Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for his courtesy in giving us overnight advance notice of this initiative of the government.
This is a hesitant baby step in the right direction. It is something that Canadians from coast to coast have been urging on the government for some time. We have been trying to get the government to consider moving responsibility closer to the people being served in all aspects of governance and this is yet another aspect of governance that needs to be moved closest to the people it serves.
In my opinion, this responsibility should be vested in the provincial governments. On the surface this appears to be, once again, the government buying Canadians with our own money.
The UI fund is a tax, a payroll tax off the top of every working Canadian's income. This year the fund surplus will be in the region of $5 billion and $2 billion will be put back into labour market training. Some serious questions need to be asked about access to the $2 billion in labour market training. Will that access be restricted to those with attachment to the labour market? What happens with people who have never had a job or have never been able to get into the workforce in the first place? Is this a provincial responsibility? Is it a shared responsibility? When a citizen goes into an office, will he or she be told that because they are unemployed, go through that door, not this door.
The number one concern of Canadians from coast to coast is unemployment. My constituency is one of the wealthiest constituencies in the country. The number one concern of people there is employment and security of employment for themselves and their children. The government needs to get its act together. The responsibility belongs to the provinces. There must be one door.
I applaud the fact that we are getting out of useless federal job sharing programs that really do not achieve anything. They just do not work. In my view, we need to ensure that the provinces clearly understand it is their responsibility to provide training for their citizens.
It is the federal government's responsibility to ensure that the labour standards across the country provide for portability of people, of circumstance and of qualifications. It is our job to have vision. When we are addressing the global economy in which we find ourselves, we should be leaders. It is our job to ensure that a national long range vision is present. The minister should consider this a very important and strategic part of the federal deliberations but the responsibility and the accountability goes to the provinces.
If we end up with a situation where the provinces are able to point their fingers at the feds and say, it is their job, and the feds are able to point their fingers at the provinces and say, it is their job, nothing will be achieved. We need clear, defined accountability in this whole process.
Second, we must address the fact that the funds for this program come out of the wages of people who are employed. Payroll taxes are perhaps the number one killer of jobs in the country. When business is not increasing, when it is stagnant, the only room for most employers to find additional revenue is by laying off people. When taxes go up, employment goes down. Everyone knows that. We have to make sure that payroll taxes go down.
There are other areas. This may or may not be the appropriate place and time to address them but when we talk about stability in our communities, perhaps our vision should be on the impact of part time work on the country. When families are able to get only part time work, when both parents are holding down two or three part time jobs, how can they have a sense of community or involvement? How can they have a foundation from which to go forward or to provide parenting to their children?
Why do we have such catastrophic problems with youth crimes? They seem to be unsolvable. However, how can parents be parents if they have to hold down two or three part time jobs?
Perhaps we should be looking beyond the surface of some of these matters and ask what is our responsibility to the communities of which we are all part? As we get further into this and start looking into the nitty-gritty of the employment situation, we will start to address the people who are chronically unemployed or who chronically find themselves in part time employment, particularly the young.
Another suggestion that I would like to bring to the table is with regard to employment insurance. A fundamental decision has to be made about whether employment insurance is employment insurance or whether it is a redistribution of income and wealth. If it is truly employment insurance, then other avenues should be looked at to find the funds necessary for training, particularly with the requirement in this legislation as it is now for attachment and previous attachment to the labour force.
People who are not part of the labour force now will be asking how they can get a foot in the door. That question needs to be answered with a very strong foundation so that people have a sense of hope and confidence in the future.
I look forward to working with the minister as we pursue these questions over the next year. I appreciate that the minister has invited me and others to work with the department in this area.