Mr. Speaker, I think that Bill C-111, introduced in the House last Friday by the Minister of Human Resources Development, is one of the most modern pieces of legislation introduced by this government.
As Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said, the proposed reform aims to help jobless Canadians to rejoin the workforce as quickly as possible, and to regain the dignity associated with working.
Employment insurance is designed to promote the development of the Canadian workforce, as well as economic growth.
To that end, the new employment insurance program proposes new measures geared to the needs of individuals and communities.
It also seeks to promote partnership and co-operation with the provinces, with the sole purpose of improving the well-being of Canadian workers.
In co-operation with the provinces, and in the context of a new vision and a new approach, we want to provide Canadian workers with the tools and the opportunities that will help them find their niche in the workforce. Along with the provinces, the private sector and community organizations, we want these workers to have jobs that will make our country competitive on the international markets.
Governments must get together to meet the challenges of the new economy and provide workers with the necessary skills and knowledge.
Employment insurance proposes a system that is better suited to the needs of those who want to find work in the modern labour market. For example, I can think of the workers who want to get training, so that they can meet the new labour market requirements, including in the professional and industrial sectors, to ensure their well-being and also contribute to the country's economic growth. Once fully implemented, the proposed reform will create between 100,000 and 150,000 jobs every year, including 40,000 in Quebec.
Employment insurance is a much more efficient program, because it recognizes the work effort, while also helping the unemployed. The proposed changes are fair to all Canadian workers, including those who hold part-time jobs.
This program is indeed more efficient. Once fully implemented, it will result in savings of two billion dollars, without depriving any Canadian of his or her rights. Out of that amount, $800 million will be reinvested in the employment benefit program. Adding to that amount the current budget of $1.9 billion for employment benefits, we get a total of $2.7 billion to be allocated to employment assistance each year. This is a unique and golden opportunity for those provinces interested in reaching agreements with the federal government to look after their workforce in a proactive fashion.
It was also our intention to ensure that Canadians living in high unemployment areas could take advantage of employment incentive measures in order to work more hours in a year. We have therefore established a $300 million transition job fund over three years, to fund independent growth-related employment in areas of higher unemployment.
In conjunction with our partners, we wish to encourage employers to create new jobs and to help the unemployed to return to the work force as quickly as possible.
Employment benefits are practical and efficient tools which assist those attempting to return to the work force with practical, and in some cases personalized, measures.
Since training is a provincial responsibility, and it is the federal government's intention to withdraw from that sector under the new
legislation, skill development loans and grants will be given only after formal consent by the province concerned.
Employment benefits were designed to encourage personal initiative, to encourage people to make appropriate job search choices. There are management systems to help recipients plan their return to the work force in a methodical way. They will need to commit to following that plan, and there will be follow-up mechanisms.
We have sought to make wage benefits and all employment and re-employment measures as flexible as possible. All levels of government acknowledge the necessity of bringing their labour market-related roles in line with each other; duplication of effort, services and expenditures must be avoided, and initiatives must be co-ordinated. A province wishing to administer a service itself, or to substitute another program which would yield the same results, will be able to do so. The federal government is determined to act in as open a manner as possible, within the confines of its mandate under the national Constitution.
What will Quebec get out of this new legislative package? Respect of our jurisdictions, greater flexibility in human resource management, new opportunities for agreements, and the continuation of some of the many agreements already in place between us relating to employment insurance and human resources development.
To prevent overlapping initiatives and programs, we want to sit down with Quebec and see how we can focus our efforts in the area of manpower training. Parochial squabbles do Canadians a disservice and are counterproductive. We are here to serve all Canadians and that should be the only rationale for what we do.
If the province of Quebec already has a program, we are quite willing to let Quebec manage and determine the basic orientation of this program. We want to avoid duplication at all costs. It is too expensive, creates bureaucratic problems and prevents us from understanding the needs of workers and employers.
We will try to set up formal and specific agreements with the provinces. In each case, we will ask what instruments, programs and employment services should be designed and managed locally. This will be done keeping efficiency in mind. We must give each individual the tools he needs to get back on the labour market.
This means that on the basis of such agreements, Quebec will be able to assume responsibility for delivering an even larger number of projects, programs and services to its workers.
As Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced a few days ago, the federal government will withdraw from manpower training activities. We will no longer purchase training courses from provincial institutions. We will withdraw from apprenticeship training, co-operative education programs and on-the-job training.
These measures must be implemented as soon as possible. We have provided for a transition period of up to three years to give the provinces and institutions time to adjust.
Since 1966, we have concluded agreements with Quebec as we have with other provinces in this country, and this proves that we are able to work in harmony to promote the well being of our human resources, with due consideration for the priorities of the province.
The employment insurance bill is a starting point for discussions with the provinces. These discussions may lead to various agreements depending on the particular needs of the provinces, their economic situation and the needs and circumstances of local labour markets. It is up to us to sit down together at the negotiating table and proceed with our discussions while considering our workers, the jobs they need and the economic development of all regions in our country.
In some cases, for example, a provincial government could manage federal employment measures or could use its own programs, rather than implement the proposed federal measures. Similarly, we could combine federal and provincial programs along with other programs from the private sector and the community.
These programs could be administered by the private sector, a local or provincial organization or a consortium. The employment benefits and services proposed in Bill C-111 are based on proven job creation practices.
Experience tells us that helping claimants set up a business is an effective way to return people to work. Since April 1994, 34,000 Canadians have set up businesses using this method. Seventy per cent of them were still active 18 months later. They create an average of 1.1 jobs.
A quick example, before I conclude. In February 1995, Dominique Grenier of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts started a specialized business in software for people with a disability.
After four years of temporary jobs, he saw self-employment assistance as a way of getting a job. After only ten months, his business is expanding. Interest in his products, which help people cope with their environment, continues to grow. Next year, he intends to hire at least one person, and perhaps two. Here is what he says: "I would not have been able to carry this project out had it not been for the help I received from the Department of Human Resources Development. This sort of program is vital for anyone wanting to start a business".
In the interest of our fellow citizens, this bill deserves our support. It is centred on a single and vital objective: jobs that give Canadians, communities and regions real hope for the future.