Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act

An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Diane Finley  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Employment Insurance Act to extend the benefit period and the period during which parental benefits may be paid for Canadian Forces members whose period of parental leave is deferred or who are directed to return to duty from parental leave.

Elsewhere

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.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, this morning the member for Yukon explained how important it was in a child's early years to have the parents around and involved in the child's life. He described how difficult it is for him to get back to the Yukon every weekend to see his young child.

People in the military are away for six months at a time. It is a big deal to miss six months of a young child's life. This measure is long overdue. We recognize there is general agreement and that we will be looking at some amendments at committee.

With respect to one of the amendments that was suggested this morning, in addition to the one from the member for Acadie—Bathurst, a member of the Bloc asked about making the bill retroactive. I know that is something we do not like to do, but the member has alluded to this, and I know he is a lawyer, that there are some people who are going to be excluded if we do not make a change to allow for some retroactivity.

Would the member like to expand on that issue? Perhaps he would also like to make a comment about the very good idea of our member to extend this coverage to members of the police who are involved in these missions as well.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, we should not only talk about people involved in military missions such as Afghanistan. There are sailors who are at sea for many months at a time on a regular ongoing basis. It is something that applies not just to people fighting in Afghanistan, although we obviously appreciate the commitment, sacrifice and courage of those people.

In terms of being good for the child, it is also good for the parent to have that early relationship with a child and the bonding with the family despite the fact that there are periods of absence and ensure that the father has that opportunity, and we are talking about parental leave and normally we are not going to have a serving member of the forces who will have maternity leave, regardless of whether there is a deployment or not. From a parental leave perspective, having the family together for a lengthy period of time in the early years of a child's life is a very important thing. Yes, we should have it and we should have it fast. We do not need to have a big rigmarole about this. It could be done other ways. We welcome other EI reforms to take place as well and put them in a big bill. We would certainly be happy to see this bill passed quickly.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to expand a bit on something my colleague was talking about, the ratio of eligibility. It seems to me that the Liberals used the EI fund as a cash cow. They created an environment where it was mandatory that everybody pay in, but virtually no one qualified for anything if people were unlucky enough to lose their jobs. The Liberals designed a program where they could actually milk this cash cow for, in the end, 52 billion dollars' worth of surplus, and it is no surprise why it was a surplus. People pay in and pay in with the good faith and optimism that if ever, God forbid, they should become unemployed, they would be eligible for income maintenance.

For the Liberals to use the surplus for anything other than income maintenance I believe was a deceit and a fraud because that money was not even their money. In the mid-1980s, the federal government stopped paying into the EI fund. That fund was strictly the contributions of employers and employees as insurance.

What does the member think of that as an insurance fund? If it were house insurance and people had to pay for it and there was a less than 40% chance of collecting if their house should happen to burn down, what kind of an insurance program would that be?

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I think the question is directed at the employment insurance program itself and the fact that people could not qualify which resulted in a huge fund. I think it ended up that some $57 million was taken from the workers' and employers' contributions. The government says that it is not going to retroactively put it back in, so we are back to square one with the workers' and employers' money being thrown into the government coffers for something else.

The real problem is that when the government gutted the fund, it also put in rules that treated people who collected employment insurance, particularly seasonal workers, as repeat offenders. If people came back a second year because they were in seasonal employment, they received less in EI benefits that year and the year after that they received less again. It was driving people out of the seasonal workforce, hurting our forestry industry, our fishing industry, our construction industry, and all sorts of other industries in the process.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-13. It is hard to expand on the points that have been made here today by various members from all sides, so I will keep my comments rather short and speak to a few of the points in the bill.

It is really good when we can do something for military families. They give so much to our country and they sacrifice so much. If we have an opportunity to give back to them, we should look at doing it.

This bill identifies a unique issue with our EI legislation. When our soldiers are called back to active duty to serve our country, they lose their benefits.

This bill would be good for military families. Over 450 military personnel serving across Canada come from my riding. I try to communicate with them as best I can and as often as I can. I do hear back from them occasionally on different issues that have an impact on them. I will be consulting with them on this bill to get their opinions and to find out what else we could do to improve the EI system for them.

This bill would be good for younger families. In Newfoundland and Labrador I often meet with people. We used to see large families with 13 or 14 siblings but nowadays families are smaller. People are only having one or two children. It is very important that we give our military personnel every opportunity possible to spend time with their children in the early years. In most families, both parents work.

Quite often two members of the military will marry and raise a family in the military environment. It is important that these benefits be made available to them. There might be circumstances when both are in the military at the same time. They could benefit from this particular piece of legislation.

It is a pleasure to speak to this bill and support it. The only problem I see with this legislation is that it probably does not go as far as it should. Maybe we should be looking at making more EI changes to help military families.

HRSDC says that this bill would only apply to 60 Canadian Forces members at a cost of about $600,000. It is very tiny. It would not impact a lot but it would have an impact in the future as military personnel consider raising a family. This would play into their decision to raise a family.

We could be looking at some of the other issues with EI that may impact military families, and in fact, all residents, who at one point in their lives may have to avail themselves of the EI system.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about the two week waiting period for EI. Currently, there is a two week waiting period before anybody can receive EI benefits. People ask me time and time again why there is a two week waiting period and what it accomplishes. From my analysis of the situation it accomplishes absolutely nothing. It may give the bureaucrats some time to implement a claim, but we are not asking for two more weeks of benefits. We are just asking to start the benefits a little sooner. People still have to go on with their lives. They still have bills to pay. The two week waiting period does not extend EI benefits by two weeks. We are just asking for the period to go back two weeks. This would not add two weeks on to the end.

This is something that our party has been asking for. The New Democratic Party has been very outspoken on this issue as well. This is another way in which people could benefit from the EI system.

I have spoken to some military families. They want to benefit from the EI system when they leave the Canadian Forces. Some Canadian Forces members spend 25 years in the military. How can the EI system benefit them when they want to move on to another job?

This is another important issue that we should look at seriously. If people decide they want to move on to another job and decide to quit, well they are on their own and they are not eligible for any EI benefits. Being in the military is a different occupation altogether.

If people decide to move on to other occupations, we should look into the EI system's being able to assist them in that, for their betterment as individuals. That is another change to the EI system I would like us to look at.

Finally, on another point, diplomats who are serving overseas have asked the government that they too be included in this particular EI measure. It is definitely worth some consideration that we look at diplomats and other people who serve our country, be it in a military or a non-military role. If they are overseas and are called back, we should look at extending their benefits for parental leave as well.

It is a pleasure to speak in the House today. I do not want to repeat comments by any of the other members, but it is a good bill and it is good that we can have some good debate on it. I hope when it goes to committee we will have an opportunity to bring up some issues on how we could expand it and benefit more Canadian Forces members who serve us so well.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do want to point out to the member that it has been suggested by the member for Winnipeg Centre that this initiative did not actually have to proceed by way of a government bill, even though it is a good idea and all parties are supporting the bill to get it to committee. This could have been done by order-in-council by changing regulations.

We are talking about benefits that will affect, perhaps, 50 or 60 people and will cost about $600,000 a year, benefits that should have always been in place. It is actually a surprise to me that we are having to make this change in 2010. It should have been done years ago.

We have some amendments that have been suggested. The Bloc has suggested some retroactivity for people who would qualify right now but for whom it would not start until the bill comes into force. There should be a retroactivity clause put in so that anybody who would currently be affected would be covered.

The member for Acadie—Bathurst has suggested an amendment which would expand the scope of the bill to include members of police forces. As the member knows, members of the police forces are assigned to the missions in Afghanistan and Haiti, and we think they should be included as well, because these are people who are working together on the same projects. Why would we just expand it for people in the military and not people in the police forces? That would probably add two or three extra people to the numbers of 50 to 60 that we are talking about right now.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker first, as a new member I am astounded by the speed at which things happen in this place. It takes so long to accomplish something, and often a lot of us doing a lot of talking on an issue drags things on. Maybe the government could have gone that route, but it is good to have the debate, if we can focus it and make suggestions like the two that have been made.

Regarding the retroactivity, I am not quite sure we want to go down that road, because sometimes somebody gets left out. If it is retroactive for a certain period, then why was it not retroactive for a little longer? Maybe it is the best route, and when the bill receives royal assent, that point will be taken further. There always has to be a starting point, so maybe we should look to the future.

As for extending it to the police members, that is not a bad idea. I would like to see some of the numbers on that. It could be two, three or four more individuals who would benefit from that. It may be very worthwhile to discuss that at committee to see if there is anything else we could do to expand it to include them. We had better not just limit it to their service. We might have to look at some of the other facts around that. That would be a pleasure.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the opportunity to comment briefly on Bill C-13, which I know all parties in the House are supporting. New Democrats are pleased to support it, partly because we have been saying all along that there are many changes that should be made to employment insurance, many ways that the benefits payable to Canadians should be improved, and partly because we recognize that it is Canadians who pay into the system to make those benefits possible.

Therefore we are glad the Conservatives have seen fit at least on this important but small initiative to move forward and make this proposal. However, there are many other places where EI could be expanded to benefit Canadians.

We know there was a huge surplus of premiums taken in, paid by employers and employees over the years, which was not spent on benefits and could be used to do that.

We also know the government is proposing in its current budget to increase the payments employers and employees are going to make into the EI fund again, without any proposals yet to be seen other than this small one in terms of expanding the benefits.

I am wondering if the member might comment briefly on what other possibilities are out there for improving the EI system, what we should be doing in terms of acknowledging this is a program paid for by Canadian workers and Canadian employers and how they might further benefit from changes to the program.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, yes, we should have an in-depth look at how the EI system is funded and has been funded over the years, in particular at the amount of money that went into a surplus, which has been spent.

If we look at the Auditor General's reports, we see that at one time the EI fund was not sustainable. Now, as we move along, and we went through this recession period, the money needs to be there to make sure this fund is sustainable into the future.

That is definitely something we should look at, and any money that goes into the EI fund over the years should be kept there to make sure it is well funded.

Perhaps it is time for us to look at how EI is funded and make sure it is sustainable over the years.

I think that addresses a couple of the points of the member's question.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, there is always more we could be doing for our soldiers and veterans who are serving overseas.

I had the pleasure of serving on the veterans affairs committee. There are so many different aspects to it. I have only touched the surface of this particular file in the last year and a half. I have enjoyed my time on the veterans affairs committee. There are many more areas, and it is hard to pick just one specific area where we could do more for our veterans.

We need to look after them when they come home. The VIP is one program. However, we are finding that a lot of our new current-day veterans are not getting involved in veterans' activities. It seems that after they serve, they have done their piece and they move on.

We need to recognize them, we need to reach out to them and we need to encourage them to stay in touch with veterans affairs and be a part of it because of the tremendous service they have done for our country.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Avalon, next door to me, has done a great job and serves this country well and the opposition well in veterans affairs and all things related thereto.

I want to ask him a question about parental leave pertaining to a particular area around my riding, which is the home of 103 Search and Rescue Squadron. Parental leave is near and dear to my heart, and many times I feel we are not doing enough for people, not just in the military or any other function but for all parents in general.

I hope the bill covers the domestic operations as well. The debate centres on those deployed overseas. I am not taking away from that whatsoever, but there are so many domestic operations ongoing, such as search and rescue, which involve soldiers or airmen and airwomen who serve so bravely on the high seas just off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the west coast.

I was wondering if the member could comment on that also.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from my neighbouring riding for the question and for all the work he does for the Canadian Forces base in Gander and domestically.

There are a lot of Canadian Forces bases in the Atlantic region, such as CFB Goose Bay. Maybe another question we need to ask about the bill is that it not only apply to the Canadian Forces member but to spouses of members, who may not be Canadian Forces members. Sometimes time off is split between both spouses, and maybe that is something we should look at.

Parental leave is very important and we need to look at all aspects of this. I am looking forward to this going to committee and asking a few more questions.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to a bill about employment insurance benefits. Of course, I would have liked us to be focusing on a comprehensive reform of the Employment Insurance Act instead of piecemeal measures.

This enactment amends the Employment Insurance Act to extend the benefit period and the period during which parental benefits may be paid for Canadian Forces members whose period of parental leave is deferred or who are directed to return to duty from parental leave.

I know that the minister intends to correct an injustice that Canadian Forces members suffer, and I thank him for that. But choices like this one inevitably make other people feel as though they are being ignored again.

The government must be aware of the real needs of thousands of workers in Quebec and Canada. I would like to remind the members that there are other injustices, and the people suffering those injustices are still waiting.

For example, I would like to mention Marie-Hélène Dubé, a determined woman who to date has managed to rally more than 60,000 Quebeckers to her cause, which is individuals with a serious illness who receive only 15 weeks of benefits. I want to thank the Canadian Cancer Society, which is calling on everyone to help Ms. Dubé in her quest to have people with a serious illness treated more equitably with regard to employment insurance.

When will EI be made more flexible for people with a serious illness?

What about the other measures the Bloc Québécois has proposed to make EI more flexible? I will come back to them later if I have time to talk about them all.

What I want to illustrate here is that we cannot wait indefinitely. There has to be a clear commitment by the government to reviewing the Employment Insurance Act. The flaws in that act are ruining lives, destroying families and hurting communities. No one should have to wait. The fact is that five years ago, in 2005, a consensus was achieved in the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. The Conservative government has the key points on which greater flexibility is expected and has been proposed in its hands. This is the list:

Introduce an eligibility threshold of 360 hours for all regions and all insured persons. This eligibility threshold would entitle claimants to a varying number of weeks of benefits, based on the unemployment rate in their region.

Permanently increase the benefit rate from 55% to 60%.

Amend the Employment Insurance Act so that employment of a related person is not deemed to be uninsurable.

Eliminate the two-week waiting period during which claimants have no income.

Increase the present $2,000 income cut-off for entitlement to a refund of employment insurance premiums to $3,000.

Make self-employed workers eligible for the scheme on a voluntary basis.

The Bloc Québécois has introduced several bills to improve the employment insurance scheme and expand access to it. Like my colleagues from Saint-Lambert and Chambly—Borduas, I stress that the other segments of the population are entitled to expect that the Minister will come back to us with concrete measures as soon as possible. It is high time.

Before continuing, I wanted to express the enormous indignation I felt when I learned of the number of veterans and former soldiers who are eating at community kitchens and food banks. It is surprising that this government, which boasts of how it listens to its troops, is abandoning those who have given loyal service so that we can enjoy some peace and quiet.

I will take this opportunity to urge the government to proceed with the same speed on issues affecting seniors, like the guaranteed income supplement, and to take its cue from the Bloc Québécois bill that will be debated shortly. I urge it to consider the good it could do for these old soldiers if it also made the benefits they are entitled to fully retroactive. It is inconceivable to see seniors living in poverty. It is unacceptable to see veterans lining up at food banks.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-13, to extend the benefit period and the period during which parental benefits may be paid for Canadian Forces members whose period of parental leave is deferred or who are directed to return to duty from parental leave, in principle. The Bloc Québécois has the greatest respect for the troops who perform extremely dangerous missions where they risk their lives.

It is precisely that great respect that means that because their lives are in danger, we have a responsibility not to expose them to more risks, to provide for the best possible accommodation between their career and their family life, and to make sure that their return to the country is facilitated by measures that help with their integration into civil society.

Bill C-13 allows members of the Canadian Forces to take parental leave they would have been unable to take because they were out of the country. Although this measure is necessary, the Conservatives are still continuing their bad habit of making piecemeal changes rather than undertaking genuine reform. First, there has to be social and psychological assistance for members of the military when they experience traumatic events or when they come home and have to deal with tough challenges. There are also challenges in dealing with the employment insurance scheme that make a thorough overhaul necessary.

The Conservative government is pursuing its short-term vision of sprinkling programs here and there for reasons of visibility rather than effectiveness. In so doing, it keeps its ideological blinkers firmly in place so it can avoid seeing the other aspects of employment insurance and assistance to members of the military that are in obvious need of improvement.

Bill C-13 includes a number of clauses that will provide better coverage under the Employment Insurance Act to a new segment of the population: soldiers. If passed, the government's bill will allow military personnel to defer and collect parental benefits if they are directed to return to duty from parental leave. We know that soldiers contribute to employment insurance just like other workers. Section 5(1)(c) clearly states that service in the Canadian Forces is insurable employment.

The department's press release says that “This new measure would extend the EI parental benefit window for Canadian Forces members who are ordered to return to duty while on parental leave or whose parental leave is deferred as a result of a military requirement. The measure would extend the period in which they are eligible by another 52 weeks”.

Clauses in Bill C-13 allow military personnel to defer and benefit from parental leave.

I would like to take this opportunity to focus on certain elements of the bill.

Clause 2 stipulates that section 10 of the Employment Insurance Act will be amended by adding the following after subsection (12):

(12.1) If, during the period referred to in subsection 23(2), the start date of a claimant’s period of parental leave is deferred or a claimant is directed to return to duty from parental leave, in accordance with regulations made under the National Defence Act, the benefit period is extended by the number of weeks during which the claimant’s parental leave is deferred or the claimant is directed to return to duty, as the case may be.

Clause 3 deals with subsection 23(3.1) of the same Act, the Employment Insurance Act, which will be replaced by the following:

(3.01) If, during the period referred to in subsection (2), the start date of a claimant’s period of parental leave is deferred or a claimant is directed to return to duty from parental leave, in accordance with regulations made under the National Defence Act, the period is extended by the number of weeks during which the claimant’s parental leave is deferred or the claimant is directed to return to duty, as the case may be.

I would like to draw your attention to clause 4, which stipulates that:

Sections 2 and 3 do not apply to a claimant for a benefit period that began before the day on which this Act comes into force.

Clause 4 of the bill would not allow soldiers whose benefit period began before the day on which the act comes into force to benefit from this measure.

I have a question for the government. Would soldiers currently on parental leave, who are ordered to return to duty after implementation of this bill, be entitled to defer their leave considering that they had already started receiving benefits?

I am asking the government this question and I hope that we will not pass a law without providing for transitional measures for people in this situation. Retroactivity is important and military personnel should be included.

According to the government's backgrounder:

Parental benefits provide income replacement for up to 35 weeks to biological or adoptive parents while they are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child. Benefits may be taken by either parent or shared between them. If parents opt to share these benefits, only one two-week waiting period must be served.

We can see that, even with this bill, the government must make clarifications. I believe they should be addressed by the committee which, I am certain, will study this matter very carefully.

Because the bill deals with fair treatment for military families, I would like to share with members measures that could help our armed forces members.

The Bloc Québécois has the utmost respect for our troops, as I mentioned at the very beginning of my speech.

This deep respect goes hand in hand with the responsibility to not increase their risks and to help them when they return from theatres of operations.

The Conservative government, rather than giving priority to and protecting members of the military, is currently making ad hoc decisions without an in-depth analysis of the consequences.

In terms of the members' physical and psychological needs, the Conservative government makes much of the contribution of Canadian armed forces to various military interventions. But what about its responsibilities when some members return damaged by their experiences, suffering from physical injuries and trauma?

They are less prompt to talk about the increased suicide rate among armed forces members who return to civilian life and the incredible lack of the psychological and financial support they need.

The armed forces should provide adequate follow-up of its members who return from a mission such as that in Afghanistan, especially since we know that 4% of soldiers returning from Kandahar develop suicidal tendencies, 4.6% have symptoms of major depression, and more than 15% experience mental health problems. I have taken these statistics from an article published in Le Devoir.

In the course of its parliamentary work, the Bloc Québécois has always been concerned with support for veterans—all those who proudly donned the uniform.

For example, we have always insisted that the government should allocate all possible resources to help our armed forces members and veterans meet their health needs, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the Standing Committee on National Defence, the Bloc Québécois supported most of the 34 recommendations in a report asking the government to provide more resources to military personnel to meet their health needs. This report was adopted on June 8, 2009, and tabled in the House on June 17 of that year.

In the Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the Bloc Québécois also backed recommendations from a report asking for more support for the services provided to veterans. This report was adopted and tabled in the House on June 17, 2009.

We fought for the creation of a position of veterans ombudsman and it was established in April 2007.

I would also like to draw a parallel with another issue, the transfer of Ste. Anne's Hospital. The future of Ste. Anne's raises questions that make us wonder about the quality of the necessary services and the amount of assistance that our veterans need. In the course of the negotiations, we need to take into account the specific nature of the care that veterans require.

I hope the government will listen to the voice of the veterans who have been returning from various theatres of operations over the years and who want the government to focus on their real needs and provide them with the services they really require.

I hope the government will face the facts and focus as well on establishing a separate entity. The government should change the negotiator’s mandate for the transfer to include specific provisions responding to the requests of the people involved. I am talking about the veterans themselves, the people who treat veterans, and the military personnel who return from various theatres to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

I would also like to draw the attention of the House to a petition signed by thousands of Quebeckers who want to change the compensation system for wounded soldiers in the Canada's Veterans' Charter.

In 2005, the House of Commons passed a Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, commonly called the Veterans' Charter, which took force on April 6, 2006.

Since then, National Defence no longer provides lifetime monthly pensions for its damaged soldiers. Instead, it introduced a lump sum payment in 2006. For every injury, there is a corresponding indemnity, up to a maximum of $276,000 in the worst of cases. The amount is paid once, and the armed forces member is left to figure out on his own how to handle the money.

In January 2010, the veterans ombudsman was very critical of this new system for compensating armed forces personnel for the injuries they suffered. Since stopping lifetime annuities, the forces have been providing veterans with a lot less money and failing to meet their needs.

He said that he was not a proponent of the lump sum payment because someone with psychological issues could spend it unwisely, waste money and not have a single cent to put towards their financial security.

The ombudsman, a veteran of Bosnia and Afghanistan himself, added that

—veterans can quite easily become homeless. Many of them lose their way because of mental health problems. The only way to “force” them to maintain a residence would often be to send their compensation in monthly installments by mail, as used to be the case.

He also said that this issue is important and that he is very worried about the fact that veterans can become homeless and end up waiting in line at food banks.

According to some veterans, the compensation being offered is not the only flaw in the federal department. They say that the whole claim process is burdensome, complex and ill-suited and the burden of proof rests on the injured soldier, who has a hard time understanding the procedure.

We know that there is much to be done for military personnel who are coming back and their families. Expectations are high.

Thousand of people have signed a petition demanding changes to the Veterans Charter.

The Bloc Québécois member for Québec stated:

We cannot remain indifferent to the injustices that our injured veterans are facing. The people of the greater Quebec City area, the rest of Quebec and in fact all of Canada must rally behind this cause. Together we must make the federal government understand that the current situation is completely unacceptable and that corrective measures are needed immediately.

The Vaudreuil-Soulanges region is sensitive to this issue and is entirely supportive. The petition is currently circulating in my riding.

As for employment insurance, the Bloc Québécois has been relentless in its efforts to bring attention to the need to get the EI system working again for our workers.

The Bloc Québécois has introduced several bills aimed at improving the employment insurance system and access to it. It is very unfortunate that the Conservative government will not take any concrete action to help workers who lose their jobs and who cannot access EI. So many workers pay into the EI system, but only 40% of them have access to it.

The government's actions clearly show its complete indifference towards workers. The measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois have two objectives: to reassure workers who lose their jobs by providing them with a more accessible and generous employment insurance program, and to stimulate household spending by enabling workers who have lost their jobs to get the benefits they need to keep the economy going.

In that sense, the proposed EI changes are important. The Bloc Québécois has proposed a new approach that assumes claimants are acting in good faith, which will speed up delivery of the first cheque.

It is inconceivable that at this time, when claimants win their employment insurance appeal, they receive a letter 30 days later telling them that the government is appealing the appeal, and they have to continue fighting for as long as 90 days. And that is what happens when the ruling is in the worker's favour.

In addition to the initiatives I just mentioned, there is the assumption that claimants are acting in good faith, which the government could easily amend. There is also the expansion and adaptation of the work sharing program and the extension of a claimant's right to receive benefits while pursuing training.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, as we have said before, Bill C-13 would apply to roughly 50 to 60 people and cost $600,000 per year. However, this measure would enable Canadian Forces members, including reservists, who have had their parental leave deferred or were ordered to return to duty while on leave due to military requirements, to access EI parental benefits.

The measure would extend the period in which they are eligible by another 52 weeks. Parental benefits provide income replacement for up to 35 weeks to the biological or adoptive parents while they are caring for newborn children or newly adopted children. The benefits may be taken by either parent or shared between them and there is only a two-week waiting period to be served.

I listened to the member's speech with great interest. She has a very expansive view of this legislation. I really enjoyed her speech. She mentioned food banks. Two weeks ago the Prime Minister was attending a food bank for veterans in Calgary. I just wonder why things have become so bad that the Prime Minister would be attending a food bank for veterans. We should be taking better care of our veterans.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP member for his question, because anything that has to do with poverty among seniors is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that today, given the income levels of seniors, they are not able to index their guaranteed income supplement benefits, which would bring their income up to an acceptable level. Indexing the benefits and making the guaranteed income supplement retroactive could help them.

The member also spoke about the cost of such a measure. Although the measure is not very expensive, in examining this bill, we discovered that it would not be retroactive, and that some soldiers would be excluded. We would like soldiers to be included in this bill. We cannot put a price on soldiers.