Mr. Speaker, I would like to enter the debate on Group No. 5. It is important to put these amendments in context.
One of the problems we had in committee was with the opposition as it relates to amendments important for the improvement of the bill.
One of the things we asked at the very beginning of the process was that if members of Parliament were serious about wanting to see improvements to the bill, that they were given ample opportunity not only in committee but in discussions individually with members and through the department to have their improvements put forward and vetted through the department. It would do an analysis and come up with recommendations about whether the amendment we are involved with would be appropriate under the circumstances.
The amendment by the member for Mercier is a perfect example of the shenanigans going on in the opposition. Filibustering took place over the number of weeks as we tried as a government to co-operate with the opposition for it to be successful in bringing amendments forward.
Instead of bringing amendments like this to the committee, we get a nonsensical amendment like the one we are debating today. This motion removes from Bill C-12 the whole clause 5, defining insurable employment, thus removing the foundation for EI coverage and premium payments completely.
It also proposes to remove from the UI act all references to penalty or stoppage of benefits for quitting without just cause and being fired for misconduct.
If we were to approve and accept this amendment it would totally put in chaos the unemployment insurance system as we know it today or as we are proposing under the new changes.
I want to make it very clear that we are debating a motion that is intended to filibuster the very important work of the House and waste the time of members. This motion should be completely out of order because it is nonsensical. If a member puts an amendment to a bill forward, at least put one that is reasonable and has some merit. Obviously this one does not.
It does not surprise me. I refer to other statements the member for Mercier made on what the bill does or does not do.
Not long ago in the House the member for Mercier claimed the bill does not promote job creation because it reduces inter-regional subsidization, that it will make the poor regions even poorer. When someone makes comments like that, it suggests somehow there is a diabolical scheme that will hurt the poorer provinces.
I want to put on record today some facts as they relate to that issue to coincide with some of the other amendments the member is proposing to prove to all the people who are listening, particularly in Quebec, how ridiculous this situation has become.
Look at the numbers. This is even before considering the allocation of the $800 million reinvestment in active measures. This relates to every dollar paid into the program in the years 2001-02. Keep in mind it relates to promoting job creation and the inter-regional subsidization.
In the year 2000-01 for every dollar workers in Prince Edward Island put in they will receive $2.77 in benefits out of the program. Newfoundlanders will receive $2.73 for every dollar they put in. Nova Scotians will receive $1.52 for every dollar they put into the system. New Brunswickers will receive $1.59 for every dollar they put into the system. In Quebec, the province members are talking about as being so hard done by in this piece of legislation, workers will receive $1.32 for every dollar they put in.
Keep that in mind because here is a member from Ontario speaking on behalf of his province. In Ontario workers will receive 76 cents for every dollar they put in. As Ontarians, if we are not sharing with the other provinces, the ones I have mentioned, then what are we doing? If we are not distributing wealth, then what exactly are we doing when we look at the facts?
Quite frankly, as a federalist I expect and accept that is what we are doing. That is the way we make the disparities in the regions disappear over time. We do it by helping the have not areas, by lifting them up, by putting them into a position where they can create employment, improve their training apparatus, get involved in giving people a helping hand so they can achieve their goals in those regions.
When the member for Mercier says that we are attacking the poorer regions, it is not true, like so many of the other claims the hon. member has mentioned. I go back to the particular issue of section 5 which she basically wants to remove completely. When we look at that we have to ask ourselves what the rationale is for the opposition and what its motive is for making these very serious allegations that the government is not interested in helping Canadians.
As my colleague from Malpeque has said on a number of occasions, which I want to emphasize in my remarks this afternoon, this is a significant overhaul of the unemployment insurance system in order to put us in a position to help working men and women in the years to come in the country called Canada. In essence this is its first major overhaul in over 25 years. The intent of it is to look at the areas where we believe men and women will be looking for employment in the future, the non-conventional areas.
One of the major components of this bill is to bring part time workers into the EI system for the first time in history. As the House knows, part timers now account for 27 per cent of the workforce. That is a very serious problem which has to be addressed. They are individuals who until once this bill is passed have not been able to collect unemployment insurance. They have not been able to ask for help under the more active measures under part II, the five tools we have advocated under the $800 million which has been put forward, including the other billions of dollars we have had before. Up to $2.7 billion will be put toward part II and the tools that will be used to help Canadians get retrained and re-educated.
Then we looked at something else which is very profound, something which shows that this government understands there is a changing environment in the workplace. We have now gone to first hour coverage, from weeks to hours.
In a region like mine, northern Ontario, which is very similar to northern Quebec, many Canadians work in seasonal industries. That is the kind of environment, the kind of country that we live in. Those individuals, especially in the summertime and in the fall, do not work eight hours a day like people do in other industries such as the auto industry in southern Ontario. They work 12 to 16 hours a day.
Under the old system it did not matter if people worked 70 hours a week or 35 hours a week, it only counted for one week. Now under the new system people are not going to be forced to work overtime. It is not called overtime in seasonal industries. It is called making a dollar when the sun shines, working when you can, making sure you make enough money in the period of four to six months to support your family.
For people to suggest that going from weeks to hours is driving people to work overtime, as you and I know, Mr. Speaker, it is obvious they have never visited northern Ontario or northern Quebec or places where people work in the mines, forestry and tourism. They are not in the labour force because they are unionized or non-unionized, they are there because that is where they make their living.
For example, people who work at tourist camps work 16 hours a day, as they do when the tourist camps are open in my region. They start at 7 a.m., sometimes 6 a.m., to get the fishermen out fishing and all the activities going and they work until dark. You know this, Mr. Speaker, because you know northern Ontario very well, that it gets dark around 9 p.m. so people are working from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Those are long hours.
Now every single hour that those people work counts. They do not have to work 20 weeks; they may only have to work 10 weeks to qualify for EI. Whereas in the past they did not qualify at all, now they will qualify. If that is not an important structural change for the good of many Canadians, I do not know what is.
What is frustrating me and many members on the government side is that the opposition continues to talk with rhetorical abandon about this bill without talking about the facts.
There are women who have worked part time all their lives. I have a sister-in-law who has two jobs and has never in her life been able to collect UI simply because she always worked less than that 15 hour ceiling. She would work 14 hours at the local grocery store and then another 14 hours or less in the same week at a local restaurant. Under these changes she will now have all the benefits whether they be maternity benefits, sick benefits, or regular UI benefits if she is laid off. That is a dramatic improvement.
I take exception to some of the remarks made by the members opposite that this bill is somehow going to hurt people. We can look at the numbers, and I will speak later about those when we go to a different group. Just look at how many more people in each province are going to be getting into the system versus the argument the opposition is making that this will shrink the system significantly.
As a labour unionist, I am very familiar with what the labour unions are saying. Quite frankly that is why they are so marginalized in this country. They cannot tell their membership something that is not factually correct. They have to tell them the absolute truth, whether they are of one political persuasion or another.
Because members opposite have a particular vision of what Canada should look like at the end of the day, maybe they are coming at it from a different angle. I also take exception to some of the labour unionists who are saying we are shrinking the system. In fact the numbers show that 52 per cent of people who are unemployed can get unemployment insurance now. With a 2 per cent or 3 per cent increase which is guaranteed in the next number of years we will back not too long from now to where as high as 60 per cent of the people who end up unemployed will be able to get UI benefits. People, the media and the labour movement are saying it is down to 40 per cent and that is not factually correct.
We have never had the opportunity in committee to see what the opposition would really like. We as a government held our hand out to all members. Members on the government side took us up on the offer and told us where they thought there were some weaknesses.
One was in the divisor. We changed the divisor. It cost the government a significant amount of money. We looked at the gap which is a major problem for employees who work in seasonal industries. We changed the gap. It cost the government $265 million to make that change. If that is not good work in the committee I do not know what is.
My colleague from Toronto worked very hard looking at what would happen to people at the low end of the scale, poorer people. The recommendation came forward from her that we would exempt from the intensity rule people with under $26,000 of family income. This is a significant change and worth some $24 million to the poor people who cannot afford to be targeted.
What kind of amendments did we get from the opposition? None. This place must work effectively and the government says it is willing to do business differently than in the past. I was here when the Tories were in power. When we went to committee we could forget it. We were there to obstruct; we were not there to put in amendments because we knew no one would ever take them seriously. However, with this bill amendments were put forward and they were accepted by this government.
I want to reiterate that if the members are going to say things that are factually incorrect we on this side of the House are going to get up time and time again and give the people of Canada the facts. It is unfair. This is a complicated bill. There is no argument about that. A lot of people, even people in the press are saying that the bill is not getting much attention because quite frankly, most people do not understand it.
However, the members who have been on the committee, like myself and the hon. member for Malpeque, have spent lots of time in order to understand the bill thoroughly. We will stand in this place to put the facts on the record. Members like the hon. member for Mercier will not get away with total rhetoric. We expect her to argue the points based on the facts. If they are not there, we will certainly call her on it.