House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentencing.


Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that I rise to support Bill C-218 proposed by my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Hubert.

The purpose of this bill is to exclude, from the definition of excepted employment, employment where the employer and employee are not dealing with each other at arm's length.

Contrary to what the government's spokespersons claim, we must not wait for a global reform of the legislation to act. We must immediately correct this injustice created by the previous Conservative government, which excluded spouses from being eligible to UI benefits. We know that this same government not only did not want to correct this injustice but went so far as to extend the scope of that provision. Indeed, it is no longer only spouses which are excluded, but all those who are not dealing with their employer at arm's length.

I mentioned on several occasions in this House that the unemployment rate in my riding is very high. Chicoutimi and the Lower Saguenay region have often had the highest level of unemployment in the country, a distinction which they could gladly do without, believe me.

In spite of the new government in Ottawa and the promises made during the last federal election campaign, the situation remains the same. Unemployment is still very high and our young people keep moving to large urban centres.

It is not a happy event for people when they have to claim UI benefits. I do not know anyone who is happy to become a UI claimant and only get 55 per cent of his or her regular income. But it is even worse to be totally excluded for the reason that you are not dealing at arm's length with your employer. If you have worked for your parents, or if you are working for your spouse, you are perceived as a potential abuser and an inquiry is

conducted to see if your employment is insurable. These workers regularly show up in our riding offices.

Understandably, they cannot figure out why their UI claim ends up at Revenue Canada, Taxation, for an inquiry. All this for the simple reason that these people worked for their parents or their spouse. In the majority of cases, the UI office does not tell people about this when they first submit their claim. Only once their file is transferred to Revenue Canada, some three weeks later, are these people told that officers from that department will conduct an inquiry, at the conclusion of which they will finally know whether or not they are eligible for UI benefits.

Revenue Canada takes three months to determine the eligibility of a claimant. When you are waiting for money to buy the groceries and pay the rent, let me tell you that three months can seem like a long time. This procedure penalizes taxpayers in Saguenay, in Quebec, and in Canada in two ways. Quebec City processes the claims for my region. We just got Revenue Canada officials to sign their decisions so that taxpayers who wish to discuss their file can do so. Of course, these taxpayers have to pay all the costs they incur to contact these officials.

Let me review briefly how these civil servants work. They have pretty extensive investigative powers and can ask to see the company's accounting books, ledgers, minutes of meetings, copies of cheques, and much more. They audit bank accounts and check with the suppliers. They are looking for people who cheat the system. What else would you call it? At least that is what the people under investigation believe.

As often as not, we are dealing with very small businesses, family businesses whose owners hire their immediate family members. We often hear: "Charity begins at home". How many businesspeople among those who made it big started their businesses in their basement or garage with only their spouse or their sons and daughters as employees? There are a great number of success stories. Let me give you two examples everyone has heard about.

First, there is the Louis Garneau company, and closer to my riding, the Chlorophylle corporation, two businesses which are now renowned all over the world. But before they can become this famous, a good number of our businesses operate on a seasonal basis, which means that their employees must apply for UI benefits. That is when the fun begins and the investigation gets under way.

Think about all the people who are discouraged by the system. If Revenue Canada finds that your employment is not insurable, you must file an appeal. That means another delay, another 90-day waiting period, not to mention all the costs you will have to incur for postage and long distance calls, for example. During the summer, I saw in my riding office a couple who were about to appear before the Tax Court of Canada. Although they had legal opinions to support them, the couple decided not to appear before this new court, because they were tired and discouraged. They did not have the strength or the money to fight any more, unlike Revenue Canada which can afford lawyers.

So, these people gave up. I sincerely believe that we have to support the bill introduced by the hon. member for Saint-Hubert if we want several of our family businesses to survive. God knows we need these businesses to fight the disastrous unemployment situation. Although everybody decries the situation, few suit their actions to their words. We must ensure that the people who still have the desire to achieve something, to create their own job, can survive.

Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, I start by thanking the hon. member from Saint-Hubert for bringing to light what she perceives to be a serious problem facing Canadian women. We respect that the hon. member is very knowledgeable about women's issues and is sensitive to the various forms of bias from which they suffer.

This country is founded on the firm conviction that each and every citizen, regardless of gender, age, race or abilities has a right to receive a wide variety of health and social assisted services. It is our practice and not just our policy to ensure equitable access and respectful treatment in all our dealings with the citizens of this country. It is a part of our social heritage, an affirmation of Canada's commitment to human dignity. It is an expression of our dedication to the ideals of social justice, equality and personal security.

I also want to make it crystal clear to the House and the hon. member that this government is open to reviewing any aspect of all our social programs, including the Unemployment Insurance Act. The obvious need to re-evaluate the efficacy of our social safety system is at the very heart of social security reform.

This government was elected on a platform of creating opportunities for Canadians. In our view the social security review is crucial if we are to achieve that goal because ultimately, reform is nothing less than a response to a desire for change. It offers us a rare chance to redefine the values, the assumptions and working principles with which to deal with the questions of opportunities for all Canadians. Through this renewal process we will reach a consensus about what our priorities should be and how we can achieve them, given the money and tools available.

I assure the hon. member there will be ample opportunity to carefully consider her concerns for the plight of economically disadvantaged women within this overall debate.

Imposing conditions on the basis of gender would indeed be discriminatory, as would imposing restrictions on the basis of family status, but the current law does not do that. I think it would be helpful to look at just what section 3(2)(c) says. This provision of the Unemployment Insurance Act stipulates that all employees, regardless of gender or marital status, are assured the same protection. The law simply defines the kind of business relationship people must have before they can receive UI benefits.

Every working citizen of this country, whether male or female, be they employed by a spouse, a sibling, a parent or a child, is eligible to pay premiums and to receive benefits so long as there is an employer-employee relationship. It is what the act calls an arm's length relationship.

Unemployment insurance relies on Revenue Canada to determine what constitutes an arm's length relationship between employers and family members in their employ regardless of gender. More than four times out of five, Revenue Canada rules that a true business association does exist and payments are made accordingly. The record shows that people in need employed in family firms are obtaining their rightful benefits.

In 1992-93 for example workers of family businesses filed tens of thousands of claims for unemployment insurance. Of those, 15,000 cases were reviewed and more than 75 per cent were accepted at face value with no questions asked. Of the remainder, a further three-quarters were eventually accepted. Only 10 per cent of claimants were unable to satisfy the criteria.

I do not want to appear to downplay the possibility of discrimination in our legislation. Canadians justifiably demand dignity, respect and equality for all, an obligation this government is committed to fulfil.

I should point out however that the provision being examined by Bill C-218 was included in the act precisely to remove objectionable regulations which did discriminate against married couples working in family businesses. Previously, employed spouses were automatically disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits because of their family status. Paragraph 3(2)(c) has reversed that regulation and made the system more equitable. That is in keeping with the new reality in the workforce.

As members of this House are well aware, women today play a crucial role in our economy, especially in the burgeoning small business sector. As the engine of national growth, women are clearly in the driver's seat. We know that more women than men start small businesses today in Canada and that those companies now provide more jobs than the large corporations.

For more than a decade over 150,000 small businesses have been started each year. They account for some 90 per cent of all new jobs created annually in this country. We also know that women enjoy a very high success rate in keeping their companies running. Between 1975 and 1990 the ranks of self-employed women in Canada grew by a phenomenal 172 per cent compared with 50 per cent for self-employed men during that period. It is also a fact that a large number of these small companies are owned and operated by families, often employing spouses or other members of the immediate family. We want to do everything we can to ensure such progress continues.

One of the objectives of our social security reform is to assure our social spending supports and nurtures women in business as they blaze a trail to the next century. If that means the Unemployment Insurance Act needs to be modified, so be it. When we make those changes, we will have to preserve the delicate balance between managing the program responsibly and ensuring that benefits go to those who need and are entitled to them.

Taxpayers are counting on us to ensure the fair and equitable provisions of UI benefits. They expect that our social security supports should be flexible enough to accommodate workers' changing needs.

Canadians want assurances that any changes to the system are implemented on the same principles of fairness and integrity, which have been the cornerstones of our society and system of government. That is precisely what we have been working to achieve.

The hon. member is correct in pointing out that many women in our society are still in a position of economic disadvantage. It is certainly one of the primary issues which has prompted this government to want to undertake the social security review. However we will not sit idly by awaiting the outcome of that process. Work is already under way and we will continue to address some of these inequalities.

In fact, we recently made adjustments to the Unemployment Insurance Act to increase UI benefits for low income parents. I am referring specifically to the dependency benefit rate. It is a provision that provides extra benefits to people who earn a low income and who support a dependant, or whose spouse supports a dependant.

People qualifying under this category, most frequently women, are now eligible to receive 60 percent instead of the 55 per cent benefit rate. This measure respects the important role women play within our families and supports them in that task. It recognizes that the person providing care for a dependant is contributing to the social and economic health of Canada and should be compensated accordingly.

It is just one example of the ways we are attempting to better manage the social security system to make it more responsive to the realities facing Canadians. It is also proof of this government's commitment to a thorough review of all our social programs. We want to see where all of them should be updated and improved to prepare for the future.

That is why the bill before us should not be considered in isolation. Rather, it has to be looked at in the context of the global process of recommendations and options being developed as part of the overall renewal of our social security system.

That does not mean the hon. member should abandon her passion for the plight of economically disadvantaged women. I suggest she should instead take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the social security review to represent the interests of women.

Members on the government side of the House are convinced that we can put our energies to the best use by working together to confront the full range of the very real and pressing problems that must be addressed. We invite the member for Saint-Hubert to join us in that process of reform.

Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, the current Unemployment Insurance Act was proclaimed on October 23, 1990 with an extended section 3(2)(c).

It maintains a hidden discrimination mainly against women whose regular work helps their spouses' business.

The amendment now extends this discrimination to all close relatives of the employer but, in fact, wives are still affected the most.

Meanwhile, the Liberal government advocates job creation and, to this end, gives greater importance to small and medium-sized businesses. The situation of these businesses is such that they sometimes must involve only the family, since, among other things, they need to minimize start-up costs and the family members can, if needed, make an additional effort.

This is especially true for seasonal businesses. These need a flexible and very devoted staff to ensure a viable work organization in the short run.

Spouses involved in an allegedly fraudulent employer-employee relationship should be considered just like employees who buy work weeks from their employer to complete their number of insurable weeks. This is more and more frequent and yet no discriminating provision adresses this issue in the law.

On the other hand, in the insurance cases that concern us, the applicants have the burden of proving that their normal work is distinct from family activities. In effect, they must demonstrate to the civil servants processing their file that because of the volume of work, the wages paid, the conditions of employment, they should be considered to be dealing with their employer at arm's length.

Bill C-218 to amend the Unemployment Insurance Act must allow businesses to use the most qualified and available workers, whether they be family members or not. Of course, the government must remain vigilant and exercise effective control in order to prevent abuse. Cases of family relationships must be dealt with in the same way as any other unemployment insurance application. If there is a serious concern about fraud on the part of the client applying for benefits, the official of the Department of Human Resources Development will ask the Investigation and Control Office to look into the legitimacy of the request. On the other hand, a worker not dealing at arm's length with his employer is required from the outset to demonstrate that his situation is normal.

To change this state of affairs the client must prove, by his or her own means, that he or she is not defrauding the system. It can often happen that this person must engage the services of a lawyer, and I can tell you that those who find themselves in this situation are not the wealthiest members of our society.

In this regard, the act must recognize the true employee status of those who face this situation. Those people's work should be compared with that of individuals in similar positions in companies of the same sector, with a comparable level of activity and where the owner and employees are unrelated. We should consider the amount of work done, working hours, and salary in each company to determine whether the job could be held by someone who is unrelated to the employer.

Small business people strive to reduce operating costs in order to survive. They will often set up their office in their own home, and tax deductions for that are accepted by Revenue Canada. Hiring one's spouse to perform certain tasks for the business is another way of reducing costs and minimizing supervision.

I will now describe two cases of employers and employees with family ties. They live and work far from big cities in remote communities, where working from the family home is more frequent, where work is structured differently and not always done in office buildings, shopping centres, or plants.

Section 3(2)(c) leaves the door open to interpretation on the part of the officers who have to administer it. At present, all applications where the employee and the employer do not deal at arm's length are examined individually by the Department of Revenue and the ruling depends solely on the officer's interpretation of the section of the Act and on his opinion concerning the operational context of the applicant's former job.

Naturally, there are some criteria to be taken into account, but these are so broad that there are as many interpretations as there are officers administering the Act.

Let us take for example the owner of a hunting and fishing equipment store, which is a seasonal venture, where the employer has a full-time job elsewhere. In order to ensure the proper operation of his business, he must have employees to look after the customers. Therefore, he hires two part-time employees for evenings and week-ends. To keep costs at a minimum, he sets up his store in a building adjacent to his place of residence and he hires his spouse as a replacement for him when he goes to work.

The tasks of his spouse are equivalent to those of the other two part-time employees. Business hours are regular, the payroll record and the cheques issued are proof enough of the authenticity, the reliability and the regularity of the payroll and the hours worked. These items should be sufficient as references in the absence of any contract. But, because the work is done in the same building as the home, and given the fact there is a reason for dependence, the applicant was declared not entitled to benefits.

Moreover, if we compare that with another company from the same area of activity and with a comparable volume of business, the company has to hire a full-time seasonal worker to do that kind of job. Of course, the job description, supervision and work control should also be part of the work agreement.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give you another example, in this case a forestry contractor from the northern part of my riding of Champlain. His workplace is in a forest area, quite far from his place of residence. For the needs of his company, he must set up a forest camp where approximately thirty people are working. To ensure the operation of the camp, and since he must be frequently absent, he must hire a supervisor, who happens to be his wife. She acts as the camp supervisor, as would anybody in such a business. But just because she is related to her employer and has no work contract, her employment is deemed uninsurable. If we compare these circumstances and the volume of work that has to be done, all this is similar to what an unrelated person would do.

The act as it is presently written is open to much interpretation and subjectivity about an employee who is related to the employer. That employee is considered uninsurable.

As you know, the Department of Human Resources Development lets the Department of Revenue decide on the interpretation and enforcement of clause 3(2)(c) of the Unemployment Insurance Act and forces the applicants to prove that the fact that they are members of the same family has no influence whatsoever on the nature and parameters of the work performed.

That clause is discriminatory and its enforcement causes frustration among applicants. There are more and more administrative and judicial procedures and in spite of the amendment made in 1990 to the section we are dealing with, women who work with their spouses are still the most affected population group.

Discrimination based on marital status jeopardizes co-operation and entrepreneurship in remote and sparsely populated areas, where employment is often of a seasonal nature. For many people, working for a relative is the only way to enter the labour force and for small businesses, it is the only way to get reliable and dedicated labour requiring little supervision.

Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from St-Hubert introduced on February 17 a bill which is close to my heart. It is close to my heart because, as a lawyer, I have a great deal of difficulty in accepting that some people are treated differently. We call that discrimination, not only in law but also in the dictionary.

If bill C-218 introduced by my colleague is rejected by the House of commons, discrimination will continue, a large number of citizens will be treated inequitably.

Since the Unemployment Insurance Act was passed-it received Royal assent on October 23, 1990-our party has denounced, in the House and outside, the aberrations it contains. Normally, according to Canadian legislation, we are all innocent until proven guilty and the burden of the proof rests with the accuser, that is the minister or the Crown in criminal matters.

However, when an employee leaves his or her job, he or she must prove that it was not without compelling reasons, and the burden of the proof falls on the potential UI claimant. We are in a democracy and we are never guilty until proven so. This is what we call the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The new Unemployment Insurance Act changed the rules of the game in 1990, and it allows some employers to abuse their employees and to require of them more work, extended working hours and total submission, a wholly unacceptable situation in a democratic society like ours. It is nothing short of blackmail!

If an employee objects and leaves his or her job, that employee must prove that he or she had good reasons to do so. Worse, during the period of objection the former employee will find social assistance hard to get. Indeed, Quebec social assistance regulations do not permit the payment of any benefit as long as the official has not received an unqualified denial from unemployment insurance. So, Mr. Speaker, you can imagine that before quitting a job, employees may be abused by their employers for a very long period of time.

This is the reason why the Crown lost out under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The various courts which were asked to rule in this matter, namely the human rights tribunal of the appeal division, the Federal Court, the Tax Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada, all declared null and void former sections 3(2)(c) and 4(3)(d) of the act. Canadians won.

It was to be expected since they were just as discriminatory, and that was the objective of Bill C-218 introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Hubert, as denying benefits to a spouse working for her husband or a family-owned business. Whom was this piece of legislation aimed at especially? Women working for their spouses. This is another example of the legal subordination of women to their spouses.

Under the circumstances, the previous Conservative government took steps to amend section 3.(2)(c) in accordance with these decisions. It had no other choice. From now on, not only spouses, but all workers not dealing at arm's length with their employers will be excluded. In this way, it may seem less discriminatory, legally speaking, as long as the courts have not ruled on the constitutionality of this amendment.

But in reality, what does it mean to not deal at arm's length? It means that in all cases the presumption of honesty is from now on replaced by a presumption of fraud. It is now up to the employee to satisfy the official in charge-who is vested with discretionary powers-that the work contract met the same requirements as if the job had been given to someone who was not related to the employer.

How many people will be left stranded without any income until a case is heard by the Supreme Court of Canada? This measure, I should say this injustice, concerns close to one million Canadians, 650,000 of whom are women. It is unacceptable.

On going through Hansard of April 21 of this year, I noticed that an hon. member on this side of the House, but not from the Bloc, opposed the bill proposed by my colleague from Saint-Hubert by arguing that her proposal would lead to the filing of at least 2,000 supposedly unfounded unemployment insurance claims which would entail the payment of $13 million dollars. This is absurd.

The unemployment insurance legislation was adopted-

Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The hour provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise briefly or should I say provide a brief update on one of the obvious inconsistencies in the discourse and policy of this government, namely the relationship that may, and indeed must, exist between the Canadian foreign policy and human rights promotion.

To address this contradiction we have no reason to be proud of, I shall refer to a question I had put to the Deputy Prime Minister on June 10. I asked the Deputy Prime Minister this question on June 10, following a visit by the Prime Minister in exile of Burma to the Standing Committee on Human Rights.

We realized, as a standing committee responsible for the promotion of human rights both within Canada and outside, how much of a discrepancy there was between what this government said -all this talk about legislative instruments and active involvement outside the country being required to promote human rights- and reality.

Such discrepancy is easy to understand considering that as early as 1990, the Canadian government had been pressing for democratic elections to be held in Burma, which is currently run by a military junta. Canada can be said to have participated in this international campaign for elections in Burma.

We realized in the committee that, while Canada had lobbied for Burma to be requested to uphold human rights within its boundaries-because as we know, Burma is one of those Asian countries with the darkest, most worrisome history in that respect, a country where the Nobel Peace Prize winner is imprisoned, where torture is practised and very serious cases of abuse are reported-it also prohibited Canadian businesses from trading with Burma for reasons relating to human rights that we agree with. We believe that foreign policy and the promotion of human rights should be linked somehow.

Imagine our surprise when we discovered that, in the case of China, there was a double standard. And yet China is the main country supplying arms to the military junta currently in power.

The question we can ask ourselves is this: if Burma's human rights record is so important that Canadian companies are not allowed to do business there, why is China, which also commits its share of abuses, which is also inconsistent in promoting human rights-as the 1,200 executions recorded in Amnesty International's latest report demonstrate-not subject to the

same policy? Must there be two types of countries from a political standpoint? The Canadian government will overlook the human rights record of important countries with significant growth and large markets while imposing restrictions on countries with less impact on the international economy.

I say that there should not be a double standard. The government must make adjustments and use the same language so that when we talk about promoting human rights abroad-and I think the government has a responsibility to talk about it-we should have exactly the same requirements for a country of 1.2 billion people as for a country of 3 million inhabitants.

This is-and I will stop here as my time is up-an example of an inconsistent policy the government has no reason to be proud of.


Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario


Jean Augustine LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the member's question directly. Canada's relations with Burma are limited because we remain concerned about the deplorable human rights situation and lack of progress toward democracy in Burma.

Human rights abuses continue unabated and the military have made it clear that they will not relinquish power. Canada suspended its aid program in 1988 and military sales are not allowed to that country.

Furthermore, the Canadian government does not encourage Canadian business activity in Burma. Petro-Canada pulled out of Burma in November 1992 and Canada has worked actively through bilateral and multilateral channels to promote democratic development and respect for human rights in that country.

At the 1992 Association of Southeast Asia Nations Post-Ministerial Conference Canada called for an international embargo on the sale of military equipment to Burma, bearing in mind that country's lamentable human rights record.

Canada made strong statements on Burma in its human rights speech at the United Nations General Assembly in December 1992 and contributed to the resolutions on Burma at both the United Nations General Assembly and the 1993 United Nations committee on human rights. We continue to be very active at the UN third committee and the UN commission on human rights.

We are among the larger donors of multilateral humanitarian assistance to Burmese refugees and we continue to press for the immediate release of Nobel peace prize winner Madam Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to return to an issue I raised in June with the Minister of Human Resources Development when I asked him what plans he had in place to ensure that Canadians and their families would not be subject to the level of poverty that they are presently subject to.

We know from experience that Canada has to a very large degree eliminated poverty among its senior citizens. There is still a category of senior women who are subject to severe deprivation, but on the whole we have responded to that problem. We have essentially eliminated poverty among senior citizens, although quite clearly we have not done so with regard to our children. There are now 1.3 million children in Canada living in poverty, more than when this government took office. There are 2.3 or 2.4 million Canadians living on social assistance and 1.6 million living on unemployment insurance.

We clearly have a major problem in terms of our economy not working for those four million Canadians and in particular for those 1.3 million children.

In response to the minister when he talked about unemployment insurance-and I do not quite know why he did that-I want to return to the point that I made with him because I think Canadians need and this House deserves to know what specific plans the Minister of Human Resources Development has under way to eliminate poverty among young people and in particular young children. We know that this House in 1989 unanimously committed itself to eliminating child poverty by the year 2000. We also know that this House is unlikely to see any improvements in that regard as long as we continue in the direction we are taking.

All we have seen from this government are plans to cut billions of dollars from social programs spending at a time when Canadians are in record numbers experiencing difficulties.

We see a continuation of the Mulroney agenda where unemployment is blamed on the unemployed. The notion is that the problem is with the unemployed.

If you look at the documentation presented by the minister, you will see that his response to unemployment is to say that there is a problem in the employability of Canadians, that they need more training, more skills and so on.

We all know that we can do with more training. All of us in this House can do with more training. If there are no jobs for Canadians at the end of this training as is plainly the case at the present time, this training goes for naught. In particular the sort of training programs that have been put in place by this

government and other federal governments has cost enormous amounts of money to train the participants in the program.

If we look at the works program, we see a huge drop-out rate in the program. We see a huge cost in terms of training those Canadians. We see this in the context of further deep cuts to social program spending. We do not need to move to an American approach to social programs, which this government is continuing. It is a trend that the Mulroney government introduced.

We do not need that Americanized approach. We need a compassionate, caring approach. We need to look at countries that have been more successful than we have in dealing with those problems of poverty.

As we all know, only the United States has a worse poverty problem than Canada in the industrialized nations. We should look to those European countries which have taken a very much different approach to this problem, an approach which has enabled more and more citizens to live in dignity.

We have a choice in Canada. We can if we want to continue to slash programs as this government plans to do or we can instead focus on the core problem which is that we do not have enough jobs in this economy. This economy is not producing enough jobs for those Canadians who need them. We have no leadership in that regard.

The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Human Resources Development have said basically they will take a hands-off approach to this except for a couple of programs involving the youth and involving the infrastructure program. It has put some Canadians back to work but still left millions not working.

They said they will take a hands-off approach and let the private sector develop those jobs. Over the last 15 years the private sector has simply not done that. The private sector has not created the jobs that Canada needs. It requires a concerted approach from the government in conjunction with the provinces, in conjunction with business and labour and the various communities across this country.

The point I really want to make with the minister is that there is a need for urgency. We do have to come to grips with this problem of insufficient jobs in this economy. We cannot deal with the deficit unless we attack that problem.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

York North Ontario


Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I can tell the hon. member that since the October 25 election this government has worked very hard to bring about positive change in the lives of young people here.

I am happy to report to the House that the unemployment rate for young people has decreased from 17.5 per cent in 1993 to 16.4 per cent in August. This is a result of 20,000 new jobs that were created for youth and 29,000 young Canadians were no longer unemployed. This is just part of a package.

The summer employment strategy for young people created approximately 60,000 jobs to give young people the skills required to be competitive in a very different world.

We also moved quickly on the youth service Canada lead-sites. Seventy-five per cent of the 67 lead-sites are fully operational. We expect that the others will be operational shortly.

We have also moved in the area of youth internship and apprenticeship training programs because we recognize as a government that we do live in an era where young people must be given tools to be competitive in a very competitive world marketplace.

We have not forgotten of course the importance of staying in school and through our stay in school initiative with a budget of approximately $31.5 million, we expect to assist over 10,000 young people through direct interventions this year, not to take lightly our contribution made to the Canada Student Loans.

A review took place and there again positive change to the legislation resulted in greater accessibility to funding for young people so that they could access post-secondary education. We as a government understand that higher education is necessary for us to compete.

As members know, above and beyond that young people will be an integral component of social security review. I am sure the hon. member and his party will participate fully in this very historical event.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

September 20th, 1994 / 6:45 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, on June 8 I asked the Deputy Prime Minister to assure Canadians that her government would maintain and enforce the Canada Health Act and, further, for her government to release the terms of reference and timetable for the promised national health care forum.

I suppose I have heard of no issue of more concern to Canadians across the country being discussed over the past few months when the House was not sitting than the future of health care. Seniors are worried about the future of health care. Others are worried about whether they will have the universal health care system of which Canadians have so rightly been proud.

One promise of the Liberal government and specifically of the Prime Minister was that he would chair a national health care forum that would deal with these many issues and the changes, I assume, although we have seen no terms of reference. I would hope such a health care forum would also deal with the change that needs to take place in our health care system.

Certainly as a New Democrat I am absolutely committed to the principles of universal, accessible health care for Canadians. However I am not adverse at all to changes within the Canada Health Act to guard the five principles of the Canada Health Act to make it more appropriate for Canadians.

Three months after I asked the question of the Deputy Prime Minister we still do not have a date for the national health care forum. We do not have a clear statement from the government as to the expectations for this forum. The Liberal Party has committed itself to upholding the five principles of the Canada Health Act, but we need to have a really comprehensive vision for health care.

The government's first budget, for example, was not a good sign of what was to come. The Conservative policy of freezing transfers to the provinces for health care continued. If this strategy continues there will be no federal funding for health care by the year 2015. Canadians want to hear the government say that it will not happen and that they will continue to have a universal health care system.

Further to the issue of the national health care forum, if it is truly to be a forum to develop a new vision of health care it would be hoped that the terms of reference would include a wide spectrum of groups that would participate on this forum. It would also be hoped that it would include all provinces and territories.

I would certainly like to know from the government spokesperson if the Prime Minister has any indication, since he will be the chair, whether all provinces will participate in a national health care forum. If not, will the Prime Minister be proceeding without the participation of all provinces?

We have seen the government allow provinces to develop systems which do directly contravene the Canada Health Act. For example, the province of Alberta with its private clinics specifically contravenes section 12 of the Canada Health Act. I have asked the Prime Minister in the House to raise the issue with the premier of Albert with whom he is meeting today. The Prime Minister refused to say that he would do so and said that it would be done at some other time in some other place.

That is not good enough for Canadians. Canadians want our national health care system to be a priority of the government and of all parliamentarians and a fundamental right as health care should be for Canadian citizens. It is also, I might add, one of the biggest supports for business in the country.

When will the national forum be? Will all provinces and territories participate? Will those provinces that are now contravening the Canada Health Act be dealt with by the government? When will we get an answer? When will the Prime Minister act?

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.


Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it would seem the hon. leader of the New Democratic Party must have read the press release of the Minister of Health which she sent out in June with regard to the forum. She just listed all the things that were mentioned in it. The forum, as indicated in the press release, is to be an ongoing four-year forum.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Let's start.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

It is going to begin in October, as the press release indicated. Of course it will involve federal and provincial relationships. It will involve public input and working groups that will deal with many of the issues the hon. member just raised in her question.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order, please. I know these interventions are rather short, being four minutes on the one hand and two in which to respond. I am trying to facilitate everyone by giving them the opportunity to complete their remarks. I hope we allow the parliamentary secretary to conclude her remarks over the next two minutes.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

The mandate of the forum is to develop a vision for health care in the 21st century. It will create a dialogue among the public, federal, territorial and provincial governments for renewing the better health of Canadians. It will deal with and identify priorities concerning a consensus for change in all the provinces. At the same time it is determined to respect the five principles of health care upon which medicare was built.

Obviously the forum will have to deal with issues such as setting guidelines for technology. It will have to deal with issues such as the aging society. It will have to deal with what kind of financing is required for a future health care system. All these things have been said by the minister in her press release in June and they will happen.

With respect to the hon. member's question concerning the transfer of payments in federal financing, the member well knows the government has made a commitment to stable financing in health. We have made that commitment by not cutting transfer payments for this year.

In the year 1995-96 we will begin to have our federal transfer payments financed on the gross national product minus 3 per cent. Given that we will still the following year be putting in $214 million more than we will be putting in this year, The population growth will be factored in and therefore the transfers will be increased according to population growth each year.

One of the things we will be doing in financing is that we are not touching the tax transfers. This means a sizeable amount of money is still going to be put into provincial coffers with regard to financing the health care system.

The member well knows that the health care system does not only depend on-

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. I regret to interrupt the parliamentary secretary but the format of four minutes and two minutes is quite clear. I have been more than generous if we consider that we have only had three of the five interventions so far which would normally take in a very strict manner 18 minutes. I guess I have been more than generous.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, I asked for four minutes of speaking time for myself and two minutes for the parliamentary secretary to answer the question that I asked in June about mass layoffs. At that time, I asked the Minister of Human Resources Development and of Western Economic Diversification whether he agreed with giving the Sorel employment centre a $2.2-million fund because of the mass layoffs at Soreltex, Tioxide and Beloit in the Sorel-Tracy region.

Further to that answer, this request for $2.2 million more was made by the employment centre through the normal channels at the regional level and then on to the national level, and the employment centre got a good hearing from senior officials.

I asked the minister to confirm it for me, and then had a second question concerning the specific program for mass layoffs that was abolished. The minister's first answer to me was completely off topic, referring to the fact that I had been a Conservative member. It was an arrogant, incompetent, flippant, almost cowardly answer, showing the minister's unconcern for the workers' needs and the respect owed them and his lack of attention to a recommendation from his own senior officials.

Since I raised my second question, the Sorel employment centre received more funds to help the victims of mass layoffs, thanks to the remarkable work of senior officials in Sorel, the director of the employment centre and senior officials throughout the Quebec region. One thing that has not been restored is the specific program for mass layoffs.

Now, when there are mass layoffs, the general fund is drawn on and if it is used up, the special fund is no longer available. Restoring this fund would provide assistance when a disaster like the one in Sorel-Tracy strikes, where there were two major shutdowns, Beloit and Soreltex, in quick succession. In that case, the general fund was used since the special fund is now included in the general fund and there was no more money. So we now have a situation where we have no way of getting back any funds to deal with the situation.

It seems to me that reinstating this fund would be essential to good management. The minister's answer was vague, once again. As I see it, this mass layoff fund should not only be reinstated but should be flexible as well.

For instance, a number of workers at Soreltex have from 25 to 35 years of experience, but their average age is between 50 and 55, so they are not eligible for POWA, the adjustment program for workers 55 and over, so they fall between the cracks, because they cannot be retrained. Often they do not even have a high-school diploma. They only went to grade school, and they cannot be retrained for work other than the kind they have done for 35 years.

Perhaps this mass layoff fund could provide some form of remuneration for people between the ages of 50 and 55 who fall between the cracks, lose their homes and their savings and end up on welfare. That is why I think the fund should be reinstated and expanded so that employment centres can tailor the program to specific cases and are not hampered by criteria that are too restrictive.

I hope that today, the minister will have a more open mind on the matter than he did when he answered my questions.

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6:55 p.m.

York North Ontario


Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member must know by now that this government has demonstrated that it places a high priority on the training and adjustment needs of Canadians.

As a matter of fact in the Sorel-Tracy region which he cited when companies such as Sorel Tex were having difficulties the Department of Human Resources Development intervened. In that case assistance was provided through the industrial adjustment service. It is recognized as a very effective program for assisting those individuals who are affected by major layoffs to make the adjustment to new employment opportunities.

In addition I am pleased that the Department of Human Resources Development has recently freed up a further $54 million in Quebec. These funds will provide a significant increase in the resources available to provide assistance to those individuals across the province of Quebec who require training and employment assistance in order to make the transition to new employment.

I am pleased also that $622,000 has been provided to the Sorel-Tracy region alone. This will assist individuals in this region to receive the necessary skills and training so that they can be once again reintegrated in the labour force.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a topic which is much less glamorous but is related to a question which I asked on June 20 of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

The question concerned what action the government was taking to fight the increase in sea lamprey eel population in the Great Lakes.

I realize that this is not a topic which has a great appeal for someone who lives in a place like Airdlie, Alberta or Moncton, New Brunswick. At the same time I think it is important that all Canadians understand the importance of the Great Lakes and their ecosystems.

Every year some 75,000 Canadians have jobs and some $2 billion or more are generated simply as a result of the commercial and sports fishing industries which exist on the Great Lakes. Every year some 4 million sports people try their luck on the waters of this lake system.

It is also important that we remember the recent past when the sea lamprey first appeared in the lakes and flourished at a rate which threatened the very existence of all fishing in the Great Lakes.

The result of this predator, which came in from of the ocean when the seaway was opened, an eel which can live in fresh or salt water, was the absolute annihilation of commercial fisheries for a time in the 1950s.

In the 1950s governments did react. Governments used the best technology of the time to combat and limit the population of eels in the lakes so that the numbers of certain species did in fact come back to an acceptable level where an industry could exist.

As is often the case, there is a certain level of complacency which sets in at the government and at the naturalist level. It is a complacency from a governmental perspective in that dollars directed to controlling the sea lamprey remain flat and in some cases actually marginally decreased to the point that less was being done to control the populations of the sea lamprey.

At the same time due to joint Canadian-American efforts water quality in the Great Lakes started to improve. We are all aware of the efforts taken to improve water quality. This opened up new habitats for lamprey eels. The combined result of improved water quality and less money for control has resulted in a real resurgence in lamprey populations.

Naturalists have now confirmed that lamprey eels take more trout out of Lake Superior than do all the commercial sports fishermen on that body of water.

Finally it is essential that this threat be always considered in light of the 75,000 jobs and the $2 billion plus generated by the fishing industry on the lakes.

When I asked the question of the minister I was very pleased and surprised by his response that the government has acted to protect this industry and these jobs. The minister has recognized the seriousness of the problem and has moved to address it in a timely fashion.

The government has increased funding to the Great Lakes fishery commission by one-third. The fishery commission, as some may realize, is a joint Canadian-American agency which deals with ecological issues in the Great Lakes system. We must however realize that this problem emanates from feeder rivers on both sides of the border.

Canada has increased its contributions in a real and significant fashion. It is now necessary, indeed imperative, that pressure be brought to ensure that the American government will match the Canadian proportionate increase, failing which I would suggest that a multi-billion dollar industry and tens of thousands of jobs will continue to be threatened.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.


Herb Dhaliwal LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member has noted, predation by sea lampreys is considered to be one of the major causes of the collapse of the lake trout and whitefish fisheries in the 1940s and 1950s.

In response to this concern the Great Lakes fishery commission was created between the United States and Canada to find ways to manage sea lampreys and to develop a research program to sustain fish stocks in the Great Lakes.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which represents Canada as a party to the Great Lakes Fishery Convention, is actively involved in the planning and implementation of the lamprey control program.

This program, according to statistics provided by the commission, has reduced lamprey populations by approximately 90 per cent from historic levels. Given the economic importance of the Great Lakes fishery to our fishing community, there is still work to be done. That is why Canada recently increased its funding to the commission by 33 per cent to a total of $5.145 million. We have secured assurances from the U.S. government that it will follow Canada's lead and increase its funding to the commission as well.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is proud of the work that Canada and the U.S. have done to support lamprey control on the Great Lakes. We have managed to build this fishery up to a $2 billion to $4 billion industry annually.

We will continue to support this commission in the future. It is our belief that it is now time for those who directly benefit from the Great Lakes fishery commission's efforts to join us and begin contributing to the cause of the lamprey control program.

We all have a responsibility in maintaining a healthy and prosperous fishery for the future.

Unemployment Insurance ActAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Pursuant to Standing Order 38(5), the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.07 p.m.)