Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning everyone.
The amendment in front of you seeks to extend the qualifying period. Through Bill C-44, the government is making changes to maternity leave under EI and increasing the number of weeks a woman is able to receive maternity benefits. That's wonderful. The government is recognizing that helping women better integrate into the workforce and economy is beneficial to all aspects of economic life. That's the good news.
As for the not so good news, believe it or not, a mother who loses her job during, or immediately following, her parental leave does not qualify for employment insurance. It would therefore be extremely difficult for mothers who took maternity or parental leave to collect employment insurance after losing their jobs. That is already a problem in Quebec, and we have repeatedly alerted the minister. No meaningful action has been taken, and that's why I am here today. Our amendment would plug that hole in the legislation.
Let's take a closer look at the problem. Currently, in order to determine whether someone is eligible to receive EI, the government relies on the number of hours that person has worked during the last year. Even if the government extends the benefit period, however, Canadian women will experience what women in Quebec have been dealing with since parental leave was introduced: if they lose their job while on parental leave, they will not have access to EI because they won't have accumulated the number of hours required to qualify.
We need to do remedy this, because Bill C-44, which seeks to do something positive by giving women an additional right, does not extend that right to those who lose their job while on leave. They will be penalized for having lost their job and will therefore have one less right.
A government that describes itself as feminist should care about protecting women who are at the mercy of an uncertain job market. It's hard enough when one person in a couple loses their job. Imagine how hard it is for a single mother who loses her job and is left with no income.
It is outrageous for a woman to lose her job and have no income simply for having a child. That indirectly discriminates against women, and the government has an obligation to do something about it.
I fear I will be told that the amendment broadens the scope of the act and is therefore out of order. As a member of a non-recognized party, I do not have the right to a second turn in order to convince you. I therefore call on another member at the table to appeal the decision if my amendment is ruled out of order. It does not broaden the scope of the act or change the nature of the benefits. It does not create a new benefit.
All the amendment does is clarify the nature of the new benefit that Bill C-44 introduces. It is simply adding a definition, and the act already allows for this kind of thing. It is possible to go back further than the last 52 weeks in the case of preventive withdrawal, sick leave and compassionate leave. The government has made an exception in those circumstances, but not for parental leave.
The sole purpose of the amendment is to protect mothers who lose their jobs, as well as their children.