Mr. Speaker, this has been an extremely important issue for communities throughout Canada for 30 years now. I will be sharing my time with the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. Both of us, like the majority of the NDP caucus, wanted to take part in today's debate, because it is an extremely important one. Our presence in the House attests to the importance of this issue for communities throughout Canada. Too bad we cannot say the same thing about the Liberal caucus.
The truth is that the many cuts to the EI program have hurt communities across Canada, from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador and the territories to the north. I want to take a moment to pay tribute to the hard work of the member for Acadie—Bathurst on this issue. He has worked tirelessly, night and day, in order to advance this issue affecting not only his region but all workers in Canada.
Thanks to his continued commitment and hard work, we see the opportunity, with today's motion, for all members in the House to be able to renew and improve the situation facing the unemployed in this country or those in seasonal employment.
I have a great deal of admiration for the work done by the member for Acadie—Bathurst. I think he deserves the thanks and respect of all members of the House.
The reality is that when we are talking about employment insurance we are not talking about some abstract concept. The motion before us today is to take the best 12 weeks of income in the last 52 weeks preceding the claim, or the best 12 weeks of income since the beginning of the last claim, whichever is shorter, for Canadians in areas of high unemployment.
What we have seen over the past 10 years is a collapse of the job market in this country. We know that over the 15 years since the signing of free trade agreements and NAFTA, we have actually produced half the number of full time jobs that were created in the 15 years previous. Most jobs created in the economy today are jobs that are part time or temporary in nature.
In January, Statistics Canada reported that the wages for many of the new jobs were at a much lower level than the jobs that used to exist in our economy. We also see that whereas in the past a majority of jobs actually provided pension benefits, now a minority of jobs in our economy actually provide pension benefits. We know as well that the number of jobs with benefits is falling.
The Liberal government has done absolutely nothing to stop the decline in quality jobs. In fact, it has done exactly the opposite. What we have seen is contracting out and outsourcing. The Minister of International Trade has been actually encouraging companies to outsource and take their jobs offshore.
We have seen our Canadian flag lapel pins being produced in China rather than in Canada. We have seen what disrespect this Liberal government holds workers in communities across the country. We have seen its complete abrogation of planning of an industrial strategy or even providing a trade policy that comes with jobs. Instead of that, we have a jobless trade policy.
In the midst of this uncertainty, the fact that the quality and number of full time jobs has been declining steadily over the past decade, families are now having to work harder and work more hours. We are seeing the average number of hours worked in a week for those workers who have jobs increasing at the same time as the real income per hour of the average Canadian worker has fallen 60¢ in real terms. This means that as the cost of living increases, the actual salary and benefits provided by that job are decreasing.
In the midst of all this, we saw the Liberal government, not only failing to act on the job front, but penalizing those workers who are without employment because of the Liberal government's own policies. The Liberal government has basically taken the $48 billion out of the employment insurance fund. The Liberals have very grudgingly provided some restoration of the benefits that have been taken away from those workers who are unemployed.
It is not because of a lack of work. As I mentioned, the member of Parliament for Acadie—Bathurst, who has been fighting without rest to address these concerns, is a very passionate advocate for seasonal workers. His motion today seeks, in a small way, to move forward the agenda to start addressing those concerns in rural communities where seasonal workers are the mainstay of the local economy.
It would be surprising to me if this motion, which is incremental and begins to provide some support that those communities have been missing, would be refused by any member of this House. We understand the problems in the job market. We understand what is happening to the average Canadian family. We understand that the Liberal government has done nothing.
However the Liberal government now has a chance to actually start moving forward. We can do it because this is a minority Parliament. We can have support from the opposition parties. I am certain that the members of the Bloc Québécois will be supportive of this and I certainly would hope that members of the Conservative Party would be supportive.
By adopting this motion today, we can move forward on the agenda to address those very real concerns of rural communities and seasonal workers across this country. It also affects urban regions. We are talking about a modest but significant contribution to start to address the Liberal cutbacks and the Liberal misuse of the employment insurance fund.
The Subcommittee on the Employment Insurance Funds has called for a whole series of improvements to employment insurance. The government has been very tentative. However, on the corporate sector scheme for tax gifts, the government was very quick to respond in the budget. It provided almost $5 billion in corporate tax gifts. It was very quick to do that.
The subcommittee has called for improvements to employment insurance. There has been a strong push for improvements by the NDP caucus, by the member for Acadie—Bathurst and other members of the House. Despite that, what has come back are very small pilot projects which only address in a very small and almost insignificant way the significant, devastating action of the government when it comes to employment insurance.
Our role in the House has been a productive one. We 19 members of the NDP believe we are here to get the job done, to remove that disconnect between what happens on Parliament Hill and what happens in communities across the country. There is one key way to address the disconnect between Parliament and the communities across the country. We saw Bay Street policies in the recent budget until the NDP pushed for major changes to finally start to address the post-secondary education crisis, to address the increase in homelessness and poverty and to address the environmental deterioration. That NDP move to push forward a new agenda, eliminating the corporate tax gifts and putting forward things that matter for people and the environment is replicated in the motion today. We are here to work.
We are advancing the motion because we want to make significant changes that will help communities and the vast majority of Canadians across this country. We want to deal with the significant deterioration in the quality of work in every corner of Canada. I hope all members today will support the motion.