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House of Commons Hansard #155 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 23, 2005, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley not being present to raise the matter for which adjournment notice has been given, the notice is deemed withdrawn.

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask the government a question on compassionate care.

As a brief history on the compassionate care program, it has been with us now for about three years. I became involved a year ago when I had a constituent by the name of Sue. Sue is not her real name but to protect the privacy of the family I will use the name Sue. She was a 43 year old woman who was taking care of her 73 year old mother. Sue became sick and was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. She was given about six to eight weeks to live.

She did not have a husband or children, so she now needed care, along with her mother. Her sister came down from the Okanagan in British Columbia to take care of Sue. The sister had permission to leave her job and went to Langley to take care of Sue.

To help her sister with her bills, as she had a mortgage to pay, she applied for the compassionate care benefit. The compassionate care is there to help families to take care of a dying loved one in the last days. Her sister was denied the benefit for compassionate care. That seemed so outrageous that she approached my office and that is when I became involved.

Since January, we have heard a number of other sad stories. Olga Petrik from Ontario who went to Richmond to take care of her dying sister was also denied the compassionate care benefit. Neil Cohen from Manitoba was denied the compassionate care benefit to take care of his dying brother. I also heard another story of a daughter-in-law wanting to take care of her mother-in-law. There was no one else to take care of the dying mother-in-law but the daughter-in-law was not under the definition of compassionate care.

I spoke to the previous minister and the new minister. I prepared a brief and presented it to them saying that we should let the people who are dying to choose who their compassionate care provider will be. It was very frustrating waiting so long. These families were suffering and being told that a sister cannot take of a sister, a brother cannot take care of a brother and a daughter-in-law cannot take care of a mother-in-law. It was very restrictive.

The budget for the compassionate care program was $250 million. After many people were denied the compassionate care benefit, the government reduced the budget to $11 million. I am pleased to hear now that the government has accepted our recommendation. The brief that I presented to the minister was followed up on and together we are doing the right thing, which I appreciate.

Will the government provide retroactive benefits to those who have been denied benefits but should have received it and would have qualified? I hope so because I think it is the right thing to do.

I spoke to the minister a month ago. She liked the idea and was going to consider it but, unfortunately, I have not heard from her yet. Hopefully we are going to get some good news.

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

November 22nd, 2005 / 6:55 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to my colleague. I again welcome the fact that he has asked for an adjournment debate on the question of the compassionate care benefit. The government is committed to helping ensure that Canadian workers do not have to choose between their jobs and providing care for a dying family member.

Let me remind members that Canada's compassionate care benefit was introduced as recently as January 4, 2004. It was designed specifically to provide temporary income replacement for those Canadians who need to leave their jobs for a period of time in order to care for a gravely ill child, parent or spouse who is at significant risk of dying.

I would emphasize that Canada is one of the few countries in the world to offer compassionate care benefits to workers. Unlike Canada, most countries that do have compassionate care programs restrict them to parents caring for sick children.

The design of this benefit was based on research and analysis indicating that family members are key caregivers and, in particular, that the vast majority of Canadians facing these situations are caring for a child, a parent or a spouse.

The Canada Labour Code was amended to provide the necessary job protection for compassionate care benefit claimants, up to eight weeks, which allows for the two week waiting period under EI and six weeks of paid benefits. The six weeks of benefits can be shared among eligible family members or can be taken by one eligible family member. This gives families more choice in providing care to gravely ill relatives.

A full evaluation, part of the government's commitment to reviewing the provisions of the benefit after its first year of availability, is under way. I have to point out to my colleague that good public policy requires that. If we are going to make changes, we have to make them based on the benefit of real experience. We now have one year of real experience.

This evaluation of the program, with results expected soon, will provide a better understanding of the benefit's performance and identify possible areas for improvement that might increase access to the benefit. It is important that evaluations of government programs be founded on careful analysis of program data in order that the conclusions drawn and solutions proposed address the experience of clients.

Recently a policy review was undertaken to identify early opportunities to improve the benefit within existing policy parameters. Based on experience gained in the first year of the program, the government is already looking into expanding the definition of those who qualify for the benefit.

I should also point out that the benefit is only one tool for supporting caregivers. We must be sensitive to the fact that some individuals look elsewhere for the means of helping sick relatives. We are exploring a wide variety of comprehensive caregiving strategies.

This government is committed to the principles of fairness and equity for all Canadians. Accordingly, making improvements to the compassionate care benefit in a timely manner is a priority for us, as I know it is for my colleague opposite. I would like to thank him again for his work on this issue.

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, with only one minute to follow up, I am hoping for an answer to my question. Will the government provide retroactive benefits?

The parliamentary secretary has read from a prepared script. I appreciate that he is here and that he has made himself available to answer my questions, but this is very important to these families and I am very frustrated that it is taking forever to get a response.

Will these families that were denied going to be able to get a retroactive benefit? They should have received it and they did not. I ask the member to please answer that question. Will the government provide retroactive benefits to those who were denied?

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, we already know that the vast majority of Canadians who care for seriously ill people are currently covered by this program, but we are sensitive to the fact that certain individuals do not qualify for it. The government, as I said, is looking into expanding the definition of those who are able to qualify for the benefit.

I have to point out there have been no funding cuts to the program. EI expenditures are determined entirely by the number of qualified applicants.

My colleague opposite already knows that regulatory changes take effect the day they come into force. While the government sympathizes, and so do I, with those who cannot access the benefit due to their individual situations, the benefits cannot be applied retroactively.

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to ask a question today in the chamber about the western hemisphere travel initiative. The issue is important for the future of tourism in our country, as well as other industries and individuals who need to traverse across the border between Canada and the U.S.

This initiative, which was introduced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will require every American citizen to have a passport as well as every other citizen entering the United States. The problem with that is the gridlock it will create. It will also dissuade individuals from visiting Canada or visiting the United States and it will hurt industry. Certain individuals who cannot acquire a passport will no longer be able to participate in, for example, truck driving and other types of commerce back and forth across our border.

I note that it has been very difficult to get the government to act on this initiative. This was brought forward in the industry committee over a year and a half ago. I brought it in front of the Tourism Bureau when it came before our committee. This initiative will be implemented by 2008. It was only going to allocate $40,000 for a study for one of the most significant changes, culturally, socially and economically between ourselves and the United States.

Passports cost money and they require planning. Most Canadian and American citizens do not carry passports. It will have a significant consequence on the activities we do on a regular basis in our daily lives when this document is required.

I immediately objected to the fact that the Tourism Bureau would not put the proper resources into the study. However it increased the funding for the study to approximately $200,000 and the study was completed.

However, because it thought the United States would not move ahead with this, it shelved the study and quietly posted it on its website in July. What it showed was that the initiative would cause significant economic damage. We know that from 2005 to 2008 it will result in a loss of 7.7 million inbound trips from the United States and will cost the Canadian tourism industry $1.7 billion, and that is just one industry.

I have asked a number of questions of the government and have written several times to ask it to object to this initiative. For heaven's sake, there has to be an alternative. What we heard was deafening silence from the government side. Although the date for submissions loomed near the end of October, the government and the Prime Minister did not and, to this date, still have not spoken out strongly on this initiative.

I contrast that to the fact that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; Gary Doer, the Premier of Manitoba; Hillary Clinton, the senator from New York; Governor Pataki from New York; the Council of State Governments, Eastern Regional Conference; which had a conference on this; the CAW; the North Dakota governor; as well as a whole slew of other individuals; have said that this is nonsense and that there has to be an alternative.

We finally convinced the government to have a take note debate at the 11th hour, the witching hour, to obtain an official objection and it received the unanimous support of the House. However what is the government doing as its next step?

I have rolled out a couple of new initiatives with relation to passports for Canadian citizens. We have to stop this if we can. We need to have a better alternative. We cannot fight the war on terrorism by killing our tourism industry.

There seems to be unanimous support to try kill this initiative. I would like to know what the government is going to do about this. First, what is the specific strategic plan to stop this from happening and, second, what is the back-up system for our tourism industry and our other industries that are dependent upon crossing the border on a regular basis?

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the question put to the House by my hon. colleague, the member for Windsor West, regarding the United States western hemisphere travel initiative. I have a lot of respect for my hon. colleague. Given the location of his riding, I know he takes particular interest in border issues and follows these files very closely.

The western hemisphere travel initiative is of concern to us as well as to U.S. politicians. Canada and the U.S. have agreed on an approach to protect North America from terrorism and other threats. Canada supports the development of new initiatives to ensure that travellers who would threaten our security are denied access to either country.

The Canada-U.S. border relationship is a special one. Security and prosperity for both countries depends on getting it right. In this context, requiring a passport or a passport-like document as the only way for legal travel across a shared land border will impact historic and vital relationships.

To truly enhance our shared security, we believe that both countries need to better enhance and secure the kinds of foundation documents upon which our passports or any travel documents would be based. Canada will continue to collaborate with the U.S. to strengthen the foundations for establishing both identity and citizenship in our respective document and passport issuance processes and implement a meaningful and practical solution for improving our border security.

The Canadian government has actually gone through a very extensive process. On October 31 the Government of Canada submitted its official comment on the proposed western hemisphere travel initiative to the United States government. The comment is a result of extensive and thorough consultations among federal departments, provinces, territories, businesses and associations.

We are aware of the problems this can cause. We are very conscious of that and we are acting accordingly.

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that on October 31 we did make the submission, which was literally at the witching hour as that was in the final days for a submission. It came about from a debate in this chamber. I would ask that there be a more active and assertive progression of this file instead of waiting for the next possible announcement from the homeland security department.

What other strategies will the government support? I have written to the Minister of International Trade to support my initiative. I would like the government to support my initiative that veterans would get free passports. I would ask the member to support this. I have asked about seniors getting their passports at half the normal cost of passports. We could lower the costs and the burden which could happen on this front in the future.

Those are reasonable proposals that do not cost a lot of money. They are proactive and deal at the front end to ensure that we do not have a crisis, for example, that veterans are not able to travel across the border. Veterans are some of our best ambassadors.

I would encourage the government to adopt such a strategy. It is proactive. We should also roll out other proposals to deal with the situation because the crisis is still there.

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Clearly, Mr. Speaker, the government is committed to collaborating with its U.S. neighbours to realize the security benefits intended by the western hemisphere travel initiative.

We are working with our American counterparts to ensure that we are able to collaborate on a solution to address legitimate security concerns and that any resolution does not constitute a barrier to the facilitation of the movement of low risk goods and travellers who wish to cross the land border between our two countries.

The government is committed to getting this right and collaborating with the U.S. to implement a meaningful solution which will improve security at our land border.

Canada Labour CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:12 p.m.)