An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (illness, injury or quarantine)


Jacques Gourde  Conservative

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


Dead, as of March 29, 2023

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-215.


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

This enactment amends the Employment Insurance Act to increase from 15 to 52 the maximum number of weeks for which benefits may be paid because of illness, injury or quarantine.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


June 15, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-215, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (illness, injury or quarantine)

Sitting ResumedCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2023 / 8:20 p.m.
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Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak to Bill C-21, an act to amend certain acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms).

I want to speak today in solidarity with all the honest, law-abiding people in Lévis—Lotbinière who legally own guns for reasons other than committing violent crimes.

My colleagues will no doubt understand that I have come here to defend honest hunters and shooters, farmers, and collectors who own guns passed down from one generation to another.

The absurd thing about the Liberal government is that their bills miss their targets most of the time—that is probably a bad pun—as does their budget, for that matter.

How will legalizing drugs prevent or reduce crime? That is utter nonsense. How can anyone believe that restricting the use of certain registered and legal weapons is going to reduce the same criminal activity that continues to rise because of bad Liberal decisions?

The solution to the ever-increasing crime is quite simple, and it is the same for everything else that has not worked in our country since 2015. We are headed straight for a cliff because the Liberals are in power and they are making bad decisions.

The goal of the new Liberal amendments to Bill C‑21 is not to protect us, but to score political points and instill a false sense of security in the population. The facts prove otherwise and nothing will change.

I would like to talk about academic and government stakeholders, such as Dr. Caillin Langmann, assistant clinical professor at McMaster University. He stated that available research has demonstrated that the proposed ban on handguns and semi-automatic weapons would not reduce the rates of homicide and mass homicide.

Someone who wants to inflict harm has the imagination and means to do so. What causes an individual to commit the irreparable quite often begins with the family violence that children witness. These children will become uncontrollable adults who abuse drugs that have become legal and who commit increasingly serious crimes.

The rehabilitation system for these individuals is not working and the Liberal Party encourages this scourge through bad policies and complacency. As proof, the Liberal Party's catch-and-release policies are not working. After eight years of Liberal governance, violent crimes have increased by 32% and gang-related homicides have doubled.

Rather than cracking down on the illegal guns used by criminals and street gangs, the Prime Minister is working to take hunting rifles away from law-abiding farmers, hunters and indigenous peoples.

Let us be clear. The Liberals' new definition is the same as the old one. The commonly used hunting firearms targeted by the Liberals in the fall will likely be added to the ban by the new Liberal firearms advisory panel.

Let there be no mistake. There is nothing new in the amendments proposed by the Liberals. They have just wrapped the initial amendments up in a new package. Hunters, farmers and indigenous peoples are not naive, and neither are the Conservatives. The Conservatives do not support taking guns away from law-abiding farmers, hunters and indigenous peoples. When the Liberals say that they are banning so-called assault-style firearms, they really mean that they are banning hunting rifles. The Prime Minister even admitted as much a few months ago.

No one believes that the government is going to reduce violent crime across the country by going after hunters and legitimate hunting rifles. That is part of the Liberal government's plan to distract Canadians from the real issues our country is facing and to divide them.

For eight years now, have the Liberals been aware that they are making life easier for violent criminals by repealing mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes with legislation stemming from Bill C‑5?

Are the Liberals aware that they are making it easier for violent criminals to get bail with legislation stemming from Bill C‑75?

Are the Liberals aware that they are making life easier for violent criminals by not stopping the flow of illegal guns across the U.S. border?

Conservatives support common-sense gun policies, policies that will stop dangerous criminals from getting guns. That is why a Conservative government will invest in policing and securing our borders rather than spending billions of dollars confiscating guns from farmers, hunters, indigenous people and law-abiding Canadians.

Let us not be fooled. The Liberals are the champions of wishful thinking. The Liberals are also the champions of empty gestures, empty words and wasting our hard-earned money.

Quality of life has gone down considerably in Canada in the past eight years in every area of daily life and not just because of the increasing crime rate, which, again, jumped by 32%. When we look at the facts, the current situation and the numbers, we see that this is no longer working. One just needs to look at the number of available jobs, the backlog in immigration cases, the applications for temporary foreign workers that are blocked and have caused businesses back home such as Olymel to shut down.

I am thinking about the Liberals' rejection of my Bill C‑215, which sought to promote life by allowing people with a serious disease such as cancer to be entitled to 52 weeks of employment insurance to get back on their feet. I am thinking about all these young people to whom the Liberal Party is offering addiction to dangerous substances as a life work; as we all know, using hard drugs brings more problems. That is obvious and it only makes sense to acknowledge it.

I have a hard time seeing how Bill C‑21 will achieve the Liberal Party's murky goal of lowering the crime rate and making our streets safer.

In closing, in Lévis—Lotbinière, the majority of us are responsible, law-abiding people. More than ever, we need a return to a Conservative government to restore order in our country and in our politics, and to put money back in our pockets.

Budget Implementation Act, 2023, No. 1Government Orders

April 25th, 2023 / noon
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Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, does my colleague have anything to say about Bill C‑215 on employment insurance? The government refused to recommend this bill for royal assent even though it would have provided welcome assistance to workers struggling with serious health problems. It refused to increase the number of weeks of EI sickness benefits from 26 to 52. Is this important to the member?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

April 17th, 2023 / 2:40 p.m.
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Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appeal to the government members' humanity and compassion. I am asking them to set aside all partisanship and to give royal recommendation to Bill C-215 on EI sickness benefits.

As we speak, there are men and women who are sick and who need these extended benefits. The House voted unanimously to extend the benefits. The majority of MPs voted in favour of the bill. All we are waiting for now is royal recommendation. Will the government members give royal recommendation to the bill?

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

March 29th, 2023 / 6:40 p.m.
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Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, now the die is cast. After a year and a half of work, we are the end of the process with my Bill C‑215.

I want to thank everyone who contributed from near or far at every stage of the bill and who participated in the deliberations on this important issue of ensuring the financial security of people living with a serious illness requiring a period of convalescence that goes beyond the 26 weeks being offered.

I would have liked to see in yesterday's budget an openness by the Liberal government to help seriously ill workers who are asking for EI benefits for a period that goes beyond the 26 weeks that were hard-won in December.

That being said, we have made progress in the debate on this social security issue that is important to all Canadians. I greatly resent the requirement to obtain royal recommendation from the government, one that has blocked the wishes and a majority vote of the House in favour of Bill C‑215. My thoughts are with all those who have a serious illness who will not get this financial help that would have given them a little more room to breathe.

Every year we lose special people to cancer. I would be remiss if I did not mention my friend and neighbour Roger Flamand, who has cancer. Roger is fighting for his life right now, surrounded by his wife Lorraine, his daughters Annie and Marie-Josée and his entire family.

With courage and resilience, Roger is going through a difficult time, and his qualities as a fair, helpful and generous man are serving him well during this trial. Family, friends and neighbours, above all neighbours, are supporting him day after day. Our thoughts and prayers are with him as he continues his personal journey with respect and compassion.

I would like to personally address the man who was the very best neighbour for 50 years. I remember the warm summer nights when Roger and my father Armand had long conversations. What a beautiful and close friendship they had. It was really heartwarming to see them.

When my father passed away, Roger often told me that he considered Armand, my father, to be like a second father. This evening, I can tell him that my father considered him to be one of his sons. Roger's presence will always be a source of comfort and solace. On behalf of Chantal, my children and myself, I thank him for being a part of our lives. We love him dearly.

With that, I will conclude the debate.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

March 29th, 2023 / 6:30 p.m.
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Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I too will speak to Bill C‑215, which is being debated today in the House.

Bill C‑215 seeks to make a change to employment insurance. I am getting tired of having debates on employment insurance. I wonder why we are talking about employment insurance in the Canadian federal Parliament.

In 1867, when Canada was founded, there was a division of powers set up. The federal government took care of the money, the army, international border contacts and customs, but all the social affairs fell under the responsibility of the provinces. The reason employment insurance is a federal jurisdiction is that someone pulled a fast one in 1940. The economic crisis in 1929 was still having ill effects, the Second World War had just started and, in the meantime, there was a Liberal premier in Quebec, Mr. Godbout, who did not necessarily want independence for Quebec and let it drop. That is why the federal government is responsible for employment insurance today.

I would like to use an analogy about the federal government. I have a five-year-old son. Sometimes when a few children are playing together, we often see one of them go over to a friend who is playing with toys and snatch the toy away from them. He will go over to another friend who is playing with a toy and snatch that away. He will want all the toys that his friends are playing with. He will take them all, he will not be able to hold on to any more toys, but he will still try to take some more. That is classic behaviour. Eventually, the toys will quite simply gather dust. He will no longer play or be interested in them.

That is more or less how the federal government operates. It tries to take on all the responsibilities, keeps taking a few more here and there, but then neglects them. That is happening with EI.

Employment insurance is not working. The federal government is not working, and I believe that there is no desire to see it working. That is sad.

That is not just for employment insurance; there have been problems with passports and the Phoenix pay system. The problems keep piling up. This sort of thing is always happening with the federal government, but that does not stop it from wanting even more responsibility. It tries to tell us how we should be running our hospitals. It decides to launch all kinds of programs that it should not be launching. Meanwhile, the EI system is not working. The government is not carrying out the reform that people have been calling for for years.

That is unfortunate, because every time there is an election the Liberals promise to reform the EI system. They hold consultations and then more consultations and in the end they do nothing to reform the system.

As a result, right now, only about half of unemployed workers are covered. That means that one out of every two people who lose their job is not covered by EI even though it is an insurance plan and they should be eligible. The federal government was even siphoning money off the fund, which ran surpluses for years. From 1996 to 2009, $60 billion were siphoned off the EI fund. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives put unemployed workers' money directly into their pockets and left workers in the lurch.

Today we are talking about Bill C‑215, which seeks to amend employment insurance, more specifically sick leave. Sick leave is another thing that is not working. A person who gets sick gets only 15 weeks and that is it. It is a season, nothing more. They can spend the summer recovering, but if they are not better at the end of the summer, then they do not get any more money.

It is sad because if someone loses their job and is the one person in two who is covered, they can usually get quite a few weeks of benefits, maybe even up to 50 weeks. I do not remember exactly how many weeks are available these days, but it is somewhere around there. A person can go about a year with that. However, if that person gets cancer and has to stop working, they are entitled to only 15 weeks. That is an inequity that does not work. The purpose of Bill C‑215 is to correct this inequity. This is not the first crack at this.

My colleague, the member for Salaberry—Suroît, introduced a bill in the House during the last Parliament to fix this. In her case, it was not about getting to 52 weeks, it was about going from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. If it were 52 weeks, that would be even better. We could applaud that. We support this initiative, obviously.

However, this shows how hard she worked at the time. Her bill was even known as the Émilie Sansfaçon act. Émilie Sansfaçon was a woman who was on sick leave. It is called a leave of absence, but really, it is a forced resignation due to illness. She was on EI for too short a time and eventually passed away. She did not live to see Bill C-265, introduced by my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît, pass.

It is sad, because her father, who supported the Bloc Québécois, later ran for the Bloc Québécois and hoped that this bill would eventually pass. My colleague from Salaberry—Suroît worked hard. The bill passed first and second reading, was sent to committee and returned to the House for third reading. It went through all the stages. What was missing? Royal assent was missing. It just needed the government to say yes, nothing else.

That did not happen, which is sad. The Senate could have helped, too. It is sad, especially when we look at all the people who have supported this over the years. My colleague from Salaberry—Suroît, who introduced the bill, was not the first to come up with this idea. Yves Lessard, a Bloc Québécois member for the Belœil region, had already introduced a similar bill. Paul Crête, a Bloc Québécois member for the Bas-du-Fleuve region, had also already tabled a bill on this subject. Robert Carrier, a Bloc Québécois member for the Laval region, had already introduced a bill on this subject. Jean-François Fortin, a member of Parliament from eastern Quebec, had also introduced a bill on this subject.

The Bloc Québécois has repeatedly called for this problem to be fixed, for sick leave to be given to people who fall ill and for them to be supported during this difficult time. It is not a luxury for them to be able to eat, pay their rent and receive 50% of their pay, if not less, because it is 50% of the eligible amount. All we have been asking for is support to get them through a difficult time. By not giving them the money they need to heal, the government is adding to the stress they are under. It is sad.

I spoke about the members of the Bloc Québécois who worked on this, namely MPs Lessard, Crête, Carrier and Fortin, but there were also members from other parties. I must admit that we are not the only ones who had this idea. I could talk about the NDP MP Dawn Black, who introduced a bill three times to remedy the problem with sickness benefits and to provide more support for these workers. There was Fin Donnelly, a member who introduced a bill to resolve the issue four times. The next person that I name should certainly help the government understand that it needs to support this bill. Denis Coderre, a Liberal Party MP, once introduced a bill to resolve the issue with sickness benefits.

It is fascinating to see that members from all political parties have introduced bills year after year. This has been going on for what must be over 20 years now, maybe even 30. This is a problem that members are trying to solve. Unfortunately, they are not succeeding, either because their bills do not receive royal assent or because the party in power decides not to support them.

What we have now is a bill introduced by the member for Lévis—Lotbinière. It is important to highlight that it is his bill. We are at a point where this is coming from a Conservative member. We have reached a point where the Conservatives are also saying that the problem must be fixed. When everyone says that the problem must be fixed, there is no reason why it should not be fixed. It would be truly sad if the Liberals did not want to fix it. That would make the Liberals look more right wing than the Conservatives, more heartless than the Conservatives. I find that hard to believe. I hope that is not what happens.

Deep down, no one wants to leave sick people in the lurch. No one thinks it is okay for sick people to be in a position where they cannot afford to buy food, pay for groceries, be able to take the transportation they need, put gas—or electricity, I hope soon—in their car, so they can get where they need to go to receive care. It is sad. I hope that once the debate on Bill C‑215 is over, things will not end there. I hope we will finally find a solution and manage to do something positive for these people.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

March 29th, 2023 / 6:20 p.m.
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Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I wanted to speak to Bill C-215, sponsored by my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière, because I have had experience with some really difficult situations involving the duration of EI sickness benefits. The people I know, as well as the people who came to my office, did not ask to have to deal with these terrible illnesses one day. I am mainly going to speak about cancer because that is what most of these people were dealing with.

These people never expected that one day, they might have to choose between focusing their full attention on healing and slowly dying while trying to heal because they could no longer afford their treatment. For some, the treatments are very long.

I was listening to the speech given by my colleague, who had a lot of empathy and compassion for people in such situations. Unfortunately, the government could have granted a royal recommendation and allowed this bill to be voted on so it could finally be passed after many years of trying. I will have the opportunity to speak to that in my speech.

The fight to help people with these serious illnesses get access to money from employment insurance has been going on for years. Most of these people contributed their entire lives to a system that is supposed to be there to protect them. Unfortunately, when the time comes for some people to be able to benefit from it, the system simply does not meet their expectations.

I wanted to commend my Bloc Québécois colleague from Salaberry—Suroît, because she has worked very hard on this file. She talked about Normand Chevalier, who was listening to her speech and may have been patient enough to listen to the other parliamentarians until my speech. I want to say hello to him. I can tell him that there are people working very hard on this issue, as my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière has been doing ever since he had the opportunity to introduce this bill. There are people working very hard to change things. Unfortunately, as we have seen, things are not changing.

I am directly and indirectly involved in the Relay for Life. Every time I participate in a Relay for Life event, I am always amazed to see that a town as small as Plessisville has the largest Relay for Life in Canada. This shows how willing people are to support cancer patients and survivors.

It is heartbreaking to walk the Relay for Life route and see the thousands of little luminaries lit for people who have cancer or survived cancer, or for families and people who have lost a loved one to cancer. Everyone should come to Plessisville to see how big this event really is. Luminaries line the entire two-kilometre route, creating a mosaic of light, and each and every one of those luminaries is dedicated to someone. How many of these people had to make a difficult choice between treatments and work?

The answer is too many. I do not want to get into a fight over numbers. We do not need to argue about whether it is 23% or 30%. Either way, it is too much. Nobody knows how long treatment will take. Nobody knows how to cure each of these diseases. Nobody knows how each person is going to respond to treatment.

One thing is certain. These people are forced to choose between devoting themselves 100% to their recovery or devoting themselves 50% to their recovery and 50% to their work, because they have no income and they cannot go through such an ordeal without income. This can affect young people, but it often affects women or men, mothers or fathers. It can affect people who have a family to support, whether they are men or women. There are not many Quebeckers or Canadians who can afford to go an entire year without earning a cent.

That is why I think the right thing to do would have been for all parliamentarians to finally pass Bill C-215. The government had promised on several occasions to agree to this request, which came in particular from two people whom I would like to salute today.

Marie‑Hélène Dubé started a petition that was presented here in the House. It was signed by over 600,000 people and calls on parliamentarians to set aside their differences and partisanship and finally recognize the needs of people with cancer who have to undergo treatment so that they can focus on getting well. Ms. Dubé has helped draft many bills. She herself has had cancer several times and she has never given up, but I think that she is a bit discouraged that parliamentarians have not yet found a solution. I have never spoken to her, but I saw her in the media. I looked at her website. I saw everything she has been doing to try to convince parliamentarians.

There is always a parliamentarian who is ready to take up the torch. When one party is unable to introduce the bill because of the way the lottery draw for private members' bills goes, someone else takes up the torch. This time, it was my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière. He and the member for Salaberry—Suroît both worked very hard on this bill. I want to recognize the work of Ms. Dubé, who has not given up, even though she may be a bit discouraged. Today, I read her most recent post on the website I will read it even though it is not that recent.

We are currently on the 14th bill to amend the act to increase benefits to more than 50 weeks, after 13 years of vigorous campaigning. If you can believe it, this campaign that I have been waging by myself since 2009 has been going on so long that I have qualified for my first FADOQ card. That's crazy! I was 38 years old when I gathered the first of the 619,000 signatures… I am honestly so exhausted, but I could never abandon you.

My colleagues are applauding her and I think she deserves it.

How far will we have to go? How long will we have to wait? There have been committee studies and unanimous motions adopted in the House, where all parliamentarians said they agree with the principle of 50 weeks. However, no government has made a move to change things. It is not a matter of money, because we can make it happen by using the EI fund. It is not a matter of politics, because everyone knows someone, like a family member or a friend of a friend, who has had to go through a difficult situation because of EI benefits.

I know there is not much time left, about 15 minutes, but perhaps someone on the government side will hear this final appeal from Ms. Dubé, from my colleagues and from all those who have championed this bill and its previous versions. I hope that the bill will finally receive a royal recommendation so that these people can focus on their recovery. It will send a message of hope to their loved ones. Let us send hope to all those who have had this disease and survived and to the many others who will one day have to deal with this terrible disease.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

March 29th, 2023 / 6 p.m.
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Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Noted, Madam Speaker.

I know that Mr. Chevalier is listening to me, because I promised to speak on his behalf in the House of Commons. There is at least one person listening to my speech tonight. Mr. Chevalier asked me to speak on his behalf because this makes no sense. It has been documented that the government can afford to provide 26 and 52 weeks of benefits to workers who are sick. Our critic on this issue, the member for Thérèse-De Blainville, has said as much, and she is calling for it in committee.

Mr. Chevalier was telling me that he may be reaching retirement and that he has no intention of claiming his pension or his provincial plan benefits because he wants to keep working. There is a shortage of drivers, so he wants to stay on. However, the government is giving him a hard time and messing up his plans because it is not giving him an incentive to return to the workforce.

He told me that he is going to fight his illness and manage on his own, because he has always been self-reliant. It is important for everyone to know that this government had the means and could have done it. This could have been included in the budget. There are times when ministers get it wrong. The minister got it wrong by increasing the benefit period from 15 to 26 weeks.

Bill C‑215, which we are debating this evening and was introduced by the member for Lévis—Lotbinière, is a commendable bill that should make sense and could have been accepted and passed a long time ago.

Every member of the House, even on the government side, gets phone calls like the one I received from Mr. Chevalier. People do not understand why the government has not done something meaningful to encourage sick workers to get through their illness with dignity.

Today, I am pleased to be the voice of Mr. Chevalier, but I know that there are other Mr. Chevaliers in every riding who would have liked to congratulate the government for standing by them, as it promised, by helping sick workers recover with dignity and fight their illness without worrying. We know that EI sickness benefits do not cover 100% of a person's income, they cover 55%. That is not a lot. People already do their part, on top of all the expenses they have to cover to go see specialists.

In addition to fighting their illness, people like Mr. Chevalier who live in a rural area have to find transportation and pay someone to bring them to their appointments. I do not know whether my colleagues are aware, but people do not feel all that well after undergoing a radiation treatment. They need support. All of that costs money. In addition to having just 55% of his salary for 15 weeks, Mr. Chevalier had to use what little he had in his pocket to pay for all his treatment-related costs.

Mr. Chevalier told me today that he is going to have to move. He cannot afford his rent for the coming months. He is lucky that his landlord has a heart, unlike this government. The landlord let him out of his lease so that he could go live somewhere else where the rent is cheaper. Quite frankly, Mr. Chevalier does not have any other income. The only other option he has is to apply for social assistance.

What the government is telling this worker, who is in his sixties and who worked and paid into the system his whole life without ever getting an EI cheque, is that it has no heart. The member for Lévis—Lotbinière is trying, once again, to introduce a bill to fix that.

What we want is for those on the other side of the House to wake up and for the government to provide royal recommendation to allow Bill C-215 to pass, to allow people who are sick to be treated and often to fight for their lives, to beat the illness and, above all, to return to work.

I implore the government once again to give royal recommendation to Bill C-215, for all workers and for Normand Chevalier and everyone like him. If the minister does not intend to give royal recommendation, I hope she will go back and say that anyone who is currently receiving treatment is eligible for the 26 weeks.

The House resumed from December 12, 2022, consideration of the motion that Bill C‑215, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (illness, injury or quarantine), be read the third time and passed.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActPrivate Members' Business

February 1st, 2023 / 6:55 p.m.
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Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to take part in today's debate on Bill C‑239, which deals with a promise that the Conservative Party itself proposed in the summer of 2018.

We also moved a motion on February 5, 2019, here in the House, on this clear and legitimate request from Quebeckers and the Quebec National Assembly, specifically to cut the paperwork burden on Quebeckers significantly by allowing them to file a single tax return.

On April 24, 2021, all of my Conservative Party colleagues voted for this measure in Bill C‑224. The single income tax return responds to a request that is dear to the hearts of the people of Lévis—Lotbinière and all Quebeckers. All Quebeckers are required to file two tax returns as soon as they start earning an income, even if they have not reached the age of majority. This noble and legitimate request will save a lot of time and money for Quebec families and all Quebeckers. It is important to note that Quebec is the only province in Canada that still has to take on this onerous task.

Whether it relates to this bill or any other measure that would be good for the Quebec nation and the entire Canadian population, nothing seems to make the Liberal government lift a finger since it came to power in 2015, because saving time and money is simply not one of its values and is not in its DNA.

Let me give a real-life example of when all my children were still living under the same roof at home. At the time, it meant 14 individual tax returns for one house, plus two returns for my small farm. Think about it, that is 16 tax returns under one roof. That is a lot of repetitive and counterproductive work forced on families, students and young workers, who are eager to be active in the workforce, which is in need of labour now more than ever.

True to their values, Conservatives have always been committed to simplifying the lives of Quebeckers, saving them time and money, and increasing their quality of life.

We cannot shy away from certain words. We are living under a coalition government, and this cronyism between the Liberals and the NDP is disastrous for all Quebeckers and Canadians across the country. This arrangement is damaging our democracy and prevents any good measures from being adopted. We saw proof of this when the NDP and the Liberals voted against Bill C‑224, sealing its fate.

We saw further proof recently with my private member's bill, Bill C‑215, which got a majority but may not be adopted at third reading because the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance are still refusing to give it a royal recommendation. I would like to remind members that my bill would extend EI benefits for people with serious illness to 52 weeks, a fix for outdated legislation that has not been amended since 1971.

There are a lot of good bills here, including the one before us now, Bill C‑239, which is perfectly valid. However, we have a major problem in the House after eight years of Liberal incompetence that is now making itself felt across Canada and in every sector.

Our Canada is broken. It will never be like it was before. We are experiencing the repercussions of lack of leadership and political will to bring positive, long-lasting change to the lives of people in Canada.

Under the Liberals, life has become very expensive. Inflation, taxes, crime and drug deaths are on the rise. Honest citizens like hunters and farmers are being attacked and penalized by Bill C‑21. We have a Liberal government that will do anything to help its cronies get funding and contracts in exchange for a $500 ticket to a dinner. The Liberals managed to legalize marijuana and now want to decriminalize hard drugs. However, when it comes to helping honest people who work hard, day in and day out, people who are responsible, or people who are seriously ill and simply deserve our support, there is no danger of Liberal favouritism. There is no danger of giving these honest people a free ride. We hear more than a simple “no”. It is a resounding “no” to anyone with common sense and logic, and this is all currently endorsed by the NDP.

This government is really old, worn out and outdated, not to mention fundamentally incompetent.

I remember all too well the Liberal argument against adopting a single tax return in Quebec. I can already see the return of the stale rhetoric of the Minister of National Revenue—we just heard it. The House has already heard responses using the simplistic argument that having a single tax return would result in massive job losses, which is unfounded and, moreover, would happen at a time when there is a dire need for labour across Canada.

I would also like to remind the minister and my colleagues that the number of public service jobs has increased by 32% from 2015. My constituents write to me to tell me that they can no longer make ends meet, have no savings, are using food banks to feed themselves and their family, can no longer afford their rent, have to work when sick or, even worse, have to declare bankruptcy. Like them, I am very worried about our future and that of our children and future generations.

The aspirations of Quebeckers are eroding after eight years of Liberal incompetence. The single tax return that has been a Conservative election promise since 2018 will still not see the light of day, I am afraid. The NDP has to go back to being an opposition party and stop propping up the Liberal government. We all know that the 32 Bloc Québécois MPs are not the ones who can make the change that Canada really needs.

I am proud that the people in my riding, Lévis—Lotbinière, trust me and the leadership of the Conservative Party to put an end to the Liberal incompetence that we have seen for eight years now—eight years too many. The Conservatives are the best equipped to work for a more productive Quebec, a stronger Quebec, a richer Quebec, a Quebec that is a partner in Canada's success, a Quebec that is proud of its culture and heritage, a Quebec that is worthy of the French language, a Quebec that is respected by the Conservative Party of Canada for what it has achieved. The Conservative Party is a proud partner in the success of all Canadians from all provinces.

Historically, the Conservatives have said yes to Quebec's requests. We said yes to the construction of the new Champlain Bridge, yes to the future third link in Quebec City, yes to more power over immigration for Quebec and yes to a single tax return. That is more than a promise of change or lip service. It is a real commitment, a promise that I have been keeping every day in the House for 17 years now, along with my Conservative colleagues. I say yes for Lévis—Lotbinière and yes for Quebec.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2022 / noon
See context


Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will start by thanking the member for Lévis—Lotbinière for his work on Bill C-215.

As the member of Parliament for the riding of Waterloo, I hear from many constituents when it comes to programs within our country, including unemployment insurance. It is a program that has been there to support workers when they are recovering from illness or injury, and it is important that they feel confident that they are supported.

It is nice to see that there is a Conservative member recognizing the importance of that system and strengthening that system. Oftentimes in this place, when we are voting or the government is advancing programs, that support is not always there from the official opposition. However, in this private member's bill, we have the ability to at least hear from a private member from the Conservative benches on his support to strengthen unemployment insurance.

As I was saying, when Canadians are recovering from illness or injury, they deserve to feel confident that they are supported and that their jobs are protected. That is why the government is taking action to improve employment insurance sickness benefits.

Just a few weeks ago, the hon. Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion announced that, as of December 18, we are permanently extending EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. This extension will provide approximately 169,000 Canadians per year with additional time and flexibility to recover so they can return to work after an illness, injury or quarantine.

Right now, more than ever, it really is important for programs such as unemployment insurance, which workers pay into and then receive the benefit, that people know the program is there for them. That is why the extension of EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks is not the only improvement taking effect on December 18.

I am pleased to say we are also increasing the maximum length of unpaid medical leave available to federally regulated private sector workers from 17 weeks to 27 weeks. This change will ensure that workers in federally regulated industries have the right to take unpaid job-protected leave while receiving the extended EI sickness benefit.

We have seen very uncertain and challenging times. We know that, more than ever, we need to ensure there is a government that is not only listening and engaging but also responding to the very real needs of Canadians.

We saw the world go through a global health crisis. In Canada, it was important to have the government of the day respond to those needs. When individuals were worried about paying rent, buying food, etc., because the country, the world, was shut down, it was the government of the day that brought out the Canada emergency response benefit. We made sure that Canadians could have access to that benefit rather quickly. We knew they were anxious. It was a tough time, and they deserved a government that would be there for them.

What did the government do? Our government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, stepped up. We also heard from businesses and the list goes on. Part of that conversation really was on unemployment insurance.

Small business owners or job creators are often not the ones who are paying into EI, because they are worried about their workers and the people they create jobs for. Therefore, when they needed access to that program, they were not eligible for it because they had not paid into it. However, our government listened. We made sure that we would find ways so that more people could benefit from this very important program that exists in Canada.

I should also mention in passing that, as of December 1, 2022, federally regulated private sector workers will also begin accumulating up to 10 days of paid sick leave per year. This is something we have been hearing for a long time. In the riding of Waterloo, many constituents contact me with a diversity of perspectives and opinions. This step was really important and one that I heard often.

We also extended working while on claim to include EI sickness and EI maternity benefits. That gives people more flexibility, so they can keep more of their benefits if they choose to gradually return to work. It is important to recognize that we do have a changing environment, and we do have opportunities. We need to ensure that there is some flexibility there.

As part of that flexibility, for members of Parliament, who have always needed to take their seats to ensure we continue to do the important work of the House, we have brought out a hybrid model. Members of Parliament are able to be in their ridings as well as do the work of the House of Commons and represent their constituents.

It is important that we adjust and improve the way benefits are delivered so that more people can benefit from them. These improvements are part of a broader plan to modernize Canada's EI system. Technically, we should be looking at all of our systems.

Our overarching goal is to build an EI program that is more fair, more flexible and more responsive to the needs of workers. To achieve that goal, we also asked for Canadians to help. In August 2021, we began a two-year consultation on EI reform to build an EI program that is more flexible, more fair and better suited to the needs of today's workers.

The best way to respond to what Canadians are asking for is to bring them into the conversation. That is something that has often been lacking. Members of Parliament will rise in this place, as it is really an honour and privilege to be here, and say they have the solution, but they have never spoken to constituents across the country. It is important that this consultation process is one that Canadians participate in. I am pleased to see we are doing it.

It is unfortunate that I have run out of time. I look forward to this conversation continuing. I hope to see more members recognize the importance of improving our systems and strengthening programs, such as employment insurance.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2022 / 11:50 a.m.
See context


Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure and privilege of rising today to speak to Bill C-215, which was introduced by my very good friend and colleague, the member for Lévis—Lotbinière.

I want to start by thanking him for introducing this very important bill. He has shown a lot of initiative in continuing to exert pressure to get this bill passed. This bill is completely non-partisan, and I think that all members should support it in order to improve the lives of many Canadians across the country.

We have all heard so many stories about people in our ridings and especially in our personal lives who have been diagnosed with cancer or who have been seriously injured. These people do not have it easy. They are facing some very serious challenges. That is why it is so important to pass a bill like this one to help our most vulnerable constituents.

Take, for example, a roofer who breaks his back on the job and is unable to return to work for months, only to then be diagnosed with cancer. After his surgery, he cannot return to work for a long time. According to the current wording of the act, he is entitled to only 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits. If a person in such a situation is not yet ready to go back to work after 15 weeks and has not been authorized to do so by their doctor, they can end up in a very precarious situation.

I hardly need to remind my colleagues that not everyone has family members to share their financial burden, nor can everyone live off their savings for more than 15 weeks.

According to a study, this kind of problem affects over 151,000 people in Canada every year. That works out to about 450 people in every riding in this country, so it is a big problem. That is a staggering number. These people are our neighbours, our friends, even our family members. We live in a country with a great EI system, but the government has not yet taken steps to extend benefit periods for these kinds of serious and rare cases.

In our country, many vulnerable Canadians may one day fall ill. We need a compassionate system that allows for all possible situations. We need to create a real safety net that will make Canadians feel safe and, most importantly, let them know they have the time they need to get better and will not be forced to go back to work before they are fully healed.

At some point or other, 55% of Canadians will need EI. It is unavoidable, and that is the reason we need to review legislation such as the Employment Insurance Act and try to find ways to enhance it. Experts say that this law needs to be amended to change the current maximum of 15 weeks. We must listen to the experts and work with them to make these changes correctly. All parties need to be heard, and all options need to be considered.

Some members may be concerned about the possibility of fraud or abuse if we increase the number of weeks of sickness benefits. I want to assure my colleagues that this legislation is solid and includes many protection measures to avoid these types of problems. The EI system is extremely well monitored and audited as a whole to catch potential fraudsters. A doctor's note or certificate is still needed to receive EI payments. The timeline is recommended by health care professionals.

I firmly believe that we must trust our health care providers, who do such important work day after day, to diagnose illnesses and suggest an amount of sick leave for each individual that is fair and based on science. We need to trust our health care system to do things properly.

I would like to remind all members that one of the promises the Conservatives made in 2021 was to increase the EI sickness benefit limit beyond 15 weeks, and we plan to keep that promise with this bill.

The same bill was introduced in the past, but unfortunately it never received royal assent. I clearly remember that the Bloc Québécois and the NDP both supported our bill the last time it was introduced, and I sincerely hope that we can count on that support again this time. I sincerely hope that the NDP-Liberal coalition will see that this bill is a really good law and that it will help all Canadians.

I know that some members will still have doubts or questions about the bill. Are we going too far? What about Canadians who have private insurance?

Rest assured that there is nothing to be concerned about. First, Canadians do not want to be ill or to be confined to their homes. We know that, in most cases, they return to work as soon as they can.

Also, anyone who has private insurance must use up their weeks of private sick leave before applying for the federal program. In most cases, they will be able to return to work without ever having to use Service Canada's EI system. This bill will have no impact on our SMEs' private insurance systems. The federal program will simply be there as a safety net in certain extenuating circumstances.

This measure is affordable for the government and it is an entirely reasonable thing to do. Not only is it reasonable, but it is the fairest thing to do. Many Canadians pay into EI for their entire lives and never have to use it. Other Canadians are not so lucky and have to use this safety net to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table during one of the most difficult times in their lives.

I believe that our constituents, who have paid taxes and contributed to social programs their entire lives, deserve to be looked after when a crisis hits their families. They deserve to feel protected by the government and respected for all they have done for society.

As inflation and high interest rates continue to hit Canadians hard, we need to assure them that we are there for them when they really need us.

In closing, this bill seeks to give Canadians the dignity they deserve and the help they need when they need it most. As I mentioned earlier in my speech, we are talking about our neighbours, friends and sometimes even our family members. Misfortune or illness can befall anyone at any time. Long-term illnesses and major accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. All elected officials have a duty to amend any law that they think is inadequate. I think that is what this bill does.

I want to wish all of my constituents and all Canadians good luck, health and happiness this Christmas season. If anything bad does happen in their lives, I want them to know that the Conservative Party will support them by passing Bill C-215.

I am very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to this bill today. I would like to once again thank the member for Lévis—Lotbinière for his hard work on this file and for defending the interests of vulnerable Canadians across the country.

I truly hope that we can unanimously pass this bill quickly here in the House so that it can receive a royal recommendation. It is a bill that we can all be very proud of.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2022 / 11:40 a.m.
See context


Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the employment insurance program is antiquated and needs reform. So much has changed in the five decades since EI was imagined. For example, when EI was first brought into this country, it was built to support men as the breadwinner, a discriminatory concept that has perpetuated gender discrimination and the gender wage gap in the workforce since its inception.

Here are the stats. From 1972, when EI was first brought in, to the present, the labour force participation rate for women has almost doubled, rising from only 45% in 1972 to 85% today. This compares to a slight decline for men, from 95% participation rate to 92% now. The EI system is just another example of the systems in this country that were not built for equity and inclusion.

During the recent HUMA testimony around this bill, we heard from Madame Marie-Hélène Dubé, who has been running the “15 weeks is not enough” campaign for years. She battled cancer three times between 2003 and 2008, receiving only 15 weeks of benefits per year. This year, she went through the same nightmare yet again, still receiving only 15 weeks of support in a year when costs have skyrocketed. I raise my hands to Madame Dubé, who has continued to fight for better even during the most difficult of times. As Marie-Hélène testified, setting the benefit period of EI sickness benefit at 26 weeks would let down the people who need it the most.

That is exactly what the government did. It let people down and it needs to be corrected. Extending the benefit period from 26 weeks to 52 weeks would change everything when it comes to treatment and recovery from illness or injury, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer has demonstrated that it is a viable change. We can pay for this, and Canadians agree it is a socially acceptable measure. It is shameful that, despite support from Canadians, the government has failed to extend EI sickness benefits beyond 26 weeks.

Opposition parties, along with the NDP, must continue to advocate for Canadians who suffer from an illness or injury. That should not have to happen. We need to make sure they have access to necessary employment insurance during their time of need. The NDP supports Bill C-215 as it strives toward giving Canadians more protection when accessing these essential benefits. The NDP has tabled similar private member's bills in previous Parliaments, including in February 2020 when my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona tabled Bill C-212.

The NDP is focused on making sure that people can receive much-needed income while they are recovering from an injury or illness, and Bill C-215 provides more protection than what exists today. It allows workers the time they need to recover, something that is absolutely necessary, postpandemic specifically, as labour shortages in health care have delayed and prolonged access, diagnoses and treatments, and as the realities of long COVID are becoming better understood.

I want to go back to the failings of only having 26 weeks of sickness benefits for women and diverse genders. The need for greater EI benefits disproportionately affects them, whether it is in their capacity as single parents or the fact that there is a gender wage gap in this country that does not afford them the opportunity to save at the same rates.

In addition, I know personally that it is more difficult for women to get private sickness insurance because of the rates of breast cancer in this country. If there is a history of cancer in one's family, that risk profile is a consideration in the insurance company's assessment of allowing benefits. With one in eight women in this country being attacked by breast cancer, the chances of having no family history of it are decreasing by the day. This leaves women uninsured and unprotected from financial risks of an illness they have no control over, which is just another reason why gender inequities in the EI system need to be fixed. There are so many examples of where women were left out of the initial EI design.

Before I go on, this inspired me to go and take a look at the employment numbers from 1972 to 2022. While data from 1972 was not available on the Statistics Canada's website, data from 1976 was. I can tell members that women have driven the growth of this economy over the last 50 years.

We have had an increase of almost 10 million employees since 1972, the majority of them women, the participation rate going from 44% to 88%. The majority of new workers in our economy are women.

I want to point out, by how we classify workers, that the health care and social science assistance category has increased by 1.8 million, almost two million workers. It is shameful that it is one of the largest-growing areas of our economy and we waited this long for child care.

I will go back to Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal, which invited legislators to correct the inequity of the act toward women who had received maternity, or parental benefits or their equivalent from a provincial parental insurance plan, and the current ruling around injustices for six women who lost their jobs while on, or just after, parental leave and had their EI claims rejected because they had not worked the minimum number of hours needed to qualify for benefits.

To add insult to injury, the government continues to fight the Social Security Tribunal ruling that sections of the Employment Insurance Act violated women's constitutional rights to equality under the law. Standing here, I do not know how the government can argue that. Why do women continually have to fight the government for equity injustice?

I asked in committee about gender inequities and if the gender lens was being applied in the current budgeting considerations for the government's movement to expand from 15 weeks. This is what came back, “Regarding the PBO’s $1.9 billion estimated ongoing cost of an extension to EI sickness benefits from 15 to 52 weeks, the PBO’s formula and budgeting did not segment potential beneficiaries by gender.” The discriminatory analysis continues.

In addition, a set of data that came back from the 2021 “Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report“ showed that a gender difference continued to exist between men and women in relation to EI sickness benefits, yet when analyzing that data for post-claim follow-up, this was the disclaimer on the data that came back, “A breakdown of the findings above by gender is not available.” That is unacceptable. We exist, we are here and we are at work.

The New Democrats acknowledge that the 26 weeks is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. Extending the framework from 26 weeks to 52 weeks is what is needed to accurately capture the needs of all people, allowing them to receive the necessary benefits during the recovery period. The government needs to do the right thing and do better for Canadians.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2022 / 11:30 a.m.
See context


Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged once again to reiterate the importance of extending special EI sickness benefits to 52 weeks, as proposed in my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière's Bill C‑215. I salute the Conservative Party for taking this stand.

This bill is the eleventh such bill introduced in the House in over a decade. The Bloc Québécois alone has introduced three of them, the most recent one being my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît's Bill C‑265, the Émilie Sansfaçon act.

I do not know what it will take to convince the Liberal government to really hear the unanimous voices of those who have stood up to say that sickness benefits must be increased to 50 weeks. When the party currently in power was on the opposition benches, it was in favour of the 50-weeks idea.

Perhaps it is time for that party to spend a little time on the other side. Perhaps that would serve as a salutary reminder that, back when the Liberal Party was an opposition party, Denis Coderre, the member for Bourassa at the time, introduced Bill C‑291, which would have increased sickness benefits to 50 weeks. The current Prime Minister was a strong advocate of the idea. How crazy is that? It boggles the mind.

However, research and studies on gravely ill workers should easily persuade us of the need for action, and non-partisan action. Sick workers have been waiting for 50 years to get an adequate number of weeks. It is about time this issue was addressed once and for all.

This was done and continues to be done in the case of the dying with dignity legislation. We should be guided in much the same way and be equally motivated when it comes to sick workers, so they can care for themselves with dignity.

There is only one thing left for the government to do today, and that is to give royal recommendation to this bill. It can and must do so. It has the power to improve things for all those workers whose only insurance is the EI system, an outdated system that requires urgent reform, despite the many broken promises.

I heard my colleague say in his 10-minute speech that this was part of an EI strategy. That is nonsense. What strategy? The system has not been reformed for 15 years. The Liberals promised to do so in 2019, in 2021 and again now, but nothing has been done.

Coluche said, “The doors of the future are open to those who know how to push them.” It is true that it takes courage, and although all too often this government has shown the opposite, let us hope that, in this case, reason and ambition will be able to convince it.

Let us remember that we have a minority government and that the opposition parties voted unanimously several times in favour of 50 weeks of sickness benefits. In 2019, the following Bloc Québécois motion was passed by a majority:

That the House call on the government to increase the special Employment Insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks in the upcoming budget in order to support people with serious illnesses, such as cancer.

In 2020, the Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C‑265, known as the Émilie Sansfaçon act. On June 15, 2021, Bill C‑265 was referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, which adopted it unanimously on June 17, 2021, and reported it back to the House. We should note that, in committee, Liberal MPs voted in favour of this bill. Unfortunately, it died on the Order Paper when an election was called.

On December 15, 2021, Bill C‑215 was introduced. On October 17, 2022, it was referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. This bill was once again adopted unanimously by the committee members on October 19, 2022.

Notably, all parties voted unanimously in favour of these motions. We are now at report stage. Parliamentary democracy demands that we act accordingly and consider the views of members. Hiding behind the fact that these are private member's bills that require a royal recommendation would indisputably be a power play by the government that is disrespectful and abusive of the will of the majority of elected members of the House who, on behalf of the people they represent, want this change. It would be undemocratic and cowardly. As my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière said, let us hope that the Liberals do not hide behind the need for a royal recommendation.

The government will surely argue that it heard the request, which it did when it quietly announced on a Friday afternoon, away from the bright lights of the TV cameras, that the number of weeks of EI sickness benefits would be increased to 26 as of December 18, and only for new claimants. This announcement shows that the government did not listen. That is not what anyone has been asking for. The inter-union alliance made up of the FTQ, the CSN, the CSD and the CSQ, which represents over two million workers in Quebec, the Mouvement autonome et solidaire des sans-emploi, the Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses, the Conseil d'intervention pour l'accès des femmes au travail, Unifor and the Canadian Labour Congress were all calling for 50 weeks.

Nobody asked the government to stop halfway. This is a half-measure that solves nothing for seriously ill workers. With it, the government is abandoning thousands of them who will not be able to take the time they need to recover without worrying about their finances and hoping to be able to return to work. It shows a complete lack of compassion and humanity.

Are half-measures what the government is striving for in its social approach to illness? I hope not.

To save a few dollars in the short term, the government is prepared to let thousands of families slide into poverty, which will cost the community much more in the long run. Is that the government's economic approach? I should hope not.

Sick workers who pay into EI have a fair right to a maximum of 50 or 52 weeks of special sickness benefits. Remember, workers are the ones paying into EI. I just want to reiterate that employment insurance, in its current form, is not like winning the jackpot. It takes 600 hours to qualify, and eligible workers get only 55% of their earned income.

Currently, studies show that it can take up to 41 weeks for seriously ill workers to recover. The number of weeks of EI sickness benefits has been stuck at 15 for 50 years. It will increase to 26 weeks as of December 18, but that will not be enough. Given today's labour shortage, what workers want most is to have the time and means to get well and return to work. The current 15 weeks was not nearly enough, and the planned 26 weeks will not allow for that either.

Our society wants a strong social safety net and believes in its workers, so the Liberal government should logically give this bill a royal recommendation. It takes heart. Above all, it takes vision.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2022 / 11:25 a.m.
See context


Heath MacDonald Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-215, sponsored by the member for Lévis—Lotbinière. The bill is about amending the Employment Insurance Act in the areas of illness, injury and quarantine. This bill would modify existing legislation to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 52 weeks.

I want to be clear from the outset: The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion opposes this bill, and the Government of Canada opposes this bill. I also want to be clear that Parliament has already approved an extension of EI sickness benefits to 26 weeks. These changes are being implemented as we speak, and as recently announced, they will be up and running beginning December 18. Additionally, the legislative changes related to this extension have already received royal assent. Therefore, I will be using my time today to explain our position and outline how our changes to Canada's EI program will help support Canadian workers.

Let there be no doubt that we recognize the financial challenges that Canadians suffering from long-term illness or injury and their families face. We know that EI sickness benefits are an important support for Canadians who need temporary leave from their job due to illness, injury or quarantine. These benefits allow individuals to take the time they need to rest and restore their health without having to worry about their financial situation.

While the current 15 weeks of entitlement are sufficient for most claimants to recover and return to work, approximately one-third of claimants exhaust the maximum entitlement of 15 weeks of benefits. This is why we are permanently extending the maximum duration of EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. This extension will provide an additional support to approximately 169,000 Canadian workers every year who require additional time to regain their health before returning to work.

In contrast, an extension of EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 52 weeks, as proposed in Bill C-215, would undermine the spirit and intent of the EI program, which is to keep workers connected to the labour force. Bill C-215 would incur an estimated incremental cost of over $2 billion per year, which would cost $1 billion more per year than the approved extension to 26 weeks.

I would like to turn to the issue of EI reform.

The current extension of sickness benefits is part of our broader strategy to modernize the EI program. The pandemic laid bare a number of faults with the EI program. It made us recognize that the current EI program needs to evolve so that it can better respond to changing labour markets and workforce needs. Canada needs a modern EI program that better meets the needs of workers and employers. The plan to modernize EI must take into account the realities of those who use it. That is why we have been consulting with Canadians on how to build a simpler, fairer and more flexible program.

In 2021, we embarked on a two-year consultation process on EI modernization. The consultation, which took place over two phases, is now complete. We are currently analyzing the input received from the various participants. Their insights are helping to guide us in designing a program that is more modern, resilient, accessible, adequate and financially viable.

Among other things, we heard that there is a need to reform the EI program to make it simpler, more responsive and more inclusive. The program must evolve to support all types of workers, including freelance and self-employed workers. With budget 2022, we confirmed our commitment to establishing an EI program with simpler and fairer rules for both workers and employers. Modernizing a program that serves millions of Canadians is a serious task, and we are taking the time to get it right.

I would like to thank the public servants who have worked tirelessly to provide Canadians with the benefits and services essential to their well-being. Increasing the maximum duration of these benefits and services from 15 weeks to 26 weeks will allow Canadians to focus on what is essential: their health.

We have a plan that promotes a healthy, resilient and inclusive labour market and that includes, of course, EI reform. Today, let us take note that every year, roughly 169,000 Canadians will benefit from the extension of EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2022 / 11:05 a.m.
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Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to deliver this third reading speech on my private member's bill, Bill C‑215, to amend the number of weeks of EI sickness benefits.

As lawmakers, the actions we take and the political decisions we make every day must be guided by practical and responsible ethics. Naturally, I wish to remind my Liberal colleagues and the Prime Minister of this duty, which is necessary to the well-being of our society, because Bill C‑215 is still awaiting a royal recommendation.

Bill C‑215 proposed to increase from 15 to 52 weeks the period for which Canadians eligible for EI sickness benefits are able to use extra weeks for their recovery or their convalescence, thereby providing a minimum amount of financial security in case of serious illness, such as cancer and other illnesses that require long recovery periods.

Since the latest reading, Bill C‑215 has gone to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, and all committee members voted in favour of the report on October 19.

Furthermore, all our hard work has resulted in a half win, given that, on November 25, the Liberal government announced a glimmer of hope for sick Canadians who can begin applying as of December 18, 2022.

They could receive up to 26 weeks of EI sickness benefits instead of 15. To say that 26 is better than 15 gives very little comfort to sick Canadians who are simply trying to survive, especially in these tough inflationary times. It is even worse when we consider that recovering from a serious illness takes about 38 to 40 weeks in many cases.

This is a good start, but it falls short. It does not do justice to the spirit of the outdated legislation, which is meant to respond to the real needs identified by experts. These experts wanted to see up to 52 weeks of benefits provided to sick people, who need almost a year for a full recovery.

As members know, this bill has been introduced many times to address the outdated legislation from 1971, and here we are with 2023 right around the corner. As I said earlier, this bill absolutely must have the support of the Liberal government to get royal recommendation and to proceed. So far, all signs point to the Liberal Party leaving 31,000 sick Canadians per year out in the cold, without a penny to recover and regain their health after the promised 26 weeks, as I would remind members.

I have to say that I am completely befuddled by the government's refusal to support this responsible and just bill for Canadians who do not have insurance.

However, the government has, to some degree, recognized this very serious need, and I am pleased with one thing: Increasing the maximum benefit to 26 weeks means that the bulk of the cost for this measure has been dealt with.

There are three keys words associated with Bill C-215: affordable, reasonable and shared.

According to a 2019 study, this is an affordable bill with a reasonable cost, which is shared by Canadians and Canadian employers. The Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed it in March 2022.

As I stated at second reading, the March 2022 study indicated that 151,000 Canadians a year need more than 15 weeks of sickness benefits for their convalescence. Should those 151,000 Canadians use all of their weeks, the cost would amount to $1.6 billion a year on average for the next five years.

When I was a witness at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on October 17 and 19, I had the opportunity to present my bill and again demonstrate its merits, which are indisputable to all except my Liberal colleagues and the Prime Minister, of course. During these hours of study at committee, several witnesses were given the opportunity to speak and deliver a touching testimony; some even shared their medical or bureaucratic expertise.

On October 19, the committee questioned Benoit Cadieux, director of special benefits and employment insurance policy at the Skills and Employment Branch of the Department of Employment and Social Development. According to Mr. Cadieux, the estimated cost in the next budget for shifting from 15 weeks to 26 weeks is $1 billion for the first year.

The legislative costing note for Bill C-215, prepared by the Parliamentary Budget Officer in March, shows that the bill, which seeks to increase the number of weeks of EI sickness benefits from 15 to 52, would cost $1.92 billion in the first year. The additional cost of increasing EI sickness benefits from 26 to 52 weeks would therefore be $92 million per year. Doing so would make it possible to help all those who need EI sickness benefits. That is a completely reasonable cost to protect the 31,000 Canadians who do not have insurance and who need more than 26 weeks to recover from a serious illness.

Everyone here who is in good health is unbelievably lucky, and this good health is too often taken for granted. For many, cancer is an experience they go through, but others are not lucky enough to recover quickly, especially if they have many other concerns on their plate. As we know, the medical aspect is just one part of living with cancer. Then there is life after treatment, which is a period of transition and adjustment that often brings challenges that are much more onerous than the patient was originally expecting.

Given the scope of the challenge facing Canadians and the tremendous resilience they have, we must absolutely support them through this experience, which involves precarious periods of great uncertainty. Many people have to rethink every aspect of their lives, and that takes a lot of courage. Many people have to rethink every aspect of their lives, and that takes a lot of courage.

Canadians need us. I hope that this third hour of debate will persuade the Liberal government to give them what they deserve, which is the right conditions for recovery while they await better financial support. Here in Canada, we are lucky to have a health care system that delivers hospital care to sick people for free. However, there can be many out-of-pocket and unforeseen expenses. As I have said in the House before, I had to deal with those challenges and unforeseen costs with my spouse. There is the travel to the treatment site, for example, along with parking, child care, nutritional supplements, vitamins and prescription drugs, as well as any equipment needed for recovery.

Even now, EI sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of financial support to individuals who cannot work for medical reasons, enabling them to collect 55% of their earnings. I think Canadians agree that even 26 weeks is not enough and that we can do better.

In closing, I will review all the reasons why my Bill C‑215 is a good bill. All parties and experts in the field agree that we must increase the number of weeks of EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50. This bill proposes to extend benefits to 52 weeks.

It is our duty as legislators to ensure that we have an adequate safety net for the most vulnerable. This measure affects 55% of the population, namely those who do not have group insurance and work primarily in the goods and services sector.

The EI program has rigorous monitoring and annual audit mechanisms to prevent mistakes, fraud and abuse. The medical certificate attests to the number of weeks required for the recovery of an applicant through the healing process. This is a promise that was made by the Conservative Party of Canada during the 2021 election campaign. This measure was voted on by members of our party and presented in the Conservative Party of Canada platform. Employees who have a private health plan must use up their weeks of sick leave before applying for EI sickness benefits. This measure is affordable and reasonable when we consider the cost to small and medium-sized businesses of private insurance plans offering the same benefits.

On December 18, the Liberal government will increase employment insurance sickness benefits to 26 weeks. This means that the Parliamentary Budget Officer's cost estimate would be greatly reduced and represent an additional $92 million a year for a maximum of 52 weeks of benefits. Our society can cover this. All we need is the political will on the Liberals' part. I sincerely hope, for all those who need it, that Bill C‑215 will receive a royal recommendation from the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance and the support of all my colleagues in the House at third reading. This is a noble cause. It will make it possible for our loved ones to take care of themselves and to take the time they need to fully recover.

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to wish you happy holidays. I also extend season's greetings to my colleagues and all Canadians, including the people living in the wonderful riding of Lévis—Lotbinière.