Mr. Speaker, on October 1, 2001, I put a question to the Minister of Human Resources Development in the House—it was the parliamentary secretary who replied—about Air Canada employees, who were going through a very difficult time financially as a result of the events of September 11.
I asked her at that time whether the government was prepared to take special action in order to reduce the impact of the massive layoffs resulting from the crisis caused by the acts of terrorism, which was affecting the airlines in particular.
Since then, there have been meetings but no results. We are still awaiting a response. Air Canada employees are calling for a program of assistance for older workers, to provide those who have the most experience but are prepared to retire with a program to bridge the gap between the time they leave their job and the time they start to receive old age or other pension benefits. This would allow younger employees to keep their jobs and would be a very desirable approach.
Furthermore, it is expected that 750 people will show up tomorrow to demand that the federal government act accordingly and take appropriate steps.
This is a blatant example of the fact that, since September 11, in terms of activities in support of the economic downturn, the federal government's position is probably the weakest.
To deal with the security issue, the government introduced anti-terrorism legislation, and several ministers appeared before the various committees, but in terms of social support, in connection with the layoffs, we are having a harder time convincing the government that special measures are indeed necessary.
For example, in the area of tourism, the government of Quebec recently unveiled an advertising campaign to encourage tourists to start flying again, to come and visit Quebec, to enjoy, as they always have, our quality of life.
We have seen nothing similar from the federal government, especially not for those affected.
Travel agencies made representations to us. The minister's office had to be contacted. Support on this issue is significant, but ad hoc interventions are always required before any openness is shown at the department, so that those hit by the massive layoffs resulting from the events of September 11 can benefit from what ought to come naturally, that is an open attitude.
I would like the parliamentary secretary to confirm today that, indeed, there will be openness in resolving the matter of the Air Canada employees and that they will be allowed to have a program to help older employees who may wish to voluntarily leave the company do so under reasonable circumstances, so that younger workers may keep their jobs.
I think this is a legitimate request. Several weeks have passed since the events of September 11, and we are awaiting a positive response from the government very soon.