Mr. Speaker, I would like you to know that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay.
I rise to speak today with great regrets and much animosity toward this government. After four years of harsh cuts to the employment insurance program, which I still call unemployment insurance, the government has finally decided to soften its policy and hand out some goodies. Yesterday, with its mini-budget, it has handed out some goodies: caviar to those with more than $250,000, peanuts to the middle class. To the least advantaged it has said “Come back another time, we're all out”.
The government is about to call an election, it seems, because everybody is saying “So long, see you later”. I presume the people across the way are in the know. With Bill C-44, the Liberals have proposed some timid measures that are not in line with what workers need.
In my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, thousands of people have protested against the cruel policies of this government's system of wealth distribution.
I am, moreover, convinced that the Minister of National Revenue could testify to that. When he came to our area last week, he did not stay two minutes in the Saguenay. He had to pack up his bags and head back.
Hon. members can see what this government is up to at the present time with funds that do not belong to it, since it is not the one making the contributions.
It does nothing, but takes the kitty and then creates laws that say “You there will have some; but you will not have any under certain conditions”. The people at home are too proud. They have said this to the Minister of National Revenue, who will be coming back tomorrow.
I warn the people of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region that he will be with us tomorrow. Do not forget to repeat to him what you told him last week. What they are doing with your money is unacceptable.
The money in the employment insurance fund—I still call it unemployment insurance—belongs to the workers of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, of Quebec, of all the provinces of Canada. I think it is theirs. Why does this government ignore that? Contrary to what the Bloc wants it to do, it does not acknowledge that there should be an independent fund administered by workers and employers. These people know what is needed.
Mr. Speaker, let us imagine that you have taken out fire insurance and car insurance. Imagine what would happen if your insurer said to you after an accident “It is too bad, I am changing the conditions. You have signed this, but today conditions have changed”. You would not accept that. This is exactly what the government is doing.
It says everyone agreed to pay into a plan in the event they lost their job, but it says “No, you may well have paid, but I am going to do what I like with it”. I say they are stealing it, I am sorry, that may be a bad word, but it is the fact of the matter. It is helping itself to this huge fund. Even for the next fiscal year, there will be a $7 billion surplus in the fund. And the government will again take that surplus.
In Bill C-44, the government had the nerve to make a minor amendment, which I want to tell you about. In one clause, the government wants to divert and use for its own benefit the surpluses in the employment insurance fund, even though they do not belong to it.
In the past, it was the employment insurance commission that set the conditions. The act used to state that, for each year, the commission sets, with the approval of the governor in council, on the recommendation of the minister and the Minister of Finance, the rate which, in its opinion, is best suited to ensure an adequate income during an economic cycle.
It will no longer be the case. Now, the government will set all the selection criteria. It will decide which rate to apply and it will not be accountable to anyone. When Cabinet is involved, everything is always confidential. This is what the government wants to do with the employment insurance fund. No, we will not let them do that. People will never agree to that.
In my region, there are seasonal workers. What we are asking for, and what I would have appreciated, is for a clear definition to be included in the Employment Insurance Act of what a seasonal worker is, with a degree of flexibility. But this does not bother them at all. They do not pay employment insurance with their big salaries.
I do not understand. Surely they must have seasonal workers in their ridings, just as you do, Mr. Speaker. You do not have problems with seasonal workers? Perhaps the climate is different from what we have in eastern and central Canada. You may have better weather than we do.
There will always be seasonal workers who have to contend with what nature sends them. I would like a definition of seasonal worker. That would help.
I personally have never known anyone receiving EI who wanted to. People want to work, but when they have no job and there is no training to help them find other work, they have no choice. That is what is wrong with this system.
For three and a half years now, I have been listening to lofty speeches about Canadian principles and values, about great Liberal values. Strangely enough, these speeches never bear any connection with the everyday reality of ordinary people.
A few months from now, 250 older workers in my riding are going to lose their jobs. How many years have we been asking this government to restore passive measures to help these workers? And what does the government say? It says that they will have to be retrained.
When people have worked hard in a factory for 35 or 40 years, at the expense of their health, and are reaching 55 or 60, they do not have enough money to retire. These people would like to leave and make way for young people but they cannot. Their health is gone.
We are asking this government to have some compassion. But what does it say? It tells us to retrain these workers and stick them somewhere else. Where, I do not know. Or it says that they should be mobile and go elsewhere in Canada. That is easy to say.
I have heard senior officials who appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. I think they have a direct line to the values that drive the Liberals. They have no compassion. They do not know what ordinary people are really going through.
I come from a region where people are proud, and we have had enough of this nonsense. It will no longer wash with us. Let the Liberal and Canadian Alliance candidates in the ridings in our area take note: they will never again pull the wool over the eyes of people who have taken steps to improve their lives.
It is painful to see what is happening in Canada at this time. We saw it in yesterday's mini-budget; we see it in this bill. We must put a stop to it; we must think about the people. The real people are the people who vote for us, not big businesses, not lobbyists. The real people are the workers, the ones who have family responsibilities, the ones with hearts.
We must remember that women are the ones with precarious jobs. This government has the nerve to pass a motion in support of women's demands. Then yesterday there was nothing in the Minister of Finance's mini-budget for them.
They do not recognize the value of women. We know that 52% of voters are female. Being a woman, I am proud to say that the demands the women made were very much a reflection of today's reality and that we must move forward.
But government members did not get it, just as they did not get this matter of employment insurance. These goodies they want to give us have no relationship to reality.
I say to them to go back to their books. When they have done their homework, and when they have let people tell them what they really want, then we will talk.