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House of Commons Hansard #271 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

Point Of Order

December 5th, 1995 / 10 a.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I am now prepared to make a ruling on the admissibility of the amendment, moved last Wednesday, November 29, by the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, to government business Motion No. 26 relating to Quebec as a distinct society.

I have reviewed the interventions of the chief government whip, the chief opposition whip and the hon. member for Calgary West, and I would like to thank them for their helpful comments.

Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada , fourth edition, at page 321 states:

It is an imperative rule that every amendment must be relevant to the question on which the amendment has been proposed.

This idea is also repeated as citation 568 in Beauchesne's sixth edition. Beauchesne also notes in citation 567 that

567.-the object of an amendment may be-to modify a question in such a way as to increase its acceptability-

In his presentation the chief government whip quoted citation 579 of the same work, arguing that the proposed amendment would introduce a foreign proposition and would raise a new question which could only be considered as a distinct motion after proper notice. He also referred to the 1923 and 1970 Speaker's rulings on which this citation is based. I have reviewed these decisions, and while it is indisputable that these are accurate references, they are not germane to the case now before us.

The Chair has reviewed the terms of the main motion and has taken into account the nature of its wording. The wording of the proposed amendment is linked directly to the text of the main motion and touches on various concepts found therein. It appears to the Chair that the proposed amendment does not stray beyond the scope of the main motion but rather aims to further refine its meaning and intent.

Thus the Chair is of the opinion that the requirements for amendments outlined in Beauchesne's citations 567 and 568 have been met.

I therefore rule that the amendment is procedurally acceptable and will be proposed by the Chair when next this government order is called.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

moved:

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:

  1. 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.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

York North Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to ask some questions and make some comments on the speech of the hon. member for Mercier. As always, she takes a very pessimistic outlook on this legislation.

For the record, Canadians from coast to coast to coast participated in what was perhaps the most extensive consultation process in Canadian history. Over 100,000 people participated. The hon. member for Mercier was a very active member of the human resources development committee that was looking at the modernization and restructuring of Canada's social security system. The hon. member heard what I heard. She heard what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister heard.

What Canadians were saying was that they wanted an unemployment insurance system, a social security system that would help the most vulnerable in our society, that would help Canadians find jobs and keep their jobs and to do that in a sustainable fashion. They realized the skyrocketing costs of unemployment insurance from $8 billion in 1982 to $20 billion in 1992. They realized the distortions which exist in the marketplace where 38 per cent of benefits are directed to 14 per cent of the firms and represent 12 per cent of the people. They realized that all these things needed to be changed because the status quo simply was not serving the people it was supposed to serve.

Throughout this process we engaged Canadians in a serious debate about the issues. If we look at the objectives and clearly analyse the EI bill which was tabled, we find that those objectives are met. The hon. member said that this is a regressive piece of legislation. She should rethink, re-read and re-analyse what is in the legislation.

The hon. member does not talk about the progressive measures found in the legislation. Over 500,000 Canadians who were excluded and marginalized by the Unemployment Insurance Act will now be covered by the legislation. Part time workers count. Every hour, every dollar, every effort which they make will be rewarded under the legislation.

The hon. member did not talk about the family income supplement which will allow people to receive up to 80 per cent of their average earnings. The hon. member did not talk about that because it is too positive to mention. She did not talk about the people who are included in the legislation. She did not talk about the fact that low income Canadians will be able to earn $50 without being penalized or taxed back. She did not talk about the fact that by reducing premium rates for business, job creation will be enhanced. Employees will be helped because they too will participate in the employment insurance fund.

The hon. member tried to depict the federal government as a government which imposes its rules and regulations upon the provinces. That is not the case. The legislation is quite open. It says that the federal government will negotiate with the provinces on wage supplements, top ups, self-employment assistance, skills and loans. It will also work together with the provinces on job corps partnerships.

Why is the hon. member continuing, like every member of the Bloc, this misinformation campaign? They are trying to confuse Canadians. Canadians know that the employment insurance program which was introduced speaks to the number one issue facing Canadians, and that is job creation. Over 100,000 jobs will be created directly as a result of measures taken by the bill.

I am quite surprised. The hon. member knows that the province of Quebec has historically benefited from the unemployment insurance program and it will continue to do so under the employment insurance program. She also knows that she will benefit from the $300 million transition fund in high unemployment areas.

I have a simple question for the hon. member: Why does the Bloc Quebecois continue this misinformation campaign? Why does it not tell the real story to Canadians?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the hon. member did not address the motion because, given its wording, he could only have agreed with me. We will discuss the overall UI reform project when we debate the UI bill.

The motion before the House this morning provides that Quebec should control manpower policy. The hon. member remained silent on that issue, because he knows that I am right. What is really important is to ensure that the unemployed have the best guarantees to get help to find decent jobs.

Let me digress for a moment to say that, yes, I did participate in the consultation exercise. Canadians from everywhere told us that the real issue was jobs, not employability. And in order to create jobs, it is essential to have a co-ordinated manpower policy.

This is why this motion deals with manpower policy. In that regard, and regardless of the October 30 results, the National Assembly was unanimous in demanding, yesterday, that Quebec have control over the manpower sector, and that the central government leave that field of jurisdiction and stop interfering in it. The vote was unanimous: 96 to 0, with no abstentions. Moreover, that unanimity also exists among businesses, unions, co-ops and community groups.

I would have liked the parliamentary secretary to comment on our motion. I can only conclude, with some pleasure, that if he did not do it, it is because he would have had to say, assuming he is in favour of an efficient manpower policy in Quebec: "Yes, you are right. The central government should get out of that sector".

The parliamentary secretary said that Quebec benefited from the UI program. The fact is that Quebec and the Maritimes were the ones that bore the brunt of the 1994 reform. The same is true again with this reform. Indeed, by the year 2001, Quebec alone will have to deal with an annual shortfall of $735 million, in addition to a reduction of over $640 million in UI benefits.

I thank the hon. member for finally agreeing with me that the central government had to leave that sector.

[English]

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a few brief questions for my colleague from Mercier.

It becomes very obvious to me as I listen to Bloc members that they are only interested in Quebec. Because of that I question the fact that they should even be the official opposition in this matter, but that is simply an aside. We have to take into account the concerns of all Canadians. I have a very difficult time seeing how the concerns she has expressed differ in any way from the concerns all Canadians have. Therefore, I cannot support this motion as it presently stands.

We all want jobs. She states that Quebec wants a vibrant economy and jobs. Is that not true for all of Canada? Should we not be moving toward a policy that addresses this across the nation? She says there is a culture in Quebec. Do we not have a culture in the rest of Canada? Yes we do. That also has to be taken into account.

Why is Quebec asking only for control over the educational aspects of this and not control over the rest of the program? I cannot understand why Bloc members are only picking and choosing some of the things they want. I find that very difficult to understand. Perhaps the member can clarify for me her party's position on this.

I realize that education is a provincial matter. I agree with the member that the provinces should be looking after the training programs because those are truly educational aspects of the program. If that is the case, why not reduce the premiums to the point where they do not include the educational aspect? The government has admitted that by reducing the premiums a lot of jobs would be created. Why is the member not working on that aspect of reducing the premiums and letting the Government of Quebec tax its own people for the educational aspects of this program?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I shall be brief. First of all, I would like to tell my hon. colleague that yes, Canada does have a culture. What I am saying is that we ought to organize along cultural lines, since the economy, the organization of manpower policy, are linked to culture, after all.

The Quebec National Assembly's demand-I could provide a Translation of it, but I imagine the interpreter will deal with it now-goes beyond the educational aspect. It is stated, and it has been adopted unanimously, that 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.

It is, therefore, a matter of jurisdiction and of encroachment, but for the sake of efficiency. We want to have control over overall co-ordination because we can see the inefficiency of the present system and the great needs. Now he is accusing me of not speaking for all of Canada. Let me tell you, if anybody has travelled across Canada and given voice to the needs I saw everywhere, it is I.

Except that this morning, with the National Assembly resolution, I felt it extremely important to state that these demands have unanimous support in Quebec. I am, however, aware that debates need to be held in Canada on centralization and decentralization. Knowing that I am not able to answer for Canadians on this, I wish for a debate. I think one is necessary.

But the debate is over with in Quebec; this is the consensus of Quebec, the consensus of a variety of groups, unions, businesses, community groups, and so on; it is true for the province as whole, it is true for the regions. So now we wonder what are they waiting for before giving us back the tools needed for results, instead of continuing along with this unproductive duplication and overlap.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate in the House of Commons on the motion, particularly since the hon. member for Mercier could be nominated for the Quebec prize for literature, the Prix Athanase-David. Her speech is a great example of fiction writing, and I trust that all of her colleagues in this House will support her nomination after hearing it. This is an excellent example of the Bloc's talent for writing complete and utter fantasy.

When we read the Bloc motion, we wonder where its members have been. Like Rip Van Winkle, they have been asleep for the last while. They neither take into account the statement made by the Prime Minister, which says very clearly that we will be prepared and in fact will welcome the opportunity to give full responsibility for education and training to the provinces.

The tabling last Friday of the legislation for employment insurance clearly indicates once again that the area of education and training is the jurisdiction of the provinces. Furthermore, we would go beyond that and take in those areas of direct employment activity that are within our constitutional orbit and share with the provinces, sit down and work in concert with the provinces, plan with the provinces, co-operate with the provinces for one reason: to develop a partnership for employment.

Yet the Bloc members bring in a motion that totally and completely misses the point. They are saying that somehow there will be more intrusion, more activity, and no withdrawal. It seems to me that this group simply cannot take yes for an answer. When we say we are going to do exactly what is being proposed, they seem oblivious, unable to filter it out. That only confirms my suspicion that all the speeches, all the motions, and all the commentaries were written before we even got around to making good on the initiative of the Prime Minister or tabling legislation. They just pulled it out of the old vault, took out the old speeches from the old drawers, put a new date on it, and presented it once again without taking a look at reality or the facts or the hopeful signs.

With the initiative we announced on Friday I believe we can begin developing a whole new set of relationships with provinces, communities, and individuals directed toward the creation of jobs and employment in this country. It is the beginning of a new dialogue about how we can come together and form arrangements so we can share responsibility. If people are unemployed they do not care whether it is a provincial or a federal jurisdiction, they simply want a job. That is what it is all about.

As I listened to the hon. member for Mercier carefully, what was beginning to creep into the language was that she was far more concerned about transferring power to bureaucrats in provincial capitals than putting money directly into the hands of individuals so they can get back to work. That is the real issue. It is power that is at the heart of this motion, not employment. It is the opportunity to control and manage, not to provide a new form of empowerment for individuals. That is what the debate is really about. It is really oldspeak government. It is really setting the clock back.

When Canadians, in whatever region, are looking for government to provide new leadership, new formulas, new methods, we have an opposition party that is retreating back into the romantic past, trying once again to dig up the old speeches that were written 30 or 40 years ago and not dealing with the difficult new realities in a world where work has changed.

The major modernization of the insurance system of Canada for employment is pegged on one important reality: the world of work is changing and we must keep up and be relevant to that world of work. That is why the measures we have introduced state that the clear responsibility that was given by the provinces to the federal government in 1941 to be responsible for the basic insurance program for Canadians dealing with unemployment had to be modernized. I will be the first to say that throughout the years it has been a good program. It has provided an enormous bridge of support for generation after generation of Canadians who have faced unemployment.

We should take some real pride in the fact that the federal government has been able to ensure not only security for the individual but security for the regions. Areas where there was wealth, growth, and jobs were able to share with those who were less advantaged. That has been the genius of the program. It was built on sharing, something our hon. friends opposite forget about. Sharing is not part of their vocabulary. Co-operation is not part of their vocabulary, the notion that somehow they can have a national system of insurance that enables Canadians to distribute support and security because we all mutually benefit from it. It is not a matter of charity but of good investment. We must make sure we can support the various measures in areas where they are faced with high unemployment so that those areas with lower unemployment do not have to bear the full burden in a geographic way.

This plan has worked for most of its years, but it is changing because Canada is changing. What we have been discovering in the last decade or so is that the original architecture was no longer sufficient to meet a world where the work has changed, a world where we now have hundreds of thousands of part time workers, where there are multiple job owners who were not being given any protection, where individuals were facing much tougher problems of adjustment when jobs or skills changed.

There is one thing that is clear from every single analysis and study that has been done internationally and nationally: the higher the level of literacy, skill and education, the better the chance for a job. There are lots of anecdotes and examples of people with good degrees who cannot find work. That is one reason we have introduced the youth internship program, which enables young people to move from school to work in an easier fashion through industry support and small business.

We know we have to invest in those areas. We also know that increasingly people need to get re-employment much quicker and faster than they do now and that there are useful tested means of achieving that.

We spent the last two years working on various projects using wage supplements where the small business community that wants to hire a new worker but does not have quite the cash flow or is concerned it will not get full productivity or full learning in the first six or eight months is reluctant to make that commitment. Wage supplements open the door. We have seen in place after place that we have 70 per cent to 80 per cent improvement in job retention as a result of that measure and that we can extend work by 14 or 15 weeks. This is what is important, that we add about $4,000 to $5,000 additional income.

In talking about the employment insurance program, people get tied down talking about their benefits. What we have to talk about is their income. How do we improve people's income? The best way to improve income is by employment. That is the best way of doing it. If people simply rely year after year on a benefit program they begin to lose the ability to be in the job market and also their income does not grow. Governments are having tight times. Provincial governments everywhere are cutting back on those assistance programs. The real thing is to have a springboard back into the job market.

We have said we are going to take all the programs we have, 39 programs, and bring them down to five simple employment measures. These are not programs with their own organizations and their own bureaucracies, but a basic set of measures that are available to individuals to get back to work. They make the choice.

I find it amazing that the members of the opposition do not have much trust in individual choice, that they really do not believe that individuals can exercise the right to decide how to get back to work and how to make these tools work. They really have lost faith in the right of individuals to be able to choose and decide, not exclusively but with some support. We know that oftentimes individuals thrown totally into the market by themselves do need some assistance, but assistance that works.

However, the opposition members talk about transferring from one government to another and all these kinds of things. They have lost the sense that individuals are what really count and that they should be given the opportunities to make those choices. At the same time, they have also lost something else that is very important to recognize. It goes back to the fundamental importance of the employment insurance system: it is a federal constitutional responsibility and people pay in premiums.

The hon. member from the Bloc Quebecois shakes his head. This is a party that spends its entire question period and its entire existence in the House arguing about federalism in the Constitution. Yet this hon. gentleman does not know that in 1941 the provinces ceded responsibility for unemployment insurance to the federal government. That is incredible ignorance for someone who likes to say he knows what he is talking about. He does not know a simple reality of the history of this country.

When people pay a premium they have a right to a benefit. That is what they are investing in, the right to that benefit. Now the Bloc Quebecois is saying no, just turn the money over to a bunch of bureaucrats and they will decide whether they get the benefit for not; it is no longer his or her right as an individual to have that benefit. That is what the Bloc members are saying in this motion, that individuals in Quebec who pay a premium no longer will be assured of the right to get the benefit of that because it is going to be decided somewhere else. As a result, the fundamental principle of the insurance program is taken away.

I do not think that is a very popular notion in Quebec or anywhere else. What is recognized is that they are fundamentally undermining the philosophy of the insurance program, which is that people contribute to protect themselves against the risk of unemployment. That is what it is all about.

I am surprised at the lack of understanding of the hon. member about the history of federalism in the country wherein that was ceded by the provinces to give us the insurance program. I am even more concerned about the sense of neglect of the principle of insurance, that is that people pay for the protection.

Basically we are saying that they will be eligible for an income benefit and an employment benefit. The employment benefit has within it five basic measures: a wage supplement, with highly effective evaluations in terms of getting people back to work.

Income supplements tested out in New Brunswick and British Columbia over the past year show that people on lower incomes who would not take jobs because the income was not sufficient to pay for their family needs will take the jobs if there is a small top up. Thirty-three per cent are now back to work today compared to only 3 per cent in the general area of proven success.

Turning to self-employment, Canada is the self-employment capital of the world. We are generating more opportunities for individuals to start their own businesses. In a matter of two years of testing the program for unemployment insurance, over 30,000 people started their own businesses. Each created a job for another person. In other words 60,000 jobs were created as a result of the measure.

Hon. members of the opposition want to deny people that. They say: "Don't do that. Don't give people the right to self-employment, to start their own businesses, to create jobs for themselves or somebody else".

SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

They have lost faith in the individual.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

They have lost faith in the individual. Yet that basic benefit was built into the program.

We also built in the basic partnership arrangement for job creation. Job fare is working in New Brunswick today involving 1,000 people from the forestry industry, older workers mainly. They are now back to doing reforestation, rebuilding that resource of the nation, cleaning it up and creating a resource that will be richer for the next generation of people.

Then we have the skills voucher that is available to individuals. That is where we come to an interesting point. We have said clearly in the legislation that in terms of the application of the voucher we will do so only with the consent of the provincial governments involved because it is their jurisdiction. We will not deliver it if they say no. It is not our right to do so. We think it is important that individuals have the right to make that choice. If getting back to work means a three-week program in computer upgrading, they should have that right. If the province says no, I will respect that.

I want to go beyond that. In all the measures I have talked about we are prepared to sit down with each province to work on a business plan of protocol, a year by year arrangement to determine the best allocation of the measures and to eliminate all duplication. Where the province has a program that can deliver that kind of opportunity to an individual who is our client, I am prepared to use it.

This is contrary to what the member for Mercier said. We should not listen to her. Frankly the hon. member for Mercier has an incredible track record in the House of crying wolf on misinformation. A year ago she was saying: "Oh, my God, you have changed the UI system. There will be 200,000 people on welfare". Where did it go? It did not happen. In fact it began to get a bit better. We have to look at her track record.

I make very clear that in the province of Quebec the SPRINT program provides a training voucher for people to go back to work. If the province is agreeable we can use it. Clients who pay a premium and get the benefit can use that direct program. I have no problem with that. It is perfectly good. I do not want to duplicate but that means sitting down province by province to work out the arrangements.

The one test I must have as a trustee of the insurance program is to ensure that those people who have paid into the program are eligible for the benefits and that they have a chance at being re-employed because that is the nature of the new benefits.

The member is creating a great fantasy of huge standards and intrusions. Once again the prize for fiction goes to the member for Mercier for fabricating, making up, fantasizing and, more important, trying to scare people, fearmongering again. It is unfortunate. In many ways I have a great respect for the hon. member for Mercier. She is a good person and a compassionate person. The problem is that every time we have a debate in the House-

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11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

First of all she leaves.

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11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

That is another problem. She does not listen too well. Let us put it that way. Nevertheless everything is filtered through the prism of her separatist philosophy. That is the problem.

She cannot look at a major new program to help unemployed people. She cannot deal with the fact that we want to totally rework federal-provincial relations to transfer far more responsibility to the provinces, to transfer all responsibility for training. She cannot see that because everything is filtered through a separatist black box. It does not allow the hon. member and her colleagues to see the opportunities which exist.

I should like to clarify another important point. The hon. member made claims that this would be offloading on the provinces and that it would create problems. I point out something that has not been deliberately omitted but certainly has not been commented on by opposition members. An important initiative in the legislation is to extend for up to three years to all those who have had an attachment to the insurance system their eligibility for employment benefits. People who have exhausted their claims will now be eligible to start their own businesses with a self-employment program, to get a training voucher or to receive a wage supplement.

This means that 40 per cent of the people presently on the social assistance rolls in the province of Quebec will now be eligible for re-employment benefits. At a time when the provincial government is cutting back on those benefits we are filling the vacuum. That is a very crucial reason negotiation is so important.

There is an opportunity to harmonize our efforts. There is a real opportunity to separate those on assistance from those on the insurance program because in many cases they are the same person. Let us deliver through provincial programs such as APPORT. Bloc members have forgotten that last summer I signed an agreement with the provincial Government of Quebec to contribute to the APPORT program, specifically to test how provincial governments could deliver direct employment measures. Now we are seeing the benefits of that.

I am pleased that the assembly has agreed to negotiate. It is a first step; it is a good first step. The minister of employment for Quebec has already thrown conditions into the process, but I do not mind. I invited her over a month ago to have discussions. I am willing and open. Once we get together to form a partnership we can talk about how to bring the measures together to help those who have exhausted their benefits but want to be employed and about how we can ensure that the benefits paid out are delivered efficiently and without duplication.

Those are the real opportunities this measure opens up. It is a way of redefining how we work as governments and how we can work together. It means redefining the role of government for the individuals and giving far more responsibility, choice and hope to individuals of being able to find work. They will know there is support and they are not being left alone.

It also means an opportunity to help rebuild communities. One of the interesting developments in Quebec is that it is reorganizing down to the community level. I am doing the same in my department. We are reorganizing so that we have far more autonomy and discretion at the local, community and regional levels. If we can get together with provincial governments to agree on decentralization down to the community level, to let them make choices about the best way of employing people, we have done something very exciting. We have redefined governments in their relationships with each other, with individuals and with the community. We can provide the strength to rebuild the communities, to rebuild the employment system in Canada and to rebuild the country while we are doing it.

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11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment, to set the record straight. Reacting to my shaking my head-it was not even something I said-the minister went off on a tangent and said I did not know the history of Canada and the Constitution.

I shook my head to indicate that there was nothing in the Constitution originally, although of course the minister is right, in that the provinces agreed to a constitutional amendment that gave the federal government responsibility for unemployment insurance. I want to make that clear, and I think it was in 1941. I wanted to make that clear.

The minister is intelligent, dedicated, energetic and well intentioned, and he probably wants to improve things, except when he says that the hon. member for Mercier does not listen too well. I want to appeal to his own ability to listen, because in the days to come, it seems there may be a meeting between the minister and the Quebec Minister of Employment. I hope he will go to this meeting with an open mind. In fact, I hope both parties will.

This morning, he seemed to be open to discussion. I am not the Quebec Minister of Employment. I am in the opposition here in Ottawa. I am also a member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, and like the hon. member for Mercier, the minister's parliamentary secretary and the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, I travelled with the committee across Canada last year. I listened to people, and of course I do not share the assessment that was made of a consensus in this respect. I may remind the minister that everywhere there were demonstrations, and 75 or 80 per cent of the briefs boiled down to the following: Mr. Minister, no cuts, please. That is history. But yesterday in the Quebec National Assembly, and that will be the subject of my question to the minister-

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11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Of the Government of Canada?

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11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Yes, of the Government of Canada, of course. There are some things that I, as a Quebecer, would like to say to the minister, and this morning I have the opportunity to do so. The fact is that throughout the year, throughout our travels, we saw two ways of looking at reality. The majority of Quebecers, in all parties, including the Quebec Liberal Party and the Conseil du patronat, have the same perception of reality. The people of Quebec have the same perception of reality.

The minister made it clear this morning. I am not criticizing his personal values which dictate that the individual is entitled to insurance. I can go along with that. I heard that very often in English Canada too, I must admit. But in Quebec, as long as it was unemployment insurance, there were never any complaints. It is true that Quebec had agreed, I think it was in 1941, to have unemployment insurance come under federal jurisdiction. But since that time, especially these last few years, Quebec has demanded control over funds allocated to unemployment insurance from the federal consolidated revenue fund for training and employability improvement services, arguing that these matters came within the same jurisdiction as education and training. There lies the source of the dispute, if you will, that has been going on for some time now, namely that when the federal government takes money from the unemployment fund for training it is meddling in a provincial jurisdiction.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has surely received a copy of the resolution passed by the National Assembly. As I have been asking him since yesterday, is the minister ready to recognize Quebec's sole responsibility for labour adjustment and job training policies in Quebec, according to the unanimous wish of Liberal Party members, even those who were in the no camp in Quebec?

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11:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before giving the floor to the minister, I would simply remind my colleagues that all

questions must be put through the Chair in order to keep the discussion within parliamentary rules.

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11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to direct my remarks to such a distinguished resident of the central office of the House.

First let me apologize to the hon. member if I misinterpreted his earlier comments about the Constitution. His clarification is certainly reasonable. It will fully restore my respect for his constitutional knowledge and judgment.

Let me get to the central point which is the question the hon. member raised. The reality is that we have clearly said that all choices and decisions about the nature of education and training will be made by provincial governments. We are withdrawing from the course purchases which have been the standard pattern over the past few years where federal bureaucrats would sit down with their counterparts and decide which courses would be available to clients. It will be purely a provincial choice.

We are withdrawing from apprenticeship training, co-op education and a number of other measures because we believe that the fundamental questions of curriculum, supply, institutions, course, faculty, all the things that make up the basic training and education are provincial choices, purely within their jurisdiction.

We are also prepared to go one step further and say there are other programs, not training, but which are directly related to employment and if a provincial government is able, wants to, is prepared to and has the mechanisms to decide how to make them available, that is fine. All I have to make sure is the person who is the insuree, who puts the money into the pot, is able to get the benefit back. That is the test and a requirement under the act, under the Constitution as the trustee for that insurance program.

The design, system of delivery and the nature of how training takes places are clearly and simply provincial responsibilities. It is important to recognize it cannot take place through a simple block transfer. As we have learned in the past, a block transfer with provinces does not end up in the programs it is intended for.

Quebec has been one of the better provinces in ensuring transfers for education and health end up in those programs. There are a lot of provinces in which a lot of roads have been built with money that was supposed to go to universities and a lot of provincial public buildings built with money supposed to go into the health care system.

As a result we have to ensure that when my colleague pays into the program she has a right to expect a benefit in return. That is all. We are saying we are substantially simplifying those benefits. We are basically saying that the 39 programs my department would run are being taken down to five measures. Those are not even programs, they are simply a tool. The provinces will be able to design that tool.

I use the example of the SPRINT program in Quebec which I think is a good program, a system to get people back to work. If Quebec is prepared to make that available to clients in the employment insurance program, let us do it and get them back to work. Those are the kinds of discussion I want to have.

I can assure the hon. member that we will discuss in good faith. We have invited the provincial ministers to meet with us and I am looking forward to that because I think there is a chance for a new, fresh, innovative dialogue with the provinces on this very crucial issue.

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11:15 a.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the experience the minister displays in his career in politics is very obvious. He is a very good speaker and I compliment him on that. I am sure he would do very well selling air conditioning units at the north pole.

As I listened to him there were several glaring contradictions. I have a series of questions related to these. He makes the same mistake as the Bloc when he appeals to history for what he is doing. Back in 1941 the government was given permission to run an unemployment insurance program. It is no longer a true insurance program.

My question is a very obvious one. Why does he appeal to this mandate back in 1941 to support what he is presently doing, making this a grand federal scheme that does not include only insurance? Why does he not return this to a true insurance program and only that?

Is there a long range plan behind all this? It is obvious this is simply tinkering. Is there some direction? Are we going to go beyond this?

The minister's press releases said a five-cent reduction in the premiums will create 20,000 jobs approximately. If that is true, 20,000 jobs with the unemployment we have is a drop in the bucket. If we can create jobs by tinkering with it only five cents, what is stopping the minister from reducing the premiums even more and creating more jobs? That is a very obvious question and a contradiction as far as I am concerned in what the minister is saying. If he wants to really create jobs why is he not doing more?

There is doublespeak. He says we are putting money in the hands of the individuals for empowerment. Why is he taking it out in the first place? The federal government charges a big handling fee whenever it takes money and does whatever it wants with it. Bureaucrats do not work for free.

I have several other questions. Perhaps throughout the day I will have a chance to ask them. I have asked three key questions we need answered now.

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11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his compliments. I wish my father were here to listen to him. He may actually believe them. My father was an insurance agent. He had a small insurance agency in the north end of Winnipeg. It was enough to keep us together and to go to school.

I learned one lesson when he was involved in the insurance field and that is the best way to be a good insurer is to reduce the risk. When he sold casualty insurance or fire insurance he always went along with a good program to ensure that people would have good wiring in their houses, that they would reduce the risk of accidents, whether it was health or safety or whatever.

When we have an unemployment insurance system, what do we do? We reduce the risk of unemployment. That is the best way to bring costs down, to protect against it. That is why it is a full insurance program. That is why as a trustee we have to invest in getting people back to work. That was the fundamental purpose.

It would be interesting if the hon. member read the debates from the House in the early 1940s. He would learn from that. The basic premise was that only on a national level could we ensure there was both a spread and sharing of the risk but also that we would try to reduce the risk. Only a national government which was responsible for the management of the overall economy could provide the kind of priorities and judgments in concert with others. That is why the provinces ceded responsibility at that time.

The hon. member would know that insurance is very much a question of reducing risk. That is why in our business we want to invest in bringing down unemployment and giving people a chance to get back to work.

The second question is legitimate. As the hon. member knows, we try to balance our program. When we want to talk about creating jobs we do not do it by one mechanism alone. Reducing costs for business is one important way but it is not the only way.

I have explained in the House a couple of times that what we want to do first is build up a reserve. It means we can protect against the really quite tragic and disastrous effects of what happened in the early nineties when the previous government did not have a reserve fund. When the recession hit it had to escalate premiums by almost 95 cents. It was the classic putting on the brakes while trying to go up hill.

The reality is the unemployment insurance system was designed to put money into the economy as a counter cyclical measure at a time when a recession is taking place. That government pulled money out because there was no reserve built up in order to insure and stabilize employment.

It was a clear recommendation to the House of Commons committee by business, labour and other groups that we have to build up a reserve, which is what we want to do.

We are still paying off the deficit of the nineties. We inherited a $6 billion deficit in the UI account when we came to government. We have been wearing that away for the past two years. That is why we need to build up the reserve. Each year the Minister of Finance will take a look at the accumulation in that reserve and how it can then be adjusted for further reductions for business.

This year we thought we would be prudent and give a premium reduction. We have also provided savings to business by making a substantial simplification of the system. We will have the ROE, the bugbear of business, which will be substantially simplified and will save $150 million. That is a good first step.

We froze premiums when we came in. We have now reduced them as a first step. We are bringing down the cost for business and each year it will be reviewed.

In the meantime we can assure Canadians, at a time when the business cycle becomes more difficult, we will have a reserve so we will not be taking money out of the economy when we actually want to stimulate the economy.

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11:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

While these compliments are going across the floor and directed to the Chair, I must say it is appreciated. However, what we appreciate the most is the respect the House continues to show for our institution through the Chair and its occupant at any one time.

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11:25 a.m.

Reform

Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to request of you and through you to the minister that any remarks on the presence or absence of my colleague from Mercier, as was made in the previous portion of the debate, be deleted from Hansard .

She is accorded the respect of all of us according to parliamentary procedures. One of the core issues relevant to that respect is that we do not remark on whether she is here or not. There were comments made by the minister during his speech and by colleagues surrounding him that may be part of the blues. I would like that to be addressed.

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11:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Let me see if I can be helpful from my perspective. I am certainly satisfied that at no time did the Minister of Human Resources Development make any reference to the absence of anyone in the House. I will review the blues and if someone else did then it would be a matter for the Chair to take under advisement.

I appreciate the reminder by the member for Calgary Southeast not only of a tradition but a rule of the House that is very important to our deliberations. We all know the constraints on our time away from the House. Therefore I fully respect the member's intervention.

I do not think there is a point of order. We are engaging in debate. I will return to the debate on the motion of the official opposition.