Madam Speaker, to begin, I found it difficult to follow the logic of the previous speaker because at one point in time he was asking why the government would not operate the same as a business.
The fact of the matter is that in the case of many of the examples the member for Roberval used in his remarks, such as Chrysler, Alcan and General Motors, over the last 10 years when these corporations ran into difficulty, they came to government and asked for help in the interest of keeping their people employed. In most cases-I believe in all these three cases-in the interest of keeping these organizations vibrant, alive and keeping their skilled labour forces active and competitive, the Government of Canada supported these organizations.
The same thing happened with those organizations in relation to the tax act. Many of these organizations have tremendous tax preferences and tax grants. I find it inconsistent that the member would say we should try to operate this place like a business when in fact business gets into trouble, especially big business, and usually the first place they come for help is the Government of Canada.
I am happy to have eight or nine minutes to speak on the initiative of the Minister of Human Resources Development to attempt to reinvent our social net, not cut or trash it but reinvent it, so we can make it much more effective and productive for those people in our communities who need it the most.
The reason I personally have such great confidence in this exercise is because I had the opportunity of working with this minister during the last great recession we had in this country. That was in November 1982. I would like to share with the House and with Canadians a very specific initiative that the then Minister of Employment and Immigration-today he is responsible for human resources-put forward.
It was November 10, 1982. I went to the Library of Parliament on Monday morning to pull this out. It was called the New Employment Expansion and Development Program.
This was an effort by that young minister to try to put unemployed Canadians back to work quickly during that very tough recession. I am going to talk for a few minutes about this program because I believe this program can work today, and I hope that as we go through renewal we would consider going back to some of the good things we have done in the past and consider them, especially if they worked.
What the minister essentially said at that time was that it costs on average, using today's dollars, approximately $17,000 to $20,000 a year to keep a person on unemployment insurance or welfare. Why would we not take that same money and work with the small, medium and large businesses of this country in a joint venture program to help put people back to work? They would have to put in a percentage as well.
At that time it was approximately 70-30. In today's terms that would mean we would divert the $20,000 for the person unemployed and the company would put in approximately $10,000. In a five-month period under that NEED program we put close to 300,000 Canadians back to work.
What I liked about that program was the fact that it used the private sector as the operational unit. This was not creating a new bureaucracy. This was not using the institution of government. This cut out duplication. The Bloc Quebecois always comes back to duplication and multiple programs, and quite frankly, I share their view. One of the worst states we have in this city is the way the bureaucracy has institutionalized itself on so many different programs, where 50 cents on the dollar goes to supporting the bureaucrats and the end user gets only 50 cents.
If we ran anything like that in the private sector we would in fact be trashed. We should be trying to make sure the end user gets a majority of the money rather than the bureaucrats and their institutions and their paper pushing mechanisms.
Those small and medium sized businesses also had a crisis of confidence at that time and were reticent about putting people on the payroll, because it was a tough time in 1981 and in 1982 as well. The beautiful thing about the NEED program the minister instituted at that time was the fact that this money, which would otherwise have gone to a person on unemployment, was there as a lever to get people into productive capacity, and the fact that they only had to put in approximately 30 per cent of the wage was a catalyst. There was very little paper involved.
I believe what the minister was trying to say to us this week was that we have to go back to the drawing boards. We were elected to put people back to work right away and to do that in the most cost effective way we possibly can. I believe that as we are going through these programs and as we do this analysis, we should not just throw everything out the window. We should also take a look at some of the things we have done in the past that have worked well for Canadians. If we can see that they worked, as the NEED program worked, then we should consider them again.
What I like about this program is that-and I say this to all members-we do not need to reinvent the wheel; we can bring it up to date.
One of the flaws in this deal, in my opinion, was that they allowed government organizations to participate in this program at the provincial and municipal levels. I suggest a modification would be that it should be only private sector employers and only small, medium and large-sized businesses.
I believe that with the success rate the minister had in 1982 with the NEED program, where in a five-month period he put close to 35,000 people back to work, if we use that same kind of creative thinking today, that notion of reinventing, then there is great hope for us to put people back to work quickly. That is the kind of thing the minister is hoping we will all participate in.