Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to debate this amendment.
First, we can ask ourselves why the Reform Party felt the need to move this kind of an amendment. There is a very good reason for that.
The fact is that, as plentiful as the information available from Human Resources Development Canada may be, it is not very clear. More often than not, you get a pile of information, but the way this information is presented or interpreted, you cannot make much sense of it. And if ever there was an area in which things have to be set out clearly, this is it.
Take for example the statements made by the minister yesterday about those who misuse the UI system, in which he puts in the same basket abusers and people who simply misunderstood a rule. I doubt that any one of us understands every single rule set in the UI Act. At present, the available information can be used to substantiate just about any statement on the subject.
That is why it is important that clearer information be provided, so that our decisions can be based on facts and actual results, instead of using information to support individual perceptions, which may or may not be accurate.
It may be important to be able to look at a piece of legislation like the UI Act and ask ourselves: "In this whole thing, what have we done about money, about labour force participation? How efficient have these measures been and what positive results did they have?" It is especially important to answer these questions as early as possible in the process, because this factual information is needed not only to report on how things went, but also to make appropriate changes to our approaches and attitudes and to develop more pro-active policies.
In our present economic context, there are many indications of the fact that economic growth does result, as would be expected, in job creation. In order for the government to adjust quickly and for Parliament to be able to make interesting suggestions in this regard, information must be made available as soon as possible. With the electronic tools that are available today, it should be possible to produce information more quickly.
There is more. The system used by Human Resources Development Canada is very complicated. It is very difficult and hard to evaluate actual effectiveness. It goes without saying that this is partly due to the fact that the federal government gets involved in all sorts of areas which do not directly come under its jurisdiction and that a lot of money is paid in transfer payments to other levels of government. In the end, the public has a hard time assessing the situation. This is currently the case with all the information and perceptions that shape public opinion regarding unemployment insurance reform.
Those who are currently experiencing the reality of unemployment insurance, who are unemployed, who found out that, this year, they will not have the required number of weeks to complete the cycle and have a decent income throughout the year know very well what it means, because their income, the money they require for their daily needs, is affected.
On the other hand, people can say from these figures, as the minister did yesterday, that there are over 100,000 cheaters taking advantage of the UI program. Who does that group include? Who are these people? What proportion is made up of people who acted in good faith? It would be interesting to know if these people are real cheaters or if they are simply guilty of misinterpretation.
Let me give you an example. Last year, the issue of insurability was raised. As you know, people who have a business or a company are insurable under certain conditions, if the employee is not too closely involved in the decisions of the company, etc.
For one year now, we have been asking what the government's position is on this issue. Is the government doing something about this issue? Will it correct some situations? We were told: "Indeed, there is a problem; there is a backlog". However, we can never get
accurate data on it. This is the type of information we should have in a report, so that the problem can be solved once and for all.
This issue is not one of a political nature; it has nothing to do with partisanship or political ideology. It is merely a matter of looking into something that does not work from an administrative point of view and finding a solution. The way to do that is to have the necessary information.
When you know that there is a backlog of hundreds of cases in a region, in the offices of Revenue Canada, and that these cases could be dealt with, through a decentralizing process, in the offices of the Department of Human Resources Development, when you have the figures and the reports, then it simply becomes a matter of having the political courage to apply the necessary solutions and to make the required changes.
In this respect, the amendment proposed by the Reform Party at least expresses the frustration of having to deal with a huge bureaucracy full of information but which is very sparing with this information.
Let us take another example. We are now considering a number of very minor amendments that will not change much to the unfairness of UI reform, but we are unable to find out from the department what the economic impact of these amendments would be. This kind of long-delayed information leaves room for a lot of useless interpretation.
It can be said that this amendment is legitimate, that we should be given the information needed so that people can find out without delay how effective a department is, so that parliamentarians and members of the human resources committee can respond as quickly as possible.
Let us look at the impact of deadlines. If the report is tabled early enough, we can interpret the results, see right away the impact on the next budget year and make the required corrections. If the information comes a year late every time, by the time we try to address it, the problem is already elsewhere. So there is something to be done in this respect.
Also, the federal government should tell us clearly what its vision is in terms of numbers, given what has been said in the last few years on duplication, on the costs generated by two levels of government getting involved in the area of manpower.
Why is this not clearly specified in the department's annual report? Is it because the costs confirm what the Bloc Quebecois is denouncing, that the federal government should withdraw? Or is it because the information was never sought, which would be even more serious? This amounts to closing one's eyes to a reality that is intolerable and should be changed. Closing one's eyes and saying: "We are staying the course simply because we think we are right and because we are the federal government".
This kind of attitude would surprise me. It must be because they have not succeeded in setting up mechanisms to obtain information more quickly, and in today's society, information is power. Information allows us to make changes, to adjust our programs to the reality people are experiencing. In this regard, the amendment is interesting.
Will the government pay attention to this amendment? I hope so, and I hope for at least some changes in the way information is made available to us, so that we can be assured that our information is as accurate as possible before making decisions.
Let us think, for example, about all the studies commissioned by the government with regard to UI reform. Of 23 studies, 8 were made public. Where are the other 15? What is in those studies? Did they, in fact, contain nothing of interest, or were they not in line with the government's reform?
These are questions that we are asking ourselves, questions that we are entitled to ask, and, once again, that explain why we are looking for clearer information so that we may understand the reasoning behind the Reform Party's amendment. We want to see the government come up with more effective tools for managing information so that we can treat people better, ultimately, and so that Quebecers and Canadians, whether they are employed, unemployed or looking for work, have the greatest chance possible of receiving top service.
We still do not see this information in Bill C-96, and we would like to have the necessary information to be able to do something about the reality we face. We would like to be able to identify, among the 750,000 unemployed people in Canada today, those able to complete their training and move into the available jobs, and eliminate unemployment in Canada.
In short, the amendment seems interesting. It should be considered by the government, and I hope that, afterwards, we can have the most satisfactory management information system possible.