Madam Speaker, I am certainly pleased to add my voice to this debate for my party. What we have in Bill C-44 is plainly an admission of guilt. What the government is admitting is that for the past four years Canadians throughout the country have suffered. They have suffered because of the reforms to employment insurance.
People have suffered in British Columbia. People have suffered in Alberta and throughout western Canada. People have suffered in northern Ontario. People have suffered in the province of Quebec and people have suffered in my home of Atlantic Canada. It is not just a question of Atlantic Canada. This is a national question and the government is a national disgrace.
In the 1997 election, people were not afraid to express their feelings about the government.
I listened carefully to my colleagues on the opposition side and I want to congratulate them for the excellent comments they brought to this debate.
I also want to say a few words about the comments made by members of the Canadian Alliance. For some time now, we have been hearing members of the Alliance say that the Canadian Alliance is a national party, that they are there for all the provinces. Yet they have the audacity to say that seasonal workers are well paid, when we know that a significant percentage of these workers earn less than $10,000 a year. We hear comments from Alliance supporters saying that the people in Atlantic Canada are lazy.
Recently we heard the comments of the Alliance pollster who said that anybody with vision in Atlantic Canada moved away. That is a disgrace. In this day and age we should be talking of uniting the country, not dividing it, not pointing the finger at a region of Canada. That does nothing to unite the country. We have a lot of work on our plate in order to do that. The comments coming out of the Alliance do nothing for that.
We see surplus after surplus in the EI account, a total accumulated surplus of over $35 billion. This year we see the Government of Canada wanting to move a certain way, wanting to rectify the wrongs of the past, but it is a wrong that represents only $1.7 billion of that $7 billion surplus this year.
The member from the Liberal side said a while ago that we were doing wonderful things. In reality people are suffering. Children are suffering throughout the country. More could have been done and they did not do it. The Liberals had a golden opportunity to do it and they did not.
As I said earlier this week, what the government sees is not light at the end of the tunnel. It sees an election. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac.
What they have demonstrated is their inability to govern. Canadian taxpayers will decide who is best to govern, who approaches the country in a tolerant way, including every province of Canada.
Seasonal workers play an important role in Canada's economy; they play an important role in the maritime provinces, in Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario and western Canada. These people must be recognized once and for all.
They play an important role in the forest industry. I can tell you that, without our seasonal workers, without those people who go out each year to plant trees and to guarantee the future of the forest industry, the most important in my riding, we would be in serious trouble.
These workers play a role that is vital to our economy throughout Canada. And, once again, this government is turning a deaf ear.
There have been demonstrations over the last months, but they were totally justified. People came to my office, dignified people with great qualities who could no longer plan their future. Some of them had children.
Once again, the Liberal government did nothing to relieve these people from this incredible burden.
There is a perception that seasonal workers do not want to work. That is totally false. That is so false and so far from the truth that it is not even funny.
What has to be done is that these economies have to be developed. I agree, but if I take a person that is planting trees this year, move him out of there and bring him into the company, who will plant the trees next year? There is a dynamic here that has to be understood. These people are not lazy. These people work hard every day, put in long hours, and guarantee the sustainability of our economies.
I will not put up with this. I will use my voice to defend these people every time anyone in the House of Commons or anywhere in Canada strikes them.
People want hope. They want to know that their children have a future. This bill does absolutely nothing to give them hope.
The government also tells us that it wants to reduce EI premiums. But considering the size of the surplus in the EI fund, it could reduce them even more.
People are also asking for a tax break. There has to be that balance. The government could have gone further and it has not. It has not gone there. These industries and these workers want to have that break in order for industries to hire more people and in order for these workers to have more money to put away for their children's education. The bill does absolutely nothing to address this issue. Hopefully we will have a reasonable debate in the House.
The Liberals are ranting. She is the only one here but hopefully we will have reasonable debate.