Evidence of meeting #50 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was c-50.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Pierre Céré  Spokeperson, Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses
Pierre Laliberté  Political Advisor, Manufacturing Sector, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec
Jean-Claude Rocheleau  Rank and File Board Member, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada
Brent Reid  Rank and File Board Member, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada
Corinne Pohlmann  Vice-President, National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Andrew Casey  Vice-President, Public Relations and International Trade, Forest Products Association of Canada
Armine Yalnizyan  Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Dan Kelly  Senior Vice-President, Legislative Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

4:40 p.m.

Rank and File Board Member, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

Jean-Claude Rocheleau

...and will require assistance of this nature.

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

I know that is what you said, Mr. Rocheleau. What we, on the other hand, need to know is whether there is truly a need for $930 million. Your party even maintains that $1 billion is needed and that 190,000 people will be affected. Surely you crunched the numbers in order to come up with that figure. I don't know you that well, but I do know you well enough to know that as a rule, you are very meticulous. That being the case, are you not misleading people when you maintain that 190,000 people will be affected? After all, the people you represent take you at your word. Now you're admitting today that you are no more certain of these figures than we are. I am not trying to argue with you, but it is important to understand your perspective and why you are here today supporting this initiative. You say you support the bill because it will help 190,000 people, but there is no evidence to support that claim.

I was hoping to get some clear answers from you today, but you seem to be pulling numbers out of thin air.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

That's all the time we have right now.

I'm going to move to Mr. Godin for seven minutes.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to welcome the witnesses. I sincerely hope that 190,000 people will not be affected, because we want to see people working. It matters little whether 50,000 or 100,000 people are affected. I really think the Bloc Québécois is getting on its high horse, as far as this matter goes, but my wish is for full employment.

Mr. Laliberté, you stated that this should have been a pilot project. Correct?

4:40 p.m.

Political Advisor, Manufacturing Sector, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec

Pierre Laliberté

Yes, that is correct.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Céré made a similar statement. It wouldn't be so bad if it were a pilot project.

October 20th, 2009 / 4:40 p.m.

Political Advisor, Manufacturing Sector, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec

Pierre Laliberté

Once we hear that there is no possible way of amending the provisions now on the table, why drag things out? Let's go with a pilot project, close the book on this matter and go home. We came here to speak to you about the very real problems that the bill creates. You are as familiar with the program as we are.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Céré and Mr. Laliberté, the NDP has 12 bills before the House of Commons: 360 hours, the 12 best weeks, and so forth. In June of 2005, when the previous government was in office, a motion was before the House of Commons concerning the 12 best weeks. The Liberals and the Conservatives voted against the motion at the time. There is nothing new here. EI reform began in 1986 when money was taken out of the fund and put in the general fund. They have continued to steal the money since then from the EI fund and to direct it to the general operating fund.

The largest cuts to EI came in 1996. I come from a region that posts the highest rate of unemployment, a region where fish plants and pulp and paper plants have ceased operations. The Caribou mine has also shut down. Many people in our region are seasonal workers. Would you agree that every time a positive change, however minor, has been made to EI, we have supported it? Before Mr. Céré says anything, I will concede that we voted against the 2009 budget.

4:40 p.m.

Spokeperson, Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses

Pierre Céré

I wasn't invited here, Mr. Godin, to discuss the NDP's position. I'm here to explain our organization's stand on Bill C-50. You can vote whichever way you choose. I'm not here to talk about that.

I'm here to tell members of Parliament that, clearly, the government isn't listening. It has ignored the historic number of Canadians calling for improvements to EI eligibility requirements. And I do mean historic. At its meeting in late July, the Council of the Federation unanimously called for a resolution to the eligibility issue. While the provinces cannot agree on a formula, they do agree that the eligibility issue needs to be addressed. The government is not listening, however.

Mr. Godin, Bill C-50 introduces a very pernicious notion, that of deserving, and non-deserving workers. It calls for an extension of benefits based on the number of weeks during which benefits were claimed in the past. Decisions will be based on maximum contribution limits attained, that is on figures that the department doesn't have. These are numbers in the possession of the Department of National Revenue. This will require searching back 15 years in the archives. Therefore, there is something deeply pernicious about this bill, and for that reason, we oppose it.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

You will agree with me, Mr. Céré, that when the government included five additional weeks of benefits as part of a pilot project undertaken in recent years, this applied only to regions with high unemployment rates.The measure did not extend to all Canadians who were out of work.

4:45 p.m.

A voice

These were pilot projects, after all.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

These were changes to EI brought in with pilot projects. Ultimately, however, workers were not treated equitably across the country.

Mr. Chair, I have the right to speak to the witness and what business is this of the Bloc Québécois.

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

I simply want to lend our colleague a hand. It's the least I can do. The pilot project was never amended. As Mr. Laliberté so aptly put it, they do not want us to amend it. So then, why are they here?

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Mr. Godin, the floor is yours.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Chair, I have a question for Ms. Pohlmann.

On listening to your organization's presentation, one might get the impression that EI already goes too far. In France, the government covers 75% of the salary of workers who are laid off. In Denmark, 90% of workers' salaries are covered. I'd like to understand your point of view. It's almost as if you are saying that Canadians are a lazy bunch of people and that if they collect EI benefits, they will never go back to work.

Could you explain your position to us?

4:45 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Legislative Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Dan Kelly

We did a recent survey and we asked our members that question: Should benefit levels be more generous in employment insurance? Our members, for the most part, said the current level of benefits were appropriate. There wasn't a huge cry for a reduction in the benefits, but I will say that more of our members said that EI benefits were too generous than not generous enough. We've studied both that question and the question of whether or not there should be--

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Did you ever ask your clients if they were making too much money or not enough money?

4:45 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Legislative Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Dan Kelly

No, we haven't asked them that question, but I would imagine--

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

There's a big difference for people who lose their jobs and cannot buy food to put on their tables for their families.

4:45 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Legislative Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Dan Kelly

Yes, and as you know, many small businesses are struggling in this economy as well. This is small business week--

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Do you think paying welfare should be transferred to the province when we have an economic crisis like we have today instead of having a program that the government has already stolen $57 million from? Should they not be paying into that program instead?

4:45 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Legislative Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Dan Kelly

No. In fact our members generally accept the basic tenets of employment insurance; that is, if somebody involuntarily loses their job, there should be a system of fair compensation for those circumstances, but I will say that with the growing shortage of labour that has been experienced in Canada right now, we have to be very cautious about making further changes to employment insurance.

If another $1 billion of money were available to us as Canadians, we would prefer to use that additional $1 billion helping small businesses and other firms create jobs and train their employees rather than extending the time of benefits. That, from our perspective, is the more appropriate use of additional dollars in this fund.

Our bigger concern is that we are going to prolong the agony, and the costs of this are going to be passed on, preventing job creation in future years.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you, Mr. Godin.

We're now going to move to the last questioner of the first round. We've got Mr. Cannan and Mr. Vellacott, I believe, sharing time.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will be sharing my time with my colleague.

Thank you, Mr. Godin, for your passionate intervention.

Thank you, Mr. Lessard, for your generous offer to work together. We can all get along and get by with a little help from our friends.

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!