Mr. Speaker, when I came to the Chamber this morning I had no intention of participating in the debate, but I must say that I have been quite taken aback and I have been struck by the quality of the debate by members who have participated this morning.
Members of the human resources committee have done a very good job and high quality work and I want to commend them for their work. Really I think it is a testimony not only to the quality of the work that individual members of parliament do here in this place but also to the standing committees of the House of Commons. It is a testimony to the quality of work that we do in this place. All too often we get criticized for not working at all. We get criticized about the amount of time we work and quite often about the quality of work.
However, it is the second day in a row that I have stood in this place to take part in a concurrence debate on a unanimous report from a standing committee. Yesterday the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans tabled a unanimous report that made some very strong recommendations to the Government of Canada to deal with the issue of foreign overfishing. Today a unanimous report of the human resources development standing committee has been tabled. The committee has done some very thorough work and I cannot commend it enough for the work it has done, particularly in zeroing in on this disability tax credit problem.
Like most members of the House of Commons, I have received many calls at my office about the disability tax credit issue and the problems it has caused. Almost to a person, the people who have called have received the tax credit for years. They are wondering why the change has taken place. In most cases the condition of the client has not improved and in a lot of cases it has become worse.
As the member for Winnipeg Centre has said, each illness or disability has to be looked at in isolation because they all vary and there are peaks and valleys in certain conditions. In some weeks or months a condition could be worse. In other weeks it could level off. In other weeks and months there could be improvement.
Members have made some very valid points. I listened to the member for South Shore who made some excellent points. I have to commend him for the thoroughness of his debate and input. It has been a good debate. For two days in a row we have been debating unanimous reports of standing committees, and as one member of parliament I have to ask these questions. What does a unanimous report of a standing committee really mean to the Parliament of Canada? What does a unanimous report mean to the Government of Canada? I do not know how we address these questions.
However, it seems to me that as we go about addressing the importance of members of parliament and the importance of having more input and productivity in regard to what happens here, I think that we somehow need to give serious consideration to the weight of a unanimous report from a standing committee of parliament. As we all know, quite often we are presented with unanimous reports that have involved some very thorough work and make some excellent recommendations, but nothing seems to happen afterward.
I have listened very carefully to what members opposite and members on this side have said. I commend them for their very direct remarks. I want to concur with many of their remarks, because as one individual member of parliament I have many of the same concerns. I think the government has to give greater weight to unanimous reports and the recommendations contained therein from the standing committees, all party committees of the House. Once again I cannot commend the members enough for bringing forward this issue and for being so thorough about it.
Having said that, I am sure members will agree, particularly those who are on the human resources committee, that because of their work and the work of individual members of parliament we have seen some improvements in the mandate and the issues of Human Resources Development Canada.
In the employment insurance file we have seen the elimination of the intensity rule because of work of members of this parliament and because of the standing committee recommendations. We have seen tremendous improvements in parental leave. In regard to the income cap level, because of the work of members of the House of Commons we have seen it raised, which means the clawback is not as much. These things have been positive happenings in the last 18 months or so because of the work of parliament and because the Government of Canada listened, not only to individual members of parliament but to the work of, in this case, the standing committee on human resources. I want to go on record as highlighting that, because we have seen some improvements as a result of the work of the committee.
Of course as members all know there are other issues with the employment insurance system that need further consideration and, in my view, need further changing. I only need reference the number of weeks, the divisor rule. Many of us in parliament, in fact perhaps all of us, represent some pockets of high unemployment. It just so happens that some of us represent more pockets of high unemployment than others. However, across this great country, even in the richest provinces, there are pockets of unemployment. The same problems and the same rules apply in those provinces.
We do need to have a real serious look at this divisor rule. in my view, because it is causing some very serious hardship for many Canadians who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in industries that are seasonal. Some people say that these people only want to work for 14, 15 or 20 weeks. That is not the problem. The problem is that the work only lasts for that amount of time.
If we are in the forest industry, climate or market conditions determine how long we work. If we are in the fishing industry, the fish allocations, the total allowable catch that is set by this very Government of Canada dictates how much fish can be taken from the ocean and consequently put into our fish plants for processing. That impacts on the number of weeks of work that an individual gets. It has nothing to do with the individual's desire to work or not to work for 12 months a year. It has everything to do with resource supply, which is managed and allocated by this very Government of Canada. Yet because of some of those rules we as a government penalize them to a large degree because we, over time, have mismanaged a very important resource.
I think we have to dig a little bit deeper into some of our employment insurance problems, rules and regulations. There still needs to be some adjustments made to our employment insurance system for the benefit of those, of course, who pay into the fund and over the lifetime of the fund have been very significant contributors.
I just want to go back once again to the crux of the debate this morning, that of the disability tax credit. I want to say that I have had numerous calls to my offices on the issue. I have spoken personally with a number of constituents who have run into problems with the disability tax credit situation. There are people who have received it for years and years and now find themselves in the predicament that many hon. members have alluded to this morning.
From my own point of view as one member of parliament on the government side, I hope that the minister and the government take very seriously the recommendations of the committee and will recognize the very thorough job and all the work it has done, because it really has done a fantastic job in getting into this issue.
With that, I conclude my remarks. I wanted to go on record here this morning as commending the committee and saying that I hope the issue is dealt with in a fair manner. I hope some attention is given to the recommendations of the committee. I conclude my remarks on the debate, and I once again want to thank all hon. members who participated.
Before I sit down, I move:
That the House do now proceed to orders of the day.