Mr. Speaker, the government motion before us would allow a minister or member to reinstate, in the first 30 sitting days of this session, a bill to the legislative stage it had reached at the time of prorogation, as soon as he or she proposes the motion for first reading. In theory, this would enable the government to resuscitate all bills before the House at the time of prorogation. Private bills would be treated the same way.
The amendment put forward by my colleague from Berthier-Montcalm is aimed at dividing the process in as many parts as there are bills, since a member could object to the reinstatement of any bill. The bill would then have to go back to square one, especially if it is challenged and opposed by the public. I am thinking in particular of the bill respecting employment insurance in Canada.
I think that the government motion is irregular and undemocratic. When a government ends a session, it means that it has done its job or that it faces new challenges and wants to give its mandate a new direction. The Liberals, who are now in power, held a very
different view in 1991: they felt that such a motion was irregular and undemocratic when the Tories tried to use it for the first time.
I will quote a few statements made by the same people who are now sitting on the government side of this House. Let us look at some members' statements. I will start with the hon. member for LaSalle-Émard, who is now Minister of Finance, and I quote: "We find ourselves in the situation we are now in. The bill died on the Order Paper. In its supreme arrogance and lack of understanding, this government comes to us and says: `we would like to reinstate it"'. He called a bill similar to the one now before the House arrogant and incomprehensible.
I continue with another quote. For his part, the hon. member for Cape Breton-East Richmond felt that the government was "trying to reinstate legislation which has fallen dead as a result of the government's own ineptitude and subsequent action with regard to proroguing this Parliament". That is exactly what this government is doing. It ended the last session by proroguing Parliament.
One last quote, because I do not want to quote them all. I will conclude with the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, who is still a member of Parliament and an influential government member. He said: "The implications of ruling this motion in order would be such that I fear we could render-if a government wanted to, and I am not saying that it does-this House of Commons totally irrelevant and redundant." That is what members of this government had to say on the issue back in 1991, when they were in opposition.
If this practice was described as unacceptable in 1991, what makes it acceptable today? If the Conservatives called certain Liberal opposition members stupid and self-righteous for doing this, how are the Liberals different from the Conservatives? Personally, I can see no difference as far as this bill is concerned.
If the government decided to prorogue Parliament, it must have had good reasons for doing so: to renew its legislative agenda. What does it need this kind of procedure for then? The bills that could be reintroduced are not, by definition, new. If the government wants to reintroduce one or two of its old bills, it can do so through the normal process, which includes debating. But there is more. Some of these bills are unacceptable to the Bloc Quebecois as well as to the people of Quebec and Canada.
A case in point is one the major pieces of legislation that died on the Order Paper, namely Bill C-111, the employment insurance bill. This bill is unacceptable to us. Clearly, and we all read the papers and watch the news on the tube, protests are on the rise. As far as I can see, the people of Quebec and Canada are horrified at the current situation and at the decisions made by this government.
Bill C-111 penalizes the unemployed, those who do not have a job, and it penalizes women, a group that I have the honour of representing in this House. Let me tell you how it penalizes women; you will see what I mean.
An impact assessment carried out by the federal government shows that the hardest hit will be individuals earning less than $25,000. It is a well known fact that the low income earners of our society are women, women and young people also. Second, eligibility requirements would be tighter, eligibility being determined on the basis of the total number of hours worked over a given time instead of the number of weeks worked. In addition, it will be much more difficult for first-time claimants to qualify, which means women re-entering the labour force after having been away for a long time and young people will be hit hard.
The program set out in Bill C-111 would greatly limit the number of people eligible for benefits. Moreover, while not being eligible for benefits, these people would still have to make contributions, thereby growing poorer. That is not employment insurance.
It is also proposed that workers who hold precarious and seasonal jobs would receive less benefits. The fact is that close to 70 per cent of part time workers are women. There are 1.5 million of them in Canada.
The bill is also unacceptable because the spouse's income would be taken into account in determining whether a person is entitled to the supplement. In other words, a woman whose spouse earns an income would not be eligible for such a supplement. This creates two forms of discrimination: one against all women, and the other against those who have a spouse, as opposed to living alone.
Finally, this bill seeks to reduce the maximum number of weeks of benefits. This measure would inevitably result in making people turn to welfare more quickly, and as such shifts the load onto another level of government. As we know, once a person ends up on welfare, it becomes very difficult for that person to find a job. In my own riding, it is a pity to see, on the one hand, the lack of available jobs and, on the other hand, the increasingly large number of welfare recipients.
The bill would also maintain duplication and overlap, something which does not promote the development of an efficient employment policy, nor employability for workers and women. As we know, there is a consensus in Quebec on the need to implement an effective employment policy.
Bill C-111 died on the Order Paper when Parliament prorogued, and it is a very good thing. The government should go back to the
drawing board and take responsibility for its indecisiveness, because this is how I see this legislation.
Since it was elected, this government has shown a remarkable lack of vision. It goes nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Last week's speech from the throne did nothing to improve the situation. Its main feature is that it is as vague as possible, so as to lend itself to any number of interpretations.
There is a truism in Canada that says that when everyone agrees with a statement, it is because that statement is totally meaningless. To let the government's motion go through today would be tantamount to encouraging the confusion that, unfortunately, has prevailed since the beginning of this Parliament.
The government must go back to the drawing board. It must try to come up with a new and consistent legislative agenda. After all, this is what prorogation is all about, is it not?
The amendment proposed by my colleague seeks to give this House some democratic control over the issues that we debate. It provides for the speedy passing of those bills for which there is unanimity, while excluding such a possibility for the more controversial ones. This amendment is a true reflection of the democratic spirit that must govern the proceedings of this House. This is why I ask all members to support it.
I also ask the Minister of Justice to reinstate Bill C-119, on genital mutilation. Even though this measure could be improved on, it deals with an issue for which a degree of consensus already exists in the House. Therefore, it would certainly be appropriate for the minister to take advantage of this opportunity provided by the hon. for Berthier-Montcalm.
Unlike Bill C-111 on employment insurance, Bill C-119 does not perpetuate, nor does it increase, discrimination against women. On the contrary, it seeks to ensure that women can continue to hope that their bodies will not be subjected to harsh treatment. We are grateful to the minister, and we urge him to continue his work in that respect.
I therefore ask the government to withdraw this bill and to come up with a new agenda that would take into account certain social and economic realities, as well as the realities of the labour market.