Motion No. 10A
That Bill C-12, in Clause 5, be amended by replacing lines 15 and 39, on page 5, lines 1 to 46, on page 6, lines 1 to 44, on page 7, and on lines 1 to 27, on page 8, with the following:
"9. The Unemployment Insurance Act is amended by deleting subsections 28(1), 28(2), 28(3) and 28(4)."
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this group of motions including Motion No. 10A, which I proposed and which is intended to return the Unemployment Insurance Act to the state it was before the Conservatives amended it to prevent a person wanting to receive unemployment insurance benefits from leaving voluntarily.
Furthermore, someone dismissed by an employer subsequent to this amendment by the Conservatives is no longer entitled to UI benefits, short of a series of exceptions. However, so long as this person gets no confirmation by the employment centre that he left his job for reasons provided in the act, he gets no UI benefits.
And if someone leaves simply because they are too tired or cannot continue, they are not entitled to receive UI benefits.
I recall this amendment to the act by the Conservative Party, because the Liberals, who were in opposition at the time, were literally tearing their hair out over this amendment proposal. They criticized it up one side and down the other. They spoke emotionally in this House against it.
Allow me now to read extracts of a letter the current Prime Minister, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, sent to all groups and individuals protesting against the Conservatives' amendment.
Thank you for your fax expressing your opposition to the legislative measures taken by the government to amend the unemployment insurance system.
I assure you that the Liberal Party shares your concern over this blow to the unemployed. And we do not believe that the recent superficial amendments alter the basically unfair nature of these measures.
The Liberals are dismayed at these measures. By cutting benefits and further penalizing those who voluntarily leave their jobs, the government has clearly little concern for the victims of the economic crisis. Instead of attacking the problem at its roots, it is going after the unemployed. These measures will have distressing consequences, because they will discourage workers from reporting cases of harassment and unacceptable working conditions.
Finally, you may rest assured that the Liberals will continue to demand the Conservatives withdraw this unfair bill.
Are we dreaming? That was March 26, 1993. What is the Prime Minister doing now that he is in power? What are the Liberal members and ministers doing? They are making the situation worse.
They are making it worse in a way that is hard to imagine because, by moving to an hour-based system, by forcing people to work two jobs, they came up with a clause whose true meaning we tried to find out from senior officials. We could not believe our eyes or our ears, as what the clause really says is this: If someone who works two jobs and manages to accumulate the number of weeks of insurable employment needed to qualify for UI benefits quits one of his two jobs, he loses all the benefits accumulated and must start over.
Someone may have taken a second part time job as a term position because he needed the money or thought he could manage it. If he leaves one of the two jobs voluntarily because he cannot take it any more, he loses all the benefits accumulated until then. He must then start over. This means that he must find a second job once again and accumulate the number of hours required depending on the part of the country he lives in and on the unemployment rate.
Did we ever see a more inconsistent policy? From 1993 to December 1995 and to this day, May 10, have we ever seen a more inconsistent policy? Have we ever seen a more drastic shift? This unforgivable attitude comes on top of the many changes in direction effected by that party since it came to office.
As a result of this, how many people will be forced to continue, for all kinds of reasons, to work two jobs? And how many people who cannot take it any more will find themselves without any kind of protection and vulnerable to everything, including being laid off
from their remaining job, without having accumulated the required number of hours to qualify for benefits?
This bill makes no sense at all; it does not even provide basic justice. When I hear the speeches of my colleagues who have been led to believe that this bill is a good bill and who claim it is just what Canadians were hoping for, I am outraged.
I am outraged because this bill dramatically reduces the level of protection. With this bill, many people who used to have some financial security, as minimal as it may have been, will lose whatever little security they had. Yet, this security is essential in a democratic and civilized country concerned with sparing those who do not have the good fortune of being wealthy-and they are legion in this country-from dire situations.
This measure will affect every person who needs two jobs to make a living because his or her full time job does not pay well enough. The worst hit will be those who have a part time job and need a second job to supplement their income. To put it bluntly, this measure will make the shift from a system based on the number of weeks to a system based on the number of hours of work unbearable if it means trapping people as never before in a situation they will unable to get out of.
Against all hope, I dare hope, still, that this government will see reason. This measure is but one of many measures that fly in the face of reason. There is not an ounce of common sense in this bill the people across the way are trying to sell using arguments that have nothing to do with the actual measures contained in this bill.
I urge our Liberal friends opposite to recognize that, far from acting on the statements and commitments made when the Conservative amendment was debated, they are in fact doing an about-turn, changing their tune completely. Instead of improving on the bill and making the Unemployment Insurance Act better, they made the act worse by increasingly shrinking the ranks of those who will be eligible for these benefits, which are absolutely essential. Our friends will have to account to the people for that.
I cannot wait to see their reaction when the act will take effect and they will start feeling the huge pinch that comes from being denied unemployment benefits altogether for having quit their secondary jobs because they are just overworked and cannot keep on working two jobs for any number of reasons not listed by the Conservatives in their bill, a list over which the Liberals tore out their hair time and time again.
They said they could not wait to be in power so they could change this despicable legislation. They did change it, but for the worse. But they will have to live with that and pay a political price for it. The worst of it all is that, for the ordinary people, women and young people who will have to live with this, it will mean having to pay premiums without having access to the lower benefits provided for by this bill. This is not up to the standards of what the Liberals had promised when they were in opposition.
I must point this out, and really rub it in, because politics is a matter of commitment, not just a bunch of empty promises made to get elected, which are conveniently forgotten, like so many memory blanks, the day after the election, as are the voters to whom the promise was made to undo what the previous guys had done because it was so terrible.
Once in office, all of a sudden, all those terrible things the others had done are not even enough. They are made worse yet. That is exactly what the Liberals are doing in this bill. I look forward to seeing them vote one after another to break the promise they made in 1993. Not only break their promise, but do even worse.