Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on the motion. It states:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should increase by one week the basic employee vacation entitlement granted by Section 184 of the Canada Labour Code, to at least three weeks with vacation pay and, after six consecutive years of employment with the same employer, at least four weeks with vacation pay.
I consider the motion to be a good one. I have no hesitation at all in supporting the motion. Under the Canada Labour Code an employee in a federally regulated industry is entitled to a two week vacation with pay at 4% of annual wages and three weeks after six years at 6% of annual wages. Most Canadian workers fall under provincial labour jurisdiction and in that regard standards across the nation will vary.
All provinces, except Saskatchewan, mandate the 4% two week standard. Saskatchewan requires three weeks vacation pay which rises to four weeks after 10 years. In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador we upped the ante to three weeks paid vacation after 15 years of service and in New Brunswick it rose to 6% or three weeks after eight years.
Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have no increases above the basic two week standard, no matter how long a person works for a given employer. There are many different standards across the country depending on which province one happens to live in but we are still below the standard of many other countries in the world. The member pointed to the European experience and he made some good points. In the European community the member countries 20 paid work days off each year.
If we look at Japan, Sweden and Spain they mandate 25 days of paid vacation per year. That is a real indication of the importance that these countries attach to a good leisure vacation period. Not surprisingly the United States has no minimum standard for vacation pay. It would probably be said that the Europeans have had a long period with social tendencies and as a result they have longer vacations periods. The United States, except in matters of softwood lumber and agriculture, is a free enterprise society with not a trace of socialism in sight.
In defence of the Europeans they have a mindset that says there is more to life than the raw pursuit of profit. They feel the quality of life is as important as the quantities of things that we have in life. Indeed, even the Japanese, renowned as a nation of workaholics, have mandated a 25 day paid vacation per year. It is an interesting and civilized way to go about things. I have read that many Japanese workers are often forced to take their vacation period, which is an acknowledgment that someone in authority in that country knows and understands the importance of leisure time in a well-balanced life.
The member moving the motion makes a good point with respect to the implications on our health care budget when we talk about vacation time and the importance of it. He made reference to a 1999 health care report that stated that doctor's visits relating to work-life conflict cost approximately $425 million per year. I read that report and noticed that it did not include visits to specialists, hospital stays and so on. I would imagine that instead of $425 million it would probably cost in the neighbourhood of twice that amount, maybe $800 million.
More than one-third of Canadians describe themselves as workaholics and experience high levels of stress and job burnout. It is not in the best interest of our nation for people to avoid taking annual vacations. Research shows that people who take regular vacations have a 20% lower risk of death, and death by heart attack drops by 30%. That is an interesting fact. Death by heart attack drops by 30% among people who take regular vacation periods.
Many diseases are self-induced through our lifestyles. Our inability or reluctance to step back and take some downtime is phenomenal. Governments, whether provincial or federal, should be looking for ways to lower the cost of health care. Some statistics coming out of health care reports point to a way of doing that.
There are those who might say that longer vacation periods would reduce productivity. The countries I mentioned a few moments ago with longer vacation periods are not what one would refer to as economic basket cases. They are modern industrial democracies with a high standard of living compared to many areas in the world. Unfortunately, the North American way lately seems to be increasing productivity by downsizing personnel, laying people off and placing a greater burden on people who are left to run any given business.
In this day and age the drive for productivity is not necessarily a survival strategy. Companies that do well want to do even better. There appears to be no limit to the appetite for profit, and I do not believe any of us are against companies making a profit. We should encourage companies to look at ways to not necessarily reduce profit, but look at the connection between a good healthy worker who has a reasonable amount of leisure time and the well-being of the business itself.
A recent article in the Globe and Mail written by a professor of management studies at McGill University referred to the tendency to pursue productivity to extreme levels. He referred to it as a ticking time bomb. We cannot cut personnel and increase profits indefinitely. Sooner or later the whole thing will come crashing down around our ears. We are all aware of the old saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. In this particular instance, it could be said that all work and no play could make him a sick boy as well.
I am not opposed to the motion put forward by the hon. member. As a Conservative, an extra week of paid vacation in our fast paced world is not a radical notion in any way. If we do not slow down and smell the roses, our relatives at our funeral will be smelling the roses for us. I do support this motion.