance, they discussed the 12 best weeks and the 360-hour minimum for eligibility. The Conservatives proposed an amendment, and to everyone's surprise, the Liberals agreed to it. The Liberals refused to agree to Bill C-265 as written, including the 360-hour minimum for eligibility. They voted against this measure.

As it turns out, the Liberals have not changed their position on employment insurance since 1996. Let us not forget that that was when they were wiped out in the Atlantic region. They lost ground there because they brought in hours worked minimums for employment insurance eligibility, minimums that made people ineligible.

For example, a claimant needs to have worked 420 hours to qualify for employment insurance in areas where the unemployment rate is higher than 13%; 490 hours if the unemployment rate is 12% to 13%; and approximately 535 hours if the unemployment rate is under 12%. Those figures are approximate.

We thought things had changed since then. It has been nearly 12 years since the Liberals had their lesson and saw that changes needed to be made to EI, but they did not support us. I cannot wait to hear what the Liberal member has to say about that.

For years, I have seen Conservatives here in the House of Commons. Before they were Conservative Party members, they were members of the Canadian Alliance or the Reform Party. The only thing they said during debates was that we needed to decrease EI premiums, which would create jobs and ensure that more people were working.

How would lowering EI premiums solve the problem with fish processing plants in the Acadian peninsula, the Gaspé, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador? At this very moment, crab fishing season is open, and workers in the fish processing plants are working only 20 hours a week. How can we solve the problem by lowering EI premiums when people have not accumulated the required number of hours to qualify?

Then, the Conservatives and the Liberals told us that we needed to change the employment insurance rules, because people depended on it. They took $54 billion from the employment insurance fund and put it in the general fund to pay down the debt and achieve a zero deficit. This was done at the expense of workers who lost their jobs.

Speaker's RulingEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2008 / 11:05 a.m.
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The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I will first make a ruling by the Speaker on Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits). There are three motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-265.

Motions Nos. 1 to 3 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1 to 3 to the House.