Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
On December 12, 2003, in keeping with the wishes of the Prime Minister, the Department of Human Resources Development was divided into the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and the Department of Social Development.
According to the Prime Minister, the justification for this was to strengthen our social foundations. As a result, 14,000 public servants who manage more than $20 billion, supposedly in order to strengthen the social foundations of Canada, will be mandated to build the economy of the 21st century.
Human Resources and Skills Development will therefore hold a mandate to promote the development of highly skilled workers. As far as I know, however, this is already being done in Quebec and successfully done at that, until there is any evidence to the contrary.
What then lies behind this endless desire of the central government to interfere in areas under provincial jurisdiction, on the pretext of improving Canadians' quality of life, especially when the Employment Insurance mess is obviously not a good advertisement for massive intrusion into an area that would definitely merit being brought into line with the needs of the provinces, the regions of Quebec in particular?
Whether the topic is employment insurance rules, setting up an independent fund, or community housing needs, I can see no need at all to change the rules of the game.
The real issue is this: How is this new approach likely to improve the lot of individuals, when we have not talked at all about correcting the eligibility criteria for the vulnerable people who are EI clients, or about improving the current, inadequate structure?
Bill C-280 introduced by the Bloc Québécois deserves to be adopted, because it establishes the composition of the Employment Insurance Commission. The commission would be far sighted enough to incorporate in its structure representatives of employees and employers appointed by the governor in council, a chairperson appointed by the House of Commons, and vice-chairpersons selected from among the deputy ministers or associate deputy ministers of Human Resources Development Canada.
The second part of Bill C-23 deals with the appointment of a Minister of Labour and all his powers, duties and functions, all for the purpose of improving the standard of living and quality of life of Canadians by promoting, among other things, a highly skilled and mobile workforce, and reinforcing the social foundations of Canada.
How, then, can we explain the government's stubborn opposition to passing an anti-strike-breaker law in the past, the bill now reintroduced by one of our hon. members as Bill C-263? Logically, Bills C-23 and C-263 should be considered together if we want to improve the quality of life of working people.
As for manpower development, the Government of Quebec has no lessons to learn from Ottawa, especially since the four client groups that escaped its grip in 1997—young people, people with disabilities, immigrants and older workers—are not receiving the attention they need for their freedom.
As for the section of the bill dedicated to the national homelessness initiative, whose purpose is to establish support mechanisms for the homeless, especially to help them settle and prevent other people at risk from joining their ranks, the proposed federal initiative itself has no permanence, which is clearly a necessity under the circumstances.
Needless to say, in my riding like in any riding with an inner city, social housing and homelessness are major problems. That is why the proposed measures will have to take into account this new dynamic. Both in terms of approach and funding, we will be expecting long-term solutions, and not ad hoc programs like the ones we are unfortunately seeing all too often these days.
There is nothing in this bill guaranteeing anything substantive to promote housing development in order to make housing more accessible and in particular to ensure that it not take up too much of the tenants' monthly budget. As for measures to improve the employment insurance program, efforts must be made particularly to ensure that they are geared toward helping the target clientele made up of young people, people with disabilities, seasonal workers and older workers who all too often face the sudden closure of their places of work.
It must be recognized once and for all that the solution is not always to question existing programs, be they federal or provincial, but rather to ensure that programs complement one another and respect the jurisdictions of each level of government. If as much energy was put into bringing each existing program, regardless of its origin, in line with the others as is put into claiming paternity for programs, this would go a long way toward facilitating the well-being of all citizens.
In a nutshell, there is nothing in this legislation to ensure a better world in terms of industrial relations, employment insurance and social housing, given that the funding for acceptable solutions is not provided. In this bill as in many others, one of the problems may be insufficient reliance on the available human potential because, in many cases, administrative constraints hinder creativity.