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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

The House resumed from May 6 consideration of Bill C-12, an act respecting employment insurance in Canada, as reported (with amendments) from the committee; and Motions Nos. 7 and 8

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Liberal

Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on Bill C-12, as amended. It is legislation which Canadian workers, Canadian businesses and the Canadian economy so badly need.

Let me begin with a reminder. Bill C-12 introduces reforms that will remove some of the inequities of unemployment insurance and provide a more fair and balanced regime. However, while bearing in mind that employment insurance will provide temporary income for some 2.4 million unemployed workers this year, we should also remember that Bill C-12 has another aim, the fundamental aim of boosting job creation and economic growth.

It is designed to help people get back to work. It is designed to reinforce the social safety net by ensuring adequate income for those who are most in need, while at the same time reducing costs and meeting the government's budgetary requirements. It retains the structural objectives arising out of the Canada-wide consultations on the social security review. It strengthens work incentives and the insurance aspect of income support. It ensures fairness. It reduces and stabilizes premiums. It provides a simplified administration for employers. It will achieve a net savings of $1.2 billion by the year 2001-02.

The EI system is a vast improvement over the old unemployment insurance regime. Eligibility will be based on hours of work rather than weeks. Weeks are a poor measure of work, particularly for part time workers and those who hold down more than one job or those who work intensely for short periods.

There are higher entrance requirements for new entrants and re-entrants; a necessary provision to stop the cycle of dependency, particularly among young people, that the UI system tends to engender.

The maximum duration of benefits is reduced from 50 to 45 weeks. This is a realistic period since 67 per cent of all claimants find a job within the first 40 weeks of unemployment. Those who cannot find work within 45 weeks obviously need help that goes beyond income support, once again a need the EI system will be able to provide.

An increased clawback of benefits for high income claimants, particularly those who collect benefits on a regular basis, will make the system much fairer and will more accurately reflect the insurance aspects of the benefits.

The reduced maximum insurable earnings will be brought more into line with the average industrial wages. Premium reductions and an establishment of a reserve in the EI account will stimulate employment. Premium increases during the last recession were estimated to have killed more than 200,000 jobs in Canada.

Most important, $800 million of savings achieved by the EI will be reinvested in active re-employment benefits. It will change the system from a passive income support system to an active program for re-employment of Canadian workers most in need of assistance.

There are significant differences not only in the unemployment rate but in the labour market conditions from region to region in Canada. Bill C-12 is specifically designed to take these differences into account.

The situation in Atlantic Canada is a case in point. Employment insurance will help unemployed Atlantic Canadians get back to work. The system is the product of two years of consultation with Atlantic Canadians. Now it has been fine tuned by the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development to ensure regional sensitivity and adaptability.

The basis of the new system will help Atlantic Canada's workforce. The hours based system will make it easier for many to qualify for benefits because all hours worked are now insurable.

The fact is that in the Atlantic provinces 86 per cent of UI claimants already work 35 hours or more per week. They will find it at least as easy and more often easier to qualify under the new EI.

Seasonal workers, of whom there are many in Atlantic Canada, will benefit under the EI because of the fact that they tend to work long hours each week. Remember that it is the hours that count and not the weeks.

Part time workers will no longer be hampered by the artificial barrier of having to work a minimum of 15 hours per week before their work is insurable. We have all heard of employers who restrict their workers to less than 15 hours in order to avoid paying premiums under the current UI.

Multiple job holders too will benefit by having all their work insured regardless of how many or how few hours they put into each separate job. Atlantic Canadians will particularly benefit from changes which have been made to the legislation setting out how benefits will be determined.

Workers will be able to look back 26 weeks to find the earnings necessary to maximize their benefits. This will be particularly beneficial to workers in industries where there are breaks between the periods of employment. In a high unemployment region people can have 12 weeks of no earnings without reducing their benefit levels.

The average earnings calculation is done by looking at total earnings in the last 26 weeks and dividing that total by the factor or divisor. The minimum divisor applied is the equivalent of two weeks above the regional minimum entrance requirement or the number of weeks worked up to 26, whichever is greater. Weekly benefits are set at 55 per cent of the resulting average earnings.

The divisor rule is equitable and responsive to changes in employment conditions right across the country. It is designed to be particularly beneficial to workers in high unemployment regions.

For all EI claimants, work incentive is boosted by the intensity rule. Claimants with more than 20 weeks of benefits in the previous five years will have their benefit rate reduced by one percentage point for each 20 weeks of past benefits, to a maximum of the 50 per cent level. The intensity rule will not apply however to claimants who receive family income support. Also claimants who work while they are receiving EI benefits will be able to earn work credits to reduce the impact of the intensity rule.

About 42,000 EI claimants in Atlantic Canada receiving a family income supplement will be exempt from the intensity rule. In all, about 53,000 Atlantic Canada claimants in low income families earning less than $26,000 a year and with children will be eligible for a family income supplement. On average the supplement is worth some $800 per family. Of course, claimants will be able to earn $50 a week or 25 per cent of their EI benefit, whichever is greater, without affecting the benefit. As a result anyone receiving less than $200 in EI will be able to earn more without reducing their benefits at all.

Atlantic Canadians will benefit under EI in more ways than from the income support benefits. The reinvestment of $800 million of EI funds in employment benefits will greatly benefit Atlantic Canada. Distribution of reinvested funds will ensure a fair regional balance. EI will result in a reduction in total income support payments across the country. But these impacts will be reduced by a reinvestment in active measures which will be disproportionately allocated to provinces most affected by the changes to the insurance benefits. We must also take into account the three year $300 million transitional jobs fund which will create an estimated 15,000 new jobs in high unemployment regions across Canada.

Another fact is benefits will still exceed premium contributions in Atlantic Canada. More than 60 per cent of UI claimants in Atlantic Canada claim benefits regularly. Even when the EI reforms have been fully phased in in the year 2001-02, Atlantic Canadians will receive substantially more benefits than they pay in premiums. The benefits to contributions ratio for example in Newfoundland will be $2.73 to $1 compared to 76 cents to $1 for Ontario.

Finally we should bear in mind that the implementation of EI will be closely monitored and adjustments will be made where necessary. Some communities in Atlantic Canada will be selected for in depth studies of the effects of the new system. In all, Atlantic Canadians should welcome the advent of this fair, balanced and effective system to support them when needed and further to provide for their future employment.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on Motion No. 8, standing in the name Mrs. Lalonde. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour will please say yea.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The recorded division on the motion is deferred.

The next question is on Motion No. 7. Colleagues, I made a mistake. The question on this motion will only be put depending on how the vote goes on the other one. Accordingly, this matter is deferred until the vote on the other one.

Pursuant to order adopted unanimously last week, it will not be necessary to read out the motions; they are deemed to have been read and moved. Resuming debate on the motions in Group No. 5.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

moved:

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-12 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

moved:

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.

He said:

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.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised at the member's remark. She talked about throwing some fat on the fire. In my opinion the member jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

I was hoping the member for Mercier would talk about her amendments instead of giving the usual rhetoric we heard from the Bloc Quebec during the full course of the committee hearings and debate.

The member did not talk about her amendment. Maybe there is a reason for that. I would be embarrassed to talk about the amendment proposed in this section if I were her as well.

I want to deal directly with that amendment. I want to address a couple of points the hon. member talked about. She quoted the letter from the Prime Minister of March 26, 1993, that "the Liberal Party of Canada shares your concern".

The Prime Minister and this party do share the concerns. This is not the same old bill the Tories of the past brought in. The member is trying to mix apples and oranges.

This bill is a major restructuring of UI to EI. It moves away from the kind of tactics of the past, a little patch here and a little patch there, in which we would raise premiums one time, shorten weeks another and move to some other provisions that usually ended up hurting workers.

This is a major restructuring of the bill. It tries to bring better balance to the bill and maintain the insurance concepts. It tries to address the problems of those in low income areas, maintaining and targeting areas where there are seasonal industries so the program is there for not only employees but employers. It tries to

maintain the economic restructuring that comes about as a result of EI as well.

The member knows but does not want to admit this party and the committee, of which she was a member, went out and talked to people. The member from Carleton-Charlotte talked earlier about some of the provisions in the bill and some of the amendments Liberal members made to the bill which will improve it in terms of addressing the needs of regions and of workers.

The members also should recognize this party and committee members in committee listened constructively to what Bloc members had to say. If they recall correctly we even adopted an amendment. It was the only one which you brought forward that seemed reasonable to us. You could have been more constructive in bringing forward amendments. However, you cannot deny that we adopted it.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would remind the hon. member that he has to put his remarks through the Chair. "You" has to refer to the Speaker.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, my apologies. I was just trying to convince the member opposite that if she had been more constructive we might have been able to adopt more of her amendments. The kind of amendment that came forward from the hon. member for Mercier on this point, to us, did not make sense.

The bill maintains the insurance features. It finds a better balance. It targets better low income. It brings more people in. It gets rid of the 15-hour job trap. With the amendments that have been put forward by several government members, the bill has been substantially improved. That is progress. That is what democratic debate is all about.

Let me speak directly to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Mercier. It is an amendment which the member must be embarrassed to talk about because she did not address it in her remarks.

The part of the motion that removes section 5 removes the whole financial footing on which coverage under the unemployment insurance program is based. The removed section defines the jobs on which premiums are to be paid and establishes that the coverage is for those who work as employees and thus cannot control their unemployment. I might remind the hon. member for Mercier that the removal of all penalties for quitting would require that every claimant be paid benefits even if the claimant deliberately caused his or her own unemployment by quitting to go skiing or by stealing from an employer and being fired.

The motion ignores the basic premise that unemployment insurance is to provide income support to those who are involuntarily unemployed. It is entirely against the insurance principle that benefit should be denied to an insured person who voluntarily causes the loss against which they are insured.

The motion of the hon. member for Mercier is equivalent to paying fire insurance to the person who burned down his or her own house. That is ridiculous. Maybe that is why she was so embarrassed to talk about her amendment. Facts speak for themselves and that is the fact.

The motion goes further than reversing the C-113 provisions for an indefinite denial of benefits for voluntarily quitting, it also will prevent any temporary disqualifications of seven to 12 weeks, as existed before 1993.

I was told, on investigation, that before the changes were made that those who quit their jobs without just cause were taking over $1 billion out of the fund each year. I would like the hon. member for Mercier to try to justify taking $1 billion out of the system for those who abuse the system and cause their own problems.

Simply put, if the government adopted the motion, persons who quit their jobs without just cause or who were fired for misconduct would not be subject to any penalty whatsoever. This kind of irresponsible motion will fail to score any points with Canadians, including hardworking Quebecers.

As I said earlier, when we get reasonable motions that make sense, such as the one which came forward at committee, government members are willing to consider them and, in fact, adopt them which we did.

This motion is so absurd that it flies in the face of the common sense provisions that have been part of the unemployment insurance program since it began 55 years ago. If the government adopted the motion, Canada would be one of the few countries, if not the only one, that allows people to quit their jobs and receive insurance benefits with impunity. Perhaps that is what the hon. member wants, or perhaps it was just thrown in for the sake of moving an amendment without giving it reasonable thought.

The current UI program and the new employment insurance program are designed to help workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. That is why it is called insurance. As an employer, I see it as an extremely important program which makes it possible, in the industries and the region I am in, to ensure that we have skilled workers available for the busy season. It is a program that benefits not only employees but employers, and I certainly want to admit that.

If workers choose to quit their jobs or are fired for misconduct, there is no way that they should expect to collect benefits. The amendment proposed by the member for Mercier would allow that to happen.

I have given their amendments serious thought but I have no choice because of the lack of thought given to this one than to say nay to that amendment. Maybe we will come to some others later that will make more sense, but certainly that one does not.

I expect that is the real reason why the member for Mercier did not speak about the amendment that the member proposed. Instead she talked rhetoric, of things in the past. Again that rhetoric does not apply.

What the member needs to admit is that this bill is a major restructuring and improvement of the situation for employees and employers right across the land. As the evidence becomes clear I am sure that eventually the member will want to admit that.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a number of occasions since the beginning of this debate, I have had the opportunity to speak after the hon. member for Malpeque when he had the chance or misfortune of speaking after the hon. member for Mercier. I listened to what he had to say.

I believe the member for Malpeque has a reading and concentration problem. It is truly incredible to hear him say that what the member for Mercier proposes will be terrible, that it will take us back to the previously existing situation, when we were losing a billion dollars because people voluntarily quit their jobs.

The member has a right to say what he thinks, but if he had listened carefully, if he had concentrated all his attention to the debate instead of being distracted by his parliamentary secretary, perhaps he would have understood that the member for Mercier was essentially stressing the fact that, in the March 26 letter he wrote at the time, his leader, the current Prime Minister, voiced his outrage at the Conservative government's plan to recognize fewer valid reasons for voluntarily leaving a job, including sexual harassment and harassment or abuse at any management level.

The member forgot about that, saying-and this is what is so incredible-that these are words and things of the past. The member is effectively telling his leader that the kind of commitment he made on March 26, 1993 is a thing of the past, that it is not proper. I hope the Prime Minister is listening and will remember the comments of the member for Malpeque.

This is incredible. We are essentially repeating today the views expressed by the current Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition. Now, a member of his party is telling him that these views do not make sense, that Canadians would not accept them. But the Prime Minister was elected to this House on the basis of his views, as were the other members here, including the member for Malpeque. It is difficult to believe what we hear these days, given what happened with the GST. The Prime Minister keeps referring to his red book, but he has a tendency to not recognize comments he made in the past, such as when he talked about scrapping the GST.

However, in this case, he cannot claim not to have made these comments about UI reform. They are in a letter bearing his signature. I have a copy of it, and I could table it if the House gave its consent. But I am sure that it is not necessary. The Prime Minister surely remembers this letter, which he wrote when he was Leader of the Opposition.

In the same vein, the hon. member for Malpeque adds that opposition members only propose negative things. They have a negative point of view. Let me remind the member of a small paragraph in a letter written by the current Prime Minister:

I can assure you that the Liberal Party shares your concern regarding this attack against the unemployed. We do not believe either that the recent superficial amendments will change the fundamentally unfair nature of these measures-

Unfair. These measures were unfair three years ago, but they have now become fair. This is a simple reminder to the member for Malpeque.

The most recent figures on unemployment, which were released this morning, tell us that the unemployment rate has gone up in Canada, including in Quebec. The national rate is currently 9.4 per cent, compared to 9.3 per cent last month. In Quebec, the rate went from 10.9 per cent last month to 11.1 per cent now. Unemployment is on the rise.

And if unemployment is on the rise, it means there will be more jobless and more unemployment insurance claims. But what does the government want to do? It wants to reduce unemployment insurance benefits. Is this a satisfactory solution? It makes no sense at all. They should in fact be increased, accessibility improved.

In her amendment, the member for Mercier proposes to go back to an earlier system predating even the Conservative proposal, because the Liberals did not think it was fair at the time. It is normal to ask for something. As things stand now, with the system changing from weeks to hours, people will be forced to hold down more than one job in order to reach the required number of hours. They will have two part time jobs. We will then see impossible situations where an employee with two part time jobs will be told by one of his employers: "I would like you to work a few more hours for me. I need you". If he agrees, he loses the other job. It becomes a voluntary separation. Consequently his future rights to benefits will suffer.

Does the member find this normal? When we told him this in committee, I recall that he shook his head. We raised another objection. Someone receiving benefits and subsequently incarcerated, for one reason or another that is not important, obviously loses his benefits while he is in jail. But when he gets out of jail, his rights have not suffered, because he picks up where he left off and is entitled to receive UI benefits, unlike the fellow who left one of his two McJobs. Is that fair?

I appeal to hon. members across the way. Is that fair? That someone just out of jail has more rights than someone forced to leave a job by one of his two employers. The member for Malpeque is not reading the amendments or his bill properly.

That is why we would have liked more time. I am certain the majority of the members opposite have not read all 190 clauses in this bill. If they were to read them carefully, they would be against them, as we are. I invite them to reread the Prime Minister's letter of March 26, 1993. Then they would understand.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being approximately eleven o'clock, we will now have Statements by Members.

National Forest WeekStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Liberal Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, during National Forest Week I would like to highlight the new science and technology network that the Canadian Forest Service has adopted.

As many research organizations know, good research needs more than good science. It needs strategic alliances and partnerships. The Canadian Forest Service is committed to creating mutually beneficial relationships around policy issues and research priorities.

This collaboration maximizes the use of scarce resources, bolsters research efforts and maintains Canada's reputation as a world leader in sustainable forest management.

During National Forest Week I would like to recognize the town of Swan River in my riding of Dauphin-Swan River for having been chosen the forest capital of Canada for 1998. Congratulations Swan River.

National Forest WeekStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are now midway through National Forest Week, an event that has been celebrated for the past 70 years.

For Canadians and Quebecers, forests represent both a natural resource and a treasure which has had much to do with shaping our lifestyle, our history and our traditions.

How could it not, when forests cover half of Canada's area, providing 340,000 direct jobs and $19 billion of our gross domestic product? The economy and the life of Matapédia is centred on its forests, which provide a living to hundreds of families.

National Forest Week reminds us that we are responsible for this precious resource, and that we must make sure it stays healthy, drawing upon it reasonably so that it will be there for our children.

Composting WeekStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, "Compost: For the Love of the Earth" is the theme of this year's national awareness composting week.

During this week, May 6 to 12, the Composting Council of Canada supports activities in communities, schools and workplaces across Canada to celebrate the many benefits and uses of compost.

Compost, familiar to gardeners as a valuable soil amendment, is also being used to assist in erosion control along roadsides and in strip mine reclamation.

Here at the House of Commons an ambitious composting initiative is one of the many successes of the greening the Hill program. Since 1991 Food Services, in partnership with the Office of the Environment, has diverted more than 80 tonnes of organic waste from landfill. Currently all organic waste, including starch, dairy and meat products, is sent to a state of the art vessel composter located at national defence headquarters.

I encourage all Canadians to get involved in composting.

Schep FamilyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the accomplishments of the Schep family in my riding are quite remarkable. The Schep's Thunder Bay Oak Cheese Farm utilizes the cheese making skills the family learned in its native Holland to operate Ontario's first and only Gouda cheese on-farm operation.

Mrs. Schep comes from a long line of cheese makers near the city of Gouda, Holland. Her parents still make cheese. Since the Scheps moved to Canada in 1981 to take over a large dairy operation they have been making the occasional Gouda cheese. What was originally a hobby has become a full time operation.

This is yet more evidence of hard working immigrants coming to Canada and contributing to our economic growth. I am proud of the government's positive immigration policies and especially proud of the accomplishments of the Schep family.

The SenateStatements By Members

May 10th, 1996 / 10:55 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, spending in the other place appears to be out of control. To illustrate, the Senate spent more than $206,000 on a committee on euthanasia to produce a report that has been shelved. In addition, its Pearson airport committee ran up a bill of over $210,000.

The Senate has an annual budget of over $40 million. Now, with no explanation, it wants another $4 million tax dollars to top up its budget.

My motion, passed by the Standing Committee on Government Operations, will request the Senate's board of internal economy to appear before the committee to account for its expenses.

As with all public institutions, the Senate must and will be held accountable to taxpayers.