Mr. Speaker, I will give the member the time to slow down because I noticed that he is losing his voice.
I am wondering if the member remembers the same things as I do. He talked about the economy. He said it has not improved. I wonder where he gets his numbers because, when we were in the opposition, before we came to power in 1993, the deficit was $42 billion, if I recall. I remember very high interest rates. I also remember that there was a lot of unemployment then. Moreover, I remember rates of premiums paid in part by workers, may I add, that went as high as $3.30 then and that today are $1.90, under $2, which is a two-third reduction. I remember that the unemployment rate has gone down considerably since that time. There are now over 2 million more Canadians who have jobs. I am not talking about the jobs lost in the meantime. That is a net gain of 2 million jobs that have been created since that time.
I am wondering--I know that time is of the essence--if it would not have been more reasonable for the member to also mention those numbers in his speech. Has the member forgotten to mention, for instance, that some of the changes made to the EI plan have benefited part-time workers and women? He mentioned women and seasonal workers. I am told that over 400,000 people working part-time or in short-term jobs have received benefits for the first time as a result of certain changes to the program.
Of course, our new minister, whom I congratulate, keeps on improving the system. He does not do it because an election may be called in a few days--I don't know when--, but in 1996, we made improvements. We have reduced premiums every year. We do not have an election every year though.
These are all things that have been improved by the Liberal government that works every day, as we all know, for the welfare of all Canadians. Why has the hon. member opposite forgotten to mention all the good things the government has done? Someone said, a few minutes ago—and the members are invited to comment as well—that in some regions there are fewer people receiving benefits, for example in Quebec.
Yes, but people are employed. People who work do not receive employment insurance. That does not happen in my riding, nor in Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh, represented so well in the House of Commons by the Deputy Speaker. We want jobs for the people, and employment insurance for those who do not have jobs.
Finally, I will ask the hon. member for his comments. I know that some people have mentioned a report by the Canadian Labour Congress. Some claim, and the member himself said so during questions, that only 38% of the unemployed receive benefits. That total includes those who have never paid premiums. We must be objective enough to admit that these figures are not truthful, since they include elements that have nothing to do with the concept of employment insurance. We all know that.
This is a member who is usually completely objective—at least he is on the committee where we both sit—so why is it that, on the floor of the House, he has forgotten to mention those things? I do not understand. I invite you, Mr. Speaker, to ask the hon. member to explain himself.
The same report from the Canadian Labour Council includes former employees who are self-employed, as well as students. People who are not even available for work can certainly not receive benefits. It is not reasonable.
The member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, who has done so much work on the issue that he has become a real employment insurance expert in the House of Commons, may want to get into all the great things the government has done, and all the work the current minister has put into building on the progress made in recent years.
Why is it that the member opposite and others do not mention these things? I do not get it. Why does the member not answer the questions I am putting to him right now? I could ask more questions.