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House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister actually told parliament that he pays employment insurance taxes. We are willing to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt. We do not think he was trying to mislead the House. In fact, we just think he happens to be living in a fantasy world. He has imaginary homeless friends. He thinks he is Mark McGwire and now he is pretending to pay taxes that he does not actually pay.

In the real world, Canadian workers are paying $350 too much for employment insurance and it hurts. When will the Prime Minister come back to earth and let Canadians keep that $350?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is the leader of a government which since it has taken office has reduce EI premiums each and every single year. The member opposite belongs to a party that recommended throughout that period that there be no reductions in premiums, except that it would go to the deficit. Then when they did admit to a reduction in premiums, they wanted them to go only to employers and not to employees.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, just like George Bush's amazement at a grocery store scanner, the Prime Minister was amazed to discover that he does not pay EI taxes. Well we have news for him. Twelve million Canadians do pay EI taxes and they are getting pretty sick of it.

When will the Prime Minister wake up and give Canadians a $350 tax reduction? It is their money. They deserve it. When is he going to let them keep it?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, speaking of waking up and smelling the roses, the hon. member ought to take a look at what happened last year. There was a $1.5 billion reduction in EI premiums. Each and every year since we have taken office we stopped them from going to $3.30. We froze them at $3.07. Each and every year we brought them down against the opposition of the Reform.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister is trying to ignore what we are saying here. Three hundred and fifty dollars might buy a couple of rounds of golf for the Prime Minister, but it will buy a lot of groceries for a lot of Canadians. Now he might not feel it, but Canadians feel it right in their pocketbooks.

The Prime Minister is so out of touch with Canadians that he does not understand that $350 is a lot of money. Is that the position of the finance minister and the Prime Minister? Do they not understand that $350 is a lot of money to a lot of Canadians?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, let us take a look at this record of the Prime Minister and of this government. A $42 billion deficit eliminated. The child tax benefit brought in and increased by $1.8 billion. More money put into research and development. More money put in to help poor and moderate income Canadians.

What the Prime Minister has done over the course of the last five years is to effect a social and economic revolution that makes this country much the stronger for it.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Reform

Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that this finance minister still collects $350 too much from every worker and $500 too much from every employer.

In fact yesterday when talking about the EI premiums, the Prime Minister stated “If I am not covered, that does not bother me”. He had to be told by the HRD minister that he does not pay into the EI fund.

Millions of Canadians pay into this fund and in fact overpay into this fund. Why will the Prime Minister and the finance minister not do the right thing and simply give the money back to hard working Canadians?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, members of the opposition can repeat the same question time and time again. It is not going to detract from the fundamental fact that this government has reduced those premiums each and every year and the Reform Party opposed it, that the government has reduced them for both employees and employers and the Reform Party would leave the employees out in the cold.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister continues to misrepresent Reform's position on this matter.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I would ask the hon. member to withdraw the word misrepresent.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

I withdraw that comment, Mr. Speaker.

We continue to ask this question of the finance minister because we are not getting an answer. In fact the Prime Minister, who probably has not checked his pay stub for over 30 years, might not think that $350 is a lot of money, but that will buy a lot of groceries for hard working Canadian families.

Why does the Prime Minister and the finance minister not simply do the right thing and give hard working Canadians their hard earned money back? Why not?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, is a direct quote from fresh start not in fact representative of the Reform Party's position, or are Canadians not entitled to rely on what the Reform Party says? I guess we know the answer to that one.

The Reform Party's 1995 taxpayers budget is still on its web site. The Reform Party recommends the establishment of a permanent reserve fund; until the budget is balanced, funds would be applied against the deficit. It is still on the web site, or do Reformers never read their own web site?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister surprised us again yesterday.

He did not even know he was not paying EI premiums. He is not the only one either. Several of his ministers were unaware of the fact as well. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Revenue told me so in person yesterday.

Now that he has the facts, will the Minister of Finance finally understand why we have been telling him from the beginning that it is unfair and profoundly immoral to use the EI fund to give everyone a tax break when not everyone is contributing?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have just said that, every year since the government took office, we have lowered EI premiums. It is certainly our intention to lower them in future.

If I understood correctly, the Leader of the Bloc Quebecois is saying that it is immoral to lower Canadians' taxes. I am sorry, but that is what we want to do.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is profoundly immoral to dip into the pockets of unemployed workers and those with jobs in order to give a tax break to members here and to ministers—

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Right.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

It is profoundly immoral to protect one's ships rather than unemployed workers.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Right.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

The government has been telling us for weeks and months that it is studying the matter, but what sort of study is it doing when ministers and the Prime Minister do not even know who is contributing to the plan and who is not? What kind of study is this gang of incompetents doing?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, if we were able to lower taxes in the last budget, $7 billion over a period of three years, if we were able to remove 400,000 Canadians from Canada's tax roll—

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The Minister of Finance has the floor.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

If we were able to lower taxes as we did in the last budget, and if we are going to be able to lower them in the next budget, it is because economic activity in our country is on the upswing; it is because there are more Canadians working; it is because there are more businesses growing; it is because the country is in good shape. And all this is because of the good management of this government.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister finally learned he does not contribute to EI.

He told us that, since he did not contribute, he was not covered and that it did not bother him. Perhaps the Prime Minister is indeed not bothered by the fact that he does not contribute and is not covered.

But does the Minister of Finance know that there are thousands of workers who are bothered about paying premiums and not being entitled to the benefits of the plan, especially when they know that he is preparing to lower our taxes with their contributions?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the opposition here that the Prime Minister is not the only one not to pay EI premiums. No elected official in Canada, no mayor, no city councillors, no Bloc Quebecois members, pay premiums, and I would point out to the opposition—