Thank you for coming this morning and for some very good information.
What I hear, as we listen to people from across Canada, is a call for leadership at the federal level and a call for more resources. I guess the question is, how do we frame that? What message do we share with the federal government and bring to the federal government as part of that to make sure that what they put in place is actually going to have the effect we want? Plus, how do we make it long term, as well as in the immediate term?
I don't think anybody misunderstands the terrible disaster that's in front of us here now with the economy the way it is, the number of people who are already poor and the people who will become poor. Lots of people will reach the end of their employment insurance, no matter how we reform it, and they will end up on welfare. They will find that welfare is a very mean-spirited vehicle that government has now put in place to assist people.
John, earlier I asked probably a colleague of yours from the food bank, or somebody you know, for any statistics they might have on the new welfare rates for various provinces. I think that would be instructive and informative for us here. I think government really needs to be courageous and willing to act quickly on some of these things. It's not like they need to reinvent the wheel. There are provinces already out there, as I mentioned earlier, moving on strategies—Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as we heard when we were down there, and Manitoba, as we heard last week when we were in Calgary. As the federal government, we need to partner with those folks, because they're saying to us that they can't do it by themselves; they don't have the resources.
We used to have the Canada Assistance Plan—which you spoke to, John. It had in it some very real requirements, and governments needed to live up to that. The federal government wielded a pretty effective stick in terms of the funding it used to flow. That has been reduced as well.
I was in provincial politics for 13 years, including five years during the Bob Rae government, and we brought in an employment equity act. It no longer exists. There is no employment equity act anywhere that I'm aware of in Canada today. That act was targeted at disabled people and people of colour, and in fact it was working. Because of what we did, there were people who were getting employment, and good employment.
When it was done away with in the mid-1990s, when the government particularly began to cut back, it was first in, first out. Those who were hired who were from those targeted groups then lost their jobs. In some instances—and I had some who came into my office—it was more damaging in the long run to have given them that hope and then taken it away from them than not to have given it to them at all in the first place.
That said, what should we include if we decided as a federal government to move on an act, something similar to the Canada Assistance Plan perhaps? What should that include? What would that look like, from your perspective, if you had an opportunity to speak to government about that?