Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to take part in the debate on a motion by a colleague from New Brunswick who represents a riding with a very high rate of unemployment. We all know which former MP and former minister used to represent that riding. I think that everyone remembers him when the subject of employment insurance reform comes up. He is none other than Doug Young.
During the last election campaign, Doug Young found out what people in the very high unemployment areas thought about his reform. We have seen the impact of that reform on individuals and families in those areas. I would like to congratulate my colleague for Acadie—Bathurst for his motion.
When I first came to this House in 1997, as one of the MPs from my party on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, I presented a motion at its first meeting. I asked the committee to carry out an immediate assessment of employment insurance reform. My colleague over the way, the parliamentary secretary, was also on that committee. She surely remembers that motion by a newly arrived young MP.
Unfortunately, the motion was defeated. Today, here we are still at the study and assessment stage, when we could have made real changes.
Years have gone by since this reform, and I have to say that people have lost their homes. People have seen their families divided. In many cases it was because of the stresses that were brought on them. Monetary stress and lack of employment certainly were contributors. In these regions the government is responsible for this because the reform has hurt Canadians and has hurt seasonal workers.
There are regions of Canada that have economies that are different from the others. My region of New Brunswick has many seasonal workers. There are people who work in the forest industry. We have difficult winters. These are realities. There are not all types of industries popping up every day. When the government brought in the reform it did not pay attention to these very seasonal workers.
My colleague from South Shore, Nova Scotia is here. He has brought to my attention many, many files of people who are looking for work, people who are running out of employment insurance, people who have nowhere else to go and have no choice but to go on income assistance and wait until that industry re-opens.
It is pretty sad when the surplus in employment insurance is pegged at about $25 billion. Last year and recently too, the Minister of Finance bragged in the House about the balanced budget. That budget without the $25 billion employment insurance account would not be balanced at all. Certainly there is an imbalance.
I read the report that was tabled in the House yesterday by the minister. It is frustrating to read these things. One of the civil servants who worked on the reform to employment insurance was in my office at the very beginning. He told me that people from Atlantic Canada should get a job like he did, just to give hon. members the idea.
There is a minister over there from P.E.I. We all know who he is. He has in his own riding people who are suffering from this reform and he has the gall to stand here and laugh at what we are saying. It is unbelievable. He should be standing and defending those very people.
I read a report which said that many people may be faking illness when they quit their jobs. Imagine. It is typical though. I am not surprised. They are faking their illness. Nurses across the country have been cut back, slashed and have to do the work that two nurses used to do. They are burnt out and yes, some must call in sick. However the report says people are faking.
In the employment insurance assessment report, the statement is made that “overall, we can say that there are indications that some elements of the reform are working relatively well”.
I must tell you that, when I see people in my riding office, people who have lost their homes, families that have been split up, and when I look at the comments in the evaluation, I wonder if these are the government's indications that the reform is working well. It is absolutely incredible.
The report also says “That is why the Government of Canada made a legislative commitment to monitor and assess the impacts of the reform for five years”. It says “monitor and assess”. What the member for Acadie—Bathurst is asking for is this:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take immediate action to restore Employment Insurance benefits to seasonal workers.
The motion says immediate. Here is a typical amendment by a member of the government that introduced the reform. Note the difference. It goes like this:
That the government should...review the issue of employment insurance benefits for seasonal workers.
Here, we have the word review.
With people suffering since the reform, the government still wants to “review” what happened. I can tell the House that we have been hearing what the Liberal government wants to do with an election in the offing; it wants to review the matter.
I can also tell the House that Canadians have not forgotten what happened. The government thinks that the Atlantic provinces have forgotten as well, but it is mistaken. The people of these provinces have not forgotten Doug Young; they have not forgotten EI reform.
As a member, I will make it my business to see that they remember what the government did to them. That is my intention. We must protect Canadians throughout this country. There must be a balance.
Balance seems to be lacking in this reform. We have a great country. We are trying to build a strong country. We are trying to keep the country together. There are many differences, various cultures, and different regions with differing resources.
If we want to succeed as a country, we must focus on balance. What the government has done is unacceptable, and I once again congratulate the member for Acadie—Bathurst on his motion.