Madam Speaker, I did an interview in my riding last week. Some people who discussed the issue were in favour of some parts of the program and against other parts. To suggest that we can bring in this substantial change without there being some negative comment is not possible. Certainly when people will be affected there will be some negative comment.
However, on balance it is clear to me from discussions with the business community and others in my riding that the change from weeks to hours is very positive. Every hour of work will now count in the seasonal industries. In many of the industries in Atlantic Canada people do not work a 35-hour week during peak periods. They work 40, 50 and 60 hour weeks. Now they will get credit for
all the extra time, whereas in the past they would only get credit for the week regardless of the number of hours. That is a very positive aspect that has been accepted and endorsed by Atlantic Canadians.
As I stated earlier, there will be at least 45,000 additional people in Atlantic Canada who will now qualify for benefits. They are not getting benefits now because in most cases they are working less than the 15 hours presently needed to qualify.
In addition there is the new family support benefit, a family income supplement for low income families with children. This provision will allow claimants to earn up to 80 per cent of their insured income.
Those are just three points but there are others. I could perhaps cite six or seven other provisions that are very beneficial to Atlantic Canadians which will offset some areas where without question some adjustment will be needed. We all recognize that we need to make structural changes to make the system an employment program as opposed to an unemployment program.