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

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Céré has said that he disagreed with Bill C-50. And I heard the member from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour speak about why you might disagree with the bill. But what do you tell those workers who would benefit from this bill, the 190,000 or so who would be receiving $900 million over three years? How do you stand up and vote against a bill like that, as the members of the Liberal Party and the Bloc proposed to do? What do you tell those workers?

Craig Riddell, a UBC professor and member of the expert panel on older workers, found that long-tenured workers are hardest hit by unemployment and take up to 35% longer to find new employment than other workers.

It is a question of taking the dollars and targeting them to those who need them most, those who have paid most into the system, worked the longest, and need that support. How do you oppose them by saying that we don't want them to have those benefits?

I heard Mr. Casey speak about how you need to take this measure in the context of everything else that's happening. We've added five weeks of benefits across the board. About 300,000 workers are estimated to benefit. We added $500 million for approximately 40,000 long-tenured workers. There is $1.5 billion on top of $2.5 billion for training—something I'm sure the Federation of Independent Business would support. And we had a targeted initiative for older workers—$60 million, and five to twenty extra weeks of benefits in this proposed legislation. If you take it as a group, a suite of programs, you'd have to say that a significant amount of benefits will be flowing out. Significant steps have been taken.

With respect to the work-sharing program, there have been a number of responses. I have one from the Michelin Tire company, which has 500 employees benefiting from the work-sharing program. The company spokesman remarked that the work-share program had allowed Michelin to avoid layoffs and maintain their workforce. He characterized the program as a win-win-win for the company, its employees, and the government, and said that it would help Michelin to rebound quickly when market demand returns.

I'm hearing almost the same thing from Mr. Casey of the Forest Products Association of Canada.

So there's a divergence of opinions and there are different things that need to be done. But taken in context, it's something that is beneficial. With respect to work-sharing, how have your employees and workers responded to the work-sharing and Bill C-50 that we're proposing?

5:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Public Relations and International Trade, Forest Products Association of Canada

Andrew Casey

Certainly the work-share program has been an enormous benefit to the industry. We know of a number of mills that would have probably closed permanently if it had not been for the work-share program.

Companies were taking advantage of the program before the changes were implemented in the budget. A number of companies, as I said earlier, came on after the budget, and that's where the problem lies for us. We'd like to see those companies not be penalized for having been in good operating order before the budget. We'd like to see some changes there.

To some of the earlier questions, there's not a silver bullet in Bill C-50 that's going to cure the industry's problems. But certainly overall, the package as you put it together is of great benefit to the industry and it has certainly kept a number of mills running and kept employees in the communities where they belong.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

I will just quote your president from the Forest Products Association of Canada, Avrim Lazar. He said that the investments in worker training and the extension of work-sharing are welcome initiatives that will help more Canadians keep their jobs and employers hold onto talented workers.

Again, the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec said take what you have on the table and keep working. When you look at all those programs that have been in place and how they've been focused toward helping employees during these difficult times, I guess your premise is take what's before you, pass that, and continue to monitor the situation. Would that be correct?

October 20th, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.

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

Pierre Laliberté

The sound is not very good in this room, but certainly one thing I did say is that the work-sharing program has been a very good initiative, as was the five-week extension and the moneys that have been flowing through training. There is no question about this.

However, as we've said, we feel this particular project is worrisome because of the discriminatory aspects it contains. The fact is that only 30% of all long-term unemployed reached the end of their.... It seems to me that under the circumstances of this recession that's somewhat unusual. It would have been the right move to give the benefit across the board.

One more thing, if you want to help long-tenured workers, the accounting of paid leave is a real issue for a number of our members. They accumulate this, and they expect to be able to use that money to retrain, move, whatever. When they go to the unemployment office, they're told this isn't compatible. This is something this government could do tomorrow to help a lot of people, long-tenured workers, who have been accumulating leave pay. That would be extremely worthwhile, and it would help people right now.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you.

We're going to go to the last questioner today, the Liberals, and I have Ms. Minna.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I want to get back to a couple of things. One is what we heard a great deal from all of you today in support of the bill, which is that this helps those most in need. I'm having some difficulty with that, because it seems to suggest that the people who have the longest tenure are the ones who are most in need.

There are people, women, who are being left out. There are people who work part-time, others who have lost jobs; they are in and out of the workforce, or they are low income and what have you. There are immigrant people who don't qualify under the six....well, seven years below that you don't get anything, and getting jobs for them is very hard.

My question, from the social aspect and what have you, is to Ms. Yalnizyan. In terms of who needs it the most, I feel like I'm playing God here, picking and choosing who gets...and they're not necessarily those who need it the most.

The other thing is with respect to women. I was told by the minister that the gender analysis was not done on this bill. How do we know what the impact is with respect to women, who also are in high need, let alone choosing who needs it the most? I find that comment that is constantly being used quite difficult to take.

5:20 p.m.

Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Armine Yalnizyan

Thank you, Madame Minna.

As I said in my opening comments, even the most generous interpretation of who is affected by this legislation leaves two-thirds of those who have lost their jobs and who are in this category unaddressed and does not address anybody who lost their job in the fall. So it doesn't matter how you slice and dice it, if this is a good measure, it should be extended to the people who are in that category who lost their jobs last fall, too, or the majority of those who are in that category now.

What is happening is that men who are losing $30-an-hour jobs and are having a very difficult time finding even $15-an-hour jobs are finding that their spouses are willing and able to take temporary—and I underline temporary—jobs at $15 an hour or self-employment. As in every other recession, women are filling the breach. This has happened in the recession of the 1980s and the recession of the 1990s. So women are not getting the benefit of the unemployment insurance benefits, and they're not also getting the benefit of strong jobs in the labour market, but they are willing to support their families' finances.

The problem is that this is now the new structure of the labour market, with more temporary jobs and more lower-paid jobs. Even if you have a job, there's huge downward pressure on your wages, your pension, and your benefits, if you can hang on to that job. This is not a sustainable industrial strategy, and it is not a sustainable strategy for maintaining what's already a fragile recovery.

So part of the answer, yes, is to extend the reach of what income support can do but also to maintain a very careful eye on how the jobs that are being created are coming into place, because this is going to go on for an awfully long time.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

I have just a final question to the CFIB representatives, if I still have time, Mr. Chair.

You were talking about training and providing that to people as opposed to.... Now, if someone is unemployed or has lost their job, are you suggesting training under the EI system, where they would receive an income, or training with a company, where the company would pay a salary for the training? I'm not quite sure how you're....

5:20 p.m.

Vice-President, National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Corinne Pohlmann

It would be the latter.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

The company would pay the salary for training.

5:20 p.m.

Vice-President, National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Corinne Pohlmann

The company would pay the salary and get a bit of a break on the EI component for that employee in order to help train that person and get them into position. We already know small business invests so much in training as it is, and it's becoming difficult for them to do it. So this is a way to sort of encourage more training. It's actually based on an idea that was done in the late 1990s, called the new hires program, through the EI system. The new hires program encouraged businesses to create jobs by giving them what they called an EI holiday.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

I remember that.

5:20 p.m.

Vice-President, National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Corinne Pohlmann

Yes, so it's the same concept that we're proposing here, but the idea would be that it would allow for on-the-job training, which even the OECD has said is the most effective way of getting people back to work.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

I'd say the same. Okay.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

I want to thank all our witnesses for taking time out of their busy schedules to be here today. We're going to let you guys leave.

I just want to talk to the subcommittee, because I want to arrange the best time for our meeting tomorrow. I want to adjourn the meeting, but I want to talk to the subcommittee about picking out a time for tomorrow.

The meeting is adjourned.