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

Sponsor

Jacques Gourde  Conservative

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

Status

Report stage (House), as of Oct. 25, 2022

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Elsewhere

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.

Votes

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

Employment InsuranceStatements by Members

November 23rd, 2022 / 2:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the government of Bill C‑215 on employment insurance, which seeks to increase from 15 to 52 the number of weeks of sickness benefits for cases of serious illness, such as cancer. I would also remind the government that just 15 weeks of assistance is no longer enough to give Canadians financial security. This bill was passed by the House and reflects its will to provide those additional weeks. It would resolve the problem of economic protection for generations.

I also want to point out that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities voted unanimously in favour of allowing the bill to reach third reading stage. According to parliamentary procedure, we need a royal recommendation from the government to finalize passage of the bill.

Bill C‑215 is an example what the Canadian Parliament and all parliamentarians can do by working together, in the best interests of all Canadians.

Let us be attentive and compassionate towards one another to build a better world here in Canada.

Fall Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders

November 21st, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was so pleased to hear our colleague's remarks on Bill C‑215, an initiative he put forward together with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

I would like to hear his version. Why is this bill moving so slowly? It might be naive of me to ask, but I thought the NDP was very supportive of the bill. The Bloc Québécois certainly is, and it is even on the Conservatives' agenda.

Why does he think this is happening? It is such a great bill.

Fall Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders

November 21st, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to participate in the debate on the Liberal government's 2022 economic statement.

Not surprisingly, the government is sticking to very liberal economic measures. Nothing conservative to see here. We have noticed a pattern of ongoing deficits and promises to balance the budget a few years from now. Whether good times or bad, the government does not seem too concerned about achieving that financial goal or acting responsibly.

I would also note that the government expects its rising carbon tax to bring in significantly more revenue over the next few years. This leaves Canadians struggling with the Bank of Canada's interest rate hikes very little financial wiggle room.

This economic statement does nothing to address the many issues Canadians grapple with on a daily basis just to live with dignity.

We have all noticed the rising price of food, especially meat, fruit and grain and dairy products. The entire agri-food supply chain is under tremendous pressure from world markets. Staple foods are in short supply and transportation costs are exorbitant at a time when Canada is already experiencing a labour shortage.

We are easily talking about an increase of $3,000 per year for a family of two adults and two children. The housing affordability situation is adding unprecedented financial pressure, with the Bank of Canada raising interest rates from 0.25% to 3.75%.

Furthermore, the bank is planning two more rate hikes, in December and February. For a family with a $400,000 mortgage, a four-point increase means an additional $16,000 in annual interest costs.

This is, of course, after-tax dollars, so after the additional $3,000 for groceries, it means another $19,000 for the family budget.

We must not forget the additional transportation costs for families, given the increase in the price of gas and the carbon tax that is also driving up gas prices in Canada.

For a family that uses 100 litres of gas per week, that means an extra $60 per week, easily, and therefore another $3,000 per year.

If I do the math, that means an extra $22,000 per year, and that is just for the basic needs of a family of two adults and two children. There are also all the goods and services needed for the family's well-being, which have also been affected by inflationary costs. That is easily an extra $2,000 per year.

That brings me to a total of $24,000 in additional expenses. That is a huge amount of financial pressure on the average Canadian family.

I would like to have seen more conservative measures in the economic statement to reassure Canadians that their tax dollars are used wisely, for the right purposes and at the right cost.

This means avoiding the Liberals' wasteful and excessive spending and their infuriating practice of buying too much only to throw it all away or overpaying for goods and services.

Canadians are demanding—and deserve—good government management on all fronts to ensure that we maintain our social safety net as we know it today.

I am a father to five children and I am fortunate to have grandchildren. When I go to sleep at night, I think of my constituents who share their financial problems with me. I think of those families who are going hungry and who, even after cutting their expenses as much as possible, have to painfully humble themselves and use the services of a food bank.

Everywhere across Canada, food banks are seeing a large increase in demand for food support. This demand has increased by 35% compared to 2019, the period before the pandemic.

We also see that many more students and young families are having to turn to this type of assistance to cope with the rising cost of rent, groceries and transportation. Of course, then there are the winter months, which drive up the cost of living even further as a result of the need for heating during these long, cold Canadian winters.

Across Canada, people are getting poorer thanks to the inflationary policies of this Liberal government, which has been spending freely and recklessly since 2015. Specifically, I am thinking about the princely tastes of the Prime Minister, who treated himself to a $6,000-a-night suite at the taxpayers' expense. I am also thinking about the ArriveCAN app, which cost $54 million to develop when it could have been done for $250,000. Then there was the purchase of twice as many medical ventilators as needed, at a cost of $403 million. That money was spent for nothing, for no good reason other than poor planning.

Most importantly, we cannot forget that our national debt has doubled since this Liberal government took office. It is now at $1.2 trillion, putting enormous interest pressure on the federal budget. The Prime Minister and his Liberal government will pay $43.3 billion in interest charges annually, which is the budget of several government departments combined, like the health transfer budget and the social housing assistance budget. Our social safety net is at risk of suffering for decades to come as a result of the Liberal government's ill-considered choices.

The government must encourage Canadians to participate in the labour market in order to reduce the labour shortage in our economy. I do not understand why the Prime Minister did not make it a priority in the economic statement to implement measures that would give Canada some fiscal flexibility.

I would like to give the government members a reality check as they are also failing Canadians who are sick. I would like to remind the government of Bill C-215 on employment insurance, which seeks to increase the number of weeks of sickness benefits from 15 to 52 in cases of serious illness, such as cancer. I would like to remind the government that, when Canadians are trying to recover from a major health issue, a mere 15 weeks of benefits does not give them financial security. The government is offering 26 weeks and will deprive over 31,000 Canadians a year of the weeks they need to recover their health.

This bill was passed by the House and reflects its desire to make these additional weeks a reality. It would resolve the economic protection issue for generations to come. I would also like to point out that the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities voted unanimously in favour of allowing the bill to move to third reading. According to parliamentary procedure, the bill now requires a royal recommendation so that it can be passed.

While we are debating this economic statement, which does not reflect all of the critical needs of Canadians, I will speak on their behalf and implore the government to reconsider and reform the EI system by passing Bill C-215. Bill C‑215 illustrates what the Canadian Parliament and all parliamentarians can do by working together, in the best interests of all Canadians. It is time to set partisanship aside on this matter, in the collective interest of building the Canada of tomorrow, with all Canadians on an equal footing when facing the challenge of a serious illness, especially in light of the current economic crisis. Let us be attentive and compassionate towards one another to build a better world here in Canada.

Fall Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders

November 21st, 2022 / 3:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today as we debate the—what is it now?—18th or 19th time allocation motion so far.

It is hard to keep track because this habit has become so ingrained in how we operate. It is time allocation after time allocation. Maybe people will start using that expression. Time allocation used to be the exception, but now, since the pandemic, since the advent of the hybrid Parliament, it seems to have become common practice, and I think that is a shame. I think it is a shame to shut down democratic debate and take away what really matters in a Parliament: time and space to debate and air contrasting views.

That is why I am pleased to share some of my thoughts on Bill C‑32.

Before the economic statement, the Bloc Québécois had great expectations. We really wanted a conversation about health transfers. We were hoping for a sign that the government wanted to give Quebec and the provinces the health transfers they have been asking for so they can fulfill their responsibilities.

In Quebec, that means addressing the aging population and the significant issues with mental health services, which are lacking in number and scope to meet the demand. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the economic update about that.

My colleague from Shefford has said this, and the Bloc Québécois has said it, and it is one of our priorities. We do not understand how the government does not consider those between the ages of 65 and 74 to be people who need to regain a certain amount of purchasing power, especially with the inflation crisis. If there was ever a segment of the population that needed a helping hand, it is them. Increasing old age security would have really been good news, a sign that the government is listening to seniors, those who built the Quebec of today.

In the economic update, we really wanted to see the government's desire and firm resolve to overhaul employment insurance. Today, I will use the minutes at my disposal to speak in greater detail about the EI program and the need to reform it.

Today, as we speak, barely 40% of workers have access to EI.

That is sad because, as we know, the EI fund is an insurance program. That means that workers pay premiums on their paycheque and employers pay premiums, and the money goes to build the EI fund, an important reservoir for workers who need it. Unfortunately, although the fund is quite healthy at the moment, it does not actually serve the people who really need it. Access is restricted.

I am very committed to this cause. The Bloc Québécois has been asking for EI reform for years, and we do not understand the government's resistance.

As I like to remind everyone, I decided to run again in 2015, the year the Liberals campaigned on a promise of comprehensive EI reform. In 2019, they promised it again, and then again in 2021. It is promise after promise, but nothing ever happens. The government had included $5 million in its budget to conduct extensive consultations across the provinces and Canada to understand and gauge the needs of workers, employers and civil society, and yet, 18 months later, we still have nothing. There has been no proposal and no plan to reform EI, even though my colleague from Thérèse‑De Blainville made it a subject to be studied by her committee. The committee heard from many witnesses who expressed the needs and shortcomings of the current system, which, as we all know, really needs to be modernized and updated to be tailored to today's labour market.

Of course, we have a number of demands. Workers who have paid premiums all their lives but find themselves in a difficult situation, like if their business is forced to shut down and they have to rely on EI, receive benefits equivalent to 55% of their income. The Bloc Québécois believes that, in the overall reform, that percentage really needs to increase to 60%. I think this is reasonable, and the rate was 60% prior to 1993. I remember very clearly when it was reduced to 55% of income. This demand remains permanent and is also being made by all the stakeholders who support the unemployed and others.

In its overhaul of EI, we would also like the government to eliminate the one-week waiting period. I do not know the reason behind the one-week period, but it is in addition to the system's bureaucratic delays for those who lose their jobs. People do not choose to go on EI. They do so because they lose their jobs as a result of the closure of a business, layoffs or any number of other reasons. Because of this long waiting period, which really should not happen, claimants only receive their first payment after six weeks. At least, that was the waiting period before the government system was paralyzed, back when it was working well and the performance and service standards were met. That was in the old days. Now, someone who loses their job in early or mid-June will not receive a cheque until late September or early October, because the system is completely paralyzed.

Our demands for the reform are important, and we were hoping to see them reflected in the economic update. We wanted people with a serious illness to be able to get 50 to 52 weeks of special EI sickness benefits in the event they are unable to return to work.

As members know, in the last Parliament, I introduced a bill that proposed that. What is more, as we speak, Bill C‑215 has been studied in committee, and the majority of the members who sit on that committee voted in favour of ensuring that people who have a serious illness can take the time they need to fight the illness and recover their health without having to worry about their financial circumstances.

As things stand now, it pains me to see people get to the end of their 15th week of special benefits when they have not finished their cancer treatments, their chemotherapy or their radiation. By the next week, they will have nothing left to pay their bills.

The minister seems to be sympathetic to the situation, but I think it is unacceptable when she promises this will arrive in the summer, then in fall, then at Christmas. She keeps pushing the date back further and further. Although she has the budget to do this, she refuses to give a specific date that would give hope to those who are starting chemotherapy or radiation today or who are taking long-term sick leave to take care of themselves, so they can regain their strength and go back to work.

We have talked a lot about Marie-Hélène Dubé, a woman who had cancer a few years ago and who decided to fight to have EI sickness benefits increased to 52 weeks, because she had to re-mortgage her house to meet her responsibilities and take care of herself.

Unfortunately, in committee two weeks ago, she said that her cancer is back and she will not have time to heal before the end of her 15 weeks. She is reliving the nightmare she went through a few years ago. To my mind, that is unacceptable.

The Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of Bill C‑32, because it does contain some good measures, but I implore the government to take a step in the right direction by quickly agreeing to reform EI and to implement the special benefits program for sick workers as soon as possible.

Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 25th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in relation to Bill C-215, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (illness, injury or quarantine).

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendments.

October 19th, 2022 / 6:25 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

The bill has been carried, the title has been carried, and the chair will report it to the House.

Thank you to the legislative clerks.

We still have a bit of committee business on which I need direction from the committee. The witnesses can leave at this time. Thank you, Mr. Cadieux and Ms. Nandy.

I need adoption of the budget that we spent on reviewing Bill C-215, in the amount of $7,850. Do I have approval of the budget, or you'll have to cough up for the lunches you enjoyed when you were there?

October 19th, 2022 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

Thank you, Ms. Zarrillo.

Bill C-215 amends the Employment Insurance Act by increasing from 15 to 52 the maximum number of weeks for which benefits can be paid in the event of an illness, injury or quarantine. Amendment NDP-3 seeks to prevent the total number of combined weeks of benefits in subsection 12(6) of the act being taken into account for benefits paid in the event of an illness, injury or quarantine.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states on page 772:

Since an amendment may not infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown, it is inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the public treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications specified in the royal recommendation.

In the opinion of the chair, the amendment aims to relax the conditions for the payment of benefits provided for in the act, which requires a royal recommendation. Therefore, I rule this amendment inadmissible.

I see no challenge to the chair's ruling.

Madame Chabot, go ahead.

October 19th, 2022 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

I wasn't expecting that, Mr. Chair, but I will reiterate that on April 5, 2022, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that Bill C-215 needs to be accompanied by a royal recommendation before it can receive third reading in the House of Commons...and voting that the bill “would entail an increase in public spending in a way and to an end that is not currently authorized.”

Currently, this bill has not realized that royal recommendation, so I think there's opportunity to make amendments.

October 19th, 2022 / 6:10 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

Thank you, Ms. Zarrillo.

Again, Bill C-215 amends the Employment Insurance Act by increasing from 15 to 52 the maximum number of weeks for which benefits can be paid in the event of an illness, injury or quarantine. The amendment, NDP-2, seeks to prevent the total number of combined weeks of benefits in subsection 12(6) of the act to be taken into account for benefits paid in the event of an illness, injury or quarantine.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states the following on page 772:

Since an amendment may not infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown, it is inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the public treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications specified in the royal recommendation.

In the opinion of the chair, the amendment aims to relax the conditions for the payment of benefits provided for in the act, which requires a royal recommendation. Therefore, I rule amendment NDP-2 inadmissible.

Yes, Ms. Zarrillo.

October 19th, 2022 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Yes, please, Mr. Chair.

I move that Bill C-215, in clause 1, be amended by replacing line 6 on page 1 with the following:

(c) despite subsection 12(6), because of a prescribed illness, injury or quaran—

October 19th, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

I would. Thank you so much.

One thing I wanted to bring up was that today we did talk about the gender lens. We did talk about the fact that in 1972 they were maybe not applying it. As well, we didn't get confirmation that any of the budgetary estimates applied a gender lens, so I would argue that there might not be an increase.

The second thing I wanted to talk about was that Bill C-215 needs to be accompanied by a royal recommendation before it can receive third reading in the House of Commons...and voting that the bill “would entail an increase in public spending in a way and to an end that is not currently authorized.” It's my understanding that this bill itself has not yet received that royal recommendation.

So I would challenge this, Mr. Chair, and I wonder if we could go to a vote.

October 19th, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

Thank you, Ms. Zarrillo.

I'll give my ruling on this. I have been advised by the legislative clerk that Bill C-215 amends paragraphs 12(3)(c) and 152.14(1)(c) of the Employment Insurance Act to increase from 15 to 52 the maximum number of weeks for which benefits can be paid because of illness, injury or quarantine. The amendment seeks to amend subsections 8(2) and 10(10) of the act to add an additional ground of extending the qualifying period and the benefit period for persons in receipt of pregnancy or parental benefits.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states on page 772:

Since an amendment may not infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown, it is inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the public treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications specified in the royal recommendation.

In the opinion of the chair, the amendment you propose seeks to amend sections of the act that are not modified by Bill C-215, which is not procedurally allowed, and also proposes to broaden the grounds for extending the qualifying period and the benefit period to a new category of persons, which imposes a charge on the treasury. Therefore, I rule the amendment inadmissible.

Would you like to comment, Ms. Zarrillo?

October 19th, 2022 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Bonita Zarrillo NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Sure. This is on clause 1. I have an amendment that relates basically to stackability. After the testimony on Monday, it was actually quite powerful, the amount of feedback I got from a lot of women who have experienced their benefits expiring in the past. This amendment relates to that.

I want to thank this committee for the grace to be able to bring in this amendment on such short notice based on the testimony on Monday. The amendment is that Bill C-215, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing line 6 on page 1 with the following: “(c) despite subsection 12(6), because of a prescribed illness, injury or—

October 19th, 2022 / 6 p.m.
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Émilie Thivierge Legislative Clerk

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm Émilie Thivierge, and I'm one of the legislative clerks assigned to Bill C-215. I'm here with my colleague to assist the committee with the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.

October 19th, 2022 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bobby Morrissey

Thank you, committee members.

I would like to provide members of the committee with some instructions and a few comments on how the committee will proceed with clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-215.

As the name indicates, this is an examination of all the clauses in the order in which they appear in the bill. I will call each clause successively, and each clause is subject to debate and a vote.

If there are amendments to the clause in question, I will recognize the member proposing the amendment, who may explain the amendment. The amendment will then be open for debate. When no further members wish to intervene, the amendment will be voted on. Amendments will be considered in the order in which they appear in the bill or in the package each member received from the clerk. Members should note that amendments must be submitted in writing to the clerk of the committee.

I, as chair, will review slowly and allow all members to follow the proceedings properly.

Amendments have been given an alphanumeric number in the top right corner, which I take all members of the committee have. As I indicated, there have only been three amendments received. There's no need for a seconder to move an amendment. Once moved, you will need unanimous consent to withdraw an amendment.

During debate on an amendment, members are permitted to move subamendments. These subamendments must be submitted in writing. They do not require the approval of the mover of the main amendment. Only one subamendment may be considered at a time, and that subamendment cannot be amended. When a subamendment is moved to an amendment, it is voted on first. Then, another subamendment may be moved, or the committee may consider the main amendment and vote on it.

Once every clause has been voted on, the committee will vote on the title and the bill itself, and an order to reprint the bill may be required—if amendments are adopted—so the House has a proper copy for use at report stage. Finally, the committee will have to order the chair to report the bill to the House. That report contains only the text of any adopted amendments, as well as an indication of any deleted clauses.

Again, I would like to welcome back to the committee the two officials from the department whom you met in the first hour. We will not go through introductions. You know who they are.

At this time, I am going to ask the legislative clerks who are here with us, and who will address any legislative questions you may have, to introduce themselves before we begin the clause-by-clause discussion.