That this House condemn the government for choosing to reform unemployment insurance in a way that maintains overlap and duplication in the manpower sector and thus prevents the government of Quebec from adopting a true manpower development policy of its own.
-She said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present this motion here this morning. I would like to read to the House a motion that was adopted yesterday by the Quebec National Assembly: Yeas, 96; Nays, 0; Abstentions, 0; it was therefore unanimous, with the clearest possible consensus.
That the National Assembly reaffirm the consensus expressed in this House on December 13, 1990, on the occasion of the ministerial statement on manpower adjustment and occupational training, to the effect that Quebec must have sole responsibility for policies pertaining to manpower adjustment and occupational training within its borders and patriate accordingly the funding allocated by the federal government to these programs in Quebec.
Within the current constitutional framework and in order to improve services to customers, Quebec must take over the control and management of various services pertaining to employment and manpower development and all programs that may be funded through the Unemployment Insurance Fund within Quebec's borders, and must therefore receive the funding appropriate to such responsibilities.
The motion adopted unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly goes on to say:
The Government of Quebec and representatives of business, labour and the co-operative sector agree to oppose any initiative by the federal government that would constitute an invasion of Quebec's prerogatives.
Therefore, it asks the government and the Minister of Employment to immediately undertake formal discussions with the federal government in order to ensure the respect of the consensus and the promotion of the interests of the Quebec people.
Especially after the referendum vote on October 30, it is important for the government to be aware of this consensus and realize it cannot be satisfied with the guidelines in this new bill, Bill C-111, in part II under the heading "Employment Benefits and National Employment Service".
In fact, throughout part III, what predominates is not Quebec's right to control, develop and take responsibility for its manpower policy but a renewed affirmation of the central government's primacy in this area over which Quebec has jurisdiction. All the federal government's noises about being prepared to negotiate and being open to suggestions cannot obscure a very important side to this question. Today, money collected from Quebec workers and businesses in the form of unemployment insurance premiums goes to and is controlled by the federal government.
The federal government determines under what conditions it would be prepared to agree that the government or, as appropriate-and this is something we will find in another bill we will discuss later on- agencies, individuals or any other intervenor the government may consider would be called on to implement the measures provided in the bill.
Primarily for the sake of efficiency and also from a cultural standpoint, Quebec insists on being in charge of implementing this manpower policy, on being the only one in control and in charge of this policy. Culture is basically a demonstration of differences. And we know that as far as the implementation of manpower policy is concerned, countries have different ways of doing things, different objectives and different priorities. In Quebec, we do not proceed the same way they do in France, Japan, the United States and the rest of Canada.
We have this consensus in the National Assembly which was expressed in the past and confirmed again yesterday, so it is a matter of efficiency and our own culture. Why efficiency? So we can stop this endless bickering which prevents us from improving the circumstances of ordinary people whose needs are tremendous, with the unemployment rate still around 11 per cent. Of course, the unemployment rate only indicates how many people want to enter the labour market. It does not consider all those people who are discouraged, who are on welfare or are trapped somewhere without benefits of any kind and have become discouraged.
Given the rate of unemployment and Quebec's need for a strong and vigorous economy, it is not only unacceptable, it is downright intolerable that this issue of control over manpower is once again caught in a tug of war, which prevents ordinary folks-women, men, young people, seasonal workers-anyone with needs, from getting the most out of the services they are entitled to.
This is why, for reasons of efficiency relating to our culture, that the official opposition has tabled this motion this morning, which it will speak to throughout the day.
The government has to realize the extent of the need of those it is penalizing by insisting on running the show. These people need jobs, help and a strategy. They cannot live with a system full of holes, a system that is in fact not one, but two. It is a useless system, because two governments are competing within it: one is on its own turf and the other is endlessly butting in. It has broadened the meaning of the constitutional amendment on unemployment insurance and, once again, with employees and employers' money, it is pushing aside the Government of Quebec.
The Prime Minister of Canada said, in the final days before the referendum, that he would do everything to keep Canada united. Now, in an area where consensus is so strong and less than a month after October 30, the government introduces a bill that ignores the unanimous will of Quebecers. The government is acquiring the means to prevent Quebec from doing what it considers appropriate. It is giving itself the wherewithal to control. Worse, if, at the end of negotiations, Quebec, with the knife to its throat, refuses to bow to
the dictates of the federal government, Quebec will be unable to do what it wants.
I am sorry the minister finds this funny; he could say he was open, but he has not managed to call even a single meeting of ministers of manpower and employment in the time he has been in office. He has not been and still is not known for his flexibility.
It is hard to avoid feeling worried and discouraged in the face of a text such as this, regardless of the minister proposing it, because it is absurd to find ourselves once again in this endless twisting and turning at the expense of the ordinary folk.
Subclause 61(2), which deals with training, stipulates that the central government, through the commission, and I quote:
-may not provide any financial assistance in a province in support of employment benefits mentioned in paragraph 59( e ) without the agreement of the government of the province.
But paragraph 59( e ) reads as follows:
- The commission may establish employment benefits to enable insured participants to obtain employment, including benefits to: e ) help them obtain skills for employment, ranging from basic to advanced skills.
It is important to have a good understanding of this provision. It means that, this time, with respect to the so-called employment benefits the government wants to introduce, it can, in case of a misunderstanding, proceed on its own by giving the commission the required mandate. In this specific case, however, it goes so far as to say that if the province-Quebec, in this instance-disagrees, it will not give anything. Great.
It would make people responsible for Quebec's refusal to relinquish its jurisdiction. The last time we saw this was when Maurice Duplessis was in office.
These provisions are extremely disturbing and do not appear to portend successful negotiations, far from it.
These measures, which are supposed to help workers, are in fact modelled after other measures already in effect in Quebec to help welfare recipients improve their lot and find jobs they can keep. These measures already exist in one version or another. Except that, in this case, the federal government-that is the beauty of it-is set to introduce similar initiatives that will create an inextricable web of overlap and duplication so that two individuals in the same business could each receive a different kind of income supplement: welfare in one case and job benefits in the other.
This kind of chaos is unacceptable. Co-ordination is needed. We must see to it that workers and people looking for jobs benefit from a real labour policy. The only way such a policy can become a reality is if Quebec has control over all these measures.
This bill was expected. The minister had said that it would make people change their attitudes and that it would really help, as the ambitious title "employment insurance" shows. Yet, I cannot help but point out that the $800 million that will be spent on these measures will in fact only be spread over five years, another $200 million for all of Canada, because measures are already in place whose effectiveness needs to be reviewed but whose total cost is $4 billion, with the difference that only $1.9 billion comes from unemployment insurance.
How much will that make by the year 2001, when this reform is complete? Some $4.2 billion, or a mere $200 million more, with this difference however, and a crucial difference, that an additional $800 million will be paid out of the UI fund then while, as a result of the general tax currently levied to cover the cost of most of these measures, $600 million less will come out of the consolidated revenue fund.
This whole operation that had raised hopes results in $200 million in fresh money, but also and again, for Quebec in particular, in the imposition of measures causing duplication and overlap, jamming the labour market and preventing Quebec from putting in place an urgently needed manpower policy.
I hope that, even though he laughed earlier, the minister will understand that the consensus in Quebec calls for the government, as a modern constitutional system, to recognize Quebec's jurisdiction and to accept that Quebec should have sole responsibility over this manpower policy for ordinary people and, therefore, that the allocated funds made up of money coming from businesses and workers should be transferred to Quebec to administer according to its own needs and priorities.
I repeat, this must be done not only with the consent of the parties, but also that of business, labour, the co-operative movement, community groups, which may have been more active in Quebec than elsewhere, perhaps because Quebec was seriously hit by the 1982-83 recession. But this consensus is the best guarantee of what could be the Quebec model, in which we will be able to use our resources, our scarce financial resources, to help ordinary people whose individual well-being is in great need of improvement.
I sincerely hope that our plea be heard in the interest of the people, because the government has no right to stubbornly keep preventing Quebec from fully playing its role like this.