A lot of issues are wrapped up in that excellent question. With respect to private member's bills, I appreciate the help my colleagues from the opposition are giving us in trying to suggest new uses for the employment insurance fund, but I would make a couple of points.
First of all, private member's bills have rules to follow, and very often they're completely outside the rules. Secondly, if we implemented a fraction of them, the employment insurance fund would be running a huge deficit.
We're trying to make sure we reduce premiums whenever possible. We've done that. We announced there will be a premium reduction on January 1, the second year we've done that.
Secondly, we do enhance benefits when we believe it's a way of helping encourage workplace attachment. And if you look at the compassionate benefits we extended, we made it possible for other family members to be included in that group, and that allows people to stay attached to the workforce. So that's a good thing.
But this raises the larger issue. For a long time, my department was all about providing people with income support. That's obviously extraordinarily important, and we will continue to do that and enhance it where it's necessary. But the challenges of the future are much different. They are about filling these yawning labour market needs.
Training is obviously key to doing that. We've invested heavily in that. The new labour market development agreements are not a panacea, but they provide the provinces, working with employers, a lot of flexibility so they can take potential employees, no matter what their background, and try to develop training that fits their needs. In some cases it might be literacy, in other cases it'll just be making sure they're accustomed to the Canadian workplace. Other people have other challenges.
This is a pretty exciting new development. One of the best programs--I already touched on it--is the aboriginal skills and employment partnership. We've more than doubled its size. It's extraordinarily popular with employers. I can tell you it's a sea change in attitudes. A few years ago, I don't think anyone would debate that large employers were not very interested in hiring aboriginals. Today they can hardly wait to get into this program and work with aboriginals to get them into the workforce. That's tremendous news for aboriginal workers, who want the same thing as everybody else has: the chance to be successful. It's tremendous news for large employers who need good workers. And you see it, whether it's at Voisey's Bay or at Manitoba Hydro or VanASEP or Syncrude or Suncor, they're all engaged in this, and it's a win-win.
It's very exciting, and I'm excited about the future of the country, in terms of that, and for the department as well.